Friday, December 11, 2015

what price should we charge

Sophomore Iris was hard at work on her homework when she made a rather random observation to her father that in some places in the world, people charge suitors a goat for the hand of their daughter.  "Would you want a goat for me?"

The Sober Husband started opining about dowries and how we should get a dowry for Iris, and ever pedantic, I couldn't let that stand.  "A dowry is when you don't value women, and you have to pay people to take your daughters.  Iris is talking about bride price.  Bride price is when you value women, and people have to pay to marry them."

Iris challenged me if I would require a goat to marry her off.

"What kind of goat?  I like goats."  Pause.  "I think I would want two goats for Iris."


"I want a goat."

The Sober Husband pointed out that we could require a goat in exchange for Lola's hand as well.  A goat-rich future loomed ahead of us.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

the sparkling social life of the semi-hermitic

The Sober Husband and I have become homebodies.  After all, when you have a comfortable home with pleasant company, it doesn't always make sense to venture out into the larger world.  But lately I have resolved to gear my social life back up, get out more, etc..   And, weirdly enough, this weekend we have been invited to a number of parties, so it would seem a good time to act on this resolve.  Two are in Oakland on the same day, so it would work to stop by both of them, and coincidentally I had a hair appointment already set for the day, so it will even be a good hair day.

But the resolve is crumbling already.  One of the parties is a holiday gathering for volunteers of a certain large organization, and there are a few requirements.  The guests are supposed to bring a gift to donate to charity, their own cup to drink out of, high end homemade cookies for a potluck, and little trinkets to give to the other guests.  I RSVPed yes and was all set to go, and then I read this list of requirements, and my reaction was that they have gone too far.  What exactly are they giving me?  If I have to bake (and the call was to show off your cooking chops with really fabulous, fancy, amazing cookies), and I have to bring a gift for charity, and I have to bring little bits of sparkly crap for the other guests AND my own cup, what is the point?  I could stay at home with my cup and drink my own alcohol without having to cross the Bay Bridge.  Not to mention that there's a theme you're supposed to dress for.  True, it's optional, but encouraged, and that makes yet another requirement.

It reminded me of a similar party I didn't attend, where I was supposed to bring food, pay $25 to cover the hostess's expenses, and to prepare a ten minute speech about my passion for my work.  There is just so much you can ask from me under the guise of inviting me to a party.  Even leaving aside the speech (and I think it's best to leave it far, far aside), you are not going to see me both bringing food and paying. That brings together the worst features of a potluck and an unhosted event thrown by a reluctant host.  

The other prospective party this weekend refreshingly did not set any requirements for the guests.  But today the host of the second party posted a note about the food, after realizing that the entrees are all shellfish.  If you are a meateater but don't eat shellfish, you're encouraged to speak up so another entree can be ordered for you but if you're a vegetarian,  there will be a few vegetable side dishes you'll be asked to share with the meateaters so don't ask.  I realize I am insanely touchy about my vegetarianness, but I am also allergic to bivalves (not shrimp or lobster, though).  This presents me with a dilemma.  Should I feel free to speak up and ask for an entree, since I have a legitimate medical reason not to eat what was ordered, or should I remain silent as an undesirable vegetarian who doesn't merit an entree?  In the end I am not going to trust any of that food, since the restaurant notes that pretty much everything is cross-contaminated with shellfish and because the restaurant seems to have no concept of vegetarianism.  And also in the end, the host is someone I like a lot, and I don't want to be a bother, so there is no way I would ask for anything special.   It's just so much easier to stay home, where I don't have to worry about clam contamination or feeling like a freak because I'm a vegetarian. 

