Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter: Just Another Season

I started this blog way back in 2006, when I wrote about the Mack Truck of depression that had rolled over me -- and then parked. Well, I'm happy to report that I traded in the truck for a scooter, and even that is easy to move off down the street these days. My December mental message for 2008 is this: I'm feeling just fine over here.

Turns out, way back in 2006, I'd developed SAD, otherwise known as Seasonal Effective Disorder. It would come on three days after daylight savings time rolled back and not lift off my poor psyche until the daffodils bloomed. It was like a very bad smell that I never got used to -- and that no amount of cleaning could get out of my brain.

Depression isn't what I thought it would be. It's not feeling sad, so much as it is not feeling anything. It isolates you from people, from any interaction that could pull you out of it, almost like a kind of emotional quicksand. The harder you struggle; the worse it gets. And those people who tell you, "Snap out of it! Look at how great your life is"? They might as well be pouring on more of the stifling mud. It's not about getting happier, it's about getting energy, your power, your juice back. At least for me.

One therapist, two shrinks, one homoepathic nurse practitioner, encouragement from some dear fellow SADers, and a lot of just plain putting one foot in front of the other -- and I am enjoying life this winter season. This turn of heart and mind has come about as a result of several things. My chemical cocktail includes Wellbutrin, 5HTP, massive quantities of fish oil, vitamin D, and a special anti-melatonin mixture. My personal practice to sooth my depressed brain and plump up its happy parts include walking the dog outside every day, morning meditation, other exercise, and scheduling regular dates out with the hubbie and friends. Digging in the dirt helps too. I've learned that, rather than surgically excising the depression, mentally accepting it as a part of me, is a much more helpful tack. I think of it as a fitful toddler, who needs just the right pats and incentives to feel better. Hey, it works for me.

As I write this, the sky outside my window is grey with immovable clouds, the light is weak at best, but I cheerfully drink my coffee and type away. I am looking forward to the day, some work on a window, cooking another batch of baklava. But I am also feeling sad that my favorite Christmas champion, my mother-in-law, will not longer be able to share in our tradition of buying the tree together, now that she has had that terrible stroke. I'm a little anxious about driving in the holiday traffic to the mall today to do some last minute shopping. And all of that is okay, just a part of life.

Still, the SAD care and protection will probably continue to be an exercise in minding my inner toddler: I'll probably always have to make adjustments here and there to keep her from turning on the stove or soothe the odd tantrum. To be able to laugh at one of my husband's bad jokes on a really cruddy winter's day makes it all worth it, though.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Funny Tween Ha

The Tweenish One (aka charming spawn) turned me onto this one. If you have not had your fill of dumb jokes -- or are just having a bad day or expecting one -- try spending some time with this clip.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Invasion Of The Friendly 4 Million

Like so many of us, I wept with joy when Barak Obama was elected president. Between my conflicted Southern roots, a here-to-fore unsatisfied sense of fairness, and utter respect for the brilliance of the man, I have carried around a level of verklemptitude that no other public event has ever inspired in me. This is so darn incredibly great: Obama will be our full-fledged president in January.

Then, along with the rest of us 500,000 Washingtonians, I started thinking about the inaugural. So did a lot of other people, who did not live in DC. Like about 4 million of them. And like my brethren here in DC, I started to wonder just how this would all work, when 4 million people show up here for the inaugural.

Just to show you what I mean, imagine this:

Consider where you are living right now. Conjure up in your head the population of your city or town. Now, imagine a bunch of people equalling roughly 8 times that population comes to visit for the weekend. That's what will happen here in DC in about a month and a half.

There's no way the roads, metro, trains, buses, planes, hotels, private homes, or park benches will be able to acommodate all the inaugural celebrants, but DC will make this work some way or another. Mostly other. It's not like our infrastructure works seamlessly on a lot of good days, so if you are coming, be forewarned. Here are some tips for any inaugural revelers planning to head this way for the swearing in:

1. Be prepared to walk. Miles. You will not be able to drive up to the Mall and drop off grandma. Bring comfortable shoes, hand and foot warmers, water, snacks, and a lot of patience.

2. Start off early. It is likely to take you hours to get to the Mall for the swearing in. Think post-Thanksgiving shopping on steroids.

3. Expect to leave late. Once 4 million people are on the Mall, it is going to take them a long time to get off the Mall. Don't expect you will make that lunch a half hour after the swearing in.

4. Remain calm, take care of the people around you, and keep moving. For most of us, this will be the largest crowd we will ever stand in. It will be exciting, but can also pose risks. The biggest danger with crowds is panic -- and anything that stops its movement. When the crowd is moving on or off the Mall, do not stop to chat, take a lot of pictures, or otherwise impede its movement. Allow the crowd to move and flow at a measured pace. Watch out for short people and the elderly and help them keep moving. We don't need another Long Island Walmart.

5. Enjoy our city. DC gets a lot of crap for being too buttoned up, too poor, too insider, too, I don't know, federal. But DC is a great city, full of history, beauty, great food, and real hospitality. Not to mention the birthplace of Marvin Gaye. And all those museums? They are free.

So, welcome, you 4 million. Have fun, be kind to our city, and take care of eachother.

And please bring extra Kleenex, because I know we are not done with the joyful crying.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Where The Sidewalk Begins

After arguing with us neighbors about it for three years, the DC Department of Transportation has broken ground on building sidewalks up and down my street. On both sides. Unlike most of the city, our street never had sidewalks -- mostly because the houses here were constructed in the 1950s. This was a time when developers embraced the view that Sidewalks = Crime, The Dangerous Element, and Possible Racial Integration....not necessarily in that order. But, now that we are much more culturally diverse and needing a bit more exercise -- not to mention saving on gas -- people want to walk again. And we are getting our sidewalks.

I was talking about this with a friend last weekend, while watching my son's boyscout troop make mascot flags. (Everybody wanted to be a panther, even though I was lobbying for the scorpion.) My friend told me about a number of studies that showed that in a neighborhood the most powerful thing that binds people together is a sidewalk. Compare two nearly identical sides of a street -- with one lacking a sidewalk -- and the people living on the side with the sidewalk will all know each other. On the side without one, it's unlikely that you will know anyone beyond your direct next door neighbors.

I'm hoping that this news bodes well for us. And I hope those familiar strangers over yonder are friendly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why You Should Vote Republican....Not.

As if watching Tina Fey wasn't entertaining enough, some smart folks have provided us with a whole new level of satire.

Watch and laugh -- and maybe cry a little, too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lisa's Transom Window

I know I have been absent (blog-wise) for most of this fall, but I've been happily busy with unblog-wise things. I could be apologetic, but that seems silly when others do it. Would Shackleton apologize for missing his blog entries in between hiking out of Antarctica and returning to rescue his crew a year later? Okay, well, maybe the comparison is a bit grandiose, but there is a point in there someplace.

One of the better things I've been doing is finishing up and seeing installed Lisan's transom window. I will ever after remember her address -- and maybe even the correct zip code too.

