My dishwasher has been working just fine since I fixed it all by myself. Well, it worked as well as it ever did. It's not a particularly nice dishwasher, but it came with the house.

It cleans off the food crusties just fine. But then it puts them somewhere else, specifically in the bottom of all the drinking glasses. So I guess it didn't clean the dishes so much as move the gunk. You know those novelty coffee mugs that say something cheeky on the bottom, so that when you get to the end of your morning joe, a little joke is revealed? Every beverage was like that at my house, except at the bottom, you'd find stuck-on pieces of unrecognizable crud which I assume used to be food.

Josh insisted that the solution to this problem was to pre-wash the dishes before we put them in the washer, so that the crusties never made it to the dishwasher. I resisted this with every fiber of my being. A good modern dishwasher did not require pre-washing. The fact that we did not have such a machine was irrelevant; it was the principle of the thing. My solution: don't look at the crusties if they bother you so much. I mean, it had been through the wash, so it was clean and safe to use, it was just a little unsightly. When the queen comes over, we'll wash some glasses by hand real quick.

Finally, he got fed up with arguing about pre-washing. He unloaded the dishwasher and pre-washed everything in it, then loaded it back up again. He ran the washer, and lo and behold, no little crumlins all over the glasses. So what, big deal, my solution also works.

One day soon after that, I saw a little folded piece of paper stuck to the dishwasher with a magnet. It said "Dirty" in red magic marker. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that the back said "Clean." Cute.

When I asked him about the new dishwasher decoration, he said, "Well, that's so you can't complain that you can't tell when the dishes are clean or dirty."

"I hadn't made that complaint."

"I was predicting that you would."

I made no comment. Inside, I thought, Ha! How little you know me. For your information, had I opened the dishwasher and been unable to tell if the dishes were dirty, then by my slovenly definition, they are clean. Why he felt the need to put the clean dishes in the dishwasher, when they clearly could be put away in the cabinets, is beyond me. He's a real sweet man, but he doesn't know much about housework.

Since then, I have gotten used to the whole washing-the-dishes-before-we-wash-them thing. In fact, I got all crafty about it.
Two things: 1.) The tiles in older Scrabble sets are not uniformly shaped. 2.) Taking a Scrabble set to Goodwill when you know it is incomplete is probably a jerk move.

Someday, though, we will buy a good dishwasher that doesn't need to be mollycoddled, one that will actually wash the dishes, rather than just move the dirt around.


neighbor dogs.

All my neighbors have dogs. And so there is a corner of my backyard that meets the corners of their backyards, where all our dogs can meet and sniff through the fencing, wag their tails at each other and discuss how one day, they are all going to bust out of their respective joints and go chase the geese in the pond across the street. Or maybe they just bark at each other. Not my dog, because she's stoic.

Of course, the wildcard situation is Gail's section of the four corners. Because she has so many dogs, I really just try and avoid having our dogs out at the same time. It is a certified ruckus. And I guess that's really her problem, but it's no big deal to keep my dog inside sometimes so hers can be outside. I admit it, I have a soft spot for my crazy neighbor, and I don't want the other neighbors to be mad at her.

This was all working reasonably well until Syrus came to stay. I think Syrus may be provoking Gail's dogs. Or maybe his very presence is provocative enough. In any case, whenever Syrus is outside, Gail's dogs go NUTS in a way that they do not do in reaction to my little old pitbull.

This has coincided with a sudden newfound ability to breach the chain-link fence between our yards. Or maybe it's not so coincidental. In any case, we sometimes find ourselves with a few visitors. One of the hounds can just climb the fence and jump right over, which is downright impressive. Some of the littler ones are able to squeeze themselves under the fence. However, only one of the three that can manage this are able to squeeze back into their own yard. Gail always apologizes profusely, and I try to convince her it's not a big deal.

Saturday night, we were outside, grilling chicken wings and enjoying the magnificent weather. I let the dogs out, then immediately wished I hadn't, as a cacophony erupted next door. We got our dogs back inside, then realized that we had three extras. The rest of them were still all bunched up in one spot at the fence, barking their heads off. Gail was in the midst of them, frustrated as anyone would be in that situation, even if it was a situation that probably occurred weekly and was completely and totally brought upon oneself.

