Thursday, June 29, 2006

My daily commute

I walk to and from work every day. It's approximately 10 blocks, or about a 12-15 minute walk depending on traffic lights. This morning I was musing about the street on which I walk to work and the variety of buildings I pass every day.

In addition to the given brick apartment buildings and condos, every morning I see:

Planned Parenthood
a middle school
a not-a-park (a bit of urban land on which there are a few benches and trees but no grass)
a halfway house
an Episcopalian cathedral
HQ for the Salvation Army in this area
a credit union for state employees
a Christian Scientist church (complete with Christian Science Reading Room)
a Scottish Rite Masonic Temple

and this all before reaching the state Capitol building.

My afternoon commute varies depending on if I'm coming home from work or from the gym (if it's the gym, I walk up a different street and pass a variety of state buildings, a Lutheran church, a big crazy old German dance hall called the Denver Turnverein, the youth hostel, a synagogue, and a great big liquor store, among other things). It's amazing how many churches, temples, and synagogues there are all right around our immediate neighborhood - walking east on the same street we pass 6 or so other churches and cathedrals. On Sunday mornings we hear bells from about 8 AM to 11 AM in all different directions. And we eat our breakfasts and announce "time for church!" and continue to be heathens.

I love my crazy mixed-use neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tuesday kid lit

Note: though my bachelor's thesis was about children's literature, my major was actually human development with an emphasis on brain and language development.

Anyhow, I've loved children's and young adult literature since I started reading at about age 3. The story goes that I taught myself to read with simple picture books that had "listen along and when the chime rings, turn the page" cassettes to go with them. I know I had Lady and the Tramp, Pinocchio, and Bambi, and may have had some others as well. I still remember the theme music for the Lady and the Tramp and Bambi taped stories (it's my useless superpower, remembering tunes and jingles and commercials from childhood). I started reading chapter books at about age 4 or 5 and was reading adult stuff by 8 or 9.

But I loved kids' books meant for a variety of ages. I still do, and have quite a substantial collection of YA, picture books, and anthologies of Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, and Mother Goose. Every time we go into a used bookstore I check out their kids' section and sometimes find things that I loved as a kid. I've always been one to reread books I liked and read over and over books I loved, and have enjoyed the ability to get YA and teen lit at the library, which can be difficult to find in the used bookstore near our house. That way I can reread stuff I remember liking and decide if I like it enough (still) to buy it if I find it.

Three suggestions for YA/teen lit for the 3 of you that read my blog and don't live with me follow. These are three of my favorites and I've just reread two of them within the last couple of weeks.

1. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher. Published when I was in high school (1993), I found it at my local library my freshman year and just loved it to pieces. So many books written for teen/YA have a female protagonist ("because boys don't read!") that this brought a fresh and interesting perspective. I loved the relationship between the main characters and the dialogue was realistic for the ages of the characters. I always wished my high school had offered the kind of class the characters in this book get to take, a current events/issues/debate type class where we all got to talk about the issues about which we felt strongly. This book also rides on the tail end of the "issues" trend in kid/YA lit that began in the '70s, as it brings up things that happen in real families (abuse, divorce, image issues (the two main characters are badly scarred and overweight, respectively)etc.) without treating them as though they are the End of the World (as was big in the '70s).

2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I've read this book at least 5 times now (and now I own it, yay!) and the funny bits are still funny, the characters are still interesting, and the puzzle/mystery is still well-crafted. It was one of my most favorite books when I was 10ish and remains in my top 10 for YA lit. I love reading books in which the authors respect the intelligence of the reader, particularly when the book is aimed at a young audience. You know it's a good book when an adult can enjoy it as much as a kid.

3. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. I just found this at the library on Sunday. Published in 1996, I read it some time in college when my mom recommended it to me (she teaches 8th grade English). I'd only read it the once and couldn't really remember much of the plot, so reading it this weekend was like reading it for the first time. And it was good! Funny, believable (though a little dated with the references - who was still into Mudhoney in 1996, dude?), respectful of the intelligence of the reader - everything I like about a YA/teen lit novel. Every teenaged protagonist has problems - but then every teenager has problems, because isn't that what being a teenager is kind of about? Anyhow, two thumbs up.

