Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why Can't I Worry Myself Thin?

I think I'm having a bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or a slight case of depression (which I think is a side effect of T-fen, honestly), because I have felt so sad this week. And yes, actual sad stuff has happened, both in the greater world (Pete Seeger! boo-hoo!) and closer to home, but in general I'm fine, everyone here's fine, there's no real reason for all this weepy.

Here's something that hit me last night: Last year, the daughter of one of my Sleek Suburban Mom friends had a bit part in the high school production of Grease, and I organized a party with the local girls and moms to have pizza and ice cream (and, er, a grown-up drink or two) at our house ahead of time, and then we all caravan-ed to the show together. Mimosa and I knew three girls in the cast, and we brought bouquets for all of them. It was a pretty fun night.

Now Mimosa has a good part in a play, and I e-mailed my circle of friends to encourage them to come see her (including the moms of all three girls we gave flowers to). And the response has mostly been — silence.

I don't say this to point fingers at anyone. We all have a lot going on (in fact, one of my bestys is starring in a show at the exact same time, what are the odds? I will get to see her perform the following week), and we do the best we can. And also, my Grease party wasn't a quid pro quo kinda thing — I did it because I wanted to and because I hoped it would help my shy daughter have some peer fun and feel more part of things.

Nonetheless . . . I don't think any of the local girls are coming to see her, and yes, I am disappointed.

I was also feeling bad because the kids, Husband, and I haven't written a single thank-you note yet for our Christmas presents (it is so hard to find a time when all four of us are home these days!). We usually do this as a family event, sitting at the dining room table together; my rule is that the note has to be at least four sentences and only one of them can be "thank you" — people want to hear about your lives, I always say. So we read aloud our notes as we write them, and it's pretty hilarious. (Good Neighbor Anne showed me a note Li'l Martini wrote her a few years ago: "Thank you for the soap with the turtle in it. I wanted to use it right away, but Mom says I have to wait until we use up the soap that's in the bathroom right now. I wish I could play with that turtle. I think Mom is mean. Great present. Love, Li' Martini")

But then it occurred to me: I called every family member on Christmas Day to thank them for their gifts and tell them I love them. Brother 1's family hadn't opened our presents yet . . . and I haven't heard a word from any of them since. I'm especially disappointed because I made Flinty Red, my sister-in-law's, present this year with my own two hands, and I really wanted to hear how she liked it — I thought it turned out awesome. But nary a word.

We're still going to write thank-you notes (the view is great, up here on the High Road), probably next weekend, but I'm going to stop feeling bad about it.

This week also marks the first year in something like decades that I haven't written a long birthday letter or e-mail to Bride Boy, who turned, I think, 44 on Tuesday. (I am really, really bad at remembering how old people are, but I'm pretty good about remembering birthdays.) I'm still feeling that loss, and I'm sure it's the source of some of my sadness this week.

But I finally have my car back (ugh, almost a thousand bucks later), and Husband got Li'l Martini's dead computer to work again (so we don't have to buy him a new one – yay, hundreds of bucks saved), and — oh, guess who's back? Auntie Flo returned to my life, albeit a month late, and that's been all kinds of interesting. Hmm, and also probably a source of my baby-blue mood. I still don't feel quite myself, physically, but I'm trying to be patient and just get through this adjustment period. I see my cancer advice doc this month, maybe she'll give me a pep talk.

The hidden agenda of this long tale of woe (and there's so much more, but I get weary of writing about it all) is to bolster my case for skipping Tuesday zumba this week, but I know I'm being ridiculous. It's too cold and I'm too tired and sad, for sure, but exercise would help with all those things. Anyway, I'll go tonight. I'm enjoying the Thursday class a lot because it's nearby (right at the bottom of my hill, in my old church) and there's a clock in the classroom; it's amazing what a difference that makes. There's a clock in the Tuesday gym too, but it's permanently stuck at 7:30; it's like a cruel joke. I love knowing exactly how close I am to being done.

