Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lookie what I got!


The first payment is due on December 14th so if you were expecting a Christmas gift from me this year . . . um, I hope you like it?

It's a 2012 Chevy Equinox LS. No crumbs embedded in the back seat, no dog hair (yet) . . . ah, it's glorious. 

Still wasting time . . . just finding other ways to do it

As you may recall, last week I decided to unplug for a bit. This endeavor mostly consisted of me trying my level best to stay off Facebook. I also fought the compulsion to answer every email that hit my in-box. And let me tell you, it was hard. This is going to sound weird but sometimes I think I've made the mistake of being too competent. If someone has a question and you jump to answer it, you'll be the go-to resource henceforth. By trying to be that person for so many people, I'm bringing more stress into my life than is necessary. My friend Jane says that she has to remind herself that she is a human being, not a human doing. Do you ever try to ponder your own mortality? When I think of what it will be like to . . . not be here anymore, the first thing I always think is, "Well, at least the worrying will stop." I really need to find better ways to manage the goings-on in my own brain.

Staying offline (for the most part, anyway) gave me some extra time, which I used thusly:
  • Finally fixed my iPod. When I got a new computer back in March, it didn't seem to be too fond of my iPod. It would agree to synch my iPod with iTunes, but only just barely. It would not agree to put the right cover art with the right songs. So, I might be listening to Lily Allen but the accompanying album cover was AC/DC.  My brain found that confusing. I knew I needed to back up all of my music, restore the iPod completely, and then re-load the music. I was chicken shit, though, because I was convinced I'd botch the whole operation (and permanently lose over 3,000 songs and podcasts). Anyway, I managed to pull it off and now my iPod and computer have agreed to play nicely together. 
  • Researched new cars. My van has developed quite a few quirks and we're looking at potential replacement vehicles  And when I say "we" I mean that *I* have been doing research while Mr. Cup-is-Half-Empty finds reasons why all of my ideas are bad. 
  • Chose a new ring tone for my phone. For at least six months, every time someone would call me, I would think, "Gotta change that."  What is my new ring tone, you ask? This one.
  • Test drove some cars. When I told my daughter that I test drove a couple of vehicles, she gave me a dubious look and asked, "Well, did you pass?  Did you do it right?" With each passing day (since she's getting smarter and apparently I'm getting progressively dumber), she seems to be increasingly concerned about my ability just to navigate my way through everyday life. (Yo mama's so stupid she can't even pass a test drive!)
  • Made split pea soup from scratch. The week before that, I made black bean soup. People who know me well would say that I am not a big fan of soup. It's true - historically, I'm not a soup groupie. Vegetarians/vegans know not to order soup in most restaurants because most contain beef or chicken stock. However, I've learned that soup is probably one of the most vegan-friendly meals out there - at least when you make it yourself.  So, my crock pot is finally seeing some action.
  • Started reading a book. It's shameful just how little reading I do in a year. I downloaded The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League onto my Kindle and have started reading it. 
  • Got a haircut.
  • Baked a bunch of treats for church (I only have three vegan baked goods in my repertoire but I can bake those three items like nobody's business!) I also facilitated the service at church last Sunday.
  • Took my daughter to a haunted house.  It's a standard issue haunted house but during the day they turn on the lights and open it for kids. It was a lot of fun. They did have people jumping out at us so I definitely screamed a couple of times. At the end, one of the zombies handed my daughter a bag of candy. The poor kid couldn't eat a single piece of it. Because of her expander, she can't eat any chewy/hard candy. So no gum, Starburst, jawbreakers, etc. I'm hoping she gets a lot of chocolate during trick-or-treating. 
  • Cleaned out a closet. Okay, part of a closet. Since winter lasts about 11 months where I live, I've accumulated an obscene number of slippers over the years. I decided to cull some of my collection . . . to, um, make room for more. 
  • Passed several levels of Candy Crush. The addiction still has a grip. Sometimes I actually see the candies when I close my eyes for meditation at church. I'm pretty proud of that, as you can imagine.
 Until next time, mes amis . . .

