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I firmly believe the universe is scheming against me this winter. Gill and L’il Sis complain every year about the dry winter air. Their eczema flares, their skin is scratched raw, we could easily have an industrial-sized vat of grease delivered  to the house and it still wouldn’t be enough to make their skin soft and supple. Hell, we don’t even aim THAT high. We’d settle for ‘not cracked and bleeding’. I have always taken their complaints with a grain of salt. Sure, everyone feels a bit dehydrated in our central heating, and sure, lightning bolts cross my room when I rip the blankets off the bed, but that’s normal, isn’t it?

This year, the tips of my thumbs are cracked, bleeding, and ugly. I have taken to sticking my thumbs in pots of Vaseline when I watch television at night. It helps a bit but Mrs. Beeton (the pink parakeet) seems inordinately curious about the thick grease. This has led me to surreptitious thumb dunking when she’s not looking.

When Gill lived with me, she insisted on having latex gloves to wear while she did the dishes. ‘Wuss’ was the term I believe I used to describe her. Well, the mighty (I) have fallen. I purloined a pair of L’il Sis’ yellow beauties and discovered that they are heaven sent. After a couple of days, my thumbs were almost normal and didn’t spear everything in sight. What a relief! My thumbs had been like cactus prickles stabbing and ripping all they came in contact with. Pantyhose and silky underwear suffered the most from my prickles. Ever the innovator, I donned mittens to save the hose. Believe me, trying to put on pantyhose with one’s hands covered by mittens is not easy. You can see, dear readers, why I am such an enthusiastic convert to the world of latex. All of my trials and tribulations could have been avoided had I listened to my daughters. (Yes, girls, I bow to your superior knowledge on this one. And now you have my admission in writing. Use it wisely.)

Then came the day when they (the gloves, not my daughters) sprung leaks. A new pair was required. I put them on my shopping list. I went to the store. I came back with three chickens (on special), 48 pounds of wild bird seed (also on sale), fresh arugula, baby carrots, toilet paper, garbage bags and a lottery ticket. What I did NOT return with (despite the notation, underlined in red on my list) was latex gloves. I swore. A lot.

“Not to worry, Mom,” L’il Sis reassured me. “I’m going by the dollar store on my way home from work so I can get them. They’re cheaper there too.”

So I let the dishes pile up all day, eagerly awaiting the new gloves. L’il Sis arrived home. “Have you got the gloves?” I ambushed her on her way in. I may be a stubborn person, hard to convert to something, but once I’m on board, there’s no holding me back. She rummaged in her bags. “Hmm, that’s odd. I could have sworn I put them in this bag. But there’s no sign of them. Wait ’til I check the car. Maybe I just threw them down on the seat.”

She returned, swearing. “Damn! I DID buy them. I know I did. But I can’t find them anywhere.”

“Never mind. I’ll break down and put the dishes in the dishwasher. That way, nobody’s hands have to suffer.” I should probably explain that, although I have a new, high-end dishwasher, I rarely use it. Either there aren’t enough dishes to warrant it, I can’t wait the two hours it takes to complete the cycle, or my guilt over using all that precious water and electricity (we know they’re precious because the rates keep going up) negates any benefit I might get. I just keep imagining all the dying dolphins or penguins or whatever creature is next on the endangered list and I end up a puddle on the floor, drowning in my own tears. Perhaps a bit overstated, but I do care. And so, the future of the planet may rest in a pair of yellow gloves. My thumbs are tingling with the mere thought.