24 December 2011

Medical Update, Part Floppity Jillion

I thought it was time to stop referring to the "mysterious medical issue," and let y'all in on the secret.  I have a little more information now, although not all of it.  But first (as the ChenBot would say)...

The update on the hip.  It turns out that I DO have a torn hip labrum, but they found out during the latest test they did that I also have a bilateral (both sides of my body) hip deformity.  My doctor is consulting with someone he believes is one of the best in the country as far as joint replacements, joint revisions, etc., for next steps.  My doctor has discussed the possibility of a hip replacement, an osteotomy (they cut the bone and reshape it - doesn't that sound fun?), and more physiotherapy in the meantime that would be different from what I've been doing thus far.  This PT would be less strengthening and more "hands-on and teaching me how to move the bones and muscles."  He also discussed another MRI looking specifically at this area (now that we know which area to focus on) and or a CT scan looking at my left foot/ankle/leg since all of that could potentially have been affected over the years since it's all weight-bearing stemming from the hip.

So, those are all the various possibilities, but until he's able to consult with this guy and possibly get me in to see Mr Awesome Doctor myself, I won't really know anything else.

As for the "mystery issue."  This spring, I started having a lot of symptoms that made me think my thyroid was acting up again.  I called my doctor, we ran the tests, and everything was good.  We checked my Vitamin D levels (since I do take prescription Vitamin D, anyway, for a deficiency), and everything was good there.  Over the summer, things got worse.  But everything my doctor tried diagnostically turned up absolutely nothing.  In fact, my thyroid was doing so well that if she suppressed things any more than they already do, I would become hyPERthyroid (instead of hyPOthyroid), which nobody really wants.

She really had two theories, and all of her tests were trying to prove one of the theories wrong because it was something I really didn't want.  This week, I went for the results of the last test that she knew to send me to, and it wasn't good.  That specialist couldn't find anything wrong with me, either.

So - what's wrong?  Well, I've been having irregular periods (as in absent for MONTHS on end), hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, dry eyes...   in short, all of the symptoms of menopause.  To review, I turn 36 next month, I have no kids, and - yes - I want(ed) kids.

My doctor HAS said that it is an EXTREMELY rare side effect of my birth control pills that they can mimic menopause.  So there is still that hope.  I could just change pills and everything could be fine.  But she doesn't want to do this herself because if I suddenly stop, it could affect my thyroid issues, so she wants me to do this only under the supervision of my endocrinologist, who would be the one to run the definitive hormonal blood tests for menopause anyway.  I see the endo the first week in February.

I have been sad since this possibility was mentioned earlier this year, but when I got the latest news on Monday, I have been...  well, a lot of crying has been done.

I am well aware of adoption, but at this point, I am single, and in quite a lot of debt from law school and a Master's programme.  Adoption isn't cheap, and my health insurance doesn't cover in vitro (yes, I already checked).  So.  That's where things are.

I am very happy to be going home to my mommy today.

18 November 2011

List #35: Quirks I Have

1.  Gum must be eaten in sticks of two
If it's not a STICK of gum, it doesn't have to be two of them.  Like Hubba Bubba are bigger, so that's okay.  And if someone offers me a stick of gum, I'm not going to be rude and demand a second stick just so I can eat it.

2.  The Kleenex (yes, actual Kleenex) boxes in my house must match
I have crashed entire Kleenex displays looking for matching boxes.  I would even rather have the ugly green box than have mismatched boxes.  And I prefer the Kleenex Anti-Viral tissues.  Those lotioned tissue creep me out.

3.  I have to have at least five SEPTA tokens in my pocket when I leave the house
If I know I'm going more than one round trip, I pack more than five tokens.  If I take less than five tokens, I get nervous.  I have no idea what I think will happen that will necessitate these extra three tokens, but I must have five.

4. I can't stand to blow my nose in front of other people
If I'm in a restaurant, for instance, I'll excuse myself to the restroom just to do that.  One time, I was with a friend and had a cold, and I went to the restroom a few times and he finally asked if I was okay.  So I told him I was just blowing my nose.  After that, every time we'd go to lunch and I'd go to the restroom, he'd offer me a tissue.  Ha ha.

5.  French fries should not be eaten solo, but should be eaten with fries of equal length
It doesn't matter how many other fries there are, as long as there isn't only one.  If there are no other fries of equal length, just bend a long one in half.  Or take a long one and a short one, then bite the long one until it's the same length as the short one.  THEN treat them as equal-length fries.

17 November 2011

Recipe: Poor Man's Chili

1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained
1 15-oz can corn, drained
1 24-oz jar prepared pasta sauce
1 cup baby tomatoes (optional, they pop after slow cooking!)
1 t cumin
1 t corriander
1 t tumeric
1 cinnamon stick

Drain the beans and corn, and put the can contents into your crock. Top with tomatoes, if using, and the pasta sauce. Stir in spices, and add cinnamon stick. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for about 4. If the tomatoes haven't popped on their own, gently poke them with a wooden spoon to pop before serving.

Notes:
This is shamelessly stolen from this blog.

I didn't have a cinnamon stick, so I substituted 1/2 t of cinnamon.  Next time, I would use more.  Mom kept cautioning me, "I wouldn't use too much!" but I definitely erred on the wrong side.  This was definitely good, and it made enough for lunch for the week.

16 November 2011

Exhausted

Last night, I worked from 7:00 a.m. (my usual start) to 6:45 p.m. (NOT my usual end time).  I had a webcast that started at 4:30 p.m., and even though I live only about 20 minutes from work, since I usually leave at 3:00 p.m., it would have been one of those "by the time I go home, it'll be time to head back into work," so it was more productive to stay at the office.

My intent was to only stay on the webcast for a little while (for what I considered "the introductory part"), but for reasons I won't go into for work confidentiality reasons, the introductory part went on and on and on and became The Actual Call.

And then I worked my entire shift today.  I had expected to do some work with a co-worker, but that work ended up not being ready (no fault of the co-workers), so I didn't go in late (which I could have done).  And since we had a meeting scheduled until my shift end time, I didn't leave early... and then the meeting ended up being cancelled at the last minute.  Argh.

Exhausted.

15 November 2011

Preparing for Surgery (really early)

I talked to my physiotherapist, and she said she isn't surprised that my doctor is talking about surgery since there's only so much that physiotherapy can do for a labral tear.  The tear will always be there, but the goal of the therapy is to strengthen the muscles around that area to compensate.

But I got to thinking about it, and pretty much everything I do will be affected, especially since I (a) live alone and (b) live on the second floor of a building with no elevator.  So even things like taking out the trash will be difficult.  I spoke to my neighbour downstairs, and she said that as things get closer, I should let her know, and we might be able to work some things out, like doing our grocery shopping together.

I might be able to work out something with a friend's daughter for things like laundry.  She's an undergrad dropout, but I don't know if my friend will be amenable to that since I know she wants her daughter focused on going back to school.  Not that helping me out would be a full-time career option, but it would be an excuse for her to procrastinate getting her ducks in a row for going back to school.

And I talked to HR, and I do qualify for short-term disability, as long as I'm out of work for six days or more.  I would get 2/3rds of my pay.  I can get 100% of my pay if I use sick days, but I don't want to do that since it would be so early in the year.

So, that's where things are thus far.  Wheee again.

14 November 2011

Book Review: The Sandberg Connection

Private investigator Sam Blackman and his partner (both business and personal) Nakayla Robertson were hired to follow history professor Janice Wainwright to see if her physical activities would belie her claim against a spinal surgeon for malpractice.  But this is only the beginning because Janice ends up dying under suspicious circumstances on that trip, and Sam becomes a suspect (as the one nearest her dead body).

While he proves his innocence, the autopsy proves Janice's malpractice claim and her estate is broken into.  What's stolen?  The Sandberg verses that she was researching -- which were also the subject of her last words.

This was an engaging, compelling mystery.  Read my full review here.

13 November 2011

Phone Call with My Mom

I did not have a good sports weekend.

I'm still bitter about Mizzou being moved to the SEC.  One of my NASCAR drivers is in the hunt for the championship, but he's only in the lead by three points.  Another of my drivers is in hot water with his sponsor, NASCAR, and most of the fans, and by their reaction, you'd think he'd ran over all of their grandmothers and boiled their puppies (he didn't, by the way -- just to clarify).  And yet another of my drivers (in a different series) ACCIDENTALLY wrecked a championship contender and pretty much ruined that guy's chances at winning the championship (oops).

As soon as that happened, the phone rang.  (Hi Mom.)

Me: IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!
Mom: He's a loser who can't drive!
Me: You don't even know!

(We were still on the phone about five minutes later when they started interviewing two of the guys involved in the wreck.)

Me: Hey!  Why aren't they interviewing Jason?  He's standing right there!
Mom: BECAUSE HE'S A LOSER!
Me: They're being biased against him!  They aren't getting his side of the story!  No fair!
Mom: Ha ha - they don't like him, either!
Me: Shhh, now they're talking to him.

(Jason admitted he made a grave error and felt awful.)

