Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Talk Thursday: Six Months

Well: I made it to Afrah but my laptop is not talking to the server this evening, for some reason. I can only bonk heads against the server for so long before it gets old, so tonight’s blog post is being composed on Word 2010, which I’m grudgingly getting used to. Okay? Okay.

Six months ago, in September 2010, I was engaged in a losing battle with some famous backyardigans, procyon lotor (the common North American raccoon). I'm pleased? Somewhat? to report I'm still on the losing end of this battle. I recently ran into another of the critters--or maybe it was the same one, I don't know. They look a lot alike. This one spotted me, hid behind the cat food bin, and stuck a paw around the bin to grab a handful of food out of the bowl. He (she?) did this repeatedly, despite having been told that he (she?) wasn't fooling anybody. I mean, the paw was a dead giveaway. White bin, grey paw, you know what I'm sayin'? So it appears the 'coons are back. Not surprised, me. There's no way to get rid of them apart from not feeding the feral cats, and the feral cats and I have a handshake deal on that one. Okay, a pawshake deal.

Let's see, what else was going on: I'd just been packed off to a neurologist to find out why my hands were shaky and my head had developed this interesting lateral wobble. The verdict: Because you were born that way. Get over it. This was infinitely cheering, and it would be months before I wrangled with posterior iritis. One thing about my brain, there's always something happening even when there's nothing going on. (John Lennon. Nope, sorry, it wasn't original at all.)

Big Country, despite its lead singer being about nine years dead, shocked hell out of everybody by announcing its resurrection and its, get this, northern European tour dates. If I had more money and less sense, I'd have flown over there, followed them from town to town and done the whole Greatful Dead thing. That having a responsible job and wife and family thing kind of puts a damper on that sort of behavior, though. Hey, this is interesting; yesterday at work somebody asked me who my favorite band was, and when I said, "Big Country. You've never heard of them," all three people sitting at the table actually had. It must be fate. It must be destiny. It must be--well, it was one hell of a coincidence, anyway. One of the people at the table was actually born after "Restless Natives" hit no. 1 on the U.K. charts, and she'd still heard of them. I mean, wow. I was blown away. Somewhere in Beijing, a fourth-grader just got chills down his spine for no apparent reason.

Labor Day weekend, Joan and I flew to Salt Lake City and spent several days with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. That was pretty cool. There was a baseball game involved, some nice dinners out, a ride to the top of Mount Baldy in the Snowbird tram and Oktoberfest, which isn't the same without the beer but was interesting, anyway.

Oh, and six months ago, I was seven pounds heavier. A minor point but I thought I'd throw it in there.

Now then: Where would I like to be six months from now?

Well, look, people. I've been really patient on this point, but it's been long enough and I want a frickin' literary agent. A decade and two years (and a trilogy) is really way too long to have one's career on permanent hold. So let's get this ball rolling again, okay please? Throw me a bone, already, people. Like a request for a partial or a full or something. You might even like my stuff and decide you want to work with me. You'll find me relaxed, even-tempered, open to suggestions and pretty darn agreeable. Also, I make excellent sourdough bread and yes, I do ship.

I'd also like to have some money saved. The two kind of go hand in hand, but you'll notice I didn't say I wanted a publishing contract, just a literary agent. One thing at a time, folks.

Six months from now it will be late August/early September. I would like to have the trim in the front of our house repaired and repainted. I'd like the trelliswork in the back fixed, too, but I'd cave on that point if I could have the much more important covered rain gutters. I want 'em all the way around the house. And a new water heater. Preferably before the bottom falls the hell out of the old one.

Hmm, where do I want to go for Labor Day weekend this year? Maybe nowhere. Maybe I'd like to just hang around the house and watch the leaves fall. Or maybe New Orleans. Yeah. New Orleans sounds kind of nice, actually. And it's within driving distance, so no untoward groping from TSA agents.

