Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Do not do as I say

Ho-kay.

So two weeks ago I posted about vitamin D and all of its wonders. I wrote about the 50,000 iu weekly dose I am taking and warned everyone that low vitamin D levels are associated with a host of ailments, including cancer.

And today the New York Times published an article citing a study by a panel of experts who are saying, Yeah, actually, that vitamin D deficiency stuff is probably not a big deal. And that taking megadoses like the one I've been prescribed can actually be detrimental to your health.

WELL OF COURSE.

So in case you're not interested in reading the article I linked to above, here are the highlights (and in case you're not interested in reading the rest of the post, the short story is you're probably fine):

- Most people do not need to take extra calcium or vitamin D

- There is not enough evidence to support claims that low vitamin D levels are linked to any diseases other than those associated with bone health.

- Using current standards for "normal" vitamin D levels, 80 percent of the population would be below standard.

- A level of 20 to 30 nanograms per milliliter is all that is needed for bone health, NOT the current standard of between 30 and 100 nanograms. (My level is 18. I have never personally heard of anyone testing higher than 30.)

- You only need 600 ius of vitamin D per day. The most natural method of getting enough vitamin D is through exposure to the sun, without sunblock.

- And most surprisingly, the article states: "Evidence also suggests that high levels of vitamin D can increase the risks for fractures and the overall death rate and can raise the risk for other diseases."

I am scheduled to take another megadose of vitamin D today, but I don't want to. So I'm not going to. I'm getting ready to email my doctor a link to this article and I'll ask if she still suggests I take it. I'll keep you posted!



Post script: Just received an answer back from my doctor. Her advice: "If you would like to discontinue the prescription, it is fine." Basically, I get to be my own doctor, which is what I usually do anyway. Therefore I prescribe myself sunshine. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

In case there was any doubt as to just how adept at unintentionally insulting other people and embarrassing myself I really am, allow me to show you an example.

Last week I wrote the post that is directly underneath this post -- the one about the butternut squash soup. And I jokingly insulted the author of the recipe/book, who then read my post and left a comment. She was quite good natured about it and said she was glad we'd enjoyed the soup and then wished me a happy Thanksgiving.

This reminds me of the time I was talking shit about my former receptionist while I was in the bathroom at work, while all the time, the receptionist was also in the bathroom. I am that person. That very, very unlucky, tactless person.

As Antoine Dodson would say: I am so dumb. I am really dumb. For real.

The Internet is a vast, vast place, filled with God knows how many silly blogs that are kind of like this one. I read an article that estimated there are 50 million. But just like any industry, bloggers find that the world is smaller than it seems, especially when you start talking about bloggers who blog about specific things, like food. I am pretty sure the food bloggers all know each other and hang out and braid each other's hair and stuff.

Anyway, the moral of that story is I am a dumbass. Which was sort of already well-known. Sorry, O'Dea. We really did like the soup.

So. Speaking of food,  how was Thanksgiving?

I ruined almost everything I made, which is to say I ruined the burgundy mushrooms,  the cranberry sauce and the pecan pie, and came close to ruining the mashed potatoes.

I want a do-over.

So what happened is, I've been drooling over these Pioneer Woman recipes for about two months, just waiting for the opportunity to make them. So I did.

The one dish that came out good and that everyone really liked was the hot artichoke dip appetizer. It's in her cookbook, but if you want a link to her hot olive and artichoke dip appetizer recipe that looks even more fantastic than regular artichoke dip, here ya go.

I almost ruined the potatoes -- they were a bit lumpy and not as silky smooth and creamy as I'd imagined they would be. Entirely my fault.

The burgundy mushrooms -- this is the one that really chaps my hide. I love mushrooms, and from the moment PW wrote about them, I've been wanting to eat them. So I got up at 5 a.m. to make them, since they take nine hours to cook. Now, you know how sometimes you'll be looking at a recipe and you'll think to yourself, Self? That doesn't sound quite right. Maybe this recipe is a no-go. Well, you should always listen to that voice. That voice was speaking to me at 5 a.m. as I was dropping four chicken bouillon cubes and four beef bouillon cubes into the pot with the mushrooms.

