Archive for the ‘day to day ridiculousness’ Category

It is my fervent belief, based on very little evidence, that even the strongest marriages have points of irreconcilable division. 

Perhaps you agree, based on marriages you know. 

I’m not talking about political or religious divides, or disagreements on number of children, or financial philosophical misalignment.  

No. I’m talking about the little things that don’t matter at all and yet make you so incandescently angry that you cannot imagine how you ever married someone so incompatible with your values. 

You know, like how you hang the toilet paper. 

Here are the top three things that my husband and I CANNOT AND WILL NEVER AGREE ON. (And by “cannot agree” I mean that he refuses to see any sort of reason or logic.) 

1. Speeding Technicality: If you are driving in a car, and the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour, you are speeding if you go above 35 miles per hour. That means that if you are going 36 miles per hour, you are speeding. The limit is 35. Anything above that is speeding. 

I acknowledge that most police officers are not going to pull anyone over if they are going a few miles per hour above the posted limit. You could probably get away with driving at 40 mph – even 42 mph! – in a 35 mph zone and not risk being pulled over or ticketed. I acknowledge this. There is a practicality gap between what the LEGAL DEFINITION of speeding is and what an officer feels is worth her time to address. 

And yet, I stand firm: 36 mph in a 35 mph zone is speeding. 

2. Don and Dawn: My husband and I grew up in different states. But by and large, we have similar “accents.” And yet he maintains that “Don” and “Dawn” have different pronunciations. Anytime this subject comes up, my husband pronounces each name slowly and clearly for me so I can hear the obvious to him only difference between them. I do not hear any difference. There is no difference at all. I acknowledge that perhaps there could be a slight diphthong that I am not processing, and yet, even so, both names would be pronounced the same. 

3. Steak Temperature:  I like my steak on the cooked side. This is a texture issue; steak that is not cooked enough is too gooey for me to handle. I like a steak that is cooked through, with a hint of pink in the middle. A HINT. For most of my life, if I ever ordered steak at a restaurant, I ordered it well done. This has never worked out well for me, because there is a bias against people who like their steak well done. Even at very fancy steak houses, most chefs choose the worst cut of meat – like the shriveled end of a tenderloin with the only bit of gristle in the entire cow – and then cook it until it is black. This is not well done; this is a travesty against meat. Because of this, I have trained myself over the past decade or so to enjoy steak that is cooked less well: medium to medium well. It still only works out some of the time. Usually the steak is undercooked and I have to send it back – which is The Worst. 

But if I am paying for a steak in a restaurant, why can I not have the steak prepared the way I want it to be prepared? I pay the same exorbitant price for a steak whether it is cooked medium rare or well-done. Why should my temperature choice result in a sub-par steak? I do understand that perhaps – PERHAPS, I say with immense skepticism, because I think if you simply used a thermometer you could avoid any issues – it is difficult for a chef to know exactly when a steak is well-done. (Although again, when my husband and I make steak in our home, we achieve the exact right temperature every time.) But temperature aside, I should not get a crummy, shriveled end piece of steak while the medium rare folk get the juicy, tender, gristle-free cuts. 

My husband says it is my fault. He says I am asking for a crappy cut of meat. When I order medium-well or well-done steak, I am implying that I don’t like steak (I DO, very much, I just like it NOT SQUISHY) and so the chefs think they don’t need to give me a good piece. If you like steak well done, don’t order it, is his thought. This is a dumb take, I say. I am paying for the steak, I should be able to ask for it to be prepared the way I like it.

WITHIN REASON, of course. I am not asking a chef to change his whole recipe. And also, if you know that you are going to produce something crappy, then maybe give me a chance to change my order? I feel like the staff should say, “We don’t cook steak to that temperature. Would you prefer it medium, or would you like to order something else?” Don’t just throw an old slab of tire on a plate and charge $56 for it and call it filet mignon. 



Well. Now I am very fired up. 

If you are in a relationship, what are your silly but still completely irreconcilable debates? What are the small, semi-ridiculous topics on which you refuse to give an INCH? If you eat steak, how do you like it cooked?

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Walking outdoors is my favorite form of exercise and mental decompression. (Also, mental expansion: walking is a great way to get the writing ideas flowing.) Most of my walks take place in and around my little suburban neighborhood, and I have to admit that the more walks I take, the more I fall in love with our community. 

NGS’s post about walking her dog and all the things they (she) notice while making the rounds made me think about all the things I see on my walks. I have to admit to a certain level of obliviousness. Especially if I am lost in an audiobook or deep inside a storyline for my own work, the world around me tends to fall away. But I do try to be present, when I can. This is place where I live and I want to be a good citizen.

Carla and I love meeting the neighborhood dogs – and we have such a wonderful variety! Corgis! Pitbulls! Scottish terriers! Bernedoodles! Basset hounds! Beagles! Cockapoos! Greyhounds! All manner of golden retrievers and labs! There is a giant cocoa colored labradoodle that lives on a street nearby, and it is so beautiful all I can do is stare and grin any time I drive or walk past it. 

There is a sprinkling of lockdown babies in the area, too, and it is so fun to see them toddling around now after being little lumps in their strollers for the past few years. And now, siblings are being added to the mix!

I have told you before about the prevalence of fake flowers in some of my neighbors’ yards. And I’ve mentioned the giant Costco skeleton that makes an appearance for Halloween and other holidays. Here are a few other things I’ve noticed when I’m out and about.

The Skunk

Last spring, I came across the body of a baby skunk. It was lying on the sidewalk outside someone’s house, between the house and the (very busy) street. Every time I walked that route, I observed the skunk, which was never removed by the homeowners, never hassled by what surely are dozens of bicycles and dog owners and joggers and walkers that travel along the same path that I do. Of course, I never hassled the skunk corpse either. 

(I did write about the skunk and shared the essay with a friend; his primary reaction was, “WHY would someone leave a dead skunk to decay on the SIDEWALK?” and maybe implied gently that I should perhaps do something about it. A) I feel like it would be far too weird to drive from my house with a shovel to… remove the skunk to a garbage can???? because the skunk’s remains lie a good mile from my house. And B) I am a country girl at heart and a little death doesn’t bother me. I mean, it raises a lot of existential thoughts, which is why I wrote an essay about it. But I am wholly unbothered by a skunk slowly returning to the earth concrete and in fact found it quite interesting to observe how it changed over time. Once its fur and innards had receded, exposing its tiny white bones, I brought Carla along to check it out. She also found it fascinating and we had quite an in-depth discussion about whether or not she could bring some of the skeleton to school for show and tell. Her position was that they were examining owl pellets in science class, why not a skunk skeleton. My position was a hard no; I won that argument.)