And last but not least, I'd like to be twenty pounds lighter still. I'd like to be. Don't know if I will be. But I just thought I'd throw that in there.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Talk Thursday (the following Tuesday): Thirty Things About Me

Now, this'll be a challenge. Come up with thirty things about me that will actually keep you guys entertained. This may require going back to the distant past and dredging up old relatives. Well, that's okay. It's all in the spirit of the thing. Ready? Here goes:
  1. I may look like I'm twelve, but I'm actually forty-two.
  2. For some reason, I lie about my age--the wrong way.
  3. I'm a paralegal at a plaintiff's law firm. Whenever there's trouble, we're there on the double.
  4. I've never once stopped reading a Stephen King novel because it was too scary, but I've refused to start one or two because the concepts grossed me out. (I know, I know. A concept is not a story. A concept is not a story. A concept is not a story...)
  5. I once got detained by airport security in Sweden and spent the night in their lovely holding area. It was really just a big misunderstanding, though.
  6. I strongly recommend Sweden if you have to get detained by airport security. Holding area came complete with a private shower.
  7. I used to be in a bagpipe band. And yes, I did play the bagpipes.
  8. I had a literary agent once, but he dumped me to run for Congress. He didn't win, either.
  9. I had a boyfriend once. He asked me to marry him three times. I said no an equivalent number of times.
  10. A doctor cousin of mine is a co-discoverer of Reyes Syndrome.
  11. I have a lot of cousins. Something like forty-two at last count.
  12. Stuart Adamson and I once swapped smooches backstage. I don't normally kiss and tell, but he's dead, so....
  13. I used to own an album by Yanni. Yep, I admit it. It's even in an official police report because it was in my dad's car when same was stolen.
  14. Seen Gordon Lightfoot live four times. Yep, I admit it.
  15. I was once second chair in the Allstate Symphony Orchestra. I played bassoon.
  16. As a matter of fact, I went to music school for two years. Graduating with a degree in English is what happens when you can't graduate from music school.
  17. When I lived in Phoenix, Big Country played in San Diego, so I caught the first leg of their tour by driving out there. Then I moved to San Diego, and Big Country played Phoenix on the last leg of their tour--so I drove back and saw them again.
  18. In high school, I wanted to be a particle physicist.
  19. When I didn't want to be a civil rights attorney.
  20. When I didn't want to be lead bassoonist for the Lima Symphony Orchestra in Peru.
  21. I quit drinking about five years ago. Not because I had a problem but because I didn't want one.
  22. Joan and I spent a week in Ennis, Ireland when she came down with a kidney infection and ended up in the hospital there. The nicest people in the world live in Ennis, Ireland.
  23. I used to be fairly good friends with a white supremacist end-times survivalist gun person, though I leaned that way not at all.
  24. Sometimes I think I can be a little too open-minded.
  25. My mom says I used to alphabetize her record collection when I was a toddler.
  26. And that I was particularly fond of one record called "Metamorphosis." Which she thinks might have been my first word.
  27. I mean geez, "Mama, Daddy, metamorphosis." No wonder I make her nervous.
  28. I have on a shelf in my bedroom The Complete Idiot's Guide to Buddhism next to the Koran next to a Bible next to the Dhammapada next to Jimmy Carter's The White House Diaries. Still looking for a good copy of the Kabballah to go in there.
  29. I voted for Obama. (Oo, there's a shock.) But I voted for Hillary in the primaries.
  30. If I had it to do over again, I'd never have thrown that party after Kim moved out. Boy, was that a mistake.
  31. Oh, and I'd have found another agent. Sooner.
There. That ought to keep you busy for a while.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Doctor, My Eyes...

Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that nobody's going to be sticking a needle into my eye under local anesthesia and doing anything to the lens. Really, that's good news no matter how you look at it.

The bad news is that yours truly is going to be wearing heavy duty industrial strength glasses for roughly, oh, life. Still, that doesn't seem to be very bad news when you consider the good news.

Seems that my bout of posterior iritis, or the fun things that happen when the lens of your eyeball essentially tries to escape through your pupil and, I dunno, go on a spending spree with your credit cards, gets stuck, and causes all kinds of havoc while wedged in place preventing the proper opening and closing of the iris, was caused not by a blow to the head or a nasty virus but by something altogether different: untreated astigmatism. In short, my glasses are way too weak, and they've been too weak for about three years now.

