Category Archives: Ranting and Ravings

Observations from Six Weeks of Quarantine

It has literally been six weeks of quarantine due to COVID-19 – a novel coronavirus spreading mayhem and death across the globe. The first weeks everything happened so fast and we all scrambled to adjust as quickly as possible. So much so that March and much of April was essentially lost in a roller coaster of emotions and reactions. Highs and lows and everything in between.

Image source: CDC

How will history remember this time where the entire world shut down and economies shed all the non-essential and superfluous trappings of society in an attempt to slow the infection rate, so hospitals could treat and save as many lives as possible? It depends – like it always seems to – on where you lie on the political and religious spectrums. And in the US, it also depends on which state you live in, since there has yet to be a coordinated national response.

The US is divided along party lines. One side focused on responding to a pandemic threat to public health – one they saw coming as far back as January and to which Federal government did nothing to respond to until over a month later. The other side focused on responding with cries of civil liberty violations and lamenting the collapse of an economy built on the need for people to spend every last dollar they earn while unemployment numbers skyrocket. It is a vicious circle where no side is completely right or wrong as most moral and ethical dilemmas so often are.

Here in Utah, schools were closed on March 13, 2020 for initially a three to four-week timeframe, later extended to last until May 1st, and finally through the end of the current school year by the Governor – the only thing consistent across the state. The same day, March 13th, my work embarked on a capacity test of how many people we could support working remotely. The next day it was declared that if you could do your work from home you should – until further notice. It has now been six full weeks of 100% remote working. The county I live in has designated essential businesses that are allowed to remain open, everything else ordered to shut down to enforce social distancing and slow the spread of this contagion. Only one other county has similar orders to stay at home. Where so many people live and work in different counties, this feels like chaos or a non-response for many.

  • I work in heathcare. I see and am privy to the emergency and crisis planning happening for the communities we serve, and it inspires me
  • I personally have a kidney disease (of the autoimmune kind) which puts me at extreme risk, with loved ones in all of the highest risk categories for which contracting this disease would also likely be fatal
  • I’m watching friends and neighbors lose loved ones, unable to bury their dead with the type of ritual and gatherings that one would expect. I can say I’ve attending a virtual graveside service via video conference
  • I have two kids adjusting to schools that were cancelled for the remainder of the school year, with zero notice, who three days later started learning online with teachers who are not nearly appreciated for what they do in normal times but who are now not only caring for and focused on my kids and what they are learning but are themselves having to adjust to a new normal

The first month was hard. But now is much harder as the economy crashes around us and the divides that have existed in our society are exposed for the crisis they should always have been. While leaders debate about the right time to ease the quarantine restrictions to stay home, I wonder why we aren’t focused on the larger problem: why our economy is so broken that this many people can’t afford to miss even one paycheck without facing financial ruin. I’ve seen articles written that call this proof that we are living in a failed state. I both hope that isn’t true long-term and fear that it will be.

I find myself in the middle ground on the current stay-home vs. reopen-everything debate. Because, as usual, it is in the gray area (aka the hardest area) where most fall. There are no easy answers right now. There is nothing black and white about choosing life over money because we are all so entwined with the various aspects of the pandemic response. My wish is that people who protest, or gather together in a way that goes against social distancing, had a way to fully own that right by also waiving their privilege to healthcare when they blatantly disregard the recommendations from experts trying their best to give us all the best way to achieve those middle-ground options. How difficult is it to stay home as much as you can and socially distance when you don’t? To do otherwise is literally a slap in the face to those who will suffer as a direct result of large scale gatherings. Don’t believe me? There’s already reporting of spikes in confirmed infection cases in the states where large-scale protesting occurred in the last few weeks. You can’t argue with epidemiology, no matter how hard you try.

I will continue to observe and report. These are historic times, friends. I hope everyone I know is staying safe – and has enough toilet paper to meet first-world standards. (Will this be the joke of 2020 when it is all over? I wonder.) I have personally left my house a total of 5 times in six weeks and foresee that trend continuing for the majority of summer – or until we understand this disease more. I wonder how history will see this in hindsight and hope I’m still around to witness that as well.

Messing with my brainwaves… literally

Some may call me melodramatic. I’ve been known to earn the title on occasion, it’s true. But this is not one of those times. I recently lost my way because of a silly app with enough real science behind it to be at least slightly dangerous.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning…

Hubby is the world’s lightest sleeper and has a white noise machine. When he was working night shift, it was an essential part of his sleep routine including piping it in through headphones while he slept in order to drown out the daytime noises. Now that he and I sleep at the same time again, at NIGHT, when the rest of the world is also quiet, he hasn’t been using it.

Months ago a friend gushed about this app she uses to train her brain for all sorts of things, raving about how effective she found it. At the time, I filed it away thinking I don’t need such things since my brain is a healthy one.

A few weeks ago, Hubby was complaining that he wasn’t getting great sleep, constantly waking up at the slightest sound, then having a hard time getting back to sleep. A synapse fired, remembering my friend and her miracle app. I went searching for it in true troubleshooting/problem solver style.

A day later, app successfully identified and downloaded, I shared it with Hubby and we came up with a compromise in white noises we could both sleep with. What I didn’t tell him about was the feature of adding a “brainwave” frequency underlying the white noise. I was kind of skeptical about it but thought what the hell. I picked the deep sleep brainwave thinking it couldn’t hurt and would certainly help Hubby if it worked.


I slept like shit that night. My sleep tracker confirmed it.

Which I thought was weird since I usually sleep like the dead.  It couldn’t be the white noise since that had never bothered me before when Hubby had used it. Which meant it was the brainwave frequency nonsense which was supposed to make me sleep better.

Hubby, of course, reported a much better night sleep-also pointing to the same conclusion that there was something to the brainwaves. So, I picked a different frequency – this one for lucid dreaming – and tried again the next night, hoping that frequency would benefit us both.