Now, nearly a year later, I can still see the place where the skunk found its final repose. The sidewalk remains changed, for having ushered that creature into another realm, a little darker, a slightly different texture to the concrete. The people who live in that house – people who never once noticed, it seems, the funerary cast to their sidewalk – have now put the house up for sale. I don’t think the two events are related, but I suppose one never knows. 

The Cereal

(I swear that I have shared this before, but maybe I haven’t? Either way, I am going to share it here now. If you have heard it already, I trust that we are at the point in our relationship where you will smile fondly and say, “Oh! Isn’t that nice!” rather than rolling your eyes and sighing loudly, “You have told that same story SO MANY TIMES!”)

Once, as I was huffing my way up the street east of mine, I spotted a man leaving his house. He stopped near the edge of his yard, and then poured something from a box onto a tree. As I drew nearer, I saw that it was a box of cereal. He was feeding cereal to his tree.

I cannot remember if I stopped immediately, or if this happened a second time – at which point I refused to continue my walk without knowing WHAT was happening. The man, in a half matter-of-fact, half slightly-embarrassed way, said that the squirrels love the remnants of a bag of cereal or crackers. He beckoned to me, and sure enough, there was a small hollow in the tree trunk that acted as a natural cereal bowl. (No milk.) 

The Companion

For as long as I’ve lived in this house, I’ve been aware of a woman who frequently takes walks with a companion. She is a petite woman, slim as a tree branch, her back slightly bowed with the gravity of time. Her companion sits in a wheelchair and wears a brightly colored blanket on his lap. She propels him down the street and up the street, the slope of which is almost imperceptible when you are walking briskly but must surely be much more evident when you are pushing a person twice your size in a wheelchair. 

I know her well enough to wave or smile; we have never once exchanged words. I don’t know her name. I don’t know where this woman lives, although I know her house isn’t on my street. Which means she pushes her companion a good distance; our street is half a mile from stem to root. 

Earlier this winter, I noticed the woman out walking. She was by herself. And then again, again alone. This winter has been so mild that I’ve been outside much more than on a normal year, so I wondered if maybe she simply doesn’t bring her companion outside in the cold. Although it hasn’t been so cold. 

Aside from the neighbors on my little cul de sac, I’m only on a “comments about the weather” or “compliments to your dog” conversational basis with the people in my neighborhood. I don’t know people’s names. I don’t wish to know their business. But oh how I wish I knew her well enough to ask if he’s sitting in his chair, at home, watching for her from the window. Or whether he’s departed this plane for the next. 

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We have reached another low point in the energy and cheer I have available to devote to meal planning. Sometimes I just viciously hate everything to do with meal planning and preparing food, and this is one of those times. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that today is YET ANOTHER day off from school. We haven’t even had any snow days, just pre-planned days off. Eight, since the beginning of January. She’s had only three weeks of school with no days off. I don’t know why this is making me so cranky today. Usually, I kind of like a day off from school. We get to sleep in a bit, Carla and I get to chill together or run errands, sometimes there’s a playdate. Today she gets to accompany me to acupuncture though, which sounds like torture for everyone involved. And then we will go to the grocery store, which is agony for Carla. (At least, until we get there. She’s very cheerful about helping and asking to buy a million things; it’s just the anticipation of grocery shopping that makes her wail as though I threatened to incinerate all her toys.) Maybe, to balance out all the suffering, we will make brownies. (Yes, I am still trying to get protein into Carla at every turn – as well as calcium, but that is not going well – and also I am still trying to like baked oatmeal. We WILL be adding chocolate chips to this recipe.)

Anyway, day off or no, meal planning grumble or no, we must eat. I think I will do the thing where I pick maybe three meals and then make black bean tacos the other days. My husband will eat a ham sandwich on black bean taco days. Carla, as you know, eats a stunning variety of foods including and pretty much limited to chicken nuggets, salmon, ground beef tacos, steak, and two very specific types of lunch meat, so she will eat one of those things while my husband and I eat whatever it is I decide on.

For lunches, I can drum up slightly more enthusiasm. I have recently rediscovered how delicious artichokes are. They are currently plentiful and also a whopping $3.99 each, but they are enormous and I find them to be such a delicious and satisfying lunch. I will see if I can buy two this week, and then maybe make a batch of Hungarian mushroom soup to eat on the other days.

Dinners for the Week of February 20-26

  • Miso Ginger Soy Salmon Rice Bowls: For awhile, I felt like I kept coming across yummy sounding meals with miso as an ingredient, so when I saw some miso paste at Trader Joe’s I snapped it up. And then of course I couldn’t find any meals that featured miso. But this recipe does feature miso and it sounds really good. 
  • Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry: This is technically called “skinny chicken and broccoli stir fry” but that makes me think of anorexic roosters, so I deleted the “skinny.” Despite the ridiculous name, this sounds really delicious and fuels my recent obsession with broccoli slaw. I think I will also throw in a handful of water chestnuts, which I LOVE. (My husband does not love them, so his portion will be water chestnut free.)

Wow, just deciding on those three recipes felt like removing my own fingernails with pliers. Hopefully I will feel more invigorated for meal planning next week. 

Have you tried miso before? What about broccoli slaw? Does meal planning also currently feel like torture for you?

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Internet! We don’t really do much for Valentine’s Day around here, except cards for one another. And I found some irresistible little things at Michael’s a few weeks ago that I picked up for Carla, including a stuffed animal that she does NOT need. I also picked out a few small treatsies, even though I have been pretty successful at keeping candy and sweets out of our house so far this year. Time will tell whether this was a Bad Plan. 

The only other thing I did (today at least; don’t hold me to this for future Valentine’s Days) was make A Special Breakfast for Carla. I used a cookie cutter to cut heart shapes in her pancakes and I bought her a box of Valentine’s Day themed Froot Loops, and I cut her strawberries into hearts. She mentioned the strawberry hearts but not the pancake ones, and only ate a handful of the Froot Loops after proclaiming that they taste just like regular Froot Loops.