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day Of School

About a week ago, I was looking out the window from my little office here in my house. There is an enormous maple across the street, and it kind of marks the seasons for me. In this case, the season is autumn, and even though it was 88 degrees, the maple knew what was coming. Just there, on one side of its massive girth of green leaves, the yellowish-red edges of a dozen or so leaves let me know: Get ready, honey, because it's getting here faster than you think -- the first day of school.

What is it about that first day of school? Here I am, nearly 50, and I still feel that panic: Do I have the right kind of notebook? Did I study for the test? Granted, I have a rising sixth grader to bring that panic home to me. But still, I'm marked for life with my own latent version of first-day-of-school-itis. Come Labor Day, I will have bought a nice new notebook of my own, along with a box of pencils. I'll tell myself that this stuff is for the workshop. I know the real truth: I'm still making sure that Ms. Runkle won't call me out for forgetting to bring whatever it was I DID forget to bring to her class in 1971.

At least I'm not worried about who my teacher will be or who I'll hang out with on the playground at recess. I think. I will miss sleeping in, though. And making s'mores in the microwave. (Summer staples here.) Who wouldn't?

Friday, August 15, 2008

You Know Nothink. Nothink!

Yesterday, Steve, our new aquarium guru, came by the help me figure out why our chiller is on the fritz, our refugium (will explain that later) is full of red algae, and the protein skimmer isn't making that nice, cruddy shaving cream-like bubbles like it's supposed to.

This is my world, people. I have been transformed into a tank head. An aquarium geek. Someone who, when eyeing the dark storm clouds on the horizon does not think: Must close the windows. No, I think: Lord God, don't let the lights go out for more than two hours, because then I will have to drag the 500 lb. generator out of the shed and crank up that bad boy, spewing gas fumes and neighbor-infuriating-high decibels. When the power goes out and the water pump can't circulate oxygen-rich water, it's that or stand on a chair next the the aquarium and stir the water with my arm to keep the fish alive. (This I have actually done. For hours.)

For years, I balked at the tank care stuff. Wasn't this my husband's hobby???? (Even wrote an article about it.) But I've changed my tune and have taken on the marine nuts and bolts full bore. This transpired for two reasons. Reason One: My husband was leaving town soon for the Democratic Convention (what I like to call the National Satanic Suit & Hat Convention.) Reason Two: The aquarium equipment only breaks down when he is out of town -- far, far out of town. Until now I would just ignore the aquarium equipment until whatever inevitable disaster landed. But this year, rather than wait until the main water pump seized up or the aquarium started making this sound like a strangled toilet running ALL DAY AND NIGHT and then having to make my hysterical call our former "tank guy" who would string me along for days and overcharge me to boot, I did something kinda of evolved, and smart even.

I found my own tank guy. And that guy is Steve from the Tropical Lagoon in Silver Spring. He came over. He explained about 8 different things I didn't know (and needed to) about my aquarium just on the way downstairs to the pump room. He figured out why the water chiller was never going off and was super heating our basement, stoking my nightmares that it would burst into flames. And he adjusted a light timer so the refugium -- an aquarium filled with crud-eating plants that naturally clean water -- actually worked. "Just reverse the timing of the lights, and that should fix your plants up just fine." He showed me how moving one little tube about a half inch higher would make the protein skimmer -- a neato contraption that cleans the water by making bubbles that literally lift the nasty gunk out of the saltwater -- actually skim.

And what's really sick is that now I am actually into this stuff. I'm all gotta get over to the store to get that new salt gauge and filter thingie. Heck, if I can do this, installing those solar panels on the roof -- to pay for all the power the aquarium uses -- should be a cinch.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bull In A Yoga Studio

So, I've been taking this Saturday morning yoga class. (Okay, I've only gone twice.) If I can get myself there at 8AM, by the time it's all over at 9AM, I am feeling pretty good. In between is another story.

Imagine the quiet yoga room, the vaguely alter-culture-world music (sung in a Tibetan dialect unknown outside of the small valley where it is spoken), the neatly arranged mats. Six women follow the measured instructions of the teacher. Five of them fold smoothly into human pretzels and unfold with their butts in the air in downward dog, still as majestic as ever. Their breath is even, hardly above a whisper. These women look cool and relaxed, as though they took a bath in baby powder before class, and not even a sudden appearance of Katrina would dampen them in the least.

And then, there is me.

I am wringing wet -- even when it's the still meditative part of class . My tee-shirt -- which I've been mopping my face with -- is blotchy and bedraggled. My breathing sounds more like someone running a 10K than a swami engaged in an asana. And I must continually remind myself: Breath, breath. Hey you, breath! I mix my right side up with my left. I can't figure out how to get my foot to go over there, any there. I sweat even more.

But at the end of it all, as I stumble gratefully toward my car, I feel better - actually really good. And, I think, I might even be able to walk home from yoga class (only about a mile) -- maybe in about a year. Still, some things may never be achieved. Like me in a a white yoga-tard for instance. (Look on the cover of the Kripalu Yoga Center's catalogue and you will see what I am talking about -- a whole series of yoga divas wearing white yoga-tards, smiling, with their heads, hands, and feet in places I have to turn the catalogue around just to figure out.) White-yoga-tardness will never be achieved by me, at least in this lifetime. I am accepting that as my own little act of humble acceptance.

Breath, breath. Hey you! Breath!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Feeling Sporely

Ever since my son came home from the Apple Store with the game called Spore, our home has been a stomping ground for fantastic creatures. Spore is an easy, fun animation software that allows you to create critters-from-another-planet. They move, run, dance, have mating calls (and babies), and have their own personalities.

With some instruction, I managed to make my own Spore. I call him Aviamph, because he can swim and fly.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back From The Store

I think I have just about now adjusted to being back from Vermont. Maybe. Every summer we go to Barnard, Vermont, eat ice cream, marvel at the cool weather, and dare each other to jump in the lake (which is really, REALLY cold). There are two focal points to Barnard: the lake (also known as Silver Lake) and the store (also known as the Barnard General Store.) If we are not in the one, we are usually in the other.

The picture above was snapped (against the Tweenish One's will) in the store. To say that the Barnard General Store is special, a tradition, cozy, and a throw-back to more civilized times just doesn't cover it. This store has been in continuous operation for 175 years, serving on and off as a place to buy everything from horse shoes (for their real purpose) to Fluffer Nutter, depending on when you happened by. Today it serves as a kind of store/everyone's living room, a place where you can meet up with your neighbor for coffee or argue with him or her vehemently about, well, just about anything. And no one will mind either way. The store now has wifi, which would be a mixed blessing if it wasn't so unreliable. A kind patron showed me where to sit (next to the ficus tree) to get, well, just about any reception. She also explained that there was no wifi on rainy days. At the time this made perfect sense to me. Maybe we could start this system in DC?

