Kate Holds Court

Accept No Substitutes.

One in Five

So by now you’ve probably heard about the thoroughly depressing results of a survey that was recently conducted by the Washington Post. If you haven’t, I link so you can browse at your leisure, but the short version: One in five women who attended college in the last four years reported being sexually assaulted, either by force or when they were incapacitated and unable to consent.

One in five. Meditate on that. Twenty percent. One. In. Five.

Now, I know that most men will find that statistic as sickening and horrifying as I did. Most men are not rapists. #NotAllMen and all that. (But then again, why does anyone non-ironically tweet #NotAllMen and assume that this is in any way good enough? Why aren’t all these super-menschy #NotAllMen tweeters vocally and visibly agitating for the day when they can tweet, in all sincerity, #NotANYMen? But I digress.)

The point is, the Handsome Husband and I are parents of a daughter and a son, and they’re both at an age where we’re starting to talk to them about…stuff. We’re telling them that their bodies belong to them alone, and that they get to call the shots. We’re telling them — importantly — that other people’s bodies belong to other people and should be respected without question. As they get a little older, we will teach them that their dates don’t “owe” them anything, no matter how many drinks they’ve poured down the other party, and even if they and the other person have gotten together before. We’re telling them they can come to us with anything, ask us anything, and they will be heard and answered.

Nevertheless, poll results like One In Five make me want to lock Mini-Me in particular away from the world, forever. I mean, look how well that worked for the family of this asshole:



(That’s Josh Duggar, by the by. If you don’t know his story, go Google him, because I can’t even.)

So instead of locking her up forever in a room guarded by Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Imperator Furiosa, and a pack of ravenous pit bulls, I decided to arm Mini-Me with information. She’ll be off to college soon enough, and while her dream man currently looks like this:

Aaron Rodgers

He looks like a decent sort of chap.

…it’s only a matter of time before she discovers wild parties, spiked punch, and cute boys who exist in the real world and not just on her teevee on Sunday afternoon. (I mean, I know Aaron Rodgers exists in the physical world, but the odds of an encounter between him and Mini-Me seem remote.) Accordingly, I waited for a quiet moment, and then mentioned the results of the survey. I assured her that most men were going to be…more Aaron Rodgers than Josh Duggar, but there are enough Joshes in the world that she’s going to want to be careful, and in particular she’s going to want to avoid getting blackout drunk, for a number of very good reasons of which this is only one.

I also joked that we were going to get her a pistol for her high-school graduation present. Mini-Me gave me the side-eye as only she can and said, “Wouldn’t that be illegal?”

“You’re worried that it would be illegal to use a gun to protect yourself from a physical assault? Aren’t you adorable,” I said. Well, okay, I didn’t actually say that. I may have thought it. But then she said, “Could I get a big knife instead?”

“Well, okay,” I replied.

“No, I know!” she said enthusiastically, warming to her subject. “I want a dagger. Like the Dark One has in Once Upon a Time.


Maybe we’ll just send this guy to college with her.

And I think that’s a fabulous idea. She can wear it in a little sheath around her ankle. We’ll have her name engraved on one side of the handle; on the other, we will engrave the weapon’s name. — That’s right, her dagger will have a name, just like Arya Stark’s Needle and Brienne of Tarth’s Oathkeeper.

Brienne with Oathkeeper

Mini-Me, meet your college roommate.

I’ve decided that Mini-Me’s dagger will be called Castrator. College men of the future, pay heed: Mini-Me will only unsheathe Castrator if she absolutely needs to. But if she absolutely needs to, she will not hesitate.

Of course, I’d prefer that she never needs to. I’d prefer that the world will change, and I’ll be able to send her off to college in a few years securely believing #NotAnyMen. I hate having to warn her not to let her drink out of her sight, and advising her to always stick with her friends for her own safety. I hate having to tell her that most men she meets at college will be perfectly lovely, but then turning around and telling her that there are a few who…are not at all lovely. I hate that one in five young women have had to learn these lessons the hard way.

It’s just sick-making, and apart from making cynical jokes about arming my daughter when she leaves the house, I really don’t know what to do about it.