Me: SEE???  He's man enough to admit a mistake, take ownership, and be remorseful.  What more do you want?
Mom: BLOOD!  I WANT BLOOD!
Me: You frighten me.
Mom: You asked.
Me: Don't talk to me right now.  I'm mad at you.
Mom: Why?  Because you like losers?
Me: Shhh.  Don't talk to me!
Mom: I can't talk?
Me: That's right.  I'm mad at you.  You have to be quiet.
Mom: Then can I hang up?
Me: No.
Mom (laughing): Oh, I have to sit here and be miserable?
Me: Yes, that's right.  That's your punishment.
Mom: Hmph.  Well, can I --
Me: SSSHHHHHH.  I'M BEING MAD AT YOU!

Felix comes over and meows into the phone.

Me: See?  Even Felix knows!  He's telling you how wrong you are!
Mom: No, he's talking to me because he feels bad for me.
Me: Traitor.

12 November 2011

Hip Update

I saw my hip doctor Thursday, and it looks like I'm going to be having surgery on my hip after the first of the year.  He wants to do another MRA/arthrogram procedure (that's the one they did a few months ago where they put the big-ass needle in the joint).  This will do a couple of things (well, a few if you count "put me in pain."): It will allow him to get a better idea of what's going on now (I had the earlier procedure done at a different hospital, but he wants to do this one personally, and they will again put an anaesthetic in the joint for pain relief.

As he said it, "if I'm going to operate on you, I want to make sure I'm doing the right one."  He KNOWS I have a hip labral tear.  He KNOWS I have a FAI (femoral-acetabular impingement).  But he also THINKS that there's some other issue going on causing the limited range of motion and pain.

The surgery would cause me to be on crutches for several weeks, and I'd be looking at another round of physiotherapy.  Whee!

11 November 2011

List #34: Words I Dislike

You know how some people have words they REALLY hate?  Some people hate some words so much that they start twitching when they hear certain words.  I don't hate any words THAT much, but some words are definitely on my "ugh - WHY is that a word" list.

1. nostril
It's just a weird combination of sounds.

2. horny
I only dislike it in the "I'm feeling horny" meaning.  I hate it then.

3. pubes
I'm not a huge fan of "pubic," either (I think the "pyoo" sound is off-putting, maybe?), but "pubes" is way more offensive of the two.

4. tweet
This only disturbs me in the "You can Tweet to your favourite celebrity now" sense of the word.  It doesn't bother me in the "birds are tweeting" meaning.

5.  baby daddy
Really?  Is it THAT difficult to say "baby's daddy" or "father/dad of my/her baby"

There are probably more, but that's all I can think of right now.  I might do a Part II later.

10 November 2011

Winter Recipe Ideas, Part II

I'm still looking for recipe ideas for winter weather, particularly things that can be made on Sunday and then kept all week for work lunches.  I know some of you (you know who you are!) are excellent cooks and have some excellent resources at your disposal.  Please share!

Thanks!

Your still-on-a-budget friend appreciates it!

09 November 2011

Days with Friends

After work tonight, Rachel is coming over, and we're going to catch up on some tv.  Since she hasn't been here in awhile, we have a LOT to catch up on.  So many choices!

We're going to eat Pronto Paella and Jello Pie.

Tomorrow, I'm meeting my friend Joanna for supper.  I'm super excited to hear about her recent trip to England, and I want to catch her up on some things that have been going on in my life.  I saw her briefly at Rhinebeck, but I only had enough time to tell her about The Maple Cotton Candy story, and then we both needed to get going.

I'm not sure yet where we'll be doing, but I'm sure it'll be yummy.

08 November 2011

Justice for MJ

The Twitter hashtag that the MJ fans have been using (and that we've all been using on the fan boards for the past two years now) is "justice4mj," so it was difficult for me to remember to type it as "Justice for MJ."  It's just become such a habit to type "justice4mj."

Anyway - I got an alert via Twitter on Monday that the verdict was going to be read at 4:00 p.m. EST.  It was a rare "I stayed late at work" day (thought not that late), so it was nearly 4:00 p.m. when I got this, and we were still about four blocks from my house.  As soon as I got off the trolley, I sprinted home and found CNN on my tv.  I didn't bother to hang up my bag or coat, throwing them on the couch beside me (although I have coat hooks for my bags and coat immediately by my front door).

I had planned on recording the trial and skimming it every night, but when they showed Michael's dead body on the first day, and I sat on my couch sobbing for ... I don't even know how long... I decided this was probably not a good idea.  So I just read recaps every day.

I was so anxious waiting for the verdict.  I've done enough time with two different DA's offices that I was sure that I knew what a less-than-ten-hour deliberation period (given the length of trial) AND a no-questions-from-the-jury verdict meant.  But I wasn't going to count anything as a sure bet until the words.  Because I've also seen some crazy-ass juries come back and say some crazy-ass things during the time when the attorneys could question them about their thoughts, why they voted the way they did, etc.

As soon as the clerk read the verdict, I start crying.  I was sad that I wasn't on the street outside of the courthouse with the other fans, who are people who would have understood the conflicting emotions - reliving the loss, feeling elated that Murrary is now a convicted felon, but still left wondering if justice will really ever be served.  (Also, is it sad that when we heard a female yell when the clerk read the verdict, I was POSITIVE it was LaToya... and I later learnt that I was right?)

The most Murray can serve is four years, but even if he's sentenced to that, he most likely won't serve anything close to that because of the prison overcrowding situation.  (Think Lindsey Lohan being sentenced to 30 days and serving 4 hours.)  Although he's convicted of a felony, it's one of the "lesser" ones, so he could serve it out on house arrest or get it changed to probation.  His medical license will be revoked, but only in California.  While the DA's office has stated they hope the states in which he's licensed to practice medicine will look into this situation, one of those states is Arizona, and a year after they revoke, he would eligible to reapply to practice.

And, at the end of the day... obviously none of this brings Michael back.  The world is left arguing about whether he was a drug addict, whether his concert would have been phenomenal or a mess, and wondering whether "This Is It" really would have been it (I was hoping not.  I was hoping it was the beginning of a spectacular comeback, although now that he was raising a family...).

Michael, I'm going to quote one of your sister's songs here: I miss you much.

07 November 2011

Book Review: Little Gale Gumbo

In this novel, Camille and her two daughters (Dahlia and Josie) move from New Orleans to escape Charles, an abusive husband/father.  They originally have their eyes set on Canada, but they end up making a home in Little Gale, an island off of Maine, instead.

There, they rent a room from Ben and his son Matthew.  Camille and Ben are attracted to each other, and the girls soon form a triangle of sorts with Matthew, who becomes their friend and protector, since the islanders are quick to welcome outsiders.

Camille opens a restaurant using her Creole recipes, which quickly becomes a success.  But this success and the make-shift family that has formed with the blending of the two families is threatened when Ben is the victim of an mysterious accident.

This was a great story, including recipes that I can't wait to try.  Read my full review here.

06 November 2011

Holiday Knitting

I am soooo far behind.

I have a wedding gift that was supposed to be done about three weeks ago.  But I got into a funk Rhinebeck weekend, and I stopped knitting for two weeks.  Had I not lost those two weeks, I'd probably be okay.  So I just need to kick things into hyperdrive and stay focused.

One of the gifts I had planned (a scarf) might be shoved to next year, and I might have to think of something else for John.  The other two gifts (a hat and a cowl) are shorter projects, so that would take a lot of pressure off.  A man's scarf is no joke, people!

But I may be able to crank a lot out during Thanksgiving weekend since I'm one of those people who has absolutely no obligations whatsoever (other than, you know, gluttony and couch potato-ing).  And since I don't do the Black Friday thing, I can make use of that time, too.

05 November 2011

List #34: My Least Favourite Candy

(In honour of Halloween)

1.  Tootsie Rolls
I don't like how they feel in my teeth, but I like the flavour.  This works out well since my mom inhales them.

2.  Necco wafers
Worst idea ever.  They feel awful on my teeth, the flavour is awful, and I don't even like the feel of them in my fingers.  I even just shuddered typing "Necco wafers" (again).  UGH.  (Again, my mom inhales these.)

3.  Whoppers
Who the hell invented these????  Why do people make things that feel so gross on my teeth??????  Stop doing this!

4.  Milk Duds
Are they supposed to be chewed? dissolved?  It's like a candy with an identity disorder.  I can't take it.

5.  Candy corn
These are just disgrossting.  (Srsly, my mom will stab you for these.  Hmm, there's a pattern emerging here.)

6.  Orange peanuts
They don't taste good, they feel weird, and... okay, really - no redeeming value whatsoever.

The Death of a Relationship

I had been feeling kind of bad that Orin and I hadn't had any contact since I found out he had lung and brain cancer.  So I told my mom, "What if he's sitting there thinking, 'Here I am going through all of this and all my daughter does is send me a damned card?'"

So she said, "Well, if you really feel that way, go ahead and call him.  And if he starts acting like a jerk, tell him that this is why things are the way they are between you and hang up."

Today, I did just that.  When we started talking, I asked if he had received the card.  "Yes, and I didn't call you.  That was my choice."  Oh.  While he continued to talk and tell me about his treatment, I mulled over in my head "Is there any way I can take that other than 'I didn't want to talk to you'?" and I keep coming up with "Nope - that's pretty much what he meant."

