25 July 2008


When we wore a heart of stone
We wandered to the sea
Hoping to find some comfort there
Yearning to feel free
And we were mesmerized by the lull of the night
And the smells that filled the air
And we laid us down on sandy ground
It was cold but we didn't care

'Cause we were drawn to the rhythm
Drawn into the rhythm of the sea
'Cause we were drawn to the rhythm
Drawn to the rhythm of the sea

~Sarah McLachlan, Drawn To The Rhythm, Solace, 1991

I've fallen in to a rhythm, a routine with the new job, that feels right, somehow, as if things should have been this way a long time ago. Days fly by. Often, the first time I look up after lunch it is after 4. Weeks have disappeared.

"Busy" would be an understatement. If I could tell you, interweb, all about the neat-o projects I'm working on, I would. I can't. Y'all know I don't ever talk about my current employer. That's danger, Will Robinson, danger!

I'm thanking the powers that be for my OCD, though, because my list-making obession skills come in handy to make sure that I don't forget to do something. I feel like a juggler who is having a partner toss them ever more things to juggle, and as if I'm being watched to see when I start dropping balls. Sort of. I don't feel as I did when working for Ye Olde Evile Bank, where the paranoia knew no bounds...Big Brother? Ha! Try Big: Brother, Sister, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin....around every corner was someone waiting to sabotage you. Rather, I feel like I'm being tested, to see where exactly my limits are. She's handling that? Cool, let's see if this overwhelms her. No? Well, add that.

I hate to even say things like this out loud for fear of tempting The Fates, but so far I feel like I'm passing with flying colors. (Does it count if I type it? Hmmm.)

Each week has its goal, things that need accomplished, and while there aren't Monday tasks, Tuesday tasks, et cetera, there is a certain pulse to what goes on each day. It is an odd combination of structure and ever-changing that seems to suit me, as if it was tailor-made.

I've even managed to become an early riser again, tossing off the lingering after-effects of the Lex. I maintain that it was the Lex which caused the complete alteration of my diurnal clock, changing me from a morning person to a night owl. Despite ANY scientific evidence to support that belief. Whatever. I know my own body, and I know how I felt while taking it and once quitting it. I also know that it has taken nearly two months for that inability to rise and shine to fade. It was beyond weird. I didn't want to get out of bed because there wasn't much point (as I saw it) and that was/is part and parcel of depression. But the Lex made me tired, so tired that I couldn't wake, let alone get up. I'd wake when the alarm went off, and think, "Five more minutes." And the next time I opened my eyes, three hours had gone by. Ugh. That really didn't work for me. Bad rhythm!

This rhythm is more subtle, and more to my liking. An ebb and flow that I don't feel like I'm fighting against. Finally.

The point of most of this rambling was to let you know that I won't be able to post daily for a while in the near future, when things get exceedingly hectic for a few weeks. The rhythm then will be a little more staccato, a little more hurry, hurry. I want you to know I haven't slipped back down that well, that I am, in fact, back among the living. Just crazy-busy.

24 July 2008

HOW many years?


DH and I had an anniversary coupla days ago. It is hilarious to me that no one but you remembers your anniversary, so I try real hard to remember to send at least a 1st anniversary card to my friends who have married. I was surprised on our first anniversary that only a few folks remembered the date, outside of DH and I.

I could make a bunch of statements about how time flies, how I don't know where eight years have gone, but I shall restrain myself and note simply how grateful I am that he's stuck with me over the last year, which has been one of the hardest in my life.

23 July 2008

The Bluest

Blueberries are in season in Oh-hia-ia.

That one, simple statement is enough to get a mile-wide grin on my face. I love blueberries. I love them lots. I'll eat them just until I make myself ill, or just almost to that point. Blueberry muffins. Blueberries in my protein smoothies. Blueberry sorbet. The only thing that I'm not particularly keen on is blueberry jam. Meh.

The muffins, though, those are such fun. I use an old recipe, one that has a story behind it.

When I was a kid, we would spend part of every summer in a cottage on a lake in Michigan, a place that is a long haul from my Ohio home. A place whose name is magic to my sisters and I. There was no television. An old radio that was usually off, unless we wanted a weather forecast, sat in the living/dining room. The telephone was a party line phone. Really. Even well in to the 80s, the line at the cottage was shared with several neighbors. An oddity, but we loved it, because no one could reach us there. At home, from time-to-time, a ringing phone would pull my dad out of bed and into the night for a customer of his business, or some disaster happening there. At the cottage, no one could get in touch with him for 4 AM emergencies. My sisters and I loved that.

The very air there is magic. As an awkward teen, I always felt like I might actually look pretty when we were there. Certainly I felt much less of a need to hide behind a made-up face, the flaws that I saw in my skin were somehow diminished while staying at the cottage. It was a place where the rules were relaxed. A. Whole. Lot. Junk food we weren't allowed to have at home was fair game at the cottage. We wandered much further afield than we were allowed to at home. No one nagged about chores, homework, or stuff that needed doing at the cottage.

