Wednesday, August 31, 2005

home work

Finally got around to cleaning today, and did an uncharacteristically thorough job -- even vaccuumed both upstairs and down,and the stairs themselves. It's something of a miracle that I'm still upright at this point, since changing linens on 4 beds, doing 2 loads of laundry, cleaning 3 bathrooms, and dusting and vaccuuming approximately 3000 square feet (I didn't do the guest room) really does require a lot of energy. I even hung up the new Diana Tyler watercolors we bought in Mystic at the Finer Line Gallery. Then after dinner (which I cooked, but a simple thing, really) I went out to Trader Joe's and did our grocery shopping because we were, once again, out of milk. I'm seriously contemplating getting 3 gallons at a time, since when I just get 2 we're always running out at an inconvenient time. Like today.

Early to bed today, with the hope that a good night's sleep will help my digestion settle down a bit. It is totally out of control, and to the point where I'll have to go see the g/e doc if it doesn't get better. It is difficult to accomplish much when you have to be within 30 seconds access to a bathroom most of the time. So I end up eating tiny amounts here and there during the day to try and mitigate the effects -- but if I eat a real meal I'm in for it. I'm sure there's something that can be done about it, but I'm not at all keen on getting on even more medication.

Well, at least the house looks terrific. We'll see how long that lasts.

Evil Gene

Continuing with my Gene Tierney fascination, I watched Leave Her To Heaven tonight. As usual, I like to check out what other people think once I've thought a little bit about it myself -- sometimes it's surprising what the consensus comes up with. Not this time, though.

Ideally one should be unspoiled for this movie, but given the ham-handedness with which movie blurbs are written these days, that's nearly impossible. The framing device tips us off to a recent past tragedy, anyway, but it doesn't reveal as much as those one-line descriptions spoil. In any case, you know pretty much right off the bat that things are going to take a turn for the worse somehow or other, so I spent the first half of the movie wondering when, where, and why -- although that last resolved itself before the other two. This film respects its audience enough not to overplay things, and it doesn't drop any exposition anvils, either. It has been a while since I've seen a melodrama like this played out straight, allowing the viewers to draw their own conclusions as it goes along. For that characteristic alone, this movie should be required viewing for anyone interested in screenwriting today. Show what happens and you won't need to explain it!

Tierney is gorgeous in this, the first color picture I've seen her in. (Not to imply this is the first color picture she made; it well may not be.) Several reviewers commented on the Technicolor palette and how carefully composed the colors are in this film, and they truly are extraordinary. The overall effect approaches a movie done up in oil pastels -- there is both a richness and a softness to the look of this movie that I can't recall seeing anywhere else.

But perhaps the best thing of all is seeing beautiful Tierney play a complete psychotic. Of course she hides it well, mostly, but the times she lets it slip it's as if a mask falls from her face, revealing something nearly reptilian beneath it. Then in the blink of an eye she's all sweetness and light again -- there's a great scene were we get to see a doctor doing a double-take for us: he can't believe he's seeing what he's seeing.

The major flaw in this film are the final courtroom scenes, which are just too absurd (no defense attorney would allow his clients to be badgered like that) and too rushed to hit as hard as they could have. Vincent Price as the spurned-suitor-turned-avenger is relentless, articulate, and amazingly good looking. But really, I just wanted to smack him and tell him to use his brain: the circumstantial evidence they're using to prosecute is so flimsy it practically proves the whole thing was a set-up. No murderer with half a brain would leave the murder weapon lying around (so to speak) like that! Of course it doesn't matter, since everything comes right eventually.

Tierney was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this role. She really was terrific, but I think the nomination was more in recognition of her playing against type than anything else. She's normally the preternaturally good woman, so to see her play a character as evil and manipulative as Ellen is something of a shock. Tierney was clearly up for the challenges. I sure hope she had fun with this one, because she knocked it out of the park.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I had my dilated eye exam today. They put the drops in at about 10AM, I'd say. This photo was taken about 4 hours later.

It's interesting how the effects have worn off at a different rate for each eye. I note that my left eye is pretty much normal, and it's the eye that I work the hardest. During the exam today when I had my left eye covered, everything was blurry for a while but then came into focus just as sharply as with the left eye.

Neither the doctor nor the techs who do the simple exams have any concern about it. I wonder if I should do something to kind of even-up the abilities of the two eyes -- my left is definitely carrying more than its share of the vision workload, but no one ever seems to think it's a problem.

I have 20/13 vision in both eyes, and no pigmentation or spots were seen underneath. It is really nice to have one part of me that works better than average. Also: this is another no-makeup photo. You can see why I almost never wear mascara.

Monday, August 29, 2005

little green eyes

I haven't been writing... I've been reading, and running around, and about dying in the heat here. 113 degrees today (forecast). I bet it makes it, and then some. DH and I were trying to figure out why we were so hot yesterday -- perhaps because it was 10th-circle-of-Hell hot outside. Funny how the thermostat reads the same but the closer you get to the walls the warmer you feel.