It was dark and hard to see, but I could see a few little shadows running around in our yard. I approached a terrier, who allowed me to pet it once before barking at me and then sneaking back under the fence. I thought I saw something over near the compost bin, reached blindly toward it and found something vaguely cocker spaniely. I figured out which end of it I had and then switched to the other end: I have yet to meet a dog that can resist The Butt Scratch. A little bit of that, and it was docile enough that I could pick it up. I carried it over to the fence and held the wriggling body out to Gail, my arms extending over as some half dozen dogs continued to go nuts.

And then one of those suckers jumped up and bit me!

I cried out and jerked my arms back.

"Are you okay?" Gail asked.

"I think one of them got me," I said, trying to be as non-accusing as possible while still informing her that excuse me, ma'am, one of your dogs just bit my elbow.

"Are you sure it wasn't the fence?"

Sigh. I did not answer, but left Gail to her dogs and went into the house to inspect the damage. On the way in, I passed Josh, who had finished putting our dogs away and was on his way over to the fence to try and evict our trespassers. We were tag-teaming here.

In the bathroom, I inspected the injury. I had a couple of small swollen-looking areas, and one tiny place that shown blood red. It had been a warning bite - hey, you, quit putting more dogs over here, we got enough! I washed it with soap and water, then applied some antibiotic cream on it. My first dog bite - how thrilling!

I headed back outside. It was strangely quiet. Gail had put away the dogs on her side. She had to do some of them one at a time, dragging them by their collars. There were still some critters rustling around on our side. A black blur came up to me, ah, my old friend Brownie. After a few seconds of Butt Scratch, she was laid out on my feet, tummy side up. Gail came back and Josh handed her a dog, she disappeared again as she led it inside (I think it was that cocker spaniel again). Finally she came back and we handed her Brownie. Josh put an extra pallet in front of the spot where the little dogs had tunnelled under; we'd just have to take our chances with the hound. Gail promised to get her privacy fence up real soon. She's had the posts up for months. I'm not holding my breath, but again, I don't really mind the crazy animal foster home that sits next to mine.

The next morning, my elbow was sore and lightly bruised, but no festering wound, so I guess it's all fine. I thought about letting Gail know that hey, one of your dogs is a biter, but Josh pointed out that she probably already knows.


returned for postage.

So, I'm a doofus.

My nephew Lincoln's birthday was last week. At the beginning of the month, I picked a card out for him out of my stash, wrote him a note that probably didn't make any sense, then made up for it by sticking a little cash inside. I did the same for my niece Callie, whose birthday is today (Happy Birthday, Callie! Your card will be late!). I sealed up the cards, addressed them neatly, then put them in a little metal container I keep on the table in the foyer for just such a purpose. A couple of days before Lincoln's birthday, I pulled out his card and dropped it in the mail.

Did you notice which step I left out?

The really doofussy thing is, I've done this a couple of times lately. About a month ago, I found out that Josh's grandmother's birthday was coming up. Like, the next day. Not to fear, I have a card just for such occasion. Okay, not for the occasion that I'm marrying into a new family and do not yet know everyone's birthdays, but the occasion that a birthday card is late. That one, I've got. Plus, I've got plenty of Easter cards that I can just cross out "Easter" and write "Belated Birthday" over.

I sent her the card, feeling very smug about myself. I totally rock at being a granddaughter-in-law! But ARGH!, a few days later, the card came back, RETURNED FOR POSTAGE. My mail carrier must think I'm an idiot. It's probably best to not think about what our mailpersons think of us.

So now the card was over a week late. I did have a handy excuse for the extreme delay, even if my excuse was my own lack of understanding about how the postal service works. I simply found a bigger envelope, put the card in, stamped envelope and all, and sent off the whole thing. I wrote a little message on the back of the envelope to the effect of "Sorry this is so late, you'll soon see why." Honestly, it's kind of brilliant. For all she knows, I could have sent the card on time in the first place.

A couple of weeks later, I got a card from my future grandmother-in-law in the mail. I opened up the envelope...and found another envelope. This one had been addressed to me as well, but it was stamped RETURNED FOR POSTAGE. Inside that envelope was a card that thanked me for the birthday card, and also remarked at how wonderful it was that I was not afraid to be myself.

If you were me, would you be afraid to be myself?

