I Love How We All Know How to Do That

My main earlobe piercings got a little irritated, so this morning I dipped the earring studs in antibiotic ointment before putting them into my ears. This is a tip my Aunt Barb mentioned to me when I was a pre-teen. My mom didn’t have pierced ears, and so neither of us knew this idea. (I have heard about NOT doing it for cartilage piercings, in case you are suddenly feeling anxious.)

I was thinking about all the other beauty/care tips that get handed down and around. My mom’s friend Carol is the one who mentioned you have to use some sort of shaving cream or lotion or soap when you shave your legs with a disposable razor: my mom used my dad’s electric razor, so I’d thought disposable razors worked on the same “dry legs, no added substances” principle and gave myself a nasty razor burn.

Carol is also the one who told me you could water down an overly-intense lipstick by putting on lip balm/gloss first, then dabbing on the lipstick lightly, then rubbing your lips together to mix.

My friend Melanie’s mom is the one who taught us to wash our faces: first, run the washcloth under hot water and hold it against your face for a little while to open the pores; then put soap on the washcloth and wash and rinse your face; then, run the washcloth under cold water and hold it against your face for a little while to close the pores. I don’t even do it this way, yet I think of it as The Way To Wash Your Face.

My brother’s friend Robin had a much older sister who taught us to put a little bit of conditioner in our hair after towel-drying it but before blow-drying it. This was in the era of perming, blow-drying, and using a curling iron, so we were all looking for ways to turn straw back into hair.

I wish I could remember and thank whoever was so persuasive about face lotion that I started using it every day from age 12 onward. It might have been one of the teen magazines I read, or maybe Cosmo. Well worth the price of the subscription, if so. I bought Oil of Olay with my $1.25/hour babysitting money.

Amy, a girl in my youth group who was 16 when I was 12, is the one who mentioned that sometimes you need to shave armpits in more than one direction. She’s also the one who taught me how to feather my hair. And to match all my eye make-up to my eye-color, which I no longer do, but it was fun at the time.

My grandmother demonstrated how to spray perfume on a wrist, then touch the wrists together lightly, then touch the wrists lightly to the sides of the neck.

My mom taught me how to put wet hair into a towel turban. I think often of something I saw a long time ago (surely one of you will know what this was) where Elaine from Seinfeld tosses a pile of towels to a line of towel-clad women (could one of the women have been Elliot from Scrubs? but if so, WHY?), and we look away, and there’s a fwip-fwip-fwip sound, and when we look back all of them have towel-turbaned heads, and Elaine says “I love how we all know how to do that.” What IS this from? It’s in my memory like it’s a commercial.

I’m trying to remember other tips and who told them to me. In the meantime, who taught what to you?

Emergency Preparedness, Gift Ideas Edition! Rain Barrel, Gasoline Camp Stove and Lantern, Assorted Stocking Stuffers

If you are normally big on environmental stuff anyway and have (perhaps recently) added a side interest in emergency preparedness, may I suggest a rain barrel as your new love? It’s not as cheap as canned beans and clothesline, but the holidays are coming up!

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Paul found me one on Freecycle.org, slightly broken on the top but still works, just doesn’t keep out the bugs as well as one might prefer. Already the thing is FULL of water. The water is not quite absolutely clear, but for washing or flushing it would be TOP-NOTCH. And we have a bottle of bleach and a bunch of old t-shirts in our emergency-preparedness supplies, for filtering and disinfecting the water if necessary.

Anyway, the rain barrel. In non-emergency situations, the water it collects is excellent for righteously watering things outside. The main downside: if you live in an area where the temperature gets below freezing, the rain barrel is useless during that time—and you MUST remember to empty it before the temperature drops, or else you get a giant rain-barrel-shaped ice cube sitting among the shards of a rain barrel, ask me how I know. This is non-ideal if some of the emergencies you like to prepare for are ICE STORMS and BLIZZARDS.

Another good gift idea is this camp stove that runs on gasoline:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Keeping the cars pretty full of gas is a good “doesn’t cost any more than NOT doing it” emergency-preparedness idea anyway, and it’s even more satisfying if you think of your cars as giant expensive camp-stove-fuel storage devices. (Or you can get a gas can, I GUESS.) The stove comes with a filtering funnel, so don’t get tricked by Amazon suggesting that you may want to add that to your order. You could, however, add a couple bottles of liquid fuel, in case you’d like to start with a short-term solution that doesn’t involve trying to suck gasoline out of your car as the tornado swirls overhead.

