Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006 top 10

Every year we get a Christmas card from one of DH's old college friends, and every year, it includes the prototypical "holiday letter", the kind that sets my teeth on edge with its description of the happy perfection of their charming lives.

This year, though, there was twist! Instead of a letter, each family member (dad, mom, 3 girls) got a column, and each got to list their "top 10" for the year. The youngest girl's list was kind of charming, including as it did "starting kindergarden" and "learning to read", but I suspect that Mom actually drew up the list because it also included learning Spanish. That's OK, though, my teeth weren't grinding, yet... then middle girl's list included selling more cookies than anyone else in her Girl Scout troop, and I found my jaw tensing. By the time I read that the high school freshman won her soccer championship, Mom's starting grad school, and Dad loved the "Body Works" (sic) show -- actually Gunther von Hagen's Bodyworlds,the ones with the plasticized human cadavers -- enough to include it on his Top 10 list along with the (many!) dinner parties they've attended, I was ready for my splint and a dose of ibuprofen.

In contrast, here's my quite personal and humble Top 10 of 2006:

Going to Houston in February and not needing surgery

Going to Houston in August and not needing surgery

Having the breast lump biopsy come back benign

Getting effective treatment for my TMD (the aforementioned splint, plus physical therapy)

Spending the summer on the Cape

Being substitute storyteller at Border's

Getting my "quick tip" published in Cook's Illustrated

Getting our kittens, Alice and Cooper

After 30 years, finally figuring out how it works (this item intentionally vague)

Having the best family, both near and far.

I must also mention that I'm a co-facilitator of the Phoenix Thyca group, but at the moment that's not Top 10 material, but I'm hoping it will be next year -- and I finally got my certification to be a substitute teacher, but I haven't done anything with it yet. If I could add one more thing, it would probably be that I went on a number of "thrill" rides at Disneyland this time, and I totally loved them all. So now my kids know I'm not a total wimp, at least when it comes to amusement parks.

rookie mistake

I just opened the washing machine to be confronted by a multitude of formerly white, newly pink, socks.

I can't believe I did that.

Good thing socks are cheap...

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I've been short on breathing time for the past few days, but not today. DS2 came down with something last night and was not well today. If this persists tomorrow, we'll be off to the pediatrician, because we would really, really like to go on our Christmas trip and of course we can't do that if he is not well.


Eragon well illustrated the perils of the journey from page to screen, and I'll have more to say about that later. In short, the kids enjoyed it for what it was, and as far as that goes, it wasn't the complete Star Wars rip-off that many people are saying it is.

Aside from movies, there was a lot of baking, several rounds of physical therapy, and attending various holiday parties at school. Miraculously, I managed to get all my student (RE class) and teacher (the kids', of course) gifts in order, on time, and delivered. And I sent out all the Christmas cards and presents last weekend, too, although that took three trips to the post office (it's not worth explaining.)

What else? Laundry, it seems like piles and piles of it. I should clean the rest of the house but I haven't... maybe tomorrow, we'll see. Tomorrow is shaping up busily, since I have PT at 7, and then will be taking the car over to the tire shop. Apparently the pulling we've been seeing is not from the alignment, which was fine, but from uneven tread wear; the Honda folks suspect tread separation since there is still quite a bit of tread left. Whatever. Those tires are barely 14 months old and the car sat, undriven, for 7 weeks over the summer. (Perhaps that is the problem?) Whatever the reason, though, it's ridiculous to need new tires again, and so soon, but if we're driving to CA there's no way I'm going on defective tires.

Still have lots of sorting and wrapping to do so that Sunday night isn't too crazy. I have a sense, most likely wildly inaccurate, that there's more than enough time. We'll manage, though. We always do.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


I was sitting here thinking, What did I do today?

It seemed like an empty day, but contrary to my feeling, it was a full day. I accomplished a number of somethings, the most significant being getting the Christmas cards ready to mail, some 46 of them. I began that task with good intentions of writing little notes on each, but that flew out the window with the passing time and the realization that the kids have only two-and-one-half days of school this week. Panic! I do not have as much time to do stuff as I thought. Isn't that always the way?

One of the somethings today was getting in to see the PA at my doctor's office -- I finally broke down and realized it's not going to clear on its own. She gave me a prescription for my sinus infection and this antibiotic is making me feel so sick! I had some oyster crackers, that helped, but really, this is unpleasant.

Time for bed, then. Tomorrow holds the promise, such as it is, of Eragon.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

stay tuned

I'm in for it, but I don't think it will be that bad.

What's "that"? Eragon, the movie. I'll be going with the three offspring and two of their friends, on Sunday.

I know that everyone already hates it, particularly my old friend Walter Chaw at FFC.

The thing is, I have the feeling the kids will enjoy it. They don't care how closely the story is ripped off from Star Wars; DS1 knows it repeats a lot of the same elements but thought it was a fun story nevertheless. He's 9 years old, and I think he's right: it was a fun story. It wasn't particularly well-told to begin with, so it's no surprise if the screenplay is a mess. Our expectations are set very, very low.

I find myself strangely up for the prospect of seeing this wretched thing. It will give me something very different to write about.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

important questions

I wonder when I'm unexpectedly happy.

Take today, for instance. I did housework and some writing, met DH for lunch, did a few errands, talked to the vet about Cooper's continuing pink eyelids, ran the kids hither and yon according to the usual schedule, made dinner, etc etc etc.

About 4:30 I noticed I had a headache, which was only partially alleviated by taking the clip out of my hair. (I really need a haircut; the weight of the hair is becoming a problem.)

After dinner, I was making up all the beds again with clean linens and realized that I still had the headache (not surprising, since it hadn't resolved completely earlier) when I started seeing spots. I've had floaters a few times since this whole round of TMD-related misery began, but only when I had a crashing headache already.

The things is, it didn't really bother me. Yeah, I have a headache, but it's not that bad and I bet if I had something to drink it would go away. (Maybe not) I think the PT is doing odd things to my neck and shoulder muscles which ultimately will be good but in the beginning can lead to rough spots... like today. Physically, pretty sucky, actually, but otherwise: damned happy.

I think maybe my slight increase in meds is finally kicking in? Whatever cyclical hormonal storm was raging is now past? The fact that I'm quite nearly done with the Christmas shopping? The unexpected, lovely lunch with DH today? I don't know, I just know that I felt ... light. Nothing was difficult. There are no problems when I'm in that zone.

So, how do I get back there? And why can't I stay?

Friday Night Lights: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and strange

Episode 1.9, Full Hearts

In Asian cuisines, the success of many dishes hinges on how well they balance each of the five tastes. Friday Night Lights is the television equivalent of a perfectly prepared and presented szechuan banquet.

They're toning down a lot of the early quirks that made the show somewhat off-putting: the close-ups aren't as extreme, prolonged, or frequent, and the documentary-style jerky camera stuff is reserved for travel shots, practice, or games. Yes, they've taken the edge off a bit, but if it brings more eyes to the show, and those eyes stay to watch, that would be a good thing. I'm not complaining.

I'm especially not complaining because this episode surprised me more than once, without betraying a single character or anything even approaching a wrong note*. The fact that so many stories were advanced or resolved in this single episode is a jaw-dropping accomplishment. (I contrast this program to the two "blockbuster" movies we've rented recently, which resemble nothing more than bloated fish carcasses by comparison.)

I liked that Tim and Lyla's affair came to light, and that everyone around them punished them for it. Adults (especially those without children of their own) forget how harshly judgemental teenagers are. Even if our culture glorifies adultery (Desperate Housewives, etc), these kids know that Lyla and Tim hurt Jason terribly, and deserved to catch some flak for it. Maybe not as much crap as the pair actually had to endure, but at least some comeuppance.

I was surprised, too, that Smash's big sister figured out that he's doing steroids. What a relief that someone with a brain is looking out for him, and will hopefully prevent him from self-destructing. Yes, the "daddy had feet of clay" storyline was a bit hackneyed, but I was willing to forgive it because I love the Williams as a family, and because the writers have established the characters just enough for me to buy that flight-from-the-hood story.

There's just too much to talk about. How strange is it that Buddy Garrity teamed up successfully with Tami (albeit at the mayor's suggestion -- complete with hilarious wardrobe recommendations), and how fantastic that Buddy actually took Tami's advice and didn't try to fix Lyla's problem when she finally admitted it? Please, show, don't make me like Buddy Garrity -- but I'm OK with despising him a little less.

Jason and Lyla, Jason and Coach, Jason and Tyra -- who is on pace to take over Julie's number two spot on my favorite female characters list -- Jason and his O-line; every scene a struggle of one kind or another. The guy is not a saint and he's not a jerk, either. I do hope that he can forgive Tim soon, but I'm hoping he freezes Lyla out permanently. Or at least for a good long time.

Coach Taylor didn't have a single sustained scene, which highlights yet again the essential ensemble nature of this program. It's not a Kyle Chandler vehicle, although he is very much the lynchpin of the proceedings. And even though he didn't have any extended dialog, the words the writers do give him say plenty: You don't have to be alone with this, son, for example, or the fantastic sarcastic You want a beer?

