Thursday, December 28, 2006

Getting my butt kicked by a *shrub*??!

So they call it Cedar Fever here in Texas.

It's actually a phenomenon reserved mostly for Central Texas, specifically for the areas surrounding the Edwards Plateau (between Austin and San Antonio) where the cursed Mountain Cedar grows in abundance. It's been referred to by Texas Monthly magazine as hazing ritual for new Texans. And it's caused not by Cedar trees, the kind used to make cedar chests, closets, etc, but mountain cedar, which is really juniper. Basically, you're being bested not by some stately tree, but rather a bunch of scrub brush. Comforting, no?

Now as a person with entirely too many allergies, I feel like I can talk about allergic reactions with a decent understanding of scale, avoidability and seriousness of reaction with a certain amount of objectivity and expert knowledge.

Cedar Fever just sucks.

I am currently doped up on decongestants ~ I'm actually using MS Outlook Calendar to remind myself to re-dose every four hours so I can be sure not to miss a single moment of medicated assistance ~ and yet, my ears are still popping, my head feels like it's about 30 feet under water, and my sinuses are experiencing a whole new level of pressure. I'm thinking guy-who-knocked-up-a-17-year-old-girl-and-is-now-at-the-business-end-of-her-father's-shotgun-in-rural-Louisiana pressure? But I could be off. Maybe it's a cousin in West Virginia... Okay, so maybe I've spent too much time in Virginia...

Regardless, I'm told this first year is the worst. My sister seems to have developed immunity after five years. Gee. That's promising. Now I have something to look forward to besides not having to file state income tax returns. Oh, life is good.

If only I could get the stuff out of my ears....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fixing the system

As we get to the end of the year and thoughts turn to income tax returns and getting in those last minute deductions or credits and whatnot, one can't help but reflect upon how hopelessly broken the American system is.

Paul Krugman wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times on Christmas day (link above)about how the British have handled the same issues of poverty and income disparities, much by using the American model, and have been far more successful at it than we have.

Part of the problem is we don't really want to be successful. We don't care that much. We could raise the Earned Income Credit. We could raise the child/dependent deduction. But we don't. Would it really hurt American businesses? Seriously. Everyone knows that the quickest way to burn money is to have a child. They are ridiculously expensive. Kids just don't have lobbyists. Maybe it's their lack of income ~ they can't afford them.

Another recent NYT op-ed pointed to budget shortfalls for SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) which could be remedied by rolling back or even just halting the Bush tax cuts for the richest 1% (Those earning over $1 million ~ and that would probably be after adjusting for all their charitable donations and deductions, etc. So, the folks just barely making 7 digits are probably not included...) And seriously, which is more important? Having the rich get tax refunds or the poor children get health insurance??? (Hint: it's the latter)

Which brings me to my own favorite topic of holiday cheer. Healthcare. Apparently one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in America. Nice, huh? And they are ruthless. My own little tale: two and a half years ago I took a fall outside my office and somehow was completely unable to get my hands or arms down in front of me. My face took most of the impact, along with one knee and lower leg. Anyway, a coworker brought me to the ER since I was in shock. (There was all sorts of blood and I was clinging to pieces of my front teeth that had broken off.) So, examined for a concussion, x-rayed for a broken nose and broken leg, cleaned up and treated for abrasions and referred to a dentist, I was released a few hours later. I'm still getting bills from that afternoon.

Here's what really pisses me off ~ more even than my insurance company's refusal to pay a claim that clearly should be covered ~ the ease with which the hospital turns the bill over to a collection agency which then pursues legal action against you, or me in this case. It's textbook extortion. Pay this hospital bill or I'll F-up your credit rating. And I have to wonder, why am I even involved in this conversation? I paid my portion of my health insurance premium. I gave the hospital my insurance information. The bill clearly should be paid by the insurance company ~ why aren't they going after them? Wait. They are much harder to extort. They don't need a mortgage. And they most likely wouldn't fall for "If your insurance company does pay, we'll send you a refund check." Of course ya will. That's why you're call a "collection" agency.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bow to the POWER!!

Truly. Unbelievable.

I blog about someone. Someone I don't even know. And within days, he's dead.

That whole President-For-Life thing just got a whole lot short than our old friend, Turkmenbashi, had anticipated. Oops. My bad.

Am I suggesting that my blog somehow brought about his death? Am I even suggesting that anyone actually READS my blog?

I would never do such a thing!!!

Trust me, even my family doesn't read this.

Although, I'm not opposed to testing this theory that my blog can bring about death. There's a certain narcissistic ex-boyfriend who could be a topic or perhaps a bear killing former supervisor. I could try and do a good deed and blog about a certain world leader who will also be spending the holidays in Texas, but would we really be better off with Cheney at the wheel? That actually scares me at this point.

I'll have to give it some thought. And in the mean time, not blog about anyone I like. At least not by name.

Monday, December 18, 2006

God loves Wikipedia

Okay, so I couldn't let it go.

I needed to know more.

Yes, there are statues everywhere of the infamous Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov and apparently also his mother. (Now there's a bit of psychological profiling you just don't want to touch...) Included among the statues is the one in the photo which rotates to always be facing the sun. He's renamed airports, schools, towns and even a meteorite after himself. But not to worry, he's still the same humble guy we've always known. "I'm personally against seeing my pictures and statues in the streets - but it's what the people want," Niyazov has said.

But what about the clocks? Still nothing about the clocks.

Here's the cheery one. He's rewritten the history of the Turkmens in a book called Ruhnama (or Book of the Soul). It is used extensively in the Turkmen educational system, replacing the Koran at least one day a week. He's also written another book of lyrical poetry and short stories.. One can only imagine.

The story about renaming the days of the week may have been overstated. It appears he has only renamed the months of the year. January is after himself and April is after his mother.

Alright, not so impressed anymore. Revisionist history, renaming everything after yourself, statues, reforming religion to make oneself a central figure ~ it's all right out of the dictator's playbook.

Forget my earlier statements. He's nothing special.

Things that never would have occurred to me if I was a totalitarian ruler

Okay, so I'm linking you to an article about iodization of salt. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all the the public health implications. (Step off if you're still concerned that thermisol causes autism or that the U.S. government set off charges in the World Trade Center to make sure the buildings collapsed on 9/11.) The little girl with the umbrella has been delivering all the healthy American children a safe dose of Iodine for decades, protecting them from stunted growth and diminished itellect. (Kind of makes you wonder whose mother kept them on a low salt diet as a child, huh?)

But that's not what this entry is about. Oh, no! I found something far more interesting in that article. And in case you're not interested enough in iodized salt to read to the second page or if you just don't want to click on the link, I've quoted the paragraph of interest below.

In neighboring Turkmenistan, President Saparmurat Niyazov — a despot who requires all clocks to bear his likeness and renamed the days of the week after his family — solved the problem by simply declaring plain salt illegal in 1996 and ordering shops to give each citizen 11 pounds of iodized salt a year at state expense.

Now this guy is not just your average narcissistic dictator. He can't be placated with portraits of himself on the side of buildings and larger than life statues. Not even of portrait of himself in every home will do! He wants his constituents to see his face every time they check the time!! How this works in digital, I'm honestly not sure... But I may feel the need to investigate....

But seriously, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Sadam, Castro, Noriega ~ none of them had the creativity, nay, the ingenuity, to place themselves on timepieces. (This is obviously a man who was raised with iodized salt!)

And the days of the week thing, well that's just icing on the cake. How much you want to bet that Monday is named after his mother-in-law???

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'm at a loss

I think I've mentioned before on this blog how highly skeptical I am of the antidepressants/suicide link in adolescents. No one would ever suggest an insulin/foot amputation link or an antihypertensive/stroke link because both are know adverse outcomes of the disease that those drugs treat. Why is depression different from diabetes or heart disease? I mean, for everyone other than Tom Cruise? (Who, let's face it, is in SERIOUS need of some psychiatric care...)

Anyway, the above linked article was published in today's NYT ~ something that would almost make you believe that it was recent information, not something released by the FDA nearly 6 months ago to support recommendations that were issued two years ago. WHATEVER. Maybe this news wasn't "fit to print" until now.

This is what has me thinking. In the article, Dr. Nierenberg from Harvard Medical School points out that not only is all this data based on clinical trials (which I'll get to in just a minute), but individuals with suicidal ideations were excluded from the trial.

