Things I Think I’m Supposed to Like Because Other People Seem to Really Like Them but I Actually Don’t Like at All

1. Running for recreation. “You should go for a run!” No. No, thank you.

2. Game of Thrones. It’s about some sort of a dragon, right? Or, that young magician? Or, like, Middle-earth and magical rings? Do I have that correct? Yes, I think that’s correct.

3. Glass shower enclosures. So, I guess this is a thing we’re all installing now? Our bathroom has one and it has looked absolutely awful since about the third shower I ever took in it. Bob and I just stand and stare at it frequently, wondering aloud how one keeps a crystal clear glass shower door clean. Because, if you think I’m going to squeegee that thing dry after every shower, you don’t know my life, man. Also, I really don’t need to be so… visible when showering. Best to hide all that behind a curtain, as our founding fathers intended.

4. Large gatherings of people in public places when it is hot outside. Concerts, festivals, fairs, amusement parks, farmer’s markets – all terrible when it’s too hot. No good. Would not recommend. Add my kids in to the mix and this is a DEFCON 2-level misery.

5. Pickling all of the foods. Why are we pickling everything all of a sudden? Did I miss a magazine article somewhere? Does everyone really like so much of their food pickled? What do you do with all of your pickled food? Do you put it on salads? Or burgers? It probably looks pretty in your cabinets though. Kind of all Little House on the Prairie up in there. I get that.

6. Playing board games with my kids. They’re really not very good at board games.

7. Snapchat. “WHAT DOES IT EVEN DOOOOO,” I holler at no one in particular while shaking my cane at the squirrel in the bird feeder and reaching in my shirt sleeve for a Kleenex.

8. Instant Pots. I don’t know about your circle but everyone in my circle seems to be using these things and I’m worried that, best case scenario, I’ll seriously scald myself or, worst case scenario, I’ll blow my whole damn house up.

9. Camping. I want to like camping. I really do. But, I accidentally walked through a spider web in our garage two days ago and basically looked like this for a solid ten minutes before I just went and showered.

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10. Unnecessary decks. Look, a deck solves an elevation issue, such as when a steep slope precludes level, accessible outdoor space. But, people seem to just put decks on everything now, all willy-nilly, irregardless of necessity or incline. Why does everyone want decks? We have a deck on our house when really, the backyard elevation is such that a patio is much more appropriate. As a result, our deck has all of these weeds growing under it and all out the sides but because the space is so small beneath the deck, we can’t get in there to do anything about it. It’s stupid. I obviously have a lot of strong feelings about decks. I just… why install a deck when a patio will do?

11. The beach. I enjoy looking at the ocean. From a balcony. Whilst sitting in a chair. Entirely uncovered in sand. The ocean is really beautiful but for purely recreational purposes with young kids, I am firmly Team Pool.

Summer Bookshelf

When I was about Henry’s age, I hung out at the Waldenbooks in University Park Mall a lot. My parents would take me shopping with them and on the way out of JCPenney, they would just kind of deposit me in front of the Anne of Green Gables section of the bookstore while they shopped. This would also happen at our local Kroger. My mom would select groceries while I stood and read near the end of this one aisle that had a revolving rack with mostly Christian young adult novels by Janette Oke. It was a win-win for both of us. I still have my collections by Janette Oke and Lucy Maud Montgomery and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beverly Cleary. They sit on Millie’s bookshelf now.

I was an eager reader, fostered in part by an unbelievable library in the tiny Ohio town we lived in when I was very young. I can remember attending summer reading programs in the basement there and asking the librarian for help finding titles amongst the castle-like interior. Books were amazing and magical and an escape and I remember devouring them.

I kept on reading for fun as an adult, my commitment ebbing and flowing with college and then work and travel demands. When Bob and I were first married, I was still reading diligently. Then, Henry was born in late 2005 and approximately two days after he arrived, I stopped reading. I think the last book I even attempted was a few chapters of What to Expect the First Year before giving up and placing a higher premium on sleep.

It’s been like this for more than a decade now. I’m still reading things, lots of things – school forms, work emails, report cards, bedtime stories, a magazine here or there, all of the internet – I’m just not reading books. I occasionally think about reading a book but more often than not, I just end up reading the internet instead. I still buy books all the time, but more often than not, they end up stacked on my nightstand, a convenient place to stash my phone when I’m done reading the internet.

Now, you’ve probably done a great job of parenting kids or dogs or working full-time jobs while still being a committed reader. The book club you belong to probably actually reads the books. I think that’s fantastic. I really do. And, if I’m being honest here, I’ve been secretly ashamed for years that my most interesting reading came from those Buzzfeed top 20 lists. I was just never able to make a bigger commitment. My brain space was reserved for the thousands of other details I had to keep track of and that’s how I came to re-read – more than once! –  the first twenty pages of A Little Life, just trying to remember which character was the artist and which character still lived with his parents and which one was successful. I never got very far.

But, I’ve missed books. When my dad was visiting in May, he helped Bob and I install a series of bookcases in our living room. All of the books that had been scattered and stacked and stored for years finally had an easily accessible home. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed being engrossed in a really good book until I saw them all lined up like that. Many of them I had purchased and had started but had never finished.

