Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sometimes he bites

And sometimes he licks plastic. Today he licked.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I get a fever

When I was a little girl, I was sick a lot. Between my evil tonsils and my rotten ears, I was down for the count pretty often with tonsillitis, bronchitis, ear infections, strep throat and—in second grade—mononucleosis. And I tended to pick up any gut virus floating around, something that’s continued to plague me as an adult.

My mother would make me soft boiled eggs on saltines, and I got to drink ginger ale then too. It’s funny, I don’t turn to ginger ale any more when I get sick (probably too closely associated with the various stomach bugs I got), but I still love the soft boiled eggs on crackers.

I will say that no one else in my family loves them the way I do. In fact, they all turn away in disgust. Yes, the eggs are soft and bland (some would say slimy)  but isn't that the point? To eat something soft that won’t hurt a tender throat or upset an already roiling gut? Plus they’re easy to make: simply slip an egg or two into barely boiling water and let them simmer for three minutes. Take them out, crack them open and spoon them over the crumbled-up saltines. Add salt if you so prefer (which I do) and then gratefully eat the supreme comfort meal.

It's a hard boiled egg, but
doesn't it look like a chicken chef?
Kent demonstrated the depth of his love for me a few years back after one of my many surgeries. I really, really wanted the eggs but hadn't recovered enough to go make them. So he did it for me, manfully swallowing his gorge over something he finds so gross. Sad really, if he tried them I think he would like them. Or maybe not.

Anyway, I came home from work last night running a fever over 102F. I haven’t run a fever in years. And I could tell from how I felt that it was almost certainly going to be an unpleasant night with my innards. So I made some soft-boiled eggs on crackers because I was hungry but didn't want to inflame things more by eating something less soft or bland. I thought about taking a picture of them last night to share with you all. I didn't  both because I felt so crappy and also they wouldn't photograph well at all. They look very white and bland—mostly white eggs on all white crackers. But they tasted great. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

I should whisper

Because Wally has changed. Yes, he's still a very smart cat (too smart for his own good) and he gets bored very easily. But he's learned to come ask for affection and petting instead of being so destructive like he was here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

It only took five and a half years.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stand up straight

There are two women at work who've had a good effect on me and they don’t (nor will they) ever know it.

Both have the worst posture. I mean they slouch horribly. One has a jutted forward head (picture the way a bird's head sort of looks) and she's so rounded forward that her chin is in real danger of sinking into her chest. The other woman walks perpetually bent forward from her waist and also suffers from that same odd bird neck/head issue. Every time I see either one, I stand up straighter and stack my shoulders over my hips.

Kent’s cousin has amazing posture. Well she would, she was a dancer at Radio City Music Hall for years and it shows. My older son, who was also a dancer for years, has equally amazing posture. They are my positive posture role models.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The way we do things around here

Although we lived in Boston just four (me) and five (Kent) years, we got used to the way some things were done there.

I still despise
Brussels sprouts
For example, in MA the insurance agents are the ones who get your license plates. I most definitely missed that when I had to register my car here. I also miss the much lower tax rate – think it’s 5% there, and it’s 8% here. Ouch.

Here’s another one. When you buy or sell a home in MA, there’s a stipulation that the place will be left “broom clean” by the sellers. I think we should add that to any offer we make on a home purchase.

Or how about this – people don’t talk on their cell phones in restaurants in Boston. I mean not at all. They go outside if they need to take a call. That’s just proper manners to me, but it’s not the norm here.

It took a long time to realize that if I ordered a steak medium rare in Boston, the damn thing would be practically mooing at me. It was very hard to get over the reluctance to order it done medium because in Kansas City, that’s getting close to shoe leather territory.


I also saw a lot more blueberries and Brussels sprouts in the grocery stores in New England. Oh and cranberries. That sort of makes sense because both are more native to the area than they are here. Here, though, the fresh corn is much, much better although my New England friends didn’t believe me. That’s OK, I think Dunkin Donuts coffee is utterly vile.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

You think that's air you're breathing?