And that's my Tuesday YA Lit recommendations. I'm looking forward to getting the second book in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series once the library calls me to tell me it's in. Maybe I'll review that series next week.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Virtual MLE

Since everyone's doing it, here's the virtual me. Except my feet are WAAAY bigger than the feet in this picture. And, I have a nose. I couldn't find a picture of two kitties that looked like Loki and Petra, so here's a very fat version of Loki. He's much leaner than this, but this is his coloring.

Oh, and I wanted cargo pants in a khaki green color (my China pants!) but that wasn't an option. I have no idea why I'm forced to make a thumbs up if I want Loki in the picture.

You can make your own here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tales from the Road

I guess that because I didn't drive for nearly 10 years that I could have been driving that the universe has decided to make it up to me by putting me in all kinds of stressful driving situations that most people get to have all spread out. Last fall I had to drive over Vail Pass in a blizzard in a honda civic hybrid with no snow tires. Two weeks ago I got rear-ended. Yesterday I had to drive down to the economically depressed hot flat plains southeast part of the state (3.5 hours each way. Woo.) and on my way home I got stuck in the worst weather I've ever even been in a car for, let alone driven in - super high winds, lightning, thunder, sideways giant rain, hail, the Little Prius getting blown around and my visibility at about 4-5 feet. I was driving in a 65 zone on a two-lane highway (one lane in each direction, divided by the dashed white line) and going 25-30 and navigating by watching the white line at the side of the road.

It took 45 minutes to go 19 miles because of the standing water, hydroplaning, low visibility, getting blown around, etc. I thought I was going to die. Then, 10 minutes after I got out of the worst of it, I heard on the radio "Oh, this just in. Severe weather warning for xyz county and these areas" and I was like "It would have been NICE TO HEAR ABOUT IT BEFORE I DROVE THROUGH IT, YOU POO HEADS."

I thought one near-death experience should have been enough for one day (on the way there, I almost got forced off the road by a semi that unexpectedly swerved into my lane - and who would have won THAT pissing contest? not the Little Prius, that's for sure). I guess I should just count on having every other possible stressful situation happen in the next year or two, since I'm obviously making up for lost time.

On the way back after I could see again I stopped for gas and found this new product that I now lurve and cannot eat because it has way too many calories (York peppermint patty cookies!) and I sped up the back way home. It's a little lonely out on the eastern prairie but it's pretty after a rainstorm and you sure can drive fast when there's no other cars for 30 minutes at a stretch. Next time I'll make sure they give me a car that has a CD player because, as Hulk posted about recently, the radio sux.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

a good excuse to eat cookies

You know that I am nuts when the most exciting thing that happens to me recently is that at my chiropractor appointment on Friday I get the go-ahead to work out (on the elliptical, low resistance, take it easy!) and I skip gleefully into the gym on Monday, grin the entire 35 minutes, and wish I could do more.

(The botanical gardens, btw, were beautiful, and I think I got some really good pictures. Now it's just a matter of figuring out how to get them online. Dan's computer is too old/slow and the wireless card doesn't work, and my work computer (on which we do our at-home internetting, as it's a laptop and I bring it home most nights) is firewalled up the wazoo and won't accept any new software installation (that's needed for the pictures to get transferred onto my computer). We're still working on a solution.)

Today I got up from my dark grey cube in the dungeon and walked out to see whether the outside world still exists (it does) when I noticed that there was a blood drive going on. An hour, several personal but necessary questions, and a great phlebotomist later, I have 9 of the normal 10 pints of blood, and I was given juice and cookies. I thought I'd be going to the gym today but decided that giving blood was more important - and the one question I had (can I donate since I went to China?) was answered (yes, because I didn't go out into the sticks). I also found out that I might have issues donating after we go to Guatemala/Costa Rica this winter (malaria!). It's been three years since I donated, mostly because there was never a convenient blood drive to work (I guess this particular blood center will be coming on a regular basis now), and I feel much better about myself. My health (and therefore blood) is good, I'm A positive (most common blood type, very useful), and someone in a hospital somewhere maybe won't die because the phlebotomist sucked 1/10 of my blood out of me today.