On the other hand, there's one more party.  There is no dress code.  There are no requirements that we bring cups, gifts, fancy baked goods, or anything.  Since there's no dinner served, there are no issues with food. And, unbelievably enough, it's within walking distance of our home, and held by someone we love.   I see no way out of it.  Even Thoreau held occasional dinner parties when he was living at Walden, and even a crabby curmudgeon like the Drunken Housewife occasionally inflicts her company upon kind party-givers. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

a practical mindset

So I have been a vegetarian since I was a senior in college, waaaay back in the eighties, and the children have always been vegetarians.  Back when they were infants, I negotiated with the Sober Husband that we would raise them as vegetarians until they were old enough to decide for themselves, and they decided for themselves that they are passionate about vegetarianism.  They have never intentionally eaten meat and can be quite judgmental.  I am not the alpha vegetarian in my home; my slips with seafood are quite sternly viewed (I have never eaten birds or mammals willingly, but I have had my moments of cheating with a lobster or crab).

The Sober Husband never wanted to be a vegetarian and was quite cranky over my vegetarianism.  I remember a vicious fight where he complained how much my being a vegetarian impacted him and how it was a blight on his life.  I thought that was rich coming from a man who lived off tortilla chips and ramen when I met him, but my viewpoint was ignored.  But as the years went by and the children's viewpoints hardened, he became more compliant.  He now often says he is a vegetarian.

However, today he was busted.  I got an email receipt telling me he'd bought a turkey croissant at a cafe.  When he got home, I tipped him off that he'd been busted.  He played dumb at first but then copped to it.  "It was the only savory thing they had."

I gave him a hard time.  "You ate a dead bird.  Would you eat the fat bird?", I said, referring to his Amazon parrot.

"If it died," he said practically.

Friday, September 25, 2015

dancing the limbo

So I had a mammogram recently, the first one I'd had in a long time.  I had intended to have one a couple of years ago, but I ran into problems trying to get one.  First we had insurance that viewed it as optional, and I couldn't afford to get one.  Then we got new, fancier insurance, but I ran into a procedural wall.  When I asked my then physician to order me one, she stared at me blankly and said, "You can do that on the website."  When I went home and tried to order one via my healthcare provider's website, I failed.  I am a reasonably intelligent person who has been using the internet since the internet was a baby, but I could not find any way to request a mammogram on that website.  When I asked the person at the desk at my next appointment, they were likewise dismissive and flat out refused to help me.  Yes, a grownup, a grownup with a graduate degree at that, should not be so easily thwarted, but I had a lot of other things going on at the time and this procedural barrier stopped me from getting a mammogram.

So what with one thing and another and my not thinking I was at high risk, I didn't get one.  And then a few years went by, and I saw a different doctor, who finally didn't seem to think it was my job to go out in the world and make someone give me a mammogram but who sent an order through the ether to a breast clinic to give me one.  I went, had the procedure done, and went home with an air of having taken care of business.

Next I got a call at 5:05 p.m. on a Friday from the hospital who had done the mammogram, asking me in urgent tones to return their call.  I did promptly, but they didn't call me back but instead closed up shop for the weekend at 6:00 p.m.  "Who does that?" I fumed.  "Who calls someone after five on a Friday and ruins their weekend?"  Anyone I told I was worried told me I was being ridiculous and stupid both, as no way on earth would anyone call someone about a bad mammogram and leave a cryptic message after five on a Friday.  What an idiot the DH is, hahaha so very stupid.

With no support whatsoever I got through the weekend rather gracelessly.  On Monday the hospital called me again and let me know that there was a problem with my mammogram and I needed to come back as soon as possible.  The very next day I returned for a diagnostic mammogram, and the tech showed me that there is an 11 millimeter growth in my left breast.  "It could be a lymph node," she said optimistically.  "Have you been sick?"

"I did have a really awful respiratory infection, " I said.  

"That's it, then!" she said perkily.

But then I stopped and thought.  It felt like just yesterday, but... "It was really in July," I said.  "I was sick in July."  The radiation tech didn't have a good way to spin this, and her cheer wound down.

After the diagnostic mammogram results were sent to some mystical doctor off-site, I was sent for an ultrasound.  These images were also sent off-site to the Oz-like being, who said that I needed to go for a fine tissue biopsy.

Here is where I ran into trouble.  The first vacancy was for two weeks away.  The person at the clinic doing the schedule visibly freaked out and asked me to wait, and she scurried off.  I could hear her in the next room urgently asking for something to be done to get me in sooner.  This did not add to my confidence level.  But nothing evidently could be done.

