Posts Tagged ‘silly things’

It must have started a year or two ago.

My husband asked if I could get him a glass plastic cup of water, and I did. I handed it to him and he looked at it, and then up at me, and then back at the cup, and said, “Seriously?”

To him, I hadn’t filled it enough. At the time, I was exasperated. Seriously, him. I had gotten him water, and so what if I hadn’t filled it exactly to his specifications? 

But I do try to listen and improve, even if I think he is being ridiculous overly specific. So the next time I got him a cup of water I filled it more. I remember being conscious of filling it more, because I wanted to be a good listener. I swear on cheesy nachos that I only meant to please him, I wasn’t trying to be snarky or passive aggressive. And yet, when I handed him the cup, he said, “Seriously?” and the issue this time was that I had filled it too full!

Again: exasperation.

This is not about my apparent ineptitude when it comes to filling cups, nor is it about my husband’s apparently very narrow definition of a full cup. It is about the bit that has resulted from it. 

Now, if my husband gets ME water (in a glass), he fills it to the absolute tippety top. 

The other night right before I went to bed, he got out the Brita to fill his coffee maker. I had a glass on the counter that was maybe a quarter full and I asked if he could fill it (otherwise, I would have to wait until he filled his coffee maker, refilled the Brita, and the Brita did its slow water filtering job before I could fill my glass). He poured a little bit into the glass, making it – to my eyes – about three-quarters full. 

“Could you please put a little bit more in than that?” I asked him, and then turned away to finish filling the dishwasher. (This is why I was asking him to get me water; I was otherwise occupied.) 

When I was done with the dishes, I went over to the end of the counter to grab my glass and go up to bed. And I noticed that he had filled it all the way up to the top – so full that the glass looked empty. 

It just cracked me up. I could not stop laughing. I don’t know if I am properly conveying just how full the glass was, but I clearly could not move it without spilling it all over the counter or anything. It was the kind of full your middle school science teacher used to demonstrate the power of surface tension. I had to sip carefully from the edge like I was a dog or a nine-year-old proving that all your years of careful etiquette teaching have been for naught. The whole thing made me howl with laughter until tears were leaking out of my eyes. 

“I could have probably filled it even fuller,” he said. “Next time.”

I don’t know why it tickles me so much, this stupid little bit that he does now. It’s just one of those completely ordinary things that you do almost every day, usually without thinking, and now it will always be funny. The glass will either be too empty or too full and it completely cracks me up. 

Do you have any stupid bits with friends/family? 

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It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

I started drinking coffee when I was eight. My mom brought home these beautiful bowls from a trip she’d made to Paris, and said that children drank café-au-lait out of the bowls. Obviously, I wanted to do this, too. So she made me café-au-lait, which is mainly milk with a splash of coffee.

My next memory of coffee comes from my mother’s law office. Her office had a little kitchenette in the basement, outside the library. It’s two best features were an “Honor Box” of candy bars (which I dutifully fed dollars and coins into so that I could have Butterfingers when they were available and Fifth Avenue bars when they weren’t) and a coffee pot. I’d pour myself cups of coffee, doctor them up with sweetener and powdered milk, and drink them while I did my homework.

Once when I was in high school, my father and I drove to a Big West Coast City. It’s possible we were on our way to check out a university there; I remember the visit and hating the bustling, city-like school with all my heart. We stopped at a resort on a lake, about halfway between my hometown and BWCC, and had a fancy dinner. After dessert, on a whim, we ordered the coffee tray. My father does NOT drink coffee, but he and I were both delighted by all the accoutrements – marshmallows, sugar cubes, whipped cream, chocolate shavings. We mixed our coffees into sweet oblivion. 

That’s where my specific memories of coffee-drinking stall. I have flickers: gratefully seeking out the break room coffee machine when my eyes started to flutter during an especially tedious internship; sipping that first pumpkin spice latte of the fall; searching for just the right flavor of those tiny tubs of flavored creamer crammed into a bowl in a diner. 

But coffee just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Hasn’t for a decade or more (despite my best efforts). Now, I’m into tea. 

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What is going on with my skin lately, friends?!?!

I am having some serious skin drama, is what.

It’s tempting for me to blame everything on the bottle of Kirkland-brand body wash I bought the last time I was at Costco. (It was obviously enormous, and also there were two bottles per package, so it was not my smartest purchase.) I tried the body wash and noticed the next day that my legs were itchy and a little bumpy. So I didn’t use it for a few days, on the off chance the body wash was causing a rash. When I used it again, sure enough: RASH. And this time, my legs were so intensely offended by the body wash, I got an immediate flaming red, itchy, bumpy rash all over my legs. It took more than a week before the rash went away; I had to pull out the big guns, which is a tube of high-intensity corticosteroid that makes my skin both greasy and sticky. 

Fine. Body wash induced leg rash is one thing. But now I am having a rash on my neck and something is going on with my face. It’s not a rash, but it is itchy and there is redness and a lot of teensy breakouts.

I used to suffer from eczema, when I was a kid. As a result, I am very careful about what I put on my skin as it is extremely sensitive. But I have had several decades of little-to-no trouble, so I don’t know that this is eczema. I suppose I don’t know that it ISN’T eczema, either. But I cannot find a cause of whatever is happening.