Just across the road is Silver Lake, a spring-fed lake where someone always seems to be swimming. Or paddling their canoe over to (where else?) the general store to buy whatever necessary item that came to mind in the last hour. It's the kind of lake that takes some serious talking to oneself to jump into. And even if I can only talk myself into staying in for limited periods of time, I just love watching the old gal across the lake make her morning swim through the mist in the morning.

This year's main Barnard occupation was reading, knitting, cards, icecream, and fishing. It rained a lot. We did not care. The Tweenish One and his Tweenish Buddy perfected their worm baiting techniques, and spent hours in the rain and out of it, standing on the dock behind the house catching fish and hurling them back into the deep.

I think I really, really need to go to the store.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Old Lady Puberty Pills

Today, I got a box in the mail. Of course, Sam (aka Tweenish One) watched me carefully when I opened it, like all kids do when they are really, really hoping it's something for them, which all boxes in the mail are supposed to be. For them. He stopped watching though, when I pulled out two prescription bottles. He'd seen it all before.

Disgustedly, he asked me: "Are you STILL taking those old lady puberty pills? "

After I stopped laughing, I had to say, yes, I was still taking old lady puberty pills. I tried explaining about hormone loss and bioidentical compoounding, and how I get these specially made hormones from a place in New Hampshire, and, well, that's about when he slumped even further down on the sofa. "Mom, please, you can't talk about that stuff with a GUY," he told me.

Tweenish One was not amused. He was worried. The conversation continued.

T.0.: "You know, since I am beginning like the introduction to puberty, does this mean I am going to have to take any pills for it, once it gets bad and all."

O.L.P.: "No, guys don't have to take pills, just women."

T.O.: "Not even when they get old, like Old Man Puberty."

O.L.P.: "No, they just buy a sports car."

T.O.: "Sounds a lot better than the pills, Mom."

O.L.P.: "Huh."

I thought about that later, the whole "what we do when we get to menopause (male or female), and I think women have their priorities all off. We should be asking for a Lamborghini (okay, a Miata?), not estrogen. Once again, men are getting the bigger locker room -- or something like that.

Now I understand why I have been lusting after Vespas lately. I wonder, if I come home with one, do you think I can just say it's for my menopause?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Web I Am Just Barely Weaving

Okay, so now that I am getting more stained glass commissions -- and would like to get even more -- I need a website. At least that's what everyone tells me. "Do you have a website?" is the first question I hear when I mention I make stained glass windows. They will ask this even as they are looking at real, live examples of my stained glass. "Oh yeah. Well, I'm just getting one up right now," I answer, mixing fact and fiction as artfully as I can. "Probably next week."

As anyone knows who has thrown up their own homegrown website, "next week" can stretch out into "next month" and, in some cases, "next year." Even for a savvy pedestrian on the Internet highway, creating a website is daunting.

The frustration all starts with the easy, anyone-can-do-it website software. The lies, people! Sure, in the tutorial it all looks easy. A template here, a masthead there, and voila! You are in business. But then, there you are, up a 2 AM, crouched over your keyboard, with only an "About Me" and "Coming Up Next" section to show for 6 hours of work, and you are only a push button away from calling a shrink -- or a website professional. In fact, I'm thinking that it had to be some sadistic website professional who designed the do-it-yourself software in the first place. What a great way to drive business to THEIR WEBSITE.

Still, I am putting in another few late nights in pursuit of my teen-weeny website. Until I sink into a catatonic state of desperation, I will not go begging to any website professionals, because I need to save cash in this mom-and-not-even-pop business of mine. In the meantime, I will stay away from the sharp glass. And pray to the cyber gods and anyone else listening for all the help I can get.

And assuming I can also channel Bill Gates and Mahatma Ghandi-- and if you'd like to take a look - you will be able to find me at

Sometime next week.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Stella's Hip Chickness

Melody Gardot has topped my workshop listening playlist for awhile now. Her voice is smokey and beautiful, her timing impeccable, and she can even make a store-bought cookie sound sexy.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hippie Child Goes Boy Scout

Way back when, I was a Brownie (the junior Girl Scout rank). Other than vague memories of gluing popsicle sticks together into Christmas ornaments in the basement of the Methodist church, I can't remember much about the experience. And since I am genetically engineered with that Irish sense of humorous irony stirred with a revolutionary bent, it didn't take long for the scouting thing to rankle my 9 yo sensibilities. When the "flying up" ceremony that would transform me from a Brownie to a Girl Scout came along, I immediately flew out. Also, I didn't like the uniform. My peace sign necklace kept getting snagged on the medals and patches.

All this leads me to explain why I am proud of my son aka Hippie Child. Unlike his more inflexible mother, it just made sense to him to wear his Che Guevara tee shirt with his Cub Scout uniform. Now, if the Boy Scouts would just come up with a "peace now" patch, he'd be all set. I'm also hoping that part of the fire safety requirement will include keeping his hair out of the camp fire.

(I am impressed that he went so far as to trade in his flip-flops for sneakers. Gotta dress up for the ceremony, Mom.)

One To Nine, And The Grown-Up Wins

Thanks to the dedication of the small AC unit built into the side of the workshop, I was able to get the lead-piecing finished up this week -- without any of my usual work-til-3AM sessions. Honestly. It baffles me as to why I feel the need to return to the drama of such final-exam-cramming behavior, but whenever I finish a project, that seems to be exactly where I go. So, I guess this finishing up -- at the mundane hour of 5PM -- is something of an achievement. Could I possibly be acting my age?

Or could this be due to meditation practice that I've started recently. Ever since beating April's Infection Invasion, I've been seeking out ways to boost my immune system. I'm back on the insulin-balancing eating plan (teeny meals 6 times per day, rather than 3 bigger ones) and learning weight-lifting from my terrific trainer, Tara. I'm swimming, which I believe is as mentally restorative as it is good for my arms and legs.

And I'm learning more about reiki -- a Japanese healing method. My teacher is funny, irreverent, and sincere -- simultaneously. How could I not be intrigued? Along with the reiki comes a kind of meditation that uses focus on breath, mantra, and a kind of symbol focus which totally appeals to my visual artist side. Like all things that take me out of my busy brain, it's hard to explain other than to say that part of the focus is traveling along the symbol -- with your focus.

I think this is about as close as I will ever get to understanding what it feels like to be a tree. Or a number. Or something like that.

Wormsloe Live Oaks, Savannah, GA

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Numbers Are In

Lots of good news here. Lisa's Transom is coming along quickly and (drum roll) the AC in my workshop is working. That pretty much makes my week.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Autism, Variable Speeds, and Understanding (Please)

My friend Staci forwarded a very interesting article to me that delved into cognitive and learning disabilities, the ADDs, ADHDs, APDs, and PDDNOSs of the world. Coming from a family "on the spectrum" myself, I know that these neat little acronyms really don't define anyone, as much as give those of us who don't have any of them a partial roadmap to understanding the people who do. This article, written by the mother of a girl with an acronym grab bag of her own, explores how to help children with these disabilities without inhibiting or hurting the creativity or unique world view that these same children have as a result of these conditions.