And I don't feel a bit guilty about eating a cookie and not going to the gym.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?"
"With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row."

Yes, in case you're wondering, I am feeling better. I got to the chiropractor on Friday, and apart from him being a) cute, in a "10 years or more older than I am, married, with kids" kind of way, and b) extraordinarily knowledgable and willing to inform about the musculoskeletal system, he was also a very good chiropractor. He had the right kind of hands. I go back on Monday, since I've been prescribed 6 visits, and he said that for whiplash I got off pretty easy. This I knew. I felt sore after the visit (but I knew I would, since I always do after an adjustment), but felt much more mobile. I was very careful not to lift anything heavy or do anything hardcore to pull my spine back out of alignment last night while finally planting our awesome garden out front.

That's right! We have a garden! It has flowers and plants and bushes and rocks. (The bushes are still very small, of course) It looks kind of naked, because the plants are smallish, but they will get bigger with time, and meanwhile we filled in some of the space with rocks that our landlords brought down from their cabin.

The fun part about planting the garden was deciding where everything was going to go. A lot of it is experimental, since we have no idea what will live through the winter (despite all of the plants being a) perennials, and b) supposedly frost-hardy). Some of the plants are groundcovers that we are hoping will spread and grow between the other plants. There are a couple of ornamental sages and some blanket flowers (see above) and some coreopsis:

So now we have a pretty garden out front between the sidewalk and the street, and we have a veggie garden with tomatoes, marigolds, peppers and herbs (basil, thyme, mint, oregano), and a zuchini plant in a space all its own. And then this morning I planted the annuals in our old window planters and assorted pots (coleus, impatiens, a fern that likes shade) and put the begonias in pretty pots (one is a peach color, and one is scarlet, because if I'm going to have a begonia I must have a scarlet one)

My rosemary is in a big pot; the yard looks so much better, and I can actually move. Life is good.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Many Happy Returns

To QIR, aka MG,

Hippo Bird Day!

Love and *assgrabs*,

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

T-minus 2 months and counting

In two months I will attend my 10-year high school reunion. Back in February I made a commitment to myself that I would whittle myself down to HOTT, as HOTT as I could get in that time span. I go to the gym at least 4 days a week, lift weights at least one of those days (usually 2), and try to get some form of cardiovascular exercise on the weekends.

Then on Friday when that car hit me I got kind of scared. Especially now that I'm a few days in to the whole "whiplash" fun and games, I'm totally scared that I'm going to lose all the progress I'd made toward HOTT. Looking in the mirror right now, I know I look good. But not only do I want to maintain said progress, I want to look BETTER. Lose a little more fat, tone up a little bit more. And now I don't know what kind of cardio I can do (besides gentle walking, which WON'T get my heart rate up - I've got to really be sweating to get the heart rate up at this point because I'm in really good shape) to maintain this svelte me and even get me a little smaller.

I've been doing most of the work thus far by working out a lot. I watch what I eat to some extent but I'm not starving myself by any stretch of the imagination. My plan all along was to mostly do this with exercise and then cut my calories some for the last six weeks before the reunion, so when I go shopping for that dress I will really like what I see in the mirror. Now - I don't know. I don't want back/neck problems for the rest of my life, like my mom has since the time she was rear-ended in her early twenties. So I know I need to take it easy. But I know how soon I can backslide and put five pounds back on. It'll happen in a week if I'm not exercising enough. Or if I don't cut 500 calories a day from what I'm eating now (go down to about 1200-1300 from 1700-1800). And as the Hulk can tell any of you, Unfed MLE is one of the least good kinds of MLEs there is.

I'm also scared that if I do start cutting calories drastically, I'll slide back into my old pal the borderline eating disorder. That form of control is so powerful, so tempting. I find myself slipping into it some days without really noticing - it's 12:30 and I'm hungry, so I say I'll go another hour before I go home and eat lunch. And then I don't eat 'til 2:30 or 3. Just to have an hour or so of good, punishing hunger. With my blood sugar issues, I *know* that isn't good. Or I'll go to the gym at 1:30 to miss the lunch crowd and not eat anything until 3 when I'm finished working out.