I slept better but it wasn’t my intense void of recharging where I lay my head down, close my eyes, go to sleep and never wake up until the alarm goes off. No, that night was full of crazy dreams that left me feeling like I’d run around all night either avoiding people trying to kill me or searching out those avoiding me. More evidence that there was some truth to the frequency effects.

Luckily, Hubby didn’t like that one either.

Then I found the magical frequency labeled stress relief. No crazy dreams, no restless sleep, just a nice night waking refreshed. For both of us. Bonus.

That was about a month ago.

Fast forward to last weekend when I became fully self aware of a disturbing development. I didn’t feel like myself and hadn’t for at least a week, probably longer if I was being truthful. Nights of mindless television – ME, watching television! – instead of writing. No drive for anything beyond the bare minimum every day and none of my signature zeal, joy or living out loud. I could barely muster enough “give a shit” to shower on the weekends. I had stopped looking forward to exciting events.

I was not myself.

I’d been quietly chewing on these developments for about a week, deep down worrying I’d developed some kind of depression. (It would serve me right if I had since I quietly gloat that I’m immune to such things whenever my close friends who suffer with such challenges are going through their rough patches.)

I was shopping with my daughters and randomly stated to my oldest that I hadn’t been feeling like myself. She instantly had a theory on why. (Immediate troubleshooting! I’m so proud.) It was her who zeroed in rather quickly that it could be the brainwave app messing with me. Why did she suspect this and why was she so adamant? Because she’d had similar issues where she didn’t feel the same after listening to the brainwave frequencies-something she did while awake rather than asleep.

The answer I came up with was astounding: I had eliminated all of my stress and there was nothing left to drive me toward achieving anything or pushing myself. We were sitting in a restaurant. I immediately pulled out my app and tried to solve the problem.

What other frequency could I use to get back some of my drive (aka stress of all things!)? I found one labeled Intense Focus and dialed it up. I kid you not, five minutes later I was already feeling better and was not in the funk I’d been wallowing in for weeks.

That night we listened to the Intense Focus wavelength all night.

Miracle of miracles, I woke up the next day and all of the funk and weirdness was gone. I woke right up, no lethargy. I was jumping from one thing to the next, juggling all the things I usually do with my signature gusto. My brain was sharp, no longer under a dark cloud.

Which means that now I’m paranoid of every one of these brainwave frequencies and what it means for us as a society. What if every single person was being altered with a mere frequency pulse of sound? If it could derail me-the overachiever extraordinaire-no one is immune! Okay, melodrama aside, it is a tad worrisome that the science behind this technology is observable and that the effects are not always beneficial.

We’ve stopped using the brainwaves part of the app at night.

I’ll leave the worrying to others and look at this on a positive note. I have discovered the real secret ingredient that makes my life work and I’ll never try to eliminate it again! I love you, my stress, for without you I am nothing!

Back on the roller coaster – why my kidneys can kiss my a$$

It was December 2014 and I was looking forward to getting off all of my medications after a year of remission under my belt. I gleefully said goodbye to immuno-suppression drugs mid January and hoped never to look back. But the Universe is a nasty bitch and it appears I do not get my wish. Within two weeks my symptoms returned and I had to start back on maintenance drugs. Drugs which I have had to increase the dose of already hoping it works. Today my doctor laid the ground work for the potential of going back on immuno-suppression if the higher dose doesn’t keep things at bay.

I know it could be so much worse. I could be looking at chemotherapy (which she still has on the back burner just waiting for me, I fear!). I could be in renal failure looking for a transplant or facing dialysis. Instead, I’m taking a drug that has only one side effect of lowered blood pressure and won’t damage anything if I take it forever. But I’m back to living with the roller coaster of sodium restrictions, fluid restrictions (bye bye proper hydration, it felt amazing while it lasted!) and daily water weight insanity where I gain a pound a day of water until my clothes don’t fit and then take damaging diuretics for a couple of days and start the cycle all over again. I love roller coasters but this one I could do without, thanks.

People, do not take your kidneys for granted. While I’d like to tell mine to kiss my ass on a daily basis, I really would be happy if they just worked the right way every day. Can’t we all just get along inside this body of mine? It’s been two years since I’ve eaten meat (well, there was that one indulgence, but it was only a bite!), I’m a pseudo vegan who just eats cheese and butter occasionally, and I don’t eat eggs or shellfish except on extremely rare occasions. Why is that not enough? Because I’d probably have nothing to bitch about if everything worked fine, right? I can’t imagine the shape I’d be in if I wasn’t willing to go to such extremes to take care of my body the best way possible. And I can’t help but be envious of others in my gene pool who couldn’t care less about what they eat or drink and still have perfect numbers in their blood work. You know who you are. And yes, I secretly loathe you for your perfectly working kidneys that I’d give almost anything for.

If you need me, I’ll probably be asking a million questions at every meal that I don’t prepare myself to insure I’m meeting with all my dietary restrictions, or doing yoga so I don’t lose what’s left of my mind. Oh, and writing. I’ll still be writing!

An argument for honestly reviewing books – and why every reader should do it

I’ve blogged before about how diverse reader’s tastes are noting that there are so many ways a book can be regarded depending on who reads it. So there must be a way to slog through all the books out there and narrow down which ones you personally will like. Which is why I argue that every reader has an obligation to honestly and objectively review every book they read.

I’m a huge reader. No secret there. What many don’t think about is that the number of books you can read in your lifetime is finite. There are far more books out there than you can read in one lifetime. Yes, even yours. That finite number varies by person depending on how fast and how often you read. For example, I read three books a month on average. That’s thirty six books a year – give or take. If I have twenty more reading years, I only have time for seven hundred and twenty more books. Ever. Which is why you really should choose wisely. For the same reason, I also think you shouldn’t finish a book that doesn’t hook you and keep you entertained either. Unless you’re in a book club since arguably you have an obligation to read those selections regardless.