I've had a ton of paying work these past two weeks (which is awesome) but today I'm free, so I've scheduled 10 million errands – and it will be great to get them all off my plate. Top of the list: car inspection — and how great to have a car to actually inspect!! Eleven days without a car. Man.

(One of my errands is not sneaking in a matinee of 12 Years a Slave. I'm scared to try to see that movie now. Maybe I should have someone else drive me.)

Off to seize the day and conquer my demons! Wish me well.

— Lady C, whose mood is blue to match her eyes

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"I only go in reverse"

So let me tell you what happened to me last Friday night. Mimosa and I had a jazzy evening planned; after I picked her up from recording the voice of the Giantess for her upcoming production of Into the Woods (she has two parts!), we planned to run a few quick errands (it was Handsome D's birthday on Saturday, I needed to get presents), then have a splendid dinner at Za and go see 12 Years a Slave — second attempt!

(The first time we tried, the pert ticketing cashier informed me, "It's not showing tonight — it's showing every other night this week." Then she gestured toward the likes of Lone Survivor and Anchorman 2 and The Chipmunks Save Chechnya and said, "Would you like to see something else?" Dude, we're here for 12 Years a Slave. What do you think?)

I get my shopping done, it's now 5 p.m., the Friday of a three-day weekend, and we're at the Fresh Pond Mall on the Fresh Pond Parkway — a four-lane strip that connects Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge and where the traffic is heavy all the time but never more so than at rush hour, which begins at 3 on Fridays. The street is a parking lot, but no worries; our movie doesn't start till 7:10, we are only a mile or so from where we want to be, the night is ours!

I start the car and move forward to exit the parking lot — and my car promptly dies. I'm halfway blocking a parking "lane" now and trying to get over a speed bump. I start it again, put it in Drive again, and try to move forward. Instant death. And again. And again. And again.

I pull off my coat (I am now sweating like a working ox), take some calming Zen breaths, and try something different: Reverse. Eureka! My car will go in reverse! Now maybe I can work up some momentum to get over that speed bump!

Which I do . . . and then the car dies again.

And at this point I cry uncle. Even if I can successfully coax the car to move forward every 17 times I try, I don't want to be out in that non-moving block of rush-hour three-day-weekend traffic with those odds.

I reverse my way to a parking spot (and even with my flashers on, the other drivers around me did not seem to get that I was in distress; they thought I was simply being annoying, and they responded in kind) and call Triple A. "Where are you?" Ms. Triple A asks, and I reply, "At the Fresh Pond Mall, parked in the row between Sleepys and T J Maxx." "Okay," she says, "the tow truck will be there within 75 minutes, be sure to have your Triple A card ready." I thank her and settle in for the wait.

Fortunately, it was a temperate day, my phone was fully charged, and I had something to read. Husband was nearish and we were on his route home (his plan had been to pick up Li'l Martini and to go get matching haircuts and eat at Friendly's House o' Pain — boy night, girl night, in other words), so Mimosa elected to go with him. And then everything happened at once — Husband appeared to get Mimosa and my phone rang with an automated voice saying, "Your tow truck is here!"

I looked and looked around the vast parking lot . . . and saw nothing resembling a tow truck. And then my phone rang again.

"Where ARE you?" says my guy, in a thick townie accent. "Are you at the mall with Chipotle or . . . ?" I said, "Across the street, Fresh Pond Mall, the one with Whole Foods."

I'm not at Chipotle, I'm at Whole Foods. I think this is a metaphor.

"OK," he says, "be there in just a minute."

I look at the non-moving mass of cars that he will have to navigate across and think, Ha. See in 15  minutes.

But I didn't reckon with the mad skills of a professional tower; he was before my eyes within what felt like seconds. I obediently showed him my card. He ignored it and said, "Guess what?" I said, "?" He said, "There's a Sleepys on each side of the street."

Sho' nuff. There is indeed. Well, I guess you never really know when the urge to buy a mattress will strike you, right? You could be inbound, you could be outbound — and who wants to deal with crossing the street?

I showed him my card again, and he gave me A Look. "I don't care," he says. "So what's the problem here? You just need a jump?"

