Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hanging out in bars is good for your marriage.

I wasn't aware that we needed a marriage tune-up. But I guess we did. And we got one. And it was glorious.

The other night, we went to a concert. We saw My Celebrity Boyfriend Dave Grohl in all his broken-leg, sitting-on-a-throne glory. I knew every song and felt - dare I say it? - cool.

My Guy felt pretty happenin', too. So, we did what cool and happenin' folk do - we went to a bar.

Now, you might say it was a tactical error to go to a bar not near the concert venue, but near our house. And you might be right. Because our local watering hole was kind of deserted. We sat at a table for about 10 minutes before we realized that the waitress had gone home and the bar was our only option. Not that any of the 4 bored bartenders loitering about actually told us this. We figured it out on our own.

So, we bellied up to the bar and ordered ourselves some Miller Lites. Because cold Miller Lite is the nectar of the gods. And if you don't believe me, there were about a dozen drunk people at the bar who would fight you for disagreeing.

Yes. We had stumbled into Drunktown.

There was the guy in the baseball jersey who had clearly been at the bar since the baseball game started some 6 hours earlier. He was holding court, but was in danger of falling off his bar stool.

Then there were the 3 guys who are probably good dudes but who had just enjoyed a little too much Miller Lite.

There were 2 old dudes who just looked sad, as you do at a bar at midnight if you're alone and over the age of 60.

And then there were two women. They both had a distinct "I have a few ill-conceived tattoos" vibe that did not promise stellar emotional well being. And lemme tell you: when those girls approached the bar, it was like throwing raw meat into a den of lions. All the menfolk were all over them.

Meanwhile, My Guy and I sipped our beers and studied the scene, like anthropologists. It was fascinating.

Baseball guy zeroed in on the broken woman with the ratty hair. She seemed to be on a mission to get him to buy her as many drinks as she could slam in a short amount of time.

The other broken woman bounced between the old guys and the probably normal guys, touching their arms and flipping her hair around. I was never good at flirting, but even I saw this as pathetic.

My Guy put his arm around me, partly to whisper in my ear and maybe also to let the leaches know that we were an item.

"Hey, babe?" he said. "You're a really attractive woman. But these girls make you look like a 13."

We laughed. I looked at him, and I looked at the drunken, desperate mating melee in front of us. "Thank God we're married," I said as we clinked glasses. "My appreciation of you grows stronger by the minute."

I looked into my beloved's eyes, and he looked into mine. We both glanced over as the baseball guy finally fell off his stool and managed to bring the ratty-haired woman down with him. Drinks were spilled. The desperation was palpable. And My Guy and I just sat in our smug nest of security and love and ordered another round.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book review: In the Unlikely Event.

I'm bad at librarying. I'll reserve a bunch of books, and they'll all become available at once, and you can't renew books that have a waiting list, so then I'll end up with this high-pressure "read all the books at once" marathon of reading and listening to audio books and it all just calls for a stiff drink.

I get greedy. I love the library. They give you books! For free! Sometimes I overestimate my own reading potential and underestimate my need for sleep.

Anyway. I reserved Judy Blume's latest at the library. I waited a few months for it to become available, and then I picked it up right before I went out of town. And then I was reading another book, and then, pretty soon, I realized I had 4 days to start and finish the book before it was due. It was pretty high-pressure.

But dammit if it wasn't worth it.

"In the Unlikely Event" is a book for adults, but the main character is a 15-year-old girl. And dammit if Judy Blume can't write young people.

Reading this book took me back to devouring Judy's books for kids. I'd get my hands on a new-to-me Judy Blume book and I was lost to the world until it was done. Her characters spoke to me - they had horrible thoughts and things they didn't tell anyone else - just like me. It was a revelation, and seemed crazypants that An Adult wrote such things. Adults clearly didn't know anything about being a kid.

Har har.

"In the Unlikely Event" gave me that throwback reading experience, but it's also just a well-written book. It's engaging, with a plot that keeps you guessing and doesn't leave everyone living happily ever after - kind of like life.

My inner 10-year-old ached for the perfect happy ending. But my outer 40-year-old was thankful for such a fun read. All told, I give it 4 airline ground crew dachshunds.
What's your favorite all-time Judy Blume book? If forced to choose at gunpoint, I'd probably say "Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself." You?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book review: A Lucky Life Interrupted.

There has only ever been 1 newscaster in my life, and that man is Tom Brokaw. I lurve him. I wanted Brian Williams to be Tom Brokaw Jr., but that didn't quite pan out. But it's OK, because Tom is still doing special assignments and writing books and we can still spend quality time together. Because Tom is going to live forever. I decided this, and it's fine.

