Filed under: Alphabet Soup
Hay fever. Seasonal allergies. I am in hell.
My eyes won’t stop leaking, my nose is red and raw, I can’t breath most of the time, and my throat is stripped from sneezing so much. I may need a second job to finance my Kleenex habit (because I only buy the super soft tissues with aloe and lotion during hay fever season). I am on prescription medication, but even with that PLUS an additional dose of non-prescription meds when things get particularly bad, I am mostly miserable all the time. Basically, this will last in some form until the end of September.
I never had hay fever as a kid, it wasn’t until I moved to the city that I started with the sneezing and the watery eyes and more sneezing. I read somewhere that many cities are hotbeds of pollen because trees come in both male and female types and the male types are usually selected for downtown and urban areas because pollen is far easier to clean up than seed pods. Basically, pollen just blows away–around and around and around and forces the population to seek refuge indoors with filtered air–where seed pods must be swept or vacuumed up at the end of the summer. Now, I don’t know if that is true, but if it is I’d like to lodge a formal complaint with the city council or whoever you complain to. STOP IT WITH THE POLLEN TREES! For the love!
Over the weekend I was particularly miserable. A few months ago a friend of a friend mentioned that he combats hay fever with popsicles…which sounded a little bizarre (and also kind of awesome). He said that the cold of a popsicle soothed his palate and helped his sinuses calm down. Hey, it can’t hurt, right? J-Mo and I picked up three different kinds of popsicles and on Sunday I spent the entire afternoon eating one after another. For the record, that was the only portion of the weekend I didn’t have my face covered in Kleenex due to the excessive sneezery.
Popsicles, man. Who knew!?
Well, this friend of a friend knew, and he told me, and I’m telling you. Popsicles! A delicious alternative to a Zyrtec-Benadryl-Claritin-Sudafed cocktail.
*This post brought to you by the letter “P.” What starts with P? Pollen AND Popsicles starts with P!
This is the third month’s report of my 30 x 12 project.
Last month I set a pretty lofty, very personal, religious-based goal. I don’t really feel comfortable talking about it online because, well, it’s very personal for me. But, I feel like it is important (for me) to mention here that I did not hit that goal, I didn’t even come close. I came up with my list of 12 things to do during my 30th year back at the beginning of February (during the Super Bowl, actually), and this seemed mostly manageable then. Not easy, but manageable and something I knew would be good for me.
I couldn’t do it. Or, more accurately, I didn’t do it.
More than anything else, that fact bothers me. I have had a fluctuating relationship with God for a lot of years now, and six months ago I was probably in the best place I’d ever been when it came to my own spirituality. I didn’t let that “status” go to my head and become complacent. Something specific happened–well, several somethings, actually–in my religious world that in many ways knocked me sideways. I had a paradigm shift, and I didn’t like what I saw but found I couldn’t un-see it. I was angry and a bit ranty about the whole situation and felt a serious rift in my heart. It’s taken me longer than I thought to come to a place where I can frame that issue in my own terms and move forward.
I’m not there yet, but I am getting closer.
Anyway, I’m sorry to be so vague. I don’t ever talk about religion on my blog and I don’t really feel comfortable starting now. But, I feel like I needed to at least admit to myself that I am not where I would like to be, and that only I have the power to change that.
This is what this whole 30 x 12 exercise was about, to find the places in my life where I needed to improve and grow. Well, three months in and I found one, which I feel is completely okay. I didn’t fail, I learned something about myself, and that’s okay. I want to improve and grow in this particular area, I know what to do, I just need to do it.
Next month’s goal is actually a rescheduled goal (I did a little switching of months in March), I will be exercising every day for 30 days. Now, due to some pretty ugly physical issues that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future, this goal will look very different from what I thought it would be, but I think this goal is even more important now than it would have been earlier in the year. My usual form of exercise has been running, but my physical therapist has banned me from running until further notice. I need to re-frame my ideas on exercise to include other forms of cardio and include things like strength training. Things that are okay: elliptical, exercise bike (not cycling style as it is too hard on my back, but a sitting-up-straight style), swimming, yoga, very light weights, core work. Things that are not okay: high impact cardio like running, basketball, or tackle football (I haven’t played basketball or tackle football…um…ever.) This will be trickier for me than I had anticipated because I can’t fall back onto an easy “go running for 30 minutes” plan, this will be different, and harder, and really, probably a lot better for me. I have several required exercises from my physical therapist, and I will be getting some more in the coming weeks. Honestly, the timing for this probably couldn’t be more perfect.
