Sunday, November 6, 2011

What are YOU going to do with your extra hour...

We got our first snow of the season this weekend.  Which means that I'm burning a lot of these candles I got from Target.  I used to follow a blog, Slave To Target, where this girl would write about all her favorite things at Target (where there are so many Favorite Things to choose from) and I was a huge fan. But she stopped writing it over 2 years ago, which made me sad.  So in the spirit of continuing to pay homage to Target, I'm going to start chronicling my own favorite things that go in my red cart. Which brings me to these soy candles.  They come in yummy fall flavors - I have Autumn Harvest going in the bathroom right now, as I watch the snow coming down.

I'm kind of blown away that Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away.  So I've gotta burn up all the fall candles I have because come December I'll be wanting to burn the peppermint-vanilla flavors of these soy candles I saw at the store the other day.

So we get an extra hour today.  What are you going to do with it? Here are some options I'm considering:

1.  Cleaning my sink to the point where FlyLady would be happy.

2.  Watching that Brian Greene Nova special about the cosmos, which I believe must be a similar feeling to dropping acid.  I've never dropped acid, so I can't say for sure, but the feeling of my head exploding, and not knowing which way is up and what color is purple must be similar to what it's like to do a lot of drugs...

3.  Getting way ahead in my NaNoWriMo word count.

4.  Organizing all my towels.

5.  Getting caught up on The Artist's Way.

6.  Organizing my spices.

7.  Organizing the cupboard above the refrigerator, which has four years worth of junk falling out of it.

8.  Playing Oblivion in preparation for Skyrim coming out on Friday (speaking of which, Skyrim Looks Awesome!)

9.  Ripping a bunch of CD's.

10.  Reading one or two of the magazines that are cluttering up my desk.  I bought a Nook Color a few months ago for the sole reason of reading magazines on it so that my magazine clutter would go away, but I'm still working my way through what's left over... And I have a Kindle Fire on pre-order, and I already have a kindle from last year, so if anyone has any question about which ereader to buy, I'm up on the goodness and not-so-goodness of each of them...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where in the world did Heather go?

Did she fall off the face of the planet?  Nope.  She didn't have another miscarriage did she?  Nope.  Is she perhaps pregnant, and nauseated all the time?  Not so lucky.  Did her house fall down on her and break all her internet devices and fall mugs?  Nope.  Is she just lazy?  b-i-n-g-o.

Here's a round up of what I did in October, followed by the plans for a kick-ass November that I'm going to have.

In October I:
-walked an average of 18 miles a week, for a total of about 72.  Dang, I walked the equivalent of going from my house to the beach.  If I'm healthy enough (read: if I'm not knocked up to the point of being unable to do so) I'm going to do a half-marathon in Pasadena in January.  I'm not even going to try to run it.  I shall slow-pokey walk past the Rose Bowl and Cal Tech, taking in all the scenery.  But I'm going to go 13.1 miles in one go.

-went on a pregnancy-loss-remembrance walk, which was sad.
-mourned the year anniversary of losing our baby.  The upshot?  We got cards with gift cards in them for our favorite restaurants.  People rock.

- celebrated our five year wedding anniversary by moving furniture around.  Oh, and we got more cards and gift cards.  If anybody wants to go to Chili's, I can treat.  No, I'm just kidding.  I'm keeping all that molten lava chocolate cake goodness for myself.

- thought I was pregnant, which would have been kind of miraculous since it was only our first month trying, but still, I figured that I could use some good luck in the fertility area, so why not?  Then I found out I wasn't pregnant, and got pissed off.  This current cycle has gone all funny and weird, so I'm especially pissed off at my body at the moment.

- rode public transportation in San Francisco.  So this old lady comes on to the bart train and starts waving her jacket around, holding her nose, and thanking the doors for opening and letting her on.  Man, sometimes I really miss riding public transportation regularly.  One time I remember this one guy kept silently trying to feel me up on the bus - this was when I was like 23 or something - and I reached over and grabbed him in his special man-place, really quick-like, and twisted my hand around, hard.  He screamed like a little girl and called me a bitch.  I was like, "too true, motherf*cker," and put my disc-man back on with its Tori Amos CD.  After that, nobody sat down next to me for the rest of the ride.  I was stoked.  More place to put my bag.

- bought both a new/used couch and chair set from a lady in Temecula AND a new stove from Sears.  Man, my appliance/furniture quotient just got raised by like 75%.  As an aside, it led to another Yay Craigslist experience.

- lined up a petsitter for a month in December/January.  Why would I need a petsitter for a month in December/January, you ask?  Because my boss is totally forward thinking and appreciates the beauty of Skype, and is letting me work in the UK for a whole month.  Which means that I also bought tickets to London, and am now trying to figure out how to fit a month's worth of life into one suitcase.  Thank God for my Kindle.

So.  November.  Here's what's cooking this month:

-NaNoWriMo.  The working title of my novel (after only Day 1, mind you) is Grief and Hedonism.  It's sort of autobiographical, but only in that I wanted to write about the aftermath of miscarriage.  It's kind of like Chick-Lit meets Grief-Lit.  I guess a lot of it is stuff I've thought about doing this past year, but was too sensible to actually do.  So I'm letting my characters do it, and seeing how it plays out.

- Thanksgiving, which always kicks ass in my house cuz it's my favorite holiday.  I love everything about Thanksgiving.  It's the perfect holiday.  Food, vacation time, naps, good-smelling-houses, and no stress of having to send cards, give presents, yada yada.  Actually, I don't know why I stress about sending cards.  I haven't sent cards since 1997.  Plus, you can listen to carols out in the open.  Myself, I am a closet carol listener.  I start around August, as soon as the air starts to get a little chilly and begins to hint that fall is coming.  Now that I'm in a choir again, I am spending my fall singing lots of Christmas music, which makes my soul happy.  But around Thanksgiving, you can start to come out of the closet and listen to carols out in the open.

- I'm going on a retreat at a benedictine monastary, which should be peaceful and inspirational.

- Losing more weight and getting new clothes.  I've been stuck at this damn plateau for like four months, and I'm officially busting through it this month.  Then, when the sales start after Thanksgiving, I'm getting myself some new clothes.  I've been wearing the same jeans twice a week since July.  I'm seriously sick of them.

