Friday, November 30, 2007

Not With A Bang

I'm leaving NaBloPoMo with a whimper, and not much of one at that. I thought I'd ducked the respiratory crud that hit Alex and Bella earlier in the week, but apparently my immune system is just strong enough to hold out a little longer than they did before giving up the ghost, so that I can be really good and sick for the weekend. The weekend before we leave on our trip, and I have a million and ten things to take care of.

Fever, chills, earache, ugh.

Hello, Florida? I'm coming, and I'm bringing the plague. Want a hug?

It's been a fun November, y'all.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cheap--I Mean, Inexpensive--Gifts. That Are Awesome.

You're welcome. I browse a lot of Etsy shops, make a lot of bookmarks, and read a lot of Southern Living. And I don't believe in going broke to celebrate occasions that are about giving. Without further ado, here are some really great finds, all less than $50, and most less than $20. I know I would be tickled to receive any item on this list, and we all know what good taste I have, right? Oh, and as always, I don't have any financial affiliation with any of these sellers; this is just stuff I like.

Food:

-The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, $35. Won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year Award.
-Speaking of the Lee Bros., try their Fresh Boiled Peanuts, $25.50 for 5 lbs. Ask Styro.
-Betsy's Cheese Straws, $4-23.00 Oh, so good.
-Jackson Biscuit Company's Southern Style Beaten Biscuits, $2.50 per dozen. A real treat.
-Lava Bar, $1.99 per half-dozen. The closest you can get to mainlining chocolate.
-Straight outta N'awlins, Aunt Sally's Pralines, $11.49 These were my dad's idea of heaven on earth.
-A hometown favorite, Cavender's Greek Seasoning, $15 per 6-pack. Arkansans use this stuff on everything. When I met Alex, this was the main weapon in his cooking arsenal, and it's a good one.
-BaconSalt, $4.49. My favorite is the Peppered variety, and my favorite use so far is with baked potatoes and pasta.
-And finally, if you want to make a displaced Southerner weep with nostalgia and joy, then spend $4 and treat them to an RC Cola and a Moon Pie. I'm a little teary-eyed just typing that.

Jewelry:

-Browse Yelena's whole store, starting with this Butter Jade necklace, $39. She's running a great holiday sale right now.
-Sterling silver bass-clef-inspired earrings, $14, which I love because they're pierced, but have no clasp or backing. Simple.
-Gorgeous, sweet little orange sterling-silver/polymer earrings, $17.90. Darling.
-Dragonfly "Earwings," $29. I love bug jewelry, and bonus points for the clever name.
-Cobalt Corian ring, $20. Yep, that stuff your countertops are made of. Way cute.

Art:

-"Stations," fine art print by Andrea Pratt, $40. I LOVE THIS PAINTING. Heck, I own the original. Andrea has printed some of her other work recently, so shop around her store a little.
-Chunky Landscape Prints by Mandy Budan, $40. This artist has really found a style that works for her, and despite not being a big landscape fan, I can't help but like these extremely interesting paintings she does.
-Photography by Schmutzie, from $15. She's gifted, has soul, and besides, she's a striking writer. And also, a writer who is currently on strike. Photos with depth, texture, and emotion.
-Inspirational items from Jen Lemen, $7-15. A really great way to uplift a sister.
-Retro-flavored prints, from $10, in splashy, delicious colors, many featuring long and lanky black cats or snooty poodles. These would be great for any deco or Eames fans, and they're just fun and funky.

Housewares:

-When I tell you that Heber Springs, Arkansas-based Aromatique is the best home fragrance purveyor in all the world, you need to just believe me. And their Cinnamon Cider line from $9-20, is the favorite of just about everyone I know, especially at this time of year. Just DELICIOUS.
-Japanese Pickle Press, $24.99. You don't even care what it does. You just like saying "Why, it's a Japanese pickle press," authoritatively, when you give it.
-CUTEST EVER roundish cranberry coffee mug, with four precious little round "feet," $15. The "feet" not only make this mug unique and adorable, they also serve to protect surfaces from condensation, so you don't need a coaster. Man, this thing is cute.
-More suitable to cafe au lait, nice wide-mouthed The Perfect Mug, $10, is just begging to be cradled in both hands.
-"Color Sample" Tableware, $4-7. I want just about every piece of this.
-Bella wants to use chopsticks BADLY, but just doesn't have the manual dexterity yet, so I can't wait to give her these Clothespin Chopsticks, $3.99.
-Hand-thrown Galaxy Bowl, $18. Just gorgeous, and I can't believe the price.

Novelty/Miscellaneous:

-The Elf On The Shelf, $29.95. Just check it out.
-Give someone Herpes (or mono, a cold, even mad cow), $7.99
-Catnip Banana, $4. Hilarious cat/banana interaction potential.
-Handmade wooden Gumball/Candy Dispenser, $15. I'm thinking this looks like a good option for Bella's teacher, who keeps big bowls of Skittles and M&Ms on her desk.
-Funky, cute retro-flavored aprons from Boojiboo, $15-22. These make me want to throw a non-alcoholic cocktail party. What? I don't know.
-Tiny Superhero Robot, $10. Just what it sounds like. A tiny, superhero robot.
-Cherry Wood Baby Rattle, $18.95. Perfect fin the current Toxic Toy Aftermath.
-From Lucky Threadz Tees, Grammar Crackers, $14. These is good.
-I want every single one of my dogs to have one of these knitted Holly Dog Collars, $12. This design is brilliant, and incorporates the holly branch, leaves, and berries. SO cute.
-Alex really wants one of these Ninja Remotes from ThinkGeek, $8.99, which allow you to commandeer just about any TV set. No more "Oprah" in the doctor's waiting room!
-If you know someone who's into flickr, then they might have MOO cards. And if they have MOO cards, then they want one of these clip-on MOOPockets, $15. Splatgirl has a stunning variety of fabrics.
-And while you're in Splatgirl's shop, you need to shop for your dog some more, and get him/her/them some of these fabulous, funky, colorful collars, $15. She also makes custom leashes to match.
-Dog Breed Puzzimals, $10, speaking of dogs.
-Finally, to Alex's utter delight, you, too, can give a loved one that gift, in a box, immortalized by Justin Timberlake. You know what I'm talking about. $25 buys you much hilarity, as well as increased cancer awareness and a donation to a cancer charity.

Oh, and stock up on Secret Agent Josephine's Gift Tags to keep your gifts sorted out, $2 per dozen, and super-cute.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Block Heads

I'm going through and bookmarking sites and making lists of things I love for Christmas this year, and the kids' selections are pretty slim so far. But I do have one resource that I really want to share, and that is wooden toy maker John Michael Linck. Well, Mr. Linck is not wooden; he makes wooden toys. You know perfectly well what I meant. Anyway, his stuff is amazing, and intended to last not just for years, but for generations.


Bella received, in 2003, when she was barely a year old, as a gift from her grandparents, Mr. Linck's fabulous Block Wagon. This is not a cheap item, by any means. But then again, it's...well, it's not a cheap item. It's meant to be an heirloom. It is the most-played-with toy she has ever owned, and she has never stopped playing with it from the time she first got it to the present day--right now it's in a prominent spot in the living room, and she builds from it several times a week.

Bella learned to pull up and walk with the aid of that block wagon. And then she built her first structures, which were, admittedly, simple in the beginning.

tower

She used the blocks for abstract art, as seen here, in "Family Portrait, In Blocks."

Currently, one of her favorite things to do is to build a fanciful structure of the blocks, and then set up her easel and pastels and create a still-life based on what she's built from the blocks. She even photographs it--often.

block wagon, by Bella / This is Today 28

I'm telling you, this thing is incredible, and I love that one day she'll be able to pass it down to her own child. The construction is flawless, and each block is satiny smooth and perfect.

