Case study in social-emotional agnosia*

Happy tears emojiI’ve been trying to come up with a worthy New Year’s resolution to share with all of you but I’ve been stumped. Having to satisfy an audience of eager readers can be stressful and exhausting. So I figured I’d put the resolution off for just a bit longer. Something more important has come up.

I’m realizing I’ve been so selfish and self-absorbed since I’ve been diagnosed with leukemia. It’s all about me all the time now, and I imagine you’re getting sick of it. I feel so grossly out of touch with others’ feelings that I figured it was time to address that. I am a psychologist after all. So address it I did. Ten days ago. At the mall.

Yes, I’d become so frustrated with the emotional gap between us that I purchased a new cellphone. Finally, I can interpret your emojis, which previously arrived to my ailing phone as little black squares. Initially, upon receiving a [insert happy face/sad face/clown face emoji here], I’d ask the person to translate her unknown emoji into words, or at least to confirm she hadn’t just sent me one of those disgusting stinky poops. Over time, some people remembered that I was cellphone impaired and stopped sending me emojis altogether, others followed up their emojis with a verbal description, but most forgot altogether and continued to send me their indecipherable expressions of their deepest feelings.

As my staunchest word-loving friends jumped on the emoji bandwagon, and even started spelling you “u” and to “2”, I knew the abyss between us was ever widening. And then the ultimate happened: in 2015, Oxford Dictionaries named the face-with-tears-of-joy emoji the word of the year. Once the dictionary started equating emojis with words, I knew I was fighting a losing battle.

So I gave up and, thanks to a generous birthday gift from an unnamed maternal source, I bought myself a top-of-the-line emotionally sensitive cellphone. I even bought a protective case for it so it wouldn’t cry when I dropped it, which would be inevitable given my inherent clumsiness.

I must say texting is much more fulfilling since my purchase. I already feel more in touch with your emotional state as I understand your texts in all their nuanced yellow-faced expressiveness. Sometimes I have to look up the meaning of your emojis because this is a new language to me, but in time, I’ll attain emoji literacy. I’ve also been inserting random emojis into my texts just because I can. This makes me so [insert face-with-tears-of-joy emoji here]. Funny, though, I can’t seem to locate the stinky poop emoji anywhere. Maybe that’s best for all concerned.

P.S. While the rest of you are nursing hangovers on January 1, I’ll be posting my heretofore secret 2017 resolution. I want to save my revelation until after the New Year so no one will usurp my idea, intellectual property rights and all. Expect my disclosure to be anticlimactic after such a drawn-out lead in.

In the meantime, feel free to share your resolutions by commenting on this post. You’re probably more open than I am (not just because your cellphone is emoji friendly), and your insights may well inspire others.

 

*Look up agnosia. I had to.

Have I been giving Santa a bad rap?

Santa reading letters in front of fireNow that Christmas has come and gone, I question whether I’ve given Santa enough credit for his thankless job. He spends months at the North pole sorting through children’s letters and, with the help of his elves, readying the sleigh for Christmas Eve. Then he has to harness all those temperamental reindeer to the heavy toy-laden sleigh. Finally, he loses a night’s sleep delivering gifts around the world for the meagre payment of milk and cookies.

In the midst of all this, Santa has another arduous task that goes largely unappreciated: his secondment to the local shopping mall. Long lineups of children wait their turn to share their Christmas wishes with Santa. Some wishes are easy to fulfill while others are more of a challenge. I didn’t appreciate how tough this task was until I read an insightful article in last Saturday’s Globe and Mail.

Every Saturday, the Globe has a column entitled “Five Questions with….” The interviewee may be a local important businessperson or philanthropist or artist. Often it’s a familiar name from the recent news. Last Saturday the interviewee was none other than Santa Claus during a break from his pre-Christmas posting at a local mall. Santa’s responses to the interviewer’s questions were surprisingly thoughtful and insightful (read the article here). Among other things, the interviewer asked what kind of people get coal in their stockings (very selfish people, he said).

I was particularly struck by the interviewer’s query about how Santa deals with wishes he can’t grant. According to Santa, there are many such wishes. Children have asked Santa whether he can bring a parent home from somewhere afar for Christmas (“I don’t traffic in people,” he replied). One child asked whether Santa could cure diabetes (beyond his skill level, he acknowledged).