I swear to you that – outside the Kirkland-brand body wash, which I used for three days – I have not introduced anything new. I have been using the same face oil I’ve been using for at least half a decade now. I infrequently wear the same amount and brands of the same minimal makeup I’ve always worn. I wash my face in the shower with the same Clean and Clear face wash I’ve been using since the early aughts. I haven’t changed perfumes or body lotions or laundry detergent. I have been washing my sheets and towels regularly, in the regular detergent with the regular moderate amount of regular fabric softener.

Okay, I have had a good investigative think, and there are two other things that are new-ish to my life that could be potential culprits:

  1. New-ish Medication: I changed birth controls – a decision my insurance company made for me, when they decided out of the blue that they no longer wished to cover the bcp I had been on for MANY YEARS. I hate it, thanks. It’s not quite as bad as I anticipated (I have had some scary times with oral contraceptives in the past), but I do fall into a pit of despair for about a week each month, and also my skin is overall much more blemish-y than it has been in the past. But I started this new medication in April? May? Awhile ago; seems unlikely it would be causing an issue NOW. 
  2. New-ish Skincare Routine: I have been trying for months now to transform my “skincare routine” to a more environmentally sustainable one. I feel so ashamed to tell you this – but I am going to tell you anyway, on the principle that no one is perfect, and that each of us has room for improvement – but my skincare routine for the past few years has been a nightly regimen of wiping my face with a disposable Neutrogena wipe and then wiping my face with a disposable Noxzema wipe. I know. I am cringing so hard. Then I would slather my face with face oil. The end. This was an improvement, skin-wise, over my previous routine of leaving all the dirt and makeup on my face while I slept and then only washing it off in the shower the next day. But! I am horrified by all the waste this routine produces, so I have been weaning myself off of it. Change and I are not close friends, so the weaning process has involved many months of me a) looking into alternatives and b) reading other people’s recommendations and c) adding products to my online shopping cart(s). I finally procured some reusable facial pads and my husband (I think?) bought me a reusable face wipe. After trying them a few times, I realized, first of all, that I have no idea how anyone washes their own face without getting water EVERYWHERE but especially down their sleeves, and secondly, that I needed something on which to stow my pads and wipes. So I bought a little stand-up towel rack on which everything hangs. I have been using Pond’s cold cream and Neutrogena face wash, and I have been pretty regular about it since around September I think. But again, that’s nearly two months of no issues, so I can’t see why this new routine would suddenly bother me. 

This is all to say: I do not know what is going on with my skin, but I hate it so much. I have resorted to slathering my entire body, including my face, with Eucerin. It’s so light and so soothing that it doesn’t seem to exacerbate the issue, but nothing – NOTHING – seems to be soothing the itch. Not even my old buddy Benadryl. And I’m sitting over here with an itchy, broken out face and neck with lots of red blotches and scaly patches and I don’t know what to do. 

Perhaps I could call my dermatologist, but… a) I don’t think I will be able to get in to see him any earlier than January, and I already have an appointment for then, and b) I am afraid he will just prescribe Retinol again, which he suggested when I complained about my face several years ago. I cannot do Retinol; it is agony. 

So I am hoping that you, my dear Internet lovelies, have The Magical Solution. Or at least have some Skin Drama tales you can tell in commiseration.

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I read something recently (a tweet? a recipe blog post? an Instagram post?) that talked about measuring vanilla with your heart. 

I don’t think is the tweet I saw, but it captures the essence of the issue.

It’s so true, I think. Rarely does the listed teaspoon of vanilla do what it needs to do.

But I’ve heard my inner life coach urging me a lot recently to measure other things with my heart. Here’s a partial list:

  • Vanilla – The O.G.
  • Garlic – No recipe recommendation has ever come close.
  • Hot sauce – If your heart says less hot sauce, you do you; my heart almost always says MORE.
  • Chocolate chips – That “1 cup of chocolate chips” line in the ingredients lists? It’s just a suggestion.
  • Mushrooms – More mushrooms will only help.
  • Parsley – My heart says no.
  • Lime juice – I made my mother-in-law a cocktail the other night and she said, “Oh! That’s nice and lime-y!” That’s because I ignore the recipe and follow my heart.
  • Pepper – The pepper grinder at restaurants hates to see me order a salad.
  • Cheese – I’ve never said “that was too cheesy” about anything other than a rom-com. 
  • Wine – As an ingredient, you can often use a bit more than requested; in a glass, let’s all be optimists, shall we?
  • Exclamation points – They add pizzazz! I don’t care that they make me seem slightly unhinged!
  • (Likewise, parentheses – and dashes, of course.)
  • Shampoo & conditioner – I have long hair, and sometimes it needs a little extra.
  • Glitter – It’s going to get everywhere anyway, might as well go all out.
  • Cleaning spray – Let’s get things REALLY clean.
  • Laundry detergent – No way am I filling that cup up to the line for a normal load of laundry. Much better to do it by feel.
  • Library books – Do we have but one reusable bag to fill? Indeed. And yet we fill our arms as well.
  • Blog posts – Could I say something with (far) fewer words? Perhaps. But the heart wants what it wants.

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We stayed in eleven hotels over the course of our Road Trip! and so I feel as though I have some very recent expertise in What Hotels Are Like Lately. (By the way, because my husband is a Credit Card Rewards Black Belt, we stayed in nine of them for FREE.) (Or, as I like to point out, for points, which is not quite the same as free, although my husband vehemently disagrees with me.)

