Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Many, Many Thoughts


 

Apologies to all my regular readers — I seem to be out of the blogging habit, and I truly hope this is temporary. As I've stated before: It feels weird to write a weight-loss blog when I'm not losing weight (and in fact have spent the last two years gaining back every ounce I lost).

BUT! My double knee-replacement surgery is tomorrow, which I consider Day 1 of my road back to health. I have been such a sad limping shell of a whole human for so long now. What an amazing thing it will be to walk without pain again.

And then . . . zumba!!! I devoutly hope!!!!

The last six months have also been astonishingly packed full: a nonstop flow of work, seven straight weeks of caring for Mom, getting Mimosa off to college and then parenting from a distance . . . and, yeah, there was that presidential election, which rocked my world.

I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things, so I'm going to take a moment to pull together a coherent post — because, according to my new pal Opposite Angel (see below), I'm going to be a dope for at least the next year. Can't wait!

WHAT DID IT MEAN?

It took a long time for me to fully process my response to this election — I was stunned and in shock for a long time. What was I missing? How did so many people see something so different from what I saw when they looked at Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? How could any sane, intelligent person vote for this abominable man? Am I truly living in a country whose population is 51 percent insane and idiotic??

But as we are now learning, there really is no One Big Lesson here. The two "sides" voted the way they tend to vote, and more of one side showed up on election day than the other. Most people vote for their own party's candidate, whoever that candidate is, and Republicans are better at showing up to vote than Democrats are.

Democrats, man. We are our own worst enemy — so busy criticizing our candidates' flaws, holding out for the perfect, and forgetting that WE NEED TO FUCKING WIN in order to accomplish anything.

I just spent way too much time trying to find the very best article I read summing up everything we "learned" from this election — but once it occurred to me to search by the word "election" instead of "Trump," voila! Here it is, titled "Everything Mattered." It's long, but an awesome read.

WE'RE ALL ON THE PLANE TOGETHER

I will have no truck with demonizing Trump voters. One thing I know for sure is that building coalitions gets you farther than building walls.

My brother Mateo and his wife, Sunny Yellow, conservative Republicans, are fond of the airplane analogy: Let's just ride this plane together; we don't want it to crash.

And that works for me, to a certain extent: I have no real control over who my pilot is, and I know very little about what actually happens behind that cockpit door. Some flights go more smoothly than others. I would like to believe that my fellow passengers are likewise committed to a trouble-flee flight that doesn't crash. 

Here's where the analogy falls apart. To me, it's like we were offered a choice of pilot, and 51 percent of the plane said, "Yeah, we could choose that woman with all the flight experience and those certificates of commendation for her excellent flying — but she looks a lot like the last pilot we had, and we don't like her voice. We're gonna go with the monkey who's never flown before! At least it'll be different. Yay, monkey!!"

And here we are, being piloted by a monkey.

WE NEED A PLAN, BEYOND FILING A COMPLAINT WITH THE AIRLINE

I absolutely believe that this president may get fed up with all the hassle and resign the job, which seems in keeping with what we've seen so far. He responds to conflict like a toddler; he may well pick up his toys and go home. And then we have President Pence.

We Democrats need to be very careful and very clear about what our end game is. We can't just blindly protest everything. We need a plan to get through the next four years, without crashing the plane.

CITIZEN CHARDONNAY

I had dinner last week with Brunie, Sister Hart, and Bookshop Dawn (shop at the Concord Bookshop!), and we agreed that living in constant outrage will burn us out like the delicate snowflake candles we are (ha). We decided to each pick one area that we will monitor with vigilance and fight for to the death. I picked LGBTQ rights, Brunie picked immigration, Bookshop Dawn picked reproductive rights, and Sister Hart picked the arts. We are on it! (except, I said, I'm really busy this week. Sorry, gays.)

Then last week I started reading more about Betsy DeVos, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, and learned that she is completely unqualified for this job. She is no friend to students with special needs, that's for sure. And yeah, LGBTQ is "my" issue, but education . . . that's really my issue.
I believe that the path to success is to identify the sanest Republicans and then actively court them.