Which brings me to, at last, the lovely beginnings between Matt Saracen and Julie Taylor, and the awkward perfection of their first disasterous date, and the even more glorious, yet still somehow awkward, first kiss: (sigh). I love these two kids. Saracen caring for his grandmother really is the "real Matt Saracen," and how weirdly lucky it was for Julie to get to see that. Saracen sucks at bluster and can't pull off the "QB1" schtick no matter how much he tries -- for once Landry's advice (ditch it, play up the vulnerability) was spot on.

Coming right round again, though, I have to say I think that Landry was my favorite in this episode; how can anyone resist a guy who exhorts you not to blame the couture?

Thank you, writers and producers, for making this show about more than a football team and their coach. The surrounding characters round out all the flavors.

(*) Lyla putting a supposedly hot-from-the-oven pan of muffins directly on the laminate counter -- which in real life would scorch -- was the kind of gaffe I'm quite willing to forgive.

Monday, December 11, 2006

micro movie reviews (2 bad movies)

Well, not exactly bad, lots of people seemed to like them, a lot. I can understand that, I just don't agree. It's true that each had redeeming qualities, but not enough to overcome their essential off-ness:

Superman Returns, Bryan Singer's love letter to the Man of Steel. Unfortunately, Singer missed the whole point of Superman being, you know, super, and was both cavalier about the perils of kryptonite and widely off-the-mark in his characterization of everyone, including Perry White, but perhaps most egregiously Lois Lane. You can't re-write the canon, Bryan. It doesn't work that way.

Miami Vice: all atmosphere, no story. Looks great, less filling... OK, I'll stop, the same way I stopped watching the movie about half-way through. B-o-r-i-n-g.

Come to think of it, Superman Returns was also boring. There's no reason at all for these movies to be as long as they were with the amount of story they had to tell, and especially the small number of characters they needed to portray. They were both extremely flabby.

Flab's bad enough around my hips, but it's inexcusable in a film. Oh, for an editor who's not in love with the long, long, long shot!

mechanical difficulties

I'm doing OK, I tell myself.

I started physical therapy for jaw/head/neck issues, and, as usual, it hurts. It always hurts in the beginning, but I do feel as if I'm being pummeled during the massage sessions.

The weirdest "exercise" so far is the one where I lie on my back with my shoulders just at the edge of the table (at home, the bed), and let my head hang down, to stretch the muscles in the front of the neck.

The hardest is a variation of a Locust pose: lying flat on the stomach and lifting the head, chest, and shoulders while keeping the chin tucked. The smallest movement takes great effort and concentration because I'm in such lousy shape. It will get easier.

I thought I was doing fine before I went in for the evaluation, but over the course of that appointment I could see myself the many problems that are feeding, one into the other.

I must conclude that I am poorly put-together, or perhaps just prone to malfunction. My musculo-skeletal system sucks. Why does some tiny insult have to flare up into some painful condition that requires expensive and lengthy treatment?

Oh, why ask why, what's the point? Just deal with it, and move on.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

damn you, Jonah Goldberg*

Jonah has a long-running tradition of posting "time wasters" over in NRO's The Corner. From time to time, I'll click through and enjoy some mindless diversion. Never before this one -- Atari Nirvana -- was I ever compelled to go back more than once or twice.

It's the Tetris, you see.
It's even on cell phones now!

I had a serious Tetris problem back in the early '90s when work slowed to a crawl, pending contract renewals and what-not. We were literally told not to work; I asked my boss, "So, what, I'm supposed to play Tetris all day?" He said, "That's all right with me." So I did.

Admittedly, you can find other, much better versions of Tetris, and some of them are probably even free, too. But I didn't go looking for them because I didn't need the temptation. Now I'll get to see how good my self-discipline really is.

(*) by which, of course, I really mean, "Thanks, Jonah!"

cabin fevered

After a very good day yesterday, DD spiked a 101.3 degree fever in the late afternoon.

Both she and I are praying that she makes it through today without a fever so she can go to school tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


DD came down with a fever last night after RE, and slept through dinner.

Today she was fairly miserable in the morning, slept, and felt well enough this afternoon that she was hoping to go back to school tomorrow. After her late nap, though, her fever spiked to 103, so school is definitely out tomorrow, and most likely Thursday as well.

I, of course, am home with her. All day. I hadn't planned on spending all day at home today. In fact, I cancelled errands on Monday to have lunch with DH, expecting to do them today. The only place I went today was to pick up the boys at school and drop DS1 at the Y for swim practice. We were out of the house for the grand total of 42 minutes, coincidentally the exact length of the High School Musical soundtrack, our road music du jour.

Tomorrow, I've got PT in the morning and my girlfriend M will come by and stay with DD while I'm gone. I hope to get a few errands in after PT if it doesn't run too late.

I hope most of all that DD's just got a little virus and gets over the hump tomorrow, poor thing. I want it for my own sake as much as for hers. I have too much stuff to do to hang around home all day. If I'm going to be in for the rest of the week, you might as well shoot me now.


My substitute teaching certification, along with my plastic FBI fingerprint card, arrived in the mail today... one day after I scheduled myself for physical therapy, three times a week, over the next 5 weeks. (Skipping Christmas week)

I suppose it's for the best. I don't know how many times this has happened to me, but I appear to have a permanent mental block when it comes to admitting that I need physical therapy. I think I'm doing fine, and I'm certainly managing everything, but I get in for a consult because the doctor is really, really nagging me to go, and then I find out that I'm not doing fine.

Things are way more screwed up than I thought they were. So, PT for the next five weeks, absent Christmas, all upper body/shoulders/head/neck/jaw stuff. Whee! A lot of this is necessitated by my neck dissection surgery, but some of my problems may go all the way back to that car accident I was in when I was a kid and my head broke the windshield. Hmmm.

Sadly, the PT will not be working on my hip issues at all, even though she was appalled at how unstable my hip joints are. I am, too, but apparently not appalled enough to actually do the exercises that will help the muscles stabilize them. The problem is when I do the exercises it increases the pain substantially. If I knew that was temporary and that the exercises would ultimately pay off, I'd stick with them. I'll ask the therapist about it and see what she says.

In the meantime, she has me massaging my rock-hard jaw muscles for 3-5 minutes on each side, once a day. It's remarkable how the smallest muscle seizing up can cause so much trouble.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Friday Night Lights: bread, meat, and cheese

Episode 1.8, Crossing the Line

Friday Night Lights is a terrific example of new-era dramas, because stuff happens, a lot of stuff, in every episode. So, in "Crossing the Line," we have Jason confronting Riggins and dumping Lyla, Riggins hooking up with Tyra and having a knock-down, drag-out, up-end-the-big-TV fight with his brother, Smash sweet-talking customers and his mama, and continuing the 'roid fest with the help of a female bodybuilder with as much muscle as Riggins... and Saracen somehow in the middle of a lot of this, wanting a date with Julie. And Julie thinking about it, and her parents having those typical parental moments trying basically to talk her out of it, so that when Julie says yes they radiate a sense of both failure and resignation: I knew this day would come.

That's the bread and meat of this show, the real reactions, the impeccable sets and costuming, the looks and pauses that say so much more than a line of dialog would. And all that's good, but sometimes I wonder.

I wonder about the cheese -- I mean, does Smash have to literally be shifty-eyed? Wouldn't he be smarter than that? No, I guess not, hence the steroids. But sometimes this show makes me cringe, like when the congregration at Smash's small, obviously not-well-off church passes the collection basket to pay for Smash's "SAT prep course," which is another code name for steroids. And then I have to cringe again when the kid actually uses the money to buy the drugs. What, four weeks of steroids are going to be enough to make a change? Or is it just that four weeks of steroids will see him through most of the football season? I can't figure out Smash's logic, probably because there isn't any.

I continue to adore Jason's story and his development, heavenly choirs sang when he dumped Lyla, but I wonder how long that will last. I wonder what will happen to Lyla now that Jason has rejected her, since she has spent her entire adolescent existence planning on becoming Mrs. Jason Street, wife of the football star. Clearly, the latter half of that identity has been off the table since Jason's accident, and now it's looking like the former isn't gonna happen either. This is exactly the kind of pressure that a girl like Lyla should thrive on, though. If the writers have her crumble, I will be most ticked. I won't be surprised if she crawls back to Tim for "comfort." I hope he kicks her ass to the door.

The Taylors had much reduced roles in this episode, but that was OK. I adored the Coach's speech to his daughter during their ping-pong not-game, so brutal and so honest and so "Ohmygod, Dad, shut up!" The chemistry between the Taylors and their daughter is fantastic, which was spectacularly contrasted with the barely functional relationship between the two Riggins brothers when they all sat down to dinner. The Riggins were like aliens wandering an extraterresterial landscape in the Taylor home.

Which brings me to Saracen, who'll mumble and stumble over every word when he's talking to a girl but can lay it on the line for Smash: If you lose this job, I lose my job, too, because I put you in for this. I thought we were friends. Saracen may not be the most articulate guy, but he's clearly not stupid, either. I wanted to shake him and say, "Don't listen to Smash, he treats girls like trash! You know better than that!" But I have a sense that he already knows that, and if he even thinks about telling Julie "what she wants," Julie will either a) laugh at him or b) walk away, or possibly c) a), then b). Julie can hold her own.