Oh, here go hell come, as Calvin Tran would say.

Do you even know how much sodium is in ONE HALF of a bouillon cube? More than 1,000 milligrams.

Is PW trying to give my entire family a stroke? Does PW live on a different planet with different bouillon cubes that have less sodium? I am at a loss. This is why recipes that are not written for dummies are a danger to us all. Because although the mushrooms were delicious, they were so rich that you could really only eat one. One solitary mushroom. How many mushrooms did I make? Oh, about four thousand.

That recipe needs some refining.

I'll leave the cranberry sauce alone because I think that recipe is just the result of different people's tastes.

But the pecan pie? Good grief. In all fairness, PW warned that it might take longer to cook than the recipe recommended. So I cooked it 20 minutes longer. And it still melted all over the damn place. Tasted damn good but the stupid thing never firmed up. I was sorely disappointed.

The moral of that story is: Do not try brand new recipes that you have never tried on the one day of the year when you are inviting you entire family over for dinner.

The end.


Post script: I am such a numbnuts that I just realized O'Dea even retweeted my link to the post below. I really like this woman. Too bad she probably thinks I'm a Class A A-hole!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup in the Slow Cooker

A pair of thoughtful friends lent us a book of gluten-free recipes over the weekend. It's called Make it Fast, Cook it Slow, by Stephanie O'Dea, who incidentally earned her fame by cooking something in her crockpot every day for one year, and then blogging about it

Hmmm, that sounds familiar. Like, maybe I saw a shitty movie about someone doing something similar...

ANYWAY. All bitterness about overnight Internet fame and money aside....

There are some very good looking recipes in the book. One of which was for Butternut Squash Soup. I happened to have a butternut squash and the main staples on hand, which meant I would not need to leave the house to acquire ingredients, and there is nothing I like more than hunkering down like a hermit and eating soup. Lemme tell ya.

So I had this small squash that I cut in half.


Then I scooped out the seeds and then I stared at the gourd and wondered, Self? Have I scooped out enough of the innards? Me not know. 


Then I chopped up a honeycrisp apple and an onion (I'll spare you photos of me crying onion fume tears this time) and threw in a bunch of spices... 


 ...while I roasted the squash.


The squash took longer to roast than I expected. Once it was done I took a wild guess about what I was supposed to do next and I scooped the remaining squash innards out and put it in the pot. I say I took a wild guess because O'Dea neglects to include this portion of the instructions in her recipe. She says to roast the squash and then put it in the crock pot. Oh, really, O'Dea?? I think you're bluffing. I think you need to scoop the squash out of the skin first, and then put it in the pot.

We are like children, O'Dea. We prefer numbered, step-by-step instructions. This is why the "For Dummies" books sell so well. We are looking for people to tell us how to do stuff as if we were dummies who had never seen a butternut squash in our lives.

We really are.

Anyway here's what that mess looked like after I scooped out the squash, no thanks to you, O'Dea.


Then here's how it looked after I slow-cooked it on high for four hours.


O'Dea says to blend carefully with a handheld immersion blender. Well, O'Dea. Guess who has two thumbs and does not own a handheld immersion blender? This girl.

So I smoothed it out in batches in my food processor.

Word to the wise (or the dummies): Do not try to blend the whole thing in your food processor at once. Your food processor does not want to hold that much liquid at once and it will all leak out. You don't believe me, do you? Well then, go ahead and try it.

Here's what the soup looked like when it was ready to be eaten. My husband was not impressed with its appearance and may have said it looked like a certain substance he was overly familiar with before he quit eating gluten.


But he really liked how it tasted.

Yes, those are two French bread rolls. With gluten. I ate them. With butter. I had some left in the fridge and couldn't bear the thought of not eating bread with this soup. I don't regret it one bit.

I deviated from the recipe a little bit, and I believe it was for the better. If I were you, I'd use a hecka big butternut squash so you can get more of that orangey color I was looking for.

