Saturday, September 30, 2006

Winners and losers...

Wow, this fantasy baseball stuff is stressful. There’s just today and tomorrow left in the regular season, and I have one final pitching game to throw. Now, last week, I’d decided to save that final game for Chris Carpenter – my number-one-draft-pick-who-was-barely-worthy-of-a-number-one-pick-at-the-beginning-of-the-season-but-eventually-began-to-redeem-himself-and-pile-on-the-points. So while I spent much time yesterday mulling over my choices for my second-to-last game, my LAST game was a no-brainer. It was Chris Carpenter.

And then this morning I start to check out baseball news, and discover that Chris Carpenter will only be starting on Sunday IF St. Louis loses today’s game. In other words, there won’t be any way to know if he’s pitching until today’s games are behind us. And he was the only pitcher I had with a game tomorrow – my other pitchers have games TODAY. So I was faced with a conundrum – if I pitch someone today, and they do a horrible job, and St. Louis happens to lose, I’ll be kicking myself for wasting my last game on a bad pitcher when I COULD have used it for Carpenter. Or, I could take a chance and NOT pitch anyone today, and hope St. Louis loses – but if they win, then I waste a pitching game. Or I could not pitch anyone today, hope St. Louis loses, play Carpenter, and watch him give up 6 runs in the second inning like Contreras did last week.

I finally decided that the smart thing to do would be to start someone today and make sure I use that final pitching game. Of course, this presented me with another problem – which of my two pitchers should I choose? It was between Jake Westbrook with Cleveland, and Jeff Suppan with, interestingly enough, St. Louis. My first instinct was to play Westbrook – but then I realized that by doing that, I was assuming that St. Louis would be losing today. And if St. Louis is going to lose, then I should just wait and pitch Carpenter tomorrow. I should be hoping that St. Louis WINS today’s game. And if St. Louis is going to win, then perhaps I should be pitching Suppan. So that was the choice I finally made after much worrisome thought. Please, please win today, St. Louis…

And in other sports news – Rutgers University (alma mater of Eric and Faisal… and maybe Dave? I can’t remember… sorry Dave. You’re so forgettable. Just kidding. :) No, I’m not. Seriously – I have no idea if you went to Rutgers. If only I’d eaten that life-changing fried chicken when I was in Chicago… I’d probably remember everything…) um, what was I saying? Oh yes – Rutgers University has an undefeated football team so far this year. They’re 5-0. This is just insane. Just a few years ago, Rutgers was unable to win ONE game, let alone five in a row. I remember watching a game where Rutgers was losing something like 56-0, and by the fourth quarter, it was quite apparent that “winning” was out of the equation. So all I wanted was to see them score. Something. Anything. Every time they’d get to a fourth down, I’d be yelling at the TV, “just go for it! Don’t punt! Just GO for it!” But they’d never listen. I mean, when you’re obviously going to lose anyway, who cares if the opposing team happens to get better field position? I just wanted to see a SCORE. Any score. A field goal. Something.

And now they’re undefeated, and actually RANKED in the top 25. How crazy is that? So if Rutgers can go from playing like a high school team to playing like one of the best 25 in the country, it gives me hope for sporting events everywhere. Like fantasy baseball. (Please take a cue from Rutgers and win today, St. Louis…) :)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

To Tivo or not to Tivo...

How weird – last night, I was attempting to publish that last post about the smoke detectors, but I couldn’t seem to get it to work. I kept getting a “0%” published message. I even checked the blog to see if it had shown up anyway (since Blogger can be a bit temperamental at times), but my post never appeared. And then I check this morning, and lo and behold – there’s my post. See? Temperamental…

Anyway… I know everyone is waiting with bated breath to know the final outcome of my fantasy baseball league. This weekend will be the final game of the regular season, and, therefore, the final points will be tallied. I got very lucky yesterday when the guy in third place pitched four games and only wound up with 46 total points. If he’d had four good games, he easily could’ve vaulted ahead of me in the standings. Of course, my pitching didn’t fare very well yesterday, either – I pitched one of my “ace” pitchers, Jered Weaver, and got a whopping 8 points. Yippee yahoo. Not only that, but my LAST relief game was wasted when Joe Torre decided to pitch Rivera in the 7th inning last night. When the Yankees were winning 15-4. That’s not a save. That’s not even CLOSE to a save. That’s not even a cold remedy. They could’ve let Skippy the Ball Boy pitch the rest of the game, for goodness’ sake. Oh well… that’s the way the proverbial baseball bounces, I suppose.

And in other news (I use the word “news” loosely) – has anyone started watching any of the new fall TV shows? I think Rick and I have found a show to replace “Prison Break,” which we sort of gave up on last season. I know all the prisoners finally managed to break out on the season finale (which kinda makes me wonder why it’s still called “Prison Break”), but I think I started to lose interest toward the end of the season. Not unlike “24,” which will probably also be off the Tivo this year. Sorry, Greg. (Well, about as sorry as you are for wanting Ed to win the baseball league. :)) So in their place, I think we’re going to start Tivoing “Heroes.” I watched the pilot the other night, and it definitely intrigued me. As the name implies, the show is about a bunch of ordinary people who start to discover they possess superpowers. Could be interesting…

And it IS interesting that there seems to be quite a “superhero” trend lately. There’ve been an awful lot of movies and TV shows that reflect this pop culture leaning. I wonder if that’s because the media reports so many horrible things that are going on in the world at any given time, and we wish for some sort of larger-than-life, tangible rescuer to come to our aid. Something significant and news-worthy, yet POSITIVE – instead of the usual doom and gloom we’ve grown accustomed to. It would be nice… but in the meantime, we have the distraction of TV and movies to feed our wishful thinking.

And I’m hoping that a few of my baseball players will act like heroes this weekend... :)

Sleep tight...

Has anyone seen that episode of “Friends” where Phoebe’s smoke detector starts to beep annoyingly in the middle of the night? She pulls it off the wall, and the beeping stops long enough for her to return to her bedroom. And then of course it beeps again. So she takes the battery out. That should definitely stop it, and she returns to bed. And then, of course, the completely powerless smoke detector emits yet another high-pitched squeak. By the end of the episode, Phoebe has smashed the entire thing with a hammer (still beeping), wrapped it in a blanket, and tossed it down the garbage chute, where it’s eventually discovered by a fire fighter who brings it back up to her apartment.

It’s a really funny episode, unless you happen to actually be living the same sort of thing. Fortunately, it’s not QUITE as difficult to deal with in real life. But one of the most annoying noises you can come across is the random ear-piercing screech of a smoke detector with a low battery. Last week, I thought I heard this tell-tale noise in the middle of the night, but after lying perfectly still in total silence for several minutes and willing the alarm to be silent, I fell back to sleep without hearing another noise.

But the next day, a sudden high-pitched beep ended the question of whether I’d actually heard that same sound in the middle of the night. So Rick climbed up on a stepladder, detached the smoke detector, and switched out the battery, at which point the high-pitched beep continued its tenacious whine. I should mention that our house not only has smoke detectors, but carbon monoxide detectors, as well. There’s one of each in the hallway outside the bedroom. So Rick went back up the stepladder, removed the carbon monoxide detector, and changed that battery, as well. Finally, we were granted silence.

Until about 24 hours later, when yet ANOTHER smoke and/or carbon monoxide detector began to beep. It’s a good thing we were stocked up on batteries, otherwise there’s a good chance I would’ve gone completely insane at some point. But, I’m happy to report that all batteries have been replaced, and the seemingly-interminable beeping has stopped. For now. At least at MY house. Because earlier today, my mom called and wondered if I knew how to detach the smoke detectors from the ceiling, since she’d been hearing an intermittent screech all day and was trying to guess which detector needed a battery. And, after she’d removed three smoke detectors from the ceiling and still heard beeping, Rick and I went over to see if we could help and we realized she hadn’t removed the carbon monoxide detector. Mom, however, wasn’t as stocked up on batteries as we were – so hopefully she didn’t succumb to carbon monoxide fumes overnight…

And on a completely different subject – I was just in the bathroom, where we have a big glass block window over the tub. It’s the kind of window that lets light in, but you can’t see through it clearly. I had just washed my hands and turned around to grab a towel, when I noticed that a couple of the glass blocks seemed different. And I realized, as I focused on the window, that something behind those blocks was moving. Something sort of pale orange, pressed up against the glass – kind of like where someone’s face might be if they were trying to look through.