My husband’s view of Valentine’s Day, without putting too many words in his mouth, is that it is kind of aggravating and unnecessary. I told him that Carla and I were participating in Valentine’s Day whether he wanted to or not, and that we really wanted to at least get him some sort of candy, but he is trying to eat better and had no suggestions. Carla was indignant at the idea of not getting him SOMETHING, so she and I got him some low-sugar treatsies from Target that I hope aren’t too terrible. My view is that Valentine’s Day is fun, and I like to participate in fun things. Because my husband has made his views quite clear, I have no expectations of getting anything for Valentine’s Day, and was therefore delighted that my husband remembered to buy me a card and Carla remembered to make me one (or, more likely, that my husband reminded Carla to make me one). Also, it was an excuse to buy myself Sour Patch Kids and Nibs.

My only other view of Valentine’s Day is that it’s really fun for our kid, and she will only be a kid for such a short time, so why not lean into the fun for her sake? She LOVES holidays, and candy-centric holidays especially. I think this may be the last year that her school does a Valentine’s Day party, but she really enjoyed making a “mailbox” and writing out Valentines to all her classmates and teachers. She even decided to depart from her all-black clothing routine for the day: she chose a red skirt and a shirt with polka dots in a variety of pinks and reds. Making Valentine’s Day special for her is worth the little amount of effort I put into it, and I’m happy to continue as long as she enjoys it.

This is all to say that we are not doing a special Valentine’s Day dinner, which is fine. Special or no, however, we still have to eat.

Normally, I post dinner plans on Monday. But my husband and I went to the grocery store on Sunday for a quick restock of a few things, so I didn’t need to go to the store again urgently yesterday. Plus, I was having A Day. I swear that I woke up and my brain stayed in bed. Probably needed a mental health day. I was in a fog all day, and kept forgetting things, culminating in nearly missing Carla’s music lesson.

One of her activities has ceased for the season, which means we can reclaim many hours of our week. I have been feeling happy and relieved since the last day. In my head, apparently, this translated to ALL of her activities ending, which is not the case. So I was indulging in a leisurely Target trip with Carla – you know, just sort of toodling around the store, not really following a list – when my phone alarm went off, reminding me that I had twenty minutes to get Carla to her lesson. Ack! 

Of course, the alarm went off two minutes after everyone else in the store decided to wrap up their own shopping trips, so when we got to the (poorly manned as usual) checkout stations, three enormous lines had already snaked into the walkway, blocking foot traffic, plus there was an additionally long line at the lone self-checkout. 

I didn’t want to put back all of our shopping – that would have taken too long. And I didn’t want to abandon my cart and our carefully selected items – no way did I want to RETURN to Target after already spending so much time there. (Target shopping just doesn’t have the cathartic, comforting effect on me like it used to.) But (shock of shocks) there was no staff person in sight, so I couldn’t ask if I could simply leave my selections somewhere for 30 minutes while I dashed Carla to her lesson and came back. I did briefly consider parking the cart outside the bathroom and hoping for the best, but as it wasn’t a foolproof plan I didn’t go through with it. So I got in line and sent my husband frantic exclamation-point-laden texts which helped neither of us but felt like Doing Something at least. 

Poor Carla, at this point, was complaining about being hungry. Most Mondays, because of our jam packed activity schedule, I feed her dinner at 3:45 (I know), so she was starving. I impulse allowed her to impulse grab a package of Nutella and pretzel sticks as well as a Rice Krispie treat off the impulse buy display. The line moved at an agonizingly slow pace, but eventually a couple of other registers opened, and we were out of Target a mere 15 minutes after my alarm went off.

In the car, while Carla wolfed down her treats, I called the music teacher to let them know she’d be late. We managed to arrive at her lesson 15 minutes after it started, but by then I was a sweaty, edgy mess.

Later, when I unloaded the Target bags, I realized that I’d grabbed the wrong type of breakfast bars for my husband. So I will be returning to Target after all. 

I still feel slightly frazzled today. My husband asked whether the dishwasher was full of clean or dirty dishes, and I gave him an exasperated look and said, “Well, just look in the dishwasher and you will know!”… at which point it became apparent that I had only unloaded the top rack and the silverware tray while the bottom rack was still full of clean plates and pots. Also, I have been writing this post and just now realized that I forgot to soak my feet this morning. Sigh. I really hope that my brain decides to show up to work at some point today, even if it is a little tardy. 

Anyway, dinners!

Dinners for the Week of February 13-20

Garlicky Chickpea and Spinach SoupI posted about this a few weeks ago and tried it and LOVED it, wet spinach and all. So flavorful, so filling. I have been thinking about it ever since, so back on the meal plan it goes! I feel like the preparation would work well with lentils, too, but I haven’t tried that yet. Maybe next time.

Quinoa Crunch Salad: This just sounds so yummy and fresh. I am not a big eater of cabbage, but for some reason it has a high level of appeal right now. Probably my husband will want chicken with his salad, and I may roast some shrimp for mine.

Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Tacos: Despite everyone’s encouraging comments in favor of chicken thighs, I am going to make this with breasts. Takes a looooong time to teach this old dog new tricks, especially when those tricks involve food. I plan to turn this into a taco bowl with lots of romaine and cabbage. I feel a little wary of a slow cooker recipe that doesn’t require any liquid, but I suppose the NYT is trustworthy enough. And I can always throw in half a cup of chicken stock if I feel really uncomfortable. 

Noodle Free Chicken Pad Thai: Is this too similar to the quinoa crunch salad??? We’ll find out, I guess. I have never in my life purchased broccoli slaw, so I am very interested to learn what it’s all about. I am going to let my husband eat the chicken for this one; I will eat shrimp or just stick with the veggie-only version.

What’s on your meal plan this week? Do you do a special Valentine’s Day dinner?

