Saturday, December 23, 2006

Music In Your Stocking

Inhale. Exhale. That might be the first time in two weeks I’ve been conscious of my breathing. The full force of being a consultant in the financial industry hit me like a Mack truck as clients swung into year-end mode starting in mid-December. I’ve been out at client offices much more than usual, then coming home to work a couple more hours on the clients I didn’t have access to during the day. (It’s extremely bad consultant manners to log onto another client’s computer if you’re on-site, even if you’re on a break.) One of the jobs I’ve been working on was particularly painful and complicated, in fact I did the job twice before they decided on an end-number they liked, resulting in me having to do it a third time. My director at the consulting company I work for actually pulled me out of there early (they refer to this as an "extraction", which made me feel like Sydney Bristow).

Anyhoo, I can breathe now because I’ve met all my obligations for the week and can take the weekend and Christmas Day off! But that’s it. It’s at this point I’m thinking to myself, if I was still an employee of a public company I would have the entire week off. That’s OK, there are always trade-offs and the good far outweighs the bad as far as I’m concerned.

As my gift to you I’ve compiled a list of songs from my Top 21 “new” artists of 2006. These are artists that I first discovered this year, even though some of them have been around for a while.

In alphabetical order with links to song samples:

Knock em Out by Lily Allen, from the album Alright, Still – she reminds me of Pink with a British accent

Ootischenia by The Be Good Tanyas, from the album Hello Love – alternative folk by talented Vancouver ladies

Heaven by Bitter:Sweet, from the album The Mating Game – bossa-nova pop I can’t stop listening to, in the Pink Martini realm

All the Pretty Horses by Calexico, from the album At the Crossroads – A Benefit for Homeless Youth – smoky Tex-Mex jazz-inspired goodness (the link is to their most recent album Garden Ruin, since the Crossroads link doesn’t have song samples)

Sons and Daughters by The Decemberists, from the album The Crane Wife – literary indie storytellers extraordinaire (yes, I know, I’m way behind on getting behind these guys), their earlier stuff is more baroque but this is a good place to start

Your Head’s Too Big by The Ditty Bops, from the album Moon Over the Freeway – I showcased this quirky duet in an earlier post, it’s just different, lots of influences including vaudeville & folk, with a sense of humor I find refreshing

Rue De Lis by The Essex Green, from the album Cannibal Sea – a Brooklyn band who wishes it were British, The Monkees meet The Shins, delightful

When I Was A Young Girl by Feist (Leslie Feist), from the album Let It Die – another Canadian singer with a torch song voice who writes lyrics that get under your skin, especially this song

Bad Idea by Thea Gilmore, from the album Burning Dorothy – a British singer in her mid-20’s with an old soul and an attitude (link is to Avalanche, another album that has song samples, try Juliet (Keep That In Mind))

Goodnight and Go by Imogen Heap, from the album Speak for Yourself – with a strong voice and utilizing layers of multi-tracking, her music is accessible yet introspective

Train by Sonya Kitchell, from the album Words Come Back to Me – she’s 17 with the soul and talent of someone much older, she wrote and plays the guitar on all the tracks, her voice has a natural smoky blues quality

Only A Fool by Marit Larsen, from the album Under the Surface – a Norwegian beauty making her way into the folk/pop space (link is to her myspace page for samples, you can get the album at Amazon)

The Taste of You by Erin McKeown, from the album Grand – I saw her open for The Waifs a while back and I’ve been hooked ever since, I didn't discover her this year but I had to include her, her songs are fresh and winsome, from acoustic country-rock to lush orchestral offerings; I felt her later album We Will Become Like Birds tried to be too commercial, losing some of her uniqueness (no song samples here but you can find lots on iTunes)

Your Belgian Things by The Mountain Goats, from the album We Shall All Be Healed – these guys trick me, some songs I love, like this one, while others make me jump to the iPod to skip the track, you decide for yourself (link is to their newest offering Get Lonely as it has song samples)

The Day the Earth Stole Heaven by Nine Horses, from the album Snow Borne Sorrow – I didn’t have a clue who David Sylvian is, all I know is I heard this song on our houseboat on Lake Shasta and I instantly fell in love with his voice…it’s deep and soulful and sexy (link is to their new album Money For All, coming out next month, for samples)

Needle and Thread by Psapp, from the album The Only Thing I Ever Wanted – they play the Grey’s Anatomy theme song, but worth a deeper listen for their “electro-folk melodies” as Amazon calls it

La Gran Siesta by Gabriel Rios, from the album Ghostboy – utterly irresistible Latin pop, he’s a Puerto Rican Adonis living in Belgium, some songs are in Spanish (like this one), some in English, either way you know exactly what you should do, get up and shake that thang (link is to his personal site, click on Music and Lyrics for samples, you can get the album through Amazon)

Hotel Song by Regina Spektor, from the album Begin to Hope – I had a very hard time picking a song from Regina, there are so many good ones; born in Russia, a classically-trained pianist with a flirty side, her voice is clear as a bell one moment and growly the next, a mix of Tori Amos and Fiona Apple yet better than them both

This Is Where by The Wailin’ Jennys, from the album 40 Days – if the name alone isn’t enough to get you to take a listen I don’t know what will; they’re from Winnipeg, Manitoba (my Mom’s home town!), and darlings of the Canadian folk circuit, with Celtic tinges

Iceskaters by Richard Walters, from the album Pilot Lights – I literally heard this song for the first time yesterday and I fell in love, so I’m still discovering him, an Oxford acoustic musician channeling Elliot Smith with a nod to James Blunt (link is to his personal site for samples)

Chocolate On My Tongue by The Wood Brothers, from the album Ways Not To Lose – sparse modern folk and blues guys, these real brothers have wonderful harmony and a sweet upright bass

As you can see, like a good Scotch, I'm mellowing with age. I have to admit I put on SexyBack when I'm on the eliptical but for the most part I'm looking for deeper than the radio can offer. (Ollie, I apologize, there's probably nothing in this list for you!)

If you want the zip file of ALL these songs, just email me or include your email in the comments. You’re welcome. And have a wonderful holiday.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Crunch Time

I'm still here, just incredibly, mind-numbingly busy with work. I have a couple of posts all done in my head but no time to put them down on the computer screen. I even have some music for y'all! I'll get a chance to breathe on Thursday morning, I don't have to be at a client for a software demo until late afternoon.

This was my shopping list the other day:
1. Gas-X
2. Bean-O
3. Lactaid
4. Tums
5. Whipped cream

And how's YOUR week going?

Friday, December 8, 2006

My Little Pony

I never had horse toys when I was a child, I didn't have much for toys period, now that I think about it. My memory is probably playing tricks on me again, choosing only to remember the bad bits, but I was more apt to bury my head in a book than anything else. Anyway, if I DID have horse toys, I certainly wouldn't have anything to do with the monstrosity that is My Little Pony.

Barbie has a horse too, his name is Tawny. *rolling eyes* But at least it isn't creepy.

We'll leave creepy for this Bratz rodeo horse. There's something disturbingly come-hither yet evil about that expression, don't you think?

No, I'll stick to my real pony friends, lucky lucky girl that I am. Here I am after my lesson last week with my favorite mare, Angel.

And lest you think I only have love for the trusty steeds, here are some kitty friends too.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Another Day Older & Deeper in Debt

The title's a quote from Tennessee Ernie Ford's classic song Sixteen Tons:

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

Yesterday was D's birthday; it also happened to be his company Christmas party. Many companies in the Bay Area, even the large ones, have done away with the all hands holiday party in favor of smaller celebrations, but being a construction company with headquarters out of the Silicon Valley, his tends to favor the old-fashioned approach in many ways. Everybody gets dressed to the nines and we all head to a nice waterfront hotel to eat banquet food and listen to a local cover band. Free drinks and the chance to watch your boss make a fool of himself on the dancefloor: priceless.

Several months ago the pilot light in our furnace started going out intermittently. As the weather got colder the frequency at which I have to re-light it has increased exponentially. With a large sigh we agreed we needed to remedy this situation.

