Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hiatus

Dear loyal readers:
I am suspending my blog for a while. I have lost all my mirth. Thank you so much for reading my words. Perhaps I will have more for you one day.
Amy

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Cubbie Hubby


The last few weeks have been a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, couch-jumping, cat-traumatizing, whoop-hollering ride in my house because my husband, Ron, is a lifelong Cubs fan. In case you have not been paying attention, the Cubbies won the World Series on Wednesday for the first time in 108 years, and when they returned to Chicago the city leaders dyed the Chicago River blue to celebrate with the more than six million people who turned up from all over the world to party. (I’m still wondering what toxic chemical was used for the blue color and whether it killed the fish or not.) The statistic-wonks have declared that was the longest “drought” that any sports team has ever experienced in the history of organized sports. I can testify that Ron has gone his entire life cheering unwaveringly for those loser Cubbies until Wednesday, when they finally became the world champions.

Ron likes to watch all kinds of sports, and we have often gotten excited about our favorite teams. But this was perhaps the biggest sports event of Ron’s life. He sat loyally glued to the TV through all the final series leading up to the Cubbies advancing to the Big Show. It looked bleak for his guys when they were losing the series 3-1. But they made a miraculous comeback, winning two games and forcing the series into a seventh game. In a turning point moment in one of those games, Ron’s favorite player (Russell) hit a for-real grand slam home run. While the runners swooped around the bases to home, Ron ran around the invisible bases in our house screaming his head off. Then he jumped on the couch, fell off the couch onto the floor, picked himself up and ran to the front door of the house, opened the door, and hollered at the shrubbery. He promptly lost his voice. The cats cowered in my study, terrified, as they realized that there was indeed something more frightening than the vacuum cleaner.

If Ron had a bad heart, I would have prohibited him from watching game seven. But his heart is good and we watched. The game started out well for our Cubbies and they had a 6-3 lead all the way to the eighth inning. Ron jumped up and down and rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation of the imminent win. But then the Cubbies’ pitcher choked (perhaps on a sunflower seed) and let Cleveland catch up so the score went to a 6-6 tie. This was when Ron’s good heart proved its strength. I feared he might start smashing plates on the floor. Instead he screamed at the Cubbies coach to pull the pitcher, but the coach didn’t listen to him. They went into the ninth inning with no change in score and no change in pitcher. Still tied, the game would have to go into extra innings. That was when it started to rain; clearly a sign that the entity in charge of the universe has a sense of humor.

Let me take a break from this saga to note that baseball is not nearly as exciting as this account makes it sound. The final game of this year’s World Series was an anomaly. Trust me. I watched quite a few games with Ron at the end of this season and I can say unequivocally that baseball is one of the most boring sports on the planet. Racing crickets is more entertaining. You can sit for hours watching men chewing all manner of stray objects and spitting residue from these objects onto the ground. It’s disgusting. If you were a space alien watching baseball you would think the point of the sport is to chew and spit. Plus nothing happens for ages in baseball other than players adjusting and readjusting their clothing. Maybe once every hour or so someone will actually do something to indicate that people are still alive out there, like get on base, and then you have to hope they manage to advance and don’t just get stranded. I usually read a book through most of the game. The players must have to cram all that unidentifiable weird stuff into their mouths just to stay awake. My guess is that they are chewing tobacco, wads of gum the approximate size of a grapefruit, sunflower seeds, tree branches, chunks of undercooked brisket, superballs, and used tires. Plus, it’s extremely important for them to look tense. Baseball is a tense game. You need nerves of steel to sit through that much chewing while waiting for something significant to happen. So baseball is largely a sport based on chewing, spitting, adjusting clothing, stressing out, and permanently staining a perfectly good pair of white pants with dirt and grass.

Back to the World Series. So it started to rains as they went into a tenth inning. They covered the field in tarps and announced they would wait it out. Ron could not sit still. He changed the batteries in all the flashlights, cleaned out the refrigerator, defragged his computer, filled out his absentee voter ballot, and disassembled and reassembled the washing machine. Finally, the rain stopped and the game restarted (after a mere 17 minutes). The delay gave the Cubbies a minute to regroup. Their pitcher had a good cry in the dugout, everyone changed their pants, and someone went out and bought a 60-pound bag of sunflower seeds and some birch bark. The seeds and bark were a godsend because no one had brought enough stuff to chew to last for ten innings and, having run out, they were eating their sneakers and belts.