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One of Carla’s favorite pastimes is crafting. This is a blanket term that, for her, includes without being limited to:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Making things with yarn
  • Using hot glue to make shapes/structures
  • Using a 3-D pen to make shapes/structures
  • Building things out of paper or foam
  • Cutting up paper into tiny confetti bits for unknown purposes
  • Diamond painting
  • Coloring
  • Gluing pieces of cardboard together
  • Transforming pens, paper towel rolls, dowels and other items with string, gems, glitter, foam, etc.
  • Making Barbie furniture
  • Making clothing for various stuffed animals
  • Cutting paper into snowflake shapes
  • Origami
  • Sculpting animals out of playdough or clay
  • Making things out of yarn
  • Sewing scraps of fabric together, to make clothing or purses or stuffed animals

She is extremely creative and derives a lot of joy from crafting. While I might prefer that she were to make things that had some utility, I certainly don’t want to restrict her creative mind. The big problem is that her creations tend to take up a huge amount of space. 

So our solution was to create a craft space just for her in the basement. (Slide the image below to see the before and after.)

Based on wonderful suggestions from you, my husband and I went to Home Depot and found a door to use as a craft table. Home Depot has a surprising (to me) variety of doors, and we went with one that was flat, unstained, unfinished, and unadorned in any way. It didn’t even have a hole for a doorknob. Just a flat slab of wood. Best of all, it was fairly inexpensive – around $85. (We are comparing the cost of the door to the cost of an actual table.)

We allowed Carla to choose a paint color for the door, and then the three of us painted it. 

We already owned a six-cube organizer shelving unit, so we bought a second one. Then we bought fabric bins to put inside some of the cubes. Once the paint was dry, we set the door horizontally across the shelving units.

My favorite thing is this spinning desktop organizer, which holds a bunch of pens and scissors and paperclips.

The “table” is nice and tall, and big enough to hold A LOT of crafts. We set up Carla’s Cricut machine on one side, put the spinning desktop organizer on the other side, and filled the shelving unit bins with construction paper and foam and painting supplies.

Over time, we have added additional shelving units and fabric bins, and lots of plastic bins and smaller shelving units.

It is a very well-used space. 

Two things that I think we still need, but haven’t yet figured out:

  1. Some sort of plastic floor mat. I would love to protect the carpet. But we have only hit roadblocks when trying to find solutions. We originally thought we could get one of those stiff plastic mats that you can put under a desk so that your chair wheels don’t get stuck in the carpet. But to find one that is large enough is prohibitively expensive. We considered finding some heavy plastic sheeting, like the kind you put down when you paint… but I’m not sure that would be sturdy enough for daily use, or how we would affix it well enough to the carpet. We then looked into buying a cheap rug that we could put under the desk… but my main concern about that is that it might create a tripping hazard in the basement. Plus, the cheapest rugs at Home Depot have raw edges, and I think they would fray and fall apart pretty quickly… but I have no idea how to resolve that. So for now, we deal with occasional paint and perpetual glitter on the carpet.
  • A chair. I think Carla would benefit from having a drafting stool of some sort. She says it’s tiring for her to have to stand when she’s drawing, and I get that. Sometimes, this means that she moves the crafting onto the floor, which I do not like. Maybe a stool of some sort would make using the actual table all the time more appealing. I don’t think she would use a stool all the time… but that’s fine. Then again, the need isn’t so pressing that I’ve done more than idle googling. 

The space is usable and Carla loves it and uses it regularly. Overall, it is a success.

My primary complaint about this space is that it is a craftastrophe 95% of the time. It is a horrific mess that encompasses the top of the table and the space underneath and bleeds into the surrounding areas. (Toggle for the mess if you dare.)

The problem is that no matter how many organizational bins and shelves and baskets you buy, they only work if you use them. And my kid doesn’t use them. I have no idea how to help her with this. One of our family mantras is that everything should have a space, and when you are done with something, it needs to return to its space. But that… doesn’t happen. 

Either Carla is in the middle of a project and doesn’t want to put it away…

Or she forgets to put it away…

Or she doesn’t know where the item’s “home” is (or, worse, it doesn’t really HAVE a “home”)…

Or she has used the storage bin for some alternate purpose… (This one really annoys me. For instance, we have this little case that has a bunch of separate spaces for small items, like pom poms or gems or paper clips or whatever, and she had removed everything that should be in it and replaced those things with individual small chunks of clay that had since dried out. This kind of “using a storage unit as a toy” is frequent and drives me NUTS.)

I am not sure how to reframe things for Carla so that she understands the how and the why of putting things away… or so that she sees the bins and shelves as Storage Only and not props in her elaborate imaginary scenarios.

If we ever buy another house, my dream is that we dedicate an entire room to Carla’s crafting. A room with our makeshift table, and tons of built-in shelving units that are all labeled and stocked with everything she needs. A room that has a door behind which we can shut the mess. 

But this is a dream, not reality. 

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For the entirety of my adult life, I have been a No Shoes in the House person. And yet I have been wearing shoes (sneakers) (sneakers that have never once been outside) in the house since Thanksgiving. I thought I would report on how that’s going. 


  • My feet seem to hurt less when I wear shoes than when I go barefoot. 
  • I have new empathy for my in-laws, who keep slippers at our house so they can wear them when they visit, and for my mother, who also needs to wear shoes in the house to prevent foot agony. 


  • I hate wearing shoes. 
  • I keep forgetting to put my shoes on, and have yet to develop a good spot to keep them so that when I inevitably forget to put them on, and then find myself in agony, I don’t have to go traipsing all over the house to find them. 
  • I am less aware of the crud on our floors, which seems like a pro but is not. 
  • I keep catching the heel of my shoe on the bottom rung (?) of the kitchen table chairs, and knocking the chair over onto the floor, which makes a horrific banging noise and also cannot be good for the health of the chair or my floor. 
  • When people come over, I still want THEM to not wear shoes, but it feels a) as though I am cheating or stingy when I get to wear shoes but no one else does or b) ridiculous and princessy. 
  • Lying on the couch to watch TV or in bed with my daughter while I read to her feels so clunky and dumb and just wrong with shoes on. 
  • My laces come untied ALL the time. All the time. Even when I double knot them. 
  • When I go to friends’ houses (all our friends have shoe-free homes), I am not sure if I need to bring my only-in-the-house shoes or if I should just suck it up and go barefoot, and I have defaulted to the latter so far but then my feet are in agony. Good thing I don’t socialize much.
  • My husband and child seem to be slightly more relaxed about taking off their own shoes at the door, even though there is a clear! difference! between wearing shoes that have literally never been outside and wearing shoes that are both outdoors and inside public spaces every day. 


