Korean Dramas

After Temerity Jane AND my sister-in-law Anna (the one married to my brother) both said they loved K-dramas, I tried one.

Wait. Do you know what a K-drama is? I don’t want to be all, “Now, a moving picture, or ‘movie,’ is…,” but I didn’t know at all what a K-drama was before I watched one. Even after watching two of them, I used Wikipedia to make sure I knew what I was talking about. K-drama stands for Korean drama, and it’s like a miniseries: it’s generally a series of a dozen or two episodes of an hour each, so it doesn’t go on season after season. The children keep asking me things like, “Why KOREAN? Why not FRENCH dramas?,” and I don’t know. I just know that K-dramas suddenly got popular, and I don’t like when I don’t know what other people are talking about, so I tried them.

I started with Boys Over Flowers, which Temerity Jane and Anna both say is a very good sampling of K-drama things, but on the over-the-top side of the spectrum (tons of kidnappings and make-overs and big crazy misunderstandings and wild coincidences and astonishing outfits). One thing I was glad my sister-in-law prepared me for: the kissing is terrible. TERRIBLE. When two characters kiss, they just rest their lips together and then hold perfectly still.

Looking back on Boys Over Flowers after watching another series, I’d say Boys Over Flowers is young-adult K-drama: if you like YA, I think you’d be more likely to like BOF. I don’t tend to like young adult fiction, but I still liked Boys Over Flowers enough to try another K-drama.

The next one I tried was It’s Okay, It’s Love. I loved this one SO MUCH MORE, it was like…I don’t know. It’s hard to describe, because anything I say at THIS point sounds like I didn’t like Boys Over Flowers. But I DID! I DID like Boys Over Flowers! It’s just that I liked It’s Okay, It’s Love SO MUCH MORE, it was AS IF I didn’t like Boys Over Flowers. Like when your first relationship seems good but it was someone you weren’t in love with but you didn’t know what love was yet so you thought that was normal and the way all relationships were, and then your NEXT relationship you ARE in love and you’re like “OHHHHhhhhhhhhh, I get it now!” Anyway. I loved it. My throat feels a little funny even thinking about it.

And the kissing is much, much better. The characters in Boys Over Flowers are high school students, but the characters in It’s Okay, It’s Love are in their 30s, and they do regular kissing.

Also, the stories apart from the romance are so good. Several of the characters work in a psychiatric hospital, so there are lots of interesting psychiatric cases, and I loved all the storylines with the characters’ roommates and co-workers and so forth. I just loved it. This is such a mistake to oversell it like this, but I JUST LOVED IT. Tons of the good kind of crying, tons of good romance, tons of loveable characters. I wanted it to go on forever. When I saw there were only two episodes left (I’d thought there were more like eight), I actually gave a little SOB.

Single, Carefree, Mellow (A Book. It’s a Book Title. I Am None of Those Three Things, Myself.)

I did my hair mirror-image today (parted it on the opposite side, put the bun on the opposite side) and the whole thing is surprisingly unsettling.

I have a book to recommend, with a warning and an anti-warning. First, here is the book:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

Single, Carefree, Mellow, by Katherine Heiny. I don’t want to speak too highly of it, because the way I read it seemed IDEAL: I saw it on the shelf, rejected it, but then someone else recommended it and I requested it from the library without realizing it was one I rejected. So then I thought, “Fine. I’ll try it.” And I liked it SO MUCH. I kept wanting to get back to reading it. I wanted there to be LOTS MORE OF IT. I wanted to have discovered it LATER, when the author had multiple books, instead of NOW when this is her only one.

Here is the warning: some people don’t like to read stories about affairs. And pretty much the whole book is about affairs. In some stories, a woman is cheating on her husband or boyfriend; in other stories, the woman is seeing someone else’s husband; in some stories, it’s both. I thought the whole thing was handled extremely well, and I read about the different perspectives with great interest. With the full realization that I could be 100% wrong, I concluded the following things about the author: that the author had affairs with married men when she was younger and unmarried; that her husband was one of those affairs, and that he left his wife and family for her; that since then she has either had an affair or has imagined having them; that the author is a smart and sensible person, with a calm streak I admire—or else she too admires people with a calm streak, and so put that into her characters.