- The Artists Way.  I've still been doing it.  Just in my own farting-around kind of way.  The Artists Way Heather's Way.

- Weekend triple-walks around the lake, to get ready for this marathon.  That's 9 miles.  It's a hike.  I've done it once so far, and it took about 2 hours and 15 minutes.  And man, I was stiff afterwards.  But at least that's a good justification for a bubblebath.

Happy November, everyone.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

hard time of year

Wednesday a year ago we bought the big-ass jeep from a guy up in the Antelope Valley.  We wanted a jeep because I was due in February, and we were afraid of getting snowed in.  I had just hit 20 weeks.  It was all downhill from here.  On the way home J drove the jeep, and I drove my car.  I was still feeling sick.  I had been sick for four or five days.  I was a little worried because I felt weird, but I had never been pregnant before.  I didn't know what pregnant felt like.

On the way home we stopped at Charlie Brown Farms, a place we'd found when we went up to see the poppy reserves for the first time.  J had a burger or chicken sandwich.  I just had a hot chocolate because I wasn't feeling so well.  I listened to music thinking about creating a birthing playlist.  I wanted to have music close to me when I gave birth, and I was starting to organize my music into different types of playlists - the "new age zen" stuff for if I needed to relax, the "upbeat shake your booty" stuff if I needed energy.

The next day it was rainy and cloudy, but I went outside to take pictures of the jeep to send to my dad.  J took the back seats out and hung out in the giant part in back for a while - I read a book while he read the owners manual - and we talked about the camping trips we'd take with our little Baby T.

Then the next day was Friday.  We went out on a Date Night.  I was feeling good.  We went to Carrows.  I wore my maternity jeans, and a red long sleeved tshirt that said "Baby makes the Belly go Round."  I put a sweater on because I was still getting chills.  I went to old navy and bought some long sleeved tshirts and yoga pants because I was going to be headed to England the next week, and I needed some more warm clothes.

Saturday J's friend came over and helped install the ladder up to my girly nook in the attic.  I put up some Halloween decorations.

Sunday I remember because Tony Stewart won the Nascar race in Fontana.  We had tickets to go - there was a deal where, if you bought tickets to the Epicenter rock festival two weeks before, where we saw Blink-182, you got the Nascar tickets free.  We thought about going, but I was a little nervous.  I still wasn't feeling well, and I wanted to get well for my trip to England that Wednesday.  I told J he could go on his own, but he didn't want to.  Tony won.  Tony has been J's favorite driver since before I knew him.  He's never seen him win in person.  He was bummed, and I felt kind of like a killjoy for keeping him from going.  But I brushed it off.  I was pregnant.  There were more important things than Nascar races.

Oh, and J felt the baby kick for the first time that day.  He still isn't positive he felt a kick, but he did.  He says he felt "something" and I know it was a kick.

Monday I still wasn't well, but I started making up a packing list for England.  I told Sandor that I wasn't feeling great and was going to need to rest a lot while I was there.  I did my laundry and rested and drank juice and ate salad.  I remember the juice - Hansen's apple cranberry.  I must have had five gallons of it during the two weeks I was sick.  I can't drink it anymore.  Plus juice is full of sugar, anyway.

Tuesday morning I checked into my flight for the next day, but I was still feeling like crap.  At 11am I told J that I couldn't go to England feeling like this.  If anything happened, I said, I would never be able to forgive myself.

I did a google search to see how you could get out of flights you bought on Priceline, and a bunch of former Priceline workers said that the way to do it was claim you had a miscarriage.  That seemed really obscene to me, so I called them and was just honest.  They let me cancel the trip and just pay a $250 fee.  I wasn't thrilled about the fee, but it was better than simply eating the entire flight.  I told the guy who helped me how I had read on the internet that if you claim to have a miscarriage, Priceline will refund your money.  I told him I couldn't do that because I was 21 weeks pregnant, and that would be a terrible thing.  He said that he hoped karma didn't bite people in the ass who did that.

I called Sandor and Anna Louisa and told them I couldn't come because I was still so sick and was worried.  They were disappointed, but understood.

By 1pm I was feeling bad - backache, gassy, etc.  J was at an AA meeting and I asked him to pick up lunch for us on his way home.  Plus juice.  Always that damned apple cranberry juice.

At 3 I put a chicken in the oven for dinner.

By 4 I was having full on contractions, but didn't know it.  I called the doctor.  He said to come in the next day.

At 5 I realized the pain was coming in waves, like the doctor had asked me an hour before, but I hadn't known then whether it was coming in waves - I just hadn't noticed.  He said to come in right away.

I got dressed and told J we needed to go in.  I was peeing before we left, and my water broke.  Only I didn't know it at the time.  I just knew there was blood.  Lots of it.  And that wasn't good.  The doctor told us to go to the nearest ER.

By 6:30 I was in the hospital room seeing my boy on an ultrasound, still alive and kicking, but not able to live without the fluids.

At 7 J kissed my belly and we said goodbye to Baby T while he was still alive and could hear us.

By midnight it was over.

I ovulated last week.  If I'm pregnant, I'll find out next week sometime.  Even if you time everything right, there's still only a 25% chance each month that a fertilized egg will make it.  So I'm not getting my hopes up that it will take this first month of trying.  And hope isn't even the right word.  After losing two (count 'em, two) babies, I'm not so much hoping to be pregnant.  I'm hoping to have a child, to not have my only experience in the labor and delivery room be when I lost my son; and in order to do that, you need to get pregnant.  And so I will brave being pregnant, with all the fear and angst that goes along with that.

I miss you Baby T.  So much.  Even after a year, I still ache for you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

More of The Artists Way

Ok guys, so I know I've been crappy at blogging lately.  But, you see, there's just been so much living going on in my life, that I'm having a hard time finding the time to blog about it.  Which is a good thing, really.

First off, I joined a choir.  A good choir, not an old-lady-church-choir (no offense to old-lady-church-choirs).  For almost three hours a week I get to bask in the bliss of Vivaldi, and it's awesome.