So, she intentionally sent a card without a stamp, so that it would be sent back to her and she could then put it in another envelope and send that to me. What kind of crazy family am I marrying into?


fifty things.

So, since I've already gone and admitted that I read Fifty Shades of Grey, I'll tell you what happened at our book club discussion. While I feel that our book selections are hit and miss, the discussions are regularly excellent. When I have to read a book that is painful to get through, I consider that my admission price to attend and participate in the meeting.

No one loved the book. We rate them from 1 (hated it) to 5 (love it forever, yay), and the highest rating was a 3.5. I gave it a 1, and gave basically the same reasons that I wrote about last week. Most people who said it was okay said that it was a page-turner and it kept them entertained. The discussion was lively.

Here are some random book club things from the meeting.

Thing 1: Romance, the genre
I did learn a few things about romance novels. One of our regular members is a woman in her seventies who writes (and publishes) these sorts of books. She used to be a judge on some kind of panel that gave out awards. There are specific rules within the romance world, some of which vary by the publisher. Since the genre is acknowledged to be pretty formulaic, I guess this shouldn't be a surprise. For example, Harlequin requires that the male love interest be rich. Romance novels are also required to have a H.E., which stands for a happy ending. Seriously. You can't make this stuff up. This woman said that the writing in this book was truly bad, but did say that the author did something unusual by tying the explicit scenes to the main conflict.

It made me think of musicals - the way sometimes the songs don't really have anything to do with the plot and sometimes they seem almost natural. It's like that. Except with sex. I think maybe romance novels are just not for me. I would've liked it much better had there been elaborate song and dance sequences instead.

Thing 2: Bad Writing
After several of us mentioned the awful quality of the writing, a woman asked us what we meant by that. She thought we were talking about the grammar. We pointed out the repeated use of the same phrases, and then the topic went somewhere else. I wished we could've stayed on that, because it was an interesting question. Mostly, I wanted to say that there aren't actually rules, because a sufficiently talented writer can break them all and make it seem natural. Art is cool like that.

I did gleefully tell Josh about the lady's question. Language comes so naturally to him that he doesn't understand the way other people react to it. To hear that some people not only can't tell the difference between good and bad writing, but have never before contemplated that there was a difference, made him a little sad.

Thing 3: Bad writing
A woman at work, who knows that I read a lot, was asking me about books that I liked. I wasn't sure how to explain it. Good ones? I dunno. She said she only liked real page-turners, otherwise she got bored. I thought to myself that that meant she didn't actually like books at all. I went through my shelves to find some books she might enjoy, ones that were quick-flowing plot-wise, but well-written and with interesting themes and ideas. Before I could lend her any, she found out that we were reading Fifty Shades, and she specifically asked to borrow it. Sigh. Then, as I was reading it, I couldn't help but think that she would probably really like it.

Something that became clear to me at the meeting was that different people read for different reasons. While I found the wretched writing distracting, a lot of people mentioned that the writing was poor, then said they liked the book anyway. They also said that not liking the characters didn't keep them from enjoying it either. They mentioned the same things that I did, yet their reactions were completely different.

Romance novels seem to be mostly escapism. While I frequently enjoy movies that are merely entertaining, rather than educational or throught-provoking, I want more from my books. So it was unfair to think that my colleague doesn't like books, she just wants something else out of the experience than I do. And as a result, I'm better able to answer what kind of books that I like. I want to learn something or think about something in a way that is new to me.

Also, the writing should be good, whatever that means.

Thing 4: Steak at home
When I was complaining about the male love interest, how he didn't appear to be anything more than hot, rich, and mysterious, the other women seemed to think that was plenty for them. Again, that comes from the perspective of what is essentially a fantasy book. And it's true, in a romantic comedy, that would be enough to fill a ninety-minute film. But the main conflict of the plot was that the female lead wanted more than sex from the relationship. And I just felt like there wasn't anything more to this guy.

These women also made jokes about looking askance at their husbands/boyfriends after having read about the drop-dead gorgeous bazillionaire (someone said she needed fifty shades). I don't think anyone's actual relationships are in danger. They were just jokes that you can make with a bunch of other women. I laughed, but I didn't really feel it. Hot and rich is not enough for me, I want someone to talk to! I do not need to fantasize about a made-up man, because the real-life man I have kicks his well-tailored pants up and down the street.