At least two of the stories are written in second person (“You go to school every day, but you don’t feel as if you…”), which I just hate. I mean, I just HATE it. It triggers an automatic argumentative response in my brain: “NO. No, I did NOT. STOP TELLING ME I DID WHAT I DIDN’T DO.” I had to think of them as being written by the character’s future self, telling her how it’s going to happen for her. Even so, I was very relieved when most of the stories were first-person (“I brushed my hair and thought about what I…”) or third-person (“Maya went to the library where she…”).

There were a couple of places where I wasn’t sure if the author was saying something Knowingly or Obliviously. In one, the main character, who is having an affair with another woman’s husband, thinks that the wife doesn’t really know the husband, because she (the wife) said something without realizing it would make the husband mad. Whereas I, reading it, thought, “OH SHE KNEW ALL RIGHT.” In another part, the married mistress protests a man’s previous mistress, saying “But she has a double chin!”—and the man has the grace to look ashamed. Are my feelings hurt by the author’s obliviousness/idiocy, or is that supposed to be a slam on the mistress’s obliviousness/idiocy?

The anti-warning is that you may be tempted to reject the book because it’s short stories. That was one of my original reasons for rejecting it: I don’t like that JUST as I’m getting to know and love the characters, it’s over. This book, although it IS short stories and so can’t avoid producing that response in me, felt more pulled together: because there was a common theme, and because at least one of the characters had several stories about her, it was somewhere between short stories and a novel.

Reader Question: Couple Monograms for Separate Surnames

Dear Swistle,

I have been trying to figure this out & suddenly thought of you because you know a lot about names and also about etiquette.
For 2 people getting married, but neither changing their last name, what are monogram options (for the couple/for the wedding/later, after the wedding)?
I guess I could just make something up using all 4 letters. But is there any set ways it is done?



I do think couple monograms are fun. I remember learning about them around the time Rob was a baby: I was ordering towels from Lands’ End for someone’s wedding present, and I think it must have come up on the order form or something. I was thrilled with the idea, especially since towels had felt a little dull and this would let me do something fancier.

For a couple monogram, the couple’s surname initial goes in the center, and then one person’s first initial goes to the left of that, and the other person’s to the right. For a couple made up of one man and one woman, the woman’s initial goes to the left—but I think the rule there isn’t “the woman’s initial goes first,” but rather “the one who gave up the surname goes first.” (On the other hand, if it were the guy who took his wife’s surname, I would be split between wanting his initial to then go first and wanting the woman’s initial to still go first.)

Swistle and Paul Thistle's couple monogram

couple monogram for Swistle and Paul Thistle

For two women or two men, I think you could go alphabetically, or whatever looks better, or flip a coin. I’d follow the concept of “the one who gave up the surname goes first,” if it applied. If both were changing to a new joint surname, I’d go with alphabetical or what looks better or a coin flip or which member of the couple I liked better.

Anyway, when I read the question, my first thought was that I wouldn’t do a couple monogram for a couple that didn’t have a shared surname. I think of a couple monogram as a quaint/old-fashioned thing, perfect for someone who is giving up a surname and is happy about it, risky for someone who isn’t/isn’t. For example, I did give up my surname, but I wasn’t happy about it; a couple-monogrammed item would have been a risky gift for me. Not as risky as addressing my letters and packages to Mrs. Paul Thistle, but somewhere on that spectrum.

But let’s say we have a situation where each person in the couple is keeping his/her name, but we have reason to believe a couple monogram would go over very well. My first idea was to do a “carved into a tree”-type couple monogram. Like, let’s say my maiden name was Whistle, and I’d kept it when I married Paul. This would be cute on the towels, if the store could do it:

couple monogram for Swistle Whistle and Paul Thistle

couple monogram for Swistle Whistle and Paul Thistle

My second idea was to make the two surname initials large in the middle, flanked by their respective first-name initials:

couple monogram #2 for Swistle Whistle and Paul Thistle

couple monogram #2 for Swistle Whistle and Paul Thistle

I think that would look significantly prettier if it weren’t in Sharpie marker on a memo sheet.

That’s pretty much when I ran out of ideas, so I searched online. Mark and Graham has a whole section on monogramming. They suggest a two-initial monogram of both surname initials, like this:

couple monogram #3 for Swistle Whistle and Paul Thistle

couple monogram #3 for Swistle Whistle and Paul Thistle

I like that, especially if the couple’s style is more formal: SW+PT is a more casual look. They also suggest a monogram of “wife’s first, husband’s last, wife’s maiden,” but I assume that’s the woman’s new personal monogram, not a couple monogram.