This is where I'm at a loss. How would excluding those who were previously suicidal effect the outcome? First of all, it would make it impossible to tell if the drugs reduced suicidal ideation. Second, since being suicidal kept one out of the drug trial, we can't assume that everyone who entered the trial was honest about whether or not they were suicidal. They claimed not to be in order to get medication; an act of desperation no one could blame them for, but if they then "became" suicidal it would have nothing to do with the drug. It would just be honesty. But if we do assume that everyone was honest at the entry into the clinical trial, they were medicated for 4 to 16 weeks at a standardized dose, not necessarily a therapeutic one. Now, the placebo would assumably have no side effects, but the antidepressants would immediately start wrecking havoc on their patients ~ dry mouth, constipation, nausea, diarrhea, excessive sweating, tremor, head ache, orthostatic hypertension, syncope, urinary retention, weight gain ~ a real boatload of fun for someone who is already hating life. Now keep in mind that most antidepressants take 8 to 12 weeks to treat depression, and then only if at a therapeutic dose. Most of these folks weren't even on the drugs long enough to get any positive effects, just all the negative stuff. Meanwhile, everyone in placebo-land is hanging out, side effect free, waiting for their drugs to kick in. No one is actually getting "treated", but at least the placebo crowd isn't getting put through the side effect ringer for their efforts. Just thinking about that kind of makes me want to kill myself.

But back to the clinical trial issue. Clinical trials are not real life. They don't account for any type of non-compliance. They exclude anyone who steps outside their very strict parameters. They avoid comorbidities, they avoid difficult cases, they use small samples and they're a self selected group of people who are then cherry picked by the drug companies. Not real life. You ever wonder why we don't find out about some of the really troubling side effects until a drug has been on the market and out in the general public for a few years? Because clinical trials in no way resemble real life!!

So then what's the answer? Probably registries. Controlled data collection of real world patients that are being voluntarily treated by doctors with specific drugs. Their history, treatment and outcomes are recorded into a database along with a control group, say of adolescents being treated with only talk therapy, and after a period of time, when enough data has been collected, it can be analyzed to see if the hypothesis holds in the real world or if the anecdotal reports of treating physicians who have successfully used these medications are really the norm. Registries are the only way to identify the tetragenic properties of drugs since doing anything but observational research on pregnant women is ethically out of the question. Since there are women who need certain drugs to survive their pregnancy (and let's face it, survival of the mother through the pregnancy is crucial to survival of the baby!) there experience is invaluable for women who may have a choice or at least want to see if they do.

Am I suggesting that clinical trials are worthless? No, but I'm at a loss for a reason at the moment. I'm sure one will come to me sooner or later. They play an important role in monitoring and controlling the safety of U.S. pharmaceuticals. (That was a statement of fact, still don't have a reason....)

Perhaps I'll find one and get back to you...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

MY life

Do you ever get the feeling that you're not really living your own life?

I mean, sometimes it just seems like your whole existence is for the convenience of others.

Right now, my sole purpose appears to be to provide lodging and transportation to visiting grandparents and to act as back-up parent for my sister and brother-in-law. What I want is really inconsequential. SERIOUSLY, would I really vonlunteer to have my mother visit me for two weeks over Christmas??

So what do I want?

Apparently only things I can't have.

I met a guy. Someone actually worthwhile for a change. I don't know, the first time we actually looked into each others' eyes it was like, spark? And we had this great date. We talked and we laughed and he did that thing that no one ever does, he swept my hair out of my face. Thirty years my hair has been falling in my eyes and no one else has ever taken it upon themselves to move it.

So, obviously, he's leaving the state in two weeks. And he'll be gone for at least four months. Maybe never to return.

And I'm completely broken hearted about what will never be.

We agreed we wanted to continue seeing one another. Have we?

You'd think he'd be wanting to make time for that if it were important, right? So do I jump head first to the conclusion that I'm just not *that* important? It's never failed me in the past...

In fact, it's allowed me to go on believing that I've never been particularly important to anyone. I'm not saying this isn't true, I'm just saying it's what I believe.

So, today, on a particularly cold day in TX, when I'd really just like to sleep (it's one of my better options), I'm off to pick up dinner for the whole big happy family. Do I get to tell them that I'd really rather be alone?

At least then it's my life.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I've always believed in opportunities.

You come across them throughout your life and it's left to free will whether you act upon them. We have missed opportunities; blown opportunities; those that we've squandered and oh so many that we never recognized for what they were.

I've been thinking recently about exactly how many opportunities we get in life. We can't be allowed an infinite number. It would be like a little league baseball game where you could wait for your pitch forever and never be expected to swing. That can't be right. At some point, fate or a higher power or whatever, has to stop throwing these opportunities in your path. You have to take what you're given and run with it.

So what does that mean? Hell if I know????

I'm the one pushing the late thirties who has been sabotaging herself for decades!!

I'm lying. I do know what I think it means. It means that when an opportunity is place in front of you that you grab hold and fight tooth and nail to keep it if it's something you really want. Even if it is only temporary. Life is made up of experiences. Of hours and evenings and days and weeks and months. It's never been about quantity, only quality.

Why would you marry a man who was two weeks away from leaving for the South Pacific to battle the Japaneses in 1942? Then find yourself pregnant having his child and not see him again until October of 1945. And let's be honest. His ship was sunk at Guadlacanal. I don't believe there was some magical true love that existed between my grandparents. They would have set a better example for their own children if that were the case.

When they were presented with the opportunity of one another, they just recoginized that it was something worth holding on to; something worth acting on. Maybe that's all life really is.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Welcome Baby James

I'm an Aunt again!! James Augustin (named after my dad) joined the family this morning. He and my sister are both healthy and his big brother is excited to bring him home.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Sometimes things just hit you.

They speak to you and say the things that you haven't been able to manage to say yourself.

How am I still unemployed? Why am I still not over what happened to me over a year ago? Why, when I am closer to family than I have been in over 20 years, do I feel so alone?

Why does it still hurt "everywhere"?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My muse, Winston Churchill...

So as I've been going through this insane life where everything than can go wrong finds a way to go wrong and even things that really shouldn't go wrong also find some was to go awry, I have found a new hope, a new inspiration.

I actually happened to pass a magnet in a bookstore today as I was killing time and trying to relax before a job interview. (Yes, this is my third. No, I haven't heard back from either of the first two.)

The magnet said simply, "If you're going through hell, keep going." And it just struck me as so true of everything that had been happening these last few years and the only means I had of surviving any of it. Just keep going. It was a quote from Winston Churchill, a man who was no stranger to mental illness and, in fact, suffered several episodes of major depression, some while leading the nation of Great Britain through her most difficult history.

Winston has a lot more wisdom.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."

"If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

"Truth is incontrovertible, ignorance can deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is."

"The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes."

"The price of greatness is responsibility."

"The destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits--not animals."

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities."

"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."

Thank you, Prime Minister Churchill, for sharing such gems to caring generations through their lives with wit, inspiration and a choked up chuckle.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

There goes the neighborhood....

So in between all this anxiety about trying to move out of my sister's place and her constant remarking "It's the least you could do" (presumably since I have been living in her house for 9 months by her calculations ~ I got the higher SAT score in math, by 120 pts, it's only been 8 months) and the mortgage company completely busting me on my lack of current employment and the impending visit of my mother (read: STRESS INDUCING) who it seems has gotten her finances in order (including the home equity line my father took out on their house several years ago) and is prepared to buy the house outright, if necessary. Have I mentioned that borrowing money from my mother is worse that borrowing from the mob? You never see godfathers criticizing your every financial decision....

I'm actually getting excited about my house. Go figure!!

I met my next door neighbors tonight when my sister and I went over to check out the house. They gave me the local gossip.

Directly behind us is "the frat", a very happening place and the home of loud parties and streakers at 3am. Not an actual fraternity, just three guys in their twenties living in a house. On the other side, a lesbian couple, also very social, but not in the same way as the frat. Next the lesbians are the Weinmaraner parents. I refer to this way because they are a married couple with three Weinmaraners that are left outside in the yard all day. (My new neighbor and I agreed that was completely inhumane in the Texas heat.)

Apparently there was a scuffle between the Weinmaraner parents and the frat boys over the weekend. The frat boys have a dog and it has a rather antagonistic relationship with the Weinmaraners. The purebreds were being aggressive towards the frat dog (threw the fence) and the frat boys started yelling at the dogs (after having consumed much alcohol) and the W. parents came out and started a verbal brawl with the frat boys. Good Grief!! My neighbors were apparently awoken by the whole thing and overheard such adult comments from the W. parents as "How old are you guys anyway??" Yeah, apparently it's a very mature crowd.