So yeah. Romance is probably not my genre.



I started reading a book this week, called The Face of War by Martha Gellhorn. The author was a war correspondent for pretty much her whole life, and the book is a collection of articles she wrote from various wars. Various is right. Basically, wherever the war was, she went. The first chapter is from the Spanish Civil War, then she goes to the start of the Winter War, from there to the Canton Front, and then we finally get to World War II proper. I am in the midst of that war now. Later, I will get to chapters about Vietnam, the Six Day War, and the wars in Central America.

The articles are beautiful and perceptive descriptions of life in the midst of war. She spends time with civilians living in cities that are shelled daily, makes excursions with soldiers, and tags along on a hospital ship on D-Day. She has a real affection and openness for her fellow man and a wonderful eye for seeing the surreal situations created by war.

Gellhorn is angry about war. She makes me angry about it, too. She hates it, even though by the end of her career, she has to concede that it appears to be an inescapable part of the human experience. She compares it to the last option to save ourselves, one that we resort to repeatedly.

War, when it has any purpose, is an operation which removes, at a specific time, a specific cancer. The cancer reappears in different shapes, in different parts of the human race; we have learned no preventative medicine for the body of the nations. We fall back, again and again, on nearly fatal surgery. But the human race has always survived the operation and lived.

She compares this nearly fatal surgery to nuclear war. While non-nuclear war is awful enough, it only kills those in the present. By poisoning the air and the earth, nuclear war kills off the future, too. The human race may not survive the operation.

I don't remember where I picked up this book. I'd never heard of Gellhorn before, and I was amazed at the fact that there were female war correspondents during the period when she was active. She very rarely refers to it at all, except to explain that she had to sneak into a particular area, because the military brass was reluctant to allow a woman in a combat zone.

I looked her up on Wikipedia, and I was amazed to find out that she was Ernest Hemingway's third wife. I confess that I was more than a little amused to see that the marriage fell apart because Hemingway couldn't handle having to compete for her time with her work (Hemingway: "Are you a war correspondent, or wife in my bed?"). After reading The Paris Wife for book club a few months ago, I've been irrationally angry at Hemingway for being such a pig. And then I was mad at book club, for making me read a fictionalized account of an abandoned wife, when we could have read the actual work of a woman who did something more noteworthy than marry someone famous and famously difficult.

I hope to stop being angry at Hemingway soon. For the moment, I'm consoling myself with Gellhorn.



We have a new roommate. Two, actually.

Josh's brother, Trevor, had some sort of falling out with his former roommate. I don't know what happened. And Trev has some roommates lined up for November, when a couple guys he knows are getting out of their lease and moving to a new place, where he can go with them. Until then, he needs a place to lay his head. Actually, he could probably couch surf the whole time, but he does need a place to store his guitars (five of them, sheesh!).

So he is living in our spare room. He is a good tenant, quiet and keeping mostly to himself. He does have a 90-pound rottweiler, but luckily, our homeowner's insurance policy covers dangerous dogs.
Trevor adopted Syrus about six years ago. He had been badly abused. He had a bandaged wound on one of his legs, which healed in a couple of months. He also was scared of, like, air, which took longer to fix. It was pathetic, to see what should be a terrifying beast being scared of his own shadow. Anytime a new person came in, Syrus would back away until he ran into something, at which point he would jump and then run from the room.

That's why there is such a thing as a dangerous dog. Because people are jerks.

But now Syrus is a new dog. He is confident and secure and unafraid. He's also very mellow, well-trained, and obedient. Syrus, more than any other dog, convinced me that dogs could live in the house. He and Trevor have some sort of mind link, such that Syrus starts obeying the command before it's given. They are a good pair. As much as Trevor gave Syrus confidence to be a great big dog, Syrus gives his master, whose need for solitude is great, a companion who doesn't feel like an intruder.