The biggest thing about the disordered eating is that for me, the negative consequences never got drastic enough to outweigh what I saw were the benefits - I got thinner and thinner, and because I was swimming for hours every day I was cut and lean. My family basically told me I *HAD* to stop starving myself because they didn't like the bitch I'd become (honestly, neither did I, much). But I never got to the point of looking anorexic; never got bony or grew weird hair, and since it was summer I wasn't cold at all. Rationally, I can look back and see how unhealthy I was, especially since my personality changed. But there is a power in hunger, a power in making your body conform to the look you want it to have. A power in lean muscle defined because of a lack of body fat. To know the pull of that power, all you have to do is look on TV, at a movie, at the trash celebrity magazines. The people who are powerful in our celebrity-obsessed culture are the people who look like that.

I'm already itching to go to the gym, even though I can hardly even move my neck. My mom has spent much of her life battling a weight problem while having back and neck issues, and it's been really difficult for her. The weight I gained from that BCP two years ago is finally mostly gone and I never want it to come back. But the only ways I know to do that are to exercise vigorously on a regular basis (as I've been doing) or eat a lot less. But I also need to heal, and I don't know how well that jives with the goal that I've been working toward since February.

Monday, June 12, 2006

You must whip it. Whip it good.

See, the thing about this weekend is that since I had the state car (The Little Prius that Could) we were supposed to run all these errands, including buying a bunch of plants for the front yard, and then we were supposed to spend Sunday planting stuff and making the yard all pretty. It was even cooler on Sunday than it had been in two weeks or so. Conditions were all perfect for our purposes. However, I got rear-ended in the state car driving back from Grand Junction on Friday afternoon.

From what I understand, whiplash is a sprain or strain, just in your neck/shoulders/back. I think my problem was that since my neck was already bothering me for a few days before I got rear-ended (and the driving four hours to GJ and back in two days certainly didn't help), the whole getting hit from behind thing just made it worse. Saturday I felt OK, like my neck was OK and getting better. Sunday morning I woke up and literally Could Not Move. I had to have the Hulk put his hand behind my neck so I could sit up, because I had suddenly reverted to infancy and couldn't hold my own damn head up. Man, it hurt like a BITCH.

After heating and icing and hot showering and taking Aleve and valerian (a muscle relaxer) all day, I figured I'd get some pain relief soon. But I didn't. It didn't work. We did run a few errands in the car yesterday until my neck just couldn't take it anymore, and then we came home and I sulked. It was Supposed to be Planting Day! Our yard was going to look so pretty! Now we've got $150 worth of plants waiting to be planted with me totally out of commission and I've got a doctor's appointment this afternoon and Advil seems to be helping a little bit more than the Aleve did, and I'm sorry to say that the glass of wine I had last night helped more than any of the OTC drugs, so maybe after I go to the doctor this afternoon I'll start getting my drink on.

YIT, I know you got whiplash last year. What helped you? Anyone else? Bueller?

Thursday, June 08, 2006


I had to go back to Grand Junction today, driving (yay!) four hours through the mountains and through every kind of weather there is in Colorado (sun, wind, snow, rain, wind, fog). The little Prius that Could made it OK and I checked into the hotel that gives you a yummy calorie-filled cookie at checkin and then I went swimming in their lovely pool.

I almost never get to go swimming. My gym doesn't have a pool and there isn't a public pool within decent walking distance of work or home. My opportunities to swim come few and far between and I take advantage of them when I'm able. This pool was lovely, outdoor, slightly heated (so not too cold), and had only a few splashing screeching children.

For years I was a swim instructor and lifeguard and I worked with children as young as two and as old as fourteen, helping them grow more comfortable and more confident in the water. Basic skills for each level were outlined by my employer, but I made up the curriculum for the classes myself and I loved doing it. I loved helping kids feel like they could be safe and happy and enjoy the water, and I still remember having Fred the 5-year-old pull down my bikini top with a devilish grin on his face. He wasn't the only one, just the youngest (so he could get away with it). It was a banner day when a kid who was afraid to put his head under water finally did just that for the first time, a huge milestone when a kid who took two weeks to muster up the courage to jump in the deep end would jump into my waiting arms. Swimming and teaching kids to swim is something I'm just good at.