And there's also the neighbor across the street who I've talked to a dozen or so times and my next door neighbors haven't even met him. I hope they do soon, since I haven't been able to remember his name!!!

Monday, August 14, 2006

soooo hard......

It's wild to consider, but a year ago, I was on disability leave from work. I was clinging to life by my teeth. I only came off of medical leave 8 months ago.

I never expected things to be easy.

I knew it was going to be hard.

Why does it always have to be soooo hard?

That's the part I fail to understand.

When I grow up I want to be one of those people who live charmed lives. Who actually experience things falling into place.

Just when it seems like things are under control, there's just one more complication. I can never quite get settled because the rug gets pulled out from underneath me. And I don't think I'm exaggerating. It's been like this for three years now. Just straight out ~ not that my life before that was a cake walk ~ I just had little reprieves of calm. Chances to regroup.

And here I am trying to figure out what I did wrong! What did I do to deserve this? As if I'm the victim of some cosmic retribution and if I can only make amends then it will all stop.

What a ridiculous idea, right?

This whole move. This whole relocation and radical alteration of my life. It feels oddly like Under the Tuscan Sun (the movie, not the book) if only because it felt like this great chance to make an enormous change in my life that would have to better because as Diane Lane's character says "I can't go back." I didn't factor in "a rental car to drive off a cliff when I realize what a huge mistake this is" when I looked at financing my new home ~ I brought my own car with me.

Then maybe that's what all this rug pulling is about.

The universe recognizes that I'm not one to resist inertia unless the floor falls out from underneath me.

Is this all in the name of making me into the person I'm supposed to be? Does that make me fate's bitch? And make fate an even bigger bitch? There's one to ponder.

But still, here I am. A completely different person than I was three years ago. Physically, emotionally, mentally, geographically. I'm not the same person.

Am I a better person? In some ways, yes. In some ways I wonder if my self as it was, has been beaten out of me or merely abandoned for the path of least resistance.

In my late twenties I decided to give up certain fears. I was always afraid of haunted houses, but it seemed like a ridiculous thing to be afraid of after everything I had been through in my life. How could someone jumping out of a coffin with a chainsaw possibly scaring when I had really stared down death? Or the supposed lunatic in the hockey mask, when I had been locked in a psych ward with the real thing?

I went to five haunted houses that year. They didn't even startle me. I stopped being afraid of getting lost and I stopped being afraid of being alone. I realized that my life and my experiences had shown me what I was capable of enduring.

So now I wonder, is this another metamorphosis? Or did I just think that I had emerged last year? (Was the tattoo premature? ~ not to worry, there won't be a second one.)

I think that's how I'm going to view all this. It's just another battle out of the cocoon. It's not a setback, merely part of the process of emerging as my true self.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I'm not okay

Honestly? I'm hating life right now.

My sister seems pissed off at me about 80% of the time. I've even worn out my welcome with my very easy going brother-in-law ~ something about my cat yakking and pooping in places other than her litter box. And then there was the Saturday morning she decided to wake him up by eating his hair. Not a popular choice.

Theoretically, I should be moving out in less than two weeks.


I just don't have a mortgage.

Little issue.

And the bank is fucking clueless! I mean they HAVE the contract and the closing date! They approved the mortgage back in March or April (it expired)but now they're dragging their feet and talking about a hypothetically September 25th closing date.

HELLO!!! Closing is already scheduled in 12 frickn' days!!!!

And then there's my house.

For some reason I'm entirely unclear on (my theory is they needed to bury a body) they redid one side of the concrete driveway, tearing up half my front yard. (TWO WEEKS BEFORE CLOSING!!!)

And have I mentioned that they STILL have not changed out the plumbing fixtures and ceiling lamps??? I believe I let them know they had installed the incorrect ones at least 2 weeks ago.

And then tonight ~ this is the one that made me homicidally mad ~ I went in to check the house. It looks as those Ranger Security, who I have repeatedly, in writing, no less, told that I do not wish to have their system installed, decided to wire in their security system. They cut holes in my walls and ceiling in my kitchen, two bedrooms, laundry room and all the way up the stairs.

Now, I can understand that they may have wanted to "pre-wire" the house for a security system in case I changed my mind in a few months/years/whatever or in case the next owner of the house wants it. But isn't the whole concept of "pre-wiring" that you put the wiring in BEFORE the walls go up???

Now, maybe their actions could be understandable if I suddenly went screaming to them, saying that I absolutely HAD to have a security system, but as I recall the conversation with their representative who called me last week to try to schedule an appointment to discuss their services, I told her I had discussed their services with another representative when I was at the design center months ago and told him, signed paperwork indicating, that I did not want their security system and I had not changed my mind.

As it stands, I consider what they did vandalism. What's to stop me from calling the police to file a report? (Aside from the fact that I don't own the place yet.) I did call the realtor and tell her how furious I was.

I need to get back in there and take pictures before they do some half ass patch job which I find when I got to hang a picture on the stairwell and the whole chunk of drywall knocks in. The home inspection is on Wednesday and I think I may have a little A/V presentation for the inspector.

All this shit has just ruined the house for me. If I didn't so desperately need to get the hell out of my sister's house, I'd just walk away from this contract and start all over again. (But, alright. I do LOVE the kitchen. The counters and the backsplash and the stainless steel appliances look great ~ if they could only get the right faucet in....)

Oh god. I am just miserable. I'm trying to find the one thing to look forward to in my life and I seriously can't find it. No job. The house/mortgage is a trainwreck. My family is driving me insane. I can't even get excited about my nephew's birth because I know my other nephew is going to become even more of a nightmare and my sister is going to be a completely sleep deprived and moody and even more of a trainwreck than my house. She'll be looking to me for help and I'm just completely dried up. I really don't think I can do this much longer without something good happening.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Nothing Good Can Come of This....

It's like the idea that some peace accord between the U.S. and France is going to stop the war between Hezbollah and Israel. Seriously?

It's late and I'm trying to go to sleep. Actually, trying to go to sleep.

My mind, however, has other plans.

Ruminations is what my doctor called it. That constant narration running throughout the day and the to do list that reloads itself more often the Windows95.

Right now it is moving into my new house. Considering how I can live without moving my everything from the storage unit for a week or so with just my appliances, the stuff I have at my sister's and an inflatable mattress. I want to try to get some painting, shelf lining and things in place before the house is full of stuff.

There's a question of chairs. What can I reach in my storage area? Can I reach my stools for the breakfast bar? How long can I survive with one mug, an electric kettle, and only paper plates and plastic utensils?

And that horrible ornamental grass that they planted. It HAS to go. Definitely before it really takes root. No tick habitats in my yard!! I need to get 10 plants to replace it. Definitely some sage (probably Mexican), lantana, upright rosemary and a few other things.

These, apparently, are the things that keep me up at night.

Then there's the job interview. I'm good at interviews and tests. I know ahead of time that's it's going to be another marathon and I'm expecting that. But what am I going to wear? If I wear the sleeveless black top with the green skirt will I look too booby? It's supposed to be over 100 degrees, so I really can't wear the other black top with the longish sleeves. It wouldn't matter if the main person interviewing me was a woman, but I happen to know that it's a man. Will it look like I'm trying to get a job using my DDs if I wear a shirt that accentuates them when I'm being interviewed by a man??? It's not like it's low cut, not even close, but just fitted.

And I have no idea why, but I'm concerned about how the builders are going to replace the flooring in my kitchen. The put a hole in it installing the stove. It's one really big piece of flooring that covers the whole kitchen, downstairs bath, laundry room and pantry. Are they going to have to reorder the stuff? Is this going to push back my closing? Or is someone going to do some half ass repair job to try to cover the hole, thinking I wasn't in that day to see the damage???

And when are they going to change out the plumbing fixtures and the ceiling fans?? It's not like we have all year??? This is not even my timeline and yet, here I am unable to sleep, stressing over it. WTF???

Oddly, the least of my concerns is the stupid mortgage application. I am oddly calm about it. I guess I've just made peace with the fact that I may have to co-own my house with my mother. If I don't get the loan, I just resubmit an application with my mother on it too. No big deal. I can worry about the ramifications later ~ they'll be plenty of time for that.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


I had a bad day.

So, I have this house closing three weeks from tomorrow and I'm sort of not employed and it's all rather uncertain whether this will be a problem. Are you feeling a little stressed out?

The bank has been trying to get in touch with me, so today, I decided to give up on trying to use their main number to get a hold of an associate at the branch (I kept getting kicked over to the automated banking.) Basically, I realized that I was going to have to go over in person to find out what was going on and straighten it out.