So how do you pick which books to read so you get the most out of your remaining, and technically very limited, reading time?

Personally, I use recommendations from friends and fellow readers. Another reason I love Goodreads so I can see what people say about books before I decide. (Especially helpful when you have friends who read and enjoy the same books you like so you can see what they enjoyed – or didn’t.) I shy away from books that don’t get at least an average three-star rating (out of a possible five). But here’s a little secret… I usually only read the middle of the road reviews and I especially am interested in the “bad” reviews. Those are the reviews that – if written objectively – give me the best insight. If I see that someone didn’t like a book because of something that I might actually like, I’m more likely to pick it up. If someone didn’t like how dark a book was or how bloody the action was but I really like dark and bloody books, I would probably pick it up.

In the past few months I’ve heard arguments from many different people about not wanting to honestly review every book which all boil down to a couple of general ideas that I take exception with:

“I don’t usually review if it is going to be less than 3 stars.”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

I think both of these arguments approach book reviews from the wrong side of the issue. I don’t review books for the author’s benefit, my reviews are designed for other readers like me so we can find books we like (and avoid those we won’t). The hard truth that every author must grapple with accepting is that no matter how much effort and love went into writing a book, not everyone everywhere will love it. Reviews are designed to be the unbiased opinions of readers, and everyone everywhere is entitled to their own. Once a book is in the hands of readers, there’s nothing that an author can change about it anyway.

What if every review was a glowing one and there were no differing opinions? Or what if no one reviewed books ever because they were worried about hurting either the author’s feelings or the feelings of those who had a different opinion? Then every book would be as much of a gamble as randomly picking something off the shelf – without reading the jacket. By not giving an honest and truthful review, regardless of how you liked or didn’t like a book, you’re doing a disservice to every reader who comes after you looking for insights on whether they would like to read it. Of course I don’t think you should completely trash a book (or the author) if you don’t like it, but give me an objective and constructive reason why you didn’t like it that can help me decide if I might also rather skip it. Then let me decide.

Because of this, I rate books in the following manner:

  • 5 stars = Loved it! I abandoned all aspects of my life in order to voraciously read this book
  • 4 stars = I really enjoyed it and I would highly recommend it to others – but I still slept at night, mostly.
  • 3 stars = I liked it but I didn’t love it. I found nothing to complain about but it didn’t rock my world either…
  • 2 stars = I didn’t like it overall although I did finish it. (Incidentally, books with this rating have generally been ones I read for book club which illustrates the point that it takes all kinds of readers and not everyone likes the same things.)
  • 1 star = I either hated it or I didn’t finish it

On top of a star rating, I always give the feel of the book and the impression it left me with overall. I don’t bother with a synopsis of what the story was about from start to finish, you can get that elsewhere. What I really emphasize is what worked for me and what didn’t, and why. Something that would help someone else objectively draw conclusion as to whether they would like it or not. I do this because those are the kinds of reviews I look for when deciding to give a book a spot on my finite list of things I’ve read between now and when I die.

You remember what they say about treating others the way you want to be treated, right? If you are a reader, won’t you consider doing this as well? Future readers will thank you, myself included!

This blows or pit stop for a pity party

Okay, I know I said last post that I was only going to focus on the positives and all that happy rainbow and unicorn crap but that leaves me without my favorite outlet here to deal with the whole reality of my experiences and how truly shitty this new treatment plan is. Since its my blog after all if I want to change the rules then I get to. Right? The truth is, if I don’t acknowledge and share the roller coaster ride with the downs as well as the ups I might go insane.

It’s been a month with this new immunosuppresant drug and this past weekend I actually uttered the words “if this is how the next two years are going to be I think I’d rather have died.” That sums up the very lowest of the low points of how I’m feeling. I waver between being so mad at everything and everyone and then in tears feeling like an imminent emotional breakdown. It really really blows. I think the worst part is knowing that I’m facing two years of this treatment. IF it works.

The irony of this new drug is that it is supposed to heal me and yet I feel like total shit. I’m tired – even more than I have been since this all started. I have headaches EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Most days I wake up with my head pounding and it never stops even when I lay down at night to go to bed. Saturday my head hurt so badly that I had to eat dinner with my sunglasses on because the light hurt my eyes too much and my family was opposed to eating in the dark. I didn’t eat much since I had no real appetite with the pain. My joints hurt like I’m an eighty year old – especially my knees and hips which makes walking super painful regardless but worst going down stairs. I had a drug interaction with my statin which exasperated this most delightful side effect at the beginning and I’m still waiting for the pain to go completely away now that I’m not taking the statin anymore. I’m naseated and feel like I’m going to throw up at the drop of a hat. There are days it is worse than when I was pregnant. And, on top of feeling like all this, I broke out in acne and look like a teeny bopper who doesn’t know how to take care of her skin again. Yippee. At least I won’t get the cancer later so there must be something okay about this drug, right?

I met with my doctor this morning and there are some tiny bits of good news. My proteinuria is a little better than last month and my kidney function has rebounded solidly back into the normal range now that I’m not taking most of the original meds that impacted it while trying to reverse the protein loss. However, I was unable to continue to avoid the dreaded addition of steroids and now I’m waiting to balloon up and look like a fat cow on top of everything that I’m already dealing with. That should be great for my psychological health. Hopefully this won’t happen but I’m not holding my breath. Hands down the best news of the morning is that I can add fish back into my diet without losing the benefits of being a vegetarian. Sushi anyone?