Running around: we joined the Y. DS1's swim team practices are there 2x/week, and they have a lot of other stuff going on as well, so we signed up. DH took the kids over there to swim this weekend, and they had a blast.

I've intently watched big chunks of two swim practices now, paying far more attention than I would've expected. Yes, I want to see how my son is doing -- and he's doing great, he really likes it. But there was something more to it: I'm jealous.

I want to swim, really well. I want to be in great shape. I want to feel strong and healthy.

So, do it, I think, and then I think of all the obstacles in my way. The first, of course, is my health, which has sucked during this hiatus as well. My RA is still kicking my butt (relief when it comes is short duration) and my digestion is totally screwed up. But I can ignore those things for the most part. At least, I think I can.

There are two possibilities for me: first, adult swim lessons, but I'm not really sure I need them. I can swim, just not well, and of course I have no stamina. The second is master swim team -- swim team for grown-ups. Practice is every morning M-F from 6-7AM. Yikes! That would mean getting up at 5:30AM. DH thinks that would be impossible for me and the way I am lately he's right -- but I did remind him that I can nap during the day if I need to. He remains skeptical.

So I'm off to the Y to get advice: lessons first, or just try out the swim team? Then we'll see where it goes from here. I can't go on like this. I need to do something physical to get back into shape, and the idea of getting on workout machines or even walking makes me cringe. Swimming, on the other hand, just sounds lovely: at least my creaky joints will be spared all those nasty impacts that come with all land-based exercise.

If swim team is too much I can just do lap swimming myself at the pool -- but it's so much better for me to have external motivation. But I may have to face the fact that I'm not up to it yet, and keep swim team as a goal.

Damn: I just remembered I have a dermatology appointment next week, and if the doctor needs to slice off any more suspicious bits then I will not be able to swim while I have stitches. I haven't seen anything that I think is weird, but that doesn't mean the doctor won't. Last year's 10 biopsies about killed me, so I'm hoping we won't have to do any... but I will have to put off swim team until I know whether or not I'm going under the knife again, at least.

There's always yoga.

Monday, August 22, 2005

therapy (or, how I am spending my birthday cash)

OK, that last post annoyed me enough that I actually got off my butt to post this one, which I have been meaning to do for some time now.

My mother-in-law, previously heralded here as The Best and still the undisputed holder of the title, sent me a totally superfluous check for my birthday.

Now, to me, birthday cash should be spent on something decadent. Definitely not on groceries, and not for clothes you would've bought yourself anyway. So this cash isn't just going to fund a purchase, it's funding a project. It's time to get back to knitting, I'm thinking. And for the first time in decades, I'm going to make a a sweater for myself.

The question is, which one?

I love this one, from Fall 2005 edition of VOGUE knitting.

It will knit up quickly in Thick&Quick on 11 needles; I adore the seed-stitch. I love the elegance of it. The hilarious thing is that the Thick&Quick is such a durable, machine-washable yarn that I am thinking of making it in the ecru. Who cares that I'll be wearing it as a schlep my kids hither and yon? Everytime I put it on, I'll feel glamorous. There's a lot to be said for that.

But there's still something to be said for this one, which is from the much-less-glam but still OK October 2005 issue of Knit'n Style.

DH doesn't like furry fluffy collar and cuffs, but I do. I wouldn't make this in the red-and-black; I'm not exactly sure what I'd do -- maybe black-and-white tweedy, with black cuffs & collar? It's coincidentally also in the Thick&Quick on huge needles, and the collar and cuffs are done in the fun fur that I've worked with before (it's a blast).

Which, do you think? If I can catch the yarn on sale, I may just do both!

the impenetrable miasma of discontent

Haven't had much to say lately, because I'm doing nothing post-worthy. I'm not thinking anything post-worthy, either.

Mostly I'm just exhausted and off, in so many ways. I've been here before. It will take a few days to climb out again, and then things will be better. I have this sense of waiting, what for, I don't know. But I'm here, stuck in neutral for now.

Hey, it's better than being in reverse.

Friday, August 19, 2005

thyca update

Saw Dr. M this morning. My Tg is 1.4. Sigh. I was really hoping for undetectable.

My TSH was 0.07, which is fine, but I discussed with Dr. M that I take all my T4/T3 in the AM, and all the blood draws have been in the early AM, and so I'm wondering if my TSH is actually rising by the end of the day? Am I on a little cycle of suppressed-not suppressed as the T3 effectiveness falls off? We're doing a late afternoon blood draw to see what my TSH is then, and we'll see if I need to adjust my dosage or the times I need to take my meds.

Dr M also ordered a wide field ultrasound. She didn't feel any nodes today (quickly dismissing that one lump that has been bothering me as related to respiratory inflammation -- it is outside of the cervical chain.) However, she does want to get a look at the 3 nodes ("foci") that were identified in the follow-up scan I had in June.

After the fact, she concurs with the treatment decisions that were made in June. (Well, that's a relief.)

