{What I Love} No15: library perks

There've been a lot of discussions, lately, over the validity of my career choice. True: I don't make a lot of money. I have to work on Saturdays. There isn't a ton of room for advancement (although I'd like to think that the library values me enough that if I needed desperately to work full time, they'd help me do that).

But, you know, despite the negatives, I love my job. The most stressful thing at work? The elevator. It smells vaguely like a carnival ride thanks to some persistent elevator-peeing boys a few years ago and the fact that it tends to need to be worked on quite often. Faint, ancient-urine + motor-oil scents = carnival ride in my book, but there isn't an amusement park thrill I'm less likely to visit than the library elevator. Being claustrophobic means I don't get along with them in the first place, but throw me in one that has the tendency to stop between floors? Cue elevated heart rate and sweaty palms.

Anyway---if the elevator is my job's most stressful part, I count myself fairly lucky in where I work. And plus, there are plenty of perks! For example, I get to talk about books to people who (usually) love reading. I get to see new books and place them on the shelf. I get to have my very own shelf to put my recommended reads and it's still thrilling to me when someone who doesn't know me picks up a book I've suggested. And! another perk: sometimes we librarians get to do the really cool stuff, which in my book (tee hee) is interacting with real, live authors. I mean: holy cow. I drove to Salt Lake City in the car with Marilynne Robinson! I had dinner with Laurie Halse Anderson! Ursula K. Le Guin almost decided to come to our library, and when we did To Kill a Mockingbird for our city reads program, Harper Lee sent us a letter. Yes, it's true, I have touched a letter written by Harper Lee.


Sometimes those writerly interactions result in another perk: the ARC. Advanced Reader's Copy, to spell it out. In December I got to read the ARC of Dan Wells's new novel, Partials, and let me just say: reading a real, live, bound book that still had some typos in it? Strangely thrilling to this aspiring writer!

I love dystopian and post apocalyptic novels (There is a difference). (One day I must get around to writing about why, and then I could link back to that post without having to write "I love dystopian novels.") As they are thehot genre right now, especially for adolescent readers, this makes me a lucky lover of dystopias—except when it doesn't. Some of the new crop aren't exactly the highest caliber, and some have thoroughly disappointed me; these are the ones written because it is the hot genre and not because the author had a completely convincing world view or political opinion to enrich the culture he or she was creating. The best dystopias are warnings, I believe, about where our current thinking might take us. So, even though the genre grabs my attention, and the new books get me excited, I'm still sort of picky about which ones I'll actually read. Partials, however, falls squarely in the camp of books-I'm-glad-I-read.

The book's premise:
Roughly twenty-five years ago, Partials—who are genetically-modified seemingly-human soldiers that the government invented to fight in a war—decided to up rise against humanity. In the process, a virus, RM, was released that killed almost the entire human population. The humans who are left were those who were immune to the virus, and they have gathered together on Long Island, where they're trying to rebuild humanity. The only problem: all the new babies are infected with RM right after they are born, and then die within three or four days of birth. The government of this human society has created an edict called the Hope Act, which means that every girl who is 18 or older must get pregnant, and continue getting pregnant, in the hopes that a child will be born who is immune to RM. So far, this hasn't happened and people are getting desperate. Some have formed The Voice, a ragtag group of outsiders who fight against the government's constraints.

Sixteen-year-old Kira, who has received medical training and works in the labor and delivery unit of the community's hospital, ends up taking her desperation in a different way. She has a sort of ah-ha moment of realization about the study of RM and wants to explore new directions. This desire leads her on her adventure, which is the crux of the story.

What I thought:
The thing I loved about Partials, and what I think sets it above the average group in the crop of recent dystopias, is that it grapples with some big questions. Why does humanity have the penchant for self-destruction? Why does absolute power always absolutely corrupt? Why do we allow our fear of the Other to damage us? Why do we tend towards violence as a solution to nearly every problem? How can we thrive without technology? What does it mean, really, to be human?

If a good dystopia takes a current scientific issue to its extreme application, the question this book asks isn't really "what if we develop technology that is more powerful than we are?" but "What if we never learn how to control our hunger for power?" In that sense, even though it's a dystopia founded in technology, it isn't really about technology but the social experience.