At this point I became stressed... and the stress continues and continues.  If I act like I have cancer, I am being a drama queen.  If I act like I don't have cancer, I'm in denial.  It's a no win situation.  And no one is helping.  Absolutely everyone I talk to about this seems to think I am an idiot for not getting the biopsy done sooner.  Never mind that the only way I could get it done sooner would be if I could change my growth and move it up near the surface, where it could be reached without ultrasound (the actual growth is waaaaay back by my ribcage and will supposedly take approximately one and a half hours, with me under sedation, for a physician to reach with ultrasound to let them know what the hell they are doing).  A friend tipped me off that I have access to a fancy sounding "health care concierge" thanks to the Sober Husband's glamorous new job, and I was relieved and excited... but the health care concierge got back to me in a couple of days to tell me that there was no possibility of a fine needle biopsy anywhere near San Francisco on less than two weeks notice.  

 "If it were me," someone said to me approximately nine times today, "I would get the biopsy done sooner."  Well, if it were you, bitch, you'd soon realize that like King Canute you cannot order the tides to go out and you cannot order a radiologist to do your bidding.  Perhaps if I hacked off large amounts of my torso myself I could get this done sooner, but if I want it done by someone skilled, I am going to be waiting two weeks.

Meanwhile there is not a lot of support at home.  "Be nice to me; I may have cancer," I said to a rather crabby family member.  This family member tossed their hair and said snappily, "You told me not to worry."  

Postscript:  After an agonizing biopsy, it turns out that I have a benign tumor.  Yay!  Benign!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

shingles vaccine from hell!!

I am strongly pro-vaccine.  It's delightful that children aren't stuck in iron lungs nowadays.  I remember having the mumps and am glad my kids didn't have to suffer that way.  My grandmother died of cervical cancer, and I'm happy my daughters can get a vaccine that will dramatically decrease their chances of getting that cancer.  Etc.., etc.. But now I have met the shingles vaccine, and it has kicked my ass.

The other day I had a physical, with a new-to-me doctor.  The main takeaway was that your DH is officially an old.  I turned fifty, and I have arthritis in my knees.  It is time for me to get a colonoscopy.  And I was subjected to a shingles vaccine.

I was happy to get the shingles vaccine, as one of  my colleagues at my volunteer job had a debilitating case of the shingles and was ill for a month.  She went through hell, and that was fresh in my mind.

But the morning after the shingles vaccine, I woke up with my arm swollen, discolored, and itchy.  It was very dramatic looking, a huge, dark red circle protruding from my arm.  I went ahead and left for my volunteer shift, working in a wildlife rehab clinic.  About an hour into my shift I began to feel lightheaded and faint.  I took a break and went to the break room, where I hydrated myself and ate a bunch of peanut brittle on the excuse that raising my blood sugar might help.  Once my blood was surely fizzing with sugar, I went back to work.  I felt like I was going to faint.  My colleagues said I was flushed.  I went and sat outside in the shade, and before I knew it, an hour had passed by.  I went back inside.  Although everyone urged me to go home, I didn't want to make Iris uber Alles leave early, as it was her last weekday volunteer shift before school started.  Eventually we left, and I drove cautiously.

At home I took to my bed.  My arm worsened.  I began feeling violent stabbing pains, and flu symptoms were starting.  Dr. Google was inconclusive.  It seemed like I was having a worse reaction than normal, but since my breathing was okay, it seemed safe.  But I was miserable.  If I stood up, I felt dizzy and faint, so I avoided that.  I emailed my doctor.  I whined.

The next day I woke up with a pounding headache, but the pain had subsided in my arm.  It was still swollen, sore, and discolored, but it mainly only hurt if it were touched.  My doctor wrote back saying that the dizziness was enough of a concern that I should have gone to the E.R.