Second, I'm doing The Artists Way again.  Despite my best efforts, some day I'm going to finish this damn book.  I've had it since 1996.  Seriously.  1996.  But I'm slogging through it.  This week's main task is Reading Deprivation.  No reading all week.  But since the book dates from 1992, before the internet and email was really a big thing, I'm changing the rules a little bit.  The whole point of the exercise is to clear out all the extraneous noise and chatter in your head, and give you room to create something.  Julia Cameron says that many blocked creatives are voracious readers because they use other people's words and creations to numb themselves and distract themselves from what they would really like to create.  That struck a chord with me, since I am a voracious reader myself, and it's probably for those reasons.

But not reading at all?  What about my work email?  And what about my audiobooks on my walk around the lake.  Are they ok?

I found this post with updated rules for the Week 4 task in the 21st Century, and I'm going to try to abide by them.  I'm also going to avoid TV.  I will allow myself my audiobooks while I'm at the lake walking.  I will allow myself work email, but not on a steady stream, the way it generally is now.  I will check it three times a day, and respond then as needed.  I won't waste time on facebook/twitter reading stupid posts conjecturing the status of the Kutcher/Moore relationship.  I will not go to the Huffington Post.  I won't watch The Daily Show.

I will, however, write in my journal, work on my book, and go on my Artist Date.

The only thing I'm worried about is that I'm meant to have Jury Duty on Tuesday.  Ok, so listen, Tuesday has to be a giveaway day for me.  Jury duty trumps Julia Cameron, no?  What would I do if I didn't read?  Sit and talk to people, I guess.  Write.

Good grief.  Ok, I will attempt to do my best to avoid reading this week, even with Jury Duty.  But I have to realign my whole sense of purpose now - I had been looking forward to spending the day reading in a nice quiet spot.  But now I will have to look forward to spending the day talking to new people, looking at the wall, and listening to the voice inside my head.  Maybe I should just write out my inner conversation all day...

I don't know.  We'll see how this goes.  I'm skeptical.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Welcome to Fall (also, the Way Marketers Get Me)

Hey everybody!  I haven't blogged in FOREVER.  I suck at blogging sometimes.  If you wondered where I went, not to worry, I'm still here.  And it's fall, so I'm happy.  Fall has always been my favorite season.  Actually, I'm especially happy that I'm happy this year because we lost Baby T in the fall, and I was worried that I'd be miserable, associating it with the loss.  But it's going ok.

So I came home from Target the other day with, among other things, a fall-looking mug.  When J asks me why the hell I bought a mug when we have, like, 50 of them collecting dust, I responded thusly.

Target sells this mug for $1.99.  And you might think that it's just a cheap mug, right?  But you would be wrong.  Because let me tell you.  I'm going to dig out the espresso machine that I put away when it got warm, and I'm going to make myself white chocolate mochas and pumpkin spice lattes, and what I will do is wake up early, and drink my coffee in this mug, holding it in my hands and feeling the comfort and warmth of it, and listen to Telemann while I read thoughtful magazines like the Atlantic and the New Yorker, and do my Artists Way Morning Pages, and look out the window and think what a lovely day it is, and a cat will snuggle at my feet.  I will feel calm and contented, and I will have a productive, amazing, kick@ss day.  And it will all be because of the $1.99 mug.  This isn't just a mug.  This is autumn crispness and meditative mornings and kick-butt days.  All for $1.99.  I mean, seriously, how could you expect me to turn that down?

To which he replied that he couldn't expect me to turn it down, and by all means, I should consider getting a second one the next time I'm there.

So, thanks to Target, my table in the mornings looks like this.  Candle: $5.99.  Mug: $1.99.  White Chocolate Mocha ingredients: $2.00.  Tablecloth: $9.99.  Autumn Bliss: Priceless.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9-11 Remembrance: The Last Carefree Emails

I was living in London on September 11, 2001.  And so I got wind of what was happening in New York after lunch.  I had spent the morning sparring over email with Nick and Paul - twin brothers I had met through the choir we started.  We had a good time poking fun at each other, planning a Thanksgiving visit back to the US, poking fun at my boss (Lynne Franks, who was supposedly the inspiration for the show Absolutely Fabulous, and thinking about lunch (I went to Muji on Carnaby Street and bought some pens that lunchtime).  

It's weird to read these emails and think back on a time when I could innocently make a joke about how being considered an American was worse than being considered an idiot.  In a few hours, that kind of talk would become unpatriotic and borderline-treasonous.  

I had to leave London a few months after 9/11 because they cracked down a lot harder on visas, and people like me, who were on questionable student visas, suddenly found ourselves a bit stuck.  But that's a small price to pay.  London isn't going anywhere.  

It's odd for me to look back on this email thread and see the end of an era in real time.  It's a poor remembrance, but it's a remembrance nonetheless.

---------------------------------------- Message History ----------------------------------------

 From: Heather Anne Buettner on 11/09/2001
 ZE8To:   Nick Bland/DMGCON/DMG UK/DeuBa@DMG UK cc:
Subject:  send me names

 thank you.
 hope you're feeling better today.



on 11/9/01, Nick Bland wrote:
 will do - let me get a report out and over they'll come . . . . .
Nick Bland

 Legal Entity Cost Controlling
 Front Office Reporting and Planning
Deutsche Bank London
Tel: +44 (20)754-7025
 Email:  Website: http://lon.costcon

 From: Heather Anne Buettner on 11/09/2001 09:57 ZE8
 To:   Nick Bland/DMGCON/DMG UK/DeuBa@DMG UK
 Subject:  Re: send me names
 you rocketh most mightily.

on 11/9/01 5:59 pm, Nick Bland wrote:

 i know . . .Paul & I want champers on the flight over with lunch!  Mwa!

 Nick Bland

Legal Entity Cost Controlling

Front Office Reporting and Planning
Deutsche Bank London
 Tel: +44 (20)754-7025

 From: Heather Anne Buettner on 11/09/2001 10:10

 To:   Nick Bland/DMGCON/DMG UK/DeuBa@DMG UK

Subject:  Re: send me names

what's a champer?  Am I meant to understand what that means?

 Talk English for goodness sake.


 on 11/9/01, Nick Bland wrote:

champers = champagne

 dur you're soo stoopid!