There’s a gasoline-powered lantern, too:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

And here is a Paul-approved solar cell-phone charger, for when one of your wife’s biggest concerns about an emergency situation is that she will not be able to check on her Neko Atsume cats:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)


Stocking stuffers!

Fire starter, for those of us who never learned to start one with two sticks and are not really clear on how to do it with a couple of pieces of metal?/stone?/whatever either:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

A nice bulk pack of inexpensive emergency blankets, inexplicably marketed “for men” (ladies, in a pinch I think we can still use them):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Can opener, because this is no time to be hacking with a screwdriver at a tin of fruit cocktail:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Waterproof matches:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Rubber bands, which are the sort of thing that turn out to be useful in a thousand situations (these super-size ones are fun too):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Hair elastics, because I am NOT getting caught in ANY situation without ample hair elastics (you may think I am kidding, but I for real added these to our emergency kit):

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

This reflective nylon rope is in festive green! And look: you could use it as a wreath!

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Water purification tablets, if you’re not so sure about the life choices of the bugs in the rain barrel:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Life Straw personal water filtering device:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

$20 is beyond what I like to spend on an individual item for a stocking, but this would FIT so nicely. It’s like one of those plastic candy-cane-shaped containers that come with Hershey Kisses or M&Ms inside! …Perhaps not quite as festive.

To-Do List Progress

I have been TEARING UP my to-do list. “Tearing up,” is that the term I want for getting things done? It sounds more like ripping up the list without doing things. But we say “tearing up the pea patch,” or some of us do, and that has to do with the type of wild burst of activity I am referring to.

Yesterday I took Edward for an orthodontic consultation, and while we were there they said, “Oh, by the way, we notice your daughter is scheduled for a consultation next month, but we had a cancellation for an appointment a half-hour from now—do you want that?” So I signed paperwork to get Edward’s braces started and left him there; I called the school from the orthodontist’s parking lot to say I’d be picking up Elizabeth; I went and picked up a surprised Elizabeth; and I returned with her four minutes before the available appointment. She has a year or so to go, it turns out, but Edward got his braces on right before Halloween, poor chap. Luckily for him, his mother had braces herself and so is very sympathetic about chewy candy deprivation. What I like to do is buy a couple bags of the be-braced child’s favorite candy, and then I trade them for the stuff they can’t have; I try to make sure they end up feeling as if they scored quite a deal.

Then I made Rob sit with me and help choose his senior picture, and got that sized correctly and sent off to the right person at the school.

So that was yesterday. I feel especially good about it because I paid in full for the braces, thus removing that money from our account before finishing up the college financial aid forms.

Today, I called and made six passport-application appointments. Then I filled out six passport applications, and paper-clipped each one to the necessary copies of drivers’ licenses, certified birth certificates, and checks. I still need to take the kids to get their passport photos taken, but then we’re ready to go.

I started to register Rob for his two SAT subject tests, but then remembered we need to decide which admissions officer to believe: the one who said December was fine to take them for the regular-admissions deadline, or the one who said December was too late to take them for that same deadline. If we believe the second admissions officer, we need to absorb a fee and change his November SAT test to two November SAT subject tests instead, and reschedule his SAT for December (since he already took the SAT in the spring and did fine, and this would just be a re-take). So I’m going to wait for Rob to come home, because he will likely have an opinion, and also because in the meantime perhaps one of you will turn out to know something about this.

Then I called the doctor’s office with two complicated prescription requests for Edward. Then I called the doctor’s other office to make an appointment. These seem small, but the phone-call aspect made them feel big.

Then I went to the grocery store, adding a few non-perishables to the cart (instant coffee, giant pepperoni stick, applesauce, peanuts).

Then I stopped at the mechanic’s and dropped off the car. It’s being loud and needs attention, and maybe this will get more money out of our account.


If you like, this is a good time to say what you’re getting done today, this week, whatever. It feels kind of good to talk about it, and it can be hard to find an enthusiastic audience for a to-do-list report. Don’t feel as if you too have to be tearing up a pea-patch: we are a crowd that knows what it is like to have a day where “picking that piece of trash up off the floor” is a significant accomplishment.