"No . . ." I say. "I only go in reverse."

He gave me another Look but then he laughed. "OK, then," he said. "Let's get 'er up. You can wait in the truck."

Inside the cab music was blaring and it happened to be a zumba song I know well, so, of course, I promptly began to do my routine (albeit while sitting comfortably in the cab). Tow Guy dealt with my car (while a small Chinese boy parked near us watched with great admiration — it was adorable) and then got in the cab and observed my smooth moves with bemusement.

I said, "My zumba teacher is very bossy, but she will be impressed to know that I did zumba to deal with my stress. If she doesn't believe me, can I have her call you?"

He said, "You're crazy." Then he thought it over and said, "Sure, have her call." And we were off!

He was a riot. We talked fast and furious and laughed hard as he sped through the back roads and byroads of Arlington, Cambridge, and Belmont. I saw alleys, I saw side streets, at one point I swear we crossed someone's back yard. He had me at my car place within 15 minutes (we also stopped for gas), and mirabile dictu, my car guy, Sweetie Louie, was still there. While Sweet Lou wrote up my problem ("She only goes in reverse") he asked if I needed any of my keys. I said, "No, my only plans for the weekend are to cry and drink," and Sweet Lou said, "Well, that's what I'm doing."

Bad-Ass Tow Guy, my new besty, drove me home, and we pulled into the driveway behind Husband and Li'l Martini. An adventure, to say the least. I plan to bring him some fresh-baked cookies and a six-pack of Sierra Nevada (the malted beverage of my hometown!), which I will do . . .

. . . just as soon as I have a car again!! It's been a week and a day, my car guys haven't even got to it yet, and I feel like I'm missing a limb. I hate not having my car! And of course I could rent one, but I also hate spending money when I don't have to, and we've been managing with one car (as many families do, I know). Poor Husband has done the bulk of the driving; he has been an angel.

Anyway — it's been a stressful week. And after that temperate Friday, Boston was slammed with a huge scary snowstorm again (snow mixed with ice) so we didn't end up celebrating with Handsome D and Mrs. Cynicletary after all, and his present sits on the bookcase by the front door.

And, if you're keeping track, this makes two aborted attempts to see 12 Years a Slave! I'm beginning to think that slavery is bad!!! (Seriously! Amy Poehler says she'll never look at slavery the same way again. I feel ya, sister.)

But in other news, I was diligent about exercise and eating lightly this week (so. many. apples!), even whilst embroiled in an editing job that had me glued to my work chair every day (as my flattened buttocks can attest), and finally, finally, my weight has returned to normal. Focusing on fiber and fresh produce has also seemed to help in the plumbing area (and that is the last I hope to speak of this), and while I still don't feel 100 percent myself, I'm less of a stranger — and that is something.

This week also saw the loss of two people I liked very much: Marlene, the hot-tamale wife of one of my former bosses, who has struggled with thyroid cancer almost as long as I've known her (we bonded over our thyroid surgery scars the night we met), and Dr. Angorn, the gentle, kind, and funny orthodontist who's overseen Li'l Martini's journey through palate expanders, retainers, tooth extraction, and Round 1 of braces. Both battled their respective illnesses for a long, long time. They were icons of courage and grace, and they will be deeply missed.

It's hard to know what to say after that.

I think . . . today I will be grateful for the life I have, for my relatively excellent health, and for the love that surrounds me. It's Chore Day, there's enough food in the house to scrape together a nice bag lunch for Mimosa (she has a full-day rehearsal — the show is next weekend!), my weight was down this morning, tonight we're having pizza and I don't have to cook. And I drank very little alcohol this week, so I can have a cocktail tonight. I have a new Maisie Dobbs book to read. All will be well.

Sending love and strength to anyone who is struggling right now, whether your concerns are spoken or unspoken.

xxx
Lady C

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stranger With My Face

(Alternate title: That New Girl Tami's a Real Bitch!)

I'll always know how long I've been taking T-fen because I started on January 1, so it's been three weeks — which, as I've mentioned, seems kinda early to me to be having dramatic side effects. And yet.