The family who owned the place was a large extended clan, presided over by a matriarch who was a force of nature. The last time I saw her before she passed away, I was in my early teens, and she was 90-something. She was a hell of a lady. The muffin recipe is hers.

It was written on a scrap of paper, in Palmer Method handwriting (hers, of course) taped to the inside of the kitchen cabinet where the flour, sugar, and baking spices are kept. In my mid-to-late teens, for several years running I tried to remember to copy it down so that I would have it at home, but I didn't remember until the summer that I had a blank book with me most of the time.

We were usually in Michigan for at least part of the blueberry season, but not always. And sometimes blueberries show up in the grocery store in the midst of winter, frightfully expensive and completely irresistible. So I needed to have a copy of my own, because it is my favorite way to make blueberry muffins.

That said, the recipe has two faults, as I see it. One, the muffins have never risen like I think they ought to; there are no muffin tops on the tops of these muffins, even with a decent amount of baking powder called for in the recipe. Two, the blueberries have a tendency to sink to the bottom, which kind of irritates me. I get around that these days by putting 1/2 of the blueberries in the batter, and sprinkling the remaining half over top of the filled muffin tins, which means that at least a few stay floating on the surface until they're baked.

Grandma ____'s Blueberry Muffins

Beat two eggs until foamy. Add 1 cup sugar and continue beating until the eggs are light yellow, adding 1 heaping tablespoon of softened butter. (The original calls for shortening, ick.) Add 1 cup milk, 2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder and 1-1/2 cups blueberries. Fill regular sized muffin tins 2/3 full, after either greasing well or lining with paper liners. Bake at 350 F (175C) for 15-20 minutes. Makes approximately 12 muffins.

I like making them in mini-muffin tins, bite-size. That recipe makes roughly 4 dozen (give or take, YMMV) mini-muffins, and the baking time is shortened. I just keep a super-close eye on the minis, sometimes they take 10 minutes, sometimes longer.

When I made them last week, I discovered too late that I had no milk, so I used vanilla yogurt instead, and I used my Really Raw Honey because I have an aversion to granulated sugar. I ran out of my regular unbleached flour, too, so about 1-1/4 cups of the flour was whole wheat pastry flour, which I thought would work better than the bread flour, or the cake flour, that were also in my pantry. They were still very tasty. Someday, I will remember to try using baking soda or a combination of baking soda and baking powder to see if they will rise like I think they should.

Eat them with abandon, the small amount of butter in them means that they're relatively low fat. If you can pick the blues yourself as opposed to buying them in the mega-mart, so much the better. Be warned, blueberry stained fingers are part of the fun.

22 July 2008

Justice Delayed

It isn't often that I post more than once a day. I wrote the post below yesterday, so technically, I guess I'm not writing two posts today. Something pretty important has to happen for two posts.

And important this is. I am both happy and relieved by the news this morning that Radovan Karadzic is under arrest. Need a history lesson? I'm happy to oblige.

During the Balkan Wars, Karadzic was one of the Serbian generals, he orchestrated the siege of Sarajevo. But don't take my word for it. From NPR:

Karadzic has been twice indicted for genocide. He is accused of playing a key role in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, which claimed 12,000 lives, and of orchestrating the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

I lived in Sweden during the start of the Balkan Wars, with a Croatian family. So yeah, this hits kind of close to home. I watched the news from Zagreb (Croatia's capital) with my host family, learned the words in Croatian that explained the numbers of people killed each day, listened as my host mother talked to her mother in one of the seaside provinces of Croatia and heard the news that her nephew had been drafted, cried with her over her terror that he might not make it home. I was there when they heard about the deaths of old friends, and helped them bid farewell to a fellow expatriate who went home to Croatia to defend his hometown.

Both the nephew and the expat made it home safely, but so many others did not. One of my most treasured possessions from my exchange year is a patch from the expat's army uniform, that he pulled off of the sleeve of his fatigues and gave to me. He handed it to me and said, "This is so you never forget. I want you to remember how ugly and stupid war is, how useless the divisions betweens Croats and Serbs, Christian and Muslim truly are. We're all human. The ethnic divisions are meaningless"

I have never forgotten. The violence escalated in the years after I left Sweden, the horrible tragedy in Sarajevo was several years after I came home. I was always disappointed and confused by what I perceived as apathy in America about the situation in the former Yugoslavia. When I came home in 1992, my friends mostly didn't know what I was talking about when I talked about Croatia. I learned to just keep my thoughts about the genocides to myself.

I still have harsh words about it; there's no oil in the Balkans, and therefore, the US didn't get involved until things were really bad. IMESHO, anyway.

Karadzic's arrest is NOT a case of too little, too late. It is a case of better late than never. Some of those families might have a bit of closure and peace now that he is in custody.