First of all, I want to acknowledge that it is clear the hospitality industry is struggling. The hotels we stayed at ALL seemed to have staffing issues, and I know this is a nationwide problem, and that it is affecting the hotels and the people who do work there much more than it is affecting me. Aside from one receptionist who stalked straight past me and another hotel guest without saying “I’ll be with you in a minute” or even glancing at us, the hotel personnel we encountered were friendly and helpful and doing the absolute BEST they could. 

Don’t get me wrong! I am glad hotels exist. I vastly prefer a hotel to, say, staying on the floor of a friend’s house or finding an AirBnB or sleeping in my car or renting an RV. But for all their benefits, they DO have deficits.

It seems to me that the people who design hotel rooms have never once stayed in a hotel room, or perhaps even A Room of any sort. They are all caught up in The Design – which I acknowledge probably helps draw clients – and not caught up enough in The Usability.

  • I Love Lamp: We had not one but TWO hotel rooms that had a dearth of lamps. In one hotel, we had a two-room suite. There was a bed in each room, with a nightstand near each bed… but only one room/nightstand had a lamp. In the other hotel, there were NO LAMPS AT ALL. Just overhead lighting. Both rooms had overhead lighting, but you had to extinguish the lights from the door, which in both cases was across the room from the bed. While I am aware that furnishing all the rooms in a hotel must be quite pricey, surely a lamp by each bed should have been part of the budget???? 

This photo is a LIE. Straight from the hotel website, it features a DESK LAMP which was not present in our hotel! The lack of bed-adjacent lighting is true-to-life though.
  • Were You Born in a Barn: Hotels are obsessed with barn doors – OBSESSED. Maybe this is the Magnolia Effect in action (although I didn’t see any shiplap), but I am guessing that hotel designers drool all over themselves at this perfect intersection of Trendy and Space-Saving. The majority of our hotels had barn doors for the bathroom. They are lovely, but the thing is that barn doors are gappy. They do not shut as firmly as regular doors do. Which is something I MISS A LOT when I am sharing a very small space with other people and our collective bathroom needs. (P.S. This little marriage saver has accompanied us in Europe and now across the U.S. and I love it.)
One of many barn doors.

  • Party of One: Except for our very last hotel, all of our rooms were meant to hold at least two people. They each had two queen beds, and could have fit up to four people. Four! People! But the rooms are very clearly geared toward ONE PERSON, MAYBE TWO. The nightstands were inevitably between the two beds, so that the person on the outer side of the bed had nowhere to put his/her glasses, phone, watch, books, etc. etc. etc. Several of the lamps – which, when they were provided, were on the shared nightstand – were controlled by a single switch, so that both beds had to agree that it was time for lights out. In our last hotel, the one hotel where we had a king bed (and a sofa bed for Carla shudder), my husband’s side of the bed (he always sleeps on the left) had the nightstand and mine had nothing. Worse: His side of the bed had multiple outlets and mine had… nothing. Other nights, when I wasn’t the lucky one to have a nightstand, I was able to at least plug my phone in next to the bed and set it on the headboard or a window sill or something.

This is the most uncomfortable sofa bed known to man. The “mattress” was a thin layer of cloth stretched so tightly over the springs you could see every single spring. We had to put the couch cushions on top of the “mattress” and then put the sheets over the cushions.
  • Carry In, Carry Out: Hotel rooms have the smallest trash cans I have ever seen. At one hotel, the single trash can was divided into two identical sections – one for trash, one for recycling. The recycling side fit a single plastic water bottle. 

  • No Sleep Til Brooklyn: If you want to control your room’s temperature, you will not sleep. Not one wink. Because the air conditioner/heating unit will roar on at unexpected intervals all night long, clattering and moaning and blasting out air that is at least ten degrees hotter/more frigid than you anticipated until you give up and turn it off and succumb to the ambient air temperature. 

  • Form Over Function: One of our hotels had a beautiful armoire with an interior light that turned on when you opened the doors and a fancy teapot and a mini Nespresso machine. It had neither a refrigerator nor an extra roll of toilet paper. One of our hotels had a gorgeous little coffee station with three pouches of local coffee but it was the hotel with ZERO LAMPS. I would rather have lamps than local coffee. (Side note: the place without the extra toilet paper was also the place with the miniature garbage can. I called down to housekeeping, requesting more toilet paper and a garbage bag. The kind housekeeper showed up with two garbage bags, one mini-sized to fit the trash can, one an enormous lawn-and-leaf sized bag. I took the latter, thanked her, and shut the door… only to realize that I perhaps should have reassured her that nothing horrifying had happened to necessitate my odd combination of requests.)