So, here is O'Dea's bastardized recipe!

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 big yellow onion, diced (O'Dea says 2 small onions but I'm calling bull shit)
1 medium apple, peeled and cubed (O'Dea says 2 small apples. Again. BS)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinammon

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Use a 6 quart slow cooker

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Brush the insides with olive oil and roast squash for 15 minutes, or until skin peels away from flesh (Yo, dummies. I roasted mine for 25 minutes and the skin never peeled away from the flesh. I say roast that thing until it's soft enough to scoop out with a spoon).

Turn the slow cooker to high. Add broth, onions and apples. Stir in salt, pepper and spices. Cover to let heat. When the squash is done roasting, scoop out the innards and add it to the pot. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours or on high for about four hours. Carefully blend with a handheld immersion blender (Or if you're a dummy like me: Blend it in three or four batches in your food processor).

Monday, November 22, 2010

The first leg

We are still gluten free over here. My husband has lost something like 15 pounds, but have I lost an ounce? That's a big fat No.

I am cooking cooking cooking cooking cooking and then there is a huge mess and I am cleaning cleaning cleaning cleaning cleaning. The rest of the house is in shambles. Dustbunnies galore, kitty litter on the bathroom floor, hair clippings on the sink from when I cut my bangs. Two weeks ago.

Gluten. Who would have thought? Cheese, sure. I could blame cheese. Spicy food? I thought for sure spicy food was off limits. But it's the gluten, there's almost no doubt. Suddenly my husband has regained the energy I forgot he ever had. He stopped snoring, which is a hugely positive development for me. He says his brain isn't foggy any more.

So yes. No gluten. No sandwiches, no flour tortilla burritos, no cookies, no regular stuff. Everyone has been very helpful by offering hints, tips, suggestions, because as it turns out tons of people are gluten intolerant. And their hints and tips are so welcome and needed. But I am a little bitter about gluten-free flour substitutes and their propensity to turn all baked goods into hockey pucks. I'm a little irked about simple things like soy sauce and cold cuts and what shall I do as far as stuffing is concerned on Thanksgiving? Even gravy usually has wheat in it.

Fucking gluten.

I might be a little irritable today.

First world problems, I'm fond of reminding myself. Oh, poor us! We can't eat gluten! I guess we will have to eat one of the four quadrillion other things that are available to us from our shiny and sparkling grocery stores.

Perspective is where it's at.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Calendar boys

Next week is Thanksgiving! This holiday snuck up like a little beastie in the night, didn't it? 

It made me realize Christmas will do the same. Last year I gave calendars as gifts. Every month had different photos of my cats. Guess what I'm giving this year?


 































Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Randy said so

November is National Novel Writing Month, which I find to be mildly obnoxious.

I think it's great if it lights a fire under someone who wants to write a novel so that they actually begin writing it. But I think anyone who believes they will finish a novel in 30 days is deluded.

Well, I thought that until I received a newsletter from fiction-writing guru Randy Ingermanson. I've subscribed to his newsletters since February, as he has some very good tips on writing books.

Here's what Randy says about NaNoWriMo:

"There are critics who'll tell you that, oh sure, you can drill out a crappy novel in 30 days, but it's impossible to write a good one in that length of time.

Sure, it's impossible if you believe it's impossible. But I know a fair number of published novelists who've written a novel in 30 days or less. Good novels -- ready to go to the publisher for editing. Some of these folks are New York Times best-selling authors. Others have won major awards.

If you can write a novel at all, you can write one in 30 days. If your skills aren't up to snuff yet, then
no, you can't write a good novel in 30 days. But if you have good craft, then yes, you can write an excellent novel in 30 days.

Either way, fire breeds fire, and fiction writing breeds fiction writing. If you take the NaNoWriMo
challenge and meet your goal, you're going to stretch yourself as a writer. You'll come out of it a better
and more confident writer."


First of all, I cannot write a novel in 30 days. That is all there is to it. I think anyone who writes a good novel in 30 days is a novel-writing savant. But, I do feel properly chastised by Randy, and will be focusing my attention a little harder on my novel to see if I can at least fulfill the word requirements for the remainder of November -- that's more than 23,000 words.

