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Archive for the ‘day to day ridiculousness’ Category

The grocery store and I are on the outs lately. And it’s not just ONE grocery store, but multiple grocery experiences at multiple grocery purveyors that have driven me into the deep end. Let me count them for you:

  1. We have a local grocery store that is notorious for being a) really busy and b) poorly staffed, so that no matter the time of day, you will end up waiting in an endless line to check out. It’s close to my daughter’s school, so I chance it on occasion anyway. Usually — to up the stress factor — I’m rushing in there for a key ingredient I need for that night’s dinner when I have a mere 15 minutes to shop, checkout, and pick up my child. The store has two (TWO) self checkout scanners but – and this is on me, even though I think it is STUPID – you can only use them if you have the store’s reward card. Which I DO HAVE. I have a credit card sized reward card and a little one that hangs on a keychain next to my housekeys and my membership card for the zoo. But I have recently acquired a new car (don’t get too excited) and it has a key fob rather than an actual key (my old car was from 2003; it even had a tape deck), and I carry the fob around by itself, unattached to a keyring or my housekeys, because it’s very easy to stick it in my pocket or shove it into the ankle of my leggings when I go out walking. ALSO – this is relevant, I promise – I have a phone case with a little sliding door that holds my ID and a credit card. So basically, all I need is my key fob and my phone and I’m GOLDEN. It is very pleasant to travel without a purse, let me tell you, especially after nearly SIX YEARS of lugging around a big carpetbag of a thing to hold wipes and snacks and crayons and sticker books. Is this what it feels like to be a man? SO FREEING. So – you see where this very boring aside is meandering – I frequently go to the grocery store without a wallet or my keyring. And then I am forced to stand in an achingly long line while the single checker the store seems to employ painstakingly slides each item across the scanner before gently placing it on the conveyor belt and then bags everything herself because of course they don’t employ any baggers either. You can circumvent the need for your card at the self checkout scanners if you a) call a staff member over and b) they input your phone number for you. But for some reason my phone number is not attached to my rewards account so I can’t even do that. So I have had two experiences in recent memory where I had to 1) leave without buying anything and 2) leave my basket of unscanned items in the care of a staff member while I dashed out to my car and retrieved my card. On a third occasion, a staff member took pity on me and somehow bypassed the need for the card, but I get the feeling that was a one-time perk, not something repeatable.  Since then, I have learned my lesson. But it annoys me to NO END.
  2. I have been having bad luck with fruit lately. I bought some grapes at my local store and they were moldy a few days later. I bought some cherries at the same time; they lasted a couple additional days but then MOLD. And then I bought a giant two-pound clamshell of strawberries at Costco for $3.99. I immediately – the day of purchase – washed half of them and fed them to my family. The very next day – one day post-purchase – I went to wash the remainder to give them to Carla and… MOLDY. What the ever-loving what…? Is my house a petri dish for mold spores or something?
  3. This morning, I walked into the grocery store without my brain. First, I made THE SAME HUMILATING MISTAKE I’VE MADE BEFORE and said, “I’m good! How are you?” to the checker when she was talking to the person in front of me. I had plenty of time to decompose slowly of embarrassment while the checker handled the other person’s transactions, and then said kindly (pityingly) to me, “Hi, how are you?” so that I could respond, “Fine, how are you?” all over again like a sad, socially awkward parrot.
  4. Then, mere minutes later, when the bag loader person was loading bags into my trunk, I called out, “Thank!” instead of “thanks” or “thank you” like a functioning human. As my trunk closed, Carla said, helpfully, “You said ‘thank,’ mommy. It’s ‘thank you.’” Thank, Carla. Thank.
  5. Then I arrived home to find that the bag person had loaded my bags in behind my bag holder. Even though I had put one bag into one of the bag-holder holders myself prior to pulling up to the bag loading area. I didn’t mean it as an example, but it should have been a good one, right?

Bags not in bags.JPG

Anyway. Despite such perplexing events and humiliating encounters, we must continue to prepare and eat meals. Onward, shall we?

Dinners for the Week of August 13 – August 19

  • Tacos

Note: I am trying to institute a weekly Taco Tuesday around here, both for ease of planning and for deliciousness purposes. It has taken a long time, mainly because I keep forgetting, but Carla is 100% on board. (Tacos are one of the few foods she eats with great gusto.) Maybe someday she will open herself up to the delight that is other kinds of tacos, but for now we soldier on with the ground beef variety.

Note: I have grown weary of the standard veggies we eat as sides. So much broccoli, zucchini, and green beans around here. And yet I am not willing to pay $3.49 a pound for brussels sprouts because they also require so much work. $3.49 a pound is convenience food pricing, I think, and brussels sprouts are not a convenience food. Anyway, I was lamenting the lack of options (my husband and I can only deal with asparagus every so often and I really can’t think of anything else to eat) and my husband stepped in before I could suggest it and notified me that he doesn’t find mushrooms and onions a satisfying side. Which is too bad, because I LOVE mushrooms and onions. Well, with this one meal I am going to have TWO sides. (TWO SIDES.) I roast the mushrooms and onions on the same cookie sheet with the pork chops, and the sauce makes them extra yummy.

  • Grilled Chicken with a Veggie

Note: I have not purchased any such veggie… so… we’ll see what happens. I will either marinate the chicken in a Wegman’s marinade or in this self-styled “best chicken marinade” which I have tried and is, in fact, delicious.

Note: This is, as you may note, just another way of doing chicken-with-a-veggie. But it requires a wok.

Note: It has been heavily documented that this is one of my favorite salads, and it is time now to eat it again.

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe. Maybe it will inject some interest into my boring chicken-and-zucchini lifestyle.

Note: I love this Rachael Ray recipe for mushroom sandwiches… and I am going to attempt to transform it into a big old spinach salad. I will marinate some steak in the mushroom marinade for my husband and he can have steak. Also I am using mozzarella instead of Manchego because I can. I am envisioning making a balsamic vinaigrette (I found an AMAZING balsamic dressing recipe online and cannot for the life of me find it, but this one seems close) and then throwing that and some of the marinade on top of the salad to dress it.