My emotions have been all over the map the past week. It started with my inability to walk because of my hip pain last weekend; then I had the worst week of yoga starting with last Monday’s class where I couldn’t do most of the poses because of my pain and then not even feeling up to trying either of the other times I had it scheduled; and finished up when I tried to do a 5K on Saturday and couldn’t finish it. At one point I was bringing up the rear and could barely talk while I tried to keep up with my friend who was pushing her sister who is fighting breast cancer. I know it is progress since until now I haven’t even felt like attempting a race but then when I couldn’t finish – mostly because I was an idiot who took my diuretic before I left home and had to break off early to find a restroom – it was even more of an emotional blow to my already delicate psyche. I spent the rest of the day with a throbbing headache on the couch feeling sorry for myself. Yes, folks, even I succumb to the feeling sorry for myself trap once in a while.Yesterday was much better and I got a few hours in the morning free of headache pain so I didn’t spiral out of control and am back to wanting to kick ass and take names. Maybe a nap first though? It helps that I was back on my yoga game this morning thank gawd.

Even with all the emotional breakdowns I have cause to celebrate. Although the 5K was a dismal failure that proved to myself that I can no longer call myself a runner *sniff*, it was the first race I participated in since the one last October that could have, and probably should have, killed me. The fact that I’m still fighting to be healthy and haven’t given up in the face of all the past year has brought me proves I can make it through wherever this road leads. Even when it blows… I just have to stop every so often for a pity party apparently.

Two weeks later

Let me start by stating that unprovoked clots in your lungs – meaning there is no cause that can explain their presence – is truly a shitty deal.  I am the girl who wants answers to everything.  The girl who disassembled my curling iron in high school because I wanted to know how it worked.  The girl who needs to know everything about everything so I can project plan the shit out of it then make appropriate entries into my calendar like marching orders to follow precisely.  How else can I accomplish everything I ever want to in life? Not knowing where we go from here is truly fucking with my brain.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Immediately following my diagnosis I was focused on getting from day to day.  The shock of almost dying was surreal and I still don’t really know how I feel about how close I could have been.  My first goal was getting my anti-coagulation established.  Those super expensive injections I had to give myself twice a day hurt like hell and my first personal aspiration was to quit having to take them.  Which meant my INR test had to be above a 2.0.  Three times a week I stop in at my doctors for a finger prick to test this.  The day after diagnosis, I was .9.  A week and a half later I was above two after once having to increase my daily dose of Coumadin.  Finally no more shots!  That same week and a half had me feeling better with a bit more spring in my step every day.  Two days post diagnosis I couldn’t walk through Scheels without needing a bench to rest.  But, two weeks later, I went for my first run.  I could only run a couple of minutes at a time with stretches of walking in between but it felt like I was running my first race and accomplishing a personal record.  The smile on my face was ear to ear.  This was irrefutable evidence that the clots in my lungs are disappearing and I’m almost all better.

Now let’s talk about Coumadin and what it means to be anti-coagulated.  It sucks hairy-ass monkey balls.  I’m a bleeder now who bruises easily.  That hangnail I absently picked at during a meeting?  Oh, don’t mind me with blood dripping off my finger.  No, officer, my husband doesn’t beat me, I just ran into the bar stool someone left pulled halfway out and I’m anti-coagulated.  All those other bruises?  Yeah, I have no idea how they got there but I swear no one is beating me. Worse than all that is the dietary restrictions.  I can’t eat leafy green vegetables?  No spinach?  No lettuce?  No broccoli? No asparagus?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Do you know how hard it is to take a brain that is wired for nutrition and real food and then suddenly you can’t eat it?  At least three times in the last week I’ve gone to bite into a delicious meal only to realize it had something in it I can’t eat.  Thank god I didn’t have to alter anything about my coffee habits.  Had that happened on top of everything else I might be murderous rather than just bitchy.

Which brings us to the shitty deal I’m facing now that I’m out of the woods and getting back to my normal activity levels:  There is no end in sight for the Coumadin.  When I tried to nail down my doctor with a time frame to expect this to continue he said “at least six months but more likely longer.”  So now I’ll be a runner who can’t eat her veggies and who might bleed out if she doesn’t check her clotting factor twice a week and gets a bruise.  Ain’t that just grand.  And why?  Because no one knows exactly what caused my blood clots in the first place.  Even though I was taking birth control after the age of 35 which actually states it can increase the risk for exactly this to happen.  On the bright side, I can run again.  Oh, and I hit my deductible on my high deductible healthcare plan so now I can get that IUD that I couldn’t afford to pay for out of pocket and which started this whole fucking mess for free.  At least I can still run…

You can’t make me… or can you?

I just looked back on my blog archives to make sure I wasn’t naming this entry the same as the one I did on this subject this time last year and to my amazement find I DID NOT blog about this last year! *gasp*  Hold onto your hats, this is a rant two years in the making now…

I work for a healthcare company (which will remain nameless here for my safety) and have for about 4 years.  I work in I.T. and have never been in a patient care environment for my job.  The first two years when it came time for everyone in America to get their flu shots, I signed a waiver that I wasn’t going to get one.  Employees either had to provide proof they got stuck or weigh in that they weren’t planning on it so the company can mark us all off on their little lists.  Two years ago, they got smart and offered a ‘permanent waiver’ if you were never going to get a flu shot which would make it easier on the head count every year.  I was elated to eliminate the yearly hassle of the waiver.

Then the following year – last year – they decided that everyone was required to get the shot no matter what.  So much for a permanent waiver that didn’t even last a year!  The only exception being if you had a religious reason – other than the “I am using my free will to choose not to” – or a doctor-verified medical reason not to get it.  I was furious!  Want to get me motivated?  Tell me I can’t do something and I’ll prove you wrong.  Want to incite me to violence?  Force me do something I don’t want to do.

How did they force us all to comply with this violation of civil rights?  By threatening us with suspension and eventual termination if we didn’t succumb to the needle by certain deadlines.  I know what you’re thinking – How can they do that?!?  Isn’t that discrimination?  Isn’t it against some fundamental human and civil right that we have to choose?  I’ll tell you how – because Utah is a right to work state which means they can fire me for whatever whim they choose.