Mr. Linck makes an assortment of toys, including a smaller pull-behind wagon full of building blocks, and an impressive set of wooden train cars meant to last a lifetime and beyond. Many items are affordibly priced, and there's even a "train car of the month" club, which I have to admit seems kinda cool. And there are TWENTY cars to choose from!


This is my contribution, totally unsolicited and uncompensated in any way, this year, to the No More Plastic Crap From China movement, as well as the effort to buy handmade, as far as major toy items go. You certainly couldn't do much better.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's Not A Fairy Tale, Exactly...

I'm browsing flickr, as usual just before bed, and Alex, looking over my shoulder, says, "Hey, let me look at that one."

Myself, having my own agenda here, I say, "OK," but then I continue with what I was doing, ignoring his request (I fully intended to go back to it, but not until I finished what I was doing).

At which point, my loving husband looks at me (fortunately for him, with affection in his eyes) and says, "You know, you suck sometimes."

And I laughed and laughed until I thought I would rupture something. When I could breathe again, wiping tears from my eyes, I just said, "I know honey. You suck sometimes, too."

I love him.

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's Not The List I'd Have Chosen

Fortunately for me, Bella, having the holiday-season attention span of most other just-turned-five-year-olds, will forget most of the things on this list...unfortunately for me, the stupid Dora's Talking Kitchen will NOT be one of those things. Some diplomacy and sleight-of-hand is going to be required if I'm going to get her wanting something else soon.

I asked Bella to make me a list of things she might like to have for Christmas, for Mommy and Daddy to choose from. (I do love that when she makes a list, she's pretty much expecting to get one thing, or maybe two, from that list, and not the whole list, which I'm betting will come later.) So she went and scrounged up a giant piece of cardboard, and here is the list she made, WRIT LARGE upon it:
Christmas list, writ large on cardboard

And I quote, with original writing/spelling idiosyncracies:

*A PRINCESS KICHEN (see last item on list for more about this)
*A PRINCESS STORE (I am so opposed to the idea of "princess shopping" on so many levels that this will never happen ever)
*ELEPHUN THe eLEPHANT (This game is well-known to be a piece of crap, unfortunately.)
*GLOVES FOR MRS. CLAUS (Since the gift of a Christmas outfit for her American Girl doll, the doll has been named "Mrs. Claus," just until Christmas.)

And here is where she breaks out the BIG FONT, which makes me wonder if she's destined for a life of graphic design--seriously--could you make letters like that, in ink, when you were five?:

*PRINCESS DOLLS THAT CAN TALK (is there even such a thing?)
*BARBie GIRLS (NOT gonna happen. I'm so ticked off at Mattel for the stupid Barbie jumping horse fiasco on Bella's birthday that Barbie and I are totally not on speaking terms.)
*JAM'N (Backward 'J', backward apostrophe, but again, stylish font!) JeeP (This item might actually be part of the above, as in "Barbie Girls' Jam'n Jeep." I just don't know. But it won't be Jam'n here.)
*(again featuring all backwards apostrophes, but hey--she already uses them correctly more often than half the signmakers around town) DORA'S LET'S GeT ReADY VANITY! YAY (The "YAY" and exclamation mark are because she REALLY wants it--ugh.)
*SPARKLE AND TWIRL DORA (Don't even know what this is, but I know I don't like it.)
*LITTLE TIKES 2-iN-1 WORKSHOP (a little young, but we can adapt something)
*FISHING TIKE (Explanation: "When I wrote it, I couldn't remember that it was called a 'fishing rod.' So I just wrote 'TIKE' instead. Because that's who makes it." Yup, she's already brand-savvy...and has also apparently forgotten that she already has a pretty awesome REAL rod & reel.)
*NORMAL DOLLS (Your guess is as good as mine.)
And finally, an amendment, down there at the bottom in pink ink, because priorities changed during the making of this list, it seems:
*DORA'S TALKING KITCHEN, NOT A PRINCESS KITCHEN (This is the only item that comes up over and over, and I'm just so not thrilled about the prospect of another hunk of plastic sitting around the house.)

Obviously, this list is not the list I'd have created, but hey, it's not MY five-year-old Christmas, is it? All the same, I think I can take this list and come up with some decent workarounds and adaptations that will make her happy. I have some definite ideas, and will update after the fact, if I'm successful. If not, I'll be buried under a pile of pink plastic junk. Other things have been mentioned, like Webkinz stuff and American Girl accessories, and she has a pretty amazing gift coming from Grandmommy that may or may not get here in time for Christmas, and Grandmama (other one) is taking her to DISNEY WORLD in December, so this particular list isn't stressing me out too badly. I think I can make it work.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Prayerful

We are, right now. And humble. We're asking God's protection over Alex's mother as she has heart surgery Monday morning, and it's pretty much all we can think about right now, so I don't have much else to say.

Except that I don't just love this woman because she's the mother of my husband, and I "have" to. I love her because she's a great lady and a wonderful friend to everyone she knows.

Please watch over her during the surgery and throughout recovery.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Really Baaaaaaad Movie


Does this image creep you out a little? If not, then you haven't had the (mis)fortune of seeing the most hilariously goshawful movie of 2007: "Black Sheep." Tagline: "The Violence of the Lambs." I blame Alex. And Jer, who suggested it TO Alex. I spent most of the film reading a magazine or browsing the internet to keep from giving it my full attention, and occasionally having to ask questions like, "Did that sheep just bite off that guy's--oh, it DID." So, you know, if the idea of bloodthirsty sheep, weresheep, and zombie sheep appeals to you, then rent this one. Or just watch the trailer, because that really has everything you need to see right there. And trust me, you NEED to see this trailer. Maybe not the whole movie, but definitely the trailer.

I am treating old Ramsey with just a bit more respect these days.


What about you? Do you have a movie that's just so absolutely terrible that you feel compelled to coerce other people to watch it?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Darren McFadden For The Heisman!

What? Did anything else happen in the world today BESIDES the Arkansas/LSU football game? Because that's all that has entered into our consciousness, pretty much. The game, itself, took forever, and was played down to the very wire in THREE overtimes, ending with an intercepted pass in the endzone, and signifying a 50-48 victory for unranked Arkansas over TOP-ranked Louisiana State.

And unlike last year, our boys have come home with The Boot, and a nearly assured slot in the Cotton Bowl. Alex is beside himself. Darren McFadden is hopefully, after being runner-up last year AS A SOPHOMORE, back in the running for the Heisman Trophy. Alex may have more to add to this post later, but for now, I'll leave you with the email that arrived in my in-box approximately 3 minutes after the end of the game, from Football Fanatics of Jacksonville, FL:

Number One Is Done

Thursday, November 22, 2007

You Were Looking For Sentimentality?

Wrong address. At least today. We just got home from Turkey Day with the fam, and I've got 30 minutes before NABLOPOMO is "BLOwn." Fortunately, I am married to a walking cornucopia of blog-fodder. You might say he's The Godfather of Blogfodder. But then someone would smack you, so don't.

In the last month, it seems like I can't open a magazine without seeing one of my blog-buddies...one of the ones I've met in PERSON, even! First, Carmen is featured in Real Simple. Then, Kyran gets an article published in Good Housekeeping. And then the other night, I see a full-page, glossy magazine ad for the Nintendo Wii, featuring Tracey and her family (that one has appeared in at least two major magazines, 'O' and 'Real Simple'). Holy cow! The whole world is getting published, in one form or another!

I show the article to Alex, and, laughing, say (I wince to quote myself), in full Arkie twang, "I ain't in no magazine. How come I'm not in a magazine?"

To which my husband replies, without a lost moment, "I can't imagine, Honey. You practically OOZE sophistication and class."