I won't go through every detail, but by the end, he was accusing my mom of being a liar, he was yelling that he is NOT a racist and he stood behind the emails he sent me (that led to me changing my email address), and then he hung on up me.

So I called him back and I said, "I just want you to understand that THIS is why our relationship is not a good one.  I want to wish you well with everything you're going through.  I love you, but this is the last time I'll be talking to you.  Good-bye."

And that is that.

03 November 2011

Recipe: Southwest Chicken Casserole

2 large onions, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
2 T butter
6 c cubed chopped chicken
2 10-3/4 c cream of chicken soup
16 oz sour cream
10 oz frozen chopped spinach
8 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese
12-1/2 oz nacho tortilla chips, crushed 
4 green onions, sliced

1.  In a Dutch oven, saute onions and jalapenos in butter until tender. Stir in the turkey, soup, sour cream and spinach. In a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish, layer half of the turkey mixture, cheese and tortilla chips. Repeat layers.

2.  Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with green onions.

Yield: 12 servings

Notes:  The original recipe calls for turkey, but I had a chicken on hand, so I used that.  I also subbed in cream of portabello mushroom soup, because that's what I had.  I used fat-free sour cream because I rarely use regular sour cream.  I used a 16-oz package of spinach because that's what Trader Joe's sells, and I wasn't about to figure out what to do with six extra ounces of thawed out frozen spinach, nor did I want to waste it.  TJ's also had a Jack cheese blend - regular Jack, pepper Jack, and a habañero Jack, so I used that (normally, I would have added another jalapeño, but since I was using spicy cheese, I didn't).  I also didn't use nearly as much chips as the recipe calls for.  I have no idea what I used, but I had less than half of a 16-oz bag of chips left, and I wasn't going to buy a new bag just for this.  So I just crushed the chips directly onto the casserole until the layer was done.  When both layers were complete, I still had WAY over half of what I started with left.  I didn't use the green onions on top, but only because I didn't have any on hand; I meant to sub in another onion but forgot to. 

This was extremely good, and I will definitely be making this again.  I may play around with shoving different veggies in there instead of or in addition to the spinach.  Ideas welcomed!

02 November 2011

Halloween Candy Overload

Yesterday, several people at work brought their leftover Halloween candy to work.  And we have a large department.

One woman buys full-sized candy bars for her trick-or-treaters.  The one thing I'm enjoying is sampling things that I've always thought sounded good but I haven't wanted to buy an entire candy bar of to try it.  For instance, I've discovered that Snickers Peanut Butter is quite good (these were the small "squared" bite-size pieces, not the full-sized, so I let myself have a couple).

My mom wants to know if we're all going to go on a group shopping trip for larger clothes.  At this rate, we're going to have to.

01 November 2011

Blog Contest by Fabulous Designer

As most of my Ravelry/knitting friends know, I moderate a pattern testing group on Rav.  Over the past (nearly) two years that I've held this role (although I've been a member of the group a bit longer), one of the designers I've grown particularly fond of is Corinne.

The great news is that she is currently holding a contest on her blog to celebrate her two year anniversary of designing.  Visit her blog sometime this week and enter to win two of her great patterns (excluding ebooks).  All you need to do is let her know which of her patterns you like most.  If you are new to her designs, just take a peek at her design page on Rav or look at around on her blog -- you'll find them!

Good luck, and happy knitting!

31 October 2011

Book Review: Attracted to Fire

Lindsay Hall is a drug addict and an alcoholic.  She also happens to be the daughter of the Vice President of the United States of America.

Special Agent Meghan Connors has always dreamt of being assigned to protect the President.  And the opportunity to do that may present herself if she can successfully protect Lindsay during a rehab stint on a working ranch in Texas.  The Vice President specifically requests Meghan, and she's eager to prove her worth, even when she discovers this means working with Special Agent in Charge Ash Zinders, who is notorious for being critical, tough, and biased against female agents.

This was a fun, exciting, fast-paced book.  Read my full review here.

30 October 2011

Snow!

We got some snow in Philly this weekend.  Unfortunately, it didn't really stick around here.  What fell on house roofs and and car roofs stuck, but nothing stuck to the streets or sidewalks.  Boo.

I was a little amused at the way people (read: the media) were all "ZOMG - it's snowing in OCTOBER!!!"  Clearly, these people did not grow up in Missouri, where snow in October is a regular occurrence.  Granted, I'm not referring to snow on 01 October, but it isn't at all unusual to get some kind of snowfall at some point during October.

When I mentioned this at work, one of the women got excited and said she should move.  But when I mentioned that she'd also have to get used to the summers with 100-115º heat indices, she changed her mind.  Oh well.

29 October 2011

When Mom and Felix Gang up on Me

Last night, I received the following email from my mother:


"Hi How is my wonderful, beautiful, great daughter tonight?  I am really writing to see if you are taking Felix to see Puss in Boots tomorrow.  If you don't, I am going to tell him.
 
"Love, Mom"
 
As luck would have it, Felix was actually sitting on my lap when the email came and I opened it.  Hmph.  I asked him if he had interest in the movie, and he actually seemed to.  Double hmph.  So I then explained that we would probably have to rent it because I didn't think he would be allowed in the theater.  I called Mom to tell her that she was causing problems because Fe saw the email, and she was delighted.  "Good!  Now I don't even have to tell him!"
Today, I am cooking a whole chicken in the Crock Pot (hang on - this relates to the story).  When I cook a whole chicken, I boil the liver and gizzard, and let the cat eat them.  Oscar used to LOVE liver so much that I'd buy it for him at the grocery store, but Fe only likes it enough that he gets it when I have it on hand already.  I happened to be talking to my mom on the phone as I was boiling the innards, and Fe was mewing impatiently.  I told her that I had already told Felix that since he was getting special treats today, we weren't going to the movies -- he could only get so much fun in one day.  She informed me I wasn't being fair.

Felix kept mewing impatiently, so much so that Mom finally asked me what I was doing to the poor guy.  I said, "He just REALLY wants his liver and gizzard.  He doesn't understand the cooking process."  To which she replied, "Oh.  I thought I heard him say that he's mad you aren't taking him to see Puss in Boots today."

She's incorrigible.

28 October 2011

List #33: Things I Wish I Knew More About

1.  Art
I always wanted to take an art history class, but I never had space for it when I was choosing classes.  In high school, I took every biology class offered and I packed in six years worth of English courses in my four years there, including taking a "study hall" my senior year, during which I TAed the Anatomy & Physiology class.

2.  History (both US and world)
I've always been bored to death by every history class I've ever taken, but I get sucked into a lot of History Channel shows and documentaries.  I think (like many classes), I just need(ed) a really great teacher who didn't just stand at the front of the room and recite facts, dates, and names.  I mean, in law school, we learnt a TON of history, but it was taught with passion and as stories (which they were, since it was taught as case history), so it wasn't like the typical "learn this date and person and war so you can recite them back on a test later this month."  Everything had context.

3.  Music
I always wanted to take a music appreciation course, too.  While I love music and know a bit about playing it (I played violin), I don't really know that much music history, or that much about different composers, what they wrote, why they're significant (I mean, other than "because they wrote great piece that became famous - duh"), etc.

4.  Physics
Our high school physics teacher was completely popular because she had a kick-ass fun class.  I always wanted to take it, but (1) I didn't have enough time and (2) I didn't fulfil the prereqs anyway (again, because of the whole time thing).  But now there's a guy at work who taught Physics for years, and we've been talking about several of us doing lunches together every once in awhile to discuss real-world issues and how physics applies.  Why, no, we're not geeks at all.

5.  Basketball
This is one of the few sports I don't follow.  I don't have anything against it (like my mom's husband does - omg, please don't get him started).  But it's just not a sport I really understand.  I mean, I get the fundamentals - dribble, shoot, two-points, three-points, free throws, technical fouls, blah blah blah.  But I can't tell you much about the different fouls (I bet I couldn't name more than a few), and I DEFINITELY can't tell you anything about the strategy of the game.

6.  World Geography
I used to be fairly decent at this, but I suck at it now.  I'm good at pockets.  I know North America really well, I'm fairly good with eastern/northern Europe, and eastern Asia.  I used to kick-ass at the Mid-East, but not so much anymore.  It's kind of embarrassing, really.  It kind of makes me want to track down one of those more fun colouring books for geography and work through it.  (Hey, it's how I learnt anatomy - why not geography?).

27 October 2011

Recipe: Hamburger Hot Pot Variation

You may remember me posting this recipe for Hamburger Hot Pot a couple of months ago.

What I've discovered since then (although, believe me - it's no great discovery), is that this is a great base recipe.  It's awesome for adding in random veggies and getting a crapload of food that lasts a week.  For very little money, I get a relatively healthy and extremely inexpensive lunch that lasts me all week!  What's not to love about that?

This week, I added Brussels sprouts.  Trader Joe's had entire stalks of Brussels sprouts for sale for a bit less for $3.50, and since this is one of my favourite veggies, I bought a stalk.  I cut the smaller ones in half and the larger ones in quarters.  I still cooked it on low for about 8-9 hours, and it was great.

