Friday, February 25, 2011

alpha-fun (or rainy day laziness)

I confess...I've never done this type of blog post, but it is rainy and icky and the type of weather that makes me procrastinate.  I did a lot of job stuff yesterday and intend to eventually get myself to the gym so I'll say it's okay.

A. Age: 33

B. Bed size:   Depends on where I, that sounds really bad :P   Queen or two twins pushed together to feel less like an 8 year old

C. Chore you hate: Dusting (partly because of allergies) and floor-cleaning (broad to cover both vacuuming and scrubbing)

D. Dogs: I'd love one (I debated writing "I'd give my right arm"....but I might give my left if I could have a black Lab) but I'd have to give up breathing.  Yes, I'm bad enough that even hypoallergenic ones cause trouble.
E. Essential start to your day:  Caffeine.  Usually a Diet Dr. Pepper, preferably Cherry.  I think it is more common to do the AM soda route in the South but I really can't blame it on geography.

F. Favorite color:  Blue

G. Gold or silver: Silver.  I don't wear much jewelry though.  I'd try white gold but the allergies strike again since it contains nickel and really irritates my teens, I always had a sore on my belly-button and since figured out that was from the button on jeans (wearing lower cuts help now since the button doesn't dig in the same way...though I have read you can use clear nail polish too).

H. Height: 5'4

I. Instruments you play: None. I took piano briefly.  The first teacher retired within a few months, the second was a male anorexic who finally went for treatment.  I think both were within a year.  I'd never loved it so I gave up,

J. Job title: Recovering Lawyer.

K. Kids:  None (I first missed the "o" and hit the "i"...yeah, that would NEVER happen).  Maybe some day.  Endo can make that hard for some woman but the docs have been in there three times and say I won't have trouble from the endo in that sense.  I would need to figure out how to live off the pill...I take only active pills and I still get pain as it is, but I am a LOT worse without the help.
L. Live:  PA

M. Mom’s name: Ellen

N. Nicknames:  No real ones. 

O. Overnight hospital stays: None.  Though, I have had five surgeries and a few ER runs (fall as a toddler, some nasty viruses that hit my body harder, a paralyzing headache beyond a migraine, and a gym-related injury).  Life in my body is fun (insert sarcastic smiley here).

P. Pet peeve: a clicking pen or chewing gum in my ear on the trai.

Q. Quote from a movie: I had to look one up.  From Good Will Hunting: "Look - you're my best friend, so don't take this the wrong way. In twenty years, if you're still livin' here, comin' over to my house to watch the Patriots games, still workin' construction, I'll fuckin' kill you. That's not a threat; now, that's a fact. I'll fuckin' kill you."  Chosen because it embodies true friendship...wanting the best for someone, even if it means giving something up.

R. Right or left handed: Right.  Very much so.  I tried to switch sides when shoveling after each storm but couldn't do it.

S. Siblings:  No full, lots of semis.  My step-dad has three kids from his first marriage.  My dad has two kids from his second wife (those are halfs, the rest steps) and he has two step-daughters that are the children of his third wife.  All five steps are married with kids (one is a second marriage with more steps...counting all kinds, 13 kids).  I'll draw you a picture if you need to meet some and can't figure out who they are.  There are other blended families a kid, it took years to figure out how my step-mother's half-brother and my step-siblings step-siblings (step-dad's ex-wife married a man w/ three kids) were tied in. 

T. Time you wake up: When I was working in Boston, it was 4:45 most weekdays to workout.  Lately, I wake up before but usually actually move around 9.

U. Underwear: Cover your eyes, Mom and Dad.  Thongs....99% of the time.  I honestly find them more comfortable.  Preferrably low-rise since my shape looks better with pants that hit a bit below the navel so I try to avoid the peakaboo underwear.
V. Vegetables you dislike:  I was going to say olives but realized they are a fruit so I'll say banana peppers (though that may be about the processing not the natural state).  Both are dangerous since you can pick 'em out but they both leave their taste behind.  In general, I love veggies.  I watch commercials with foods that try to conceal veggies under fruit.  I need the reverse.  Broccoli and Spinach are staples.