This has been a source of constant debate among the Asperger's community for years now. Why are we considered abnormal when you NTs (neural typicals) seem just as abnormal to us? It's a thought-provoking question -- and one that has baffled me for years. Many Aspie children have memory skills and an ability to focus that some of us would love to bottle and sell. On the other hand, these same people can suffer nearly unbearable pain finding their way through the "playground society," because it is so hard for them to understand all our unspoken, NT social cues. Where does the real problem lie? In the disability or in the society?

After mulling this over for part of the morning, I decided to go to the ultimate research source -- YouTube. Here are some different viewpoints to this question. All of them valid, and each of them an attempt to answer this complicated question.

From Amanda Baggs:

Incredible Brains:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Suddenly, I Feel Young Again

First, he was in our wedding and now our buddy Steve produced this video, which I really, REALLY appreciate. Not only does it give that war-mongering, health insurance-skimping, out-of-touch, etc. candidate a well-deserved jab, this video is the first thing this year that made me feel just one inch closer to being a Gen Xer.

Okay, maybe Gen X + 15.

And, Lord, there is actually an element on the periodic table younger than McCain.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I've Got Her Number

On the bench right now is the transom window that I am making for my dear friend, Lisa. The window will go over her wide front door, original to the house, that faces on to Newton Street in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington, DC.

The colors she picked for the transom window, some lovely lavenders, purples, and greens, are unconventional. So, of course, I love them. This challenged me to design the window so that it would still harken back to the house's turn-of-the-century (19th, that is) style, even though the purpleness would likely have made Queen Victoria wrinkle her nose and put on more black damask. I love it, though, because it will defy the norm, while charming any passersby -- much like the inhabitants of 1349 do everyday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DC Is For Wonk-Lovers

Himself, the wonkish husband.

If you have a pulse and a television, you must know by now that it is a presidential year. Actually, it's been a presidential two years, maybe 2.5, but who's counting?

The families, spouses, and partners of campaign and election consultants, that's who. And there are a lot of us here in Washington, DC, what I like to call the "factory town of politics." Politics and elections are the bread and butter of our city. But during a presidential year, we are also the town of "those left behind", of POWs (Partners of Wonks). We are the city filled with spouses, partners, children, and friends of campaign staff, PR consultants, reporters, and strategists. And we have not a clue as to when we might see our wonks again, so don't ask us.

It's safe to say that when I married my adorable, wonkster husband 14 years ago, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Sure I love that man, but that is after (and partially due to) spending about the first decade of our marriage trying to figure out what he did for a living. (His specialty is mobilizing voters, known as GOTV.) And I am not a stupid person. It's just that the nature of campaign work -- the long hours, its ability to swallow people whole, the way it springs up from nothing like a very well-funded mushroom -- is not what you grown up thinking it would be. On TV and in the newspapers, campaigns look regal and organized. They look like they are filled with smart, capable people who thoughtfully come up with big plans and massive mobilizing forces and political platforms and perfect hairdos. And they are -- to some extent. But campaigns are also filled with sleep-deprived people who have been eating take-out for WAY too long and have become physically attached to their blackberries and pagers and have been staying in hotels so long that they will actually weep when they are given access to a washer and dryer. These are wonks, and they are OUR people.

But, before these wonks became this way, they were someone's son or daughter, wife or husband, lover or friend. These wonks had relatively normal lives and held conversations for 10 minutes at a time without having to go on a conference call. And this is what we POWs strive to remember as we take messages at 11PM from press staffers or fedex fresh T-shirts to Desmoines, because our wonks can't even walk across the road to the Target across from campaign headquarters. We are the POWs and we understand this. We know that by Labor Day, expecting phone conversations with our wonky loved ones that are longer than 5 minutes and uninterrupted will be a hazy memory. Email is better. We know that home life and wonk life will steadily diverge, like a highway off-ramp jutting away from the road.

But, we know that sometime around November 8th, the effects of drinking jet fuel in the morning will begin to wear off our wonks. As the new administration takes up the equally relentless work of starting up a new presidency, our wonks will find those people they used to drink real coffee with in the morning. We will be the ones rattling around in what looks vaguely like those houses or apartments (with the washer/dryer!) where our wonks once lived way back when in July of the previous year. And as that loving look of recognition lights up in the eyes of our wonks, we are the ones who will say, "You're back! I missed you."

Talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve! Obama supporter rallying the troops on DC's Primary Day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Noah Needed Drywall

Okay, so it has been raining here for about 1,000 hours at near Biblical proportions. It has been raining so much that even I have begun complaining about the rain, which should tell you something. (After three years of on-and-off drought, I have been known to go outside in the backyard and do a rain dance in my pajamas when we had so much as a sprinkle in July.) I rejoice that we are nearly 3.5 inches above normal annual rainfall. This rainy, cool May weather is akin to the Mays I grew up with in this area -- what we babyboomers like to call a return to pre-global warming seasonal behavior.

Along with the rain came Mother's Day, when I got to do what I love to do on Mother's Day -- shop for plants. The fact that it was pouring down rain was just an added incentive. As someone who started her first personal garden at age 5, I was taught that the absolute best time to buy and plant new garden stuffs is in a cool, substantial spring or fall rainshower. Yes, these are the times that the women in my family (ignoring the aghast looks of our spouses) trudge out-of-doors with favorite spade and trowel in hand, look up to the heavens, and pronounce, "These hands have been touched by God! Let's plant!" (Our only indulgence with religion.) My mom started me off when I was five, when I grew my first garden. It was little plot where I grew Halloween pumpkins that I later rolled into and sold in our front yard. I can't exactly remember the weather when we ripped open that packet of Burpee pumpkin seeds, but if it was like any other gardening session with my mother, it was probably during a good early spring rain.

So, digging forward to the present, that WAS me at the local nursery on Mother's Day, shopping for shrubbery in the pouring down rain. And I mean pouring down rain. I want to point out that though the shopping crowd was sparse, I was NOT alone. And I did pick up two rose bushes -- on sale, no less -- that are covered in the deepest, sexy burgundy blossoms. A couple Japanese plum yews leapt into my cart without my knowledge -- along with some Japanese painted fern that decided to follow their countrymen. (Hey, with the fascist immigration roundups these days, even Dutch tulip bulbs are shaking in their skins.)

One place in my life that the rain was not welcome: the recurrent leak in the roof over the hippie child's bedroom. It is the Carrie of Roof Leaks, lying dormant for years and then returning in haunting proportions just when you think life has settled to normal and you can slack off in the renovation poltergeist department.

Smoke the Dog is keeping watch to make sure nothing creeps in from the Other Side.

Monday, May 12, 2008


After spending too much of the last few days filling out all the insurance forms that had piled up on my desk, I just had to break free from the shackles of paperwork and....

Learn what my superhero personality equivalent should be. Egads!

Personally, I think these folks are being a bit overly enthusiastic on my behalf, but hey, I could live with a little extra electricity. Especially when the power goes out. And I have to figure out how to start up the generator to keep the aquarium pump going so our saltwater tank does not turn into a frothy pit of marine death.