 Nick Bland


Legal Entity Cost Controlling
Front Office Reporting and Planning
 Deutsche Bank London
Tel: +44 (20)754-7025


 From: Heather Anne Buettner on 11/09/2001 10:29
 To:   Nick Bland/DMGCON/DMG UK/DeuBa@DMG UK
Subject:  Re: send me names

 Dur, like how the hell am I supposed to understand your secret language?
 I'm not going to let you have champers.  You'll be all tipsy before we
even land.  No wait, that's me.
 I'm going to sit in the middle and take turns sleeping on each of you so
each get equal amounts of Heather Drool on your shirts.  I bet you can't

 -----Original Message-----

From: Nick Bland [mailto:]
 Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 11:32 AM
 To: Heather Anne Buettner
 Subject: Re: send me names

 mmmm nice

 Nick Bland


Legal Entity Cost Controlling
Front Office Reporting and Planning
 Deutsche Bank London
Tel: +44 (20)754-7025

 on 11/9/01 6:13 pm, Paul Bland wrote:
Mmm heather drool - nice !!!! C'mon Heather you work with Lynn Franks !!!

Champers is an Ab fab-ism - which planet have you been living on ?? 


From: Heather Anne Buettner []

Sent: 11 September 2001 
To: Paul Bland; 'Nick Bland Subject: Re: Gucci, Armani, La Croix, Names Names Names !!!!

God, the two of you...sheesh.

 If you would stop forwarding on my emails to third parties (even if he IS

your brother) and send me the email list, I would be most appreciative, Nick! 

  I don't WATCH Ab-Fab, Paul - I WORK with her, I don't NEED to watch it.

 It's my LIFE, 'kay?

  I'm in a foul mood because I forget how to get to the place where I'm meant
to be singing tonight and the lady isn't answering my email.  I thought I
had it saved.  Fuck and buggers.

Now get back to work, the two of you... xxxxxxxxxxxxxh

on 11/9/01, Paul Bland  wrote:

 Isn't 'sheesh' a type of kebab ?????


no, that's shish.  Sheesh is a noise you make when you're exasperated by nitpicky boys.

what are you both doing on saturday night?  Proms in the park. 
Let's go!

on 11/9/01 1:44 pm, Paul Bland wrote:

 Heather - you're not an idiot, you're American and you should be proud !!
  Anyway, both you must sort out your e-mail disclamers/siggys - they make the  message
 sooo truncated !!!


From: Heather Anne Buettner []
 Sent: 11 September 2001 

 To: Paul Bland; 'Nick Bland'
 Subject: Re: Gucci, Armani, La Croix, Names Names Names !!!!

Nick - see what I mean... he thinks I'm American.  American.  Which is worse than being an idiot, don't you think?  You really know how to charm a girl, Paul.

And I don't put my siggy on, or disclaimers.  It's Nick. 

So what are you both doing for lunch? 

on 11/9/01, Nick Bland  wrote:

  Paul - I think you mean protracted, truncated is the opposite
 Heather - nothing much wrong with your heritage, you should be proud of your
 history, all c.100 years of it.

look no siggy!

Ps no can do proms in tha park. . . doing a concert in Kent

on 11/9/01, Paul Bland at  wrote:
 Fuck off Nick !
 Heather would you like to send a profanity to my bastard brother ?

From: Heather Anne Buettner []
 Sent: 11 September 2001 

 To: Paul Bland; 'Nick Bland'
 Subject: Re: Gucci, Armani, La Croix, Names Names Names !!!!

hey - language children...

still, ok.  fuck off nick.

and by the way, I'm not so sure the Indians (excuse me, Native Americans) would be happy with you neglecting them from our heritage!

typing w/ one hand as other has sandwich in it!

on 11/9/01, Nick Bland  wrote:

 Go to

 there's a picture of what has been reported as a plane crashing into the world
  trade centre in New York.

  From: Heather Anne Buettner []
 Sent: 11 September 2001
 To: Paul Bland; 'Nick Bland'
 Subject: Re: Gucci, Armani, La Croix, Names Names Names !!!!
 I can't see it.


on 11/9/01, Nick Bland wrote: 
  ohh you 2 are soo predictable . . .did you get my last mail re plane crashes
in the World trade Centre. . . .apparently there is more than one . . . sounds like a suicide mission to me. . . .

From: Heather Anne Buettner []
 Sent: 11 September 2001 

 To: Paul Bland; 'Nick Bland'
 Subject: Re: Gucci, Armani, La Croix, Names Names Names !!!!
And there was also just a bomb in the Pentagon in Washington

weird shit going on in New York. 

NICK are you EVER going to send me those names???? 

on 11/9/01, Nick Bland  wrote:

 they've evacuated canary wharf given what has happened. . . . 

From: Heather Anne Buettner []
 Sent: 11 September 2001 

 To: Paul Bland; 'Nick Bland'
 Subject: Re: Gucci, Armani, La Croix, Names Names Names !!!!

 are you going?

 on 11/9/01 , Nick Bland wrote:

No, they won't evacuate central London.
ps this is making me feel really sick. . .

 hope you're okay. . . .

 From: Heather Anne Buettner []
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 8:51 AM
 To: paul bland
Subject: good grief

why are people so awful?


 on 11/9/01, Paul Bland wrote:

I know ! Lloyd's and around there has been evacuated ! I'm trying to call
 you - are you OK ?

From: Heather Anne Buettner []
 Sent: 11 September 2001 

 To: Paul Bland; 'Nick Bland'
 Subject: Re: Gucci, Armani, La Croix, Names Names Names !!!!
 on the phone to parents - call 020 7287 6519 - that's lily's line  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Top Things Making Me Grumpy Today

1.  Oliver on Project Runway.  I really can't tolerate the fake accent any longer.  I've put up with it for like 6 episodes already.  Get it off my tv!

2.  The fact that we haven't gone to the post office in like 2 weeks, and there was a nasty note in the mailbox when I went today saying I had to call a main office number to get my mail.  I'm afraid to call it because I don't want them to yell at me for not emptying my mailbox regularly.  I might make J, but I'm grumpy with him tonight, too.