Santa noted that increasingly, rather than asking for tangible gifts, children are asking him whether he can make someone they care about happy. He tells these children that sadly he cannot. As he put it, we are responsible for our own feelings; no one can make someone else happy. Whoa, Santa, where did you learn that?

I spent years training to become a psychologist yet I still often have to remind myself of this ultimate truth. If someone I know is having a bad day, often I want to jump in there and cheer that person up. Consider, for example, the odd occasion that J. wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. (I am much more likely to wake up on the that side than she is, by the way; J. awakens singing most days, which is also a problem since I am not a morning person.) On J.’s bad days, I spend hours thinking of ways to cheer her up. Let’s just say it never works.

I feel helpless knowing someone I love is struggling and I can’t do anything to make that person feel better. I can listen and be of support, but I can’t change anyone’s mood but my own. Thanks for reminding me of this, Santa. I may be Jewish, but I appreciate your wisdom.

Now go get some rest. You’ve earned it.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Chrismukkah

Blue and gold Hanukkah sweaterPeople who don’t celebrate Hanukkah sometimes don’t appreciate that this holiday is but a drop in the bucket of Jewish festivals. We’re not commemorating the birth of a saviour or anything momentous like that. It’s more of a David-and-Goliath story, where the Maccabees play the underdog who prevails.

Hanukkah traditions also differ greatly from those of Christmas. There is no such thing as a Hanukkah bush and no gifts arrive via the chimney. We don’t hang Hanukkah wreaths (although an image search reveals a frightening number of them) and Hanukkah stockings don’t hang from the mantle. The ugly Hanukkah sweater is harder to find. We’re even blue and white to your red and green.

Box for a Hanukkah gingerbread houseI’ll admit we Jews bake our share of menorah-shaped sugar cookies this time of year, but few if any gingerbread. I was so flabbergasted a few weeks back when I spied a Hanukkah gingerbread house that I took a picture and sent it to all my Jewish friends. Building a gingerbread house is a Christmas tradition, and not one I’ve envied since childhood.

Our world is consumed by Christmas each year, whether we celebrate or not. To be fair, J. and I do participate in our unreligious way since J. is not Jewish. In December, a few singing Snoopys dressed in Christmas garb magically appear around the house, as well as our beloved Charlie Brown Christmas tree. J. hangs Christmas lights on our house barring a December cold spell. Then she adorns our wholly unChristmassy Christmas tree with a variety of dog ornaments. And of course there’s the annual television viewing of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Hanukkah wreathBecause the Jewish calendar differs from the usual, the dates of Jewish holidays vary from year to year. This year, Hanukkah happens to start on Christmas Eve and end on New Year’s Day. A true confluence of celebrations! So the question arises: how do we celebrate both holidays at the same time? J. graciously decided that Hanukkah would take precedence this year.

On Christmas Eve, after J. lights up our doggy Christmas tree, we will light the first candle on the menorah. I will sing the blessings while J. hums along. (She’s not yet fluent in Hebrew.) Then we will join dear friends for a lovely Christmas Eve dinner. We will be bringing home-baked challah and a Middle Eastern salad because, well, I’m Jewish.

On Christmas Day, Hanukkah will take centre stage. We’ve planned a small Jewish feast for two in keeping with our Hanukkah celebration. We’re subbing Mediterranean-spiced turkey-zucchini meatballs for roast turkey, latkes for mashed potatoes, and apple sauce for that disgusting canned gelatinous cranberry jelly.

And the presents? Rather than opening all our little gifts in no time on Christmas morning, we will each open one small gift every evening for eight days as we light the menorah, as per the Hanukkah tradition. This way we will extend our celebration. Hanukkah, the holiday that never ends.

I wish you all a happy holiday season. Thanks for following along (tolerating my drivel?) this past year.

P.S. If I’m quieter than usual next week, I may be busy crafting my annual post on New Year’s resolutions. Stay tuned.

Secret Santa, the brainchild of a wise Jewish philosopher?

Button with picture of Jewish philosopher Maimonides with caption: "What would Maimonides do?"