I should preface this next part with a little background. Two years ago, after my 13 year old Honda Accord dropped dead on the side of the road, I bought my very first new car. I got a Civic Hybrid. I love my car, have since the day I got it. I love everything about it! The teenie little turn radius! The amazing gas mileage! The fact that I can park it anywhere! When I was asked to fill out a customer satisfaction survey, my only complaint was that I didn't have a particularly good way to hook my iPod up to the stereo. Two and a half weeks after I got my car, I was rear ended at a stop light when the car ahead of me didn't move but the car behind me did. It was a stupid 17 year old punk in a Lexus. I was so angry I called the police. I didn't think I could just exchange insurance information with the kid without assaulting him. My brand new car!!!!

This afternoon when I walked out to my car to go to the bank, I found that someone had scraped the side of my driver's door and the mirror while it was parked in front of my sister's house and not bothered to leave a note or anything. Nice. I always leave a note. Okay, both times I have left a note. But let's be honest, in your current situation, you just don't have your $500 deductible to spare to have your car fixed so this is particularly irritating. Oh, who am I kidding, it's freakin' infuriating!!

But we're just getting started...

After waiting a large portion of my thirties at the bank, I meet with the bank manager and one of the associates and get this ~ my mortgage with it's rate expired at the end of June! One would think that might have come up in conversation when I spoke to the loan officer on July 6th or possibly in our written and fax correspondence the week of July 12th, but no, it's coming up now. What does this mean you ask? (Or actually, I asked as well.) I need to reapply for a mortgage. SERIOUSLY? Seriously.

The loan officer just wants the original application resubmitted, so we included all the original information, exactly as it was stated the first time around. Whatever. I made a point of not signing anything ~ I don't want to have any fraud allegations. And apparently (big surprise) the fact that you're unemployed (ie. have no income) does not show up on your credit report!! I know, how insane is that??? I lost my great interest rate, but only by 0.25%. I could have gotten it by paying points at closing, but I was feeling a little cash poor.

Then I was off to Sears to buy my washer, dryer and refridgerator while the 20% rebate for purchasing three was still on, but before the tax free clothing holiday hits and the mall becomes a madhouse of back to school shoppers. After that my credit card was flagged at another store and they had to call in to the bank and verify my i.d. and I had to give them all my super secret passwords.

In all honesty, I would hope that if someone were to steal my credit card, they would do something more fun than purchase large appliances at Sears. I would have at least hit the Apple Store!! And seriously, if it was a thief, we're talking seriously stupid ~ they scheduled delivery!!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Ambien Cookbook

Below is an article my sister and I read that got us laughing so hard tears were running down our cheeks. I should probably disclose here that I did take Ambien for close to four years. I never got up and ate, but I did have some serious amnesia issues (mostly with books I would be reading before I fell asleep) and I have a few odd vague memories of weird things I did if I didn't go right to bed after taking the Ambien ~ something involving a hose in the front yard comes to mind...

The New Yorker Magazine

Issue of 2006-07-31
Posted 2006-07-24

The sleeping pill Ambien seems to unlock a primitive desire to eat in some patients, according to emerging medical case studies that describe how the drug’s users sometimes sleepwalk into their kitchens, claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands.
—The Times.

Sorpresa con Queso
7 bags Cheetos-brand cheese snacks
17 to 19 glasses tap water
5 mg. Ambien

Place Cheetos bags in cupboard.

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

Wait 2-3 hours, then sleepwalk to kitchen, tear cupboard doors off hinges in search of Cheetos.

Find Cheetos, eat contents of all 7 bags.

Fall back asleep on kitchen floor.

When awakened by early-morning sunlight, get up and say, “What the—?”

Wipe orange Cheetos dust from fingers, face, and hair.

Drink 17 to 19 glasses of water from kitchen tap.

Return to bed.

Icebox Mélange
Entire contents of refrigerator
1 Diet Snapple
5 mg. Ambien

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

Wait 2-3 hours, then sleepwalk to kitchen.

Devour everything in refrigerator (including all fancy mustards and jellies, iffy takeout leftovers, and plastic dial from thermostat).

Belch loud enough to wake wife or girlfriend. When she enters kitchen, bellow, “Can’t you see I’m working here?”

Fall asleep on kitchen floor.

After 4-5 more hours, wake up on subway, fully dressed from the waist up, drinking a Diet Snapple.

Licorice Surprise
1 black extension cord
1 wall outlet
5 mg. Ambien

Plug extension cord into wall socket near bed.

Plug other end of extension cord into clock radio on nightstand.

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

Sleep 3-4 hours.

Roll out of bed, wake up on floor.

See extension cord, think, What a big delicious licorice rope that is!

Chew on essentially flavorless cord until you get to the metallic center, where the surprise is.

Tummy Cake
5 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
1/2 cup milk
5 mg. Ambien

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

Wake up in kitchen, mixing eggs, flour, Crisco, and milk in—for some reason—a mop bucket.

Let batter settle.

Go to living room, turn on TV, search channels for a show that explains the second part of how to make a cake.

Curse the designer of your TV remote for making a device that has the buttons on the wrong side—all facing the floor, where you can’t see them.

Remember batter.

Retrieve bucket from kitchen, drink entire contents in 3-5 gulps.

Remember that the batter was supposed to be cooked.

Draw hot bath, immerse yourself in it, knead bloated stomach in effort to facilitate cooking process.

When mouth fills with now cooled bathwater, wake up and return to bed.

Lie back on pillow, watch cartoon bluebirds orbiting your head.

Grab one cartoon bluebird in midair and devour it raw, feathers and all.

Wake up at 7 A.M., with wife or girlfriend demanding to know what the F happened in the kitchen last night.

While trying to answer, burp up a single cartoon-bluebird feather. Cover mouth guiltily, even though she seems not to have noticed the feather.

When she slams the bedroom door and goes to work, pick cartoon-bluebird feather out of the air and swallow it.

Fall asleep for 36 more hours, interrupted only by periodic—and somehow epic-seeming—trips to the bathroom.

Nhi Ho Trang Phu
1 package beef jerky
1 quart mango-flavored Gatorade
1 saucepan potable water
Salt to taste
5 mg. Ambien

Lay out beef jerky and Gatorade on nightstand, in anticipation of somnambulistic snack attack.

Take Ambien, fall asleep.

After 2-3 hours, awaken half-submerged in a rice paddy in the jungle lowlands just north of the Mekong Delta.

Back “in country.” You know you’re going to Heaven, ’cause you’ve spent your time in Hell. But here you are once again—back in the Shit.

Stay still, stay quiet—as quiet as a mouse. You are asleep, but all of your senses are alert.

Spot V.C. sapper no more than one foot away, playing possum in spider hole beneath duvet-cover camouflage.

Silently stalk stationary V.C.; two can play this game, no?

When you gain tactical advantage, corner V.C. and remove ear(s).

Go to kitchen, put ear(s) into pot of water on stove, tie on souvenir lobster bib from Cape Cod trip last summer, sit down at kitchen table with knife in one hand and fork in the other, saying “Fee, fi, fo, fum” over and over—until water boils, or you wake up in police custody despite now earless wife or girlfriend’s protestations of your innocence as delivered to police detective in emergency room, where she now is (whichever comes first).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The End of Innocence

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it here before, but I believe that innocence is lost in stages. It has nothing to do with sex. It has everything to do with losing the faith that we have that the world is basically good and that everything fits into our own perfect pretty little version of life.

I often talk about my own first loss of innocence. I was probably about 10 or 11 years old. I was still quite the tomboy and spent most of the summer at a pond at the end of the street where my parents' still live catching frogs in various stages of life. The whole process had begun the summer before or perhaps even the summer before that. A friend (another tomboy) and I were enthralled with the stages of the frogs' development ~ the tadpole, which started tiny and just got bigger, the front legs, the hind legs and finally the loss of the tale.

By that year we were masters at catching the full grown frogs and had created a habitat for them on the backporch of my parents house. We carried bucket after bucket of pond water home in galvanized buckets to nearly fill the 30 gallon plastic trash barrel my father had donated to the effort. We took weed from the pond as well to best recreate the habitat for our new pets. These were the years before the internet ~ we were still writing basic code for a TSR80 to perform basic algebra or make a tree of asterisks ~ so our knowledge of frog habitats was pretty limited.

