Sunday, December 13, 2015

Happy Holidays 2015

Since I just spent more hours than I would like to reveal crafting my seasonal holiday letter, I’m too burnt out to write a blog this week. Fortunately, I can simply steal material from the holiday letter. So here are excerpts. (Yay for dual purpose news.) Be warned that I am dedicating the upcoming year to honing my comedy-writing skills. Comedy is hard and I always wonder if I’m giving people a laugh or if I’m merely giving them a wince. That said, have a hearty wince.

Ron and I went on separate vacations this year. He went to Chicago and I stayed home, where I found fun things to do by myself, such as having our ancient toilets replaced with beautiful efficient low-flush toilets, which I surreptitiously stroke in adoration when no one’s looking. (The plumber found a velociraptor claw in the plumbing, that’s how old my former toilets were.) I also refinished the kitchen table and had the kitchen chairs stripped (Ron refinished them beautifully upon his return home). I joined a gym, where I take a high intensity interval training (HIIT) class once a week and work out on the weight machines on a couple other days. My daughter pestered me about this for months because she said I need to build muscle mass. Since I joined the gym, I gained five pounds. Wow, muscle mass is heavy. Does anyone know what this stuff’s actually made out of? I think perhaps cheese. One of the women at my gym wears a T-shirt that says “Strong is the new skinny.” Works for me.

If you remember, we moved off the Ranch to live closer to emergency services because of Ron’s health issues. Since the move, our proximity to the emergency room (ER) has saved Ron’s life on more than one occasion. I count 2015 a good year since we only used emergency services for Ron twice. I have learned from experience that if you call an ambulance and they come and save you, then the service is free (here, anyway), but if they haul you off to the ER then it costs you a bundle in co-pay for services. They don’t take persimmon bread in trade for ER services. Also, when you get the ER bill, they refuse to break it down for you to see how they figured the expenses. ER billing services does not comprehend the words “line item.” They could charge you $400 for using the restroom and the bill would list this as “relief services.” They charge separately for toilet paper by the square. Anyway, armed with this knowledge, I make every effort to have the ambulance paramedics revive Ron from his occasional life-threatening low-blood-sugar episodes without dragging him into the ER. They have all the equipment and know-how right there in the ambulance and it’s free. You can’t say “no” to free resuscitation.

So when the health club phoned to say that they had called an ambulance for Ron because they found him unconscious, I screamed into the phone, “Don’t let them take him to the hospital. I’ll be right there.” The woman who called hung up on me. She couldn’t deal with a deranged spouse who seemed to have a perverse death-wish for her poor stricken diabetic husband. I arrived onsite just as the ambulance was about to pull out of the parking lot with Ron inside and I stood in the road in front of the vehicle. By the time I convinced them to open the doors and let me in to see him, Ron was stable and flirting with the nurse. “See,” I said, “no need to rush off to the hospital. He just needed some juice.” (Actually they had him on IV concentrated sugar.) When Ron began singing “just a spoonful of medicine makes the sugar go down,” they yanked his IV and threw him out of the ambulance. The health club staff was super amazing and they did a great job of getting help for Ron right away. They didn’t even call the police to report my frenzied command not to take him to the ER. In general, Ron’s health has improved this year now that he’s free of the stress of having a job. He’s doing astonishingly well for a man with so many health conditions and a wife who pitches a fit if the paramedics try to take him to the ER in an ambulance. There’s nothing like occasional IV sugar to jumpstart the old system.
A few weeks ago, Ron revived his Binford Tools T-shirt and replaced our garbage disposal because the old one had corroded and started leaking. For the installation, he cleverly built a winch out of nylon rope, a small length of plastic plumbing pipe, and his wife (that would be me). As a result of this maneuver, I discovered that I am now able to bench press a stainless steel garbage disposal, and that sucker is heavy. (Woo-hoo. Working out at the gym is awesome.) This realization would have changed my life had my husband not insisted that the garbage disposal belongs installed under the sink in the kitchen, and will not remain available for me to impress the neighbors or my children. Argh. He’s so mean.

He’s also a bit absentminded sometimes. For instance, he went around for a couple of days saying he needed to make an appointment with the eye doctor because he couldn’t see out of his glasses anymore and he thought he needed a new prescription. “I’m going blind,” he lamented. Then he realized that one of the lenses had popped out. He found it on the backseat of his car and when he put it back in the frame he could see again. I’m not seriously worried about his cognitive ability since he still does the NY Times crossword in record time and he figured out how to replace our garbage disposal. (Did I already say that I can bench press a garbage disposal?)
I enjoy celebrating both the Jewish and Christian holidays. Twice the opportunities to eat festive cheese. My daughter has promised to make tortilla soup for the family on Christmas Eve. We will have all of our children with us for Christmas this year. Plus the daughter of my longtime friend Helen in Scotland is coming to join us for the holiday. The last time I saw Helen, 35 years ago, in Fife (by Dundee), she was pregnant with this daughter, who is now studying poetry in grad school in Texas. She plays the Northumbrian Pipes and I look forward to a demonstration during her visit. Thus we will be the only household in America to pipe in tortilla soup and latkes on Christmas Eve.