Quick recap: since starting my job in May, my peak flow meter readings have dropped. About a month ago, my lungs were clearly flaring up. As is typical for me, I had the tubercular-sounding cough (everyone at work was convinced I was deathly ill but no, I was just coughing), and worse my numbers dropped below 250 (should be around 420-ish).

I'm pretty much a rules-follower. So when I saw my doctor last month, I followed his instructions completely (with the exception of getting a flu shot – that just is not going to happen). I got back on my inhalers, but my lungs didn't improve. I saw him again a few weeks ago because I'd gotten so bad, and he put me on a metric ton of meds. OK, not really a metric ton but I did get a feeling for what it's like for those on lots and lots of maintenance drugs. It gets hard to swallow all those dang pills in the morning. Ugh.

But even after all of that, I didn’t improve. I stabilized but wasn't getting better. Last week, he switched my inhaler to see if that would help and also suggested that I see if I could work elsewhere for two weeks to see if my numbers improved.

I was nervous about bringing the idea of working elsewhere to my manager, even though my company does have four other buildings in the area. I also wanted to give the new inhaler time to work. It's hard to figure out what solved a problem if you throw lots of changes into the mix. I suggested to my manager that I give this new inhaler time to work – say, two weeks – and if I weren’t better by then, we consider moving me offsite for a couple of weeks. She is most supportive of my health, which I appreciate a lot. I am confident my situation falls under reasonable accommodation, but it’s still very nice not to have to force anything.

Between offsite meetings and the weekend, I hadn’t been in my normal office since Thursday around noon. You would not believe the change. I’ve felt better, slept better, had more energy and my voice wasn’t all weird and froggy. My peak flow meter readings this morning were up almost 80 points over Thursday morning. Even my director commented on the changes. “Wow,” she said, “you sound the way you did when we interviewed you!” She was right, I did.

Did being the operative word. By 10 AM, I was struggling again. And last night I'd dropped 60 points again. Cause and correlation are not the same thing, and I’m really trying hard not to jump to conclusions the way Milo did in The Phantom Tollbooth. But I don't think the numbers are lying. I suspect my work environment is bad for my lungs. Stay tuned, I'll post an update a week from Thursday.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A matter of taste

Shortly after Kent and I started dating, we started cooking together a lot. We love doing that, especially when we try out new recipes and then deconstruct them afterwards. Part of our foodie ways included trying all sorts of higher-quality versions of the staples we use every day. Some were organic, some were imported, and all cost more.

But we’re not willing to pay for something just because a so-called expert says it's a better item. For us, taste is king and if we can taste the difference, then we might spend the money.

So we’ve tried imported Irish butter (didn’t care for it any more than Costco butter), all manners of organic fruits and vegetables (can’t tell the difference and according to this recent study, the health benefits aren’t all that), organic milk from a local farm (AMAZING difference but the milk comes in glass bottles and require a significant deposit – storing and returning them was a huge pain for as little milk as we drink), and free range chickens (another HUGE difference but man they are so expensive).

This week I added another item to the “worth the money” list: canned corn. Specifically the Whole Foods store brand 365 canned corn. Folks, it’s got texture and taste. I use corn in my spicy vegetable soup and I’ve tried name brand, store brand and frozen and this was the first batch where the corn was an active, welcome participant in the flavors. Now I’m wondering if I would like my corn chowder recipe, which has been relegated to the “don’t bother cooking” category, if I made it with this corn. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Four out of five dentists agree

Growing up I wasn’t so good with the flossing and brushing routine. My mother would scold and nag my brother and me to no avail. We just couldn’t be bothered to do much beyond brushing. Flossing? Forget it.

I'm sure the lack of flossing is at least partly why I had a series of very deep fillings when I was 12. This was back in the dental dark ages when not every dentist gave Novocain and so it was that all eight of those fillings were done au naturale. Did I mention how deep they were?

