Thursday, December 27, 2007


A week ago, I had a septoplasty and turbinate reduction surgery.

Today, I got the splints removed from my nose -- huzzah! It was an odd but not painful process. The splints are semi-rigid plastic, and about 3 inches long, so it felt weird when the doctor drew them out, but as I said, it didn't hurt.

Mine weren't blue, but they were at least 3 inches long and held in place by a stitch, just as these are. It doesn't seem as if all that should be able to fit into a nose, does it? (Image from Wikipedia)

Now I can breathe quite easily through my nose, although when I do, it feels as if the entire inside of my skull is filling up with air. It was cool out today, only about 55 degrees, and walking out of the building afterwards was painful, getting all that cold air up my snoot. I'm sure these extra-sensitive reactions will moderate with time.

While I was there, I asked my ENT about the painful upper jaw/front teeth I experienced, and he said that was common with septoplasty. It would have been nice if anyone had ever mentioned that, hmmm? I do like to know what to expect. It was not an issue with the intubation. I asked about the anesthesiologist's difficulties with intubating me, and the ENT said he didn't remark anything at the time, but would follow up with the other doctor. It's entirely possible that the anesthesiologist was just checking on me because he had such a tough time getting the IV in and wanted to make sure I wasn't in agony or anything, and I just misunderstood in my post-op drug haze.

I go back in two weeks for another follow-up, and to discuss what to do about the enlarged arytenoid cartilage that's making swallowing so problematic. For now I'll just continue with the saline nasal spray, and set up the cool mist humidifier (if I can figure it out, that's usually DH's job) so I don't become completely parched overnight.

It's so lovely not having those things in my face anymore.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

day 6/Christmas report

Tomorrow afternoon I get the splints out. I know it will be a brief, uncomfortable process, but I'm hoping I will be able to breathe through my nose without whistling when it's over.

The first day I really felt "normal" (as if) was Monday, because my mouth finally stopped killing me so. Even now I get the occasional twinge, but it's nothing compared to what it had been. Sunday, DH and I went out mid-day to finish up shopping and have a lunch date while Mom stayed with the kids. It was lovely, but it exhausted me.

Monday, last minute stuff (can't believe what I forgot), and then four hours in the kitchen prepping Christmas dinner. We went to the 4PM Mass, and then out for a nice (if noisy) dinner. After dinner, the kids watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas followed by Olive the Other Reindeer.

Awaiting discovery

Tuesday, Christmas day, was a lovely, easy day: opened presents, made a big breakfast (only nearly burnt the bacon), got the turkey in the oven on time, and dinner on the table as scheduled.

After this, I'm totally sold on brining. It tastes as good as it looks.

Our first family dinner in the dining room... ever.

DH harvested and juiced a mess of oranges from our tree, and we had fantastic mimosas. The kids are thrilled with their new Wii, and DS2 was in Lego Star Wars heaven. DS1 was a bit miffed that he didn't get any Legos, but since he hasn't shown the slightest interest in anything Lego in months, I'm pretty sure that's not justified. He made do playing with his brother's.

Got up early this morning to take DH to the airport; he'll be back East with his family and return on the first. His father is doing so much better, it's a huge relief. I wish DH could be in two places at once -- it's so important for him to see his dad, but it's a drag that he's missing so much of his vacation time with the kids (he has to take this week off). So, tired and somewhat grumpy, we stumbled through today: shopping early this morning (both boys bought more Star Wars Legos with their Christmas loot); a quick lunch out, and then National Treasure 2 this afternoon. NS2 represents perfectly the kind of movie that critics hate that make a ton of money: there's nothing terribly wrong with it. It's silly, but it has a goofy charm, and you know it's going to have a happy ending. You can't examine the motivations (or actions) of the bad guy very closely because they won't withstand any scrutiny at all, but so what? It was a pleasant diversion on an afternoon when none of us had any energy to do anything else, and if we had all stayed home, the kids probably would've been bickering.

Anyway, the nose: the worst problem I'm having is stuffiness, which inhibits nose-breathing. Mouth-breathing is a huge problem for me, my gums are a mess because my mouth is so dry lately. When I breathe through my nose, it's noisy even when I'm getting enough air. I'm still blowing blood-tinged goo out from time to time, but nothing worrisome to me, and irrigation with the saline nasal spray is pretty good at getting that stuff out until I fill up with gunk again.

It's still too soon to tell whether or not this will have any benefit, but at least I'm feeling much more like my usual self.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

post-op day 2

The nose goo has just about stopped, and I have been able to breathe through my nose for most of the day. It's kind of a drag to be dabbing with a tissue off and on all day, but it's still way better than having to wear the drip pads under my nose.

I googled around to see what other's septoplasty recoveries have been like, and no one has mentioned having sore teeth. I think my mouth is killing me because of the difficulties they had intubating me. Whatever caused it, the mouth issues are worse than the nose issues by far. The nose doesn't hurt much at all, although the splints do make me sneeze from time to time.

I noticed today that my sense of smell seems more sensitive, even though I'm breathing through yuck. That's a relief.

I slept well until about 4:30AM when my pain meds wore off, as they have been, after about 5 hours. I don't think taking more an hour early for a few days is going to kill me (it's just extra strength Tylenol) and it helps a lot. The idea of taking Vicodin is abhorrent to me. Yes, it works on the pain, but it makes me incapable of coherent thought, and worse, it means I can't drive. No driving two days before Christmas? I don't think so.

It was really stupid to do this so close to the holiday. I was still able to enjoy the production of A Christmas Carol we saw at the Herberger Theater today, but it would've been a lot nicer if my nose wasn't slowly dripping and my mouth wasn't throbbing. [For the record: it was a delightful production, but I prefer the Hale Theater's production, which was more intimate, and featured beautiful caroling throughout.]

Friday, December 21, 2007

last weekend

Just a bit out of the ordinary.

beautiful sunrise, NJ

snow everywhere!

I flew into Boston on the red-eye Friday night; finally arrived after a 2 hour equipment delay in Newark.

Why? A very special occasion.

It was a surprise party; (nearly) everyone was there, and we all, true to form, did not care one bit how silly we looked on the dance floor. It was awesome.

I got all my sisters with me...

It was a very short, very fun weekend, spent with my family, a gift for both my sister and me.

Getting home Sunday could've been a disaster but wasn't. I arrived home two hours earlier than I had originally scheduled, in spite of a horrendous storm. It all worked out, somehow: I was where I needed to be and made it on the last plane to Houston, and made a connecting flight to Phoenix thirty minutes later.

Surreal, and fantastic.

post-op day 1

Not a great day.

I feel like I have a very bad cold, chiefly because 1) my nose has been dripping all day long and 2) for most of the day, I've been mouth-breathing.

My front teeth and surrounding tissue continue very sore, and I noticed that I have bruises on both my upper and lower lip on the left side. My throat is very sore and swallowing is difficult. I've been sipping hot tea through a straw all day; it helps.

Pain-wise: the nose is uncomfortable, but not excruciating; I'm still on just the extra-strength Tylenol. For much of the day, I would say there was no pain at all. The splints do feel weird, though, and have set me off sneezing several times. Sneezing is not a problem at all, although it does tend to set off more bleeding/discharge.

For most of the day, the discharge has been pinkish, more lymph than blood, and it is definitely slowing. I dislike the feeling of constant wet under my nose, and dislike that I tear up spontaneously (usually around sneezing fits) -- it feels as if my entire face is filling up, and tears leak out. It's weird because for the most part, I can breathe through my nose, I just forget to -- the drip pad placement is key. It has to catch the goop but not block the airflow.

Finally heard back from my ENT's office, and got the go-ahead to just use OTC saline nasal spray for my irrigation. It helps.

I feel like whining but don't, what would be the point? I just have to get through this. The timing is horrible. I want to be enjoying Christmas-y things and can't. I find this all incredibly annoying, specifically because it's self-inflicted. I didn't want to do this and now I'm miserable, but it's not like I can undo it!

I'll feel better tomorrow, and eventually say "yes, it was worth it," when I don't have chronic sinus infections anymore. Right?

I just wish my damn teeth weren't hurting so much.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

11 hours ago

I got out of surgery. I whined about going, but I went anyway. While we were waiting for them to call me back, I told DH that if I had the car keys, I would've bolted, but I stayed put.

The pre-op was the most miserable I've ever had, as it took the anesthesiologist four tries to finally stick a vein that didn't collapse or blow out on him. The nurse took a look at my arms and wouldn't even attempt it. The doc hit a vein every time, but they kept failing -- even the one in my hand that is like Old Reliable. That was weird. Usually once the vein is stuck, it behaves itself. I've been off all my supplements for almost two weeks now -- perhaps my lack of EFAs has something to do with it. Anyway, each stick hurt very much, and the doc was apologetic, warning me with each stick: "A lot of pain here, sorry," as he shoved the thing into my arm. He finally got one in my right forearm -- if that one failed, he was going to try the veins in my feet. So far, I've managed to avoid that horror.