Wait wait wait. No. I am wrong. A second site (The Etiquette School of Ohio) says that the TRADITIONAL couple monogram is wife’s first, husband’s last, wife’s maiden, and that the MODERN couple monogram (wife’s first, husband’s last, husband’s first) is what I’ve been thinking of as a couple monogram. Well. That may be true, but that seems wrong to me. This does not at all seem to me like a couple monogram for Swistle and Paul Thistle:



Where is Paul in that? That seems like the monogram for me, if I moved my maiden name to the middle and became Swistle Whistle Thistle. Well, I’m ignoring that whole idea and going with the modern version.

Southern Weddings has a good idea about an interlocking monogram. They use first-name initials, but you could also use surname initials. I won’t try to draw it here, because it looks best with big fancy letters. The downside, I thought, was that it was hard to see the initials, or even that they WERE initials.


All the sites agree that couple monograms are not used until after the official marriage has taken place. That is, you can use them at the reception, but not on save-the-dates, invitations, anything you wear as you walk down the aisle, etc. However, they don’t count the SW + PT as a couple monogram, so that would be fine to use before, during, and after the wedding. It would also be fine to use the idea I saw on Neat Cards, which was to use each person’s own monogram with a little decorative thingie between them, like this:

couple monogram #5 for Swistle Whistle and Paul Thistle

couple monogram #4 for Swistle Whistle and Paul Thistle

Also, wait, I forgot to look it up in Miss Manners. BRB.

Okay, Miss Manners is not in favor of couple monograms. Here is what she says:

Household linens may be monogrammed with the maiden initials of the lady of the house, a custom dating from premarital monogramming that serves equally well for serial marriages. Couples who are tempted to entwine their initials should try to get it out of their system by carving their names on a tree.


I’m wondering if anyone else has done anything with a non-shared-surname couple monogram before, or has any other ideas or suggestions.

Smoothie Recipe Failures; Recommendations for Horror Novels Written by Women

I have been trying some new smoothie recipes, and so far my assessment is that there are a LOT of gross smoothie recipes. This morning Rob took a taste and said, “This is so not fair.” I drank mine but I felt I was suffering significantly for my health and should therefore get at LEAST double credit in terms of long life and disease prevention. For example, I like broccoli, so I’m not unreasonable: I ask only for regular health/nutrition credits for that. But if I eat something I hate, ONLY because it’s good for me, I want EXTRA credits. Plus additional credit for not wasting food, when I attempt a recipe that is not successful but I eat it anyway because it’s nutritious even though it’s yucky.


Do you have recommendations for horror novels written by women? I’m getting kind of tired of some of the themes I’m seeing again and again and again (oh, we’ve established it’s a BAD person/monster raping and torturing women, so that makes it okay to make the scene REALLY LONG AND DETAILED), and I wondered what it might be like to read some horror not written by a man, and if that might change the themes a bit.

I’ve read several by Shirley Jackson. I tried Anne Rice quite awhile ago but it didn’t click for me. Other recommendations? Preferably recent rather than, for example, Mary Shelley; even Shirley Jackson wasn’t as modern as I’d prefer. I’m thinking more along the lines of authors who are currently writing, less along the lines of early examples of the emerging horror genre. Older books tend to have plots that were new and scary at the time, but since then have been so often re-done that they can now seem tame or obvious. Basically I want Stephen King, but a woman. Stephanie Queen.

Her; This is 40; Bag of Bones

I watched the movie Her, about which Paul said, “I was interested when I heard about it—but as soon as I heard the title, I knew I wouldn’t like it.” I felt similarly: I found the concept (man falls in love with computer operating system) interesting, but the title off-putting. I plowed through the off-put feelings: just as Paul didn’t want to be someone who would watch a movie called Her, I didn’t want to be someone who would not-see a movie based on the title. Plenty of titles are chosen for plenty of reasons.

Well. I liked the concept and was very interested to see how they’d deal with it. I thought they did a good job making things look near-future-y. But I didn’t like either of the two leads, and it’s hard to root for a couple when you don’t like either one of them, or the way they talk, or the things they say, and when you would pay cash money not to hear their sex-talk. I’m still glad I saw it, though. I would like to see it again with different actors and a different script.