Filed under: Musings of a Stepmom
The practice of examining books, movies, blog posts, etc., and suppressing objectionable, unacceptable, or inconvenient parts.
That is, parts that are objectionable, unacceptable, or inconvenient to the examiner. Whether or not they are true seems to be irrelevant.
Censorship may or may not be legal.
Last month I started getting these really strange dizzy spells. I felt light headed and woozy and would sometimes notice my left arm going a bit numb. Sometimes it was just a little bit of discomfort, sometimes it felt like vertigo and I would have a little lie-down to recover. I even ended up calling in sick to work once because taking a shower required a 3-hour nap to recuperate.
After about two weeks of this I became aware of a more-intense-than-normal pain in my back with the nexus lodged somewhere behind my shoulder blade. A few days later when it was more intense and I was experiencing constant sharp pains I figured it was probably a rib or two out of place, something that happens every so often as part of the lovely aftermath of my 2008 car accident. Usually it takes a few days for the out-of-place rib to make it’s way back where it belongs and I simply go along my merry way. This time, however, the pain was getting worse and worse. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t wash my hair, looking up even slightly was excruciating, on the pain scale (zero being nothing and 10 being the worst pain ever imagined) I was at about a constant 7. Sitting up, lying down, standing, relaxing, working, didn’t matter, I was a wreck. I finally made an appointment with my physical therapist to see if he could work his magic and pop that damn rebellious rib back in place. Silly me, I thought I’d be in and out in 20 minutes.
Come to find I did have two ribs out of place, right behind my collarbone/shoulder blade, just like I suspected. But more than that, my PT thinks one of them had been grazing the major nerves that run down my left arm and wreaking all sorts of havoc in my shoulder and neck. I only had about 15% movement in my neck towards my left side, and–even scarier–I was somehow missing feeling in my left arm. I don’t mean my arm was asleep, I mean I could not feel pain or pressure. My PT told me I only had 65% sensitivity and feeling on my left side. What that means is that in some places (outside of bicep, outside of forearm, outside of palm) I could not feel touch or pin pricks whatsoever. I only knew I was being touched if I could see something touching me.
Um, in case a medical professional has never told you something like this, it is quite terrifying.
The PT lined up my rebellious ribs and made them behave, he did a lot of massage/torture work and manipulation to try to get my knotted-up muscles to relax a little, hooked me up to the electric shock machine to force the stubborn muscles into submission, and gave me a schedule of check ups two to three times a week with required bi-monthly massages.
Don’t get too excited about that last part, my first therapeutic massage with the requisite deep tissue work left me with achey muscles and visible bruises in several places on my back.
I’m kind of broken. I can be fixed, but right now I am a hurty mess. It’s disheartening.
The good news is that after just a few appointments I have recovered a lot of movement in my neck, my ribs have yet to run amok again, and the bruised spots are healing. But I have been banned from running until further notice; my “Run a half marathon” resolution? That may never happen, this year or ever. It is so frustrating to still be dealing with so much of the painful aftermath of a 5-years-ago car accident. To think that the criminal who plowed into me in a hit and run (he was speeding through a red light with three different law enforcement agencies hot on his tail) has made such a terrible impact on my daily life. To think that even though my car was replaced and my “pain and suffering” was converted to a dollar figure, I will truly never be the same.
*This post brought to you by the letter “R.” What starts with R? Ribs! Ribs (and things) starts with R!
Filed under: Alphabet Soup
A few nights ago I had this crazy-vivid dream that my eyelashes were exactly like the fur on a Persian cat; long, soft, fluffy, and deliciously black. For a few fleeting moments I was truly happy…and then my Persian eyelashes started to fall out and my clean white pillow now looked like it was covered in cat fur. I woke up a little sad, a lot grossed out, and desperate to find a way to recapture my dreamy eyelashes.