The surgery itself went well; I'm not packed, but I do have splints in my nose that will need to come out next week. I have been wearing "drip pads" since I came out; a small wad of gauze pads to catch the oozing (blood) from my nose. It's held on with strip that I suspect was cut from a surgical mask. The elastic isn't very tight but even so, I don't like having anything around my head and behind my ears for so many consecutive hours. The blood flow was pretty steady for the first few hours but tapered off this afternoon. I'm hoping it will stop altogether tomorrow.

I took a Vicodin when DH brought them home, but since then I've been just on extra-strength Tylenol. I don't like that spacy feeling that Vicodin gives me, and the pain is very manageable, so far.

As usual, some incidental insult is giving me more trouble than the surgery itself. The stroboscopy last week showed I have some enlargement of the cartilaginous structures at the top of my throat, which explains the lumpy feeling and my difficulty swallowing. (Apparently, this is the result of compensating for the nerve damage from my cancer surgeries.) They had a lot of trouble intubating me for the surgery, and my throat is killing me. In addition, my front teeth are sore and the tissue just behind them is very tender, like I ate pizza right out of the oven and the mozzarella stuck to the roof of my mouth. (I resent greatly feeling like I have pizza burn without the compensating pleasure of eating hot, fresh pizza.)

Mouth-breathing about two-thirds of the time isn't helping, either. I can breathe through my nose, it's just having the gauze there makes me think I shouldn't.

So far I don't have black eyes and external swelling is minimal if at all present, so that's cool. Of course I look weird because I have this bloody wad of gauze under my nose, but it could be a lot worse. The only real hassle is, I have instructions for nasal irrigation, with specific directions for how to clean the device, but I didn't get a device, and no one told me what device I need, or when to start the irrigation. I think it's a safe bet that I shouldn't irrigate until the bleeding stops, but still, it's annoying. DH made a bunch of calls today, including one to the doctor's office, but we still don't have any answers. How annoying! I have to call tomorrow to make my follow-up appointment to get the splints removed, so I hope to get answers to these questions then.

Mom took good care of me and fed me soup and tea, and made dinner for the family while I slept. She made brownies while I was in surgery, and the kids are enjoying them so much. Tomorrow they have just a half-day of school, and then it's winter break. They're as ready for a break as I am, and won't mind a few days of lounging around while I recover. I hope!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

9 minutes

I have until midnight to eat or drink, then it's "nothing by mouth" until after my procedures tomorrow. Which procedures might those be? Why, the long-awaited septoplasty and turbinate reduction.

I am feeling like such an idiot, scheduling these things so close to Christmas. It's not as if I'm idle these days.

So, drinking the last of my tea, and gearing up to wrap and label the quick breads I've baked for the kids' teachers (this year, banana bread, cranberry blueberry bread, and lemon yogurt bread.) Then I have to see if I can find DS2's mittens, because he has a field trip to Polar Ice tomorrow, and the word is that they will have snow to play in.

I will be so happy when the surgery is over, no matter how miserable I am. The anticipation of it has been killing me.

one thing

Lots going on, lots to write about, but no time to do it in. So here's one thing just to keep my hand in, here.

This game:

is fantastic. It was recommended by a clerk at my local Border's, and I bought it to play at my religious ed class's Christmas party. It's such a small class that we can do things like that -- and we all had a great time. Last night, the entire family played it and it was a blast.

The game moves quickly, power rotates by turns, and there are many, many opportunities for laughter. There are so many cards and combinations that the odds of running into the same pairs more than once are vanishingly small. The rules are so simple you can explain them in 30 seconds, and the mechanics of play couldn't be easier, either.

Apples to Apples, a great game for everyone. There are different versions; I got the "junior" version for ages 9 and up, but it worked fine for us adults. Families with older kids might want to go for the adult edition, and those with really little ones might want to go with the kids one. For elementary school children (readers), the junior edition is perfect.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Not 100%, but after the minor angst-fest last night, it was very nice to be able to eat breakfast this morning and not end up doubled over in pain.

Today: Christmas shopping insanity; there's less than 2 weeks left and I have to get my act together. You wouldn't think it would be so hard to find a coffee maker with a glass carafe that uses a cone filter, that isn't so flimsy I expect it to break on its third use, but that's turning out not to be the case. I think I'm a little obsessive about these details, sometimes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Christmas is 2 weeks away and I am not even remotely ready. We don't have our tree up yet, we're waiting for DH to come home -- tomorrow! Yay. It has been a long almost-week without him.

The weather has been nasty: cold, rainy, ick. If I wanted to live like this, I'd move to Seattle. It's unusual for us to have this so many days in a row. I shouldn't complain because we need the rain (and northern AZ is just loving all this snow, they'll actually have a decent ski season this year), but I feel cold all the time and everything hurts.

That could, of course, be because I caught the boys' stomach virus (DS2, last Tues/Wed, DS1,Thurs/Fri), but if this is just a stomach bug it's a particularly nasty one, since it landed on me Saturday night with a vengeance and only showed slight improvement today. I called my g/e doc to find out whether or not my meds could be making it worse; it turns out that yes, taking 4x the usual dose of Prilosec can have nasty side effects. Things have been better since I stopped taking it, but I'm nowhere close to all better.

My father-in-law is in critical but stable condition, he is in a long process of recovering from the infection and surgeries he's had. At this point it's a question of diligence, making sure he doesn't develop any other opportunistic infections, etc. It's difficult because all we can do is wait, and pray.

Everything feels stretched out and oddly rushed at the same time. I wish I felt better. I wish I could believe I will feel better, soon, but I don't. Maybe this is all just stress and when DH comes home I'll be fine. I remember feeling exactly like this in my early 20s, everything I ate gave me a stomach ache, not one part of my digestive system worked right. It lasted for months on end. I don't even remember how I got over it, I just know I did. I don't want to go back to that particular circle of hell now, or ever.

It was stress, then, and it's probably stress now, even though I don't consciously feel stress, I know it doesn't work that way. It's one thing to have an adversarial relationship with food when you're basically cooking for yourself and your husband, it's another when you're supposed to be feeding the entire family. So much of family life centers around food, and today I could finally tolerate it.

I weighed 136 pounds this morning, which puts me down about 8 pounds since I started noticing my weight decreasing. I'm trying to keep up the fluids today and I'm finally not losing more than I'm putting in, so hopefully things will stabilize.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


This... is kinda ugly.

Too many feelings right now -- spit 'em all out, hope they stay there.

First of all, it sucks when your kids get older and you develop a routine to keep things running, because you've got the time, you see, they're all in school -- and then one gets sick. Boy the Younger got sick at school early on Tuesday and was also out Wednesday, back to school on Thursday. Thursday, therefore, was going to be my run-errands day, since we were running out of milk and all.

But Thursday I was waiting for the laundry to finish so I could cycle it through when the phone rang, and Boy the Older was throwing up in the nurse's office. He was home Friday, too, obviously, and seemed fine, even ate breakfast and lunch. Didn't want to go out for our weekly Border's jaunt, but that was fine. Went to the 6PM Mass for the Immaculate Conception but didn't make it past the first reading, Boy was feeling nauseated again. He didn't actually throw up but he was clearly distressed and there was no point in trying to tough it out. Came home, felt frustrated. I've been trapped in this house for four consecutive days with no prospect of relief until Monday morning when, God willing, they will all be well enough for school. Who knows how long this stupid thing is going to cling to DS1. Oh, and we're completely out of milk.

Second: it's raining again. The windshield wipers on the van are toast, so we had to take DH's car to Mass. OK, not that big a deal, except his windshield wipers are terrible, too.

Third, and very stupid: Boy the Older put on sandals for church this evening. It's night time, he has a cold and is getting over a stomach virus, it's freaking raining, and he puts on sandals. If DH were here, he'd say it's just the Asperger's, but I don't know how I'm supposed to chalk that up to Asperger's when I specifically told the kid "put your shoes and socks on," and he just ignored me. Cold, wet feet in a kid that's not feeling too good to start out with? Oh, that's a great idea. [/sarcasm]

Fourth, back to that rain. It will rain all night, the tennis courts will be puddle central, but there will still be lessons because it will have stopped raining 15 minutes prior to lessons starting. We're supposed to be on our third week and I've yet to have a lesson. I'm rethinking the wisdom of early morning lessons in the cold and damp when my RA has decided to kick up. I'm not exactly in a flare, but I'm not loving this weather. My hands hurt enough for me to notice that they're hurting, which is about a 4 on the pain scale. It comes and goes, but it's odd for them to be hurting at night like this. Don't like it.