3.   My inbox in general and Groupon in particular.  Listen Groupon, you were cool 18 months or so ago when I first found you, and you didn't spam me thirteen times a day.  Can't you, you know, ask me some survey questions to find out that I'm really not going to be interested in a chemical peal in Redondo Beach for 60% off?  I'd take the survey to get targeted emails from you.  I really would.  But I'm pretty much on the verge of marking you spam for now, cuz of all this crap you send me.  And now google's getting in on it.  If I have to listen to one more ad for Google Deals on my Pandora station, I'm going to knock somebody's head off.

4.  Fresh and Easy.  I love you F&E, I really do.  When I heard that Tesco's in the UK was going to do a US store, I got really excited.  And now that you sell McVities chocolate biscuits and Hobnobs, I'm even more of a fan.  But this thing you do of not completely sealing the chicken in the plastic wrap, so that even though the date says Sept 7, it goes bad early because it's been getting air all weekend...that has just got to go.  Could you try to be less ghetto in your meat packaging, please?

5.  Barack Obama.  Google "Obama + Cave".  Or, if you're a liberal like me, don't.  It will just get your blood pressure going.  I'm donating money to Stephen Colbert's ColbertPAC this year because I can't tolerate giving Obama any more money for him to just use to, you know, destroy EPA regulations and refuse to raise taxes on the wealthy.  Hillary Clinton's 3AM Phone Call ad is sadly starting to ring true.  

Three Day Weekends are fun, but I'm just feeling grumpy now.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm a podcasting fool

I'm up late, having just done another episode of the Renaissance English History Podcast, cuz that's how I roll on a three day weekend.  You can subscribe in itunes, or listen online (just click the EnglandCast tab).  Cuz you know you need to know lots of stuff about 16th Century English Art in 10 minutes or less...

And I made these homemade potato chips today.  I'm not really sure that they count as, you know, chips.  But they're made with potatoes, oil, salt and pepper.  So they ain't Doritos...

And since I'm punchy, and today my 32 year old husband tells me that when he grows up he wants to be a guitar player for Big Time Rush, it's time for Funny Local News: Arachnophobia Edition.  Love how the woman tries to take charge.  Leave it to a woman to try to keep stuff moving along.  Bunch of stupid frat boys acting like ten year olds while the woman tries to do her job.  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What the hell CAN I Eat - Fake Food Edition

We all know I'm on a Noble Quest to Eat Better, right?  One of the biggest things I'm noticing on my Journey is how little Actual Food there is in the grocery store.  I read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food when it first came out a few years ago (his axiom for health: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants) and I thought, "yeah, that makes sense, we don't really eat a lot of real food."

But see, I thought that meant stuff like Dorito's or macaroni and cheese.  I figured that, you know, yogurt, for example, was a real food.

I'm learning that I've been way off in jumping to that conclusion.

I've become an obsessive label-reader, and here's what I'm learning:

All those yummy General Foods International instant coffee that I love to mix with cold milk in a blender to make a pseudo-frappuccino?  Not really food.

I was reading the label of my Hill's Brothers mocha mix, and I noticed that it's loaded to the brim with phosphates.  Whereas my Starbucks Via instant coffee is simply coffee, cane sugar, and dried milk.  I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and asked myself, "what are these phosphates, and are they bad for me?"

It doesn't seem very cut and dry.  The International Food Additives Council publishes a list of phosphates used in food, and why they're there.  They're in loads of foods.  Everything from cake mixes to soy milk.  Apparently they are often used to prevent clumping (like in my instant coffee or the aforementioned cake mix).

The FDA lists them as "Generally Recognized as Safe."  And they're approved for use in the EU.  So it looks like they're ok, except possibly for people with kidney problems.

But still, here's the thing.  So much of what we're eating isn't actually food.  It's edible food-like substances that are engineered by food scientists.  The plus side of this is that we get a lot of great food, very easily.  Just add water, and you've got creamy coffee.  They allow us to have an enormous range of food in our refrigerator that we don't even really need to cook ourselves.  I'm sure it's made food less expensive.  But the downside is that I'm loading my body up with chemicals.  Coffee is not supposed to have a non-caking agent in it.

Is this sustainable?

Take my Fiber One bars.  They're touted as being pretty healthy, right?  They taste like granola and chocolate, and they have 11 grams of fiber.  But they have Yellow Number 6 in them, which can cause tumors on the kidney, can mess with your chromosomes, and is banned in Norway.

Yellow Number 6 is approved in the US.  Maybe Norway is overreacting.  Or maybe not.  Cigarettes are still legal, after all.  Maybe in fifty years we'll all be aghast at the amount of food chemicals that we put into our bodies.

And I ask you, why the hell does a granola bar need to have Yellow Number 6 in it in the first place?

So the next phase of my Eating Better Quest is to get rid of as many of these chemicals as I can.  Tomorrow I'm going to make my own potato chips, and I might even start making my own bread, because seriously, why is there high fructose corn syrup in bread?  Of all the stupid things...

I'm gonna take this "no additives and chemicals" thing to the next level.  For thousands of years people ate without this kind of crap in their food, and honestly, I think it's still too early to call it safe.  So I'm out.  I'm getting off the chemical train.

I'm glad I'm finding all this out now, before I get pregnant again.  Because it takes time and effort to make your own bread and it's good to get in the habit now.  Dammit, I'm committed to having a kitchen with real food in it, and not something that was created in a laboratory.    

I shall report back on the chips, as well as other chemicals I'm finding in my new obsessive-label-reading experiment.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Project Happiness: Carnival Rides

So my town has a carnival this weekend every year called Mountaineer Days (cuz we're in the mountains - clever!).  There are slurpee-drinking contests from 7-11, pie eating contests, salsa dancing contests, and lots of fair-rides.

I haven't ridden fair-rides in almost 10 years.  The last time I can clearly remember riding one was the giant swings in 2002.  I didn't ride anything else though.   Just the swings.  And the last time I can remember riding carnival rides before then was somewhere around 1996.  So it's been a while.

Last year was the first year of the carnival, and we went but I couldn't ride anything because I was pregnant.  I remember thinking that maybe we'd come back with our six month old the next year, and go on the kiddie rides together.