Unfortunately, I believe the latter is impossible. (Unless someone comes up with the scientific ability to transplant kitty fur onto my eyelashes…or, less icky, to extract some kind of Persian stem cell to then paint onto my lash line causing deliciously soft, lush, perfectly curled lashes to grow in exactly the right place. Dear Science, get on that, will you? You know, after you cure cancer and HIV and somehow broker world peace…)
I digress. Back to the point at hand:
I am convinced there is some kind of hoax going on with the major cosmetic companies. In the last year I have tried out no less than 8 different types and brands of mascara hoping for the next best thing for my eyelashes. New formulas! New brush shape! Lengthening! Volumizing! Lusher! Thicker! More Dramatic! Some I have had pretty neutral feelings about, and others I have LOVED only to discover that formula + brush shape has been discontinued or is otherwise unavailable.
Several years ago I published a post about personally accepting some of those things about our physical appearance that we cannot change. For me that was my very white eyelashes, a bony Roman nose, and these funky elfish ear-nib things. Just in case you were wondering, all of those things are still very much a part of who I am, and–to some extent–the most annoying parts of my physical appearance. I’m mostly made peace with my nose, my longer hair prevents me seeing the nubby bits on my ears so I rarely think about them, but my eyelashes? Sigh. One day I will have gorgeous, long, thick, luscious dark eyelashes…and that will be the day I win the lottery and decide that approximately $600 per year for eyelash extensions is a good investment. Until then, I will rely on a kickass eyelash curler, black eyeliner, and the perfect mascara.
Except, I still have a clue as to what qualifies as the perfect mascara because Mascara, Inc. KEEPS DISCONTINUING THE ONES I LIKE THE BEST! It’s like they know–or rather, They know–as soon as I find something approximating perfection They get wind of my happiness and yank the product from the shelves.
Once upon a time I used a fairly expensive “designer” mascara, yes, it was buucko-bucks per tube, but it was never discontinued and the formula has remained constant. Every few months I would make my way to the expensive makeup counter and ask for a single tube of black mascara, the cosmetologist behind the counter would usually try and upsell me on anything from a $25 dollar eyeshadow to a $150 dollar night cream, but I would always just stick to the single tube of mascara. Two years ago when I trimmed down my budget, fancy mascara didn’t make the cut and has yet to be added back into my more generous spending allowance. However, after buying 4 different brands/types in the last 6 weeks to try to find something I like I no longer see the economy in not buying the fancy, expensive stuff I know I’ll love in the first place. Next time I get irritated by my eyelashes and my current mascara’s inability to perform I will march myself right down to the designer makeup counter and beg the salesperson to put me out of my misery with a single tube of very expensive, practically perfect black mascara. Sure, she’ll probably try to convince me that I NEEEEED a $30 dollar lipstick, or a $45 dollar compact of blush. BUT! I will be strong! I will walk away with nothing more than mascara because I can justify it’s cost after a couple of years of scientific research (see above); I cannot fathom paying $30 dollars for lipstick (my average of lipstick wearing over the last 10 years has been approximately once per year…maybe less).
What about you? What kind of mascara do you wear? Do you have eyelash extensions (you lucky duck!)? Is there another product you absolutely swear by and cannot imagine giving up? I’m genuinely curious. I don’t really rant and rave about beauty products in these parts mostly because–with the exception of good mascara and a fantastic under-eye concealer to disguise my late night reading habit–I don’t really have any loyalty to beauty products. I’m not saying my lack of loyalty is some kind of anti-consumerism “best practice”, it’s just the result of my incredibly lazy attitude towards the beauty and cosmetic industry. So, tell me, what are you go-to items in your makeup bag?
*This post brought to you by the letter “M.” What starts with M? Mascara! Mascara starts with M!