Another thing I liked was the teenaged characters. (More about the adult ones in a bit.) It is interesting that the teenagers, given the right knowledge, are able to see what adults cannot. I think that sometimes proves true in real life, too. Being less jaded than we are, teenagers are able to see a fresh perspective and thus things we overlook. The adult characters, however, seemed a little flat, too bound by their desire to save the world to see a new way of doing just that. Several of the reviews I read (after reading the book!) said the same thing.

Another thing lots of the reviewers said: they didn't think there was enough foreshadowing for the big surprise at the end of the book. Really? I sort of had the opposite reaction. Of course Kira...well, I can't really say what the big reveal is because I'm hoping you'll read the book too. But I saw the surprise coming and I think Dan Wells did do a good job in foreshadowing it.

So, there you have it: Partials by Dan Wells. A little gritty, a little edgy, but not smutty in the least. (In fact, the lack of almost any perceptible sexual tension was something else I enjoyed; the romantic triangle is getting more than a little bit worn out in my book.) And, if you like that sort of thing, it's got a lot of battles. I tend to sort of just skim over battle scenes, no matter how compelling the book is, and this book stayed true to that. Battle scenes? Eh. Sort of boring to me. (That is true for movies, too.)

The only problem with reading an ARC? (Aside from the fact that yes, there really are typos fairly often, and strange quotation marks in random marginal spots.) It's that now I have to wait even that much longer to read the sequel. Put perhaps, just maybe, I might get lucky again with another ARC. It's one of the perks, you know!

{What I Love} no14: this Valentine's Day

Life is ironic. Here I am, an avowed Valentine's Day hater, trying to de-grinch myself by writing all month about stuff I love. And life turns around and gives me one of my favoritest Valentine's Days ever.

Here's how it went:

First, this morning, I treated myself to a caramel hot chocolate from McDonald's on my way home from driving the kids to school. (Yes, I was still in my pajamas!) I made valentines for my kiddos, a batch of pizza dough for dinner, and a batch of sugar cookie dough for dessert, and then I rushed off to work, where my coworker immediately gave me a bar of chocolate.

When my shift was about half-way finished, I was sitting at the main desk. My library has what we call a bridge, which is a glassed-in walkway between two wings. I was working on some book group stuff (as I am wont to do) when I looked up and saw four middle-aged men walking across the bridge. They had on matching outfits: black pants, red sweaters with black shirts underneath, and black and red floral-print ties. I wonder who that obviously-a-barbershop-quartet group is going to sing to? I thought, sitting up straighter to greet them. Whomever it is is going to be slightly embarrassed.

I never thought it would be me.

But it was. Kendell had hired his friend's group to serenade me. In the middle of the library! It was awesome, even though I was blushing so hard I'm fairly certain I was purple. Before they started singing one of them asked me if they could sing as loud as they usually do, or if I would get fired. I made an executive decision to let them sing loudly. It was lovely and sweet and thoughtful and memorable!

When I got home, I discovered that Haley had cleaned the kitchen, Kaleb had made me a sweet Valentine cobbled together from some of his favorites from school, and Kendell had dropped by the jewelry store to pick up my anniversary/Valentine's Day gift (which I shall blog about tomorrow). More sweetness! I had to run to Costco quickly, as I had run out of time that morning to buy the pizza toppings. The second I got home all the kids and I worked together to make the pizzas. When we make pizza at my house, each kid has an 8" pan of his/her own. I spread the dough and then the kids make the exact pizza they want. Kaleb discovered he likes canadian bacon!

After we ate, we cut out the cookies, then baked them, and Kaleb just, all by himself while I was eating, frosted them all.

Tonight, I get it. I get why people love Valentine's Day. And while I don't think I'll get (or even want or need) jewelry, flowers, and a singing quartet every year from now on, that is OK. That it's happened just this year is good enough. It's awesome, in fact. Because now I have this Valentine's Day, the one I can look back on with sweet fondness no matter what any other year brings!

How was your Valentine's Day?

{What I Love} no13: continuity of our history

Twenty years ago today, I got married.

Why we chose February as the month to get married is beyond my recollection (or, frankly, understanding). I do vaguely remember my beloved joking that with our anniversary being so close to Valentine's day, we could totally save a whole bunch of time and money by celebrating both at once.