We did, of course, name the frogs, or at least the big ones that were the most challenging to catch. Our largest frog was called Bubba. Every evening, I would cover the trash can with chicken wire and a few rocks to hold it down and yet every morning, I would come out to find fewer frogs in my frog family. I better molded the chicken wire to the top of the barrel, I put larger rocks on top of it, I lowered the water level, at night I started removing the little frog home I had created from an empty milk jug ~ anything to try to keep the frogs from escaping. But it continued. Our prized, named, large frogs seemed content enough to stay, but the smaller ones, which we easily replaced, had unbelievable escape skills.

Then one morning I came out to the frogs to find Bubba floating contentedly with a pair of frog legs hanging out of his mouth. I screamed at the volume and octave that only a ten year old girl can achieve and my father came running. I couldn't speak at first and then I started saying it quickly over and over again. There's a frog eating a frog! My father was completely unphased by my revelation of historic precedent and quite possibly highly amused. He looked at me calmly and said, "I thought you knew they were cannibals" Obviously not. That was my last summer with the frogs. I dumped the whole 30 gallon trash barrel into the back yard that day, not caring if they could actually find their way back to the pond or wind up trapped in the filter of one of the neighbors swimming pools or worse, roadkill on a rainy night. Cannibals??? How could he possibly think his child would knowingly keep cannibals as pets???

I tell this story now because I'm about to share someone else's first loss of innocence. He probably won't remember and I or his mother will have to tell him the story when he's older, most likely, over and over as tears run down our faces.

Now in Texas, exterminators are just a part of life. My sister has found an environmentally friendly one that uses nothing that will harm toddlers, cats, or unborn babies. Calling and scheduling an appointment has been on her list since February. "Bugman" Yesterday she finally called and got an appointment for today. She and my nephew went to the library and grocery store in the morning so they could be home for the bugman between 12 and 2pm.

It wasn't until the two of them were waiting that my sister realized that they had hugely different expectations of what was going to happen that afternoon. When my nephew said "Maybe he will say "Bzzz-bzzz and sing songs about bugs," my sister knew she was in trouble.

When Stefan, the bugman, arrived, my nephew was obviously disappointed. He wasn't dressed like a bug and he didn't bring any bugs with him, my nephew was quick to point out. But when Stefan announced that he would be looking for bugs, my nephew gamely volunteered to help out. He just wasn't all that happy when he found out Stefan's plans for the bugs they found, like the wasp's nest in the bathroom window.

So, I chronicle this for my little two and a half year old nephew. My sister blames herself for not better explaining what was going to happen, but it's not her fault the little guy is so capable of putting things together, even if he makes the wrong picture sometimes.

Welcome to the real world, little man. May its wonders outnumber its disappointments.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Law & Order: This is your life

I was just watching L&O:CI on Bravo and oddly enough, saw an episode I had never seen before. It was kind of a creepy episode, being that it began with a group suicide, but it just got more personal from there. The episode No Exit is really about something completely different ~ which any L&O fan knows ~ the opening segment is never exactly a linear connection to the actual story.

What the story really centers around is a young woman who killed herself after being crushed by the head of her company in full on hostile work environment, workplace harassment situation. Something I'm oddly familiar with...

The family filed a wrongful death suit against the company and basically everyone she worked with lied to protect the company and the suit was dropped. The episode hinges on the guilt felt by her supervisor who not only didn't help her when she asked for his help dealing with the man who was harassing, but also lied in his deposition for the lawsuit.

So this all gets me wondering, now that I'm a year away from not trusting myself around cars and garages, are there people who I left behind who feel guilt?

I didn't kill myself, but that was sheer force of will that kept me alive. It had nothing to do with what anything anyone else did. But I reached out to people, so many people, and asked for their help. I admitted my own weakness, my disease, and confessed that I was on my last ounce of strength. I never got any help from coworkers, human resources, senior officials, the grievance system....

Granted, I came out okay, more or less. I always do. But it doesn't make the fact that so many people refused to offer me a hand when I cried out any less horrific. Do they feel the guilt? I sure as hell hope so! They were too concerned with keeping the peace and covering their own asses to even consider tossing a rope in my direction ~ it speaks volumes to their character. I hope they realize that.

If there is somewhere on the web where people lacking basic strength of character are being outed, please let me know ~ I have a few names to add. It kind of breaks my heart, too, since some of them were people I kind of respected. But I guess you never know the true strength of someone until there's a crisis. Are they the person who steps into the fray and does everything they can or are they on the edge of the crowd trying to shuffle away before anyone sees them?

As a child I hated my mother for being the person who went into the fray. She was a nurse and it seemed like she was always needed and I resented her "on the fly" patients. Now, not only do I respect her for it, but I emulate it. I don't have all the skills to treat, but I have the knowledge to identify the problems, to triage and to provide basic first aid. I also, somehow, have become great in a crisis. It actually calms me ~ I have direction; things that must be done.

You're normally supposed to dislike those attributes in others that you recognize in yourself, but in this case, I despise the lack of it. If you have the ability and are in the position to help someone, and chose not to, then you deserve to live in whatever swamp of guilt swallows you up.

You know, I kind of left my old job and home without really telling anyone except my close friends where I was going. I never put a forwarding number on my home phone ~ just disconnected it. I got a completely new cell phone and ditched the email address that the work people had. Part of me wanted them to think I had just fallen off of the face of the earth or been committed or crawled back home to my parents' home. It didn't really matter to me whether they believed I had been destroyed or resurrected. Of course, I got a tattoo symbolizing resurrection since I knew where I was going.

But there's part of me that hopes that some of them wonder if I'm dead in a ditch somewhere and if it's at least a little bit their fault. They never felt the wrath of my mother or my father, although both were ready and willing to make the trip. You don't mess with their little girl. I'm perfectly willing to hold out for karma. It hasn't let me down yet.

Maybe it'll come in the form of basic persistent insomnia or a fiasco involving bears or possibly they could get the crap beaten out of them in the wrong section of Boston. (Seriously, I REALLY wouldn't have had anything to do with even though offers have been made.)

***I should probably mention that the bear thing and the Boston beating are probably fairly unlikely since they have already been reigned down upon worthy folks at previous times in my life ~ Karma's not only a bitch ~ Karma's creative!!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

My own worst enemy....

On Thursday I was driving to meet my friend, Joanna, for lunch and passed one of the very well organized homeless people here in Central Texas. (Seriously, I think I may have mentioned this before, but they seen to always have the major intersections covered at busy traffic times and I'm never seen more than one person per area ~ it's like they have some master schedule that they work from!) Anyway, as I drove by this poor soul, I couldn't help but think, I'm one sister and two parents away from his life.

It is, of course, an entirely untrue statement... There are some uncles and an aunt; various friends of the family; a bank account; a few college degrees ~ but I could wind up there.

I won the decision with the unemployment commission. They stated in their decision that my employer had "laid me off at his or her convenience" and that my termination had "nothing to do with my job performance." But it was a rather hollow victory, as I also got my first unemployment check. Apparently, I qualify for the maximum, which is a very sad statement for the generosity of the state of Texas.

When I first graduated from I college, I was selected for this fellowship at this really cool media relations firm in Washington, DC. I was paid a stipend, too piddly little to even pretend it was a salary. It more or less covered my commuting costs since I was still living in Baltimore at the time. That was 1994. My Texas unemployment is even less than that stipend.

With my new influx of cash, I can now pay for my COBRA health coverage and either my car payment or the rent on my storage space where all my worldly belongings reside. Lucky for me, I was saving up money for my new house ~ you know, a refridgerator, washer, dryer and such. I got rid of my couch before I moved, so I need another one of those and I need to pay movers to move my stuff to my house from the storage facility. Now, I'll be lucky to not burn through it with car payments or storage facility rental fees or drug co-pays.

I am seriously desperate to get out of my sister's house, but I'm not sure how I'm going to afford it without a paycheck. I've been applying for jobs and I'm just not hearing back from them. The state system is incredibly slow and even more slow in summer. It's painfully frustrating.

And now there are issues with the house. For some reason, they don't seem to be following the design center plans (i.e. my selections for plumbing fixtures and such) I had to email the builder (after checking my paperwork from the design center to verify) that all the plumbing fixtures were wrong ~ how it didn't strike anyone on site as they installed the matching towel rods and toilet paper holder in a brushed nickel and while the plumbing fixtures were chrome and all of the metal hardware (on doors and light fixtures, etc is brushed nickel), that something was amiss is beyond me!) So that's 4 sinks, a free standing shower, a bathtub, a bath/shower combo and a kitchen sink that need to be changed out. And while I was going over the paperwork, I also verified my suspicion that I wasn't supposed to have the same ceiling fan in every room ~ that's three fans that need to be changed out. So help me god, if this pushes back the closing date, I may need to hurt someone....