Fifth: Tennis lessons -- I'm supposed to have mine at 9AM, as is Boy the Younger. Girl and Boy the Older have their lessons at 10AM, and the tennis center folks said it would be OK if they waited in the center during my lesson, until their lesson starts, since DH is away. But if Boy the Older is still feeling pukey, what am I supposed to do? I honestly don't know how to handle it. I'm sincerely hoping it keeps raining so I don't have to do anything, they'll just add another week at the end.

Sixth: Similarly, karate: all the kids missed last week, so they're supposed to do two classes tomorrow to make up. That would be a nice little window, 1:15-2:45, I could get some stuff done -- but again, I don't know what's going on with Sick Boy. And it's really, really annoying that Sick Boy is well enough to play all sorts of video games and sit at the computer watching videos and what not, but is not well enough to sit in church. I am not blaming the kid, I do not think he's faking, and I know how you can be fine as long as you're not asked to move too much, but once you move you feel really gross. I'm sure that's what he's going through, and I feel bad for him. But it's still really annoying. If either he or his brother were sick enough to, you know, stay in bed and sleep, I wouldn't have this skin-crawling feeling that I've spent too much time around people and need to be alone for more than 5 minutes I spend in the bathroom.

Seventh: I've lost about 5 pounds without even trying. I've lost 5 pounds eating anything I want to eat, whenever I want to eat it. I ate about 30 TJ's crispy chocolate chip cookies (not an exaggeration) right before bed a few nights ago, and my weight still went down. My appetite is off and on, though, so I'm probably not eating as much overall as I normally do. That said, I had been trying to lose 5-10 pounds since we got home from our summer vacation, and that weight would not budge. So, what changed? I don't know, but it's weird that I can lose weight and still be eating carbs the way I have been these past few weeks. Anyway, I have no word from the g/e doc on the egd biopsies, so I guess I can assume it's nothing serious although I hate to assume anything. I won't see him until next year. I want to know what's wrong with me, and I want it to be something fixable. (Ha!)

Eighth: My throat is killing me -- I'd say at least a 5, I'm conscious of it all the time, but it doesn't look like strep (no redness, no spots, no white patches), and I don't even have a post-nasal drip. Or maybe I do and I'm just not noticing it, I don't know. But I do have blocked ears again, and I've had three instances of dizzyness over the past few days. Definitely blocked ears. Surgery which I hope will fix all that is on Dec 20. Is the throat related to the head stuff or the stomach stuff? I don't know, but it's a pretty good bet it's related to the stomach stuff, even though the egd showed a normal esophagus. It is very wearing to have a constant pain like that. It hurts to talk, and it hurts more to project my voice. Which means when I barked at the sick boy for wearing sandals to church at night in December in the rain, I just made my throat hurt more. Between the pain and all these frustrations, I just wanted to cry.

Ninth: Sleep is difficult when you're listening for 1) a puking kid and 2) the phone to ring with bad news. I'm sure I could feel better and more resilient to handling all this stuff if I could just sleep, maybe tonight will be better. I'm not expecting any more puking, and the last word on my father-in-law was quite positive (relatively speaking), so maybe I can relax a bit.

Tenth: I miss my husband. I can handle being alone, but this is a particularly difficult time. I wish I was with him. I know he's OK but it's not vanity on my part to think that he would be better with me; we support each other. God willing he will be home soon enough.

Friday, December 07, 2007

one mystery solved

Here in the greater Phoenix (AZ) area, all sorts of chaos results on the roads whenever it rains. You'd think that no one had ever driven in rain before. If everyone had been born here, that might be true, but since a huge percentage of the Phoenix population is transplanted from places where it rains a lot, that can't be the explanation.

Nor can it be explained by everyone who has moved here from rainier locales suddenly forgetting everything they ever learned about driving in the rain. Nope.

However, I think I have found at least one explanation: decrepit windshield wipers. Seeing is integral to driving, after all.

Last week, on the way home from Border's with the kids, the driver's side wiper blade on the van came partially detached and was flapping around uselessly the last few miles home. Fortunately it wasn't raining very hard. This evening, I was driving DH's car and the wipers are positively horrible. They drag and squeak and generally leave the windshield worse off than it was.

The thing is, you can easily go four, even six, months here without ever using those wipers. And all that time, they're out there, baking in the sun, the rubber taking on the properties of a hockey puck. The wiper blades become either useless or a road hazard, if not both. And you never notice, because it's 100 degrees and sunny for 65 days in a row, and for the next 42 days it's somewhere between 106 and 115, and even if it were to rain on those days, the water would evaporate into the air before it hit your car, so you wouldn't need the wipers anyway. Then you have about another 12-15 weeks with the temperature flirting with 100, and then, maybe you'll get some rain. The last time you needed windshield wipers was April, and here it is November or December.

People who live in places with regular precipitation don't need to be reminded, but I sure do: check your wiper blades, once a month or so. You'll be happy the next time it rains and you can see. Now if only I could somehow remember to actually do it.

waiting for the call

DH is en route to the East Coast, his father is critically ill. The litany of physical failures the poor man has suffered over the past two weeks has little to do with his current condition. The stroke was very slight, the heart attack was so minor it left no damage at all on the heart muscle itself. The coronary arteries were not as blocked as they thought, and so a double-bypass operation only was needed, versus the quadruple the doctors had thought.

All of that should have led to a good prognosis, except after the angiogram, he developed a C. difficile infection. He was treated and was deemed well enough for the coronary bypass surgery, but pretty much immediately afterwards, the C. difficile roared back; he was in surgery again this morning for a colectomy, it was that serious.

The latest news from about 4 hours ago was that he was no better but no worse; on 100% oxygen but his blood oxygen was still too low; blood pressure practically non-existent, and fluids leaking somewhere internally, with the possibility of opening him up again to relieve pressure and fix the leaks. He has been intubated since Tuesday afternoon, having already endured a colonoscopy, with an abdominal CT scan still to come -- they had to restrain his hands so he wouldn't pull the tube out. (I remember my own father trying to do the same; remembering, it feels like someone squeezing my heart.) But since the surgery this morning he has been sedated, and they will keep him under until he's turned one corner or the other.

It doesn't feel real at all.

I have that fussy, fidgety feeling that I should be doing something to help, but there is literally nothing I can do except pray, and I'm already doing that.

Praying, and waiting, and holding down the fort until DH comes home again, or we get called out there.

7AM Update: Some improvement over night; they've taken him off some of the very strong, last-ditch-effort drugs. More praying, more waiting.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

should women marry?

Here's the meat of a lengthy comment I left at Dr. Helen's, in response to the question, Should women marry?

I think most people, men and women, are happier in good marriages, so yes, women should get married.

My advice for those considering marriage seriously is to make sure that you and your partner are in sync on the 3 big Fs: faith, family, and finances.

Faith: it doesn't matter what religion you belong to, if any, or how observant you are, if at all -- what matters is that you are compatible in your attitudes towards belief and practice. If you are not morally compatible, the marriage will be on rocky grounds.

Family: this is a two-parter. First, your own family (as soon as you get married, you are a new family). Are you going to have children? When? How many? Obviously the plan may not survive reality -- once children enter the picture, you may decide to have more, or fewer, than you originally intended, or other situations may come up that cause you to change your plans. But you need to talk about these things before hand. You can't get married expecting to have 2 kids and suddenly find out your husband doesn't want any, or doesn't want any for 10 years.

The second part of "family" has to do with the extended families, yours and his. Watch how your potential spouse interacts with his or her family, and you'll get a good idea of how things will settle in at your own household. Particularly watch the relationship between mothers and sons, that can be an indicator of a how a man will treat his wife. It's also important to negotiate how often you'll see relatives, and where you'll go for the holidays. You'd be surprised how many people have huge problems in their marriages over the pressures that their extended families put on them.

The last F is finances: don't just assume everything is OK, get married, and find out that he (or she) has thousands of dollars of credit card debt and student loans in arrears. You need to disclose all your debts. You need to understand your mate's job stability situation, and their potential for growth in income. If it's just you, you can do what you want and no one else cares, but if someone else is relying on you for a share of the household expenses, you can't just quit your job in a huff. Speaking of shared household expenses -- figure that out, too. I know a lot of couples have separate checking accounts and credit cards and divvy everything up, but I have never understood that, particularly if one member is only working part-time or is at home taking care of children. I think keeping finances separate creates an artificial division in the family and an opportunity for conflict -- it is very easy for someone to think that their spouse is being sneaky about how he or she is spending his or her money. If it's all in one account, there is complete transparency. Of course that makes it harder to surprise someone with gifts, but is that really such a big deal?

Before my husband and I got married 13 years ago, we had pre-nuptial counseling through my church. One of the exercises we did together had us rate a list of about 100 things as either necessary, useful, desirable, or a luxury. The list covered all sorts of things, like owning a house, buying new clothes every season, going out for dinner frequently, etc -- pretty much anything you could spend money on. It was an excellent springboard for discussion. My husband at the time said a computer at home was necessary, whereas I thought it was a luxury; he was ahead of his time and was already keeping all of his finances in the computer. The point was to highlight the differences and get us to talk about them. Plus, seeing on paper the things that were most important (necessary) helps you to figure out how and where you're going to be spending your money together.