Last year I was outraged… and when it came time to march down with the cattle call and get our badges scanned and fill out the paper and sign below the statement that says ‘I am choosing to get this shot even after I’ve been told the risks’, I crossed out the statement I didn’t agree with and signed the paper.  The turd from Human Resources refused to accept my paperwork saying the company’s attorneys wouldn’t allow any alteration of the forms.  The following dialogue ensued:

Me: “But that means you are asking me to sign something that isn’t true because I don’t have a choice to get the flu shot and I’m not willingly choosing to get it.”

Him: “Of course you have a choice, you don’t have to get the shot.”

Me: “But if I don’t get the shot I get fired.”

Him: “True.  But if you choose not to get the shot knowing those are the consequences you still have a choice.”

I looked at him, seething, and couldn’t argue with the logic.  If I had the financial means to walk out the door right then and never go back, I would have quit on principle alone.  But, alas, I have a family I help provide for that I had to think about.  There were many I heard who did walk away from their jobs and I applaud them.

For weeks stories floated around about how people who had claimed an exemption for religious reasons or medical reasons had been denied and still required to get the shots.  Apparently a slight allergic reaction wasn’t enough, it had to be a severe allergic reaction.  And the religion exemption was even harder to get.

Why am I so against the flu shot?  It isn’t the flu shot specifically because I wholeheartedly believe that those who are susceptible to getting the flu or are at risk for other factors should get the flu shot.  But I’m not in either of those categories.  I have not had the flu in over 20 years.  So tell me how a dead virus grown in eggs and gambling that the epidemiologists correctly guessed picked the way last years virus would mutate to get put in the vaccination when there are hundreds of strains of the flu virus will protect me any better than my amazing immune system already does with a flawless track record.  I didn’t even get the H1N1 vaccination when I was pregnant!  No, for me this is just a violation of my right to chose what I do and don’t put in my body. 

This year I was resigned that I’m still not allergic to eggs – thank GOD since I eat them every day – to get me out of what I knew was looming again.  Instead, I did a bunch of research trying to find if there was a religion I could join that would impart me with some tenet I could waive to say forcing me was ‘against my religion’.  Me, wanting religion.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Interestingly enough, I found one!  But even that came with a catch….  The Congregation of Universal Wisdom is against basically everything medical because they believe all things are cured by the laying on of hands on the spine.  PERFECT!  What’s the catch?  To join the congregation requires a one-time ‘donation’ of seventy-five dollars.  SEVENTY. FIVE. DOLLARS.  Oh, and if you require an affidavit of membership with a statement about their stand on immunizations, include an additional fifteen bucks and we will express mail it to you.  I wonder how many other people who typed “is there a religion against flu vaccine” in their google search hit on the same page and how long this congregation has been around…

So, what is worse?  Being forced to do something you don’t want to do with the threat of losing your job; or being exploited financially by people who cleverly found a very specific niche market of people just like me who are willing to go to great lengths not to be forced into an unwanted immunization?  In the end, my pocketbook won over my sense of outrage and my arm still hurts where they stuck me with that damn needle full of flu vaccine which I’m hoping doesn’t mess with my already amazing immune system and isn’t tainted with viral meningitis.

The Death of Us All

Death is no longer some thing in the future to be feared; the unknown of where and when and how lurking around some unidentified corner.  No, fifth grade math homework will be the death of us all.  No more mystery!  Death is here…

Big Sister is in her first month of fifth grade – learning a new math curriculum which is completely different than what I learned thirty years ago.  She has math homework every single night.  The book is next to useless – it makes vague statements with zero logical sense and that’s it.  No examples.  No elaboration on what the concept is.  No context to glean meaning from.  Nothing.  I fought for two weeks for her to be allowed to bring the damn book home – raging every night about how the worksheets she was required to complete were like attempting to do math when all the words were written in Greek or Arabic.  But now I get why they don’t bring the books home – there is nothing more in the books to go on.  So our nights – after dance of course – go like this:

  1. Mom tries to interpret what the hell the worksheet is asking be performed.
  2. Mom consults Dad to make sure they concur on the translation.
  3. Mom tries to correlate the bullshit with what she knows and remembers from school.
  4. Mom tries to translate the bullshit into logic and reason that she can impart to others.
  5. Sometimes repeat one or more of steps 1-4.
  6. Big Sister attempts to complete her math worksheet before NINE PM – most nights failing.

Seriously.  This is why kids don’t like math.  The stigma is planted in fifth grade where instead of breaking each concept down into ideas that are attainable and which apply logic and reason – it is math after all, not abstract art – they hide the shit that I-know-very-well-you’ll-have-to-use-every-day-of-your-life in this ridiculous core curriculum which was probably written by some dumb ass who was never a teacher in the first place.  He or she is probably living somewhere on a beach laughing about the idiots in Utah who believed him or her and bought all those books and workbooks and student worksheets funding his/her retirement.

Thanks for letting me rant.  If you’ve avoided fifth grade math after you lived through it yourself the first time, consider yourself lucky.  If it looms in your future, please accept my condolences.  The irony of this whole thing?  I LOVE math and I kicked ASS at math when I was in school.  Go figure… all it takes is slapping some new convoluted bullshit with a fancy shmancy title of “new common core” to completely disintegrate my own math knowledge and confidence. Why yes it’s a Monday and yes I’m drinking – why do you ask?

Myth busting

Ever heard someone say it is so much harder and more time consuming to cook dinner every night?  Or that eating healthy costs so much more money?  Or that wearing special shoes or taking a miracle pill will help you tone your body and lose weight?  Well today I’m putting on my myth-buster hat and tackling all of these.

We’ll start with “it’s so much easier to pick up fast food on your way home from work rather than cook dinner” with a peek into a day of my life.  This particular day was crazier than most.  I headed off to work in the morning leaving Baby Sister with her nanny after scooting Big Sister out the door to walk to school.  (Yes, my kid walks to school – shouldn’t every kid?)  I worked a typical day except that I had to leave a couple of hours early since Big Sister’s dance studio decided once again to conduct business as if none of the dance moms actually work outside the home.  Meaning specifically that she had to be in full hair and make-up and across town by 4:30 for the annual team photo shoot.  Awesome, since I don’t usually get off work until 5:30.