Boy, do I not feel like myself!!

No period this month, period. I had lots of the symptoms of "it's almost here!" but it never arrived, and now it's too late to be late.

As my Constant Readers know, I've been ready to embrace the menopause for a while now, but I think I expected it to come on more . . . gradually. From an every-three-week heavy-flow period to — nothing?

Intriguing.

And speaking of things that aren't flowing, my ladyplumbing has clogged in the most unbecoming way. I am bloated and gassy and yet — unproductive. This is so not me. And it also makes me wildly popular at zumba, as you might imagine.

(I haven't skipped a class yet, but nonetheless — life is pretty gross if you think you're farting too much for zumba.)

And my weight is stuck-stuck-stuck, but not at my new set point of 252; it's stuck at 255, which seems significant to me. I'm still doing exactly what I was doing before, but three pounds from the ozone have found their way to my body and won't leave. (Clearly, they are three pounds of poo and menstrual fluid — ew, sorry, I know — but what can I do?)

I Googled "tamoxifen and weight gain" and "tamoxifen and constipation" and found a lively chat board on breastcancer.org, one of the "approved" sites my doc sent me to, and those girls are great. "Your doctor will tell you that weight gain is a myth," one wrote, "but look around — do we look like a myth?" And lots of these women saw the symptoms I'm seeing after only three weeks, which made me feel so much better.

One said something that made a lot of sense to me. A well-known symptom of T-fen is vaginal dryness; "so," she writes, "doesn't it make sense that we'd be dryer everywhere and our systems would be more sluggish? Drink lots of fluids, eat lots of natural produce and fiber; things will get moving again." I dutifully added "prunes" to the shopping list (fortunately, I like prunes) and am trying to drink more water and include something that grows naturally from the earth in every meal.

(Italicized phrase is one I repeat to my family ad nauseum; they would eat nothing but carbs otherwise.)

I went through a huge period of adjustment with my hormone-releasing IUD back in the day; it took six months for my body to regulate itself, so I expect things will "settle" a bit once Tami's made friends in the neighborhood. But I'm also scheduled for a physical next week or so, and I look forward to talking it all over with my new doc.

Lots of other news to report (including the fact that some mornings I wake up and my knees feel perfectly normal, it's the damndest thing — most mornings, they both feel like they're being squeezed in a vise), but I have a huge editing job; plus, we must shovel the walkways before the kids leave for school. Small storm last night, delayed school openings today. I'm just glad they won't all be home while I'm trying to work.

Shh, don't tell them. I'm really good at keeping it a secret.

(Ha.)

Oatmeal with wheat berries and raisins for breakfast — let's get this digestion train moving!

—Lady C, conductress of her very own life

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Good News, Odd News, and Just . . . News

First, welcome to my newest reader and pally, Pamela of the B-Bus! Given how challenging it is to find time for real-life hanging out, at least we can catch up a little in our virtual worlds.

Good News

Last week's scary zumba class probably was a combo of out-of-shape Christmas muscles and an extra-exuberant young teacher; my Thursday class went much better and last night's class was okay too (though I do feel like both knees are being squeezed in a vise – it's not necessarily painful, but it makes it difficult to move with my usual zesty zumba abandon).

I'm also being semi-diligent about taking short walks on my treadmill. Short seems to be the key; I can walk a brisk mile in 20 minutes, and seriously, who doesn't have a spare 20 minutes? It gets me nice and sweaty, I usually walk a little more than the assigned mile because I want to finish a song, and I feel virtuous, smug, and limber afterward, my favorite post-exercise mental state.

Finally, I have two large-ish editing jobs in the pipeline; I have a meeting about one of them tomorrow, and the other should arrive any minute now. The dread spectre of substitute teaching has been delayed at least another week!

Odd News

Despite the renewed presence of exercise in my life and the fact that five of my seven extra holiday pounds came off pretty quickly, those five pounds came right back and are not budging. My weight has been stuck at 259 for days and days. I'm not eating more than usual (though maybe I need to start logging my food on Fat Secret, just to be sure), so I don't know what's up.

