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Archive for February, 2011

“What are you getting, my darling perfect angel?”

The number of times I have heard that phrase in my lifetime is identical to the number of times I have had the pleasure of dining out.

Because I’m often the male — or one of them — at the table, I am required by matrimonial and genderific mandate to tell the female closest to me either in marriage or proximity what it is I am planning to order from the menu during this wonderfully stress-free, enjoyable evening out, either heels-over-head romantically alone or with family and/or friends.

I’ve never been able to figure out why, exactly, the female set has to hear what everyone else at the table wants to eat before they can choose that upon which they will sup, with a pinky finger extended from delicate stemware; slurping their favorite fuzzy fruity frothy frozen fizz.

If I order the chicken tartare is she going to order it also? No. Never happens. So why is my decision so important?

Does she need to know so she can order an accompanying meal and then do the food sharing thing? (I order the steak, she orders the fish; she winds up with surf and turf and I wind up with half a steak?) I think this is more likely.

For the better part of five decades, I have been fortunate to have more than my fair share of opportunities to dine out. (I know. I hide it well.) Not once during those times can I remember a man at the table asking me what I am ordering.

Guys don’t care. About anything, really. This included. Women, on the other magnificently manicured porcelain-perfect hand, can’t breathe until they know everything that’s going on around them.

When a guy grabs the menu, he goes straight to the cattle page and makes his decision based on ounces, not dollars. Done in 2 seconds.

I blame the gender thing. That whole “Men Are From Bars; Women Hate Everything We Do” mentality. Books have been written about it.

Not that I’ve read one of them. But I’m sure they’re accurate. And fascinating.

(Sidebar: While I’m thinking of it, I have yet to hear a valid reason why restaurant patrons are considered impolite or sloppy or gigantic rubes if, after being seated, they don’t immediately place their napkin on their lap. And by “restaurant patrons” I mean “me.” I recently stopped doing this — almost out of protest to the very act itself — when I realized there is no good reason to place my drop cloth that far away from my pie hole. Am I supposed to bend under the table to use it? (No.) Is it to keep me from wiping my chin on a corner of the tablecloth? (Fail.) Is it to keep food from staining my lap? Because I gotta tell ya, all the food I drop hits my shirt long before it has a chance to enter the same ZIP code as my lap. Dumb idea. And no good reason for it.) I’m over it.

As I get older and more skilled in the field of husbanding, I have amended my menu-reading practices. No longer am I eating for one. I have crossed into the meal-sharing stage of adult marriagehood. Bye-bye dark food (meat, red sauce, burnt toast, more meat); hello beige (pasta, poultry, cream sauce, fish, white pizza). Pinky finger extended; napkin dabbing the corners of the mouth; both feet on the floor. No belching. Sheesh.

There was a time — I call it the Golden Age of Gluttony — when I knew what I wanted before I even entered the restaurant. “I’ll have the prime rib and the prime rib, please.” Standard order. Didn’t even need a menu.

Today, however, because I have grown smart (and because I really screwed up big time while on vacation in the late ’90s), I have begun to pay more attention to the same menu pages as my adoring better half. I figure that something from one of these pages is going to be placed in front of me in a half hour or so, give or take, so I had better be prepared. Give the taste buds a chance to git while the gittin’s good.

It (and by “it” I mean “everything, including this”) is my fault.

While reading the menus in a wonderful little place in San Diego we happened upon many years ago, Karen and I agreed that we’d each order meals we both might enjoy. Then, halfway through, we’d swap plates.

Sounded like a smart idea. To her. But, because I have the ability to mess up a one-car funeral (can’t figure out which car to put first), I suffered an epic husband fail.

The grievous marriage penalty I incurred came when my meal arrived: It looked and smelled and tasted incredible. Hers, less so.

Mine was kind of a gumbo-type arrangement. I know it had sausage — one of the Top 5 man foods on the Man Food Hot 100.

I don’t remember exactly what Karen ordered (although I bet she does). I think it had a boot sticking out of it. She couldn’t wait to get to the halfway point of her meal so she could pawn her slop off to me and then polish off my much-more-impressive offering. But I had switched gears without telling her. I really liked mine and didn’t want to give it up.