I found out all kinds of fascinating things about my eyes from this particular eye doc. One of them is that eyes, being extensions of the brain, can't help trying to see. Even when they basically can't see, they will keep trying anyway, and they will sprain themselves like a stressed hamstring if you're not careful. That's what happened to my eye. I sprained it. How embarrassing. I've sprained my ankle plenty of times, but never once did I think it was possible to sprain an eye.

I blame vanity for this particular medical misadventure. About two years ago I got a new glasses prescription that I never bothered to get filled. Why? Because they were for bifocals. Somehow my brain refused to accept that at the age of forty, I needed bifocals. That was Just Wrong. Bifocals are for old people. I, by contrast, am a spring chicken. Or at least a midsummer cave chicken. I'll let Joan explain what a cave chicken is. Suffice to say it's like a prairie chicken, only harder to find.

Actually I don't know if the bifocals would have helped matters or not. In the language of glasses, mine are about four times too weak for my eyes, and I'm not sure where my bifocals were on that scale. (Have you ever tried to read a glasses prescription? It's like trying to read a political tract in eastern Marshallese. That's a language spoken by about 40,000 people on Earth, chiefly in the Marshall Islands area of Polynesia. And never mind why I know that, it's just another little factoid I picked up along the way.)

So tomorrow I go back to the optometrist, where I get measured for new glasses. And hopefully will I get them very soon, and then this won't happen again. Meanwhile, if you have a red and angry eye combined with light sensitivity, please see your eye professional immediately. The sooner you do, the less time you will need to sit around in post-dilation shade wraps, which despite comparisons to the Terminator, look positively dorky. You have been warned.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

And If Thy Right Eye Offend Thee...

Seems like there is never a dull moment around here. We got ice storms. We got new laptops. We got fiscal anorexia. We got Jen getting mad at the whole planet. And just when things start to settle down, we got posterior iritis.

Uh, hold it. Back up a sec. What?

Well, it all started about a week ago, when we were sweeping and shoveling snow off the cars after the Big Storm. I happened to glance in the mirror that evening and noticed my eye was rather pissed-off and angry-looking. Like many the heroine of a horror movie, I Thought Nothing Of It At The Time; I thought maybe I'd had some snow or ice in my eye that had scratched the cornea or something like that, at the very worst. It didn't hurt or anything, so I put some Visine in it (by the way, my eye doc says not to ever do that, unless you're about to have your picture taken) and went to bed.

The next day it was still red and pissed-off-looking. And then it really did start to hurt-not often, but when light hit it unexpectedly. People at work asked me if I had pinkeye. Well, I had a pink eye, so who's to say not? But I looked up the symptoms of pinkeye on the internet and I didn't seem to have it. Also, if you have sensitivity to light, you should call your eye doc immediately.

Immediately took me about four days, in no small part because I couldn't seem to get in anywhere. My regular doc was out of the office all week, I don't have an opthalmologist, and I finally called the guy who does my glasses. He said to get in there right away. So I went in, and he looked at my eye through about eight different pieces of equipment. By the time we got to Piece of Equipment No. 6, I was reasonably certain he wasn't going to say, "You have a mild scratch on your cornea, probably caused by snow or ice." Or pinkeye, for that matter. What he finally told me was pretty complicated. For this we need an illustration. Let's pull one up:

Okay. See the big round white thing? That's the lens, the clear thingy that focuses the images we see and basically allows vision to happen. Normally the lens sits behind the iris, like it does in this illustration. And normally, the space behind the lens is full of fluid that sits at a certain pressure that keeps the lens where it needs to be. Well, somehow, pressure of this fluid has increased, and the lens has been pushed forward into the iris, which is the colored part of the eye. There it has gotten stuck, which is a big problem because the iris is what opens and closes when the light changes. With the lens mashed up against the iris, the iris can't open and close properly, which is why the light hurt when it hit my eye; way too much getting in. Also, the iris trying to close strained the eye muscle, which is also painful in a weird way (it's like a sore muscle from working out at the gym, I guess).