This week I called Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and (respectfully) begged them to oppose this nomination. With Sen. Collins, I appealed to her common sense and wisdom. (I really like Susan Collins.) With Sen. Hatch, I asked him to honor his long friendship with my beloved senator Ted Kennedy, who fought tirelessly for education for all children.

Will my calls make a difference? Possibly not. (Probably not in the case of Hatch, who has publicly voiced his support for DeVos.) But it felt good.

MY MOTHER,  MY DAUGHTER

Enough politics.
Mom has mostly recovered from her heart surgery, though she is still pretty dopey — I've been asking questions about her diabetes treatment, and it is so hard to get a straight answer and a coherent story out of her. Partly, this is because she has always been in denial about how "sick" she really is; she ignores her doctor's diet advice and continues to eat her disgusting protein bars for breakfast every day (Mom: "They're pure protein!" Me: "They are carbohydrates. Look at the label." Mom: "Ohhh." Repeat 1,000 times), and her blood sugar numbers are all over the place. But she says she feels well, so therefore she is well.

And believe me — I do not want to be my mother's keeper! She will figure it out or she won't. Period.

The big news in her life is that she's decided to sell her house and move into a senior condo at a lovely place in downtown Chico, so now she's cleaning out all her closets and getting ready to seriously downsize.  Every week, our calls feature a list of "Do you want these photos of your grandparents? Do you want my wedding china?" etc.

I think this is the right move for her, and I'm happy that she's driving it herself — but this is it, right? My mother's last home. She won't even have a room for me at the new place (though there is an on-site family suite). It's good, it is, but I am having some feelings.

And then there's my daughter, who was just home for a month — sending her back to New York was wrenching.

Mimosa had a hard time her first semester at college. Turns out, she stopped taking her depression medication sometime in October because she couldn't figure out how to transfer her prescription. And she also has this idea that she's an adult now, she's supposed to handle all this stuff on her own, she should not ask for help. So, as you might predict, she got into bad bad trouble at school and almost failed all of her classes.

Astonishingly, it looks like everything will be okay. She dropped one class but passed the other four; she has a new therapist in NYC who seems great and the prescription has already transferred (I know this because I got a robo-call from CVS, saying, "Hello! Your prescription is now available at 65 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York!" Too funny); and she has a new roommate, who seems pleasant, quiet, and maybe a little dull — but a huge improvement over the two drunken pigs she had last term.

(I try to keep a civil tongue, but those girls were gross.)

A lot of emotions wrapped around Mom and Mimosa, who are both very far away from me! It takes a lot out of a girl.

AND SO, GOODBYE (TO MY OLD KNEES)

Tomorrow I will be at New England Baptist Hospital (which boasts an almost zero-percent infection rate! Knee infection is no joke, kids, and I'll be taking antibiotics before I see the dentist for the rest of my life), getting two spanking-new knees. I don't find out until later tonight what time my surgery is, but I plan to be there by 9:30 regardless; I will be headachey from lack of coffee, and the sooner they can get me in a bed with a nice hydrating IV, the better.

I've been collecting happy-knee-surgery stories, and this week I reached out to someone I don't know, the wife of Husband's college roommate, who had double surgery a few years ago. On the surface, she might seem like someone I wouldn't like: a fundamentalist Christian home-schooler, fervent conservative, and deep believer in government conspiracies. Husband has shared some of her Facebook posts with me, and her opinions can oft be described as "wackadoo."

And yet, and yet. I adored her husband when he came to visit us last fall, and she wrote me the most incredibly kind, detailed, and thoughtful note about what to expect after surgery. This is why I'm calling her Opposite Angel: we believe very different things, but she is nonetheless an incredible gift of grace, just when I needed one.

Many people have been compelled to tell me how incredibly painful this surgery will be, so painful, my God, you CAN'T BELIEVE the pain!!!!!! And Opposite Angel mentioned that too — frankly, briskly, and said, "So, stay on top of your painkillers, and you'll get through it," which is exactly what I wanted to hear and how I wanted to hear it.

