Thursday, October 16, 2014

Would you like a medal for that?

As all of you J-TWO-O blog readers know, the spouse and I have a running debate about how to load (or not load) the dishwasher. A debate that apparently rages at a lot of other houses as well, including fictional ones, like the Johnsons on black-ish, the new ABC sitcom about a successful, two-income African-American family (who have been likened to the Huxtables of The Cosby Show).

I laughed out loud at this scene, titled "Dre Wants Credit from His Wife [for loading the dishwasher]."

If only his wife, Rainbow, had had Man Medals, a brilliant idea for the man who feels he deserves an award for changing the toilet paper roll, taking out the garbage, or emptying the dishwasher (though there is no Man Medal for loading the dishwasher -- for a reason).

There also isn't a Man Medal for making the bed, which the spouse did all by himself yesterday! (Next time you can post a photo on Facebook, honey.)

Or for doing the laundry, or the dishes, or mowing the lawn -- things, which I have heard rumors, some guys do (without their wives even having to ask!).

Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh. After all, the spouse does help out with grocery shopping. And he helps clean up after dinner, and he does take out the garbage and fix our computers. (Thank you, honey!)

And, I admit, like the wife/mother on black-ish, and a lot (all) women I know, I like things done a certain way -- my way. And I hate mess, or disorganization. So I wind up doing and taking care of stuff. Just because. And I don't expect a medal.

Yet when a man does one thing, like changing a diaper, or taking the kids to school, or baking cupcakes, he expects -- and often gets, from friends and coworkers -- an effing ticker-tape parade.Which pisses me off.

So, ladies (and guys), how's that Women's Liberation thing working out for all of you?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Happy Global Handwashing Day!

Finally, a celebration day for us germaphobes! Let's break out the hand sanitizer and celebrate, people!

And Global Handwashing Day could not have come at a better time, what with people here in the United States (and around the world) freaking out about Ebola and Enterovirus 68.

Though do you really need such an extreme excuse to wash your hands?

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and any healthcare professional can (and will) tell you, the number one way to avoid getting sick is to WASH YOUR HANDS
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage
(You paying attention, honey?)

Equally important is how you wash your hands, which, according to numerous studies, most of us don't do properly. So how do you wash your hands properly? Again, according to the CDC (and health professionals), to properly wash your hands you should:
  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap -- lathering the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds -- the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel, paper towel, or hand dryer them UNTIL THEY ARE COMPLETELY DRY as germs love moisture.

Don't have access to running water, soap, and a towel? Use hand sanitizer. (I carry a bottle with me at all times -- and make the spouse and teenager carry a bottle with them, too.)

And no excuses! If astronauts can wash their hands in space...

you can do it here on Earth!

Happy Global Handwashing Day!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Life with Teenage Daughter Who Now Drives

As some of you may recall, two weeks ago the teenager acquired a driver's license -- and my nine-year-old Mini Cooper. At the time, I was rather stressed out, first about her road test, because the teenager was so stressed out, and I literally felt her anxiety (and yes, I am using literal in the literal sense). Then because OMG! MY DAUGHTER HAD HER DRIVER'S LICENSE AND WAS DRIVING... MY CAR! At 16!

[And she'll have fun, fun, fun 'til her mommy takes her Mini away.]

As a child of New York City (i.e., Manhattan), I had zero interest in acquiring a driver's license or a car when I was 16... or 17. Why go through the hassle when you can walk, or take the bus, or the subway, or a taxi anywhere? Indeed, in New York (i.e., Manhattan) a car was a burden, and a big expense, where people paid more for monthly parking than they did in rent.

It was only because my father INSISTED that I learn how to drive before I went off to college that I took driving lessons at the end of my senior year of high school. And let me tell you, learning how to drive in Manhattan is not for the faint of heart (nor is the New York Department of Motor Vehicles -- shudder). And even though I did, in fact, acquire my driver's license before heading off to college, I had zero desire to drive in the City (and still don't).

However, I realize that in the suburbs, especially where we live, being able to drive gives teenagers a sense of freedom and independence. Not unlike the feeling(s) I and my friends had being able to get around the City on our own.

So now each afternoon, instead of rushing off to school to pick her up, or take her to the gym or some other activity, I sit alone in my office, typing on my computer, my cat napping in my lap, repeatedly glancing at my mobile phone, waiting for her to text me where she is and that she is okay, and waiting to see or hear the Mini.