I was thinking about Secret Santa the other day. Not the one who buys you a tacky gift at your company’s Christmas party. Not the one who assembles your longed-for train set in the living room after you go to sleep Christmas Eve (sorry to break it to you, kids, that’s not Santa, it’s your parents, and they ate those cookies too). Not even the one who secretly bought me extra admissions for the gym recently. I’m speaking of the one who supports, whether through gifts or monetary donations, others’ holiday celebrations around the world. Why must the giving be limited to Christmas? Let’s include anyone who helps others at any time of year in our definition.

I had an unexpected encounter with a generous Secret Santa in my midst Monday evening. Secret Santa is a diligent volunteer at Canadian Blood Services who often arrives early to her shift. She is friendly and outgoing and a pleasure to work with. (Open your mind; not all Secret Santas are boys.)

This do-gooder apologized after arriving a few minutes late to her shift that night. She was delayed dropping off two turkeys at a local homeless shelter for their well-attended upcoming Christmas dinner. She had planned to donate just one turkey but because they were on sale, she could afford two.

I don’t know much about Secret Santa, except that she is a young woman starting out in her career. She is married but I do not know what her husband does or even whether he is employed at this time of high joblessness in Calgary. I do know she is a generous, good person, and she needn’t have apologized for being late. She told me: “I am lucky to have so much. This donation was the least I could do.”

This woman is not Jewish, yet I’m wondering whether she knows of Maimonides, a 12th century Jewish philosopher and physician (people had multiple professions back then) who described eight levels of charity. The lowest level is giving unwillingly–makes sense, doesn’t it?–while the highest is helping someone become self-sufficient even before the need arises by, for example, offering a job to someone out of work or teaching someone a means of earning a living.

Secret Santa’s act of generosity falls second from the top: giving anonymously to an unknown recipient, thereby sparing the recipient the shame of needing to ask for help. When she dropped off those turkeys, she did not leave her name, nor did she know who would be eating them. The recipients will not know of the effort she made to procure their protein. I imagine Maimonides would laud her selfless act were he still alive.

I wish I could tell you that, after hearing Secret Santa’s story, I ran out and filled the food bank bin at the grocery store or made an anonymous donation to Calgary’s Jewish Family Services, an agency which serves Jews and non-Jews alike, but alas I did not. I have no excuse for my negligence. Thank goodness I have time yet to make Maimonedes proud. I may not have Secret Santa’s credentials but I’ll come up with something. ‘Tis the season, is it not?

My newfound fear of the pharmacy

Woman's hand receiving receipt and drugs from pharmacist

Did you see Freeheld? If not, skip it. The ratings weren’t great, and you’ll have to watch a woman die of cancer. It was a downer. The story is important though: It’s about a woman in the U.S. who wants her spouse to be eligible for her pension upon her death. No problem were her spouse male, but her spouse was female, hence the need for a movie. It’s based on a true story from the early 2000s.

We Canadians are so far ahead of the game. I’ve been on Judy’s benefit plan for years without issue, and I would have received her pension had she died before me. Human rights laws in Canada prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and Americans were flocking to our fair land to get hitched for years until marriage became legal in 2015 south of the border.

Which leads us to J.’s retirement, and with it the loss of her benefits. Since I was covered under her plan, I could go to the pharmacy, flash my disarming smile, and leave with a bundle of expensive life-sustaining drugs without paying a cent. My drug plan, which cost me $63.50 monthly, and hers, a minimal deduction on her paycheque, together covered every penny. When we looked at whether we could afford to retire, we included in our calculations my drug expenses without J.’s benefits, which are significant.

In the meantime, J.’s retirement date jumped around a bit before she finalized it. When she told me she’d finalized December 2, I jumped for joy because the bulk of my drugs were eligible for refills that very day, allowing me another three months’ stash for free. Or so I thought.

On November 30, I approached my friendly pharmacist, Colin–we’re on a first-name basis after 15 years together–my list of renewable meds in hand. He informed me, to my dismay, that my calculations were off and I could not renew my prescriptions until December 12.

I was in a panic. I texted J., “I know your retirement party is today, but could you work until December 12 so I can refill all my prescriptions without cost?” Without even considering my request, J. selfishly declined. I was sad to learn I rated so low on her priority list, but I got over it.

I have been putting off seeing Colin, but this week, I will go to the pharmacy and seek those prescription refills. I will run out of my medications over the holiday if I don’t. I still have my drug coverage to soften the blow, but I will have to pay for whatever is not covered.  I will include this cost as a medical expense at tax time. It will not bankrupt us, and J. will not be forced back to work.