College Visit Update

The weekend college-visit trip went quite well, considering everything. The best best best thing of all is that when we arrived at our motel, we discovered they had a free shuttle that stopped at the college. This was not only awesome in itself (no city driving! no stressful very-limited-parking navigation at the college!), but also I had looked at a list of motels/hotels that the college website listed as having free shuttles, but all of those were at least twice the price of the motel I chose, and I’d been thinking that was sad but I was not paying hundreds extra for a free shuttle. AND THEN WE DID IN FACT HAVE A FREE SHUTTLE. Massive score.

Plus, the motel was far from downtown AND we didn’t have to drive downtown to get to it: the GPS took us off the highway, through two sketchy-but-empty alley-type roads and one confusing intersection I had to go through and then re-approach from a different direction before I got it right, but then we were THERE. We parked in their parking lot and then didn’t have to move the car until we were headed home.

Also, there was a pizza place a 5-minute walk away. Which also sold cheesecake.

On the day’s drive to this magical place, Rob prepared for his interview. It turned out it was the very first time he had even glanced at the information. And that he was expected to bring to the interview a copy of his transcript, a copy of his SAT scores, and a filled-in printout of their interview form. Listen, I don’t swear often, but things got a bit tense there for a few minutes. Luckily for him, Staples is a chain, and there was one a quarter-mile off the highway, and they could print from a laptop for 12 cents a page. Really, Rob did not deserve to be so lucky, but I am counting it as MY luck rather than his, because the stress of finding out we were spending two full days driving and two nights of expensive moteling for a child who totally blew the interview in a perfectly preventable way would have been years off my will to live.

Anyway we are home now, and back to the stress of the FAFSA/CSS and the Common App and senior pictures and so forth.

Task Progress

I have made some progress on my list of tasks. I got a good start on the FAFSA (college financial aid form), but got stuck on a few things, like not having Rob’s driver’s license number, and not knowing how much money he made in 2015 (some, but not enough to need to pay taxes, so I don’t have a record of it anymore; lesson learned). So I didn’t finish it, but I got a good start on it, and I did the parts involving our finances and taxes and so on. One of the most time-consuming parts was getting my FAFSA ID: something was amiss with my email, so the confirmation number wasn’t coming through. So then I’d ask for it to be re-sent, and in the meantime the original confirmation number would show up, but now the original one wouldn’t work because I’d requested a new one, and the browser logged me out because apparently I’d accidentally opened a duplicate browser window. It was…a little frustrating. But onward through every obstacle, until our harrowing journey is done!

I tried to shop a little for Elizabeth, but if I’m going to pay non-clearance/Goodwill prices I didn’t want to commit to anything without her specific approval, and she was at school. But I was feeling so restless/unsettled about the whole thing and wanted to make SOME progress, especially because I can’t take her shopping until the weekend after this coming one. So instead (“What CAN I do?“/”What would make it better?“) I spent some time going through Elizabeth’s outgrown clothes, getting rid of the stuff that no longer fits, but also finding enough things to tide her over. I took one top I knew was too small for her and put it on her bed for reference, but there were other tops that same size that were several inches longer, or just bigger over all. And I brought out the nice navy pants she has to have for band concerts, which I bought too-big and had her roll up because I was not buying a whole pair of pants for one concert, and that increased by 50% the supply of pants that fit her. And she had some shirts wadded up in the back of her drawer, oversized boy-cut camp/fundraiser/club shirts she doesn’t like but for heaven’s sake she can wear them for a couple of weeks. And the whole project took me from “I don’t know what to do: she has two days’ worth of clothes and I’m leaving for three days” to “She can EASILY SURVIVE the torment of having FEWER CHOICES for a week or two.”

I did some packing for the college-tour trip. I’m quite anxious about it. I am drawing significant courage, however, from a friend of mine and her husband who impulsively drove three hours to pick up one of her college kids, and then drove fourteen hours to surprise her other college kid. I mean, they just put some clothes in some bags and got in the car like it was nothing, and maybe I too can aspire to such heights of chill. We ARE just driving within our own country, in our own familiar car, and there are stores and restaurants all over the place, and I have a GPS. This does not have to be so scary. (BUT WHAT IF WE DIE.)


I am having trouble prioritizing tasks this morning. Here are the things I need to work on:

1. Filling out a FAFSA and a CSS. Both of these are forms to apply for financial aid if your child is hoping to be a college student; you don’t always have to do the CSS, but two of the schools Rob is interested in require it. Would anyone like to…say a few words? Reassurance? Warning? I hear the FAFSA is not too terrible, especially now that it can import your tax forms, but the CSS asks for things such as all your unreimbursed medical expenses, so if that’s the sort of thing you don’t normally keep track of you have to go digging through your checkbook and credit card statements and add them all up.