Now it is time for the Serbian government to track down Ratko Mladic, and hold him accountable, too.

Daily Dose

I had a conversation with someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, quite different from my depression struggles. He takes Xanax for the anxiety, a dosage of it that I consider quite high, knowing how Xanax affects me. That's not passage of judgment, just observation. I think he needs a lot of it to quell the anxiety.

Like so many folks being treated for mental illnesses, he doesn't want to take the Xanax. Again, I empathize. Unfortunately, the entire class of meds that Xanax springs from don't lend themselves well to quitting cold turkey. You must, must taper the dosage of the benzotropines, because quitting just doesn't work.

Even knowing as I do that quitting my dosage of the anti-depressants would be stupid at best and fatal at worst, that doesn't stop me from foolishly, recklessly, wanting to tamper with my dosage. I'd like to not need the meds. That would be nice. I am not optimistic about my chances of being able to quit the meds at any time in the foreseeable future, though.

With the longer days, and the fact that we actually see the sun in the summer in Oh-hia-ia rather than 100% gloomy grey skies, I'm feeling better. Fantastic, most of the time, actually. As long as I continue the meds. Without them, things aren't so fantastic.

Last week, I had a day where I only took 300 mg of my 450 mg dose of Wellbutrin XL. It wasn't intentional; somehow, I have a bunch of the 300 mg pills from my prior refill, but none of the 150 mg. As a result, the 'old' 300 mgs are upstairs, and the 'new' 300 and 150 mgs are downstairs. I took an allergy pill and a 300 mg, intending to take the 150 mg as soon as I went downstairs, but I never remembered to do that, and I could tell by the evening that I was "off," somehow, like a puzzle missing a key piece.

Another day, I got up and got going, dragging a little, but didn't remember to take the meds until late in the afternoon. Gee, wonder why I was so off my usual form that day? Interestingly, small things that don't bother me when I am taking the meds take on the forms of crises of epic proportions when I am off them. I am more snarly, more apt to make cutting, biting, stinging sarcastic remarks when I don't take them. I struggle to put the bitter queen back into her box when I've not taken the drugs.

All of this brain chemistry alteration bothers me, but like something we know is looming and don't want to think about, I push it away to be concerned about another day. Call it whatever you like, but the fact is that the SSRIs are altering your brain chemistry.

I remember one of my early biology classes, grade 7 or so, where one of our vocabulary words was "drug" and it was defined as 'anything that alters the body's chemistry.' Christo, under that definition, anything you eat or drink is a drug. Food, water, even that sip of iced tea you just took. (Oh, wait, that was me. Have I mentioned? It is so effing hot that I can hardly breathe.) So any medication, then, alters your body's chemistry in some way. Insulin, allergy pills, the analgesics we take for our aches and pains, all of it. If you look at it that way, I suppose, then the alteration of brain chemistry that the SSRIs do isn't such a big deal. Or is that just me, rationalizing?

18 July 2008

Acquisitional Desires.

I Want:

Aldera by Nine West at Zappos.comAldera
by Nine WestZappos.com - Powered by Service

Zappos is a dangerous, dangerous thing.

Have I mentioned before that I have a problem with shoes? {Considering that you have a label for posts about shoes, yeah, Luce, I think you've mentioned that. Once. Or twice. A DAY. ~ed.}

I like shoes. I like frivolous, silly, can't-walk-a-mile-in-'em shoes. Shoes that match outfits, shoes that don't match outfits, shoes purchased just for a particular dress, shoes bought for everyday wear. In many colors, and the taller the heel the better. Standing at just 5'6", shorter than most of the rest of my family, I've worn heels since the parents allowed me to do so. I own maybe 3 or 4 pairs of shoes that are flat; my runners, of course, a pair of hiking boots, a pair of ballet flats, and a pair of construction boots. The rest of my shoes are tall shoes.

Zappos allows you to search for women's shoes based on heel height. Or color. Or size, or style, or brand.....

Oh, the myriad possibilities.

Must. Stop. Looking. At. Shoes.

16 July 2008


File this under the "WTF were you thinking?" headline.

I'm not the only nut in my office who bikes to work. There are three of us. When everyone's bike is in the office, it gets entertaining with the storage of the bikes. Yes, we all could park the bikes in our individual offices, but mostly, we don't want to, so we stash them elsewhere. There's an uneasy truce with a neighboring department, with bikes parked in the hallway between. Talk around the water cooler (figuratively speaking, as we don't have a water cooler) often centers around routes to and from the office and elsewhere around the city.

My route takes me on a well-traveled, busy byway, and I think I've mentioned before that it is mostly downhill on the way TO work, which means that the homeward journey is UPhill, a drag in many senses of the word.

The other day, a co-worker said to me, "Why don't you go through the park? Wouldn't that be a little more even, up and down on the way there and back?"