Follow Up: This was terrible. And thus TERRIBLY disappointing. The sandwich just didn’t translate well into a salad. There was too much spinach. The marinade was overpowering and with a balsamic dressing, there was nothing to counteract it. SIGH.

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

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You know a book is good when it’s still on your mind EIGHT YEARS after you first read it. So, while I have VERY MIXED feelings about Gavin de Becker’s  The Gift of Fear, I have to grudgingly admit that it must have a been a good book. I think of it regularly.

The Gift of Fear

Unfortunately, the overwhelmingly strong “lesson” of the book, the one that lingers on nearly a decade after learning it, is that Whatever I Do, I Am Doing the Wrong Thing. If I am anxious and nothing bad happens, it is because I am not paying close enough attention to the perfectly clear signals that are right in front of me for easy interpretation. If I am anxious and yet plow forward with the belief that I am anxious for no reason, and something bad does happen, it is because I was not paying close enough attention to the signals. Either way, I fail. (If you want to read a more balanced review of the book, that lays out its many very good points alongside its weaknesses, check out Swistle’s post about it.)

Anyway, it is on my mind AGAIN this week. I am going to tell you the story, but keep in mind before reading that I told my husband and at the end he was very disappointed that It All Turned Out Okay. So it’s not a story of narrowly escaping Certain Murder, or anything. Just to be clear.

Now that you have surely clicked away to something much more interesting: I go walking in a nature preserve after I drop my daughter off at camp.

The nature preserve is beautiful. It’s got a lot of trees and foliage and wildflowers and birds and rabbits and deer. There are people who take care of it – clearing and repairing the walking paths, protecting species trees with deer-proof fencing, mowing the sides of the walking paths so that the nature doesn’t physically overwhelm you – but it’s still very wild-seeming. It’s bordered on all sides by a bustling suburb, but when you’re in the middle of it, you feel very removed from city life. I like it in great part because it feels fairly isolated and remote.

Nature preserve 1.JPG

This is not a good picture — I was trying (and failing) to photograph a specific purple flower so I could look it up — but it should give you a sense of what the preserve is like. 

Lots of other people like it, too, of course. On a normal, good-weather morning, I might pass twenty or so people as I’m walking. People bring their bicycles, their baby strollers, their dogs. There are a couple of small ponds, so people can fish as well. It’s very pleasant, and lots of people take advantage of it, but I’d never say it was CROWDED.

 

 

Nature preserve map.jpg

Poorly labeled map of the nature preserve.

Recently, a new segment of the preserve has been opened to the public. It has a short loop of walking path and it’s very hilly. A friend recently suggested to me that I might want to switch up my exercise routine (my beloved workout DVD is not giving me the same results as it once did), so I have begun incorporating sprints into my walking efforts. This little loop is perfect for doing a nice sprint-on-the-flat-places, walk-on-the-hills pattern that leaves me feeling exhausted. It seems like the general public either hasn’t discovered it yet, or steers clear of it because of the hills, so it’s nice and quiet and I can gasp for breath in peace. I usually see maybe one to three people while I’m staggering up and down those hills.

On Monday, I saw not a single person. There’s construction on the road that leads into the preserve, which may be keeping some people away. Plus, it’s been HOT. I passed one guy in a bright green T-shirt as I was entering this side-loop area, but he was on the sidewalk outside the preserve (I think), and I didn’t see anyone else. I hit the gravel entrance to the loop and started sprinting. I am no longer fast, which is major blow to my ego. Whatever. Age is a jerk.

I did two loops, planning to do four. Leading into the third loop, I heard a rustling in the grass to my right. I wasn’t scared — there are so many squirrels and frogs and groundhogs that call the nature preserve home, “brush rustling” is not an uncommon sound. I did wonder mildly if there were any mountain lions in our area; I know that coyotes come into the preserve at night, but I’ve never seen a coyote and don’t have a particularly healthy fear of them. (They seem scrawny and timid, which is probably a VAST misconception.) (I am going to meet my end at the jaws of a coyote, aren’t I.) Mountain lions are different, though. I tried to remember what you’re supposed to DO if confronted with a mountain lion – make yourself as big as possible, I think? It’s different than with bears; I think, with bears, you’re supposed to speak calmly, wave your arms slowly, and back away with your eyes on the ground – and I kept eyeing trees to see if they were climbable. As if I could climb a tree.

About halfway through the third loop, I was still thinking about the invisible mountain lion. Keep in mind that I do my best thinking when I’m walking, and that I’m usually thinking about the manuscripts I’m writing, in which horrible and violent things happen, usually in nature. My mind was in a Dark Place, is what I’m saying. But I felt like I was on high alert – higher than usual.

I kept scanning the area, noting spots where the vegetation is taller than a man. No one would hide among the cattails, I told myself; the ground must be wet there.

It was so quiet, the heat lying on top of everything like a blanket, dampening sound. No wind. Even the blackbirds, who patrol the preserve with their red badges, calling the all-clear to one another across the bushes, were silent.

I could not get over the strong feeling that someone was watching me, that there were eyes somewhere concealed by the grasses. Even though I kept looking and seeing nothing but nature, it was very unsettling.

When I started thinking that I should have brought my water bottle – which is made of metal, and heavy enough when full that I could use it as a weapon – I realized I was more worried about my own safety than that of my fictional characters.

Okay, I thought, I should leave this isolated section of the preserve and go back to the more heavily populated section.

No, no, I argued with myself. I can’t let a case of the heebie jeebies get the best of me. I still have a whole loop and a half to do! This is just me being lazy and not wanting to do any more sprints!

What would Gavin de Becker tell me to do? I wondered. Would he tell me that I should listen to these signals that are making me feel uncomfortable? Would he tell me that I am not paying attention to all the perfectly clear signals that are saying I am completely safe? (He would wait until something did or did not happen, and then use it as an anecdote to prove whatever point he wanted, is what I think he would do.)