  • I need to continue wearing shoes.
  • I should get over myself and order some easy-to-put-on orthotic sandals or Crocs or whatever; I have a whole list of recommendations and just haven’t bought any yet (which is because I have already committed to buying a new pair of snow boots, which is expensive, and I have also needed to replace two coats this winter, so I feel like I’ve already crossed the threshold of buying things for myself). 
  • I remain, crankily, but perhaps more staunchly than ever, Team No Shoes In The House.

Do you wear shoes in your house?

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I am feeling stricken with social anxiety, Internet. STRICKEN.

Here’s the thing: At the beginning of the school year, a group of parents from Carla’s school decided to get together semi-regularly. Varying numbers of these parents have met several times already and I have been unable to attend a single event. I have been sad, but also relieved because OMG dealing with people. But I have also been getting more and more anxious because I realize that the more this group meets, the more cohesive it becomes, and the harder it will be to join. I already feel like I am on the fringe of any group, and my inability to attend any of the events so far has already pushed me further to the edges of this group. Does that make sense?

Now, finally, the group is getting together on a night when my husband can watch Carla! So I took a deep breath and responded that I could go. And now: stricken. 

I am Not Good in groups. I mean, I am barely okay in one-on-one situations, but in groups I just flail. I have never mastered a non-awkward way to squeeze into an already-going conversation. I feel like my small talk game is poor. I am not adept at discussing current events. I am not an interesting storyteller. Not that I even have anything interesting to say. I become overly aware of how I talk and my tongue fumbles all over itself. If more than one person looks at me expectantly, my face will burst into flames. You know how it is. (Maybe you do not, in which case can we exchange personalities for a night please?) 

HOW do I do this? My 100% serious plan is to make a (mental) list of topics I can turn to in a pinch, but… what are those topics? I feel like I am pretty good at asking people about themselves, and since I don’t know a lot of these moms very well I can ask them who their kids are and what activities they’re doing and how their holidays were and whether they have anything exciting planned for our upcoming four-day weekend seriously we JUST had two weeks off and what their kids think of their teachers and what books they’ve read and whether they saw any good movies over the break… but I don’t necessarily know how to move from “bombarding a person with questions” to “real conversation.” I have a hard enough time carrying on a conversation with my hairdresser, and she’s just one person, and I am fairly comfortable with her. I have a hard time responding to the emails without feeling like I am dumb and everyone thinks I’m dumb. Going out to dinner with multiple people is like… more than that. Ugh ugh ugh. 

And if it’s a sit-down restaurant, where do I sit? And what do I wear? And and and…? 

There are a couple of parents I do know fairly well who are in the group, and I could probably try to hang near them. But I don’t want to be a GLOMMER-ONNER, you know? Plus, it would be nice to get to know new people. 

I don’t even know what I am asking you. I am just nervous. And determined to go anyway, because it is good to be social and it is good to meet new people and presumably most of us will know each other and each other’s kids for the next eight years at least and it is good to push outside one’s comfort zone now and again… but I’m also really nervous.   

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After posting yesterday, I was fretting (mildly, very mildly) about what we would eat for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I like to have a plan, especially when it comes to food. Plus, the grocery store situation will get iffier as we get closer to the holiday – busier and then closed; that’s what I mean by “iffier.” I had to dash over to the grocery store yesterday afternoon, to find something to feed the babysitter.

(Did I already fret about this to you? I feel like I did, but I can’t find it in yesterday’s post. Oh well, if you have already endured this fret, perhaps skim down a bit or come back another day. Here, I will put in sub-headings to make it easier to skim.)

Feeding-the-Babysitter Fret

What do YOU feed the babysitter? Why is this something that I fret about so much? We rarely have a sitter, but when we do I almost always get a frozen pizza. My thought process around frozen pizza is a) easy and b) most people like pizza and c) Carla eats it. (She does not eat macaroni and cheese for instance. Or most other things.) But when I fretted out loud to my husband and daughter, a) my husband said “You ALWAYS get a pizza” and b) Carla said “I’m tired of pizza. I’d rather have chicken nuggets.” Oooh, two multiple choice lists in one paragraph. Wild.

These were highly interesting comments. First, yes, as I already told you, I do tend to ALWAYS get pizza. But we have had a babysitter, what, twice in the past three weeks? Is pizza two times in three weeks really that egregious? But more importantly, the babysitter last night was a different babysitter than the one we had last time. So she hadn’t eaten pizza three weeks ago.

Secondly, yes, Carla ate pizza three weeks ago with the other babysitter… and I think we made pizza last week or the week before as well, so that’s twice. In the meantime, aside from two nights of steak and maybe a night or two of salmon and maybe one night of tacos, I think she’s had chicken nuggets for every other dinner. (I am refraining hard from making a self-deprecating “I am such a shitty mother for feeding my child nuggets daily lol” comment because she EATS them which is better than not-eating other things and they are easy and they have protein and sometimes I get the ones that also have veggies in them and this is a very long-lived phase but it is just a phase that won’t last forever and I make up for my lack of meal creativity in other good and valuable ways.) 

Being a mom slash babysitter-food-decision-maker is so fun. So, so fun. 

Now, I don’t personally care to eat chicken nuggets. (I have never typed “chicken nuggets” so many times in my life.) But I think many people are fine with them, so I decided that I would just let the sitter make some nuggets for herself and Carla. But I still managed to fret about it. The dear wise friend to whom I fretted via text suggested I get pizza and chicken nuggets so that there were options. This was genius, so that’s why I went to the store. Plus, I figured I would come up with some wonderful idea for NYE / NYD food in the moment. The store was very busy. 

(By the way, I have been masking again in the grocery store, these past few weeks. Around Christmas, I noticed that quite a few more people than usual had joined me… but I went yesterday afternoon and I think there was only one other person in a mask.)


While I was there, I did indeed experience a lightning strike of inspiration. For our extra special New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day meals, we are going to have SNACKS!

(By the way, when Carla was very small she pronounced the word “snacks” with kind of a swallowed H/N combo instead of the initial S. Like “HNacks.” So that’s still how my husband and I refer to them.)

We have not yet made the cranberry salsa for which I bought ingredients last week, so we will have that with pita chips. I picked up a small bag of Lay’s Potato Chips and some Southwest Ranch Dip, and I have plenty of vegetables to cut up for extra dipping. 