Which is a lot.

Goodbye forever.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Packs a punch


This small pill contains 50,000 ius of Vitamin D. I would need to take 200 Citracal pills to get as much Vitamin D as is in that one small green pill. My doctor prescribed this because my Vitamin D levels keep dropping, despite the fact that I take a prenatal and Citracal with Vitamin D every day.

It's hard to get enough Vitamin D, since our main source of it is the sun. Most of us spend all day indoors at a desk, and when we do get outside, we're slathered in sunblock, which blocks Vitamin D. I've been wearing sunblock on my face for 15 years.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause a whole host of issues and has lately been linked to higher incidences of breast cancer. Other side affects can include fatigue and infertility. If you're wondering about your own Vitamin D levels, ask your doctor to order a simple blood test.

This has been your public service announcement for the day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Disease of the week

All of our friends and family know my husband has mysterious stomach problems. Always has.

Which is sort of a sign in and of itself that something is abnormal and there might actually be a name for what you are suffering from: Everyone says, Oh yes, as long as I've known him, it's been a problem.

Sometimes it's worse than other times. We've considered lactose might be the culprit. We thought spicy food was probably a no-go. We wondered if it was due to anxiety. But sometimes it struck without warning, caused by something we couldn't pinpoint.

Sometimes it interrupts our plans. In the last couple weeks, we've canceled plans with friends twice and my husband has missed some work. In the past, doctors have brushed it off. They've run tests that were inconclusive and let the problem drop. The mysterious and ambiguous catch-all "irritable bowel syndrome" may have been uttered by some.

I knew the time when he would decide to go to the doctor was nigh. He won't go unless he's reached the end of his rope, and on Friday he finally had. Lucky for him, I'd already consulted Google at length and diagnosed him with celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that wreaks havoc on your intestines when you eat gluten (wheat/barley/rye). He suggested this possibility to the doctor, who agreed this was a possibility and suggested he cut out gluten to see how he feels without it, then at some point in the future he should eat a mess of gluten and observe the results (the word KAPOW! comes to mind).

Since Friday, we've been gluten-free and he already feels about 400 percent better. He claims he can even see better. Celiacs have difficulty absorbing nutrients, so if he were suddenly able to absorb nutrients, I suppose improved vision is a possibility.

Part of me is thinking FINALLY. If I can eliminate gluten from our food and he suddenly feels fantastic? Wonderful. Another part of me is thinking REALLY? An autoimmune disease? Must we really add to our list of ailments?

But mostly, if it's celiac disease, I will just be relieved. It's difficult when someone you love is suffering and you don't know why and there's little you can do to help them.

So I will be wandering the aisles of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods today in search of gluten-free products, and I suspect most, if not all, of the future recipes I post here will be gluten-free.

Are you gluten-intolerant? Do you know someone who is? I'm looking for tips from folks who have had to make a lifestyle change.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Damn good chili

I know I'm not supposed to post today. I'm supposed to be joining in the Friday blogging boycott, the origins of which elude me and which I have decided to boycott. That is right: I am boycotting the boycott. Say what?

I've always been a maverick. A rogue, really. A rogue-ish maverick.

Enough of that.

I made this chili, and you wanna know who's recipe this is? It's MINE bitches!!

In truth, this recipe includes a combination of ingredients/techniques from a couple different recipes, plus a dash of madness from me.

There is nothing in this chili that you have never seen in chili before, so you're not gonna be like, No, she did not just put sweet tarts in the chili. It's just stuff I like in chili, made the way that makes chili taste good. You may not agree with some of it, and that's OK. But then you will not get to try my chili, and you will be sad.



 This recipe begins with a chopped bell pepper


And a few chopped stalks of celery. Don't be lazy, like me. Cut the leaves off your celery. They serve no purpose in chili.


Then, the onion. This is the part where I start to alternately hold my breath and whistle to keep the onion fumes from gassing me out.