But I wonder if my new drug is the culprit. I've been taking tamoxifen (or T-fen, as I've decided to call it – I hate how tamoxifen sounds like toxic) (some people have suggested that I call it Tami, but that is too cutesy, even for me. "I'm taking my Tami now!" "It's Tami time!" Yeah, no) for 15 days, and my period, which has arrived every 21 days like clockwork for the last year, is now 8 days late, by that measure. T-fen can throw you into "early" menopause (though not this quickly, I'm pretty sure). Does my body think it's pregnant? Do I have seven pounds of menstrual flow clogging up the works? Has my uterus gone wacky?? I dunno.

I've applied for at least five part-time and/or temporary editing jobs since December, all of which I'm divinely qualified for, but haven't heard a peep. What is that about???

Husband finally had the meeting to confront his dreadful department chair that we've all been bracing ourselves for for the past five weeks — and it was a complete anticlimax. Department chair was all soothing words and placating platitudes — and here's me foaming at the mouth, saying, "What about the nasty letter to the Dean? Is he going to retract it?" "Ohhh," said Husband, "it didn't come up." I am now beside myself and will gently ride Husband to write a follow-up letter with action items, including Retract lying lying letter to Dean that is full of lies. Maybe I'll edit that action item.

Just . . . News

I took the online test to be a Jeopardy contestant. Ha! Ha! Ha! I do not think I will meet Alex Trebek this year. Man, the gaps in my knowledge base — they are legion. This also happens when I play Trivial Pursuit; I dominate the pink (Entertainment) category, do okay in the brown (Literature) category, can sometimes maybe fake the yellow (History), orange (Sports & Leisure — sometimes they ask cocktail questions!), and green (Science — sometimes they ask astrology questions!) categories, and utterly fail the blue (Geography) category. I don't know where anything is and I don't care, that's what MapQuest is for.

In any event, I answered correctly questions about Katy Perry and Despicable Me but couldn't come up with the name of the crazy mathematician Russell Crowe played in the movie, who invented/discovered the X-ray, or what sea runs alongside Turkey.

A sea that I have actually sailed on, perhaps I should mention.

It was a lot of fun, though. And I did get the correct answer for the first, alphabetically, of the three rivers of Pittsburgh (who knew Pittsburgh had even one river?), which was a total fluke but cheered me right up nonetheless.

There's always more news, but this will do for now. Time to start my day!

My weight was in fact down this morning, but it always is after light dinner + zumba + hot bath. It's a Xanadu weight. We'll see what the scale says tomorrow.

bye!

— Lady C, trying to revel in the good and avoid the suck of the odd

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Um, Proud? Sorta?

It was a somewhat challenging day. I was up at pre-dawn to take Mimosa to Madrigal practice (we don't make her take the bus when the mornings are so dark and icy — and getting up that early after two weeks of vacation indolence is quite the challenge, let me tell you) and then went to CVS . . . which didn't open for nine more minutes, so I sat in my freezing can and tried to name the 50 states in alphabetical order. (I've switched purses so I no longer have room to carry Bo Jo Jones, my still-unfinished emergency book — I don't have that many reading emergencies, thank heaven. I guess I should stick it in my glove compartment.)

Today's editing job was a pleasant and badly written document, 44 single-spaced pages, which I would usually request 12 hours to edit. However, the client is on a tight budget and could only allow me four. Four. Crazytown. I did a crap edit, which never feels good, even if that's what the job was. Editors are perfectionists. And also a little nuts.

Then I attempted to hang a string of lights inside my front window, something I've been attempting to do since we took down Christmas last week. First, Husband gave me a string of lights that worked fine outside but were half burned out by the time I got them hung (something I didn't realize until after I'd hung them). I left them up for a week, half of them twinkling at me, half of them dark as the Grave, but today I'd had enough. Since I was at CVS anyway, I perused their post-Christmas 10 million percent off light selection and came home with 150 indoor/outdoor white lights, with the curious notation "grid."