I love having Syrus around. Besides feeling like I've got the best-protected house around, it's good for Remix, who does not get enough time with other dogs. She's much better-behaved and has not chewed the futon since he moved in (I think she thinks Syrus owns the futon, whereas we could never convince her that we in fact owned it). She follows Syrus around with her current favorite de-stuffed animal, hoping that he will want to play. And sometimes, he does. Since he is older, he is content to sleep most of the time. But after Remix has stood there, tail wagging, gently wapping him in the face with a disgusting slobbery toy for five straight minutes, he will sometimes consent to rip the toy away from her. Or at least, he tries, and then the game is afoot. As a former baby sister, I relate to Remix. And I'm glad she has someone else to pester, because it used to be me getting wapped with that smelly toy. Sometimes, they play tug while both of them are lying on the floor. It's a lazy game, like thumb war or arm wrestling, except that they are testing their neck and jaw strengths.
Syrus watches TV. No, I mean he actively watches it. And if there are certain things on, he will get very excited. Animals are a specific trigger. He will run up to the TV and watch it from a foot away. He will snuffle and growl and bark at it. And if the action onscreen is particularly thrilling, he will jump at the screen. That's not such a problem with our circa 1995 box tucked up and away inside an entertainment center, but when he's visiting friends with nice big flat screens, that could end in tragedy. It's still hilarious.

Syrus also sheds. Sooooo much. Remix has short hair, and so while she also sheds, it sort of blends in to the floor. However, Syrus hair gets wafted by the breeze created by people walking by and accumulates in little fluff balls in the corners. I gave him a good brush down (and swept the floors), which seemed to help. It also seemed to make him love me with his big doggy heart. It is always nice to be loved by a dog, but while Remix pretty much beams love at anyone who looks at her, Syrus is more reserved. I feel accomplished when I can get him to wag his little nub of a tail.

A friend of ours told us that when Syrus moves out, we're going to want a puppy. Ugh, no. But I could see how we might want to get another dog, though not another big dog (two big dogs could probably overpower me on a walk if they were both pulling in the same direction, or rip me apart if they weren't). That's a few months away, though. For now, we'll enjoy our well-protected household.



Last month, a woman with a Yankee accent went off on a rant at book club. She did not like the book and told us so in no uncertain terms. She said book club had really gone downhill lately with the book selections. "I mean, this is just trash," she concluded. I couldn't help but snicker, because I hadn't liked the book either.

This month, we read Fifty Shades of Grey. Sigh.

I have not been looking forward to this month. As soon as I saw the title on our list of books to vote for, I felt a deep fear in my heart that the other bozos nice ladies in the book club would pick it. I was horrified at the idea of having to read it, not just because it was a smutty book, but because everyone in the world knew that it was a smutty book. It was on the news! I have my mom use her Amazon Prime account to order books for me. This time, I blushed at the thought. I usually read during my lunch hour in an empty conference room. I imagined having to sneak the book around so that no one would see me with it. I prayed to the book club gods that the other ladies would show good taste and pick some other crappy book.

The book club gods let me down. It's possible that such a specialized diety does not actually exist.

I am not anti-erotica. I don't really read it, because it makes me uncomfortable, but I don't have a problem with its existence. Whatever people want to write in a book, that's fine. Whatever people want to read in a book, that's fine, too. Yay for books. Fifty Shades is not trash because it's a sex book. It's trash because it's just not very good at all. The writing is bad, bad, bad. The same words and phrases are used repeatedly. I suppose you could say that's an artistic choice. After all, the protagonist and narrator is a young woman, freshly graduated from college. It's not entirely unrealistic in terms of how that character might talk. But who wants to read a book narrated by an idiot? Every time she might've had a thought, she just says "Holy crap" or "Whoa" instead. There is no reflection at all, just reaction. Holy crap.

As for the love interest, ugh. His main qualities appear to be that he is really, really, ridiculously good-looking and richer than Croesus. Also, he's mysterious, in that sometimes he's sorta not a jerk and other times he is definitely a jerk. Gosh, don't you want to read a whole book series about a man like that? He does use his vast wealth to send food to Africa, so that's something. And he likes classical music. He has some cool and interesting hobbies, but those mostly underline his privilege, rather than any sort of zest for life (Life is pretty zesty when you're a bazillionaire). But mostly, we are told over and over how hot he is, the way his copper curls glint in the sun, the thrilling way his pants hang on his hips. I like a nicely-tailored pair of pants as much as the next woman, but I need a little more than that. The narrator gushes about how very sweet he is, because he remembered what kind of tea she liked. Aim high, sister! He does buy her lots of expensive presents, and then uses them to stalk her. He has significant control issues, but that just means he cares.