Can't wait for the big date! I suppose it's ridiculous that the Julie-Saracen thing is what has me most engaged, for now. I'm looking forward to seeing where Jason goes now, and what happens to Lyla, Tim, and Tyra. But the Smash storyline seems the most rote -- I foresee 'roid rages, fallout, consequences of bad decisions. Maybe the writers will throw us a curve and Smash will get away with it. I doubt it, though, way too policially incorrect to show illegal drugs actually benefitting someone, even though everyone who uses that type of drugs does so specifically to improve their performance. Come to think of it, that's about the only thing they could do that would redeem this story. We know steroids work, and we know hundreds, if not thousands, of athletes use them and get away with it every day. Maybe Smash will be one of them, but he'll still have some consequences to deal with.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

December's column

The most recent issue of the Low Carb Luxury online magazine is out, with my recipe column featuring low carb rugelach.

I am very, very psyched about that recipe, it's absolutely every bit as delicious as its high carb version.

For some reason, the LCL folks also re-ran last December's date bread column, which would be OK if they made a point of saying it was a repeat, but they didn't. Odd.


You know, when you have a baby, you're overwhelmed with all the responsibility. They are such needy little things, after all, and can't do a thing for themselves. Sometimes it feels as if you can never do anything right, and there is always some other thing they need, something else you need to do for them. And you can feel like it's a grind from which you will never escape, because sleep deprivation tends to shine a very harsh light on any situation.

Then they get a little older, and you get more sleep, and life falls into a pattern, and you think, OK, I can handle this. Because when they're dressing themselves and feeding themselves and looking after themselves in the bathroom, it's all so much easier, right?

That's when you smack into the brick wall of parental expectations: It will get easier as the kids get older.

Of course it's true on one level -- the feeding, clothing, bathing, and toileting aspects, and after a few more years, even the "reading to" part is mostly covered. But that's when we are hit with the most vicious turn of the screw, because just as all those daily life tasks fall into place, we get to deal with all of the other developmental areas that have been percolating in the background.

Things like anger management, impulse control, and over-sensitivity.

It's like this: when you have a child who is very serious and very sensitive, with an over-developed sense of fairness, you're going to run into situations where his peers play on all of those traits and work him up into a right lather. So, for example, if the boy doesn't let someone cut in front of him in the lunch line because it wouldn't be fair to everyone else behind him, it's completely inexplicable to him that other boys would call him mean for preventing the line cut. And when the other boys pile on, that's not right, either, and it hurts and it makes him angry, and then... he talks way, way too much and says the kind of things that get you sent home from school.

All of which is what happened today, and to be honest I still haven't recovered from it. What my boy did was beyond the pale and he deserved to be sent home, but what was clear is that the other boys played him. I know adults who wouldn't retain self-control in a similar situation, but that doesn't mean the kid gets a pass for flipping out.

I feel bruised. Part of me (albeit a very small part) wants to tell him, It wasn't your fault, because in some ways, it wasn't. But I'm not going to -- I can't -- give him a pass like that, because he is responsible for what he did, and he has to learn this. Of course we thought he learned it last year, and the year before, and maybe even the year before. Lord knows this lesson gets repeated often, and he's not a dumb kid, so when is it going to sink in?

And when is it going to stop hurting so much? It's a dagger to the heart to your child say things like I'm a bad person.

Because that's not it at all, I tell him: You are a good person who makes mistakes. Why doesn't he believe that, so that when some idiot kid comes along and starts pushing his buttons by saying he's mean, he can just blow that kid off and not let it get under his skin?

I think that has been one of my mistakes (I'm sure there have been many which will be revealed with the unfolding of time) with this boy, not repeating that idea often enough for him to internalize it. I'm not talking about unearned self-esteem here, I'm talking about being able to look (relatively) objectively at the kid and say, Yeah, he's a good kid, or as any number of people would attest, He doesn't have a mean bone in his body, unless of course you've pushed him over the edge.

The other trick is to help him recognize when he's being pushed that way, so he can get up and walk away, or get help.

Repetition should help with these lessons, I hope, just as I hope that with time this heartache will subside.

Friday, December 01, 2006

in which I am unexpectedly (but still not gainfully) employed

Have I mentioned that I am now co-facilitator of the Phoenix ThyCa thyroid cancer survivors' support group?

Maybe not, or not in a while. I have been going to meetings whenever possible since shortly after my diagnosis. I can't remember when my first meeting was, but I do remember that I was freaking out about having cancer and worried about all the local metastases I had. I was basically a basket case. The group helped enormously.

So I kept going back, because I always learned something and sometimes I was able to help other people, too. At the end of the summer, the facilitator asked me if I would be willing to co-facilitate with her, and believe it or not, it's just now becoming official. (I've noticed that sometimes all-volunteer organizations can be great with the volunteer aspect and not so great with the organizational aspect. Note that my contact information is, as of 12/01/2006, still not listed on the website.)

On a day-to-day basis, it's not a big job: answer some e-mail, maybe, or make a phone call; attend the monthly meetings. No big deal! But there is a big deal, which I didn't really think about when I said "yes", and that big deal is the workshop we're holding (sponsored by the Virginia Piper Cancer Center) this March. There's a lot of work to be done in arranging speakers, the facility, printing services, you name it.

Today we met with one of the social workers at the Piper Center who went over the resources they have available to us, that was great. Then we brainstormed over other organizational issues. I left the house at 9:30am, got to the kids' school at 2:30, and didn't get home until 4:30. That was like a regular work day, almost. I'm not used to being out of the house so much, but I think it's good for me.

This week I've already done more real work than I can remember doing in a long time, even though all I did was design some letterhead and write a letter to a doctor, and attend a couple of (very productive) meetings. But productive meetings always lead to greater task definition, as well as set goals. Now I have more things to add to my list!

I like doing this sort of thing, though. My mom dragged me along every time she had to put together a reception at the conservatory or anything similar, so planning an event for 100 people isn't exactly totally strange territory. (For a few years running there, I worked with my mom on the CCCM&A's annual dinner: you try managing a pot-luck for a jillion people.)

This is work I feel very good about doing. Screw programming, I'm never going back.

(The workshop is scheduled for March 3, 2007, at Scottsdale HealthCare on Shea Blvd; details to follow, but topics we'll be covering include a thyroid cancer overview, nuclear medicine, surgery, and the low-iodine diet. We'll also have a speaker covering all of the many, often unknown, community resources available to cancer patients. I think it will really be great. Even better, all ThyCa workshops are free, so all you have to do is show up!)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

list, master

So, I made a list last night. It was very long, and even though I was able to cross off many things today, I have many more items to add. (I am feeling much better, only the remnants of the cold remain.)

Single-line items are so deceptive. Yes, it looks like a single task, but for example, something like "mail DD's letters" involves addressing, stuffing, and stamping envelopes and then taking them to the post office (well, stopping by the post office during an errand run.) But if I break the tasks down into sub-tasks, the list will become even longer than it is, so I will continue to downplay the complexity of certain tasks. It makes the list more approachable.

Lists are good when you have a lot of things going on that it's important to juggle appropriately. I'm thinking the life of this list will just about extend through this weekend but the reality is, I should probably keep a list going until Christmas.

Oh, how I'm looking forward to being list-less again!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I'd like to blame my total, utter laziness on this nasty cold, but I have the feeling that even if I were healthy (you know, that's a relative term), I'd still be doing nothing.

Things have piled up a bit. Eventually I'll get it all done, but for now I'm just being a slug and trying not to feel guilty about it. There's the sense that my potential for being a slug is soon to evaporate: the possibility of work looms. I sent in my application for my substitute teaching certificate last week; let's see how long it takes to get here.

DH spent most of the weekend putting up all the Christmas stuff. There are just a few decorating tasks left for me to do and I've yet to do them -- but it's still November, they can wait.

Maybe tomorrow I'll make a list.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

out, out damn cold!

The sinus junk progressed to a full-blown cold late Thursday, and I've been going through tissues at a record pace ever since.

I can't remember the last time I had a cold this bad. Sure, a few sniffles here or there, but not this full-blown misery. Ick.

To console myself, and inspired by Jane's annual shopping post, I created my own Amazon aStore this evening, where you can see many of my favorite things: Sane Shopping Oasis. Yeah, if you order something, Amazon will give me a tiny kickback. I spend a lot more on my ISP than I've ever made at Amazon, but since I want to link to products when I write about them, it makes sense to have the affiliate account.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

never before

And most likely, never again -- today marks the first time ever I have served a holiday meal exactly on time. I was aiming for dinner on the table at 1PM, and it was. I'm trying to decide whether or not it was a small miracle or just the fact that the kids are getting older and therefore don't need as much attention and don't get in the way, in fact they can actually help now. Or maybe it's just that I've done this enough now that I've got it down? I don't think so, since the last such meal I made was, true to my usual form, finally ready to eat an entire hour later than I had originally planned.