Self-preservation won. It doesn’t matter if I am being silly. It doesn’t matter if I am misinterpreting signals or reading signals that don’t exist. I am uncomfortable and I am going to leave.

And I did.

On the way out of the loop – there’s a little bridge over a little creek that connects the loop to the main section of the preserve – I spotted a man. I am 99% sure it was the same man I saw when I first entered the loop. White guy, tall, slim but not skinny, neon green T-shirt, sunglasses, khaki-colored fishing hat. He may have had a beard – close cropped or stubble, enough to give the impression of darkness on the jaw area. That’s all I remember. The reason he caught my eye was because he was not on the path. He was IN the creek, almost completely hidden from the path by the same grass where I’d started thinking about the mountain lion. Seeing him was startling and very creepy and I was really glad that I was leaving the area.

Now listen. LISTEN. He was probably there fishing! I’d seen him earlier, and I don’t remember that he was holding anything at all, but he could have totally been toting a fishing pole and it didn’t register. Or maybe he was on staff at the nature preserve! (Although later I passed one of the staffers, and he was wearing a dull green vest rather than a bright green T-shirt.) Or maybe he was a scientist studying water sources in urban forest land. Or maybe he was a walker and had climbed into the creek to pee or save a wounded duck or pick up a discarded shoe or something. He was MOST LIKELY there for something completely benign. I mean, at the very least, if you are a murderer/rapist planning to attack a woman in an isolated stretch of nature, would you really wear a NEON GREEN T-shirt to do so? I am SURE he was a perfectly nice guy who was doing something normal and not at all creepy.

Nonetheless, I felt vindicated. I had noticed a disturbance in the atmosphere and had listened to my intuition, and my reaction was based on a real source of potential danger. Probably the situation was not at all dangerous. But I felt much better about cutting my planned workout short when I discovered there actually was someone hiding (perhaps with absolutely no intention to deceive or harm!) behind the tall grass, and that that someone was a man who was bigger than I am.

Gift of fear, FTW!

Okay, now that we are past that long, boring, anticlimactic story, here’s where I ask you some hypothetical questions about how YOU might have reacted.

When I was nearly back to the main portion of the nature preserve, I saw someone coming toward me, heading toward the isolated loop I’d just vacated. I decided that I would tell the person about the man – just say, in an embarrassed, oh-I’m-so-ridiculous tone, that there was a guy there, doing something probably very normal and insignificant, but nonetheless in a kind of creepy and concealed way, and it made me uncomfortable, so I just wanted you to know.

But as the person and I approached one another, I saw that it was a male-presenting person, and that he was well-muscled and had a nice heavy cast on one arm, and, just as I was trying to work up the nerve to tell him ANYWAY, he said good morning and we passed one another and went our separate ways. (This is how most men I encounter in the nature preserve act, by the way! They stick to the paths! They acknowledge you with a wave or a greeting! They do not lurk in creeks under a bridge behind thick vegetation!)

(Distance from the experience is making me feel both silly and defensive. I KNOW that at the time I felt really uncomfortable and creeped out. At the time, telling someone seemed like the right thing to do; NOT telling someone seemed like a deeply cowardly decision. But today, recounting the story, I feel like it seems SO OBVIOUSLY NOT A BIG DEAL that I am rethinking my feelings.)

If it had been a female-presenting person, I would have told her. She may have thought I was ridiculous or unstable or whatever, but she also would have understood.

But a man… I don’t know. I made the judgment based on a) his gender presentation and b) his physicality that he could stand up to the creek wader should he need to.

I feel bad about it still. I wonder if I should have pushed past my feelings of embarrassment.

And I wonder if I really WOULD have been able to share my feelings with a female-presenting person.

(This is the point where my husband said, “Now I expect you to tell me that you looked it up later and a man got attacked and murdered in the same isolated loop you left!” And I shook my head and he sighed and said, “Great story.”) (I did look it up, and there were no reports of any attacks in the area.) (Thank goodness.)

What would you have done?

Would you have listened to your discomfort in the first place, and left the isolated loop?

Would you have told anyone about your discomfort? Would the person’s gender presentation affect whether you told them or not?

Do I tend to WILDLY overthink everything at all times? (YES.)

Nevermind the answer to that last one. It’s been on my mind, and this is my space to excavate those feelings. (Or, more accurately, dumptruck them onto a webpage and never think of them again.) I’m curious to hear your thoughts, if you have them. Or your own Gift of Fear situations.

And I really do think it’s time I read the book again. If only to give Mr. de Becker a second chance.

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We went on a little vacation over the long Independence Day weekend. And my in-laws are in town. And I’ve been dealing with Assorted Birthday Stuff. So the days kind of melt into one another and I am not really sure where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing. I think, it being Tuesday, I should be setting up a Dinners This Week post. But I haven’t even planned my meals this week, yet. (We are going out to dinner tonight, so I can delay that chore another day.) Plus, I have other things on my mind.

Did I tell you that we have new neighbors?

Deer 1

These are the Cute Neighbors.

Deer 2

They are very cute indeed. They do lots of frolicking. And they seem to see in Carla a kindred spirit because whenever she is in the living room, looking out at them from the sliding glass doors, they take great interest in her and often come up quite close to the glass.

Many new neighbors.

Skunk

Still very cute, but more worrisome. Especially because she has at least THREE babies in her condo under that step. Yes. The step that is directly adjacent to our living room.

Unrelated — surprisingly — to skunks: today, I am also preoccupied with The Smell. My husband woke me up with a loving kiss, as he does every morning, and, instead of saying, “Good morning, my darling,” he whispered, “I think I smell something bad.” Just the kind of affectionate phrasing I most enjoy in the wee hours, let me tell you.

I couldn’t smell it; couldn’t smell anything, really, because my nose has been, of late, CLOGGED TO THE MAX. I’m pretty sure I have a sinus infection; my forehead is tender, as are the circles under my eyes; my head is in a constant state of achey-ness; my nose, as mentioned just a second ago, is thick with YUCK.