Oh, he's all messed up inside. That's what the mystery is hiding, a profoundly broken person who is incapable of having a relationship with another person as an equal. His control issues are supposed to be from a bad childhood experience. Being stupid rich, which allows hims to buy whatever/whoever he wants, probably doesn't help.

I can totally see the appeal of the broken man story. Are you kidding me? I love a project. A sad man who needs the love of a strong woman to overcome his troubled past to become the man he is capable of being? That's a great story! It's just that the reader is never given a reason to believe that this guy is worth putting in the work for. There's no indication that he had the potential to be anything more than the moody and entitled jerk that he already was. I guess we were supposed to take her word for it, but she was too busy talking about how his steely grey gaze made her muscles clench down there.

Yup, it's a sex book, which means that periodically in the badly-written narrative, there is a badly-written sex scene. But it's just sex, because the dude's issues make him incapable of "making love." I suppose in later books, once his brokenness has been healed by her love, there will be a badly-written love-making scene.

The book ends with our heroine leaving her lover's penthouse apartment in tears, having finally concluded that this relationship will not work (uh, spoiler alert, I guess). It's not even pretending to be anything but a cliffhanger. And yet, I got to that cliff and I sorta shrugged and wandered in the other direction, tossing the book over my shoulder as I went. I will not be devoting any more of my time to these characters. I will thwart the obvious ploy to get me to buy the next book by writing my own conclusion. As far as I'm concerned, they stay broken up, and they will continue to be generally awful people in their own separate lives, the end.


special agent.

Yard sales have been pretty uninspiring as of late. I've missed several weekends from being out of town, but on the weekends when I was around, it seems like there were very few sales. On those days, I usually end up hitting thrift stores instead. After all, my house is not going to fill itself with junk!

Yesterday's ad listings were similarly slim, but a couple of church sales had me hopeful that it might be a good day. It only takes one good sale to make the whole day worth it. There may have been one good sale yesterday, but I didn't go to it.

But at my last stop, I happened across a brass plaque sitting with a bunch of scrap metal. It was about a foot high, shaped like a badge, and had the following lines inscribed:

Special Agent
Office of Special Investigations
Department of the Air Force
United States of America
The Inspector General

I thought it was pretty cool. I guess "Special Agent" is sufficiently vague that it could mean anything, like being seven and the teacher asking you to be her special helper for the day. I asked the guy manning the sale where it had come from. He said that the sale was for a guy who had Parkinson's and was being moved to a nursing home. He also said that the guy had been some kind of government agent. He didn't seem to know very many specifics, which was odd to me. If he didn't know the old guy, why was he running his estate sale?

Then he said he wasn't sure if the plaque was for sale. Since it was brass, they had been planning on taking it to a scrap yard to see what they would get for it. But he went off to ask someone else what he might ask for it.

He came back and said $10, and I felt like that was just too much. I mean, I liked it. It was cool, but $10 was more than I usually paid for something to just hang on the wall. I said no thanks, then headed back to the car.

I felt kinda bad that this old guy's house was being cleaned out and sold by people who didn't seem to know or care much about him. And if the people who are clearing out your home don't care about you, who does? Who will save your awesome brass plaque from the scrap heap so that your whole career is not melted down and forgotten?
I guess the best you can hope for is that some strange lady with eccentric tastes in decor will come along and claim her own heirloom.


wedding flan.

Back when Josh and I were still working under the assumption that we were going to be paying for the wedding, we were brainstorming on ways to save money. We talked about how to encourage people to take pictures during the reception and then upload them to a single site. We discussed who we knew who had particular talents that we could exploit call in for a favor. We got to the topic of cake. I don't care much about the cake, as long as it's delicious. Bad wedding cake is such a disappointment. But it seemed like a big burden to ask a non-professional to do a whole big wedding cake, and we don't know anyone with special cake skills.

But we do know a lot of people with regular cake skills. Most people know a couple of good dessert recipes that they whip out for potlucks. So we came up with the idea of crowd-sourcing the cake. That is, rather than find one person who is good at baking to make us a massive cake, ask a bunch of people to make us a regular-sized cake or two. And it wouldn't have to be just cake. There could be pie or cobbler or cookies. There could be banana pudding or tarts or flan! We thought that this was a great idea. It would give people close to us an opportunity to be an important part of the day. It would be delicious. It would be unusual, yet we could still do all the traditional cakey stuff (cutting ceremony, toppers, freezing a piece) that you would do with a white, tiered cake. And there is pretty much something for everyone. Don't like wedding cake? No problem, have some wedding flan. ¡Arriba!