2. Passport applications. Paul’s certified birth certificate copy arrived already even though it warned it could take 6 weeks, so now I need to get a move-on for his and the kids’ passport photos/applications/etc. I’d thought I’d have more weeks of legitimate procrastination.

3. Getting ready for a weekend trip to go visit a college that’s farther away than I’d prefer Rob go, in a city where I’m scared to drive, staying in a cheap motel that doesn’t even have a continental breakfast but costs for two nights the same as what I used to pay for a month in a two-bedroom apartment.

4. Elizabeth did one of those surprising growth spurts, where the clothes that fit last week are impossible this week. And unlike all her other growth spurts, during which I would go into her closet and pull out boxes of clearance/Goodwill clothing in the next size, this time I pulled out…two pairs of pants and two short-sleeved t-shirts. It seemed like a smart idea not to try to buy ahead for the middle school years, but on the other hand this supply is not going to cut it. So far I’ve gone to two places online and have tutted at the prices, but that’s all the progress I’ve made. I think I might have to go to Target and just buy a few things to tide her over until I can gradually increase the supply via sales/clearances. Or maybe I’ll ask Freecycle. I checked Goodwill and they had almost nothing: I think back-to-school shopping cleared them out. I’m hoping soon they’ll have a bunch of stuff as everyone takes out the cool-weather things and finds their kids have outgrown them.

Thinking about Tattoos: Decade Three

I keep trying to get people with tattoos to tell me how much it hurt and what the pain was like, I think because I am worried I would get started on a tattoo and then not be able to finish. But pain is too hard to describe, and anyway it varies so much based on where and who. Three things that have set my mind at ease recently:

1. LOTS of people get tattoos. And though I am sure it has happened, I have not yet heard someone say that they got one and will never get another because of the pain; and I have not yet heard someone say they have only a partial tattoo because the pain was too intense to complete it. …Though saying this one out loud is certainly a mistake. How at this point can anyone who HAS heard such a story keep themselves from telling it to me now, for SCIENCE? But in this case I would like to knit a little non-scientific comfort blanket to hold, so shhhhhhhh. Tell me later, AFTER I write a post about what it was like to get a tattoo. I will try to remember to specifically invite such stories at that time. For now, I am leaning on the huge number of people who go back again and again for MORE tattoos. (Go ahead and tell THOSE stories now, if you like.)

2. I can get a VERY VERY SMALL tattoo to start. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before. But if I wanted to I could get like ONE FRECKLE tattooed on my shoulder, just to see. I don’t think I’ll go THAT small, but I could do a teensy little flower or something. I don’t have to impress the tattoo artist with my originality, I can just pick something out of a book.

3. The cartilage piercing. I don’t want to seem to be comparing several seconds of sharp pain to the long-haul burn of tattoo pain, but that experience built a little structure in my brain, where “scared of pain” got paired up with “pleased and strutting after doing it anyway.”

I was thinking it would be fun and motivating if all of us who had been putting off tattoos could all plan to go on the same day, but the logistics of that are not workable. Plus, there’s a Right Mood, I think. Like, some days I just THINK of doing some task and my stomach lurches teeteringly into my poor throat, and other days I’m like, “Sure, let’s do it!” I feel fidgety even trying to say “Let’s aim for October!” The big hurdle for me right now isn’t even the pain, it’s the fear of going somewhere new and doing something new. That is going to take a very particular kind of mood.

Emergency Preparedness

Let’s say a person were bracing for, at best, a period of civil unrest, and at worst something more like worldwide unrest. What might a person stock up on, to prepare in a calm, reasonable way that doesn’t include building a bomb shelter or converting all our cash to gold and burying it in the yard? My usual favorite kind of emergency preparedness is to buy things we’d use ANYWAY, but get significantly ahead of the supply we’d usually have on hand. I also like to buy things that meet a variety of emergency needs: things we could use in a power outage, a serious snowstorm, a presidential candidate calling followers to riot, sudden flooding, etc.

I’ve read enough books set in the second World War to know that coffee, tea, and sugar got scarce pretty quick. Those are easy to acquire in reasonable quantities, and easy to donate or use up if they don’t turn out to be needed. Canned things are handy, of course: soups, vegetables, fruits, legumes, tuna. Peanut butter is good dense low-perishable nutrition. Dried fruits, nuts. Crackers and dry cereals last a long time. Granola bars, meal-replacement bars. Rice, dried beans. Powdered milk. Water.

