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Posts Tagged ‘silliness’

Nicole posted about her recent dental experiences the other day, and I don’t want to be a copycat in any way, but it must be dentistry season or something because I have a LOT of dental topics to cover. 

Over-Communicators: First, like Nicole, I get WAY too many communications from my dentist. They have an email newsletter (why?) and they send reminder texts and reminder emails and for a long time, they were sending “we have an appointment available!” texts that they have fortunately either discontinued or stopped sending to me in particular.  I don’t need to hear from my dentist this often. Does anyone?

For my recent appointment, I got a confirmation text at FIVE AM which was then immediately followed by a phone call. (And then the chime alerting me to a voicemail.) They also sent an email, but I don’t have email notifications enabled on my phone so it didn’t bother me immediately. Out of spite, I refused to confirm my appointment. That’ll show ‘em.

Listen. Because my husband is a physician, and is plagued by cancellations and no-shows, I know better than many how important it is for healthcare providers to remind patients about their appointment time. But three simultaneous notifications is a little aggressive, no? 

Routine Cleaning, Visit 1 of 3: I have been to the dentist three times in the past six weeks, which is really far too many times a person should need to go to the dentist. In my opinion. The first visit was for a routine cleaning. While I was there, I mentioned that I have been having pain in one of my molars. I live in absolute terror of needing another root canal – not because the root canal itself was so bad; it wasn’t, as I was knocked out, but because the cold test they do to confirm dead/dying root was the single most painful experience of my life so far. I am not eager to repeat it. 

The dentist said that the molar pain could be that the root needs canaling (I don’t know how to talk about dentistry)… or it could be that my gums are receding a little bit and exposing the nerve… or it could be the imperceptible beginning of a cavity… or it could be because I clench my teeth.

Since I get terrible headaches on the regular, we kind of settled on the teeth-clenching issue as being our first area of attack. (Well, plus I am once again using exclusively toothpaste for sensitive teeth, which does seem to be helping a bit.) The plan of attack seems to be getting a night guard. I am hopeful that the night guard will help prevent me from clenching my jaw while I sleep, and that this will keep the headaches at bay. 

The Old Night Guard: The fact is, I have had a “dental appliance” for over a decade that is supposed to solve the jaw clenching problem. But I used it only a few times when I got it, and have tried it a few times since only to shove it back into my drawer as quickly as possible. I hate it. It is small – maybe the size of… a pencil sharpener? an overlarge die? I am really struggling to come up with something the exact shape and size. Slightly smaller than one of those miniature boxes of Nerds? It attaches to my upper front teeth and keeps me from closing my teeth together. 

The first thing I hate about it is that it fits SO tightly. It’s slightly difficult to pop on, but it is far far worse to remove. I feel like the only way I will ever get it out of my mouth is to break my top front teeth in half. Releasing it in the morning is extremely stressful.

The second thing I hate about it is that it is small. I have a (possibly irrational) fear that I will swallow it or choke on it at night. The last time I used it – I think in a desperate attempt to stave off the last root canal; is this foreshadowing because I don’t like it – I woke up and couldn’t find it and was CERTAIN that I had swallowed it in the night. As my husband and the dentist pointed out, it fits so snugly on my teeth that there is no way it could have fallen off in the night. So I must have removed it myself while I was asleep. To that I say: it is so incredibly difficult to remove, there’s no way I did it while unconscious. But probably no one else removed it for me. In any event, I am no less fearful of swallowing the stupid thing while I sleep. So I don’t wear it and every time I complain to the dentist about jaw pain/headaches, he gives me an exasperated look and asks if I am wearing my appliance. 

New Favorite Dentist: A new dentist recently joined our practice. I was telling her all about my jaw clenching woes and my fear of the appliance I already own. She immediately won me over by saying, “Well, you definitely don’t want to worry about swallowing your night guard!” like it was a completely reasonable worry to have. And then she set me up to be fitted for a new, un-swallowable (and MUCH more comfortable) night guard. Also, I have never had a woman dentist before, and she seems cool and fun and I wish we could be best friends. 

Observation: I am noticing that I never refer to my male healthcare workers as cool and fun. Hmm. Hmmmmmm.

Best Filling Ever, Visit #2: Also during my routine cleaning appointment, the new dentist looked at a tooth that has had, for YEARS, a little divot in it. I am sure that the old dentist was keeping a close eye on it, and apparently something has recently changed to make it catch the attention of the new dentist. “You need a filling,” she said.

Yay. Good times.

When I went back for the filling, I was extremely nervous. I have mentioned before how much anxiety I get at the dentist, but mouth shots really fire up the ol’ anxiety engine. “How many shots will I need?” I asked. And she said, none, the filling was small enough she thought she could do it without numbing me at all. At which point I grew more nervous. I told her that I have a very low pain tolerance and that I was afraid it would hurt. She seemed to take this seriously, which I appreciated. She said she would be happy to numb me for the procedure, but that she thought the numbing shots would be much worse than the filling. So I tensed every single muscle in my body and prepared for the worst.

You guys. It took five seconds and was completely painless. Completely. Painless. She simply put some faux-enamel or whatever it is they use for fillings into the divot in my tooth, used some magical hardening tool to set it, and was done. Someone else sanded it down, and the whole ordeal was over. BEST FILLING EVER.

Of Doppelgangers and Flattery: The person who did both my filling and the subsequent scanning for my nightguard was new to me. Instead of my regular hygienist, or any of the three dentists in the practice, this person must have been… a dental technician? A hygienist? I have no idea. No one introduced me to her or told me her title or anything, and I guess that’s on me for just trustingly walking back to a reclining chair and opening my mouth for a stranger with a bunch of pokey tools at her disposal. 

She was very nice, despite the pokey tool availability. After the filling, she fitted me for the nightguard. To do so, she took a 3D scan of my upper teeth using a very odd machine about the size of an electric toothbrush. As she was scanning my teeth, she said that I look JUST like her friend’s daughter. It must have been quite a close resemblance, because she mentioned it several times, and then told me some details about the friend’s daughter as though that might remind me that I was indeed her twin or something. (I am being snarky, but truly I have no idea what to do in that kind of situation! How do you respond when someone insists that you look identical to someone you’ve never met? I have never had a doppelganger before!)

