Sunday Lowdown #203

THIS WEEK IN REFLECTION

I absolutely kept mixing up my days this week. Every day was totally Friday. Turns out, that was not true, except on Friday. The huge winter blizzard headed toward our area changed our Christmas travel plans several times. We were going to leave Friday. Then, the oncoming blizzard changed our plans to Thursday (we shall beat this storm!). Realizing my father-in-law wouldn’t be able to get to us if we left early and the blizzard struck him, we changed again, this time to Saturday. We hoped by leaving after the worst of the blizzard, the roads plowed would be clear.

Meanwhile, I was home planning out a menu, asking Biscuit to get certain foods while I had others, and preparing meals in my kitchen that could go right in the oven at Biscuit’s. Come Friday night, it looks like an apocalyptic haze outside. It was not snowing, but it looked like it, which is confusing. It was hard to see, and as the freezing temperatures went down and down we started barricading our windows from the cold with blankets, sheets, clothes pins, clamps, an ironing mat, framed pictures, Zoom lighting stands, shoes — whatever we could find. And still I felt the wind blowing on my ankles, coming from inside the kitchen cabinets themselves, in which icy bowls and baking dishes reside.

Meanwhile, we’ve been receiving holiday cards from people we’ve met this year, and I did not realize there were so many new friends. I got a gift sent from Alabama and one delivered in person by the neighbor with the chickens, Judy! Typically, we reliably receive cards from the President of the University of Notre Dame and from the bank. In 2022, we got those cards, sure, but also ones from people-people!

Nick and I also send out cards. We write a little summary of 2022 together and then print it and cut it out to glue in plan, blank cards. On the front, I glue the fronts of Christmas cards from years past that Biscuit gives me. That way, we’re a little crafty, a little recycle-y, and everyone gets a different card, which I like. Also, there is glitter everywhere for several days, and I can’t help but smile at that.

Unfortunately, I had a rather scary anxiety attack in the middle of the week. Nick gifted me $50 to a nail salon I like. I asked for the mani/pedi and chose the upgraded pedicure listed at $38. The woman said, “Okay, $53” and I (naturally??) thought she meant that would be the total. No, they changed their prices, but not on the signage and I ended up spending $100. I felt so betrayed and duped and didn’t know what to do. The salon is inside a big box grocery store, so I left to get a few items and was fixating on food prices, which have doubled here. I’ve noticed our grocery bill going up, but now I’m laser-focused on how much everything costs. Thus, the panic attack and Nick choosing to come home from work early because he was duly concerned, and I started applying for jobs, which led to our house being about a calm as a threatened mother hippo. *sigh*

While it’s embarrassing to admit, it’s part of my culture to see a person as valuable only in as much as they financially contribute, which is sexist, ageist, ableist, and surely a whole bunch of other -ists. And still, to this day, I’ve never had one full-time job. Yes, people argue that I’ve worked more than 40 hours per week for many years, but in the U.S. a full-time job means healthcare, retirement, vacation days, sick days, vision and dental care, and respect and pride. On the other hand, while I was teeth gnashing, I kept thinking about you guys and how celebratory you were when I quit working at the bakery. “Do they all know something I don’t know?”, I wondered. Am I missing something? Is my culture — thus, my perception of things — fundamentally wrong?

Both Nick and Biscuit kept checking on me through the day with texts and phone calls, and i felt humbled by the solid support system I have. On Thursday I started calmly (I think) budgeting and averaging the last several months for which I have financial information for the time during which we’ve lived in our house and confirmed that I have little to worry about, since I am (and thus Nick is) frugal to begin with. We brainstormed where we could cut costs, and it was literally “no more 1-craft-beer-per-day” and that was it, and I felt silly. I’m still working on anxiety, and I humbly thank you for reading all of this.

Finally, on Saturday, when we were gambling that the roads would be plowed, we tried to dig ourselves out of our driveway to leave for Biscuit’s house. I hadn’t realized the snow was incredibly wet and heavy, the perfect stuff to make snowmen, snow forts, and snow balls, but an absolute nightmare to shovel. On the news this month, viewers are frequently reminded of how common it is to have a heart attack shoveling snow because it’s cold outside, so you don’t realize how hard you’re working. Also, it was freezing to the point of frost bite affecting people outside within minutes. In my misunderstanding, thinking all the flying, drifting snow was light, I told Nick to pull the car up to the porch. He got frustrated with me because of miscommunication and exhaustion, floored it, and got himself bottomed out in a snow bank in a small act of defiance.