Perfect Pairings

There are some roles that just about any talented actor should, in theory, be able to carry off, assuming they’re the right age and reasonably articulate. I mean, sure, you probably wouldn’t want Shia LaBeouf playing Dumbledore or Robert Duvall appearing as Huck Finn, unless he were Old Huck reminiscing about his life on the Mighty Mississippi. But you know what I mean. How many actors have successfully portrayed James Bond, for example? Or Jane Eyre? I loved Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson as Benedick and Beatrice in the 1991 version of Much Ado About Nothing; but I also loved Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker in the 2012 version and anyone who didn’t can TALK TO THE HAND because they were MAGIC.

Fred + Wesley 4EVA

Just Because.

Then there are cases where a part seems to have been tailor-made for a particular actor (and indeed, many parts are written with a particular actor in mind). In these situations, the marriage of actor and role is so perfect that you can’t envision anyone else in the role, and in some cases you don’t want to imagine the actor in any other role. This happens less often than you might think. I mean, any rugged male actor over age 30 or so could have played Aragorn. Johnny Depp was certainly effective as Captain Jack Sparrow, but I can think of half a dozen other guys who would have been just as effective, or nearly so. I used to think that Colin Firth was the ONE and ONLY Mr. Darcy; then I saw Matthew Macfadyen’s interpretation of the role and realized the error of my ways. Likewise for Jennifer Ehle and Keira Knightley. And so forth.

Here, then, I pay tribute to six instances of the casting director’s art — six (well, actually seven) roles that not only can I not imagine anyone else playing; also, I don’t want to.

1. Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, The Hunger Games


Heads up! Smiles on!

Elizabeth Banks usually bugs me — I tend to find her a bit shrill and over the top. But Effie Trinket more or less defines “shrill” and “over the top,” and besides, Banks has somehow — somehow — manages to inject just the slightest bit of self-awareness and even, dare I say it, sadness into the ridiculous, clueless creature. My opinion of Banks as an actress is revised upward every time I see one of those movies. Plus, I’m not sure that anyone else could carry off Effie’s unique…look with the same aplomb.

Any reasonably talented young actress could have made a creditable Katniss. But there is only one Effie Trinket.

Quote: THAT is MAHOGANY! (in just as outraged a tone as you can possibly imagine)

2. Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold, Once Upon a Time


I was Richard the Third! I had five curtain calls! I was an ACTOR, damn it!

Look, Once Upon a Time went from being an entertaining diversion to being a hot mess somewhere around the time Neil/Baelfire appeared on the scene, and even at its best it was somewhat ridiculous. A hidden Maine town where fairy tales are real…but the characters don’t realize it? Magic and spells and curses are everyday occurrences…but most of the characters are totally unaware? Somebody hired Jennifer Morrison…and in a lead role, no less? I swear, they should bottle that woman and market her for insomnia. But I digress, because there’s been one consistently bright spot in the whole affair, and that’s been the ridiculously talented Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin (in the Fairy Tale universe) and sinister Mr. Gold (in this one).

Carlyle, bless his heart, takes the role seriously. He throws his back into it. He never, for one second, gives the impression that he believes he’s above the material. The result is somewhat akin to watching Pavarotti sing a Katy Perry Medley backed by the Spongecake Elementary School Kindergarten Choir. But who wouldn’t want to watch Pavarotti tear it up in any context?

Quote: Just remember: Love is free, but all magic comes with a price.

3. Jon Hamm and January Jones as Don and Betty Draper, Mad Men

Don and Betty

The happy couple, with Bonus Baby

Much like Mad Men — the show — itself, Jon Hamm and January Jones came roaring out of obscurity to take the world by storm. As brilliant ad man/serial womanizer/all-around jerk Don Draper, Hamm brought the old-school glamor and unrepentant alpha-maleness that mesmerized audiences. And as Draper’s unfortunate first (well, second, technically) wife Betty, Jones embodied a certain Ice-Queen WASPY brittleness and suppressed rage that burned through the screen. (It doesn’t hurt that she was born to wear those expensive vintage styles the show’s costumier kept putting her in.)

The thing is, I’ve seen both of them in other things, and they were…fine? They were okay? Entirely forgettable, but adequate to the demands of the role? I guess? Frankly, I’ll be astonished if January Jones is as good in anything again. And as for Hamm…he could always pursue a second career as an underwear model. But as Don and Betty, they were brilliant. Iconic, even.