The ultrasound and new labs will be in a couple of weeks, so I can just try not to think about until then.

I was really hoping for an undetectable Tg, but it has been just over 2 months since the RAI, so it could fall still further. As usual, just have to wait and see what happens.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


-- You're irritating me...

--You are easily irritated.


Leaving aside (for a moment) the truthfulness of the statement, I can assure you that there are very few situations in which saying something like that will be perceived as kind or helpful.

Maybe I was over-sensitive this evening. But I recognized my own rising temper; by saying "You're irritating me," I was trying to issue a warning shot.

I could've said it better: "I'm getting irritated." It's always bad to start out with that accusatory "you."

However, if I warn someone that they're irritating me, and the immediate reply (didn't skip a beat) is that I am an easily irritated person -- well. That's just unacceptable. It places all the responsibility for my irritated state squarely back on me, which is absurd. I'll take some of the blame, but not all of it, especially since I was contented just prior to the exchange leading up to this.

Went for a longish drive under the huge full moon. Got an apology. Feel better, mostly.



A newly-trained helo pilot I know, a recent USAF Academy grad and fine writer, has just been posted to Iraq. I know her through an online community, and today she posted her "see ya on the flip side" notice.

I wished her Godspeed, and told her we'd keep her in our prayers. Work hard and keep safe.

And thank you.


I am so profoundly grateful to her, and to every single man and woman who is serving this country, in the military or as first responders. I can't imagine where we'd be without them. I don't want to imagine what life would be like for my children if the work that is happening now around the world wasn't happening. We are in the crucible now, but I believe that we can get through it -- as far as I can see, we don't really have a choice. It's change the world, or die, for surely the militant Islamo-fascists will not be content to let our existence continue.

Our way of life is worth fighting for. For my children and myself, I am now and always will be thankful for the people who continue to make our way of life possible. God bless them all.

the anonymous patient

Ann Althouse blogged recently, Sure, I'll keep it private, linking to this NY Times article (registration required).

The article, "It's Time for the Truth When the Body Clock Strikes 13" by Perri Klass, MD, is an engaging look at what transpires between the adolescent and his or her doctor. The doctor solicits questions from his patient, assuring him that he can ask anything and his Mom will be none the wiser. Here's a quote from the article:
"Really? I can ask you questions and you won't tell her?"

"I'll keep anything you ask me or tell me private," I said. "What's your question?"
Then, of course, Klass goes on to discuss some actual questions.

Althouse comments: "I'll publish it in the NY Times, but other than that I'll keep it private." She thinks that the patient's privacy has been abused, that the doctor broke his promise and committed an ethics violation in writing this article.

Several people in the comments thread agree with Ann, but I don't, and said as much, over there -- there is no way to identify a particular patient from the narrative of the article. I'd be willing to bet that the described scene is actually a pastiche of hundreds of encounters this doctor has had.

But to Ann, and some of her commenters, the fact that the doctor said "I'll keep it private," prohibits him from writing about the interaction or even referring to it, without obtaining the patient's prior permission, even if it's anonymous, and there is no way to connect any one individual to the scene under discussion.

So, medbloggers -- where do you stand on this issue? Is what Klass did ethical, or not? As far as I can see, the identity of the patient(s) is(are) protected, and therefore there is no ethical violation. Is that not good enough? I've never been to med school (obviously) or studied medical ethics, so I'll rely on you experts for guidance.

All I know is, I regularly read medblogs -- Dr Charles immediately springs to mind -- who employ literary devices in discussing patient cases, but always maintaining the patient's privacy by shielding their identities completely. As long as that is the case, I'm not seeing any ethical -- or HIPAA -- violations. But I'd really like some knowledgeable folks to weigh in on this issue.


Feeling completely squashed and not exactly sure why.

It was a good day, really. Helped a friend deal with some petty tyranny (PTO). Finally picked up the new water filters for the R/O system. Made a decent dinner. Sent off my September column, only 3 days late ("The Big Breakfast.")

The physical stuff drags me down. My hip has been excruciating lately -- piriformis flaring all the way up into sciatica. The other night my entire leg was numb and sleep was near impossible. I figured out the vicious circle: trying to tuck and keep my abs tight to stabilize my tailbone irritates the piriformis, so it spasms, giving me sciatica. I have to balance being tucked-and-tight with not screwing over my hip. Last two nights I put heat over the piriformis and that has helped.

Lump in neck: still there. Digestion: still screwed up -- it's like, can I get through today without needing immodium? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. (Today, emphatically no.) At least the immodium works. Down to 128 lbs this morning, despite ravenous late night snacking -- no doubt that's related to the digestion situation. Discovered a new bump today and I'm not sure what the heck it is but I have doctors appointments already set up. One of 'em will know what it is, if it hasn't gone away by then. Today was day 2 of the new minocyclin regimen (100 mg, 2x MWF) for the RA. I do feel a little better, hands steady at about 3 -- nothing like the other night when I'd put my hip at about 7 or 8, as in trying not to cry it hurts so much -- but am wondering if it's just placebo effect. I don't care if it is or not, I'll take it.

