Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ill in the time of Google

Lisa gave me a large bag of garden grown tomatoes, and I had been devouring them voraciously, with no concern for consequences.

By Thursday, I had developed a canker sore on my cheek. That night, it hurt when I brushed my back tooth. I decided I'd better lay off the tomatoes for a while.

Friday morning my gums were swollen double their usual size, my body was wracked with chills and aches all up and down my legs and back. I tried to go to work as usual, but found myself curled into a ball on the floor while speaking on a conference call. I gave up.

After sitting on hold for five minutes with the dentist, I scheduled an appointment with a doctor. Then looked up "swollen gums" on Google.

Possible causes.
1. Allergic to toothpaste. No. I've been using this brand for years.

2. Poor dental hygiene. No. I floss religiously.

3. Diabetes. Oh no. I will never get to eat sweets again. How will I survive?

4. Mercury poisoning. Aack! It must be my new steel water bottle. Soon my hair will start falling out!

5. Leukemia. Goodbye cruel world.

I got to the doctor's office, and an annoyed looking assistant weighed me and took my blood pressure, ignoring all my attempts at small talk. She put me in an examining room. And I sat there. For 45 minutes. Aching, headache, chills and fever. Just an examining table and hard wooden chairs. After 30 minutes, I decided I'd leave. After 35 minutes, I decided that was enough, I'd leave. After 40 minutes, I was going to leave. After 45 minutes, I stood up, hesitated in front of the door. Should I leave?

Just then the doctor entered.

Looked at the swollen gums. Let me talk about symptoms. Felt my giant tumor of a lymph node.

"Since it's the weekend, I'll prescribe an antibiotic to kill off any bacteria affecting your gums. If you aren't better in five days, call your dentist. I'm sure you'll be better in five days."

And that was it. Less than five minutes.

Got my antibiotic, came home and went to bed.

Got up around dinner time and tried to eat bland mash. Body ached too much to sit for it. Took Advil and went back to bed.

This morning the body doesn't ache as much, but the gums look worse. And hurt. A lot.

Back to Google.

Consequences of severe swollen gums.
1. Loss of teeth and bone. Oh I will look ugly. And have to eat bland mash forever.

2. Heart disease.

3. Death. Goodbye, cruel world.

Or -

Maybe -

Maybe I have something called gingivostomatitis? Fever, swelling, aches, giant tumorous lymph nodes in the neck and jaw. And sores all over the mouth and gums. Hey, that kind of sounds like me.

"In healthy individuals the lesions heal spontaneously in 7-14 days without a scar."

Healthy aside from a giant swollen mouth and the aches and fever, apparently.

In two days I'm supposed to start teaching again.

In six days I'm supposed to get on a plane to Tokyo.

In fourteen days I'm supposed to be back home.

I can't think of a better way to spend the next 14 days than with my friends the lesions.

And the very very worst most miserable part of all this? All those extra delicious garden ripe tomatoes, now in my fridge, which I cannot eat. *Sob*. I will have to can them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Modified lessons from church

Think of the word Satisfaction.

I would like more satisfaction with my life. Who wouldn't?

What do I need to do to get more satisfaction?

Look at the last six letters of the word Satisfaction. They spell Action.

Now throw those six letters away. Throw away three more letters while you are at it.

What are you left with? That's right. Sat.

I think if I sat around more regularly, I would feel more satisfied with life.


While we are playing with letters, I want you to note that there is no I in Team.

But there is me in Team. In fact, without me, the team would just be ta. As in, ta ta, team.

Which, I suppose, must mean that I am the most important part of the Team after all. Which is what I suspected all along.


What games do you play during church lessons?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Concert in the park with loopy parents

Actual excerpts from conversations that occurred between 6:35 pm and 8:30 pm on Monday, August 16, 2010.

The cast of characters: My father, whom we shall call Earl. My mother, whom we shall call Ace. My son, Jonathan. Myself.

The event: A concert in the park that my parents read about in the newspaper, and decided to invite us to attend. Basque dancing and bagpipes. One issue: It didn't start until after Jonathan's bedtime. I initially told Jonathan no, we weren't going. But then Earl talked it up so much, and got so excited about it, that Jonathan begged to go. So we went.

**** Excerpts from Earl ****

Earl (in the car): I'm not actually that excited about the dancing. It's too bad they have dancing first.

Earl (listening to announcements): They do this every Monday? Why haven't we come before? This is really neat.

Earl: I don't actually like bagpipes. Don't you think they all sound the same?

Earl (minutes later): Should we go now?

Earl (next song): Let's go. We should go.