And so it was that I learned to dislike and fear those twice yearly visits. I would have nightmares a couple of nights before the exams and I would always try to undo months of not flossing by overdoing it for a few days. That always made my gums look awful, which in turn got me more attention, which in turn made me dislike going even more. You get the picture.

When I was 19, though, I read an article about periodontal disease in Cosmo magazine of all places. For whatever reason, that article woke me up to the fact that if I brushed properly and flossed every day, I could reduce my need for dental work beyond those check ups.

And so I changed my slacker ways and got on the floss bus.

It’s paid off too. I haven’t gotten new cavities since then and the only dental work I’ve had has been to maintain/repair those fillings (which by the way, even though that dentist scarred me for life, those fillings have endured extremely well – I still have three of the originals left).

I’m off for my semi-annual check-up and cleaning today. And I didn’t have any nightmares last night either. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


If you and I are friends on Facebook, then you saw a couple of new pictures of me on Sunday. There's a reason for the new pictures. Kent got some new camera lenses last week and has a sweet new camera body coming later this week. Plus he's taking a photography class. Those pictures were for assignments he had to turn in last night.

He's taken classes before; first when he was an undergrad and more recently just a couple of years ago he found some great online classes that he enjoyed a lot. But what's been missing is a chance for him to get his work critiqued by someone who is knowledgeable about photography in general and what makes for good shots specifically.

This photo on the left is my favorite picture of Kent, hands down. He took it using a timer or a remote (forget which, sorry). What I've always loved about the photo is the way the lighting works on his face, plus the contrast of his polished jacket, shirt and glasses with the slight scruff on his face. I've wanted a similar shot of me (minus the scruff, obviously) ever since.

Last spring he gave it a try but I didn't care for the results. That picture is fine in technical terms but it doesn't have the same look his does. So he tried again on Sunday. This picture on the right is closer to his but isn't quite there yet.

On the left, I'm doing my best Vala Mal Doran imitation. We have been enjoying watching old Star Gate episodes; she's one of our favorite characters and according to Kent is a lot like me.

And finally he shot this picture Sunday night too, but had to wait and wait until the sun cooperated and came out from behind a cloud. I am not sure if that was part of the assignment or just how he wanted the picture to be. I will say the wine was pretty tasty, although I didn't get to drink any until after he'd gotten enough shots.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Scaredy cat

We love our cat sitter, Stacy, and thankfully she loves our cats. We can see why most people like Chloe a lot because she's very responsive and will purr loudly when you scritch her chin. Even Wally will come out and interact with you, if you're patient and don't get in his face.

But Eddie? Let's  just say he has anxiety issues around strangers, especially strangers who have male cats. When he gets scared, he gets a little hissy and we've heard that he tries to intimidate people. Because he’s so big (16 pounds, give or take a few ounces), he can be pretty intimidating.

Our Boston vet called him a cowardly bully, but he isn’t that way to us or even when we are around. The most we’ve personally seen him do is hiss at people, and only at a few (the ones with male cats).

With us, he's the biggest lover cat. This is the cat who demands to get under the covers with us so he can spoon us, kneading one of our backs. He loves to have his cheeks rubbed really hard, and then he shakes his head as though the rubbing cleared out his ears. He grooms our hands when we pet him (I think he wonders where our fur is). When we are on the couch watching TV or a movie, he must be stretched between us so that his head is on one of our hips and his butt is on the other one's hip. In the morning, after I get up, he cries at Kent to get up too so we can all be together in the same room, and he can drape himself across Kent's lap  and sleep more.

But he's not that way with others.