This is absolutely not a good thing. In fact it can be very bad, to the point of sending me off to a specialist immediately. I have an appointment for Thursday, which is immediately in specialist-ville. The optometrist dilated my eye to try to force the iris open to the max, hoping the lens would back off. This was partially successful. The lens backed off a little bit, and my eye feels a little bit better now, but it was NOT FUN at the time. Crank up that sore muscle at the gym times about a thousand. I mean, eyes aren't supposed to hurt, folks. That's just too weird.

The eye doc also gave me steroid drops to take the swelling down, which is helping too. And I go back to see him tomorrow (on a Sunday. You can tell it's serious when they want to see you on a Sunday.) But what caused it still hasn't been addressed, as I can't recollect any blows to the head or eye trauma lately. So the specialist still needs to get involved. And scary words like microsurgery are floating around and I like them not at all. And then there's something about the mashing forward of the lens cutting off the eye's circulatory system, thus causing glaucoma which can cause loss of vision which can eventually cause...yeah. And if I've got it in one eye, it's possible I could get it in the other, especially since they don't know what caused it.

So I'm a little freaked out here. Owing to occasional blackouts in our little piece o'heaven I'm very good at navigating in total darkness and always thought I'd make a good blind person (or a cat), but I was really never all that keen on testing the idea. Besides, I like to drive. I gather they don't let you do that if you can't see. To say nothing of what I'd do for a living. A blind paralegal? I'd do better posing for statues of Lady Justice.

Anyway, maybe none of that will happen. Maybe the specialist will think the first guy overreacted and my lens is falling nicely back into place on its own and everything will be hunky dory once more. Meantime, I'm gonna go take my eye drops and go to sleep. On my back, of course, to better facilitate the falling-int0-place of the recalcitrant lens.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Talk Thursday: Period.


It is too a word. Ten million script writers using it ten million times in ten million movies can't possibly be wrong. And even if they are, so what? A language is not a static thing, my friends. It doesn't enter the deep freeze around 1890 and refuse to budge, however much certain librarians and college professors and guys I used to date might wish it so. Things change. Words change. Haircuts change. And if an entire generation has started running together two words into one, who are we to argue? Nobody, that's who. So get over it. Big wheel keeps on turnin', proud Mary keep on burnin'. Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin' into the future. You cats down with that? Fo'shizzle?

In case it's not obvious, I've about had it with the human race today. Let it never be said that Buddhists can't get pissed off. We're human beings (except for those of us that are cats). We can, we do, and sometimes we even (gasp!) let it slip to other human beings. What we do different, if we are smart, is avoid dumping our shit on other human beings (and cats) who are not at fault. For that matter, even those who are at fault, most of the time. Well, unless they're really causing trouble for other human beings (or cats). Like this Mubarak guy in Egypt. I think I'd make an exception in his case. Course, he doesn't need me to tell him that he's overstayed his welcome because most of the country's doing it for him, so never mind on that front. (Hey, Mubarak, Imelda Marcos called. She says pack the black ones.) Oh geez, it occurs to me nobody under thirty will get that joke. Well, that's okay. I don't get most of the ones about Jay-Z, whoever that is.

So what am I pissed off about, you no doubt are dying to know. Well, I'm not sure that's important right now. Suffice it to say I sometimes get very tired of being the bearer of bad tidings. I get equally tired of being on the receiving end of bad tidings, and I really get tired of situations that were out of control to begin with spinning even further out of control just when it was starting to look like they might settle the fuck down for a while. I've also had it up to fucking here with being the only one who seems to ever keep her word. Well, that's a shameless exaggeration. More like I feel like I'm the only one who seems to think that not keeping her word is a terrible crime, rather than the shrug and oh-well I'm getting from, uh, certain other people that I'm not at liberty to name at this time. In short, I'm stressed out, strung out, wiped out, played out, and to quote the late George Carlin, I know the upside of downsizing, the downside of upgrading, and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.

It's just been One Of Those Days.


(Exclamation point?)

On the other hand, I'm typing this on My New Laptop (TM) at Afrah (TM). So the day hasn't been a total waste.