So I ate it all. While she continued to ask if I was ready to switch yet.

Fail.

And before those among you take out your fingers and start shaking them in my direction, I think it shows a great deal of maturity (and matrimonial mandate) that I can slouch here before you today and admit my error. Guilty.

But I have atoned. Today I slouch before you as a wiser husband. The wind beneath my wings would attest to this. If she ever read anything I wrote. Thankfully, not so much.

This all happened in 1998. It took me the better part of a decade to gain back Karen’s trust. I spent 10 quality years handing her half of my food, even though she didn’t want it.

“Nooooo, It’s OKayyyyyy,” she’d sigh in that high-pitched, wavy poor-poor-pitiful-me wife voice they can muster at the drop of a fork. Followed by a: Hhhhhhhhh.

Needless to say, I have since become a seasoned restaurant meal sharer. To the point at which I will listen as Karen reads every word on the menu (evvv-ry word) and checks off the entrees, whittling her decision down to the final two. I make note of the last one she finally eliminates.

And that’s the one I order. Then I force-share it.

Hah. Not gonna fall for the old “you’re always thinking of yourself when you’re thinking of the food you want to buy and eat and you’re never thinking of me when I might want to eat my meal and then yours” argument.

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, still shame on me. The husband’s creed.

This, I share with you. Because I’m a sharing kind of guy.

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Our pets are our living toys. They need maintenance if they are going to keep us entertained.

And I remain fascinated by the extent to which they roll, twist, salt and bake our lives into giant pretzels.

I say this after our cat’s second trip — in one month — to the veterinarian, after which she received yet another prescription (this would be the sixth for the little princess) to keep her hissing, defecating, food-ignoring finicky little self in pristine working condition.

Kitty no longer fits in the box she came in.

We’ve already thrown away the box she came in, so we can’t take her back to the toy store. Not that we ever would, mind you, for the wind beneath my wings would most assuredly choke the living air out of me at the mere suggestion.

It’s her cat. I keep it running, but it’s hers.

I am responsible for handling most of the feline  maintenance calls at Chez Mattison, but it’s only to keep m’lady and her favorite living thing (I believe I am either sixth or seventh on the list of favorites; it changes more frequently than the Billboard Hot 100) warm and happy.

We’ve had this little darling in our lives since 2005, when, surprise, Karen decided we had lived long enough without the odor of pet squeezings permeating the indoor atmosphere. Her official vet name is Red (because she’s black and white and I work for a newspaper), but we call her Kitty.

We’ve called all of our pets Kitty. Keeps us from having to change the monogram on their luggage.

She spent her formative years as the loving pet of an elderly Staten Island woman who had to give her up when she moved into a retirement facility. Karen happened to work with the woman’s son; he posted a sign at work: Cat Needs Family; and the rest, as they say, is now deposited in a box on the upstairs closet floor. …

… Usually while I am at the computer, thank you, banging out things like the one you’re reading. Which is, on occasion, interrupted by my needing to go grab the Febreeze after another of her epic scratch-and-sniff moments.

Kitty turns on the charm.

Gotta tell ya, for a small, occasionally sweet critter, she can pack a wallop.

We got her when she was 7. At first we were told she was 3. Then 5. The family really was clueless about the age thing. Then we received paperwork that showed she was born June 6, 1998. In the blink of an eye, we lost an incalculable (by me, anyway) number of quality cat years. Also, she simultaneously burned about four of her nine lives.

Which means that this year, she’ll be 13. And she’s starting to show her age. Not unlike her mommy.

For the past couple of years she’s suffered through an annual summertime bout of pancreatitis, which apparently is as much fun as it sounds for a little kitty. She has also been developing older-cat maladies that involve her blood flow and volume, her heart, her food jettison system (which I find most difficult to believe, but apparently it’s true), her teeth, and her spunk.

Anyway, the monthly prescription bill has hit three figures and continues to climb. And because she’s a bloomin’ lady, she is, she is not about to allow those who feed and pet her to pick her up off the floor and shove pills down her throat (not sure I can blame her there), so her medications have to be sent to the special pharmacy where they can be turned into chicken-flavored liquid, squirted into her bowl, and mixed into her food.