She asked me how old I am. I told her, in that awkward lisping way one does while someone else’s hands are in their mouth, that I am 41. She stopped scanning my teeth, stepped back, and removed her protective eyewear. “You’re kidding,” she said. “My friend’s daughter just turned 30.” I don’t generally think of myself as looking either younger or older than I am, but it was very pleasing to be mistaken for a 30-year-old youth. 

Night Guard Fitting, Last Appointment (for Now):  Once the scan was turned into a 3D model of my upper teeth, I had to return once more to the dentist. This time, the dentist had to fit the night guard to my bite. At first, she said it was very important that my bite be even, otherwise wearing the guard could cause me pain. So she put that weird dark paper (Google tells me it is called “articulating paper”) in between my night guard and my bottom teeth and had me bite down on all sides, then she would use a special tool to grind away the parts that were uneven. She did this for thirty minutes, grinding the night guard down, blowing all the dust off of it, reinserting it into my mouth, asking me if it felt even, having me bite down on the articulating paper, removing the guard, grinding some more. I began to get the sense that she was growing weary of the repetition. “Is it getting better?” she’d ask, of the evenness of my bite. I started telling her it was getting a bit better, even though it didn’t seem better to me. Eventually, I asked her what would happen if it was uneven. “Well, you might have some pain,” she said. “You can always bring it back in and we can adjust it later.” So the next time she inserted the night guard, I told her it was great. 

Was this a bad move? Maybe! But I hate things like that! I want the thing to be correct, to work correctly. The dentist presumably wants the thing to work correctly too. But it was taking SO LONG to get it right. And even though the dentist never said so in so many words, I could tell she was getting antsy, which made me want to move things along. Plus, I started doubting my own perceptions. Maybe this was exactly how it was supposed to feel! Maybe my bite is weird to begin with! But now maybe the night guard is not going to work as well as it could??? And then I will have to go back, a FOURTH time, to get it recalibrated? UGH.

Carla, Future Animal Dentist: Carla, lucky spring breaker that she is, came with me to the night guard fitting appointment. She was very interested in every single thing the dentist did, and asked five million questions (including quizzing the dental assistant about why she wanted to work with teeth and asking if they used a 3D printer to make my night guard), and the dentist seemed to love her inquisitiveness. She answered every question and even showed Carla how to work the various little tools on her tray – the grinder thing, the air blowy thing, the water sprayer thing. She kept asking Carla if she wanted to be a dentist, and Carla – ever agreeable – said yes! Of course! A dentist! even though she has never once expressed interest in dentistry in her life. 

Then, as is Carla’s way, she said, “Maybe I could be a dentist for animals!” The dentist and the dental assistant and I kind of laughed gently at this, although for all I know maybe there ARE dentists for your pets, and Carla went on: “Yes! I will be an animal dentist! And I will make night guards for cats and dogs and horses!” 

Personalization: The dentist sent me home with my not-too-ill-fitting night guard in a little box. She gave the box to Carla to carry and told her that she could decorate it for me. Which Carla did.  

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I am recovering from Justacold. Or maybe it is just January, I don’t know. 

Covid Exhaustion

I woke up last Wednesday with a sore throat and sniffles, and immediately assumed it was Covid. Especially when I learned that Carla and I had been in a group setting with a person who had since been diagnosed with Covid. I was sure of it. And yet, two rapid tests said no, not Covid. My husband and I looked at each other. Do we TRUST the rapid tests? What if they were wrong and I DID have Covid, and I was now unnecessarily exposing my husband and kid to Covid? Ugh.

The thing is, there seems (STILL) to be no reliable consensus on anything. Do I need to isolate or quarantine? What, pray tell, is the ever-loving difference between isolation and quarantine? Is it okay if I drive my kid to school, while masked? Does being in a room with someone who later tested positive for Covid an “exposure” if we are all vaccinated and masked? Is being masked in my house enough to protect my family, or do I need to hole up in the guest room? I read various articles to try to address these questions. I consulted the CDC website. I still cannot tell you what the right thing to do is.

Fortunately! We have a small supply of rapid tests! I will just take a rapid test and then I will know and can move on with my life! 

Oh wait. There’s no consensus there, either.

I read articles that said Covid rapid tests are very sensitive and great in terms of giving you peace of mind. I read articles that said rapid tests aren’t as good at detecting the omicron variant. I read articles saying that rapid tests aren’t great at detecting the virus early on. I read articles that said you can trust a positive result but you need to confirm a negative rapid test with a PCR. I read articles that said if you get a negative while you have symptoms, you’re probably negative. I read articles that said the more rapid-test negatives you get, the less likely it is you have Covid. This all mainly pointed to me not having Covid… But none of it was DEFINITIVE enough for me. 

So I scheduled a PCR test (I was very lucky to find one at a nearby CVS the next day) and stopped wasting our small supply of rapid tests. 

To make a very long and boring story shorter but still boring: my Covid test came back negative two days later. Even though I felt, the whole time, fairly certain I did not have Covid, I wore a mask at home and isolated for the four days between when I first experienced symptoms and when I got the results. Here is how I defined isolating: I stayed in my office or the guest room, with the doors closed, as often as possible. (It was surprisingly difficult to remember to CLOSE THE DOORS when I left one of those spaces, which seems like kind of a critical step in keeping the germs where they needed to be. I got better at it, though.) I ate meals in my office, I slept in the guest room. When I was walking to and from the bathroom/kitchen, I wore a mask. (I did drive my kid to and from school, and we both wore a mask in the car.) It was lonely but I got a lot of reading and writing done. 

Obviously, I am very glad I don’t have Covid. But I also feel really stupid. That’s the rub, right? You do the prudent, cautious thing justincase and then you feel silly when it turns out you didn’t have be prudent or cautious. I wasted an entire box of rapid tests! I missed two nights of putting my kid to sleep for no reason! I mussed up the guest room sheets for no reason! Of course, if my result had been positive, I would be feeling entirely differently. I would be feeling wise and prescient. My husband would be congratulating me on my carefulness and foresight. It’s a lose lose situation. You either feel stupid or you have Covid. 

Justacold

Also, I still feel very yucky. My throat is still scratchy. My head aches. I am not super hungry (MAJOR RED FLAG FOR ME). Maybe I should have gotten the flu test add-on CVS asked if I wanted when I got my PCR. (It’s not flu either, hypochondriac.)