My first reaction was to run out of the bathroom and slam the door behind me – as if whatever it was could transport itself through the window into my bathroom. And then, in my best “I’m a helpless girl” voice, I yelled for Rick and told him there was something outside the bathroom window. And HIS first reaction was to grab a baseball bat so he could get ready to pound on the peeping tom who was obviously loitering outside my bathroom. But before he did that, he tentatively pushed aside the curtain in the bedroom, where we could actually look through a clear window. The “peeping tom” turned out to be a little calico cat. It froze when it saw us peering through the window (like we’d become some sort of reverse peeping toms…), and I was able to see the orangey fur that I’d glimpsed through the glass blocks in the bathroom.

So hopefully I’ll be able to sleep tonight, now that I know all the various noise-makers in my house have fresh batteries. And thank goodness the threat of the devious calico cat has been neutralized…

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Auf Deutsch...

I’m wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt! I suppose that doesn’t sound much like interesting news, but seeing as I can’t remember the last time I needed a long-sleeved shirt (March? April? No – it must’ve been our trip to San Francisco… does that really count?) it seems like a big deal to me. It was 65 when I checked the temperature this morning, but by the time I actually made it outside around 10:00, it was probably more like 75. So at this point, I can’t say I really NEED this long-sleeved t-shirt, but I am stubbornly refusing to change…

Anyway… despite the title of this post, no, I’m not going to take Rick’s suggestion and write an entire post in German. Not only because most people wouldn’t understand it, but because I’m afraid I wouldn’t get very far before I was forced to employ the services of my German dictionary due to my present lack of knowledge. I haven’t exactly made much use lately of what I learned in high school.

In fact, I think the last time I needed my German was on a cruise we took in the Baltic Sea a few years ago. One of our stops was Gdansk, Poland. We decided to choose a taxi from the myriad vehicles waiting for tourists on the dock, so we could explore the town. Our driver turned out to be a great tour guide – but he spoke no English. He spoke Polish, and (like many of the people in Poland) German. The first thing I said to him was “Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch.” I only speak a little bit of German. Later on, as I would struggle to translate something, he’d smile and reemphasize my statement, “Ja, nur ein bisschen.” Yup. Only a little.

Dad knows a little bit of German, too (I think grandma taught German, didn’t she?), so between the two of us, we were quite able to carry on a meaningful conversation with our taxi driver. There was only one moment when I was completely confused about what he was trying to convey to us. He kept saying something about “zusammen oder allein… zusammen oder allein…” Which I knew meant “together or alone.” But I wasn’t sure what he was asking, exactly. We finally decided that he was trying to ask us whether we wanted him to walk around town with us, or if we just wanted to explore on our own. We ended up bringing him with us, since he was a local and knew where some of the good photo ops were. Plus we needed a ride back to the ship…

And it’s funny that Rick said in his comment, “I guess that’s why you were the German honor society.” Now, I don’t know if that was a typo on his part, and he meant to say, “you were IN the German honor society,” however, his original comment is correct as it is. I really WAS the German honor society when I was in school. There’s even a picture in my yearbook of my German teacher and me, with the caption “German Honor Society.” It was me. Just me.

When I started high school, German was like the “outcast” language. Everyone either took Spanish or French. French or Spanish. Hola or Bonjour. But I’ve never been one to “go along with the crowd,” so I chose German. My freshman year, we started out with eight kids in the class. This was further whittled to seven after the first week, when one of the moronic boys in the class showed up with a big swastika drawn on his notebook. Our teacher was Jewish. She did NOT appreciate that. Neither did anyone else. The stereotype of “all German-speaking people are Nazis” was broken immediately. That kid dropped out of class and I never saw him again.

In my sophomore and junior years, we had consolidated German classes, where my class and the class ahead of mine were taught at the same time. Even with two classes together, we never had more than seven kids in the room. And our “room” wasn’t even a real classroom – all four years I took German, we were relegated to a tiny little storeroom/office in the library. While the French and Spanish classes were taking field trips and using state-of-the-art language software and decorating their classrooms with flags and bulletin board collages, we were pushing aside reference books to find an empty seat and staring at an old, faded, “Hang in There!” poster that someone had long-ago stuck to the wall. We were the forgotten language.

And yet I think that actually turned out to be a good thing. By my senior year, there were only three of us left. So while those French and Spanish kids may have had nicer rooms and bigger budgets, we German students got daily one-on-one teaching. There was no way to hide in the back of the classroom (the “classroom” was about the size of a janitor’s closet… there was no way to HIDE anywhere), and with only three other people in the room, even my super-shy self had no problem speaking up when I knew an answer or had a question. That year I ended up with an average grade over 100 percent (thanks to extra credit) and placed out of needing to take the final exam. And I was also inducted into the German Honor Society. Just me, all by myself. If there’d been more people in the class, I would’ve been buried somewhere in the yearbook picture behind bunches of other kids.

From what I’ve heard since then, German has really taken off at my old high school. They have so many students now that they’ve employed another German teacher, and they take annual trips to Germany. So while I’m certain other kids are being inducted into the German Honor Society every year, I think it’s safe to say that I’m the only one who can proudly say, “I WAS the German Honor Society.” :)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Anniversary post!

It was a year ago today that I started this blog. Can you guys believe that? It’s been a whole year. It’s funny how time – when you’re wrapped up in it – can seem to move so slowly… but when you look back on it, it seems to have moved so quickly. It doesn’t really feel like it’s been a year…

And speaking of passing time and random writings – I was going through some old notebooks I found in a box in the closet of the extra bedroom, and I found a bunch of stuff I’d written during a study hall in high school. On days when I’d finished all my homework and hadn’t brought a book to read, I’d just write a few pages of whatever popped into my head. Which I guess is not unlike what I do now…

So here’s an excerpt of a page I wrote when I was really bored in study hall:

Composition of Study Hall: There is not much to write about. I mean, a study is a study is a study. It’s boring (unless you bring a good book to read), and it’s quiet. Work abounds in study hall. Actually, only sometimes. If one has a teacher who is a tyrant, thinking only of him or herself, finding strange, torturous pleasure in giving innocent kids homework to die by, then one will have work in study hall. I’ve had such teachers, none of whom I’ll name MRS. SHUBA and have often had such homework. But at the time, I didn’t have a study hall! Oh well, I’ve somehow managed to survive. How? I don’t know. But I’ve done it. Maybe I’ll write something in German now, okay? Verstehst du mich? Nein? Na und. Das ist deine Problem. Ich verstehe mich! Ha ha! Du bist doof, dumm, ein dummkopf! Ha ha wieder! Well? How did you like it? It’s just one of the many fantastic things that can be done during study hall!

And then I have a bunch of doodles in the margins, as well as the note: “piano lesson today! Didn’t practice, oh boy was that dumb!” (I seem to remember showing up for many of my piano lessons without much practice… even though I honestly DID enjoy playing the piano). The “Mrs. Shuba” I wrote about in my little blurb was a horrible English teacher I’d had in my freshman year of high school – she hated the fact that I was quiet, and used to ridicule my shyness in front of the whole class. She was old (or at least she SEEMED old to me when I was fourteen) and ornery, and set in her ways. She either should’ve retired ages and ages before I wound up in her class, or she should’ve found a way to behave like a reasonable, kind, compassionate human being. Since she seemed incapable of that, it is my firm belief that she should’ve been fired from her teaching position. Or perhaps tossed off the roof of the gymnasium. I would’ve been okay with either decision. (If only I’d had a blog back in high school – I’m sure I would’ve made good use of it. :))

Well, I don’t take piano lessons anymore, but I DO continue to jot down thoughts and ideas and opinions and anecdotes on a regular basis. And I’m continually amazed that there are people out there who are actually interested in what I have to say. So thanks to everyone who visits every day and reads my crazy posts and browses through my silly pictures. You guys are the best! And hopefully I can manage to come up with another year’s worth of random things to say…

Friday, September 22, 2006


Oh, curse this woeful, unhappy day… the day I decided to pitch Jose Contreras of the Chicago White Sox and he allowed 6 runs in the second inning. What horrible, wretched luck… such misery has never befallen me… oh, the horror! Oh the—hold on… this is a little too melodramatic. Let me start over—

Darn it!!! Why’d I pitch Contreras tonight? That’s going to end up being negative points for me. And what’s funny is that just yesterday there was some concern amongst my fellow fantasy baseball leaguers that I may have made a deal with the devil. I think we can pretty much discount that theory now. (Although I don’t imagine the devil would be much of a reliable team player…) I am slightly bolstered by the fact that Rivera is back in the Yankee lineup and managed to get me a decent save tonight. At least THAT’S a few positive points…

And here’s something that has absolutely nothing to do with baseball – geckos on my back porch last night:

No, I suppose they’re not quite as cute as all the kittens that show up on mom and dad’s porch every day. But they’re cuter than the crawfish that dive into mom and dad’s pool now and then. (Seriously – in what kind of weirdo backyard do you find crawfish wandering about with reckless abandon? I mean, stray cats are one thing, but stray crawfish??)