Don: I can explain.

Betty: Oh, I know you can. You’re a very, very gifted storyteller.

4. Ben Mendelsohn as Danny Rayburn, Bloodline

Ben Mendelsohn

He can Get It, but the person who gives it to him will probably want to enter Witness Protection the next morning.

I had never heard of this guy before I watched Bloodline on Netflix this spring, but as the troubled black sheep of a close-knit family in the Florida Keys, he absolutely blew me away. His Danny Rayburn is charming, tragic, manipulative, lost, redeemable, irredeemable, angry, sad, determined, and cunning — all at the same time. You start out feeling curious about him, then you feel sorry for him, and then you hate him and want him to DIE. And you hate his family, too, because after all they created him. And then you’re back to feeling sorry for him. Then he pulls his next stunt and you wish he would just go away. And the whole time, you can’t take your eyes off of him.

Seriously, I have no idea what the Australian Mendelsohn is like in anything else (although I’ve read that he absolutely wrecks it in a movie called Animal Kingdom, which has moved to the top of my must-watch list). But he’s stunning in Bloodline. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should.

Quote: Your life’s not always going to be this perfect. Things happen to people. And then you’ll need me. Then you’ll know.

5. Aubrey Plaza as Darius Britt, Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

When the heat gets hot, she’ll have your back.

Let me just get this out of the way: This woman usually annoys the crap out of me. Her dead-eyed, deadpan version of affectless cool would have played just fine in high school, but I’m not in high school and more to the point neither is she. I don’t find her particularly funny and I mostly just wish she would grow up already.

And yet, in Safety Not Guaranteed, a sweet little indie about, of all things, time travel, her thousand-yard zombie-eyed stare actually works. She wears the role of listless and depressed Darius like a comfortable robe, and she sells her romance with the very-possibly-but-not-definitely-crazy Kenneth (Mark Duplass) in a way that is effortless, compelling, and even touching. A peppier actress would have tanked in this role. Aubrey Plaza soars.

Quote: I have no funk. I’m totally funkless.

6. Owen Wilson as Hansel, Zoolander


That Hansel. He’s so hot right now.

Pity Ben Stiller. He keeps headlining these comedies, only to have the second lead quite neatly steal the movie out from under him. In Tropic Thunder, it was eventual Oscar Nominee Robert Downey, Jr. In those Focker abominations, it was Robert DeNiro. (He gambles rashly who pits himself against the great DeNiro onscreen.) And in Zoolander, in which Stiller played the titular role, no less, it was second banana Owen Wilson.

Hansel is easily the funniest thing about the movie, whether he’s philosophizing, affably reminiscing about plunging off the edge of Mount Vesuvius (kind of), swaggering down an urban alleyway in the company of his multicultural posse of Beautiful People, or giving advice (“This has been an emotional day for all of us. I think we should get naked.”)  And Wilson plays him as a tousle-haired, perpetually stoned surfer dude who isn’t nearly as deep as he’d like to think he is. We’ve probably all known a Hansel or two, come to think of it.

Quote: I hear words like “beauty” and “handsomness” and “incredibly chiseled features” and for me that’s like a vanity of self absorption that I try to steer clear of.

Who are your “perfect pairings?” Let me know in the comments!

House Full of Zebras

Victorian House

I’ll bet it even comes with its own ghost.

My dream house kind of looks like that beauty up there. Look at those balconies. There’s a turret. The big windows, the wide front porch…and even solar panels! (The owner is green!) I can’t see the inside, but I can guarantee that there’s a back staircase, wood floors, a fireplace in every bedroom, weird little closets and nooks and crannies, and claw-foot bathtubs. And if we lived there, one day Mini-Me would be fiddling around with her bedroom fireplace and a brick would become dislodged, and she would remove it and find the secret compartment where a young woman of the North had concealed her tragic Civil War diary, along with a locket given to her by her lover, a soldier for the Confederate cause. Pardon me while I take a minute to swoon.

Anyway. We don’t actually live in a 150-year-old house. In fact, our house is about 65 years old, one of a series of tract houses thrown up in the late 1940s to accommodate soldiers returning from World War II. A previous owner was a do-it-yourself sort who single-handedly put up an extensive addition, including a master bedroom and bath and an enormous kitchen. In theory, I am in awe of his undeniable skill. In practice, it means that if the house is 65 years old, then the addition is maybe 35 years old, and things are wearing out and breaking down, one at a time. Basically, our house has all of the Issues but none of the charm of a Dream House.