Office Mishaps

Prior to getting justacold, I went for my annual gynecological exam. This year, I saw a new doctor. The office was certainly nicer than the previous office, and the staff was MUCH friendlier. Plus, the waiting room was very roomy and the seats were set well apart from one another.

(The main reason I sought out a new doctor was that last year, I waited for an hour in my gynecologist’s waiting room, during which time NO staff member updated us with the doctor’s status, and the waiting room filled up with people, many of whom were coughing. I think you will understand that my blood pressure shot up over the course of my wait – indeed, it was higher than normal when the nurse measured it – but she gave me a LECTURE about my blood pressure rather than listening to my explanation that I was stressed about being crammed into a tiny space with a dozen strangers during a pandemic. At every appointment since, my blood pressure has been JUST FINE thank you very much. I am not over it, it seems.) 

The nurse called my name and led me over to the scale (UGH) and I mentioned to her that I’d never met the doctor before. And she said, “Uh oh, I don’t have you on my schedule as a new patient.” Right away, that made me nervous. Do you know this? Doctors allot different amounts of time based on the patient’s needs, and one of the scheduling considerations is new patient vs. established patient. Just like a hairdresser needs more time if they are going to color your hair rather than give you a trim, a doctor needs more time with a new patient than with someone they know. So now I was meeting a new doctor, but already putting her behind schedule because my appointment had been mis-scheduled for X minutes instead of Xx2 minutes.

Then we went into the exam room and the nurse took my blood pressure (it was PERFECT) and asked me a few questions, and then gave me instructions about changing into the gown. (Instructions which I always, always forget. Is it supposed to be open in the front, or the back???) But then she said, “Wait, it’s so cold in here… and the doctor is in with another patient… don’t change yet. I’ll poke my head in and let you know when to change.” 

I then sat in the exam room for thirty minutes, and with every minute that ticked by, I thought, “Oh no, the nurse has forgotten about me. And the doctor is going to come in, and I will be in my street clothes, and she will be frustrated because she will have to leave while I change, and she already doesn’t have enough time allotted for my visit as it is.” But I didn’t want to change into the gown because I was afraid the instant I removed my shirt, the nurse or the doctor would open the door. And the nurse would think, “Why is she changing when I told her to wait?” and the doctor would think, “Why isn’t she changed already?” And then five minutes would pass, and I would think, “WHY didn’t I change? I had enough time!” Finally, I told myself, “Just DO it.” And I grabbed the gown (fabric rather than paper, which I love!) and started pulling my arm out of my shirt sleeve, and at that exact moment the doctor knocked on the door and came in. 

I immediately threw the nurse under the bus. I’m so sorry to her, she was lovely. But the doctor waved it off as I tried to stuff my arm back into my sleeve. “I like to chat with my patients first,” she said. 

Outside of that humiliation, the appointment was fine. This doctor gives the impression of having a lot more time than she probably does. My old doctor, while still being kind and unhurried, was more of an in, out, goodbye kind of a person. 

How Do I Get Medical Schools to Make This a Mandatory Part of Training?

One thing this doctor did that I really, really liked was after the exam, she said, “What questions do you have for me?”

And then she listened to my question, answered, and then asked the same thing again. She did this three times, and I thought it was such an excellent approach. It made me feel like I should have questions, and gave me space to ask them. Often in the past, I have written a list of the topics I wanted to bring up, and then felt too time-pressured to raise them. Even on the occasions when I was able to gather the courage to ask, I would never get to my whole list because I felt like the doctor was edging toward the door while addressing the first issue. She wasn’t, but she never asked if I had more questions, so it felt more like she was humoring me than actually interested in/available to address what I wanted to know. Anyway, this new physician not only expected me to have questions, she expected me to have multiple questions, and she remained seated while listening to me ask them. It was great. All doctors should do that. 

Suggestion Box

All doctors should also have cloth gowns (in reality, I know cloth gowns and their care are not practical or economical for many practices). They are SO MUCH better than the stupid paper ones. My previous doctor would give you a paper vest and a paper sheet, and I always felt so awful and exposed. The cloth gown actually covers my body.

This reminds me of a Twitter thread? Reddit thread? Buzzfeed article? that I read when surely I should have been doing anything else. Some doctor was opening up a new practice and asked for people’s ideas about what a new pelvic health practice should have/do. (Oh, it was this thread.) I think using cloth gowns was on the list, as were a lot of awesome things like not assuming all patients are female, and ensuring that patient diversity is represented in photos/artwork/literature, and offering a nonverbal way to signal that the patient is not safe with whomever accompanied them to the appointment.

Some suggested cool quality-improvement ideas, like installing a light switch the patient could flip when they are changed. Or putting warmers over the stirrups (my previous gynecologist had socks on her exam table stirrups). Or providing a restroom connected to the exam room for easy changing/washing up. I mean, if a practice is truly building from the ground up and can cover the costs of these things, sign me up!

Someone suggested making the atmosphere spa-like. Which made me laugh and laugh. No matter how spa-like my gyno’s office is, even if they switch to spa-style robes (like another commenter said were available at her gyno), I am never going to enjoy going there. 

Peering Through the Doors as They Close

While I was waiting, in between panicking about whether I should undress or not, I kept reading and rereading the one framed piece of “art” on the wall. I am calling it “art” because it had a photo, I think, of a mother and a baby, and the text was in a fancy script, arranged in short lines like a poem. But really it was information about how skin-to-skin contact is important, and how new mothers should make it clear to their OBs and everyone at the hospital that they want to have at least an hour of skin-to-skin contact with the baby immediately after birth!

This information is familiar to me. I planned to do skin-to-skin and immediate breastfeeding when my baby was born. But when Carla arrived, I only got to hold her very briefly before she was whisked off to the NICU. So this piece of art briefly made me feel very sad about that, that I didn’t get the birth experience that I wanted. I feel a lot less sad about it now, which is nice; pain does fade over time. And then I wondered very briefly what it would be like, if I had another baby. If we would get the birth I wanted.  Oh well. It’s not going to happen. 

The new doctor asked me if I had any children, and if I was planning on any more. And I said, “No, I don’t think so.” And she said, “You don’t think so? Well, if you think you might, you need to get cracking!”