Emerge and find out what the super you is. At the very least, it might give you the stamina to reboot a modem?

Your Superpower Should Be Manipulating Electricity

You're highly reactive, energetic, and super charged.

If the occasion calls for it, you can go from 0 to 60 in a split second.

But you don't harness your energy unless you truly need to.

And because of this, people are often surprised by what you are capable of.

Why you would be a good superhero: You have the stamina to fight enemies for days

Your biggest problem as a superhero: As with your normal life, people would continue to underestimate you

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Last Friday, the hippie child and I spent about an hour sitting in the Starbucks taking close-ups of eachother's eyeballs and laughing ourselves silly. Given all the worry, ilness, and strife going on in our family unit, we might have had to laugh a little harder and louder than usual.

My dear mother-in-law had a massive stroke about 3 weeks ago, and seeing her usual feisty, energetic, active-beyond-most-87yo-ness so very reduced has been a shock. Let's put it this way, we went on a 3 mile hike with her up a mountain in Vermont last summer. I hope I have her energy in my small left toe, when I reach her age.

So, anyway, we all feel adrift. And that kind of unhinging just screams out, "Get goofy!" -- whenever we can. I know she wouldn't mind.

Monday, April 28, 2008

And I Don't Even Like Pink

It's hard to believe that only a month ago this bank was not much more than a bunch of dirt and some dried out pampas grass. Now it has sprung to life, especially with the help of the monsoon rains we've been having here. For the first time in two years -- maybe three -- we are at normal rainfall. It will be an incredible thing to wave farewell to the on-and-off drought. Of course, my garden's suffering (as well as my water bill's) is nothing compared to the local farmers.

One of the first plants to pop was this rhododendron. I bought it about five years ago, when it was a little and affordable sprout. I thought it would bloom in deep purple clusters. Whether it was the pique of hybridization or a case of plant miss-tagging, I have ended up with this pink variety.

And as the person who removed every single fuschia azalea from the front yard upon moving into this house, getting used to this pinkness in my most coveted back garden bed has been a bit of a stretch. Still, I have to respect this particular plant for its guts and tenacity. Rhododendrons, like roses, grow in this area with little to no enthusiasm. Like my husband, they would rather be in New Jersey.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

When you have become a cesspool of bacteria

Me and my mood these days....

Okay, so I have had yet ANOTHER drug resisant infection, and about the only people I know who seem the least bit interested in finding out WHY the nasty bugs keep popping up like chiggers in my person are certainly not doctors. Between ERs and hospital stays I have seen about 8 of those, and all they seem to want to do is tell me I don't have MRSA (even though I was never cultured for it) and then prescribe another antibiotic. This month's antibiotic tally is currently up to 6.

I pause here to point out that there is more than the greed of our insurance system that has led to the current crisis in American healthcare.

The latest interlude at my local ER came last Friday. Earlier in the evening I had the great, good fortune to see Chris Rock at DAR Hall. I laughed so hard that my face hurt for an hour. Chris Rock is so profane, so outrageous, so pissed-off. How could anybody not love him? He put on a two-hour monologue with no intermission. That man has energy! Anyway, the only problem with the evening was that I had to pee all the time, which wasn't easy, because I had to excuse my way down the concert hall aisle. One's row-mates weary of that normally, though it helped that this group was semi-liquored up. By the time I got home, I was peeing blood. Back to the ER I went -- thanks to my good friend C, who happens to be an EMT and called around to find out where the emptiest ER in the city was. In the ER, the resident informed me that I had a "raging" bladder infection. (No lie, he used those words). Anything over a 3 on the bacterial count rates as an infection, but my poor pee was showing a rate of 180. At 3 AM, I came home taking Cipro, yet ANOTHER antibiotic.

Two days later, I felt those charming bladder infection symptoms returning so, being the conscientious patient that I am, I went back to see the infectious disease doc I had seen previously. Well, he couldn't find my ER visit or labs in my computer records, gave me the hairy eyeball, found nothing in yet another sample of my wee wee, and sneered me out of his office. "Hypochondriac, attention-seeking woman!" pretty much sums up this guy's attitude. The next day, the ER called to say, darn, this bladder infection is resistant to Cipro, so go on and get crazy -- take Macrobid now, please. With low symptoms, I opted not too. As far as I could tell, one more antibiotic would, well, lead to one more antibiotic, and the history of that was not serving me well. Instead, I drank lots of water and cranberry juice and rested up. Now my pee is all better.

Despite my many questions to the docs over the last month, such as, "Why would I be getting all these infections, Doctor?" and "Should I be concerned that this might be another drug resistant infection?" and "Are these infections related?" -- no medical personal seemed to be able to tell me much or even interested in considering these prosaic questions. One doctor did say, "How interesting...", after I explained my history, though. I guess that is something.

As far as I can tell, these doctors must be learning at least two key things in school: 1) Treat women as though they are hysterical hypochondriacs until deathly lab results induce you to start listening to them; and 2) Keep the pharmaceutical business spry by handing out plenty of meds, rather than investigate root causes.

Okay, I am bitter.

At this point, a lightbulb went off over my drug-induced noggin, and I called the integrative medicine center where I had been treated in the past for thyroid disease and menopause. (Integrative medicine includes western, eastern, and alternative treatments with an emphasis on boosting the immune system.) The Amazing Barbara, the nurse practioner there, had me in her office instantly, interviewed me for an hour, and said, "We need to find the root cause of why your body is open to getting these infections." Proverbial music to my ears. Yes, yes, let's DO find out the cause and improve my immune system! What a wonderful idea! She put me on stuff to increase the "good" bacteria in my system, recommended a better batch of vitamins, and arranged for me to come back for a full workup in a week.

At last, a medical person who is NOT giving me another antibiotic. Could it be because she is a nurse practitioner? Familiar with alternative medicine? Just plain has common sense? I don't know, but I do know that I appreciate a medical, healing-type person treating me like a person -- and not a walking petri dish.

Did I say that I was bitter?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

And The Eyes Moved All By Themselves

This afternoon, my son asked me what comics I read as a kid. I hadn't thought about that for years, but realized that I remembered more than I thought: Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, Lil' Abner, Pogo. Ah, Pogo, introduction to political philosophy.

Then, I started wondering about all those other entertainments, long gone by, and ended up stumbling across HR PuffnStuff. Okay, so the producers had to have been juiced on something, but it was a imagination wonderland of a show. Compared to the slick special effects of even the schlokkiest today's Disney sitcom, HR looks like it was made with somebody's cellphone. Wow, I thought as a kid, and the eyes on that boat move all by themselves.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Me & My Nose

Every so often, the great swirling cosmos of it all whooshes into my life and lays me flat. And, there I am on the ground, the air knocked out of me, all ridiculous daily worries and petty jealousies and personal obsessions knocked out of me too, and I can see what is really important in my life. This is what happened to me last week. Right after I became as sick as a dog.