  • And the SHOWERS. This should technically be part of the previous bullet, but it drives me bonkers enough that it deserves its own. So many showers now have the rainfall shower heads. You know – the ones that stand directly above you and drench you? I cannot STAND those stupid shower heads. You can’t get away from the water! If I want to apply shampoo to my head or face wash to my cheeks, I have to step completely out of the line of fire water and freeze my tuchus completely off to do so. I much prefer the standard shower head. MUCH. Also, hotel shower designers have never taken a shower before. They do not understand that most people need various accessories to help them get clean: soap, shampoo, conditioner. Maybe a razor. Maybe face wash. Maybe body wash. But no. If you shower in a hotel, you are lucky to get one tiny triangular shelf that can barely accommodate a bar of soap and one of the eensy hotel-supplied bottles of shampoo. Unless I am in a hotel that has a bathtub/shower combo, I never know how I’m supposed to shave my legs. My own at-home shower has a little ledge upon which I can rest my foot. But when I’m in a hotel, I have to balance precariously on one foot while I shave the other leg or try to prop it up against the questionably-clean shower wall or bend over and get a mouthful of water while trying to shave. Further proof that hotel designers do not shower: We had one hotel with a BEAUTIFUL shower – fancy stone tiles, rainfall shower head, glass door. Except that there was no door – just a glass panel that went half the length of the shower and then a door-sized open space through which all the cold air of the room could sneak in and shower with you. Perhaps marginally better than the hotels with shower curtains that billow into the shower while you’re washing your hair and play grabby-handsy with your upper thighs, but not by much.  
Rainfall shower head AND a half-panel of glass AND a barn door. The trifecta, achieved!

Other things I have noticed: Almost without exception, housekeeping services are on-demand now – if you stay multiple days and want your trash emptied or your linens changed, you need to call ahead (sometimes up to 24 hours in advance, according to in-elevator signage), whereas this was a daily service in previous years. (I never used to take people up on it – I don’t want housekeepers having to make my bed or tidy things up around my suitcases and toothbrush.) Shampoos and conditioners are TINY now, or that they come in big canisters that are permanently attached inside the showers. Probably an environmentally advantageous move, honestly. Shower caps, much to my enduring dismay, are no longer offered alongside your miniature shampoos and bars of soap.   

On the not-complaining-or-mocking side of things, the people at the hotels were ALL so nice to Carla. So nice. She loved to march up to the desk when we arrived and say, “We’re checking in” as much as she loved handing over the keys at the end of our stays and saying brightly, “We’re checking out.” The hotel staff invariably found her super charming. One receptionist asked me if he could give her a piece of candy and then allowed her to choose anything she wanted from the hotel snack pantry. Another person acted, with an entirely straight face, like Carla was the person who’d booked and paid for the room, and he asked her very seriously whether she’d enjoyed her stay, and then answered her multiple questions about the hotel (it was in an historic building) with such kindness that I was unable to bring myself to tell him that there had been NO LAMPS in the hotel room. I think it would be so easy, working in a hotel, to be bored or harried or both, but everyone (except for that one woman I mentioned above) was so kind. So kind. 

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My mom was visiting over Christmas and I was getting the table ready for dinner, filling water glasses, swooping bread into the bread basket, moving salt and pepper shakers from the counter to the table. You know. 

As I was filling up my mother’s glass with water from the fridge, she said, “I’m not a nice person.”

I was SHOCKED. Shocked. That she would say such a thing, of course. But that she would announce it like this, while we were all milling about in the kitchen before sitting down to eat. 

“What?!” I said. “That’s not true!”

She looked at me with confusion. Then realization dawned.

“I just meant I don’t want ice in my water,” she clarified. “I’m not an ICE person.”


This has since become family code for little misunderstandings. My husband out of nowhere says Carla is not allowed in the basement… but really he said she’s being loud in the basement. Once we clear up that confusion, one of us will say, “I’m not a nice person.” 

Or maybe my husband offers to bring me a snack, but I tell him I’m not in the mood for popcorn… when he brings me popcorn anyway, I will say, “I’m not a nice person.”

That kind of thing.

We have several little code words and phrases,  none of which would make sense to anyone beyond the two of us. Even Carla, I think, is a little perplexed by some of the little inside jokes. 

We were reading a book to her the other night, for instance, and my husband mispronounced the word “candelabra.” 

This is something he and I do automatically, any time it comes up, after watching an episode of The Amazing Race many many years ago in which a contestant mispronounced the word. (Can-DELL-uh-brah.) I don’t know why it struck us as so notable then (it’s not an intuitive word!), or why it’s something that’s had such staying power. 

The other thing we say all the time is, “Just switching things up.” This is something we say in response to someone – including one of us – doing something baffling. Like, why did you Venmo the old babysitter instead of the swim instructor? Just switching things up. Why did that person choose to turn left at a red light? They’re obviously just switching things up. That kind of thing. 

This derives from a road trip we went on with friends a million years ago. Our friend was driving the other car in our group, and he kept passing us on the freeway… and then slowing down so drastically that we had to pass him. When we reached our destination, my husband asked him why he didn’t maintain a constant speed and he shrugged and said, “I just like to switch things up.” It has stuck with us ever since. 

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My in-laws have left and my house is very, very quiet. I can walk around in my jammies again and eat a burrito for breakfast without feeling like my sanity is being questioned and I am hopeful that I will stop feeling quite so hateful toward my husband when I unload/rinse/load dishes. Overall, it was a pleasant visit; my in-laws are pretty amiable and easy, and it is not their fault at all that my husband and I are introverts for whom extended company is very wearying. Most importantly, my mother-in-law is finished with this phase of cancer treatment, and endured it very well, and we are all hopeful that the next phase will go just as smoothly.