Well, yes. It would. Problem numero uno, though, is that although I've lived in this city for most of my life, I still get lost in 'the park'. Yes, really. The park's roads are well taken care of, but not well marked; often, driving in the park, I'll look around and not be sure where I am. Getting out of the park in the car is easy; usually, if you just start driving uphill, you'll exit the park in fairly short order. On a bike, that's not so easy or fun.

I spent some time looking at the maps of the park online, and thought, yeah, that's not only doable, but would probably be a hell of a lot cooler on the way home too, because there's shade a-plenty in the park, and on the road route, there ain't so much. I knew it would take me longer; driving though the park is never ever a shortcut, rather, it is something you do either when you want the scenic route or have time to kill.

So I left earlier than I normally would, and with the route I'd chosen firmly in mind, I pedaled my butt through the park. I did NOT take the park map with me. (Clever, eh? My family likes to joke that I could get lost trying to get out of a paper bag, and I admit that they're not far wrong.)

I'm proud of myself for making only one mistake, and having to turn around and go back, a mere 1/4 mile detour. But the park's hills are torture. Huge, un-ending, and ow. Ow. OWW! I actually got off the bike and walked twice, which is quitting, in my ever-so-humble. Unfortunately, it was either walk, or fall over.

On the downhill stretches, the speed is intoxicating.

The route through the park took me nearly an hour. AN HOUR! The street is about 35 minutes. Even without my erroneous turn, it would have been at least 45 minutes. It is definitely the better workout, because once at my desk, my legs let me know how unhappy they were, even whilst just sitting in front of the computer.

I've learned, though, the way around the gears on the bike. All ten of them. I thought that the bike might be a 12 or 15 speed, but up until taking the bike for more than the occasional recreational trek, I'd never used any of them.

My bike, you see, is a found bike. I did not buy it. My father is the king of found objects, and knowing this as I do, several years ago when we moved from our miserable apartment to our current lovely condo, I asked him to please find me a bicycle. A few weeks after my request, his truck showed up at our house, with a very dirty, greasy, green Huffy, with straight handlebars, not the curved ram's horns that I associate with a traditional 10-speed. An employee of my father's had a child who had outgrown the bike; short-stuff me, it fit perfectly.

A spritz of a de-greaser, a scrub with a scrub-brush, and a gentle hosing off, and the bike was shiny and as good as new. I had a local bike shop check it out, grease the gears, test the brakes, and then the bike sat in our garage for two years.

About the second day I biked to work, I started experimenting with the gears, working my way through five of them. It wasn't until the third week of biking that I figured out how to shift through the additional five.

(Yes, really, I *DO* have a reasonably high IQ, but....saying I'm not particularly mechanically inclined would be....polite.)

Cycling through the park required quite a bit of use of the lowest gear.

Near the office, back on the city streets, a pedestrian I rode past said, "You're in good shape, girl!"

I laughed.

"Not really," I said, "But I'm gettin' there!"

What WAS I thinking? I was thinking that since the street ride has become if not easy, then easier than it had been, and that I could hack the high hills. And I was thinking that yes, I *will* have thin thighs. I will.

But the only thing that kept me going through that last set of torturous hills was the thought of a cool shower once I finally DID get to the office. A long, cool, soothing shower.

Does anyone have any ideas for soothing my poor rear end? Damn, that bike seat is hard.

15 July 2008

Drawing a blank

Sitting in front of the computer screen, cursor blinking, and no ideas for a post.

The news is bad, and I'd rather not dwell on the mortgage crisis, Fannie and Freddie, Iraq, Iran, Israel....especially because I'm feeling pretty good these days, so then I feel guilty for feeling good and being happy when the rest of the world is going to absolute hell in a handbasket.

(Which, as an aside, how freaking ridiculous IS that? Pretty freaking silly.)

There isn't much happening in the presidential campaigns, and aren't we all tired of that anyway? This is the longest presidential campaign in history, and I for one am sick unto death of "Barak Obama said/did XYZ and John McCain's response was ABC. And I'm a political nut; I love this shit. If I'm sick of it, how do those who can't stand politics feel about it?

I heard a news story about the Italian government trying to round up and register the Romany who live in Italy, a blatant racist initiative, and I have no commentary on that, either. (other than hello, Italy, whatcha thinkin'?)

Other things that I would really like to write about, I can't. Either they're work-related, things that may be, but I don't have confirmation about, or things that even tendency-to-overshare me is not about to write about for teh interweb at large to read about. (Sorry, y'all.)

I did manage to write a few paragraphs of a short story the other day, but a few paragraphs is all I have, I don't know how to resolve the major dilemma/conflict in the story. Urgh.

I looked at my little book about a week ago, re-read what I've written. I can't believe I wrote all of it, about 150 pages of what might eventually become about a 400 page novel, but I just can't write as easily as I used to. I marvel that the story sprang from my head; and I remember with nostalgia the hours and hours I spent writing it, hours that positively FLEW by as I clicked away on the keyboard.