Well, we all know how that turned out.  (Cue tiny violins)

So we went back last night and rocked those rides.  We were like little kids, going on everything.  We went on the ferris wheel.  We rocked the obstacle-course thing where you climb up ropes and slide down big slides.  We went on the giant swings.  We went on something called the Scrambler that made my head explode.  We did it all.  And then we staggered back to the car in the dark, looking quite drunk, and nearly passing out.

Good times were had by all.

And maybe next year we'll be closer to going on the kiddie rides with a little one.  On that subject, I saw my OB this week, and he gave us the go-ahead to start trying again whenever we want.  We're going to give it another month or so and start again around October.  We might be pregnant by Christmas.  I'm taking my basal body temperature, getting the ovulation predictor kits, starting my prenatals, going light on caffeine, and all of that good stuff so that when it takes we'll be all ready.  Folic Acid is my friend.  It's hard not to be scared, but I am taking comfort in the fact that I'm in a very different place than I was last year.  I'm healthier and stronger, and I have my angels there to watch over us.  Plus I have a nose piercing and purple hair.  Miscarriages can't screw around with girls who have purple hair.  It's a scientific fact.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Secret Salon

A summer project I've been working on has been to organize all my digital pictures.  I've got nearly 10 years worth of unnamed files, that supposedly represent some of the greatest times in my life, but I've got them everywhere, in no order.  So every day I sort through a folder or two, and I can start to see a very faint light at the end of the clutter tunnel.

Today I found this picture.  It's somewhere near Hemet, down the 15 freeway, in some nowhere ghetto-fabulous strip mall.  I remember being there.  I think we were on a road trip and had to pee and this was the only place that looked promising.  I asked J, "why the hell did I take a picture of a ghetto strip mall?"

And he says, "because it's the trendiest salon in the world.  It's so trendy, it's got no door."

It's like a secret society.  You've gotta know the password, and they let you in through the quickie-mart.  I bet you go through a check-cashing place on your way, too.

But seriously.  I give you Trend Setters Salon.  It's so trendy, you can't get in.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Technology Glee Meltdown

OMG you guys...I'm at the airport blogging...with my new wireless bluetooth keyboard on my phone.  I am seriously going to faint from the goodness of this.  I can actually type.  With keys.  It makes me tactile-happy.  That is all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What the hell CAN I Eat?

I'm going to start a new segment on my blog, called What the hell CAN I Eat? because there is seriously, like, nothing that is edible in the grocery store.

I've long been a proponent of shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store, even when I wasn't actively trying to lose weight and be healthy.  The stuff down the middle aisles, aside from some of the baking ingredients, and the occasional bit of rice or pasta, is largely chemical-filled junk.

But I'm paying even more attention now because we're getting ready to start trying to get me pregnant again, and as I get healthier, I realize how much further I have to go, and how much more feeling-awesome there is waiting for me.   I've started using agave in my tea instead of sugar.  I switched to the "natural" coffee creamer (milk, sugar, cream, and vanilla).  I eat a lot of veggies.  I'm doing the whole oil-pulling thing.

I am trying desperately to get off of diet coke right now.  I've read enough about aspartame to know that it's no good.  It can screw up your fertility, make you gain weight, probably causes cancer, and lots of other bad stuff.  I've been drinking it for nearly 20 years.  I did quit at one point, for Lent a few years ago, but I went back to it after we lost Baby T, and have been off the wagon since.

So I think it's probably ok to give up diet soda, and I won't have to worry about aspartame, right?  I go to Whole Foods, see they have stevia-sweetened soda, order a 24 pack on Amazon and sign up to have it delivered every month.  I think I'm doing good, right?  I'm gonna get rid of aspartame, and be super-healthy.

Now, I enjoy snacking on yogurt.  And I'll admit, I'm a sucker for those Yoplait ads that show the lady talking on the phone about how she's eating red velvet cake and still losing weight while her hubby goes foraging through the fridge and only sees yogurt.

Plus, they're usually the cheapest yogurts at the store.  10 for $6.  It's a deal.

They look innocuous enough.  Pretty innocent. It's just yogurt, right?

Till you look on the back, and not only does it have Yellow #6, which is a carcinogen (and has been banned in several European countries), but it also has aspartame.   What the hell CAN I eat???

Looks like after I finish this batch, I'll just be getting the all-natural stuff.  Which really sucks because I like the raspberry cheesecake flavor a lot.  But, you know, not enough to stay addicted to aspartame for.

Stay tuned for my next installment, where I find out that my fiber bars will also give me cancer!  Who knew the grocery store was such a frigging death trap.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the present

After having seen Joshua Bell last week, I was reminded why I was totally crushing on him in 2001.  But that's not what this is about.  That's just the prologue.  It just explains why I've been reading a lot of stuff on the interwebs about him.  And I came across something I have to share.

In 2007 the Washington Post did a study.  The study consisted of taking Joshua Bell, one of the world's greatest violinists, had him play some amazing (and amazingly difficult) classical music in a Washington DC Metro stop at rush hour.  They dressed him up in normal street clothes, put a baseball cap on him, threw a few dollars and change into his violin case, and waited to see who would notice.

This is what happened:

At first, the Washington Post was worried about crowd control.  In a city as sophisticated as DC, they thought, someone would surely notice him.  Flashbulbs would go off.  Things would escalate.  The National Guard would arrive.  There would be teargas.

Over 11000 people passed right by him in the 45 minutes he played. One person recognized him.  She wasn't a violinist, and she didn't know classical music that well, but she had been at a previous concert of his.

The Washington Post interviewed people afterwards about whether they noticed him, whether they stopped, and why.  The article is a fascinating study in psychology.  The Post wrote down names and numbers of people who were willing to talk with them about "their commute" for an article.  Later on, when reporters called the commuters, they asked whether anything interesting had happened that morning.  One man said that he had seen a superb violinist, but he hadn't recognized Joshua Bell, even though he was a fan.

The reporters told the commuters what had actually happened, and why they were actually being interviewed, and most of them were disappointed that they hadn't realized just who they were walking past.

One man remembers all the lottery numbers he played that day, but he can't remember that he was 4 feet away from a virtuoso.  One guy took no notice of him at all because he had earbuds in, listening to his ipod.  