Stacy has a male cat so when she said Eddie hissed at her, I wasn't surprised. But she's determined that Eddie will come around and accept her the way Wally and Chloe have. Here’s what she said about him this weekend:
"He is like a pit bull in a little furry feline package. When I walk out of your apartment, he runs after me and punches the door when I close it. If I need to go back in for any reason, he blocks the stairs, puts his ears back and tries to intimidate me into running away. It's pretty funny, actually. Because as soon as I get the catnip out, he rolls onto his back and hisses while rubbing his face on the floor."
I had to laugh at the image of him running down the stairs to chase her off but waiting until after the door closes to punch the door. He's not taking any chances he might actually catch her.

He's a large, beautiful, nervous cat. I hope for his sake he comes round to Stacy because otherwise he'd have to go to the cat kennel when we leave town. I know that would be even scarier for him.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Alas poor Picher

I first saw Picher, OK almost 10 years ago on a road trip with Kent to see his mom in Oklahoma. Picher is was just over the Kansas state line on 69 Highway, and any glory days were clearly long over.

It didn’t change much in the three or four years we continued to take that route south. It was nearly abandoned with most houses either boarded up or quietly decaying and falling into heaps. The mining museum had clearly seen better days – to me, it looked like a one-story American foursquare house turned into a museum, or maybe it had always been a museum. It was never open when we drove past it. I would have stopped for a tour because I got so curious about the town.

Even then Picher was considered a ghost town, although I would have described it as being on life support. People still lived there and you could stop at a tiny store or two if you needed to pick up a soda or something. It seemed like the residents hadn't given up on the town, and there were signs along the road that urged residents to keep the lead out of their heads by washing their hands. 

The lead came from the zinc and lead mines in the town. This Wikipedia page describes the toxic metal-contaminated mine tailings and talks about the real danger of the roads just flat out collapsing. The article goes on to say that Picher is one of just a few places "evacuated and declared uninhabitable due to environmental and health damages caused by the mines."

I had looked forward to driving through Picher on Saturday. I wanted to see if the little town had been able to come back from the brink of death and decay; I was kind of rooting for them in the face of such absolute devastation.

But there’s no town any more. The sign announcing the city boundary is gone, although the speed limit remains. There are no houses, they are all torn down. The few remaining storefronts I remembered from 2005 are either shuttered, falling down or gone. All you see as you drive 30 MPH through what’s left are sad little driveways leading to empty concrete pads in the middle of overgrown weed-filled yards. There’s still a water tower although I don’t know why. Any water in it must surely be contaminated beyond use. But it’s there, along with the mine tailings that look like small mountains. No people, no dogs, no signs that at one point in time, Picher had a population of almost 15,000.

Apparently things just went from bad to worse after we quit driving that way to Oklahoma. I'm not sure how I missed that the town got hit by an F4 tornado in 2008, or formally voted to dissolve in 2009. I guess if it weren't for bad luck, they'd have no luck at all.

Now the land where Picher was is part of the Quapaw Indian Nation. I can’t imagine why the Quapaw would want a place so contaminated and unlivable. Maybe they can work some sort of miracle or maybe they will leave what’s left as a somber reminder of how we can really screw things up. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Aint no sunshine when you're gone

Scene: Yesterday morning as we (tried to) pack to leave for Oklahoma to see Kent's mother.

They were not interested in our schedule.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The duck approves

This is what happens to bad, bad tomato plants who don't even bother sprouting a single blossom.

Good-bye to you. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

I just don’t care

A partial list.
  • Movie remakes. What’s the point? If the movie was great the first time around, leave it alone. If it stunk, generally it’s for more than just a do-over issue like better technology.
  • How much the presidential nominees’ wives love their husbands. Good for you. Now go away.
  • Why the Facebook IPO wasn’t a resounding success. I might die of apathy over this one.
  • Why you (generic) hate Android/Delta/Sprint/fill in the blank. Those vendors do a good job for me and I’m sure you’re equally happy with your choices so let’s just call it a day, OK?
  • Who cheated with whom in Hollywood. You think that’s air you’re breathing?
  • Also don’t give a rip about genetically modified food. Nope, I really don’t.
  • Or football, professional or college.
  • I barely care about baseball, mostly in a disinterested “oh they’re ahead?” kind of way.
  • Don’t care which way you put the toilet paper roll because hey! Mine’s always in a canister thanks to the crazy yellow cat.