Keeping an eye on the clock, awaiting the dinner bell

Food, I am not happy to report, that little miss fur ball has been dismissing of late as unfit for feline consumption. Her maladies have not suppressed her finicky gland.

Companionship does not come without a price. This price is often paid with the hoops through which we pet owners jump so as to keep our bundles of joy from being the least little bit sad or depressed or — heaven forbid — disappointed with us.

She is fed soft food. She prefers hard food, but she tends to inhale it without chewing. This gums up the pipes and turns her into a giant, waddling, fur-coated, stomach-dragging puff ball incapable of making No. 2. Not unlike her daddy.

We learned this the hard way the first time we had to give her an enema.

Lemme tell ya, if you’re not busy some Sunday afternoon, cover your bathroom floor with towels, hold your bloated cat in the bathtub while your spouse (played by me) administers a vet-approved feline enema, run from the room quickly while closing the door, and check back on the kitty about four hours later.

I promise you, you’ll remember my name.

Ever put a raw potato in the microwave oven and come back too late to find it has exploded all over the walls inside the mikey?

Perhaps you should before you try the bathroom thing. It’ll give you an idea of the scope. Words of caution: The size of the room exponentially increases the size of the cleanup.

She eats one can of cat food each day, but her meals are split into four sessions. Can’t give her too much at one time; she won’t eat it all. And if she comes back to it later and it’s hardened a little, she’ll ignore it. So, four meals a day. Right around her paw, she has us wrapped.

Her belly filled, Kitty strikes a pose.

And into each one of these quarter cans of food, she gets a couple squirts of various medications. Lately, she’s become picky about the flavors of food she prefers. She’ll eat the chicken and liver but not the poultry platter. She’ll tolerate the salmon but not the fisherman’s surprise. Whatever, darling angel. Anything to keep you from bouncing all over the house at dinner time(s).

Lately, she’s developed a new trick. She won’t eat until the food’s microwaved. I put the bowl on the floor. She sniffs the food, starts to walk away, then looks over her shoulder. When she sees me pick it up again, she runs over to the mikey, listens for the ding, then starts meowing. I put the food back on the floor, and she dives in, face first.

Kitty atop the summit of Mt. Mommy, telling her it's time for another breakfast.

Another amazing cat feat I can’t understand is her ability to tell time. Doesn’t matter when we get home or what’s on TV or what we’re doing, when food time comes, she starts pouncing on her mother and mixing and staring (the staring is kinda spooky, actually). She runs to the kitchen and starts wailing. Then she runs back to the living room and starts all over again.

Very much like her mother.

In the morning before we’re up, she does the same thing, sort of. She bounces on Karen and paws at the covers and slaps her in the face as soon as it’s time for breakfast. She doesn’t do this to me (thankfully), only to her mommy. Even though I am the one who puts down her first, third and fourth meals of the day.

Hey. She wanted a cat. She should get all the benefits of ownership. Foody calls included.

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The power went out when I was in the grocery store last weekend. Thankfully.

Otherwise, it could’a got ugly.

I was reminded one week ago today why it is I prefer to visit the grocery store during off hours than at peak grocery gathering times.

The frenzy with which the great majority approaches the simple task of gathering food stuffs is beyond explanation. I certainly don’t get it, anyway.

If squirrels gathered acorns the way the residents of my little community were attacking the art of grocerying last Saturday (Super Bowl Eve), it wouldn’t be safe to lounge in the back yard.

A bit of back story. I’m probably what could be considered a regular at the local grocer. I am fortunate beyond explanation to be married to a woman who has no earthly interest whatsoever in visiting the grocery store. So, because a matrimonial weekend shopping trip is not a mandate, I am able to breathe and smile somewhat frequently.

Also, I dismiss the practice of saving up all my grocery needs for one giant whiz-bang weekly shopping trip and instead make little mini-stops during the week when an egg or a cup of salt or a half can of cat food or a Wheat Thin is all I need.