I remind myself that these drug expenses are a drop in the bucket relative to the medical expenses covered by the government, including, for example, all my doctors’ visits, hospital stays, and 100% of my prohibitively expensive daily chemotherapies.

I may turn to Kijiji to make up the difference. Anyone interested in buying my sugar stash? I have several untouched chocolate bars to spare. Sorry, no wine gums. I can’t even recall the last time I bought them.

 

Can we be PALS with the old folks?

This past Wednesday, Jelly and I reported for duty at the retirement home for our first assigned PALS placement. Despite a few hiccups, Jelly made it through the hour intact. I, on the other hand, experienced some challenges.

At this facility, there are a range of people from middle age onward with a range of impairments. Some residents are confused, others are without speech altogether, and still others are alert and cognitively intact. I will need time to get to know these people, to remember their names, and to understand their quirks.

One fellow initiated a very serious conversation with me in Russian, to which I responded in my native tongue, English. He was as confused with my language as I was with his. I wish I’d been able to communicate with him more effectively but I’ve never been much of a linguist. Another woman petting Jelly’s head told me she had a crack in it. Rather than assuring her Jelly’s skull was intact, I told her I’d check that out.

I may have been struggling, while Jelly was in her element during the visit, but not in the way I was hoping. She spent the majority of her time scrounging for stray food particles off the floor rather than visiting with people. I am hoping that next time we go she will attend more to the people than to their crumbs. Even better, maybe staff will sweep before we arrive.

One thing I can say for Jelly is that she is open to people of all types. She doesn’t care if someone is grumpy, missing teeth, or smells of cigarette smoke; she is an equal opportunity visitor.

Maybe I should qualify this: Jelly may show preferential treatment to those with food particles on their hands. They needn’t know that they’re garnering her rapt attention because they’re tasty.

I don’t know what staff were thinking arranging a special tea during our visit. I alerted those partaking that we could visit with them only after they’d finished their cakes and scones, if indeed they wanted to eat them.

As prepared as I thought I was, I made one significant tactical error. Because I am Jewish, I did not consider how important seasonal attire would be to this pre-Christmas visit. I don’t own an ugly Christmas sweater, and my half-hearted attempts to buy a Christmas outfit for Jelly had not borne fruit. Long, low Bassets need specially sized clothes.

Christmas may not be my celebration, but it is still important to bring the holiday spirit to others, especially those who are unable to be with family. Thankfully, the team leader had brought Jelly a Santa hat for that day.

Having learned from this last mistake, once the visit was over, I made it my mission to procure a seasonal outfit for next Christmas. No, I did not buy an ugly Christmas sweater; that would move this Jew a bit too far outside her comfort zone. I did, however, buy a jingle-bell collar for Jelly with a matching reindeer headband. I think she looks quite smashing, don’t you? Now if I could just get her to look a little happier when she’s fully adorned….

Basset hound with reindeer antlers on

Sleepwalking for beginners

Basset hound puppy sleeping with head and paws on arm of armchairI’ve never much liked sleeping. It’s boring, I’m not very good at it, and it cuts into my productive daytime hours. I wish I were one of those people who functioned well on 3 hours of sleep but, sadly, I am not. Far from it, especially since I caught the leukemia bug.

My need for sleep increases when I travel, as I did to see family this past weekend. Travelling is exhausting, and being away from home with people I don’t see often wipes me out. If I’m going to visit with people, I need to be “on” for longer days than my body is accustomed to. But I push myself–that is my nature, after all–until I am a shade away from sleepwalking.

Fatigue makes it hard for me to carry on a coherent conversation, to attend to others for extended periods, and ultimately to remain upright. There is a reason I don’t rent a car when I’m travelling solo–I would not be safe to drive. Driving is impaired by fatigue the way it is by alcohol, I’ve read. On my last night away, I outdid myself by making the ultimate scatterbrained mistake. I can’t even remember doing it, but I awoke to proof.

I went to bed that night well after my body told me to, and I was out within seconds. My sleep was far from restful, however. I kept waking up having to pee. When I’m so tired that I try to ignore what my body is saying, I don’t sleep very well. Maybe you would be a grown up and visit the loo at those times so you could return to sleeping soundly. If I’m exhausted enough, I do not. I was so wiped that I couldn’t fathom the short walk to the washroom.