I should be cleaning the guest room and the bathroom right now rather than eating toffee and writing, but I am not. Even though I know I will feel better once everything is freshly laundered and scrubbed with bleach, and especially once my daughter can revert from sharing our bathroom to using her own. (We have two sinks in our en suite, and for some reason my daughter refuses to use my husband’s. Even if she and I are brushing our teeth simultaneously and my husband is already at work.)

Okay, during that paragraph break, I put all the towels in the laundry and tossed the bar soap and half-empty hotel-size shampoo and conditioner into the garbage and emptied the trash. If you have a guest room, does it have a trash can in it? Do you expect a trash can when you stay in other people’s guest rooms? I have a trash can in the bathroom, but not in the guest room… but there was a little paper bag filled with trash on the floor by the dresser, which makes me wonder if I should buy one? I don’t have a trash can in my own bedroom; if I need to throw something away, I toss it in my bathroom trash can.

Okay, okay. I have now scrubbed out the powder room toilet and replaced the hand towel, scrubbed out Carla’s toilet, and moved the bathroom cleaning kit up to the hallway outside the bathroom. Baby steps. 

Spending so much time with my in-laws gave me ample opportunity to examine the differences between how my husband’s family of origin and my family of origin do things. Objectively, most of the differences are totally benign; both ways of going about things are fine and reasonable and I’m sure plenty of people do them that way. But hot ham is it difficult to see things objectively when you were raised doing things One Specific Way. Here are some examples; I have scrambled them up, so the first FOO mentioned is sometimes my FOO and sometimes my husband’s. 

  • One family of origin (FOO, from here on out), are cocktail drinkers; the other FOO are wine drinkers. 
  • One FOO eat mostly at restaurants, with occasional home-cooked meals; the other FOO make and eat the vast majority of their meals at home.
  • One FOO divide the household duties roughly evenly (although some tasks take on typically gendered lines, like dusting vs. changing the oil in the car; I would say these tasks break up based on interest and ability though); the other FOO are much more “traditional” in the sense that the housework nearly all falls to the woman, and the man will sit and read a newspaper while the woman scrubs dishes five feet away. 
  • One FOO eat most dinners together at the table as a family; the other FOO eats together in front of the TV just as often as they eat at the table. 
  • One FOO wants the food to be HOT when everyone sits down to eat, so you better sit down right away when it is ready; the other FOO doesn’t care a whit about food temperature, and takes their sweet time getting to the table, sometimes detouring to the bathroom or stopping to check on the progress of the jigsaw puzzle, even after they have been WARNED that dinner is about to be served, and then ASKED whether they are READY to eat, EVEN IF they have been married to a Hot Fooder for 10+ years. Bet you can’t guess whose FOO is whose in this one.
  • One FOO takes care of almost all household/car maintenance themselves (oil changes, lawn care, appliance/fixture/furniture repair); the other FOO outsources nearly everything (oil changes, lawn care, appliance/fixture/furniture repair).
  • One FOO always seems to be in the midst of renovations, with the newest trend in furniture and paint colors and appliances; the other FOO sets up house and only replaces furniture/appliances once it stops working. 
  • One FOO always has the latest technology (phones, computers, devices); the other FOO buys technology only once in awhile, and then often choose refurbished pieces or older models. 
  • One FOO accepts that a no is a no; the other FOO believes that it never hurts to ask. 
  • One FOO gives gifts of money and contributions to college funds; the other FOO gifts toys. 
  • One FOO buys the things they need and, after research, doesn’t think or talk about the price of the item; the other FOO is constantly fretting about price, and is delighted to find a good deal, and talks openly about how much things cost.
  • One FOO buys cars and uses them for decades until they wear out; the other FOO leases cars for a few years and then replaces them with the newest model. 
  • One FOO says goodbye and leaves; the other FOO says goodbye and lingers for several more hours. 
  • One FOO are kissers; the other FOO are huggers. 
  • One FOO prefers personal space and stays in hotels when they visit; the other FOO much prefers being together as a family. 
  • One FOO is staunchly Pro Thank-You Note, even if you thank them in person; the other FOO feels that a voiced thank-you is completely adequate. 
  • One FOO is very punctual; the other FOO has a more slippery grasp of time. 
  • One FOO is a soft-shell taco family; the other FOO prefers hard-shell tacos or taco salads. Why are so many of these bullets food related, hmm?
  • One FOO plans things out months, and in some cases years in advance; the other FOO is much more spontaneous about making plans. 
  • One FOO is a dessert-every-night family; the other FOO is a dessert-on-special-occasions family. 
  • One FOO is a silence is golden type; the other FOO is the hard-to-get-a-word-in-edgewise type. 
  • One FOO is a No Devices At The Table type; the other FOO has their phones by their plates at all times, and if the topic is boring to an individual, there is no hesitation in picking up the phone and disengaging from the conversation. (Carla raised her hand during one particularly drawn out discussion and asked, politely but pointedly, “Can I change the subject now?”) 
  • One FOO is a TV in the bedroom family; the other FOO is a no TVs in the bedroom family. 
  • One FOO is a church-every-Sunday family; the other FOO doesn’t observe any religion.
  • One FOO are Facetime/phone-call communicators; the other FOO prefer email and maybe occasional phone calls.
  • One FOO always has salt and pepper on the table; the other FOO trusts that all food is salted/peppered exactly right for every palate. 

Like I said, it’s hard to accept one way when you grew up doing things the exact opposite way. But I can see the merits of both sides. At least in most cases (hot food should be eaten while HOT). 