Well, about half an hour later, and he had dug the car out. But our driveway is long enough that we knew there was no way we would be able to dig ourselves out and not put ourselves in danger. But then . . . It was Judy and her husband Dennis to the rescue! I told them of our predicament, and they came over and plowed a lane for us to use to get out! I was jumping up and down and told them they saved Christmas in exchange for (by Judy’s request) one Diet Dr. Pepper.

We made the entire 200 mile drive to Biscuit’s house going about 35 miles per hour. Many cars were in the ditch and had caution police tape on their side mirrors, meaning the police had made sure everyone was safe, but the car was left behind. Several semi trucks were off the road too. I even saw one in front of me start swaying, and I said, “He’s got a scooty in his booty” and immediately slowed down. That’s when he slid big time.

During the ride, we listened to two stories from Connie Willis’s science-fiction holiday collection A Lot Like Christmas. This is the first time that I can remember — ever — for which I would say that the introduction is useful. The author shares her thoughts on Christmas stories and how they are a hard balance to achieve. I definitely like her style and am more motivated to pick up her longer works, like Doomsday and Bellweather.

THIS WEEK’S BLOG POST

Because I don’t expect anyone to seek out and read a Sweet Valley High book, I do wonder what the point of reviewing them is. As I mentioned to book blogger Laila @ Big Reading Life, I hem and haw about whether there is interest in such posts. But it seems folks find them rather funny, so it’s a good opportunity to have a laugh, and possibly reminisce. Plus, there has been a culture shift in the 35 years since Sweet Valley was popular, informing me of how the characters behave in contrast to 2022, which I find fascinating. If you missed my Special Christmas review, make sure you go back and read it (and the comments).

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG POST

… will be the last week of the year, which means, naturally, that I’ll look at what I read (and didn’t finish) in 2022. Thanks to Nick showing me some quick spreadsheet magic, I have pie charts to make it all easy to read. Then, I’ll describe some reading plans for 2023.

BOOKS ADDED TO THE TBR PILE

Owned Books on TBR at Beginning of Year: 202
Owned Books on TBR Last Week: 184
Owned Books on TBR Today: 182

Thanks to the Captain and her First Mate for their recommendation!

25 comments

  1. I’m glad you’re safe at Biscuit’s.
    I’m glad I don’t drive trucks in the snow!
    We all say we value work life balance etc, etc, and we are all also jobist. I understand the tension, but you are doing a wonderful thing, learning to sign, you are good at it, you work at it, and everyone from Nick and Biscuit down thinks that you are making the right choice.
    Book people like bookish discussions even about books they might not read themselves. I am perfectly happy to read your reviews of SVH. Anyway, the reviews lead to interesting discussions of changes in values over time.
    My Xmas day is over, and was lots of fun, just as yours is starting. Have a happy day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Speaking of learning to sign, my niece, who is 13, has a language class in which she went through 3 languages, one of them being ASL. For Christmas I got her Asphyxia’s book. I always quietly eye the kids when they open books for Christmas presents, and her eyes got really big, so I hope that’s a good omen!

      When I’m talking with my therapist, she asks who my support system is, and I always mention my bookish friends. It’s interesting to have some of my most supportive friends online or via text. Have a wonderful day, you. ❤

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  2. Oh Melanie, I want to give you all the hugs right now. Your panic attack sounds terrible, and I am so glad you have such a good support system to help you through it. I’m not generally an anxious person, but the one thing I do get anxious about is finances, so I am completely sympathetic.

    We got lots of light fluffy snow and -30F windchills, but in the Twin Cities the ground blizzard never materialized, thank goodness. Outside the city was a different matter altogether and all the roads in a good portion of the state were closed. I am glad you made it safely to Michigan and I hope you and all the family are having a joyous and tasty Christmas celebration!

    Also, Willis’s Doomsday book is really good!

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    • Stefanie, you are definitely part of that support system. I wish I could explain to people how often I think of my blog friends as I make choices throughout my day. With you, it’s anything environmental or to do with animals and plants! The only thing my parents recycle right now is cardboard due to having no curbside pickup. I got everyone recycling their cereal and cookie boxes during Christmas, thinking, “One small step for Stefanie’s mission!” lol

      I’ll get to the Doomsday book right away. I know Lou @ LouLouReads recommended it to me, and I trust her recommendations, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That snow is…wow. The salon incident is… understandable. Hope after all of that you’re able to get some of that Christmas buzz this season. We’ve all earned it this year, I’d say.