And she also said something that made me so happy:
I was surprised how fast it was before I was joyous at no — no  — knee pain. 
Hallelujah! This is what I have truly believed as well, and it was so nice to have it confirmed by someone who knows.

(She also says that for every hour I'm under anesthesia, it can take six months for my brain to completely clear out and get back to normal. Awesome!!!!)

OK. This is long enough.

G'bye, my peeps! Send me good healing thoughts tomorrow. I'll be back as soon as I can.

Lots of love,
Lady C

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Lady C's Best New Books of 2016


As I may have mentioned, "great literary merit" is not a category that resonates with me. I read for love, period. I give every new book I read a rating, from one to four stars. Last year I read 85 new books; here is what I loved (3.5 or 4 stars) — or what at least kept me deeply engrossed:
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (I wrote, "Creepy as all get-out, but I loved the sisters")
  • Now You See Me by S. J. Bolton (YA, maybe? Apparently Jack the Ripper was involved. I remember nothing, as is my wont)
  • Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer (children's book; very sweet)
  • What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan (my first four-star book of 2016!)
  • The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner (nonfiction)
  • Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (YA? maybe?)
  • Big Girl by Kelsey Miller (nonfiction)
  • The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (YA — I wrote "Loved! I got so anxious as it was ending—I hope there'll be a sequel")
  • Honor Girl by Maggie Thrush (YA graphic novel —my daughter's favorite book last year)
  • American Housewife Stories by Helen Ellis
  • What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross (I wrote, "LOVED. What a page-turner! I can't believe how much I sympathized with THE ABDUCTOR")
  • The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth La Ban
  • Father of the Bride by Edward Streeter
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamison (YA graphic novel)
  • The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
  • But He Doesn't Know the Territory by Meredith Willson (nonfiction)
  • Me Before You by Jo-Jo Moyes
  • The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (YA, and just about perfect!!)
  • Girls Like Us by Gail Giles (YA)
  • The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey
  • After You by Jo-Jo Moyes
  • Ask the Passengers by A. S. King (YA)
  • The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter (maybe YA?)
  • The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonsen (I could not put it down!)
  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA, and crazy good!!)
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (YA)
  • Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (YA)
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (YA)
  • Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
  • The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie King
  • The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
  • The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
  • The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
  • You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (YA — I usually find this author over-hyped, but I liked this one a lot)
  • The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson (YA, and awesome!!!)
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling et al.
  • Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella (it is absurd that I enjoy books about a shopaholic, given my loathing of that particular activity, but Becky Bloomwood is always a joy)
  • All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
  • Find Her by Lisa Gardner
  • Peeled by Joan Bauer (YA)
  • By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie
  • Catch Me by Lisa Gardner
  • I'm Your Biggest Fan by Kate Coyne
  • Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst (I wrote, "A great read! Though foolishly I hoped for a "cure" for Tilly")
  • The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
  • Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
  • Something In Between by Melissa de la Cruz (YA – forever to be known as "the book I was reading the night I fell asleep in the tub")
  • Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA — the series ran out of steam by book 3, I think, but the first two are divine)
  • The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner (YA)
  • The Lost Girls by Heather Young 
  • Looking for Betty MacDonald by Paula Becker (nonfiction)
  • Uptown Thief by Aya De Léon
  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (LOVED. Absolutely one of her best)
  • The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller (my last book of 2017, and it's delightful. A little predictable, but a lovely yummy read)

And my ever-popular traditional closing: Here are the one-star books I HATED:

  • Descent by Tim Johnston: "I only finished because I wanted to know.  I don't know WHAT all the hype is about."
  • The Past by Tessa Hadley: "Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Do NOT ask me why."
  • Invisible Fault Lines by Kristen-Paige Madonia, which got 3.5 stars until the ONE-STAR HIDEOUS ENDING.
Here's to lots of great books (and time to read them) in 2017!!!

xoxo
Lady C, who is currently reading Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson, and Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin, which is rather serendipitous!