And no, I don't have any material that seeks publishing, or any photographs worthy of same. I just want to be, I dunno, in an ad for BaconSalt or something. But, as you may have already gathered, unlike my delightful friends, I ain't in no magazine. Their loss, obviously, as my presence would surely move many copies of Hillbilly Living. Go ahead and laugh...we'll be busy producing your presidential candidates. That and soybeans.

When I walked into this room at 11:29 PM, and tried to tell Alex that he was going to be contributing to this post, I didn't even get that far. I said, "You know, it's a good thing I'm married to you."

Without even looking up, he said, "You got that right."

If you want Thanksgiving material, try a previous year. Better yet, go read read this piece that Kyran wrote last year, which was published in the Globe And Mail. See? Published! Again! Does NO ONE want to hear about my fascinating joint pain, or see me make biscuits? Shoot.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pregnant With Possibility

Bread's rising. Nothing I do in the kitchen is more rewarding and rife with promise than breadmaking. Why don't I do it more often? The actual labor involved is moderate, and most of the process is...waiting. Heck, I'm building character while I make sweet potato dinner rolls!

Will it rise well? Will it taste good? Will it reflect what I've put into it? I love that I can kind of monitor the progress step by step, from proofing the yeast to how much give the dough has during kneading to how much and how quickly it rises, both the first and second time.

Right now, I'm waiting for the little orangey rolls I've shaped to magically fluff up and fulfill their potential. There's no reason they shouldn't, because they've been given everything they need to thrive. I followed the recipe to the letter, and handled every step with care, and have been watchful of the entire process. No detail has escaped my attention.

But still, I wait...and I'm a little nervous. But it's a familiar anticipation. I've been here before.

UPDATE: They are perfect, my little bread-babies. Here's hoping that this really IS a metaphor for my life.

sweet potato rolls

crumb

sweet little orange breads

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Grinch Who Stole "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving"

That would be me, even though I have a child in the house. I just can't take it. I had all the Peanuts comic collections when I was a kid, and enjoyed them, and Snoopy was my sister's HERO, but those specials...ugh. I can remember being a little girl, and watching those holiday shows, and wondering, "Why are all the girls so mean and terrible?" Because they ARE. Every last one. Shallow, disloyal, deceitful, and just downright MEAN. (Don't even mention The Little Red-Haired Girl, because she's not a real character.) But the boys? Oh, the boys are, without exception, GOOD. Honest, sincere, thoughtful, deep, and true, those boys. And really, if you could remove the girls from their lives, they have no problems. Especially in the Thanksgiving special. Urrrgghh.

Oh, and while we're on the topic, what is the deal with this seating arrangement? NOBODY can sit on the same side of the table as Franklin?

Seriously, what is up with this seating arrangement?

Eh, who needs it? Between this and Rudolph's jerk of a dad, it's shaping up to be a very Grinchy holiday TV season around here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

There Must Be More Hay

Hey, it's fall! / This is Today 96
With apologies to The Rocking Horse Winner. Because, especially since Kerri lost Sig, I am more and more wanting to keep this fellow. I mean, I wanted to before, but now I REALLY want to. He's an easy keeper, with a laid-back attitude. He's exactly 10 years younger than his big brother, Misha. I bred and raised him, and he's likely the last living link I'll have to his sire, who I loved with all my heart. All it would take to get him broke to ride is a round-pen and time. Surely I can manage that, no?

Heck, he even plays with poodles.
what do these poodles have?

20 pound poodle vs 900 pound horse, poodle wins

You'd want to hang onto him, too, right? LOOK AT THAT FACE.
whassup?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday Almost Got Away From Me

Between having my bowels in an uproar (again--could it be the increase in hormone dosage, since it seems to coincide with "patch days?") and fighting with Alex over possession of the laptop, I almost missed Sunday posting. Not that THIS is worth the time it takes to read it, but I just couldn't "BLO" November now that I'm more than halfway through. HA! There you go! A joke! Or something.

The really sad thing is what we were fighting to use the computer for. We're playing Games with Bella's Webkinz. After she goes to bed.

Bask in your intellectual superiority.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rough Day

Alex returned home from the woods empty-handed again this weekend, prompting Bella to ask him, "Where's your deer, Daddy?"

"I didn't get one."

"Well, then, did you at least get a bear?"

****************************************

Responding to what seems like an alarming amount of splashing coming from the bathroom, I ask Bella, "What is going on in here?"

"It's a party in the tub. (that last word pronounced like maybe Goober Pyle would pronounce it) You're not invited."

****************************************

Bella's day today went pretty much like this:

*Wake up, eat breakfast in bed while watching cartoons.
*Play games.
*Draw pictures.
*Read.
*Get dressed just the way you like, and go out to lunch with Mommy. Have DESSERT--more specifically, a Double-Fudge Dream from your favorite restaurant, the Dixie Cafe, after a weird (but what you wanted) lunch of chicken and dumplings, coleslaw, applesauce, and milk.
*Come back home, feed horses, take a nap.
*Wake up, get carried downstairs by Daddy, go with Daddy to video store to pick out TWO movies, the choice being at your COMPLETE DISCRETION. Naturally, pick two Disney films you've already seen forty-leven times apiece.
*On the way home, get your favorite Chinese takeout, courtesy of Daddy.

*When you get back home, walk in the door and exclaim, "WHEW! I have had a ROUGH day!"

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Ad Watch Today

Is it just me, or is there an air of desperation in this Sister Schubert ad? More specifically, in Sister Schubert's facial expression?
"Buy my rolls.  Please.  They have my CHILDREN."

"Buy my rolls. Please. They have my children."

Also, today, during a commercial for Mirapex, which is being marketed to treat Restless Leg Syndrome, mixed into the listing of the possible side effects, I heard, "Notify your doctor if you experience an increase in gambling, sexual, or other intense urges." Um... OKAY THEN.

"Honey, where've you been, and why is our checking account empty?"

"Let's just say my restless legs got REALLY restless."


Crap like this would seem SO much funnier accompanied by a DaveToon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Image, It Is Ruined (Part Two)

I figured I'd better finish the story of the last Saturday before the next one happens. Because there was more, after the Topless Yellow-Dog Terrorizing Incident. I did come back inside and gather up what was left of the shreds of my dignity--they made a tidy little palmful. Put a call in to Mandy and chatted with her for a while about the ins and outs of being slightly nuts, and then Kyran (!!) called, and we made plans to meet up at a local park with our kids. IN PERSON.

Hello? Meeting! Brilliant, beautiful genius blogger who just may be the most skilled and gifted writer I've ever run across on the entire Intarwebs! In public! In minutes! Ack, look at me! OK, so I'm a lost cause--best I can do is make sure I'm clean, really. But I'll have my daughter with me, and let's face it, she's become my "front" in social situations. She has better clothes and she's way cuter than me, and provides an alternate focal point for people we might meet. She's great to have around--besides just being fun, she gives me something to do with my hands, metaphorically speaking. Did I just compare my child to a cigarette or a cocktail? I think I might have. Which is odd, since I don't smoke or drink. Hey, maybe that's why I stay home so much. ANYWAY. I can be less than amazing, because I have this amazing kid. Which is the point of having kids, isn't it? That they can be awesome so you don't have to? What?

After a lengthy...well, let's call it a discussion with Bella over what she was going to wear to the park, I finally had her appropriately dressed and in the car, and we were off. And then we were there. And so was Kyran. And, oh my great gallumphing goodness, is she ever the bee's KNEES, that Kyran! I highly recommend meeting her and basking in the warmth of her aura. That's right, you can feel her aura, and it's warm. Jealous? If not, then let me tell you about her sons.