The miraculous Cubbies went back out onto the field and scored two runs while devouring 40 pounds of sunflower seeds. Cleveland was only able to score one run (no one had thought to get them more sunflower seeds), could not catch up, and the Cubbies won the series at the end of the tenth. The team went berserk, of course, sunflower seeds everywhere, and the stadium erupted. At our house, my Cubbie Hubby executed physical maneuvers that I thought he had lost the ability to perform during the Reagan Administration. The cats cowered in the corner. Whooping and hollering, he called Cubbies fans friends on the phone, one after the other, and screamed “hoo-ha” into the receiver and they screamed “hoo-ha” back and then he hung up and called someone else. The adrenalin rush kept him up half the night watching celebrations around the country, first on TV and then live streaming on the computer.

We witnessed history, and it was about as exciting as baseball gets. By the end of the game, the Cubbies had chewed up their sneakers, belts, caps, and the bench in their dugout. I think they should change their name to the Chicago Termites. In fact, all the teams should be renamed after critters that chew. The Cleveland Beavers would be catchy. If I learned one thing about baseball from watching the series with Ron, it’s that you can’t play that game without chewing on something. All due respect to Cleveland for a great series. Go amazing Cubbies!


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Picky Eaters


When my children were growing up they were picky eaters. I thought they would outgrow that for the most part. Now that they are grown, the only difference is that they don’t spit the beets at the cat and overturn the plate. They just decline to eat. I have had to create a flowchart to help me keep track of all the food likes and dislikes. Plus I have a fourth person in the mix these days – my daughter-in-law. Every time they all come home and I cook, we have a new adventure. They  know I maintain a running record of their preferences. Last month when I had the whole gang here, and I made ratatouille from the vegetables in my garden, my daughter-in-law said, “I love these capers in the ratatouille” while my daughter, who was spitting the capers out and assembling them in a pile on the edge of her plate, said, “Mom, add capers to my list of do-not-like.”

I constantly run into new eating preference information to file away. I thought my daughter and daughter-in-law loved a particular kind of cracker with soft goat cheese. So I stocked up on these before they came. Then my daughter reminded me that my daughter-in-law loves the crackers but dislikes goat cheese. Meanwhile, my daughter-in-law was looking for the sundried tomatoes. That’s what she likes on the crackers. I had some of those on hand for her. I ran to the computer to bring up my file to note the goat cheese and sundried tomatoes information. I think they should develop a phone app for moms to keep track of what their children like to eat.

My youngest son won’t eat fruit. He says it has something to do with the texture. I find it hard to believe that all fruit has a particular texture he can’t abide. He will eat apples and applesauce and he will eat watermelon but only if it’s perfect. It has to be sweet, not too cucumbery, not mushy but crunchy but not too crunchy – only perfect-crunchy. Is there a tool that measures watermelon perfection? The watermelon spectrometer? He will drink fruit smoothies but he only allows certain card-carrying approved fruits into them. The list changes. I can’t keep up.

My older son is the one who, as a child, asked for a lettuce leaf and after chewing it thoughtfully and spitting it out said, “This will taste like something when I grow up, right Mom?” Apparently it never did. He is not fond of vegetables, but will eat many varieties of them depending upon how they are prepared. Generally if they are slathered in pasta and Alfredo sauce or embedded in lasagna or something like that then he’s fine with them. He does eat Caesar salad, but salad is still not very high on his list. At least he likes fruit, according to the flow chart.

Last month, when all my children were home, my father was here too. While my children maneuver through meals as if crossing a minefield, Dad will hoover-up healthy portions of anything served to him so long as it’s not spicy. It was a relief to know that if I put the salsa on the side, Dad would be happy with whatever I served. It’s the rest of the crew that requires a schematic. How my omnivorous, easy-to-please father produced such a preposterous pack of food-particular grandchildren baffles me.

One thing all of us share in the family is that we love to cook delicious food. (My older son not quite so much, but his wife is into it.) A few days ago my daughter sent us a photo of the chicken rigatoni Alfredo she had made for herself for dinner. I was drooling (and I don’t even eat chicken). Last year she made tortilla soup for the family for dinner for Christmas Eve and the family licked that pot clean. Once, when my youngest son came home for a visit, he made us the most amazing mulligatawny soup. I had never had it before. He has a gourmet palate. That sometimes runs me into trouble. To make a simple cheese sandwich, he scours the refrigerator for tomatoes, lettuce, pepperoncini, avocado, mushrooms, and other ingredients to put on his sandwich. “What, Mom, you don’t have any caviar, fire-roasted red peppers, Thai green curry sauce, or Brazilian Tuscarora cherry-bomb squash blossoms? How do you expect me to make a decent sandwich?”