I have a new recipe that I'm trying this weekend, so stay tuned for that next week.  But the week after, I'll be trying Hamburger Hot Pot again with (probably) the bag of frozen veggie mix that I have leftover from Angel Food.

26 October 2011

Winter Recipe Ideas

The time for cooking soups, stews, chilis, and casseroles is rolling in!  (Well, if you're me, any time is a good time for a casserole, but, you know.)

What are your favourite recipes? or blogs for recipes?

Do you subscribe to cooking magazines that you REALLY love that I need to check out (I just unsubscribed from one because I generally only got two good recipes each issue out of it, and that just wasn't good enough for me.)

Please let me know!

25 October 2011

Transit musings

Almost every morning, I sit next to the same woman on the trolley on the way to work.  If I catch the 6:36 a.m. trolley, I can almost bet on sitting next to this middle-aged, black woman with close-cropped hair and who seems very dignified.  We sit in the very first row on the trolley.

I never speak to her, and she never speaks to me, which seems awkward given that we sit next to each other all the time.  I mean, I get that I'm not on the trolley to make friends, but it just feels weird.

On the other hand, do you remember the man from Mozambique that I met awhile back when a different woman let her three kids sit in trolley seats when adults were left standing in the aisle?  I've seen him a few times since (most recently on the Thursday before Rhinebeck), and every time he and I see each other, we strike up a conversation.  I now know where he works (a large local bakery), his work shift (pretty much all day, nearly every day), and that he brings home seconds for his friend.

In the category of random: It annoys me when the trolley is crowded and people insist on standing in the aisle when seats are available.  I get the mentality of "I'm getting off soon, so I don't need to sit down," but as one of the people who is getting off BEFORE those people and now has to fight my way between all the bodies with my groceries, workbag, or whatever, I would really rather you just sat your ass down and got out of my (and everyone else's) way so we could exit the trolley without all this trouble.

And to the guy who stood in the empty row of seats...  wtf????

24 October 2011

Book Review: Stay

Savannah "Van" Leone is broken-hearted after her best-friend's wedding (who she's been in love with for years), and confused when Peter (the best friend in question arrives at her house and tries to kiss her).  She does something most people can't relate to -- she drunk-orders a dog from the internet... from Slovakia.

When Joe (as she names the dog) arrives, he isn't the small puppy she is expecting, but is instead, a big, lumbering hulk of a puppy with energy to spare.  Soon, her bank account is drained (she spent HOW MUCH on this dog?), she's being evicted for violating the pet policy, and she may developing feelings for the new vet she's had to meet.

This was a fun book and a quick read.  Read my full review here.

23 October 2011

Guess My Word

For about the past month, I have become addicted to this game.  It was mentioned on "Jeopardy!" because the champion for several days in a row is the guy who either designed the game or helped design the game.

The concept is easy.  You guess a word, and the programme tells you if the word of the day is before or after your word (in the dictionary).  Keep guessing until you get the correct word.  Whether you want to get the word in the quickest time or the least amount of guesses is up to you.

The game is maddening but addictive.

Have fun!

22 October 2011

SEPTA

I briefly mentioned this incident on Twitter two weeks ago, but I also spoke to SEPTA (Philly's mass transit system) customer service and they advised that I file an online complaint.  I took their advice, and I filled out the online form.

This is what I entered in the space where I describe the incident:

"During the ride, the driver kept reading a book, which I do not think is safe for a trolley operator to be doing while operating a trolley full of passengers, even if underground.  The book appeared to be an employee manual of some kind, as she kept reading aloud a passage regarding something being due the Sunday after schedules come out and how this isn't fair, especially to Overbrook operators.  First, this is a safety issue for her to be reading while operating the trolley.  Second, I think it is extremely inappropriate to be discussing company policies and procedures in that kind of public forum when passengers can hear (I was three rows back on the right side).

"When I attempted to take a picture of her reading (for proof to attach to an email to SEPTA), she saw me and asked her friend, "Why is that Chinese lady taking my picture?"  He said, "Want me to go make her wipe it off?" and they laughed.  First, I am not Chinese -- I am Korean.  I do not expect that the average person will know my ethnic background by looking at me, but it is extremely rude and insensitive for her to make assumptions like that.  I believe that this issue should be addressed with her, as well.

"I also think that SEPTA employees should not allow their friends to block ingress/egress to the trolley.  There were several times when people were entering and exiting the trolley at the same stop, but they could not do so at the same time because the operator's friend would not move from his spot.  In turn, this slowed down the trip as people entering would have to wait for people exiting, then the guy would move to the other side, etc.

"Thank you for your attention to this matter."

This past week, I received the following reply:

"Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and please accept our apologies for the actions and inappropriate comments of this operator.  SEPTA operators are required to direct their full attention to the task at hand - providing a safe ride.  In addition, operators - like  any other SEPTA employee - are expected to perform their duties with a level of professionalism.

"Your report is being forwarded to Management in the Elmwood District of the Surface Transportation Division.  The information that you have provided will be used to identify the operator cited.  Once positive ID is established, appropriate action will be taken."

(I had provided other information on the online form about the route I had taken, the time I had boarded, where I had boarded, etc.  Thanks to sending a text just as I boarded, I was able to give an EXACT time of boarding.  lol)

I am quite pleased with the response that I received, and I do feel that my complaint is being taken seriously.  I am also glad that this route is not my regular route, as my mom told me "Well, when you don't get picked up for work anymore, you'll know why."  But I told her it wasn't my regular trolley since it was a random trolley I took into the city from work.  Ha!

21 October 2011

List #32: Things I Miss About Being Unemployed

1.  Sleeping in; not having to set an alarm clock
(Duh)

2.  Being able to go to doctor's appointments anytime during the day
Although my job has flex-time and is pretty good about letting you leave early/stay late to make up time if you have appointments, it was great to be able to just call the doctor and accept whatever first available appointment they gave.

3.  Being able to do household chores when I wanted to
There are three students in my building (six of us in my building total), so it isn't as if we're all competing for precious evening/weekend spots for the one washer/dryer that are in the basement, but most of us tend to do our laundry in the evenings/weekends anyway, for some reason.  So when I was unemployed, I tended to aim for Monday mornings.  Now I aim for Friday night or early Saturday morning.  I keep trying to Monday evening since I figure I'll be the only one going for that time slot, but I keep forgetting.

4.  Being able to run errands at off-peak times
This actually isn't that bad since I get off work at 3:00 p.m., but it does mean that even though I get to the stores in the city before everyone else, if I'm not careful, I still end up hitting the rush-hour commute on the way home.

20 October 2011

Job Stuff

So, some of you know exactly what's going on, and others have just heard me talk about the things at the new job going all pear-shaped as of last week.  For reasons that should be obvious (given that this is the internet), I'm not going to go into detail here, but I will say that things are Officially Not Good.

On top of (1) family stress and (2) health stress, I now have (3) job stress.

Is it any wonder that I'm not sleeping nights?

I have no trouble falling asleep once I go to bed, but I wake up about every two hours.  And while I generally fall asleep not quite right away but soon enough, it's the constant waking up that's annoying.  And the fact that the last time I wake up tends to be around 4:40 a.m. when my alarm is set for 5:35 a.m. is EXTREMELY annoying.

Equally annoying is that Felix doesn't understand the difference between "time to get up, Mom!" and "no! Mommy is still trying to sleep.  I love you a lot but GO. AWAY."  There have been a couple of nights where I've nearly locked him out of the bedroom.  He tries to burrow under the blanket, which means that he digs at my neck and arms, to get under the RIGHT layer, but this is annoying because I KNOW (from prior experience) that this will end with him getting under the blanking, turning a few circles, crawling over my body, then deciding this is at all what he wanted, and then coming back up for air (by crawling back over my head).  So I'm trying to nip this in the bud by just not letting it start.  Blech.

Then I end up going to work feeling like I got next to no sleep.

Fun times.

19 October 2011

Random Rhinebeck Ramblings

Market baskets should not be allowed.  The fad this year was market baskets.  People bought these huge market baskets that they would then tote their purchases in.  Said baskets were usually carried on the arm of the person, which put at my eye level.  These baskets were hard and had no give.  The fact that I didn't come home with two black eyes is completely unexplainable to me.

There was also a man who was carrying his toddler on his back in a huge-ass back-pack-like contraption.  not one of those small, cosy, things that kept baby close, but a huge contraption that was basically a carry-all, a tote, and a storage bag all in one.  Okay, fine.  But then you might want to mind when you're backing into people, things, displays, etc.

I found out that it simultaneously amuses and annoys me when I pet a sheep and he poops as I pet him.

I will never again hear Peruvian flute music and not automatically want to pee.

I will never know what the other ladies in the bathroom thought when Ria, Rachel, and I went into a stall one-by-one and came out laughing.  But it really worth the trip.  And it was totally hysterical.

I still don't understand when they think they're going to the punkin chunkin.  "We told them they can come any day."  But it's a two-day event!