I left the office at 3:00, rushed home while project managing Big Sister’s efforts from the phone in the car, and did the fastest make-up and hair I think I’ve ever done including ringlets.  Big Sister has stick straight and super thick hair – I love that she did not get my curls except for when she wants curly hair and it becomes a chore.  Thank god for my Chi and my ability to use it for creating curls in addition to it’s straightening properties.  Of course Murphy was alive and well since the shirt I’d bought her the night before was too big through the chest when she put it on.  I had to get creative with safety pins because I didn’t have time to whip out the sewing machine to take in the sides. We left the house only ten minutes behind schedule leaving Baby Sister with Daddy and hoping they were correct that the shoot would only take an hour. Pictures were fabulous and we were headed back across town by 5:30 now hoping traffic wasn’t too bad.

This was also the night of our first neighborhood walk-about which we never miss.  During warm weather months, two or three different families host little block party gatherings so that everyone can wander around and mingle with each other, catch up on gossip and meet any new people who have moved in.  It started at 6:30.

Here’s where the myth comes in.  Considering I only had an hour to drive across town, feed my kids dinner and head out to the next activity,  society would say I had to pick up either burgers or a $5 Hot n’ Ready pizza on my way home.  But NO!  Instead I went straight home, browned up some ground turkey, made it into taco meat and served my kids taco’s.  Well, Big Sister prefers to eat her taco fixin’s atop corn chips instead of in the crunchy shells and Baby Sister prefers little individual piles of cheese and meat, etc to eat as finger foods so basically, I ate tacos.  The point is, it took me no more time than it would have to sit in the long ass line I passed at the Wendy’s as I drove by.  Not to mention how much healthier my choice of meals was by comparison.  Plus, now I have an extra pound of taco meat in my fridge to eat left-overs in the next couple of days when I’m in an even tighter pinch for dinner – say tonight when Big Sister has to be at the dance studio by 6:30.

I cook ninety-five percent of the time at home.  It isn’t always quick and easy but it is always better than anything else I could feed my family.  The extra effort this activity requires is actually on the front end when you’re doing your grocery shopping.  I usually have the basics on hand like spaghetti (I make my own amazing and authentic sauce) or homemade macaroni and cheese (that actually uses cheese and milk instead of powdery blobs of orange chemical concoctions you get in the box).  Then I mix things up with a few preplanned meals in mind for the week.  We always have tons of fresh fruit in the house and the crisper drawer is always full of veggies.  With a little creativity I can throw together many a meal just by opening the refrigerator – even if I don’t know exactly what’s for dinner before I walk in the door from work.

It makes me wonder who exactly “they” are that says it is so much easier to buy crap from a fast-food joint and eat out of a bag every night.  Probably the people marketing the crap in a bag from all those different places who only care about their bottom line.  And let’s talk about cost!  I can feed my family of four for an entire week buying the ingredients to cook my own meals on less than what it would cost to eat out just one meal a day for that same week.  This is based on fact since we had way more money left over at the end of the month once we started eating in versus when we were subscribing to the marketing ploys.  This was also before I’d pulled my head out of my ass about things like processed foods and high fructose corn syrup evils. 

With obesity rates in adults and children alike continually rising, I wonder how long before the general population demands better choices in their food that contribute to better health instead of sacrificing long-term health for the convenience of a packaged dinner or fast food slop.  Most of the food we eat isn’t even real food when you look at the ingredient label.  When was the last time you had to list the ingredients on a head of lettuce or a bundle of bananas?  Even more frightening is how many people I talk to who never even glance at the ingredient list of the ‘food’ they consume every day.  When you cook your own meal, using real whole foods you know exactly what you are eating and feeding to your kids.

There was a story in the Washington Post this week about how Sketchers are settling a lawsuit for $40 million.  Turns out they were lying when they said wearing their funny looking shoes would tone your lower body without stepping foot into a gym.  You can’t tone your lower body by wearing a pair of shoes and sitting on your ass all day any easier than you can lose weight and keep it off by eating some fad diet or taking some pill that causes side effects worse than just keeping the extra weight on.  You have to eat real food to nourish your body and burn more calories than you take in every single day.  Period.  There’s no other way around it.  Trust me, I’ve tried it all (minus surgical measures where I drew the line).  When is society as a whole going to wake up and realize that corporations are only after one thing – to make money by selling us crap we don’t need – and start listening to common sense again?

I challenge you – if you aren’t doing it already – try cooking for a week and see how easy it really is.  You don’t even have to have a recipe box that your mom or grandma handed down to you anymore.  All you need is Google – recipes for everything and anything are right at your fingers.  It’s an amazing world out there!  And if you want a quick, easy to read, common sense book on how to incorporate real food back into your diet, I highly recommend “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan.  That little book was partly what changed my life years ago and should be required reading for every American – in my humble opinion.

Ballsy Bitch

It’s been so long since I had something really great to rant and rave about and the Universe must have realized I needed an outlet for it because it delivered up an opportunity so rare this week I almost can’t believe it. Here’s some background so we are all on the same page…  I live in the glorious state of Utah where the lines between Church and State are more often blurred than not.  Contrary to popular belief, not every resident of Utah is a Mormon.

(OOPSIE, did I mention this is a religious and political post?  Here’s your disclaimer and chance to bail as if the fact I warned you I would be proceeding with a rant and/or rave wasn’t enough, right?)

Big Sister is in the fourth grade and I found a gem of a fire-starter in the sty of her backpack.  It was a worksheet with twenty questions where you have to fill in the blanks to complete the sentence.  When I saw it I was so enraged and immediately asked Big Sister what it was.  She said “Mom, before you get mad, Ms X told us to make sure when our parents got mad that they were teaching religion at school to tell you that it is against the law for her to teach us about the beliefs of any religion and that this is just about the history of Utah.”  Clearly the teacher suspected that there would be flak in regards to this little worksheet.  She was not wrong.  Which begs the question, why proceed when you already know it is questionable material?