Today there was a young boy in the pool with his older (college aged) sister while mom looked on from the sidelines. Between laps I spoke with mom and talked to the little boy, and he gained more and more confidence in showing off and taking the risk of removing one hand from the side of the pool. "He's afraid of everything," said the boy's mom, "His hair is long because he's afraid of the hair cuttery. He's afraid of going outside sometimes. He's so sensitive."

I began to work my bag of tricks, asking him to show me what he could (read: what he was willing to) do, and demonstrating things of my own. I showed him how to make a big splash with his legs (scissor kick, legs held out behind while you hold on to the side of the pool) and he told me that he didn't like having his head under the water. He would tiptoe across the shallow end of the pool while waving his arms as if to swim. He asked my name and asked if I could swim underwater, sit on the bottom of the pool, do a somersault. All the things he wanted to do himself but was too afraid. I'd talk to him, show him how to tread water in order to keep his head aloft, his skinny arms and legs moving spastically as I held him up. All those summers came back to me, the years of kids who would come back for more lessons from me at the local pool, the milestones of the kids as they grew more confident in their skills.

"What's his name?" I asked his mom at one point during our conversation. "Birc, like the birch tree. It was a common name 1500 years ago," replied his Swedish Buddhist mom. Birc shivered as the sun went behind the clouds, skinny as only six-year-olds could be. He wasn't moving enough to generate the heat he needed to stay warm, and I encouraged him to do more and more active things while daring him to take one hand or both off the side of the wall.

"I can tell you've worked with kids like him before, kids who are scared of the water," said Birc's mom, and I told her of my history of teaching children to swim. "You have the touch," she said. "He doesn't let me show him anything."

"That's because you're his mom," I replied. So many of my kids over the years didn't want their parents showing them what to do or how to do it. But a young teacher? Sure, someone to show off for! "Emily, watch this!" called Birc as I continued my conversation with his mom and treaded water. "Watch me jump!"

Eventually it got too cold for Birc, and we all headed back into the hotel. Later, I saw the family as I left with my coworker to get some dinner. "Hi, Emily!" Birc yelled. "Hi, Birc," I called back. "Have a good dinner!" My coworker had heard about my efforts in the pool with this little boy who was afraid of everything. "He'll remember you for a long time," she said. "The little ones always do." Honestly, I only spent about 45 minutes with the little boy, but he remembered my name two hours later, and I bet he'll be asking his mom when he can go in a pool again soon. I could see it in his eyes when he saw me swimming laps and pulling myself along underwater. He wanted to be able to do those things. He just wanted someone who wasn't his mom to show him how, because if Mom hadn't told me he was "afraid of everything," I never would have guessed. He was just like half my kids taking lessons for the first time. And he had the first lesson down - he could put his face in the water and blow bubbles. One summer I spent 3 weeks with another 6-year-old before he could do the same thing. Now that kid is 16 somewhere and I bet he's an excellent swimmer. Someday, Birc will be too.

You Tube to the rescue - guinea pig!

YouTube has the guinea pig eating kidney commercial I saw at the movies the other day.

It's creepy as hell, and hilarious.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Making Babies

We went to the used bookstore this weekend at one point. I know, horrible idea, especially considering we still have about half our books in boxes as not all of our bookshelf space is assembled.

Anyhow, our neighborhood used bookstore (a dangerous place!) has a "discount" area for books that they've had in stock for a long time or have too many copies of. I found a really interesting book about reproductive technology (published in 1999 by a lawyer who specializes in laws and ethics surrounding reproductive technology) and bought it for $2. I spent most of yesterday reading it.

Holy crap! The history of reproductive technology is just insane. There are so many issues that I had never even thought of, despite my genetics/ethics class in college and despite online perusal of infertility blogs. I think it's a strange thing that many women spend years and years trying NOT to get pregnant, and then when they want to, they spend years and years TRYING to get pregnant - often taking advantage of whatever the latest reproductive techniques might be. I've always been fascinated with the subject of reproductive technology since I learned about Louise Brown, the first "test tube" baby (she's only a few months older than I am). Then in middle school I first learned of the idea of "made-to-order babies" and have been intrigued and saddened by news stories about pregnant women in comas whose partners are waiting to become single parents, etc.