Three of them, she has...all thoughtful, quiet, bright, and gentle...and yet, still "all BOY." Her two oldest were occupied, when I arrived: one in burying himself up to the neck in the recycled rubber composite that made up the footing in the playground, and the other in using a small shovel to pack his jacket full of the stuff, including the sleeves. Both were barefoot (yep, move to Arkansas, and the kick-off-the-shoes-at-every-opportunity impulse kicks in as you cross the state line) and happy. Kyran was smiling softly at their activity, and as she picked up a few pieces of the finely-shredded tire-rubber and let them filter through her fingers and fall to the ground, she quietly said, "I'll be cleaning this stuff out of my washer and dryer for days." And I fell in love with her on the spot.

(As soon as we got out of the car, Bella had put her hands on her hips, looked around, and loudly asked, "Now--where are The Three Boys of Kyran?" I couldn't help thinking of them that way for the rest of the day. The Three Boys of Kyran.)

We made introductions all around, my just-turned-five-years-old daughter announcing at the outset, "I'm Isabella and I am VERY close to being six," and then she set in immediately attempting to dictate the activities of The Three Boys of Kyran. It didn't go well for her. The two bigger boys just kept doing their own thing, so Bella set her sights on the cherubic, flaxen-haired little one. All the boys were polite to a fault, but they weren't, even the smallest of them, going to be pushed around by some bossy, loud little girl. When faced with the delightful, calm, obedient behavior of Kyran's children, I was pretty much holding my breath while watching my own child. Oy.

It is once again reinforced to me, that, compared to other children, my child is...LOUD. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, as her father is the loudest person I ever met, at least until I met Bella. Her weekly progress reports from school are all glowing, with the exception of one problem area: Talking too much, talking without permission, talking too loudly, and talking when she's been asked to STOP talking. Whereas Kyran's littlest boy would often call out, "Mommy, watch me!", his cries sometimes being drowned out by the fruit of my belly doing her best hog-calling holler of a similar command, or something worse. Like when, after going down the old, much-grafittied slide in the old park, she called out across the playground to me, using that crystal-clear clarion voice of hers at full volume, "MOMMY! IT SAYS '*&#%-FACE' ON THE INSIDE OF THIS SLIDE!" (And yes, you are considering two options for that missing four-letter word, and all I'm going to tell you is that, sadly, it wasn't the milder of the two, and it made an alliterative coupling when paired with "face.") Kyran, much to her credit, after we met wide-eyed "holy crap" stares, did an abrupt about-face so that Bella would not see the laughter in her eyes, or the slight shaking of her shoulders. I pulled my best straight face and told my daughter that I knew she'd never seen that word before, but that it wasn't one that nice children say. "But Mommy, that's what it SAYS!!" *siiiigh*

Remember how thrilled I was when she learned to read? Somehow, in my mind, her reading was compartmentalized, confined to age-appropriate, preferably educational literature designed for children. It somehow didn't include Sharpie-scrawled obsceneties on playground equipment or billboards for "gentlemen's clubs," or the signs on the front of Cupid's Lingerie.

Bella also did some loud complaining about the non-compliance of Kyran's little fair-haired angel when it came to following her drill-sergeant-like orders. To be fair, he was a pretty good sport most of the time, but when it comes to Bella-directed play, I can attest personally that to keep up with her demands can be exhausting.

In a seamless segue, let me remind you how many dogs we currently have in our house. Six. We have six dogs. Ranging in size from ten to fifty pounds, and rambunctious as all get-out. And Bella rules them with an iron fist. She can control every last one of them like a mesmerist. She is good with dogs, and they respect her. But on Saturday, at the park? There were some people who brought an APBT puppy (Which, really--don't do that. Puppies and dogs do not belong in children's playgrounds for a number of reasons, from safety to hygeine, meaning that I don't want my kids playing where dogs are peeing...or worse.), which was very cute, very wiggly, and about the size of a healthy grey squirrel. The puppy was released to run free around the playground immediately upon arrival, with the main method of control seeming to be her owners waiting until she started happily jumping up on someone, and then exhorting that person to "SMACK HER!" We didn't do any puppy-smacking, but I was really wishing they'd just keep hold of the leash the poor little mite was dragging around.

Now, I have to tell you, there are certain things that Miss Isabella does not abide. MANY things. I could write for days about the things that my daughter does not abide, and only scratch the surface. But high on that list is unruly dog behavior. She does. not. stand for it. She can halt any one of our dogs in its tracks with a well-timed "NO!" as it's running headlong at her to jump up and lick and paw her. Because dogs are NOT allowed to jump up on Bella. They jump on me occasionally, and sometimes Delta gets to put paws on Alex. But NO ONE lays a paw on Bella. Because dog paws, they sometimes contain dirt. Or traces of dirt. Or the memories of the dirt of days gone by. In any case, Isabella ain't havin' no dog paws on her person. OR ELSE.

I was watching for it from the minute the tiny puppy arrived on the playground and was turned loose, because I knew that Bella had to be a powerful puppy-attractant, what with being loud, fast-moving, close to the ground, and especially considering that she must have the scent of a world of poodles about her that is powerfully enticing. So when The Incident occurred, I was prepared, but still helpless. Because Bella couldn't hear my helpful instructions on how to deal with the tiny, happy, charging puppy over her own shrieks of rage. Plus she was running backward at top speed. She ran right out of her little Birkenstock knock-offs, and kept going until she got clipped behind the knees by the foot-high barrier that forms the perimeter of the playground, and fell unceremoniously on her backside. And we thought she was screaming BEFORE that.

So there I stood, telling everyone who was looking in horror at this poor little apparently terrified girl recoiling from this tiny, tiny puppy, while I tried to explain, "She's not afraid of her. Really, she's not afraid of dogs. She's grown up with dogs! We have six dogs at home! She just doesn't want them to jump on her and get her dirty...She's not scared of her!" Kyran probably thought I was NUTS, and the dogs' owners continued to suggest that we "SMACK HER." The puppy, that is. And we didn't, and I tried to get across the point that taking an eight-week-old puppy to a public place, letting it run wild, and then urging strangers to hit it, was probably not the best method of puppy-socializing at their disposal, but it felt a little like my message wasn't getting through. Poor baby puppy.

Thankfully, by then, it was about time to go. Kyran and I promised to get together again soon in a more controlled environment, possibly sans children (because every time we'd get into a good conversation, we'd have to stop and locate someone or heed cries of "Mommy, watch this!", as if, in Kyran's words, the kids somehow thought that a trip to the playground was about THEM), and we gathered up our respective broods, my one being somehow more trouble to round up than her THREE.

On the way out, Webkinz were mentioned. Kyran's kids were getting new ones, and Bella had never had one, and Kyran introduced me to the powerful, powerful, incentive/bribe/punitive powers of "Webkinz minutes" on the computer. WHY DIDN'T ALL YOU WEBKINZ-SAVVY PEOPLE TELL ME ABOUT THIS A LONG TIME AGO? We stopped and got Bella her first Webkinz (a pink pony named "Alice"), and OH, the power I now wield, with the potential taking and giving of the Webkinz minutes! Thank you, Kyran.

The rest of you? Get yourselves a Kyran or closest possible equivalent at your earliest convenience. It'll change your lives. Two thumbs up from THIS blogger!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Godspeed, Old Friend

I'm just posting this very quickly, in case I don't feel up to writing the post I had planned for tonight. If I do, I'll replace this post with the intended one, and in either case, I'll re-work this one to do the subject matter justice.

I spent most of the day helping a best friend help her best horse leave this life, after 27 good years. To say I'm drained would be an understatement, and it's nothing to what she's feeling (actually, I'm hoping she's asleep by now, and getting a respite from the grieving). By "helping," I mean that I mainly stood close by, cried with her, hugged old Sig with her, hugged her and Sig together, agreed that she was making the right choice, agreed that having to make that choice SUCKED, and steadied her on her feet when things got overwhelming...and then let her get just a little bit drunker, because dang it, when you lose a friend of that many years, what's a glass of wine or two?