I was so involved in the writing of it that when it was going well I would, from time to time, need to stop whatever else I was doing and write, be almost overcome with a possessed spirit that had to get out, forcing me to write. I know I acted like a zombie for that period of time, eyes going un-focused, attention wandering far afield, losing the thread of conversation around me.

Now I'm back to sitting in front of the screen, with the cursor blinking, the field ahead blank.

At least there are possibilities in that blankness.

11 July 2008


I have a bunch of posts sitting in my queue. Things that I've written a few paragraphs about, and then either ran out of time to finish, or got hung up on a spot, and moved off from it thinking that inspiration would come along and I'd finish it at some future point.

But a few of those queued posts have been hanging out for more than a year.

Part of my OCD is that I don't like unfinished projects hanging about. They bother me.

When I wake up in the middle of the night, often I can't go back to sleep because I lie there and think about what's gone wrong, what's undone, what I've screwed up, what I can fix, what I can't change, what I should do tomorrow....shit that I can't turn off. It was worse, lots worse, when I was more of a mess. Now it is more of a mild annoyance than a debilitating, paralyzing problem, but it IS an annoyance.

It makes me want to reach for the sleeping pills. They don't turn off the inner monologue, exactly. They do make it harder to hear, though, because they force your brain to kind of shut off. The problem with that is twofold. First, I've weaned myself off of the Ambien, a process that was by no means fun, and I've no desire to repeat it.

Secondly, well....there isn't really a secondly. This is kind of like the real estate axiom, that location, location, location are the three most important things when it comes to purchasing real estate. I've weaned myself from the Ambien, and I've weaned myself from the Ambien. Granted, without it this past winter, I'd have slipped farther and further, because I couldn't sleep. I could NOT sleep. Without the prescription, I'd get about an hour, maybe three at the most, and the pills gave me about five at a stretch.

Depression makes sleeping hard. Lack of sleep makes the depression worse. It is a miserable cycle, one that feeds on itself. Hearing that internal "you didn't do XYZ" nagging at me didn't help, either. Inte alls, as we'd say in Swedish. (Betcha can figure that one out without me translating.)

So what to do with all those dangling posts? I see them every time I log in to Blogger. Maybe I should delete them. That feels like giving up to me, though, so they'll probably hang out until I finish them, or until I decide that they are indeed worthless, and delete them.

I have a novel from the library where the author talks about the book having been re-purposed from its original incarnation. Id' be nice if I could reinvent some of those posts. My current focus, though, is outside of the computer and away from my writing. Which is OK for now.

08 July 2008

Traditionalists vs Reformers

I heard a news story about the Anglican Church's recent vote to allow women to become bishops. The report both angered and appalled me. The reporter explained that the Anglican communion in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all already approved women as preachers AND bishops; the holdout for female bishops was in the Anglican's bastion, the cradle of that church, Merry Olde England.

Aunty Twisty has a label she puts on her posts from time to time that says, "Men hate You," where the 'you' is understood to mean women. Twisty's right. Nowhere is this more evident than in religion, it seems to me. The "traditionalists" in the Church of England wanted to allow a loophole for so-called super bishops, men, of course, who would be able to overrule or supervise female bishops in places where male godbags couldn't accept female leadership. Reason and common sense won out, however, as the reformers kiboshed the super-bishop idea.

It appalls me that something like this would even be open for debate. Pat the ladies on the head, there there dearie, don't worry, the big, strong men will take care of everything, don't bother your pretty little head about it. I thought that the Catholics had a lock on the chauvinistic head-trip in Christianity. Silly me. Just because John Paul II wrote missives about proper roles of wife and mother for women, and nothing else, not single, not working, not anything else but wife and mother, you're either a virgin or a slut, nothing else, according the Catholic leadership (...oooo, this pisses me off, can you tell?) does not mean that the Catholics hold the monopoly on chauvinism, apparently.

It also appalls me that the holdouts are labeled traditionalists, which by very nature of its meaning seems to imply that sacred tradition is right and proper. Urgh.

I am sick unto death of the argument from men that Eve ate the apple, therefore women are inherently inferior. If that argument is valid, what about the guy that God told to kill his son? (Issac and Abraham, yes?) Do we keep fathers and sons separate because there's a chance that Dad might knock off sonny-boy? C'mon. There's even a Midol commercial running on TV that talks about symptoms of PMS being, "the curse," which had me hurling things at the TV screen the first time I saw it. Way to come into the 16th century there, Midol. As if there aren't enough idiots out there who want to make sure women remain second-class-citizens, we have a major national advertising campaign from a drug manufacturer re-enforcing that particular stereotype. Beautiful, thanks, 'preciate the help.

I reject the argument that because I have two X chromosomes there are things that I just can't be or do. Don't hand me that old saw, "women can't" or "women shouldn't" because it will hold no water with me.

Is equality such a distant and impossible dream?