I shot off a mass email to everyone in my family, telling them about our great idea and asking for contributors. I made it clear that there was no obligation to participate, and that those who did would have complete freedom over what they wanted to bring. I could not have been any nicer about bothering people to make me free cake so that I didn't have to pay for one.

The response was...tepid. That's okay. I am used to my relatives thinking that I'm a bit weird. I strong-armed most of them into agreeing to help, even if they thought I was nuts. Josh thinks it's a great idea, and that's why I'm marrying him and not those spoilsports. And I think that once people see it, they will get it, even if it's not something they would have done.

My dear sister sent me a heartfelt email about how this was a terrible idea that I was going to regret. She countered that cake at a wedding is not automatically wedding cake, as I had said in the mass email. She and her husband agreed that they had really liked their cake (it had a fountain!). She even offered to chip in on a real wedding cake. It was sweet.

My response was that just because they enjoyed their cake and look back upon it fondly, that doesn't mean that if they had not had it, they would miss it. Also, and this is something I keep returning to, whatever you do at your wedding will be special to you because that's what you did at your wedding. It is a self-fulfilling specialness. The ring is The Ring because he bought it and gave it to me. The dress is The Dress because I picked it out and wore it. None of these things are special on their own. We make them special. It's like a mind trick we can play on ourselves. All we have to do to impart specialness to completely unspecial objects is to associate them with the day that we vow to spend our lives together.

My mom got married in a red gingham dress that she made in home economics class. It was not a wedding dress, and yet it was her wedding dress. So maybe cake at a wedding is not automatically wedding cake (except in a strictly linguistic sense). But, as the bride, I say that this is my wedding cake, and so it is. Years from now, we will look back and think about all those cakes and pies and flans and how glad we were that we did that. Isn't that neat?

In case you are still not convinced, and some of you are not, I have come up with another way to turn regular cake into wedding cake. There is a secret ingredient that you add. Ready? I'll tell you.


Our "cake," actually a table full of various desserts, is the combined effort of many people. There are many flavors, consistencies, and styles. But each was made with love by someone who loves us to celebrate our love. Individually, these various desserts are the people in our lives who have contributed to us becoming the people we are. Together, they make us, in a scrumptious smorgasbord of influences. This is our union. And you can eat it! Mmm, symbolism.


good dog.

Last night, we were out on the back porch, enjoying the evening cool. The days are no longer blazing hot, but you have to wait until dark for the mosquitoes to go to bed. And then you can go outside and listen to the owls and the whispering of anonymous night creatures. The empty lot next door, which has been reclaimed by Mother Nature, houses unknown beings. Sometimes it seems like our little wire fence is the only thing keeping the lions and the tigers and the bears at bay. We heard the rustling of branches and tree leaves, followed by a hollow thud, as if some large animal had fallen out of a tree. It sounded big. It was probably just a possum. Or if it was a mythical hell-beast, at least it was one of the clumsy ones.

Suddenly, from inside, came a rough bark. Remix is not a frequent barker. In fact, it took so long for her to bark when we first got her that we were worried that her previous owners had removed her bark box. She progressively got more and more vocal as she lived longer with us, but most of her communication was more like conversation. I can't speak for all pitbulls, but ours can be very whiny. Finally, one day, she did bark, and it was a great big scary bark, just the kind that will reach the ears of anyone who might be lurking outside and make them think twice about breaking and entering.

We weren't lurking, but we figured we should go check out what our dog was trying to tell us. We went back inside to assess the situation. She was standing near the back door, looking towards the kitchen. There was a rattling noise coming from the stove. It was the pot of rice, about to boil over, the lid rattling from the force of the steam. Oh, time to turn down the temperature.

I went over to lower the heat and stir the rice. It took a second, but then I suddenly realized: GOOD DOG! A pot of water boiling over or a cup of ruined rice is no big deal, which is why I hadn't worried about going outside while the rice was on the stove. But anytime the dog wants to let me know that there is a potentially dangerous situation going on in the house, then that is just fine with me.