Good to have flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, oil lanterns; we have those things anyway for storms. We have nightlights similar to these; they come on automatically if the power fails, and they can then be unplugged and used as already-fully-charged flashlights. Extra can-opener. We have a crank-operated radio similar to this one, that can also kind of charge a cell phone (i.e., a few minutes’ worth, for making a quick phone call).

In a situation where a person might fear the general public, a weapon would be nice; if a person were not comfortable with a gun, a person could purchase a few pepper spray canisters (I have two black and one pink; now that I know it exists, I’m also getting one in turquoise). It’s not going to hold off an army, but it’ll help with someone who’s gotten a bit out of hand.

I’d rather not even have to worry about toilet paper, and it’s not like we’d need to worry about using up a surplus of it if it turned out the surplus were unneeded. Plastic bags: garbage bags but also I’m going to let the little Target-sized ones build up. A jug of bleach. Baking soda, vinegar, paper towels. Wet wipes. We have a couple of boxes of disposable plastic gloves on hand anyway (Paul uses them when cutting hot peppers), and a couple pairs of reusable cleaning-type plastic gloves. Duct tape.

I’m not planning to buy extra, but I’ll be making sure we’re nowhere near about to run out of our basic medicines: ibuprofen, antihistamines, prescriptions, antibiotic ointment. Maybe I’ll get a little ahead on bottles of multivitamins, just for the comforting aspect of it. We’ve got tons of band-aids already, and some bandages.

I’ll get a little ahead on cat food and cat litter, too.

I’ll plan to keep the cars fairly full of gas, rather than letting them run low. If there are things we WILL need pretty soon (socks, undies, printer paper), I’ll buy them sooner rather than later.

A clothesline is a nice multipurpose item; I got this one. Two hundred feet is enough to use it as a clothesline and still have extra to use as rope.

I already have a little survival-manual collection:

Department of Defense U.S. Army Survival Manual
The Forager’s Harvest
50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs

I have no idea if they’re any good. I’ve never opened them, let alone read them. It’s OWNING them that makes me feel better.

We have a pretty good supply of blankets and quilts already, and a sleeping bag per person I think. Actually, I think we only have enough sleeping bags for the kids. *adds “two sleeping bags” to list*

More ideas for the list?

Leftover-Pizza-Topping Scrambled Eggs; Applying for a Passport

Paul brought home nearly an entire large veggie-lovers pizza from a work event because no one else wanted it. I’d never had a veggie-lovers pizza before, so I tried a slice—and found that unfortunately the crust had gotten kind of icky and soggy. Paul wondered if it would work to scrape the toppings off into some scrambled eggs, since he knows I like vegetables in scrambled eggs. I tried that for lunch today and it was the sort of thing that made me put another tick mark on the “pro” side of the Marrying Paul pros-and-cons list.


I have applied for a passport, and if you’ve never done that before, perhaps you find the thought as intimidating as I did. I was worried too because I know it’s the sort of government-paperwork thing where you can get to the front of the line and find out you forgot something or did a form wrong and have to go all the way home and come back another day. It’s going to vary from person to person and from place to place, but I can give you the gist of how it went for me.

I started by thinking, “I don’t even know where to go for information on this. DMV or City Hall or something?” In the U.S., you go here: Department of State: Passports and International Travel. There is a Passport Wizard thingie to help you figure out (1) what you need to have and (2) what form you need to fill out. I’d thought this would be a waste of time, but actually it was very useful in two ways: first, because it gave me the information it said it would give me; and second, because it helped organize my mind and made the task seem manageable. Here is the list I made of things I would need for my own adult, first-timer passport:

1. certified copy of birth certificate
2. driver’s license
3. photocopy of front AND back of driver’s license
4. two copies of passport photo
5. Form DS-11, completed but NOT SIGNED
6. check for passport, made out to U.S. Department of State (name and birthdate on check)
7. check for execution fee, made out to application place
8. appointment for passport application

I found this a little overwhelming, but on the other hand was able to say, “Okay, well, I can at least go get the passport pictures taken,” or “Okay, well, I can just dig out the certified copy of my birth certificate.” I had a manilla envelope to collect the various things in.