I seriously thought he was joking.

Despite the fact that I don't love the month of my anniversary, I confess that it is pretty cool that we made it this far. Twenty years—two decades—twice my lifetime. It makes me think about a conversation I had with a friend recently, one who's been divorced and is now remarried and much happier in her second marriage—but still sad about the loss of so many years. "You and Kendell have so much history together," she said. "It will take so long for us to have all those connections."

She's right. Twenty years builds up a lot of history. Dinners out and dinners in and dinners eaten standing up at the counter and not a few eaten in bed in front of the tv.  Vacations. Long drives. Holidays. Family parties. Losses. Joys. Lots of photos, lots of medical experiences, lots of trips to the grocery store, the gas station, the pharmacy. Big events---graduations, births, deaths. Small moments---a familiar smile, feet against feet under the covers, a laugh at an inside joke.

Four amazing, wonderful children.

Lots of arguments. Lots of discussions. Lots of disagreements. Lots of compromises. In fact, if someone were to ask me what one of the secrets of staying married, I'd say: be willing to love and forgive as hard as you are willing to fight. Maybe that is our only secret.

When I was my nearly-twenty self on the day I got married, I had no idea what it would be like. I thought marriage would be about romance. That sleeping in the same bed with someone you love would be the ultimate experience. That happiness would be easy. I know now that happiness is elusive, snuggling is fairly overrated, and romance isn't the point most of the time. Marriage is just about living, trying to live with each other and to make a life together that makes you both happy enough. I don't know if that sounds jaded—I hope not. It is honest.

But what I also didn't know when I was a 19-year-old newlywed was the peace that would be built upon the continuity of our history. The days building upon the days, stacking up into a new structure we can't really even describe even though we live on top of it. It is a blessing, that structure. It is a life, one we both love.

{What I Love} no10: cute running clothes

(Please forgive the lapse in blogging. Kendell and I were out celebrating a milestone this weekend, which I shall blog about tomorrow.)

While I prefer that people might think of them in the euphemistic ideal of "muscular," when you come right down to it there's just no way to put it other than this: I have large thighs. In fact, they're downright disproportional. . . if I ever find a pair of jeans with a size 6 waist and a size 8 thigh I'm buying at least five pair. Until then, I'd say I like shopping for swimsuits more than shopping for jeans. (Which is saying a lot, because when I shop for swimsuits I have to try to cope with the other disproportional part of my body.)

I've mostly come to accept this fact about my body. I try to think of my thunder thighs in affectionate terms. They're strong! They can go forever, be it a day-long hike or an extra-long run I'm asking them to carrying me through.  They are...well, that's all I've got. They're strong!

Not very pretty, though. And definitely not easy to shop for. Forget the jeans: sometimes exercise clothes are just as complicated. Especially those cute tiny shorts so many runners are able to wear. If I went out in shorts like these? Well, I'd come home bleeding from the chafe. Because one of the perks of big muscular thighs is that no matter how much weight you lose or how in shape you get, your thighs still touch. Which means that when you run? Your thighs rub together.

So cute, tiny running shorts? Never going to work for me. I've worked around this by shopping long and carefully for longer running shorts. I have three pair I bought four years ago at Target. They're really starting to get worn out but, despite the fact that they have no pockets ("lack of pockets" is one of my running-clothes tirades), I keep wearing them because they work.

Still, despite the large-thigh issue, there is something motivating in finding cute running clothes. It's simply easier to get out the door when you feel like you don't look sloppy as you're slogging down the street. And I'll freely confess that I probably do own too many running clothes. But I feel a little bit justified in buying them anyway because A---I'm a careful shopper (READ: I always buy stuff on sale) and B---if a cute new running top lifts up any flagging motivation, it's money well-spent. My heart, lungs, and brain all agree.

I used to look at the runners in running skirts with envy. Those tiny little shorts under their skirts? Would never stand up to my inner-thigh chafing. Ever! But then I discovered, one lucky day at my local running store, the magic that is Skirt Sports. I say "lucky" both because I learned about the existence of a longer running skirt with 5" shorts underneath AND  because said skirt was on sale. (Plus it was pink. Happy sigh.) It is the perfect skirt for me. The shorts under the skirt even have pockets. Pockets! and prettiness!

