Book Review (and a Give Away!): Chocolate & Vicodin

Chocolate & Vicodin by Jennette Fulda

Ok, so first of all I have to tell you that I know the author of this book, Jennette;  I met her at Blogher one year and I’ve been reading her blog FOREVER and I consider her a friend, and so even if this book was stinky, I’d probably not write a review saying it was tres terrible, but luckily that’s not really an issue because I really really liked this book.

Her first book  (Half Assed) was about losing half her body weight, and it was interesting and well written and funny, and I think I  liked this one even better.  It had more soul, somehow.

Anyway, Chocolate and Vicodin is about a headache Jennette woke up with one morning and how it wouldn’t go away and all the things she tried to get rid of it, and how it changed her life, and I found it just…profound. It’s so interesting to see how the unexpected changes someone’s life when they have already worked on changing their own life by with something so controlled like losing lots of weight.  I cannot imagine the challenges she faced, and it was fascinating to read about all the things she tried and where they led her and how she came to a sort of resolution, even without a magic “this is what is wrong with me” answer that she  desperately wanted.

This book was also  funny and well written, Jennette has a snarky unique tone of voice and sense of humor that no one else I know really has, and it makes her writing very real and honest.  And because I’m a blogger and she’s a blogger it was really educational to see the back end of things – to connect times in the book with blog entries she’d written and to see what was really going on at the time and why she was blogging about it or not blogging about it.  You can feel her frustration with the whole “You should try this” advice from every person she meets, and at the same thing you  can’t help it, you’re doing the same thing! You’re thinking to yourself  “She needs to try acupuncture!” (Spoiler:  she does).  Which is another thing I find so fascinating – the endless cycle of advice giving that we just can’t stop ourselves from perpetuating.  We are fixers!  But to be on the other end of that can be so tiring, too.

Chronic pain is just so all consuming.  I never get headaches and I got a terrible headache last week and all I could think about was this book and how if I’d had a headache for years that would not go away about how I would LOSE MY EVER LOVING mind.  How on earth you’d write a book and keep a sense of humor about the whole thing, I have no idea, but I really admire that she made so much out of such a bad situation.

More than anything else, I really just wanted to give Jennette a hug the entire time I was reading it.  It was just so raw and sad and vulnerable and unfair.  Poor girl.

Anyway, I really liked it.  I think you should read it too! And if you leave me a comment on this blog telling me you’d like to read it  I will randomly pick someone to win their very own copy. (Or alternatively you can buy it here, at Amazon).

P.S. The publisher sent me a copy for free, but no one asked me for anything besides a request to write something about the book.

They Put Maple Syrup On Pizza, Yes They Do

I have returned from the land of the frozen north.  Oh, did I not tell you I was going to Vermont?  Well, I went to Vermont.

Also, I went snow shoeing.  It was disturbingly fun, but while I was shuffling along I felt this strong need for speed, and I decided I might be an expert skiier just waiting to happen, and also probably I should take up ski jumping, because that seems fun and not at all dangerous. Seriously, it’s been a long time since I did something where I had a smile on my face the entire time, which is what happened while snow shoeing.

Then I returned to my house that is so small that two of us can’t be in the bedroom at one time and I decided I pretty much need to move to Vermont.  Also I am very tired and I bought a coffeemaker.  I mean, christ, I have two children and a husband who can’t get his slippers from the floor to the shoe bin that is less than 12 inches away, I need coffee.  Copious amounts of hot coffee, not lukewarm french press leftovers. Therefore, I have purchased a coffee maker.

Also, I am stealing this idea from Janssen because I find it intriguing…tell me what to read!  Leave the name of a book you think I should read in the comments and I’ll pick one at random and read it and if I don’t like it I will try my best not to hold a massive grudge against you not be mad,  I promise.  Just please know I have already The Girl With the Whatever Whatever and I ain’t readin’ it again.