For the price of a good used car or a really good vacation (pushing 5 figures) we are soon to be the proud owners of a new propane furnace, with matching ducts and assorted other accessories.

I’m all for being cozy and all that, but for that kind of money I want something I can show off. Does this count as House Bling? It’s not sexy, it’s not even pretty, and let’s face it, it’s in the basement. It doesn’t even come in designer colors!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Back in the Saddle

For various reasons I haven't been on a horse since November 8. Today's lesson started out pretty shaky. It's frustrating and embarrassing, but I have trouble remembering all the steps and the correct order to tack up. I think part of this is because I am on different horses all the time and they all have their own tack. Some of them wear bell boots (protective covers over their hooves), some of them don't. Some of them wear a martingale, some don't. My trainer has started letting me tack up by myself, she says she forgets that I've only been riding a short while, and today that was definitely not a good idea.

First I put the pads on in the wrong order. It was supposed to be navajo blanket then saddle pad, I did them the other way. Then, while I put the girth on the correct side (with the elastic buckle on the left), I didn't cinch it enough, so when I had to get off so my trainer could fix the pads, the saddle slid off Angel's back and ended up on her side. If a horse could roll her eyes I'm sure she would have. I must have said, "I'm an idiot" about ten times today. Once I got on and started riding things got better. Willow told me not to worry, that at least I hadn't forgotten how to ride. And, I did tie the knot correctly in the halter rope while I was at the washing station. Seriously, there are so many things to learn. That'll teach me to go three weeks between lessons.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Somewhere in Time

D’s now been gone three weeks. Surprisingly, the time has gone quickly, but I think that’s more a function of my life in general. I can barely believe that we are almost to December already, but that’s what the calendar tells me.

I can’t speak for him, but remaining apart after going through emotional turmoil and discord helped me to process what happened in a pure sense, without having him here to add to the layers.

In a big picture sense, it’s very clear to me that we fell into one of many cliché crevices of a long-term relationship: we took each other for granted. We simultaneously underestimated the value of what we had while making the assumption that no matter what happened, the other would always be there. While this episode in no way threatened our marriage, it was a hard lesson learned.

We have a very complicated history. When we met I hadn’t even been married a year but was already miserable. Within six months he was in love with me and told me so, but it took me a long time to fall in love with him, instead of the idea of him. He was my knight in shining armor, the man who was going to save me from my circumstances; he was perfect. So perfect that I didn’t deserve him. We created a dynamic that was so intense that others were uncomfortable around us – it was as if we were giving off sparks. Every hour, every minute, every second that I could steal away to spend with him was magical. The highs were dizzying and the lows were debilitating. It was a classic forbidden love story.

We spoke of the depths of our feelings in grandiose ways; we had known each other forever, literally, we had been lovers in past lives, we wrote poetry. Our sexual connection was mythical. He would nearly cry as he gazed in wonder at my body, the sheer beauty almost too much for him to bear.

Then, after five long years – FIVE YEARS – I made it through to the other side and we could be together without restraint. After a year I moved in with him, to a city far from my comfort zone (and from our places of work), but I hardly noticed the five hours we spent commuting every day, I was beside him so I didn’t care where we were. Of course, the intensity could not and should not have been maintained, but there were still moments of “Somewhere in Time” now and again.

Now here we are, creeping up on 18 years since that fateful day we met.

Holy. 18 years.

We’ve been a legitimate couple for almost 13 years.

We’ve been married for 6½ years.

And I can count on one hand the number of times that we’ve spoken harshly to one another. I have a lot to be thankful for. If I could have bottled what we had back then, I would add just a drop now.

I can’t wait to see the new movie, The Fountain. The idea that love can survive through time and lifetimes is an old theme for us, and I think it will help us to hold each other’s hands just a little tighter.

Jim Croce -- Time In A Bottle mp3
(right click, Save Target As)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Note to Self

Dear Donna:

Unless you want to suffer like you did last night and then again this morning, this is your official notice that you can no longer drink beer. Especially wheat beer. Dumbass.

Your Gastro Group

I had dinner with the lovely and getting-bigger-by-the-minute Statia last night. She is funny. Damn funny. So damn funny it's a bit of a struggle just to keep up and even be in the same ballpark when it comes to funny. If you ever talk to her, ask her to do her dogs' voices. The Chihuahua routine is fucking hilarious.

From reading her blog I knew that we felt the same way about a lot of things, but talking to her last night about her pregnancy and assvice on parenting made me realize how much we had in common. It was really cool to hear someone who is actually pregnant and is going to have a kid (in March!) spout off about the very same things I would have spouted off about if I had won the baby lottery. At least I know there will be a Mom on the planet yelling, "What the FUCK?" at the same things as I would have. And that's very comforting.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I'm thankful for all of you internets.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Fifth Horseman

Google is trading at over $500 per share today.

I don't even know what to say about that. Except: dammit, why wouldn't they hire me??

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More Bad News

There’s nothing like a loved one’s medical crisis to throw some cold water on a self-deprecating party.

D’s 86 year-old Mom is in the hospital again, this time she went into kidney failure. What’s even more upsetting is the way things were handled (or not) by the staff at the assisted living facility we moved her to earlier this year.

D’s sister was on the phone with her and asked her to find her doctor’s phone number. Mom put the phone down and never picked it up again, so his sister called the front desk and asked them to go check on Mom. When they went up to her room they found her sitting in her own waste in her chair, semi-conscious. They didn't even call D’s sister back, they just cleaned her up and left her there!!

After a couple of hours his sister called them back and heard the story so she drove to the facility. When she arrived she tried to get Mom to the bathroom but she was so sleepy she could barely stand, so she called a non-emergency ambulance to get her to the hospital. The EMTs were very concerned because her pulse and blood pressure were very low, so they ended up turning on the lights and getting her to the ER. They had her in the ICU overnight but moved her to a regular room this morning. Today she had a blood transfusion and her counts are normal enough that they aren’t going to do dialysis.

Later it came out that the staff did notice that she was a little sleepy the past few days and didn’t want to go to the dining room to eat, but noone alerted family or her doctors. I understand that when you work in a place like she lives you see a lot and probably nothing phases you, but the staff should know enough about each resident to know when something is out of the ordinary for them. What’s the point of living in an assisted living facility if all they do is bring you pills twice a day and make sure you take a shower?

Before all of this happened I had planned to go to a classical choral music concert to hear the lovely and talented Coloratura sing. It was glorious, and I was glad to be lifted by the beauty of the music, if only for a short time. She seemed genuinely touched that I came, and it was also good for me to make someone else’s day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dark & Twisty

Just like Meredith, I can’t pull off bright and shiny for long, but I’m very good at dark and twisty. (Incidentally, I don’t think she’s all that dark, but she is twisty.)

I think I’m quite easy to like, but I also think I’m very difficult to love. The more layers I let you see, you see how many more layers there are, and hardly any of them are pretty. Pretty on the outside only makes up for so much – more than it should, frankly.

I always have been and always will be a glass half-empty kind of gal; I have plenty of precedent for this position. Cut flowers and pets always die. I fully and completely expect the worst. I’m a fatalist, a catastrophist, a worse-case scenario proponent. The child’s shoe lying by the side of the freeway can only mean one thing. I’m depressed and anxious. I’m jealous and suspicious. My fragile self-esteem can be vaporized with the smallest slight, real or imagined. I care too much about what others think of me.

And yet, I have wonderful friends, a husband who adores me and the respect of my colleagues. How the hell did this happen?

The painting above is by Regina Lafay, part of a collection of art at the Survivor of Abuse and Trauma Art Gallery; this one is called Anxiety.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Unnerving

There have been a few Big Issues gathering steam in the background here in the Cage. I don’t do well when my stability is threatened; in fact, it takes very little to make me stumble and fall, especially when I’m compromised by stress.

The other day something happened with D that toppled me. I’m not going to go into specifics here, but it involved trust and secrets. A dynamic was created that was unnervingly similar to one that happened a lot in my first marriage. Not.a.good.thing.