I watched This is 40, which is a movie I didn’t think I’d like. It seemed to fall into the category of “Movies where I love everyone in it but, you know, I really have reached my lifetime limit of seeing people sitting on the toilet, and while I recognize that many people experience acute discomfort as hilarity, I don’t experience it that way MYSELF.” (See also: Bridesmaids.) And it IS that kind of movie, and yet I liked it anyway. It’s basically Bridesmaids, but when they’re 40 and married and parenting, rather than when they’re dating and getting engaged. So there’s a lot of swearing, a lot of nudity, a lot of raunchiness, a lot of bathroom stuff, a lot of behavior and arguments of the sort I don’t like and can’t identify with at all, and yet I DID like it and I DID laugh. But I’m not really recommending it, because it’s exactly the kind of thing I usually don’t like, so maybe I was in a weird mood.

Megan Fox is in it, and I found I really, really liked her, which surprised me because all my previous impressions of her (photos of her being snarly-provocative when I’ve Googled “fox”) have been so negative. She was FUNNY.


I read Stephen King’s book Bag of Bones, which I apparently missed when it came out in 1998. I think it’s because that was around the time I was pregnant with my firstborn, and I was not in any mood for scary stories.

Anyway, after 50 pages (my usual cut-off), I still didn’t like the book. I persevered and finished it anyway, because it was the last book in my library pile. I wish I hadn’t. I felt like it took a lot of effort to force this book to happen, which, considering the level of author intrusion and the theme of writer’s block, maybe it DID. The Big Reveal seemed like it was only a big deal because of the build-up: if we’d heard that part of the story first, I think all we would have thought is, “Well, why did it lead to a big issue THIS time and not any of the OTHER millions of times that sort of thing has happened?” Also, the type of revenge didn’t make sense, considering the parties who were most injured by it.

I was particularly grossed out by the storyline between the 40-year-old male narrator and the 21-year-old girl he first thinks is 14. “Oh, Stephen!,” she says, “Er, I mean Mike! PLEASE sleep with me! I know you’re a famous novelist and super-rich, but that has NOTHING to do with it! Good thing your wife and baby died so WE can be together now and you don’t even have to feel guilty about it! I’m like her, but way younger and hotter and more adoring—AND my baby is the same age yours would have been, so you can pretend!” And he’s so TORN because he’s so NOBLE, but it really is LOVE and he’d feel the EXACT SAME WAY and be JUST as helpful to her if she weren’t young and hot and beautiful and so very young. Really! He would! Or probably he would, if he knew her AT ALL beyond how she looks and dances and keeps kissing him and pressing her pert firm young….well, anyway, he IS noble! And it is TOTALLY her choice! TOTALLY! HE would NEVER have made a move, but SHE kept insisting! And it’s okay because first he had his wife die! And he let it be a brief and merciful death!

Question About Target Deal

Oh hi, quick question. You know how Target has those things where it’s like “buy 4 of something, get a gift card”? Can you also use coupons for those things, or not? I ask because I bought four of something and got a gift card, but the reason I did it is that I ALSO had four manufacturer’s coupons, which brought the price down to awesome. But when I got home, I could see the coupons recorded on the receipt, and yet they didn’t change the price of the items. I’m hoping to avoid explaining this to a customer service clerk (I had some trouble figuring it out myself), and/or embarrassing myself by presenting the situation to a clerk and learning that it’s clearly stated coupons can’t be used, by finding out from YOU what the situation is.

Four-packs of Kleenex: $5.99 each. Deal: buy four 4-packs, get a $10 gift card. Also: the 4-packs had $1.50-off coupons on them. So the total should be ($5.99-$1.50) x 4 plus ($10 gift card – free $10 gift card) = $17.96. But instead it’s $5.99 x 4 plus ($10 gift card – free $10 gift card) = $23.96. But I can SEE the coupons. They just don’t seem to COUNT.


Les Invasions Barbares; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Last Chance Harvey

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d watched Le Déclin de L’Empire Américain (the one where basically eight people talk about sex) and was planning to watch the sequel Les Invasions Barbares. Which I did. A few minutes into it, I was thinking an actor looked very familiar—and it wasn’t one of the original cast, so I thought I must have seen him in something else. Then the plot took a familiar turn, too, and I realized I’d seen this movie already! Separately! Not realizing it was a sequel! Anyway, I’d liked it the first time and was glad to watch it again, and I liked it even better after seeing the first movie.