Earl (next song): Let's get out of here.

Earl (next song): Let's go. Don't you think we should go?

Earl (while packing up at the end, speaking to unknown lady next to him): I hear they do this every week. Have you ever been to one of these before?

(Lady: Every week.)

Earl: Oh yeah? This is really neat. We should go every week, too.

Earl (lady has left, now packing up his chair): Bagpipe songs really all sound the same.

**** Excerpts from Ace ****

Ace (walking toward the park): Do you hear the bagpipes? Isn't this fun?

Ace (as we arrive, dancers are dancing to the melody of a whistle and drum): Are those the only instruments they use? It's going to get a little old.

(We watch the dancing for a while. They finish.)

Ace: Let's have the bagpipes now. It's time for the bagpipes.

(Pipe band arrives and starts playing a tune.)

Ace: Oh! I know this song! Hum hum hum hum... something about the moon. Oh it's too bad Daniel isn't here. He would know all the words... hum hum hum ... on the moon... hum hum.

(next song)

Ace: This song isn't very interesting. Why don't they play something more familiar?

(next song)

Ace: I wish they would play something familiar.

(next song)

Ace: Oh a march! This should be better.


Ace: I don't like this. Why don't they play something we know?

Ace: This isn't very pretty.


(Last song)

Ace: Oh this is more like it... hum hum hum... This is the one they played in that movie. Ooo this is really pretty. Hum hum hum. Isn't this nice? Hum hum hum.... It's too bad they didn't play more familiar songs the rest of the concert. Hum hum hum....

(Packing up afterwords)

Ace: Isn't this neat? Let's go next week. Won't it be fun?


Me (walking back toward the car when the event was over): Do you two ever listen to yourselves talk?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recent events

On Sunday, Jonathan gave his first talk in primary. He did a very nice job. He was fearless, needing no help from mom and dad. He spoke clearly and carefully. But listening to him speak with his little lisp, I kept thinking about how young he really is. He is so tall for his age, and so clever, with his own funny little personality, that I sometimes forget what a little guy he is.

*Aww* Tender mom moment.

Spanish is over for the summer as of today. Jonathan loved his Spanish class all summer long, and he learned a huge amount. He was putting lots of words into sentences, communicating with friends and teachers all in Spanish all after just 2.5 months. I am super impressed. In fact, I keep going back and forth on the idea of taking him back to their after school class twice a week to maintain what he has learned. But then I remember I would have to leave work early twice a week, pick him up in the car, and drive north a long ways. More commuting by car in our lives. So I think we'll go without, at least for a little while.

This means, of course, that I will no longer be spending my afternoons in the public library. I'm out of afternoons. I have a research conference next week in the city over the mountain, and then university meetings the following week, and then classes start.

*Sigh*. What happened to the summer?

It is melting into a blur of raspberries, apricots, and apples. And a new, massive, food dehydrator that we bought online a couple of weeks ago (which has been running pretty much nonstop). Apricots make yummy fruit rolls.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On buying and living in a home

Letterpress put up a post on her blog, directing to a New York Times article, that I found so fascinating I have decided to turn my comment into a post.

The article argues that until very recently (this year), homes seemed to have been built and remodeled solely with resale in mind. Which appliances will attract the buyer? Vaulted ceilings and granite countertops. And bigger is always better.

Maybe that's why we had such a hard time finding a house. We were looking for a house to live in, not to sell. Of course, those of you who know our home buying story will be surprised. We bought our house sight unseen off the internet. What do we mean, hard to find? But it was one of a kind.

When we were looking for a home in 2008, we were looking purely for "livability" factors. Top priority: within walking distance of the places we need to be. By 2008, Tim and I had lived five years in campus housing, where everything was walkable, followed by three years in a beautiful newer home in commuter land, where I found myself stuck on a freeway for 30 minutes at a time, mornings and evenings, listening to children's music ad infinitum with a toddler in the back seat. From there, we moved to England for a year and did not buy a car.

Going a whole year without a car was tough. There were days when it was raining diagonally, I had a massive migraine, and yet Jonathan was at school a mile away and needed to be picked up. Bundled in my coat and overcoat, I grumbled to myself that these were the days that everyone else gave up their exercise routine. We didn't let ourselves have the choice.

But in spite of those diagonal rain days, we found we were overall healthier. We ate all the double cream that we wanted with no affect to our waistlines. We spent time together. Every day Tim and I walked and talked and laughed. Down the hill, through the park, to the preschool. Back across the park, and up the hill. Thirty minutes of walking rather than 30 minutes on I-35. What a difference.