Sure, sometimes – usually when I have fallen into a rabbit hole of Baby Carla videos, or when I find out someone is pregnant, or when I see someone pushing a stroller around the neighborhood – I’ll get a little twinge. Once the endless nausea finally abated, I enjoyed being pregnant. From this distance, the baby months seem precious and easy. And I would like to have a toddler again — they are so cute. (Do you see how my brain neatly skips past all the difficult, sleepless, maddening parts?) Did we make a mistake, just having one? But most of the time – I’d say 99% of the time – I feel like our little family is complete. And I guess with every day that passes, the more irreversible that fact becomes. It feels right, the three of us. But as with almost any situation where walking through one door means that you aren’t able to go through others, I am a little wistful about it. 

Like a Peach or an Apricot or a Kiwi (?)

As long as we are talking about health topics, I will mention that I have two ENORMOUS bruises on my leg. One of them is the same circumference as a Noxzema face cream jar. I measured it in the bathroom and my measuring devices were limited. It’s a GIANT BRUISE, is what I’m saying. Of course, I have no idea how or when or why I obtained this bruise. Based solely on YA/middle grade fiction from childhood, I am convinced it is leukemia. (The websites I consulted were much less apt to jump to this conclusion, and more likely to blame it on my advanced age and thinning skin.) 

I feel pretty confident in suspecting that you and most people reading this post would also jump to a conclusion that would fall into the Imminent Death category. But what I want to know is, are there people who DON’T do that? They must exist, right? Are they all Capricorns? 

I think maybe my husband might be this type of person? He strikes me as a pretty practical fellow. Despite knowing WAY MORE about the many and varying paths to Imminent Death. But then again, maybe he is just good at putting on a Brave Face when confronted with the alarming proximity of his demise. I don’t know. 

(“You just bruise easily,” he says to me, matter-of-fact and exasperated in equal measures. “You always have bruises.”) 

If I have mistakenly assigned YOU my own death-focused personality trait, and you are, in fact, a person who sees a bruise and thinks, “Oh a bruise” or gets a headache and thinks “Oh, let me have some Tylenol” instead of CANCER ANEURYSM SURELY MY DAYS ARE NOW ENDING, please tell me all about yourself and what it’s like to be you. 

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This was one of those mornings in which I woke up promptly at 5:00 am and then couldn’t fall back to sleep, even if I had Zero Reason to be awake at that time; it’s the last week of summer for sleep’s sake! I should be enjoying every second of sleeping until 7:00 while I can. 

As usual, I kept pretending that reading things on my phone would lull me back to sleep (what? it works sometimes, often enough to convince me, lab-rat style, that it WILL work again), instead of using those two extra hours as the precious resource they were. They never SEEM precious, when I’m not planning to wake up early. Especially when I stayed up past eleven the night before watching Bachelor in Paradise

I only fell asleep again once my husband’s alarm went off. You know. To taunt him. 

He hit the snooze button and I snuggled into his warm body and sank immediately into a horrible nightmare: I was at a party, which my supervisor from my prior job was attending, and he told me gravely that someone from my prior job was making terrible accusations of sexual impropriety about me. Not harassment, I don’t think. Just, like, hooking up with this colleague who was not in my chain of command. In the dream, my supervisor never outlined what these accusations were, or how they would affect me besides making me out to be an adulterer, but I was alarmed and outraged and got very yelly and sailor mouthed (apologies to sailors) and indignant because it seemed like my supervisor didn’t believe me, even though he claimed he did. I couldn’t even remember meeting the person who was accusing me – his name was Noah Centineo, which is apparently the name of a real live actor person, a fact I discovered when I googled the familiar-sounding moniker after waking up – and I was shaky and angry and wanted more details so I could call my mom and sue the husk out of Noah for slander. (My mother is a retired lawyer and I don’t know if slander applies in this case, or really what the issue was; I think I was afraid that I would lose the only recommendation from the only job I ever had, even though that is NOT the only job I’ve ever had.) While I was waiting for my supervisor to go get details, I was angrily chewing an enormous piece of purple gum and it got very sticky and I tried to spit it out and it got stuck to my teeth, and I had to pry it out of my mouth long stringy strand by long stringy strand and it got spiderwebbed all over my hands and face and hair. 

The only reason I woke up from this awful dream was because I got a text message. It was from a person with whom Carla and I are having a playdate I am dreading. The mother has many good qualities but she is also an Extreme Extrovert and I am even more of an Introvert since the pandemic began than I was to begin with. (This mother had, at one point, suggested TWO playdates this week but fortunately stopped pressing when I told her one playdate was stressful enough that I couldn’t even FATHOM two playdates without breaking out in hives.) (I am not yet at the comfort level of leaving Carla alone at someone’s house for a playdate.) It wasn’t the best text message to wake up to, is what I’m telling you. Out of the gum-web and into the fire of forced interaction.

The nightmare clung to me, much as the dream-gum was clinging to my teeth and hands, but I managed to awaken Carla and strip the bed. (Let’s blame the sheets for my sleeplessness. I mean, clean sheets can’t hurt.) I did not manage to put the detergent in the right place; there is a little drawer with specific compartments for detergent and fabric softener and bleach, and instead I threw a cup full of detergent directly onto the sheets in the drum of the washer, which is surely some sort of terrible laundry faux pas, and I am fully expecting a tsunami of bubbles to erupt from the washer and onto the floor at any moment. 

Carla had requested sour toast and ants on a log for breakfast, but first the dirt (??? what is the role of peanut butter in this concoction???) wouldn’t stick to the log; the halves of the banana seemed wet somehow, though it was a nice fresh banana, and the peanut butter wouldn’t spread properly, and I had to kind of drape it in unappealing plops across the banana, which continued to glisten wetly. I eat neither bananas nor peanut butter, so I don’t know if any of this is acceptable or not. Carla didn’t comment, so we’ll assume it is fine.

Worse, though: I couldn’t find any ants. In this case, chocolate chips. I dug around in the pantry for a while before giving up and offering dried cranberries (pass) and fresh blueberries (keep) as insect alternatives. Then I discovered that I had been carrying around an unopened bag of tortilla chips, on my hip like it was a baby. 

That was when I decided I needed to sit down and allow the fog to clear a bit before I attempted anything else. Which is why you are getting sentences like the first one of this post, in which the phrase “in which” sounds completely hatpin crazy to me, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to rephrase the sentence. Hmm. I suppose I could just take it out and make it into two sentences, but I will leave it as an illustration of the state of my mind.