But Carla leaped out of bed – she wakes up the instant anyone else is awake, unless she wakes up first; in summers, she has been “sleeping in” until six thirty or so, which is lovely – and chimed in from her room, “I think I smell it!”

I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion, but I thought – after copious nose-blowing – that maybe I, too, could smell the underpinnings of something foul.

My husband and I tossed around the idea that maybe it was the aftereffects of some roasted broccoli we had last night. Broccoli, delicious as it is, has a bad habit of releasing a pungent fart perfume that lingers in its absence. Carla wondered if the flowers we have in vases throughout our downstairs might be causing the stink, but they all look relatively fresh and the vase water is clear, and passed The Sniff Test, so…

So I did what anyone might do when confronted with Something Smelly: I cleared out all the garbage cans, sprayed the insides of the cans with bleach, cleaned the toilets for good measure, ran a load of laundry (although none of the laundry baskets had a noticeable smell), ran the garbage disposal, wiped down the counters. I questioned Carla closely about whether she’s taken any food upstairs (this is verboten in our house, and I don’t know that she’s ever done it before… but you never know). (She looked at me with wide-eyed shock that I would even ASK her such a thing. Dost she protest too much? Hmmmm….) (I smelled each corner of her room carefully, but we have already established that we cannot trust my nose.) Then I took Carla to camp and went for my usual four-mile walk.

The Smell greeted me when I returned.

Sigh.

It’s steamy outside, but I have dutifully opened all the windows and doors, in hopes of coaxing The Smell to leave. I dumped baking soda in each of the kitchen sink drains, filled one side of the sink with a mixture of hot water and vinegar, and ran the disposal as I let it drain; that’s the best way I know to really CLEAN the disposal. I’ve refreshed the flower water, just in case that’s the culprit. I am running the dishwasher, in case I didn’t rinse last night’s dishes thoroughly enough. I’m not really sure what to do next. Toss the week-old Gerber daisies, I suppose. They still look fine, but maybe they’re not.

Now I need to shower, because I don’t want to add my own Eau de Post-Workout to the scents inside the house.

The abiding worry, of course, is that some animal has crawled in between our walls and died there, memorializing its life in a legacy of odor. I wouldn’t even know where to BEGIN dealing with that, should that be the case. But let’s try everything else, first.

What else have I overlooked? What are the likely stink culprits in your home, when you’ve eliminated “trash smell” and “bathroom smells” from the list?

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I am skipping today’s Dinners This Week post. I mean, there’s no need to plan dinners when you’ll be eating dinner on an airplane, right? Let’s have some randomosity. Join me, won’t you?

First, let’s have some medicinal nachos:

Nachos 1

Chips. Top with cheese. Melt for 30 seconds in the microwave. Top with black beans and frozen corn. Microwave for another 20 seconds. Top with copious amounts of my favorite hot sauce. Add avocado, diced onion, and sour cream. Cilantro if you have it/don’t hate it. Tomatoes if you swing that way. Squeeze a wedge of lime over everything. Add copious amounts of sriracha for good measure. DEVOUR.

  • A lot of my fretting about Leaving My Bayyyyyybeeeeee has been channeled into Shoe Panic. As in, how am I going to walk around Europe for ten days without reducing my delicate feet to bloody shreds? So I have purchased and returned approximately 90,000 pairs of shoes in the past week. Nothing like leaving an important aspect of your planning to the very last minute!

 

  • These are the shoes I have ended up with: Skechers Go Walk Evolution Ultra sneakers (why do all athletic shoes have such ridiculous names?) and Vionic Minna ballet flats (in color “sand”) because I wanted to have walk-friendly shoes that were dressy enough for a nice-ish dinner.

 

  • Building on some of your great ideas for making the trip easier on Carla, I have bought her some books and other little fun surprises to open while we’re gone. There is a real dearth of fun, story-based children’s books about the very specific locations we are traveling to, which is DISAPPOINTING, but I did find this book about one of the cities on our itinerary:

Munich

  • You know that one of my big panics is Death By Airplane, right? So I have been desperately trying to get our life insurance upgraded just in case. Of course, the process takes waaaaayyyyy longer than I thought it would, so we just squeaked our medical exams in at the last minute and there is no way the underwriting will be complete before we leave. (I use these terms like I have any idea whatsoever how any of this works, which I do NOT.) HOWEVER. Did you know that you can get provisional coverage, based on the assumption that you will get approved? So that’s what we’re doing. We can pay a premium as though we’ve been approved, and then, when we come back home, ALIVE, we can pay any additional amount as needed. And if we perish while overseas, we’re covered. (I mean, as long as we are approved and have paid the correct amount; I’m assuming my parents could pay any difference after the fact.) Cool, right!?! Okay, maybe my calibration of “cool” has shifted in odd ways.

 

  • In other morbid planning, I tried to record myself singing to Carla. There are two songs I have been singing to her at bedtime all her life – one I made up while pregnant with her and the other is “Moon River” – and I have this desperate feeling that I MUST record myself singing them so she can listen to the songs (but will she?) to comfort her (but will they?) after my fiery death. But I can’t record myself! It’s so ridiculous! In every recording, I keep SWALLOWING in the middle of sentences. Like, “Mooooooon river, wider than a mile, I’m crossing [gulp] you in style someday…. [gulp] Dream maker, you heart [gulp] breaker….” It’s really distracting and annoying and I cannot NOT do it. I mean, have you ever tried to NOT SWALLOW when your body is telling you to swallow? And then try to SING while not swallowing? It’s absurd and obviously some sort of weird self-conscious reaction to recording myself. Do not suggest that I ask my husband to record me actually singing to Carla, because then I would die of embarrassment and also we are out of time. I am going to choose the least gulpy of the options and THAT’S JUST HOW CARLA WILL HAVE TO REMEMBER ME.