The long and short of it is that on Sunday I was admitted to the hospital for an infection in my nose that seemed to be drug-resistant. The emergency room doc wouldn't take a culture, so we can't know if it was MRSA or not. (No wonder this stuff is escaping all over the place!) What had been a sore, slightly puffy nose on a Friday, had swelled to an excruciating nose by Sunday. I had chills and felt like my shoes were made of lead. I spent the next three days on IV drips of very strong antibiotics. (I am going to be very, very kind to my kidneys forever and ever...) I won't go into the hairier details of my hospital stay, except to say that it was painful and frightening. On Thursday, they let me come home.

This week it is doctor visits and and mending my immune system for me. Letting the important things occupy me -- and not my cellphone -- has been my chief activity. Things like hugging my son and watching him play Guitar Hero and making him hotdogs for dinner. Cooking with my godson and listening to him talk about his latest date. Sitting outside in the sun and looking at the garden. And just plain listening.

So, for all of you who (like me), laughed at others who kept hand sanitizer in their purse or car: Laugh no more. There are some really nasty, bacterial thugs out there. I hope I never encounter one again -- especially that close to my brain.

Next up on the bench: Lisa's Front Door Transom lavenders, greens, and bevels.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Looking And Seeing In Philly

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Staci made a challenge on her blog. She wrote about how so many of us wander through our lives, certain that nothing special is going on, nothing happens. Of course, a lot happens, but most of us are too focussed on how we are not making enough money or need to clean that closet or how life would really, really be all better if we would just finish that memo that on the bottom of the pile.

Then, Staci laid down the challenge: Memorialize something from your life that is important to you, and do this like today was the last day of your life.

Not to get all Carlos Castenda on you or anything, but Staci is certainly channeling that guy. Along with Buddha, Ram Dass, and a few others. You know, all those folks who keep harping on about Process and the importance of the JOURNEY and how we tend to live all up in our heads in the past and the future - rather than take in the beauty of here and now. After you hear enough wise people say, in one way or another, "Pay attention, right now, will ya?!," you gotta start to think there is some juice in that approach to life.

The picture above is my first attempt to meet Staci's challenge. Of course, I am cheating a little, because I saw this mural -- one of Philly's hundreds - on my recent trip there. We spent an afternoon just walking around downtown, looking at murals. I love how they are just there, basking in their massive glory. Even so, after a while, even these massive pieces of art become mundane, unseen by most of us, who skitter by them on our latest mission.

It was very satisfying to spend even just an afternoon not taking these murals for granted, giving them their due, right then at that moment.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Old Town

Sam and I in front of 440 Penn Street

Our big spring break trip this year was to head on up to Philly to spend some time with my husband, who has been working up there for the past month. We had a wonderful time roaming around downtown Philadelphia with the new hip folk that now seem to people the place. We spent most of one day just walking from one of the city's murals to another (some pics of those later). But the biggest thing for me was to drive 30 minutes north and visit the town where I lived my first 9 years, Spring City, PA.

Truck lot behind my house where I learned to ride a bike.

I hadn't been back to Spring City, a town of of about 3,000 people (and I think even that is a stretch) since I was 11 or so. We lived in a duplex, the other half being occupied by the family of my very best friend, Carol. It was a blue collar town, were most parents worked in a factory and going to college was not the norm, by any means. When I was a kid, Main Street was lined with businesses, a hardware store, a market, the butcher shop, and a penny candy store. Today, nearly every door is boarded up. People go to the big box stores on the edge of town to buy things. Like so many industrial towns, there's not much left to do there.

Still, I knew the family living in our old house (a friend of my brother's from his high school class of 1968), and I could still find my way to my old elementary school. I guess the old radar still works from all those afternoons of walking home. And, best of all, the old playground was still there -- the stage where I learned to play 4-square and hopscotch, and vanquished my first bully. All in a dress, of course, as girls were not allowed to where pants to school!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Fern-ly Finish

The Fern Window is officially done. I'm very pleased with it -- and will likely make this one again -- or elements of it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Down A Pound

Not a huge accomplishment in the last week, but I am enthusiastic about the direction in which me and my hips are going. Better yet, I can swim 50 laps without having to go lie down afterwards.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Love My New Glazing Putty

And I know that's weird. But there's no other way to put it. I AM in love with my new glazing putty, AmChem Stained Glass Putty. I got some for Christmas from my godson, who will now forever go down in history as heroic and brilliant for this act alone.

Glazing putty is the stuff that you use to plug up the little gaps between the lead came and the glass. Puttying is a messy process that involves gunk and dust and the total destruction of at least one pair of rubber gloves. Doing it right means you've got a nicely sealed window. Doing it wrong means you have a drafty, wobbly window. And who wants that?

For me, getting the right putty is the single most important thing in finishing up a window. I've used soupy glazing putties and ones that vented off vapors that could take the paint off your car. Oh, but that AmChem...

Tomorrow the window and its putty will have "set" -- and I can clean it up and patina the solder joints. That will make those nice, dark lead lines that I love so well. Okay, I know this is oddly rhapsodic. A good glazing putty can do that to me.

Keep the diamonds. I'll take the really nice gunk, please.

...Well, keep the diamonds until I get these cruddy gloves off.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Semi-Svelte Update

Had to brag....I am now lighter by 8 pounds. I think it's the swimming that is really doing it.

Better than the weight loss, if you can believe that, is that I am feeling stronger. Yesterday, I swam 50 laps and didn't have to crawl out of the pool like I was some victim from a shipwreck dragging herself onto dry land again.

NOT having to gasp for breath might be the best it's gonna be for awhile. Frankly, whenever I get the one step forward-one step forward improvement in anything, I feel darn lucky. I'm usually have a strict two forward - one and one half back policy with these kinds of things.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fern Window Update: Ready To Solder

Got the last pieces fitted together last night, and I'm all ready to start soldering. I'm not completely happy with the top right corner. (Might lighten it up a bit.) All in all, though, I love this design. Very calming. Makes me want to go take a walk in a certain Vermont forest I know, a veritable magic kingdom of fern. I'll have to hold that thought until July, though.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pilates, Now Under Geneva Convention Investigation

Okay, so in my newly embraced spirit of let's-get-in-shapedness, I took my first pilates class today. Not the pilates class with all the strange looking machinery, but the more simplistic one that requires nothing more than one's aching muscles, the ability to breathe, and a floor. This is called, innocently enough, Pilates Mat Class. They might as well have called it, Kick Your Butt Slowly For 45 Minutes Class. Or, maybe, You Will Beg For Mercy From Any Stranger Working Out Next To You Class. Or just AIEEEE Class.

Pilates, as I learned to today from the very calm British pilates teacher at my gym, was developed by this guy, Joseph Pilates. For whatever reason, he was working in a jail or just in jail in San Francisco, CA, when he developed this exercise method for inmates. He dismantled prison beds, harvesting the internal wooden slats and springs, and constructed the first pilates equipment. Maybe there were some felonious ballet dancers doing hard time with him too, because many of his exercise routines involve quite ballet-ish aspects. And this should have been the tip off to me, right away, that I was in for peine.