Last night we talked through it as best we could, although the telephone and the 3 hour time difference made it exceedingly difficult. The wine made it a little less difficult (for me, at least). We both apologized for the hurt we’d caused each other and made compromises on a couple of battleground issues.

I’m deeply grateful that we have the kind of relationship that can bear this level of emotional turmoil, and while I’m not naïve enough to think that our marriage would be totally immune to difficulty, it still sucks.

Monday, November 13, 2006

One Down, Two to Go

It's been a week since D left for NYC. We've been apart before, we've even been this far apart before, but not for this long. Somehow the fact that he is on the other side of the country makes this worse. Perhaps it's because I know I can't just jump in the car and be with him in a few hours. I spent $80 on groceries today, and with the exception of bananas and grapes, almost everything else I bought was in a box or a bag. I'm trying not to eat junk, but I'll be damned if I'm going to make a big fuss just to feed myself.

Most days I get up, work at my home office in my sweats or get ready and drive to a client's office for the day, come home, eat in front of the TV and fall asleep on the couch. I wake up around 2:30 am and go upstairs to bed, where I read for a while to help me get back to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I've visited friends and gone out to eat, taken riding lessons and shopped. I would have done all of these things if D was here. But he isn't. And the house doesn't feel right. The bed doesn't feel right. I don't feel right.

Should I be embarrassed to admit this?

While I'm at home making permanent butt marks on our couch, my husband is far from home, hooking up with work colleagues, meeting online friends in person and taking martial arts classes.

I'm proud of him for taking advantage of the opportunities that have presented themselves; but I have to admit that right now I'm feeling like I need him a lot more than he needs me.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Be Not Forgotten

I remember as a young girl in the suburbs of Vancouver, on November 11th we would all buy little plastic poppies and wear them on our lapels as we sat in silence for two minutes on the couch watching the Remembrance Day ceremony from the Victory Square Cenotaph. The unveiling ceremony in April 1924 included this timeless plea: “Those whose sacrifices this Cenotaph commemorates, were among the men who, at call of King and Country, left all that was dear, endured hardship, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty, giving their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten."

We all memorized “In Flanders Fields”, a poem that to this day makes me teary. It was written by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on May 3, 1915 after spending 17 days treating men injured in the Ypres battle in Belgium.

In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the red poppies that flourished on the newly dug graves. He spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on December 8, 1915. A portion of the poem is quoted on the Canadian $10 bill.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Inspired by McCrae's poem, American Moina Michael wrote a poem in response in which she promised to wear a poppy to honor the war dead. She also began to sell poppies to raise money for disabled veterans. After meeting Moina Michael in 1920, French YWCA secretary Madame E. Guerin started selling handmade poppies to raise money for poor children who were living in the aftermath of the Great War. Soon thereafter Field-Marshall Earl Haig, the former British Commander-in-Chief, encouraged the selling of paper poppies to raise funds for veterans. This tradition spread to Canada and then to the United States.

I think one of the subtle but inherent differences between Canada and the US is the underlying military thread that runs through everyday life here. I knew that my grandfather and great-grandfather both served in the Army, but I never saw a commercial telling our young men to join the Armed Forces and knew very few people who were even in ROTC. I’m not inferring that Canadians aren’t proud of their soldiers and sailors, far from it, and they’ve been involved in every major conflict in every corner of the world since WWI. There just isn’t the same emphasis placed on military might.

Remembrance Day in Canada is historically a day to remember those who have fallen in the service of the country, and Veteran’s Day in the US is historically a day to remember those that survived the conflict in which they served. Either way, we have not forgotten, we will never forget, and we wish with all our hearts for the safe return of all the brave men and women still out there in the field.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Things I Didn't Know

Don't worry, I'm not going to list ALL the things I don't know, that would take up way too much space. I was watching VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 80s the other night and I was surprised at how little of the trivia I actually knew. Of course, that could be because I wasn't at home looking through books learning about the bands and the songs and what they meant, I was too busy shaking my ass on the speakers. Or, maybe those brain cells were eaten up by all the Long Island Ice Teas.

Anyway, did you know:

That Robert Palmer died in September 2003? I had no idea!

That Devo is from Ohio? And "Whip It" has nothing to do with sado_masochism? And that original band members are working with Disney on a project band called Devo 2.0, where child performers sing their hits?

That "Little Red Corvette" isn't about a car at all? (Prince is talking about her hoo-ha.)

That Berlin broke up because co-founder John Crawford hated the song "Take My Breath Away" (from Top Gun) so much he refused to play it in concert?

That's just off the top of my head, I'm sure there are many more things I don't know.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

More Sunday Ramblings

D left this morning for a business trip. He'll be outside NYC for almost 3 weeks, then he's stopping in Arizona on the way home to spend Thanksgiving with his Dad. I don't do well when he's not here, and the dogs have been moping around all day. The Red Dog refuses to leave the front door, he's waiting for Daddy to come home. The Yellow Dog (my therapy dog, in more ways than one) refuses to leave my side, following me from room to room and quietly laying down at my feet. I'm glad I have them to take care of and to take care of me.

It seems like every song that iTunes is playing tonight involves someone leaving or someone missing their loved one, I suppose it's one of the universal song themes, but damn, sometimes I wonder about the randomness of the music selections, don't you?

Here's a sample of some of the songs it played while I was surfing:
Universal Traveller by Air
I'll Fly Away by Alison Krauss
Where You Lead I Will Follow by Carole King
Leaving on a Jet Plane by Chantal Kreviazuk
My Lagan Love by The Corrs
Until You Come Back to Me by Cyndi Lauper
I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues by Elton John
Missing by Everything But the Girl
If You Could Read my Mind by Gordon Lightfoot
I Want You Back by The Jackson 5
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome by Madeleine Peyroux
The Way You Say Goodnight by The Magnetic Fields

We were discussing recently how it drives us crazy when medical shows on TV get medical stuff wrong. The good people at WebMD have a new blog called TV Checkup. It turns out that this week's Grey's got it right about the woman with two uteruses!

"The exact name for this condition depends on what the woman has two of. Some women have double everything - uterus, cervix, and vagina. This is called uterus didelphys. Other women have two uteruses and cervix but only one vagina. This is called uterus duplex bicollis."

Now go to work tomorrow and impress your friends.

I was supposed to go to the last hunter/jumper horse show of the season today in Pebble Beach, but they cancelled it because it rained most of the week and the rings were too muddy and dangerous. I am seriously bummed, but at least I get to ride tomorrow.

My FIL emailed us this delightful photo the other day, you might have seen it since it's floating around the internet right now, but I thought I would share it anyway.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Slaying the Dragon

All of my life I've been afraid of going to the dentist. I'm quite sure the root of the problem lies in my childhood (what else is new). You might think that a child born and raised in Canada would have excellent dental coverage because, isn't it part of the whole universal health care system? Actually, no. And it still isn't, to my knowledge, I'm sure somebody out there will correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, since we didn't have coverage, the only time any of us went to the dentist was when it was absolutely necessary, as in, emergency. As in, you're in so much pain you don't really remember much about the experience other than it was awful. Not being one to learn a lesson, as an adult I pretty much continued this trend. A decade or more would pass in between visits, and I am not exaggerating.

Nobody in my family has good teeth and I'm no exception. My Dad's teeth were rotting out of his head by his late teens and he had them all pulled in his early 20s and got false teeth. Seeing my Daddy's teeth in a little glass jar next to the bathroom sink was completely normal to me. I don't recall my Mom having any real issues with her teeth, but us kids obviously got our choppers from my Dad's side. I faired better than my other siblings, thankfully, there's always someone worse off than you, right?

When I started my life over at 30, getting my teeth taken care of was one of the things I wanted to change. When I finally went, pretty much the first thing he did was send me to a surgeon to have my wisdom teeth out. All four of them at once. This was not a pleasant experience. The surgeon was a total ass, telling me I should have had them out at 13, not 33, but at least they did IV sedation so I don't remember them wrenching the teeth out of my head. More than 10 years later I still have nerve damage in my lower left jaw, but I've come to terms with the fact that it will probably never feel completely normal.