Well. Those of you more familiar with light lingo than I (which would be pretty much anyone) know that I don't want a "grid," which is a squarish small web; I want a "string." I spent almost a full hour cutting apart the webbing that made it a grid, so that I could have an approximation of a string (and I tested it periodically to make sure it worked before I hung it). Except — right before I hung it I must have cut a wire, not a string (they looked identical) . . .

. . . because after I hung it, I plugged it in. And it didn't light.

It was only two dollars, but still. A whole hour!!!! And it's not like it was fun.

I gave up and laid down on my bed to drink Diet 7-Up and read my new Maisie Dobbs book, which is awesome! And it's so cold outside and so cozy inside, and I've gotta tell you: The only thing I wanted to do less than go to zumba tonight was to de-web another string of lights.

I think you get the picture.

But I didn't even entertain the thought of ditching for more than two seconds; I put on my big-girl sports panties and headed out into the minus trillion degrees to zumba. Because I am awesome.

(I said this to myself a lot in the car, as a little pep talk, and then watched my words freeze in the air. It is DAMN COLD here. You get that, right? Anyone who voluntarily leaves their house to exercise in this weather should get a medal. Or a puppy to hold. Something.)

And then — the Italian Spitfire wasn't there. The sub was Young Camembert, who's taught us before; she's 12 years old, adorable and bouncy, with no center of gravity whatsoever, but her class is always fun.

Except and except.

Either:
  • My arthritis is temporarily acting up, possibly because of the cold weather; it'll get better
  • Because I haven't done zumba for two weeks, all my muscles and joints have stiffened up; it'll get better
  • My arthritis has gotten much worse; it won't get any better; I can't do zumba any more
For whatever reason, I was in a ton of pain and could barely do a quarter of the things Young Camembert did. And all her routines felt very high-impact — and also, it's always hard to follow a new teacher and unfamiliar routines, and that's pretty much all she did tonight. (When she's subbed before, she did the Italian Spitfire's routines — not sure why she went another way tonight.)

I barely broke a sweat!

And now I'm depressed and worried, rather than smug and exuberant, like I usually feel after zumba.

Ugh ugh ugh.

I'm still glad I went though, rather than chicken out and stay home. And now I have a hot bath, ibuprofen, and Maisie Dobbs to look forward to — and that's something. Plus, I made money today, and I have work scheduled for tomorrow and the next day as well. And I have a new job to apply for, Content Editor for Web courses at some college somewhere — very part-time and temporary, but I can totally do it. I'll send my application tomorrow.

(I did hear from one of the other jobs I applied for, the Oral History transcriber or whatever: "We regret to inform you that we are unable to pursue your candidacy any further on this occasion." Yes, it's a rejection, but so genteel! And: I think I'll survive.)

I have another zumba class on Thursday, we shall just see. Maybe I'll do some serious stretching ahead of time and take prophylactic ibuprofen. Couldn't hurt, right?

OK, time for bath. We'll see if I can get in and out of the tub with no assistance, since I'm a hundred freaking years old, apparently.

Ugh ugh ugh.

— Lady C Methuselah

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Page, a Mile, a Job Application



I thought that I'd get my New Year's resolutions off to a smashing start by engaging in each one a little bit on January 1 — except I thwarted myself by also having those two big jobs on my list (2014 calendar and holiday letter). I finished both but it took all day (in addition to making a big yummy First Day of the New Year dinner: black-eyed peas, for luck; ham steak; skillet cornbread; coleslaw; fruit skewers; and Gooey Cinnamon Squares for dessert — so yummy I could die of it!!!).