It’s a movie about a group of friends gathering around a friend who is dying, and also about the lengths the dying friend’s child goes to in order to make his dad comfortable. There’s a lot of good crying to be had. Plus, it’s fun to get updates on the other characters’ lives nearly 20 years later.

Then I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, and I liked a lot. Funny and charming and also sad. I tried to watch it while eating lunch, but couldn’t: there’s so much visual stuff in a Wes Anderson movie, it’s like watching a movie with subtitles.

Then I watched Last Chance Harvey, which was on my “romance over 40″ list. I always love Emma Thompson, but I didn’t like the movie. I’m going to discuss the plot here, so there will be spoilers, but I’m not sure there is anything actually spoilerish about them: the full story arc is clear from the beginning, just waiting for the details to be filled in. But if you’re planning to watch it, you can skip the rest of the post: I don’t say anything else after talking about the movie.

It started with me misunderstanding something. At the beginning of the movie, we’re being introduced to the two main characters: Emma Thompson’s Kate, and Dustin Hoffman’s Harvey. Kate comes into a house saying, “Hello, it’s your daughter!” and then we see Harvey playing his piano. So I thought Kate was Harvey’s daughter. The ages make sense: Emma Thompson was about 47, and Dustin Hoffman was about 70. BUT NO. NO, she is not his daughter: they are going to have a romance. We were just switching from “seeing Kate’s life” to “seeing Harvey’s life.”

Then, Harvey is a guy with problems. He can be charming, but it feels like a cover after we see how he behaves in several situations: he is not someone I would set up even with someone his age, such as Kate’s mother. When he gets Kate to talk to him in a bar, he’s aggressive in a way that made me feel very uncomfortable. When she politely says no to his advances, he makes a sound that makes me want to hit him. He doesn’t listen to her saying no to him, and he persists. She says a polite and well-explained no to his suggestion that they have lunch together, so he sits at a table next to hers, orders lunch, and then says “See, we’re having lunch together”: he forces her to do what she said she did not want to do. He overshares about his life, in order to prove to her that his day was worse than hers (“You think YOUR day was bad?”), and never does ask her about why her day was bad. My instincts were going “Wheep, wheep, get out of there, Kate!,” but this was supposed to be them hitting it off. Then he follows her and won’t leave her alone; again, I was hearing sirens and seeing red lights, but we were supposed to be seeing successful romance beginning. I was seeing a desperate creepy guy trying to rebuild his self-esteem with a younger woman because he was feeling old and rejected and emasculated by other events in his life.

Soon he’s much less creepy and I started to accept some of the romance (at least they briefly REFERRED to the age difference instead of pretending it didn’t exist), but then his less-creepy self didn’t make sense with what we’d seen of him earlier. I still felt like he was a man invested in the chase: he MUST overcome her objections, he will pursue her like a salesman until he WINS, because THIS IS ALL HE HAS and he can’t suffer another crushing blow.

He buys her a dress, which had a certain element of potential charm but I felt like she should not have let him choose it or buy it for her. Not just because it was weird, but because it didn’t seem to fit with her character: she would buy her own dress, not stand there like a doll while a man dressed her and then took out his wallet. And it felt like it was filling a slot labeled “Romantic Movie Scene.”

Through all this, Emma Thompson is lovely, and I loved her and wanted a better guy for her. Dustin Hoffman ends up being appealing to a certain extent, too—but again, it doesn’t fit with what we saw of him earlier. It seems like his earlier conversation with his ex-wife about why they married/split (he was so fun / but then he became a complete jerk all the time) is the exact way it’s going to go with Kate, too.

Finally, I NEVER find it charming or romantic or pleasing in any way when people make promises they are absolutely unable to make. “I promise he’ll be okay.” “Everything will be fine, I promise.” “I promise this relationship will work.” Those are not promises people can make in almost any circumstance; when they DO make such promises in circumstances where they can’t make them, I find it weird and off-putting, and it lowers my opinion of their intelligence and/or character. After just a few days of knowing each other, Harvey promises Kate that their relationship will be successful. We’re supposed to see faith and love; what I see is a salesman closing a deal.