 

  • Abrupt subject change: Our Amazon Echo (Alexa) has begun telling me to enjoy my day. “Have a nice day,” she’ll say after I ask for the weather in the morning. “Have a good afternoon,” she’ll say sometimes after I’ve asked for the news briefing. It’s creepy but nice? And she only says it to me. She has never once used any sort of pleasantry with my husband. Also creepy? But it makes me feel vindicated in using “please” and “thank you” when making requests of her. My husband may not be on the good side of the AI after the uprising, but hopefully Alexa will put in a good word for me.

 

  • While I’m worrying about wholly unimportant things (recap: dying on my totally voluntary trip overseas; the state of my footwear for said trip; singing lullabies without swallowing; the inevitable AI uprising; will I have enough nachos to last until we leave for Europe?), let’s add in some panic about Carla’s birthday party. I think we have the venue down. And Carla has shifted from Tiger Theme to Seahorse Theme to Mommy, You Choose A Theme From These Five Cat-Related Categories Plus Foxes. So I am leaning toward Rainbow Leopard Theme, mainly because I have found the perfect party favor:

Rainbow Leopard

  • And the perfect cake to torture myself with making. (My husband heaved a great world-weary sigh when I told him about it and asked if I might consider just BUYING a cake.) (No.) (Does he know me?)

 

  • But I can’t find any great theme-appropriate invitations; some decent ones, but nothing I LOVE. And, WORSE, because I will panic about LITERALLY ANYTHING meaningless in the grand scheme of things, I cannot find any theme-appropriate paper plates and napkins. I can order them via Zazzle for around $60 for 40 to 50 plates-or-napkins, but can we all agree that spending $60 on 40 paper plates for a single party is excessive? I’m not saying it can’t be DONE; I wouldn’t judge anyone for spending $60 on 40 plates if that’s how they chose to spend their hard-earned money. But I think $1.70 cheetah-print paper plate — PAPER, not even hard plastic — is excessive and I really want to avoid it if at all possible.

 

  • So maybe foxes? I haven’t looked it up, but foxes could be a good alternative, right? It’s just that they are so Off Brand for my particular child, who wears leopard print probably three days a week (today she is wearing a faux fur cheetah print vest over a green dress and black leggings with faux leather patches; she has a very particular sense of style, this kid) and has leopard print boots and pretends to be a rotating cast of leopards/cheetahs/panthers on a daily basis. I am already exhausted by planning this party and I haven’t really even begun.

 

  • Please keep in mind that I KNOW that none of this is important, it’s a birthday party, not the Oscars or some other party that actually matters/has wide visibility, and really ALL parties pale in comparison to, like, climate change and gun control and matters of REAL IMPORT. I am not overlooking the absolute absurdity of wasting brainpower on this frivolity.

 

  • Frivolity continues: And what are we going to get Carla for her actual gift? She is fresh out of ideas, unless you count “more Barbies!” as an idea which I do not. The only things I can come up with are a) a new bike (although she has a perfectly good hand-me-down bike that will probably last her at least another year, in terms of being the right height, not to mention she staunchly refuses to let us remove the training wheels) and b) a doll, because she seems to finally be more interested in dolls than in stuffed animals. She has repeatedly asked for a basket for her bike, so she can collect things (acorns, pinecones, rocks) when she goes for bike rides… but I don’t think “needs a basket” is enough of a reason to buy a whole new bike… I don’t know. I am on the fence. What is the six-year-old set into these days?

 

  • I LOVED dolls as a child, and my mom got me a couple of Corelle (?) dolls that I cherished and played with for many years. (Oh wait, it turns out they are COROLLE dolls – Corelle is a type of dishware, it seems. My bad.) Is Corolle still a good way to go, doll-wise? American Girl dolls seem to be popular around here… although they are SO expensive I don’t think I am ready to travel down that road. I also used to love Cabbage Patch Dolls, are those still A Thing? (Ugh, I am cringing thinking about how the “preemie” Cabbage Patch Dolls were so coveted when I was a little girl. I guess March of Dimes used them to raise awareness about premature birth, but that went right over my head at the time. I can imagine it being a hurtful thing for lots of parents.) What is the current Doll Trend, is what I want to know? I thought, being a parent, this knowledge would sort of magically manifest in my brain but I WAS WRONG.

 

  • Speaking of brains: does your brain do that thing where, when overtired, it fixates on one word or phrase or song lyric to the exclusion of all other thoughts? Mine has been choosing “It’s raining tacos,” itself an agonizingly repetitive song, to replay ad nauseum in my head, at 2:30 am and beyond. Fun.  (No.)

 

  • My Inevitable Death Panic (which is both panic about my inevitable death and an inevitable panic about death) is manifesting in lots of cleaning, which is good, I suppose. But I have failed to take any Before photos, which makes it poor blog fodder. I just want you to know that I have done a LOT of work and gotten rid of a LOT of crap. I am kind of hoping my mom will open some drawers and marvel at how spare and tidy they are. “Maybe she died in a plane crash taking a totally unnecessary trip abroad, but, man, are her drawers neat and clean!” they’ll say at my funeral.

 

  • Let’s have one more photograph of medicinal nachos. These were yesterday’s, so I need to see if I have enough ingredients for another heaping dose before I make my way to The Land of Sausages and Schnitzel. DOCTOR’S ORDERS.

Nachos 2

Okay. Enough. What’s up with you, Internet? Lord knows we have enough Big Serious Issues at hand to ensure we never sleep again. But what utterly frivolous things are keeping you up at night?

By the way, my husband and I decided to limit ourselves to one phone while overseas, and it is his phone, so blog posting/reading is likely to be light/nonexistent while we’re gone. I promise photos of castles if when we return.

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I try to be a good inhabitant of our planet, as much as a human can be. But I’m not great, and there is a LOT of room for improvement. I have become hyperaware of how much trash we produce, for instance, and we are just a little family of three. But with room for improvement comes opportunity, so I have been keeping my eyes out for ways to reduce our environmental impact.