Then, of course, it is amusing to see the points where our FsOO overlap, and the family my husband and I have created diverges. 

  • Both FsOO believe in ironing, and both women iron their husbands’ shirts to this day; my husband and I operate a pro-wrinkles household and refuse to iron. 
  • Both FsOO are firmly shoes IN the house types; my husband and I are a SHOES OFF household. 
  • Along the same lines: My husband and I are immediate handwashers; we come into the house, from anywhere, and wash our hands before we touch anything. (Except our shoes, which we remove at the door.) Our FsOO seem disinclined toward handwashing unless they have recently used the restroom or are cooking/eating. 
  • Both FsOO prefer phone calls to text messages; my husband and I, like the good millennials we are, would prefer to never use a phone again.

Obviously, my husband and I are RIGHT.

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My husband and I have a general plan to look for a new house sometime in the next couple of years. The thing is, there’s no REAL reason to leave this house. It’s a good size for three people (even if it feels MUCH too small for all our stuff), it’s got everything we need (three bedrooms, two office spaces, a laundry room, a non-creepy basement), it’s close to Carla’s school and my husband’s offices, and, most important, it’s in a lovely neighborhood with lovely neighbors who all have dogs and who are all extremely generous with their time (and their dogs’ time). 

And yet sometimes we do dream about finding The Perfect House, the one with allllllll the things we love about our current house and all the things that would make it so much better. (Recognizing, of course, that owning a home at all is a privilege and having enough space for our small family is a luxury that many, many people do not have.)

One of my biggest wishes for a new house would be a real, honest-to-goodness mudroom. Right now, all we have is a tiny square between the garage and the kitchen.

It has a small closet (although the door no longer works) and that’s it. Our shoes and bags and coats are always spilling out of it. My husband stores his work satchel on the floor of the kitchen because it doesn’t fit in the entry space. My daughter’s backpack is usually on the floor as well. There’s no space for grocery bags or my purses or anything, really. So I would love a beautiful single-purpose mudroom. Maybe one that has those tall cubbies, with individual hooks for coats and cubbies for shoes. But my ideal mudroom would also have a closet or shelving for storing hats and mittens and sports gear, and it would have a hook for my purse and a hook for Carla’s backpack and another for my reusable grocery bags (which inevitably hang on the garage door knob until I return them to my car, falling off the knob and onto the floor several times per day). 

Another wish would be a separate space for Carla. If money were no object, I would want her to have a playroom and a separate craft room with a long table and lots of storage. Her bedroom is fairly small and she has WAY too many toys, and they spill into the dining room, living room, basement, kitchen. I am constantly bothering her to clean things up. Maybe if she had a designated room for her stuff, I could simply shut the door. 

In general, I don’t think I have overtly extravagant, MTV-Cribs-style wishes for my dream home. I don’t need a movie theatre. I don’t want a bowling alley. But I would like a swimming pool. Only since the pandemic began have I understood the value of having a pool. Before the pandemic, I would have said never in a million years. But now that we are home so much more often, and now that the preferred way of interacting with other humans is in small groups in outdoor spaces, I totally want a pool. In my ideal, make-believe world, the pool would be in an enclosed, heated space for year-round swimming but could be completely opened up for entertaining. 

While we’re dreaming, I would like a dedicated library. Happy sigh. A room with shelves and shelves and shelves of books… and some comfy, well-lit seating areas… heaven!

Oh, and it would be wonderful to have a separate space for guests. A real mother-in-law suite (or, why the hell not, mother-in-law outbuilding) with a small kitchen, a full bathroom, a bedroom, and a small sitting area. Our parents stay at a hotel when they visit, for a variety of reasons, and it would be lovely to be able to have a separate place for them to stay with us.

Of course, no house will ever be Completely Perfect. I doubt that any house at any price has the exact specifications I would want (not to mention what my husband and Carla would want) in m dream home. I think even if you designed and built your own house, it wouldn’t be perfect perfect. Some of the things that end up driving you nuts don’t reveal themselves until you have lived in a space for awhile. Sometimes you don’t realize just how much you want a big, beautiful mudroom until you find your entire family crammed into a tiny square, all trying to remove their muddy boots at one time.

I want to know the things you dream about, in your wildest house hunting dreams. And I also want to know the things you love – and hate – most about the place where you currently live. 

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Ten things I hate about summer:

  1. Sweating.
  2. Never knowing how to dress for the constant fluctuations between instant outdoor heatstroke and freeze-your-freckles-off air conditioning.
  3. Shaving my toes. Or, more accurately, forgetting to shave my toes.
  4. The smell of self-tanner. (I have been using this spray tanner from Neutrogena, excuse me micromist; it has a very mild, very fleeting scent but the scent is there. Also, I cannot tell if it is doing ANYTHING to “build my all-over flawless tan.”)
  5. Persistent debris – sticks, leaf bits, dirt, pebbles – all over my floor.
  6. Relatedly: stuff stuck to my feet.
  7. Sunblock, especially putting it on my child. WHEN will she learn to apply it herself, thoroughly and accurately and regularly? Please say eight, please say eight.
  8. Watermelon, and the abundance thereof.
  9. Wasps. 
  10. How fleeting it is. A friend summarized it yesterday: “We have four weeks of camp, then two weeks of vacation, then a week at home, and then it’s pretty much back to school.” Nothing like packing your entire, much-longed-for summer into three short clauses to make it feel like it’s NEARLY OVER already.