Okay, I’m off to watch more baseball in the hopes I can somehow salvage my sorrowful, grievous pitching situation. Oh, woe is me! How shall I ever endeavor to right such a heinous wrong? Wait a second... that's not what I meant to say...

Stupid Contreras.

Yeah. That's better.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nothing interesting...

I’m having one of those “I don’t know what to write about” days, so I suppose I’ll just try writing whatever happens to pop into my head…

Hey, the Yankees won the AL East title again – and as Joe Torre said last night, “it never gets old.” (Well, I suppose it might get old for people who hate the Yankees… eh, too bad… :)) I think we could be looking at another Subway Series this year – Yankees versus Mets. Hey Eric – remember back when we were kids, and we went to that Yankees/Mets game with Chris DeHart? Chris was a Mets fan, and in the car on the way to the stadium, Chris and Eric took turns holding up their respective team hats to cars that were passing us on the highway. And surprisingly, many motorists were happy to participate in cheering on the Yankees and slamming the Mets (or vice versa). People would give a thumbs up and smile broadly at whichever hat reflected their favorite team, or silently boo at the team they hated. Chris would hold up the Mets hat to the car window until someone in the car next to us would notice… if it received an unfavorable response, Eric would immediately hold up the Yankee hat in its place. That would usually result in smiles and claps from the passing strangers, and then the survey would start all over again. I began to keep score, and by the time we got to the stadium, the Yankee fans on the highway far outnumbered the Mets fans.

I think that was the same game where our seats were on the second level out in right field, close to the bleacher section. At some point, Chris (who was wearing his Mets cap) wandered over to the balcony and looked over into the bleacher section down below. Someone down there noticed him (and his hat), and before we knew it, the entire rowdy bleacher section was looking up at Chris and chanting “Mets suck.” Chris just kind of slowly backed away from the wall and returned to his seat. He may have taken the hat off after that, I can’t remember…

So let’s see… what else can I talk about? Oh, I got my issue of National Geographic the other day, and it included a great big map of the United States. I LOVE maps. I want to go hang it on the wall and study it for a half hour. Sometimes I actually DO study maps for a half hour, just for the fun of it. I’m weird that way…

My cold is progressing nicely (if it’s possible for a cold to progress “nicely”…). I’ve been sidelined from working out too hard for the last week, but at the same time I haven’t been eating much. So it all evens out, I guess. I don’t actually feel THAT bad, I just haven’t been particularly hungry for anything. And while I have been walking on the treadmill, I’m refraining from anything too strenuous. I’ve always heard that if you have a head cold, it’s okay to exercise as long as you feel okay in general. But if you have a chest cold, you should take it easy to prevent your lungs from conking out or something. And this is the first chest cold I’ve had in about a zillion years (I’ll have to double-check my math, but I’m pretty sure it’s been a zillion years), so I’m not pushing myself very hard…

I think I caused another uproar within my fantasy baseball community yesterday, when I picked up some random pitcher off the waiver wire, threw him into my lineup for a day, and racked up 27 points. I get the feeling that some of the guys think I have a big poster with baseball players’ names on it, and I toss darts at it to decide who to play and who to bench. And, strangely enough, that’s EXACTLY what I do…

So I should probably go toss a few darts and make sure my lineup is ready for today. And so concludes another random, meaningless post… :)

Listening to my iPod... trying to figure out what to write... not coming up with anything very interesting...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How I caught mono from Derek Jeter...

Okay, it didn’t really happen that way. But I said this would be the title of my next post, so I figured I’d follow through… :)

But while I’m on the subject of illnesses and maladies – why is it that no one seems to be able to make a decent-tasting liquid cold medicine for adults? I can remember taking something when I was a kid – Dimetapp, maybe? – that tasted pretty good. Like syrupy popsicles. And then I “grew up” (sort of…) and felt it necessary to purchase “grown up” medications. The problem with these grown up medications is that they often taste somewhat like drain cleaner, and I’m really not particularly fond of drain cleaner (and no, I haven’t REALLY tried drain cleaner… I’m just assuming that if I did, it would taste like cold medicine). In fact, I can never seem to choke down an entire dose of Nyquil or any other liquid cold medicine – I usually end up taking about half a dose before my gag reflex says, “don’t even THINK about it.”

And I am the WORST when it comes to taking pills. I know people who can just pop some pills in their mouth and swallow without even taking a sip of water. I, on the other hand, have to have a drink of something (preferably NOT water – because a flavored liquid serves to not only cover the taste of a rapidly-disintegrating pill, but it seems to provide more of an incentive to swallow quickly), and once the pill is in my mouth, I have to sort of shake my head around until it is perfectly suspended in the middle of the liquid, and I can no longer feel it on my tongue. Only then am I able to trick myself into believing I’m simply taking a benign drink of juice or soda or milk, and I’m able to force the pill down my esophagus.

I remember once, years ago, flying up to New Jersey with Rick when I had a cold. I’d never flown with a cold before, and I stupidly refrained from taking any kind of decongestant before I boarded our flight. We had to change planes in Houston, and as we started our descent, I was overcome with severe pain, which I can only describe as being stabbed in the ears with ice picks. It hurt so bad that I was crying through our entire landing – the other passengers must’ve thought I had a huge fear of flying. (Which I DON’T… regardless of what Faisal says… :)) When we landed, I headed straight for the store and bought a little package of cold pills with a tiny collapsible drinking cup. There were only two pills in the package, and they weren’t the “coated” variety (which makes swallowing pills easier) so as soon as I popped the first pill in my mouth, it began to disintegrate into a bitter mush. I took a tiny sip of water from my tiny collapsible cup, and attempted my “shake the pill into the liquid until I can’t feel it” maneuver. The problem was, I could still TASTE that horrible bitterness, and seemed completely incapable of swallowing. I spit the pill out as Rick reprimanded me and told me what a wussy sissy girl I was. (I don’t know… maybe he didn’t actually say that. But that’s my recollection of events…)

Somehow, I did manage to swallow the second pill, even when Rick, hovering over me like a drill sergeant, adopted an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent and told me I was a “big loser baby.” (Again, it’s possible I’m not clear on the memory… I DID have a cold at the time and my mind was a bit fuzzy…) And the rest of the leg of our journey was uneventful. But I definitely learned a big lesson that day – if you even FEEL like you might be getting cold and you have to fly, take a decongestant before you get on the plane.

So I’m never sure which is worse – trying to choke down a cold pill, or trying to choke down liquid cold medicine. And if they can make pills and liquid that taste good for kids, why can’t they do the same for adults? What – just because we’re older we’re supposed to suffer through our medication? That hardly seems fair. So imagine my unmitigated joy when I discovered that someone actually DOES make chewable daily vitamins for adults. Chewable vitamins that taste like chocolate or fruity candy. I was so happy to find these, because I’ve avoided the “daily multi-vitamin” regimen for years, because most multi-vitamins are the size of Volkswagens.

You know, maybe I really AM a wussy sissy girl…

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pass the Nyquil...

Feeling a bit under the weather today – I seem to have developed a slight cold (which is usually about as bad as my colds get, fortunately…). I think I must’ve caught it from dad, who was here last week fixing a drawer in my bathroom and mentioned he had a cold. I didn’t think much of it until I started feeling rather coldy myself, and then realized I’ve been using that bathroom drawer all week – which is no doubt crawling with virusy cold germs. So thanks a LOT, dad… (no seriously – thanks for fixing the drawer… it was about to fall out onto the floor…) :)

I seem to have been blessed with an extremely hard-working immune system, for which I’ve always been grateful. I can go for years without catching a cold, and when I DO catch one, it always throws me off guard (where did THIS come from???). So I was especially surprised when, shortly after my twentieth birthday, I started developing an annoying progression of symptoms. First I was simply feeling very tired. And it wasn’t normal, “I haven’t had enough sleep” tired – it was like, “more-tired-than-I’ve-ever-been-in-my-life” tired. I’d sleep for twelve hours straight and STILL feel like I needed a nap during the day. And then, was it my imagination, or were there a bunch of weird bumpy things in my neck? Swollen glands? Those two symptoms alone were enough to send me to the medical dictionary (argh! Is it Hodgkin’s disease??). But I decided to wait it out and see what happened…

What happened is that I soon developed a fever, which I discovered I could manage if I took some Tylenol in the morning. As long as I popped a couple Tylenol when I woke up (feeling feverish and tired), the fever would subside and I’d feel better. Not great. Just better. But by evening, the fever would always return. After a few days, I noticed a couple other weird symptoms – I had an unquenchable thirst for soda (water or juice just didn’t sound good… for some reason, the carbonation in soda felt good…), and I would drink an entire can of soda for breakfast. I hardly ever drink soda – and when I do, I barely drink more than a third of a can at a time. And certainly not for breakfast. And while my stomach wasn’t upset and I could eat without feeling nauseous, I’d feel completely full after just a few bites. In fact, if I ate just a little bit, I’d feel an achy sort of pain under my ribs and lose my appetite.