Two areas of greatest waste in my household are paper towels and plastic bags. I have become an expert at bringing reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, and I am really working on bringing my reusable produce bags, too. (I really need to buy more of them, because I inevitably end up using plastic bags anyway and then feeling annoyed at myself. Baby steps.) I have effectively retrained my brain to use reusable containers instead of Ziploc bags for things like snacks and leftovers. I can still improve in that arena, too: I use a lot of Ziploc bags to marinate and freeze meat (although I am getting better about marinating things in glass dishes instead), and I am in the early stages of researching and thinking about buying reusable silicone zipper bags to use as a replacement. But I’m not there yet.

It takes me a while to change. And I think at this stage of life, I still want things to be fairly convenient. Listen, I know that this is not a good argument against doing something that is better for the environment. But I think we all do what we can, and even a little step in the right direction is still a step in the right direction. Probably I should be composting and bicycling Carla to school each day and avoiding plastic at all costs but I am making changes, and that has to be worth something. Ugh. I am sure Swistle has written about this before… Yes, yes she has: “Environmentalism, Swistle Style” and you should go read that and we can all feel better about our own willingness/ability to change. I’ll wait.

See? Doesn’t that feel better? I guess it boils down to: I can do better, of course I can, we all can. But I am doing SOMETHING and that is NOT NOTHING.

This is all to say that I have been thinking about reusuable paper towels for a long time. First, I discovered that they existed. This was A Revelation to me; I had no idea! Then I started reading about them. Then I thought seriously about buying some. Then I did a test run of No Paper Towels (using washcloths instead) to see if I could justify trying them out. Then I went through a long period of using paper towels as per usual. And then I mentioned the reusable paper towels to my husband, and he got on board, and I bought a package.

These are the reusable paper towels I bought:

Paper towels

photo from amazon.com

My main concerns were fourfold:

  1. Would they be an adequate replacement? I wanted to be sure that the reusable paper towels acted as much like a replacement for paper towels as possible. In my trial period, I’d been using microfiber washcloths, and that was fine… but it wasn’t like paper towels. They were the wrong size. They felt wrong. I had to stow them in a plastic bag in the laundry room until I had enough to wash them. What I wanted was… paper towels. Just… reusuable ones. I was able to determine through research that this was impossible. Sure, the resuable paper towels I got LOOK like a roll of paper towels. But once you use them, you can’t put them back on the roll. So you have to find a way to store them after that first use. Hence…
  2. How and where were we going to store them? We got a new piece of furniture for the hallway between the pantry and the laundry room, so I kind of figured I would put them in one of the drawers. I could lay them all out flat and store them there, and hopefully it would be easily accessible enough to still be convenient to use. I also planned to employ the old bag-hanging-in-the-laundry-room trick to keep the soiled cloths between washings. Instead of a Target bag, I would use one of my reusable veggie bags because it is breathable. And then once we had a whole bagful of soiled cloths, I could wash them.
  3. What was I going to do about really germy messes? Wiping down the counter after Carla eats dinner is one thing. But what about using a reusable paper towel on spilled chicken juice? Even if I give it a thorough rinse afterward, I don’t know if I want that hanging around in my veggie bag until I have enough towels to justify a load of laundry.

The last concern is the least concerning:

  1. Were we going to accidentally throw them in the trash, wasting money and nullifying any environmental benefit?

 

So there you go. I bought the towels. Now, we have to USE them. Next time, I will tell you what I think.

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We had been stepping over it for DAYS (two). My daughter and my husband had each mentioned its falling – and finally, I was able to swoop in and do The Job That Only I Could Do! I applied two circles of masking tape to the back of the fallen artwork and pressed the art firmly into the cupboard/gallery space. Voila! Fixed! Alas, no one was around to see my heroic act. No doubt they will throw me a parade when they notice that the hall is now clear of artwork and the art is once again properly displayed!

Okay, okay. I tend to get irritated and snarky when I tackle the household work that Only I Can Do. But when I really think about it, I KNOW there are many jobs that Only My Husband Can Do. So it’s not like it’s a one-sided thing. It still rankles, though, because it FEELS like I am overloaded with tasks that could so easily be shared by one/both additional members of the family.

When I begin to feel put upon and beleaguered, it helps me to list all the things that my husband DOES do. And, once I have regained my sense of equilibrium, I can think about how fascinating it is, that housework can be divided in so many ways. There are the things that we both do – laundry, dishes, caring for the human – and the things that one of us does FAR more often, but not always, and then there are the things that one of does so often that I am going to say “always,” even if there have been very, very, veryvery rare exceptions.

Like cooking. I make dinner almost every night. On the nights I don’t make dinner, we go out or fend for ourselves with leftovers/cereal. But that’s not to say my husband doesn’t EVER cook. He does, but it is (now) very very rare. So I would feel comfortable putting “cooking” on the “Only Me” list.

A similar task on my husband’s side of the list would be sorting mail. I do it very occasionally, but really, I think of it as His Task. If he were to get fed up and shout at me that he hates sorting the mail and I never ever do it, I would have to concede the point. “Never ever” except for maybe twice a year doesn’t count as a shared task.

The things Only My Husband Does are really his and his alone. He is the financial supporter of our household. My freelance income is so vanishingly small next to his that it doesn’t really count; if he expired suddenly, I could not support our family on what I currently make from freelance work. (Aside: This is a hard topic for me. I know many, MANY people make it work, but for me, I always feel… inferior. Like the lesser contributor. Maybe if I had more children I would feel less so? I don’t know. But I feel hateful for feeling frustrated by all the work I DO have, which is menial and so EASY compared to what my husband does each day. He finds CANCER. He improves people’s QUALITY OF LIFE. He works SO HARD. And yet I STILL get frustrated and Oh Woe Is Me and feeling I’m-the-only-one-who-does-anything-around-here-grumbly. I don’t have any Soothing Thoughts or Coping Mechanisms to apply to this mental difficulty, I just wanted to note it.)

He pays all the bills. I have offered, but (to my great relief) I have never once taken over this task. He also researches Big Purchases – washer and dryer, new car, new whatever. The only time I’ve ever taken up that mantle is with the window situation, which proves that a) I am fully capable of researching major home expenses and b) I hate it.