If there are tremendous differences in your two lists, you'll have a lot of conflict; do you have what it takes to negotiate through them all? Does it make sense for you to be together, if your priorities are so different?

I think using the 3Fs and the necessary/useful list are good ways to determine fundamental compatibility.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Torchwood 1.13: End of Days

Following the new Doctor Who's tradition of ending each season with a cataclysmic event, "End of Days" brings Torchwood's premier run to a mostly satisfying conclusion. I could fault writer Chris Chibnall for eliding far too many important details, but there's no need for such a tedious reckoning. What he has given us is an enjoyable combination of characters, alien technology, and an unknowable so far outside our understanding that we want to label it supernatural. Desperate love wreaks havoc, but simple faith can (apparently) repair all.

Read the rest at The House Next Door.

how to buy a Wii at retail price

Elusive quarry, finally bagged

Today I achieved what had seemed impossible: I bought a Nintendo Wii, and I paid $249.83 plus tax for it. With a little luck, flexibility, and determination, you might be able to score one, too.

Despite what some people are reporting ("The stores are sold out until January or February!"), stores are getting deliveries of Wiis. They are just not getting enough to keep them in stock, or even on the shelf, for very long. The typical shipment appears to be about 25-30 units, and reports I have from different retailers is that they usually last about 30-60 minutes once they hit the shelf. Timing is very important if you want to snag a unit.

Deliveries can come in any day of the week. Wiis are delivered by private carrier, not in the usual store inventory trucks; some stores get this type of delivery twice a day.

First, make a list of all of the retailers in your area that carry Wiis. For each store, note the phone number and the time when they open. Here
are the store locator pages for some of the most popular big-box retailers:

Best Buy

Circuit City

Costco (membership required)

Fry's Electronics

Sam's Club (membership required)



Limit the list to stores you can physically get to within 10 or 15 minutes. It's not going to help you to know that a Target 50 miles away just got some in; by the time you get there, they'll be gone. You may have one list to call from home and another to call from work. Just keep travel time minimized and you won't waste your time calling stores you're not likely to reach quickly enough.

Once you've got your list, call each store as soon as they open, first thing in the morning - every day. Since some stores open at 8:00AM (Targets hereabouts) and others open at 10:00AM (Best Buy), you'll have to call at different times of the day. Enlisting other family members can speed up the calling process.

There is no need to ask for the electronics or video department, the store operators all know whether or not they have Wiis in stock. Each phone call takes about 30 seconds: Do you have any Nintendo Wiis in stock today? Be polite when they say "no," say "thank you," hang up, and dial the next number.

Keep calling until someone says "yes," then jump in your car, go to the store, and snatch one up before they're gone.

Call every store, every day.

Additional notes: it's worth it to check in with the guys in the video game department (whatever it's called) to see if shipments come in more than once a day, and to ask them if there is a good time to call. My local Wal-Mart told me the best times to call are 10AM and 3PM. The guys at Best Buy said they might not have them at store opening time, but around 11AM or so they would be delivered. It varies from store to store.

Warehouse clubs like Sam's and Costco open early for business members. My husband and I have a small business membership, so I was able to take advantage of the earlier hours. It's a good thing, too, because by the time I got there, only 6 of their shipment of 25 were left. I saw one business buyer with about 10 in her cart, but this particular Sam's Club at least was not limiting purchases.

Deliveries seem random -- last week, Best Buy had them on Thursday, and my husband missed them by about an hour. If you're in a store, wander over to the video game desk and chat the guys up: do you know when they're coming in? What's the best time to call? Incorporate their advice into your call schedule.

Be persistent, and be willing to get to the store immediately as soon as you hear a "yes". Good luck!

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Opened in order (we had an extra cookie):

1. There may be a crisis looming. Be ready for it.

2. The path is getting easier from here on out. Luck is helping.

Do I get to choose?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

egd v2.0, diagnosis still pending

I had one of these in 2004, but I didn't remember that. I had to search the blog here to find the date when I was filling in my paperwork.

2004 was a bit of a rough year, so it doesn't surprise me that I couldn't remember it. I did remember that it was completely normal, though.

Today was a day mostly spent sleeping, which was kind of nice. The procedure itself is gone, permanently lost in the mists of Versed. (I love Versed.)

I had this test because I'm having a lot of trouble swallowing and my throat is sore all the time. Results of the test, so far:

1. Normal esophagus.
2. Gastric mucosal abnormality chracterized by erythema.
3. Normal examined duodenum.

What that means:
1. There's nothing wrong with my throat, which is a relief, but doesn't explain why it hurts all the time.

2. The inside of my tummy is red. Being compulsive, I looked up the ICD Code (537.89), and found: gastric or duodenal prolapse or rupture (nope); intestinal metaplasia of gastric mucosa (yep); passive congestion of the stomach (nope). Again with the compulsive thing, I looked up intestinal metaplasia, and found that "intestinal" means having to do with the intestines (duh), and "metaplasia" means "a change of cells to a form that does not normally occur in the tissue in which it is found." The big deal with intestinal metaplasia is that it is a risk factor for gastric cancer. (rolls eyes)

3. My duodenum's fine, too.

Biopsies were taken of the esophagus and the "gastric mucosa", and results of those biopsies are of course still pending.

About 3:30 this afternoon, the phone rang, it was the imaging center to schedule an esophgram/ugi/small bowel flouroscopy-barium swallow ordeal test, ordered by this same doctor. That one won't be until the end of December, so I won't have any kind of answer on all this until next year.

Of course if it's serious, they'll get back to me a lot sooner than that.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Torchwood 1.12: Captain Jack Harkness

"Out of Time" writer Catherine Tregenna returns with the next chapter in the story of broken-hearted Owen (Burn Gorman). But "Captain Jack Harkness" is not just another story of love gone awry across a rift in time; it gives us a long-overdue glimpse into our Captain Jack's past.

Read the whole thing at The House Next Door.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

so far away

A close and very dear relative on the East Coast is in hospital, pending serious surgery. He has been in and out of the hospital for a couple of weeks now, and it just seems to be one thing after another.

There's no reason to think the prognosis should be anything but good, but his surgery, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been pushed off indefinitely until he clears an opportunistic infection he picked up over the last day or so.

We're stuck out here, 2,500 miles away, and the phone doesn't provide much comfort. It's natural to want to do something in times like this, but we can't even go visit at the hospital. It's frustrating. All we can do is wait, and pray.

gone, gone, gone

I polished off the pie this morning.

I figured I should say something about the holiday, and the accompanying feast. The day was quiet, and cool, and lovely. We ate our Thanksgiving dinner at mid-day, outside, and it was perfect. We had the usual menu: roast turkey, gravy, pureed cauliflower, acorn squash, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, and rolls.

Wednesday was an all-day-in-the-kitchen affair. With the kids' help, I made pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust, then an apple pie, and a cherry-blueberry pie. I went with a combination of 2/3rds organic shorting and 1/3 unsalted butter for the pie crust, and was very pleased with both the texture and the taste. After the pies, I attacked the veggies, and got the cauliflower, squash, and green beans into their appropriate dishes ready to be reheated the next day, and then moved on to the stuffing. The bread I cut into cubes and let air dry; the onions and celery I let carmelize in sweet butter. I used my own chicken stock to moisten the dried bread, and was it ever fantastic. For once I ignored the Bell's Seasoning box directions and kept adding liquid until it seemed right; I'm tired of too-dry stuffing, and the dense bread that I use definitely sops up the liquid much more than your typical supermarket bread would. I ended my long day in the kitchen with Cook's Illustrated Anytime Dinner Rolls, a new recipe for me: alas, I misread it, and used 1+1/2 cup of milk, instead of 1+1/4, and that left me with very sticky dough, into which I had to knead a lot more flour (I couldn't bear to chuck it and start over, although I probably should have.)

Did I mention I brined the turkey for the first time, ever?

On the day itself, I put the turkey in the oven, breast-side down, at 400 degrees, at 10AM, and flipped it breast-side up at 11:30-ish. It came out, perfectly roasted, just before noon. The rolls went in at 12:20 for 25 minutes at 375, and then the cauliflower, squash, and stuffing went in at 350 when the rolls came out.

Somehow or other, it all worked out. Everything was delicious, and I had turkey stock simmering on the back of stove all Thursday night. The only problem is, we've already run out of turkey -- the bird was only 11 pounds. I'll have to get a bigger one at Christmas. I'd like to have more.