Thank God for compassionate vets, who don't want to do this particular job any more than we want to tell them to do it, and who make it as easy as possible on us, and thank God also for understanding backhoe-operators who agree to wait until you can get the grief-sick "horse-mom" into the house before starting the mechanics of the burial. Thank God for Xanax, and in the absence of that, the odd bottle of wine. Thank God for friends, who feel your pain, and carefully tie up and wash and dry that lock of your horse's mane you saved as a keepsake. And most of all, thank God for the opportunity to BE a friend to someone who has never, ever, EVER failed to be a friend to you.

As for Sig, I can only again quote Anna Sewell, and the epitaph for Rob Roy in "Black Beauty:"

"He was a good and noble horse; there was no vice in him."

We have referred to Siggy as "Angel Horse" for as long as I've known him--he was just that good a boy--and now he's simply fulfilled that name. I can't help but think that some of Sig's beautiful spirit will live on in Clipper, the "new kid" on the farm. May he and Kerri forge as strong a friendship as possible, and honor the memory of wonderful Siggy in the process. Rest well and romp hard on the other side of the bridge, my friend.

And for my human friend: You did the right thing. He was so tired, in so much pain, and so ready to go, to rest. I know that he's thanking you for helping him. I love you.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Either Way, She's Playing God, And Mommy Is Not Flattered

Bella: "OK, we're going to play. I will be God, and Mommy, you can be Jonah."

Me: "JONAH? Why do I have to be Jonah? I don't want to be swallowed up by some leviathan creature."

Bella: (sighs) "Oh, all right. I will be God, Daddy, YOU will be Jonah, and Mommy--"

Me: (interrupting) "So help me, if you make me the whale, you are going to bed RIGHT NOW."

Bella: (exasperated) "Fine. You can be...some guy from Nineveh."


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Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Thousand

"Mommy, I love you...a THOUSAND."

"A thousand?"

"Yeah--that's the biggest number in the world that I ever heard of! How much do you love me?"

"A thousand and one."

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

My Image, It Is Ruined (Part One)

One way or another. So, did I mention that Alex's "setup" trip to the woods today turned out to be a hunting trip instead? Yeah. Thrilled. He did send regular texts, and this amazing photograph of the view from the deer-stand, which I'm debating submitting to National Geographic.
predator

So, after about seven "doing fine" text messages, I went--oh, no, wait. Let me tell the dog story first. Because it happened first, and otherwise I'll get all confused.

I had showered and was in the middle of getting dressed (which means that I got distracted by something shiny like Twitter), when I heard the dogs losing their ever-loving minds. You might think that six dogs (shut up--until very recently, there were EIGHT) barking always sounds pretty much the same, but you'd be mistaken. I know their every sound, from "I need to pee," to "I'm hungry" (and even a variation for "I'm thirsty," seriously), to "That cat, I HATE HER," to "There's a squirrel!" to "One of those horses is rolling on the ground--this is my chance to eviscerate it, if only I could open the DOOR!" Delta is especially expressive, and it was her voice that led the mood of the pack, and it was plainly saying, "There is some HIGHLY UNAUTHORIZED presence on MY property and if you don't COME HERE NOW I am going to go 100% COMPLETELY BUG-NUTS." So I went. And looked out the windows. The huge, floor-to-ceiling windows.

And saw nothing. And so I asked Delta, "What?" She looked at me like I was The Single Daftest Human On The Planet, whined crazily, and, I swear to mergatroid, POINTED. When I followed her gaze that time, I saw him. Hated Yellow Dog.

I used to say to myself that I didn't hate this actual dog, but that I resented his owners for letting him roam free. For not caring whether he got hit by a car, poisoned by spilled anti-freeze, or attacked by another dog. For not respecting the rights of their neighbors to NOT host this stupid (not a judgment, he's dumb as a post) yellow mutt (again, not judging--he's a mixed breed of unknown origins). After all, I'd say, in my most reasonable voice-inside-my-head, it's not the dog's fault that his owners are at best ignorant and careless, and at worst, downright rude, self-centered, and abusive. (Lots of people think that once you move out to the country, all bets are off. Wrong. There is STILL a leash-law, even out here.)

But I slowly came to realize that I DO hate this particular dog. Personally. I don't wish any harm on him--in fact, I wish he could be adopted by people who care enough about him to know where he is, and to keep him safe. I want that for every dog. But every time Hated Yellow Dog comes onto MY property and follows me, barking, as I get my mail or open and close my gate, I like him less. When I have to get up extra early on Friday mornings to gather up all the trash, and Alex has to leave for work earlier to get it put out in time for the truck, because if we put it out the night before, Hated Yellow Dog would tear it to shreds, I hate on him more. When I have to go out and look around for HYD before I let my own dogs out into their own yard to do their business, I hate him more. When I find yet another hole dug under the perimeter fence, from the woods-side INTO our property, I loathe him. The list goes on. I want to go to his owner's house, and say, "Hey, did you know I have dogs, too? You didn't? You know why that is? Because I KEEP THEM HOME." But I don't, because I'm not sure who his owner is. Plus I'm chicken, and way more PASSIVE-aggressive than outright aggressive.

So today, when, at Delta's insistence, I looked out the window and saw HYD not only on my property, but just FEET from my front door, I snapped. That's just entirely too bold. Please understand that to be where he was required a trespass of a good 400 feet. And that our entire property, all 5 acres (but for a couple hundred feet of driveway) of it, is fenced, in 6-foot-high chain-link. Apply all appropriate cliches here. "I saw red" is a good one. I just looked at Delta, and asked, "You want him?" She said, "YESYESOHPLEASEJUSTWORKTHEDOORKNOBFORMEPLEASEYESYESPLEASE!" And so I opened the door, and unleashed the Curly Hound of Hades upon HYD. I might have even quietly said, "Get him."

It should be understood that after two years, I know HYD. I know him to be a barking, stupid coward that runs if you look at him. And I know Delta, and the fact that she can run like lightning and has a recall like turning on a dime, no matter what she might be doing. She also only chases what runs, for she has a high prey-drive, not an overdeveloped sense of courage. Still, I'm not recommending siccing your dog on anyone/anything like some common Arkansas hillbilly (ahem). In fact, I'm telling you NOT to do that. Do as I say, etc. But there it is. And the joy I experienced for those 2-3 seconds while Delta had HYD tearing as fast as his poorly-conformed legs could carry him up our driveway...well, it was a little sick. Like I said, DON'T do this. Letting my dog out when I knew that a strange dog (although he's not really a "stranger," since his visits are so frequent) was present was stupid and irresponsible. You don't have to tell me that. I know. Did I mention we'd increased my hormone dosage? It hasn't kicked in just yet.

When HYD had made it all the way to the gate at the top, and Delta was closing in to within a few feet of him, I called her back. Someday, I must capture on video the patented Delta Flying Recall, in which she executes a 180-degree turn entirely in the air, and comes flying back to us, seemingly never losing a second of momentum. She was back at my side almost before I finished barking out (heh, barking) "Delta, HERE!", and I ushered her back into the house. And then I saw it, and lost what was left of my mind.

As soon as Delta wasn't chasing him any more, HYD simply turned around, and started trotting BACK DOWN MY DRIVEWAY. Well, at this point, I'd had it. I went outside, and uttered the most gutteral, larynx-ripping scream of "GETOUTTAHERE!" that you ever heard in your life. And HYD, as is usual, ran like a scalded cat again. And then, through the trees on the other side of our fence, away up at the top of the hill in the woods, I saw some of the neighbor kids playing. And on the off-chance that one of those kids belonged to this dog, I figured I'd just go ahead and make a point. So I yelled some more. Very clear concepts, such as "GO HOME!" and "GET OUT, DOG!", as loudly as possible. I remember thinking that, in my crazed state, and with my heavy accent, I probably sounded like something out of "Cops: Little Rock."