Ten things I love about summer:

  1. Walking in the sunshine, and, whilst walking, stepping into a sudden patch of scent that wraps you in a lovely fragrant cocoon: clover, honeysuckle, lilac.
  2. Freckles.
  3. The near-constant thrum of distant lawnmowers. (Not to be confused with the angry drone of lawnmowers in your own yard, always too early or during a Zoom call.)
  4. Fancy cocktails, fresh fruit, and their delicious intersection.
  5. The thrill of watching pea shoots and tomato plants stretch toward the sun.
  6. Reading outside in the sunshine.
  7. Grilling. I don’t care what it is. Throw it on the grill. 
  8. The opportunity to sleep an extra hour, if desirable/doable.
  10. How fleeting it is. It feels rare and precious, and I spend all summer reveling in its many joys, trying to tilt the bottle of the season to just the right angle so I can savor every last honeyed drop.

What are your favorite/least favorite things about summer?

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I got an email reminder from the dentist about an upcoming appointment. 

There’s a photo at the top of the email. The photo features three children of varying ages. (WIDELY varying ages, I should say. Two seem to be in their late teens/early twenties and one is the early elementary school age range.) In the photo, it is summer; the children are in shorts and T-shirts. The oldest is holding a dog. The whole thing has a very Stock Image in a Frame You Find at Bed Bath & Beyond vibe.

Who are these children? Why are they in the email? What do they have to do with dentistry in general or my dentist in particular?

* * *

My bank sends me emails every time I pay for something with my debit card. It used to be that the subject line of these emails read something like: Transaction alert. Or: You made a recent transaction.

The other day, I purchased something online. A few minutes later, the bank alert appeared in my inbox. This time, the subject line read: YOU RECENTLY MADE A LARGE TRANSACTION.

THAT was alarming – I had NOT recently made a large transaction; my online purchase was for $38. Had I accidently bought something else? Was there an error from the retail website? Had someone stolen my bank card and used it to buy a bunch of TVs or a Lambourghini?

Nope. The transaction in question was $38. 

Large transaction, bank email? Really? LARGE?

* * *

I went to the bank with Carla before an appointment. We had exactly enough time before the appointment to stop at the drive-through ATM. But the ATM had no cash.

No worries – the bank also has a walk-up ATM. I pulled around the block and into the parking lot, which was full.

It was raining, and I could see a huge line of people approaching the bank and stepping inside. I pulled down the hood of my raincoat, grabbed my umbrella, and splashed through the puddle strewn parking lot. All the people were crammed into the ATM vestibule. Were they waiting for the ATM? What was going on? I peered in and a kindly woman told me they were all waiting to be admitted to the bank, the ATM was free for me to use. I stepped inside and immediately realized I wasn’t wearing a mask! Yipes! “Oh no!” I said to the jam-packed vestibule. “I forgot my mask!”

While I wanted to disappear into the rain, I instead splashed back to my car, grabbed a mask, splashed toward the bank once more, and withdrew the money I needed. But my heart was pounding the whole time. Yes, I’m fully vaccinated, but I still don’t want to jump into a pile of strangers while not wearing a mask. Nor do I want to come across as someone who is okay jumping, maskless, into a pile of strangers. 

* * *

This morning, I dropped Carla off at school. She always waves to me as she’s running into the building. We exchange air kisses and then I drive off. This time, no wave. She looked forlorn. I waved, and, dragged along by the tide of other cars, kept moving toward the exit. I could see her in the rear view mirror. She was in the same spot – now rummaging in her backpack, now talking to a few friends. 

Realization dawned. I made a circle in the parking lot, called to her, and she jumped into the car. We drove back home to get her a mask. 

* * *

I can’t speak to what is going on with the dentist. Like, at all.

Likewise, I don’t really know what’s up with my bank. Maybe they simply want to jar people into opening their emails. Who knows.

But I am more invested in getting to the bottom of the mask stuff. This isn’t the first time in recent weeks that Carla forgot her mask before school. We did have several masks stuffed into the seat-back pocket in my car.  But she’s used those up. And, at one time, we had a bag of extra masks that she kept in her backpack. But I guess we used those masks, too, without replenishing them. 

Are we getting complacent? Are we getting weary? I have no idea, but it’s still jarring, to contemplate being somewhere public without a mask. I still have dreams that are eerily similar to my ATM experience – I’ll be in Target or the grocery store and suddenly realize I’m maskless. The pandemic-era Oh No I’m Naked dream – so it seems like I’m still anxious about mask-wearing. 

The issue with Carla is one thing, I think. At the beginning of the year, we had a whiteboard list of all the things she needed to do before leaving for school: take temperature, eat breakfast, wash dishes, brush teeth, fill water bottle, grab mask. She’d check them off before we left the house. This was, in large part, for my benefit; it was a new routine and I didn’t want to forget anything. Of course I am also trying to give her tools to stay on task and organized, and to help her become more responsible. After awhile, as we got more comfortable with the morning structure, we became less vigilant about checking items off the list. And then, eventually, I felt like the list wasn’t useful anymore so I erased it and replaced it with a more general catalog of To Dos. 