And then, almost overnight (or perhaps it WAS overnight) I developed the worst sore throat I’ve ever had in my life. At that point, it didn’t matter if I was nauseous or not – eating was pretty much out of the question. And that’s when I figured it out – strep throat! I figured it must’ve been strep throat – all my life, I’d been hearing about friends who came down with nasty cases of strep throat and needed antibiotics. But me and my hard-working immune system had never encountered the malady. So that settled it – I’d simply go to the doctor, he’d give me antibiotics, and I’d be feeling better in a few days.

By this time, I was really so sick that driving myself was out of the question. My mom took me to the doctor while I rode in the passenger seat in a semi-conscious state. I remember they took a throat culture to test for strep, and I languished in a chair while we waited for the results. The results, to my surprise, were negative. But the doctor DID inform of us of his assumed diagnosis – mononucleosis. To confirm, the nurse took four little vials of blood, after which my mom and I went out to pay the bill and I noticed the entire room was blacking out. As my vision began to tunnel, I managed to say, “I think I’m going to pass out,” and nurses swooped in from who-knows-where (I really don’t know where – I couldn’t see anything) and deposited me in chair. After putting my head down and drinking some water, I felt well enough to return to my semi-conscious car passenger position.

There are no antibiotics for mono, of course – it’s just one of those things that has to “run its course.” And it got worse before it got better. Those swollen glands in my neck expanded to unbelievable proportions – I looked like I’d tried to swallow some sort of citrus fruit centerpiece. And I learned that human beings have lymph nodes in some very strange places. Like the bony area behind the ear – I had bumps sprouting up like giant mosquito bites. The achy feeling near my stomach turned to outright pain, and I was informed that this was because my spleen and liver were enlarged. This resulted in several minutes of repositioning every time I settled on the couch or in bed, as it was difficult to find a way to rest comfortably.

But after a few weeks, the sore throat subsided and my fever finally broke. Eventually the swollen glands receded (although I can STILL to this day feel slightly swollen glands on the left side of my neck – the swelling was especially bad on that side), and I no longer had a bizarre desire for breakfast soda. The achy spleen/liver and fatigue lingered for a couple months, but it was nothing I wasn’t able to handle. Once I’d recovered, I started wondering how, exactly, I’d contracted this illness. Mono is commonly known as the “kissing disease,” but I’d come down with it shortly after I started dating Rick – and Rick wasn’t sick at all. So I did some research, and discovered some interesting facts about mono. Most people actually contract the virus as children, but at that age, the symptoms are much milder – if a child has mono, it probably looks like a simple case of the flu. Kids get sick all the time, so flu-like symptoms that eventually resolve and disappear wouldn’t seem at all unusual. However, as with many other viruses, once someone has contracted this virus, it’s possible at various times for the virus to “activate” without making the carrier ill. And when that happens, it’s also possible for the virus to be passed along to other people – even when the carrier exhibits no symptoms.

That made everything perfectly clear to me – obviously Rick was one of the majority of the population who contracted mono as a child. Whereas I, for some reason, never did. When we started dating, that virus happened to be in an “active” phase, and he passed it right along to me. To me it seems so obvious that this is exactly what happened, but Rick has vehemently denied these allegations throughout the years. Which would mean, of course, that I’d been kissing someone ELSE at the time. Personally, I don’t see how that’s better. But if Rick refuses to take responsibility for sickening me so horribly, I’d at least like to make it a good story.

So I think my next post will be titled, “How I caught mono from Derek Jeter.” :)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

For mom and dad...

I had the camera at your house today, and got a few pictures of the little black and white cat -- s/he ran away when I went outside, but didn't go too far. So I was able to get a few pictures while s/he played in the yard.

And just so you know everyone else is still alive and well:

See you guys soon! :)

Deer, deer and more...

Yesterday we were driving around in a neighborhood where there are plenty of empty lots, and we came upon a herd of deer. Not that it’s anything unusual – deer are quite plentiful here in Austin – but I don’t usually have my camera with me when I see them. But yesterday, we happened to have the camera in the car, so we snapped a few pictures:

Mom deer...

Dad deer...

Baby deer

While we were out driving, we passed a store which was descriptively named, “Beds, Beds, and More.” And I had to wonder – does that store REALLY sell more than just beds? Because if they DID sell more than just beds, don’t you think they could’ve come up with a second item to add to their title? I wish I could’ve been in the room for THAT brainstorming session:

Brain #1: Okay, we need a name for the new store. Something that reflects the fact that we have oodles of beds to sell, but also reflects the fact that we have MORE than that.

Brain #2: We have more than just beds?

Brain #3: We have pens by the register. You’re supposed to borrow them to sign your credit card receipts, but sometimes people steal them.

Brain #1: Yes! We have pens.

Brain #2: But they’re not really for sale…

Brain #1: Free pens!

Brain #3: How about “Beds and More”?

Brain #1: But we have so many beds. So very many beds.

Brain #2: And we don’t REALLY have more than that…

Brain #3: Beds, Beds and More!

Brain #1: I love it! Gets right to the point… and tells people we have a whole lotta beds.

Brain #2: But we DON’T have more!

Brain #1: You’re a very negative person, aren’t you?

Brain #2: Forget it. I quit.

Brain #3: Here – have a pen…

Talking about funny stores reminds me of a strip mall not too far from my house. Every time I see it, it makes me smile, because of the three businesses at the end of the complex: a liquor store, a gun shop, and a bank. It’s like one-stop shopping for all your criminal needs. Get all liquored up, buy a gun, rob a bank… run across the street to Starbucks and drink coffee until you’re sober and realize what a horrible mistake you’ve made… (I just threw that part in because I suddenly remembered there’s a Starbucks across the street…)

And on an entirely different subject – a grandma update, for anyone who hasn’t heard: she’s doing much better. For a while, her kidneys had shut down, and they thought she’d need dialysis permanently, but then she surprised everyone when her kidneys started working again. She’s doing so much better that they discharged her from the hospital and they’ve sent her to rehab (because apparently she developed a nasty crystal meth habit while she was in the hospital… sorry – am I the only one who finds that amusing? Grandma’s in rehab? Funny? No? Okay, never mind…). She’s in rehab because she’s been lying around in a hospital bed for a few weeks and is having trouble walking now. So she’ll be there while she regains her strength.

And now I’m off to get some coffee, since dad just sent me a text message to brag about how he’s on his second cup. I haven’t had ANY coffee today, and if I don’t drink some pretty soon, I’ll feel like crawling back into bed. Or bed bed…

Friday, September 15, 2006

Good thing she's not a kid...

So yesterday afternoon, I was standing here at my computer (yes, I tend to stand at my computer as opposed to sitting… it’s usually on the bar counter in the kitchen, so it’s at perfect “standing” height. Just a weird habit I’ve gotten into…) and I heard a muffled thumping noise. I figured it was Echo, finding a place for a nap in the other room, so I just ignored it at first. And then I heard it again, and as I looked over toward the front door (Echo’s favorite place to sleep) I realized she was already sound asleep on the kitchen floor – no doubt in the middle of some kind of squirrel-chasing dream (it’s actually pretty funny to watch her paws flicking back and forth when she’s asleep – I think she really DOES dream about chasing squirrels).

When I heard the noise for a third time, I realized it must be Allegro. Rick recently ordered some absolutely necessary electronic doohickeys (right? Electronic doohickeys are absolutely necessary for the well-being of men everywhere…), and there were a couple empty boxes in the entryway. So now it was obvious to me what was going on – Allegro, being the curious cat she is, jumped into one of the boxes to explore. And sure enough, as soon as I walked toward the entryway, I heard a faint little “meow,” as if there were layers of cardboard and perhaps some styrofoam peanuts between my cat and the outside world.

But when I looked inside the boxes, they were empty (save for all those annoying styrofoam peanuts). I walked into the TV room and called out tentatively, “Allegro?” The tiny little meow sounded out again, but this time I realized it was coming from back in the entryway. But I’d already checked the box, and the only other thing in the entryway is a black, wooden cabinet. Uh oh. I ran to the cabinet, and there, through the glass doors, I saw a little gray feline face peeking back at me. If she hadn’t been meowing so plaintively, she almost would’ve seemed like she belonged in there.

