Monday, January 26, 2015

Mother Nature Is Not My Marriage Counselor

Husband and I don't agree on everything. Shocking, I know.

Sometimes our disagreements are based on the way we were raised; we disagree, for example, as to whether kids should learn and do household chores. One of of was cleaning the bathroom and dusting the furniture by third grade; one of us didn't learn how to clean a bathroom till grad school.

Sometimes we simply have different tastes. We disagree on meatloaf vs. a Reuben with pickles and sauerkraut, well-done vs. rare meat, brownies with nuts or without, Greek vs. Caesar salad, Star Trek vs. The Gilmore Girls, baseball playoffs vs. the Academy Awards.

We disagree over the best route to get home, if Christianity should even be mentioned in a class on evolution, and whether it's okay to stack books on the basement floor as a permanent method of storage.

(Wow, that list got long!)

For the most part, though, we can live with our differences, agree to disagree, and move forward in a way that works for both of us.

But when it snows . . . oh, when it snows . . . we are in fundamental disagreement on a number of topics, and it does not go well at all.

Husband has lived in snowy climes for much longer than I have, so his opinions are rooted in four decades of experience and what he remembers from life in Indiana and Michigan in the 1970s. I moved to Boston from snow-less San Jose and was a blank slate; my opinions are based on what the people around me told me, what I've observed, and what I've read. Each of us firmly believes that our own opinion is grounded in common sense.

Our experience and opinions have very little overlap.

So, he and I disagree. Vehemently. We roll our eyes, we sulk, we mutter under our breath, and we argue, sometimes with great bitterness. Snow is beautiful, but our behavior — oh, it is not pretty.

If you'd like to discover where you fall on the wide scale of our differing opinions, I offer the following quiz.

 Welcome to Our Frozen Family Feud!

 A. When a big snowfall is expected, is it better to shovel several times during the snowstorm or wait till the end and shovel all at once?
  1. Wait till the end — why do double or triple the work?
  2. Wait till the end, partly for the reason above and partly because if you wait long enough, a dear little fairy might come along and do it all for you.
  3. Do it several times — it's easier and better for your heart to shovel small amounts of light snow than large amounts of heavy, possibly frozen snow, so even though you're out there more often, you are actually doing less work.
(Need to research this question? Read Tip #13)

B. After a big snow, should you clean off your entire car so that the snow on the roof doesn't freeze, turn into a giant ice sheet, and slide off the next time you drive right into the nearest driver's windshield?
  1. No. Only a nancy cleans off the entire car.
  2. No. The snow will melt before you drive the car again, or it will fall off in little bits, or it will otherwise fix itself. This giant ice sheet is a myth perpetuated by people with too much time on their hands, also nancys.
  3. Yes.
(Need to research this question? Try this or this)

C. Should you remove ice manually when possible or solely depend on de-icing chemicals or salt?
  1. Chemicals. If God didn't want us to use de-icer, He wouldn't have given us the brains to invent it.
  2. Neither. If you wait long enough, the ice will melt on its own — or a dear little fairy might come along and do all the work for you.
  3. Manually. Chemicals and salt are not good for concrete or the environment. It is relatively easy to break ice into chunks and remove it manually; use chemicals sparingly as a last resort.
(Some background info can be found here and here)

Follow-up question:

C+: Is it enough to simply sprinkle de-icer, or do you need to come back later and remove the slush resulting from the melted ice (which will ultimately re-freeze if you don't tend to it)?
  1. Sprinkling is enough. Ice goes away. Magic! (See: dear little fairy)
  2. You have to remove the slush, which then deposits the salt and chemicals directly atop our lawn, plus, the nice pretty white snow is now covered with disgusting gray slush.
(If I've not yet whetted your curiosity about ice-melt products, you can read more here)

D. "It's been snowing for a while, but the neighbors aren't shoveling yet." Is this a compelling reason to delay your own shoveling?
  1. Yes. I respect, nay, idolize my neighbors, and I want to do everything exactly the way they do it.
  2. Yes. The popular vote is always correct. If 0 out of 11 neighbors haven't started shoveling, that's all I need to hear.
  3. Yes. I care about my neighbors' opinion. If I shoveled before they did, I might hurt their feelings, or they might think I'm uppity.
  4. I think about my neighbors a lot.
  5. No.
(I tried to find some supporting research; there's some creepy stuff out there about being obsessed with your neighbors, and lots of dry/hysterical pieces on abolishing the electoral college. You're on your own for this one. Good luck!)

How did you do?

At this writing, Boston is preparing for more than two feet of snow to be dumped on us starting tonight. Other people may be stocking up on bottled water and batteries; I'm off to Trader Joe's, the liquor store, and the library. Priorities, people.