I wish I knew why these sudden curtains of despair fall on me like this. Is it something I'm doing, or not doing? The idea of personal responsibility with respect to physical and mental health, except in very obvious cases (don't smoke!) is a non-starter. We like to think our infirmities result from certain actions or inactions, because we want to maintain the illusion of control. If we cause our own problems, surely we can implement our own solutions, right?


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

here's something unusual

Lileks doesn't usually piss me off. You know, when I grow up professionally, I want to have a Lilekian career. Time and talent are all that keep me from reaching such Lilekian heights, even now. (heh)

Today, though, I have to say it: James, get a grip.

He had one of "those" mornings, getting Gnat to camp. Money quote:

[T]his was still going to be her first day of this week’s camp, and she was the last one there, all the other kids already had the special shirt, and her lunch came in a plastic bag from a gas station.

Worst. Dad. Ever.

First off, let me say that I understand that hyperbole and exaggeration are essential tools in the Lileks arsenal, and I know he doesn't really think he's the worst dad, ever. But I have a really hard time believing that he was so short on material that the best he could come up with was to spin an "almost late for camp, had to make do with Lunchables" anecdote into something that makes him "Worst. Dad. Ever."

Obviously he doesn't get it. (There's something I never thought I'd say.) The things that make you the worst parent ever are the times when you realize you are completely helpless to fix whatever is broken inside your kid: heart, hope, faith. The things that make you the worst parent ever are squishing their little joys because you're tired and in pain. The things that make you the worst parent, ever are the things that take you away from them, or limit their lives in ways you never imagined would happen. When they don't have friends because they're stuck in the house all the time because you're too sick to take them anywhere, or when they're no good at sports because they don't get any practice because, well, you can't stand up for that long -- these are the type of things that add up to Worst. Parent. Ever.

I'm not even going near the topic of truly evil parents -- I'm talking here about the parents who try, really try, but sometimes fail and so get that Worst. Ever. feeling -- but being almost late to camp? Lunchables? No way do those things come close to qualifying.

Monday, August 15, 2005

cinema salad

I'm in a movie-watching mood lately, and with HBO, all the Starz channels, and all the "regular" movie channels like AMC, TCM, and FMN, not to mention the gems that sometimes pop up on TBS, I've found a lot to watch.

Then again, sometimes I just watch whatever is on next, and that leads to interesting juxtapositions.

So here's the list, from Friday evening:

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Typical Will Ferrell. Some parts hilarious, some parts embarrassingly over the top. I'd say this movie insults all the usual victim groups but it ignores blacks, so I guess it doesn't. The ethnic minority of choice here was Hispanics. There were some great visual spoof/homages; my favorite was the post-rumble shot from West Side Story.

The Turning Point
While I totally agree with this guy, I'm still glad to see that this gets a whopping 86% recommendation at RottenTomatoes. You have to love ballet to like this movie. If you can't stand ballet, then just fast-forward to the terrific fight scene between Ann Bancroft and Shirley Maclaine. That one scene garnered them both Academy Award nominations, and they deserved them. The rest of it is laughably bad, except the ballet. The ballet (you'll excuse the expression) rocks. Baryshnikov is astounding. It's nearly miraculous watching a human can get that high off the floor without a trampoline or other mechanical assistance.

I'd Climb the Highest Mountain
This Susan Hayward vehicle was next up in the schedule after "The Turning Point" so I watched it. She plays a city girl who marries a minister who is serving in rural Georgia just after the turn of the century, and they endure a number of hardships. The movie provides remarkable historical perspective, portraying a minister as a positive, exceedingly decent character without a shred of post-modern cynicism. These were people sustained by faith, in a simple yet engaging story. They don't make 'em like this anymore because they're afraid no one will come, or perhaps just because the producers just laugh at the scripts and toss 'em. But I think there is still a big market for stories about ordinary people surviving extraordinary circumstances.

Dana Wynter stars as a German girl in post-WWII occupied Germany, Mel Ferrer as the American captain who first meets her as an escaping POW, and later as a member of the team working on the reconstruction. She's gorgeous even when she's grubby, and it's funny seeing a woman as refined and cultured as she is working as dunk-tank girl in beer hall -- but that's better than being a prostitute, and a choice she made quite easily. I really enjoyed this both for the glimpse at the Occupation and for the character story. She really is too good to be true, but that's OK. Ferrer's American is such a decent guy he's a good match for her, but it takes her quite a while to believe that.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Finally got around to seeing this and I concur with the general critical acclaim. I'm a big fan of Charlie Kaufman so that wasn't a surprise. What did surprise me was how appealing Jim Carrey was. I guess he really can act! Who knew? Usually we just get Jim Carrey, and who wants to watch that? (See: Robin Williams) Anyway, I liked it. Kirsten Dunst's character made me sad.