Well, I do know what the difference was this time: I made a list yesterday, and a schedule for today. I've made lists before, but never in this much detail. In the interest of future happy holidays, here they are, transcribed from my notebook for legibility.

pies - bake!
- pumpkin: scrape, bake, cool, puree
- graham cracker crust
- assemble, bake
- slice apples
- regular pie crust
- assemble, bake

cranberry sauce

rolls - make dough & refrigerate

- dry bread
- saute vegetables
- assemble, refrigerate

prep green beans

prep cauliflower

clean & prep turky; prep vegetables for the pan

I actually did almost all of that yesterday, along with two doctor appointments (DD's well visit, DS1's allergist), and buying a new camera online at Circuit City (they had a deal with 1 GB SD card that beat Amazon, amazingly) and picking it up on the way. (The "order online, pick up at store" process was quite smooth.) The only thing I didn't get to do was the turkey, but that was OK because everything else was in such good shape... eventually.

Yesterday was in reality a series of minor disasters: it took a tremendous amount of effort to scrape out those pumpkins, and much longer than I expected. The cranberry sauce cooked over, big time, in the microwave. Huge mess! And the pumpkin pie cooked over also, which caused billows of smoke to pour out of the oven when I cranked up the heat for the apple pie. Of course the smoke detector went off and the ADT people called to make sure the house wasn't burning down:

ADT: Is everything OK there?
Me: Yes, I had a pie cook over in the oven.
ADT: (making a note)Thanksgiving pie, all right. So I don't need to dispatch anyone there?
Me: No, please don't, this is embarrassing enough.

We opened every window and ran all the ceiling fans plus a box fan and it still took about two hours to really clear all the smoke. The kids thought it was funny. Of course.

Fortunately, the pies themselves were not affected in the least. We tucked in to both of them last night after dinner. The kids were shocked, but I said, "I made these to get eaten, I'm not saving them for anything." No one complained, of course, especially not with the accompanying whipped cream (wasn't on the list, but I made it anyway.) DS1 declared the pumpkin "divinely delicious" which, I freely admit, made my day.

So even though we had a few difficulties, yesterday was a successful prep day.

Here was today's schedule:
- in at 10
- flip at 11:35
- test at 11:55

cauliflower - 12:00

green beans - 12:40

- roll out 11:45
- let rise till 12:40
- bake 15 min @ 400

stuffing - in at 12:30

The turkey was 11.5 pounds; I roast it at 400 degrees on a sturdy V-rack, upside down, for the first 85 minutes, then flip to brown the skin on the breast and finish cooking. Before I put it in the oven, I slather butter all over it; in the pan and in the bird's cavity I put rough-chopped onion, celery, and carrots. It's an extremely easy prep but it turns out a great looking and great tasting bird, plus the most amazingly delicious pan scrapings for gravy, which I left off the list, but I still had time to make anyway.

The cauliflower goes in the microwave for about 12 minutes (I did 15 minutes today and that was a little too long, it was a bit watery). Then it goes into the food processor with butter and sour cream, for our "mashed". I just don't do mashed potatoes anymore -- these are delicious, even the kids eat them, albeit in tiny quantities.

For today, because there was gravy, I didn't do anything special to the green beans, just steamed them in the microwave for 15 minutes. Perfect.

This is the first year I ever attempted rolls. In fact, it's the first time I've ever made dinner rolls, period. I used a recipe from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book for refrigerator rolls, and it worked beautifully. I made crescent rolls, and DD helped me roll them up. Most of them unwound, but no one cared, they were still delicious. I think they unrolled because I put too much butter on them, but who can blame me? I think the phrase "too much butter" describes an impossible state when it comes to rolls.

DH helped with clean up along the way and set the table (and also kept me well plied with mimosas for a good part of the morning), and of course he carved the bird and then disassembled it for the soup pot (which is now merrily simmering).

After dinner, I played Monopoly with the kids (DS1's Lord of the Rings edition) for nearly two hours. And then we had pie, and I had a nap while the kids watched the rest of the Harry Potter movie they had only seen half of last night (Goblet of Fire).

All in all, it was the kind of family day Thanksgiving is supposed to be, perfect for counting my many blessings.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

bump up the meds!

My endocrinologist is insane.

But for some reason today, I'm feeling a little -- ok, a lot -- better. Like I have a firm grip on things, not just clinging by my fingertips (no wonder I have no fingerprints).

But back to the endo. Her assistant called me today with my numbers. My TSH is up to 0.07, from 0.05 back in September -- that tiny .02 difference probably does explain my extended funk. My T3 was running low-normal, too, but I'm too lazy now to go find the paper so I can actually record the number here. So, there really is something going on with me, chemically, so to speak.

Here's the insane part: the endo wanted to bump up my T3, Cytomel, from 5 mcg/day to 25 mcg/day. She wanted to quintuple my dose of T3! When I went to Houston in 2005, I was nearly literally bouncing off the walls on only 15 mcg/day -- every single practitioner who saw me remarked on how agitated I was. Of course I was freaked out about needing a neck dissection, but it wasn't just that, I was bordering on thyrotoxicosis.

I refused, after I told the nice assistant that the recommendation was insane. (I think I actually used that word.) I asked, "Does she know I'm on only 5 mcg now?" Apparently, she does. And she thinks going from 5 to 25 is just the thing to straighten me out.

So I begged off, saying I would explore other possibilities (cyclical hormonal fluctuations are still a good possibility). Then I called to make an appointment with a new endo that comes highly recommended. I can't get in to see the new doc until February, but I'm hoping a cancellation will get me in sooner.

Anyway: I figure I can bump myself up to 10 mcg/day, a dose I was on for a very long time, without doing any undue damage. A huge part of my brain is appalled at the idea of self-medicating this way, but the rest of me just says, oh, get over it. I have a ton of Cytomel and my prescription is actually for 10 mcg/day, even though I haven't taken that much in months. So I could argue I'm going back to what was actually prescribed. Still, the "you know you're not supposed to do that" feeling is lingering... but now that I know that my TSH actually did tick up a little, I don't know why I'm hesitating.

I think I feel better because there really was a change in my labs. It's such a relief to know it's not "all in my head." Tomorrow will be the real challenge -- better still, or back to hanging off that cliff? I am so tired of that scene. I need to remember all the physical symptoms pointing to hypothyroidism, too -- and not just the weight gain. This is real, and it needs to be treated.

At this point I don't know I'm even waiting for tomorrow to take more Cytomel. I could've taken more this morning after the phone call. I need to get over this resistance and just do it.

Friday Night Lights: uh-oh

Episode 1.7, Homecoming

I haven't been motivated to write much of anything, and I haven't been too enchanted with anything, lately, so I kept putting off writing up last week's episode -- you know, on the off chance that I might snap out of this whatever and suddenly hear birds singing and not feel so dismal.

No luck, so here's Homecoming, which I can sum up in one simple non-verbal utterance: uh-oh.

I still love the characters, I love the way this show is put together, I especially love the acting. I love the tiny things that make everything hang together so well. The show doesn't just look real, it sounds real, too. It doesn't have one consistent soundtrack, it has audio motifs for different characters and different situations. I still really like all that.

What I'm concerned about -- what gives me the "uh-oh" feeling -- is the predictability. Too many things were too easy, or too easy to call, in this episode. Tyra's party was a huge hit! Who woulda thunk? Smash chokes under pressure -- what a surprise! "We're concerned about your size and strength" are code words for "start shooting up steroids, now." Gee, really? Riggins gets off the booze, goes for a run and lifts weights, and magically, he's the go-to guy for the win. Yay, Tim!

It didn't all suck. I'm in awe of Jason Street's physical decline even while he's remastering the limbs that still function: his face is going slack and pale, and he's losing his pretty-boy look. I'm also loving how Jason is returning to form and thinking about his future and what his life will be like. He always was a planner, and he's a smart kid, but there's a lot of confusing information to process right now. I think the writers are handling his character very well.

I'm starting to hate Lyla with the intensity of a thousand white-hot suns, but then I realize she's just a TV character and I need to get out more -- but seriously, that girl is e-v-i-l (only small letters because she's not really that bad). Or maybe she just uses baby talk too much. (That could be it.) "Don't hate me, Tim," made me want to puke. And give Riggins a hug, the big idiot. Is it really his fault that he's in love with Street's girl? Yes, but I'll give him a pass because he only recently sobered up, and I'm hoping that he'll figure out what a snake Lyla is now that he's not in an altered mental state all the time.

The former-QB plot was another in which I felt I was dodging anvils. Big success in high school translates automatically to big screwup once out of Dillon's protective enivrons -- of course. It's too trite to even call it a cliche, but Kyle Chandler was awesome anyway. Tami's commentary on the situation was spot-on if cliched, and nicely contrasted with her own comfy life: Hey, I didn't fall into that trap and neither did you. Tami perhaps sees that she has a calling to bring these football stars down a few pegs before they all implode, post-graduation. Or, in Smash's case, post-Homecoming game.

Finally, I am so rooting for Saracen and Julie. The asking-out scene was classic Saracen, who didn't even let Julie get a word in edge-wise. Here's hoping 1) she said "yes" and 2) we get to see them on a date, soon. Man, Coach Taylor's pre-date speech to Saracen should be one for the ages.

So: it sucked, but not completely. And it was miles above last week's Battlestar Galactica, which was the worst episode this season, possibly ever. Yes, I know, I'm approaching the "damning with faint praise" level here, but it's all I got, this week.

Monday, November 20, 2006

better late...