So stuff is falling apart in our house on a fairly regular basis, but here’s the thing — it is always something weird. You know how you go in for medical tests and you’re always worried that you have Von Schnitzelhauffer’s Disease or some other rare, fatal thing you read about on the Internet, and the doctor piously intones “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras,” and sure enough it turns out that rather than some rare fatal malady, you actually have pinkeye? Out here, the horses left the barn 20 years ago. It is always a zebra.

Illustrative Examples:

Some years back, the sink faucet in the master bathroom was dripping. Nothing big — just a nice, steady drip. Day and night. Drip, drip, drip. Now, we could have called a plumber, but the Reader’s Digest New Fix-It-Yourself Manual assured me that I could save the money and fix it myself! The problem was almost certainly, according to the RDNF-I-YM, a seat washer.

A what?

I’m so glad you asked. The scoop: A faucet has a whole apparatus that you don’t usually see — it’s all beneath the surface, as it were. It consists of a stem that has a bunch of hardware on it, including a little object called a valve seat. Sitting atop the valve seat is a seat washer, which can wear out over time, causing leakage and, yes, dripping. The RDNF-I-YM made replacing a defective seat washer sound like a lark, a piece of cake, a walk in the park, so armed with my copy of the RDNF-I-YM and a smile, I trekked over to the local Home Depot and came out half an hour later with a 50-cent seat washer in my purse. Boy, did I feel smug.

Faucet mechanism

Where else but this very blog  can you find Irish music, romance novels, and plumbing, too?

And you know, fixing it wasn’t that hard at all. I was feeling pretty darn good about myself until I turned the water back on and found that the faucet was now dripping approximately twice as hard and twice as fast as it had been before.

“Hmm,” I mused. I turned the water back off and went back to the Home Depot and picked up a slightly larger seat washer. There was maybe a little less swagger in my step as I went back home and tried again. This time, the drip had turned into a steady trickle of water.

“How odd,” I remarked. I took the thing out, adjusted it, tried again. No joy. In desperation, I replaced the original seat washer on the stem. The trickle became a veritable gush.

At that point, I decided it was time to call in the cavalry in the form of a licensed professional. A plumber was summoned. He took one look at the various parts and pieces spread around the bathroom — like Frankenstein anesthetized upon a table, to paraphrase one of the greats — and picked up a small object. It was the valve seat itself, and it had a nice fat crack in it.

“Oh,” I said. Basically, I could have spent all afternoon, and in fact did spend all afternoon, switching out seat washers, and it wouldn’t have made a blessed bit of difference. Live and learn.

After that rather painful initiation to the art and science of plumbing, I went on to become, if not an expert, at least minimally competent at small-scale stuff like flapper replacement and so forth. In a moment of great triumph, I even successfully replaced the fill valve (the doodad that regulates water flow in the tank) in the Master Bath. So of course, when our upstairs toilet began to run, I knew exactly what to do.

By way of clarification, I should mention that we have three bathrooms in our house. Bathroom #1 is original to the house; we call it the Blue Bathroom. The Master Bath was added by Owner #2; that’s where I learned all about seat washers vs. valve seats. And then there’s the Upstairs Bathroom, also added by the previous owner; it’s a dark, nasty little cave, reeking of cat pee. Still, it’s a functional toilet.

Or, I should say, it was a functional toilet.

Anyway, it was running, so I did what any reasonable person would do and replaced the flapper. That didn’t fix the problem, so I decided it was time for a new fill valve.

Fluidmaster Universal Toilet Fill Valve

This is really a very easy fix. Really.

No problem! A toilet fill valve, for those of you who have sailed through life blissfully unknowing, is the “#1 Solution To Fix Noisy Toilets.” It says so right there on the box! EASY INSTALL! — it screams in big white letters. “Install with confidence. Installs in 15 minutes.”

I installed with confidence. It took about 15 minutes. Awesome! I gave the restored toilet a few experimental flushes and was about to strut downstairs and brag when I realized the floor was wet. Also, the toilet was still running, but at this point that was the least of my worries.