My love for vaccines has been tested.  I love all but this one.  The sad part is that this vaccine is only good for five years, so it isn't going to be that long before the time to get it again rolls around.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

hangin' on the telephone

Recently I was stuck in hellish traffic.  The Drunken Housewife of the past had determined that it would be delightful to go to an outdoor play in the East Bay on a Friday evening, requiring that the present day Drunken Housewife drive with the children, a heavy picnic basket, and lots of blankets through Friday night rush hour traffic across San Francisco and over the Bay Bridge and through Berkeley and  through the chokepoint of the Caldecott Tunnel.  Taking mass transit was not feasible, as it would have meant walking down the hill to the MUNI subway, taking the subway to a transfer point to BART, taking a long BART ride, and then waiting for a shuttle bus.  All of that would have been fine if not for the heavy picnic basket and all the blankets and the fact that you can never get a seat on BART during rush hour.

The driving was stressful.  After some shameful swearing at some nearby cars and an unforgivable snapping at poor Iris, I determined to relax and unwind.  I asked the children to tell me stories to amuse and distract me.  Iris made up a long one about a heroic little bat with opposable thumbs.  Lola's story was more abstract and abandoned.  We turned to discussing Lola's big new transition:  the time has come for Lola to carry a cellphone.  "You can call me," I said.  "I think we should take up prank phone calls.  I'm going to call you a lot."  It then occurred to me that I had never placed a prank phone call to the dignified Iris.  And Iris never calls me, unless it's to ask to be picked up somewhere.  "Hey!  Why don't you ever call me?  Just to talk.  To tell me that I'm your hero."

"Momdude, that is really weird," Iris observed critically.

"No one has ever called me to tell me that I am their hero," I mused.  "Pretty much people only call me if I missed an appointment or if I am supposed to pay them.  That's why I hate the telephone; it's never pleasant.  Hey!  I am going to call you, Lola, when you have a phone.  And I'll sing."  At this point, I sang:  "Did I ever tell you you're my heeeeero, you're the wind beneath my wings."

After this we all dissolved into laughter for some time.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

caring for our friends, with the Sober Husband

I hand the Sober Husband a magazine open to an article I recommend he read.  "Hey!  That magazine.  That's X's magazine."  It turns out this magazine I brought home was, unbeknownst to me, launched by a former colleague of the Sober Husband.

"Isn't X the one who had cancer? How is he doing?"

"Cancer?  He didn't have cancer."

"Who had cancer then?  I thought it was him.  Doesn't he have kids and he had a cancer blog?"

The Sober Husband demurred strongly, suggesting I was confused over one of his childhood friends.  I persevered.

"One of those guys from Doggyo had cancer.  Which one was it?  One of your friends.  I remember reading his cancer blog."

"One of my friends has cancer?  Now I want to know who it is.  I feel bad."

"Why do you feel bad when you didn't even remember?"

"Because someone I like has cancer."

"But you didn't even remember!"

Eventually we recalled that another colleague from the same former employer, with a very similar name, was the one who had cancer.

"He had a bone marrow transplant and everything," recalled the Sober Husband, forced to relive the whole ordeal and feel bad once more.  "But he recovered."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I dreamed a dream

I had a terrifying dream about a stalker who broke into our home while we were sleeping.  In the dream, I'd wake to find a hammer left near me, to let me know that the stalker had been there and could have killed me.  In my dream, I was freaking out but the Sober Husband was calm.  "How do you know he wants to hurt us?" my dream-husband asked.

In real life I told the dream to Lola (who was at the time wanting to hear my dreams, as she'd been writing an article about dreams and could never remember any of her own).  Lola opined that the Sober Husband would in real life react the same way he did in the dream.  So I told him about my dream.

"I think that person was being nice, leaving us hammers," he said.  "Like a gift.  Hammers are useful."

"How many hammers can you use? And it was scary," I said defensively.

"I could use a lot of hammers.  Some might be special, too."

"You don't think it's creepy?  Hammers are weapons!"

"I like hammers."

Monday, March 16, 2015


Last night freshman Iris uber Alles vented about an assignment in her world history class.  One part of the assignment was to "write about a small group of people who have changed things."  Although the assignment didn't specify that this needed to fall into the World War II era, Iris's class is studying WWII at the moment.  Immediately I had an idea:  the women of the Rosenstrasse protests.