In an earlier, more aerobically and aesthically pleasing part of my life, I regularly took ballet and dance classes. I was never in such good shape. There is nothing more grueling that lifting one's own body in space with no leverage save one's arms, legs, and toes. I have seen grown men, muscles hardened to a cement-like consistency from weight lifting, reduced to tears by a single class at barre. Yeah, so you bench a gazillion pounds, but can you plie 100 times?

So, while I limped out of Pilates Mat Class, I felt oddly rejuvenated by my aching muscles. Just as in my dance classes of yore, they were sore muscles, but longer and ever so slightly stronger ones. And, unlike the gentle yoga debaucle earlier this week, I didn't fall over once.

Of course, the entire class took place on the floor, but why quibble with details?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gentle Yoga, (On) My Ass!

(Photo by AZRainman)

Okay, so I started a Tuesday morning yoga class. I thought, okay, I AM stiff and creaky, and my neck makes noises that are generally emitted from old leather chairs when you get up out of them. But even so, I can certainly handle a gentle yoga class.

Class started off swell. The introductory meditation session was delicious, though I did notice that simply sitting cross-legged on the floor was actually using muscles. I had never noticed that sitting required muscle use. Hmmm. "Observe your body," said my yoga teacher. So, I observed. I breathed. It all felt good.

Then, there came downward dog, when you have to brace your body above the floor with your arms, hands, and legs. You are supposed to look like a dog, happy with your butt up in the air. I don't look like anything that good with that part of me up in the air, but I was game to try. Soon, my arms ached, then they shook. Then, I was holding my breath from the sheer concentration involved and nearly fell over from lack of oxygen. How did it get so hard to prop myself up with my arms? Why does my old broken toe feel like someone is sanding it with rough gauge sandpaper -- from the inside out?

Then, I stood in tree pose on one leg. I concentrated my gaze on my "drishti", a visual point (in this case an old nail hole on the wall opposite me). Then, I DID fell over. Since when, even at 9AM without a glass of wine in sight, can I NOT stand on one leg? By that time, I was sweating, breathing deeply, and very grateful for the final meditation/relaxation exercise of the class.

This morning, the shoulders ache, there is a feeling in my lower back that was not there before, and I feel like my lungs just got injected with 15 gallons of really fresh air. I slept last night like a...tree. Except laying down.

I wonder when I'll graduate to Level One, Not Quite So Gentle Yoga. But then, I suppose I am not supposed to inject such unyoga-like goal setting into the mix. Embrace the gentle. Be here now. I wonder if Ram Dass ever fell over in tree pose in front of a room full of 60-year old women.

Here's downward dog performed by a real dog. Along with a sun salutation, I think. Then, it might be that he just has fleas.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Beating the Birthday Drum

Today I am 48 years old, which I must say is completely mind-blowing. I don't feel like I'm 48, whatever that means. I remember my grandmother saying this right up to her last, and 99th, year. ("But I don't feel like I'm that old!") It is one of those things I couldn't understand until I got to a "certain age." In the same way, I sneered as a 20-something when I saw an older couple sitting silently over dinner in a restaurant -- never knowing that years later my husband and I would happily carry the NY Times with us to eat breakfast at our favorite diner.

Nevertheless, I believe it's important to take one's age as it comes, because the alternative is absolutely no fun at all. Naturally, I took the day in stride. Not. I managed to grouse, complain, and feel sorry for myself in ways that can best be described as beeeatch. My husband wore me down with a homecooked breakfast, a lovely pearl ring, and a large measure of patiently delivered deep sighs. Friends came over for breakfast and stayed for cake. Somewhere in there I managed to take my ungrateful self off for a facial. I can honestly say that I was converted to a semblance of human decency by goodwill and love until finally ....

I got over myself and started to have fun. Now I am awaiting the delicious dinner that my godson is preparing for me downstairs. And I am hoping that I will remember the fine lesson of today: Trust in the ones who love me -- before paying much mind to my own flawed and unreliable nature. Amen.

Fortunately, I'm going to have another go at doing the birthday thing. Next weekend I am throwing myself a birthday brunch combo book giveaway. It seems that as you approach 50, you begin to divest yourself of all the things that in your 20s you were determined to have more of. Go figure.

And oh so fitting for the day, the following clip shows us as we are, running full circle from child to childlike. Perhaps, not such a bad thing after all.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Break My TV

Okay, so I've been aware for awhile now that there are some people who aren't really watching TV anymore. They are watching youtube. My friend Rebecca is addicted to Project Runway Canada. My friend Angel is hooked on this Korean soap opera ("No, I can't marry you now that I know you put curdled squid in your morning tea.") And, increasingly, I am finding myself monitoring my son's daily intake of animation shorts and kid-made-by-kid shows (eg. Mac18).

But what was there for me to watch? For a while I surfed back episodes of Man/Woman (or "Man Slash Woman"), a Brit skit comedy show not available in our United States of Pedestrian Humor. But, since M/W was not really available in full episodes, it was really only a hunt-and-peck viewing opportunity. And then....

I stumbled upon "Break A Leg", a typical workplace-detective theme-Russian mafia saga that looks like it is being filmed in a high school. Sounds awful, I know, but there is something wistful and frustrated about it that hits my ironic funny bone just right. Below is a clip of the last episode. Maybe I've found own my youtube show...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gatorade, Staff of Life

"Mom?" I heard a small voice say in the dark at about 2AM this morning. My son's voice sounded frightened, tentative. But what had me instantly on my feet was that he was speaking in that emergency frequency that is only audible to the mothers of young children. And that frequency says, "If you don't get over here right now, cleanup is going to be really, really massive."

My son had the stomach flu. And not some meek, mousy variety of stomach flu. This was the Megadeath-Darth-Vadar-Meets-Venom-Meets-Ghost-Rider version of the stomach flu. In the wee hours, I felt terrible for him. I reassured him that he would be okay. I reassured myself by remembering that he had, in fact, survived pneumonia and a 3-day allergic reaction to pennecillin before he was two. Even so, I couldn't do much more for him than rub his back every time he reunited with our bathroom toilet. By 8AM, he had thrown up 6 times. Then, I started to get scared.

I guess that's because, now that he's eleven, I'm out of sick-kid practice. For the past five years, I have been blessed with a child who rarely even gets the sniffles, much less the plague. In fact, because he almost never gets to stay home sick, I actually give him two hooky days a year. Of course, on these hooky days, Evil Mom that I am, I let him get dressed and suited up for school, before I tell him today's the hooky day. I meet him at the front door and look deep into his eyes -- just until he starts to get a little worried that he's in trouble. Then I say "You, my friend, know way, way, WAY too much. This couldn't be good for you. You'd better stay home and watch TV all day."

I hope he remembers how nice I am when he is 16.