I do buy in bulk once a month or so, when the meat sales are fresh, the two-fers are hard to ignore, and the little mrs. sits up in bed and starts making peep-peep-peeping noises. This is my signal that it’s time for a fresh batch of Beak Surprise.

For the most part, I am at the grocery when the mature, professional, experienced daily after-work crowd is bopping in, grabbing a prescription and a head of lettuce, and hitting the one-item-or-less line.

I learned last Saturday morning that it has been a long time since I had experienced the other side of the looking glass.

I will admit it didn’t help that my first foray back into the real world happened to fall on the very day before the very Super Bowl — one of the top three grandest American food days of the year. (The others being Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving.)

Since my days of mandatory matrimonial weekend grocery shopping, my ability to tolerate things like … oh, people, for example, has steadily evaporated. It’s nothing personal, but there are entire subsets of humans who have no worldly business interacting with those among us who get it and do it right every time out.

Every 10 years, humans should be forced to renew their Interaction License. Like a driver’s license. You go to the Bureau of Acting Not Like A Moron, answer the questions on the form, stand behind the white line, have your photo taken, and receive a few days later in the mail your License to Interact.

Short of this, you need to stay home.

During the week, when right-thinking after-work people shop, there is never a problem with grocery cart traffic patterns. Everyone understands it’s like driving on the highway: You and your cart stay to the right when moving through the aisle. None of this back and forth business because the cannellonis are on the left and the cannellinis are on the right.

Stay to the right, wait for oncoming traffic to clear, and then dart across (sometimes you can just use your arm for this; saves time and confusion) to grab the item on the other side of the aisle.

Where is it written that the grocery aisle is the place where order is suspended? Where stopping in the middle — blocking traffic in both directions — is normal practice? Where cutting, with your cart, from left to right and back again is acceptable? Where carting along the left side of the aisle (this is not Britain, people) is not the least bit backward and against everything everyone else is doing?

Where pulling out to pass the shopper in front of you is considered the act of a sane person when there is an entire lane of oncoming cart traffic? Did your parents teach you to drive a shopping cart in a barn? Would you do this on the highway? Then why does this seem like the thing to do in the grocery store? Wait in the car. You’re banished.

I think grocery stores should have traffic lanes painted on the floor, with left- and right-turn arrows; stop, yield and merge signs; flashing lights; and those spy cameras that photograph you when you try to pull this garbage at a real intersection.

Pedestrian shoppers carrying the little plastic two- or three-item shopping basket should have their own lane and crosswalk and be afforded the right of way.

I’ll tell you who shouldn’t be afforded the right of way, and this might set off a shizzle storm: those among us who have no clue how to drive the battery-operated shopping buggy, yet pretend they do, nonetheless. If you are an experienced cart driver, I am not talking to you. If you are disabled, I am not belittling your condition.

I’m talking to those who use the cart but don’t use common courtesy. I understand your need for ambulatory assistance. And that’s fine. I have close family members in the same boat. But that should not suspend the rights of those among us who are pushing carts and who have ankles. The same traffic rules should apply. Blocking the aisle just because you’re driving is not acceptable. I don’t care if you can beep when you back up.

With necessity comes responsibility. You should know how to operate the cart and the grocer should offer lessons if you don’t. It’s not your fault you need to use the ride-on buggy. Nor is it mine. Or my fellow shoppers.

For the sake of ankles everywhere. We thank you.

Through it all, there was one moment during my shopping trip that, thankfully, did afford me an opportunity to release my frustration at my fellow shoppers. It caused me to laugh right out loud.

I was making my way west along County Route Pasta, I could see the yogurt rest stop directly ahead of me, when — boom (just like that) — the power went out. My local major-chain grocer lost its juice.

I laughed right out loud and said, to no one in particular, “How cool is this?” As I laughed some more, I heard, in the distance, the cash register scanners continuing to beep, so I knew we weren’t stranded. No reason to panic; for me, anyway.

Many of my fellow shoppers, who were already having trouble with Mattison’s Basic Rules Grocery Etiquette, didn’t know how to react. There was a lot of murmuring. Humans tend to murmur when they don’t know what else to do.