Tasks that are firmly in the Only Me column include bafflingly simple things like making sure Carla’s rest blanket and pillowcase (and, in the winter, snow clothing) are laundered over the weekend and folded in her backpack by Monday. Occasionally going through her backpack and removing crumpled artwork, rocks, leaves, sticks, plastic “gems,” contraband toys she smuggled to school from home and forgot about, and so much dirt. Washing/filling her water bottle each day. Making sure that the guest bathroom hand towel gets changed/laundered on a regular basis. Wiping down the counters. Replacing the toilet paper (how, just, statistically, does this always fall to me?). Periodically cleaning out the fridge. Decorating for holidays (aside from some help with the Christmas tree). Planning/hosting/attending playdates. Making probably 99% of appointments and other phone calls. Managing our social calendar. It feels like ALL of these are dumb/frivolous which makes me cranky.

I am primarily the grocery shopper, but sometimes my husband will do it. My husband is primarily the person who researches and makes plane reservations, but sometimes I will do it (if FORCED to). The trash used to be primarily his job, but he made some frustrated noises about that a year or so ago and so I do it more than he does on an even split. Most mornings, I make Carla breakfast, but my husband takes over probably on average once a week. School stuff overwhelmingly falls to me, but my husband joins in on drop-offs/conferences/pickups when he can; okay, upon reflection “school stuff” probably belongs in the Only Me category. We split bedtime duties (teeth brushing supervision, reading, tucking in) although I help with clothing choices more often than not. I made my husband promise, when we decided to have a baby, that he’d take care of vomit; he’s been pretty good keeping up his end of the bargain, although I’ve been on Vom Cleanup twice in the past year which is an acceleration of my duties that I’m not comfortable with. We both participate in giving gifts to other family members, although I am most definitely the initiator. I’d say we refill the kitchen soap dispenser about evenly.

It is so very easy, in a marriage, to feel like you are doing ALL THE WORK. Especially, I might (with great bias) add, if you are in the homemaker role. I am reminded of my mother’s wise words, that in a marriage, you must give more than 50%.That’s just part of it. It SUCKS sometimes. But, for one thing, maybe you aren’t giving 51%. Or maybe you aren’t seeing the invisible things that make up your partner’s 51%. Surely, there are many times when you are only able to give 30%, or 10% or even 0%, and your spouse makes up the difference. And probably there are YEARS when one person is giving 70% and the other is giving 30% and that can still be a fair and good way to split things up. There are so many ways to make a marriage work. But I know feeling malevolent and resentful because I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO DOES DISHES AROUND HERE AND NO ONE APPRECIATES IT is not the key to longterm happiness. Not that I’ve FOUND the key to longterm happiness; I am just muddling through, day by day. I just know that listing out all the things that my husband does helps when I am feeling like my More Than 50% is endless and unmatched really, truly helps.

I would be very interested to know the things that Only You do in your household, and, likewise, the things that Only Your Spouse does as well. And, if you have it, the key to longterm happiness.

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Recently, I did something I’d never done before: I went to an exercise class.

Maybe saying “never” is inaccurate. First of all, it’s possible that I just don’t remember taking a class before. I recently talked to my dad about hiring someone to stretch the carpet in our upstairs hall and he said that I’d done that a few years ago and the person I’d asked said it wasn’t possible. Welp. Just blocked that right out of my head didn’t I. And then my husband referenced in an off-hand way the time he cut his finger so badly we had to go to the emergency room. Um. Whatnow? I have zero recollection of this supposed emergency injury. So I admit there could be an exercise class or two knocking around in my history somewhere.

Does this count? I know I went to a yoga class once, when my husband was in medical school. It was TERRIFYING because I was less outgoing then than I am now (not that I would ever in a million years describe myself as “outgoing”) and I went without a friend. And the instructor was very off-putting for reasons I cannot fully recall or articulate, but seem to be related to a) how clear it was he wasn’t wearing underpants and b) how he loudly declared that gas and other body noises were a common part of the practice, so let ’er rip and that was deeply unsettling to a Very Self-Conscious and Easily Embarrassed Twenty-Five-Year-Old. Also the class was crowded and I had no idea what I was doing and it was enough to put me off exercise classes of any sort for more than a decade.

ANYWAY. My friend asked if I would go to this class with her, so I automatically had a higher comfort level than with Yoga Gas Guy. Plus, I have done many a workout video in the intervening years and I feel more confident about my endurance and capability when it comes to exercise.

But it was a new experience, and I had to overcome a lot of internal resistance to say yes. So in case you are similarly curious about trying a class, but are deathly afraid of it, here’s my experience.

It was one of those barre classes, which is supposedly a combination of yoga, Pilates, and ballet. For years, I’ve heard about these barre classes and reacted with narrowed eyes and deep suspicion. Anything involving ballet should not involve me, is my general feeling. But I went online and read the website, which was very helpful: it explained exactly what to bring (water and sticky socks if I wanted them) and that all props would be provided. I didn’t know what “props” meant, so I asked my friend if I needed to bring a mat and it turned out that’s one of the props. (The other props turned out to be hand weights, a resistance band, and an exercise ball.)

I got there early and met the instructor and told her I was a newbie. She was super nice and told me things that went straight out of my head. Okay. Whatever. I used the bathroom, exchanged my shoes and normal socks for sticky socks (these are the ones I use; they are perfectly adequate and WAY less expensive than the $20-per-pair [!!!] socks you can buy at the barre place) (don’t buy these ones; the sticky spots don’t cover enough of the foot and I kept slipping when I wore them), and went into the room. Excuse me: studio.

It’s a big room with mirrors on three sides and a long ballet barre running along the mirror. We all got a couple of weights, a towel, and a resistance band, and went and picked a spot at the barre.  (The exercise balls were already tucked up on the barre all around the room.)

One of my worries about classes was that I would be the only one who didn’t know anyone. But that either wasn’t the case or didn’t matter. My friend had another friend there too, so they talked while I looked around and tried not to be too nervous. A lot of people seemed to know each other, but just as many seemed to be there by themselves. Some people chatted, some people just stood there silently.