(Since this post is rife – RIFE – with parentheticals and asides, what’s one more? I first became acquainted with Southwest Ranch Dip when I was pregnant. My mother-in-law served it at her apartment one day – this was when my in-laws had an apartment in our city – and I loved it. Pretty much everything made me nauseated in those days, but crunchy greasy Lay’s chips dipped in that dip were HEAVEN.) 

(I am getting such a silly kick out of posting these photos, as though you don’t know what a bag of Lay’s looks like. I mean, maybe you don’t, but it seems unlikely.) (Images above and below from lays.com, marzetti.com, Instacart.com for some reason, and traderjoes.com)

In addition to chips and dip, I grabbed some mini pretzel dogs that I’m hoping my husband and child will eat (I eat one hot dog a year and it is normal sized and in a BUN not a pretzel; I do not care for pretzels) (are you beginning to get a clearer picture of why my child is so picky), and some feta and caramelized onion pastry bites. I also got a garlic and cheese flatbread, which sounds good but not terribly different from garlic bread; we’ll see. We have some cheese and crackers and some olives already. This is all way too much food already, but I have arranged a family outing to Trader Joe’s later today to see if we can find any other treats to add to the selection. Trader Joe’s is usually pretty great about having fun frozen treats.

Do you have favorite snacks to recommend? I would be willing to go to another location in addition to Trader Joe’s if there is something I NEED to try. I am serious about snacking.

As far as sweets are concerned, we have PLENTY. So many sweets. I ended up throwing out a bunch of leftover (and now stale) Christmas cookies, which was both sad and cathartic (the ratio of cookie plates for neighbors to cookies made was waaaayyyy off; lesson learned), but we have many other cookies and candies that kind family and friends sent. Most of it is chocolate, which I don’t like except in very specific situations. But as I prefer savory to sweet anyway, I will be perfectly happy with my Lay’s and dip. 

Old-Fashioned Blogroll

(I am feeling very smug about my choice to put subheads into this post, because there is no good segue between Lay’s and blog reading.)

Lately, my Feedly has been acting up. Either that or user error but PROBABLY it’s Feedly yes that makes the most sense. The problem is that I keep missing posts. I’ll think, “Oh, so-and-so hasn’t posted in a while!” and then I’ll go to her blog and she posted sixteen days ago and I missed it. I’m not opposed to leaving comments on old posts, not at all, but I like to know what’s being posted AS it is happening, not after the fact.

I was remembering how, in Days of Yore, I had a list of blogs I read on the side of my homepage. And every morning when I had a tea break from work, I would click through the list to read everyone’s posts. When I got back to regular blogging in 2016, my blogroll was so depressing; so few of the people on the list were blogging anymore! Some of the links went to defunct pages or spam sites!  So I deleted the whole thing.

But now… maybe it’s time to create a new blogroll. This wonderful blogging community I am so fortunate to be part of is robust, and I don’t want to miss anyone’s posts because of user a Feedly error.

Of course, the very idea of creating a blogroll raises frets like “what if I accidentally leave someone out?” So I need you to promise that if you have a blog, and for some reason it does NOT appear on this hazy future blogroll should I ever get it together enough to make one, that you would TELL ME because it was clearly I don’t think we can blame this on Feedly user error and not a deliberate decision to exclude.

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Oh, hello there. I didn’t mean to just disappear for nine days. But sometimes you have lots of things to post about and sometimes you don’t.

Let’s see. I am feeling chatty, but don’t feel like I have a whole lot to chat about. The massive scary storm that affected so much of the country didn’t do a whole lot around here. We were very fortunate. It was cold and quite windy – though not windy enough to knock out our power – and we got plenty of snow to admire from our warm and cozy house. How did the storm affect you and your family? I hope you and your loved ones are all warm and safe.

Hannukah was lovely. Carla got Monopoly which we all played together. After an epic multi-day game, I crushed my husband and daughter into bankruptcy and we were finally able to clear off the kitchen table. 

Our Christmas was lovely and quiet and perfect. We all, I think, got everything we wanted and more. Santa brought the cotton candy machine and we made several batches of cotton candy. It is a beast to clean, but other than that it is quite fun. I also think that perhaps we have now exhausted our collective desire to make cotton candy. 

My husband is off this week, so we have been puttering around the house. He and Carla have been building robots and Pokemon block figures and playing video games, and I have been writing and reading and writing about reading. It’s been very relaxing and delightful.

We have been completing some tasks, like making plane reservations for upcoming trips. I am excited about the trips but very unexcited about the plane rides. My plan is to continue to wear masks on the plane from now until forever more, but I am still feeling pre-anxious about any or all of us getting sick, and then carrying the germs to and from our destinations. Well, there are still a few months left to fret about it.

Even though you haven’t seen any blog posts, I have been writing them and thinking about them. I dredged up Carla’s birth story, which I wrote on the eve of her third birthday. I’d like to post it at some point, even though it is growing a little stale, nine and a half years post-actual birth. But it was so stressful for me, even though it obviously all turned out okay, and I can’t seem to approach it with the clinical distance that time and Everything Turning Out Okay should afford. Oh well. Maybe I just need to post it as it is. 

I have also been considering very gently and glancingly things like goals and New Year’s plans. I haven’t yet given a single look at my aspirations from last year, not even when I collected that link, and have only in the most general terms considered aspirations for the year ahead. This is, in part, because I really only take a very loose approach to setting any sort of goal-adjacent objectives. Also because my biggest aspiration for 2022 (find an agent) remains unmet, and is so lofty a goal I feel like there’s no way I can achieve it. (Not with that attitude, missy.) Also because I keep feeling this strident, tears-hovering-under-the-surface desire to make goals around friendship, when honestly there is only so much I can control in that sphere. And in final part, it is because I feel like so much of my feelings about change for the year to come evolve around my body and my relationship to it and with food. Sounds like a real downer, honestly. So I keep playing delay and avoid. 

One thing I have been doing, with perhaps slightly more intention, is thinking about a word of the year. I love reading about people’s word of the year and how (and why) they choose a word to guide them. It’s something I’ve done for myself the past two years and I find it fits really well with my more laissez faire approach to “goal setting.” Having a word as a guidepost is something I really like, and it doesn’t feel super aggressive or overly intense. In 2021, I chose the word “forward” and in 2022 my word was “light” and I liked how both sort of cast a warm glow over the year without being scoldy or insistent. So I’ve been mulling over what I might choose for 2023. Allow me to get a little woo-woo for a moment please: The words really come to me unbidden, so I feel almost that they choose me rather than the other way around. Some of the candidates, so far, are “nurture,” “joy,” “gratitude,” and “cultivate.” We’ll see which one of these – or of options yet to make themselves known – rises to the top. Do you choose a word of the year?