When I asked D to marry me I decided I wanted to get my front teeth fixed for the wedding. They weren’t that bad, but the two middle teeth overlapped a bit and there wasn’t any way to fix them, so I had the middle four teeth capped. Despite being shocked when I found out he was going to file them down to stubs before putting on the new porcelain versions, I was very happy with the results. Then one of them abscessed. I’d never had this happen before so I didn’t understand what was going on. By the time I made it his office after a weekend of torture the right side of my face was swollen from my eye to my upper lip, my sinus cavity completely filled with infection. Not a pretty sight. This required a prolonged root canal, which of course is a two-step process. Then later that year another one abscessed and I went through the whole thing again, root canal and all.

After that I had what seemed like many more procedures done, and I became able to handle it OK. I wasn’t having panic attacks just calling to make appointments anymore. I thought I had slayed my dragon.

I was wrong.

I got tired of driving an hour to get to my trusted dentist’s office, and I got tired of paying the extra charges because I was being treated out of network, so I switched to a dentist close to home. In case you don’t remember, this happened last year, and now I can’t go back there anymore, and I haven't been to another dentist since. Yes, it's already been a year and a half.

I have two silver crowns on my lower molars that I’ve had since I was in junior high school. They need replacing, not just because they are silver, but because they don’t cover the teeth completely anymore and I have random pain. I’ve been putting this off because there was so many other dental things that were more pressing, but now I am to the point where I really, really need to take care of it. Before he tried to kill me, I had the local dentist request pre-authorization from insurance, which he got, but then I ran out of coverage for last year before he could do it, and then, like I said, he tried to kill me, so I fired him.

My anxiety level about my teeth has been growing. I haven’t said anything about it to D because what was he going to say, except, you need to make an appointment, which I already knew. The other night my anxiety ranneth over and I literally worried myself sick. After we went to bed I couldn’t stop thinking about my teeth. I couldn’t decide if I felt like I was going to pass out or throw up, but I could feel a swell of something and I woke up D to tell him I didn’t feel well. He asked me what was wrong and I completely lost it, sobbing into his chest about how scared I was and how worried I was about my teeth. He’s leaving on Sunday for 3 weeks and I kept thinking this situation was going to turn into an emergency while he was gone. As soon as I started crying and explaining what was really going on in my head, I felt better.

I’ve decided that I need to find a dentist that does oral sedation. Taking a little pill, falling asleep and waking up when everything’s all done seems like the best thing since sliced bread. Unfortunately not many in-network dentists offer it, but I am committed to finding one that does or to forking over the extra money to make it happen. Of course, I haven’t started calling dentists yet.

One step at a time.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Girl Power

My music tastes have swung towards female artists lately, and for some reason, female groups. Here are three groups of ladies I'm currently listening to.

Antigone Rising -- Yes, if you were in a St*rbucks last year around this time you've heard them. I didn't pay attention back then and have just recently started listening to them. I'm not sure why the band is named after the daughter of Oedipus, there's a story there but I just haven't tracked it down. Here's a track from Killer Queen, a Queen tribute album, which is true to the original with some nice harmonies.

Fat Bottomed Girls mp3
(right click, Save Target As)

The Ditty Bops -- These two crack me up! Their songs are hilarious, irreverant and usually include either a harmonica or an accordian. Check them out.

Sister Kate mp3

The Be Good Tanyas -- They're from Vancouver, BC (my home town), so that automatically warrants a listen in my book. Turns out they have an interesting sound.

For The Turnstiles mp3

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Heckler

My business meeting went OK. This is a tricky thing to figure out, it’s really a two-pronged business: one setup for private companies and another for public companies (I work with stock options and other related financial stuff). We have the private side pretty much covered as they are all small and manageable, but the public companies have much different needs, requiring someone with a lot of expertise. If I could clone myself my problem would be solved. The real issue is, I have no idea how much work we will get or when. I guess the best I can hope for is to find several people who are willing to be on call and hope that one of them will be available when we need them. If we don’t have anyone to do the work, we will have to turn it down, which happens more often than we’d like. It’s also become clear that if we want qualified people we are going to have to increase the rate we charge the clients, so we can increase the hourly rate for the consultants. They are billing me out at least $20/hr too low to match what the independent consultants are charging their clients, so why would they want to come and work with us? I've never been in charge like this before, it's a whole other level of stress.

Next week’s TV Guide horoscope (the trusted source for all things concerning my future) says that I’ve probably taken on too much at work and now I’m worried about my health. Also that I should cut back on my responsibilities or hire someone to help me. I’m trying, really I am!

I am probably boring the hell out of all three of you out there reading this, with all this professional crap. It’s good for me to write it out, sorry.

Oh, and I've been nominated by a colleague to run for a seat on the board of the local chapter of the national organization for people who do what I do. I am running against three lawyers -- I'm not sure if that increases my chances of winning or not. Does this make me a grown-up?

Going back to my last post about feeling like a fraud...this is something I’ve been battling my entire life. Once I get into a professional situation I do a good job, I even do things I didn’t think I could do, but the voices are not something I can just turn off. I’ve been giving a presentation, speaking intelligently and even being a little witty with my audience, and I can literally hear another voice in my head telling me I should sit down, I don’t know what I’m talking about, why did I think anyone would want to listen to me, etc. Like I am watching myself in a movie giving the presentation, heckling myself. This has happened at every interview I’ve ever had as well. This is called disassociation. My friend Helen over at Everyday Stranger was talking about this in a recent post. I don’t think I have a full-blown disorder, but I do think it’s something beyond what the normal person would encounter.

Many, many times in my life the voices have scared me out of trying something new. I’ve turned down chances to water ski, drive a fancy car and ride any amusement park ride that goes faster than Its A Small World. I was even too scared to follow the first love of my life back to England when I was 18. It's an inside joke between me and my husband that he will know that I am having a good time if I throw up.

For some odd reason, I was not afraid to start riding horses, an activity where this is actually some danger involved. My psyche is a strange place.

Speaking of horses, after my lesson this week I was leading Smoke back to his stall. We passed a gorgeous bay stallion named Oxbow and his owner at his stall. She was smiling at me in a way that called out for conversation, so I started rambling on about how I was letting Smoke eat grass in the sun so his coat would dry a little before I put him away but his coat was so thick now it wasn’t really working, blah blah. When I stopped talking she said quietly, “You should have your husband buy you a horse.” I instantly forgave her for insinuating that I couldn’t buy my own horse and said, “Oh, why is that?” “Because I can see that you love it,” she replied. I laughed and said, “Is it that obvious?” She smiled gently again and said that yes, it was pretty obvious. I told her I’d just started riding in the summer and felt like I was way behind the curve, starting at 42. She nodded and told me she was 49, had been riding for about a year and that Oxbow was her first horse. I’ve found a kindred spirit for sure.

This is Angel, one of my favorite horses at the farm.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I'm Still Here

I’ve been a bad blogger lately. Almost every day I think of things I could blog about, but somehow I never get around to putting words down. Which is not only bad for retaining readers, it’s bad for me – I do better when I have an outlet for all the stuff I carry around in my head.

So…where were we?

Oh yes, Manuela. Sigh. Her tragedy coming so close on the heels of our good friends’ in the UK had me reeling. I kept going back to her blog to read the updates and every time I did I would feel worse, but I couldn’t stay away, because I felt like I needed to let her know I was still there for her. When you’ve met someone in person I think there’s a deeper connection.

Physically I’ve been struggling lately. In case you didn’t memorize the list of Menopause Symptoms I posted a while back, #20 was gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain and nausea. I started taking Bean_o right before meals and that helped a bit, but now that I’ve been paying more attention to cause and effect I think I have somehow become lac_tose intolerant in the past three months. This royally sucks. Ice cream is a food group to me. Last night I had a Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia cone and I’ve been paying for it.

This has also been seriously affecting our sex life. Because nothing says, “Come and get me, tiger” like the aforementioned gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence and gas pain. Ugh. Sorry honey. So I’m going to add Lac_taid to my daily regimen and see if that helps any.