Years ago I learned about these women.  Although most Jews in Germany were rounded up and sent to camps, Jews who were married to Aryans were exempt.  They were subject to a myriad of horrible restrictions (couldn't work, couldn't have a pet, must have their homes inspected, had to wear the yellow star, etc..), but they weren't sent off to Auschwitz or Treblinka.  However, at one point, high level Nazis decided that they were going to give Hitler a special birthday present:  making Berlin truly Juden-frei.  The Jewish spouses were rounded up.  To that point Germans had tended to look the other way, if not to celebrate and join in on Jew-killing, but these German wives were different.  They made signs saying things like "Give Us Back Our Husbands" and protested publicly on Rosenstrasse, where most of the Jewish spouses were being kept (some were sent to Auschwitz).  Shockingly the Nazis folded and freed these particular Jews, even releasing the ones who were in Auschwitz.  I thought these women were a good example of how a few people could make a difference.  Iris listened and made a few notes.

The Sober Husband was not ready to let me glean the glory of giving the winning suggestion.  "I know a few people who made a difference, " he said.  "What about the Nazis?  Himmler?"

I gave him the evil eye.  He continued in that vein.  "Hitler was just one guy, and he made a difference"

"I am sure," I observed loftily, "that the assignment wants positive examples."

"How can you be so sure?"  The Sober Husband smirked and continued to catalogue the powerful achievements of the Nazis.

"You're so negative!  I had an uplifting and thoughtful example.  You're picking something awful!"  Then I changed gears.  "What about Charles Manson, huh?  He had a small group of followers, and they had a giant impact."

He started to answer, but I plowed on.  "What about the Son of Sam?  He was just one guy, and he had the whole city of New York in fear!"

Our squabbling continued until I loftily accused him of jealousy over my excellent suggestion.  "I have told so many Jews about the Rosenstrasse protests, too.  No one knows about it, and it's fascinating.  You just want to be the most loved parent and not let Iris pick my idea!"

Defeatedly the Sober Husband instructed Iris, "Love Mommy the most. Do Mommy's idea."

Iris uber Alles had dropped out of this conversation early on and declined to make a ruling.  "Anyone want to watch 'House of Cards'?" she asked diplomatically.

Friday, January 23, 2015

things I hate that everyone loves

Paris.  It smells bad, and everything costs too much.  The most overrated city in the world.

This one Indian restaurant in my neighborhood everyone adores.   It's the only Indian restaurant I've ever run across which has next to no vegetarian options.  And weirdly it serves virtually everything in wraps. Now I have been to southern India and know what a dosa is, so I know that a "wrap" is a version of an authentic Indian dish, and if it were a dosa, I'd be fine.  But meat in a wrap?  And that's Indian food?  Get off my lawn!  Which brings us to..

Wraps.  To begin with, the word is so unappetizing.  "Wraps."  It looks and sounds like the antithesis of good food.  And it seems to stress that what is inside the food doesn't matter.  All that matters is that it's wrapped up, because you are too much of a slob to get your lunch in your facehole without it being hermetically sealed.  Also, I like to be able to see what I am eating.

Amazon.  It killed off so many independent bookstores.  It tried to go after beloved publisher Hachette by not selling Hachette's most prominent authors.  It didn't give a fuck that it was preventing authors from making sales by barring those authors from its site, when they were just innocent third parties.  And it treats its employees like slaves.  Warehouse employees faint during the summer.  They are kept under fear of firing.  Their bathroom breaks are severely limited.  I could go on and on.  In summary:  it's an evil, evil company.

The Sober Husband has been recruited by Amazon many, many times, including for really interesting and fun jobs (most notably working on their delivery-by-drones program).  We've had some conflict over this.  "I'd rather you work for online porn.  Or spam," I have said.

The mountains.  I don't want to go skiing; that's much too cold.  I'd rather be by the sea or off in a nice, toasty warm desert.  It puts a strain on my poor car to heave us up some giant peak, only to have to turn around and come back down to a more sensible level.