I love my pink skirt. I wore it when I achieved one of my running goals at the Hobble Creek Half Marathon. I wore it for one of my Ragnar legs. I wore it for every single one of my long runs while training for my marathon, and of course, I also wore it for my marathon. It made me feel strong in a feminine sort of way.

But one skirt won't last forever. And when I found another Skirt Sports skirt on sale, I bought it for myself for Christmas. I was saving it for the perfect day when I A---actually went running (I haven't been very diligent since "winter" set in) and B---the weather was good. That day was Friday, when I'd been home all day with one kid struck down by walking pneumonia and another who'd been barfing his guts out all day. The second Kendell came home I was gone. Mostly because it was so beautiful. Fifty-two sunny degrees is abnormal February weather but I decided that to waste it would be unpardonable (and wouldn't make it snow anyway).

I felt exhilarated and happy and energized for about a half mile, and then the reality of not running for six weeks hit me hard. My lungs hurt and my infamous thighs felt weak. But I finished my three-point-two-five miles and I'm certain my cute new running skirt:

Running skirt
totally had something to do with it! (My favorite pink headband didn't hurt either!)

What is your opinion on exercise clothes?

{What I Love} no 9: my favorite lunch

There are plenty of days when I skip lunch, or grab a handful of almonds and/or cashews and call it good. (I think that God was feeling particularly brilliant on the day he invented cashews!) But when I do take time to sit down and eat a proper sort of lunch, it is nearly always this:


It might be the world's perfect from-a-can soup. I sprinkle a little bit of cheese on the top and toss in some avocados if I have them. Sometimes I also crumble some tortilla chips on top. This has been my go-to lunch for more than a year now, and it's still a favorite. Since no one else but me enjoys eating soup, I've really stopped trying to force it down their throats—even though I do make some fairly awesome soups. (You should try my creamy potato! or my minestrone! or even my taco soup! Or, ooooh, one I just thought of, white chicken chili. They are good. No one else in my family believes me, but it is true.) I just can't eat them all by my lonesome.

So I resorted to canned soup, because, you know? I love soup. It's apparently one of the ways I am a freak of nature, but whatever. And this fajita chicken soup? So good, even if it does come from a can. The ingredients are all healthy, it's low in calories. And totally delicious!

What is YOUR favorite lunch?

{What I Love} no8: Lazy Days

***Yesterday at work, I watched a young mom. She had three little kids, two in a double stroller and one older one who kept running away from her. As I watched her try to navigate the 600's, keep the preschooler from pulling books off the shelf, find the littlest one's binki, and encourage the middle one to please sit down in the stroller no you can't get out I'm almost finished just a few more minutes, I realized a truth about my life that I am finally starting to see: I am grateful to be where I am.

This took me a long time, making peace with the fact that there will be no more babies. I loved that time in my life with a fierce intensity. I loved it, yet I was also just so tired  during those years. I wouldn't change a day of it but I also haven't forgotten that it was not all sweet babies and snuggling. It was hard. So I am also loving this time in my life, which of course has its own hard things. But I also have more freedom, more solitude, and more flexibility—exactly the things I longed for when I was a young mom with three babies only four years apart. Part of my making-peace process is my conscious acknowledgement of appreciating the freedom and the flexibility and especially the solitude.

I read on a friend's facebook page this morning a thought that I have pondered all day today: "Depression is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of trying to remain strong for too long." This thought resonates with me on several levels, the bloggy one being this: solitude and quiet help me remain strong for longer. While I've always believed in the restorative power of a day to yourself, I've not always had the luxury of actually having a day. Now that I do have them here and there, I try to keep in mind that young mother I used to be. Spending a day lazing about is a way of paying homage to her, of telling her thank you for being strong for so long and for getting me to this place in my life when I can look at the mom of three young babies and not feel envious anymore.