07 July 2008

Javla eeediot

On my way home from work, I noticed two women standing on my street's sidewalk in a heavily overgrown area. What were they doing? Picking wild blackberries.

That reminded me that there's a lovely strand of blackberries in the heavily overgrown area of MY back yard.

Last summer, I noticed them while sitting on my back patio, drinking wine with a neighbor. I took the empty wine glass and filled it with the wild berries, and we ate them while finishing the bottle. They were yummy.

At my grandparent's house when I was a little girl, there were lots of wild blackberries, and I remember picking them with a cousin, putting them in bowls and dumping milk and sugar over them, eating them with a spoon.

So I thought I'd have a look-see, check out if there were ripe blackberries in my little patch. Sure enough, there were. I told DH that after dinner, I'd don long pants and sleeves (in the miserable heat, fun, yeah, sure) and pick the ripe ones. Should there be enough, I'd make a cobbler.

The reason for the long sleeves and pants? There are also bits of poison oak and sumac back there. DH is one of those folks that are highly, highly allergic to the poison plants, and he shuddered in revulsion when I announced my intentions, even with the promise of blackberry cobbler, or potential blackberry cobbler.

I reminded him that I'd picked them last year in work clothes (skirt, heels, short sleeves) with no problem. He smirked, then shuddered again. He suggested that I divest myself of my long sleeves and pants immediately upon re-entering the house, and turn on the washing machine forthwith, to destroy any possibility of him picking up the dreaded poison ivy. He is so allergic to the stuff that contact with clothing that has been worn in the vicinity of the poison plants will give him the rash.

Fair enough.

I even found shoes, real shoes, not my usual cute summer sandals to wear while in the blackberry patch.

I was quickly reminded of one of the problems of blackberry-ing: the thorns. Yow. I got stabbed once or twice, but no blood drawn, so no real problem. I kept watch for poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, but saw no evidence of it.

Then, quite suddenly, I felt a burning, piercing sensation on the inside of my left wrist, as I reached over and under to grab a few more precious berries. Reaching had pushed the sleeve of my long-sleeved shirt up near my elbow. Ooops. I yanked my hand back, inspecting for rouge spiders, mosquitoes, bees. Nothing. Not a bug in sight. But a red welt, the size of an eraser on the top of a #2 pencil, was already forming. We're talking instant. Unsure of what it was, but certain it wasn't poison ivy, I kept on picking berries, even as the spot swelled and burned and burned some more. I got similar sensations across the fingers of my right hand, jabs, but no welts there.

It wasn't until I got a third shot, again on my left wrist, that I realized what the heck was happening. When and where had I felt this before? On a walk in the woods when I was about 11. What was it? Stinging nettles.

I'd had tunnel vision for the ripe berries, and had forgotten that yes, there are plants other than the poisons that can kinda ruin your day. When I looked around, I recognized the evil plant in question, taller than I am, and reaching its painful protection over some really lovely ripe blackberries.

I had wondered why the deer that are the bane of my garden hadn't eaten the berries, why the raccoons hadn't stripped the bushes bare. That would be because they're smarter than me, and know what they should stay away from.

When I was stung as a kid, the remedy was to rub the juice from a touch-me-not plant into the sting, thereby soothing it. Touch-me-nots are also called jewelweed. They produce very pretty yellow and orange flowers, and the seed pods that form after the flowers bloom are explosive, showering seeds in all directions when you brush up against the plant. They often grow in tandem with nettles. There were plenty of touch-me-nots with the blackberries, but rubbing the juice from the hastily ripped off branch did not provide the cool relief I remember as a child.

Instead, the welts continued to swell and burn like hell, and I backed out of the blackberry patch as quickly as I could, heading for the house at a run.

I called out to DH as I came in the house; what did he remember from his Scouting days about nettles? What did he remember? That they sting. Thanks.

I turned on the kitchen faucet, and allowed cold water to run over the painful spots, which had expanded from two welts on my left arm to four, and two fingers of my right hand. The water soothed, but did not remove the sting. I stood with my hands submerged until they were nearly numb.

When I showed the welts to DH, he recoiled in horror, moving as far away from my arms as the couch would allow. I explained that nettle stings aren't contagious like the ivy, but he wasn't buying it.

Both of my sisters are more outdoors-y than me, so I called the one in New York to ask her how we'd cured it as kids. Her answer? Touch-me-nots, or wait it out. Google said the same thing, with the additional caveat that sometimes the stings fade in minutes, but sometimes they take as long as 24 hours. Great. Some species that grow in Great Brittan require the treatment of a doctor. FanTAStic. And ouch.

Not enough berries for a cobbler, either, even if I hadn't been stopped by the nettles. Ow. Seriously.

06 July 2008

Doesn't it go by in a blink

I added a Blogversary calendar a few days ago, after seeing it pop up on bunches of other folks' blogs.