W. What makes you run late:   Not much.  I get antsy if I'm not early.   My meeting yesterday was 20min away.  I was nervous about finding it.  I had to convince myself that leaving one hour was much more sensible than leaving two (I'd have found a place to sit...I'll show up 20min early but not much more and I always offer to wait).

X. X-Rays you’ve had: Hmmm...teeth, knees, feet, hips.....again, my body is a joy.

Y. Yummy food you make:  I don't cook much but like my soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies (the secret is vanilla pudding) and the mussels in spicy red sauce (good for sinus-clearing).

Z. Zoo- favorite animal:  I hate zoos.  They depress me.  And they smell.  I feel way too stereotypical, but I do love dolphins.  For a zoo animal, chimpanzees or polar bears.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

politics meet the bullet pont fanatic

I confess...I haven't written much about "issues" lately and kinda miss that.  I like rambling about a political or social issue but I also feel like I can only say so much.  I'll admit I definitely have "my" issues and I've talked about those already.  Clearly the solution is a quick bullet point post with a few random thought snippets...
  • If men were the ones to breast feed, breast pumps would totally be tax-deductible already.  I do think there's an unfair amount of pressure on moms sometimes...I know some who truly tried but couldn't breast feed (or at least not as a sole feeding method).  But it has such great benefits and we should make it easier for those who elect (and are able) to do so.  Not really relevant but I'll admit I'd totally want to breastfeed for my own weight loss...the health stuff would be good too but I know me and my motivations....
  • I also favor protection for the ability to breastfeed in public.  I'll admit there's a limit to how much I want to see, but my experience is that the vast majority of mom's feed very discretely.  I've had more than one time where I truly didn't even know a woman was feeding her baby until she was re-buttoning.
  • I am thrilled that the administration is going to stop defending DOMA in courts.  I'm glad Fienstein is introducing a bill for DOMA's repeal but I don't expect it to pass.  It creates such a legal mess when the federal government refuses to recognize marriages that the states allow.  It also creates really odd circumstances if a couple marries, moves, and wants to separate.  We let heterosexual couples split (though we don't make it easy...see the next point) but leave some gay couples in legal limbo given the residency can only divorce in your own state but you can be "stuck" if that state doesn't recognize a marriage leaving you married in one place but not another.
  • Not a current event, but it really annoys me that MA requires an IN PERSON hearing for a divorce.  I'll sign the papers.  I'd even find someone to go on my behalf.  It feels like an extra tax punishing me for moving by making me travel back.  It can't be too unusual for one partner to move away during the separation.
  • I am very disappointed in the cut of federal aid for Planned Parenthood.  I understand that most people associate them with their most controversial aspects and can even understand limiting federal support in that arena (I don't like it but understand).  But they do a lot of work for women's health beyond the abortion issue and they are structured to help keep that (and hence funding) distinct.  Cancer screening, annual exams, and general women's health are crucial and our dollars are well-spent there.
  • I haven't closely followed the Wisconsin events but I always feel really mixed when unions are involved.  They can be such a powerful force for good but I'm not sure they are always used in a positive way.  They can keep people in jobs when they shouldn't be there and sometimes the demands seem ridiculous to me, like the refusal to allow drug-testing of Boston firefighters.  It'd be easier to be a full supporter of the union concept but I can't get there even though I certainly know they deserve credit for many important reforms.
  • I am trying to keep up with foreign affairs but it is a definite weakness.  I need to find a good source of basic summaries on things like the events in Libya.

Friday, February 18, 2011

book time: A Lesson in Secrets: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear

I confess...I'm still reading slower than I normally do....but still for good reasons.

As I've noted before, I enjoy using my role as a Harper Collins reviewer (free books!!) to explore books I might not pick up on my own.  I don't tend to "do" much in the mystery/detective realm, especially the serials.  I read some as a teen but I guess I got snobby about them somewhere along the lines.   I did enjoy this return to the realm.  It was mind-candy with a little bit of added bonus in that it did have some compelling undercurrents.