I really love snow.

Maybe Husband and I won't argue tomorrow. Maybe we'll wake up to our winter wonderland with hearts full of peace and accord.


Stay warm and safe, my friends!

— Lady C

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lady C's Best Books of 2014

I've kept a book journal since 2006; it's always interesting for me to look back over the year and reflect on what I've read. I only note the new books, which I guess is misleading because I do a ton of rereading. But I won't forget the rereads, whereas if I didn't keep track of the new stuff I read, it would be gone forever — I have the memory of a sieve. I rate each book from 1 to 4 stars. Of the 88 new books I read last year, here are the ones that I gave 3.5–4 stars:
  • Birds of a Feather, Pardonable Lies, and An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear (Maisie Dobbs mysteries; of Revenge I wrote, "After a slowish start, the story took on surprising depth, and I was moved to weep. My favorite Maisie yet, possibly." I must admit that I remember nothing about this one!! But apparently I loved it)
  • W Is for Wasted by Sue Grafton
  • Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando (LOVED! Read in one sitting)
  • Eight Keys by Suzanne LeFleur (middle grade – so sad and sweet)
  • The Minister's Daughter by Julie Hearn (kept thinking about this one for days)
  • Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters (YA)
  • Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer (YA)
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (simply magnificent — I never wanted it to end)
  • The Thief of Always by Clive Barker (YA)
  • Dreamsleeves by Coleen Murtagh Paratore (charming YA recommended by my daughter)
  • In the Blood by Lisa Unger
  • Glitter  and Glue by Kelly Corrigan (for a book that's ostensibly a tribute it's a little light on Mom, but I enjoyed the story, though it wasn't as good as The Middle Place)
  • No Saints Around Here by Susan Allen Toth (recommended by Inspirational Kathy; I read it as my dad was dying, and it was the perfect book at that time)
  • Delancey by Molly Wizenberg (yes, she elected not to be my new best friend, but her book was delightful despite this clear lapse in judgment on her part) 
  • Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen (another excellent YA recommended by my smarty daughter)
  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio (YA)
  • The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
  • Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth (YA)
  • Inexcusable by Chris Lynch (YA)
  • Down the Rabbit Hole, Behind the Curtain, and Into the Dark by Peter Abrahams (charming middle-grade mysteries)
  • All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry (YA)
  • Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (YA)
  • Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (YA)
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (YA)
  • Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s by Matthew Kennedy
  • I Don't Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer
  • Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (YA)
  • Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey (LOVED. Could not put it down!!)
  • Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican (YA)
  • Don't Try to Find Me by Holly Brown (YA)
  • Help for the Haunted by John Searles (I was absurdly disappointed by the ending — I wanted to believe.  But oh! what a fun creepy story!)
  • Eyes On You by Kate White
  • Squashed by Joan Bauer (YA)
  • The Dead Will Tell by Linda Castillo
  • The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
  • Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern (YA; I wrote, "OMG!! Loved! Loved! LOVED!!! So sad, though")
  • Small Blessings by Martha Woodruff
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (YA)
  • Half-Baked: A Memoir by Alexa Stevenson
  • The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
  • Wildlife by Fiona Wood (YA)
  • Jennifer, Gwyneth, and Me by Rachel Bertsche
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
  • Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang (YA)
  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
  • Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  • The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
  • My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall
Two "qualified" books made the list; I gave parts of them three and a half stars and parts of them only two stars:
  • One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullally Hunt: I'm so torn! I loved this one and gobbled it up — and HATED how it ended!!!!"
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: I was completely engaged, and the BIG TWIST ending worked for me. But what was the significance of the "liars," and how come nobody is talking about this????
And my worst, one-star books of 2014:
  • So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman: So much words words words. So little to care about. And yet I hung on to the bitter end to find out who killed Wendy White . . . which, maybe? you do? sort of? Ugh. BAD book.
  • As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway: Acckkk!! It's skillfully written, so I kept reading — but that "ending"!!! UGH. Give me those hours back!!!!
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth: UGH. Disliked the alternating voices, found the overall 'point" confusing and weak, HATED the resolution of Tris's story. Why the f--- did I just waste my time reading and investing??
And there you have it.

Here's to lots of reading time in 2015!

 — Lady C

Friday, January 2, 2015

365 Days to a New Me!

It's a new year, and sister, I am ready for a new 'tude.

The biggest change is this:

I've had my lovely holiday, but now I'm returning to the world of Western medicine. If the side effects are truly terrible, I'll reconsider. But for today, I will do my best to lower my increased cancer risk using the best tools we have.