Just, you know, mostly.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fiscal Anorexia

I got a new laptop yesterday. Well, it's not technically accurate to say I "got" a new laptop; more like a new laptop was forced down my throat yesterday by the person in the house (who is not me) who is willing to admit that once in a while we actually need to, oh, you know, buy something. That when laptops, however beloved, start locking up and require two to three restarts per session, it's probably time to get a new laptop. That ranges which occasionally explode are not acceptable in the kitchen, and when one starts pulling that sort of behavior you need to get rid of it and buy a new one. The same person who twisted my ear and got me to buy new athletic shoes last week, to replace the pair I've had since, oh, say, 2004, approximately. Yes, I know you're supposed to get new ones every six months. Don't nag me. Six years is actually doing pretty well, for me.

Okay, so I have fiscal anorexia. Can you blame me? I've lived on a shoestring budget for so many years it's just become kind of a habit. Ever since the Bataan Death March of Finance in 1991 (laid off from the State of Arizona; earning $7.61 an hour at Bank of America, 20 hours a week; my rent was $250, and my cat was eating better than me. Yes, of course I had a cat. I've always had a cat), I've just been accustomed to getting by on very little money. Rather, on spending very little money. How much I actually have in the bank is kind of irrelevant. And let's not forget I've done not one, not two, but three stints on unemployment since my arrival in the fine state of Texas, though admittedly this last one was so short I didn't even have time to collect any benefits (for which, thank God. Seriously, thank God.)

Now here's something really funny: My parents act exactly the same way I do about money. Ferexample: Last time they were in Dallas, they wanted to stay at the La Quinta next to the Denny's in Garland (which we fondly call the Bedbug Inn after this unfortunate incident where--actually, never mind, that's none of your business). After much arm twisting I got them booked at the Radisson Dallas East, which is a lot closer to the house and about a thousand percent nicer, and they pitched a fit because it was $20 more a night than the La Quinta. I about tore my hair out over this one. Luckily my sister cast the deciding vote. She rocks, just incidentally.

People, my parents are millionaires. I shit you not. They own some serious real estate, a scad of stocks, bonds, money market funds and a bunch of other stuff I know nothing about. They also drive old cars, order the cheapest things on the menu, and tip abysmally. So I come by this honestly. (Except for the tipping. I'm a very generous tipper. Especially when I eat with my parents; yep, that's me running back into the restaurant, finding the waitress, whispering, "I'm so sorry, here" and shoving more money into her hand.) No doubt my parents were not always millionaires. Hell, maybe they became millionaires by being so careful with their money for such a long time. And while I don't remember being particularly poor growing up (split-level home in suburbia, nice lawn, ski vacations every year, flying to see my cousins once in a while) I'm sure there must have been tough times, before I came along or maybe even after, to which I was cheerfully oblivious.

(Side note here: I remember one of the kids on the Cosby Show asked the dad, "Dad, are we rich?" and Bill Cosby said, "Your mother and I are rich. You have nothing." If one of us had ever had the nerve to ask, I expect we'd have gotten a similar answer.)

If not spending money was all it ever took to get rich, though, I'd be rolling in the dough, and I'm not. No, I'm just kind of your average middle class wage earner, and there's nothing particularly wrong with that. I imagine most average middle class wage earners don't feel like vomiting before they shell out money for a new laptop, though. In the case of the new printer some years ago, I actually did it. Well, I'd had a bottle of champagne the night before. (New Years Day sale.) I wonder if this is connected to those fits of anxiety and the feeling of being absolutely not-safe. In the case of money, it's the feeling of there being absolutely no more. This money will disappear and no more will arrive and we'll starve and we'll die. Which is, of course, ridiculous, but that doesn't stop me.

Anyway, it's a very good thing I hooked up with Joan, who knows when money needs to be spent. I'd say she has fiscal bulimia, but that's not fair, really. She's actually (gasp) a rather normal person where money's concerned. And I tell myself that over and over again while I follow her onto a slab of ice floating precariously in the North Sea, er, rather, while I follow her to purchase something. Sorry, but everything feels like a slab of ice right now because it's about twelve degrees outside. Must be time to buy a new winter coat. AAAAAAIGH!!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Talk Thursday (on Friday): Apples and Oranges