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#1000

Here it is. My 1000th blog entry. Woot! :::pumping fist in the air as if I am the only person on the planet with a blog:::

I have definitely considered abandoning the blog more than once. "Why bother?" I think to myself. But, I keep writing and I'm pretty sure I do it mostly for myself. Writing is often therapeutic for me. I remember when my friend Kevin died. I couldn't sleep so I got up in the middle of the night and wrote about him. It turned out to be the turning point in the grief process. I also remember another sleepless night when I rolled out of bed and wrote about a friend who had hurt my feelings. To this day, I still wonder if it was her or me or if the friendship had simply run its course.  I still miss her. Catharsis doesn't always mean closure, I suspect, but writing really does help.

I wish I had started the blog before my daughter was born.  There was a lot of anxiety before and after her birth and writing about it might have helped. However, I am glad I started the blog when I did because now it's fun to go back and look at what I wrote when she was two and three and so forth. It's easy to forget the little things about days spent with a toddler, so it's nice to have those preserved somewhere. For example, I recently revisited a blog entry about potty training that still makes me laugh. There was the time she was thirsty and demanded a piece of water. Or the horrifying trips to the grocery store.

I have used my blog to chronicle my daughter's life, to work through some of my own baggage, to weigh in on current events, and to kvetch about whatever is stuck in my craw at any given moment.

In 1,000 entries, I:
  • Lost and gained about a gazillion pounds
  • Visited at least a dozen states, including family trips to Texas and DisneyWorld.
  • Lost my sweet, gentle Karl Lee
  • Adopted Fat Gretchen (bam-a-lam)
  • Told our daughter that she was adopted
  • Lost one job and got another one
  • Discovered yoga
  • Went vegan
  • Bought a minivan (I hope to ditch that bad boy soooon)
  • Fostered a gazillion dogs
  • Got to be a bridesmaid for the first time
  • Won $10,000 (for a charity of my choice) from filmmaker/activist Michael Moore. Needless to say, I chose the rescue as my charity.
  • Gained four new nephews and a few other relatives
  • Got more involved in my church
  • Had surgery to re-arrange the bones in my left foot
  • Got my first tattoo
  • Aged 7.5 years
  • Kept one unruly kid alive
The entries that were the most popular with my hundreds dozens three readers:

For some, I think the reason they got a lot of readers is a result of naughty (or sometimes completely innocuous) language I may have used. I wrote two entries about my husband and daughter attending an annual Daddy-Daughter dance, and I'm pretty sure they got so many hits was because someone Googled those terms in hopes of finding something thoroughly disgusting. Sick fucks, I tell ya. For others, I'm assuming that they were cross-posted somewhere. My blog entry about my sister's wedding got a ton of hits and I'm not really sure why. Same goes for the entry about my optometrist. I'm assuming that my blog comes up when people Google terms related to nausea+optometrist.

My early blog entries didn't get a lot of traction because they weren't being posted automatically to Facebook like they are now. I like to tell myself that the early entries are still awesome, though. I mean, it's not really possible to talk about potty training TOO much, is it?

An entry that was meaningful to me was this one:  http://alabastermom.blogspot.com/2007/07/miscarriages-frog-wish-granted.html. I think it was the first time I really let myself work through the feelings of loss and joy I was experiencing. I still love that little frog, too.

So there you have it. A little retrospective of my life, as told in 1,000 small chunks. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Unplugging

This is my 999th blog post. I'll have to think of something fantabulous to write for the next one. For now, I think I'm going to do my best to unplug for a few days. I'm in a funk and I don't really know why. I'm irritable towards people who don't deserve my irritability. I'm frustrated by a personal situation that I can't talk about. I'm battling a medical issue and my doctor is operating under a theory that, it seems to me, is incorrect. The sameness of my days . . . ah, it seems endless. Go to work, come home, make dinner, do the laundry, yell about homework, go to the gym or to yoga, then go to bed. Thanksgiving can't come soon enough. No work, no homework yelling.  I know I'm being whiny but maybe I just need a wee bit of a break. I'm going to see if I can stay away from Facebook/email/texts for a few days. It seems silly that this prospect is so challenging to me.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Is this how Calvin Klein's mother felt?