A Lesson in Secrets: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear is the eighth in a series of mystery stories featuring a woman detective.  I haven't read any of the prior books but that didn't pose much of a problem beyond a little trouble with names that regulars would likely recognize.  This novel takes place between WWI and WWII and is clearly also a transition point for Maisie who has lost a mentor, gained a suitor, and is moving ahead in a solo career.  She is asked by assorted British personnel to keep an eye on a college that they worry may have goings-on that threaten the national interests and becomes more deeply involved when a murder occurs during her stay.  There is also a second mystery involving a friend and some general development on the personal front.

The college matters were fairly interesting.  I was more drawn to the portrayal of the underlying climate, including the uncertainty of how to react to the advance of Hitler and his teachings.  The book suggests this threat was largely overlooked and hints at how the teachings had appeal for the generation that followed WWI.  The personal story and the second mystery were a bit more lost on me.  I suspect they might hold more interest more a real Maisie follower.

I'll go with 3 of 5 stars....again, I'm a tough rater and that's a "good, but not great" from me and partly a reflection of the genre rather than the novel itself.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

coloring outside the lines

I confess...2011 has had quite the start.  My body completely failed to live up to the resolution that I gave it.  I've been in pretty constant pain, often in the 7 or 8 range (a true sign of a frequent doc-goer is thinking of pain on the 1-10 scale they all use these days).  I've had some spells where I could pinpoint a culprit....the weekend at dad's with the cats made the immune system go crazy , the current cold bug drains the body and fires everything else up as any illness always does...but mostly it has been a mystery.  I'm taking more medicine than I like but I do keep a conscious eye on it and I know I take it for the right reasons.

So, 2011 has not been working for my body.  But it has been kinder to my heart and my soul.  And it has challenged me in unexpected ways.  It may not be legally savvy to say since there's still the matter of wrapping up the legal stuff with X (but, then again, it isn't contested and I know he's also moved on), but I've met someone who truly makes me smile.  And we all know that I'm not the most smile-y of gals.  I know being talked about will make him blush, but I'm going to try and keep this about my own journey and not truly about him.  My general blogging rule is that it is about me, my thoughts, my opinions.  The reality is that other people fall into my world but I really want to respect their privacy.  It sounds self-centered but I think it is fairer to talk about how other people affect me rather than talk more concretely about those people.

I spent several months really recovering and reaching peace with the end of an eight year journey.  Eight years is a long time, especially when the start matches up with the end of my school days and the start of real adult life.  It fits me that I didn't have a rebound guy, more like rebound withdrawal.  Lots of inner time.  When I knew I was ready to move on, I thought a lot about what I'd be looking for this time.  There seemed to be a lot of stories going around about "non-negotiables" and I'll admit to thinking about those.  After all, they are kinda like bullet-points and we all know my love affair with those... 

I had some "requirements" in mind.  Nonetheless, I jokingly sent a message to a friend before her New Year's Eve party requesting a boy to kiss at midnight.  I said all I needed was a non-smoker with nice arms since I wasn't looking for more than a ten second relationship.  I didn't get my New Year's kiss, but I did meet a boy.  And he had the arms, but otherwise was way outside the box.  I enjoyed hanging out but wasn't sure it would go any further....although I also knew I really hoped to hear from him.

I'd had too much to drink and spent much of New Year's Day on the couch in rest and recover mode.  I wasn't really feeling like focusing so I turned on a cheesy movie that wouldn't require anything of me.  Okay, okay...I'll be truthful...I watched Hilary Duff in Beauty & The Briefcase.  It was what it was meant to be, mind-candy.  It did have a message though.  Hilary's character had a huge list that made up the hypothetical perfect man but found that her heart really belonged to someone who was a world away from her vision.  It took her two hours (well, TV time...) to see what was before her and to realize that the unexpected answer can be the best one.  That what works just works.  That lists can miss the real truth.

Not long after the movie, I got a message from the boy inviting me to a movie night at our friend's house.  I went.  And that's the beginning.

I'm not the most emotional of gals so the past weeks have caught me by surprise.  I fell fast and hard and it feels unlike anything I've known before.  I rambled previously about "just knowing" so I won't venture down that road again here.  But it still feels so right and so amazing.  Even more so because, like Hilary, it meant throwing my list out the window.  I'm a pacifist, he's in the military.  I always said I wanted someone with graduate degrees, he worked hard to get his bachelor's later in life.  I'm a die-hard liberal, he's counting the days till Obama leaves (and hoping it will be soon).  I can't tell one car from the next, he can rattle off car stats and watches auto auctions on TV.  I didn't even know that channel existed.  I got him a Valentine with a salt and pepper shaker on the front.  It fits.