Since we have all been home together for a very long time, the house has degenerated into chaos. My family refuses to consider putting the tree away until January 1, so I have resigned myself to living with the detritus of Christmas for a few more days. But I am now at the point where the urge to tidy and clean is no longer suppressible, although I have yet to erupt into the nagging that is still bubbling under the surface. I have made piles of gifts and books and treats that need to be tidied away. I have piles of laundry that need to be whisked into the washing machine. And that’s where I’ve stopped and have escaped to the treadmill where I am writing this post. 

As far as exercise goes, in the New Year, I want it to include time on the treadmill but also time outdoors. And I have loose ideas about maybe trying a Pilates regimen. If you do any online Pilates courses, especially if they are beginner friendly, please let me know. 

I realize that I completely skipped my Dinners This Week post. We have so much food in the house that I haven’t had to set foot in a grocery store since last week. (Fortunately, because my last two trips made my husband squeak with concern about how much I spent. THINGS ARE PRICEY, MY DEAR.) (He wasn’t mad, he just literally has no idea that most things are twice what they used to cost. Did I pay $20 for six chicken breasts? Yes, because that’s what it cost.) (That will get us four meals, though. Sounds better when you say $5 of chicken per meal. STILL OUTRAGEOUS.) 

New bullet, same topic: We had chicken paprikas for dinner one night, and leftover steak one night, and leftover egg and potato casserole one night. This casserole – our make-ahead Christmas morning breakfast – was delicious. This from a person who really avoids eggs if possible. Even better, it was SO EASY and didn’t involve peeling a single potato, AND it heated up the next day to be just as delicious. My husband and I going on a double date with friends one night, so dinner is sorted for that. I am not sure what we will eat for New Year’s Eve. We have some leftover crab cakes in the freezer, so maybe those? My husband wants to make these Swedish kanelbullar one day, but that’s not exactly dinner food. Well. I am sure we will figure it out. What are you eating for New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day? My mom used to make a ham for New Year’s Day, but I’m not a big ham fan so haven’t continued the tradition. 

That’s all I have for today, Internet. 

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Cait mentioned that she would be interested in reading a Day in the Life post. I love to read those posts, when other bloggers post them! It is so fascinating to see what other people do with their time. My days never look like one another, which is… good. But a LOT of time is spent in front of my computer, so… that doesn’t necessarily make for interesting reading? 

I thought I would give it a shot anyway. Here’s a random day from this past week (mid-December 2022):