Thank you all of you out there in blog land. I have missed you. You always put your slippers away, yes you do.


Cuz It’s a Bittersweet Symphony, This Life

14 years ago, nearly to the day, I was sitting on a Greyhound bus as it pulled slowly out of the Minneapolis bus station, staring out at gray skies from my window seat.  Mr. E had made me a mix tape, and I hit play just as the bus started up, and this song rang loud in my ears.  I had no idea where we were going, me and Mr. E, and life seemed like a muddled tangle of emotions  and blond hair dye and I felt alone and lost and for the rest of my life when I hear this song, I will be right back in that moment, a little sad, a lot confused, not at all sure where I am headed.

Last night Mr. E and I both had this same song stuck in our heads, and he played it for me, and so there I was, part of me in that moment in the bus station, the other part of me making cupcakes in our kitchen because our baby boy turns four years old today.

If you had told me on that lonely bus ride, fourteen years ago, that someday I’d be here, frosting cupcakes in my tiny house with my tiny boy and my baby girl and Mr. E, I am sure part of me would have thought you were crazy, but I am sure I would have smiled, too.  I don’t think I’d have been too surprised, somehow.  Regardless, no matter what else comes along, no matter how bittersweet this life may sometimes be, there is one thing I am certain of.  There is nowhere else I’d rather be, today, than right here.

Happy Birthday, my wonderful boy.  You make the ride so worthwhile.

This Is What 7,000 Trips to Home Depot Looks Like

I am terrible at taking before pictures.  I think it’s because I get so depressed at what the before looks like.  Or I’m stressed about how much work it’s going to take to get from before to after.  Or because I lack faith that the after is going to be much of an improvement.

Which is just a fancy way of saying that these are the only before shots I have of the kitchen, but trust me, it was bad.  Another terrible paint job courtesy of the people who flipped our house, and calf shit brown paint everywhere, including the ceiling, and a giant boob ceiling fixture, and weird holes where we stuck the dishwasher in and ripped a cabinet out and of course, the builder grade oak finish cabinets that I haaaated.

There’s more shots on Flickr, but here are some afters.  My sainted husband spent all weekend working on this with me and I seriously don’t even know how to tell you how awesome he was.  Especially since he liked the kitchen before, and just worked his kiester off for no other reason than because I wanted something else.  Valentine’s Day indeed.

We primed and painted the cabinets, the walls, and the ceiling, added a new light fixture, and cabinet hardware.  The hot water heater got replaced with a tankless one that is on the back of our house before we moved in.  It sounds like way less work than it was.  And even though I didn’t like the oak I am SO grateful that the cabinets themselves were a perfectly nice style because it saved us tons of money to be able to just paint the suckers.  Also the next time I decide to prime something with oil based primer, kick me in the shins.  Hard.  Repeatedly.  Until I put that can of oil based primer back on the shelf.

I also decided to throw out about a third of the stuff that we had accumulated in the three ish years since we bought our house, because the kitchen just looked and felt so much better with less stuff in it.  And since I hadn’t used any of that stuff, I figured I wasn’t going to miss it.  Taking everything out of the cabinets and then thinking about whether I wanted to put it back in the kitchen was a good way to get rid of a lot of excess.

(PS. I would still like to tile, to raise some walls, to add new counters and an undermount sink and some crown molding and a french door and to take out some walls and to buy a new washer and dryer and to add shelving and raise the cabinets to the ceiling, but somehow after the amount of work this took and how much I love my kitchen now and in light of the state of the housing maket in California, those changes somehow seem a lot less…imperative.)

PPS  The rest of my house is in a state of total chaos and I haven’t done laundry in four days, but in case I haven’t mentioned it, I adore my “new” kitchen. It’s so bright and clean and it’s making me very happy.