I've always acknowledged emotions.  I feel no need to explain why I like one thing better than another.  I think the opinion stands on its own.  But I do still consider myself driven by my rational mind.  I like puzzles with solutions.  I loved proofs in geometry.  I like checklists.  And bullet points.

But I'm learning to free myself from them.  To open up in a new way.  I know that sustained relationships require more than just a spark.  I always thought that meant that I needed my lists for long-term success.  But I've changed my mind.  Yes, long-term compatibility is complex...much more so than quick chemistry.  It isn't, however, something that can be perfectly quantified and wrapped in a bow.  It matters more that you can sit next to someone for hours doing nothing at all and still treasure the company than that someone has fancy diplomas on the wall.  It is more important that someone will dry your tears when your body is shaking with pain than that they cast the same vote on election day.  Being able to be just plain silly matters, not whether you support military intervention (to be clear, I've always supported our troops...but not always the wars themselves).

Sometimes it just works.  It doesn't mean abandoning a critical eye but rather opening it wider to accept the unexpected.  It means listening to what you know.  It means, as much as it pains me to say, following Hillary's lead.

Friday, February 11, 2011

living with both pain and people

I of my hopes is that some other person who lives with chronic pain, or who loves someone who does, will find some sort of solace in some of my ramblings.  I want to make others feel less alone and to feel like my fight has some form of positive impact.

I've had a really intensely bad spell of endo pain.  It had acted up a bit for a while but kicked to a new level last weekend.  I put the blame on spending a couple nights at my father's place where my allergies are challenged by three cats.  Of course, the friendliest one is the most allergy-laden (side note: until meeting Caesar, I really didn't know there were cats who were that social...I'm totally a dog person but I can see loving that type of cat).  I know my endo kicks up whenever I'm sick and my body is struggling.  It makes sense that allergies would be even more challenging.  Endo is thought to be auto-immune, meaning it is my body's defense systems that cause the problem, so my immune system going a bit haywire with the allergies leads to the endo acting up as well.  But time has passed, my allergies are fine, and I'm still doubled over.

I've written a lot about life with chronic pain (I'm too lazy right now to link, but check the "health issues" label if you want to read more).  I don't think people realize how much chronic pain invades one's life.  The physical toll is obvious and most people would spot some degree of related mental toll such as being tired and worn down.  And snippy.  But there are so many complex ways in which pain invades a life and that's on my mind again.  Pain like mine, chronic pain that can get really severe at times but is almost always there at least at a low level, becomes a significant part of one's life.  It isn't fatal so it may not get walks and ribbons, but it still robs one of so much and complicates just about every element of a life.

Endo has no cure.  Sometimes they can manage it a bit, sometimes they can't.  The reality is that it is going to be with me for many years to come.  It isn't a truth I like, but it is one I need to accept in order to live (though I'll admit to crossing my fingers and clicking on the CNN health page with hopes for a breakthrough).  I can't leave it.  It will be part of my life for many years to come.

And it will be the part of the lives of people who get close to me.  I can keep it out of the workplace (well, 98% of the time...I'll apologize if it makes me snippier than I like and I have learned how to be productive even when it is acting up) and casual friends may only see it in the form of a cancelled plan once in a while.  But if you are a big part of my world, the endo comes with the package. 

This makes me feel guilty.  I'm darn good at feeling isn't a talent I relish.  It isn't just sometimes being short-tempered, I feel like I can apologize for that and it is fleeting.  The deeper impact is that it makes me withdraw and cry and just be a lump of a person.  It is draining.  It is absolutely more draining on me.  Please don't try to imply doesn't even come close.  But it is certainly draining on those around me too, especially anyone living with me or in a significant other role (my parents read this, so I'm not going into some "special" impacts on that role...ultimately, those aren't the number 1 issue anyway).  It comes with the package.