One of my other worries was that I would be the only person with my body type. It doesn’t MATTER, of course, but I am self-conscious of my body and I was fretting that everyone would look like my friend, who has a more standard-of-current-beauty-trends body shape. I made myself go anyway. And it was okay. There were LOTS of different body types represented. The women were all different ages and races and shapes. That was a big relief.

When it came time for the class to start, the instructor put on a headset microphone and went to the front of the room – which turned out to NOT be the front of the room; any of the walls that had a mirror was fair game for being the “front,” so the only way to avoid being at the front was to stand in one of the far back corners, which I wouldn’t advise because it makes it so hard to see yourself in the mirror. She had all of us spread out all over the room and then she led us in a series of exercises. These were varied: yoga-type stretches, squats, modified burpees, 80s-style aerobics moves. It was fast paced and very hard, but she moved from exercise to exercise so quickly that it was still do able. And people were kind of doing their own thing. She would sometimes shout out a modification if you were having lower back pain or if your knees aren’t super great or if you are a beginner. And people were doing the modifications. Then she moved us to the barre, where we did some core and leg work with the exercise ball. This was SO HARD. My legs were shaking like crazy. But the instructor’s legs were shaking too, and so were my friend’s. So I figured it was just part of the deal. Then the instructor pulled out some yoga mats and we did floor work, some of it with the resistance band. And then we did some stretches and it was over. It went by surprisingly quickly. She played upbeat music at a nice loud volume the whole time, which I enjoyed.

One of the other things I was self-consious about was messing up and feeling stupid. But that quickly became a non-issue. I noticed what other people were doing, but more in a general sort of way. Like, I had the sense that some people were facing the barre for some of the thigh exercises while others had their backs to it, but it didn’t really register that Specific Woman was doing so, if that makes sense. So I don’t think anyone was looking at me, specifically, and critiquing my warrior pose or whatever.  Mainly, I was watching the instructor to see what I should be doing and to match her rhythm… or I was looking in the mirror at myself, trying to make sure my knees weren’t bending out over my toes or my back was straight.  And I figured that everyone else was doing the same. That helped me relax a little.

It was an hour-long class, and by the end of the hour, my legs were so weak that I literally could not walk down the stairs. Luckily, there was an escalator to the ground floor, but my friend walked down it and then had to stop and wait for me because my legs were no longer obeying my commands. And then I had to drive my stick-shift car home and it was nearly impossible.

But I really enjoyed the class. It was different from my normal workout video or treadmill routine. And I liked being pushed to do things I wouldn’t normally try on my own. So I signed up for another 10 classes, and I have been going about once or twice a week. I wouldn’t say that it’s fun, but it is very satisfying.

One of the things I hate about exercising is that the results aren’t immediate. Dieting is different: if I burn more calories than I take in, I see an immediate result on the scale. But exercise takes so much MORE than dieting – there’s all the time it takes, and the energy you have to put into running or barreing or whatever, not to mention the mental wheedling/cheerleading/bullying you have to do to get yourself to do it in the first place – and yet you have to wait for WEEKS, MONTHS EVEN before you see any difference at all. So I am not going to say that this class has in any way helped me lose weight. I haven’t really seen any body changes at all, but then again, I haven’t been going that long. But I think the class is enjoyable on its own. It’s challenging and a change of pace and all that.

I am not sure I will buy another block of classes when I’m done with this one; it’s very expensive and I have yet to decide whether it’s worth it. And I don’t know that I want to ask for it for Mother’s Day or something like that; that seems like a gift designed to make me feel irritated and sad, even if I ask for it specifically.

Oh! The other thing I wanted to tell you is that I have very sweaty palms. And feet, which is why I need the sticky socks. But my hands are also very slippery. I already owned a bunch of yoga gloves, and they are fine (and really inexpensive!). But they pull at the webbing between my fingers. So I got some yoga paws to try out and I like them much better.

The only problem with the yoga paws/gloves is that no one else wears them. Well, I think one woman – in her sixties, I would guess – does. But no one else does. And I know I shouldn’t care at ALL, but it does make me feel self-conscious. As does the fact that seemingly everyone in each class I’ve attended wears head to toe Lululemon. Great. Good for them. I am wholly intimidated by Lululemon, which seems geared to people with Not My Body Type. Plus, it seems to be Very Expensive, and my general feeling is that a legging is a legging. (Which is not to say that I’m right! Or that I think people shouldn’t buy Lululemon! If I had the budget for it and the confidence, I would be all over that shit!) (And I get that it is more like Investment Clothing and will probably last a LOT longer than my Cheapo exercise wear. But for me, right now, high-end athletic wear is a Startling ExpenseTM Swistle.) Anyway, the point is that I end up feeling really… left out? is that the word?… while wearing my Kirkland-brand leggings and my cheap Amazon sticky socks. It’s STUPID. And yet I still feel weirdly insecure. It’s the same way that I sometimes feel inferior when I’m driving my 2003 Honda in the school pickup line behind a chain of Mercedeses and Range Rovers and BMWs and Lexuses. I like my Honda. It’s a good car. It’s fully paid for. But when everyone around you has something that you don’t, it feels like you’re being singled out. Not that anyone has ever said anything, good or bad, about my car! Good ol’ peer pressure or the perception thereof! It’s so dumb! And yet such a powerful, irresistible force! Man, I really though that when I was Nearing Forty I wouldn’t care so much what other people think. And yet… SIGH. SO MANY INSECURITIES OMG.

Well, I am continuing to enjoy my classes despite my Costco leggings and yoga paws. I am hoping that I am giving off a No Fucks Given/Beat of My Own Drum kind of vibe rather than a Wildly Out of Place vibe. Not that anyone is even LOOKING at me long enough to even pick up a vibe; they are all too busy looking at their own form in the mirror and trying to keep up with the instructor and fretting over their own insecurities. It really DOESN’T matter, one single ounce. And it makes me super mad that I’m even thinking about it at all.

Maybe I need to scrap the exercise class, after all. My treadmill never makes me feel insecure about what I’m wearing!

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