I had considered myself pretty liberal about most things before reading this book, but there are some ideas at which I just plain draw the line. I'm not sure how I feel about gestating a baby to (maybe) provide life-saving tissue for an existing kid (the Ayala family, for example). I am disgusted by the supertwin families like the McCaughys that have a whole bunch of embryos transferred or whatever and end up with seven children of indeterminate future health and life quality. I know I do NOT like the idea of using the product of an aborted female fetus to provide eggs for infertile women - stem cells, OK. Gametes, not OK. Nor am I comfortable with male comatose or PVS patients having their sperm extracted without consent to be used to impregnate a current partner (or given to the parents of said patient to make a grandkid! ack!).

There are so many things we can do to manipulate the original process of making babies - many of which are enabling women all over the world to get pregnant with and have the children they want. I don't begrudge those families their children, yet sometimes I have to wonder about people's motives when (and I am trotting out a probably very stale and possibly offensive position) there are so many kids out there that need homes. Seriously. They aren't all white babies without health problems, of course, and that's what most people in this country want. And if you have the money to do it, you can purchase just about any kind of reproductive service in this country - capitalism, yay! - so why shouldn't you be able to?

Another idea that gave me a bit of pause was that, as of the writing of the book, none of the children born from IVF or "test tube babies" had ever tried to have children. Checking Wikipedia, I see that Louise Brown got married in 2004. There is no mention of her having (or trying to have) children. My google-fu doesn't seem to bring up any cases of kids concieved through IVF who have gone on to have children of their own. That doesn't mean that it hasn't happened - but don't you think there would be some sort of news article? The point is, we DON'T KNOW what will happen to these million kids as they grow up.

At some point recently there was a dateline or something on TV about special-needs foster kids that need homes. And I know that the few kids they showed on TV, mostly adolescents, were the very tip of the proverbial iceberg. It totally makes me sad when there are thousands and thousands of kids, right here in the US, that would have much better lives if adopted earlier instead of being fostered out to home after home, each day growing a little more hopeless at ever being adopted and having actual parents. But that's just my personal soapbox, and I know that for some people, having children means either giving birth to their own (despite all odds, despite the risks of things like prematurity and placenta previa and disabilities) or choosing the child's biological parents (sperm donor, egg donor) or being the child's biological parent (gestational surrogate with IVF of parents' gametes).

I've never given much thought to what I, personally, would do if I found out I was unable to have children "the old fashioned way" if my partner and I decide to do that. I guess maybe I'll cross that bridge if I ever have to come to it. But a quote in the book from the Official Rabbi of England or something really stuck with me. It was something along the lines of "We don't give thanks on the Sabbath because of G-d's creations, we give thanks that He knew when to stop." And I guess that's the thing, because there really AREN'T a lot of laws or prescedents about new reproductive technologies - it's all kind of being made up as we go along. Will we know when to stop?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Don't let the guinea pig eat YOUR kidney!

So we went to the movies last night (saw XMen 3) for the first time in, like, forever. You can read Hulk's review over at his blog. I agree with it wholeheartedly - the movie itself was OK, a pretty good action movie with a lot of special effects, but not nearly as good as the first two.

One of the reasons we don't go to the movies very often is the same reason a lot of people don't go - the annoying 20-30 minutes of ads (after the "get to the theater early!" ads) before the previews before the movie. I wish there was some way to know exactly when all the ads end and the previews begin (because I usually like the previews) so we could just skip the damn ads. However, this time, it was actually worth it to be there a few minutes before the previews started - as I saw the funniest "pre-movie" ad I've ever seen.

There's a sleeping guy, awakened to find a guinea pig on his chest. The guinea pig tells him to watch a certain show that I've never heard of on a cable channel I've never heard of instead of sleeping. The guy asks why, and the guinea pig says, "Do you want me to eat your other kidney?" and then the camera cuts to a bloody hole in the guy's abdomen. Awesome. We laughed out loud for several minutes.

It's too bad I don't have cable and I've never heard of whatever show it was, because I sure wouldn't want a calico-colored guinea pig to eat MY kidney.