This has been the weirdest week in recent Jen history. For starters, I've spent a disproportionate part of it here at the house, huddled in a warm blanket and waiting out the Big Chill (blast of Arctic air from somewhere up north that doesn't like Texas very much) with Joan and the cats. I went to work on Monday like normal. All Monday night and Tuesday morning we had sleeting rain that froze when it hit the ground, turning my little corner of Albatross Lane into a skating rink. At about 7:45 Tuesday morning I got a call that for the first time in Law Firm history, we were going to be closed because of the weather. Which was good; despite the ice I'd navigated as far as the Main Drag that runs past my house, only to discover that it, too was an unsalted, unsanded skating rink, and there was no way to go another foot unless I wanted to strap some skates to the ol' Saturn Vue and glide the rest of the way to work. So I turned around (with some difficulty) and back home I went.

I dunno about you, but long strings of unplanned unstructured time give me the willies. I never quite know what to do with myself. Oh sure, I can spend the whole day writing (and I did, for the most part) but there's always this nagging sensation that I SHOULD BE WORKING (on Law Firm stuff, that is) and despite the utter lack of any ability to actually do so, I can't help but feel vaguely guilty. I think about the mail piling up on my desk and my cute li'l task list growing ever longer. None of that actually stops me from, you know, curling up with the cats and taking a long afternoon nap, but it does make it a little less fun. (The cats, of course, are oblivious; warm hooman to nap with! Yay!)

Wednesday the Law Firm was back in business; we just opened late. I skipped my swim (no unnecessary driving in this mayhem) and crawled to work on a well-sanded freeway that was STILL icy as hell. I don't think we ever got above 30 mph and that was just fine with me. Any faster would have been too scary. Only about 1/3 of my colleagues actually made it to the office; plenty of people had kids home due to closed schools, too far to come on roads too bad to be safely navigated, and other Winter Driving Issues. Those of us that did make it in were like survivors of the Titanic, giving each other high-fives. We'd have ordered pizza, but we couldn't find anyone to deliver it (!).

Thursday we were actually open at the regular time, though I was late anyway because I drove Joan (who will not drive on ice, no matter what) to work. Getting downtown from our house, which is only about an eight mile drive, took something like 45 minutes as we crept down a Main Drag that still hadn't been sanded. Getting from downtown to the Law Firm, though, which is a comparable distance, only took about twenty minutes. The miracle of sand trucks. Then, Friday, just as we were starting to clean up from this mess, along came six or eight inches of snow and threw us right back into the middle of it.

I mean, seriously. Six or eight inches of snow on top of a sheet of ice. THAT's fun to navigate. I was all ready to jump up and try it anyway, but Joan asked me, very politely, to please have an ounce of sense and not try to go in to work. I'm glad there are people around here that are smarter than I am. I let myself be talked into it. Which turned out to be for the good. The nice news lady on Channel 8 kept saying it over and over again: "If you don't have to go anywhere, please stay home." She didn't add, "And if you're the fat chick on Albatross Lane who thinks she'll be just fine because she drives a Saturn Vue, this goes double for you," but she might as well have.

So here I was with another eight hours of unstructured time. We elected to spend the first three of them asleep (the vote was seconded by all three cats, who draped themselves around us like throw pillows). When we finally did get up, we decided our big project for the day would be digging the cars out of the snowbank and chiseling all the ice off the windshields, in case we had to go someplace in a hurry. This took, oh, about an hour, by which time we darn near froze our fingertips off. And noses. Twenty degrees is rough on noses. Of course there was some time spent on the Internet. We made a batch of squash soup with sweet potatoes. And yours truly spent half an hour on the Gazelle for like exercise. (I haven't been to the pool since Monday. My chlorine content is getting low.) And I exchanged a number of text messages with my boss, the basic thrust of which was, Chill out. It can wait until Monday.

It can wait until Monday. What a concept.

So as Day Four of the Big Chill rolls to a close, I'm several pages further along in my WIP, the cars have been swept off, I've had a little exercise and there's squash soup chillin' in the fridge. Which, for an ice day, is not half bad. How does it compare to last year's Snowpocalypse, when The Worst Storm Ever In the History of North Texas plowed through here in the middle of the Winter Olympics and left us without power for four fucking days? Apples and oranges, my friends. We never lost power this time around. And that made everything a lot more tolerable.