The Great Raid
This is getting trashed by the critics, which is totally understandable to me. The script has a few incredibly hokey parts, for example, when faced with writing an unwritable letter: I don't know where to begin. -- How about, "Dear..."
I mean, c'mon, guys! Is that the best you could do? I don't think so, especially when everything else -- from the casting to the direction and the story, the story! It's a great story. But the weaknesses in the script give reviewers something to bash so they don't have to focus on how great the rest of the movie is. It does move a little slowly, but I found that to be appropriate. And I thought the casting was terrific -- no one really stands out as the star, and you get the sense that this was an effort in which all the pieces played a crucial role in pulling the whole thing off.

The other thing this movie will probably get trounced for is its depiction of the inhuman behavior of the Japanese towards the American POWs and Filipinos. I knew about the Japanese atrocities before, but I don't think I've ever seen them so realistically portrayed. I know that's going to bother a lot of people, but they have to remember that what is shown here is neither a distortion nor an exaggeration. It's a timely reminder: our current enemy has made a similar point of declaring all enemies less than human, and therefore fit for extermination. We must set our expectations of them accordingly.

Overall, I liked the movie while recognizing its flaws. I'm more than willing to forgive them.

The 39 Steps
I'm continuing my Hitchcock education. This movie totally rocked! It was great to see the MacGuffin in action. It is easy to see why Hitch is so revered.

Edward Scissorhands
My first Tim Burton movie, and my first exposure to Johnny Depp, lo these many years ago. Still tugs at the heartstrings, too. The visual design of this movie still blows me away, and all the topiary and hair styles are outstanding. (Some are outstandingly weird, but still outstanding.) What caught my attention on this viewing was Anthony Michael Hall playing the creepy boyfriend. It was a jarring experience since I had earlier watched The Dead Zone in which I find his character very appealing. Anyways, *sigh* I love Edward.

To Sir, With Love
Sydney Poitier teaching life lessons to a bunch of teenage English toughs, circa 1967. Completely charming, but Poitier's dancing in a penultimate scene is cringe-inducing (at least to me). But then again, he's playing a stiff, so I suppose he's only acting like a bad dancer? I'm sure that's what it is. This is a great movie, and I completely agree with Mr. Thackery's methods and curriculum.

I also watched good chunks of Misery and How to Marry a Millionaire, but not enough to really count them. The first I abandoned because it was on a commercial network, and I couldn't deal with the breaks, the second because the plot was turning my stomach -- I wasn't in the mood for that particular brand of misogynistic comedy. And it is a mood thing, really -- I've enjoyed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes any number of times. Maybe it's just that Jane (not Rosalind, oops!) Russell is a better foil for Marilyn Monroe than Lauren Bacall is. Betty Grable's fine in "Marry", but Bacall is just too cultured and stiff. The differences between Bacall and the Monroe-Gable duo made their supposed friendship unbelievable to me, whereas Russell and Monroe had great chemistry as buddies. But then again, "Gentlemen" is played for many more laughs than "Marry" is. Guess I'll just continue to miss that one.

As for Misery, it's a great movie, and both James Caan and Kathy Bates are fantastic in it. Another example of how the best movie adaptations of Stephen King's works are from his straight fiction stock. See also: Dolores Claiborne, The Shawshank Redemption, and Stand by Me (still haven't seen this one, I'm embarrassed to admit).

The only one of these that I watched before 9PM was The Great Raid. You can see I've been going a bit short on sleep. And now I've spent a huge amount of time on this post when I've got a column due. Onward!

brief update

1) Still have that lump in my neck.

2) Have been eating extraordinary amounts (really, 4 ounces of fudge in one sitting is way too much), basically since we got home, but losing weight.

1) I also have a slightly sore throat, so maybe that lump is just from a garden variety upper respiratory infection.

2) The scale isn't working properly.

Seeing my endo Friday to review my last bloodwork and all that. I will do my best to remain hinged until then. Meanwhile, yesterday I undid all my good work fixing my tailbone by sitting too much and being lazy when I wasn't. The RA has stepped up a few notches, too.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

that river in Egypt

Now that I'm home, I'm catching up with my friends here, and I keep running smack into Denial. All kinds of hurts and angers and the injustices of Life, but none of it is ever their responsibility.

I've come across it so frequently it's making me wonder if I'm deluding myself about my own life's traumas and dramas -- but then I realize I don't have any. *whew*

And since I don't want any, I'm treading very lightly around all this stuff. Best to just keep out of it, right? But there are one or two situations that have been brewing for a long time, and anyone can see that they are just not going to end well, and shouldn't I try to help?

The most helpful thing I can do is pray.

Friday, August 12, 2005

ink stained, eventually wretched

TLC has a new reality show this summer, Miami Ink, about a group of tattoo artists.

I've never seen the show, but I've seen the promos dozens of times. These guys, the artists, they are walking canvases. Some of their clients are similarly covered in ink. Great vats of it, apparently.

Tattoos aren't even the slightest bit naughty anymore. They're the New Millenium's equivalent to pierced ears. Even the most prim and uptight mothers-of-preschoolers may have a tattoo or two, usually discreetly inked at the small of the back. And since these moms don't wear super-low-rise jeans, you'd never know the tats are there -- until they show them off!