But back this morning, by the time I was starting to get pangs about possible future trips emergency room, the gods smiled on us and made my godson late for work, giving me just enough time to dash over to the store. There, I felt calming relief as I bought a pallet of THE secret cold remedy of my Southern childhood. Jewish mothers may have chicken soup, the English dry toast. But, when you are a gal from Richmond, VA, you buy Gatorade when your nearest and dearest are spewing the Black Death of Influenza. You know that if Gatorade doesn't work, it's definitely time to kick start the major medical.

Two hours later, after measured sips of orange Gatorade, the Spewing One (SO) braved a cracker. Then, another two bottles of the orange elixir. Now he's chowing down Cheerios. Better yet, the dog has decided he can leave his nursemaid post (curled up on the sofa next to my son) and chase squirrels in the backyard. And, the real test of recovery: The SO has raised himself and is playing MySims on the Wii.

So, okay, maybe Gatorade really does have the same chemical profile as urine and it tastes like orange bazooka that you left too long in the glove box of your car. And let's not even talk about why a bottle of Gatorade does not freeze at temperatures below 32F. To me, Gatorade possesses special magical powers that are worthy of exaltation -- or at least buying stock in the stuff.

And -- as an added survivalist bonus -- if you have an onion handy, you can even use Gatorade to power up your iPod...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cheerful Is As Positive Does

Okay, now that I am back from getting the groceries -- both literally and metaphysically (you figure that one out) -- I'm all ready to dissect depression some more. Fortunately, others with much more street cred and PhDs than me are doing the same. Just two Sundays back, a wonderful article appeared in The Washington Post that shed more light on the subject of working out the blues. And it got me to thinking...

In the Post, Charles Barber wrote Healing A Troubled Mind Takes More Than A Pill  And while he might have mortally pissed off the pharmaceutical industry and some psycho-scientists, he had a lot of good and helpful things to say about living with depression, managing it, and taking control. According to Barber, rather than just relying on medication, work, exercise, and (most of all) having a purpose that extends beyond yourself are the necessary prescriptions for keeping the head and the heart in balance. 

This, of course, seems like common sense -- but it is common sense worth saying...and saying again.  It has been both my experience and borne true from the rudimentary research I have done. Getting busy, absorbed, fulfilled by work is vital to not only feeling better, but also changing the depressed brain.

But, it's not just about feeling better, good work actually fixes our brain equipment.

According to researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, the depressed brain literally begins to lose volume in the hippocampus, a physical mechanism that allow you to feel happy. As bad as this equipment failure sounds, there are possible replacement parts. According to researchers at Emory University and the University of Toronto, cognitive therapy can actually help the brain retool its happy parts.

So it seems that all this research and writing points to the same point:  Antidepressant drugs help to make a foundation of new, happy brain parts, but it is the repetition of positive acts and responses that really makes the depressed brain grow healthier.  And, I would add, humor and just plain laughing more is sugar on top.

So, my new mantra has expanded to "make hay while the sun shines" alternated with "I'll take another helping of accomplished laugh-happiness please; leave the argh! on the side." Also, where are those Marx Brothers movies?

And for some more brain entertainment, check this out:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Giving Us Slugs A Good Name

This reminds me of my clubbing years, when I could shake some fair white girl boogie and actually drink as many as two gin and tonics in a row without having to take a nap.

And I swear, I had a boyfriend once with the same groovy antenna-eyes as these hipster slugs. Or maybe he just looked that way after the two gin and tonics.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Gas Powered: The Real Explanation For Dinosaur Extinction

When you are the only gal living with three fellas (and, yes, I am counting the dog), your sense of humor is affected. Maybe we could say lowered. A decade ago, I would have sneered at this clip in that eye-rolling-guys-are-so-subspecies kind of way. After living with my guys, who regularly stage fart contests as a normal Sunday morning activity, I think it's hysterical.

But, will it hold up with creation theory? That's what I want to know

(Please excuse me, Mr. Darwin.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Untangling The Blues

It's been a while since I have written about depression, and my own garden variety of it.  I had pretty much your run-of-the-mill mood handling equipment up until 2006 when I got hit by the Mack truck of the blues. The only way I can describe this was that it felt like the Joker had set a big block of Kryptonite under my bed -- rendering this Supergal's powers null and void. Not too long after that, I learned that this was just another door prize at the menopause ball -- a party that I've been having a hell of a time finding a ride home from for about five years.  Turns out, recent research shows that menopause has the annoying habit of magnifying whatever grab bag of problems, syndromes, or just plain genetic anomalies you happened to be born with. Why my magnifiable anomaly couldn't have been slim thighs or a killer backhand is beyond me. Really, honestly, I would have been happy to have had to cope with a menopause-problem like the burning need to launch a successful business before I am 50. 

But, no such luck, and the blues hit with a vengeance in the fall of 06. If hot flashes, hair loss, and dry skin weren't enough, I found myself feeling so tired by 10AM most days, that even crossing the room required negotiation. (Is there REALLY a good reason to take all those steps? Maybe I should wait for a sign). Of course, I did cross the room -- and take care of the holidays and go to parent-teacher conferences and make windows and trim back the roses -- I just felt like crap the whole time. "Putting one's foot in front of the other" was the main descriptor of my day.

It was a drag. I gave it a name, and that was Agnes. (I envisioned my blues as a chain-smoking harpie with bad hair.) Then, I went to the doctor.  And talked to my friends.  And learned that I was in a boat with a lot of other nice, normal women, who were good enough to share their oars, strategies for getting better, and plain smart advice with me.

Since then, medication, diet, exercise, and a "keep on keepin' on" mantra have helped me regain much of my equilibrium. It's clear that winter is my problem area, and that I am affected by seasonal effective disorder, also known (quite aptly) as SAD. From mid-November to mid-January, I can feel my energy and mood slipping down a dingy and slushy slope. Even more mystifying is that all this happens for no particular rhyme or reason, but is utterly exhausting nonetheless. This year's winter was not great, but I kept the faith and slogged my way out of it.  I worked under one of those sunlight spectrum desk lights that made me feel like I was some kind of greenhouse plant. Then, like the crocus in spring, the increase in daylight hours brought big, relieving improvement. Nay, I must say that it felt as though it was lifting my heart right up out of ground. I would very nearly have called it an unfurling, just like daffodil leaves, probably because as a gardener I will use any reason to bring in a plant metaphor.  Whatever you want to call it, it felt wonderful.

Then, bang, despite the glory of spring, I started feeling that dark cloud creeping back, just that dull, aching weariness. Wasn't I supposed to finish that article two weeks ago? Washing the same, darn dishes everyday, just to dirty them again.  Jeez, can life be any more dreary? Every daily task felt like such a gargantuan effort and yet meaningless at the same time. Argh. It seems that the work of staying healthy is not achieved just by some extra sunshine or a pill.  It seems that it takes a bit more of my own work and focus.  Like everything else involved in heading towards the big 5-0, it's all about maintenance.

More on that after I pick up the groceries.