Wally doesn't care either.
What don't you care about?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cat in sunlight


They never tire of the sun in this apartment.

(Neither do I.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Don't look back

A quick round up of all that’s been going on because I am alive despite the lack of posting.

First, we closed on the sale of our condo in Boston. I’ve kept mum about the whole thing for fear that something would go wrong and the sale would fall through. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and we closed yesterday. We’re ecstatic, although I’ve had several friends on Facebook tell me they will miss my stories about the misdeeds of the Ferals and Nasties. Gotta say, I won’t, not one little bit.

I’m utterly overwhelmed at work—love the work itself, but there’s just so much of it. And I’m not the only one. Everyone in my larger work group has just flat out crushing workloads. Finding the work/life balance is really hard, and it’s been exacerbated by my lungs.

Yes – lung issues are back and with a vengeance. Last weekend when we flew to Boston, the baggie I use to hold my meds was bigger than my 3-1-1 bag. Crazy. I’m on three different inhalers, plus assorted other drugs all designed to help me breathe. Rest assured, I’m staying on top of it, seeing my doctor and taking all my drugs. I suspect my work building is contributing to the situation, since it’s being renovated while we are in it. Right now, four of the six floors on my side are under construction i.e. they are hard hat areas. There’s a lot of construction debris in the air and I am not the only one with asthma who’s struggling.

My most visible symptom is coughing. I sound like I have the worst smoker’s cough ever even though I’ve never smoked. I spent a lot of time last week assuring my co-workers that no, I’m not sick, and no, they won’t catch anything from me. I’m not sure they believed me. One woman happened to be walking by my cube when I was in the middle of a coughing fit and said “Oh, you’re the one with the bad cough!” Yes, I’m the one.

I got a pneumonia vaccine on Wednesday. My doctor is still lobbying for me to get a flu shot but I’m not all that interested. I’ve never had the flu in my life, not once. Heck, I don’t even get colds. What frustrates me about flu shots is that they’re sort of inexact and you have to get one every year and hope that that particular vaccine matches up with the flu variety running around that year. So to me it seems like a crap shoot for something I’ve never had anyway. Of course, now that I’ve posted this I’m sure to get the flu. If that happens, you may all say you told me so. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

You've got to change your evil ways

From Imgur

I’ve wondered why it is some cats are good as gold—they don’t get into the trash, or knock things off shelves or get on the kitchen counter—while others are brazen about their misdeeds. The only conclusion I’ve come to is that much like people, it depends on the cat’s personality and outside influences.

Take Chloe. She's probably 12 years old and she's never been a brazen rule-breaker. Even if I left tasty meat out on the counter, she never jumped up there. She also didn't climb shelves and knock things over. Heck, her poop didn’t even stink. Seriously, I would sometimes forget to scoop for a while and only realize if I happened to look into the box, never by how it smelled.

The boys are different, which I’ve posted about quite frequently on this blog. They climb, they knock things over, counters are their territory despite our best efforts, and their poops are weapons-grade stink bombs.

But our cats have also learned from each other. Here’s an example:

Chloe has a unique way of stretching—she’s the only cat I’ve ever had that stretches quite this way. She’ll lean forward on her front legs so that her back legs are stretched out behind her, almost like she’s in a push-up position. Then she’ll pick up one leg and stretch it out so it’s parallel with the ground, walk forward on her two front legs as she sets the lifted leg down and repeats on the other side. It’s kind of like a dog stretch. And now the boys do it too.

Sadly she’s picked up some of their less desirable habits too, like getting on the kitchen counter, the dining room table, the bathroom counter, things like that.

At least her poop still doesn’t stink.