I finally climbed out of my funk long enough today to work on the recipe for December's column. It only took two tries -- lots of tweaks and what-iffing in between, though. They are still somewhat extravagant, carbohydrate-wise, but well worth it, I think.


But now I have to go write the column. If I send it tonight, technically it will only be five days late.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Conservatives aren't hypocrites! (via Instapundit).

Liberals are.

Brooks was surprised at his principal finding -- that conservatives are, across the board, more generous with time, money, even their blood, than liberals are. He even admits that, ten years ago when he first started doing this work, he would have "hated" the inevitable conclusion of his research. He is well aware of what to expect: "I know I'm going to get yelled at a lot with this book," he said. "But when you say something big and new, you're going to get yelled at."

But it's not big and new. Conservative philosophy rejects mandated charity via tax-funded government programs, but it embraces charity on a personal basis. The only ones who are surprised by this are liberals.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I've been having the most amzingly detailed, somewhat disturbing dreams lately. If I had the leisure to sit around and analyze them, I'd find them fascinating, I'm sure.

In reality, I find them annoying because they put an edge on the start of the day that I don't need. No one should have to deal with feeling peeved before they even set foot out of bed.

My most significant interpretation is that my meds are off, and this is just another symptom.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I had my bloodwork drawn this morning, at an excruciatingly early hour. And since I was already up, I then did a solid six more errands before I got home. Left the house at 6:30AM, made it back just before 11:30. It's nice to shop just as the stores are opening.

As odd as this may sound, I'm hoping those labs show something other than "normal", because I'm nowhere close. I am so dry these days that even with drinking constantly, I'm always thirsty. My lips hurt no matter how much DCT I slather on them. My hands are apparently impervious to lotions, even the really good ones that usually work when nothing else does.

That moisture has to be going somewhere. The air is not super-dry here, either. It has cooled a bit, but around here that means higher humidity, usually. The heat hasn't been on since last winter -- heck, most days at mid-day the a/c kicks on.

This is how bad it is: knowing I had a blood draw this morning, I forced fluids last night before I went to bed. When I got up, I drank 32 ounces of water before I left the house, and another 16 ounces on the way up. (So much for leaving early and bypassing the traffic; it took an hour.) The tech couldn't find any veins in either arm. Tried the right hand, and the veins were barely popping after what felt like 5 minutes in the tourniquet. Didn't matter, it rolled, and she couldn't stick it. Tried again with the left and finally hit one, but it took at least 2 minutes (seriously) to get half a tube, little dribbles trickling in to the rhythm of my pulse. It was freaky.

I've been a bad draw for most of my life, but usually hydrating well before hand gets around most of the problems. Today's experience was as if I hadn't had a thing to drink in half a day.

Right now? Thirsty as hell, and I just had two huge mugs of tea. This is unpleasant, so I hope it either shows up on the labs, or just goes away.

I wonder if it's related to the sinus junk (major post-nasal drip, moderate sinus congestion)? Perhaps tomorrow's doc (TMD guy) may have a clue about that.

Monday, November 13, 2006

lousy housekeeping

Riccar RSL4

A couple of months ago we bought a new vaccuum cleaner. It weighs 8 pounds, so I can actually use it without provoking a sciatica attack.

Even so, I've probably only vaccuumed three times in the two months we've had the thing -- not counting the three times I vaccuumed up the Moon Sand that DD got for her birthday, that doesn't count. I'm talking about honest-to-God, clean-the-whole-floor vaccuuming.

I just don't do it. Well, I do it more often now that we have the Riccar. This is not a testimonial but I do love that machine. It does a fantastic job on both the tile and the carpet. The bare floor setting has a squeegee-like thing that prevents the airflow from the vaccuum from just blowing the dirt around the floor, the way my old one did. (Brooms are just too slow for me -- we have a lot of tile.)

As I was vaccuuming this morning, I thought about what a lousy housekeeper I am. I have fantastic intentions. I bought the book Home Comforts and actually read most of it. Not only that, I agree with the principals involved. A well-kept home is not just nicer to look at it, it's healthier and overall, just better to live in.

So I was thinking about why I'm so bad about cleaning.

One reason is I can get away with it. Our tile floor is gorgeous and more than one color, so it never really looks dirty. Our carpet is exactly the same color as what little fur our kittens shed. (I admit to coordinating pet color and interior decorating color schemes.) I don't let the kids eat on the carpet, and they rarely wear their shoes indoors, either. What dirt there is on the floors doesn't really show.

In the bathrooms, it's the same deal: I can get away with it. I have friends who are forced, more or less, to clean their bathrooms every day because their kids are disasters in there. Mine may leave an occasional glob of toothpaste, but overall, they're pretty neat. We rinse out the tub every evening, and I clean the rest of it when it reaches a grunge level I can't tolerate. (My grunge level is much lower than DH's -- but I don't expect him to clean the bathrooms, anyway. He would if I asked him to, but that would just be lame.)

Overall, I do a clutter patrol practically every day. Sometimes (like now) the kitchen counter and my desk are crying out for archeological expeditions to recover their pristine surfaces, but that isn't even a half-hour's work, honestly. I'll get to it. Generally, I don't let stuff pile up all over the place. So when I do want to clean, it's not like I have to do the pre-cleaning declutterfying. That gets done practically every day.

My one non-negotiable, doesn't stay dirty room is the kitchen. Dirty dishes don't stay in the sink any longer from breakfast to lunch, and clean stuff gets put away. I cook too much to tolerate a dirty kitchen, and my kitchen is big enough to have places to put everything away. I'd say I love my kitchen, but that's not exactly right. I love the layout of my kitchen, but I'm coming to hate the flimsy cabinets (we didn't have a choice with those) and I'm so, so tired of our laminate countertops. But neither one of these is anything close to a priority. Maybe if I have a few surgery-free years, we can afford to redo it.

I know a lot of folks swear by the Fly Lady, and I think that's great. I have actually been using a sort-of-Fly Lady approach for years now, with my daily clutter patrols and insistence on keeping the kitchen up. Whatever my problem is, FlyLady isn't going to help me.

For some reason, while vaccuuming today I had a flashback to what my life was like during my first marriage, when I would vaccuum our humungous condo every single week. We were just two people who were practically never home, but I'd devote three or four hours every weekend to cleaning the house. Weird. It was some sort of compulsion, I think, because it was what I was supposed to do. I don't really remember my day-to-day life from back then very well, through a combination of willful forgetting and repression. I wondered this morning if my complete inability to stick to a housework schedule goes back to those years of being so completely stuck to a schedule.

It's possible, I suppose, but I don't really buy it. That was a long, long, long time ago and frankly, I don't feel oppressed by housework. I used to get annoyed having to unload the dishwasher every morning, until I realized I was being a spoiled brat about it: hey, I could be hand-washing all those dishes before putting them away. It's just life. Life takes work, especially when you have a family.

I don't know where I got this skating-by attitude, but it's annoying me lately because I see the same thing manifesting in DS1. I can spend hours online steadfastly ignoring the things I could be or should be doing around the house. I rationalize that it's just my priorities -- and I don't accept that it's a faulty rationalization! We always have good food to eat and clean clothes to wear, everyone does their homework on time, and I manage to be only 5 minutes late to every appointment.

The important stuff gets done. I wish I could find a way to motivate myself to do those things that are manifestly less important, but still really nice. When I'm feeling better, it's easy to do those things. When I'm just holding on, they become overwhelming. I'm doing a fairly good impersonation of a not-depressed woman these days, but I think that's starting to fray around the edges. I'm going up for my bloodwork tomorrow morning, and hopefully I'll get this straightened out. The return of the sinus junk and post nasal drip from Hell are not helping at all.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Friday Night Lights: Scylla, Charybdis*, all that jazz

Episode 1.6, El Accidente

I don't think anyone in the real world pays attention to episode titles, but "El Accidente" encapsulates the Buddy Garrity (and all the footballers') method of spinning away anything mean, dirty, or downright illegal that will hurt their chances of winning: It was an accident.

Two parallel plotlines this week beat us over the head with the difference "doing what's right for the team" and "doing what's right." This is the ugliest that Coach Taylor has ever behaved, staunchly insisting, I won't lie about recruiting Voodoo, but then pointedly failing to pony up to the truth of the matter: Voodoo may well have been ineligible (he needed residency of a month, and we don't really know when he showed up in Dillon), and more to the point, Buddy Garrity lied in his testimony to the council. So Taylor kept his mouth shut, and seemed to get the outcome he wanted for his team.

Of course Taylor's under all sorts of pressure, and losing that win would jeopardize his job and destabilize his entire family's lives. But does that make it OK? He seems to think so, evincing a "do what you gotta do" kind of air.

Matt Saracen once again goes through a crucible of sorts, with his non-footballer friends ragging on him for "going over to the Dark Side." They have a point. When Voodoo taunts Reyes and calls him a wetback, Reyes takes out his frustrations on one of Saracen's friends, Caster, putting him in the hospital. Reyes then makes a big deal out of the fact that Caster provoked him with racist epithets... which is, of course, a lie. Reyes even manages to hold onto this lie while looking Taylor in the eye.