We needed a home within walking distance of the places we needed to be. Number one priority.

The second thing we were looking for was a relatively small home. About half way through our year in England, we were shocked to realize that our house there was about the perfect size for our family. Permanently. There was a medium sized kitchen on the first floor, a master bedroom and living room on the second, Jonathan's bedroom and an office on the third. It was a typical mid-row house in a working middle-class neighborhood. It was all we could afford on my postdoctoral salary and a brutal pound-dollar exchange rate, and significantly smaller than working middle-class homes in Texas. But halfway through the year, we realized the space was perfect. Each room was used regularly. No space was wasted. No space was too tight. Cleaning took a couple of hours. That was it.

Looking for homes here in the mountains, the newer homes with the better wiring were over 40,000 square feet. Each. One. Of. Them. There are only three of us. Who was going to clean those extra 30,000 square feet? Who was going to heat the vaulted ceilings? While we really wanted the most modern electrical systems that money could buy, we couldn't justify purchasing all that wasted space. In the end, the house we found had all those England rooms on the first floor, plus a bonus basement. The basement has been nice. It's nice to have a guest bedroom for the occasional guest. It's nice to have a large playroom and a separate laundry and storage room. But we really don't use it as much as the first floor. I can't understand why families like ours would want 40,000 square feet.

Location, size. Price. And a garage was also a make or break deal here where it snows a lot.

We found a house that was perfect. It needed new electrical work, some modernization of the windows and decor, a new kitchen, new bathrooms. But we bought them for ourselves, for livability. Solid surface in the bathrooms -- no more scraping black out of tile grout. Solid surface countertops in the kitchen -- no sealing granite or stone, or chipping formica. Extra lighting in the living room where we would be reading. French doors opening to the back yard where we would be... um... apparently picking fruit.

And I love it. I really really love living here in this home. The colors, the lighting, the ease of cleaning. Riding my bike to the library. Walking to work. Dropping Jonathan off at school on foot. Neighbors and fruit trees and community. I hope it is years before we need to find out the resale value of this home. Because I want to live here longer.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Making jam

I am making jam.

Right now I am making jam.

Na-now-NOW! I'm making it.

The instructions said let it sit for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. So I set an alarm for 5 minutes. When it goes off I get up and stir and then reset the alarm. When I have gotten up 6 times, the 30 minutes will be over and I can add the sugar.

That's what the instructions say.

Only they didn't say 6 times. I figured that out myself.

That's mathematics, by the way.

I have already gotten up to stir several times.

I think maybe 4 times?

Actually, after the 3rd time I forgot to reset the alarm, and I read two email messages and sent one to my mom before I realized I had no timer.

Do you think reading two messages and writing one to my mom took five minutes? I am thinking it probably did.


Which means I'm almost done?

Actually, I have lost count on how many times I've stirred the jam.

What do you think happens if you stir too many times?

And what does a "finely chopped" apricot look like?

I guess I'll figure both of those things out by the end of the night. Or at least over the course of a year when eating jam.

One thing about jam, it doesn't really use that much fruit. You add 3 cups of fruit, but 5.5 cups of sweetener (sugar and corn syrup). So that's nearly 2/3 sugar, 1/3 fruit.

Which means even after tonight, even after making jam, I will still have a tree full of apricots --

'scuze me -- 5 minute alarm.

I'm back. I'm calling this the 6th alarm this next time, so I can finish.

Cousin Lisa came and helped pick three grocery bags of apricots. You can barely tell. So my offer still stands -- come and pick and help yourself to apricots.

My jam-making relatives bailed on me. They were going to come today and pick and then make some jam, but Peggy looked in her freezer and realized she already had more jam than she could use from the same tree, two years ago.

So I'm making my own jam.

Right na-now-NOW!

(Making jam is kind of boring.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I picked apricots off our tree for 15 minutes this evening. My big bowl was full. So I came inside, washed the fruit, put the mushy ones into a bowl for fruit leather, put the greener ones into a bowl for ripening, and put the rest into quart bottles for processing.

15 minutes of picking. Total yield: 7 quarts now in the canner. 4 trays of fruit leather. One medium sized bowl of greenish fruit still to go.

You can't even tell I pulled anything off the tree.

And Tim picked for a half hour earlier today.

This is a major problem with fruit trees. The apricots are all ripe Right Now, and there are a billion of them. Last week they were too green. Next week they will be too soft and rotten. Oh what shall we do with our evenings this week, friends?

PS - anyone local - you are welcome to all you want. Come and pick them. You can borrow our ladder, but bring your own bowl.