In better news, I just got my new passport. Canadian passports are only good for 5 years and they aren’t renewable. This means you have to do the application and prove you are who you say you are every.single.time the damn thing expires. What’s really stupid is they allow you to use your expired passport as a form of identification. You have to send two forms of Canadian identification that have both your picture and your signature, in the name you are using on the passport. Since the only documents I have that have my current name on them are my old passport and my permanent resident card, I have to send them both. So for the 6 weeks or so it takes them to process, I can’t leave the US, as I would be unable to get back in. Now I have free rein to jump on a plane at a moment’s notice. Yeah, like that’s going to happen.

I’m sure part of my stomach issues are stress-related. In April I starting working for a financial consulting company co-owned by an old friend, and they’ve been throwing steady work my way. However, they really hired me to set up and run a new business line for the company, and I have a meeting tomorrow with the whole management team to discuss how we make this happen. This is a dream come true, really, but my self-esteem issues are flaring up and I’m feeling like a fraud. There are a dozen people I know off the top of my head who are more qualified and experienced than I am who should have this opportunity, not me. So far I’ve been proud of myself for the work I’ve been doing for them (some of it in new areas to me) and all the clients have been pleased, but there’s still that voice to deal with.

One other thing not lost on me is how my life is perfect for a new Mom. I set out when we first started trying to be working at least 75% of the time from home, remotely connected to clients. I’ve achieved this goal, but unfortunately never achieved the reason why that goal was set up in the first place. So again, I’m thinking, why do I have this easy life and no kids to take care of, when I know so many women with kids in daycare who are struggling? Sigh. The world is not fair, that’s why.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Animal Farm Redux

I'm completely at a loss for words today after reading Manuela's terrible news.

While I gather myself together for a real post I'll leave you with a few more pictures from the farm. You can see that Piggy Sue is, indeed, a pot-bellied pig; at two months her tummy is already almost dusting the ground. Lastly a couple of shots of Blue. He's seldom out of his stall when I am there, but the other day his owner was walking him back and forth in the sunlight, letting him dry after a soap bath. He's an 8 year-old saddlebred full-blood pinto, for you horsey types. For everybody else, he's one gorgeous creature: blue eyes, black forelock and tail, white mane and crisp white markings.

Monday, October 9, 2006

More TV & A New Addition

If you haven't heard yet, Google is buying YouTube, even though they already have their own video sharing site. According to the TV Squad, "the YouTube brand will remain intact, as will the company's entire staff of 67, including founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. You know what that means... high corporate positions and heftly salaries on top of the Google stock. Not a bad haul for a company that has yet to turn a profit." Dammit, why can't I ever be at the right start-up at the right time??

In other news, Smith is now on "hiatus", which is kind-speak for "we are strongly considering dumping this show and don't want to spend any more money on production". It was up against some pretty stiff competition with Law & Order: SVU and Boston Legal, but I don't watch either of those shows. Another show I like, Kidnapped, has been ordered to wrap up its serialised storyline by the end of the network's 13-episode commitment to air the show. Its also being moved to Saturday night, otherwise known as TV Purgatory. I chose it over Vanished because I felt it was a better show, but what the hell do I know about good shows? Apparently, not a thing. Hmph.

In better news, I got to meet the newest member of the farm family today. Say hello to Piggy Sue. She's about a foot long, I know it's hard to get a sense of size in this picture, but she's just as cute and friendly as could be.

Finally, here's a picture of everyone's favorite from my video, CatDog, lounging on the leaf-strewn lawn. Such a hard life.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Tricks of Memory

I've listened with a sad heart, nodding my head at the hypocrisy, to the unfolding case against Congressman Mark Foley. Angela Shelton sent a statement to the press and held a press conference in Washington, DC last week speaking about this issue. Here's an excerpt:

"While America sits shocked at the news that Congressman Foley abused his power and acted in a predatory manner towards the very pages he was supposed to protect, I know all too well that this type of behavior is common. I, too was abused by someone I knew, someone I trusted and someone who was skilled at manipulation.

While America is shocked, I am not. The overwhelming majority of child sexual predators are people we know, people we like, people who look like the very people who would never rape a child. They are our fathers, coaches, family members, teachers, doctors, clergy, and yes even our elected officials.

Today, I stand here as a survivor and I demand that every member of congress bring the commitment of fighting this war against people who prey on our children back to their home districts in each of their states."

Here is a link to the entire press release. Thankfully there is someone out there like Angela who has the grassroots support to make noise while the spotlight is hot. How have we been raising our sons, I wonder, so that there is an epidemic of middle-aged men who prey on young children? As it gets easier to trace web traffic and email, more predators will be caught, but I fear there will always be more to take their place.

I find it extremely disingenuous for Foley to stand on the crutches of being gay and having been abused himself. Neither of those things excuses his behavior, and in fact, either or both of those truths should have made him more sensitive to the issue of the effects such abuse has on its victims. There is no Get Out of Jail Free card when it comes to your actions, you take responsibility for them. Period.

A stunning revelation came to me recently as I thought about my own abuse and how I dealt with it, my behavior and thought processes warped. After decades of thinking, talking and writing about it, it occurred to me for the very first time that not only do I have memory gaps of the abuse itself, I also can't remember most of my first "real" sexual experiences.

Specifically, I can't remember the act of intercourse itself. As if watching a movie, I see the events leading up to it (the date, dinner, even foreplay), and then afterwards, but that period of time while the act was going on is missing. I've edited it out and the snippets of movie are on a virtual cutting room floor somewhere. This is classic PTSD.

What is so disconcerting is that while I needed to do this during my abuse years, somehow I felt it was necessary even during consensual sex. I was extremely lucky with all of my adult partners, none of them were abusive, although many of them were confused, I suspect. I would come on so strong, doing the things I had been taught to do, but when they got me into bed I turned into a different person: pensive, silent, disconnected. I suppose it's a good thing that I continue to have revelations like this, but it just proves that I will always be dealing with my past.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

TV Gets it Wrong Again

Last week's episode of Nip/Tuck really irked me. I realize it isn't a documentary, it isn't even really a medical show, but it completely drives me crazy when TV shows conveniently forget to check facts because that would interfere with a plot point.

The trouble that Julia is going through with her disabled son is not being handled well. She decides on the spur of the moment that she is suffering from PPD, having displayed nary a symptom of any significance as far as I could see. Their night nurse (and I still don't know exactly what that means) indicates they should try to keep her off antidepressants so she can nurse. WTF? These two things are not mutually exclusive.

The fact that both Shaun and Christian can't seem to keep it in their pants for an entire episode is wearing thin as well. And excuse me, but you don't take three bites of a hash brownie and start hallucinating like you did a speedball. Hmph.

I'm not a doctor, but that kidney removal scar didn't seem like it was in quite the right place on poor Liz.

Finally, slightly OT to this topic, but that was the worst fake dead dog ever in the history of TV. I realize they couldn't put a dog under and dump a real dog out of the duffle bag, but COME ON.

Maybe I'm just in a bad mood lately. Damn these night sweats! Did anybody hear about rhubarb extract helping with menopause symptoms? Who'd a thunk it?

Sunday, October 1, 2006

The Hunter/Gatherer Theory

I’ve been putting off posting this, I guess I don’t want others to have a negative opinion, but I’m going to risk it because I value your input.

By almost all accounts, my husband is a wonderful man (my ex isn’t overly fond of him). He’s thoughtful, compassionate, not afraid to cry; he writes poetry for Pete’s sake. He’s also a hunter. A big game hunter. He returned from his yearly hunting trip a few days ago, having killed a large buck. This is the first deer he’s gotten in several years of trying, which at least made me feel a little better for all the money it costs for the license and tags and the trip itself. But I just can’t get past the feelings of disgust and bewilderment at how and why this man I love would even want to do this, let alone actually do it.

This is the one issue we can’t and won’t agree on, we don’t discuss guns or hunting because there is no room for compromise in either of our positions. There are many men in my life who hunt, including my Dad (who is a lot like D in many respects), my BIL and nephew and a few close friends. I remember having the same feelings as a child, not understanding why Daddy would shoot a pretty deer and why is it hanging upside down in my garage?