I admit it: I am pretty tightly wound. Although I think I've mellowed a tiny bit as I've aged, my disdain for clutter has not. Now, I need to add a little disclaimer here. Because I'm not a fan of clutter, people think I might get all judge-y when I go to their house. Not in the least. I truly do not care what anyone else does with their home (and the stuff inside it), and I always feel terrible when I go to someone's house and they say things like, "Don't look in the spare bedroom. It's a wreck."  When I go to a friend's house, I actually feel like I'm off the hook. It's not my stuff so I don't have to worry about it.

It's kind of funny how some things bother me and some things do not. For example, I am totally fine with having clean dishes in the dish drainer rack. For items we use frequently, they just stay there indefinitely. I know that sort of thing drives some people around the bend. Occasionally, I put some of the stuff away but the rack is never completely empty. Does not bother me at all.  However, shoes in the middle of the living room floor?  I cannot deal. The junk drawer in our kitchen is full of old tubes of Super Glue, lint rollers, batteries, dog supplies, and a gazillion other odds and ends. It's a wreck and I have no intention of cleaning it out anytime soon. But if you leave an empty milk carton on the counter, I might lose my shit.

If you have a person in your life who sews or quilts, you know that these people are hoarders. And I say that in the nicest possible way.  My mom sews. She buys yard after yard of fabric because "you just never know."  There are buttons of all shapes and sizes, enough thread to loop around the planet eight times, and patterns galore. I'm pretty sure all sew-ers and quilters have at least one closet full of this stuff (and maybe another stash that they think no one knows about). And now my daughter is turning into one! Woe is me. I'm trying to nurture her creativity without freaking out about the sewing-related clutter.

She has now set up a sewing station in her bedroom. She has requested that I buy her a dress form. I placed an ad on Craigslist in hopes of finding a used one at a reasonable price (the adjustable ones are pretty pricey). Meanwhile, she has piles of fabric and sewing implements sitting around. She's been doing some hand sewing, which means there are surely needles in the carpet now. It's only a time until my bare foot connects with one of them.

For weeks she was bugging me to give her an old dress of mine. Finally, I dug out an old green one that I hadn't worn in about a decade.  She cut off the sleeves and then cut off the front hem so that it would have a bit of a train in the back. Then she sewed the armholes to reduce their circumference. And then she wore it.  I mean, just around the house but still - the girl's got a vision, I guess. I really want to encourage her creativity.  I am mildly concerned that she'll never have the patience to follow an actual pattern, though. I've tried to explain to her that it takes her Meemaw days to make a dress. It's takes care and precision. Even the people on Project Runway sew for two days straight without stopping. My kid doesn't even take the time to brush her teeth properly so . . . who knows.

When she makes it to Project Runway, she can turn to the camera and lament the fact that her mother wouldn't let her dye her bedsheets and sew blindfolds for the dogs.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Two new things I learned to do this week


1. Bake using coconut oil. When I went vegan four months ago, I assumed my days of eating chocolate chip cookies were over. Granted, it's a good thing that so many things are off the table (literally and figuratively) for me now. Although my diet is mostly a reflection of my beliefs about the dairy/factory farming industries (I'm not doing it specifically for health reasons, in other words), I do try to eat stuff that's actually good for me.

Anywho, I found this recipe and thought I'd give it a try. I was interested in it because it contains
ingredients I've heard of.  A lot of vegan recipes require ingredients that are obscure/exotic at best. Or maybe everyone keeps agave nectar sitting around?  I have no idea. An ingredient that seems to be somewhat more commonly available is coconut oil. I was a-skeered because I hate coconut. There aren't words to describe adequately how much I dislike coconut. However, I was hoping it didn't actually bring that sort of flavor to all the baked goods that seem to require it as an ingredient. So, I bought some. It's kind of weird to call it an oil because it's actually sold as a solid (and then becomes an oil if you heat it, I suppose).

I made the recipe and I must say it turned out great. My husband is about to make himself sick from eating so many of these cookies.  So, that was one accomplishment this week (not the "making my husband sick" part but rather the "learning to use coconut oil" part).