The day I did it, I realized that MY blogversary was just around the corner. July, 2005. Long before depression, before losing my old non-profit job, before I thought about losing weight. Before so much. Things change. Time moves on. So slowly, sometimes, and at others moving by at lightspeed.

Writing nearly daily has changed me, too. I go nowhere without a journal that I write ideas for posts in, or jot down a few words that will later jog my memory. Any time that I have to myself, I'm often thinking about things to write about. I think my writing has evolved, gotten better. Or I hope it has.

The web's changed all of us. Changed the way we work, shop, research, spend our leisure time. I've spent some time talking about my undergrad days recently, reminiscing about classes and various idiocies with a classmate, but also talking about the administrative details of going to school. Registering for classes, buying books, paying tuition. That's all changed so much since my undergrad days. This dates me so much, but it also amuses me to no end. When I started university, there were black and white television screens in the registration hall that listed endless series of numbers, class codes. (Please note that color television DID exist, was widespread, just not needed in this case. We're talking about the early nineties, people.) As a freshman, there were a handful of "musts" prescribed by the institution: freshman comp (English), remedial maths if you needed them (and I did), human phys (sex ed). The "good" classes filled quickly, and you had to scramble around to get the requirements whilst still finding a class or two that you were actually interested in.

Today, they register online. They buy their books online, they pay tuition online. Heck, they even take some classes online, and professors have dedicated spaces on the universities' servers for subject-specific websites.

I picked up a book about my alma mater for my dad, as it is his alma mater, too. The history of the university, pictorial and narrative. Flipping through it, looking at pictures of co-eds in white dresses, graduating classes of 17 people, football players in leather helmets, I wondered what the class of 1928 would think of the class of 2008.

When I think about new technologies and advancing time, I often think of my grandfathers, both of whom are no longer with us, and what they'd have to say about my Crackberry, and the internet. Grandpa S hated computers. <i>Hated</i> them. Remember some of the early computing acronyms? Like GIGO? (Garbage in, garbage out.) He said that all the time, pointing out mistakes that they made. GIGO is still a true-ism. Databases are only as good as the data entry operators who populate them. HTML coding doesn't write itself. But it is amazing, heady stuff, something I'm glad to have taken the time to learn, if only in the most rudimentary fashion.

Trying to predict the future is a waste of my time. But I look forward to the next few years with hopeful anticipation for what is to come.

02 July 2008

Like, life-altering, man!

My sister in New York City rides her bike to work on a daily basis. The journey is six miles from her Brooklyn neighborhood to her Manhattan office. I think of NYC as being pretty flat, but there are a few hills here and there. Going over the Williamsburg bridge is halfway uphill and halfway down. Not a bad trip.

When I changed jobs, my commute shortened significantly, and I wanted to ride MY bike to work once I figured out that it was 5 miles from my front door to my office. DH was radically opposed to this idea, after I'd outlined my planned route to and from the office. Too dangerous, he said. I'm stubborn, though, and disagree that the neighborhoods I want to ride through are dangerous. I talked to my sis about it, and in typical R29 fashion, she said, "Lucille, ride your bike to work. It will change your life."

After DH stopped ranting and raving, he agreed that if I took a busier byway he'd be OK with me riding the bike. Very well; I drove that way to and from work on Monday, checking to see if it was doable on the bike. There's a spot of construction that could be a problem, but the sidewalks are all open through the construction zone. I don't like riding on the sidewalk, but it is either ride on the sidewalk or get smooshed by cars that CAN'T FUCKING SHARE THE ROAD. Ahem. Sorry. Maybe I should tell that part of the story another day.

Tuesday morning saw me hunting for a backpack and packing up everything I'd need to clean up after a 5 mile bike ride. I stopped carrying a backpack long before I got my undergraduate degree; I was a business student, remember, and worked full time at Ye Olde Evile Bank for the last two years of college. So I had a nice messenger bag when I was finishing up my degree. I still have it. But I'm not keen on carrying a messenger bag on a bicycle, and the bags o' stuff I've been carrying around wouldn't work well either.

I found the backpack in the attic. It is a throwback to my hippie days, made from hemp. I made the mistake of tossing it in the washer once, years ago, which shrank it, and made the already rough fabric even more coarse to the touch. It never really recovered from the washing. There's a red tag sewn into the natural-toned fabric. It says, "cannabis hemp." No wonder I quit carrying that when I started working in the business world.

The ride TO the office isn't bad. There are some uphill spots, but there's a lot and I do mean A WHOLE LOT of downhill coasting. The trek there took me roughly 35 minutes. The trek home...well, that took me about 35 minutes too. It is mostly uphill, and I rode the whole way, never getting off the bike and walking it. It was torture. My thighs were burning even BEFORE I crossed the bridge that is uphill, less than a half mile from my office.