And I wait. And I watch. And I wonder.... How did she get to be so big, so independent, so grown up? What happened to my little girl?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The return of Pumpkin Spice Season

[Alternate title: Pumpkin Spice: The Meme That Wouldn't Die]

Welcome to another Pumpkin Spice Season, that special time of year, formerly known as October, where everything is flavored with that magical, mystical seasoning known as "pumpkin spice" (what we in our house still refer to as "cinnamon" and "ginger")

I admit, there was a time, many years ago, when I looked forward to having a Pumpkin Spice Latte (now known simply by the abbreviation PSL to the pumpkin spice and Starbucks cognoscenti), back before Pumpkin Spice became a meme.

Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies
And even now, the thought of a Pumpkin Spice Latte seems quaint compared to some of the outrageous pumpkin spice products clogging supermarket shelves -- from Nabisco Pumpkin Spice Oreos and Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies (blasphemy!) to Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles (ew) and Pumpkin Pie Spice Jif Peanut Butter (WTF?) and Thomas' Pumpkin Spice Bagels (no, just no -- though they are made with "real pumpkin").

What's next? Pumpkin Spice Condoms?

(Before you all get too excited about Pumpkin Spice Condoms, which IMHO, are a brilliant idea, I regret to inform you that the rumors about Durex creating a limited edition Pumpkin Spice Condom are false. Sadly. However, I would not be the least bit surprised to see them come next Pumpkin Spice Season.)

Fortunately, in another month or so, Pumpkin Spice Season will be but a memory and we can move on to Peppermint and Gingerbread season.

Monday, September 29, 2014

This month's best cat + dog videos

I don't know about all of you, but by this time on Monday, I am in dire need of a cute and/or funny cat (or dog) video. So as a public service, I give you the best cat and dog videos you will find online this month. (You're welcome.)

First up, "Ouvrez-Moi," wherein a cat attempts to convince a male human to open the door... in French (with English subtitles). Love this video.

And speaking of strange cats, this cat apparently loves to be vacuumed. (Our cats enjoy a good lint rolling, but vacuuming? Uh, no.)

Next, the reason the spouse and I are not getting a St. Bernard... even though they are very sweet dogs.

Finally, the award for Cutest Beagle Video of the Month goes to KLM, for "Lost & Found Service."

Makes you almost want to leave something on the plane next time you fly KLM.

Friday, September 26, 2014

New book recommendations

For this Book Nook post (click on the Book Nook label at the end of the post to see previous recommendations), I've divided the books I've read (since my last book post) into three categories: Books I Loved, Books I Liked, and Books I Didn't Like.

Feel free to add your thoughts and recommendations in the Comments section. 

Books I Loved

One Hundred Names by Cecilia Ahern. The moving story of a young, disgraced journalist's quest for redemption and her desire to pay tribute to her recently deceased mentor and editor by writing the story she (the editor) had wanted to write but didn't. The story? We don't exactly know (until the end of the book). All the editor left was a list of 100 names. It is up to Kitty Logan, the disgraced journalist, to track down the 100 people on the list and figure out what ties them together and to Constance, her beloved former editor and mentor.

I loved this book, and not just because I started my professional life as a fact checker and writer for a magazine (though it helped me to instantly connect with Kitty, her coworkers, and her subjects). I loved it because of the stories Kitty uncovers in her quest, the great writing, and how uplifted the book left me feeling when I finished reading it.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Another great read -- very funny. Reminded me of The Big Bang Theory, in a good way, as the main character in The Rosie Project, Don, like Sheldon, is a scientist, who is "socially challenged" (i.e., has Asperger Syndrome or similar). Though in this case it is the Sheldon character, who is good looking and into cooking not comic books, who falls for the Penny character, Rosie, who is a sexy bartender (similar to Penny), though also very intelligent. Got it?

Okay, for those who have no idea what I'm talking about, The Rosie Project is a romantic comedy about a health-obsessed Australian geneticist with Asperger's who creates a compatibility test for finding the perfect mate and winds up falling for a sexy bartender who smokes. (Just trust me and pick it up. You won't be sorry.)

Books I Liked (Some More, or Less, Than Others)

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin. Goodwin's subject matter and style harkens back to Edith Wharton and Henry James. So if you are a fan of either writer, or that genre, you will probably enjoy The Fortune Hunter (and Goodwin's previous novel, The American Heiress, which I also read and liked). The story takes place in late nineteenth-century England and involves young, orphaned heiress Charlotte Baird and her love interest, Bay Middleton, a dashing, and philandering, British rider and huntsman who is the pilot (a hunting term) for and we suspect paramour of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, who wants Middleton all to herself. A work of historical fiction, though filled with real characters and events -- well written, but I wished Goodwin had not distorted or changed so many facts.