Should Be a Fun Weekend

P.S. Anyone know where to get a good deal at cabinet hardware? I wasn’t impressed by the stuff at Lowe’s.  I am looking for plain stainless knobs and then something like these from Restoration Hardware for the drawers, but I am not going to pay FIFTEEN DOLLARS for a cabinet pull…

And now I have to go sand something.



How To Check the Oil In Your Mother’s Car

I am in fifth grade, and I have just changed schools.  This is where I will first form my belief that some schools are just not meant for some children, because I come from a place where no one likes me and I am the least popular kid in my class.  We eat hot lunch every day in the high school cafeteria, and I always have soup and a roll, but because I am tiny and we are in a high school lunch line, I have to ask the taller girls to hand me a roll, and after awhile, they simply sneer and refuse.  And so I come from a million tiny experiences like this to a school where everyone likes me, where people compliment the new dress my grandmother made me when I wear it to free dress day, where I am voted some kind of fall princess or mary princess or something a few weeks after I arrive.  This is a school where I feel liked, because I am liked.  It is a wonderful feeling.  It feels like taking a deep breath after years of being horrified by my own existence.

In fifth grade at my new school we all take speech class, and one of the first ones we learn is the demonstration speech.  My mother delights in this, and she is thrilled when she hears that someone did a speech on how to eat an oreo cookie and someone else did a speech on how to make a peanut butter and pickle sandwich.  I can only assume her competitive nature kicks in or maybe she just thought it would be a good idea, but she “suggests” that I do my demonstration speech on how to check the oil in a car.

I am amenable to this, it seems like fun, and I am proud of my mother’s car, a brand new red and tan Toyota Tercel.  And I do know how to check the oil, and my whole class will get to go outside, and besides, I have other things to worry about, because despite my new found popularity and the accepting nature of my fifth grade compatriots, there are some things that the market simply will not bear, and so I spend all my spare time and the time before I fall asleep figuring out and practicing and scheming.  I need a plan, because more than anything, I know it is of utmost importance that I do not, under any circumstances, use the word “dipstick” in front of my entire fifth grade class.

The day arrives, my mother drives the car to school, and we all troop outside.  I am ready with my paper towels and my plan and I prop up the hood of the car and I go through all the steps and wipe and recheck and then my pulse quickens as I near the end because things are working out perfectly, and then I am done, and I cannot believe it but I have pulled it off.  I have made it through the whole speech and the oil has been checked and I even got a laugh when I told everyone not to use cooking oil in a pinch and there has been nary a mention of dips or sticks.

AND THEN.  And then.  A voice pipes up from the back, loud and clear, and it MY MOTHER, of course.  Of course.  And then she is saying “Now Elizabeth.  What is it called, what you use to check the oil?” and she is saying this in the loudest voice history has ever known, and right in front of my whole entire fifth grade class which might as well be the assembled masses of the free world, I have no choice. I can think of no other recourse.  Probably I should have just run, but instead I grit my teeth and I say it.  I say “This. is. called. the. dipstick.”

It may surprise you to learn that life did move one, but I can’t lie, a part of me will always be in that moment, almost done, almost pulling it off, and then my mother opening her mouth, and me knowing, in that instant, somehow, just what she’s going to say, and I have forgiven my mother for many many things, but I can tell you with much honesty, I may never let this go.  I may never forgive her for the dipstick.  And you know what?  I kind of don’t think I should.

P.S. Katherine will be doing her fifth grade demonstration speech on how to eat an Oreo cookie, obviously.

Heart Shaped Rock

I have been thinking about how to write this for a long time now.  Years, maybe.  Because I don’t want to hurt any feelings.  But all I can do, in the end, is to try to write this from a place of love.

Mr. E grew up in Michigan, and his whole family lives there, and his grandparents were always around when he was a kid and he has 22 first cousins and they all mixed in and out of each other’s lives with an ease and a fluidity that comes from being part of a great big family where there are so many of you that sometimes it’s hard to keep track.