In response to this worksheet I drafted the following letter which I sent to the principle via email:

Dear Principal,

My fourth-grade daughter brought home school work from what she says was Utah History but which appears to have nothing to do with Utah History.  Instead, it is teaching her about Mormon specific church history.  Where is the separation of church and state when it comes to curriculum?  When I questioned her about what it was, she had already been given a response from the teacher – Ms X who is not her homeroom teacher – who had apparently told the students how to respond when their parents asked why they were learning about religion.  Her rationalization was that because she was not instructing them on the belief system of a religion then it was okay to teach since this was about how Utah was founded.  While there is no disputing the historical fact that Utah was settled by Mormon pioneers escaping religious persecution, tell me why the following questions (taken directly from the worksheet) were relevant to that discussion:

Mormons was a nickname for people who belonged to a new church.
Joseph Smith was the first leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The church was started in New York state in 1830.
Mormons sent missionaries to teach about their church.
Wherever the Mormons went, they were always forced to move, because no one liked them.
They moved from New York to Ohio, to Missouri, then to Illinois.
People did not like the Mormons, because Mormons believed their church was God’s true church. (Not teaching about beliefs?)
Mormons religious beliefs often upset people who were not Mormons.
There was also problems with their neighbors over politics and land.
Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot and killed in Illinois by a mob.

Out of the 20 questions on the worksheet, I believe only the following statements would be considered relevant to UTAH history:

Moving west took much planning.
The pioneers were going to move more than 1,000 miles.
To help the Mormons move, there were only wagons, horses, mules and oxen.

However, I also believe that the not-so questionable statements could be presented even more non-religiously by referring to them as pioneers instead of Mormons.  With respect to the settling of Utah, it is completely irrelevant what religion the pioneers who first came here were.  Besides, there were Catholic missionaries here long before the Mormon pioneers if we are talking about historical facts…

I expect that if my child is learning the history of the Mormon church that she would also be required to learn the same story about where the Catholic church started, who the first Pope was and when the first congregation was established in the Utah valley.  Same with the Protestants, the Baptists, etc.  I know I am not alone in my concern with the way this curriculum is being presented and would appreciate your addressing it immediately.  If you would like a copy of the worksheet I can provide that as well.


One of my closest friends who herself is the mother of a fourth grader at the same school told me I was the only person she knows with balls big enough to actually send that to the principal.  Is it my outrage at the social injustice of the matter or is it merely my argumentative and bitchy nature that fueled my sending the letter?  It’s probably a little bit of both.  Having grown up here “in the land of Zion” amidst all the religious overtones and outright judging where your choice of religion is the number one topic of inquiry when you first meet a person, I’m a little sensitive to protecting that pesky right of religious freedom that was given each American in the Constitution.  I believe that extends to the right of my children to be educated by the public school system with zero inference or interference by any religion.  Period.  Before you get all outraged, I stand by the last paragraph of my letter.  If they wanted to introduce a world religion class that gave equal time to studying the basics of every religion of the world, not only would I embrace the prospect of my child learning more about diversity, I would not react to this subject matter since it would then be a valid form of school work.  But they weren’t teaching that, were they?  Nope.  This was supposed to be either a History lesson or at the furthest stretch a Social Studies lesson.  Either way, giving my kid facts about a single religion’s history instead is not acceptable

In my opinion it’s no different than giving your own spin on history just because you like your version better than the plain old facts. But then again, we do that every Thanksgiving where we celebrate the Pioneers and the Indians and their harmonious feasting, don’t we?  Instead of sugar coating what really happened in our past we should own it – we came here, declared the native people savages, took the land from them, slaughtered them when they defended themselves and in the end rounded all the survivors up to be banished to the crappiest land around, never to leave it.  That is what Thanksgiving really celebrates… but that isn’t what we tell our elementary aged children.  And this is just one example.  Lucky for my kids, they have parents who round out their education at home in both religion and history.

Religion is a deeply personal thing and as such should be taught in the home, not the school.  But, I live in Utah where every Junior High and High School has a little annex building just barely off of school property where any kid who wants is allowed to have a free period to walk there and attend Seminary classes – but only of the one religion…  Hubby was even ranting the other day about how another religion – I think the Catholics but don’t quote me on that for sure – were wanting to purchase land for the same reason near the site of a new high school and were being blocked from doing so.  How is that fair?

Bottom line, I wish the separation of church and state was taken far more seriously in our country and especially in my own public school system.  Look at where the Middle East got when they decided to rule their country based on their majority religion.  We need to take religion out of the political arena, too – who cares what religion any one candidate is?  By judging his or her religious beliefs as being better or worse than any other candidate’s it fundamentally erodes their Constitutional right to freely practice whatever religion they choose free from discrimination and persecution.  If I’m not mistaken that’s why the Puritans came to America and *oddly enough* the Utah pioneers came west.  But I digress…

I did get a response from the principal that she would be looking into the situation and would get back to me.  I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about it all!

All I get are book reviews? What is happening!

I’ve been so busy I somehow forgot I’m a blogger.  I may have forgotten I’m a writer for a little bit, too.  Right now all I am is a mom and a runner…  And I’m not even doing either of those very well. 

Wow, doesn’t that sound like a pity party?  If I were one of you, my faithful if anonymous followers, I might shake my head and mutter about the downer and stop reading.  But, guess what – life is as full of downers as it is uppers.  And I’m not talking about little pills either.  So, instead of suffering alone, I’m sharing with the world – my small corner of it anyway – and hoping somehow it is the key to turning it all around and getting me out of the current slump.

It isn’t even a slump really.  I’m just overwhelmed with my life.  It happens.  Occasionally. 