She was quickly rewarded. There were treats, butt scratches, and a game of tug with a stuffed manatee, as if she had just mastered a new trick after weeks of training. But one of the great things about dogs is that you don't have to teach them to protect their packs.


lunch hour.

The first stop was the bank. I have a safe deposit box at the main branch on Wade Avenue. Having such a thing makes me feel like a grown-up, with special grown-up things that need to be kept in a safe and separate place. I mostly just have a bunch of paperwork related to home ownership (grown-up). I don't even know what most of them are about, but I had to sign copies of them, and by gum, if ever anyone showed up on my doorstep and demanded to see them, I'd have them. Or at least, I'd be able to get them immediately, given a half hour drive to Wade Avenue, as long as it was within bank hours. I'm on a waiting list for a safe deposit box at a closer branch.

Something else that I keep in the safe deposit box is the title to the car, and it was that which I needed. I needed it so that I sign the back of it while a notary watched me so that he could then put down his official I Saw This Happen stamp. Then I would give it to some local tow truck operator, who would take it and my car with the tree-shaped dent to an auction house. Four to six weeks later, I will get a statement that says how much my car raised for the public radio station that plays a bunch of jazz. This is not to be confused with the public radio station that received the donation of one of our cars four months ago. I get a tax write-off, but honestly just being rid of the thing is enough of a weight off my shoulders. If ever you want to just get rid of a junker and don't care what happens to it or whether you get any money for it, this is a convenient way to do it. And then you can talk about how you donated it to charity, aren't you a nice person?

I was in and out of the bank in minutes, car title in my purse. And then what? I'd killed less than half of a lunch hour, and despite my opening sentence, really the only stop I needed to make was the bank. It was hot, and that made me decide that I wanted bubble tea. Then I thought, no, there's no need to go out of my way to spend three dollars on a novelty drink, no matter how refreshing. Then I remembered that my mom had asked me to get her something at the Asian grocery store. And that's fine, because I can buy a refreshing novelty drink as long as I have a reason to go to the store in the first place.
Have you ever had bubble tea? It's silly. It looks silly and it tastes silly, and it's so silly that it requires a special straw, also silly. It's some kind of iced tea with milk, and they add little chewy things they call bubbles, but which are actually tapioca. You drink the tea, and sometimes the tapioca bubbles come up through the special silly straw, so you can chew them. They don't have much of a taste, but the texture is fun. If you eat all of them, though, you get that same weird feeling in your stomach that you get after a gummy worm binge. Full, but not sated, as if what you ate expanded. For all I know, that's exactly what happens.

I called up my mom's email on my phone, because I couldn't remember what I was supposed to get for her. I walked confidently into the store, ready to fetch some shichimi togarashi. And then I realized that I had no idea what shichimi togarashi was. Some kind of mushroom? So I googled it and found out that it was a spice blend, which at least helped me get to the right aisle of the store. I looked at the many, many packages, but none of them appeared to be the right thing. But then again, a lot of the packages were not in English. An official-looking man with an official-looking clipboard was in the spice aisle, so I showed him my phone and asked if he had this, not even bothering to make a go of the pronunciation. He thought for a second, then walked over to a shelf and tapped authoritatively on a small spice bottle before walking away. Nothing on the bottle was in English, except for the brand name. I tried to compare the characters on the bottle to the characters in the Wikipedia article. They seemed pretty close, and I figured my mom was not likely to know the difference anyway. Besides, I felt silly examining a bottle that I could not read even a little bit.
On my way to the register, I happened to find myself walking down the candy aisle (okay, I diverted myself there). I love Asian candy. It is inexplicable and delicious. I examined the packages, which gave only a slight indication of what might be inside. I picked up one, realized it had some kind of fish paste in it, and said, "Ew!" as I put it back. A man came around the corner as I did so, and I worried I had offended him. Silly white woman doesn't appreciate good candy. The Asian grocery store makes me worry about stupid things like that, mostly because I feel so conspicuous in the first place. He might think that kind of candy is gross, too.

I couldn't figure out the candy packages, so I picked up some mango-flavored Hi-Chew, because I know that it is yummy. Between that and the bubbles in the bubble tea, I had such a gummy tummyache that I didn't eat my packed lunch until after 4 in the afternoon. It was totally worth it.