And I'd like some more pie, too. The kids devoured the apple much too quickly. Not so much with the pumpkin and cherry-blueberry, although they were eaten, too. I just think next time I'll make two apple pies and get it over with. I used the Cameo apples this time, and while I did see a little bit of shrinkage, it was really fine, using the corer/peeler/slicer gadget. And it was really, really delicious.

Ironically I haven't had much of an appetite for the past week or so; I think it's the new medication the g/e has me on. I even appear to have lost a few pounds, which seems odd, timing-wise. I can't explain it, but that's OK, because I've been having pie for breakfast, guilt-free. Don't know what I'll do tomorrow, now that it's gone.

persistence is futile

I'm hoping not. I hauled myself out of bed ridiculously early on Friday morning (that would be 4:00AM) and was at Target by 4:20; there were about 50 people ahead of me in the line. The time passed quickly, and like everyone else, I chatted with the people next to me in line. We compared stories of previous years and experiences; we were glad it wasn't too cold, and we enjoyed the full moon. Not all of us were there trying to snag a Wii, just three out of the four in my immediate area.

When the doors opened at 6AM, we dashed over to "the boat," the counter at the small electronics, video game, and camera department. I was right in front, and saw one of the young men there handing out Wii consoles to hands reaching over me. I was there, just not tall enough or pushy enough, I guess, and came away empty handed.

Which is why I got up ridiculously early again today -- they've sometimes got 'em for Sunday mornings -- but today there were none to be had. I wasn't alone this morning, either. It's a bizarre social event, waiting for a store to open so you can try to buy something that's practically unattainable for it's retail price. (For double that, or close to, you can find plenty on ebay and Amazon.)

Ah, well. Lots more opportunities between now and Christmas, and if I have to, I'm quite prepared to wrap and deliver an IOU. But I'd rather not, and the prospect is making me cranky even though I went back to bed when I got home. Tiredness and disappointment are bad combination.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I set my alarm to wake me this morning at 5:45 so I could take me meds and drink some water. It worked in that it woke me up enough to take the meds (at 6:05, when the snooze button went off), but I only managed a few sips of water. I can't drink a whole glass of water and then go back to sleep, it's too much.

So now that I'm well within that 4-hour "nothing to eat or drink" window, I'm thirsty. Not just thirsty, dehydrated-thirsty. My eyelids are sticking to my eyes. Oh, how I would love a nice cup of tea, or something. Only 3 hours to go!


Went for my over-due blood test this morning; took three sticks to hit a vein. I don't blame the tech at all, I have really lousy veins. But it does hurt when they smack the back of your hand really hard to get the veins to pop up. Especially when my RA is acting up already.

Discovered last night that the dishwasher is dead. Checked the circuit breaker, it was fine. DH ended up doing dishes at midnight while I bailed out the water remaining in the bottom of the machine. Called Sears; we have an appointment for Friday morning. (Thursday being Thanksgiving, and Wednesday being prep day, the timing of this leaves much to be desired.)

Today, drove up to Mesa to get a new thermal fuse, as that's often the culprit in cases like this. Alas, it wasn't. Further sleuthing indicates it may be the door latch, another cheap part ($8 -- the fuse was $18). Since it will cost $65 for the Sears guy to walk in the door, it's probably worth it for me to drive up to Mesa again for the door latch. I'm just wondering if I should also get the circuit board ($85) while I'm at it.

Bright side: the parts place in Mesa is called Appliance Parts Depot, and they have an awesome website with all kinds of repair advice on it: check it out.

Religious Education tonight, my tiny Confirmation Class of 5th & 6th graders. One of my students transferred to Tuesday nights, leaving me with only 6 students. Tonight we covered The Beatitudes, and it was like pulling teeth to get any kind of response out of them. It was very difficult to connect this material to their lives, at least I did not feel as if I was making any kind of connection. Bright side: further reading in Tod Lindberg's excellent The Political Teachings of Jesus.

Tomorrow: a 4-hour fast followed by a gastric emptying study; I get to eat a radioactive hard-boiled egg and then lie under a scanner for 90 minutes while the machine records the movement of the food through my system. Sounds like a good time for a nap! I have to remember to set my alarm early so I can take my medication without interfering with the fasting time.

In other news, there's a very good chance I finished all the necessary shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, etc, today. Three different stores trying to track down Spectrum Organic Shortening. Sheesh. First order for tomorrow is to make up my lists and be sure, because I don't want to have to shop on Wednesday, when the entire rest of the world will be shopping.

I'm also stressing about getting that other winter holiday's shopping done.

Usually, at this time of the night, I'd be typing this to the rhythmic sloshing of the dishwasher. It's too quiet tonight, I miss it. I have a general feeling that something's not right, and I suppose it could just be the broken dishwasher, but it feels as if it's something more important. I don't know what, though. I suppose I'll have to wait and see.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Torchwood 1.11: Combat

The intersection of the alien and the human is front and center in "Combat," as disaffected young men seek meaning, Fight Club-style. Our Torchwood team regulars struggle to deal with the accumulated consequences of actions we've seen over the course of the season, and Owen (Burn Gorman) becomes the nexus around which everything revolves.

Read the whole thing at The House Next Door.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I ended up working today with the pre-kindergarten 4-year-olds. The aide was called away on personal business and I happened to be at the school, dropping off DS1's water bottle, when the sub coordinator snagged me.

It seems like an eternity since I've been in a pre-school setting, but DS2 is only in first grade! That means it has been only 2 years since his pre-school days, but his pre-school wasn't full-time, and that makes a big difference.

I enjoy being around little ones when I'm subbing because I know it's just for a day or two. If I had to do it every day, my well of patience would run dry long before the end of the day on Friday. Even worse, I'd have nothing left for my own kids by the end of each school day, which would be so horrid I don't even want to think about it. As with creative energy, I only have so much patience in a day, and when it's gone, it's gone.

There's a new boy in the class, he has only been attending a few weeks, and he's struggling with everything. Spent all morning saying he was tired, then refused to rest at the state-mandated nap time, which was substantial -- I think it was an hour and a half! By the end of the day (2:30) he was exhausted, poor thing. He spent his whole day in opposition to everyone, wanting to play at reading time, wanting to sleep at play time, wanting to talk when it was time to listen; he reminded me in many ways of my DS1 at that age.

When his mom came to get him, she had his little sister, probably about a year old, on her hip, and I could see there an explanation for a lot of what was going on. It's so hard for little ones to adjust to having another person in the family, especially if the new person is getting everything when they demand it.

With kids like that, who spend the day saying "I want, I want," without paying any attention at all to what they are supposed to be doing (all of which are age-appropriate and not usually considered onerous), the hardest thing is finding the motivator, the key that will incent the kid to behave. They don't respond to the usual carrots or sticks, typical consequences mean nothing to them. So you have to dig around to find out what consequence does mean something, and then latch onto it. I had the worst time trying to find a meaningful consequence for DS1 when he as at that age; to this day, I can't remember what I even came up with. It was such a struggle.

That's the other key, really: minimize the struggles. Find a way to say "yes" as much as possible. So when he said, "I want to play now," I would respond, "You can play when the story is over." In other words, the Delayed Yes. There's also the Conditional Yes, in which you bargain good behavior for something he wants, which is different than a bribe because the bribe is paid out on the expectation of good behavior, and that never works. Payment has to come afterwards, or you're just teaching the kid to be manipulative.

Finally, even at 4 years old, the idea of making good choices is so important. But with 4-year-olds, it helps to point out when they're not making a good choice. For example, I could've said this afternoon when the kid was refusing to let himself rest (it was so sad, really), "I remember you saying all morning how sleepy you were, but right now you're choosing not to sleep. Do you think that's a good choice? Because I think a better choice for someone who was so tired would be to rest now."

By the end of the day the teacher was asking me to come in every day and be his one-on-one aide. There's no money in the budget for it, and I really couldn't do it every day, but it was still a nice compliment. And I can look at how DS1 is doing and realize yeah, he's turning out pretty well, so I guess I'm not completely offbase with these ideas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Torchwood 1.10: Out of Time

"Out of Time", gorgeous throughout, ostensibly tells the story of three individuals lost in time thanks to a temporal anomaly caused by the Cardiff Rift. At its heart, it continues Torchwood's nihilistic view of existence. A series that consistently argues that this present reality is all there is while simultaneously featuring a main character with a death wish suffers from both confusion and clinical depression. Ten episodes in, Torchwood still hasn't figured out what it's about, but it appears to be getting closer.

Read the rest at The House Next Door.

Monday, November 12, 2007

diagnosis pending

I saw Dr. G, my gastroenterologist, about the reflux problem. Here's the plan:

1. Switched my meds from twice-daily Prilosec to twice-daily Zegerid, which has twice the dosage of omeprazole plus bicarbonate of soda. So far the only thing that has helped me actually feel better is the every-4-hours Mylanta, but that had other side effects.