Boarding School

I caught up with an old acquaintance and found out her high-school-aged sons, one a year older than Rob and one a year older, are both going to boarding school. This makes two boarding-school families in my circle.

It’s a nearly completely unfamiliar thing to me. That is, it isn’t that we sent Rob to public high school because we weighed the options and decided against boarding school; we never even CONSIDERED boarding school. If we HAD considered it, I would have assumed it wasn’t an option, either for the difficulty of getting accepted, or for the expense.

I was a little appalled when the first person in my circle mentioned her 8th grader (same grade as Rob at the time) was going to boarding school the next year. I am aware of the concept of Rob leaving home after high school, and that feels normal to me (albeit weird/upsetting in its own way) because it’s what everyone in my family did. Boarding school bumps that familiar plan four years earlier. Two conflicting reactions in me: “But he’s/I’m not READY for that!” and, glancing at argumentative teenager, “…Wait. We can…DO that?”

Also a third reaction, which showed me that I must think boarding school is superior in some way: a feeling of jealousy, like this meant their child was doing better than mine. Followed closely by that instant human self-protection mechanism of thinking critical thoughts about the path not taken. THOSE GRAPES ARE PROBABLY SOUR ANYWAY. WHO EVEN WANTS TO GO THERE.

The acquaintance I was recently talking to said the whole thing has been a huge shock to her system. Her husband and his family ALL went to boarding high schools: the only question is which one, with lots of opinions about which ones are Better than others. While her family is like mine, with no one even really noticing it as an option. So to her husband, it is totally normal to have their kids mostly out of the house as of age 13-14, and for her it is a shock that has her going to the couch right after work and staring into space until she thinks, “This isn’t good. I need to stop doing this.” And then stares into space some more.

I’ve wondered if we should try to get Rob into one. A lot of them have very good scholarships; my other acquaintance who has a daughter in boarding school says that school has free tuition for any student whose family makes less than $80,000/year. But it’s more that I’ve wondered if we SHOULD HAVE tried: it feels too late at this point, with Rob finishing his sophomore year. I wouldn’t want to switch him at this point unless things were bad for him at the public school, which they’re not.

Also, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath, and there are some very interesting and reassuring sections about the non-superiority of things we consider tend to consider superior, such as small class sizes and hard-to-get-into colleges. It switched me completely around on the subject. It changed the way I think of my educational goals/hopes for my kids.

I had a similarly mindset-changing reaction to Jean Hanff Korelitz’s book Admission: it’s the novel that made me stop worrying that Rob is insufficiently Well-Rounded. I thought it was interesting to think of colleges having trends just like anyone else: for awhile the students they’re searching for are the well-rounded ones; then that trend passes off and they want the specialized/obsessive ones. First they want the highest possible test scores; then they’re saying test scores matter less than community involvement; then they’re seem to have forgotten about community involvement and they’re looking for leadership. Who knows what they’ll be looking for next? It was a little upsetting to think of all the parents forcing their children into unwanted extracurriculars because that was the right thing when THEY went to college, only to find out they’d inadvertently made their child a LESS desirable candidate for the current trends.

I panicked a bit about “Then how DO we know what to prepare them for??” until I finally came back to that many-times-reached conclusion that THIS is EXACTLY why we DON’T try to do that. We let them do their thing, and either it’s in fashion at the college or it isn’t, but at least they won’t have wasted time doing things they don’t want to do in order to make themselves WORSE candidates. If the college they wanted to go to doesn’t want them with their own abilities and interests and inclinations, it wouldn’t be a good fit anyway. It’s the same as finding friends, or romance: we don’t think “How do I make myself into the right sort of person for that other person?” Instead, we’re supposed to focus on finding the person who’s a good fit for us as we are, so we’ll work together naturally instead of by force.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry; Hair; Temporary Solo Parenting

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. I really liked it.


Here is something that bothers me: when the paperback edition of a book looks different than the hardcover book. I wish they’d match. I linked to the hardcover above because the hardcover feels like the book I read; the paperback feels like a stranger. I suppose there must be assorted good reasons why they don’t match them.