So, when he was diagnosed with cancer, it really messed things up. What about meeeee, Tom?

Actually, I think Tom was thinking, "Meeeee?"

And then he wrote about it in this lovely book.

A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope is Tom's reflection on his cancer diagnosis and treatment, and coming to terms with his own fallibility. It's not a downer of a book, and it's not a "AND NOW EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE FOREVER" work of self-deception, either. It's honest and pragmatic. And Tom ...

(God help me, I can't stop referring to him by his first name, because I truly feel like I know him after 40 years together)

... acknowledges how lucky he has been in life, and how lucky he was in his health care options. The man's on the board of the Mayo Clinic, after all. And he can pick up the phone and call specialists and get the very best of the very best. He acknowledges this, and is humbled by the luxury.

But Tom also grumbles about how cancer took a few inches off his height. And how he hates the idea of not being able to go fly fishing, and the times he stupidly pushed his physical limits to disastrous consequences. He's honest, even in the ugly, "poor me" of being ill.

When my mom was sick, I wanted to make a t-shirt that said, "My mom has cancer, so fuck off." I'm a little touchy about magical unicorn books about illness, or woe-to-me outlooks. Honesty? Honesty is my jam. And my man Tom delivers.

I give this book four cancer-fighting labradoodles.

Important side note: My pal Alice once talked to Tom at a Starbucks and he was engaging and wonderful. Because he's from the Midwest. Ladies? If you want a nice, decent guy? Move here. We raise 'em right. Well, not "we" - I still can't totally potty-train my dachshund. But Midwestern ladies who have male human children? They do a good job.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book review: Rebecca

Friends? Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again AND IT WAS AWESOME.

So, yeah. I read Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca." I'd seen the movie a gajillion years ago, but had never read the book. And so, on our recent vacation, I sat by the pool, enjoyed a few adult beverages, and became completely terrified of Mrs. Danvers.

At one point, My Guy looked up from his Kindle and asked how my book was.

"Ohmigod, honey, it's crazypants," I said. "See, there's this kind of lady's assistant girl, who works for this horrible rich old lady, right? And she falls in love with this rich older guy and they get married, but when he takes her back to his estate, it turns out the housekeeper is completely obsessed with the dead first wife! And she died in a boating accident, but not really! And the evil housekeeper tries to get the young new wife to jump out the window!"

My sweet husband interrupted me. "And this is a true story? What the hell?"

Oh. "No, it's a novel."

My Guy sighed. "Oh. OK, then. Carry on."

But really, if you try to describe the action in this novel, it sounds like something out of Jerry Springer, but somehow classier because the characters are rich and have British accents. I don't think you could have a British accent and appear on "Springer." It just wouldn't work.

At any rate, I loved this novel. If it's been a while since you've read it, I'd encourage you to pick it up. Also? Here's a really interesting interview with du Maurier's son.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give "Rebecca" 5 haughty dachshunds.
Have you read "Rebecca?" What did you think?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Set adrift on memory bliss.

I was trying to be cool, working on my laptop at Starbucks. But I'm pretty sure I blew my own cover when I started belting En Vogue's "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)."

Call it a hunch.

See, Big Doodle had his cancer treatment today, or as I like to think of it, BLADDERRAMA!. And BLADDERRAMA! takes place at the holistic vet office that's a solid 45 minutes from our house. Last week, I dropped him off, drove home, then turned around and picked him up, then drove home through rush hour. It was not efficient, unless my goal was to get all road ragey.

So, today, I packed up 57 pounds of laptop, notebooks, and printouts, and camped out at Starbucks near BLADDERRAMA!. I am not typically a work-in-Starbucks kinda gal. I don't drink coffee, and it's so easy to just people watch. So, I guess I was out of practice and ill-prepared.

I just wasn't ready for Starbucks to be blasting the music of my youth, the tunes of my peoples. Instead playing some horrible CD they were hawking, they had some sort of Pandora station set to the 90s. Oh, the 90s - when I graduated from high school and college. When I wore flannel shirts, body suits, and high-waisted jeans and considered Bud Light the ultimate classy beverage.

In the grand scheme of things, I feel like the 90s weren't that great of a time to come of age. The one time in my life I had a rockin' bod, the style was oversized everything. I weighed less than 100 pounds and wore XL sweatshirts. It was just morally wrong. Plus, I didn't remember the music being that great.