Which is when I realized that, if I could see those kids way up there, then they could probably see me, especially since I was standing down here screaming my fool head off. Following close on the heels of this bit of genius self-awareness was the realization that, in addition to standing in front of my house hollering like Granny Clampett, I was also, just at that moment, wearing jeans, a pair of clogs, and...a bra. Yes, hello! I am the crazy lady who stands on my porch, topless, screaming at dogs and children! Won't you stop by for tea sometime?

And that was just the beginning of the ruination of my image today. I'll have to save the rest for tomorrow, for now I am worn out. As Jer (the most entertaining IM-er on the face of the planet) said, you can probably start looking for my performance on YouTube within a few hours, using the tags "crazy, topless, hillbilly, woman, screams, at dog, fat, OMG, the humanity."

But honestly, America? KEEP YOUR DOGS AT YOUR OWN HOME. Seriously. Because the rest of us? We do not love them. And if you ever see one of mine running around the neighborhood, please send help to my home, because it probably means that I'm lying in my doorway, unconscious, and they're looking for help, or perhaps a snack. And when you find me there, in that state? Throw a robe over me, please.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Marital Stalemate--Compromise Update

Here's what's going on, in a nutshell (a big, misshapen nutshell). Alex and my brother-in-law, Chip, planned a hunting trip for next weekend. Deer season opens in Arkansas this weekend. Let's don't get into a big thing about whether or not it's right to kill Bambi, because I'm conflicted enough. Deer populations can get out of control quickly, I understand, and I know that the Game & Fish Commission does a very good job in setting limits to counterbalance what's going on with individual species' and interspecies ecosystems...but the fact is, those deer, they still look like large, big-eyed, velvetey dogs to me. I would starve to death as a survivalist, yes. And yes, I am a big fat hypocrite because I eat all kinds of animals. And I even pick up deer bones from the butcher for the dogs every fall...

ANYWAY. The current state of strife in our marriage is not over next weekend's planned trip. Not at ALL. I'm very happy for my husband to be getting out into the woods with a buddy and doing he-man stuff and all that. My issue is over THIS weekend. Alex has gotten so excited about going hunting, that now he can't wait until next weekend. Just. CAN'T. Has to go THIS weekend. Alone. Which is the sticking point over which I lose my mind. The topic of hunting has come up before, and I've never been against him doing it--he's a crack shot, he's patient, he can--this is the part that's nearly unbelievable to me--be very quiet for long periods of time. Just not at home. He loves the outdoors. It calms, soothes, and renews him to spend time outside doing "guy" stuff. This is FINE with me. MORE than fine, because he's more pleasant to be around when he gets back, like we all are when we've gotten a "getaway."

It's the ALONE part that is killing me. In every conversation we've ever had about him going hunting, the single stipulation that I've requested is that he not go alone. I know that lots of people DO hunt alone. I don't really care. I also know how very many things can go wrong, and my mind can create scenarios ranging from a slip and fall/concussion to a fall out of a tree stand, to getting accidentally shot by another hunter (this happens way more often than I'm comfortable with), to a mountain-lion attack, to dropping his rifle out of the tree-stand and having it land so that it shoots him in the face, to a life-threatening asthma attack, to getting shot by a dog.

My point is, say something happens, and, well...there he'd be. Injured, unconscious...who knows, he could get crazy and eat a poisonous mushroom. And not only would I not know where he is (not within several miles, anyway), I wouldn't even know anything had HAPPENED to him until, oh, what would be a reasonable time to start worrying--an hour after he's supposed to be home? Two hours? And say something happens and somehow I DO know, or he's able to call for help--how long will it take them to reach him? This hunting trip is not happening close to home, either. He'll have to drive an hour and a half, and then walk another half-hour or so to get to the stand.

I'm unhappy because he always told me he would never go hunting alone, and now he plans to do just that. But more than that, I'm unhappy because I know the sickening feeling of worrying over something you have no control over, and waiting for the clock to crawl those minutes along so that you can STOP worrying. It sucks.

He's unhappy because this is something he really wants to do, but at the same time, he doesn't want me to be unhappy with him. And he doesn't want his good time sullied by thinking that he's making me miserable. In his mind, he's feeling like I think he needs a "chaperone," which is not at all the case. He feels like I don't trust his skill and/or caution with guns, or his ability to get around in the wilderness. This is also not the case. The man has a compass in his brain. You could drop him, blindfolded, anywhere in the world, spin him around three times, and he'd tell you precisely what direction he was facing within half a second.

If I'm being totally honest, I have to admit that I'm also a little upset because, when there's something my husband wants to do, well, he can just make his plans, take off, and do it. He has a built-in, automatic child-care system that he doesn't have to question or even, honestly, consider. Whereas, if I want to take off and do something (say, the flickr meetup at Two Rivers Park tomorrow), I have to plan for my daughter and my pets and all the thousand little details that go along with those things. I also might, possibly, have had something in mind that I would have liked to have done as a family at some point during a three-day weekend, aside from sitting around waiting for my husband to get done having fun.

Also, maybe a mother just thinks differently? My most favorite thing to do in all the world is to get on a horse and go trail-riding in the woods. Some of my fondest memories are of doing this alone. Granted, I always wore protective gear, and I never went without leaving word of my route and an estimate of the time I'd be gone with someone, but I did sometimes go alone. Trail-riding sounds tame, but when you're talking about a live animal, anything can happen, especially out in the woods where there are wild animals and other spooky things--and I HAVE had a horse once wind up at home without me, having dumped me into a gully at a dead run after being spooked by a wild pig. In that case, someone came to my rescue on a 4-wheeler, and found me within 15 minutes or so of my being unseated. My point is, STUFF HAPPENS, even when you're careful and know what you're doing, and now that I have a child, I would NEVER just saddle up and head out into the deep woods all by myself. I can ride all kinds of horses, and my best horse is 16 years old and the best-trained animal under the sun, but still...I just. wouldn't. do it.

So, we're at a marital stalemate. If Alex goes hunting alone, I will be unhappy, for the myriad of reasons you're already sick of hearing. Also, some of the joy will be sucked out of it for HIM, because he'll know that I'm unhappy. On the other hand, if he DOESN'T go, he will be miserable and feel horribly deprived, and I'll feel bad for keeping him from doing something that he really wants to do.

Right now, he's planning on setting things up tomorrow afternoon, then hunting on Sunday and Monday mornings. That's potentially our entire holiday weekend spent on hunting and unhappiness...and then he gets to go again next weekend, so there's that part of me thinking, "Seriously? You can't wait ONE WEEK?" But in my heart of hearts, I WANT him to get out and do things that lift him up. He needs that. We all need that. I would just prefer that, in the event he gets shot by a dog, he can get help as quickly as possible, instead of bleeding to death on a carpet of lovely autumn leaves.

I'd also maybe like to be asked if there's anything I'd like to do during a three-day holiday instead of being told after the decision had already been made, that, um...I won't be doing anything.

NO DISRESPECTING OF THE HUSBAND IN THE COMMENTS. Not only does he read here, but I'm not mad at him. Not really. Just bummed over the fact that we can't seem to find a happy medium here.