Kind of like when the dog rolls over and shows you his stomach after he knocks over a vase. He doesn’t know what else to do. A bit of awkwardness is followed by an inexplicable maneuver that seems like the right thing to do at the time.

[Awwwwwk-warrrrrd. Bellybellybellybellybelly.]

Someone over near the eggs yelled, “Who’s laughing? What happened? Why is this funny?” All of which, of course, made me laugh all the more.

What happened?

I continued to shop. I figured, what better time to maneuver through traffic than when it has ground to a murmuring belly-exposed standstill.

Plus, I still hadn’t hit the salsa, chip, cheese dip, cracker, peanut and soda aisles.

Hey. Super Bowl. I deserved a reward for the sacrifices my ankles made.

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I’ve been finding inspiration in some of the most surprising places this winter.

Most recently, from the wrappers on my Halls Tropical Fruit Cough Drops, through which of late quite a number I have gone, he said, grammatically confused.

It’s the eucalyptus. Fries the brain cells after a couple months.

I haven’t been hitting the Halls solely for the eucalyptus rush. Quite the contrary. Truth be told, the cool-water vaporizer inhale can lose its wow factor after the first few bags. (A few bags of cough drops: Is that a lot? I can’t tell; they’re making me woozy.)

True story: A fellow with whom I once worked quit smoking and took up eucalyptus cough drops. He went through rolls and rolls of these things every day. Wrappers used to lay all over his desk, spill out of his pocket, litter the office floor.

And his breath always smelled like a koala fart.

Anyway, by standing and staring (until my eyes get fuzzy) at the thousands of varieties of everything on the shelves and shelves of medicine that line today’s grocery store aisles, I have discovered that Halls’ little bullets of whoosh now come in a bevy of exciting flavors (many of which are also found in the sugar-free variety and none of which I am making up), like the classic Mentho-lyptus, mountain menthol, mountain berry with soothing honey center, strawberry, icy strawberry, juicy strawberry, cool creamy strawberry, cool berry, honey-berry, honey-lemon, honey-lemon chamomile, icy lemon, lemon raspberry, citrus blend, assorted citrus (lemon, sweet grapefruit, orange), beef, cherry, wild cherry, black cherry, harvest cherry, harvest peach with soothing honey center, tropical fruit, tropical wave, tropical chill, soap, spearmint, peppermint, freshmint, refreshing mint, ice blue, and watermelon.

OK. I made up a couple of them. But that was to see if you were paying attention.

I have also found, as if the variety wasn’t enough, that Halls cough drops are now attempting to become a source of inspiration to the sick. For not only do they come in more flavors than I could taste in a lifetime and for seemingly more purposes than there are maladies, the wrappers on the individual morsels themselves contain words of encouragement.

It’s called “a pep talk in every drop.” Examples:

Tough is your middle name; Don’t wait to get started; Turn “can do” into “can did”; You got it in you; Seize the day; Get through it; Get back in there, champ; Put your game face on; Power through; You’ve survived tougher; Don’t give up on yourself; Flex your “can-do” muscle; Put a little strut in it; Buckle down and push forth; Let’s hear your battle cry; High-five yourself.

On cough drop wrappers. My “can-do” muscle? I have one of those?

It’s enough to give a person a headache. Or an arm cramp. High-five yourself? Ow. Quit it.

In my mind’s eye, I see somewhere out there in corporate America a board room with a large table and around it sit numerous well-dressed young people earning six-figure salaries. One of them is writing down the suggestions being tossed about from his or her co-workers.

“Don’t try harder, do harder.” Ooh. Good one. Write that one down. Harumpf.

I’m over it.

Halls, like the modern convenience of everything we buy today, also come in a variety of styles to suit everyone’s cough drop needs. No longer is there just the original Halls shoe polish flavor. The original now comes in a sugar-free variety as well as Halls Plus (with advanced vapor action) and icy syrup centers. Halls don’t mess.

But that’s not all. Halls Refresh offers everyday refreshment, specially formulated to moisten your mouth. Halls Naturals, Halls Breezers and Halls Defense offer a variety of additional features that I am sure the corporate Department of Over-Thinking This Just A Tad spent days contemplating in that stuffy board room.