So, I feel guilty.  I often bemoan the fact that endo isn't fair, that it isn't my turn to be sick anymore.  But it is, literally, inside me.  I can't escape it.  But no one else has to face it.  I feel bad making it anyone else's problem.  The people that I tend to invite into my life, particularly those in roles that would be impacted by the pain, have amazingly good hearts.  In some ways, that makes me feel guiltier.  They are less likely to complain and they may not always admit, even to themselves, that they resent it (or are angry or any other negative emotion). 

There's no magic answer here.  It is important to me to remind people that they can get out it if they need to.  I'd certainly be sad but I'd understand.  I think that reminder can be a bit upsetting to receive, but I need to make it.  On a simpler note, I understand needing an escape.  Sometimes I can be comforted by a gentle backrub, a tissue/water fetcher, or just a couch companion.  But it isn't something where I need a constant companion and will absolutely understand if someone needs to escape to a movie or for a drink.  I need my companions to know that I "get it" and understand.  I'd escape sometimes if I could!

I don't have perfect advice for folks who open their hearts to chronic pain sufferers.  But know that most of us realize we present a special challenge.  We understand it is hard.  DO NOT suggest that the pain impacts you as much as the sufferer, it simply doesn't and suggesting otherwise is inconsiderate.  But do be honest, with us and with yourself.  Talk to us.  Pick the right time, sometimes I am really wanting to talk when the pain is bad but not always and that may not be true for everyone.  But do talk.  And know that you can't fix us.  I think that's especially hard for men in romantic relationship, they want to solve the problem and feel helpless.  Rest assured.  You make our lives brighter and you don't fix the pain but you make it easier.

If you are a fellow sufferer, I'd love any advice on how you balance pain and relationships.  Especially how you deal with guilt about the subject.  My own advice is to just appreciate the people who support you.  And tell them.  Risk being annoying and telling them more rather than just thinking it is assumed.  We have a lot to offer, I know I can give a lot to those around me, but we come with an asterisk and we need to appreciate those who accept the whole package.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

a book-lover's book: The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lucas

I confess...I was a bit nervous when I picked up The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lucas. I'd reviewed books for Harper before (they supply a free book in return for a promised review) and have always been honest in my reviews. Harper has NEVER asked me to do otherwise and they didn't here, but I was invited to be part of a "Blog Party" so it just felt weightier. Luckily, my worries were dispelled once I started's a five star book and I'm happy to give it praise. I'd probably go 4.5 if given the option but am rounding up...which I'm normally more hesitant to do at the 5 star level but I know this book will shine on re-reading so feel comfortable with the 5.

In this debut novel, the author introduces us to Eleanora, a girl whose 1877 birth is accompanied by signs and who grows into a precocious and talented young girl. She is born as her small town is being invaded and her mother dies moments after naming her daughter. Eleanora is raised by her father and step-mother (her mother's sister) in a small town until she stows away to accompany her father on a trip to Istanbul. Her story there intersects with a low-level statesman, an American professor, and the Sultan of the fading Ottoman empire.

The book is simply lovely. The prose is well-crafted and the characters multi-faceted. I want to share tea and scones with Eleanora, a brilliant young lady who does not fully understand her gifts and who is looking for stability and familial love. I can relate to Eleanora's love for reading and passion for the characters in the books she read (furtively at first, thanks to her aunt's ideas of educating girls). The author clearly shares this joy of books and it comes through at every turn. He has crafted a tale for book lovers and for people who believe in the power of the written word and the spirit of wisdom.

On a side note, my book is an advance reader's edition so it might not hold true in all cases, but I appreciated the book's physicality as well. It is a 300 page paperback and its rough-cut edges feel perfectly matched to the content and spirit of the book.