I grew up in Portland, and my grandparents lived far away, and most of the time it was just us kids against the world.  I have a few cousins but they always lived far away from us, and while I count my brother among my top five favorite people in the world, it was never hard to keep track of who was around.  Like I said, mostly, it was just us.  I wasn’t lonely, I had best friends.  The best of friends.  And  I have never known a different way of life.

Now there are grandkids and brothers and sisters are buying houses and having more grandkids and Mr. E’s mother is a professional baby whisperer and although they do not talk about it like they used to, I know that they would love nothing more than if we also lived in Michigan, if we were close by and if they could see their grandchildren more than once or twice a year.  I know they don’t understand why we live so far away.  I know they don’t really agree with our decision to live here.

The truth is that we live so far away because all of the years that I spent in Michigan and Nebraska and Chicago, all those years, I never once felt like I was at home.  I grew up on the West Coast and I will always be a West Coast kind of girl.  I don’t think Lake Michigan is just as good at the Pacific Ocean, and I never will.  I want my kids to grow up taking the beach just a little bit for granted and this is my home and I just don’t feel like me unless I am here.  And also Mr. E has a good job and this is where they do the kind of things that he does and so we bought our tiny little house and this is where we are.   This is our home.

But if I said I never think about moving back to the midwest, I’d be lying.

Unfortunately I feel like if we did move back to Michigan that I’d be making such a huge life compromise that life would owe me something really nice in return.  Like say a giant old midwestern house with built ins and crown molding and a downtown where I could walk to coffee and the movies and a tapas restaurant.  I’d expect life to look like it does in the movies, as a pay back, if you will, and life would owe me a giant SUV and a bank account that meant I never had to count pennies and it turns out that even when you move somewhere you don’t want to live, life doesn’t really care.  Life is not offering crown moldings and SUV’s.  Life is offering a job at Podunk State University in Terrible Town No One Wants To Live In That Pays Less Than You’d Make Working Full Time at the Gap.

It might surprise you to learn that sometimes, every once in a while, I can be a tiny bit of a contrary person.  I may sort of sometimes be the sort of person who, when pushed one way,  pushes back harder.  It might be true that the more that certain in laws of mine wanted  me to move my family back to the midwest, the more I ranted about how I would never go back, and whether or not this is right isn’t really what I’m here to talk about today, because the fact remains that there are no jobs and there is no crown molding, but let’s just say that if you want me to do something your way, sometimes, where I am concerned, you might best be a bit sneaky about it, because badgering isn’t usually the thing that wins me over in the end.

And to be fair, most of the time, the pushing has tapered off significantly.  And I am trying to make a point here, and I am failing.  What in god’s name am I trying to say?

I am trying to tell you a story where for years I heard nothing but how we should move back to Michigan and for years I fought against that and nothing ever came close to dissuading me to pack up and return to a place where I was never happy, because I just can’t. I just could not.  And then this spring, my sister in law came to stay with us, to visit for a few days after Katherine was born, and I came around the corner and she was sitting, holding my baby girl on the couch, silent, with her eyes closed, and with tiny Katherine held to her face, just breathing her in, and I hold that moment in my heart and if ever anything on this earth could persuade me to take my babies and bring them back to this family that loves them so, it is nothing more than that moment, that instant,  that passsing glimpse I think of almost every day.

Two years ago we were in the U.P. for a week when the same sister in law got married, and even though it was cold as all get out, we headed out to the lake, and while Eli waded in up to his waist in the bone freezing cold water I stood on the store and I found a heart shaped rock amidst all the other ordinary round ones, and I carried it home with me that day and it sits on my bedside table and it seems like somehow this would be the perfect time to spin a metaphor about a piece of my heart here and a piece of my heart there but it’s neither that simple nor that complicated, somehow.  In the end it’s really just a rock, a rock I got from a lake, a lake that’s nowhere near as big as the ocean, a rock I’ll take with me everywhere for the rest of my life, a rock that I count among the few things I treasure most on this earth.