Saturday, July 14, 2018

Ponder Post: Not So Good

Several articles have been written of late about how social media can be demoralizing. Authors generally blog about the good things in their life, painting a picture biased toward the overly positive, leading readers to believe that their own lives are inferior. I do not want my readers to become depressed. Here is a collection of not-so-good recent events in my life. Enjoy and feel more contented with your own life.

Bad Hair Day?
I woke up one morning – the day immediately after having had my hair cut and colored at the hairdresser – to confront this in the mirror. Scary, huh?

Dinner Gone Awry?
I saw a clever tip in Pinterest about cooking fish on several lemon slices thus keeping it from sticking to the baking sheet or the grill. The idea sounded like it was worth trying. I whipped out the baking sheet I use for making Tilapia and then did a brain fart. Instead of putting aluminum foil on it to simplify cleanup as I usually do, I put parchment paper. No big deal, right? I use parchment paper for cookies all the time. Well, broiling is a lot hotter than baking and paper spontaneously combusts, probably at Fahreneit 451 if the book by Ray Bradbury is assumed to be correct. The two fillets were totally engulfed in flames. I shut the oven door robbing the flame of oxygen and watched thorugh the window until the inferno eventually extinguished itself.

Once I dared to open the oven door, tiny bits of charred paper wafted out and floated to the floor and about the kitchen. Our cat Wima was interested but was not tempted to nibble on the fish scented tidbit. Believe it or not, the fish was still edible – it's flavor was even enhanced subtly with smoky overtones. I did not need to start dinner over nor did  Frank and I need to go out to a restaurant. The pan took forever to scrub clean though with a paste of baking soda and water and a lot of elbow grease. Burger King brags about its flamed broiled burgers being superior to grilled burgers. Now I can tout that I flame broil our fish.

An Age Reminder?
By the way, hard to believe, but the book Fahrenheit 451 was originally copyrighted in 1951. The following picture is of a 60th anniversary commemorative edition. I remember reading the novel in high school, not as a classic but as contemporary literature.

Getting "Peed" On?
Frank and I were picking Alex up from his day program to take him to dental appointment. We had to wait 10-15 minutes until he came back from a field trip. Alex arrived contentedly sucking on a yellow colored frozen ice bar, presumably a generic Otter Pop™. It was a terrifically hot day and that slush pop did look very cooling. I was also kind of pleased to see Alex enjoying a new experience, one I had never thought to expose him to. Granted, to have him sucking on colored sugar immediately before a dental visit did cross my mind as non-ideal but hey, whatever.

After Alex got in the back seat of our car I had to hold his pop for him so he has two hands free to fasten his seat belt. I then handed back his pop and Frank, he, and I drove off. I glanced back at Alex and he was sucking unproductively on the top of the plastic tube, having eaten enough of the pop that the upper surface of the pop was a good two inches below the top if the tube. I felt bad that he did not have the fine motor coordination nor mental know-how to squeeze the pop up from the bottom. I asked him to hand it to me in the front seat so I could help him. As I squeezed it up, it broke in the middle, the top half flipped over on itself and dumped the melted liquid from the pop all over my top. It looked like I had been peed on but then pee is nowhere near that freezing cold! I yelped.

I straightened it and tried to do better. Would you believe I dumped it a second time drenching my pants, still not expecting that to happen and yelping in surprise? Frank could not stop laughing. Alex just wanted his pop back. I tried to curl up the bottom like a tube of tooth paste and handed it back to him. Of course the bottom did not stay curled and I gave up saying, "Here, Alex. Do the best you can. Mom cannot fix it." With 20-20 hindsight I should have just snipped off the excess plastic at the top with scissors. Oh, wait I did not have any scissors.

Alex continued to make sucking noises from the back seat during the 20 minute ride from Dublin to Livermore. Frank dropped me at home and continued on to the dentist with Alex. I took the offending juice pop/tube into the house with me when I went to change. The drained plastic looked like a urine sack that hangs from a hospital bed! I expected my hands to be sugary and stick to everything but my abdomen beneath my top and my underpants beneath my heavy jeans were all sticky as well.