I popped open the doors and freed my imprisoned cat, realizing immediately what had happened. About a half hour earlier, I’d been cleaning up in the kitchen, where I had a stack of books I’ve recently finished. To get them out of the way, I decided to store them in that black wooden cupboard. I had the doors opened for what seemed like ten seconds, at the most. I must’ve turned away to gather up my books, at which point Allegro bounded into the exciting world of Mysterious Dark Place, and probably curled right up in the corner for a while. I have to assume she was completely content in there – until she realized there was no way to get out.

Usually I’m better about paying attention to those kinds of things – after years of owning a cat (or does my cat own ME?) I’ve learned that any open door, cupboard, drawer or cabinet is fair game. She has accidentally been trapped in the pantry, the closet, a dresser drawer filled with sweaters (she probably thought it was a bed), and kitchen cabinets. So I’ve gotten into the habit of never leaving the pantry door open, searching the closet before I close it, and opening dresser drawers and kitchen cabinets just long enough to remove whatever items I need. So my lapse of attention was unusual – I guess I don’t open that black cabinet very often…

Rick thought the whole thing sounded hilarious and wondered if I’d taken a picture. And to be honest, I thought about it AFTER I’d let her out – I should’ve just run for the camera and taken one little picture of the cat face pressed up against the glass. A few more seconds in the cabinet wouldn’t have hurt her. Oh well. Next time… :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Couching the potato...

Sorry, I couldn’t resist that title. Although Nick is right, it DOES sound a little bit naughty… :)

But couching the potato aside, I am wondering where the term “couch potato” came from, exactly. I mean, I understand the “couch” part – if you hang out on the couch a lot, it would make sense for the object of your leisure to be a part of your colorful description. But potato? Why potato? Why not couch carrot? Or couch rutabaga? Or couch apple? Is it some sort of well-known fact that the potato is a particularly lazy vegetable? (And if it IS a well-known fact, why was I not aware of it??)

Actually, the potato seems to be one of the hardest-working veggies out there. It’s very versatile, and extremely popular. You can boil it, roast it, bake it, fry it… it gets along quite well with other vegetables, and melds with just about any condiment you can think of. If you have a sweet potato, it even makes a great dessert. Potatoes are out there working their dirty little eyes out, and we’ve made them a symbol for sloth and lack of ambition.

In fact, you don’t even have to EAT a potato for it to be useful. Who hasn’t made a potato stamp in art class at one point or another? (I hope I’m not the only one who made potato stamps…) You can even use them for cool science experiments – they have enough voltage to power small clocks. Lazy? I hardly think so…

And where would this world be without Mr. Potato Head? By the way, I recently saw a show about old toys, and I learned that Mr. Potato Head was originally sold as ONLY the nose and eyes and ears and other parts – you were supposed to provide your own potato. So these kids back in the 50’s (or whenever it was that Mr. Potato Head debuted) were using REAL potatoes, and piercing them with little plastic eyes and ears. I have this image of a kid keeping his beloved Mr. Potato Head hidden under the bed for far too long… do you suppose that’s why they eventually realized a PLASTIC potato would suffice?

Anyway, the point is – potatoes are anything but lazy. But perhaps this phrase has less to do with the hard-working potato, and more to do with the shape of the person it’s referring to. I suppose if you spend all your time lying around on a couch, you’ll eventually morph into a sort of round, lumpy mush, not unlike a big old plate of mashed potatoes.

It’s just a shame that the dynamic, industrious potato has to be linked with such behavior. I am now going to go jog on the treadmill, in my effort to become a not-so-fond-of-the-couch stalk of celery…

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Much ado about nothing...

Gosh, I didn’t realize that one silly little post about 24 would stir up such controversy. (I’m continually surprised by the posts that generate lots of comments, versus the posts that generate very few… it’s usually not the way I expect it to be. :)) It WAS simply meant to be nothing more than an amusing commentary on the show – I mean, if I honestly cared about “realism” that much, I certainly wouldn’t be watching something like Lost. Lost is one of my favorite shows on TV right now, but I still find myself often wondering things like, “how do they all keep their clothes looking so clean and wrinkle-free when they’re always sitting in sand and running through the jungle?” Or, “how did she get her hair to look so nice? I can’t even get mine to look that good with fifteen different hair products and a curling iron.” Or, “is Claire actually wearing eyeliner??” Or, “why won’t Sayid take his shirt off more often?” (Oh wait… that has nothing to do with realism… never mind…) Okay, but how about, “how on earth did all those people survive a plane crash from cruising altitude???”

Or how about shows like CSI and House, where various tests and experiments are run and the results are immediately available? When does anyone EVER get the results of a blood test the same day it’s taken? Generally, it seems to take weeks for things like that to be done… yet if you believed television, you’d think the same person who drew your blood is the same one who’ll run it to the lab, look at it under a microscope, and come running right back up to you – where you, no doubt, are lounging around in a well-lighted, comfortable waiting room, reading an up-to-date magazine. No, television certainly isn’t known for its absolute realism…

My favorite TV show of all time is Northern Exposure – a show which was quite far removed from reality. But its LACK of reality was part of its quirky appeal. If the show had been “normal,” it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun to watch. If the characters had not been true “characters,” the show wouldn’t have worked as well as it did. There was the Jewish New York City doctor thrown into the middle of the vast Alaskan wilderness; the young Native American who frequently spoke to his invisible spirit guide; the super-rich, staunch Republican ex-NASA astronaut who alternately despised and appreciated the only gay couple in town (who had much more in common with him than he wanted to admit); the Saskatchewan beauty queen and her much-older barkeep boyfriend; the fiercely independent female bush pilot; and my personal favorite – the introspective, well-read, artistic, ex-con DJ. Not to mention the guy who lived in the bubble, the mute flying circus performer, the exceptionally quiet doctor’s office receptionist, the septuagenarian owner of the general store, the dirty and barefoot gourmet chef and his hypochondriac wife, and the over-zealous cop.

Northern Exposure bid farewell to its main character – the New York doctor Joel Fleischman – by sending him on a literary-themed journey through the Aleutians, where he eventually strolled past the snow and evergreens directly into a glittering city skyline. Realistic? Not in the least. Great television? Absolutely. The amazing thing about Northern Exposure was that it engaged viewers in such a way that we could forget about the unrealistic aspects of the show. In fact, the fanciful nature of the show is what MADE it what it was – a perfect means of “escape” from our boring everyday lives. For one hour, you could almost believe that a mute circus performer COULD fly. You could almost believe that a bizarre, barefoot man could create the best dinner you’d ever tasted. You could almost believe that living in the middle of nowhere in Alaska would be the most interesting experience of your life.

And for ME, at least, this is where 24 failed – it failed to engage me in such a way that I could forget about the lack of realism. The fact that no one ever eats or sleeps SHOULDN’T be a big deal, and yet somewhere around hour 14 or 15, they BECAME a big deal. Not because I cared all that much about the reality, but more because I was so bored with the storyline that my mind wandered into minutiae. I began to think that perhaps the show should’ve been called “15 Or Possibly 16,” because that’s about the point where I decided it had pretty much run its course. But hey, it’s just my opinion, and it’s obviously a very popular show. To each his own.

But honestly, everyone DOES understand that Jack Bauer is a fictional character, right? Just checking… :)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Somebody needs a nap...

Rick and I have a few TV shows we Tivo every week, either because we’re not around when they’re on, or we’re watching baseball, or we just think it’s more fun to watch a show when you can fast forward through the commercials. In addition to Lost – which I always watch as soon as it airs (I just have no patience when it comes to Lost) – we were also Tivoing “Prison Break” and “24” last season. But somewhere along the line (probably because I was taking up too much TV-viewing time with episodes of Lost), we fell behind with those two shows. In fact, even though Prison Break has started its new season, we have yet to finish watching the season finale from LAST season. We’ll have to get to that one of these days…

But we did manage to finally watch the season finale of 24 today. This was the first year I’d given 24 a chance – I mean, how often have we heard the “24 is the best show on television!” accolades? It couldn’t hurt to check it out. And at first, I found the show pretty interesting. The premise is certainly unique – every episode takes place in real time, so an hour-long show comprises one hour in the lives of the characters. And I DO have to say I quite appreciate the fact that FOX airs all 24 episodes of the show right in a row – no repeats (unlike repeat-happy Lost… darn you, Lost producers! Darn you and your interminable repeats!).

But as the 24 season wore on, I started to realize the “unique premise” was getting old. Not only was this one little 24-hour day seemingly stretching into infinity, but the odds that one single man (a.k.a. Jack Bauer) would be struck with such an unbelievable run of bad luck seemed infinitesimal. I also found myself obsessing over the fact that no one on the show ever eats anything, no one ever sleeps, and everyone is wearing the same outfit in every episode. I mean, okay, if we were really talking about one single day in the life of a counter-terrorist unit, I guess no one would be changing outfits… but still, the monotony gets boring. There’s also the fact that right around the time we hit, “the following takes place between 7 pm and 8 pm,” the entire show is shot in the dark. It’s even dark in the counter-terrorist building, no matter what time of day it’s supposed to be (don’t these people believe in windows?).