And have I mentioned the ornamental grass in the front yard? This would be different from the dying sod. This would be the stuff that grows up in fan formation like big old living pom poms? Tick habitat, anyone???

Yeah, not in a particularly good mood right now...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Adding Insult to Injury

So get this.

The state employment commission called me this morning because apparently my ex-employer is fighting my unemployment claim.

Talk about adding insult to injury! Seriously! They're claiming I was fired for poor job performance. Now why does that seem just a wee bit inconsistent from being fired without cause?

I wound up spending half an hour on the phone with the poor woman from the employment commission telling her my tale of woe ~ how I had been hired by someone who was no longer there when I arrived; how my original supervisor left 2 or so months into my employment; how there was a massive reorganization and chaos ensued as to what our priorities were actually supposed to be (stated to be one thing ~ ordered to do another). I told her how blind sided I was by the firing, that I never said a single word in the meeting, I was so shocked. I hadn't gotten any negative feedback, so I never saw it coming.

And besides, if they were claiming that I was incapable of performing my job, why did it take them five months to figure it out? Shouldn't I have been fired in the first month or two?

She took down the name and title of everyone I reported to throughout my 5 or so months on the job and the basic dates of all the changes. I figure she'll just contact HR and verify that information and have proof that I was telling the truth.

I told her how I had moved halfway across the country for this job with no reimbursement ~ how pissed off did she think I was?

Speaking of halfway across the country, I still haven't exactly told my old coworkers about my job ending. It seems like this enormous beached whale of a failure even though I know it's not a failure on my part. It just seems like I've been skimming by and hiding the failures and finally one is out there in the spotlight and there's nothing I can do to lessen the obviousness of it. That's probably just the depression talking. In my logical mind, I can't look back on my life and see a series of well camouflaged failures. I think we might need some peppy music in here...

okay. that's better...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monitoring YOUR Future

So there's this major longitudinal study, known well amongst sociologist and other social scientists. It's out of University of Michigan and has been going on for some 30 odd years. They started out picking up whole senior class at randomly selected high schools around the country and then from those classes, randomly selecting a few students to follow for the rest of their lives. Those chosen few would receive a questionnaire every other year through their twenties and then every five years throughout their thirties. During the nineties, they expanded into younger adolescents. Since they collect both point in time data about different people at the same point in their lives as well as data about the same people over the course of their lives, they have a wealth of information that they are pretty generous about sharing with other researchers.

I can always identify data from Monitoring Your Future because of the oddly specific questions they ask. Sure, there are a ton of drug and alcohol abuse questions, but they ask these very specifically worded questioned about whether individuals believe the country will get better or worse; whether the world will get better or worse; and whether their own lives will get better or worse.

Why do I know so much? Well, I'm one of those lucky few that represent 20,000 - 40,000 other people in my age group across the country. The poor souls at UMichigan have been following me around for 18 years now. This year is the first year they almost lost me.

As a fellow researcher, and someone who understands the difficulties of mail surveys and the minefields of "lost to follow up" I have been very faithful to those folks. I'm horribly late this year, just having finished and mailed in my survey today.

I got stuck on a question. "I am happy just to be alive: disagree; slightly disagree; neither; slightly agree; agree."

There are some days, weeks, months, years, even, that it is best not to ponder such things. It makes you consider all the times that you were so close to death and consider if anything good or life affirming has occurred since then. It's the maybe-I-just-should-have-done-it syndrome.

I am no naive schmuck that happily bounces around believing that every day is a gift or some shit like that. I know first hand that there are worse things than death. And as far as I'm concerned the Life is Great! theory has yet to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

I know I'm not alone on this one either. There are any number of places on earth (many mentioned on the front page of the NYT) that I could mention whose citizens would think you were nuts if you tried to sell them on the every day of life is a gift BS. They'd call you an Ugly American and they probably wouldn't be wrong. (And still we wonder why missionaries get slaughtered in third world countries... Maybe it's their message??)

So how did I answer the question? Honestly. disagree

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Into the ocean....

So my mother has been bothering me all week to come down to the beach.

Funny thing about my mother and I. She constantly nags me to do things and I frequently refuse to do them just because she has told me to do them. The object lesson is that I would have done these things has she not nagged me to do them and she should therefore be modifying her behavior. How's that working for me? Well, let's see. I'm coming up on 36 years and there's no end in sight for the nagging. There's this teenie tiny little optimistic part of me that still believes that some day she will see that this is all an exercise in behavior modification and will modify her behavior, but the rest of me knows that there is a much greater chance that I will be identified as a divine entity and a religion of millions will be formed around me. (Be sure to get on board early...)

I'm not a beach person. I have red hair and freckles. I look at a picture of the sun and I get burned. Even before my father was diagnosed with melanoma, I was skin cancer waiting to happen. Now, I am just 80 times more so. Why on earth would I go to the beach? Seriously??? She knows all these things about me?

I did wear my bathing suit while we were on the Cape. Every morning, my nephew and I would take and outdoor shower together (I'd keep my bathing suit on until he was done); it would be almost impossible to get him out ~ he loved the water so much. He, by the way, is not a beach person either. He just doesn't like the sand.

So my father was driving down Thursday morning to take my sister, my nephew and me back to my parents house so we could fly back to Texas on Friday. There was a sign at the local public beach that advertised beach yoga, Wednesdays, 6-7pm, $10, bring a towel. My sister and I decided we would go on our last night. I though it was a little dubious, since high tide was right around that time and there wouldn't be a whole lot of beach.

Anyway, we walked down and sure enough, someone had written on the sign that the class had been moved to "First Encounter Beach" (A little know fact that the Mayflower made a few stops on Cape Cod before settling in at Plymouth Rock) We were on foot and that beach was definitely a drive away, so we decided to walk back towards the house on the beach.

I had kind of already decided that I was going to hit the water after yoga anyway, but I announced to my sister that I was going in as soon as we hit the private beach belonging to the neighborhood where our cottage was.

In I went, fully clothed in a tank top and shorts, leaving house keys in my shoes on the shore. The water was amazing as the tide came in, a mixture of the bath water temperature bay and the cold water coming in from the ocean. It's hard to explain the freedom of floating in the water with saline creating even more buoyancy than any pool and easy up and down of the incoming waves. You lay back and stare at the sky or lightly tread water with your arms while floating your toes above the surface. My sister soon joined me, seeing me smile and laugh for the first time in days.

This is why we come on these horrible vacations, we decided. For these few moments when everything seems perfect in the universe. When even the effects of gravity don't touch us ~ forget every other life stress. You get to forget everything else and just enjoy the rocking of the water.

We stayed in the water that night until it got too cold and we had to head back to the cottage. And we tried to hold onto the ocean feeling as long as we could....

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Are health surveys completely out of touch with reality or have I (and just about everyone else I know) crossed the line?

In a recent article in the NYT (see link) about the gentrification of the term "slut" an American health study was quoted as saying that the median number of sexual partners for men aged 30-44 is five to six and for women of the same age group is four.

[Okay, so I was really hoping to throw a little Salt n'Pepa here, but no can do. I couldn't even get the original version of this tune by James...]

I suppose I could begin by questioning the use of medians in this situation as opposed to means. In all honesty, I would rarely state a median without also listing the range of responses - the median was 4, but the range was 0 to 468, for example. But that's just me as a graduate school educated biostatistician with 10 years of experience. Far be it for me to tell the New York Times how to interpret survey results....

But being the person I am, and also appearing to be above the median, like every other woman I know (excluding my mother and other older female relatives and friends that I know better than to survey because I REALLY don't want to know), which I guess makes me some sort of slut ~ I always figured being able to keep it on one hand made you a complete sexual failure, but whatever...

I went back to the source. The National Center for Health Statistics. I cannot, for my life, figure out where the NYT got their numbers. And going back to the questionnaire, it doesn't even appear that participants were asked the number of lifetime partners. They were just asked the number of partners in the last 12 months. Well, doesn't that just put a whole new spin on the promiscuity of Americans????

It no longer makes me wonder if they sampled directly from Utah or strictly from Baptist revivalist weekend retreats.

It does just go to show. Don't believe ever statistic quoted in the news. As the ex-chief of NCHS once said (and I'm paraphrasing a little) first get your numbers straight, then you can manipulate them in any way you please.

So much for the sanctity of science....

Friday, July 14, 2006

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am twelve years old!!

I'm not sure why I'm even here.

I wasn't supposed to be here.

I had completely dodged the family vacation this year. I was going to be at the very end of my six month probationary period, so I really wouldn't have the vacation time, plus I would be saving the time for when I moved into my new house the following month.