UPDATED to add that the tempest is now at nice, manageable, teapot proportions. A livable compromise has been reached. There will be the "setup" trip Saturday, and then hunting on Sunday morning, during which regular "I am not dead" text messages will be sent. Bella and I will go up to the lake house (which is near the site) around lunchtime to join Alex, and then he'll go back out that afternoon while we hang out and take pictures up there. Unless he gets a deer in the morning, then we all just come right on back and try to cram the thing in the basement freezer, I guess. I don't think anyone's thought that far ahead, frankly. Then Monday, the fam gets to go to the ZOO together! (Kyran, wanna come?) Or something equally family-friendly that will make Bella happy.

So now Alex is happily puttering around packing his knives, flashlights, and pee-bottles, and washing all his hunting clothes in special scent-masking detergent, then hanging them outside to air. Sooooooo sneaky, are the deer hunters. And I'm able to concentrate on my Saturday RealMental.org post, as well as try to think of something suitable for the Times blog (why is that one SO hard for me?).

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Because I Don't Have A "Too Much Information" Filter

So, like I said yesterday, I went back to the OB/GYN. More specifically, the reproductive endocrinologist who performed my total hysterectomy last year (the hysterectomy I'm still kind of ticked off about, even though I don't have anyone at whom to direct my anger, or even a strongly-worded letter of complaint). I sat in his office and boo-hooed for several minutes about all the things that are wrong with me, particularly the dry skin, weight gain, errant hairs, "panic attacks" and general malaise and sleeping disturbances, etc. And to every symptom I'd mention, he'd nod sympathetically and opine that yes, that could be a problem caused by low estrogen levels, particularly due to my (relatively) young age at the time of surgical menopause, the high level of estrogen I was producing before, and the fact that I also don't have even my one single little ovary any more.

But before I get to all that, let me assuage the concerns of the VERY many of my virtual and real-life hyster-sisters who have written and spoken to me about the fact that I was told, after my surgery, that I'd no longer need to have annual Pap tests. Now, I had not researched this topic previously, and to me, it made perfect sense, seeing as how a Pap smear is a test which screens for cervical cancer, and, well...I no longer had a cervix. Fine, I figured--it made as much sense for me to be screened for testicular cancer every year. BUT THEN. Then I heard from seemingly every other woman on the planet who'd had a hysterectomy, who told me that THEY were certainly still having regular Pap smears, and that I'd better talk to my doctor about that! So I did. I told him that most of my family and friends plus the female half of the Intarwebs were concerned about this whole Pap smear issue, and could he give me a source to back up his seemingly heretical claim that this was something about which I need not be worried? He could, he said, and he did--in the form of the American Cancer Society.

While I was busy changing out of my dee-lite-ful lady-exam outfit (oh, great sneezing heffalumps, there MUST be a more dignified alternative--get on that, wouldja, medical community?) back into my street clothes, the doctor went to his office computer and printed out this article from the front page of the ACS website, titled, "Millions Get Unneeded Pap Tests." This article is dated 2004, but I guess things still haven't changed much. Some key quotes:

Researchers from the VA Outcomes Group in White River Junction, Vermont, estimate that 10 million American women who have had a total hysterectomy are still getting Pap tests. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 291, No. 24: 2990-2993).

"We were quite surprised by these results because women are getting screened for cancer in an organ they no longer have," said lead author Brenda Sirovich, MD, MS.

Such unnecessary screening not only wastes money, it takes up valuable time that could be better spent discussing other health concerns a woman may have, she added.

Women who have had a total hysterectomy, however, fall into a different category. Because this operation removes the cervix in addition to the uterus, most women who've had it are no longer considered to be at risk of cervical cancer. (Women who've had a partial hysterectomy, which leaves the cervix intact, are still at risk and still need to be screened.)

ACS screening guidelines say that women without a cervix no longer need to get Pap tests unless they have a history of cervical cancer or precancerous conditions. The US Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts, also recommends against Pap tests in women who have had a total hysterectomy for a noncancerous condition, as does the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


At last count, at least 69% of women who've had total hysterectomies are still having annual Pap tests...that's about TEN MILLION unneeded Pap tests a year. I can't help but wonder how that translates into dollars, and how those dollars affect the bottom line of our health-insurance premiums. You should still have an annual pelvic exam (along with a breast exam and the ever-delightful rectal exam) with your OB/GYN, so I'm sure a lot of people would just think, "Hey, the doctor's in there, anyway, what difference does it make?" And I'm OK with that, if that's your choice, or you have reason to be concerned, but again, I do wonder about the financial impact of those millions of tests on phantom organs. What do you reckon that would equal in billing to insurance companies? A BILLION dollars (assuming each test costs $100)? More? How might that money be better spent, or how might our health-insurance premiums be affected if we could shave a billion or so smackeroos off our HMOs' payouts?

Do read that article in its entirety--there are interesting points to be made about how doctors must practice "defensive medicine," (there is a very rare form of vaginal cancer that could be picked up in a post-hysto version of a "Pap" test), and the tip of the "treatment quotas" required by HMOs to keep doctors eligible for inclusion in their programs is revealed. It's fascinating stuff.

Me, I'll probably get the occasional scrape once every few years, and have those vaginal cells checked out...but I won't be demanding that my doctor scrape an imaginary cervix annually.

Moving on...got my hormones increased. Despite my psychiatrist kind of dismissing the idea of hormonal imbalance (of course, he's MALE, so whatever) out of hand, I went ahead and had blood pulled for thyroid and sex-hormone tests yesterday. My doctor phoned me this afternoon, and guess what? MY ESTROGEN LEVEL IS LOW. How about that? And yes, I could have saved, what--a YEAR of grief and angst by just listening to my mother? Yes. Anyway. Now, instead of wearing one .1mg Vivelle Dot patch, I'll be wearing one and a half. Or two of the .078s. Whatever. A 50% increase in dosage for the next three weeks, and if I don't just feel like dancing a jig at that time, I'll go right on up to double the dose. And since I'm not of menopausal age, had sudden surgical menopause, and do not have ovaries, I have little to fear from estrogen replacement.

So, even though I'm not feeling it yet, there is hope on the horizon. Maybe I'll be able to go grocery-shopping without busting out into an all-over burning-hot sweat amidst the frozen peas? Could it be true? That I won't collapse into tears over that particularly poignant Cheerios commercial, or fall apart every morning (mornings seem particularly hard, until well after noon) when my daughter hugs me goodbye when leaving for school? That, on those rare days that I actually make it IN to work, I won't become so lightheaded and fainty that I have to close my door and face-plant on the carpet of my office for twenty minutes?

Those will be good times, indeed, and I look forward to them.

OH, and get this! (What, you were just feeling relief that this post was over? GOTCHA, sucka.) When I checked out at the gyno's office, where I haven't been for the last year, and was preparing to pay my 10% co-pay for the visit, the clerk tapped on her keyboard and said, "Oh, you had a credit, so today's visit is taken care of." I found this odd, since I hadn't been there in over a year, and asked her, 'Um, how much of a credit did I have?" The answer was, enough to pay the co-pay on my annual visits for years--about $300. I nearly fell over. I said, "Uh, since it will take me years to spend that here...could you just, you know, give me my money BACK?" She tapped a little more, and told me she didn't know how to do that, and would have to ask someone in accounting. I very nicely told her that, yeah, she'd better go on ahead and do that. I'm wondering, if I had OWED the doctor's office $300 for the last year, do you think accounting would have been just letting THAT slide?

Hmph.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I LOL'd, I Cried, I Time-Sucked

Because of my sister, I spent a good hour at YouTube recently watching every possible version of Solja Boy's "Crank Dat," starring every familiar, beloved children's character imaginable. I think the one starring Barney and Friends is my favorite. Can't stop laughing.

And then, day before yesterday, out of the blue, there was a poignant reminder of the wonder and glory that used to be readily available to The Internets, courtesy of Ze Frank. Oh, Ze. Please, please, come back. You say you miss us the way we miss you, but I don't see how that can possibly be true.