If you think this story is going to end with my wetting the bed, you would be wrong. I may be childish, but I fully mastered potty training a few years ago. After sleeping poorly for hours, I finally got up to pee, headed back to bed, and went straight back to sleep, only to be rudely awakened by my pre-arranged wake-up call. (Thanks Mom. I would have missed my early flight without you.)

I dragged myself to a sitting position, grabbing my water glass and granny pill container from the bedside table, as I do every morning. Lo and behold, my Tuesday morning pills were missing. My pills are never missing. On Monday I take Monday’s pills, on Tuesday I take Tuesday’s pills…you get the idea.

The lightbulb slowly turned on. No wonder I couldn’t sleep! I have absolutely no recollection, but I must have taken my morning pills, including my diuretics, the night before. There is an obvious reason people take their diuretics in the morning, which I need not explain to you. No wonder my sleep was so rudely interrupted.

What is the moral of this story? It is simple really: when you are tired, go to sleep. If you have to pee in the night, get up and go. And if you’re on diuretics, don’t take them at bedtime. Your body will thank you.

Hope is highly overrated, whatever the research says

Chalkboard: Your optimism is killing me

You do realize that my completely fabricated blog persona’s optimism is perpetually clouded in the real Annie’s doubt and insecurity, don’t you? I write my blog to convince myself that all clouds have silver linings. I can’t see through my rose-coloured glasses, when I can even find them. The future would be bright if I didn’t keep knocking over my half-full glass. You get the idea.

Did you know that, according to a recently published Harvard study following 70,000 women, optimists live longer? In this study, optimists died less often of heart disease and even cancer. The study didn’t address whether their optimism caused them not to be diagnosed with these illnesses, just that the illnesses wouldn’t kill them at the same rate as their pessimistic cohorts.

Now let’s be careful interpreting this research, shall we? Just because two factors co-occur does not mean that one causes the other. In fact, other variables may be responsible for the optimists’ longevity, including, for example, their better self-care. But the research still makes me wonder: should I stop drinking out of my half-empty glass?

I could listen to the Harvard researchers or John Cleese in Clockwise. Cleese said, “It’s not the despair. The despair I can handle. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” (Credit goes to my dear psychologist friend, M., for alerting me to Cleese’s wisdom.) I find this sentiment compelling. The inconsistency does me in, those darn glimmers of hope interspersed with disappointment. I’m certainly a person who needs to know what to expect, and that’s hard in a situation like mine.

I’m thinking of my leukemia. (Am I ever not thinking about my leukemia?) I’m feeling better than I have in a long time, yet I have struggled to accept that I will never work full time again, and that my daily functioning will always remain well below the level it was pre-cancer. The leukemia has affected my functioning profoundly and in ways that are beyond my control. My rational self gets it, but my emotional self continues to have trouble getting my head around my not-so-new reality.

If I didn’t have glimmers of the old Annie peeking through, moments when I feel more like the pre-cancerous me, maybe I’d have accepted these losses sooner, mourned them, and moved forward. Maybe Cleese is suggesting that I’d have accepted my impairments sooner were I to have none of these good days. I knew there had to be an upside to keeping my cup half empty, but I needed John Cleese to explain it to me.

Just as I accept I must give up hope for unrealistic changes in my functioning, I learn that not hoping may kill me. But all is not lost. The Harvard researchers noted that, for the pessimists among us, optimism can be learned. Have at me, Dr. Smartiepants. Best of luck taking me on since I am somewhat resistant to change.

I wonder if John Cleese went to Harvard. Nope, I just looked it up: turns out it was Cambridge. I guess that gives him some credibility.

Not all desserts are just.

Since J. so quickly jumped off the flossing wagon, I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to change bad habits or foster new ones without the support of the people around you. We might not even have dental floss in the house were I not a recently reformed flosser, and I’ve silently encouraged J.’s new habit by modelling appropriate flossing behaviour every night before I brush my teeth. Similarly, some people need a workout buddy to get to the gym–being accountable to that other person motivates them to show up.

Bad habits are no different. If all your friends like to go for a drink after work and you are trying to abstain, you may find it hard to socialize with them at the bar initially because the setting may trigger your urge to drink. If you want to give up smoking, and your spouse continues to smoke in front of you and to keep cigarettes readily available in the house, you might be more likely to relapse.