Since tattoos themselves are mainstream, the only way to shock with them anymore is by the sheer volume of ink you're sporting. I once saw a family at Target: mom, dad, 2 moppets. Every one of the mom's limbs had ink, but the most startling tattoo was on the upper part of one arm. She had portraits of her two kids. In, you know, permanent ink. I thought that was a little different but it all made sense when I saw her husband. He had on a typical AZ outfit: shorts, muscle T, some kind of footwear that precluded socks. Every single square inch of exposed flesh below the neck was covered in ink. He was Ray Bradbury's Illustrated Man come to life.

The guy's an artist, no doubt. Those portraits were very well done. But I have to admit that I don't understand the desire to ink or be inked. I've seen gorgeous tattoos, and even flirted on and off with getting ink over some of my many scars (and was talked out of it by my dermatologist, who assured me the pain of tattooing over extensive scar tissue would be extraordinary.) I've seen huge, painstakingly-wrought masterpieces, literally carved in blood, with great love and skill, into living tissue.

It always comes back to that, for me, the "living tissue" aspect. When you get your kids' faces tattooed on your upper arm at, say, 27, you're young, your skin and your muscles are both toned and firm. But what is that upper arm going to look like when you're 47? How about 67? (flap-flap-flap) How grotesque are those little moppet-faces going to look, then? And dude, that chest-spanning dragon looks phenomenal now, when you're sporting six-pack abs and awesome pecs. But what happens when you lay off lifting for a month or two? Those outstretched wings are gonna start to droop, man.

Perhaps these people do think about how they'll look, 20 or 40 years down the road, but that's not the vibe they throw off. They're going to live fast, die young, and leave corpses that look so great a cottage industry will spring up to harvest the skin art and preserve it: Tattoo Taxidermy, the latest in funeral home services! Or maybe they'll be investing heavily in laser tattoo removal. Or maybe they'll revel in the way their biology combines with the tattoo artist's skill to create a work that inexorably ages with them, and they'll joyfully contemplate the subtle changes that time has wrought.

Somehow I don't think they expect any of these things. Tattoos suggest a type of magic, the reverse of Dorian Gray's: the ink remains, fixed and permanent, a moment frozen in time while the body ages around it. But we forget that while that ink is permanent, the canvas is not.

Consider the canvas, people. Consider the canvas.


A few things I failed to cover below.

My salivary glands continue to do something weird at least one or two times a day. Occasional salty saliva, minor mumps, tingly feelings up in the cheeks or (ugh) under the tongue. It's not bad, really, just weird. I'm using Biotene mouthwash and toothpaste and I think it's helping.

My eyes/tear ducts are the latest casualty in the RAI side effects derby. Today, for example, they are very dry and red-rimmed. I look like I've been crying for a week, and they feel horrible even with eye drops. From time to time tears just overflow my eyes (one or both, it varies) and flow down my cheeks. My tear ducts apparently get blocked. So far it's not a chronic thing, but it is very annoying when it does happen.

One thing I'm happy with: brushing with hydrogen peroxide 1x/day is keeping my teeth from looking like I'm a 3-pack-a-day smoker. They're bad enough as it is, they don't need to stain every time I take a sip of red wine or have coffee. I'm totally cracking up because Listerine has a new "tooth whitening" mouth rinse -- major ingredient? Hydrogen peroxide, of course. It's a lot cheaper to just buy that. The Prevident flouride treatment/toothpaste is working well, too, although I should probably do that more often.

Last but certainly not least, I think I'm finally getting a handle on my tender tailbone situation. My pelvic musculature was all torqued because of my hip rotation, and that caused my coccyx to be pulled out of alignment. But I think I've finally got it under control. The crucial piece was re-training my abs to work when I'm sitting and standing. I think I lost that post-hysterectomy, and having lax abs was contributing to all that instability. So engaging the abs (basically, keeping my gut sucked in), and keeping in a pelvic tuck whenever I'm standing have led to major improvements in the tailbone situation. For the past few days, it actually does not hurt when I wake up. I'm hopeful that as I continue to just pay attention that this condition will resolve entirely.

You know, it would be nice to check something off the list.

perched, once again

...ready to topple into a maelstrom of health issues, but hoping I won't.

The day after we got home, I made five appointments as I run the 2nd Annual Cancer Test Gauntlet. Last year I went in, blithely unaware (mostly) of what was coming. This year I'm under no such delusions. Here's how the appointments shake out:

Two for the endo (one for labs, one for followup)
One for the dermatologist, all over "mole check"; he'll surely yell at me for being so tan.
One for the eye doctor, for a dilated eye exam -- this is the one that scares me the most, actually. If they ever found melanoma behind my eyes that would be that, as they say. However, it's extremely rare, so I am not going to worry about it.
One for the gynecologist, who will write me a referral to have my mammogram done.