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read this last year but it was the pick for this month’s book club and I decided to do my due diligence and reread. I was struck by the introduction where the narrator, Nick Carraway, spends the opening paragraph talking about reserving judgement on people because they did not have the same opportunities as he in their lives. The point being that despite the obvious flaws of Gatsby, Daisy, her husband Tom, and Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, we are to not judge their actions or character too harshly. Carraway does a pretty good job of describing the people and events of that fateful summer with a sort of uninvolved, impersonal bias, which is strange for a present character and not an omniscient narrator. Carraway/Fitzgerald allows the reader to make their assumptions on character and motive in many cases, but simultaneously encourages us not to condemn Tom and Mrs. Wilson for their affair, or Daisy and Gatsby for theirs, or for the tragic events that left three of them dead and two completely blameless. I love Fitzgerald’s writing, his style and phrasing and plotting. I really need more of it in my life. After discussing the character, morality, and other symbols and components of The Great Gatsby with a group of bookish friends I fell in love with this book all over again. So many layers and so many perspectives all wrapped up in 180 pages of prose. Swoon.
The Gilded Age; A Tale of Today, by Mark Twain and C. D. Warner. In my history classes in school we talked about the “Gilded Age”, a term coined by Twain and Warner in this book and used to represent a culture where major social issues were swept under the rug or thinly veiled with a layer of glitter that was intended to distract the observer from the actual problems. This is a sweeping story of the Hawkins family, their friends, associates, and lovers and their quest for fame and fortune in the last half of the 19th century. The Civil War is over, reconstruction and expansion westward are in full force, and the Hawkins siblings intend to make their millions, mostly without working for it, or at least, not working honestly for it. There are stories of schemes, cons, fishy investments, real estate deals, appropriations from Congress, and various other “opportunities” that work together to completely destroy this family. It’s lengthy and for the first half I kept feeling major anxiety any time one of these seemingly upstanding citizens (Hawkins, et al) fell for yet another ridiculous, outlandish “get rich quick” scheme. For the second half (most of which takes place in Washington D.C. around a sketchy piece of legislation) I kept hoping someone in authority would shine a light on all of these murky dealings and justice would be served! Twain and Warner wrap things up in the last chapter or two, but not in a neat little “Hollywood” ending, which I appreciated. Excellent writing, lots of things to think about, and a healthy dose of sarcasm, wit, and biting observations on the state of the day…both in the late 1800′s and the early 2000′s. Humanity really hasn’t changed all that much.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. I really didn’t know what to expect from this book, I actually kind of expected to hate it. After I finished the first third or so I felt that the book had been undersold to me, I was really enjoying the characters, the story, and the small observances on life, family, relationships, love, and loyalty. Harold Fry is retired and depressed and his once vibrant marriage has been reduced to two people living as somewhat estranged roommates. One day he receives a letter from an old friend, she was dying of cancer and simply wanted to say goodbye. Harold writes a response and heads to the mailbox to post it…and doesn’t stop walking. Harold makes the very impulsive choice to continue walking from one end of England to the other, where his friend Queenie is in a hospice facility. He phones her and begs her to live until he arrives, convinced that by his walking across the country (about 450 miles) he can somehow save her and repay an enormous favor she did for him years ago. The rest of the story follows Harold on his journey, he learns how to think, how to be alone, he remember many buried things about his childhood, his absent mother and alcoholic, womanizing father. He discovers many forgotten memories of his marriage, his wife, their son, and he begins to really come into his own. There are many beautiful parts of this book, many incredible paragraphs that are both succinct and rip your heart open at the same time. I ended up really enjoying this book, it is, as the old saying goes, about the journey and not the destination. I found myself rooting for Harold and hoping for his wife and for Queenie.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler. This was a completely impulsive purchase, I got an email–one of those “based on your previous buying habits, we think you’d like this book” types–and within 30 seconds I had skimmed the book synopsis, agreed that “yes, I WOULD like this book,” found the best price+shipping combination online (Amazon Prime, I will never quit you!) and placed my order. It was too bad that I misread the word “novel” for “biography.” It’s a fine enough novel, but there is no bibliography, no section of cited works, no proof of actual research. I decided to try not to let that ruin the experience for me, after all, I’d rather read a fictionalized version of Zelda’s life first and then follow that with a biography (which has since been ordered) than the other way around. So I tried to enjoy it as much as I could, the colors, the personalities, the scandal and stories of the Fitzgerald’s Roaring Twenties in New York and Paris. But every time I read about how Zelda felt, or what she said, or what she wore, or her relationship with F. Scott, I kept thinking “Yes, but you–the author–don’t really know that about her. You’re just making it up.” I found myself despising Fitzgerald for the way he treated Zelda and their daughter, and again I kept thinking “Yes, but you–the author–don’t really know that’s what he said or did. You’re just making it up.” Thus is my problem with fiction, or fiction about real characters. I have no problem with a novel where everyone is made up. But if you’re characters are Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway (a true cad…but the author is probably making at least part of that up too), Cole and Linda Porter, Picasso and Gertrude Stein…I mean, these are larger than life characters! Why would one feel the need to embellish upon actual fact? Don’t get me wrong, this book is written well, the characters are fully fleshed out, the storyline and plotting is compelling and consistent, I stayed up late to finish sections and found myself thinking about it during the day and even now, several weeks later, I am still thinking about it with positivity…but it’s fiction. And it didn’t need to be. That’s all. Minus one star for you, Ms. Fowler.