This is one of those rare occasions where I find myself wishing I drank coffee. I love my morning cup of tea, but it doesn’t provide that jolt of clarity that supposedly comes from a cup of hot black coffee. Perhaps I will have to chug a Mountain Dew instead. 

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You will wonder, in a moment, why I am calling this “My Take on the TikTok Baked Feta Pasta” when my version has neither feta nor tomatoes in it – two crucial ingredients in the original aforementioned TikTok pasta, the third and fourth being “pasta” and “olive oil.” 

You will likely wonder why I even glanced toward the TikTok Baked Feta Pasta, when I neither have TikTok nor can I stand tomatoes nor do I particularly care for feta. 

And yet, here we are, with me sharing a recipe (“recipe”) for my own version of a recipe I have neither tried nor wanted to try nor followed. 

Perhaps – you might think, trying to wrap your mind around my motives and this post – what appealed to me about the TTBFP is its simplicity. You put a few ingredients in a dish. You toss them in some olive oil. You throw the whole thing in an oven and then, 20 minutes later, stir in some pasta and voila! you have a meal. 

Well, you could be right, except that I went and made the TTBFP much more complicated, eliminating its simplicity right from the get go. 

I think it’s time to stop trying to understand me; I sure don’t, and I’ve lived with me for 40 years. Let’s get to the recipe. (“Recipe.”)

Baked Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pasta

Servings

Approximately three, if each serving takes up about half a soup bowl.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 4 oz plain goat cheese
  • 1 head of garlic (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Pasta of your choice (I used cellentani because it is pretty and fun to say)
  • Arugula (optional)

Directions:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with vegetable spray, just because you distrust olive oil’s food-sticking-prevention abilities.
  • Throw your chopped onions and sliced mushrooms into the baking pan. Add salt, pepper, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil and mix it all together with your hands. 
  • Make a small space in the center of the veggies. Nestle your goat cheese right in there. It’s okay if the veggies want to snuggle right up to the goat cheese. 
Wouldn’t you like to snuggle up to a nice goat cheese pillow?
  • If you are using garlic, slice across the top of the whole head of garlic with a sharp knife, exposing some of the cloves. Nestle the entire head of decapitated garlic (how can a head itself be decapitated? I trust you understand.) into a corner of the pan.
  • Drizzle everything with another tablespoon or two of olive oil.
  • Drizzle everything with a teaspoon or so of balsamic glaze. Who’s kidding who here. I did not measure. Just drizzle until you feel like you’re done. I did some sloppy crisscrosses and called it good. 
Glazey crisscrosses!

  • Shove the pan into the oven and set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Boil some salted water. I don’t know how much; however much you need to cover however much pasta you use. I used half a box of pasta which turned out to be FAR too much pasta, because I forgot how dramatic mushrooms are. They get very hysterical about being baked and shrink to almost nothing. I would say a quarter of a box of pasta would suffice, if you like your pasta nice and sauce-y.
  • Add your pasta to the boiling water and cook it for two minutes under whatever duration the box recommends.
  • When your pasta is done, drain your pasta BUT RESERVE SOME PASTA WATER. I always reserve way more pasta water than I need, just in case. 
  • Check on your pan at the 25-minute mark. If the mushrooms and onions are starting to brown and your goat cheese is resembling a puddle, it’s probably done. I had to cook mine longer than I thought, but I also accidentally turned off the timer at some point and have no idea how long it actually baked. It could have been 20 minutes, it could have been 30. I considered, at one point, turning the heat up to 450 F for a while, to see if I could caramelize the onions a bit more. But I was concerned about how those little drama queens (mushrooms) might react (burning into charcoal).
The goat cheese looked much more melty in person. Also, the mushrooms are being deceptive here. They still seem plentiful. But they are NOT.
Different view of those now much diminished mushrooms.
  • Remove your pan from the oven and marvel in an irritated way at how drastically your mushrooms have shrunk. 
  • Remove the garlic. Use the tip of a sharp knife to dislodge some of the cloves from their papery outfits and add them back to the pan. I used about 1/5 of the garlic, I’d say, because it seemed like an appropriate amount of garlic for the quantity of mushrooms remaining. Plus, I am going to use roasted garlic in some focaccia this week – I have been saying I would make focaccia for a year and I have NOT DONE IT YET, despite wanting to and planning to and even putting it on my meal plan twice, but THIS IS THE WEEK, it is happening – so I saved the rest of the garlic for that purpose. 
  • Stir everything together. Add some reserved pasta water to achieve the sauce consistency you prefer. 
The goat cheese stirs up so nicely. Far better than FETA, I’m sure.
  • Add some pasta to your pan and stir some more. Add more reserved pasta water if you like. 
Are you beginning, now, to see just how FEW mushrooms remain? It’s like half of them took the day off.
This is it. Even with the pasta, it takes up less than half of the pan. Also, it’s not the most photogenic meal.
  • Put your mixed pasta into a dish. If you are so inclined, add a handful of arugula. 
Now it’s pasta salad! No, just kidding. I do think the arugula adds a nice peppery contrast to the richness of the pasta.
  • Drizzle the bowl with more balsamic glaze. Enjoy!

Will I make this again? I can’t honestly say, at this point. It was tasty! And it was filling! The goat cheese makes it super rich and creamy, so one serving was plenty. It was easy! (Though the mushrooms, all on their own, the prima donnas, make it time consuming.) But on the side of NOT making it again, it is so disheartening to spend eight hours washing and peeling and slicing mushrooms only to have them minify in the oven. How is minify an actual word? I seriously thought I was just being lazy, but it has a dictionary entry and everything. I also wish the onions had had a chance to caramelize a bit more. 

If I made it again, maybe I would have to use EVEN MORE mushrooms. And maybe I would cut them into larger chunks. Using more would increase the amount of prep time… but it might also increase my enjoyment? Hard to say until we try. And we may never try. After all, have we learned nothing from the focaccia intentions?

In all, it was fun to try. It was yummy. And now the recipe has been recorded for posterity. 

The end.