I also should make an appointment with my g/e doc, because my digestion is still screwed up even though the Immodium helps. A lot. But really, is this the best we can do? I don't know. I'm waiting until after I see my endo, though, because maybe we'll get to adjust my meds and that could help. So, that appointment will come later in the fall.

At $40 a pop, all these specialist visits are bleeding us dry -- it's better if the appointments are not all clumped together.

The other person I need to see my rheumatologist. I had a bad time over the summer, until I did some research on my antibiotic therapy and read up on a phenomena known as "tissue sensitivity" or something like that, wherein the antibiotic actually starts to aggravate the symptoms if too much builds up in your system. Since my symptoms were getting worse (in spite of Alleve), I quit taking the a/b and they have settled down. Now I'm in the default state for my RA, which is: hands are steady at about 4, which makes nearly everything just a little more difficult (like typing). Feet are worse, I'm just realizing, but I'm also wondering if that has to do with walking around barefoot on our tile floors. Hmmmm. Hips and everything else are creaky in the mornings but then usually work themselves out.

I could go back on the antibiotic, I've got plenty and another refill left on my r/x, too. It did work really well last year. The thing that's holding me back is the "flu" I got when I first started it, which is common. After taking it for a week or so, the mycoplasmas that are dying off really pollute your system and make you feel like the crud on the bottom of your shoe for a few days. It was not pleasant, to say the least, and since I'm already feeling achey, I don't want to dump "flu" on top of that. I'm such a wimp.

The protocol says to go off for a week or two, but I've been off for a month (at least, maybe longer). I wish I could just tough this out, but the current strategy is not a good one. Constant pain, even low-level pain like mine, is really wearing on a body.

So I had my blood drawn on Thursday morning, and I hydrated well enough beforehand that it only took one stick. That's a minor miracle as far as I'm concerned. So now I'll be on tenterhooks until the results come in and I can discuss them with my endo. I have some concern about my TSH, since it has been measured recently shortly after I've taken my meds -- both T4 and T3, and I think that will probably mean my TSH is coming out very low in the morning, whereas later in the day it is probably higher, perhaps out of suppression range. Maybe I shouldn't worry about these things, but I do:

I've got a new lump on my neck. Not a submandibular gland, a node in the chain below those. On the right side. It's probably nothing, will probably go away before the endo can even take a look at it. Right?


Through a weird confluence of events I saw two Kurt Russell movies on Tuesday. I know quite a few people who are now thinking "My condolences," but I am not in the least bit ashamed to admit that I enjoyed both of them very much.

Since it was a blazingly hot day-before-school-starts, I took the kids to see Russell's latest, Sky High. My friend Walter (predictably) hated it ("jejune in every single measurable category"), but I was happy to be able to go to a movie with my kids that didn't make me wince from the sex or violence, or make me cringe from the embarrassingly stupid writing or horrible acting. Don't get me wrong, Sky High is as predictable as they come, and as "sanitized" as Walter complains about, but you know what? Sometimes a movie like that is exactly what I'm looking for. I think Walter forgets that there is a less-demanding demographic out there that is still worthy of respect. I offer no apologies for my enjoyment of Sky High: it's the equivalent of bubblegum pop music, entirely safe for children and a lot of fun. It is not, obviously, what many people think it could have been, or should have been -- but I enjoyed it as is. My kids did, too.

Russell's role in Sky High, the super hero dad, is perfect for him. He has that all-American vibe going strong here, recycling many 50s sitcom foibles endearingly (at least to me.) And let me also say that the guy is in phenomenal shape. The guy is 54 years old and he's running around in tights -- more of a sculpted suit, actually -- and looking good doing it. (He actually looked better in his street clothes, the suits were intentionally dorky.) It would have been very easy for Russell to sleepwalk through his role here, but he didn't, and the movie is all the better for it. In fact, it's the acting throughout that holds the entire thing together, with Russell anchoring everyone else's performance. They are all just serious enough, without going Over The Top. (OK, maybe Bruce Campbell goes OTT, but that's fine with me because IMO Bruce can do no wrong.)

As a side note, I think I'll be getting my hands on the soundtrack soon, too. Bubbly covers of 80s hits, great music to listen to as I spend my days chauffering.

Moving into an entirely different realm, I caught Miracle again in one of its Starz! channel rotations. This is a perfect hocky movie, but much more than that. I love this movie for its dead-on evocation of the era, the gritty snow everywhere, the horrible plaid polyester pants, the horrendous hair cuts and soup-strainer mustaches. I love the story, I love the fact that it represents only lightly-embroidered truth. I love how it captures the stirring of the American spirit within a depressed people. I realize it's probably interminably dull to non-hockey fans, but to me it is just brilliant from start to finish.

This movie simply would not work without Russell. He is in practically every single scene. He is Herb Brooks. At the end of the movie there is a dedication to Brooks, who died just as principal photography was ending. There is a photo and we immediately recognize the expression, the hairstyle, and the (hideous) outfit -- because we've seen all three on Russell. More than the look, though, is the attitude, the accent, the deliberate way of speaking, the extremely repressed emotions. You can't watch this movie and not come away feeling like you know Herb Brooks. And I can't watch this movie without profound admiration for both Brooks' vision and his determination to succeed.

