Sunday, December 25, 2022

It's cold

the kind of cold that pushes every other topic out of the way. 

I mean, what else is there to think about when the water faucet's incessantly dripping in the sink to keep the pipes from freezing, and the dog's whimpering at the door but refusing to go outside, and the power company's texting scary warnings about the overloaded power grid. 

My anxious mind has a field day with bad weather. The what ifs and the what will we dos. 

We gather up candles, just in case, and my husband readies the generator. We brave the cold to shovel the driveway and clear off the car in ten-minute shifts. We bundle up the dog in her cozy winter coat and coax her out the door with treats. At night we drive the icy roads to pick up my brother at the airport. Miraculously, his flight isn't cancelled, and only one weird snafu with the luggage, but it all works out. 

Remember this:

a neighbor snow blowing our sidewalks and 

another neighbor bringing over homemade fudge (he has a bushy white beard and when I see him trudging through the snow, I call him Santa, and he laughs and says he gets that a lot this time of year) and

a dear friend risking a drive across town to bring gifts and homemade treats (specially made for my brother who is vegan) and

the kids calling, and family calling, and friends calling, everyone safe and warm and happy.

At night my brother and I do a puzzle like old times, Bing Crosby crooning in the background about white Christmases, and I tell a story about one of my favorite volunteers at the library, eighty years old, but still coming in twice a week to help and always with a smile. Hello! I always say when she walks through the doors, How are you? 

She always answers the same way. I'm here, Jody, and that means it's a good day. 

Christmas morning and the water plinks in the sink. It's eight degrees outside, but so very warm inside. 

I'm here. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

In which I watch all the Christmas Rom Coms so you don't have to

Okay, I didn't have to, either. And not to throw my husband under the Christmas sleigh, but this was his idea. It goes back to the Covid Christmas of 2020 when our daughter and then-boyfriend/now-husband were quarantining with us and did a non-stop, multi-week, rom-com fest of Hallmark channel holiday movies that my husband and I mocked and then grudgingly half-watched and then sorta settled into and now feel an aching, nostalgic fondness for. 

Cut to: Christmas this year, with no adult kids at home, and maybe we wanted to capture that same magical fondness. [I just read this to my husband and he is adamant that it was not HIS idea, but MY idea.]

Regardless, we started our own version of the Holiday Rom Com Fest tradition, which is half a movie each night from Thanksgiving to now. (The half a movie per night thing is due to the fact that I typically conked out every night roughly partway through the one hour and thirty-minute movie.)

First up was the popular Netflix movie Falling for Christmas, starring Lindsay Lohan and this guy who really looked familiar but we couldn't place him and it turns out he was a minor-ish character on Glee. This movie hit that sweet spot between Really Stupid and Entertaining Because It's So Stupid. It features Lindsay Lohan as a spoiled ski hotel heiress literally falling off a cliff, waking up with amnesia, and being taken home by the Glee Guy, who's the owner of a struggling cozy inn/widower with an adorable daughter who makes a Christmas wish that her dad finds love.

So dumb and yet weirdly sweet, and I'd give it four candy canes on a five candy cane scale, except I was too distracted by the Glee Guy's ridiculously floopy hair, so I give it three. 

Castle for Christmas with Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes. She's a romance author who buys a Scottish castle. He's the owner who doesn't want to sell (to her). The townspeople are quirky and fun. The Princess Bride actor rocks the Scottish accent. Brooke Shields is gorgeous. Both characters are on the far end of middle aged, but hey! Why can't we oldsters find true love? Five candy canes!

Let it Snow. Teens find love on a snow day. That's about all I remember because I kept falling asleep.

Christmas Inheritance. Wealthy heiress stuck in a small, charming town. She's pretending to be poor (long story). He's the manager of the inn. Andie MacDowell is the wise mentor figure/bakery shop owner that elevates the whole thing. But what IS it with these romantic guys and their weird hair? This one's looked like it was pasted onto his head. Three candy canes for Andie McDowell.

Christmas with You. She's a famous singer who's waning in popularity. He's Freddie Prinze Jr. There's a fifteen-year-old daughter and an over-the-top quinceaƱera party. I love Freddie Prinze Jr. Three and a half candy canes. 

Noel Diary. Famous mystery author goes home to clean out his dead mom's hoarder house and falls for a girl searching for her birth mom. Wasn't sure where this one was going at first. Oh my God! Are they brother and sister? 

Spoiler: no. Three candy canes because once I figured that out, I was bored. 

Single All the Way. Gay best friend roommates pretend to be engaged when they visit one guy's hometown. Both guys are adorable and there's a whole fun side plot with the crazy aunt (Jennifer Coolidge), a frustrated actress defiantly trying to put on the town's nativity play she calls "Jesus H. Christ." Four big tasty canes. 

Happiest Season. This is the opposite of Single All the Way because it features two lesbians who pretend to be straight roommates so as not to offend the hometown homophobic family. Not a rom com? Also, this was the only movie where I did not want the two characters to end up with each other. They both (and really everyone in the family) need serious therapy. On the other hand, it was the only movie that I watched in one night without falling asleep. So, two candy canes, I guess, for keeping my attention? 

California Christmas. Super rich playboy pretends to be a farmhand so he can convince a dairy farmer daughter to sign over her land. I don't even know where to start with how dumb this movie is. The dairy farm's in Wine Country but the rich guy wants to put an Amazon style warehouse there? The girl has an entire dormant grape field that she forgets about until the end? WHO IS MILKING THE COWS? Half a candy cane. 