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Last night my husband read me an email about a potential job opportunity (this is A Perk [no] of marriage to a physician: getting dozens of recruitment postcards/emails daily touting all the wonderful! opportunities! in unnamed cities all over the country) in a city out west, and I remarked casually that I thought that’s where my high school ex-boyfriend lived. Then when I was getting ready for bed, I noticed that I was wearing a sweatshirt that once belonged to that same ex-boyfriend, and I figured this is where the Lifetime Movie of my alternate reality would start playing sleazy music and it would turn out that I had been having a steamy affair with my high school ex-boyfriend for years unbeknownst to my poor unsuspecting husband. Listen, Lifetime is as hard-up for content as we all are.

Do you have clothes that once belonged to an ex? Or… other things? I don’t know what those other things might be; all I have is this sweatshirt.

And I have it – and persist in wearing it twenty-odd years later – not because it has anything to do with the ex, but because it is the softest most comfortable sweatshirt ever made. (I used to think its unusual softness had something to do with his mom’s fabric softener; she used one of the liquid versions, like Downy or Snuggle, while my mother used fabric sheets. But considering the woman hasn’t run it through her ultra-specialized laundering process in more than two decades, I’m no longer certain.) 

There’s really nothing sordid about the sweatshirt. The ex and I didn’t come to some tragic end or anything.  We simply broke up when I went to another state for college, which meant that we ended the relationship on a no-fault note rather than going through the excruciating process of learning that we are absolutely not compatible in the long-term. I am glad that we broke up on friendly terms, but I am also glad that we broke up, full stop. (I feel duty bound to tell you – get the Lifetime people on standby – that I still exchange Christmas cards with the ex’s mother. She writes * Christmas letters * – nice long ones! – and so I get a mini-update on her and my ex AND his brother, with whom I was friends in high school. That’s the closest and only contact I have had with the ex since my husband and I saw him at his brother’s wedding back in the early 2000s.) 

I no longer remember if the ex gave me the sweatshirt, or loaned it to me, or whether I purloined it from his house or locker. But I do love it. It does have some sentimental value, because it has the name of my high school on it. (Not that my memories of high school are good, heavens no; if I think too hard about high school I sink into a quicksand of shame and despair.) But mainly it is just very comfortable. It’s thin enough to wear on a balmy evening when you wish you had more than a T-shirt on but aren’t ready for the heavy artillery (wool; turtlenecks). And somehow, no matter how old I get, it’s always the exact perfect size: just a little baggy. It’s a great sweatshirt. I own many, many sweatshirts and none has ever come close. A rat is going to build a nest in it now that I’ve extolled my love for it publicly.

The only other “borrowed” item I have is a sweatshirt from my best friend. We met in middle school. We haven’t lived in the same state since 1999, but I still consider her my best friend (spouses excluded). I was never a big fan of borrowing/lending clothing, but I loved to borrow her stuff. She has always been super fashionable, and she always had the chicest clothes, like stuff from the Gap and Banana Republic, when we had neither store even in our state. I don’t know how or why I came to be in possession of this particular sweatshirt of hers. I don’t wear it often – it’s kind of like the sweatpants of sweatshirts, which both does and does not make any sense at all, so I’m hoping you understand what I mean. Every time I wear it, unlike with the sweatshirt that once belonged to my ex, I think of my friend and smile. In that case, it’s the original owner that makes the sweatshirt precious, rather than the sweatshirt itself being great. 

My husband does not care in the least that I sill wear the ex-boyfriend’s sweatshirt. It is an interesting mind game to imagine how I might feel if my husband still wore a sweatshirt that once belonged to his high school ex. Even considering I went to lunch with my husband and TWO of his high-school ex girlfriends back in the years before we were engaged, I think I might be in favor of accidentally shrinking it in the wash. And yet I would be outraged – OUTRAGED – if my husband seemed the least touchy about my beloved sweatshirt (which once belonged to my ex). (That is a very different sentence indeed than saying “my beloved ex’s old sweatshirt.” Make sure you know what your adjectives are or could be modifying, people!) Fortunately, my husband is not going around wearing ex-girlfriends’ old clothes so I haven’t had to reveal what a dirty double standard bearer I am.

I don’t think anyone has any old clothing of mine, so no one is out there pining away for me or thinking of me fondly. At least not in a sartorial way.

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It seems that melatonin doesn’t work particularly well for me. I had been having such trouble sleeping because of my personal-carelessness sunburn that I took a melatonin to help me fall asleep… and then woke up at 2:30 and couldn’t fall back to sleep. Obviously, 2:30 is when my brain does its best work. And by “best work” I mean cycling through all the things I could possibly worry about and over which I have no control at an increasingly frantic pace/tenor.

It strikes me that as we enter this new period of the pandemic – “re-opening” – that I am feeling the same kind of Fear of the Unknown and Abject Terror I was feeling in the early weeks of Coronavirus Has Reached My Country And Things Are Falling Apart.

Maybe it’s even worse, now? I’m not sure. Am I MORE stressed now than I was then? It’s hard to say. My stress levels have certainly been getting a workout over the past few months, though. So I decided to chart them. For posterity.

Pandemic Stress Level

This chart begins, for me, in the last week of February; the news was covering coronavirus all the time at that point, but we hadn’t yet discovered it/confirmed its presence here in the U.S. I was putting extra flour and ground beef in my grocery cart. I bought an extra package of toilet paper, even though we had a big package at home already. I felt a little silly, but the CDC was recommending setting aside enough supplies for two weeks of quarantine, so… Anyway, that’s where this starts for me. And now I have just completed Week 12 and I feel like I’m back where I was in early March, stress/panic-wise.

This chart has flaws; there are no call-outs for “distance learning is going to kill us all” or the sharp punches of Anger at People, Specific and General or the surprising spikes of happiness when I found myself spending a delightful day with my family. I think there should be an overlying chart that shows a steep rise in Comfort Eating that has since plateaued at the highest level; alas, my chart-making skills/desire have failed me. But overall, I think it represents the passage of time pretty well.

How are YOU? Are you feeling the anxiety ramp-up as the country starts to experiment with re-opening? Have you, too, experienced an Online Shopping phase?

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Last night, I was half-watching something benign on TV – otherwise known as looking at recipe posts on Instagram – when an ad for… something? something to do with photos, I think? popped up on the television, backed by “We Only Come Out at Night” by The Smashing Pumpkins.