So — January 2 was my day of Virtue and Accomplishment, and boy did I virtually accomplish!
  • One page (and then some) written on Selling Chastity (aka Novel 2 — and I went back and reread my new text later, and it's pretty good. And it was fun to write, which is a hella good sign)
  • One mile walked on my treadmill! (The first 12 minutes sucked, zumba has been canceled due to holiday for two weeks, I am out of shape and creaky, but then at just about the half-mile mark the happy endorphins kicked in, and I actually walked a little more than a mile so I could finish rocking out to Teenage Dream — as who among us would not?!) I also lifted weights and worked my core, while holding Li'l Martini's solid manly feet. Good Lord but that kid is enormous.
  • One job application for a freelance Science Editor! I am no science girl but I've done a ton of science editing, and I enclosed a snippet from one of my heavily science-based style sheets to support my case (for a lesson in which students were cloning the rfp gene, or something like that — look, I don't have to understand the actual science to tell you that you're saying it wrong)
Mimosa and I also had a Molly Ringwald movie marathon (I've been trying to get her to watch Pretty in Pink and this is the only way she would do it), sewed a patch for the quilt my church ladies are making for our departed Music Director, and made Taco Soup and green salad for dinner. A full, fun day!

Today I'm printing 80+ copies of our letter (I mentally call it a Christmas letter but I seldom have it done and mailed before MLK Day), shoveling the driveway with the fam (always a good time — Boston has been rocked by two feet of snow, school's been canceled for the week, and it's butt cold out there), and reading a book I bought for my dad for Christmas, but it didn't arrive in time; it's about my great-grandmother, who was the first and only female chief of the Seminole Indian Nation, and the photographs are amazing. She had a bazillion kids and my Grandpa Jack was the youngest. Anyway, I'm psyched to learn more about her — and after shoveling in what reportedly feels like minus three degrees, an afternoon on the sofa with blankie, book, and hot Candy Cane Green Tea will be just the ticket!

My weight crept up for the holidays; I am mortified to say that I was all the way to 260, but it's heading right back down again. Three pounds already dispatched, I'll be back at my "new normal" of 252 in no time. And then the real losing begins! This is my vow.

(I'm keeping scrupulous track of my alcohol intake, now that I'm taking tamoxifen — two days in a row I've very much wanted to drink wine while cooking dinner, and two days in a row I've successfully resisted the urge. Yay, me!)

Off to celebrate my successful resolve . . . by shoveling.

(Yay, me?)

Cheers!

— Lady C

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lady C's Best Books Read in 2013

True Confessions: I'm procrastinating a little. I got started on my two big chores for today — Update 2014 calendar, and Write first draft of our family holiday letter — but neither is all that fun and they both feel worky, whereas reflecting on good books is fun and engaging! So, books first (and I'm also baking banana bread), then I'll get back to virtuous boring worky work.

Note: I list every new book I read, and rate it from 0 to 4 (4 is best) — but I've realized that I'm pretty generous with a "3" rating; if I've made it through the whole book, I think I need to justify my effort unless I truly disliked it. So this year I'm only going to list those books I rated 3.5 or higher.