“Goodness gracious,” I said. I fiddled with the valve, I fiddled with the line, and then I noticed that water was leaking out of the spot where the water line went into the wall. “Well, that won’t do,” I observed.

I went downstairs to share my observations with the Handsome Husband and suggest that we might want to bring in the experts soon rather than late. While I was explaining what had happened, Mini-Me’s voice floated out from the Blue Bathroom: “Why is the ceiling dripping?”

“Heavens!” I exclaimed, and ran to shut off water to the house and call the plumber. But our regular plumber was not answering their business or emergency lines — did I mention that all this went down over a holiday weekend? — so I frantically googled “Plumbers open on Sunday” and ended up calling an outfit called The Plumbing Doctor.

I liked The Plumbing Doctor. All their experts are addressed as Dr. So-and-So, which, on one hand, that’s how you know we’re in the DC area — even the plumbers are “Doctor;” but on the other hand, I like it, because they’re certainly more expert than I am and it’s always a little weird when the plumber comes in all “Good afternoon, ma’am! I’m Mike,” and in any case I would have happily addressed our guy — Dr. Manning — as Your Most Awful and Serene Imperial Highness if it meant that I was going to be able to take a shower that night.

Dr. Manning fiddled with the toilet for a few minutes and then informed me that a new fill valve was never going to stop that toilet from running. Apparently: a) It’s an old toilet (Fun fact: If you remove the lid from the tank, you can usually see the toilet’s date of manufacture stamped inside. Ours said 1948.) b) It’s an American “Standard,” which, name notwithstanding, uses unique parts that are hard to get. c) The underlying problem was neither the flapper nor the fill valve. (Thanks, Fluidmaster!) It was the “gasket.” It might be possible to replace the “gasket,” but “gaskets” for Truman-era toilets are increasingly difficult to come by. Dr. Manning finished by “strongly recommending” that we replace the thing altogether.

I was like, “Mon ostie de saint-sacrament de câlice de crisse! VAS T’ENCULER, OLD TOILET!!!”

No, what I actually said was, “That’s very interesting. Since it is now 9 o’clock on Sunday night, is there a temporary fix that will stop the drip into our downstairs bathroom?”

There was. Dr. Manning capped off the water line, and now we have a pee-reeking storage closet with a sculpture in the shape of a 1940s American Standard toilet where our Upstairs Bathroom used to be. I should paint the thing and fill it with flowers:

Toilet Full of Flowers

And why not?

And why not? I used to think I wanted to live in an old house, but it wasn’t until we bought our Money Pit that I realized what I really wanted was a beautiful house, an interesting house, and a house with character. Oh, and working toilets would be nice. And character doesn’t just happen — it’s built gradually, one eccentric decision at a time.

And if the house looks like this — well, all the better.

Another Victorian

That round window tho

Get out your tools, Handsome Husband! We have a new planter to decorate!


“So, Kate, what are you listening to lately?” is something that…well, actually, it’s something that no one has said to me ever. Alzo is the undisputed Expert in Interesting Music in the family, and maybe someday I’ll write a blog about what he’s listening to these days. But for now, since I’ve already posted pretty pictures for you to look at, I should probably post some lovely musical accompaniment to go with them. (Not all your senses will be engaged on this blog. I draw the line at cooking all of my readers a delicious meal. Sorry.) So here goes:

Skara Brae

 Skara BraeSkara Brae

I’m 40+ years late to the party with this, but I’ve recently discovered the one and only album recorded by an Irish band called Skara Brae. Skara Brae consisted of three siblings — Micheál Ó Domhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill — along with one of Micheál’s college friends, one Dáithí Sproule. The eponymous “Skara Brae” (1971) was the first album to feature Irish-language vocal harmonies, and as such it was enormously influential. (I mean, sure, you had the Clancy Brothers and the Chieftans and the like running around in the ’60s singing “Danny Boy” and whatnot — but they largely performed in English.) The various members went on to either establish or participate in many of the most popular and groundbreaking acts of the 1970s and 1980s, including the Bothy Band, Nightnoise, Relativity, and Altan. Indeed, the case could be made with some justification that without Skara Brae, this never would have happened:

I saw an excerpt from this once on PBS. It was a song called “Acushla” in which Michael Flatley and his female co-lead circled each other and eyed one another suspiciously. That was it. It was really weird.


Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is a question I will leave you to ponder within your own heart, but the point is, Skara Brae’s influence continues to be felt even today, as three of the four members are still out there making music. The fourth, Micheál Ó Domnaill, died tragically young in 2006, and what a shame it is that I was just a preschooler in 1971, because he totally had it going on:

Double sigh.


The remarkable thing about Skara Brae is that the oldest of them was, like, 20 years old when they recorded this album. Maighread, the youngest, was still in high school. What were you doing when you were in high school? Probably not this:

Also, if anyone ever says “Cad É Sin Don Té Sin” to you, it’s not the worst thing they can say, but it’s not exactly…polite. Just saying.

Panda Bear

I heard this song on satellite radio on the way home from one of Hoot’s basketball games and was immediately taken with it. It’s catchy and hypnotic. Enjoy “Boys Latin”:


Gettin Mah Dork On

Yeah, I like Taylor Swift’s new album, and believe me, no one is more surprised about that than I am. I mean, just look at her. She’s clearly a snippy little blonde prom queen with a magnificent case of Resting Bitch Face:

Bitca Taylor

She doesn’t actually care what I think.

She also writes — as she herself would put it — hella entertaining songs, and I rather suspect that she’s totally In On The Joke. Ladies and Gentlemen…Blank Space.

So that’s what’s on my iPod these days. What about you? What are you listening to? Recommend some new music for me!

Here’s Skara Brae to play us out:


Kate's House

We’ll leave the light on for you!

What, this decrepit old pile? This is just our retirement property.

— Nah, not really. This is Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. Isn’t it gorgeous?

I’m putting it up because quite literally everyone I know is having a crappity-rotten day today, experiencing issues ranging from the annoying to the very seriously nasty, and I for one could use something pretty to look at. And I’ll bet you could too. So, here you go! If you come visit us 20 years from now, we’ll try to put you in a guest room with a balcony overlooking an Alp.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Greetings, Blog-Friends!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? This year, I’m going to do better. In fact, my New Year’s resolution is simple: Write every day. Of course, here we are a week in and I’ve already broken my resolution. Why? Read on.

So, the year is kind of off to a rough start. We visited my mom in Kansas, like we usually do. Mom’s downsizing a bit, so she gave me some old Waterford goblets — eight gorgeous wine glasses in jewel tones:

Waterford Clarendon Goblets

My beautiful glasses looked like these.

These gorgeous goblets, in addition to having certain sentimental value — my parents used to gift one another with them at Christmas — were a favorite at family gatherings:

Nagy Sisters

We’re not as think as you drunk we are.

I packed the goblets up and shipped them off to Virginia and kind of forgot about them for the rest of our trip, which was great right up until we got to the airport. We were flying through Chicago O’Hare (NEVER AGAIN), but our flight was delayed out of Kansas City, so we missed our connecting flight but almost immediately got stuck on another flight home.

Wah, wah, wah, I hear you cry. That sounds like the sad holiday story of, oh, about twenty million other people. You probably won’t even feel more than a mild twinge of pity for me when I mention that our luggage didn’t come along with us, kind of like, wah wah wah, maybe fifteen million other people.

BUTBUTBUT!!! My cell phone charger was in the pocket of my suitcase. I was UNTETHERED. HALP! (Also, we didn’t have Hoot’s favorite blanket, Mini-Me’s lucky Green Bay Packers jersey, any of my husband’s belongings, or a very nice bottle of wine that my niece gave to me for Christmas. I just mention all this in passing. To quote the great Wilkie Collins: Youths! I invoke your sympathy. Maidens! I claim your tears.)

Three to six hours, the nice lady at the American Airlines Baggage Office said (and HELL YES I’M CALLING YOU OUT, AA). Unless, she mentioned, it got too late. Then it might arrive at our doorstep on Sunday morning.

Good enough, we said.

Do I even need to tell you that by the time Monday rolled around, there was no luggage?

I got a pick-me-up, though: My wine glasses arrived. Yay!!!

I think you can guess where this is going.

Spoiler: Nowhere good.

Eight beautiful wineglasses. ONE arrived intact. One has a broken foot; three were snapped at the stem. The rest were shattered beyond repair.