2. Expand an expander.  Once a day, I have to shove this thing into my daughter's mouth:

The orthodontist's office tied it onto the toothbrush. I'm guessing that they got tired of parents losing the key. Anyway, my husband will not have anything to do with the key-turning situation. I've done it three times now and I think I've got the hang of it. We do it at night, before she goes to bed. I do have to take out my contacts because they are bi-focal contacts and my close-up vision is not the best.  Then I make her stretch across the kitchen counter (where the lighting is the best). She opens her mouth and tilts her head back. Then I have to shove the end of the key into a tiiiiiiiiny little hole inside the expander.  I have to make sure I don't shove it in too far because then I could jab the roof of her mouth (or stab her in the brain or whatever).  Finally, I have to push the key back towards the back of her throat. There is a major obstacle, which is her tongue. If I could detach it for a few minutes each time, that would be ideal.

Three turns down, 39 to go.

See how learned I am?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The poodle skirt to end all poodle skirts


Originally, my daughter wanted to be an Irish dancer for Halloween. However, it turns out that the only way to get your hands on a pattern for one of those dresses is to fork over your kidney and your life savings. So, the kid and I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and she flipped through the pattern books. She decided she wanted to be a "50s Girl." She called her personal designer (AKA Meemaw) and placed an order for a poodle skirt.  She was very specific about the color of the skirt, too.  It had to be a teal green/blue.

Today, we received the skirt. My mom also made a crinoline for A to wear under the skirt. I bought a basic white shirt and some saddle shoes. Now we just need a scarf and she'll be all set. As always, she plans to attend several Halloween events, so the skirt will get lots of wear.  The poodle itself is a sight to behold - it has a gold leash, a collar, and even a tiny little ID tag.  Fancy-schmancy!

Thanks, Meemaw!




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hardware installation (Subtitle: "Just yogurt for me, thanks")


Our daughter had her big trip to the orthodontist this afternoon.  P picked her up from school and then I met them at the orthodontist's office. I got there first. I could tell as soon as the kid walked in that she was really nervous. So, I held her in the waiting room until it was time for her to go in. When her name was called, her dad and I went back with her.

At first, A was determined not to talk to the person who was fitting her with the palate expander. I must apologize because I'm not sure what that person's job title is, but she was very nice. She was a pro at getting a scared fourth grader to chat with her, too. My daughter went from "I don't want to be here" to an in-depth discussion of her favorite types of cupcakes, where she goes to school, and what her dog's name is.

Getting the expander fitted was quite the process. The technician lady worked on it and then the orthodontist came over and finished the installation. A started to cry. I don't think she was in pain; I think it was more a matter of having so much stuff in her mouth. The expander had to be cemented to her teeth. In order to protect her mouth from all the goings-on, there were shields stuck inside both cheeks. And then, to top if off, there was at least one instrument and one set of fingers in her mouth at any given time.  I think she was just overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Eventually, the job was done.

While her dad and I waited, we looked at the shelves that held the molds for at least a hundred other patients. As bad as our kid's teeth are, we found it oddly comforting to see that other people's kids were worse off. I mean, we are talking about some jacked up toofers here. Every few seconds my husband would whisper, "Holy cow! Look at that one!"

The last step was for the technician to show us how to turn the key. As it turns out, my friend's daughter's palate expander looks completely different from what my kid has. I guess they must do the job equally well, though. A's is an acrylic job that is molded to the roof of her mouth. There are two halves, joined by three metal "bars" in the middle. Each day, we have to shove a key in there and turn it.  This forces the two halves of the expander apart. This process will continue for six weeks until, in theory, the top jaw is wider than it was before. The expander actually stays in her mouth for six months because it takes a while for the bone to fill in (into the gap created from pulling the top jaw apart). Then we get into head gear and braces and stuff.

By the time we left, the kid was almost smiling. She was rewarded with a "good job!" from the orthodontist. Her dad and I, in turn, were rewarded with a coupon book for the payments, which they handed to us on our way out. Yay!

I went back to work and P promptly took the kid to Taco Bell.  He took the afternoon off so that he could keep her at home - we weren't sure how she would feel after her appointment so we made arrangements for her not to go back to school. Anyway, he bought her a cheesy roll-up and within seconds, cheese was stuck all over the new apparatus. Yes, I know what you're thinking and I wondered about his decision-making skills as well. I stopped at the grocery store after work and picked up some yogurt, pudding, and ice cream.