Today I did just that. I did have a frantic sort of morning, where Nathan had an essay he needed me to proofread for him before school, and Haley had a biotech project that wasn't printing correctly. I drove the carpool, stopped by the copy store, took the biotech project to Haley, got gas in the van and stopped by the post office. But after that (aside from being hideously embarrassed by my carpool duties clashing with my promise to pick up my friend Wendy from the hospital), I didn't do much. I wrote for awhile. I made two scrapbook layouts. I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 and bawled my eyes out from the time they go back to Hogwarts to the closing credits. I helped Nathan with his spelling and then I laid on the couch and tried to finish my book while Kaleb sat next to me also reading. (I'm trying to transition him into reading on his own; this is not going smoothly.) I made tacos for dinner.

And even though I can't help but feel guilty for not also doing a load of laundry, cleaning out a closet or organizing a shelf or two, or even doing the checkbook (that deep-down, unavoidable guilt), I also feel a great sense of peacefulness tonight. That deep-down guilt tells me that I should feel ashamed and weak because of my need for occasional lazy days, but I try not to listen to it. I try to remember that, weakness or no, I need the lazy days. They help me to continue on trying to be strong. And I love and appreciate that my life is giving them to me right now.

***sidenote: I didn't leave that young mom to fend for herself. After my little epiphany I hustled over to help her find what she was looking for: a Pilates book. She apologized for her kids and I assured her that they were fine and she was doing a great job.

{What I Love} no7: WordPerfect

There are very few things I learned in high school that I actually use in my adult life. (Is this a blanket statement that applies to everyone? Or is it just me and my adolescent oddities?) For certain none of my extracurriculars are helping me now—they didn't even help me then very much. I learned to love Margaret Atwood in high school and I still use that skill regularly. I learned the art of the mixed tape from, oddly enough, the three days in tenth grade I spent in seminary. I learned that history is interesting when correctly taught. Oh! I learned to drive, to type, and to make cheese fondue. And I learned WordPerfect.

And honestly, aside from the driving and the typing, WordPerfect is the high school skill I use the most. Let's be perfectly up front about it: I really, really hate Word. I hate it on principle—because I want to resist the homogenization of the world. But I also I hate it because it doesn't think the way I need it to think. I'm functional with Word because I need to be. I based an entire class on it. I use it because the world says I must. But it feels like speaking Spanish feels: the same world but translated differently. Plus it frustrates me to no end with how it tries to control too much.

But WordPerfect? That is my natural word processing habitat. I've never stopped using it since I learned how in tenth grade. I've been with it since it was the blue screen with a blinking cursor. I remember when mouse control was added and no one thought that a computer mouse would ever actually catch on. (Won't it always be faster, the argument went, to just use the function keys?) I remember the furor caused when Windows versions of software started being released.

I remember when every keyboard in the world had a WordPerfect template above the function keys.

You know what I also remember?

All the keystrokes. (Because they were right: it is faster to keep your hands right on the keyboard instead of reaching for a mouse.) And not just the obvious ones. I can get to Typesetting, Merge, Macros, Tables, Spell Check, and almost any feature you can think of, all without taking my fingers off the keyboard.

Of course, this knowledge doesn't help me much in the real world. I still have to use Word for anything that is leaving my computer for the wide world. (Usually, though, I still write it in WordPerfect and then convert it to a Word doc.) It still makes me happy, using WordPerfect. I'll use it as long as they keep making updates. Because, say I wanted to make something like the subway art on this layout

Sat write feb music
in Word. It would be a painful process of multiple text boxes and frustration over text spacing. Using WP (one text box and the handy "Advance" feature), I made it in 30 minutes. I might have sat back and declared myself a word processing genius when I was done.

So even though it makes me seem a little bit odd and a whole lot dated (when I was teaching, one of my students noticed me using WordPerfect and told me it just made me "vintage" which I suppose should make me feel hip & elegant & cool in a shabby sort of way, even though it really only makes me feel old), I'm sticking by my favorite word processor. Function keys and all. I think my tenth grade teacher would be proud. Maybe prouder if I could actually remember her name? Ah, oh well. At least I remember the keystrokes she taught me.

Do you have a little-known computer software you love and adore beyond reason?

{What I Love} no6: our Superbowl Traditions

No one in our family is a football superfan. Kendell will watch the Superbowl and sometimes a random game he happens to catch, but in general, he doesn't have a team he loves enough to watch all the games. (Something I am eternally grateful for because here's how I feel about football: hate it almost as much as basketball. It's frustrating and, I confess, a little bit boring to me. Probably because I don't know the rules and I don't know the teams and I certainly don't care about the players, most of whom seem to act like spoiled babies with too much money.) But we all look forward to the Superbowl for two reasons: the commercials and the food.