And here they are! Of the 106 new books I read this year, here are the ones that got my highest ratings (listed in the order that I read them):
  • Shadow Creek by Joy Fielding
  • Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (I wrote, "So funny and twisty and suspenseful — could not put it down!")
  • Sheer Abandon by Penny Vincenzi
  • Comfort and Joy by India Knight
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray (YA)
  • Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGrory (nonfiction)
  • Hell or High Water by Joy Castro (I wrote, "Enjoyed a lot, though it seemed to take a while to get going, and there were a few loose ends — how could she fit in her bridesmaid dress? nothing happened to Little Sister?" Note: I do not remember what any of this means)
  • Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynnne Jonell (middle grade)
  • Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen
  • The View from Mt. Joy by my close personal friend Lorna Landvik! (aka "the blow-job book," according to Brunie)
  • Land of a Hundred Wonders by Lesley Kagen (I wrote, "Another gem from this wonderful author!!")
  • Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster
  • Good Graces by Lesley Kagen
  • Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick (nonfiction)
  • Gossip by Beth Gutcheon
  • Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall*
  • I Can't Complain by Elinor Lipman (nonfiction)
  • The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin* (I wrote, "Adored! Wanted it to go on and on!")
  • The Elite by Kiera Cass (YA)
  • How It All Began by Penelope Lively*
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman (I wrote, "LOVED! Right up there with her earlier stuff")
  • Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jordan (nonfiction)
  • The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster (nonfiction)
  • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
  • Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (YA)
  • Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern (YA) (I wrote, "Loved. LOVED. What an adorable, fun, surprising, delightful book!")
  • Unwind by Neal Shusterman (YA)
  • The Hate List by Jennifer Brown (YA)
  • Tweet Land of Liberty by Elinor Lipman (nonfiction)
  • Bliss by Lauren Myracle (YA)
  • Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern (YA)
  • Have a Nice Day by Julie Halpern (YA)
  • Family Pictures by Jane Green
  • Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg
  • Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham
  • Holly's Inbox: Scandal in the City by Holly Denham
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King (I write, "Simply amazing. The ending is sad but inevitable. A beautiful book")
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (YA) (I wrote, "SO. FREAKING. FABULOUS!!!")
  • Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdick (YA)
  • The Girl with Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts (YA)
  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (YA)
  • I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (YA)
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (YA)
  • Let I Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
  • The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (YA) (I wrote, "Utterly! Charming! I must now read entire oeuvre of Maureen Johnson)
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA) (I wrote, "LOVED. One of the best, most unexpected, loveliest books I read this year")
  • The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (YA)
  • The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (YA)
  • Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick (YA)
  • The House Girl by Tara Conklin
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (I wrote, "LOVED!!!" — in GIANT letters!!! Yeah, I liked this one)
  • The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner
  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (technically a reread, but I do not remember a word — and I'm psyched because I acquired much of the series for free so I can have a good wallow in all things Maisie for several days now — fun!)
Clearly this was the year that I discovered Rainbow Rowell, Julie Halpern, and Maureen Johnson, and read everything by Lesley Kagen, and was so happy to see old favorites Elinor Lipman and Stephen King write great, wonderful books again after floundering (IMHO) for a few years.

Also: It's easy to read 106 new books if you read a lot of YA.

I also read some bad, disappointing books this year. Why do you finish the book if it's so bad, Lady C? you could rightly ask, and the answer is simple: Hope. I hope there will be a payoff — because the book has been so well reviewed, because everyone's talking about it, because it was recommended by someone I trust. I live in hope.

Or, if it's a mystery in any way, I simply have to know What Happens.

Here are the five worst books I read in 2013, all of which I gave a single star:
  • The Tell by Hester Kaplan (I wrote, "What a disappointment! I wanted more casino, more from the woman's POV. I did like the dad and his cottage")
  • The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver ("UGH. Unpleasant, unengaging")
  • After Her by Joyce Maynard ("Grim, depressing, no one to like, meandering plot, contrived ending. Such a disappointment!")
  • Total Constant Order by Crissa Jean Chappell (YA) ("Ugh. I so wanted to likes this close-up look at OCD, but I just . . . didn't. Grim and unpleasant")
  • The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud ("Aarggh!!! What a waste of my time. The writing is so skillful, you're swept along, expecting something, something . . . and minute now . . . and the "Big Reveal" comes, and you're all . . . what? That was it? Give me my time back!!!")
Did you read any of these? Agree? Disagree? Let me know! (Blogger Dawn vehemently disagrees with my final choice; we had a lively debate over lunch last Sunday.)

Here's to another great year of books in 2014! (I am most excited about Book 3 in Kiera Cass's excellent YA trilogy. Check 'em out! Highly recommended, even though Aspen's a putz.)

— Lady C, notorious bookworm


* The way I happened upon these three books was interesting. Our library prints a receipt of the books you've checked out and when they're due, and people often leave it tucked in the pages. I enjoy seeing what odd books other people have chosen, but I have never wanted to have what anyone else was having.

Except this one time. Hidden inside Good Graces, a not-well-known book that I loved a lot, was a receipt for Blue Asylum, Mrs. Tom Thumb, and the Penelope Lively book. I'd heard good things about Mrs. Tom Thumb, so I thought — why not? I requested all three and enjoyed them thoroughly. Thanks, anonymous reader, whoever you were!