Love Hard. A writer famous for her articles about her bad dates finds love on a dating site, flies to his hometown to surprise him for Christmas, but SHE's the one who's surprised because he lied about his identity and used his more attractive friend's photo. Now she's pretending to be his girlfriend while getting dating tips from him to woo the attractive friend.

I loved everything about this movie. The fun, smart dialogue--playful arguments about Die Hard being a Christmas movie and Thoreau being a whiney jerk and whether or not "Baby It's Cold Outside" is too non-consent-y to be a Christmas song. The slew of quirky side characters--the narcissistic older brother, the boss demanding another bad-date article, the wine-drinking best friend. And lots of cute subplots with uber drivers and climbing walls and a steakhouse date with a vegetarian. 

Five candy canes plus a bonus candy cane because I really am glad the two got together, and I would so live in that charming hometown, and for one hour and thirty minutes I forgot it was just going to be me and husband for Christmas, 

Which, you know what? That is actually not a bad thing at all, especially now, with our new favorite tradition.  

Yes, what DID happen to Ted, Lindsay Lohan? 

PS: Share your favorite Christmas Rom Com and win a free virtual candy cane! 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

At the grocery store we check ourselves out

We scan our canned goods and weigh our vegetables. There's a helpful baggage merry-go-round thingy where you can set up your own cloth bags (the grocery store doesn't provide plastic bags anymore, but does offer paper bags, a nickel a piece). I scan the items, fumbling with the spaghetti squash and searching containers for the UPC code. My husband does the bagging. 

He's not thrilled with this new system, which is nearly all self-check-outs and only a handful of full service. The full service ones all have long lines. Who wants to stand in a line? We're both in grumpy moods when we leave the store. I'm thinking about how we just paid an arm and a leg for three avocados and the privilege to scan them and weigh them and count them. 

My husband's griping about the bags. Our car beeps.

We almost just hit that lady, my husband says. Thank God we have a car back-up camera. He goes back to talking about the bags, how we need sturdier ones, ones with flat bottoms, for ease of packing. 

He jerks the car to a stop again. That lady, he says. Look at her just wandering. 

I do look at her just wandering. She's older than us and weaving with her grocery cart from one side to the other, a sad brave smile on her face. She forgot where she parked, I say. 

Well, it's going to get her killed, my husband says. 

Eh, give her a break, I tell him. She's a ding dong. 

We're both on edge. The same afternoon in our neighborhood there was a Proud Boys White Supremacist march. I saw it in the news and recognized the houses. These are streets where I walk the dog. Men with masks covering their faces were protesting a drag story time. 

Some of the men had guns. They didn't like the idea that other people might want to go to a drag story time. A police officer high-fived one of the men. Later, the city's police chief said that was a form of community relations. 

We're almost home with our expensive, carefully self-scanned and bagged groceries. At the corner of our street, there's what looks like a protest march, and I'm instantly tense. Men wearing gray uniforms, some of them holding huge... guns? It takes me a minute to realize this is a Christmas parade. People are dressed in costumes. The men in gray are the Ghostbusters. The guns are their proton blaster things. 

The world changed somewhere along the way and I keep realizing it. Or it's always been this way and I have to learn it again and again. I'm the ding dong lady in the parking lot, gripping my cart, searching, grinning, hoping for the best. 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Nearly ten days without a refrigerator

and my husband and I were annoyed, but resigned to tough it out, packing up coolers on the back porch, the bottles of condiments, the eggs and cheese, all of the Thanksgiving leftovers. (Yes, the refrigerator conked out on Thanksgiving night, gradually, and then all at once.)

While we were enjoying dessert, my husband scrolled around online to order a replacement, excited that one could be delivered Saturday. It was only after he placed the order, that we realized that Saturday actually meant the following Saturday. Worse, the weather had turned weirdly warm, creeping up into the fifties, so we had to keep replenishing the ice out in the coolers. Still, how quickly we adapted, 

heading out to the back porch for an egg or the mustard. We farmed out leftover turkey to a friend's freezer. We made do with room temperature drinking water. Nine days of this, and I said to my husband, Maybe, we don't even need a fridge! 

Haha I was joking, but it was good to know that we could deal with a major inconvenience without coming to blows. (Although, there was one moment when we did snap at each other over our not-entirely-frozen chocolate banana smoothies. The frozen bananas had gone to... gloop out in the cooler.) 

Totally unrelated, all week I was reading a book about the various transitions we go through in our lives, 

how we grapple with events that might shatter us—the job losses, the health crises, a death in the family. Along with those that are presumably joyous—a marriage, a career change, a new baby. For a while we spin around in confusion, trying to make sense of the new reality, but eventually we absorb, we manage, and eventually, we might even thrive again. Which is good to know, because for most of us, there'll be at least a dozen of these events over a lifetime.   

Living without a refrigerator for nearly ten days is a blip in the ultimate scheme of things. It's nowhere near as time consuming or emotional as a wedding. And it doesn’t come close to approaching the shock and grief of a death in the family. 

Coming so quickly after those two, though, I can tell you it's a blip that hits a tad harder, the kind of thing where you say, What else can happen? and then immediately want to reel those words back in, because you know what else can happen, and you really don't want to tempt fate, especially when you're still in the "spinning around in confusion"/"absorbing it" stage. 

Anyway, finally, the day came for the new fridge to arrive, and I almost couldn't believe it, thinking there would be a delivery delay or maybe it wouldn't fit properly. But it was almost too quick and easy how it all worked out. Within a few hours the condiments were back in their proper place, the eggs fitted into the lovely egg compartment, bananas freezing up nicely for the next morning's smoothies, 

everything normal again, at least in the kitchen.