I’m going to take a vacation from blogging for a couple of weeks over the holidays to bake gluten-free treats, eat cheese, and spend time with my astonishing children. Look for me on the blog again after the New Year, when I will continue to elicit laughter and winces. May you have health, happiness, delicious nutritious food, laughter, music, time spent with loved ones, a functioning garbage disposal, an abundance of things for which to be grateful, and lots of good cheese during the holiday season.

I was going to put a photo of an uninstalled garbage disposal into this blog 
but I couldn't find one with Hanukkah candles on it 
so I decided to show you this menorah instead. More festive.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

First World Problems

Sometimes my husband says the most profound things. Earlier this week I was obsessing about a decision. Finally, as I ran down the pros and cons to him for the sixth or seventh time, he joked, “First World problems.” I laughed because he was so right-on. I have heard the expression before, but ever since he said it, I keep thinking about it. When I looked it up on Wikipedia I learned that the term first appeared in 1979 in G.K. Payne’s Built Environment. It turned into an internet meme in 2005, and it became a popular Twitter hashtag. It is generally used to minimize complaints about trivial issues by people living in the lap of luxury. The quintessential First World problem is slow internet access. In fact, the expression is frequently used with regard to electronic/tech problems. For instance, classic First World problems are 1) I don’t have access to wi-fi right now, 2) I lost the remote, 3) the PDF downloaded instead of opening, 4) my laptop power cord died, or 5) I dropped my iPhone into a pot of boiling spaghetti sauce. If you google “First World problems,” you will bring up links to heaps of funny examples. I just did this and wasted half an hour that I could have spent writing this blog chuckling over these examples. Wasting time reading things online is a First World problem.

Although generally First World problems, my problems still concern me. Here is a short-list sampling of some of my First World problems.
1. I have so much work right now that I don’t have enough time to do my own creative writing (including writing my annual holiday letter).
2. I lost a piece of cheese in my car.
3. I can’t decide whether to make pumpkin bread or persimmon bread for the holidays.
4. I don’t think my Christmas Cactus will keep blooming all the way to Christmas, so maybe I should buy another one in a couple of weeks? Or not?
5. I dyed my husband’s socks pink by accident washing them with a red dress.
6. Writing comedy is hard and I want to give people a good laugh.
7. Last week I played Dez Bryant in Fantasy Football but then Tony Romo broke his clavicle (again) and the backup QB didn’t throw any balls to Dez meanwhile I left Sammy Watkins on my bench and Dez made 5 points and Watkins made 27 and I don’t even like the Dallas Cowboys and I don’t know who Watkins is and I think I should play Charcandrick West instead of Watkins this week even though West had a hamstring injury and this is the final week of the regular Fantasy season and I am agonizing so much about what to do that I think maybe I should stop playing Fantasy next year and…. I need an intervention.
8. I keep getting robocalls from cardholder services even though I am on the do-not-call list so what is up with that? Argh!
9. I can smell a missing piece of cheese in my car.
9. I am not good with numbers and my math ability sucks.
10. Organic food is expensive.
11. I can’t interest any publishers in my unpublished books. I can’t interest any agents in representing my unpublished books. I can’t stop writing books that probably will never be published. I can’t stop kvetching about it. I need an intervention.
12. They stopped carrying my favorite chipotle habañero sauce at the natural foods store so now I have to buy it online.
13. I mortgaged my house to put my children through college and I have no retirement savings so I will have to work until I die.
14. My orange tabby cat sheds on everything.
15. I cry every time I watch It’s a Wonderful Life and my children laugh at me.
16. I can’t find a chemical-free air freshener that smells good to me. (So I don’t have a nice scent to spray in my car to counteract the lost cheese.)
17. I miss my cheese.

I would like to think that mostly my problems are not the silly non-problem problems of the oblivious privileged person, such as breaking a fingernail on the metal soy milk pitcher at Starbuck’s. My problems are the problems of a middle class person living in the First World, and I wouldn’t trade them for Third World problems. Even so, I do have some problems that I think qualify as All World (global/universal) problems, such as the fact that I am slowly going deaf, my access to clean food is compromised by profit-mongers, I can’t protect my children from the miasma of chemicals surrounding us (not least of which are the toxins in food), the damage to our environment threatens my safety and future (and that of my children and future generations), I don’t have easy access to health care that is honest and free of interference by corporate interests, and I am in constant danger of losing those I love to gun violence. Yet in the final analysis, my week of pondering the expression has led me to recognize that my problems are predominantly First World problems; and for this I am truly grateful, especially at this festive time of year when I anticipate being surrounded by friends and family and enjoying our First World bounty.

When I think about my problems from this perspective, I no longer feel nearly so stressed. Except maybe about that cheese. Why can’t I stop thinking about cheese? I’m hungry (that’s an All World problem). 

I googled "cheese in car" for an image for this blog post and this is what I found, which is perfect 
because it's not only cheese on a car but it's also a football image since it's a Green Bay Packers (the "cheeseheads") car therefore related to both my cheese problems and my Fantasy football problems.