I really have onion cutting down to an exact science. I can dice one up in about a minute flat. But I still never win.

 Damn onions win every time. This is me with onion tears running down my cheeks.


It ain't chili if it ain't got garlic. Frankly, you could probably throw about four cloves in there, and it'd be just about perfect.


Here's some beef in a pot.

I love this dutch oven. My father-in-law gave it to me. My only beef (pun one-million-percent intended) with it is you can't put its lid in the oven. It's Martha Stewart's brand. Why, Martha? Why you gotta mess with me like that?


Cook yer beef up nice and brown. And I'm going to say something now, and you're going to need to sit there and take it. What I'm going to say is: I didn't drain the fat off this meat. So there!


Next, you shove everyone and their mother in the pot. That is a tablespoon of sugar you're seeing up there on top of the kidney beans.

I'm going to tell you something else, and there's nothing you can do about this either: I didn't drain and rinse the beans! It's all part of what makes this chili magical.


 That there is chili powder. You're gonna want it.


 And this is a wee little secret I learned from Pioneer Woman, who (whom?) I adore and worship. This is masa. Ya take yer masa. Ya put it in a bowl.


 Ya pour some water in the bowl.


Ya stir it around, and then you shove it in your chili and if you don't believe me that this will take your chili to a whole 'nother level, you are living a sorry life, my friend.


Here's the chili, all cooked up. Put it in a bowl, slap some grated cheddar and chopped green onions and sour cream up in that business. Butter some warm corn tortillas. Eat. Repeat.

Here's the recipe.

Erin's "You-Can-Make-It-Different-If-You-Want-To-Live-A-Sorry-Life" Chili

Ingredients:

1.5 lb ground beef
3 celery stalked, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
anywhere from 2 to 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 28 ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup water
2 15 ounce cans kidney beans
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
3 tablespoons masa + 1/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste. Especially salt!


Directions:

1. Brown yer meat in a pot.

2. Stir in celery, bell pepper, onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, water, beans, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and salt & pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 1 hour. Taste it. Do a dance. Add salt or pepper as needed. Mix masa and water in a separate bowl, then add to the chili and cook for another 15 minutes before serving.

You may enjoy your chili topped with grated cheddar, chopped green onions or sour cream. Serve with buttered and warmed corn tortillas. Or don't. It's your funeral.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Instrumental

I remember very little of my school years and I'm not sure why. I remember what the ground and the floor tiles and the dingy carpets with blackened and hardened gum patches looked like probably because I was often looking down and thinking don't notice me, don't call on me, maybe I will disappear and not be here any more and instead I will live in the princess's castle at Disneyland forever and eat cotton candy every meal.

I played the flute in elementary school and I remember very little of learning to play the flute, although I do remember at least one recital in which my school's "musicians," if we could be called that, banded together with kids from other schools and played rapid renditions of songs I don't remember. I just remember not being able to keep up and pretending I was blowing into my flute and moving my fingers as though I were playing but really I was just staring in consternation at the sheet music and thinking the fifth grader's equivalent of What in holy hell have I gotten myself into?

My best friend played the clarinet and after that she tells me we agreed we were not destined to join the symphony and we ditched our respective instruments under our beds. I don't actually remember deciding that but she tells me that, indeed, is what happened, seeing as how we had the opportunity to join our middle school band in the seventh grade and declined to do so. Which I also don't remember. I do remember joining the drama club but mostly so I could wear the sweatshirt that featured the comedy and tragedy masks, which I wore almost every day and which I was wearing one time when walking home alone and a mean boy named Daniel said he wanted to rape me. Which was probably a joke about my ugly sweatshirt. He's the same boy who teased me mercilessly the time I sat in strawberry juice. He yelled I guess it's that time of the month!

I hear he is happily married now, and not a rapist after all, supposedly.

I don't remember almost any of the good stuff. A mentally challenged boy had a crush on me and used to leave love notes on my desks, which was particularly awkward in health class. This is what a vagina looks like, the teacher would be explaining, and I would just long for obliteration. 