D thinks I am afraid of guns and has gently inferred that if I went with him to the range and shot a gun it would lose some of its power. I am not interested in holding or shooting a gun, ever. He says this is my past talking – I’ve been held at gunpoint twice, once during my rape and once during a home invasion robbery. He might be partially right, but I also don’t believe I need to do anything about this, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a healthy fear.

But that isn’t what bothers me…I just can’t wrap my head around the dichotomy of my animal-loving husband purposefully killing an innocent animal.

He has a theory. He says that all men have primal instincts and they need outlets for them. Some men are ruthless businessmen, some beat their wives, some drive too fast – he spends a week in the bush once a year with a gun.

I am trying not to be a hypocrite here. I eat beef and pork and veal and I understand that these were once animals and they had to be slaughtered and skinned and cut up so I could have a BLT. The buck is being prepared by a commercial butcher and the meat will be eaten (not by me, mind you, I don’t like venison). D and his buddy had to dress out the buck in the bush, which involves a lot of butchery. I can’t allow myself to visualize this, particularly the cutting off of the antlers. Just typing that gives me the chills.

Anyone have any words of wisdom for me?

Totally OT – I was at the gym the other day and one of the TVs was showing an installment of E’s “101 Sexiest Celebrity Bodies”, which is strong incentive for another 5 minutes on the elliptical. The segment I watched was numbers 80 to 61. I came in at #67, which was Enrique Iglesias (I was glad to see this was both sexes). It was the next one that really threw me though: #66 was Jennifer Aniston. WTF? #60 was Demi Moore. I thought, Jesus, who the hell is #1 – Barbie? So I looked it up when I got home: Brad and Angelina were #2 and #1. Ouch. Sorry Jen.

Speaking of hot bodies, last week’s episode of Nip/Tuck featured Mario Lopez as a young stud of a plastic surgeon who Christian meets at the gym. I’m not a fan, I don’t watch Dancing with the Stars and he’s a bit too cutesy for my tastes, but holy moly, he has a rockin’ body. Go here for some pictures of their gym shower scene (NOT work safe). I think I need a cold shower myself.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm Ready for My Close-Up

I have another post brewing which I may post later today, but I wanted to get this up here before I lose my nerve...a few weeks ago D videotaped a riding lesson and I've managed to make a little music video out of it. The song is Lucinda Williams' "Can't Let Go", which I thought was most appropriate. There are a couple of times when my little horse Smoke is right with the beat. Instead of embedding the video from YouTube I'll just give you the link, I've heard that takes up a lot of bandwidth.

Donna's Riding Video

Please be kind, and remember that I was an absolute beginner when I started lessons in June, and that I've had about 15 one-hour lessons so far.

This week's lesson was on Angel, one of the two horses I like to call "steam engines", because once you get them going they just keep on going, and at every forward stride they make a snorting sound that sounds like a train. I was on a bareback pad with an equestrian vaulting surcingle (I'm sure there are a couple of you out there who know what that is), and Angel was on a longe line, so I didn't have to think about anything at the canter except my technique. Well, obviously my technique needs work, as I ended up with a blister right in the middle of my left palm. It burst, and now I look like I have stigmata. Also, a nice bruise on the inside of my right thigh from bumping up against the surcingle. Nobody can say I ain't tryin!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Picks & Pans

There’s nothing like two hours of Grey’s Anatomy to make a girl feel better. Lord help me, I do adore Patrick Dempsey. I don’t love him, that would be stupid to say, I’ve never met the man, but I do adore him -- he is so completely adorable. Patrick and his second wife Jillian have a daughter named Tallulah Fyfe, born in January 2002. On Live With Regis and Kelly the other day, he revealed that he and his wife are having twin boys. I am thankful that the next generation with have two McDreamy's to swoon over.

What are you watching on TV this new fall season? Not all the new shows have been on yet but I’ve caught several.

I’ve only seen the pilot of Vanished but I enjoyed that, I’ve got another on DVR to watch. I LOVED Studio 60! The team of Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford is brilliant, the writing is quick and witty and I care about all the characters already. Definitely a must-watch. I was disappointed with Justice, I had high hopes for Victor Garber's new show. In the pilot it seemed like everyone was overacting, and seeing what really happened at the end of the show wasn't as dramatic as it should have been, since the lawyers had figured out it out EXACTLY. Standoff is OK, it might grow on me, and there aren’t any conflicts with watching it so I will probably continue. I’m a big Ray Liotta fan and was happy to see him on TV, the pilot of Smith was fast-paced and slick, I’ll be back for more of Ray. Last night I tried to watch Shark but after Grey’s Anatomy I couldn’t focus on it and I got bored and didn’t watch the ending. I’ll give it another shot.

What am I missing that I should be watching? These are just the new shows, I’m still watching Grey’s, MI-5, Nip/Tuck, NCIS, Bones, Lost, Criminal Minds, CSI (original & NY), Crossing Jordan, Las Vegas, Numbers, Amazing Race, Desperate Housewives and Without a Trace. Yes, I do have a life off my couch! I tape most things and watch them when there isn’t anything else on. D is out of town for a week so I have a lot of time on my hands.

When we were on the houseboat we watched both Underworld movies, which if you aren’t familiar, star Kate Beckinsale as a vampire who kills werewolves with kick-ass weapons while wearing a skin-tight patent leather cat-suit. Yeah, you get the idea. A little too much violence and not enough substance for me, but they were good escapism flicks. We also made the grave decision to watch Colin Ferrell’s The New World. JE-SUS - that was the slowest movie ever made. Three quarters of the way through they finally get to England and the story goes from unbearably to only excruciatingly slow. There was some terrific cinematography and we appreciated the attention to detail with the Indian tribe at the Jametown settlement, but it was told from a blade of grass’ perspective. Unless you are suffering from severe insomnia, do not rent this movie.

On to books. While on vacation I finished reading Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Illuminator. As with many books I’ve read, the story started out strong and I cared about the characters, but by the end the author had apparently run out of ideas and tries too hard to wrap things up too quickly. In the end I felt the book was about how shitty it was to live in the late 14th century in Europe, especially if you are a woman. If you’ve read The Birth of Venus, it reminded me a lot of that. I also read Jasper Fforde’s first Thursday Next novel, The Eyre Affair. The premise of this book intrigued me, and while there were several clever plot points, in the end it wasn’t meaty enough for my tastes. With characters named Braxton Hicks and Jack Schitt (I kid you not), it was hard to take anything that happened very seriously. But, if you are looking for a quick easy read with a literary twist, you might enjoy it. I also re-read Anita Shreve’s The Weight of Water. I didn’t realize that I had read it before until I started, but I didn’t remember the salient point (who dunnit) so I still enjoyed it. I just started Sarah Waters’ Affinity and I’m finding it hard to get into. This one, like Tipping the Velvet, which I read last year, is another Elizabethan lesbian novel, only this one takes place in a prison. I’ll do a full review once I’m done.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Diamonds On My Tiara

Jesus, I am such an asshole sometimes. Oh poor me, I wasn’t feeling very well during my vacation. On a houseboat. On a beautiful lake. With my best friends and my husband and my dogs. Oh poor fucking me. One of the diamonds on my tiara is loose, whatever is a girl to do?

First, I have to apologize to the Blond Family. What the fuck do I know about a kindergarten boy? Nada, zip, zero. Yes, he can be exasperating, but I’m pretty sure that’s pretty normal. What right do I have to wish they didn’t have to have him there for the entire vacation? None. What a selfish bitch I can be. If we had a kid OF COURSE we would have brought them. We brought our dogs without asking them.

Where is all this self-loathing and acid coming from? I’m mad at the world.

In the last couple of days we gleefully sent out a link to our vacation pictures to all our friends and family. This morning I got a message from our dear friends in the UK – they lost their new baby over the weekend and promised to be back online after the funeral next week. I am crushed. Obviously I could not have known what they were going through when I sent the pictures (I didn’t even know they were expecting) but I can’t lose this bile in my throat.

I am so very lucky, and I need to stop taking that for granted.