Some people really just do NOT understand that when they start telling you a story and the first part of the story is "Can I ask you something really inappropriate" and they are a complete stranger, that maybe the rest of the story/question shouldn't be asked/told.

The potato chip/dip man may think the sale to Ria and I wasn't worth it.  But I do!

I think we scared the poor guy who asked if he could help us.  When he said "You could have just said 'no,' that probably was a bad sign.

All in all, I don't think I stopped laughing (well, after I stopped crying when I told Rachel about The Work Incident).

I'm sorry I'll miss Rhinebeck next year.

18 October 2011

Rhinebeck, Part III

Sunday morning, before we left for the fairgrounds, I made sure to update my notebook with exactly what I needed.  Whew.  My plan to be more organised was complete.

Now that I knew exactly what I needed, I was set.  We set out, and I was pretty bummed because I hadn't been that excited by what I had seen for the one pattern that I DID know what I needed.  And we only had a few barns left.  Boo.

But we did some pretty serious power shopping, and by the time it was time to go home, I had secured yarn for all three of the patterns I needed yarn for.  The optional patterns didn't get yarn bought for, but my budget had been met, anyway.

We set sail for home, and bid Rhinebeck adieu.

I was particularly sad since I won't be able to make Rhinebeck next year, unless I want to miss the Kansas race for the second year in a row (which I probably won't), so I'm bummed.  BOOOOO.

17 October 2011

Book Review: Creep

Dr. Sheila Tao is a psychology professor at Puget Sound State University, and Ethan Wolfe is one of her students and teaching assistants.  For just over three months, they've been having an affair, but now Sheila needs to cut off the relationship because of her engagement.  Ethan doesn't take the news well, and he threatens to release a sexually explicit video the two of them made together.

Ethan also begins looking into Sheila's fiancé, Morris, to scope out the competition.  Eventually, Ethan also begins following Sheila, all to gain more information about her in order to carry out the master plan -- kidnapping her.

This book grabbed my attention on the first page and it never let go.  Read my full review here.

16 October 2011

Rhinebeck, Part II

Friday night, Ria and I went through the patterns that I wanted to get yarn for while at Rhinebeck, and I wrote in my notebook what kinds of yarn each pattern required.  I was trying to be systematic this year since in past years I've gone home with two yarns for the same pattern, but no yarn for a second pattern, or the wrong type of yarn for a certain pattern because I was going by memory.

I also wanted to have a small notebook with me so I could note if I saw certain yarns at a place that I liked but wanted to come back to later in case I didn't find something better later.  Rhinebeck is large enough that it's dangerous to buy things on Saturday or buy the first thing you see unless you ABSOLUTELY fall in love with it and MUST have it (or aren't on a strict budget).

The problem was that for two of the patterns I needed, I only wrote how many skeins of the suggested yarn I needed, which isn't helpful since I hadn't looked up how many yards each skein of the suggested yarn had.  Blech.  So on Saturday we mostly went around looking at pretty things, getting ideas for the one pattern I did know what I needed, and getting possible ideas for the others.

At the end of the day, we made sure to hit the wine and cheese barn so Rachel could have some wine to drink while Ria and I watched the NASCAR Sprint Cup race.  However, because of the stuff that happened at work on Friday, I ended up falling asleep almost as soon as the race started at 7:30.  The connection?  I barely got any sleep Friday night.  Combine that with walking around and shopping all day, and I was a sleepy knitter.

15 October 2011

Rhinebeck, Part I

Yesterday (after receiving the suckiest work news of all time -- yes, suckier than being laid off - at least when I was laid off, my character wasn't attacked), my friend Rachel came over, picked me up, and we headed off to pick up our friend Ria in north Jersey.  But first, we had to raid Target for some road trip snacks.

After that, we were off.  We had some great conversation on the way up, although I wish Rachel had mentioned earlier in the trip that she didn't have a GPS so we could have used mine.  Oh well.  We got to Ria's house in 2.5 hours.  It would have been 2 hours, but SOMEONE doesn't know whether to turn right or left off the exit to get to her own house.  (See if I trust HER directions again!)

Once we picked Ria up, we were on our way to Rhinebeck - whee!  Our tradition is to hit this lovely sushi place every Rhinebeck weekend Friday.  I think I need to stop mentioning it, though, because it was pretty crowded this year.  Hmph.

By the time we got there (not that late, really), we were hungry and ready for our sushi.  Rachel and I always talk about the Godzilla roll, which we both ordered, but I was disappointed by it this year.  I don't know if I was just too full by the time I got to it, or if my tastes have changed in the past two years (when I last had it).  But the Mexican roll and the Kamikaze roll were both SOOOOOOO good.  Rachel was going to order the crispy potato roll, so we could share it, but they gave her crazy spider roll instead.  Boo.

Then it was back to the motel room where we could watch the rest of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race and strategise for the weekend.  Whee!

14 October 2011

List #31: My Favourite Poets

1. Edgar Allan Poe

2.  Maya Angelou

3.  Langston Hughes

4.  A. A. Milne

Hmm, I clearly need to either be less discerning or read more poetry. 

My Favourite YouTube Videos

I met with my friend Joanna for supper tonight.  During supper, we ended up talking about some of my favourite YouTube videos.  My newest favourite I shared with you on Monday.

Here are the other two that crack the top three.

1.  Epic Why Guy.  I discovered this video because it was posted on Ravelry a couple of years ago.  Ever since then, Ria and I have discussed the many ways in which we could re-enact this.  When I posted on Twitter the other day that I was going to be on the news, she replied with "Did they lock you out of the mall again?"



2.  The Difference Between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England Explained.  A great video made of facts but done so awesomely that it's just hysterically funny.

12 October 2011

Rhinebeck Prep

I spent tonight getting ready for Rhinebeck.  I'll be out tomorrow after work, so I knew I needed to get things together tonight.  What's left for tomorrow is to get patterns (that I want to shop for yarn for) printed, get food together for the weekend, and last-minute stuff that I can't pack until after I use it in the morning (toiletries and such).

And, of course, I'm packing some knitting to take with me.

I'm exciting since I had to miss Rhinebeck last year.  And I'll get to see Ria.  Yay!

11 October 2011

How Wrong is Curt?

Very, extremely, awesomely, hugely, exceedingly, immensely wrongity wrong wrong wrong.

Just so you all know.

10 October 2011

Not a Book Review Monday

Usually, I bring you a book review every Monday.  Although I have several queued up, I've been so inspired by this video, that I had to share it with you.

And it's tied into Book Review Monday because it's by one of my favourite authors, Brad Meltzer.

This video has been tugging at my brain since I first saw it this weekend.  In fact, I now have a little sticky in my cube at work that reads "he was a"

Enjoy.  I hope you're as inspired as I was.


(Btw, TED = Technology Entertainment and Design; MIA = Meet Inspire Act)

09 October 2011

The Autumn Wind

On Sundays (and some Saturday evenings), I usually glued to Race Day, the two-hour pre-race show on SPEED Channel.  But today, I switched over to FOX NFL Sunday, the one-hour Sunday football show.  Howie Long is one of the panelists, and he was a Raider for 13 years.  I knew that every national pre-game show would have a segment on Al Davis, but I particularly wanted to catch what Howie had to say about Mr. Davis.

But it was actually what Terry Bradshaw (the former Steelers quarterback who won four Super Bowls) said that was more poignant.  When Bradshaw (who my mom would leave her husband for in a New York minute) retired, he had returned to his Louisiana ranch, and he got a call from Mr. Davis one day.  They talked for a bit, and Davis asked how he was doing financially.  Bradshaw said he "was okay - nothing coming in, nothing going out."  And Davis told him, "If you ever need ANYTHING, you give me a call and let me know."  And he and other panelists commented about how such offers wouldn't be made in this day and age.  Davis valued loyalty above all else, and if he saw something in you that warranted his loyalty, you had it forever.

Now, for those of you who don't know your football history, this is huge.  For the owner of the Raiders to make a gesture like that to someone from the Steelers organisation is no small thing.  The Steelers are the team who benefited from the play known as the Immaculate Reception.  In fact, Bradshaw said that one time (before the call), he happened to sit at a table near Davis, and he didn't say hi to Davis because of the history between the Raiders and Steelers, but Davis waved him over and they shared a meal together.

One thing Howie Long said that I think is important, though, is also something that makes me sad.  Although I have no illusions that the Raiders will take the big prize this season, I do think this season is a turning point.  And it saddens me that our fearless leader won't be able to see the ship righting itself.  And I hope his death won't mean that everything falls apart.

In closing, "The Autumn Wind," the unofficial anthem of the Raiders.  It's often played at our home games:

The Autumn wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea
With a rollicking song he sweeps along
Swaggering boisterously.
His face is weatherbeaten
He wears a hooded sash
With a silver hat about his head
And a bristling black mustache
He growls as he storms the country
A villain big and bold
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake
As he robs them of their gold.
The Autumn wind is a Raider
Pillaging just for fun
He'll knock you 'round and upside down
And laugh when he's conquered and won.

08 October 2011

A Sad Day for Raider Nation

I had another blog topic prepared for today, but I've just learnt of the passing of Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders.

