I loved how 16 writers stake claim in minority position

I’m not sure people with children would find Meghan Daum’s book as absorbing as I did, and it’s too bad, really, because it’s quite deep and thought-provoking.

Selfish Shallow and Self AbsorbedSelfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids is very well-rounded since it provides the perspectives of 16 different people who chose not to have children (they’re all writers, of course, but isn’t it good to leave books about childlessness to writers?). There’s the funny one, the angry one, the woman who had a terrible mother, the woman who thought she’d make a terrible mother, the gay perspective, the story of the woman who actually tried and failed to procreate and the one who calls “maternal instinct” a modern invention (!). Plus nine more. And a well-summarized introduction by Daum. It fulfills “A book with a number in the title” on my 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge.

For someone who thinks she’s covered every argument for having and not having kids like a religious woman who’s handled her prayer beads until they were worn away, even I had all kinds of a-ha moments reading this anthology.

The childless are a unique bunch, I guess, but I never really considered how unique (and diverse and thoughtful) we are. Most people do have children. And most people don’t think about it at all (certainly many think about with whom and when but they don’t necessary think about if they should or shouldn’t, if they want to or not).

The book makes a compelling argument that the childless are not selfish, shallow and self-absorbed like some people may believe (and I emphasize some because most people who ever discussed it with me are not so judgmental — at least to my face). I think people who choose not to have children would like this book, as would writers and anyone interested in sociology. But I think people with children might like it, too.

What Alice Forgot is not easy to forget

Sorry, but I’m programmed to think “beach reads” must be fiction books. Fiction, meaning “not real” and “fairy tale” and maybe “not very meaningful.”

What Alice ForgotBut I found Liane Moriarty’s fictional and fairy tale-like What Alice Forgot to have gravitas and meaning. In fact, it fulfills “A book that made you cry” on my 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge.

It’s the story of Alice, who falls down and hits her head and forgets the past 10 years of her life, including the births of her three children, her sister’s infertility struggles and why she is currently embroiled in a messy divorce from her husband Nick.

If light reading is your thing, don’t be scared off. What Alice Forgot is filled with romance and adorable children and silly things like tango lessons. It’s an easy read, it’s just not easy to forget.

Here’s the thing: While reading about Alice’s foibles, I couldn’t help thinking about myself 10 years ago. Ten years ago, I would have told you I would never get a divorce, I was quite happy childless and that I would have retired from the company where I was working; well, I did get divorced, I’m now a contented stepmother and that amazing company where I worked? Bankrupt. In Self magazine’s review of the book, the reviewer aptly described What Alice Forgot as “[a] hilarious reminder to hang on to the things that make you happy and let little annoyances go.”

Like The Husband’s Secret (which I picked up for a buck at the library book sale), What Alice Forgot realistically gets inside the heads of its main characters: Forgetful Alice, sorrowfully infertile Elizabeth and lonely Frannie. Moriarty is masterful is spinning a realistic story (this appeals to the nonfiction lover in me) in six directions and bringing it to a satisfying fairy tale conclusion. I paid full retail for the paperback of What Alice Forgot, and I’ll do it again for another of Moriarty’s titles, Big Little Lies.

The sky’s the limit if you have a roof over your head

Of all life’s blessings, the roof over my head is one for which I rarely give thanks.

Roofs, after all, are so commonplace they are to be expected. And they’re dull. Very dull. Usually gray or brown, maybe black. Made with shingles — the ultimately hum-drum material, or maybe cedar or tile. Installed by competent, height-defying, tight-lipped pros who appear like flies and disappear a week later, leaving a few stray nails in the yard.

But mundane or no, without a roof, every day is a bad-hair day. Or a bad day in general.

I woke at 3 a.m. last night, thankful, so thankful for the roof over my head.