It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago that the only cough drop I needed was the Smith Brothers’ little black disk. Licorice flavor. And if you didn’t like that flavor, tough. You were sick. Sick isn’t supposed to taste good.

In general, however, the specificity of over-the-counter remedies now lining our grocery and apothecary shelves is mind-numbing. It takes me so long to pick out medicine that half the time I’m either all better before I find what I’m looking for, or I forgot what was ailing me, or the store is closing and you have to move along now, please, sir.

Bayer aspirin for pete’s sake — the most basic pill on the planet — comes in low dose, women’s low dose, regular dose, chewable cherry and chewable orange. These are just for those on an aspirin regimen. Which is fine, but it confuses those of us with a simple headache, who are looking for Genuine Bayer Aspirin, found nestled among the Bayer AM, Back & Body Pain, Extra Strength, Extra Strength Plus, and Bayer PM.

Extra Strength Plus? Is that the same as extra extra strength?

In the past few years, I have developed an affinity for Alka-Seltzer, not only because the citrus plop-plop, fizz-fizz pills taste really good, but the Alka-Seltzer Cold & Cough Formula (a dosage of which is two giant purple gel caps every four hours and is akin to swallowing two whole rutabagas) actually works for me.

I can remember a black-and-white Speedy Alka-Seltzer marching across my childhood TV screen, with the little pointy stick in his hand, proclaiming “Alka-Seltzer to the rescue.” And the guy — Ralph — sitting on the edge of his bed, moaning to his wife: “I can’t believe I ate the whoooole thing.”

This was back when Alka-Seltzer was two chalk-flavored white pills that cured everything — from upset stomachs to headaches to bacon.

Today, the varieties of Alka-Seltzer dominate an entire corner of the drug store shelf. If your left hand itches, take this formula; if your right hand itches, take that formula; if your left hand itches and it’s Thursday, take a different one. Life used to be so much easier when we were a lot more stupid.

Also, having only one Dancing Water Elixir seemed to work just fine. Somehow we got by, even though there were fewer decisions to make.

But no more. Now we have Fast Crystal Packs, Day & Night Cold Formula, Cough & Cold Formula, Sparkling Original Formula, Night Cold Formula, Sinus Formula, Orange Zest Formula, Cherry Burst Formula, Flu Formula, Day Non-Drowsy Formula, Night Cold Formula, Mucus & Congestion Formula. And they come in dissolvable, effervescent and liquid gel varieties.

Who knew that dissolvable and effervescent were two separate things? I wonder which one will make me feel better. Fizzing or fizzless?

I can’t tell. But my headache has worsened while trying to figure it out. And the store’s closing.

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The snowbanks at the end of our driveway were epic (although easily conquered on snowshoe) thanks in no small part to the fact that the town snowplow used our driveway as the turn-around point on our dead-end street.

It’s fitting that the weather forecasts for today and tomorrow call for more snow. And by “fitting” I mean “sending me over the edge.”

I am officially sick of winter.

I know: Tell you something you didn’t already know.

And I don’t mean just this winter. I mean all of them. The ones we’ve already had and the ones that have yet to arrive.

If the simple pleasure of being outdoors is uncomfortable and annoying and dangerous, that just seems wrong to me. I don’t remember feeling this way as a child, but now that I’m old and crotchety, this seems like an appropriate response.

I start feeling this way about the same time every year — cabin fever season. The older I get, the more I feel it. (Also, the older I get, the more it sags. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Intolerance for that which is out of my control, knees that make the sound of twigs breaking, and a bladder that has apparently shrunk to the size of a comma: The joys of middle age. It would make a great ad campaign for AARP magazine.

I was yammering with a friend the other day about our mutual hatred for this time of year. I got to thinking that it’s not just because thanks to chapped lips, the flavor of plain pink Chap Stick makes the morning coffee taste like crayons; or thanks to the static cling in the wardrobe, getting undressed sounds like bubble wrap being wrung out like a wet towel; and thanks to the call of Mother Nature, chasing the dog around the kitchen with a wad of Bounty before the wet paws make it to the beige dining room carpet is akin to chasing the quarter you just dropped before it rolls under the vending ma … ahhhhh, too late.