I love the Superbowl Sunday traditions that have sprung up in my family over the past six or seven years. I love that my kids rely on the same food being there—that it's become a given, a thing about life without which life would not make sense. I love that they talked about it all week and that they helped me prepare it. I love that we have this thing together. And that no one really cares about the game.

The Superbowl taught me to love avocados, a story I might just tell this month. But today I'm sharing one of my Superbowl recipes with you. The other one is just a seven layer dip: refried beans, guacamole, salsa, olives, flavored sour cream (mix in some taco seasoning), and cheese. (Note that at our house, the seven layer dip is really only six layers, because no one, not even me, likes raw green onions.)

It just wouldn't be Superbowl Sunday without pizza sticks. I heard the general idea for this once on a cooking show; I thought it was Rachael Ray's but I haven't been able to confirm that. (But am disclosing so as not to plagiarize.) Here's how you make them, Amy style (the original method called for pizza dough in a can and that, dear friends, is so not my style.)

Pizza Sticks
3 cups warm water
2 T yeast
2 T sugar
2 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
handful of Parmesan cheese
8 cups (ish) flour

Proof the yeast and sugar in the warm water for 10 minutes. Blend in the remaining ingredients, adding flour in ½ cup increments until soft dough forms. Knead for about 4 minutes (you want the cheese to be really incorporated into the dough). Let rise for about 1 hour.

Assemble whatever pizza ingredients you like. I use:

mozzarella cheese, shredded
Canadian bacon

Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll it out into a rectangular shape. Sprinkle cheese on half of the rectangle, then cover the cheese with any of the ingredients. (They work best with just one extra ingredient.) (I also make some that just have cheese.) Fold the non-cheesy side of the dough rectangle on top of the side with the pizza toppings. Press the seam down firmly, then give the dough a few extra swipes with your rolling pin for good measure.

Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into strips. Carefully pinch the edges together, then twist each strip into a spirally stick. Some of the ingredients might fall out; just carefully tuck them back in. Let rise under a towel for about twenty minutes. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes, or until done. Serve with marinara, bleu cheese, and Caesar for dipping.


Do you have any Superbowl traditions?

{What I Love} no5: Black & White Florals

If I had a gagillion dollars lying around wanting to be spent, you know what I would do with it? (After first doing something philanthropic with my windfall, of course, and stocking the kids' college funds and paying off my mother's mortgage.) I would buy all-new furniture, and nearly all of it would be in black and white floral. (In this fantasy my husband doesn't get to have a say.) There would be splashes of solid colors here and there—pink, perhaps, or green. The bedding would be b&w floral, too. Maybe even the towels.

I love it so much.

I've already made a quilt with a b&w flannel I found awhile ago, which is as far as I've gotten in my real-world financials. Well, that and B&w floral scrapbooking paper. And, a couple of years ago when Target had their Liberty of London collection? I confess to buying almost every black & white item in the line. Actually, just writing that list made me feel a little bit better because at least I have some b&w floral accents around!

I can't quite explain why this look appeals to me so much. It simply seems so elegant. Feminine, with the clean contrast and the swirly pattern. And totally unlike my own real world of practical furniture that hides accidental greasy-hand smears or is just holding on for a few more years.

But! As luck would have it, I need new dishes. The hodgepodge of everyday dishes we've used for the past 20 years is finally growing thin. And I have made an executive decision: since Kendell picked out the last set of dishes we purchased together (back in 1992, when we'd been married for just one week, and we went shopping at Linens 'n Things with some of the cash we'd been given at the reception), a completely serviceable set of white plates with red and black rims and an image of a pasta bowl in the center, it's totally my turn to pick out our new set. And here are the dishes I want:

(GAH! Stupid typepad won't upload my image. I've tried for 30 minutes now. Here is a link until I can get the photo to upload.)

Swoon. I love them! Do you have any sort of home decor that is irresistible to your very soul?