Let’s consider my Great Sugar Revolution, which will soon be entering its seventh miraculous week. I’m sure I would have had a much harder time eating less sugar were J. to share my sweet tooth and to indulge in excessive dessert consumption in front of me, but she is not. She was not born with the genetic predisposition to sweets that I was. Hence giving up dessert was not that huge a shift for her as for me. She was never one to overconsume chocolate or other sugar-laden treats.

Potato chips on white backgroundSince J. didn’t feel she was making that great a sacrifice by reducing her sugar consumption, she decided, to even the score, that she’d give up potato chips. I didn’t ask her to give up anything since I don’t care what she eats. Furthermore, an open bag of chips in the house poses no threat to me. My sodium-fearing persona keeps all chip urges at bay.

J. seemed to be managing well without her potato chips, although she may have been consuming her contraband out of the house and I’d never have known. Occasionally I’d text her from the grocery store to ask her if she’d like me to pick up a bag of her favourites when it was on sale, but she’d decline. I’d respect her wishes since I’m not one to sabotage J.’s efforts to make what she views as a positive change.

Imagine my surprise when, one evening last week, J. pulled out a mystery bag of chips from the cupboard, opened it, and poured herself a bowl. I was shocked beyond belief. J. is a diligent and determined woman and she follows through with whatever she sets her mind to, flossing aside.

I gently asked her what happened to her resolve. J.’s response, with her tail between her legs, in the most pathetic of voices: “I am weak.”

How did I feel when I witnessed her regression? I was relieved. At least she’s human, fumbling along like the rest of us. Sometimes I forget that.

 

We enter a new age of frugality

J. has not gone to work for three days now. So far so good. One former workmate wrote to inform her that things were falling apart in her absence: he’d spent the day with his fly undone, to which J. would surely have alerted him. Another colleague bemoaned J.’s absence at a boring meeting they would have previously endured by texting each other.

J. and I have not been at odds either, yet. We may be sharing space but we’ve been like two ships passing in the day. It’s not like I sit at home all day twiddling my thumbs, or at least not anymore. I’m run off my feet volunteering now that as J. has stopped working. Purely coincidental.

During our fleeting moments together, we’ve been discussing ways to cut our costs now that our income is limited. We need to monitor our spending carefully, and we will need to make some sacrifices.

One of the first things J. did was to program the heat to rise at 7:15 instead of 6:15 a.m., with the hope that we will all start sleeping later. That means you, Jelly. For years, Jelly has confused the heat kicking in for a morning alarm.

Without prompting or badgering, I have shortened my showers. But I’m not trying to reduce our water bill; I’m ensuring that I don’t incite J.’s ire by draining the hot water tank before she has her turn. Let’s call this what it is: self-preservation.

My Great Sugar Revolution may be saving us money as well. No stopping at the penny candy machines at the grocery store (those quarters add up), and no dipping into the wine-gum bin for my 6 dinky treats. Yet another reason to eat clean.

J. has also been cutting her food costs now that she’s lost access to the work cafeteria. Except her cafeteria served much better, and cheaper, meals than we could ever throw together at home. Perhaps this is a false economy?

But J.’s most awe-inspiring cost-saving shift occurred the other night as we readied for bed. You all know I have diligently flossed since the Great Dental Care Reform a while back, following years of ignoring my tartar buildup. I continue to floss at bedtime. Sure, I should floss after each meal, but goal setting must be realistic and attainable, or it’s destined to fail. Plus three flossings a day would increase the cost of supplies.

J., in contrast, has never been a flosser, largely because she’s never needed to be. In addition to her slim physique, her lack of age-appropriate cellulite or face wrinkles or age spots (her increasingly grey hair aside), J. has magic tartar-repelling teeth. She scores 100% on every dental checkup without even trying. I’ve come to believe her teeth are self-cleaning, just like our oven.

The other night, out of nowhere, I caught J. flossing. In shock, I said: “We haven’t had corn on the cob for months! Whassup?” J. explained that she didn’t want her teeth to fall out since we’ve lost our superior dental coverage. But new habits die hard; it was a one-night flossing stand.

Perhaps my greatest contribution to our new frugality will be providing J. with tips on sustained habit change. Let’s just say I have both professional and personal expertise.

Woman's face from nose down, she is flossing and smiling