And then there’s the relationship between Jack and that blond chick (what’s her name? I just watched an entire season of this show and I don’t know her name… oh! Audrey – yeah, that was it…). Jack and Audrey. They obviously love each other, yet their love remains unrequited. Because every time they so much as get to a point where they can hold hands, one of them gets shot, or stabbed, or injected with truth serum, or kidnapped by the Chinese mafia. Those two are doomed. A relationship just can’t work if you’ve always got the-threat-of-terrorists-with-poison-gas-and-the-possibility-that-one-of-you-may-be-involved-with-them hanging over your head.

So I tried not to think about all these things as I sat down today for the final episode of last season on my Tivo. And yet I found myself getting strangely hopeful toward the end of the show, when one of the characters mentioned going out for breakfast – yes! I thought. At last! Someone is going to eat! But the “breakfast” thing never panned out, and my hope quickly died. No one went to sleep, either. In fact, with the exception of Jack Bauer, who WAS, in fact, lying on the floor at the end of the episode (but only because he was getting beat up, quite literally, on a slow boat to China), no one even looked ready for a nap.

So I’m trying to decide if I should give this show another chance next season. I don’t know. I might give it from “7 am to 8 am,” but if somebody doesn’t EAT something, I’m gonna have to start channel surfing…

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 years...

Like everyone who lived in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, I awoke on September 11, 2001 to sunshine and a brilliant, cloudless blue sky. It was one of those days that seemed, on the surface, to be full of optimism. The big picture windows in my living room and dining room seemed to be framing some sort of beautiful, end-of-the-summer weather clichĂ©. Autumn was on the way, and cold weather and snow were sure to follow – so a perfect day like that had to be appreciated. If I’d walked out on my porch and a cartoon bluebird had landed on my shoulder, it would’ve seemed completely acceptable and not at all out-of-place. And no doubt it would’ve been shortly followed by a small herd of deer, a pair of fluffy bunnies, and a smiling, whistling mailman, who would dole out my daily mail along with a cheerful rendition of “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’.” But this lovely, idyllic fantasy was shattered in two seconds when I performed one simple, mundane act.

I turned on the TV.

After that, it was hours of disbelief and phone calls and horrible images and emails and crying and fear and confusion and more phone calls and the overwhelming feeling that the world was coming to some kind of sudden, abrupt end. At some point I went out to the grocery store, because, in the event of the world continuing, I needed food. It seemed pointless at the time – and judging from the glazed, glassy eyes of the other shoppers, everyone else thought it was pointless, as well. Was the sky still blue? Was the sun still shining? I couldn’t see anymore. We could’ve been inundated with thunderstorms that afternoon, for all I know. We could’ve been buried under a foot of snow. We could’ve all been struck by lightning… and I suppose, in some sort of metaphorical way, we were. Like we were all just sleeping peacefully, and then we were very rudely and suddenly jarred awake.

I remember there was a funeral home in Denville, New Jersey – close to a Starbucks we used to frequent. And I can remember for weeks after 9/11, there’d be lines of people spilling out the door of that funeral home. Every time we drove past. The obituary page in the newspaper had to be expanded – and the font type had to be shrunk down smaller – to fit in all the names that appeared day after day. Flights were cancelled, entire television stations went dark, sporting events were called off. Everything in life suddenly seemed to be backwards and twisted and upside down and frightening…

I think it was several weeks before I tentatively emerged from my small little bubble of blanketed gloom. One of the things that helped me, at least, start to regain a sense of normalcy was our All-American Pastime, baseball. It was amazing how a silly little thing like the baseball playoffs became a kind of support system. As long as we still had our baseball – as long as I still had my Yankees – maybe the world wouldn’t come to a crashing, screeching halt after all. I went to game five of the Yankees/Mariners playoffs that year, with mom and dad and Faisal. It was the first time I’d been back into the city since 9/11, and the first time I’d ever seen metal detectors at Yankee Stadium. An American flag that had been recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center was flying behind center field, and for a second or two, I may have had the slightest feeling of unease. But then the game started, the fans were screaming, the Yankees won, and I remembered just how much I loved that city.

I suppose things will never quite be the same as they were before 9/11. But things change, and life changes, no matter what events unfold throughout the decades. Today here in Austin, it’s rainy and we ARE being inundated with thunderstorms. But for today at least, the world continues to exist and just goes on spinning…

Me and my I heart NY shirt...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A new season...

We just returned from our friendly neighborhood bar/pizza joint/coffeehouse/live music venue, where I got a latte and a slice of chocolate cake to go (I may end up eating most of that for breakfast tomorrow… yeah, that’s right – I eat cake for breakfast now and then… so sue me…), and Rick got an espresso milkshake. And now, as I sip my latte and write a few paragraphs for my blog, I can hear Rick yelling at the television in the other room… and I’m reminded of one thing – it’s football season again.

Tonight is the University of Texas/Ohio State game, which is a very big deal here in Austin. It’s the number one team against the number two team – and Texans don’t necessarily like coming in second. (Which is quite apparent by the loud chatter from the other room – there’s nobody in there but Rick… I think he just called one of the UT players “baby”… that’s a little bit weird…) But it’s not looking good for Texas right now… they’re down 17-7.

I actually never really liked football when I was growing up. I never even watched it until my senior year in high school, when my school’s football team was undefeated and I went to a couple games with friends. But even then – when we’d huddle under blankets on cold metal bleachers in the middle of November, yelling and stomping our feet to keep warm – I really had no idea what was going on. I knew it was a good thing when the ball made it to the end zone, but that was about the extent of my football knowledge.

And then I got married… and as many a wife has discovered, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t enjoy football – your husband WILL watch it anyway. It’s all part of that “you can’t change someone” package. So I had two choices – one was to always find something else to do when a football game was on, and to never attend a Super Bowl party, and to roll my eyes at the TV whenever I heard the words “first down” or “personal foul.” Or, my second choice was to actually figure out what a first down WAS. So I went for choice number two – I started watching games with Rick, and asking him to explain to me what was going on.

And I soon discovered that the more I understood the game, the more I LIKED the game. It was no wonder I’d been so disinterested when I was younger – without any knowledge of what was going on, football looked like a bunch of guys randomly running around in circles. But as I learned more about it, it began to look like a bunch of guys running around in circles with a PURPOSE. So these days, I don’t mind at all when a big game is on – I even enjoy the idea of grilling up fajitas, setting out bowls of chips and salsa, and inviting some people over to watch all those guys running around (with a purpose).

Of course, football has one major drawback -- no Derek Jeter. So I’ll still be sad once baseball season is over… :)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Who's hungry?

The other night – one of those nights when cooking seemed like more effort than it was worth – Rick brought home a pizza from a place called Saccone’s. The people who run Saccone’s are from New Jersey, and it’s about the only place in Austin you can get authentic Jersey pizza. Pizza was one of those things New Jersey did really well – you could get your run-of-the-mill Pizza Hut or Domino’s, or you could choose from a myriad of family-owned businesses where the dough was usually hand-tossed by brothers loudly conversing in Italian. Our favorite such establishment was a place called Mario’s, which was probably less than a mile from my parents’ house. The pizza joint occupied the bottom floor of a two-story blue-paneled house, and the family lived upstairs. My parents had an affinity for the Mario family, because they also had a daughter who’d been born on July 20 and got married on August 21. (That was actually a little disconcerting… I mean, same birthday, fine. OR same anniversary, fine. But BOTH? That really is a strange coincidence…) Mario’s was the epitome of Jersey pizza – and so far, Saccone’s has come the closest to reproducing the same sort of gastronomic delicacy in the state of Texas.

Another thing I miss about New Jersey is the Dunkin’ Donuts, which was about halfway between my parents’ house and the house where Rick and I lived. We lived in one of the more rural areas of New Jersey (although it’s hard to really think of any place in Jersey as “rural,” since towns are packed quite close together and you’re never more than an hour away from a major city…). With all the mom and pop pizza places, there was no room for a Starbucks in our immediate vicinity (okay, actually, there was PLENTY of room – why was there no Starbucks??). So instead, we would often make do with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Which, to be honest, is really quite good. The Dunkin’ Donuts near us was run by a very sweet Indian family, who figured out our preferences within the first few times we visited. Eventually, there’d be a medium hazelnut coffee with milk and sugar sitting on the counter for me before I’d even opened the door to the shop. My dad, of course, was another one of their regulars, always ordering a regular coffee with extra cream. But they loved to joke around with him – they would hand him a cup with “extra extra sugar” written on the lid. Or they’d give him an empty cup. Or a cup filled with hot water (and no, don't worry, they never let him leave without his coffee :)). And always, if someone made a morning coffee run for me while I was at home, my hazelnut coffee would have a “good morning!” and a smiley face penned on top.