Monday night was not a good night, y’all.

But, hey, our luggage was sure to arrive on Tuesday, right? Because I totally called American Airlines and they said “Oh, we’re so sorry, the baggage delivery company is behind because of the bad weather.” And I was like “Oh, you mean the sunshine? Because the sun is shining in Falls Church right now.” And they replied “…”.

So then it SNOWED on Tuesday. I kind of figured that if the delivery drivers can’t drive in the sunlight, they probably can’t drive in the snow either (or maybe they can ONLY drive in the snow…but, no, this is Washington, D.C. No one can drive in the snow here). Fortunately, in my closet I have a big tub of nice warm sweaters, sealed against the incursion of the dread House Moth, against whom I went to war this fall in Operation Death To All Vermin:

I said ALL vermin.

My moth-ridden belongings.

The unmistakeable scent of naphthalene moth balls may cling to those sweaters, but that’s okay because there are no moths eating them, right?

One would think so, but when I opened that tub of naphthalene-scented sweaters, the first thing I saw was a live moth. Well, he was alive at the time. I will spare your delicate sensibilities further detail. I will note that when I shook out my chosen sweater before putting it on, a live cricket jumped out.

So, to recap, my cell phone is dead, my family’s luggage is driving around Metro D.C. doing God only knows what, my Waterford Goblets are in shards, there’s ice on the roads, and my closet is evidently full of wildlife. Drinking a glass of wine and taking to my bed with the covers over my head has seemed like a reasonable option these past few nights. Hence, little work is getting done.

But I’m back. That has to count for something, right?

(Addendum: Most of our luggage arrived at around 11 Tuesday night — 72 hours after we arrived. Husband still doesn’t have his at this writing.)

(One more Addendum: Husband finally got his suitcase at around 6 p.m. Wednesday, fully 4 days after we arrived home. Ladies and gentlemen…American Airlines.)

CBR #11: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

All parents — at least, the ones in my house — dream bright dreams for their children. “Maybe she’ll be an executive chef when she grows up. And she can teach other chefs on t.v. Like a nicer Gordon Ramsay,” we say hopefully, after she’s trashed the kitchen for the third time in a week while making herself a favored meal of French toast and hot chocolate. “I’ll bet he’ll be an architect,” we speculate, after we battle for an hour before we FINALLY drag his ass toward his homework and away from Minecraft, where he has been hard at work building a four-story complex with balconies, diamond floors, spires, a zombie jail, and a teleportation device. We don’t say, however,  “Maybe he’ll grow up to perpetrate mass murder on seven of his high school classmates, a beloved teacher, and a cafeteria worker who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

This is the situation in which Eva Khatchadourian, the prickly and embattled narrator of Lionel Shriver’s unflinching exploration of the dark side of motherhood, finds herself. Eva’s son, the titular Kevin, is in prison for doing all these things and more, and it’s up to Eva, in a series of soul-baring letters to her estranged husband, to excavate her own conscience and figure out where it all went wrong.

Eva herself is quite a piece of work, alternately self-flagellating and insistent that, gee, the damn kid just came out that way. And the evidence is strong that Kevin was a little shit from day one. On the other hand, Eva has been ambivalent about motherhood from the start, and her husband, the steadfastly obtuse Franklin, is no help at all — he yells at Eva for dancing while she’s pregnant (it could hurt the baby!) and turns a blind eye to her very real concerns as Kevin’s behavior grows increasingly alarming. In her narrative, Eva relentlessly, almost clinically, lays out for Franklin the way her love for her family (which eventually expands to include the sweet, passive, and not terribly bright Celia) wars constantly with her resentment for all of them, and her guilt because she knows that deep down, she and Kevin aren’t all that different — maybe he’s just more honest about who he is.

Although Eva constantly references other high school mass murders, at times reciting them like a litany, Shriver really isn’t all that interested in theorizing about why such atrocities happen. It’s clear that if Eva is to be believed, Kevin has never been precisely “normal,” whatever that means. Instead, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a character study of a very unhappy woman who believes that she deserves to be unhappy, and maybe she does, but maybe she doesn’t, and her hate is a form of love and her love is a form of hatred. Through Eva, Shriver takes you on a powerful, haunting journey. Whether or not it’s a journey you’ll be glad you took is another question entirely.


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