I had dodged the family vacation.

So, like I said, I'm not even supposed to be. It is entirely not my fault that I am.

My mother has taken the one and only car and gone off to Truro to visit one of her college roommates at the friends new retirement home. I'm stuck at the house with the cranky pregnant woman and the cranky toddler. All goodwill that appeared with frozen chocolate beverages has evaporate with the euphoria that arrived with said beverages. (Apparently frozen hot chocolate has a very short half life.)

I'm online trying to find training opportunities to take advantage of since I qualify as a displaced worker and the pages just aren't loading ~ have I mentioned how much dial up sucks? My nephew is stalling his nap. He wants another peanut butter sandwich; he's still hungry from lunch. So as my sister walks by, in her little temper tear, she makes some comment about how I have been online more than long enough and unplugs the computer from the phone jack.

I'm so angry I can't even see straight. How exactly does my computer use affect her life at all whatsoever??? I can't bear to even be in the same house as her. I grab my shoes, a twenty dollar bill, a credit card, and my cell phone and walk out the front door with out saying a word to her.

I start off in the general direction of a yarn shop on Rte 6 that I wanted to visit that's 1 or 2 miles from the house, I need the walk to calm down. Then it starts to rain.

As the rain gets harder and harder my resolve kicks in. I am not going back to the house.

Almost a mile later I arrive at the local newspaper/deli/ice cream/convenience store. I am soaking wet and shivering in the 10 degree temperature drop. I am hoping to catch a cold and keep my sister up all night for the rest of the vacation in the bedroom we share. As I ring water out of my tee shirt the girl at the counter asks if I'm alright. All I can say is "It wasn't raining when I left..."

I give her a soggy twenty for a hot chocolate and a beach towel and she hands me dry change which quickly becomes wet in my soaking pants. I huddle in one of the chairs on the covered porch in front of the store and call my mother, but her cell phone is turned off. I leave her a message that I am at the store soaking wet and it's my sister's fault.

An hour or so later, my mother stops to pick me up on the way back to the house. She is angry at my sister. I'm apparently in a fragile state and only she and my father can be unkind.

This is of course par for the course for our family vacations. Everyone fights with everyone else ~ in the end some big issues get resolved, some new ones are created.

Later that night my sister apologizes. She says she needed my help with my nephew. "Assume I always need help, unless I tell you otherwise," she says. I admit to her that I'm not always able to provide help. I feel like I'm drowning, I admit. So there is the consensus.

I'm still saying that I wasn't supposed to be here in the first place.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What Would Willie Do

You can't really live in Austin without allowing that Willie Nelson is the owner of a great deal of wisdom and life lessons. A guy named Gary Allan has recently made a buck or two off of said presumption. I'm mentioning here, not because I'm actually in Austin (I am not), but because sometimes you need to look to a sage or a power beyond yourself for insight.

I am miles from Texas and the closest thing I'm seen to Willie is a photo of the first Bush president hanging on the wall of a seafood restaurant the had an entire gift shop full of lobster stuff. Would you believe?

Anyway, family vacations are not my favorite times. I look for(search, beg, create through questionable means)the opportunity to spend quiet time on my own. I tend to believe that sharing a single bathroom, a single car, sharing a room, and having dinner together every night is more than enough togetherness for a family where all the kids are grown ups, even if they are not treated as such.

My parents took the opportunity (my first visit home in nearly a year) to independently discuss my character flaws and failures as a human being. I guess they felt my self esteem might be too high with all this unemployment and homelessness happening. They guessed it! I was feeling pretty proud of myself! If only I could have managed to throw in an unplanned pregnancy with a complete stranger!! That would have been the trifecta!!

On the up side, after explaining all this (the double teaming) to my sister over frozen hot chocolates (proof enough for me that a higher power must exist), she is cutting me some much needed slack.

As for Willie...

You know sometimes I wonder when I ain't gettin' nowhere
What would old Willie do when it all gets too much to bear
And I can see him on his lonely old tour bus
And he's got his problems just like any of us
Well he'd just take a deep breath and then he'd let it all go
And he'd take another deep breath and let it all go
And he'd take another deep breath...and he'd hold it
Ah and I bet he'd feel hungry in a way that seems strange
Yeah hungry for all the things that he just can't change
Like the time he passed out in is own bedroom
And his wife sewed him up in the sheets and beat him with a broom and he forgave her
And you think that's rough, well then the IRS came and they took away all of his stuff
They took his golf course and his recording studio, and he just went out and did another show
So when it's all coming down on you
You better ask yourself what would Willie do

Friday, July 07, 2006

Family Vacation

Three words. Nervous. Breakdown. Inducing.

Don't get me wrong, I like my family. In small doses. At a bit of a distance. Over a phone or some other device that I can hang up. Preferably with a locked door between us. The kind I control entrance through.

This whole idea of a bunch of us going to a small space with one bathroom, one car (remember how cars = freedom), and did I mention NO space. Even if the place you're going is really beautiful. I have a head ache coming on.

I have no idea how I managed to be convinced to spend the day flying with a cranky pregnant woman and a two year old. It's a toss up as to which one is more difficult to reason with ~ seriously. Oh, and the big brown bear. How could I have forgotten the big brown bear that's the size of your average two year old whereas the two year himself is the size of a four year old. And the pregnant woman get BAD motion sickness? I'm not sure she can take Dramamine now. I have no idea how the topic has failed to come up. I'm picturing the pregnant woman vomiting all over big brown bear. This is where I see myself tomorrow. I can't imagine why I'm having difficulty settling down to get to sleep. This whole thing must be proof that the depression is recurring, because I'm looking at this whole plan and it has suicide written all over it.

So, there I've said it. Depression. My life is a car wreck. I'm unemployed and living at my sister's house, which she takes time to point out whenever possible. I hate that. I would never lord something like that over her if the situation were reversed. I would just be thrilled to have my sister near me when she needed me.

Now that I've slammed my sister, how much do I confess? I have seen a psychiatrist or a therapist in over 6 months? I'm still taking my meds, almost all the time. I'm sleeping night and day and it's really the only thing I want to do.

That, and make plans for my house that I need to have a job in order to close on. Oops! Yup, the dream plan took a turn for the ugly when I lost my job -- who woulda thunk it? I still have nearly two months before the house closes to acquire verifiable employment. There's always plan B where one of my parents is co-signed on the mortgage. It would actually be pretty funny to find out that there were some blemishes on their *perfect* credit reports.

Well, I've just been waved to go to bed by my sister/master. Are you getting the point about the locking door yet? I was just perusing the employment selections on the state health and human services job postings page. Nothing like a little depressing reality check to lull you off to sleep....

Just a little something to get you into my mood...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Marathon Job Interview from Hell

Kill. Me. Now.

I just spent more than three hours of my life that I will never get back.

Would you believe an hour and a half verbal interview of highly technical information on data analysis followed by a two hour (let's all be honest with what we're talking about) exam on epidemiology and sexually transmitted disease. So the interview could have gone better. "Relational database" just drew a blank. All I remembered was this really, really long morning of a training on an analysis software system where they felt the need to discuss relational databases in great detail. It was something I had already learned about in grad school under some other name, so I decided to ignore them, in great detail. (Statistical analysis is kind of like dinosaurs ~ every few years, some one gets bored and just changes the names of everything.) So for the life of me, I couldn't remember what it was that I knew about relational databases as. Whatever.

I aced the exam. Just really cramped up my hand from all the writing. They were obviously trying to weed out the folks with MPHs from the fly by night programs that have you take 3-6 credits of epidemiology and crown you an epidemiologist. They could have saved us all a lot of trouble simply by checking out my program ~ I have an MS from one of the oldest schools of public health in the country and took something like 30 credits of epi.

But, GOOD GOD! Reality check! The job they described sounds like dull as dirt mind numbing number crunching and the pay is not that great. So they're interviewing in search of some technical whiz who also has an excellent educational background in epidemiology. Good luck with that. A person with that skillset will be looking for more money and something interesting to do. Or at least that's what I'm doing.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Leaving Town Alive

Just heard this great song and I had to share....

And coincidentally, this song basically sums up the last year of my life....

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Too Many Guys

Okay, so we've figured out the problem in my dating /social life. It's not that I'm too picky. It's not that I'm too aloof or shy and appear unapproachable and snooty. It's not that I'm smart in a scary sort of way. It's very simply. I already have too many guys in my life.