2. Scheduled an EDG (upper endoscopy, I've had one before) for the end of this month; he's concerned about the swallowing problems. (Me, too.) He doesn't think I have a hiatal hernia, though, because the last EDG didn't show any herniation. I'm thinking anything can happen with the way things work for me, so I won't be suprised either way.

3. I will be scheduled for an emptying study, to see if my problem is caused by food leaving my stomach too slowly (gastroparesis). Considering I've had a "rapid transit" problem for years now (ameliorated somewhat by the cholestyramine I've been taking for the past year or so), the idea that food is transitting any part of my digestive system too slowly is pretty funny. [Interesting aside: the gastroparesis link above says that cholinergic drugs can cause it...cholestyramine is a cholinergic drug.]

4. Back to his office in mid-December for the recap on everything, to find out what is to be done. I hope the Zegerid works better than it has today, otherwise it's going to be a very long month.

(Meanwhile, I'm having another video stroboscopy study the week before, so we'll be able to get a good look at how my vocal folds are functioning, and see how well they're holding up to the constant acid washing.)

I tried Protonix once before and it made me very sick, that's why I'm hoping I'm broken in a way that's physically fixable. This is ridiculous, here I am wanting to go under the knife again! Sheesh.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

fix me

I'm broken again. Finally got a chance to go see Dr. O, my ENT (fabulous, I recommend him to everyone.) As usual, he listens to what I have to say, does a thorough examination, and then explains what's happening, and what to do about it.

I have a couple of things going on. First of all, my turbinates are causing my chronic head congestion and post-nasal drip. Using Nasonex is helping some, but it's a stopgap, and I still end up with that weird feeling of pressure inside my ears, a lot. Not to mention the never-ending post-nasal drip. I'm scheduled for turbinate reduction surgery in mid-December; he'll fix my deviated septum while he's in there.

The second issue is my chronic sore throat and trouble swallowing. I thought that these were two separate things, the first caused by the damned post-nasal drip, the second a result of post-surgical scarring.

Nope, and nope. I wrote about this once before: what do I know?; just over two years ago. It's amazing how easy it is to forget stuff. The sore throat problem has little to do with the PND, although it may be exacerbating it. Both problems are caused by acid reflux; my esophagus is so irritated that it has become swollen and inflamed, which of course makes it harder to swallow.

I've been taking Prilosec for a couple of years now; somewhere along the line the dose was doubled. I never really thought about the fact that it wasn't working until Dr. O pointed it out -- I'm managing so many poorly functioning physical systems that the acid stomach wasn't even registering. But as soon as the doctor said "reflux," I realized that the acid problem has been pretty awful, and I can't say for how long. For example, I feel queasy if my stomach is empty, particularly in the morning. All of the other reflux symptoms are there in spades, as well. How could I just ignore them for so long?

You know: busy, life, all that.

Dr. O suggested I change the way I'm taking the meds, switching me from one in the morning & one in the evening to both pills, a half hour before dinner, to give me more acid-reducing power overnight when production really cranks up.

Since that didn't help, I called Dr. G, my gastroenterologist, and basically said: "Help!" I'm seeing him Monday, in the meantime, his conveyed through his nurse that I'm to take 2 tablespoons of Mylanta every four hours. (Ick) It's helping, though. But I don't want to take it before I go to bed, because that's when I take my iron, and I'm pretty sure the calcium and magnesium will screw up the iron absorption. I think I'll take a ranitidine tonight, because already I can feel the burning in there, and it's not going to get better on its own.

Perversely, I'm hoping I have a hiatal hernia, or some physical defect that can be fixed (please please please), even if it means going under the knife again. I can't stand having these dysfunctional systems that are sort-of, kind-of treated via medication. It sucks, and I take too many pills as it is.

Today in the teacher's lounge, at lunch, when I shook my noon supplements out of their box, two teachers gasped: Is that every day? Yes, I joked -- better living through chemistry. Then the 10-second run-down on what everything is ("These two are for my arthritis, this is calcium I need to take because of my thyroid thing, this is Vit D to help the calcium metabolise properly, these are digestive enzymes...) Even so, I do a passable imitation of a healthy person.

Back to fixing me... I'm also scheduled for another video stroboscopy, wherein they film what's going on in the throat. I'm curious to see how it looks. I'm thinking Dr. G will schedule something to fix me. I'm miserable, and we've already met our health insurance deductibles for the year. Now would be a good time to get going on making me better.

[Inevitably: what am I doing that's causing all this? Don't know, don't even know if that's a valid question. Aftermath of the surgery is one aspect of it, but how big a factor, I can't say. More likely it's just genetic; I'm still hoping it's something that can be fixed instead of managed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Torchwood 1.9: "Random Shoes"

"Random Shoes" plays as if an episode of Doctor Who wandered off and got lost, only to find itself somehow on Torchwood. Part police procedural, part ghost story, this episode presents a structural, if not thematic pair to Who's late season two episode, "Love and Monsters.

Read the rest over at the House Next Door.

Monday, November 05, 2007

"But I was thirsty!"

I have a habit of leaving a glass of water on the kitchen counter.

I know where that paw has been.

A slow, but satisfying, drink.

Oookaay....I had a habit.

haven't done this in a while...

Can you spot the scar?

My neck dissection surgery was just over two years ago. I haven't needed any treatment for my thyroid cancer since then.

In case anyone is wondering how I'm feeling about all this: YAY!


DD had a nice, low-key birthday weekend. It was low stress for me, as she opted to have an ice cream cake (thank you, Baskin Robbins), and to go out for dinner rather than having me make her favorite dinner at home... lasagna.

Since I didn't have to make a triple-layered heart-shaped cake with pink frosting and blue roses as I have for the past two years, and since I didn't have to make lasagna, the weekend seemed positively carefree.

damn couch

It's a trap.

We've taken the sectional from the living room and put it in the family room, in front of the tv.

It's so delightfully comfortable that at the slightest lull in interest in whatever program I'm supposedly watching, I fall asleep. Then I wake up a half hour or 45 minutes later.

It's late, I should go to bed, but I had that nap! This is messing me up. Clearly, I shouldn't sit down to watch tv in the evenings without being ready to just pack it in for the night. Then when I finally wake from my tv nap, I can just trudge off to bed for real, without having to become fully conscious again.

I am not that well-organized. Many times I feel as if I positively need that nap to give me enough energy for the getting-ready-for-bed routine. It doesn't take all that long -- sort out pills for next day, clean teeth, put on pjs, fall into bed -- but I do need to be relatively cognizant of what I'm doing with my medication. And since I take my last meds of the day right before I go to sleep, that seems to be the best time to fill up the box with the next day's dosages.

I'll figure something out. Meanwhile, isn't that a nice looking rug I found at IKEA? (inexplicably missing from their online catalog) With 3 children and 2 cats we chose the "inexpensive and easily replaced" type of area rugs.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

pumpkin madness

Every year, we get pumpkins for the kids to make jack-o-lanterns. Specifically: DH makes the jack-o-lanterns. Scraping out pumpkin guts is not my thing.

This year, I spared him having to run around looking for a pumpkin patch the day before Halloween by buying the pumpkins over the weekend. I figured we were all set for the jack-o-lantern production since, really, what else besides pumpkins do you need?

Silly me: time.

You see, here in the greater Phoenix area, day time temperatures are still in the 90s. If you carve a pumpkin too soon before the big day, you'll be left with nothing but a heap of slimy goo on Halloween. So, no pumpkin carving until October 30, the earliest! Even better if you can wait until the day itself.

The expectation was, DH & the kids could do the jack-o-lanterns on Tuesday. But Tuesday night I had a support group meeting, carpooling with several members up to Scottsdale. I left at 6PM and didn't get home until after 10; the meeting was huge; four new members and lots of returns. I hoped to see 3 jack-o-lanterns smiling at me when I got home, but no such luck: DD had killer math homework, and DH helped her to finish it so she could get to bed on time.

That left me, of course, in charge of pumpkins yesterday. Oy.

I like jack-o-lanterns, I just don't like having to gut the pumpkins:

DS2 took this photo. I thought he was shooting the pumpkin, not me; see how thrilled I was?

I complained so much about the pumpkin guts that the kids insisted on taking a close-up:
It looks like so much cottony stuff, but in reality, it's slimy, ropey, clingy strings, randomly loaded with pumpkin seeds. And it's tenacious.