Until today.

I was trying to write a website about Medicare. But then, I was all bopping along to Jamiroquai. And trying not to sing along to Big Head Todd or Deee-Lite or New Radicals. I realized there were probably a gajillion girls who lost the big V to Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" - although I wasn't one of them. And whatever happened to Lisa Loeb?

I really was trying to write about Medicare. But writing that website was a concern of Adult Becky. And Adult Becky had left the building. In her place was College Becky, who rocked those high-waisted jeans and hoped she could find a date to hayride. College Becky was really into "Counting Blue Cars" and knew on some level that these were good times that she'd look back on with fierce affection.

The thing about musical memories is that trying to share them is like forcing someone to listen to your dreams. It just doesn't translate. Musical memories are intimate, yours and yours alone.

Although I will tell you that "Counting Blue Cars" makes me want to stick my hands out of a sunroof and sing at the top of my lungs. Like you do when you've just turned 21 and everything is great and will be indefinitely.

What song triggers memories of your youth?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I got a lot of problems with you people.

My dad joined Facebook and didn't accept my friend request.

He became friends with my mom and my brother and my husband a bunch of other people. But me, his firstborn? Naw.

My Guy kept casually mentioning it. "Oh, did you see I have a new Facebook friend? I don't think you're friends with him, but he's a really cool guy."

Sometimes it's OK to punch your husband, right?

Later, Dad claimed it was a computer glitch, and boy wasn't it easy to mess things up on the Internet? I think he was afraid that things might devolve into fisticuffs - we were meeting up at a family reunion. And it would be kind of a downer if we had a brawl in front of all the cousins.

But instead, we got along just fine, as is our custom. And we hung out with everyone from his side of the family - and I do mean everyone. His 2 siblings, us 8 cousins, the 13 kids of the cousins, all the various and sundry spouses. It was the first time we'd all been together since my grandma's funeral in 2002, and man, was it good for my soul.

My brother organized the whole shebang, and each night had a program. One night, the siblings talked about their childhoods. The other nights, us cousins answered questions about our memories of family times. I had forgotten about reenacting "The Towering Inferno" in Grandma's basement ... and no, I'm not sure what to think of my cousin's lingering fondness for O.J. Simpson based on that movie. But he's kind of embarrassed about it, and it's all just fine.

It's lovely to have shared experiences, and it's such a gift to have family that really is just that: family. The people who are important to you, whom you love in ways you can't describe - even if you don't see them for 10 years or you think they're mildly (or moderately) insane.

I'm blessed.

And I was blessed today to take another family member, Big Doodle, to the holistic vet who has helped Lil' Frankfurter. My giant dog who has been peeing blood like it's an Olympic sport and he's training to be a gold medalist?

Yeah. We're now treating it like bladder cancer.

But because he is family, we are pulling out the big guns with vitamin infusions and herbal remedies. And because Big Doodle is love covered in fur, he was quite happy to get yet another catheter, to let the techs shave his ankle and give him an I.V. It was OK - he had trust.

I trust that we're going to do right by this dog. I know I am blessed to have him - and all those other crazy jokers - in my family. We're all just trying to do right by each other, even if it means accidentally not being Facebook friends or some such nonsense. We've got the important stuff covered.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book review: The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry

Another Wednesday, another book report!

If anyone would like to come over to my house and join me as I beat the hell out of my modem, that would be super-cool. You know what slowly but surely robs you of grace and dignity? An entire day of dial-up-esque Internet speeds.

But you know what book moves at a slow yet lovely pace?

That would be The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel. (How was that for a fancy segue?)

Harold is a retiree, a nobody who gets a letter in the mail from someone he used to work with. His former coworker is in hospice, and was just saying goodbye. Harold sets off to mail his reply ... and then becomes convinced that if he delivers the letter in person, he can keep his friend alive.

And so, Harold walks. Hundreds of miles in yachting shoes, with no cell phone. His wife is beside herself. What sort of crazypants idea is this?

The book unfolds slowly, carefully - like getting to know and appreciate an introverted person.

I don't want to share too much, as the beauty of this book is in how the story unfurls. I had a little trouble getting into it, because, after all? On the surface, it's just a lot of walking. But Harold's life, and his history with his coworker, the relationships with his wife and son - they are all told with love and brutal honesty.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is just a lovely little book. I give it 4 sauntering labradoodles.
Huge thanks to reader Karen for recommending this book about 17 years ago. My to-read pile is now only slightly taller than me. What great books should I add to it?