While I sometimes disagreed with his decisions (firing Jon Gruden?  Seriously?  benching Marcus Allen for two seasons?  Really?), I had mad respect for him.  He is the only man who has played every role in the NFL.  Scout, assistant coach, coach, general manager, commissioner, and owner.  When he was an assistant coach in college, he recruited the first black quarterback in the PAC-10.  As a coach, Davis was the first to start recruiting from black colleges.  And as an owner, he was the first to sign a black head coach (shout-out to Art Shell!), a Latino coach, and a female CEO.

He wanted his team to be internationally (not just nationally) recognised.  This vision came from him growing up Brooklyn and admiring how ubiquitous the Yankee pinstripes were.  A guy I worked for when I taught once remarked that "no matter where I go, I find you people (Raiders fans) everywhere!  I can't get away from you!"

Davis coined the catchphrases "Just Win, Baby," "Commitment to Excellence," and "Pride and Poise."  While the Raiders have had their ups and downs and for the past decade, the organisation as a whole has become a recognisable icon and not only among football fans.  ESPN's show "30 for 30" showcased the impact that the Raiders have had on the hip-hop industry, for instance.

Raider Nation has lost a great leader, visionary, and competitor.  This is truly a sad day for Raider Nation.

07 October 2011

List #30: Fall TV Shows I'm Digging

1.  The Playboy Club
This just got cancelled, so I'm not going to bother to tell you what I liked about it, lest you get excited about it.  I will say that I'm not entirely surprised that it's been cancelled.  While it was good, it wasn't GREAT.

2.  Person of Interest
I am absolutely fascinated with this show.  The (very, VERY basic) premise is that "The Machine" (built after 11 September and originally designed to predict who would commit acts of terrorism) spits out the social security numbers of persons of interest.  The problem is that these people may be of interest because they are going to commit a crime or because they are going to be a victim.  A team of two men track down the person of interest from only their SSN, find out what their story is, and try to prevent the bad thing from happening.  And, as with successful dramas these days (that aren't police procedurals), there is a ton of mythology that goes along with this.

3.  Unforgettable
This is about Carrie Wells who has a medical condition that ensures that she never forgets anything - ever.  Which, of course, makes her a great detective.  Ask her a date, and she can tell you anything that happened that day (involving her, or as long as she had some experience with it).  She often solves crimes because she's able to recall the crime scene and then compare that memory to things she experiences and sees during the investigation.  While I like her character, I really don't like any of the other characters.  And the thing with her mother having dementia is just too...  cutesy (in an ironic way, but you know what I mean).  And I'm not sure how they'll keep this show fresh.

4.  Prime Suspect
Maria Bello plays a detective in New York City who is competing with the Ol' Boy's Club.  She's not your average "I'm trying to use my womanly ways to my advantage" kind of female detective.  She's hard, tough, and completely gung-ho.  But not so much so that she's a caricature.  I'm really loving this show so far.  Also, Maria Bello is just hot.

5.  Pan Am
I didn't think I'd like this show.  I only watched the pilot episode on a fluke.  In fact, I had forgotten that I set it to record "when possible" since it conflicted with some other shows with it originally débuted.  But this is quickly becoming a favourite.  I was wary of it, because really - a show about flight attendants?  or people flying?  Really?  But it's actually a show about people who just happen to work in the flight industry.  The story is told non-linearly, which apparently bothers some people, but I'm enjoying it (although I HATE books that use this device).  For instance, one of the stewardesses (remember when we still called them that?) is a runaway bride.  And as the flight takes off in the first episode, we flash back to the day of her wedding to find out exactly what happened.  And we're still finding out the entire story about the other characters a few weeks in.

06 October 2011

The Most Interesting Day

My day started out perfectly normal.  Then I went into the city for physiotherapy.

That's when I ran into the protesters gathered at City Hall.  I had heard on the news that a protest would be happening, and Mr. Lee at the corner store (he sells me my lottery tickets every week) had asked me about it yesterday, but I didn't think I'd actually run into them.  They were at City Hall and every time the light changed, some of them crossed 15th Street.  Chants ranged from "This is what democracy looks like" to "Stop the war, fund the poor" to "We are the 99 percent."  Signs included "I am not an ATM," (glad we cleared that up) "I have too many grievances to list in this space," "I am sick of this shit," "separate corporations and state," and "I can't afford a lobbyist."

While watching the protest, I began talking to a young man standing next to me also observing.  Conversation was stilted because he speaks French and not much English.  I, of course, speak English and not much French (although I was able to tell him in French that I speak only a little French, but me speaking in French lead to him speaking a lot of French to me.  Seriously, dude - ONLY.  A.  LITTLE!).  I also told him in Spanish that I speak a little Spanish, but he told me (in English) that he doesn't speak Spanish.  I said, "I think we have an impasse," and he laughed.

He's from Nigeria.  He's been travelling the world.  He stopped first in Germany, then somewhere else, and now Philly.  Today is Day 17 of being in Philly.  I found out that in Nigeria, everyone can go to university free, but the quality is not good.  He has no set plans, and would like to stay in the U.S. as long as possible, getting a job, working, etc.

Also, he's possibly the cutest guy I've seen in a very long time.  And also way too young for me (he's 20).

After that, physiotherapy.  I found out that the front desk woman who I adore is leaving at the end of the month to go study in Virginia.  She wants a Master's degree in Chemistry.  As if that's better than taking my co-pay twice a week!  Hmph.

Next up, I planned to go home.  But I passed by the Apple Store, where I saw a makeshift memorial.  People had stuck Post-It notes to the floor-to-ceiling glass front window and had put flowers on the sidewalk in front of the store.  I was curious about what some of the notes said, so I crossed the street to check it out.  One of them was written in Arabic, one was written in Japanese.  One was a drawing of Homer Simpson that read "Mmm, Apple."  One said, "iMiss you"


As I stood there, I started getting emotional, thinking about what it takes to see a dream come to fruition, to be an innovator, to believe in oneself...  you know, all that pie in the sky stuff.  And especially to pursue that crap when facing one's own mortality.  Apparently, my emotion was apparent (yeah, those of you who know me are SHOCKED by this - lol), because a newswoman from NBC10 asked if I wanted to say something on camera.  I turned her down, but she asked again, and when I told her that I simply didn't know what to say, she said it's just nice to express what I'm feeling.  I started out kind of dumb, but then she started actually interviewing me.

After that part was over, she and I got to talking.  She's going to law school part-time where I went to law school.  We discussed professors, classes, and what she's wanting to do with her law degree.  It was a fun conversation.

From there, I intended to head home.  But the protesters were still at City Hall.  And it was a slightly different group.  So I stood and watched for a few more minutes.  This group had an upside down U.S. flag, the Gadsden flag, and one sign that read "Can you hear me, or do I need more money?"

After that, I FINALLY made it home.

05 October 2011

General Update

Last night, I had a wicked nightmare.  My therapist and I discussed things today, and we decided to try Ativan for awhile.

I've been working on knitting more.  The project I'm working on now is on a deadline, which helps.

My acid reflux is worse than usual.  I've gone through half a bottle of Mylanta in the past few days.

I have a headache that won't quit.

I'm loving the fall television season.  There are several new shows I like, but (as per usual) two of them are already getting low ratings and EW is predicting they won't be on the air much longer.

Felix has taken to trying to sleep on my head at night.  No, not on my pillow or by my head, but actually ON. MY. HEAD.  There have been a few nights I've nearly locked him out of the bedroom.  Fighting with a cat so I can sleep probably isn't conducive to that whole "general malaise and fatigue" thing I've got going on.

Work - it's work.  I'd probably be enjoying it more if it wasn't for everything else going on in my life.

04 October 2011

Brad Meltzer's Decoded

I got an email today.  It asked me to pass along this message:

My friend Brad's TV show, "Brad Meltzer's Decoded," kicks off its second season on Wednesday at 10pm/9c on the History Channel.  Please watch as he tries to see what's really inside Fort Knox.

03 October 2011

Book Review: A Killing In Antiques

Lucy St. Elmo, owner of St. Elmo Fine Antiques, is gearing up for Brimfield, the country's largest outdoor antique fair.  Just as things are kicking off, she's astonished to hear that her friend Monty has been killed.  But she's even more shocked to see his business partner Silent Billy being arrested nearly immediately for the murder.

Lucy has been snoop before, but the last time she did, she got shot, which lead to her promising her husband that her snooping days were over.  However, she's sure that Silent Billy couldn't have killed Monty.  Before Brimfield comes to a close, Lucy knows she has to prove him innocent.

Read my full review here.

02 October 2011

Let's Go, October!

The bad news: For the first fall in many years, I'm missing the race in Kansas.  I could have gone (I told work from the beginning that I needed this weekend off), but I decided (well, Grandma decided for me) to save my days for Christmas/New Year instead.  Race weekend is also my Grandma's 90th birthday, so we'd have to leave the Saturday race mid-way to go to Grandma's birthday supper.  And it didn't seem worth missing two days of work and flying halfway across the country to see a 1.5 races.  And Grandma would rather see me for longer at Christmas, instead of just for a short meal for her birthday.