You can do your own passport photo, but after looking at the list of requirements about backgrounds and inches and sizes and angles, I opted to spend $12.99 to have it done by someone who already knew the drill. I searched online for “passport photo” and it pulled up a bunch of places near me; I had it done at a drugstore that also has a photo-processing department. You are not allowed to smile (the site said a “natural smile” was okay, but the drugstore and postmaster agreed that the rule was NO smiles), so practice ahead of time looking alert and pleasant without smiling. I did not practice (or rather, I’d practiced a natural smile), and my photo looks like I’m exhausted and probably coming down with something. You’re allowed to wear glasses, but there was a note that as of November 1st glasses would no longer be allowed in passport photos, so I didn’t wear mine.

I gathered all my stuff together and drove half an hour to the nearest post office that does passport applications. I don’t know if I’ve gotten more nervous with age or what, but my face was hot and my hands were icy. And then everything went perfectly fine: I got a really nice clerk, and I had all the right paperwork with me, and everything was fine, and the whole thing was over in about ten minutes. They take the certified copy of your birth certificate to send in with the application, but he says they’ll send that back.

Entire cost: $140 for passport book/card, $25 for post office’s application fee, and $13 for the passport photos = $178.

Now to get six more. I started on Paul’s, but the envelope his mother labeled “birth certificate” was actually a decorative thing from the hospital where he was born, so this morning I sent off $32 to get an actual certified copy of his actual birth certificate.

Two-and-a-Half Books: Dietland; A Man Called Ove; Rich and Pretty

My last day of work is coming this week, and my supervisor continues to ask me to fill shifts and go to new clients. I wonder if this will continue even after my last day. It reminds me of my last day at my pharmacy job when, in the middle of the last-day celebration, complete with doughnuts and a box of coffee, the pharmacist pulled me aside to say he knew this was my last day but could I possibly fill in the next day 9:00-6:00. I looked at him with a mix of panic and pity and managed to say no. That was a job where I once worked 29 days in a row (that is, seven days a week, no weekends) because I was the only wage-earner at my house and I felt I couldn’t say no to offered work; I finally said no to the offer of a Day 30, because I thought I was about to have a breakdown. I would prefer to NEVER AGAIN work in a job where I am called to fill shifts.


I am reading Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam, and it is okay so far, but the comma situation is going to drive me berserk. (I thought of this after using rather a lot of commas in the previous paragraph.) Here is a sample:

Lulu’s hair, just like the hair on that disembodied bust of Barbie, a birthday present on which she was meant to practice the feminine arts, could be pinned up prettily, pulled over her shoulder casually, or folded into a lush, delicious chignon. Lulu wore it to her waist, once upon a time, a much younger woman, though now, in her sixties, it’s mannishly cropped, which has the effect of making her face appear even finer.

It makes me feel as if I can’t breathe on a normal rhythm.

Let’s talk about two other books.

First, Dietland, by Sarai Walker.

I found this book so absorbing that I ran a red light while thinking about it, luckily with no consequences beyond burning embarrassment and the shaky sense of a narrow and lucky escape. I was trying to think of how to describe the book to Paul, and I knew there was a word I wanted but I couldn’t find it—and then I found it on the cover of the book: “subversive.” It looks like chick-lit, but notice that cupcake on the cover is a grenade.

Reading it, I thought, “I’ll bet this is her first novel”—and it is. It’s choppy, it’s oddly-paced, it’s confusing in places: at several points the main character was reading a book, and while she was doing so I couldn’t tell whose plotline we were following, hers or that of the woman in the book she was reading. There’s a serious lack of focus: are we talking about THIS issue or are we talking about THAT issue? It’s all tangled up together in one hot absorbing spinning satisfying mess. (Can you tell I’m reluctant to use commas so soon after criticizing someone else’s usage?) It’s a dark revengeful fantasy-adventure for anyone who has felt fed-up with issues surrounding women’s bodies and the way others treat them. I found it moderately life-changing and would recommend it despite its rough spots.

Next, a radical change of tone: A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman.

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The reviews are so mixed, you’d never think people were reading the same book. Everything from “So incredibly boring, just an old guy’s daily schedule, nothing even happens??” to “LIFE-CHANGING, THE MOST TENDER CHARMING BOOK I HAVE EVER READ, I WILL NEVER FORGET IT.” I lean heavily toward the latter, and felt similarly toward Britt-Marie Was Here. I have My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry in my library bag.