My sister and I came to that conclusion yesterday afternoon as my nephew was enjoying his new game ~ knock guys off Nenn-nenn's lap and make them go boom! Yes, my nephew is the source of all the guys. It's what he calls all of his Fisher Price Little People and all of his stuffed animals. There were certain rules to the make guys go boom game that were announced throughout ~ Nenn-nenn NO touch guys!! Nenn-nenn NO play with guys!! (Suddenly my social life is making complete sense....) Of course there also had to be a few ground rules and life lessons that Nenn-nenn added to the game. Such as the fact that while it was fine to knock guys off of Nenn-nenn's lap and make them go boom, the same wasn't true for other things, like say, baby brothers.

But back to my nephew and his guys... He has this crazy sixth sense about them, like knowing where each individual one is at all times. He keeps all the furry and stuffed ones (including my sister's sizable Wee Bear collection which he pilfered at first sight) in his bed, but knows immediately when he enters his room if one of them is downstairs. Many are the evenings my sister and I have run around the living room searching for some "star" "mommy" or "soldier" bear before he will even consider going to bed. He's also taken to putting his Little People guys in time outs in the kitchen. We all struggle to consider what the particular group that was still in the kitchen late last night (having been there since early that morning) could have possibly done to receive such a harsh punishment.

As for the reality of life with my nephew, it really is killing my social life. His favorite thing now is to be naked and will strip any time the opportunity presents itself and run around the house to make it as difficult to dress him again as possible. The truth is, I am really sick of seeing penises and have zero interest in seeing any other ones right now.

Monday, June 26, 2006

But the house keeps moving forward...

At least someone is moving forward!!

I went by to visit the house on Sunday and saw that they had gotten a full crew to work all day on Saturday (in like 98 degree heat and not the Nick Lachey kind). So, if my cynical neighbor was right and someone from the crew stole all the electrical wiring (which I kind of doubt) they got what they deserved!! (Karma's a bitch!!)

The windows are awesome and I wasn't really sure about the whole stone thing, but now I think I really like it. We'll have to see how it looks when all the brushed nickel carriage house style lighting gets put up...

Oh, and all that scrap sheet rack throw in the front yard has a kind of modern "found art" sort of feel to it, don't you think?? Maybe I'll just keep it there!!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

There is no secret cow level.

We interrupt the very earnest self reflective blog to provide some less than serious thoughts on others.

Now, this morning I was watching one of the Sunday morning news shows where Hamid Karzai was talking about the current state of his country. Now, far be it me to criticize a man who was forced to leave his home and country by an overzealous power hungry theocracy (wait, that's starting to sound familiar...), but had the integrity and character to return and lead when his country needed him. Or, perhaps he's just a puppet for the Bush administration and the CIA is running the show. Regardless, I'm not going to criticize the guy's profession life. I just want to know what the deal is with his hat!! I mean, seriously, does he have a bunch that all look the same or does he have a really dependable dry cleaner back in Kabul who cleans it overnight and delivers?
And what is underneath the hat? Is it the Afghan version of "the button"? Or perhaps he really has a blue mohawk or a swastika tattoo??? Maybe a GPS device so the CIA can keep track of him? Or maybe it's a teenie tiny Afghan security detail? What better place to put a sniper than right on the President's head? Or maybe the hat is just bullet proof?
And the hat seems to be perfect for ALL occasions. Speaking at the U.N.? Wear the hat! Meeting with a head of state? Definitely the hat!! Some random appearance in the U.S.? Can't go wrong with the hat!!
Is it wrong that I'm so obsessed with the hat? It wouldn't be such a big deal if there were actually photos of Mr. Karzai meeting with his advisors and they ALL had similar hats on. It's just him. Is he trying to make some sort of memorable fashion statement like Michael Jackson's one glove? (Definitely a role model, because that turned out well!) Or maybe he's hoping to start a trend among the up and coming Afghans? He may even have a personal stake in this ~ perhaps a family member is the fashion designer of this delightful accessory?
Or maybe his grandmother made it for him when he was just a lad. She gave it to him and said, Hamid, someday you will be a great man. You will wear this hat, a hat of a great man. So now he wears the hat in reverence to this woman who always had such faith in his potential and his destiny for greatness. Yes, I think I like that reason best of all ~ or maybe he's covering a "jews for jesus" tattoo. That's equally probable.

But, speaking of Afghanistan and being too earnest, if you have not read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, you have missed a remarkable book that, like Reading Lolita in Tehran, gives you a view of a world that Americans just can't comprehend with our comparatively limited life experience. The Kite Runner made me mourn for all the people and places that were destroyed by the Taliban, but also all the human potential that is wasted here in the United States. We bring doctors, engineers, scientists here under political asylum and they spend the rest of their lives selling newspapers or hotdogs, as if we have an excess of skilled engineers and scientists in this country. So much just gets lost to the chaos.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Jessica Simpson doesn't have to put up with this shit!!!


Now I know I have your attention.

I have certain theories about breasts. And now that I live a mere 2-3 hours from the breast implant capital of the world (Houston, TX, for those of you who were thinking Beverly Hills) I've had even more time to consider my hypotheses and continue my "research."

See, I have certain theories about women/girls with large breasts who came by them naturally vs. those who paid to get them. Any girl/woman who wears ridiculously tight shirts over enormous breasts, doing everything possible to draw attention to them obviously did not have to go through puberty with said breasts. Women with naturally large breasts are more likely to de-emphasize them because we enjoyed the experience of every hormonal boy suddenly becoming unable to look us in the eye (or anywhere above the shoulder for that matter) as well as several adult males (a certain gym teacher comes to mind.)

When you get to college you develop defense mechanisms, you learn to crouch down to get your eyes at breast level or you retaliate by talking directly to the guy's crotch. There was a specific guy in my boyfriend's frat who was a total breast talker and when I mentioned it to other girls, they always said that they assumed he was looking at the floor when he talked to them, but I would tell them to follow his line of site the next time. Sure enough, every girl confirmed what I had seen and we started a mass campaign of crotch talking to this particular guy. There was never any proof that he actually figured out what we were doing. He's a corporate attorney now, so I certainly hope he's figured out to look a woman in the face by now.

But back to Jessica Simpson. It's an ongoing argument between my sister and I whether her breasts are real. I say no. My sister says yes. I base my theory on genetics ~ shouldn't Ashlee have at least somewhat larger than average breasts? I've never met sisters who had such disparate breast sizes without one being seriously obese or nearly anorexic.

But this is why Jessica Simpson really gets me. In the last year or so, I'm lost about 70 lbs. Now, I'm one of those people that most women hate ~ I don't lose weight from my breasts. My weight loss secret? I got sick and stopped eating. Apparently when my body called a meeting and agreed to start burning fat for survival, my breasts claimed some mammary gland exemption or potential for cancer exemption. I don't know, but as the number in my bra size has gone down from the loss of fat around my ribs, the cup size has increased.

Now, I understand that most women would be thrilled to be a DD, but let me give you a little reality check. Clothes are not made for women who actually have breasts. If they were, they wouldn't fit most people. I will never wear anything made by Nicole Miller, for instance, because there's no room for my bust in her clothes. Most often I find myself quoting Ileana Douglas' character in the WE/Oxygen network perennial film Wedding Bell Blues "Hi, I'm Jasmine and these are my breasts!" I can never find "cool" bras in my size ~ I'm not sure if the laws of physics prevent the cool designs from operating under those conditions or if the industry just believe only grandmothers need bras that big. And shirts with built in shelf bras? Forget it! Who are they kidding?? Clothing made to wear without a bra is generally made for people who don't really need to wear a bra anyway!

Why not get breast reduction surgery? Well, first of all, I'm not having back problem and I'm already in my mid-thirties. Second, it's a damn painful and frankly violent procedure, much more so than implants. I'm not that irritated. I've been living with these breasts and have already been under the knife once for a fibroid adenoma. I've since had a needle biopsy on the other breast and I anticipate that I will have more non-selective procedures in the future. Just a feeling I have ~ call it instinct after seeing my grandmother's radical mastectomy my entire life. (It included all the flesh and muscle above her elbow, her shoulder and the upper quadrant of her chest.) Don't get me wrong. She survived, for close to 50 years after the cancer. It was a success. You just don't forget something like that.

But back to why Jessica Simpson, the covergirl for DD, really irks me. Girlfriend never seems to have any issue finding clothing that properly fits her rack. Oh, I'm sure she has an expert team of tailors and designers are more than willing to alter their designs to keep her bust inside. But doesn't she have a duty to advocate for the rest of us? Forget your silly flavored body protects ~ how about some clothing and lingerie that fits the DDs both size and stylewise??