Clearly, we still need the list. Mornings are the worst part of the day, and all my energy is devoted to simply getting out the door on time. I need Carla to be responsible for her own masks. 

When we came home this morning to get her a mask, we also refilled her “extra masks” bag for her backpack, and I am going to put a few extras in my car. I have several masks in my car for me, I guess I just need to remember to bring them when I go in places. So far, the only issue with forgetting has been the ATM experience. 

My problem, maybe, is that I no longer feel the need to wear masks outdoors. (Carla still wears a mask outside; I think she just feels more comfortable that way, and she’s used to wearing a mask all day anyway, and this way she can pet any dog she encounters.) I usually carry one with me, in a pocket or on my wrist, so that I can put it on if we encounter people. But my neighborhood seems to be going more in the mask-free direction, at least outside, and the people we know to stop and talk to have all voluntarily announced they are vaccinated, so I’ve even gotten a little lax about keeping an extra mask on me. Perhaps this is all adding up to a more general carelessness about mask wearing, I don’t know. I suppose I shouldn’t read TOO much into a one-time lapse in maskment. 

* * *

Now that more people are getting vaccinated, and things are “opening up” (whether or not that’s a reasonable thing), wearing a mask seems more controversial than ever. At least in the early days, when we had specific mandates for mask-wearing, it seemed like there was a clear right and wrong. Now that mandates have been lifted and the CDC is issuing less strict guidance around masking, there’s even more tension around wearing or not wearing a mask.

I’ve never really been bothered by the mask wearing. I don’t mind a little extra protection, a little extra anonymity. I get why some people don’t like them. I get that some people find it to be a violation of their rights (I don’t understand that line of thinking, but I understand that people feel that way), and whatever; you do you, boo. I will be over here wearing a mask and avoiding you if at all possible, but let your air holes run free if that’s your priority.

It would be nice, I think, if mask-wearing sticks around in some form for the longterm. People feeling like they could/should wear masks when they have a cold would be beneficial to us all. But right now, it’s all! so! fraught! No matter what you do – mask or no mask – it feels not only like A Specific Choice, but a choice that carries judgement. I wonder if that will ever go away. 

My husband had a cold recently. At a meeting with colleagues, one person said, “We’ve all been vaccinated, so I’m okay if we remove our masks for this meeting.” Everyone agreed. My husband said, “Well, I have a cold, so I’ll keep mine on!” Which, I think, is the right choice. The respectful-of-others choice. But then the rest of his colleagues kept THEIR masks on as well. He is not the fretful type, but just the fact that he told me this story leads me to believe that he fretted a little bit about his role in “making” them wear masks against their will. Did they feel like his choice was a judgement against their choice? Did they do it out of solidarity or respect? Did they figure if he had a cold, they wanted the extra layers of protection their own masks provided? Who knows. It is just all SO FRAUGHT. 

A friend and I sometimes go walking together. We are now both vaccinated. When we walk, we do so outdoors. I keep agitating about whether I should ask if she feels comfortable going maskless on our next walk. But maybe this is a case of it DOES hurt to ask. Would she feel pressured to go maskless, even if she wasn’t comfortable? So far, I haven’t said anything. It’s been too cold and rainy, anyway. 

Carla got sunburned this weekend. Because she was wearing a mask, the sunburn made her look like the Hamburglar and made me feel like of Mother of the Year. I sent a picture to my mother and her response was, “Why was she wearing a mask outside?” 

I explained to her the thing about Carla’s comfort, the thing about the dogs. And we all know that email is notoriously terrible at conveying feeling or intent with any reliable accuracy. But I kept turning her question over in my head. Was she judging me for what she perceived as me making/encouraging Carla to wear a mask outside? 

Why can’t we just be okay with other people’s choices? This is an imperfect analogy, because there’s no potentially-deadly virus involved, but I think we should view masks the way we view any other clothing choice. When it’s 45 degrees outside, and I’m wearing a jacket and you’re wearing a sweater and the other guy is walking around in short sleeves, I’m not feeling anything more than mild interest in our clothing choices. Sure, if it’s freezing and all you have on is a tank top, I might be a little more concerned. But I’d probably think, “Well, she probably works in a really hot workspace and is only outside for a short time…” or “Maybe she forgot her jacket at home…” or (with deep sympathy) “Hot flashes” or “To each her own!” and then go on with my day. We all, for the most part, realize that people have different reactions to/comfort levels with different temperatures. Some people are freezing in a 70-degree office and wrap up in shawls and have their space heaters going, while others keep their windows cracked even in the dead of winter. You might argue over the “correct” setting of the thermostat, but you’re not going to get angry at your colleague for wearing tights and a cardigan to protect her from the summer A/C, and you’re not going to be all judgmental toward your coworker who comes into work in February wearing nothing but a hoodie over his button-down. We are all different and we make different choices.

Sure, there are always well-meaning people who say, “Aren’t you hot in that jacket? You’ll be more comfortable if you take it off.” (“You know, that baby should be wearing socks. She’ll be too cold.”) So perhaps we can never get away from it entirely. But it would be nice to be able to see someone wearing or not wearing a mask and simply think, “Hmm. Not necessarily the choice I’d make in the situation, but it takes all kinds” and move on with our lives.

Of course, this would require everyone else (except those occasional obnoxious busybodies) to take the same approach. So I suppose we’re doomed. 

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