The White Magic Five and Dime (A Tarot Mystery) by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco. Reminiscent of The Spellman Files mystery series, which I greatly enjoyed. (Main character as well as the tone is very similar.) Cynical thirty-something woman, who works as a telemarketer in Chicago, gets a call that her estranged mother, a con artist, has died and left her her occult shop in a small tourist town in Arizona. She goes to claim her inheritance and winds up investigating her mother's murder and nearly getting killed herself. An often humorous mystery from the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes. Hard-working, nearly broke single mum Jess, struggling to take care of her estranged ex's sensitive, artistic, Goth teenage son and come up with the tuition money to send her (and her husband's) daughter, a petite math prodigy to a good private school, winds up falling for a nerdy software developer -- who's been indicted for insider trading and who's life is falling apart, and whose vacation home she cleans -- who agrees to drive the family, along with their big, lazy, farting dog, on a crazy road trip to Northern Scotland so the little girl can participate, and hopefully win, a big math contest. Got it? British chick lit. Not my usual cup of tea. But endearing and charming. (I must be getting soft in my old age.)

Redshirts by John Scalzi. A witty/funny sci-fi/mystery that pays homage to the original Star Trek.

The Four Graces by D. E. Stevenson. Described as "Little Women meets World War II," which sounds about right. Set in 1940s England, The Four Graces introduces readers to the four lovely Grace sisters and their father, the local vicar, who live in a quiet, and quaint, English country parish -- and whose lives are changed by the war and the arrival of two new men and a meddling auntie. Originally published in 1946 and re-issued this summer. Read with a cuppa.

The Accidental Apprentice by Vikas Swarup, the author of Slumdog Millionaire. Twenty-something Delhi electronics sales girl Sapna Sinha is approached by a mysterious stranger in a temple who offers to make her the CEO of his billion-dollar company if she passes seven "leadership" tests. While Sapna is tempted by the money, she turns down the offer, repeatedly, yet circumstances force her to change her mind -- and launch Sapna on a series of adventures around Delhi, which lead her to question what it is she truly wants out of life. A fascinating, well-written Indian thriller.

The French House, a memoir by Don Wallace. I kept wanting to really like this book, and I sort of liked it, or the idea of it. I just didn't like or care for most of the people (who almost all came off as self-centered or self-absorbed or un-self aware, especially the narrator) -- and thought it could have used a bit more editing to smooth out the often jarring chronological jumping around. That said, I think anyone who has ever dreamed of buying a fixer-upper in a beautiful foreign country where they don't really speak the language will appreciate, and probably enjoy, Wallace's tale of his and wife's adventures in home ownership on the tiny French island of Belle Île, off the coast of Brittany, especially you Francophiles.

(Coincidentally, this weekend the House Hunting in... column in the The New York Times features a charming manse located in... Brittany -- a steal at only $1.03 million!)

Books I Didn't Like

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. A well-written horror story, couched as a mystery. A definite page turner, but I hated the characters, all of them, and the ending. Wish I'd never read it.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. I was completely beside myself with disgust reading this book -- and detested it so much I couldn't finish it. Cannot believe it was short-listed for the Man Booker. (Actually, I can believe it as I rarely have liked the books that make the cut.)

The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go. Another well-written book, in terms of the prose style, though overly long and drawn out in parts (i.e., rambling and boring, at least to me) and the ending pissed off not only me but seemingly every person on GoodReads.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The hardest 90 minutes of my life as a parent (to date)?

The hardest 90 minutes of my life as a parent (other than labor, which was the hardest 18 hours of my life)? Waiting to find out if my daughter passed her road test, to obtain her driver's license.

I think I was a bigger wreck than the teenager, who was pretty anxious and nervous. Which is why we had the spouse go with her. (His nickname, back in the day, was "the human Quaalude," for his immediate calming influence.)

The appointment, at her driving school, in a car she had taken lessons in, was for 7:45 a.m. So she and the spouse left the house at 7:20 a.m., to make sure she got there on time, which they did. However, she didn't actually start the test until 8:30. (WTF is that all about?)

Can you say nervous mother?

After pacing around the house, changing light bulbs, doing laundry, cleaning the cat boxes, wiping down ceiling fans, texting the spouse, for what seemed like an eternity, the spouse texted me at 8:50:


"Perfect score."

"THANK YOU JESUS," I texted back (even though we're Jewish -- though so was Jesus).

Now the teenager has to wait 48 hours. Then go to the DMV (again with the spouse) to get her actual license, which will entail waiting on another line, for at least an hour.

Then I will officially hand over the keys to my Mini Cooper and the real worrying will begin.

So, any words of advice from you fellow parents of teenage drivers? This is a whole new world for me, having grown up in Manhattan, where no one drove, at least not teenagers. And I am terrified.

UPDATED 9/26: It's official. The teenager is now licensed to drive. Got her license -- with a really nice photo! -- from the DMV this morning.