It was pouring down rain. Literally pouring, like God had a bucket he couldn’t wait to empty. Lightning. Thunder. A storm for the ages. But unlike many nighttime storms observed from the comfort of the bed in my sturdy house, this storm came to the campground where I slept in a sturdy, yes, but relatively insubstantial camper.

One never goes camping but it rains. Or at least that’s how it is with me. Most camping rainstorms are day-long drizzly affairs that make everything damp and never stop until everything is packed up and you’re headed home.

This storm, however, was more hard-nosed, like a pissed off cop with a gun at a pool party (kidding! all right, already! I know all cops are not angry and overbearing! It’s a joke!).

In any case, this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill storm. And we were camping next to a river.

My Beloved’s cell phone awakened us before the drenching rain did. It warned of flash flooding.

All I could think about was a flash flood filling the valley, and us, bobbing down the river in the camper until we were splintered against a bridge pier (thank you, Voice of Doom, but our flash flooding came in the form of big mud puddles, not a jökulhlaup).

That’s when the roof started leaking. Drip, drip, drip. A persistent sort of leak. Drip, drip, drip. Reconnaissance revealed the drops were coming from a light fixture (uh-oh). Drip, drip, drip.

Sounds restful, huh?

But actually, I said a little prayer of thanks for the roof.

Because 30 yards away, a family went to bed last night.

In a tent.

I didn’t care how fiberglassy our roof was. It wasn’t canvas!

Seven lilies and … a surprise! … in Aunt Helen’s garden

Lily 1

Lily 2

Lily 3

Lily 4

Lily 5

Lily 6

Lily 7

“As all must be,” I said within my heart,
“Whether they work together or apart.”
But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a ’wildered butterfly.

~ lines from “The Tuft of Flowers” by Robert Frost

Butterfly

My first facial — the cosmetic kind! — a mountaintop experience

Two reasons I feel lucky:

  • Due to a quirk of scheduling, I woke up yesterday to a view of the Rocky Mountains (Pike’s Peak to be particular) and I’m going to bed tonight with a long-distance view of the Appalachian Mountains. Oh, this great country is never so majestic as it is from the windows of an airplane or (and, actually) an automobile.
  • I didn’t know what “my first facial” was a euphemism for until I Googled in preparation for this post. Really! The internet is a cesspool!

Despite having lived in this skin 48 years and spending the past decade lamenting my wrinkles, I enjoyed my first facial last week (a cosmetic facial — with an esthetician for those of you with your minds in the gutter) while on a trip to Colorado Springs. I came by this experience completely by no effort on my part; it was part of the trip package earned by my Beloved for selling insurance. Lots of insurance.

In a previous career as a member of corporate staff, I occasionally enjoyed similar decadent incentive trips (the stellar sellers back then weren’t selling insurance — they were selling scrapbooks or food mixes). Ironically, one of those trips was a jaunt to Colorado in June, too, only there were no spa passes on that visit!

If you’ve never enjoyed a facial, I suggest you add this to your Christmas wish list. Here’s how mine went down:

First, I enjoyed the amenities only spa guests get the opportunity to luxuriate in: the whirlpool, the pool, the sauna, the oxygen room, the shower and the waiting room with expansive mountain views and my choice of cucumber water or lemon water (cucumber water, please).

Then I met Edwina. After I told her it was my first facial (I wonder if she’s Urban Dictionary-ed that phrase), she thoroughly explained what I was in for and we got started.

She tilted my chair, and the blood rushed to my face (this was a good feeling). A little aromatherapy “calmed and grounded my body.” Mm. She washed my face, and the sponge in her hands was exactly like getting my hair washed at the hair salon. I was in awe at how a simple, even boring procedure practiced by myself was a whole explosion of feel-good energy when performed by someone else. Ahh.

Then she triple-exfoliated my skin. That means she used an exfoliating cleanser, then a chemical exfoliation, then a pumpkin enzyme peel. These were not ooh-and-ahh experiences (but they weren’t painful either — Edwina’s fingers were like tiny dancers on my face). Apparently, exfoliations 2 and 3 “munched away all the dead skin” on my face. Forty-eight years worth of dead skin, baby!