Now Saracen knows that Caster never went after Reyes, and doesn't have a racist bone in his body. He knows Reyes is a thug, but he's the thug that anchors the defensive line and the team needs him. It takes Saracen the better part of the episode to figure out what's right, which leads to a completely charming scene with him and Julie at the Taylor's front door. It's clear that Julie is hoping that Saracen is there to see her, and they make almost-casual small talk until Saracen asks to see Taylor. Julie's disappointment is quickly masked but there if you're looking for it (as I obviously am -- don't worry, Julie, Saracen's not letting his teammates hook him up with some rally girl, he has already told him he "has someone else in mind" for Homecoming.)

Taylor, to his credit, doesn't have to struggle with his conscience on this call at all, and boots Reyes off the team. This was a much-appreciated turn, because the Tami-Coach discussions over the Reyes incident featured Tami defending Caster and questioning Reyes' story, and the Coach pushing back and not wanting to examine that story very closely all.

The football stuff wraps up with Buddy Garrity pissed about Reyes' status but downright frantic, because Voodoo, demoted to defense, has gone back to NOLA, and as a parting gift held an interview in which he refuted every lie that Buddy Garrity told to the council. Looks like that "W" is a goner for sure.

In the third plotline, Street tells Riggins to stop being an asshole (not in so many words, but yeah) and to help him. Riggins decides he loves Jason more than Lyla, and does: he breaks Street out for a long drive and a day on the lake. Weirdness abounds when Lyla comes along, but only for the occasional awkward moments, including the classic Lyla backing off her earlier statement of "taking all responsibility for what happened." Both of these guys should dump her, I'm telling you. Still, the day seems to be a complete success until Street sees Riggins and Lyla hugging goodbye in the parking lot. It's not a sexy hug, and they don't mack or anything, but that hug goes on way, way too long for people who aren't supposedly anything but friends -- and who, until quite recently, had nothing in common but Jason. So now Jason has something to torture himself with.

I didn't love this episode. Too many leaden plot points rained down on us, and it seems to me that the writers could start giving Saracen a break or two any day now. In real life, that kid would be suicidal. He's a sophomore and expected to lead the team on and off the field. What kid could withstand that, plus the dad in Iraq and the demented grandmother? I like Saracen, a lot. I want him to ask Julie out and have fun, and not be tortured the way he has been pretty much since the beginning of this show.

Having said all that, I'm still completely hooked here. Even the characters that get miniscule amounts of screen time -- like Tyra resisting Tami's "guidance" -- manage to be more than two-dimensional. It's a sad fact the biggest failure of characterization so far this season is Reyes, who we have never seen before and will most likely never see again. He's the cardboard cutout bogeyman of the episode, and it hurt the story. But I'll still be watching next week, and rooting for the Panthers.

(I don't really care if they win -- oh, I do for Saracen's sake, I suppose. I just don't want Taylor to get fired!)

* Taylor and Saracen spent most of this episode between rocks and hard places.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

in spite of it all

OK, so I haven't said much lately. I've been doing too much running around and had company and all that jazz. Plus I've run into a seemingly never-ending string of irritants, to whit:

- my camera died right before DD's birthday. Up until that day, it had been cranky, but usually giving it a whack sufficed. On the day of her bday, no more, it was dead. Sigh. I took photos with DS1's bottom-of-line digital, and they actually look OK... if I could just figure out a way to get them out of the camera's internal memory and onto the damn card! Why did it do that? I can't find the cable (of course), and I never needed it before because the pc has a card reader. Jeez.

- the dryer, after acting up for the better part of the past year, also seems to have passed into the great beyond. Or at least the control dial has. Repairman coming tomorrow, and we're hoping we can keep it in the $200 range, which is a lot but still significantly less than a new dryer would cost.

- Cooper, having recovered from his eye thing, promptly relapsed in the other eye, and had to go back to the vet. Back on a stronger antibiotic and different eye goo. He looks better already. Tomorrow he goes back for his last round of shots. We are financing our vet's summer house, let me tell you.

- DD's cake (pictures coming eventually) came out fine but I couldn't get the frosting to set for the roses. I dithered around with it for way too long before I decided to add more sugar, which of course was exactly what it needed. One of my tips was bent at the top (it's amazing how easily that can happen) and had to be pitched. Another time, numerous lumps in the frosting -- even though I sifted the sugar! -- drove me nuts. It should have taken me an hour and a half. I spent three hours on it.

- Driving up to the Scottsdale, we brought the iPod so we could listen to tunes. The batteries in the transmitter died. The extra batteries in the car have gone missing. No problem, buy more batteries at the mall for the ride home. At the Fast Fix Jewelry repair, pay over $10 for two AAA batteries. They're dead, so no tunes for the trip home, either. Actually, this turned out to be kind of good news because I thought that the transmitter itself had died, but no, it was just that they sold me, at ridiculous markup, dead batteries.

- After several consecutive days of eating too much, eating too much junk, and not exercizing, my weight climbed up past the weight on my license. After 3 days of cleaning eating and exercize, I'm back down to 140. I hate this. Coming into fall, most of my pants don't fit. I don't want to be skinny, I just don't want to have to shop for new clothes.

- I have no fingerprints. In order to get my substitute teaching certification, I need a fingerprint card from the FBI. About 2 months ago I finally managed to get my prints taken and send them in. About 4 weeks later, I got a notice from the FBI asking for a reprint; they said my prints were unreadable. Interestingly, the state of AZ didn't have any trouble with my prints. The technician at the fingerprinting facility took one look at my fingertips and declared that they were basically worn off. You can still see them, of course, but the ridges are so flattened that it's nearly impossible to get a clear image of them. So, now what? I asked her. Not to worry -- apparently this condition is fairly common among people who do things like work with chemicals or wash their hands alot -- like I do, when I'm cooking, and usually I'm cooking at least twice a day. She says that they'll find whatever distinguishing characteristics they can, and issue me a card anyway. I hope it doesn't take too long.

- My web host, iPowerWeb, has been flaking out on me on a monthly basis for a while now. When "Host 18" (my server) was down yet again (all the problems trace back to problems on this particular host), I asked if I could get off it. The tech offered to upgrade me to a "vdeck" whatever that is. OK, what's the catch? I have to download all my files and re-upload them, not to mention changing the server information with my domain registration, etc. In reality, it probably won't be too much of a hassle. But the way I'm feeling right now, it looks like a huge opportunity for screw-ups.

- Trying to post this yesterday, Blogger was fried. When it finally came back up, it asked me if I wanted to switch to the Blogger Beta, so I said sure, go ahead. I didn't realize it would take all night to move the blog! But here it is and it seems fine, and I see now that there's a new field below this edit box for labels, which is something I've wanted for a while now. But last night it just felt like I was thwarted at every turn.

The "hanging on by my fingernails" feeling persists. A friend from thyca counselled me to get my TSH checked, so I made that call today -- the depression + weight gain would seem to indicate something going on there. We shall see.

Even through all that, we're all OK. My in-laws had a nice, if way too short visit (having to go home and de-kennel the dog). DD's birthday was a smashing success, in spite of needing a GPS to navigate Scottsdale Fashion Square and its parking structures. Everyone's happy. Why can't I be?

Monday, November 06, 2006


It's 6:20AM. I'm never up this early, but today my in-laws are heading back to Connecticut, so I hauled myself out of bed to say good-bye.

It was a good visit, very busy and fattening! Lots of stuff to write about, but that will have to be later, as I can barely keep my eyes open now. We managed to pack a lot into these past few days. I like the house like this, though. The kittens are on an early morning prowl, but other than that, there's only the hum of the computer. For now, for a just little while longer. It's an anticipatory silence.

Friday, November 03, 2006

November's column

A recipe for which patience pays off: Carrot Raisin Cranberry Bread in the November issue of the Low Carb Luxury online magazine.

The first day, just out of the oven, the texture was too crumbly and the cranberries too aggressively tart. The next day, after "settling" in the fridge, the texture was lovely and moist, and the cranberries were a nice kick in a sweet and spicy setting.

It's lovely just as it is, but butter or cream cheese wouldn't be amiss on a thick slice. It has a bit of the cache of fruitcake, but none of the stigma, and only a fraction of the work.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Friday Night Lights: Lyla Garrity is her father's daughter

1.5: Git'er Done
(spoilers, as usual)

Finally, some football. For a show ostensibly about high school football, there isn't a whole lot of game footage -- or practice footage, for that matter. I appreciate that, and I appreciate that when the Panthers do finally play, we don't have to slog through 20 minutes of football. The entire game gets compressed down into less than 5 minutes, and most scenes are sideline scenes or locker room scenes. It's all about the people, and not about the game -- and somehow that combination has me sitting on the edge of my seat, willing Matt Saracen to pull an impossible win from himself and his teammates.

It's a credit to this show that I both want the Panthers to win, desperately, and that I do not know whether or not they will. And when they pull off the win, I am just as happy as I would be if one of my real-life teams had won (not that that has happened any time in the recent past -- but I will always savor being at game seven of 2001 World Series, when the DBacks finally put the Yankees to rest.)

But the win comes too early in the episode, so you know we are not going to end on a high note. And just as Coach Taylor is enjoying all the congratulating back-slaps and high-fives, he's getting hauled on the carpet for a recruiting violation. Since this is the very subject he broached with Buddy Garrity when first approached about bringing Voodoo on board, Taylor has a reason to be pissed about this. And it won't just be Taylor that will be dinged if Voodoo is found ineligible: the Panthers would be stripped of their hard-fought win.