Alison Krauss -- The Scarlet Tide mp3 -- from Cold Mountain

Monday, September 18, 2006

On the Lake

The houseboat trip went well. It could have been better. Boats are fickle beasts, and we had our share of issues with the runabout and one of the skis, but by the end of the week everything was working properly. One of the two fridges on the boat didn't work very well. The weather was really beautiful the first few days, then one really hot day, then it started to cool off and get really windy by the end of the week. Of course, on Saturday as we were docking the houseboat and getting all our stuff out to go home, it was again perfect.

I wasn’t feeling 100% the entire week. Part of this was not getting enough sleep. Between the cries of a 5 year-old in the middle of the night and dogs barking early in the morning and the constant noises associated with being on a boat, I felt tired most of the time. Daily naps helped but I’m sure I still ended the week with a sleep debt. We decided to bring our dogs at the last minute instead of paying $350 for a pet-sitter. They have a great time and we were glad we brought them.

My hormones continue to wreak havoc on my emotions and my physical well-being, and vacation didn’t stop this phenomenon. Wonder Boy with cast who couldn’t get wet didn’t have a good week. Or maybe he did, I'm not a good judge of that. I'm sure like any little boy, he can be annoying and manipulative and a plain brat, but he can also be loving and funny and smart. You would have thought by the fourth day of non-stop 5 year-old boy that I would be thinking, Geez, maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t have a baby after all. Yeah, that would have made some sense. Instead, I had a meltdown and sobbed. I’m riding my ski and crying, hoping that nobody will notice, but I had to stop and wipe the tears away so I could see where I was going. Wonder Boy is out skiing with his Mom and makes her pull close to me to ask if I am OK, which just makes me cry even more. D stops on his ski and I ask him how much longer I am going to be sad about this. He tells me we are getting there. This wound will never heal completely, I suppose.

All week long I am struck by the fact that the Blond Family is just that, a family. I watch the three of them on one ski, their symmetry and likenesses undeniable. D and I are a couple. Which isn’t necessarily a lesser thing, it’s just different.

Anyway, I had never been to Shasta and was pleasantly surprised at how clean the water was, how beautiful the scenery and how much wildlife there was. We saw a golden eagle, blue herons, tons of bats, blacktail deer and fish jump. We saw black bear tracks but thankfully didn’t run into any live ones.

We live in a densely wooded area and I found being out in the open very satisfying. As the day wears on the sun throws different colored paths of glitter onto the water: white in the morning, gold in the afternoon and pink or orange in the early evening. In spots the water was so clear and calm the reflection of the clouds on the surface made it seem like I was flying instead of skiing. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Better Days

This has not been a good week. I won't bore you with the gory details, suffice it to say my car is in the shop (again) and one of our dogs had to make a trip to the emergency vet (again).

I've been driving a rental since Tuesday but I should be able to pick up my car tomorrow. I picked up over $250 worth of dog medicine today, and that was after D shelled out over twice that at the vet's yesterday. Ka-ching.

The dog is going to be fine. My car is going to be fine. I am going to be fine. Deep breath.

Saturday morning we leave for a long-planned weeks' vacation on a houseboat on Lake Shasta. This will be our third houseboat trip but my first time to this location. We're sharing the boat with our best friends and Wonder Boy, who has a cast on his right arm and therefore cannot go in the water. What a huge bummer, being 5, on a houseboat for a week and not being able to get wet. D's son and grandson are hoping to join us for a day or two, so at least Wonder Boy will have a small playmate for part of the time.

If things go as planned I will be doing plenty of nothing for a week. And by nothing I mean reading, listening to music, eating, drinking and playing on my jet ski. I will take lots of pictures to share with you all. In the meantime, here are a few of where we're going, where we're staying and what I'll be doing.

Yes, that is the actual boat we are renting, and yes, I am going very fast in this picture. Catch me if you can.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

When did THIS happen?

I’m still very involved in the lives of many friends who are still trying to have a baby. I wish them all success, but I have to say I am glad that I’m not living in that space anymore. In early 2005 we pushed forward with our last IUIs (our 15th and 16th) even though the injectible drugs had little effect on follicle production and my hormone levels weren’t near where they needed to be. In fact, based on my abysmal FSH level and the lack of response to the drugs, my doctor spoke these words I will never forget: I don’t think you’re ovulating anymore, it looks like you’ve entered perimenopause. Just a few months before he was still a cheerleader for our success, now he was basically saying I should hang it up. Which we did. Not easily and not without a lot of sadness, but since we had agreed up front we weren’t going to do IVF, this was the end of the road.

Since then and especially in the last 3 months or so, the symptoms have been piling up. Since September is Menopause Awareness Month (like we need to be more aware?) I started doing a little research on this, my latest albatross. According to experts, there are at least 35 known symptoms of menopause or perimenopause:

1. Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
2. Bouts of rapid heart beat
3. Irritability
4. Mood swings, sudden tears
5. Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
6. Irregular periods; shorter, lighter periods; heavier periods, flooding; phantom periods, shorter cycles, longer cycles
7. Loss of libido
8. Dry vagina
9. Crashing fatigue
10.Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
11.Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
12.Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
13.Disturbing memory lapses and simple forgetfulness
14.Incontinence, especially upon sneezing or laughing; urge incontinence
15.Itchy, crawly skin
16.Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
17.Increased tension in muscles
18.Breast tenderness
19.Headache change: increase or decrease
20.Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
21.Sudden bouts of bloat
23.Exacerbation of existing conditions
24.Increase in allergies
25.Weight gain
26.Hair loss or thinning, head, pubic, or whole body; increase in facial hair
27.Dizziness, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
28.Changes in body odor
29.Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
30.Tingling in the extremities
31.Gum problems, increased bleeding
32.Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odor 33.Osteoporosis (after several years)
34.Changes in fingernails (or toenails): softer, crack or break easier
35.Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, 'whooshing' buzzing etc.

I have 25 of these. 25! I am only 42, how is that possible? I can’t look to family history for guidance, since my mother had a complete (and probably completely medically unnecessary) hysterectomy in her mid-30s. If I am going to be suffering all these slings and arrows I would like to request that my period just stop all together. It has been getting shorter and lighter, but even that feeds the evil endometriosis monster. Seriously, who do I talk to about this? Doctor Ruth?

Because this is such a fun topic and we all need to laugh at ourselves in a public forum, there is (of course), Menopause The Musical. In Canada it’s called Menopause Out Loud due to some copyright issue, I think it’s still playing in Toronto.

From the National Post: “The baby-boomer tuner features four characters named Earth Mother, Iowa Housewife, Soap Star and Power Woman (actresses Nicole Robert, Rose Ryan, Jayne Lewis and Cynthia Jones) singing and dancing about hot flashes and mood swings via re-lyricized pop tunes from the '60s, '70s and '80s. Stayin' Alive becomes Stayin' Awake. Puff the Magic Dragon becomes Puff, My God, I'm Dragging. And then there's Looking for Food in All the Wrong Places."

If I rolled my eyes any harder I would cause a migraine, so I am going to stop reading about it now.

I also ran across this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about a book recently published called “The Female Brain” written by Dr. Louann Brizendine.

She says, “Women have these extra “antenna” almost sticking out the sides of their cheeks and ears for emotional details and emotional nuance, and their brains are always feeling for emotional information at a level that men can’t even perceive. Therefore, things she may think are very important, he misses completely. Also, there are new things [in the book] about the mature female brain, when a woman’s brain circuit becomes fired up with doing her own thing. Her antenna for emotional information about the needs of others wilts a little, and she forges ahead with her own life.”

If I’m reading this correctly, she is saying that estrogen = empathy. No wonder I just don’t care anymore and have become so focused on making sure me and my needs are taken care of. See, there’s that silver lining.

On a totally unrelated topic, I am very excited that the Nip/Tuck season premier is on Tuesday! Julian McMahon is near the top of my list. You know what I mean.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rainbows & Ice Cream

I guess there isn’t much you can say about a post like that last one, is there? No worries, gentle readers, this post is about shopping, and horses, and rainbows and ice cream.