An older boy in Spanish class used to show up drunk on root beer schnapps after lunch and sit behind me and write dirty sex stories on lined binder paper and try to touch my back. Eventually I was moved to the other side of the class, near a girl who had terrible acne but was so nice and she wanted to be a model and had paid for professional head shots, which I complimented her on. In Spanish class we played pelota and the mean boys would throw the ball too hard at Senorita Feige but she still never  caught a clue and stopped playing pelota.

At dinner the other night with two old friends we sat and tried to remember the name of the boy one of them once asked out during our freshman year. I'd gone with her for moral support and announced to him Maria would like to ask you something! (Maria is not her real name). And he'd said OK and then I'd stood politely a few feet away while Maria asked him out and he responded quite quickly that No, he would not be interested in going out with her. She moved away after freshman year and we kept all of our letters to each other, and in reviewing them together a few years ago I've decided it's too traumatic to separate good friends at age 14.

I went home and found the boy in our yearbook and texted his name to my friends and mused about the other boys we liked. I had it bad for a boy who I don't remember ever so much much as looking at me for more than a moment. There was a mean girl who teased me about it for a while before she tired of it. She was once a customer of mine when I was waiting tables at Chili's and she didn't leave me a tip. She was a bitch, and that boy I liked is fat now.

These are just things I've been mulling, as I was listening to the radio and thinking Drums would have been cool but who wants to play the drums for the school's fight song? Which I also don't remember.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Some days

I spend most days alone, and most days the phone doesn't ring and I don't leave the cluttered little hole I write in and those are good things because it used to be that too many phones were ringing and too many people were talking and too many answers were needed.

It was bad for my chi.

But some days hours tick by and I haven't said a word, not even to the cats, and then someone will call or my husband will open the door and I will croak hello like Gollum, a hermit with little reason to speak, although I think Gollum used to prattle on to himself about his precious.

Every now and then I tell my cat Murray he is my precious and that if I can't have babies he will be my furry baby but he will need to learn to stop chewing on my camera bag goddamnit.

The time changed, not to mention the weather has changed and the sun was already setting drastically earlier than I realized it had been, which is what happens when you don't take note of the sunset. I set out for a walk at 5:15 p.m. and the light was late dusk and I'd never walked this route before but had mapped it and wrote directions on an old envelope, which was in my pocket. But a few moments later it was dark and I was noticing a lack of street lamps and squinting at signs and holding up my crumpled envelope with directions on it, right on Rombeau, and I crunched over leaves and it was cold. They say this year the coast should be cold, it's a La Nina year.

I smelled dog poop and worried I'd stepped in it and smiled because last time I spoke to Christina she was taking her customary walk through a Los Gatos neighborhood on her lunch break and she stepped in dog poop and said this was the second time this had happened in about a week and if you knew her this would not be surprising. In the midst of a conversation she often pauses to explain something she is looking at. These people have a piano on their front porch. I don't know if she's ever said that but it sounds like something she would say.

My head hurts today. It is allergies. My doctor said take antihistamines and a nasal spray every day and do a saline rinse every couple of days but I don't do any of it and the result is that at any given moment I can hear my heart beating in my ears.

It's cold again and I'm in my hole and my hair is wet and I'm muttering out loud to myself and listening to the thung thung thung in my left ear. I think I'll do it again today, the writing and the walking but today I'll leave earlier and maybe the sun won't leave too soon and I can spy on the neighbors appropriately rather than slip like a shadow past their front yards.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Skipping the scale

The bathroom scale's batteries are dead and it's driving me crazy.

Why doesn't this scale harness the power of heavy people stepping on it and charge its own batteries? Stupid piece of crap.

I've been trying to decide whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that I can't obsessively weigh myself every day, and now that I've just used the word obsessively to describe the manner in which I weigh myself, I think I've decided it's a good thing.

I got weighed when I visited the doctor's office the other day. I wasn't going to look. I stood on the scale and stared at the ceiling and then I looked down at what my weight was, anyway. It looked about right. No dramatic changes. So why the hell do I need a scale anyway? To make myself feel like crap every day? I know whether I've gained or lost weight. My jeans tell me so.