Torture, and yet, I see exactly what my sister means. It was awesome, riding through very quiet city streets in the morning, just me and a few cars, getting to work before 7 AM (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), a productive day, and an incredible sense of accomplishment when I finally stopped in front of my garage and was home. I was as euphoric as when I crossed the finish line at my 5K on New Year's Eve. (Took me about the same amount of time to catch my breath too!)

I had a motorist yell at me to "GET OFF THE ROAD" just a very short distance from my house on the way home. I yelled right back. "Kiss my butt, jerk, I've got as much right to the road as you do!" Or I might have yelled something a wee bit more salty. Maybe. I was NOT in the middle of traffic in the middle of the road. I was as close to the curb as you can get without ramming the bike's front tire into the curb. Plus I needed to make a left-hand turn in fairly short order to get home, so the sidewalk wouldn't have been the place to be anyway, even if there was one there, which there is not.

I think I'll do it again. Because I need the exercise. Because I feel fantastic, better than I have in a long, long, long time. Because I think I'm going to sleep better than I have in quite a while. And not least of all, because it will save me gas money, too. The only way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels is to find alternatives to them, my friends. Provided, that is, I can walk in the morning. If not, I'll try again next week, and give myself a day's rest in between cycling 10 miles a day. Lance Armstrong I am not. And never will be. But maybe I'll have the chiseled thighs I've always wanted. Eventually.

Oh, and if you're wondering....yes, there are shower facilities at work. Very nice ones. I would not do this if I couldn't get a shower after that ride, phew, stinky!

01 July 2008

Noxious Reek

I have been itching to try my hand at making sushi. There is a point of order here, though. 1. Not all sushi has raw fish as an ingredient and 2. sushi is actually the name of the rice, not the rolls themselves. Sashimi is the raw fish. I would not ever try to make sashimi at home. Leave that sort of thing to the experts, please.

I wanted to make maki-zushi, the rolls that have nori (sheets of seaweed) on the outside. They look easy enough. I'd put carrots and cucumbers and whatever else occurred to me at the time inside the rolls with the rice on the outside, cut them, and put them in my bento box for lunch. Awww, how cute, sushi in the bento box, right? Yeah, that's what I thought.

It took several different tries to find nori in the grocery store. Sushi rice, that's very easy to come by. A bamboo mat for rolling, yep, that's easy too. Nori, not so much. When I finally found it, the packet was filled with what felt like brittle sheets of rice paper, and they weren't quite the same color as what I've been used to in restaurants, but what do I know about nori? Not much.

I stashed it in the cupboard until I had time to mess with it.

I purposefully made more rice than would be needed for dinner one night, and after cleaning the kitchen from the mess I made making dinner, I cleared a workspace, laid down the bamboo mat, and found the kitchen scissors to cut open the packet of nori. The nori packet had detailed instructions (in English, natch) and looked fairly simple. No more complex than making a jelly-roll. I can do that.

I laid the sheet of nori on the mat, and covered it with rice as suggested, laid out my fillings, and rolled the roll. It was easy, but as I gave the roll a firm little push to seal the end, a smell rose from the nori that literally turned my stomach. Ulk. I'm going to eat this? Hmmm, perhaps maki-zushi wasn't such a smart idea. But I persevered, finding a knife to cut the long roll into little guys that look like the traditional roll.

Cutting it made it worse; I walked away from the roll TWICE to breathe some better air before I admitted defeat. I was never going to eat anything that smelled like that. Into the trash it went. But it released more of its eau de stench in the trash can in my kitchen, quickly permeating the whole kitchen. So I hustled it outside, better in the dumpster than making me nauseous every time I walked through the kitchen. I hate to throw away food, I hate contributing to the excessive waste in this country. I didn't see much of an alternative; I bet if we had a cat, the cat wouldn't have eaten it either.

It smelled like dead fish, but worse. Three days floating on top of the water dead fish. Plus something else, something like an earthy rotting vegetable smell.

What went wrong here?

Those of you who are smart-asses are saying, "Well, Luce, what went wrong is that you were trying to make sushi." Yeah, thanks. Bastards.

You'd think that Ohio wouldn't be all that culturally diverse, and mostly, you'd be right. But the nori took several attempts to find because everywhere I went, they were out of it. Yeah, they carried it, and yeah, there's the shelf tag that says NORI, but there was no nori.

I think the problem is that there's not such a great demand, and the stuff sits longer on the shelf than it ought to. The color should have tipped me off, too. Any time I've had maki-zushi in restaurants, the nori is a green so dark that it is nearly black, and smooth. This was a dark forest-y green, and bumpy. Should you soak them first? I can't imagine that would help; they'd fall apart as soon as they got in the water. As noted above, as well, the smell got worse as it sat there, absorbing some of the moisture from the rice.

Most of the time when I have a culinary boo-boo, I'll figure why it didn't turn out as I expected, make a few notes on the recipe if there is one, and I'll try it again. Sometimes again and again and again until I figured out where the misstep was.

I'm not so sure I'll be giving maki-zushi with nori a second shot.