I got spoiled last year, in what turned out to be a relatively mild winter. We had very little snow and I can’t remember how much cold, but apparently not enough to remember. I thought for sure global warming had arrived for good. I could sell the snow blower, shovels, roof rake, hats, gloves, scarves and coats. Then plant citrus.

As I look out the window today, I can see I was premature in my wishful thinking. And my grapefruits are shivering.

Tell me what else we deal with the same way we have to deal with snow. And don’t give me leaves, because someone made a conscious decision to plant that tree. Unless it was a pre-existing tree, in which case you have the option to cut it down.

We don’t get options with snow. It just shows up whenever it wants, overstays its welcome, and takes its sweet time getting out of here.

Which explains why the Indian word for snow is “in-laws.”

As humans, we are remarkably adroit at making lemonade out of lemons. Can’t get rid of all this snow until it melts; might as well find a way to use it to our advantage.

But I don’t ski, skate or snowshoe. Mainly because I tend to fall down a lot. Also because they take place outside, where it’s cold.

Dear sister Denise and my St. Bernard Phoebe bringing home a sled load of Kevin.

Snow was a much more useful item when I was a child. Back then I was not concerned with the barriers it created in my simple, dorky life. Back then, it was all about playing with it.

Today, the only good thing I can say about snow is that it’s light and fluffy when it’s falling. Whoever designed it was using the thinking cap that day.

If snow fell like hail — or something even bigger, like typewriters — we’d probably all be living underground. So it’s good that it makes no noise and is somewhat dainty upon arrival.

And sometimes — only sometimes, though — it can be nice to look at before it gets shoveled, blown or covered with road splooge. It’s kinda cool, but you’ll never hear me admit it, when the bird bath, for example, has a giant white birthday-cake-looking hat.

(Sidebar: I mentioned here recently that mom was quite the birthday cake decorator. One year, she grabbed a handful of candles, went outside to the bird bath right after a monster snowfall, stuck them in it to make it look like a birthday cake, and then took a photo. That mom. She was clever. Fun with snow. But I was a child then, so it was still acceptable.)

The living underground idea might be worth consideration. Especially with the amount of damage our house has endured in winters past.

We’ve had so many roof problems, thanks to snow, that our homeowners’ insurance company, like a good neighbor, has invented a category and drawn up rules for how we are to deal with it and when — or if — it will be covered.

It even has a name now: ice dam. As in: Ice. Dam.

About a decade ago, we had the immeasurable misfortune of having water leak into the living room and ruining the walls and ceiling. Ice. Dam.

This part’s actually not funny. Unless you’re not me. Then it still shouldn’t be real funny.

The snow on the roof, because of the fire in the furnace, melts and freezes and melts and freezes then squeezes up under the shingles, through the insulation, and into the Sheetrock, where it runs all over the ceiling and walls in the living room and plays havoc with the usual good nature and humanitarian stance of some members of a marriage.

Our roof had to be torn off and replaced; the walls and ceiling in the living room had to be removed — removed — before the remaining house skeleton was thoroughly dried. Then the insulation and walls had to be replaced before the Sheetrock could be taped and sanded a total of four times. The house was torn apart for about a month. In the middle of winter. With no insulation in the walls and ceiling.

Know how much dust is created throughout the entire house when half the living room has to be sanded every other day for what seems like a frozen eternity? Because of snow? I mean ice? Dam?

This event was so much fun, it repeated itself two winters ago: the whole scenario — replacing the roof, the walls, the ceiling — just like Groundhog Day. We had giant refrigerator-sized blowers in the living room, making as much noise as you can imagine, blowing until the wood was dry. I still have nightmares.

Our most recent occurrence of ice damage also resulted in the installation of a roof ice melting system: a lengthy lead cord now curls back and forth across a large portion of the roof where the most damage has occurred. Seems to be doing its job.

Which is good. Because the TV scientists are calling for two more days of snow, which could result in another foot to rake off the roof, blow off the driveway, shovel off the porch, scrape off the car, knock off the boots, brush off the pets, and tick off the crotchety.

But, perhaps not in that order.

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