Archive for the ‘domestic life’ Category

As if 2016 hadn’t already been a monumentally awful year, it managed to go out in a particularly hellacious fashion in our family, when E’s mom came down with a life-threatening c. difficile infection in December. Public service announcement: if your elderly relative takes antibiotics (as treatment for a bad laceration received in a fall), and shortly thereafter has several days of increasingly severe diarrhea, do not assume it’s food poisoning from her eating lunch at a restaurant. Not even if it’s a restaurant that has given your wife food poisoning in the past. Not even if your elderly relative thinks it’s getting better because on day 4 she manages to eat a little solid food before getting sick again. Instead, just take your elderly relative to the local emergency room, and get her checked for c. diff., before your elderly relative becomes so dehydrated that kidney function (and everything else) is in peril.

Let’s gloss over how difficult hospital stays can be for a frail elder. Let’s just say that E spent enough time at the hospital that the person who runs the coffee kiosk eventually would just ask her if she wanted the usual.

Fortunately, E’s mom is doing OK now, after 2 separate stays in the hospital, and was back home in time for Christmas. We did a lot of cleaning at her home to avoid the risk of reinfection, which included some serious refrigerator purging for open packages of food, which also happened to turn up 16 outdated eggs meant for holiday baking she never had a chance to do.

All of which helps explain why we officially said goodbye to 2016 today through the highly therapeutic method of going to some deserted woods and whipping 16 eggs at trees.

“This one’s for Carrie Fisher.” SPLAT!

“This one’s for everybody who died.” SPLAT!

“Trump.” SPLAT!

“The electoral college.” SPLAT!


It didn’t matter that my aim is so bad I sometimes missed the trees, and once didn’t even hit underbrush, and got to throw the same egg twice. It just added to the comedy of it all. E, as a former softball player, got in enough good hits for us both.


Good-bye, 2016!



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Last night, E was venting a bit about what a frustratingly stressful day she’d had at work. And she’s certainly entitled to vent – she works very long hours on top of a hellish commute, and the group she manages is incredibly short-staffed, and yet the services they provide are often critical to life-and-death situations.

Her day had been so bad that she said when she got a LinkedIn job offer to work for a major women’s clothing retailer, she’d actually been tempted for a split second. I eyed her up and down very dubiously, and we both burst out laughing.

Because she’d already changed from her workday attire into her relax-around-the-house outfit, which consisted of:

     1) Navy blue men’s sweatpants
     2) A shapeless gray T-shirt
     3) A stretched-out gray long-sleeved T-shirt

and, for the crowning glory,

     4) A maroon sweatshirt which had caught fire when we were burning brush a couple winters ago, and which now has a very jagged neckline after we cut away the melted top half of a zipper.

This was so definitely not the corporate look of the women’s clothing retailer in question that we just had to laugh!

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I am officially old

Proof number 1: at the hardware store, I was buying a can of spray paint. After it was scanned, the register prompted the cashier to enter the customer’s birth date. The cashier didn’t even bother to ask if I had a license/ID, never mind to see what birth date was listed on it. She just randomly typed in some birth date that must have translated as “old enough to buy spray paint.” I used to look young enough that the cashiers would at least apologetically ask to see my license.

Proof number 2: at work, a service engineer and I were chatting about the various lab equipment that we’ve worked on. He said that the model I first used is one that he has only seen in his company’s in-house museum of obsolete technology. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d simply said that particular model was before his time, but I hadn’t realized it was now considered a museum piece!

E very kindly pointed out, after I told her about episode number 2, that I’m not old — I’m experienced. That does sound better!

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Yes, I know that based on movies and TV commercials, Christmas is supposed to be all about joy and magic and wonder. But let’s face it, when your holiday gathering includes cranky and critical elderly parents rather than small children, magic and wonder are not going to happen, and the bar for “success” is set pretty low.

Fortunately, this year we had Mother Nature and her unseasonably warm temperatures on our side. So when my parents arrived on the 24th, we went out letterboxing. This entailed a very long walk through moderately scenic conservation land in record-setting 69 degree weather.