If you missed it, I had a post up at RealMental the other day.

I had LOTS of fun today--got to go to the OB/GYN, where Kelly will be thrilled to hear that, not only did I not hide my underwear beneath my clothes, I HUNG THEM BRAZENLY ON THE DOOR. For real. JUST for her. More about that later, because big changes are in store that will hopefully make me much less crazified.

Then I accompanied my mom to Best Buy (we don't have an Apple store in Arkansas--really) so she could buy a spankin' new MacBook. Sheesh. Andrea getting one last month wasn't enough; now my mom and my sister are all cutie-patootie little Mac-Buddies. Arrrrgh. Also? The new giant-monitored desktop Mac? Made me WEEP with desire. Holeee COW.

Locals: If you visit the Best Buy in West Little Rock, be sure to single one particularly helpful employee out of the Geek Squad. Ask for "Joey Nuke 'Em." Tell him I sent you.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Oooooh, Forbidden Reading!


I love looking at the list of the most-banned books in the U.S. It kind of cracks me up, and then it makes me very sad, but I really like looking it over and trying to figure out what the "offense" was in each particular case. Judy Blume seems to be the perpetual champion on quantity and longevity alone, and how many of us got to be grown women without reading Judy Blume? Not me, that's for sure. I do remember that in Clinton, Arkansas, if you were reading "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret," you had to be circumspect about it, despite the fact that it WAS in the library. One girl would check it out, and it would get passed around to several more before being turned back in.

Judy's in good company, though...among the "most challenged" authors in America, according to the American Library Association, are John Steinbeck, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Mark Twain, Alice Walker, Maurice Sendak, Dav Pilkey, J.D. Salinger, Roald Dahl, Madeleine L'Engle, Harper Lee, Shel Silverstein, Aldous Huxley...I could go on and on, but it's really bringing me down.

Interesting to me is the fact that when you stand back and examine the lists of the last 20 years or so, definite patterns emerge. Seemingly deemed particularly threatening to would-be banners are works by authors of color (seriously--I don't think Toni Morrison gets anything published for more than an hour or so before it winds up being challenged somewhere), anything suggesting that homosexuals have a degree of humanity (Most-challenged book of 2oo6? "And Tango Makes Three." About a pair of boy penguins.), or anything with ANY kind of theme that focuses on what it means to be female--girl or woman, especially if that existence is turbulent. Bonus points if you can kill two birds with one stone there, say with something like "The Color Purple," "The Bluest Eye," or "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." When I try to imagine how I'd have grown up as a reader--heck, as a PERSON--without the benefit of great writers, it puts a scare into me.

The only form of book-banning I knew growing up was when my mother would say, "You are not allowed to read that until you are older" (Peter Benchley's "Jaws," age 9), or, "You should probably not try that one until you're a little older" (Stephen King's "Carrie," age 11, William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury," age 12). In all of the above examples, MY MOTHER WAS RIGHT, although the Faulkner was the only one I actually put away for a few more years, because I really hadn't matured enough to begin to understand the themes. The other two I read anyway, and wound up being moderately traumatized for years afterward because of it. So yes, the "challenging" of books has a place, I feel, and that place is parental. My mother never once went to the school libraries and attempted to REMOVE books that she felt I shouldn't be reading.

That is why, when I stumbled across a discussion on Goodreads.com about the recent Nitro High School (Charleston, WV) bruhaha concerning the attempted banning of two Pat Conroy books, and the author's biting response, I felt a little warm in my heart. I'm just going to reprint it here, because it's spot-on. Pat Conroy might not be on my personal top-ten list of American authors, but he's written some meaningful, impactful material, which now includes this letter to the editor of the Charleston Gazette. It's not so much a condemnation of would-be-book-banners as it is a love-letter to teachers everywhere.


A Letter to the Editor of the Charleston Gazette:

I received an urgent e-mail from a high school student named Makenzie
Hatfield of Charleston, West Virginia. She informed me of a group of
parents who were attempting to suppress the teaching of two of my novels,
"The Prince of Tides" and "Beach Music." I heard rumors of this controversy
as I was completing my latest filthy, vomit-inducing work. These
controversies are so commonplace in my life that I no longer get involved.
But my knowledge of mountain lore is strong enough to know the dangers of
refusing to help a Hatfield of West Virginia. I also do not mess with
McCoys.

I've enjoyed a lifetime love affair with English teachers, just like the
ones who are being abused in Charleston, West Virginia, today. My English
teachers pushed me to be smart and inquisitive, and they taught me the
great books of the world with passion and cunning and love. Like your
English teachers, they didn't have any money, either, but they lived in the
bright fires of their imaginations, and they taught because they were born
to teach the prettiest language in the world. I have yet to meet an English
teacher who assigned a book to damage a kid. They take an unutterable joy
in opening up the known world to their students, but they are dishonored
and unpraised because of the scandalous paychecks they receive. In my
travels around this country, I have discovered that America hates its
teachers, and I could not tell you why. Charleston, West Virginia, is
showing clear signs of really hurting theirs, and I would be cautious about
the word getting out.

In 1961, I entered the classroom of the great Eugene Norris, who set about
in a thousand ways to change my life. It was the year I read "Catcher in
the Rye," under Gene's careful tutelage, and I adore that book to this very
day. Later, a parent complained to the school board, and Gene Norris was
called before the board to defend his teaching of this book. He asked me to
write an essay describing the book's galvanic effect on me, which I did.
But Gene's defense of "Catcher in the Rye" was so brilliant and convincing
in its sheer power that it carried the day. I stayed close to Gene Norris
till the day he died. I delivered a eulogy at his memorial service and was
one of the executors of his will. Few in the world have ever loved English
teachers as I have, and I loathe it when they are bullied by know-nothing
parents or cowardly school boards.

About the novels your county just censored: "The Prince of Tides" and
"Beach Music" are two of my darlings, which I would place before the altar
of God and say, "Lord, this is how I found the world you made." They
contain scenes of violence, but I was the son of a Marine Corps fighter
pilot who killed hundreds of men in Korea, beat my mother and his seven
kids whenever he felt like it, and fought in three wars. My youngest
brother, Tom, committed suicide by jumping off a fourteen-story building;
my French teacher ended her life with a pistol; my aunt was brutally raped
in Atlanta; eight of my classmates at The Citadel were killed in Vietnam;
and my best friend was killed in a car wreck in Mississippi last summer.
Violence has always been a part of my world. I write about it in my books
and make no apology to anyone. In "Beach Music," I wrote about the
Holocaust and lack the literary powers to make that historical event
anything other than grotesque.

People cuss in my books. People cuss in my real life. I cuss, especially at
Citadel basketball games. I'm perfectly sure that Steve Shamblin and other
teachers prepared their students well for any encounters with violence or
profanity in my books just as Gene Norris prepared me for the profane
language in "Catcher in the Rye" forty-eight years ago.

The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave
anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the
genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language.
Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a
ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in "Lonesome Dove" and had
nightmares about slavery in "Beloved" and walked the streets of Dublin in
"Ulysses" and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my
mother killed by a baseball in "A Prayer for Owen Meany." I've been in ten
thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers
in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous
English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and
women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me
when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English
language.

The school board of Charleston, West Virginia, has sullied that gift and
shamed themselves and their community. You've now entered the ranks of
censors, book-banners, and teacher-haters, and the word will spread. Good teachers will avoid you as though you had cholera. But here is my favorite thing: Because you banned my books, every kid in that county will read them, every single one of them. Because book banners are invariably idiots, they don't know how the world works  but writers and English teachers do. I salute the English teachers of Charleston, West Virginia, and send my affection to their students. West Virginians, you've just done what history warned you against: you've riled a Hatfield.

Sincerely,
Pat Conroy

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