Speaking of Voodoo, his show-boating was predictable, but his "This is an arranged marriage" speech was awesome: the truth that no one wanted to articulate, but everyone acknowledged. I enjoyed Voodoo's downfall (even though it was bad for the Panthers), and I loved, loved, loved Taylor kicking his ass out of the locker room and off the team. Of course, it's likely that Voodoo himself (or his agent) called up the authorities on Taylor as payback... but that will take a few episodes to come out, if it ever does.

OK, that gets the football out of the way. What about everything else? I still love Tami, I adore the way Saracen was an idiot around Julie, and then beat himself up for it, and I think it's wholly consistent that Jason would decide to not waste the six months in self-pity that his obnoxious roommate did, and throw himself whole-heartedly into rehab.

What didn't work so well for me was Tyra's fling with the oil development guy. First off, ODG came off like a rapist/serial killer with his "Do you want to go for a drive?" shtick. I wanted to slap Tyra for saying yes. And I wanted to slap her again for falling for him, when obviously he was just passing through. I understand Tyra wanting to find a way out of Dillon, but ODG is not going to do it, and I thought she was smart enough to understand that. We can just chalk her disappointment up to one more example of the perils of casual sex. He doesn't love her, and in fact has someone to go home to -- and Tyra should have stuck to her "I'm not going to sleep with you" guns.

Speaking of people who shouldn't be sleeping together, we come finally to Lyla and Tim. Poor Riggins, he really loves the girl, and he'd like to have a real relationship with her -- his expressions were so tortured when Lyla was putting him in his sex-toy-only place. But I have no contempt for Riggins (OK, maybe a little, but he's pathetic, and what young man will resist a gorgeous girl throwing herself at him?), because at least Riggins is honest with himself about what he is doing. He knows he shouldn't be in love with his best friend's girl, and he shouldn't be sleeping with her, either, but he loves her! This is probably the only chance with her he'll ever get! I don't necessarily agree with this twisted logic, but I can see Riggins clinging to it.

Lyla, on the other hand, is going straight to hell, and not just for sleeping with Riggins and lying to everyone -- Jason, her parents, anyone in her general vicinity -- about everything. Two scenes in particular stand out: with Tami, she's still clinging to the old story which she has already abandoned in her heart, but can't yet admit to having done so in public. I started out thinking that it was pathetic that she would attach herself so thoroughly to Jason at such a young age, but in Lyla's eyes, she is Hillary Clinton to Jason's Bill. She would wield some serious power and influence being attached to a star quarterback, and she knows it. Combined that with the pious/faithful girlfriend thing she has been rocking for years, and you can see why she can't easily give it up.

Earlier, I decried her falling into Riggins' arms as a betrayal of her character, but that's because I was as snowed as everyone else by Lyla's front. The reality is, she does what she wants, she takes what she wants, because she knows how to do it and she knows there will be no repercussions. In this, she is her father's daughter; Buddy will do what it takes to get the Panthers that championship. The second scene that cemented my opinion of Lyla was her berating Riggins, and dumping all of the blame for their situation on him: He is the one that is sleeping with his best friend's girl, nevermind that she is sleeping with her boyfriend's best friend! It was all on Riggins, and she could stand there and deliver that speech, believing every word of it, because she is Lyla Garrity, and she can do whatever she wants in Dillon, TX.

It's always so exciting when a very pretty girl is revealed to be rotten to the core. Contrast Lyla and Julie, who is genuine and funny and a pain in the ass in the way that all 15-year-old girls should be. Lyla would never do a web search on open high school coaching jobs for her dad, because they own Dillon. Julie's just a witness to the stresses her parents are under and not-so-subtley trying to help them out and get herself out of the pressure cooker, too. (I told DH he needs to remember that "Daughters are supposed to be a comfort to their fathers," line. I'm sure it will come in handy later.)

I had a tv-themed conversation today, and I professed that FNL is a better show than Battlestar Galactic. I haven't said too much (anything?) about BSG here, but I adore it; it's gritty and real in the way that my late lamented Farscape was, but scifi will always be easier to do that reality, at least in some ways. In BSG, they can make up the rules as they go along, more or less, from fashion to interior design to slang -- everything. FNL is constrained by being in the now, and in Texas. Yes, it's a fictional town, but FNL is exceptionally grounded. The dialog, sets, costuming, the camera work, even the cars they drive -- it's authentic. All the tiny things add up, like the way that all the girls have that Texas look -- the long hair and the fresh faces. The way the landscaping is more brown than green; the way that rain came down in torrents during the wind sprints. The producers and writers of this show get it, and that comes through perfectly.

It's a pleasure to care about these characters and learn more about them from week to week. Here's hoping that Saracen gets to keep that "W".

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

one down, five to go

"Busy day" just doesn't seem to cover it.

I had storytime this morning, and it was fun seeing all the kids in their costumes, and the store had set up trick-or-treat stations for them to visit when we were finished. They had a blast. But, the store is in the midst of a major remodel, and the children's section is in complete upheaval -- who knows what it will look like tomorrow, they're supposed to work on it tonight -- so that added a layer of stress. Plus, I do love the little ones, but it's a lot harder to read to and engage toddlers (18 months to 2 years+) with stories and songs than it is with 3 and 4-year olds. When I subbed in the spring, we seemed to have more older kids. This year, it has been mostly babies. That makes it much more of a performance by me, and makes me accutely aware that the parents are focussing as much on me as on their kids, because their kids are mostly not yet capable of joining in the songs and dances, or even answering the simple questions I ask. Tomorrow's will be interesting because I'm still doing Halloween things even though Halloween will of course be over.

Halloween seems to be the one holiday that enjoys a huge build-up with lots of decorations, etc, that just evaporates as soon as the day itself ends. Even after Thanksgiving we've got the big shopping weekend and of course the turkey leftovers, or jokes about leftovers at least. Christmas and Easter linger for days. Somehow, with Halloween, once we hit November 1, it seems subtly wrong to still have a jack-o-lantern. We're done with that now, move along!

Back home, the kids did their homework agreeably before dinner; I took a short revitalizing nap, then spent 45 minutes taking the hem down on DS1's Grim Reaper robe. It was about a foot too short. We decided not to hem it at all, it's a lot more creepy dragging around on the ground, and I frankly do not care that it is a lot more dirty, too. I didn't feel like spending another 45 minutes putting the hem back in. DD's (new, pink) pretty witch costume was cute, and DS2 looked buff in his muscle Spider-Man suit (photos later, I don't want to deal with them now). We had dinner early, and I put out the jack-o-lanterns (that was yesterday's ordeal: the Great Pumpkin Search of 2006. A helpful clerk at Sunflower Market told us about to a pumpkin patch just a few miles away, and DH stopped on his way home from work to get them. Everyone else was out!)

DH took the kiddos trick-or-treating while I distributed the candy. I took a chair and sat outside, there was a little nip in the air but it was really quite pleasant. It was lonely, though. We're on the corner of the cul-de-sac and all the folks in there set tables in the center and do a communal trick-or-treat thing, but I don't go -- I've got those jack-o-lanterns out, and lit, and it just seems weird to have them out and not be home. We had the usual crowds of little kids dressed adorably who were clueless, elementary school-age kids who were having a blast, and teenagers, suprisingly well-dressed this year, who really are too old for this sort of thing. But since I had plenty of candy I didn't turn anyone away.

I did give up at about 7:45, though. At a certain point the only kids we're getting are the ones whose parents drive them around to different neighborhoods. When I saw ten kids pile into the back of a pickup truck, I was done.

So that was the first day of the current Stress Fest. Tomorrow is All Saint's Day, so we're doing Mass first thing, then I have storytime again. Thursday, my in-laws arrive. Before then, I have to clean the guest room and arguably the rest of the house, too. I am not motivated, but I'll get it done. Friday is DD's sleepover party; I have to make pizza and the birthday cake before then. Again: motivation is lacking. Saturday is DD's party up in Scottsdale; all I have to do is drive, but since I don't know where it is, I'm going to have to figure that out well before (tomorrow is a good time, I'm thinking.) Sunday we're thinking of going to the zoo to see the stingrays, but I haven't rsvp'd to the members-only invitation yet, so I hope it's not late. Monday, my in-laws head home and I should theoretically be able to breathe again.

Let me emphasize that my in-laws are great and I am not stressing about them visiting. It's just all the other stuff that is going on coincidentally with their visit -- of course, because they came out for DD's birthday -- that is making me a tad crazier than usual.

So there it is, lots to do, and honestly, plenty of time to do it in, if I stay focussed. So that means very little lollygagging at the computer for the next few days -- or, if I desperately need to decompress, more posting than usual.

Monday, October 30, 2006

where am I

The flood of relief that washed over me on Friday was nice, but not as liberating as I had hoped it would be.

I'm still teetering on some emotional brink somewhere. I think it takes a little while to recover from the stress of something like a breast biopsy, but I was hoping that the good news would flick the switch firmly back to the up position.