My husband and I share an unfortunate disease. It’s called shopaphilia. We both love to shop, and this sometimes gets us into trouble. It’s not limited to one passion, like shoes, for example, which is fortunate, since that means that buying just about anything feeds the monster.

I get intensely focused on one item that I.must.have and I can’t rest until I find the perfect version of it. Last week that was a chocolate brown pencil skirt. A simple request, in theory, but in reality it was very difficult to accomplish this shopping mission. That’s because all department stores right now look like Stevie Nicks’ closet. You know what I am talking about: the broom skirt with the lace edge and just a hint of hand-dye distress; the long crochet cardigan with the self-tie belt of turquoise beads; the skinny jeans with the slouchy boot; the tunic top with the empire waist…all of it, just NO.

I also seem to have entered a twilight zone where there are few clothes that actually fit me and are age-appropriate. While I am immensely grateful that I no longer have to see belly-buttons on a daily basis, I don’t think we need to dress like the Amish all of a sudden. America does this in times of stress – we whip back and forth between extremes in everything from clothing to music.

I’ve yet to come up with a good explanation as to why I am buying new work clothes when I am generally only in a client’s office one or two days a week. In my own defense I am replacing pants and tops that I can’t wear because they are too small (ugh) and shoes that are too scuffed and worn to be appropriate for the office anymore. I am actually throwing things away from my closet as I put the new stuff in. I’m also buying on sale and/or at places like R0ss for the most part. Oh what the hell, I can afford it, and as they say, I’m worth it!

On to the horse talk. Once again it was a picture perfect day at the farm for my lesson yesterday. Every single time I’ve been there, every week for going on 12 weeks, it has been sunny with a cool breeze, like I ordered it up from the weather catalogue. I’m beginning to think there’s some sort of wish vortex at work there, a supernatural force beyond the gate that ensures I will have a good experience. Talk about a great marketing ploy!

For the last two lessons I’ve been on a somewhat lazy horse named Huey. It takes a lot to keep him going, even at the walk, you have to really get after him to establish any kind of rhythm, which I am not good at. But, once you get a little pissed off at him and really give him some hard kicks he realizes he’s fighting a losing battle and will start responding to more subtle clues. He does love to canter though! The first time I cantered I felt like my feet were flying out of the stirrups, so this time I shortened them up a notch so I would be pushing down harder, which worked wonders! I had several short stretches of time at canter when I felt completely in control and in the right position, a wonderful, if fleeting, feeling.

I had my first scary moment on horseback yesterday. Huey got spooked by someone coming out of the barn while at canter and pushed into a gallop with a little buck, just for a second. It was enough to send me soaring up out of the saddle and I came down hard, leaning way forward and grabbing at his mane. He calmed right down and I was able to regain my balance without falling, but my heart was in my throat. My teacher congratulated me for staying on the horse and attributed that to my balance. I attributed it to good luck and my deep desire not to break my arm or my back or anything else.

Speaking surrogate California family have had a run of bad luck lately, in which Mom has broken both an arm and a leg (by falling off the washing machine in the garage), Dad has had a pacemaker installed and Aunt broke her arm while ice skating. Today I got a call from J, he was in the ER with 5 year-old Wonder Boy -- he broke his arm and dislocated his elbow falling off the monkey bars at kindergarten. I can't tell you how thankful I am that I've avoided this trend.

Sorry, I lied before, there are no rainbows or ice cream in this post. I hope you will forgive me and keep reading.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Breaking the Cycle

Last night I watched the Dateline special about “outsiders”, although it could have been called “Sexual Abuse is Rampant in America”.

The first story was about an Amish girl who was raped more than 100 times by her brothers and cousins. Here’s a good article on the whole awful story. She escaped and prosecuted her brothers and other members of her family who assaulted her, but they got such light sentences it’s almost laughable. In one court appearance the brothers were disputing their sister’s recollections, not of the events in general, but about the number of times they had raped their. Mary said between 100 and 150, they said it’s more like 75 to 100. Are you screaming into your computer yet?

The second story was about the arrest of Warren Jeffs, the so-called prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has polygamous communities in Arizona, Utah, Texas and Canada. He’s wanted in Arizona and Utah on felony sex charges in connection with polygamous marriages involving minor girls. These girls are expected to produce a baby a year as their “duty” to their husbands, who in almost all cases are 3 or 4 times older than their child brides.

The third story was about a 29-year-old named Ricky “Davidito” Rodriguez, who was born into a group called The Family (aka The Family International, Children of God, or God’s Salvation Church). From The Wave magazine: “Started in the ’60s in Oakland as a community devoted to sexual liberation (they even claimed that sexual relations could exist between adults and children, until public scrutiny forced the group to issue a declaration of condemnation against pedophilia in 1986), the Family promotes awareness of the impending apocalypse in which Family members will lead the battle against Satan as Jesus Christ returns. Today, the Family boasts 8,000 “full-time missionaries” in more than 100 countries. [One of the scariest sentences I've read in a long time.]

Ricky stabbed a Family board member to death before killing himself in an attempt to track down the secret location of his parents. Turns out he wanted to kill them, too, in revenge for raising him amidst alleged rampant sexual abuse. Rodriguez claimed that by the age of nine, he was having daily forced sex with scores of women to prepare him for becoming a group leader. In a video he made the night before the murder, Rodriguez is seen loading bullets into his gun and saying, “Anger does not begin to describe how I feel about these people. I’ve seen how ugly humans can get.”

Being abused changes you. You can rise above it if you are lucky enough to have a good support system and are willing to face the pain of healing, but for some people there is no escape other than to hurt themselves or others.

All this on the heels of the dropping of charges in the JonBenet Ramsey case against the now infamous John Mark Karr. Have you heard the recordings that are allegedly Karr speaking about JonBenet and how it would feel for the killer? Creeeee-py. At least California is willing to prosecute him for the child pornography charges he fled the Bay Area in 2001 to avoid. Where did he go? To Thailand, one of the world’s biggest playgrounds for pedophiles.

Angela Shelton’s words never rang so true: you can’t tell what a person is like or what they’ve been through just by looking at them. This is doubly true for perpetrators. I generally try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but if I had a child, all bets would be off when it came to protecting them.

*sigh* There is still so much work to be done to break the cycles of abuse and sickness that pervade our society.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Roots of Riding

All my family live in Canada, most in BC but there are others sprinkled across Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario as well. I'm one of those people who feel the need to be in contact on a regular basis, with both friends and family (my mother excluded). I'm much better at it than anyone else I know, which is often disappointing. But, it's not about what I get back, it's about what I give. Since riding has become a passion of mine I've been sending pictures and updates and the universal response I've gotten back is "Who knew?". I don't know why this irks me a little. I realize that I wasn't a horse-crazy pre-teen with a poster of Black Beauty above my bed, but I don't think it's so far out of the realm of possibility that I would enjoy horses and riding.

In fact, I come by it quite naturally. I've always been a huge animal lover and always been athletic. My crazy grandparents had horses on their farm in Manitoba and I’m quite sure my paternal grandparents had horses on their sheep farm in Northern Ireland. Here’s a photograph of my aunt Anne at about age 10 standing on the back of Prince, with the mare Jessie in the background. Today she raises Arabians and her daughter also raises and trains horses.

My teacher called this morning to postpone today’s lesson to Wednesday. I’m bummed. I was so looking forward to entering that idyllic place where all my cares vanish as the gates open and I catch my first glimpse of a flick of a tail or hear a whinny in the wind.

According to this site, horses make six basic sounds: snort, squeal, nicker (three different kinds), neigh, roar and blow. Go to the site and listen to all the sounds, they’re fantastic, especially the Ranch Cat and the Turkey.

One thing I’ve already done some research on is going on a vacation that involves riding. I found one in Tuscany called the Centro Ippico della Berardenga (the Riding Center of the Berardenga). Make sure you check out the pictures on their site. For $150 a day you can stay in a renovated farmhouse, take lessons in the morning, a trail ride in the afternoon and spend the evening wandering through the narrow medieval streets of Siena, enjoying a glass of Chianti at its birthplace, the Castello di Brolio (pictured below).

*sigh* A girl can dream, can’t she?