Hubby isn’t happy with his job.  I’m not happy with my job.  Big Sister is, I’m hoping, a typical nine year old who would rather lolly-gag and watch TV than pick up after herself regardless of how often I yell at her and ground her and take away her phone.  Little Sister is in the full blown “terrible two’s” and is constantly throwing tantrums and screaming when she doesn’t get her way.  Hubby’s work schedule – at the job he hates – has begun interfering with everything from co-parenting to my running and we barely get to see each other.  I have the equivalent of a part time job on top of my regular full-time day job in required after-hours support.  And, I haven’t written a thing in weeks – unless you count a couple of book reviews.  Oh, and I am so busy both at work and at home that it’s been days since I got to talk to my friend who abandoned me at work and who I miss desperately.  You know, now that I think about it this can all be blamed on her – since she left there is no one around who lets me vent and keeps me sane.  Great.

So, that’s my life in a nutshell. 

Plus, I’m freaking out about Ragnar because I’ve been so crazy busy the last two weeks that I haven’t gotten to run regularly and now we only have about three weeks of training time left before the big show.  Oh, and did I mention that we’ve had to replace five of the twelve team members in the last few weeks?  Yeah, try finding runners insane enough to even consider doing this relay race who aren’t already on a team and who are willing to jump in with only a few weeks left to train.  It is pretty difficult.  Luckily I know a lot of people but we’ve pushed the limit on scraping the barrel so hopefully it is over.

Oh, and did I mention that I need to have my wisdom teeth removed?  Yeah, I’m thirty nine and I still have my wisdom teeth – don’t judge.  And the recovery time is going to either interfere with Ragnar OR trump our trip back to Glacier we had planned… Do you see why I’m a wreck these days?

I do have stolen moments here and there like glimmers of light to cling to in the darkness and keep me going.  Book club last week was amazing and the brief brainstorming session with a fellow writer afterward may have finally gotten me past the little block I had going with moving forward on my novel.  Although I haven’t had a chance to write, I’m constantly thinking about the characters and the story line and wondering where it is going to take me.  Dance season is over so I’ll get a month off from the shuttling back and forth three nights a week and school is out next week so my mornings will get less intense.

So, if you find yourself wondering where I’ve been and why all I’ve been posting are a few book reviews, picture me screaming through life with a toddler on my leg and my hair on fire juggling more than my usual share.  And with this picture in your mind, I hope you’ll forgive me…

New inspiration

I, now more than ever, want to flog my stupidvisor (no, that is NOT a type-o).  I won’t bore you with all the idiocy about how many times he says he “will” {fill in the blank}, the future never actually coming to pass; or how yesterday I got to sit across a desk in a one on one meeting and be the one mentoring HIM on how better to lead our team with what I would consider common sense things.  No, instead I’m going to tell you about my amazing writer’s group who have given me the inspiration I need to *finally* finish my novel and do what I really want to do.

First, I’ve taken a semi-sabbatical from Facebook.  No, I didn’t deactivate my account but I took it out of my tabs that auto load every time I open my browser.  Now that little tab isn’t staring me in the face beckoning me to come and waste valuable time when I sit down to my computer.  It’s amazing the writing you can get done in fifteen minute chunks of time here and there which would otherwise be wasted just staring at all the links and videos people post trying to sift through to find noteworthy status updates from people you haven’t seen in years and who you probably wouldn’t recognize if you saw them on the street.

My writing group meeting with our real-life-published-author has really motivated me to get back to writing my novel.  Bottom line, the only major difference between her and any of the rest of us is that she actually finished her manuscript and edited and polished it so she could shop it around (a brutal and painful process though it was) and finally land a deal.  So, step one: finish my manuscript.  Should have been a no-brainer, I know, but hey I’ve been a busy girl!  Doing the writing exercise was amazing.  To see things I do in other people’s writing and learning from each other… it was a fun night full of learning.  And looking back at where we started and how far all of our writing has progressed shows the amount of hard work we’ve put into learning the craft.  You can’t go out and run a marathon without training and the last few years for me have been training for the marathon of writing a novel.  It’s almost race day… I can feel the anticipation.  My characters are back, swirling through my head and whispering things to me.  I just need to *gasp* outline the basics of the story (I’m a discovery writer mostly) and work out a few more things that happen in the middle to get to the ending I envision and it will be time to hit the starting line.  Wish me luck!

If you want it done right, do it yourself…

I’m very unsatisfied with my day job right now.  I have a supervisor who is totally disengaged from the team and is making changes that don’t make sense catering to the lowest performers at the expense of those of us who actually do the work.  Morale is so low, the only thing keeping me there right now are the amazing benefits and the fitness center which allows me to run during the workday.  Seriously, those two things.  Pretty shitty, I know.

Am I bitter because I didn’t get the job when I applied for it a year and a half ago?  I thought so in the beginning but the candidate they hired over me can only earn my respect if he actually does a better job than I would have done at managing the team.  Which he hasn’t.  I think almost two years is enough time to know for sure that he sucks.

So yeah, I guess I am bitter.  But do you blame me?

I’m coping by recommitting to my novel.  My good friend Christauna just got a publishing deal for her first book so I know it is possible.  And she learned everything in the same place as I did – our writer’s group.  How cool that it started as a few people who wanted to write and started meeting to support one another in our efforts to learn the trade and now there’s a real life published author in our midst!

I can’t wait for the day that one of two things happen.  1) the idiot supervisor’s plan results in a major system outage that puts his ass on the line and gets him fired (or worse, the technical lead decides she’s had enough after 30 years); or 2) I get a publishing deal of my own and I can tell them to take this job and shove it so I can just be a writer!

In the meantime, instead of focusing on the negatives and all the bullshit where they are under-utilizing my skill set and hobbling me, the overachiever, with a job I can do with both hands tied behind my back and from which I currently get no job satisfaction, I will focus on how amazing it is to get paid my salary for doing very little and use the downtime and stress-free time to finish my novel.

We’ll see how long that lasts…