Brooks was a sort of genius, but I think Russell also is a sort of genius in how completely he submerged himself into the character of Brooks.

Russell has made about a jillion movies, and I've liked a lot of his characters (especially Snake Plisken.) He's one of those always-working actors that I tend to take for granted, until something makes me take notice. It's funny that it took Sky High to make me appreciate how great he was in Miracle.

IMdb shows Russell has a couple more movies en route -- here's hoping they're of a caliber with his last two.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

stolen thunder

This morning DS2 insisted that I teach him how to tie his shoes. I obliged, patiently walking him through the steps. I'd explain a step, then show him, then let him do it. End result, he tied his own shoes. Yes, I helped, but! He's still only 4. Both DS1 and DD learned right about the time they turned 6.

I was talking to a friend who has kids close in age to mine, and I admit, I did brag on DS2 just a little - "[DS2] tied his shoes today -- I helped, of course, but he did do it himself."

So, do I get a "Wow, that's cool!" or maybe a "Good for him!" ?

No, I get: He's the youngest, he wants to do everything his big brother and sister do...

Yeah, I suppose. But if DS1 had tried to tie his shoes at 4, he wouldn't have had the fine motor skills to do it.

Oh, that's because you have so many smaller, bigger-kid toys around the house, that's why his motor skills are more advanced...

In a word, No. (I was much more polite in reality, and I think I hid my aggravation completely.) DD has always had exceptional fine motor skills and even she couldn't (or perhaps simply wouldn't) tie her shoes at four years old.

The kid did a cool thing today and I think he should be recognized for it. I'm not going to explain it away as an "Of course" accomplishment, because that is emphatically not the case.

It occurs to me much later that perhaps my friend's third child, a few months older than DS2, hasn't tied his own shoes, with or without help -- but so what? No one expects a 4-year-old to tie his own shoes. Does everything have to be a competition? Is that why she immediately (and unrelentingly) tried to minimize the accomplishment? I did not make a huge production out of it, I just thought it was cool. I still do. I guess I'm just not in the mood for the usual game of compare-and-contrast that moms often inflict on each other. I have the impression that if I want to stay out of it altogether I'll end up never saying anything about my kids at all.

hello, little zebras

I took DS2 to the zoo this morning. It was hot and a lot of the exhibit areas are under construction, so the place was practically deserted... except for the local news crews. As we got out of the van I noticed the Channel 12 van drive by, and as we rounded one corner, there was a Channel 10 cameraman.

Why all the fuss?
Two Grevy's zebra foals made their first public appearance today.

This one was a loner:

But this one never strayed far from his (her?) mom:

It was complete coincidence that we went today. I've never gone with DS2 alone before. We had such a nice time, though, I hope we get a chance to do it again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


DS1 and DD survived their first day of school!

Not that I had any doubts they would. They were both quite enthusiastic about it this morning:

My own feelings were a lot more ambiguous. DS2 and I hung out in pj's on our computers most of the day. I am in a funk but eventually it will lift, there are a lot of reasons for it but mostly it is just carving out a new groove back here in AZ. I find myself on autopilot way too often, lost not in daydreams but nothingness, so when I miss a turn or go completely the wrong way, or otherwise "come to" and realize I have no idea how I spent the preceding quarter hour, I don't even have the excuse of a distracting train of thought.

Apparently all the trains have left the station, I suppose they'll be back eventually.

Oh, I do need to note with amazement: DS1 (8-and-a-half) put a new roll of toilet paper on the holder this afternoon. By himself. Without me asking him to do it. I tried not to make too big a deal of this, because I don't want him thinking it's all that amazing. But really? Yeah, it is, especially considering the number of adults I know who apparently have yet to master this tiny, but important, life skill.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Denial and depression...

Yes, I'm in denial about the end of vacation. I fall asleep on the sofa and wake up thinking, Where am I?

Every afternoon, I think, Time to go to the beach...

I'm doing OK keeping up with things like laundry and shopping and cooking, and the kids are doing OK not killing each other. Yet everything still feels like a struggle. I remember times when doing things felt effortless -- even some things that require a good deal of effort, like making banana splits from scratch. Now even the simple things require Herculean efforts (of will, if not of physical strength).

I'll get over it. I just miss having more people around, and the more benign environment of the Cape. For a while there, that was my real life, and it takes a while to shake the pixie dust out of my eyes and get on with what is, in fact, Real.

Monday, August 01, 2005

winding down

Back on the Cape, doing Cape things: going to the beach, eating lobster, that sort of thing.

Flying home day after tomorrow, and already the melancholy of it is settling around my shoulders. It is really lovely to be able to break so completely from daily life for so long, but then it's such a shock to have to go back.

I'm one to talk, aren't I? The kids start school a week from Wednesday!