So, all is well for the moment. We aren't looking forward to the key and the turning and all the saltwater rinses (you have to shoot water up under the expander so it doesn't get all nasty up in there). I was worried that the kid's speech would be so bad that we wouldn't be able to understand her. She's actually doing pretty well in that department. God knows that for for this kid, not being able to talk to people is just about the worst thing that could happen to her.

Friday, October 3, 2014

This one's NOT for you, Dad

I had my first mammogram yesterday. It was only mildly traumatic. I was supposed to have my first one several years ago and I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't bite the bullet and just make that appointment before now. I'm fortunate that I don't have a family history of breast cancer but still, I should have gone sooner.

My appointment was for 8:00 a.m. I arrived at the hospital and a volunteer (a nice retired gentleman) walked me downstairs to the booby squishing department. "You look familiar to me," he said. Then he recognized me. We go to the same gym. "I've seen you working out," he told me.

"I'm sorry you've had to see that," I responded. How come no one ever recognizes you from some moment in your life when you looked awesome? Like, "Hey, I saw you collecting daisies in a field on a perfect summer day. You were in soft focus and you looked spectacular!"

I checked in, got my wrist band, and then took my seat in the waiting room. A few minutes later, a technician retrieved me and took me to a small room. Despite not knowing the difference between the words "pitcher" and "picture," she seemed nice.

"Get undressed from the waist up, wipe off your deodorant, put this gown on, and I'll come back for you."

Moments later, I was in the actual squishing room. "Okay, I'm going to take four pitchers," she said. "Two on each side."

She then guided me to the big machine. Basically, you set your knocker on a shelf and then another shelf comes down and does the squishing. The part that comes down is the size of the griddle on which I make pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches for my family. I have to admit it was just slightly strange to have someone picking up my boobs and shoving them all around. I am not sure if this whole procedure is harder on busty girls or on small-chested chicks. What I do know is that my rack has a fan club that consists of exactly one member. He's usually the only one to take quite such an interest in them.

So, anyway, each breast was squished in two directions. First the top/bottom dealio. Then she flipped the machine sideways and squeezed them from the other direction . . . kind of like if you opened a dictionary and then, you know, accidentally slammed it on your boob. The pain was not terrible. If I've learned nothing else from four years of yoga, it's how to breathe. So, I tried just to breathe through it and focus on that.

After the ordeal, I was sent to sit in the little room again. It had a TV, which was nice. I watched "The Daily Show." I do love me some Jon Stewart. The technician then came back in.

"Sorry, we have to take two more pitchers." 

What I thought: "Fuuuuuuuuck."

What I said: "Okay."

Before proceeding, she showed me the first four images on the screen. There was a problem with my left headlight. I've always suspected that the left one had its own agenda so I guess I wasn't that surprised.  She showed me the white spot on the image.

She led me back to the machine and manhandled me some more. This time the "paddle" was not the size of a griddle but more like the bottom of a coffee cup. It's job was to smooosh a very specific spot. Ow. "Since we've now taken more than the normal number of pitchers, a nurse will have to give you the results," she said. I nodded. She led me back to my room.

A few minutes later, she came back and told me she had to take me to ultrasound to get a closer look at the white spot that was showing up on the images.  Apparently, the doctor had made this decision on my behalf. I never saw a doctor but I assumed that he/she existed somewhere in the building. The technician handed me a pink nail file. "We have a gift for you for coming in during Breast Cancer Awareness month." Then she deposited me in a different waiting room in the ultrasound area. This time I couldn't control the TV so I had to watch one of those boring morning shows. I felt a little self-conscious about having my shirt and bra in my lap. I wondered if I should shove my bra in my purse or something. I mean, what IS the protocol for this? When I go to my gynecologist, I'm never sure if I'm supposed to hide my undergarments or not. Yeah, that's right. My bra and underwear are not even CLOSE to matching!