"For many of us, the explosion in technology has perversely limited, not expanded, our exposure to new experiences. Increasingly, we get our news from sources that think as we already do. And with iPods, we hear what we already know; we program our own playlists.

The song that Calvin Myint was listening to was "Just Like Heaven," by the British rock band The Cure. It's a terrific song, actually. The meaning is a little opaque, and the Web is filled with earnest efforts to deconstruct it. Many are far-fetched, but some are right on point: It's about a tragic emotional disconnect. A man has found the woman of his dreams but can't express the depth of his feeling for her until she's gone. It's about failing to see the beauty of what's plainly in front of your eyes."

I'm fascinated by this experiment.  Not just because of all the normal lessons (ie, pay attention to what's going on around you because you never know what you're going to see) but all the subtle stuff.  The preparation that went into the experiment, and the things that were going on in the heads of the people who stopped (and didn't stop).

When I was younger, I used to annoy my dad by asking him why he bought what he did.  He got a new toothbrush, and I was fascinated by what it was that made him decide on the one he finally got.  I mean, if you look in the toothbrush aisle, there are, like, at least 50 you can choose from.  I wanted to know what it was about the one he chose that made it the one.  Was it the price?  The color?  The bristles?  What?!  He never would answer me.  He'd just say, "I liked it."  Yes, but *why*?

This article starts probing that part of people's brains to find out why they did or didn't stop and listen.  Why they did or didn't give money.  It's blowing my mind.

If I saw Joshua Bell play in a metro station, I'd totally faint.  I'm going to have to keep a lookout now that I know he's prone to such antics.  But I wonder what else I could miss because I'm so busy watching out for Joshua Bell.  I could miss something equally amazing.  Oh man, it's too late to be thinking about all this.  It's making my head spin.

The lesson, I guess, is that you pay attention to what's in front of you, because that's all there is, really, to pay attention to.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Renaissance English History Podcast

If you click on over to that EnglandCast tab, you will see that after a looooong hiatus, I finally did a new Renaissance English History Podcast.  This was spurred on by a listener who emailed me at work, and I checked the stats on the podcast, and dontcha know, each episode has had about 25k downloads.  Yep, that's right.  The same amount of people download my EnglandCast as lived in Washington DC in the mid-19th century.  Pretty sweet.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

the best facebook posting ever

Ten years ago, I saw Joshua Bell at the Wigmore Hall in London when my violin teacher Mark was playing the bassoon in a quintet with him.  I know, it's all very confusing.  Along the way, I got lost, and talked to a friendly-looking man, Oliver, asking him if he could tell me where the Wigmore Hall was.  Turns out, he was going there too, and we became instant friends, even more so when he stepped in a puddle and splashed my shoes.  Or maybe I splashed him.  I forget, but I remember someone had splashed someone else.  There was definitely splashing involved.

Oliver and I exchanged numbers, and met up several times within the next few weeks, and he became one of my bestest friends.   After the concert, I went to Wagamama's with Mark, and sat across the table from Joshua Bell, and watched him slurp noodles.  I've never seen someone look so good while they slurp udon.

So fast forward six years, and Oliver is in Santa Monica visiting his cousin, and I'm supposed to go see him, but something happens and I lame-flake-out on him.  I think I was tired, or something equally inexcusable.  Oliver and I stop facebooking, and stop chatting, and that's just it.  We both feel weird, and I feel ashamed, and as far as we're both concerned, that's it, friendship over.

Today I posted on facebook that I'm going to see Joshua Bell tonight at the Hollywood Bowl, and how it's crazy that it was 10 years ago that I first saw him when Mark was playing, and that's the night I met Oliver.  Not three minutes later, an IM comes up from Oliver, and he's apologizing, and I'm apologizing, and we're both apologizing, and before you know it, we've set up a time to skype this weekend.  We're each going to have a glass of wine, and pretend that we're in a wine bar in London (he's in Thailand now, and I'm in California), and we're going to have a good old-fashioned gossip.

I'm so excited.  Yay for fabulous facebook posts.  And Yay for Joshua Bell being the restorer of friendships.  I had to email him to tell him about the byproduct of his musical career.  I hope it makes him smile.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In Which I get New Agey

Ok, you guys, so it's been a big couple of days.  I got purple hair extensions, and librarian-chic glasses.  Combined with my nose piercing, I look punk-geek.  It's my new thing.  Now I just need the wardrobe to keep up with it.  It's hard to look punk-geek with clothes from Old Navy.   But I'm still wearing the same old stuff because I'm at another weight plateau.  It's ok, though.  I'm gonna bust through it, and do back-to-school clothes shopping, even though I'm not going back to school.  

punkgeek w/purple hair
However, I am still keeping up my Italian, in case you've been wondering.  I've even joined livemocha to find other Italian people to be friends with, so they can practice English, and I can practice Italian.  I tried posting on craigslist in Rome and Florence, but the only people who seemed to use it much were Americans looking for places to stay, so I wasn't counting on getting many responses.  We're planning a trip to the UK this fall, and I really want to go to Italy while I'm over there, just to order a cappuccino in Italian.  

AND I went to BlogHer in San Diego on Saturday.  It was a lesson in expectations.  I HAD been expecting to hang out with other punkgeek girly bloggers like me.  Instead, it was full of 3500 Mommy Bloggers.  Just what Heather needed.  A day with freaking Mommy Bloggers.  Yuck.  I had to leave the final keynote, with Ricki Fucking Lake waxing poetic about her new project, a documentary on natural childbirth.  And all the mommies looking enraptured.  Oh yes, do tell us more about a water birth, Ms Lake!  Please, do another talk show, and become the Oprah of water births!  

(I might feel differently about this whole thing once I actually manage to carry a child to term...but for now, puke)   

That being said, I did learn some stuff, and got some ideas and inspiration.  Stay tuned for the product of my inspiration, which I'll be talking about in the next few weeks, as I get it up and running.  Oooh.  Excitement.  I can tell everyone is waiting with baited breath!