A couple of my children love mushrooms, but one of them won’t eat them. A couple of my children enjoy kale salad the way I make it, one of them hates kale. There’s a coconut frozen dessert I’m crazy about and most of the children like it too, but one of them hates coconut. One likes cheese in eggs, one doesn’t like cheese in eggs, one likes ketchup with eggs, one likes cream cheese with eggs, one prefers fried eggs on toast, one prefers scrambled eggs, one prefers chicken eggs, one prefers duck eggs, one prefers ibis eggs flown in from Australia and packed in homespun sheep wool blessed by Maori healers. How could breakfast get so complicated?

Now Thanksgiving is on the horizon. Thanksgiving dinner itself is not much of a problem. Everyone loves all the traditional foods, so long as they don’t find any capers, kale, or coconut snuck into them. Who would stuff a turkey with kale, capers, and coconut? (That doesn’t sound like a winning dressing.) We’re fine for Thanksgiving dinner, and our brood will pitch in and do a lot of the cooking with us. It’s the other meals during the weekend that I have to plan out in detail. Leftovers only go one night. Turkey sandwiches require several ingredients beyond turkey, and you can bet my youngest son is going to be searching the refrigerator for ingredients for his turkey sandwich. In a couple of weeks I’ll pull out the flowchart and begin building my schematic. Potatoes is my safe word.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Antibiotic Prison


This week I am in antibiotic prison. Here’s what happened. I have been struggling with a health issue that ultimately required treatment with antibiotics. Unfortunately, I have a body that interprets antibiotics as the nectar of the anti-Christ. My body gets a whiff of antibiotics and starts screaming its head off and running around in circles yelling “Earthquake! Fire! Avalanche!” Although normal people usually take antibiotics for ten days, I have never succeeded in making it to Day Ten. By Day Two my digestive tract has packed its bags and hopped the Space Shuttle for planets yet to be discovered. By Day Six I am as dizzy as if I just stepped off the G-Force Fireball Swing-Coaster Anti-Gravity amusement park ride. By Day Seven I break out in an impressive display of bright red hives that cover my entire body. That’s when the doctor and the pharmacist announce “game over.” I have been lucky in the past that somehow those scant miserable days on antibiotics managed to kill off whatever infection they were battling, even though I fell short of making it to the magical ten.

When I picked up my antibiotics at the pharmacy, the pharmacist told me not to read the warnings about side effects. But, but, but, I sputtered, knowing that I am the reason they have to put all those warnings on medications. He said they would just scare me and that they are extreme. Then he told me that while I am on the antibiotics I should stay out of sunlight, not drink anything alcoholic, avoid dairy products, not operate a submarine, and refrain from putting stress on my tendons. I asked him what would happen if I was exposed to sunlight and he said my skin would fall off. I asked him what about the submarine and he said I would cause an international incident. I asked him about my tendons and he told me not to ask about that. He told me to think positive.

The thing about my tendons just left me so curious that I had to read the warning label. I then discovered that I was taking a drug that could “cause permanent damage to tendons or the nervous system resulting in disability.” (You can’t make this stuff up, this is really what it said.) How can big pharma get permission to put this stuff on the market? Does it absolve them of all responsibility because they put the thing about the tendons in the warnings? So I can’t sue if my tendons are damaged? I don’t have choices here. I have to take this horrible stuff to get well. As I continued to read the warning label, I realized that I am doomed. My antibiotics could cause dizziness, hallucinations, tinnitus, depression, suicidal ideation, insomnia, twitching, speaking in tongues, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, hives, an obsession with Bob Dylan, yeast infection, electrical outages, drought, famine, and nuclear war. Yet the FDA approved this stuff. Perhaps they think that someone like me who is hyper-sensitive to antibiotics will transform into a viable weapon of mass destruction. They must be in cahoots with the Dept. of Defense.

Antibiotics are powerful substances. They are programmed to kill and they don’t understand the meaning of collateral damage. These antibiotics are annihilating every bacteria, every hint of bacteria, in my entire body. Both the bad stuff and the good stuff. They are murdering every microorganism within a fifty-mile radius of my person. They are making the pictures fall off my walls and have turned my cats practically transparent. (Those are cats, aren’t they? I’m not sure because of the hallucinations. I mean they could be dancing asparagus.)

I recently read the side effects warnings on a medication my father was taking for asthma. I read the warnings out loud. One of the potential side effects was “sudden death.” When my father heard that one he said, “That’s my least favorite side effect.” How can big pharma get away with this kind of stuff?

I so wish I didn’t have to put these horrible drugs into my body. I have spent years cultivating a beautifully balanced digestive tract that keeps me immune to disease. It had the most lovely flora in it. Sometimes I would lie in bed at night and imagine it radiating vitality. Gone. All gone. Feel free to cry for me. I needed to take these antibiotics, they were my only recourse. I can’t begin to rebalance my complex delicate beautiful body ecology until I finish putting this toxic stuff into it. My digestive tract is a wasteland right now and I can’t rebuild until I get out of antibiotic prison. Today is my last day. After this I’m throwing in the towel. Tomorrow I will begin rebuilding my digestive tract from scratch. Pass the sauerkraut.