Looking for Alaska, by John Green. I read this one morning while I was home from work convalescing. (See? That’s totally a word Zelda would use. She’s gotten under my skin! /Zelda) I know the entire interwebs is raving about Green’s The Fault in Our Stars right now, but months and months ago ya’ll were raving about Alaska and that is when I ordered it. It’s fine. I guess. The writing was good, the characters are plenty provocative, obnoxious, and irritatingly rebellious (as teenagers are wont to be), but I just didn’t really care about any of them. I didn’t care about their playing hooky, getting buzzed on nicotine and alcohol, and constantly trying to explain their way out of expulsion from boarding school. [Spoilers!] I feel the two major “secretive” plot points of Alaska’s mother being dead and the day she herself “poofed” out of existence being the anniversary of her mother’s death were so incredibly obvious. I figured it out chapters and chapters before it ever occurred to the main characters, those who purported to know so much about Alaska. By the time Pudge and the Colonel got around to experiencing the “a ha!” moment I was just ready for the book to be over.
Everyone Many people tell me the reason to read YA is because teenagers experiencing love and loss and emotion is usually for the first time and, therefore,so much more poignant and all-encompassing that it forces you to more closely examine each tragedy or triumph under these new “fresh” eyes. Meh. I don’t buy that at all. Perhaps it’s because my first experiences with love and loss and tragedy were well before my tweenage years, by the time the hormones kicked in making everything So! Much! More! Dramatic! the hard things in life were old hat and the new hard things were just more repetition of the old. Does that mean I’m forever ruined for YA? Maybe, but I don’t really feel much loss about that. Shrug.
Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek. I read this in preparation for a workshop hosted by my office and while I absolutely agree with the main premise of this book–to be truly happy and successful you must have a solid reason why you do something, and not just what you do–I felt like after 240 pages of this message it was almost meaningless. Perhaps this book is best read in small doses? Or perhaps it could use a ruthless editor to cut out 100 pages. Sinek describes the differences between Apple and Dell, between Wal-Mart and Costco, between Southwest Airlines and every other airline and argues that the thing Apple, Costco, and Southwest have in common is their “Why,” their reason for doing business that has nothing to do with shareholders or stock prices or the bottom line. Fascinating points, I underlined several things in the first half of the book, but by the second half I was bored with the same analogies. Perhaps only read every other chapter? I dunno, I’m torn on whether to recommend the book (great ideas! lots of things to incorporate into your life/business/whatever!) and to tell you to run away from it completely (repetitive! too many pages and not enough innovative content!).
Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath. My supervisor at work requested our whole team read this book and take the online assessment of our strengths, the things we do best. There are dozens of questions that narrow down to your top five strengths and then there are examples and suggestions for how you can leverage those strengths and/or improve them. The idea is that we need to maximize the things we are good at instead of focus so much of our time and energy on fixing our weak spots. I think you need both in life, but I like the idea of capitalizing on the things you do best. My top 5 traits are Learner, Intelection (like/need to think), Communication, Connectedness, and Empathy. None of those surprise me nor can I think of something else that I feel should be in that list. I think I will refer back to this book often, and I will probably flip through the thirty or so other sections that I did not score highly in because, well, I’m curious. Anyway, kind of a cool idea.