A woman I used to work with gained a lot of weight after she was fired. One of our mutual friends remarked to me I think I saw Jane walking her dog but I wasn't sure it was her because she was much bigger than the last time I'd seen her. 

Sure enough, Jane (not her real name) told a different friend before they were going to meet for dinner one evening: I have to warn you -- I've gained eighty pounds since you last saw me. I look different.

Today I told a friend I haven't seen in four years that I've gained thirty pounds since I last saw her. It's nothing new, at least for me. I packed that weight on almost immediately after I got married and people started dying and I coped by eating and drinking.

They say if you weigh yourself every day you are less likely to gain weight but we got this enormous scale as a wedding gift and I weighed myself every day and could only watch in horror as the number grew larger. I don't know why we registered for such an enormous scale -- I think the thing would tell you if you weighed up to 400 pounds or something and neither my husband or I are in danger of reaching that weight any time soon. I think we gave that scale away. It was an imposing force in the bathroom. It was like I AM AN ENORMOUS SCALE. STEP ON ME.

We bought another scale later. It tells you your body fat percentage, to add insult to injury. And apparently it needs new batteries.

I think I will let the scale stay dead for a while. It might be healthier for me not to think about it for a while.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Life slogans

Much like the time I volunteered to host a holiday dinner at my apartment a couple of years ago and proceeded to compile a complicated menu of meats wrapped in other meats and various other dishes I'd never made before, only to scrap the whole thing and serve pasta, this novel I am writing is fastly becoming a symbol for my life slogan, which is: I didn't know it would be this difficult. 

Otherwise known as: I didn't think it would take this long.

Engrave either of those on my tombstone.

Everything seems quite doable, when you're imagining it beforehand. There are steps to follow, 1, 2, 3, DONE.

Lately I'm imagining re-doing my bedroom. It needs paint, a new light fixture, new furniture and a rug. Sounds simple, but thinking of other home projects I hesitate to begin.

It's like the time my husband and I decided to rip up the carpet ourselves, only to discover the hundreds of carpet staples underneath that needed to be removed by hand. I distinctly remember saying I didn't know it would be this difficult AND I didn't think it would take this long.

I said the same things a few months ago when we hauled a giant bookcase into the backyard to paint it white and coat after coat after coat over the span of two entire weekends, the damn thing still was not white, and STILL IS NOT completely white. I didn't think it would be so difficult or take so long.

And now I sit in a room at a computer, creating a whole fictional fantasy world full of fictional people whose personalities and histories I've built and there's a nagging feeling that I'm not only taking too long to do this but that it's simply no good. I've stared at it too long myself so I can't tell you for sure whether it's any good or not. It's not done. It feels like it will never get done.

I think these are typical writer-ly sentiments. If we weren't wracked with self-doubt, we would probably not be writers. We would be doctors or performing some other noble profession. I've known writers who pretended not to doubt every word they've written, and they are annoying. And I've known writers who genuinely do not doubt every word they've written, and those guys? Are certifiably insane.

I must just keep writing, writing, writing. If it is shit, it is shit. At least it will be shit that I finished. 

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Guest post regarding my very serious condition

Shortly after I posted yesterday, I received an email from Kaiser notifying me that my Vitamin D level had dropped another five points, despite my admittedly lackluster effort to raise it. This resulted in a whole new internet search that concluded with my latest self-diagnosis of parathyroid disease. 

Shortly after that, I received an email from my mom, Anita, who was inspired to write a guest post. See, I come by my hypochondria quite honestly. I come from a long line of Jump-to-Conclusion-ers. We know this about each other and often take to mocking one-another and throwing in a lot of eye-rolling. For example, my mother called me "Rip" yesterday, and then laughed uproariously. She'll be sorry, someday. 

Please read on...



It All Started With a Sneeze
by Anita



I come from a long line of hypochondriacs.