The good news: I had to miss Rhinebeck (NY Sheep & Wool Festival) last year since I was unemployed, but I get to go this year, with my usual crew of Rachel and Ria.  I'm super excited, and I'm already planning my shopping (mostly based around Christmas knitting).

My new physiotherapist is pretty good.  She's no Sandra, but I do like her so far.  She does seem better than the first guy I worked with.

The maybe news: A friend of mine is awaiting the results of a job interview.  I really want her to get this job.  It would super awesome, for myriad reasons.  I told her the other day that I needed one thing to go right this month (she interviewed in September), and I was picking that.  So it's potential good news.

I also scheduled the consultation with the sleep centre at Jefferson Hospital.  So I've got that going.

01 October 2011

Housework

I spent today doing housework, which should really do itself.

By the time noon rolled around, I had put in the fifth load of laundry, taken out one load of trash and two loads of recycling, and done a load of dishes.  And I had forgotten to eat breakfast.  Oops.

I keep meaning to try to fit in housework when I get home from work so I can have weekends free and clear, and I'm getting better at it, with the exception of laundry.  I just need to get a schedule, which is difficult when I'm just exhausted all the time.

And I have a cat who seems to think he needs attention ALL. THE. TIME. when I get home.  Weirdo.

30 September 2011

Recipe: Crock Pot Salsa Chicken

1 lb chicken breasts
1 c salsa
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c sour cream

Put the chicken in the crockpot, pour the salsa and soup over it, stir it up a bit. Let simmer for 6 hours on low. When it’s done, remove from heat and stir in the sour cream.

Serve over brown rice with peas.

Notes: I cooked for 8 hours because I used frozen chicken, and I like to be able to fork shred my chicken, rather than serve it whole, which it does nicely when it's been cooked just a bit longer.  I also had a thought after I ate it that this might be nice with Trader Joe's queso sauce added in at that end (with the sour cream).  Their queso is smooth and just SLIGHTLY spicy.  I happened to drop by TJ's and got some queso and used it for the leftovers.  It's definitely being used the next time I make this!

List #29: My Future Children's Names

1.  Michael
Do I really need to explain this one?  Have you not been paying any attention at all to this blog?

2.  Charlotte
For those of you who don't know why I don't eat pork, two words: Charlotte's Web.  Since I read this book, I've always told my mom that I would name my first daughter Charlotte.  And I would name my first son...

3.  Wilbur
I think she thinks I'm kidding.  We'll see.

4.  Jonathan
It's a bit of a story, but I used to be friends with a family (he was a pro athlete, she was a friend of mine and his girlfriend) who had a very special kid.  It was actually the little brother of my friend, but because of the age difference and because their mother was - ahem - incapable of taking care of him, my friend had legal custody of him.  I nannied for him until he needed an actual nurse, because he had juvenile Huntington's Disease.  He passed away at the age of 10.  Because of him and Jonathan Larson (writer of "Rent" and "tick, tick... BOOM"), I've always thought I might name a son Jonathan.  Plus, I just like the versatility of the name - John, Johnny, Nathan, Nate... 

5.  Ben
This one is for personal reasons.  Some of you know this story.

Then there's the day I was having supper with Mom and threatened to name all of my kids after Michael Jackson songs: Diana, Annie, Billy Jean, Ben, Liberian Girl...

28 September 2011

Medical Update

I saw my most excellent doctor today.  She suggested that my next step be a sleep study.  At this point, she (and the rest of my medical team) have identified and fixed all of the obvious, known causes of fatigue (my thyroid, my Vitamin D deficiency), so it's on to finding new and more interesting things.  There's still the possibility of this mystery thing that I keep alluding to (I've told a scant few of you about it in person), but she wants to rule out sleep disorders first, because she thinks the first question the specialist she wants me to see about the potential mystery cause will be whether I've had a sleep study done.

She said it's possible that fatigue COULD be stress-related (as the NP had suggested), but that this has been ongoing for so long, she thinks we're beyond that at this point.  That's when I told her about Orin, which is when I started crying.  I seem to do a lot of crying in her office lately.

She and I had a really wonderful talk.  She told me that it's been her experience that people who are facing death don't change (I kind of figured that - that only happens in the movies) and that they often cling more rigidly to their behaviour.  She said when she worked with cancer patients in the hospital (in rotations and such), she heard a lot of near-deathbed confessions and regrets, and she often wanted to shake the person and say, "Why are you telling ME this?  Call your mother/ex-wife/ex-husband/daughter/son/brother/sister and tell THEM this!  You just met me!"  But since the person never got the tools to handle these things, they won't suddenly get them just because they're dying.

She also advised me to think about the fact that I don't want to live with regret - and not in the "you need to be nice to him because you'll regret it if you don't" kind of way, but her advice was more "his pain is going to end - the physical pain and the emotional pain.  And it's going to end soon.  But this cross will be yours to bear, so do what you need to do for yourself, not for him, because you'll regret it if you act for him."

We had a really good talk, and she made sure that I've been talking to my therapist and that my therapist is aware of everything that's going on.  She asked me if I wanted some Xanax or Ativan, because she thought that it might be a good thing for me right now, but it's not something I'm ready for.  While I can see that it might be helpful, at this point, it feels like admitting defeat - like I've somehow let life's pressures get to me or something.

27 September 2011

In the past week

I found out that my father is dying, a friend of mine hurt my feelings by calling me petty, I found that good friends of mine are moving across the country, and the first question my new physiotherapist asked me was whether my doctor has discussed surgical options with me.

There are only a few days left to September, and I'm rather thankful for that.

26 September 2011

Book Review: To the Moon and Back

In keeping with the spirit of most of the other books I've been reading lately, this one is about a young woman who loses her husband.  This time, it's to a fatal car crash.  After her husband's father urges her to leave their apartment to a nicer house, Ellie slowly begins the process of moving on.

Ellie can't imagine living without Jamie, so she doesn't.  She has pretend conversations with him, complete with his dialogue, and this makes his loss easier.  Still, she tries to carry on as normal a life as she can without having a husband anymore.

This book was touching, heart-breaking, and witty, usually in unexpected ways.  Read my full review here.

25 September 2011

Tired

I have things to do.

My mom needs me to write a short note for a thing she's putting together for my Grandma's 90th birthday luncheon.  I'm happy to do this, but I'm just mentally and emotionally exhausted.

A friend of mine has a huge job interview coming up, and I've been doing all I can to try to prep her for it.  I hope it works out.

I still have medical issues going on, and it's exhausting me.

Also, this weekend was heart-attack inducing sports-wise.  Don't these people know I need a little less excitement in my life right now????

24 September 2011

The Decision (Sorry LeBron)

I've decided to send Orin a card letting him know that I know about his situation, I'm sorry to hear about it, he's in my prayers, and that if he wants to talk, he has my phone number.

I'm hoping to accomplish a few things this way: he'll figure out that it was never my intention to cut him out of my life (which I never said anyway), so it's fine for him to call me; it puts the ball in his court, and if he wants to talk, he still has to find his balls and pick up the phone and call me (rather than keep putting other people in the middle); it will let him know that I care about what he's going through; and it will give him a chance to think about what he wants to say before he calls (I hope), rather than him merely reacting when he hears my voice on the phone if I were to call him, which could lead to who knows what.

23 September 2011

List #28: My Favourite Stores

1. Target
2. IKEA

If you combine those stores into one, I could live there and be completely happy.

3.  Victoria's Secret

I'm not that girly about many things, but I do love my VS underwears.  Plus, they're one of few places that sell scented lotions and body mists that I'm not allergic to.

4.  Lush

Funnily enough, I don't use many of their products, although I buy a ton of them.  I shop here often for birthday, Christmas, special occasion, and just because gifts.  But now that I might be able to spring for some stuff for myself, I might splurge for myself every once in awhile.

5.  Barnes & Noble

Tons o' books.  'Nuff said.

6.  CVS

I don't know what it is about this place, but I love it.

7.  Staples

Who doesn't love office supplies???

22 September 2011

My Big News: Orin

On Tuesday, after the debacle with PGW ended, I was talking to my mom.  Somewhere in the middle, she tells me that she needs my father's phone number.  For those of you not in the know, she and my father divorced when I was two (that's well over 30 years ago).  It was NOT an amicable split, and things have happened since that validated my mom's decision to leave him.

So, this was rather odd.  I asked her if I was allowed to ask why she need it.  She said I was.  Apparently, Orin had called and left a message with her husband Dale.  He said he has cancer and wanted to talk to her.  Dale asked Orin for his number, and Orin told Dale that Mom could get it from me.  So Mom and I really think that this is really just Orin's way of letting me know what's going on; he doesn't ACTUALLY want to talk to Mom (or he does, but just to ask her to tell me).

I'll cut to the chase here - through a series of events, I have found out that Orin has cancer of the lungs, which has metastasised to his brain.  I still haven't spoken to Orin, so that's really all I know, except that when he spoke to one of his oldest friends Denny (who is the brother of my mom's best friend Juliah), Orin was apparently crying so hard he couldn't speak.