That particular conservation tract has been rumored to contain a purple shack where high school students go to buy drugs. When I saw this shack, I thought perhaps we’d found the infamous building, and it was described as purple rather than green to confuse parents.


Then we realized that even drug dealers probably wouldn’t operate out of a wide-open outhouse.


Having the open side face the trail, for absolutely minimal privacy, makes it even more bizarre — although having a dilapidated outhouse on public conservation land was pretty weird to begin with.

Dinner was a fish-related extravaganza although we didn’t attempt to hit 7 kinds. And then my parents went to sleep in the guest room, where we’d managed to fit the spare cot in beside the twin bed, so nobody had to share a room with teenage-boy-smell.


Christmas morning, my mother and I headed out fairly early to do a little more letterboxing. Because if you ask me for a bread knife, and I hand you the serrated knife we always use, and you refuse it because it’s technically a steak knife, and then you get out a different non-serrated knife, and then you get annoyed that it’s not cutting your bread properly, then I would rather wander the woods counting off 65 paces along a stone wall from a triple-trunked tree than continue sharing a kitchen with you. Ahem. Not much to be said for the theoretical scenic vista, but at least it was neutral territory.


Back at the house, E had brought her mom over, and we then attempted to make coffee for everyone using the dying coffee-maker. It started leaking coffee out of every orifice it had (plus some it didn’t), at which point I heaved it out the window to minimize the mess dripping into the floor, and E’s single-serving French press went into overtime.

We entertained ourselves at Christmas dinner by making predictions for 2016. Each of us had to predict:

— 1 US political event
— 1 general news event
— 1 positive event
— 2 famous people who would die

Yes, this counts as uplifting entertainment by our family’s standards.

We also reviewed how well we’d done with last year’s predictions. I had succeeded with “Boston will not be nominated to host the Olympics” and “Governor Deval Patrick will fade into obscurity.” E unfortunately also succeeded with “there will be a major terrorist event outside the US.” In good news, all of the people on our 2015 death-prediction list are still alive and kicking.

Finally, E took her mom home, while M and I and my parents did one more round of letterboxing before my parents drove home.

Whew. All done for another year.

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Think they’ll notice?

We finally got around to buying a Christmas tree on Sunday. Think we can get away with not bothering to decorate it, without getting too much criticism or questions from our parents when they visit?  We did put one random bow on top, that came off a package. And we do have Christmas lights up — although not on the tree, and they’re lights we keep up year-round. 

Maybe we can just scatter a few more cat toys around the bottom and call it good. 

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Topics covered during Thanksgiving dinner:


–Problems scheduling medical appointments with power-mad office managers
–The 17-year inheritance saga of my mother’s friend
–Knee surgeries gone bad
–Boston’s pedophile priest scandal
–Specific encounters with pedophile priests
–Whether M has a girlfriend
–Donald Trump
–Political candidates in general
–That I didn’t give my mother enough grandchildren
–Random shootings and other acts of violence
–911 operator who wouldn’t send help after a random shooting


After all that, I’m thankful my parents and mother-in-law are old enough that they don’t want to be on the road after dark. And that Thanksgiving happens at a time of year when the days are really short.

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I’ve been thinking recently that I need to update the sweater portion of my wardrobe. I wear sweaters for 6-7 months each year, and my sweaters currently fall into 3 general categories:

1) Sweaters which I bought at yard sales because they were wool and really warm. These are often too warm for work, and over the years most have shrunk enough to be uncomfortably tight when just relaxing around the house.

2) Sweaters which are hand-me-downs from my mother-in-law. For years she’s been trying to winnow out her enormous collection of clothes, and although I’ve said “No” to most of them, I can’t say “No” all the time. They’re all either too small for me, or look like things an old lady would wear.

3) Sweaters which I bought new many years ago, and are now saggy or misshapen or pilly or faded, not to mention just looking outdated.

Earlier this week, someone at work emailed out a department photo he’d found buried in a computer folder, showing our group 8 years ago. It was a bittersweet blast from the past, since 3/4 of the people are no longer with the company. But I had to laugh when I realized I was currently wearing the exact same sweater as I’d worn in the photo. 

It looked a lot better 8 years ago. 

Yeah, definitely time for some new sweaters.

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