Tomatoes.  Why are they in everything?  Why is it assumed that vegetarians live off tomatoes?  I tried some online eating program where they give you recipes and shopping lists so you can eat healthy but fabulous diet foods, and every single last meal was crammed with tomatoes.  Tomato salad, tomato flatbreads, stuffed tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, grilled tomatoes, pureed tomatoes.  One of my favorite cookbooks, a seasonal menus book by my beloved Melissa Clark, is unusable all summer because every single fucking thing revolves around tomatoes.  Last year at Burning Man someone decided that, as a kindness, they'd make dinner for those of us working on building our theme camp, and the vegetarian option was spaghetti in tomato sauce with chopped up tomatoes all over it.  And then the only topic of conversation amongst everyone during the whole meal was how weird it is that the Drunken Housewife doesn't eat tomatoes, did you ever hear of anyone who didn't like tomatoes, why doesn't she like tomatoes?, surely she would like the tomatoes if she only ate them, everyone loves tomatoes, tomatoes are the best thing in the world, it must suck to be her, god, what a picky eater. And then the next day everyone wondered what the hell was up when I snapped and said, "I don't want to hear ANOTHER WORD about how I don't like tomatoes.  Seriously." In summary, tomatoes are loathsome, oozing their nasty little seeds everywhere.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

more than anything in the world

I love camping in the desert, and the children frankly think that is one of the more inexplicable and idiotic things about their mother.  Today in the car Lola asked me again to explain why I like being in the desert.  I struggled to describe the desolate majesty, the weird beauty, and among other things, I said that because there aren't trees, you can see farther.

That right there to Lola was the matter in a nutshell.  "As you know, I love trees."  She grew pensive.  "I love trees more than anything in the world, except a bunch of things."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

street closures and the jaded residents

For a couple of weeks there have been some ominous signs posted, stating that parking will be forbidden on much of our block for a five day period.  The five specified dates of forbidden parking passed by without incident.

Then today suddenly, three or four days after the permits for blocking off parking had expired, I drove home to find to my displeasure that our street was closed.  "Dammit, Lola," I said, "what is going on?"  I parked a block away, complaining about having to shlep my groceries and Lola's backback.  "It's a good thing I was lazy at the grocery store and didn't feel like doing much shopping," I observed to Lola.

"What if we'd had a mattress delivered?" said Lola.  "Two years ago we had a mattress delivered.  What if we had waited until today?"

We shlepped our things home, discussing this outrage all the while.  No parking signs do not mean a street is going to be closed off, just that you can't park there, and it seemed wrong to us that our street was barred to us.  As we were approaching our house, my next door neighbor's sleek Porsche roared through.  "Hey!  Brad drove through the cones," I said.  My neighbor emerged from his car.  

"How'd you get through," I said admiringly.  "I couldn't fit my Mini through those cones."

"I just drove over them," said my normally mild-mannered neighbor.  "I've just had it with these street closures.  It's always something.  I say fuck it!"  There was a pause.  Lola and I had never heard this neighbor swear before.  

"I'm too well-behaved," I mourned.  Brad's defiance seemed admirable next to my mealy-mouthed obedience to authority.

"What the hell are they doing, anyway?" Brad continued.  "Is that the water department?"

We all regarded the giant excavation in the center of our street, just a few feet from my house.  

"Didn't they just replace all of that a few years ago?"  We three agreed that only a couple of years ago, the city had torn up our entire street and replaced all the water pipes.

"How can they just close our street?" I complained.  "I feel like they should send us a letter, give us some notice.  I could have had a piano delivered today.  I have had a piano delivered before.  Or I could have had a cocktail party today."

"Listen to you!" said Brad.

"I have had cocktail parties before," I said defensively.

"You sound like you're from Atherton!  Cocktail party! "  He paused.  "Come to think of it, if we were in Atherton, I bet they would have told us they were closing the street."

Friday, January 16, 2015

things said in our home

Me, to Lola:  "If after you move out and you come by to visit and you find my corpse partially eaten by cats, don't be mad at them.  Tell them you're sorry and get them some nice canned food."

Lola nodded in agreement.  "It's not like you're using your body, after you're dead."