  • 6:45 – Alarm goes off. It was so windy last night that I kept waking up and I feel like I slept horribly. I hit the snooze button – unwise. 
  • 6:54 – I stagger out of bed. My feet are feeling much better during the day, but they are stiff and sore in the mornings. I go climb into bed with Carla and sing her the Good Morning song. She wants to sleep a little longer, so I set a timer for three minutes and do the Wordle, the free version of Spelling Bee, and the free mini crossword at NYT online. 
Disclosure: I tried to take pictures throughout the day as I was taking notes on what I did, but I forgot some. So this is a screen grab of today’s mini, rather than the one I did earlier in the week.
  • 7:00 – The timer goes off and I coax Carla into telling me what she wants for breakfast. (French toast sticks and strawberries.)
  • 7:05 – I put some French toast sticks in the microwave and then dash upstairs to the laundry folding center guest room where I grab a shirt (black) and fleece-lined leggings (black) and a pair of socks (also black) from the pile. I take them downstairs and throw them into the dryer to warm up so Carla can be roasty toasty when she gets dressed. 
  • 7:10 – Carla comes downstairs, opens the day’s advent calendar door, and I give her breakfast. She and I chat while she eats. Usually I take this time to make tea, but my husband is on call so he is still home and getting his coffee and lunch together so I stay out of his way. Carla and I give him kisses and hugs as he heads out the door.
  • 7:30 – I rinse Carla’s dishes for her (this is a treat; rinsing the dishes is her job) and put them in the dishwasher. I wipe down the counters. My phone chimes with a reminder that Carla needs to bring her instrument to school and she assures me that it’s all ready to go. While she’s upstairs, I tuck a couple of gifts I wrapped last night under the tree.
  • 7:40 – I brush my teeth and hair and wash my face, which is still itchy and inflamed. While I brush my teeth, I stretch my feet and calves. 
  • 7:45 – Carla and I put on shoes and coats and get into the car. 
  • 7:55 – I drop Carla off at school. I feel so lucky, daily, that we live so close to school. I remind her to look for her gym shoes in the lost and found (sigh).
  • 8:15 – I speed through Trader Joe’s grabbing frozen latkes for Hanukkah this weekend and some baby corn and English peas for Carla. Luckily, the store is nearly empty this early in the morning and I am in and out in five minutes flat.
  • 8:35 – Back home. I put the kettle on to boil. I start a load of towels in the wash and fold some laundry on the (clean) kitchen counter while I listen to an audiobook
  • 8:50 – I get dinner going in the crockpot. 
  • 9:00 – I drink tea and eat some breakfast while reading blog posts. 
  • 9:15 – Then I write a blog post of my own.
  • 9:45 – I have presents to wrap, which I don’t enjoy. But I do enjoy listening to my audiobook while I wrap them.
  • 10:00 – I shlep my laptop down to the basement and walk on the treadmill while I work on my current manuscript.
  • 11:30 – I am sweaty and at a good stopping point. Even though I walked for 90 minutes, it doesn’t feel like I did much – I have to keep the treadmill on a very low speed or I can’t type. I throw on my coat and go for a quick walk outside – it’s drizzling and cold and the damp air feels good on my hot face. I listen to my audiobook while I walk.
  • 12:00 – I take a shower. Ugh, I have to wash my hair today which means I have to dry it. I normally read an ebook while I dry my hair, but today I review some materials a client sent me in preparation for our meeting today. 
  • 12:45 – I throw a load of white laundry into the washing machine. Do I have time to eat lunch before my meeting? No, I do not. 
  • 1:00 – I jump on Zoom for a thirty-minute meeting with a client about a smallish project – a profile of a community philanthropist.
  • 1:30 – I do a quick draft of the profile while my thoughts are still fresh from our call. 
  • 2:00 – I remove the towels from the dryer and take them upstairs to the guest room, where I dump them on the bed. I grab another load of dirty clothes, take them downstairs, put the clean whites into the dryer and load the washer and run it. Back upstairs, I fold laundry and listen to my audiobook.
  • 2:30 – Still listening, I go make myself some tacos with leftover mahi-mahi. This is when I decide I know The Big Twist in the book I’m reading. It’s interesting– I think Jennifer Hillier is a brilliant writer – and I want to see how it all plays out. And to see, of course, if I’m right.
  • 2:50 – My mother-in-law calls and I chat with her for a few minutes. Then I do the lunch dishes.   
  • 3:00 – I have a few more holiday cards to address and stamp, so I take care of that and tape some boxes of holiday gifts closed so that I can mail them.
  • 3:15 – The laundry beeps so I carry up another load, do some more folding. There are a bunch of little odds and ends that have gathered in various rooms, so I move them to their homes (some of them live in the trash). Clean clothes in the dryer, the last load of the day in the washing machine.
  • 3:40 – Carla has an extra-curricular activity tonight, so I have a little extra time. I load her instrument into the car along with three boxes that I need to mail to my far-flung family.
  • 3:50 – I mail the boxes. Yikes. I totally understand why people prefer to have Amazon and Target etc. do their mailing for them; it is expensive! I determine to swallow my frustration about people sending me gifts to wrap instead of them wrapping and mailing things themselves. 
  • 4:15 – I go to the bank. Then I dash over to Starbucks to buy gift cards for Carla’s extracurricular instructors. I realize I forgot to bring Carla a snack so I grab her a bag of popcorn as well.
  • 4:30 – I wait in the car line to pick up Carla. It is one of my favorite parts of the day, seeing her little face break through the throng of kiddos milling about as they wait for their parents. 
  • 4:50 – I drop Carla off at her music lesson. Then I go to Kohl’s to wander around. I’m hunting for one last gift for my husband. I usually avoid Kohl’s – it is SO crowded and the line moves SO slowly – but tonight it is nearly empty. I find a pair of deeply-discounted pajama pants that I think he’ll love. There is no one in front of me at the register so I’m back in my car in no time.
  • 5:15 – I’m waiting for Carla to finish her lesson. While I wait, I have an idea for how to move my manuscript forward and I type notes to myself in an email.
  • 5:45 – Carla’s done with her music lesson. I drive her home.
  • 6:15 – I urge Carla to finish the mug she made for one of her extracurricular instructors. She is very weary of making mugs, but she volunteered to make this one, and tomorrow is the day we need to drop it off. While she works on it, I make her dinner (a hamburger patty with pickles, tomato, and cheddar cheese on the side, some rice, and some cut up kiwi). While the burger cooks, I sit at my computer and try to translate my earlier notes into coherent prose.
  • 7:00 – Oh my goodness, it’s already 7:00! I call Carla up to eat and cut up broccoli for my husband’s and my dinner. The lemon garlic chicken has been smelling SO intensely of garlic all day I wonder if I did something wrong. (Added too much garlic, I think, even though that sounds impossible.) 
  • 7:15 – After I cut the broccoli, I sit beside Carla at the counter and read her three chapters of the book we are reading. I really, vehemently dislike the book (there is too much fat-phobia and bathroom talk and also it is fully ridiculous.), but she thinks it’s funny.
  • 7:45 – Yikes. We got caught up in the book and it is now fifteen minutes past the time Carla is supposed to be in bed! I send Carla upstairs to shower and then dash into the basement to put a coat of ModPodge on the mug she just made.
  • 7:50 – My husband arrives home. He tells me about his day while I put some couscous on the stove.
  • 8:00 – I go up to kiss Carla goodnight, sure she will want her Daddy to read to her, but she asks me to read her another chapter in our book. I ask my husband to stir the couscous and take it off the heat once most of the water is gone. (Carla adds, very serious, “Whatever you do, Daddy, DON’T put couscous down the garbage disposal!”)  
  • 8:30 – I kiss Carla goodnight and go downstairs. My husband is in his office, taking a call from the hospital. I spend about twenty minutes on this blog post then run downstairs to put another coat of ModPodge on the mug.
  • 9:00 – My husband comes into the kitchen. I put some broccoli in the microwave to steam.
  • 9:10 – We sit down to eat and chat. The chicken is edible, but not good. I’m not sure what I did wrong this time – I’ve made it a million times before. Maybe it was just in the crockpot way too long.
  • 9:30 – We watch an episode of Station Eleven and then an episode of Abbott’s Elementary. My poor husband is asleep halfway through the latter. Once the show is over, I prepare his coffee for tomorrow and kiss him goodnight, leaving him to sleep on the couch. Poor guy. 
  • 11:00 – I apply a final layer of ModPodge to Carla’s mug. Then I wash my face and brush my teeth and do my feet/calf stretches. Then I change into pajamas and get into bed.
  • 11:15 – I stretch my feet with an old bathrobe belt (sounds weird, but it is very effective) and read a few pages of The Accomplice before I fell my eyelids getting heavy. Lights out, time to sleep.

Whew. This was an extremely busy day, but when I type it out, it looks so full of NOTHING. I would say that it is fairly representative of a typical day in my life, even though most days don’t involve so much laundry or so much gift wrapping/preparation/mailing. 

If my math is right, I spent between four and a half and five hours on writing projects (blog posts, novel, and freelance work) over the course of this day. Ideally, I would spend the entire seven-ish hours Carla is at school writing, but when you mix in things like grocery shopping, laundry, eating, and exercise, it almost never works out that way. Add in all the extra nonsense of Christmas preparations, and the time shrinks even more. Yes, I realize that some of this is lack of discipline: I could devote all the time Carla is at school to writing, and reserve the rest of the day for errands, exercise, etc. I am making choices about how I spend my time, and that’s something I am constantly examining and trying to revise. Still, four-to-five-ish hours is a good chunk and I’m grateful for it. 

Do you have any questions or post requests for me? If so, feel free to submit them here.

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