We've been busy here at Chez Chardonnay! New Year's Eve was a BLAST. We enjoyed, I think, nine different Trader Joe's appetizers (just a handful of each) and four desserts (I ate only butter cookies . . . mmm . . . butter cookies . . .), washed down with apple cider (Mimosa), eggnog (Li'l Martini), Diet Tonic Water with lime (Husband), and alternating glasses of Planter's Punch (I had all these naked lemons from making homemade sugar scrub, which I gave as gifts this year) and chardonnay (you can probably guess who).

We played a variety of hilarious games for hours. I am so psyched ; my kids are old enough to play Cranium now, which used to be my favorite game! It's played in teams of two; Brunie and I were so in love with it, we would play the BrunChardos against the ChardoBruns.

(Which reminds me of the period of my life that I was obsessed with Taboo, also Peanut M&MS; Brunie and I were at a hotel in Maine and stayed up till 3 a.m. playing and eating, and gorging this way kind of got it out of my system. I later told this story to Mrs. Cynicletary, who replied, "There is only one thing I want to do at 3 a.m. and it involves neither Taboo nor Brunie." !!)

(Hey, expand your horizons, Mrs. C!)

(I Googled "playing games with the family" and got all these images of people clicking away at devices with their thumbs. Quelle horreur!!)

It's so hard to capture a group's hilarity some days later; suffice it to say, we screamed with laughter over the following:
  • The pronunciation of "complaisant" and "complacent" 
  • Charading the word "hormone"
  • Drawing "ransom"
  • "Why did you stop when I said stop?"
  • "Don't draw another f---ing car!!"
  • #HusbandHitHim!
  • Husband's charade of "wind," which made us ask, "So how would you charade 'snatching things out of the air'?"
Oh, it was riotous.

We concluded with Consequences, which is the perfect game for summing things up, and I may save these sheets forever, to remember New Year's Eve 2014 — a year that my children were still happy to be home spending time with their parents.

Well, that ended on a bit of a downer, didn't it?!

The next day, as is also our tradition, we turned all the mattresses, vacuumed up giant dust bunnies from under the beds, and dusted our bedrooms. It is a gross and disgusting job, and I always yell at my son the hoarder (his room is smallish, he doesn't have a lot of storage space, and he refuses to get rid of anything. Husband is similar, though he has a lot more storage space). But we got it done, the upstairs sparkles with cleanliness, and we celebrated with a blow-out meal at Margaritas and more games! And then we came home and watched Marx Brothers movies. All good.

When I think about 2014 as a whole (and especially when I reread what I wrote at the end of last year), I'm inclined to be depressed. I accomplished very few of the goals I set for myself (finish Novel 2, find a job, get back on track with weight loss), my daughter continued to struggle with sadness and depression, and I lost my dad.

Also, this experience with Mom at the end of the year made it wildly clear that she is one injury away from infirmity. My brother and I had to do everything for her — she was almost unable to help herself. I overheard her social worker offer to give her a list of rehab places to choose from (I was on the phone with him at the time), and she blithely replied, "Oh, just send those to my daughter," and my heart sank.

A pretty sucky year, all told.

But it is in my nature to be positive. When life gives me lemons, I zest them, make a beauty product, and enjoy a tasty Planter's Punch!

Putting a positive spin on 2014, I can say that this was the year I . . .
  • started subbing in the elementary schools, which I totally love
  • deepened my relationship with many of my relatives and with my dad's best friend
  • wrote a few more chapters of Novel 2
  • hosted a Hollywood Game Night and had a blast
  • had the most perfect visit ever with my parents
  • had an unprecedented five visits with my beloved mother who is so far away
  • oversaw great work from my church committee
  • tried tai chi
  • got cortisone shots in my knees, which dramatically reduced my knee pain
  • colored my hair — woo-hoo! Love.
  • finally replaced my 1998 Honda Civic (with a 2010 Honda Civic. Hey! Progress!)
  • got porch railings, which I've wanted for 16 years
I could probably go on, but now I'm cheerful again. ☺︎

Today we are writing thank-you notes and I'm putting up the "winter" decorations that I didn't quite get to the other day. I'm also making a kick-ass dinner: roasted pork tenderloin (it's brining in my fridge right now), horseradish beets, sauteed greens, parsnip chips, red-hot apples, and butterscotch pudding. And possibly another Planter's Punch, I've still got three naked lemons! But only one, I'm back on the Tam now and can't exceed one drink per day.

I am a girl of steely resolution, after all.

Happiest of new years, my friends! My #1 resolution is to spend more time with all of you, somehow, some way, somewhere.

Lady C