By now I was very late for work so I just sort of resigned myself to that fact and stopped worrying about it. Another technician fetched me from the waiting room and took me to a darkened room for the ultrasound. She worked on my left boob for what seemed like an eternity, pushing the wand thingie all around. Then she left and told me that someone would be in to talk to me in about 15 minutes. I got dressed and waited. I checked out the selection of magazines, which sucked. I mean to tell you that that hospital has an outrageous number of  Good Housekeeping issues laying around. My phone was dead. There was no TV.  So, I curled up on the bed and just rested. I don't get that much time to myself, so it was kind of nice.

Eventually, a nurse came in and handed me a slip of paper. "Everything is fine," she said. "You just have a benign cyst."

I hadn't been too worried, to be honest. I had a feeling everything was fine. However, I know that a lot of women do not get good news at these types of appointments and so, my mood was a bit somber as I thought about all the others who weren't so lucky.

Anyway, if you're 40ish and haven't had the squishing done, please do so. It's not a fun time by any stretch, but it's important. Figure out a game plan for your bra ahead of time (that's a tip from me to you). And if you're lucky, you'll leave with a pretty new weapon, too.

"Wow! Thanks!"

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This one's for you, Dad

For reasons known only to him, my father finds the concept of picking apples to be very comical. Every fall, my husband and daughter and I head to a local orchard to pick apples. I am pretty sure we are not the only ones to do this. It seems to me like a common autumn-type excursion. Last year, my daughter took a photo of me and her dad next to an apple tree, and I posted it on Facebook. My dad has been calling us "the apple pickers" since then.  Over the summer, he shared our orchard photo on Facebook right before we drove out to Maryland to visit him. "The apple pickers are on their way," he wrote.

I knew we were going to pick apples last Saturday so I gave him a heads-up ahead of time. "Those apples won't pick themselves," he told me.  And then added: "be sure to wear your official apple picking outfits."  There were so many people at the orchard that they had a team of six people who had the sole function of parking cars. Apple pickers as far as the eye could see!

So here they are, our orchard photos.  We picked several varieties of apples this year - it seemed to be a good year for the crop.  I buy apples just to eat but my husband prefers to have them baked into something much sweeter and more fattening.  So, I will be making an apple crisp for him shortly. As for the kid, we have an understanding of sorts. I put an an apple in her lunch as a healthy snack. She throws it away and says she ate it. It's a win-win.




Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This one's pretty exciting, you guys

I haven't been writing much, because there hasn't been much going on. The rescue had its big fundraiser on September 20th and I needed about a week just to recover from that. As far as what I've been doing  with my free time . . . I know I'm late to this party but I've been plowing through all five seasons of "Six Feet Under."  I truly think it's one of the best shows I've ever seen. I'm not one to sit around and watch TV for large stretches of time, but having HBO GO on my Kindle means I can watch the show when I'm getting ready and whatnot. I watched "Big Love" over the summer. P and I also just finished "Breaking Bad" (we accomplished that one via DVDs from Netflix).  We were late to that party, too.

The only other bit of recent news is that I bought myself a plane ticket to visit my middle sister and her family in Northern Virginia for Thanksgiving. I can't wait!  I saw my sister for about five minutes in a parking lot in Maryland back in July. I passed my child off to her before continuing our drive home. So, I felt like a longer visit might be nice. I feel a wee bit guilty about leaving my daughter behind but I am doing so for a couple of reasons: 1. I don't want to buy an extra plane ticket so close to Christmas. 2. She just spent ten days with my sister in July. 3. I could use a little just-for-me trip.  I'm sure that my husband and daughter will receive lots of invitations for Thanksgiving dinner, so I'm not too worried about that.

Um, let's see . . .what else?  Oh, I scheduled my first mammogram. I know, I'm late on that, too. The first one should have taken place several years ago. However, I was always so traumatized after leaving my OB/GYN's office that I immediately blocked it all out. It's true that Dr. Meanie gave me a number and told me to call it to schedule a boob squish, but I never did. My new doctor made sure I had an appointment before I left, so that was helpful (I guess?) My appointment is on Thursday. I may just have to write about it in excruciating detail after I'm done.

If you need further proof of how my week is going . . . I ran to Costco at lunchtime today to pick up some dog food. In order to get in the front door, you have to show your membership card. So, I flashed my card and started to walk into the store. "Um, ma'am? That's your gym membership card."