Instantly, I was transported back to freshman year of high school. The sole lasting positive from my boyfriend at the time (shudder) is that he introduced me to some music that I truly loved – Joan Osborne and The Cranberries and The Smashing Pumpkins. My parents got me a copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness for Christmas and I listened to every song on repeat until the notes wove themselves into the fabric of that part of my history. Even now, the few notes of “We Only Come Out at Night,” with their forlorn whimsy, wrap me in the memories of that year. Fragments I haven’t considered for decades: the purple suede coat I felt so grown up wearing, the vague, looming threat of “hazing” by fearsome high school girls, how horrible I was at debate team, the violet contact lenses that made me feel cool and mysterious, my unsettling attraction to this boyfriend who turned out to be cruel in the astonishing number of ways that high school boys can be cruel.

The Smashing Pumpkins provided the soundtrack to my sophomore year, too. Unbeknownst to one another, my boyfriend at the time (a different, much less threatening guy) and I each got each other the Smashing Pumpkins box set – our identical taste in music a sure sign (I thought) of our True Love Forever (no). I listened to every single song on every single CD in the five-album set. When he broke up with me, out of the blue, later that spring, I listened to “The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)” at ear-shattering volumes in my pickup and on my boombox in my bedroom as I sobbed with betrayal and grief.

The boombox, I received as a Christmas gift in sixth grade, alongside two CDs, both which became my soundtrack for early middle school: Bonnie Raitt’s Luck of the Draw and Sammy Kershaw’s Don’t Go Near the Water. They were the first CDs I had ever owned, and I felt so grown up singing “Something to Talk About” from the comfort of my own bedroom! I used that boombox to record Top 40 songs off the country music countdown on the radio every Sunday, lying on my stomach in front of it, ready at a second’s notice to hit record as soon as the first notes of the song I wanted started to play.

Before that, “Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles rings through my memory. My childhood best friend and I would choreograph elaborate roller skating routines in my basement. She would provide the music – she had Tiffany and Bangles cassette tapes! – and we would pretend to be sophisticated women with wild 80s hair (her name was always Samantha Fox in these scenarios, and she was married to Michael J.) as we skated around to “Manic Monday.” We invited my brother and his nanny down to watch one of our performances, only to stop short during practice, shocked, when Susanna Hoffs sang, “Come on honey, let’s go make some noise.” I had no idea what that meant, but my friend understood the implications enough to know we couldn’t skate to it  in front of a grown up, and we cancelled the show.

My friend – and roommate, at the time – made me a mix CD that I listened to on repeat every day during the summer before my junior year of college. I was living in Atlanta, interning at a ministry and I ran for miles and miles on the weekends, DiscMan in hand, trying to outrun my loneliness with only her CD for company. To this day, Coldplay’s “Yellow” and “Hit ’Em Up Style (Oops!)” by Blu Cantrell and “Drive” by Incubus and Melanie’s “Brand New Key” remind me of that summer, running endless, aching circles around a high school track in the thick Georgia heat, and, always, of my friend.

My husband is always listening to and finding new songs for us to enjoy. There are so many songs representing our time together, no single song stands out as About Him. He put “The Trouble with Poets” on the first mix CD he made me. We listened to Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” on our first trip to Europe. Every time I see the HBO logo, I hear the beginning strains of the intro to The Sopranos, which was the first real series he and I watched together. There’s the Jack Johnson song he played for me on my desktop in our grad school apartment. For some reason, “Sober” is always the song that autoplays when he connects his phone to the sound system in his car. We danced to “I Only Have Eyes for You” at our wedding. We have so many years together, this period of life spans decades (already!), that nearly every song reminds me of him.

Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line and “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker and, especially, Chopin’s “Berceuse” were the sonic backdrop to my pregnancy. I often listened to the country music station as I drove to work, and these two songs stand out to me as being both oft-played and joyful in a way that cut through the anxiety and anticipation of waiting for Carla to arrive. And the Chopin. Well. I played that on repeat for the entirety of many, many commutes, sobbing along the way at the beauty of the music and the impossibility that I was – God willing – about to become a mother.

Lorde’s “The Royals” is a song I listened to over and over during the first few weeks (months?) of my daughter’s life. It’s a song that is now forever infused by the confusion and panic and dread of those early postpartum days. Just hearing the first few bars of snaps bring it all rushing back – the fear, the fear, the fear. The desire to get in my car and keep driving, forever and ever, away from the fear.

As Carla has gotten older, the soundtrack has been ever-changing. It’s rotated through all the songs from Frozens1 and 2 and the Descendantsmovies to “Be Nice” by the Black Eyed Peas and the entire Jonas Brothers oeuvre, especially Happiness Begins, and then through every songfrom the LEGO Movie 2. (Right before the pandemic started, we would listen to “Queen of Mean” and “Gotham City Guys” on repeat for literal HOURS.) The tracks of Carla’s life so far would also include “Moon River” and instructional ditties from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhoodand “The Letter of the Day” and the entire 1989 album.

My daughter still, at nearly-seven, wakes up singing, always has a song on her lips. (Carla is so into the music that she told my husband, one night, that she couldn’t fall asleep because she kept “bursting into song” – her words.) I wonder which music, when heard as nostalgic snippets as commercial backgrounds in twenty years, will bring the early days of 2020 crushing back into focus? I wonder which will stand out as representative of six- and seven-year-old Carla? Will I refer to Carla’s early elementary years as the Jonas Brothers years? The Frozen years?

And what of now, during the pandemic?

I have, I admit, been kind of avoiding music. I don’t WANT to hear a snippet of Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” (which is a BOP) in thirty years and feel the panic and stress of the pandemic wash over me. That is seems deeply unfair to the music and the artists.

When I need something musical these days, I’ve been asking our Echo to play classical piano music and Golden Oldies – “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and “My Girl” and the like; for me, they’re already timeless, untethered to any particular segment of my life. So I’m trusting that “Sugar Pie Honeybunch” or Chopin’s Waltz No. 1 in E Flat won’t somehow become the soundtrack to the pandemic in my brain.

 

What songs take you back to specific moments in your life? Are you listening to any specific music these days? Do you have a Pandemic Theme Song?