My dad, who died at the age of 90, was always giving himself the latest disease that any friend or relative happened to have. He sometimes mentioned that he had a "touch of diabetes." Or, during his last hospital stay he told a very lengthy story about his fight with colon cancer – which he never had.

While it’s true he did have bladder cancer later in life, which was caused by 50 years of smoking, he never had any other form of cancer. Many of my family members on my father's side of the family suffered from this syndrome. And yet, for the most part almost all of them have managed to live full lives without any major diseases. The worst of it has been high blood pressure. But let’s face it, dad lived to be 90 and he has two older sisters WHO ARE STILL ALIVE. Blanche will be 99 this week and Dolores is 94.

So when I called my beloved first-born this week and she seemed a little down I asked her what was going on. She explained that on Sunday she had sneezed and felt a snap in her tummy and has had subsequent pain whenever she sneezes. She went on to say she was going to the doctor and was very upset because she was convinced it was a hernia and she was going to have a surgery wherein there would be mesh put inside her muscle and how could she get pregnant with a bunch of mesh and what would happen, etc., etc.

WHOA there girl, jumping to conclusions you are! And sure enough the doctor said it was a small muscle tear that would probably heal itself. There. No problem.

So today is the fifth consecutive day that I have had a migraine. It’s probably just a small tumor flare-up that will linger and not kill me quickly. It’s OK. I’ve lived a full life and I’m ready to meet my maker.

But I sure hope I get to meet those grandbabies.

Uh oh, hold on, I think I feel a sneeze coming on…

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Spray some windex on it

So the deal is that on Sunday I was sitting on the couch, drinking a cup of coffee, and I sneezed. I sneeze frequently, because I have allergies, and I sound like I'm stuffed up all the time. It is life, and it is what it is.

So I sneezed and I felt a snap. A pang. A twist. A zap. Under my belly button. I looked down at my lower abdomen to see if my skin had gotten twisted in my pants or a big bug had crawled onto my stomach and bitten me or a thorn had somehow worked its way into my underwear. Weirder things have happened.

There was no snag, no bug, no thorn. And right at that moment, I decided I probably have a hernia. I started to feel a pressure in my abdomen. It was unnatural. I sneezed a couple more times and the pain returned each time, more forcefully, more stabbing. I decided by bedtime that I had an ectopic pregnancy and my fallopian tubes were about to explode and kill me. Somehow.

By morning I'd decided I had cervical cancer and would need an emergency radical hysterectomy. Do not ask me what the difference is between a normal hysterectomy and a radical one, I just knew mine would be radical. In a bad way.

In the morning I called an advice nurse, who seemed stumped. She said a doctor would call me back, but none ever did. So I made an appointment with my doctor.

Fast forward to me lying on an examining table and my doctor palpating my organs. Not pregnant. No hernia. I probably will not need an emergency radical hysterectomy. I may have torn a muscle when I sneezed, though. Which is fucking pathetic. She recommended ibuprofen. I could have seen my mother for the same advice. My mom has a long history of diagnosing medical conditions and doling out medication.

And then she scheduled a follow up appointment due to my elevated blood pressure. Well hello. I thought I needed a hysterectomy. Of course my blood pressure is elevated. She prescribed pills I have no intention of taking.


Anyway. Kaiser is awesome. Once again I have received a "let's wait and see" diagnosis, which translated from Kaiser-ish into English means: We have no intention of spending money on expensive tests to diagnose you until you are moments from death. Please leave now.


I mean, I hope it's just a muscle tear. But maybe I am aborting a fetus. Maybe my fallopian follicles have been compromised. Are there such things as fallopian follicles? Maybe I have a parasite. My doctor will surely be sorry if I return in two weeks with more pain and it turns out to be a hideous parasite that ate my bladder.


Anyway. That whole muscle tear thing was probably anti-climactic, huh? Well join the club. Bub.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Funk alert

I am in a major mental funk at the moment. Apologies.

Self doubt is here. We're hanging out, getting all cozy. He's being very critical.

I'm planning a surprise party for him. He'll never see it coming.