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  4. Please don’t feel silly about your worries; they are perfectly understandable, and many of us experience anxiety attacks. I’m glad you have got a good system in place. And (if I could bear to have mani-pedis) I would have totally read that price as you did, too.

    I’m glad you’re safe and at Biscuit’s with food galore. It’s been scary thinking about all my American contacts and blog friends. I hope you have had a good couple of days. Peace and love to you!

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  5. I’ve been thinking about you and my other American friends with the scary images of the storm in the news. I’m glad you got to Biscuit’s safely and that you were able to spend Christmas with family. I hope it’s warming up now! Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year for tomorrow!

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  6. I’m so glad you made it safely and I hope you’ve had an amazing time!

    I was nodding along hard in the part about money and contributions because that’s something I think about a lot. Our society puts so much value on financial earnings that it’s often scary to be someone whose activities don’t directly translate into money. Personally, I’m not a particularly ambitious person. But it has taken a long time to feel like it’s ok to be satisfied with our little house and my simple job and being a mom. Because so much around us tells us we should be doing and hustling and earning! You as a person are valuable and important and that has nothing to do with what you can do or the money you make!

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    • I had a brief stretch there when I was adding all kinds of books that were about changing careers as an adult and what it means to not work but contribute in other ways. I think I need some perspective. Knowing that other people whom I view as successful, like you, feel the same way makes me feel less alone.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. How scary – the blizzard driving and the panic attack. I’m glad you’re feeling better and arrived safely. That cold weather was no joke! Ponds and rivers froze around here and that NEVER happens.

    I want to echo all the things people said about your worth and making money. It’s really sad how our society has convinced people that they’re worth less if they don’t have a “good” job. It’s not enough to just have a job – you have to have the RIGHT kind of job. UGH. Capitalism and grind culture and snobbery – it all sucks. You’re awesome and you keep being you and doing what works for your family – which you’re clearly doing. Happy New Year, Melanie!

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    • I’m getting awfully tired of the “burger flipper” debate in the U.S. Some folks think that fast food jobs are not meant to support a family because they’re just high school kid jobs. But then who is working there during school hours? And are those same people who are complaining about labor that seems unimportant concerned over how much money the CEOs are raking in? At my previous college (the one I just left) there was a day during which several of my classmates gave me a hard time for not having jobs like they do, implying I’m out of touch and don’t understand their struggles. It was pretty rough.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I can relate to your anxiety in the grocery store after the whole nail thing – this happens to me too, where I get fixated on something and then come home and freak out about it with Aaron, and then I look at our budget and calm down again. This happens often after a big purchase we didn’t expect to make, so I hear ya! Inflation is obviously making this all worse too. Did your nails look nice after??? Is that pic of them with the red polish what you got? I love foot massages in pedicures LOL

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    • Yes, everything was very nice, but cost twice as much as I expected. I got sparkly red nails (plus the sparkly green accent color) on my hands and then a sparkly pink on my feet. The foot massages always make me nervous because some of the technicians really push hard on my bones!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. How old is your house again? I ask because you may want to check what kind of insulation they used in the walls. I probably sound crazy but when my dad bought my childhood home in Gaylord, they had used newspaper to insulate it. A stone house, in the middle of a field, in the snow belt, built in 1951 and they used newspaper for insulation…..
    I remember it was the first thing my dad updated. Just a thought! We really need to get better windows but they ain’t cheap. You can feel the cold roll off of them too. We even have storm windows. We bought thick curtains, and they really do help. Of course, that means they’re closed most of the time in the winter.
    Yay for Judy and her husband coming to the rescue!
    I wish we would just get snow. I can’t stand this cold, constant rain.

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    • The house was built in 1950. I had a friend when I was in elementary school whose family lived in one of those stone farm houses, and the walls were built so thin that they literally could not put insulation in there. Maybe things have changed now, because I know they have foam insulation, etc. But I can see why someone would stick newspapers in the walls if they’re so thin. Typically, our windows are fine. This was the massive storm that took out a huge chonk of the country for a while. I was so grateful it all melted by the time we left to see you guys. Currently, as I type, it’s snowing again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wish we would get snow. I prefer it to cold and raining all the time. At least the snow is pretty, and the dogs don’t track mud into the house.
        In my dad’s house, he had to drill holes into the dry wall and blew insulation into the walls. It made a difference but was always a chilly house.

        Liked by 1 person

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