(oh, and the funniest part was in the exhibits area.  There were a lot of household brands wanting to attract the mommy bloggers with free samples that they would review on their mommy blogs.  And lots of baby products, there for the same reason.  I did score two tubes of mascara from CVS, some high-heel foot insoles from Dr. Scholls, a bunch of toothpaste from Arm and Hammer, and a tempur-pedic lumbar pillow.  But the best, and I mean best, was a sex-toy company.  If you checked into their booth on 4square, they gave you a free vibrator - a $75 value.  The highlight was seeing this gay guy engaging in conversation with the sales reps about the available shapes, which weren't to his liking.  It was, beyond a doubt, the most surreal moment I've had in a long time.  Standing in a soulless convention center watching a guy dissect sex-toy design flaws while surrounded by thousands of women wearing their babies in little snuggly things on their shoulders discussing lactation.  It almost made my head explode.)

But the big thing for the week is Oil Pulling.  Yep, you read that right.  Oil Pulling.  It sounds more new-agey than it actually is.  My friend Sandor started doing it back in November, swears by it, and has me doing it now, too.  Essentially, you take some oil - not the kind you put in your car, but almost any other kind - and you swish it around in your mouth for 20 minutes a day.  This is supposed to cure diseases and make you feel awesome.  Some people say it's because there's a vein under your tongue that is a fast highway for all the toxins to get sucked up.  But I read this book, which essentially says that the reason it works isn't because of any weird thing having to do with veins or anything like that.  It's because swooshing oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes a day gets your mouth insanely clean, and since your mouth tends to be a massive breeding ground for bacteria, if you get it insanely clean, it frees up your immune system to work on other things in your body, like, say, arthritis.  

So I got some vegetable oil and stuck a tablespoon of it in my mouth, and went to work swooshing (it's called "pulling" because you're pulling the oil through your teeth, though the new-agey contingent calls it that because it's pulling the toxins from your body).  Then, after 20 minutes, I spat it out in the trash and rinsed my mouth out really well.  And I have to say, a week into it, something is happening.  The first thing I notice is how clean my mouth is.  My teeth are whiter, and yesterday I almost left the house without brushing them in the morning because my mouth felt so clean.  

I've only been doing it a week, and nothing miraculous has happened to me yet (well, I do notice that my skin seems to be getting better - the bags under my eyes aren't as dark, for example, and I haven't been sleeping any more) except I feel like I have a crazy clean mouth.  Sandor has done it since November, and didn't get sick all winter, even living in dirty London, so I don't know.  There might be something to it.  Ask me in a month - it seems like 30 days is about what it takes for people to really be fully detoxed.  Anyway, it's a funny way to spend the morning...     

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thinking outside the Church Paradigm

So I was going to blog about other stuff tonight (like my purple hair extensions, my weekend at BlogHer, or the fact that I managed to cook a recipe that actually looked like the picture in the magazine tonight) but then we watched Curiosity on the Discovery channel, and I had to write out some thoughts.

For an hour (minus commercials) Stephen Hawking, who is unarguably one of the greatest scientific minds in history, argued why God doesn't have to exist for our universe to have been created.  He was able to use quantum physics to explain how sometimes particles just appear for no reason and with no cause.  So that put an end to the idea that there had to be a cause to create the universe.  Then he explained how time stops in black holes, and since the universe was essentially a black hole at the time of the big bang, there was no time.  So since there was no time before the universe, there must not be a God to create the universe because there was no time for God to do the creating.

So.  Couple of things.

First, I get so annoyed with people thinking that God has to look a certain way.  He's God, people (I'm using the masculine just because it's quick and easy.  I don't think God has a gender).  God isn't really something that our human brains, no matter how awesome they are, can grasp.

It's like saying, "I have black cats who sometimes pee on the carpet.  Therefore, Mozart was a bad composer."  Your first response is, quite rightly, "huh?"  How does one prove the other?

There was no time before the Big Bang, therefore God doesn't exist?  How?  I don't get it?

Maybe the traditional paradigm of a benevolent God watching over us, guiding our every action, can be proven wrong; but nobody has believed in Thor for a while either, but it doesn't mean that there's no God.  Just because one society's interpretation of God evolves, and beliefs fall by the wayside when and if they are disproved - that doesn't mean that there's no God.

Here are two big things I believe in, that I don't believe are disproved by the fact that there was no time before the Big Bang:

1)  The Butterfly Effect.  When I do good in the world, somehow, that makes a difference beyond my sphere.  It might somehow cause someone else in Africa to do good, too.  Similarly, when I sit on my ass watching four episodes of The Daily Show at once, it has an effect beyond my small world.

2)  Energy can neither be created or destroyed.  You can't kill energy.  The energy in all of us will continue to exist, albeit probably in other forms, after we die.

These two thoughts, to me, show that we are all bound to each other in ways we don't understand, for eternity.  My actions influence you.  The energy that comprises you will go on forever.  And has been going on since the beginning of time.  We all started out from the same speck of matter at the time of the Big Bang, and we are inextricably linked now.  I am you, and you are me.

Maybe there's a whole different paradigm of God that needs to be discovered.  Since we all came from the same particles of mass and energy, maybe that spark that ignited the Big Bang lives on in each of us.  Maybe we are all, collectively, God.  Maybe it's our collective consciousness that shapes the world.  Maybe that's what Jesus meant when He said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21).

Ok, so the brilliant Dr. Hawking can prove that there was not a linear time (as we know it) before the Big Bang at which point God could have created the Universe.  And He probably isn't sitting up in the clouds watching us, checking to see if we're being good or bad, with a list, like Santa Clause.

But that has never been my view of God.  Well, ok, maybe for about two years when I was going through a teenage rebellion phase - not having been raised in a church, I rebelled by becoming a fundamentalist for about a year.

My understanding of God has always been more fluid, a relationship to the cosmos that is both more complicated and more simple than anything I learned about in my Methodist church.  Something deeply personal and immediate, within me right now, that also links me with every particle of dust in the universe.  My  understanding of God is about being part of something bigger than me; not for the salvation of my soul, but to be connected to humanity, to every living thing that has ever lived and ever will live.

Dr. Hawking wasn't able to disprove that belief.  In fact, if anything, he solidified it more than ever.  I wish he could have expanded his view of God outside the proverbial box, but I suppose it's what he grew up with, and people hang on to that stuff for a long time - even as he spent time trying to disprove it, he was demonstrating that there was something that needed to be disproved - a dark matter paradox, indeed.