Through trial and error, I discovered the perfect pumpkin gutting tool:
Pampered Chef's plastic scraper -- small enough to get inside the pumpkin, strong enough to scrape the ropey, slimy strands off the walls.(See note, below)

While I was scraping, I had the kids design their jack-o-lanterns on paper; once the pumpkins were cleaned out, carving in the designs was short work. I love how every year they change just a bit, and I love how such simple designs can convey such varied expressions. Here they are by day:

And, for the full spooky effect, by night:

Note: from November 1 through November 16, 2007, ThyCa Phoenix is holding a fund-raising event. A percentage of each purchase made via Pampered Chef will be donated to thyroid cancer research. Pampered Chef ships anywhere in the US. For your purchase to be considered part of this event, click on the "Order Products" button in the lower left corner. On the next screen, enter THYCA in the "Host's first name/Organization" box, then click "search for host." On the next screen, click on "THYCA", and then begin shopping.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Torchwood 1.8: "They Keep Killing Suzie"

"They Keep Killing Suzie" is the kind of episode that Torchwood does well: an exploration of the human character, unfolding in unexpected ways in a unique context. It could be seen as a return to form, if Torchwood had established one yet.

There are no aliens in this week's episode, but that doesn't mean that there aren't any monsters; whether they are monsters by nature or nurture is the question of the day.

Read the rest at The House Next Door.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

another one gone...

Days are flying by.

I made awesome blueberry muffins today and should write them up. We're slowly, ever-so-slowly, reassembling the house.

I'm busy, and finding time for things other than writing. At the risk of jinxing myself, I'll say it: life's good.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Torchwood 1.7: "Greeks Bearing Gifts"

This week's cautionary tale falls short in spite of its interesting themes and compelling execution. The failure lies in the decision to reduce Toshiko (Naoko Mori) to a lonely, vulnerable mess, unhinging the entire process. Portraying Owen (Burn Gorman) and Gwen (Eve Myles) as idiotic horny teenagers doesn't help. Fortunately Jack (John Barrowman) remains true to his save-the-day character, while Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), reverting to his previous status of inscrutable cipher, evokes a three-word response: Seek professional help.

Hey, at least we're back to dealing with aliens this week. Read the rest at The House Next Door.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Friday Night Lights, 2.2 & 2.3: in spite of themselves

First of all, before I get into details about anything, I have to say that whoever writes the promo spots for NBC should be fired. If possible, the promo staff should be retroactively fired to before this season's episode promos started airing, so we could start over with promos that do not actively turn you off from the shows you formerly loved.

Click here to read the rest.

At this point, anything I'm watching on NBC is in spite of the promos, not because of them. Of course, the only things I'm regularly watching NBC are FNL and Journeyman (more on that later), but the promos spots for these two shows in particular are horrendous. I can just see the thought-process there: What are the most exquisitely painful plot points we can highlight, and how can we make sure everyone knows that their favorite characters are either in peril or miserable, or -- jackpot! -- both?

Seriously, NBC: knock it off, because you're making it harder and harder for me to want to watch these shows, which is a shame because when I finally overcome my promo-based aversion and fire up the TiVO, I adore them just as much as I ever did, if not more. So please, stop it.

2.2 - Bad Ideas
I loved this episode's title, it was so fitting. So many bad ideas, so little time. It seems every single character is caught in a downward spiral this season, the only difference is their relative velocities as they hurtle towards their collective doom. I'm not kidding about that, either -- everyone is in trouble.

The Taylors, together, are struggling with being separated and the feeling that their family is coming apart at the seams. Neither one is over-reacting to the stresses around them, which are considerable. Tami is completely overwhelmed by newborn, cranky Grace, and teenaged, rebellious Julie. The house is a disaster and Julie is not doing anything at all, it seems, to help out. I think it's hard to realize how alone Tami is in Dillon, in spite of the fact that she has a daughter. Her contacts at school are exactly that, school contacts, and she doesn't have another woman friend she can call up and say, "Hey, you can watch Grace for an hour so I can get some shopping done?", or anything else, for that matter. She should be able to leave Grace with Julie, and in fact she should be actively trying to get Julie to engage with her little sister, but Julie is so wrapped up in her own misery right now she's practically unreachable. Of course, if Julie would pitch in at home and help her mom, she might not feel so isolated, but she doesn't see it that way, and reacts (as teenagers typically do) by withdrawing.

When Glen, the science teacher who's covering for Tami while she's on her maternity leave, stops by with a box of files to review with her, he inadvertently becomes Tami's local support system. I don't think he minds, but he does know that he's out of his depth. He was right to ask what Tami was thinking, out walking with Grace in 105 degree heat -- believe me, when the thermometer reads 105, it's a lot hotter on the sidewalk, in the sun, and both mother and daughter were set up for dehydration. Tami should know better -- Tami does know better, but she's not thinking very clearly at the moment. Tami is not at all interested in Glen as a man, but I think it's very possible that Glen has a crush on Tami, even though he'd never do a thing about it, and I loved that he was finally able to get her to admit that living apart from Eric was her idea, and it was a stupid one. I'm relieved that Tami finally asked for help, and I think that it was OK to ask Glen, but I wish she wouldn't stop there -- she needs to keep reaching out and getting support, and as a counselor, she should know that. Isolation is terrible, and having a new baby is tremendously isolating even if you have other kids!

Back to Julie, her attraction to the Swede finally overtakes her impulse to behave decently towards Saracen, which has been waning for some time now; she finally gets up the nerve to give the "it's not you, it's me," speech, but doing it makes her feel worse, not better. She gets over that pretty quickly, though -- only to be patted on the head by the Swede when she sees him at the pool! Sorry, but the Swede is a creep. He knows Julie is only 16 years old and his flirting with her is completely icky. He has to be in his 20s, and he's way too old for Julie, and yet he pursues her. Personally, at this point I think Lois and Saracen should get together, because they've both been badly used by Julie and could bond over that. Plus, Lois seems like a genuinely good girl, as opposed to the brat that Julie is becoming.

Moving onto Saracen, he made his best attempt to keep Julie, and keep her happy, but she had already moved on. He's struggling with the new coach's attitude, and his grandmother is as dotty as ever. Julie dumping him will ultimately turn out to be a good thing for him, I think, as will the arrival of his grandmother's live-in nurse. It's a shame that she's (so far) a stereotype feisty bitch, but she does seem to know what's she talking about regarding the care his grandmother needs. Again, this will, in the long term, turn out to be a good thing for Matt, as he won't have to worry so much about what's going on at home. High school juniors should worry about SATs, grades, and girls, and not whether or not Grandma is bathing at the neighbor's house again. Still, transitions are hard, and Matt has a lot of new situations to accustom himself to.

The Tyra/Landry storyline got stupider, which I did not think possible, with the introduction of the Lost Watch Issue. Stupid, stupid, stupid, but still, it forced the two characters together in an intimate setting, and gave Landry a believable setting in which to finally profess his love for Tyra. Two important things happened then: first, she believed him, and second, she was surprised, because she had never allowed herself to see it. Landry was not that good at hiding his feelings for Tyra, but she was great at not recognizing them for what they were. Now it's all out there. Tyra's subsequent confession to Landry shows what a great couple they are -- he's not sorry he did it and would do it again, for her; she wishes she had done it, both for the satisfaction and to spare him -- and she was equally believable. I liked that Tyra didn't jump into saying she loves Landry, because she doesn't know how she feels about him -- but she knows she feels enough for him to sleep with him, and the way that all works out was pretty much OK.

Jason Street: team mascot, or quarterback coach? Well, since the new coach has such an emphasis on the running game and Smash in particular, Jason isn't left with much to do. But he has new hope since he can make a fist now, something he wasn't able to do before. He's disappointed when the doctor insists, for the nth time, that he won't walk again. One of Jason's rugby teammates tells him about some experimental stem cell surgery they're doing in Mexico (forcibly reminding us of the episode's title.) Later, Jason runs into Tami as she's leaving Glen's office, and tells her that in his recurring dream, she tells him to get up and walk, and he does. He thanks her; Tami is touched but concerned, but Jason is radiantly hopeful.

Lyla's still a Jesus freak, but her prayers become less confident as she watches Tim Riggins macking with a rally girl on the other side of the cafeteria. Riggins is still messing up in practice and calling the coach's wrath down upon himself. The two are brought together when Buddy, Lyla's dad, overdoes it at the pep rally -- moved from his dealership out to a rival booster's ranch -- and collapses in a drunken heap. Riggins helps Lyla get her dad to his generic apartment, and the two share a (non-physical) moment. These two have chemistry, but Lyla knows that going back to Tim would be very, very bad for her, and resists. Tim, for his part, is still in love with her, and I'm not sure what it would take for him to not be.

Coming back around to Coach Taylor, he's struggling in his position at TMU. He's low man on the totem pole, and as such he's assigned the unpleasant task of ferrying an unrepentant player to a hearing on ethics charges. Taylor gives the obnoxious player an earful on how his selfishness and arrogance are letting the team down, but the player scores one on Taylor, asking him what the hell he's doing in Austin when he has a new baby at home in Dillon. Since the player smartens up and sincerely apologizes, and Taylor steps in and says they'll make sure this guy straightens up, the player ends up with only a 3-game suspension. When the head coach congratulates Taylor on his accomplishment, Eric realizes that this is the way it's going to be: he's the guy that gets to put out these fires, because he can pull it off, but he's not going to have any chance to change the culture there that leads to these problems in the first place, because he has no influence there. Tami says he has to make himself indispensable, but that's the kind of thing that happens over years of experience, and how frustrating it must be for Taylor to be shuttled over to a position of no real responsibility after guiding his high school team's every move on their way to the state championship.