At home, things are going swimmingly, in this calm before the storm. Tomorrow is Halloween; Thursday my in-laws arrive. Friday is DD's sleepover birthday party, and Saturday is her Club Libby Lu party. My in-laws leave on Monday, and I suppose after that I'll be able to relax for a few weeks until Thanksgiving arrives -- but I really won't, because I've already started getting ready for Christmas. (Lots of people and presents to think about, and baking, and stuff like that.)

In the extended family, there are various situations of varying stress-levels that are affecting me, too. I hate being so far away. I hate not being able to help. I hate being out of the loop only to be brought back into it to find that some things have gone from bad to worse -- on the other hand, though, some things turned out to be nothing, not a problem at all.

But the good news never seems to cancel out the bad news. How can it? I can't not worry, or not be sad, about someone I love in difficulty just because I got some good medical news for a change. It's not possible to just switch that off, and even if it were, I wouldn't.

Compounding these melancholia are the stupid physical trials I'm still enduring. The splint, which I wear religiously every night, is by far the worst. Yes, it's helping my TMD, but at this point I'd rather have back the small but very, very important slice of my life that it has robbed: pillow talk. Honestly, wearing it is depressing me, but I will keep wearing it until my next visit with the doctor (just a couple of weeks) to ask him about alternatives. I'm bracing myself to be mocked about this, but I don't care. I'm fast approaching the point where I'd rather have jaw joint pain than wear the splint.

And besides the splint I'm dealing with the breast healing, which is fine except for when I forget that I have an incision there and do something stupid and then it's not fine; currently the breast is half yellow and half purple in that weird way that bruises tend to develop. At least it's not bikini weather, I say to myself by way of encouragement.

Off Aleve now for a week or so, and my weight has crept downwards a bit, whew! I'd still like to take off a few more pounds, but I don't care about the weight so much as I care about fitting into my clothes. Since I'm working out every day, I'm actually developing some muscle. If turning flab into muscle means my weight stays the same that's OK with me. My jeans fit comfortably now, which was my essential goal: avoid shopping! The physical therapy exercises are helping tremendously; I only get deathly headaches once a week now, as opposed to every day. And most days, my hip and tailbone are much better, but not today, for some reason! Ah, well. I'll keep it up anyway, because it helps.

A new problem has surfaced over the past week or so off NSAIDS: I'm having a lot of trouble swallowing, and my throat feels horrid. At least two or three times a day I have trouble swallowing my pills, and for a few nights in a row now, something will go down the wrong way at dinner and then I get (very painful) hiccups. So I'm back to wondering whether it's scar tissue or cancer recurrence, or maybe it's just delayed nerve damage. Whatever it is, it's annoying.

I literally have the feeling of just hanging on, and I don't know where I'm finding the discipline to work out and do housework and everything else. Everything's an effort but I can still see that these efforts are worth it, and so whatever it is, I get it done. I don't like this weird state but I don't know how to get out of it. I'm going to give it a little more time to resolve... I don't think this is something that medication could help. But if it goes on too long, that's an option I'll consider.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Friday Night Lights: more real than reality

1.4, Who's Your Daddy?

Four episodes in. I love this show. So far, production values are holding up, as are the stylistic choices with the handheld cameras and extreme closeups. The story doesn't move, it dances and weaves in and out of so many characters' lives, you think for sure they're going to forget someone, but then you remember that 30 seconds, or that two minutes, and that was enough to establish something new, or more, or important, for that person.

The skill with which this thing is put together is awesome.

At the same time, I can easily see that what I love about this show could be really offputting to people who like their television slow and easy. This show does not spell out anything -- Life does not spell out much, have you noticed? We have to figure things out for ourselves, and find the meaning. Sometimes it's just a coincidence, sometimes we get our ribs kicked in. And sometimes, getting your ribs kicked in may be a happy accident that sets you on the path to what you really wanted. And what does it all mean? Sometimes it doesn't mean anything, and knowing your left from your right is all that's important.

This episode did hit everyone: Jason, giving up, until his obnoxious roommate pisses him off so that he'll have someone to fight, if not the will to fight for himself, by himself, just yet; Lyla doing the go away speech with the come back expression with Riggs, who seems sincerely f'ed up over her; Voodoo and Smash, butting heads; Saracen with the weight of world on his shoulders: his OIF-fighting dad's low expectations, his grandmother's dementia, his fast-food job's trash-toting, his gormless longing for the coach's daughter; and finally, Tami and the Coach, the most realistic married couple ever to appear on network television, bar none.

The central action of the episode revolves around the traditional team party held by the Coach the week before the rivalry game. Tami finds out about the party with two days notice, and Coach isn't nearly apologetic enough. Then he totally screws up the headcount, telling her "60-ish" when it turns out to be not just the team but their parents and everyone even peripherally associated with the team. Try 100, 120, Coach? Sprinkled in among this stressful situation we also had the Panther's locker room vandalized, and Saracen being importuned by the offensive line (I think) to retaliate by trashing their opponent's QB's sports car, only to return home to an empty house: Grandma went wandering. Last but not least, Julie has a dance recital the night after the party, and you know Coach will burn in Hell if he misses it.

The best scene, by far: Tami cleaning up a beer spill at the party, absolutely fuming; Coach crouches down to talk to her and ask her to get up and help him host -- and Tami just loses it on him. Oh, it was classic: When I stand up, I'll give you the big smile, but while I'm down here, I'm pissed... Coach did not deal with it all well.

Then he digs himself even deeper by giving a non-apology apology the next day at school, but Tami totally calls him on it! It was brilliant. Finally, he redeems himself after the dance recital with a full and complete mea culpa: "I was wrong." And then they make out, and every woman in the audience wishes she were Tami in that very brief moment.

Kyle Chandler looked like hell in a few scenes, but fantastic in others. He is transparent; you can read the stress on him. Tami, on the other hand, has a beautiful facade; she can turn it on and off, which makes a lot of sense considering she is a guidance counselor. These two are so well-matched, you immediately accept them as a couple. And I love that this show is not just about Coach Taylor, but about his wife and his daughter, too.

Early in the episode, Coach tells Saracen to go for the girl he's interested in, get her into the back seat of a car, whatever it takes to loosen himself up. Of course he has know idea that Saracen is interested in Julie, and the twists and turns that end with a scene with Saracen and Julie discussing Jackson Pollack while Tami and the Coach look on from across a noise-filled room are unexpected and funny. Coach manages to catch Saracen's eye; he gives the boy A Look while explaining to Tami, "I think I just told that boy to get our daughter in the back seat of a car," when you know that if any such thing happens, Saracen wouldn't live to see daylight.

Best thing? Saracen knows that, and the fact that he even knows who Jackson Pollack is has Julie intrigued way more than she would ever be willing to admit. For now.

Next week: the big game; will Voodoo get the start? He was late to practice and disrespectful to the Coach, but that isn't nearly enough information to work with. Buddy has this Mephistophilean air about him; the guy gives me the creeps. We'll get to see how it all goes on Monday when the next FNL airs during Studio 60's regular timeslot.

the day after procedure day

I spoke to many people on the phone today. All I could tell them was that I'm doing fine, because I am, but I still don't know what's going on with the lump because it will be at least a little while before the pathology report comes back.

I'm only have a little bit of discomfort now and then, and Tylenol is handling it just fine. I did my exercises in the early afternoon and then braced myself for removing the bandages. (Thanks, Tracey, for the bandage-removing advice!)

For the curious, here is what the bandage looked like. It took me a good five minutes to peel it all off, even using a wet washcloth to soften up the tape.

I had a reaction the adhesive. Sometimes I don't, but yesterday, I did. So I had that huge dressing, and after peeling it all off, this is what I look like. The incision is not tiny but it's not huge, maybe two, two-and-a-half inches. Much, much worse than the incision is the rash I have from the adhesive. (You can see the slightly red areas where the tape was.) It does not just itch, it hurts. And it hurts more if I forget and scratch it. I'm hoping liberal applications of cortizone cream will calm it down quickly in the next few days.

If you look closely at the second photo, you can just make out the remains of the purple word "YES" that I had to write on myself before the procedure to make sure they went digging around in the appropriate breast. Since the lump had to be located via ultrasound, it didn't seem to me that precaution would be necessary, but I guess they don't take chances with that kind of thing.

Now I'm remembering the surgeon asking me beforehand, "The lump didn't go away?" I wasn't sure he was serious, but I still said, "No," because of course it hadn't.

I think I found that lump nearly 3 months ago, actually. Then I convinced myself that it was just my normal lumpy breast tissue, not wanting to be alarmist. When you have fibrocystic breasts it's hard to tell what's going on in there. And when I went for my annual, the NP at my gyn's office didn't feel it, so I figured that it was my imagination. But it probably wasn't.

I got dressed and went to school and came home and helped with homework and finally wrote my November column (carrot raisin cranberry bread); made a nice dinner and gave DS2 his bath and put the kiddos to bed and watched "Lost" (wretched program!) with DH, and kicked around 'the internets' some and now this.

Today was definitely a 'fake it till you make it' kind of day. I don't feel bad at all, I just don't feel much of anything. ("Comfortably numb") It's just the next phase in the near-depression I'm dealing with. I'm still functional but I won't be able to climb all the way out of this Slough of Despond until I get the pathology report. I'm working toward the shore, though.

Sometimes I can feel the sunlight pouring over me.