My hair has reached the length where I hate it unless it’s up—but I do really like it when it’s up. It feels/looks tidy and styled, and yet I don’t have to blow-dry it or maintain a haircut or anything, and it takes me less than 10 minutes from wet-hair-in-a-towel to totally done (4 minutes for a twist and plain side-bun, more like 10 for a French braid and braided side-bun). It feels casual enough to wear with jeans and a hoodie, but also works for dressy occasions. I like how it stays in place and out of my face. I like how it shows off earrings.

10-minute French braid with braided side-bun

French braid with braided side-bun

But I really hate it when it’s down. It’s not particularly pretty; it doesn’t look luxurious or sexy, and Paul is not a long-hair-preferring type of guy. It makes me feel aging and frumpy, and I feel like it emphasizes my double chin. It gets in my way. If I don’t braid it at night, it gets pulled every time I roll over. I hate washing it. I hate folding it into the towel. I hate brushing it. I hate the long loose hairs all over the house.


Paul was away for a long weekend, and it was weird. It’s strange how much temporary solo parenting differs from duo parenting. We’ve both found that while the job is harder, in the short term we feel more relaxed and happy. I think it’s because: (1) it’s emergency mode: it’s temporary and everything’s weird and it seems fully justified to get take-out food and not worry about housework; (2) resentment levels completely disappear: if I’m busy and Paul’s loafing around, I resent it; or if Paul’s busy and I’m loafing around, I feel guilty or wonder if he’s resenting it; but if I’m busy/loafing and Paul’s not HERE, nothing registers on that scale. Anyway, we had a nice time AND we were glad to have him back.

Substitute Teaching

Yesterday I was in the school office signing in on my way to the volunteer thing I do there, and the two secretaries were trying to figure out the staff situation for the day. Some teachers had known they would be out and so substitutes had already been lined up; but several other teachers were unexpectedly out. “This is going to be rough,” one secretary said to the other. Then her eyes rested speculatively on me. “Mrs. Thistle,” she said. “What’s your schedule like today?”

This doesn’t end with me being a spontaneous substitute for the day: it turns out there are a few little details that need to be taken care of before you can be unsupervised in a classroom with other people’s children, such as criminal background checks, fingerprinting, resumés that aren’t 18 years old. But it put the idea into my mind.

It satisfies several of my current job-based needs, all of which have proved difficult to fulfill with any other kind of job:

1. It can’t be during the summer
2. It has to be during the school day
3. It has to allow for me to be out when my littler kids are sick

The pay is okay. My fellow volunteer said the last time she checked, it was $70/day. That’s about $10/hour.

The qualifications are easy: you can’t be a criminal. Check!

This leaves the last issue: Would I hate it? Paul sighs when I ask this, because he knows I know as well as he does that the ONLY way to answer that question is to try it and see. But I seem to think that if I keep wringing my hands and fretting, the answer will come to me without having to try it.

I can’t even really ask other people about it, because one person’s ideal is another person’s hell. My mom, who was a teacher, would hate subbing or assisting: she wants her OWN classroom and her OWN rules and her OWN lesson plans. Whereas the idea of making lesson plans makes me shudder, and I’m not good at being consistent or sustaining interest: the first week of school, I’d be a GREAT teacher. After that, it would be worksheets and ennui.

Also, people differ spectacularly on preferred age groups. Just as some parents love newborns and suffer toddlers, and others are exactly the opposite, some substitutes find their niche with kindergartners and some with high schoolers, shuddering at the thought of the other.

So any advice I might solicit would be misleading and/or useless. Really, the ONLY way to know is to apply for the job, check allll the boxes for grade-level availability, and try it.

Instead, I wanted to ask you about it. Because the thing is, even if the advice isn’t helpful in one sense (“Ug, I hated it, it was the worst job ever” doesn’t tell me if I’ll hate it, any more than “Middle school is the BEST age!” tells me that I should choose middle school), it’s helpful in another sense: I find a GROUP opinion ends up giving me a fairly good picture of what something is like. If someone says, “I hated middle school subbing: all you do is hand out worksheets; I like elementary school, where you get to do the lesson plans,” then I will think, “Hm, I might prefer middle school.” If someone says, “I hated subbing: at first it’s fun to sit and read a book, but the hours go by so slowly,” I might think, “Hm, that does sound non-ideal.” If someone says, “I hate the way I don’t know until 8:00 a.m. if I’m working that day,” then I know more about how the process works.