So, this summer, when I dragged the kids to our local library to sign them up for the reading program (and also ruin their lives because I won’t let them play games on the library computer or rent DVDs from the library’s collection), I signed myself up for the reading program, too. I don’t know if I’ll finish the entire program before the August due date but I have made a goal to read three books this summer. I think that’s pretty achievable. So far, I have one down (The Girl on the Train) and two sitting on my nightstand in the queue (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is SO GOOD. Would you like to talk about it?).

I think I can do this, guys. I really do. As long as I can stay awake long enough to get past the first twenty pages.

DI-Why

When Charlie was just a few months old, he came down with a nasty virus. He was in daycare at the time and our child care center seemed to always be ground zero for the really awful illnesses that my kids caught with such ease. I took time off from work to care for our sweet little Charlie at home and I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I knew we had to take him to the emergency room. I had been hanging clean laundry up in my closet and when I finished and reached down to pick Charlie up from the bed, he was stiff. His whole body. He was so little at the time and so new-baby malleable that to pick him up and feel his muscles so rigid was alarming. I knew he was really ill.

Bob and I ended up spending the majority of that afternoon and evening in our local hospital’s ER. Charlie was officially diagnosed with a “virus of unknown origin” meaning, the hospital didn’t know what he had, admitted there was really no good way to figure it out, but acknowledged that it was absolutely making him miserable. It was just something that we had to wait out. They wanted us to remain in the ER so they could hydrate Charlie and monitor him closely for a few hours before discharging him. With a compassionate shrug, the doctors and nurses left us on our own to sit and wait and watch. Our fears placated, Bob and I settled in to spend a few hours staring intently at Charlie.

Now, it should be noted that our local hospital at the time was more urban, less spacious and a bit more bare bones than the hospital we utilize now. The ER in the town closest to where we currently live has private rooms, individual television sets, a staff eager to accommodate and valet parking. The ER we took Charlie to that night had a long wait time, a maxed-out staff, absolutely no snacks, and the only thing separating us from the next patient on a stretcher was a thin curtain and about four feet. I’m certainly not complaining because I didn’t even know ERs came in fancier versions until we moved from the city but still, if we were able to even snag an extra blanket from a nurse that night, it certainly didn’t come all toasty warm from one of those giant blanket ovens our current hospital uses.

Sitting with a sleeping four-month-old and a lack of sufficient snacks left us with nothing to do but eavesdrop on the medical emergencies of those around us. It was fascinating. Directly next to us, on the other side of the curtain, was an intoxicated man who was handcuffed to his gurney and guarded by a sheriff’s deputy. He talked loudly for probably a solid hour about assorted topics before falling asleep and, thus, falling quiet. We heard other random snippets hear and there of bumps and bruises and broken bones but eventually, as evening settled in and the bustling quieted down, both Bob and I started listening intently to a husband and wife that were seeking treatment across the aisle from us.

It turned out, the wife was in the emergency room because she had been experiencing chest pains. It actually seemed quite serious from the tone of the doctor’s voice. The doctor was still unsure of what type of cardiac event she had experienced but he began reviewing with the couple the results of some preliminary testing and explaining to them some additional tests he would like to run before admitting the wife overnight for observation. It was at this point that the couple began to protest. They were concerned about how long all of this was going to take and seemed distressed about the necessity of spending an entire night in the hospital. Bob and I, unabashedly, leaned in for a closer listen.

“You see,” the husband began to explain to the doctor, “we have dinner reservations.”

It was at this point that Bob and I looked at each other with saucer-like eyes and tried not to laugh. Dismissing a possible heart attack in favor of keeping hard-to-get dinner reservations was just the MOST Northern Virginia thing one could do. I mean, I can appreciate a great meal, too, but I wouldn’t risk betting the sommelier knows how to use a defibulator. The ER doctor said about the same.

The conversation quickly escalated between the ER doctor and the husband and wife. Eventually, as the doctor was explaining the “against medical advice” discharge paperwork that would need to be completed before they could leave, the husband looked at the doctor and asked, “So, tell me, what’s worst case scenario here?”

Without missing a beat, the doctor looked at the husband wearily and said, “SIR, your wife could DIE.”

A few minutes later, the husband and his possibly-having-a-heart-attack wife were on their way to dinner to, presumably, eat mussels or foie gras or something like that. Shortly afterwards, Bob and Charlie and I headed home to rest up, recuperate and probably eat some Goldfish crackers.

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Ever since that fateful emergency room visit, Bob and I have used the Worst Case Scenario query to address some of our toughest life decisions.

Should we move the entire family to Richmond? What’s the worst case scenario?

Are you up for having a third baby? What’s worst case scenario?

Is it possible to still buy a waterbed? What would be the worst case scenario?

Maybe we should get that odd rash on the middle kid looked at? What’s the worst case scenario?

Does this egg salad smell weird to you? Worst case scenario?

It’s actually a highly effective tool in distilling a problem or issue down to it’s possible outcomes. If the answer is anything other than one of us dying, we typically proceed.

All this to explain that Bob and I are thinking of renovating our kitchen ourselves. I mean, what’s the worst case scenario here?