In short: no one's happy, but the stuff that's happening makes sense. The only really egregious thing was the Lost Watch business, but Tyra and Landry are doing OK in spite of it -- Landry, hysterically, asks "his" rally girl if she thinks everyone is capable of evil; before the bubblehead can answer, Tyra whisks him away. I wish that Tami would sit Julie down and admit to her that this bad idea was hers, and that she needs Julie's help -- that would go a long way towards reconciling Julie to what's going on in their home, but alas, that doesn't happen, and things go from bad to worse.

2.3, Are You Ready for Friday Night?
Easily could've been title, "Bad Ideas, continued."

The high points of the episode, for me, surprisingly, were all about Landry and Tyra: Waking in the morning, Landry shushing Tyra before she says something that "will undoubtedly ruin the most perfect night of my life;" Tyra climbing out of Landry's window, seen but unremarked upon by Landry's father. Landry's dad asking him if he's seeing any girls, and not pressing when Landry says he's not. Later, Landry's dad goes to Applebee's for lunch, and Tyra's his waitress. The "So, are you dating my son or what?" is too complicated for Tyra, and she takes a minute to think about why she hangs around with Landry, and in describing him to his father, she realizes that maybe she should love him, even if she doesn't, quite yet. So when she climbs back in the window, later, we know exactly why, and we can enjoy that these two have each other for at least a little while before everything goes all to hell (next week's episode promos reveal that the body was found.)

Unfortunately, some clunky Lost Watch foreshadowing was shoe-horned into these scenes, but since they launched that particular plot line, I guess they can't just leave it dangling.

Coach Taylor really doesn't like his job. He's working with a new young player who's having trouble with a particular play, just not getting it; Taylor is frankly appalled when he is directed to cut the boy loose. It's one thing to cut a high school kid, but at a football school, what are the odds that cutting the kid will mean that he loses his scholarship, and his chance to get an education? Taylor doesn't want to do it, and even asks if he has to do it, which is kind of weaselly; I'd assume he'd know already that was part of his job, but we never actually see him tell the kid he's cut.

Meanwhile, Eric is keeping tabs on what's happening back in Dillon, where Buddy is feeding him a line about how the new coach, McGregor, is brutal, and everything is falling apart. It's true the team spirit is at an all time low, as Smash is the center of attention and enjoying it, not giving anyone else credit for anything. It's so bad that other members of the team prevail upon Saracen to talk to Smash about his attitude, but inarticulate Matt was probably not the best choice to go up against smooth-talking Smash, who says it's all about Saracen being jealous because he's not captain anymore, and other assorted trash talk. Saracen insists that's not it, but Smash blows him off, and all the other players are even more steamed.

Riggins shows up at practice hungover, and ends up passing out when the coach responds with his usual draconian extra-drills approach; he ends up hospitalized for the better part of the day until Buddy Garrity, of all people, signs him out. Lyla stops by to visit, to repay the kindness he showed in helping her with her father after the pep rally incident, and she invites to Riggins to her church.

Jason Street, meanwhile, is trying to get Riggins to shape up but is constantly being denigrated by McGregor. During the season opener, nothing goes as planned, and the team is deadlocked at 0-0 until McGregor gives a play directly to Smash, who runs it in for a touchdown. Throughout the game, Street had tried to make suggestions to break the deadlock, but McGregor blows him off, saying he doesn't have time to listen to advice from the team mascot. On the field, Saracen loses it at the sight of Smash's grandstanding, and attacks him; the whole team ends up out there, trying to pull Matt off Smash. All the women in the stands look on, appalled; Eric watches from the sidelines, thinking: What the hell has this guy done to my team?

Julie wasn't even at the game, it seems; she's hanging out the Swede and his pot-smoking college friends, talking about politics and the environment and all those grown-up topics; Julie tosses off a remark about global warming, and everyone appreciates how smart and funny she is. Julie passes on the joint. Meanwhile, Tami is leaving messages on Julie's cell phone that it's 2AM... eventually we see Julie parked with the Swede, in front of the Taylor's house; they're making out. Tami sees them through the window and storms out, and demands that Julie get in the house. Julie refuses, and asks the Swede to take her away. Showing an ounce of sense for the first time, he refuses, "That would be kidnapping." Still, Tami ends up literally dragging Julie out of the van, saying she's not grown up and rid of Tami yet. Julie says they got rid of her when her dad went to Austin and Tami had Grace, which gets her a slap in the face; she runs into the house, crying. We don't get to see whether Tami and the Swede had words, but I would've really liked to hear them.

After the game, Erik meets with Buddy Garrity at his dealership; Buddy looks like he fell asleep face-first into his paperwork. Buddy starts selling Eric on the idea of coming back to Dillon, citing how McGregor is messing up the team, but then smoothly moving on to how Eric's family is struggling. Eric gets home, Tami confesses that she slapped Julie, and then she completely breaks down. (Emmy reel #2 for Connie Britton.) Eric ends up back at the dealership, shaking Buddy's hand and saying he hopes he won't regret this. Now, this is a sign of how desperate the situation is, because Eric Taylor knows that Buddy Garrity is not a straight-up kind of guy. Buddy's not totally sleazy, but he's not completely trustworthy, either. Why would Eric do this? Another factor to consider: Taylor doesn't realize just how out of the loop Buddy is. Does Eric realize that Buddy has been pushed out of the Panthers' Booster inner circle, and that he doesn't weild as much influence as he once used to? We don't know, but chances are, Eric doesn't realize that; if he did, he might have been more hesitant to enter into this Faustian bargain with the disgraced and displaced car salesman.

Meanwhile, at the Saracen house, the new girl is helping with Grandma but not doing Matt's laundry, an issue I can see both sides of. It's kind of obnoxious to do everyone else's laundry without telling Matt beforehand that she wasn't going to do his, too, especially since it's not that much extra work to throw Matt's clothes in with the others. Doing laundry for one person is a pain in the butt, you end up with three or four really small loads depending on how you sort it. So I'm thinking the nurse is going to be a world-class jerk until after the game, when Matt trudges in, abraded and depressed, and then she's actually nice to him. I liked the vibe there, which was much more big-sister/caretaker than romantic, especially her singing the song her mother used to sing her when she got hurt when she was little. It could go either way, but for now I'd rather not see Matt get romantically involved with anyone. That kids need to rest his bruised psyche.

Riggins takes up Lyla on her church offer, and we get to see a huge mega-church production with all sorts of singing and carrying-on. I don't think it was disrespectful to show this, as I believe it was accurate, but at the same time, I don't like that kind of ostentatious, revival meeting "service." Riggins is unreadable in these scenes, but later he goes to Lyla's bedroom as she's undressing for bed, and tells her he thinks he felt something. I honestly couldn't tell whether or not he meant it or was just trying to get Lyla to sleep with him again; when he kisses her, it would seem that we should go with "ruse", but I'm still not sure. Lyla is, though, and kicks him out: "Did you think I would fall for that?"

Riggins is a mess, at home, drinking, when Street rolls up and tosses a beer bottle at his house, screaming at him to come out. Jason's little speech has just the right amount of inarticulate rage, as he defends his coaching ability while insisting that he and Riggins end their "so-called friendship." Riggins just lets Street rant until Jason gets to the part about going to Mexico for the surgery, and then stops him: "Wait a minute. Mexico?" Next thing you know, both boys are in Street's truck, and it's road trip time. Hilarity ensues: "Do you have a map?" "I have a map," followed by Riggins attempting to give Street a beer. When Street declines, Riggins says, but we're going to Mexico! Street replies: "We're still in Texas, you idiot."

Previews for next week are ominous, with the body's discovery and at least one of the boys getting arrested, and Tami's joyous "Guess who's home?" immediately deflated by Eric's concerned "You mean I don't have a job?"

As I said, the promo guys are killing me. The show, on the other hand, is holding up remarkably well. I know there's hate out there, hate for the Landry/Tyra storyline, and now there's probably hate for the Eric/Buddy handshake, and what that portends. I said in my write-up of the first episode that I wanted Eric to stick it out for a season, because I didn't see how he could do otherwise and ever expect to get a job, but then I didn't foresee Buddy Garrity getting involved in the process. Buddy needs the Panthers even more (sadly) than he needs his family, and a cornered man will do whatever it takes to survive, so I'm not putting anything past Buddy Garrity's capabilities. But it's pretty obvious that things are going to get worse before they get better. The question is, will anyone be left watching by the time things start turning around? Will the show even still be on the air by that time? God, I hope so.