Another place I miss in New Jersey is a little cafĂ© called Sally Lund’s Tea House. And yes, with the words “tea house” in the title, you have to know it was a very frou-frou establishment – there was lace and old china and frilly tablecloths and really ugly paintings strewn all over the restaurant. It was like eating lunch in your grandmother’s attic. But the food was great, and dessert was even better. The owner was from England, and she must’ve brought her own recipe for scones and clotted cream, because I’d never tasted scones so good in this country. They also usually had a great assortment of chocolate cakes to choose from (I mean, scones are nice and all, but even the best scone can’t beat a decent slice of chocolate cake). And in the foyer, there was an interesting collection of packaged English food you could buy – some of it sounded good, and some of it sounded a bit strange. Like the can of liquid I glanced at on one of my visits, which proclaimed in bold letters on the label, “A delicious beef drink!” Beef drink? Um, no thank you. I think I’ll stick to the scones…

Of course, here in Austin we have a Starbucks and Seattle’s Best on every corner, we have the County Line and the Salt Lick, we have Chuy’s and Threadgill’s and Kirby Lane. We’re not without our unique places and unique people. It just seems there are fewer of those tiny little eating establishments, or places run by entire families. I guess that’s bound to happen when you live in a larger city.

But at least my coffee order is still a well-known fact… and it probably always will be, as long as I’m addicted to caffeine. :)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What if...

My mom and I were talking a little bit about Aimee this morning. Yesterday would’ve been her 37th birthday, and of course the question of “could we have done anything to make her life better?” is always in the back of our minds. Would she have been a different person if we’d met her sooner? Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back in time and do everything differently?

And that question doesn’t just apply to Aimee. I wonder how many times in my life I’ve asked myself, “what if THIS happens? What if THAT happens?” and how many times I’ve mused over, “if only THIS or THAT actually HAD happened.” And I’m sure I’m not the only one – we’ve all questioned choices we’ve made, and mourned the loss of opportunities, and agonized over the past. But why? Is it just human nature to torture ourselves over things that can never be? Are we hardwired to always wish for the things that can never be changed?

Rick was telling me a few days ago that he has to give a presentation for his class this semester. For some reason, I was reminded of a presentation I gave in my high school chemistry class on mercury. My dad had a little vial of mercury he kept somewhere in his stash of various science-geeky odds and ends, and I brought it with me as a visual aid. My classmates were passing it around as I began my presentation. Suddenly, one of the girls squealed and pointed at her neighbor’s desk. One of the idiot children in my class had opened the vial of mercury and poured it out onto his desk. Panic ensued (as MOST of us already understood that mercury is NOT supposed to be sitting right there on someone’s desk, wiggling like a little puddle of Jello…) and the space around the desk cleared out until my chemistry teacher was able to contain the offending element.

I think the reason I remembered this particular incident was because my chemistry teacher was one of those “you’d better start talking or else” instructors I had at various points throughout high school. Before I got up to the front of the class to begin my presentation, she made a point of loudly and dramatically announcing to the class that she would need to turn off the overhead fan, so everyone could hear me. Couple that humiliation with the runaway mercury (which brought my presentation to a temporary stand-still, after which point I was forced to start the entire thing over again) and it was one of the most nerve-wracking presentations I had to get through in high school. After I told the story, Rick asked me if I’d ever said anything to the teacher – and of course I hadn’t. He thought perhaps it would’ve been beneficial for me to ask her, why, exactly, she felt it necessary to humiliate me in front of the class as opposed to simply turning off the fan without broadcasting it to the world. And to be honest, I don’t think turning off the fan really made much of a difference – apparently she was just very bored and found the whole thing rather amusing.

And I explained to Rick that I could NEVER find the words to tell people how much they were upsetting me, until AFTER the fact. Afterwards, I could always think of a million things that I should’ve said. A million things that would’ve eloquently conveyed my displeasure and unhappiness and sense of injustice. A million things that would’ve found their way into the reasonable synapses of my teachers’ brains, until they all said, “why, of course! Lisa, you’re absolutely right – we HAVE been acting like bratty little eight-year-olds who don’t deserve to be infusing the younger generation with our decidedly-lacking knowledge and non-existent common sense! How right you are! In fact, we’re all going to quit right now, so this school can hire compassionate, caring, intelligent instructors!” But, like I said, I could never think of anything to say until it was too late…

Now, years later, I try not to let some of the hurtful things I heard in high school get to me. Because really, what can I do? Nothing. What’s done is done, and what’s in the past is in the past. I can’t go back to that chemistry classroom and re-present my presentation. I can’t get my dad’s mercury back (I’m pretty sure my teacher confiscated it…). I can’t run over to the switches on the wall and turn the fan back on. And it’s the same with every aspect of life – we can’t go back and make different choices, we can’t change the things that have already happened. And yet, I know I, at least, am very guilty of “living in the past” at times. It’s almost like I try, as hard as I can, to force my life into the shape of those “if onlys.” It’s like my life is a triangle, but IF ONLY I’d done this or that, it would be a square. So I try to smash the triangle and make it fit into a square, like those children’s toys with the different-shaped blocks. But it never works – it’s a triangle, and you can’t turn it into anything else.

What you CAN do is take whatever you have and add on to it – you can start from the PRESENT and keep going, but you can’t start from the past. So maybe I can never have a square life (but really, who wants a “square” life anyway??). But perhaps someday I can have a pyramid? And everyone knows pyramids are filled with gold and jewels and treasure…

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Random thoughts...

Some random bits of nonsense, since I have nothing better to talk about:

I think autumn is just about ready to show up. We’ve had several cloudy, cooler days (“cooler” being in the 80’s) and a little bit of rain (“a little bit” being ten minutes yesterday and ten minutes last week). The pool temperature was down to 80 yesterday – which is well under comfortable swimming temperature. But this is Texas, so I can’t say with any certainty that we won’t have a couple more 100-degree days before it’s safe to put my swimsuit away for the year. I will allow it to dangle on the edge of the shower until the long-term forecast begins a steady downward slope into the 70’s…

I have begun to annoy my fellow fantasy baseball leaguers with what appears to be a possible run for victory. I remain in second place at the moment, but I’ve been very carefully biding my time and trying not to waste any pitching games. Although that doesn’t always work out – case in point, my “man-god” Sabathia only managed 8 points the other day. (What happened, Sabathia??) And, even worse, I failed to play Doug Davis yesterday, and he proceeded to pitch a complete game shutout. There’s 55 points I’ll never see… But despite these missteps, some of the guys in the league are starting to lament the fact that a girl might actually win...

My sister-in-law Jeanie flew from Montana to Buffalo this weekend to visit my grandmother. Jeanie likes to knit, and where better to pass time than on a long, boring flight? But wait – are knitting needles and scissors allowed on planes? Why, yes – yes they are. Jeanie had no trouble boarding her flight with knitting needles and scissors in tow. But she WAS stopped at security for carrying contraband – she attempted to bring roll-on deodorant on board the plane. The nerve of some people. So let me get this straight – if Jeanie’s intentions had been to stab someone with knitting needles and scissors and to strangle them with a skein of rainbow-colored yarn, she would’ve been all set. But no, obviously her intentions were MUCH more sinister – she was planning on deodorizing someone. I mean, I can picture the whole scenario in my mind – “you open the door to the flight deck right now, or I swear every passenger on this plane will have the freshest armpits this side of the Mississippi!”

Was anyone else really sad to hear the crazy crocodile guy died? And I mean “crazy” in the most endearing way possible… yeah, the guy was crazy, but sometimes crazy people make life more interesting, you know? Although I have to say, even though I was sad to hear about it, I wasn’t really surprised. I would’ve been much more surprised if he’d died of a heart attack or been hit by a bus or something. Then again, stingrays aren’t normally deadly creatures – in the long list of various species encountered by Mr. Irwin, stingrays were probably one of the most innocuous. Kinda makes me never want to swim in the ocean again... not that I was ever too keen on it in the first place...

Oh my gosh! Tom Cruise’s baby is on the cover of Vanity Fair! Tom Cruise! Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have been procreating! Tom Cruise has a baby! On the cover! Of Vanity Fair! It’s a baby on the cover… um, you know what, I really don’t care…

Random picture of Echo (no, I don’t know why it’s crooked…):

Random picture of Allegro:

Random picture of me:

Who’s the cutest? Echo? Yeah, I thought so too…

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Aimee poem...