Extraction time. I was looking forward to this because there was a bump above my eyebrow that refuses to go away. Alas, Edwina had no luck either. She diagnosed it as a collagen bump (only she didn’t say “bump” — as soon as she said “collagen,” my brain blacked out — not more age-related collagen problems!). She couldn’t find anything else to extract and proclaimed that whatever I’ve been doing to my skin, I should keep doing it.

Edwina then applied a mask to “tighten and firm” (maybe I should have had a triple-treatment of that!) and while it was tightening and firming, she massaged my scalp and my hands. More mm.

When I was done, my skin was as smooth as it’s been in 48 years, and that’s saying something. Of course, to look at me, you wouldn’t know I’d ever met Edwina. And now, four days later, my skin has pretty much the same texture as it did pre-facial. So if I was spending my own money, well, I’m not sure I’d spend the money to look younger. But if you could use some oohs and aahs, a facial (the cosmetic kind) might be a good option for you.

Hung up on hangers

It’s the little things.

In conversation with a professional organizer I know, she mentioned she uses Costco Non-Slip Hangers whenever she organizes a closet. She argued with conviction that a closet wasn’t organized until all the hangers are the same. Well, I thought, a professional organizer ought to know good hangers when she sees them, right? So I invested in a box, and changed out some of the old hangers in my closet.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Costco’s Non-Slip Hangers are amazeballs! They’re strong, thin and covered in a black felt-like substance that truly is non-slip. And they’re only $9.99 for a box of 35! After I used up the first box, I went back to Costco and got three more boxes, which is still less than I’d pay for a nice pair of pants.

You’ve got to see these for yourself.

Closet Before 2

Clothes closet before.

Clothes Closet After

Clothes Closet After

I am now addicted to my closet. Every time I’m upstairs for any reason, I walk into my closet, flip on the light and bask in the order of it.

Ahh.

(By the way, I recycled my old wire hangers at the dry cleaners. Check with your local cleaner to see if they accept hangers — giving those hangers a new life is better than filling a landfill!)

Minnesota spice company serves consumers with taste

A shelf in my spice cupboard. Actually.

A shelf in my spice cupboard. Actually.

I am a proud fan of Watkins black pepper.

Most people around here are proud fans of the Chicago Blackhawks, but I like to be different (plus, I’m no great fan of hockey, despite my Minnesota roots).

I also like Watkins paprika, cinnamon, chili powder and cumin. And pretty much every other spice Watkins sells.

Watkins Inc. is a small firm based in Winona, Minn. The 147-year-old company owned since 1978 by Minnesota businessman Irwin Jacobs, it may be best known for its personal-care products and food extracts, particularly vanilla.

Oh yeah! The vanilla! The only vanilla extract I use is from Watkins.

Unlike so much pepper I find in shakers everywhere, Watkins pepper has flavor. It has pep! It’s not just black specks on my food — I can taste it. And sneeze! Wow, it’s got achoo power.

Speaking of that subpar pepper found elsewhere, I learned last week Watkins is suing McCormick & Co., the nation’s largest spice company, accusing McCormick of “slack-filling” its containers. What used to be an 8-ounce container now contains only 6 ounces of the black stuff. Sitting the same shelf as Watkins pepper, it makes Watkins’ product look overpriced.

Apparently, three out of four containers of pepper are sold or packaged by McCormick while Watkins’ share of the pepper market is microscopic.

Sigh. Consumers en mass can be so dumb sometimes. When will we learn we get what we pay for?

I’m rooting for the little guy here, both because I hate big conglomerates and because Watkins pepper is far superior. And I think you should vote with your dollars, too. Shake off that other stuff and buy Watkins pepper (and any other spice from Watkins you can get your hands on). You won’t be sorry.