BLECH!!!!!!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Puzzling Over Remote Controls


Every once in a while I decide I might want to conduct a maneuver on the TV. For instance, I might want to turn it on, find a channel, or increase the volume. These simple tasks used to be obvious (back in the last century) and did not require the use of remote controls. I think they can perhaps still be accomplished without a remote control, but not in my house, where I have been instructed never to touch any button directly on the TV. Perhaps I suffer from a little bit of remote phobia. I would be willing to admit that. Ron is a patient teacher and he repeatedly explains to me step by step how to complete actions on the TV using a remote. He even writes things down for me. I am still hopeless. Problem number one is recognizing which of the remotes I’m supposed to use. We have a lot of them in our house, especially to control electronic devices. We probably have more remotes than kitchen appliances at this point. We don’t have a remote for the blender, but we have a remote for the gas fire in the family room. I like that one. I can recognize it and when I press the button on it the fire starts. I suspect we have a remote that will make a pot of soup, but I haven’t pursued that avenue. I kind of like making soup myself.

I rarely watch TV without my husband. I don’t watch any actual TV shows; in fact, do they still have those? Isn’t commercial TV all reality shows where the audience watches people go shopping or watches them complete an obstacle course involving water, spiders, spandex, and climbing walls? I know they have lots of cooking shows and talent shows where people try to win at singing, dancing, and grooming poodles. There may even still be a few shows with a storyline and characters, but is must be hard to remember what’s going on in the show from one barrage of commercials to the next. TV is all about advertising and the shows have diminished while the advertising has increased. I’m not sure I could tell the difference between a TV show and a commercial anymore. Maybe you can tell the TV shows because they have more guns in them?

Although I don’t watch any TV shows, Ron and I sometimes watch a web series made for Netflix. We also watch movies (both on disc and streamed). That’s the main thing I use the TV for. Ron watches a lot of movies on it (especially old ones) all day long, but he’s retired so he has an excuse. The other thing we watch on the TV is sports. Ron watches baseball and basketball. We both watch football. Usually Ron is here with me and he decides which games we watch, which are usually the ones I want to watch too so it’s all good. The difficulty arises when Ron is not going to be here and I want to watch football. This requires Ron to spend several hours helping me memorize which remotes I will need to use, which buttons I need to press on them, and what to do if something goes wrong. My general plan for what to do when something goes wrong is to panic and burst into tears. Like if I accidentally change the channel, or, worse yet, switch the TV into a different mode. You would be surprised about the modes. There are lots of them and they have fancy numbers and letters to define them. I wonder who names the modes and how much that person gets paid to do it.

Ron has tried putting colorful tape on the remotes to help me distinguish one from another. Then he writes a key. He has drawn careful diagrams to identify the buttons to press. You would think I could at least follow these careful directions. But more often than you would imagine I somehow press the wrong button and the screen turns to snow with a mode designation flashing in the corner, something like HDMT26HAHAYOUIDIOT. That’s when I have to call Ron on his cell phone and urgently interrupt whatever he is doing to get assistance, because I really can’t have the TV laughing at me. It’s not even human.

Ron says I don’t even try. But I really do. When I press the volume button (like he showed me) on a Raiders game and the TV spontaneously switches to a nature show about snakes, I am convinced that the TV is simply having a laugh at my expense. It knows when Ron leaves the house. I can be innocently sitting on the couch, with my two labeled remotes and my twelve pages of diagrams and clear instructions, and I can wave bye-bye to Ron, who has just spent six hours briefing me on how to use the remotes to watch the game, and the minute the door closes behind him the TV jumps to an archived episode of Bewitched. I swear, I don’t have to touch anything. The TV just does it. I have actually resorted to driving to a sports bar to watch a game because I lost the game on my own TV while Ron was out.

I appreciate my husband’s infinite patience with me. He once wrote in a job application letter that he has the patience of a man who has been stuck inside of a whale. It’s true, and he actually landed that job. He has also stuck with the job of helping Amy use a remote correctly. I don’t appreciate the random and downright mean actions of our TV. I do not find them funny and I don’t understand how that TV can get away with these shenanigans. Sadly, I am not even allowed to best the TV by pressing the “off” button and saying “so there.” I have to figure out which remote to use to power the system down correctly. I am so bad with remote controls that I could conceivably press the wrong button on a remote and cause the Coyote Valley Dam to release all the water in Lake Mendocino into the Russian River. Life is getting too complicated for me. I should stick to reading books.