Note to self: Always have wet wipes and a pair of scissors handy when dispensing Otter Pops™.

Postage Due... Really?
After a visit from Dan, Carrie and the kids I found a stray sock left behind in the bedroom. As ruthlessly efficient as Carrie is, I texted her asking if she had already thrown out the mate or should I drop this singleton in the mail. She said, "Yes, please mail it".

So I dutifully tossed it in an envelope and weighed it. It was less than one ounce so I put a stamp on the envelope and dropped it in the mail. Several days later it came back – postage due! I was so hot under the collar. The amount $3.00 is probably more than the pair of socks are worth.

After a text exchange with Carrie, we agreed to just throw it out and she would discard the one on her end. It is probably all stretched out anyway we rationalized. In the scheme of things this is not a big deal, but don't little things like this sometimes push your buttons?

Attitude Adjustment: 
Into every life a bit of rain must fall and these sprinkles that I have previously mentioned are mere minor annoyances. I have this sign over the doorway in the kitchen. I will try to follow my own advice. Writing this blog post is me dancing.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ponder Post: A Stranger in the House

Friday, I read the crime novel A Stranger in the House ©2017 by Shari Lapena. I started it during a 1:30 pm hair appointment and continued it immediately upon returning home, staying up an hour past my bedtime to finish it that same day. I had paused quasi-willingly to be a companion to my husband by going to a movie, putting away holiday decorations, eating dinner, and watching a brief TV show. I needed to disprove his claim that when I am into a good book, he ceases to exist. Once I'd negated his assertion, I eagerly returned to my novel. A Stranger in the House was a thriller, similarly engaging as the first book I read by the same author, The Couple Next Door (blog entry for June 24, 2018). The plot is intricate and grabbed me from the opening paragraph of the Prologue.
She doesn't belong here. She bolts out the back door of the abandoned restaurant, stumbling in the dark – most of the lights are burned out, or broken – her breath coming in loud rasps. She runs like a panicked animal to where she parked the car, hardly aware of what she is doing.

Chapter One: A man, Tom Krupp coming home late from his job as an accountant to an empty house in the suburbs, discovers that dinner preparations having been halted mid-slice on a tomato, no wife or note to be found. Karen, his wife of two years, apparently departed in a hurry leaving her purse and cell phone behind and forgetting to lock the front door. All these details are very atypical of the detail-focused and supremely organized woman he loves. What is going on? Where is she? Is it too soon for him to alert the police that she is missing?

Chapter Two: Three adolescent boys, out to smoke a joint in an abandoned restaurant come across a dead body, rifle it for its valuables, and leave. They do not report their discovery to the police.

If the reader suspects, because these scenarios are in the same book, that they scenarios are linked in some manner, he would be correct.  It is no spoiler to reveal that they are indeed related. But I am lured in to the novel to learn specifically how theses crimes are connected. Detective Rasbach and his fellow investigator Jennings lead the reader through a labyrinth of logic with sound, solid detective work. They are excellent investigators in a manner similar to Sargent Joe Webb and his sidekick Officer Joe Gannon in the 1950's TV series Dragnet. They seek the FACTS. While Rasbach and Jennings are both scrupulous in harvesting evidence, each also has a strong ability to assess a suspect's moral character and judge the candor in his/her responses.

It is the precisely the characters' analysis and development however, that I highly appreciate in Shari Lapena's crime mystery work. Their doubts, their thought processes, and the revelation of their innermost fears and longings put the word "psychological" in the genre "psychological thriller". This book is much more than "Just the facts, ma'am". Do the characters waver in their trust and support of each other? Do the facts, or lack thereof, drive a wedge between previously committed companions? Can a stalwart faith be infused with doubt? As these feelings unfold, so does the mystery. I give A Stranger in the House four stars. I like the writing style and pace of the author; the plot and characters merit a  strong recommendation. I only deducted one star because I favored Lapena's previous novel The Couple Next Door, which I had given five stars. Perhaps my repeat encounter with the author siphoned away a bit of her novelty, though I admit I was blindsided by a twist near the end. What really are the facts, ma'am?