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Man, I haven’t done one of these small-takes type posts in a long time! However, I would really like to blog more often (I was thinking the other day that maybe I should just change my blog title to “Dinners This Week” because that’s about all I can manage most weeks) and maybe this is the key. As you well know, if you’ve been reading for more than five minutes, I tend to be overly wordyand I think that’s holding me back. Also, I am boring. I’ll be writing along, 3,000 words in, and I’ll realize, my GOD this is TEDIOUS. Takes the joy out of posting something, when you know it’s dull as a bowl of marbles. Sometimes I go back and read old posts and I think, boy, I used to be moderately entertaining! Well. Sometimes people change for the good, sometimes they change for the snoozefest.

Anyway. Random blurbs ahoy.

  • Last night I went out to dinner with a friend who was visiting from out of town. It was a lovely, lovely time and we talked about books – specifically The Friend, which had been a gift from this particular friend, and for whom I bought a second copy of the book because my friend MUST read it but also I need to keep a copy for myself – and work and family and travel. It’s been a very friendly week, which has been good: I had two nice hour+-long conversations with two separate long distance friends. I had a coffee with a friend who lives here in town, but who has been MIA for a good many months. I have another coffee planned for February with another friend I haven’t seen in a good while. And a lunch date planned for the last day in January with an old work friend. And then last night’s dinner. I am feeling very full and grateful right now. Perhaps if I record this feeling I can return to it on those inevitable days when I feel lonely and friendless. Friends: I highly recommend them.

 

  • The only bad thing about dinner last night was that I had too much to drink, which made the drive home ridiculously uncomfortable. No, not alcohol. I wasn’t drunk, or even tipsy. I mean I had literally put too much liquid into my body. Seems that I am constitutionally incapable of leaving a glass of water full. And the servers at this particular establishment were prompt in discharging their glass-filling duty, no matter how repetitive. The restaurant we went to was a good thirty minutes’ drive from my house, so as I poured my aching bladder into my car, I was feeling legitimately concerned about making it home in a dry state. If you are wondering, like my husband was, why I simply didn’t go to the bathroom during dinner like a normal human, well, I will tell you: We were having such a nice conversation! And I didn’t want to interrupt – not just the conversation, but the flow of the evening, you know? I was sure I would go when the server came to take our credit cards, but when the time came, it just didn’t seem like the right time. And then I needed to give my friend a ride to his car, and I felt weird about making him wait in the lobby while I went to the ladies’ (Side note: one of the things that drives me NUTS about my otherwise lovely husband is that he often waits until everyone has their coats on, all ready to go, before he heads to the bathroom. PLAN AHEAD.). So I just suffered instead. Perhaps you are also wondering why I just didn’t stop somewhere on my way home. Well, I will tell you. The city is… scary, okay? And the drive home takes me through some pretty undesirable neighborhoods that make me very nervous and edgy. And it was late and I didn’t want to be murdered. Peeing oneself is preferable to murder, right? Probably. I drove SO CAREFULLY the whole way home. Because I was sure that if I slipped through a yellow light or went even a tiny bit over the speed limit, I’d get pulled over and there’s no way a police officer is notgoing to arrest a woman who is sobbing and soaked in urine. I made it home. I know you were worried. My pelvic floor muscles performed admirably. Thank goodness for all those Kegels I did while pregnant, amirite? I mean. PHEW.

 

  • Speaking of pregnant, which I am not, I almost stopped on my drive home at a very grimy gas station for the sole reason that I stopped there before when I had similarly misjudged the elasticity of my bladder. Only that first time, I was somewhere around eleven months pregnant and I literally could not wait. Pregnancy is really one indignity after another, isn’t it? Take, for example, this poor woman I saw last weekend, in a similar state of Birth Could Happen Any Time. I was parked in a Whole Foods parking lot, waiting for my husband, and this woman came out of an all-day breakfast restaurant and started swaying toward her car – you know that walk that pregnant women sometimes have, where their belly has forcibly commandeered everything, including balance and momentum and even gravity? She was parked directly behind me, across an aisle, and so I could see her in my rearview mirror as she abruptly threw up on the pavement. I averted my eyes and pawed through the crap in my car to see if I had water or anything to offer her by way of help. Alas; nothing besides my undying sympathy and solidarity. Several minutes later, I noticed a man and two small children hustling out of the all-day breakfast restaurant. The man hefted the kids into the car, next to which the poor woman was still standing, occasionally retching onto the ground. I should have given her some privacy, I know, but I was so overcome by a sense of pity and empathy and helplessness that I just kept staring at her in my rearview. She kept climbing into the car and then hopping back out to throw up again. My god. Why is pregnancy so miserable? I’d sometimes drive to work with a plastic bag open on my lap, so sure I wouldn’t be able to get to the office without vomiting. Pregnancy is gross and humiliating and uncomfortable, and, yes, I guess you get a human out of it at the end, but sheesh. What a process. Eventually the pregnant woman stayed in her car long enough for her husband to spirit her away. I wish her well.

 

  • In Trying to Be a Good Wife news, I am trying out a new kitchen cleanser. I have a well-documented love affair with bleach. If I could, I would use it with abandon on everything all the time. Alas, it’s not so compatible with granite countertops, so I typically use Lysol for my kitchen cleaning needs. But my husband HATES the smell. So much so that he refuses to wipe down the counters. Fortunately for him I enjoy both wiping down the counters and rolling my eyes at his aversion to faux lemon scented chemicals, so we’ve managed to forge a solid compromise between us. But today Method cleanser was on sale at Target. I already love the smell of the Method Daily Granite, so I got two bottles of the antibacterial cleanser, one in citron scent, the other in bamboo. A little full of themselves with those scents, if you ask me, but I am hopeful that my husband will not be quite so sensitive to at least one of them.

 

  • We are supposed to get a good walloping this weekend, snow-wise. So while I was at Target, I kind of did a little panic buying. When you hear that potentially your city is going to be snowed under, what do YOU panic-buy? I bought some normal things, like meat and vegetables and plenty of tortillas. But I also bought a sled. A LOT of construction paper. And eggs. Believe it or not, the eggs was the weirdest thing. None of us really eats eggs in this household, and, sure, I use eggs in baking, but I don’t have any baking projects planned. But now we have two dozen eggs to… not eat during the impending snowpocalypse. Or, more likely, to not eat during the perfectly normal wintery weekend we will inevitably have, because weather is impossible to predict.

 

And that’s all I have for now. What are you up to this weekend, Internet?

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