Highly recommend.  If you want other opinions, check out some other bloggers who are part of the Harper review project (again, they do NOT limit/control what we say...they send us the books and let us review them as we see fit...).  The three tour stops before me are:, and  The three after me are:,, and  They have dates on the Blog Tour between the 9th and the 11th so may not all have reviews up when this post goes live.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

the lazy blogger returns

I confess...I bounce between thinking bullet points are lazy and boring to the few readers I have and having a love affair with their simplicity and the way they just fit with my brain.
  • I'm blogging less lately...and with less substance.  I do miss it, including giving thought to a subject long enough to write a more interesting post.  But my distraction is a happy one and an unexpected one.  Same goes for reading...I miss that too, but like the substitute use of my time.
  • I was at my dad's over the weekend.  They have three cats and my allergies kicked up which also leads the endo to kick up.  It hasn't, however, quieted down since leaving on Sunday.  In fact, it has gotten much much worse.  I need medicine and feel like crying constantly, even when the medication takes the edge off.  I can't figure out what triggers such a long spell of such intense, constant pain.  It could be the immune system hasn't calmed down yet, but the allergies are back to normal so I feel like the endo should be too.
  • I got a phone interview request that I'm setting up for next week.  Regardless of how it goes, it was a needed win in the job hunt process.  I was better prepared for the trials of the hunt in this economy than most since I'd held the hands of candidates through very long searches.  Like my candidates, I am a niche employee and my search is a complex one.  I have ideas as to where I want to go and truly believe I would be an asset but my resume is a bit non-traditional which is a challenge in a market flooded with applicants.  I need a chance to prove myself. 
  • One thing that I dislike about myself is that I don't think happiness is my natural state.  I'm not always sad or anything, but I'm not the smile-y type.  Which makes the fact that recent changes have filled me with happiness incredibly wonderful.  And it comes so easy and so simply.  I have always been content with quiet time at home but couch-time feels even better than usual.  I think there's a magic in simple moments.  You can have fun with anyone at an amusement park or winning movie, but it is much more special and meaningful to feel joy in doing nothing at all.
  • On a less me-oriented topic, the Iran hikers are back in the news as they go to trial.  I hate to say it, but I just can't feel as sorry for them as I think I'm supposed to (especially as a liberal type).  Maybe they did get tricked a bit and they may not have had any malicious intentions, but it just seems really stupid to hike in the area.  They had to know there wouldn't be a magical line on the ground and that ending up in the wrong place would have consequences.
  • I am totally procrastinating.  I want to get a day pass to the local Y but the pain and cold make me want to hibernate.  I'm also afraid of parking there since it sounds like they may not have a lot and I can't actually parallel park.  It is now a bit after 11 so clearly I need to wait till like 1:30 to avoid lunch parking crowds.  Right?
  • On that note, I've generally cut back my workouts a bit recently.  This is something that only a small amount of folks will understand, but that may actually be a good thing.  Six workouts a week, most at two hours, takes a good habit and makes it trouble for both body and mind.  I may be going TOO far in the other direction, but I am confident I'll find more balance in time.
  • I've fallen out of love with watching Ellen.
  • Winter needs to leave now.  It has just been so intense this year.  I think having a series of small storms (well, we did have a bigger one in there) is tougher than one monster.  Negative windchills get old too.  You know it's bad when you get excited to see a high of 40 predicted for Sunday.
  • I got a new laptop.  My old one had a fraying power cord that only worked if it was just perfectly arranged.  I do NOT miss it.  I'm actually not-missing it enough that I'm putting off using it to send myself the documents and such that are stored on it.
  • You'll get another post tomorrow with a book review.  I'm part of a "blog tour" for a Harper book.  I absolutely loved the book so I'm excited to finally get to post about it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why Fifty Is Not the New Thirty by Tracey Jackson

I confess this review is overdue.  As with many of the books that the lovely folks at Harper supply for my perusal, I am probably not in the target market for Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why Fifty Is Not the New Thirty by Tracey Jackson.  In many ways, it is aimed at the menopausal crowd and I'm a bit shy of that.  I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the ride and give it a confident 4 of 5 stars.

The book is a series of inter-related essays in which Jackson reflects on the reality of aging.  She looks at how advancing age affects many area of life, drawing primarily from her own experience and commenting on things such as beauty, intimacy, and work prospects.  The basic premise is that fifty is still fifty.  Thanks to both medical and societal changes, it is not the same fifty that our grandmothers faced.  But it isn't thirty either.  And we best admit that and move forward. 

The book is well-written, humorous (because we need to laugh at ourselves to survive) and engaging, even for a 33 year-old.  I imagine it would be a great comfort to a woman closer to the fifty mark who might be struggling with the contrast between the societal expectation of eternal youth and the reality of time.