Now, those of you who don't know me well or who haven't known me long might be asking why Orin and I aren't communicating directly.  Well, we've been through several periods of estrangement, and this is the latest.  Two years ago, I asked him to stop sending me racist emails because I got tired of it.  He continued.  I thought "maybe he doesn't understand what's racist and what isn't."  So I simplified the directive and asked him to limit his email communication to only personal correspondence, such as talking about each other's lives, what the family is doing, what's going on, etc.  But he continued to send hateful things.  I told him if he sent anything else, I would change my email address.  When he sent something else, I reminded him of my earlier message (telling him that I would change my email address and he would no longer be able to contact me via email), and his reply was "I have a delete button - don't you?" which told me that he didn't care at all about my feelings about the issues (let alone about the larger issue that he's sending racist emails to his daughter who happens to a minority member).

Since then, I've never heard from him.  Bear in mind that I haven't moved and my phone number remains the same.  At no time did I say that I wanted him out of my life completely.  I only wanted to stop receiving racist bullshit from him.  He's the one who didn't call me the next month at Thanksgiving, the month after that at Christmas, or the month after that on my birthday.  But now he's telling Juliah that she or Mom need to let me know that he's sick because I cut him out of my life.  I don't respect the way he's trying to put people in the middle of our crap, for one thing.  I feel like he needs to stop being a coward, man-up, and pick up and phone.

He's proven (not just by these recent incidents, but throughout his entire life) that he's selfish, he's abusive, and he's incapable of processing how others feel about a given situation.  I've also come to realise (as an adult) that part of this is due to his alcoholism.  So I'm stressed and confused because while I DO care about him and what he's going through, I also NEED to maintain some healthy boundaries to protect myself.  How do I do this while showing some compassion for his situation?  How can I handle this situation as a good Christian, but not blindly be pulled back into drama-land?

21 September 2011

A hell of a day

Last night was a hell of a day.  It started out fine.

The middle was me getting accused of knowingly stealing gas from Philadelphia Gas Works for the past three works.

And the end... well, more on that later.  And, I'll apologise in advance, because you'll probably be hearing a LOT about it in the coming weeks/months.

20 September 2011

Dr. Gary A Boring

Rachel and I went out for supper last night.  Somehow, we got to talking about how back home, there's a man named "Dr. Gary A Boring," and he's a chiropractor.  So the big, brown sign in front of his building reads "Dr. Gary A Boring" and under that "CHIROPRACTOR."  So, naturally, you get "Dr. Gary A Boring Chiropractor."

We got to laughing about all the various occupations that Gary probably shouldn't be - a professor.  A comedian.  A dentist (since they bore holes with their drill).

Any other ideas?

19 September 2011

Book Review: Angelina's Bachelors

Angelina D'Angelo lives in South Philly with her husband Frank and has a comfortable, happy life... until he suddenly dies of a heart attack.  She isn't sure how her life will continue, but she know it must, and her close-knit Italian family and neighbours prove helpful in this regard.

Angelina has always found solace in food, and she once again turns to cooking for comfort.  Over time, she eventually starts cooking for various bachelors in the neighbourhood, and she forms a sort of "food club" out of her home.

This book was excellent, and chock-full of recipes.  My full review is here.

18 September 2011

Emmy Night!

I'm quite the awards show whore.  It doesn't really even matter which awards show it is, if there's an awards show, I'm there.

Tonight is the Prime Time Emmys, which means I'm glued to the tv.  While some people watch for the fashion, I'm totally in it for the competition.  I have my favourite shows and actors, and damn it! they better win!

My mom knows better than to call me during an awards show.  In fact, tonight, as we were talking, I gave her a warning, "The Emmys start in exactly one minute."  "Oh, okay."  Then a little later, she told me to have fun watch the show.  "'kay."  "Oh, they must have started already, haven't they?"  She got a distracted, "Uh-huh" in reply.

She laughed and bid me good-bye.

17 September 2011

My Latest Medical Issue

Beginning last Saturday (a week ago today), I began having left upper quadrant pain.  It was a sharp, stabbing pain directly under my ribs, not unlike the pain I got with my pancreatitis/gall bladder episodes, but the pain never moved to where my gall bladder (right upper quadrant), and it wasn't related to when I ate.  Since it continued throughout Monday, I called my doctor and described my other symptoms (extreme fatigue and headache).

Now, I expected that once I started work, I would be tired, but this wasn't getting any better as time went by.  If anything, it may have been getting worse.  And I kept getting obnoxious headaches from not eating.  But it wasn't that I was intentionally not eating - I just wasn't hungry or I'd go to eat and then I'd just pick at it because food wasn't tempting.

I got a call back from my doctor that I should see her NP that day for an urgent care appointment.  I was able to see the NP that I prefer, and I got an appointment for right after work.  I went in, talked to the NP, and we talked for a little while.  She said, "From what it sounds like, you've been out of work for awhile.  It's not that you just switched jobs, right?"  "Right."  "Well, I think you have a kind of post-traumatic stress thing going on.  Let me explain.  I'm guessing that when you were out of work, you were pretty stressed and anxious."

And I said, "Yeah," and then I just started crying.  And not just a regular cry, but one of those mortifying, messy, snot cries.  She handed me some tissues, and said, "See, that's what I mean.  You're obviously still carrying all that stress and anxiety and negative energy around."  At first, I thought she was a whack-a-doodle, and I was going to take back every positive thing I'd ever said about her.  Or I thought maybe she'd misunderstood me and thought I'd just LOST my job or something.

But she explained that she sometimes sees this when people have been out of work for a LONG time and then return to work.  The brain is all "Yay!  I'm relieved and don't have to worry anymore!" but it takes awhile for the body to get the memo.  And I explained to her the whole thing with me thinking I might have to move to Missouri, etc.  So she said that all kind of furthered her theory.  PLUS, the added stress (even though it's the good kind of stress) of starting a new job, training, meeting new people, etc. 

She still scheduled me for a few tests for the next day, just to rule out a few of the more obvious things.  But in the meantime, she wanted me to "be more forgiving of myself."  Nap after work if I felt exhausted, even though I typically hate to nap on a work day because then I won't sleep well that night and will be cranky at work the next day.  She told me to not feel pressured to eat regular meals, but do try to nibble throughout the day so I can at least get some calories in me.  So we talked about my nutritional needs since I'm SUPPOSED to be low-gluten, low-carb, and sugar-free.  She said that she wanted to me to still be conscious of those things, but JUST FOR NOW I could have a bit of a flyer on those because she really wanted me to just make sure I ate.

She also recommended Mylanta for when the pain bothers me.  She thinks that my acid reflux is just acting up since my stomach is mostly empty, but instead of being all heartburn-y like usual, it's hurting me in my stomach.  Then since I feel like I'm being stabbed, I don't feel like eating, and it becomes a vicious cycle.  Plus, the headache doesn't help.

I called my therapist that night to make sure this all sounded right to her.  She confirmed that from a therapeutic standpoint, it did.  Although, technically, she said it would be more of an acute stress disorder, not PTSD, but that was just a technicality on her part.  She recommended a massage and an occasional milkshake.

I seem to be doing BETTER food-wise, but I've got a ways to go.  I made my veal parmigiana left-overs from Thursday last two meals -- lunch on Friday and supper Friday.  I had a granola bar for breakfast, and some snack crackers for an evening snack.  Today, I had some more snack crackers for a morning snack, I noshed on a Godiva bar all day, and I managed to get down an entire box of mac and cheese throughout the day.  I'll probably have some cheese and crackers for my evening snack.  I'm getting there!

16 September 2011

List #27: Movies I Can Watch Over and Over

This is not an all-inclusive list, and it is in no particular order.

1.  The Karate Kid.  I didn't realise this until I watched it about four times in the past week alone.  The mystical meaning of "wax on, wax off" holds up after all these years, as does Mr. Miyagi's wisdom.

2.  Titanic.  It's a difficult one to pass up when one has crushes on both Kate and Leo.  And no matter how many times I watch it, I still cry every time when Rose jumps off the life boat and Jack tells her how stupid she is when they find each other.

3.  Notting Hill.  "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her."  EW once named that line as one of the most romantic movie lines, and I think they're right.  For those who don't know, it's a movie about a celeb (Julia Roberts) and a "commoner" (Hugh Grant) who try to make a go of it together.

4.  The Shawshank Redemption.  Any movie with Morgan Freeman in it is bound to be damned good.  And some of you know I have an obsession with prisons.  Put them together, and you have a movie I'll watch over and over.

5.  Kissing Jessica Stein.  A movie written and produced by two friends.  It's about what happens when a woman (Jessica) just happens to answer a personal ad written by a woman.  It's adorable, funny, and stars some amazing people who have gone on to some pretty awesome careers.

6.  Mambo Italiano.  Childhood friends renew their friendship, which becomes more than a friendship when they start a relationship -- a gay male relationship.  One is a cop and the other works at a travel agency.  They have radically different ways of dealing with the relationship.  Set in Little Italy in Montréal, Canada, this is a hysterically funny movie.

7.  Any Mae West movie.  She was glam trailblazer who didn't take shit from anybody.  She was accepting of black people and gay people WAY before it was acceptable.  Plus, she's just gorgeous and wicked smart.