{What I Love} nos 2 & 3

(We had to reformat our computer this weekend, which meant no blogging for me despite my blog-every-day goal. Such is life. Moving forward!)

{What I Love} no3: Lavender Comet
I don't remember doing many household jobs when I was a kid. My mom was fairly obsessive about washing windows, which we did every spring. We each had a dishes night. I sometimes did the vacuuming. But I don't think we had a prescribed schedule for getting stuff done. In fact, keeping the house clean was one of my parents' Big Issues, the things they fought over quite a bit, especially after my dad was laid off. My mom, who was working full time, (understandably) thought that my dad could do some housework. I don't know exactly how my dad felt about it, except I knew this: If we came home from school to a nearly-pristine house, with my dad finishing up the vacuuming, I'd get an anxious belly and my pulse would accelerate because I knew they'd been arguing.

(It still makes me anxious to see a man vacuuming. Strangely enough, one of my marriage's Big Issues is keeping the house clean, but even if Kendell is helping out just to help out and not because of an argument---and, let's face it, I'm the messy one in this equation---I get an anxious belly and my pulse starts to accelerate.)

So it would be logical to think that none of my childhood memories associated with housecleaning would be positive ones. Au contraire, mon fraire. Because despite the emotional weight placed upon housecleaning during my childhood, I drew great happiness from any job that involved scrubbing with Comet cleanser. Scrubbing the gunk out of our orange kitchen sink at the end of cleaning the kitchen? I'd look forward to that during the whole time I was doing dishes. But the best was scrubbing the tub. I'd get the scouring pad and the can of Comet and happily scrub away for a good half hour. While I worked I'd invent little commercial jingles for why you should use Comet to clean your tub, or envision some magical House Cleaning Fairy stopping by and declaring me the best tub cleaner ever. (I'm still waiting for that visit.) There's something completely satisfying at scrubbing away those grey scratches that pans make or the grimy rim of hairiness left after a long soak that included two rounds of bubbles and shaving one's legs (and possibly more than one dropped book).

And, you know, despite the emotional weight that's grown up upon housecleaning now that I'm an adult, I still love scrubbing the sink and the tub. With Comet. Only, not the kind in the green can. I like the lavender scented Comet. Not because it cleans any better---it really doesn't. It doesn't even really smell like flowers. But it does smell like I remember Comet smelling during my epic bathtub scrubbings as a kid. (Even though I am fairly certain that the green Comet was the kind my mom bought.)

Now I sprinkle some on my sink almost daily. I scrub it with a scouring pad, erasing all the day's dings and nudges and stains. It's soothingly immediate, a nearly-instant reward for your effort. The grime rinses away and I'm left with a clean, white sink and no regrets. I wish life's dings and stains were as easy to rinse away, but I'm grateful that at least the sink doesn't have any remorse.

{What I Love} no4: Eyebrow waxing
Sometimes I feel guilty for this. It feels like an indulgence that only The Fabulous People should deserve. In fact, I was nearly 35 before I even touched my eyebrows. (I look back now at my pre-waxing days and cringe. Holy Muppet Character!) Once a friendly and Very Fabulous student of mine pointed out that I really would look better if I shaped my eyebrows, I decided to give it a try. Except, I'm not very good at things like keeping stuff even and straight. So I kept her recommendation in mind until one day—for who knows why—I suddenly was brave enough to let the professionals handle it. I walked right into a Fantastic Sams (I know! Fancy!) and got my eyebrows waxed.

Now I wish I could do it about once a week. Instead, I try to maintain my non-muppet status with tweezers until the eyebrows get in front of me and I can justify going to get them waxed again. Usually they get in front of me because I take out my contacts and wear my glasses for a week or so. Since January was the Pink Eye Month at my house, I wore my glasses for a solid three weeks.

Return of the Muppet Character! When I put my contacts back in on Thursday, I was astounded to see just how icky and overgrown my eyebrows were. Totally justified waxing! First thing Friday morning I had them waxed. Now they're smooth and lovely and put forth not even a hint of Muppet. Is it indulgent? Is it a luxury normally denied those in my tax bracket? I don't care. It's way less painful than tweezing. Faster and more accurate, too. And it makes me feel more polished and presentable.

It's certain: having your eyebrows waxed is a Thing To Love!