It was the first week in September four years ago that we heard Aimee had died. We were on a cruise, I think somewhere off the coast of Spain, when we got the news. I can still remember Eric knocking on my cabin door right before dinner, and, when I answered, simply saying, “Aimee died.” It took a few seconds to process – my first thought was, “Aimee who? The only Aimee I know is— oh…”

Most people who read this probably know the whole Aimee story, but for anyone who doesn’t, I’ll try to give the condensed version. Aimee was dad’s daughter from his first marriage. When he and the crazy first wife divorced, shortly after Aimee was born, my dad was very unfairly forced to give Aimee up. And for 29 years he had no idea where she was…

I was about eight or nine years old when I found out I had a sister somewhere out there in the world. Which I thought was really cool – I’d been growing up with my two brothers, and all my boy cousins (I’m the only girl in the family), and during family gatherings I’d gotten quite used to either hanging out with the boys and doing “boy” things, or retreating to a corner by myself with a book. How great would it have been if I’d had a sister to hang out with? Over the years, I’d occasionally wonder where my sister was, and what she was like, and if she was anything like me. But I pretty much assumed I’d never know. After all, no one knew where she was or how to get in touch with her.

And then one day, very unexpectedly, Aimee managed to contact my grandparents. We may not have known anything about HER whereabouts, but she was able to find my grandparents. And my grandparents told her how to get in touch with dad, and before we all knew it, Aimee was in our lives. We finally got to meet her, and hang out with her, and hear about what her life had been like. And it was great to finally get to know my sister, but with the newfound family came newfound problems. One of the biggest was a sudden seizure disorder Aimee developed a year or two after we’d met her. She never got a proper diagnosis, and one night when we were on that cruise, she had a seizure and fell down a flight of stairs.

She died right before Rick and I moved back to Texas from New Jersey, and I’ve always felt guilty because Aimee sent me a cute carved wooden cat for a housewarming gift – and I never wrote to say thank you. It was one of those things where I kept thinking, “oh, I’ll send an email sometime soon…” and I kept forgetting, and eventually it was too late.

So that brings me to my poem – I wrote it for extra credit for a literature class a couple years ago. It’s a sestina, which is a rather unusual form I’d never even heard of before I took the class. A sestina is comprised of six stanzas of six lines each, and the lines of each stanza end in six end words – the same six end words are at the end of every line of every stanza, just in a different order each time. The poem ends with a three line coda, with two of the end words used in each line. And the entire thing is written in iambic pentameter, so there are five beats, or accents, per line. Does all of that make sense? The trick with a sestina is making the repetition of the end words sound natural and not, well, repetitious. Which I hopefully managed to accomplish with this poem. So here ya go – sorry to anyone who is bored to tears by poetry. :)

For My Sister

This is for you, my sweet sister Aimee.
We didn’t know you for twenty-nine years;
About your love of music and New Orleans;
Or how you have the same eyes as our dad.
My whole life I wanted a sister;
But three years was not enough to spend with you.

I remember when I first met you:
“This is her – this is Aimee!”
You hugged your dad, your brother and your sister,
Amazed you’d found us after all those years.
You couldn’t wait to call our father “dad,”
And tell us all about beloved New Orleans.

And yet you lived in Portland, not New Orleans;
The city was a kind of dream for you;
A place you talked about with me or dad.
“You really want to go back some day, Aimee?”
We all assumed it would take several years,
But I also assumed I would never find my sister.

How was I to know that my sister
Was traveling from Europe to New Orleans
While I spent all my high school years
Barely lending any thoughts to you?
I knew this much: I knew your name was Aimee.
I knew your absence left a void in dad.

Remember all the photos you sent dad?
You, an “only” child, without a sister;
Changed your name from Amy to Aimee.
Pictures of the old house in New Orleans,
Blurry and wonderful pictures of you.
To show us what we’d missed in all those years.

How do we get them back, the lost years?
How am I supposed to console dad?
Twice in your thirty-two years he lost you.
You left behind your new brother and sister.
I didn’t want to go to New Orleans,
Not without you next to me, Aimee.

Dad didn’t know the years would go so fast.
When you died, we buried you in New Orleans.
Back home at last, my sweet sister Aimee.


I must be really bored tonight, because I'm sitting here watching this horrible movie called "The Cave." It's about a group of brave, intrepid scientists who go exploring in a rain forest... er, I mean, a cave. And they run into all sorts of furry bunnies and woodland creatures. Uh, I mean, scary monsters with sharp teeth. There's lots of singing and dancing and brightly colored costumes... wait, no, there's actually lots of yelling and screaming and drab stalactites and stalagmites. And some scuba diving. (No, really, there IS scuba diving...) So I would really NOT recommend this movie, unless you just have absolutely nothing else in the world to do.

Anyway, I just read dad's comment under my last post, and he's right -- that rattlesnake by their pool DID send a relative to my house. Some guys were landscaping the backyard and they found it curled up under a tree. It was weird, because unlike mom and dad's house, our house is NOT next to a marshy swamp or a field or an empty lot. We have a house behind us, and another house on one side, and we're on a corner lot so the rest is street. I'd have to assume the rattlesnake came from that same empty marshy area behind my parents' house, so in order to end up in my backyard it had to slither through a bunch of other backyards, then cross a street and sneak under my fence. Yet it DID find a way to make this journey, and the landscapers took a picture to document the occasion:

This was actually the FIRST rattlesnake I'd ever seen, in all the years I've lived in Texas. (And I didn't actually see this one in person -- the landscapers were kind enough to "get rid" of it for us. I don't know what they DID to it, exactly, and I really don't care... as long as it doesn't come back...) Fortunately, rattlesnakes really aren't all that common around here.

But scary cave monsters with sharp teeth -- well, that's another story...

Friday, September 01, 2006

They didn't teach me that in science class...

I found a great picture of the coolest-hotel-in-the-world-that-I’ve-never-visited-and-probably-never-will – here, check it out:

Wow, huh? And usually if I see a picture of this place, I simply gaze longingly at it for a few seconds and then move along to something else. But this time, for some reason, I was struck with a sense of familiarity. I mean, I’ve seen pictures of the hotel before, of course – but it was reminding me of something else, something other than a hotel, and something other than a “sail.” It’s obviously a hotel that looks like a sail – so what else could it be reminding me of? And then I figured it out:

Yep, it’s a double helix! It’s DNA. It’s the stuff we’re all made of. You can almost imagine all those tiny little Burj Al Arabs floating around in your veins… If you just twisted the top of the hotel 180 degrees, you’d have a lovely representation of DNA, right on the beach. But I suppose “boat with sail” on the beach makes a lot more sense than “deoxyribonucleic acid” on the beach. Nobody is gonna say, “let’s go see the hotel that looks like crime scene evidence!” It just doesn’t quite sound right. But now that I’ve seen it, I’ll be thinking “DNA” every time I see that hotel…

Okay, now that the “Lisa is a weirdo” portion of the blog is out of the way… :) Mom and dad left for Buffalo this morning, to visit my grandmother in the hospital. She hasn’t been doing very well. She originally went to the ER because of what seemed like some sort of bug, but she was getting weak and dehydrated, so they kept her at the hospital. But even once the infection cleared up, she didn’t regain any strength. And then apparently a few days ago she had a stroke. She couldn’t talk or swallow for a while, but last I heard, she was actually doing a little bit better and able to eat again. So we’re all hoping she can recover, but I guess doctors aren’t always optimistic when they’re talking about someone who’s 84 years old.

Sometimes I wonder about that – do doctors purposely give people as little hope as possible, so if the “worst case scenario” occurs, it’s not as much of a shock? Or are they just generally rather pessimistic people? I suppose the “pessimistic” approach could be an advantage for the doctors, actually – if they say something like, “I’ll do everything I can, but the prognosis is dire,” and then a patient ends up recovering, they’re seen as amazing miracle workers. It’s a PR thing… I mean, that would explain why, when I sliced my finger on that umbrella on the Mediterranean cruise, the ship doctor said, “I’ll do everything I can, but I’m not sure I can save the finger.” How happy was I when I ended up with a fully-functioning finger? (I’m just kidding… he didn’t really say that… but it would’ve been funny if he had…)

Anyway, with mom and dad gone, I’m taking care of the cats – which at this point includes several “outdoor” cats that have wandered into The Winstrom Pet Sanctuary and Exotic Animal Refuge. Because mom and dad’s house backs up to a marshy pond area, there’ve been some interesting creatures out there. They’ve seen raccoons, possums, snakes, crawfish – and what was it that Eric found in the pool skimmer that one time? A rat? A rabbit? I think it was some sort of rodent. Not to mention all the scorpions. Ick. I HATE scorpions. (Does anyone NOT hate scorpions?)

And just think – all those living creatures are made up of tiny little Burj Al Arab hotels… isn’t biology amazing? :)