Thursday, January 22, 2015


This has been an interesting couple of weeks.

It's been like the weather; a dump of snow, then a melt, then a bunch of sunny days and back to winter.
I love the view from the English department

There is something about Ponderosa Pine trees in the snow

I'm not so good at the phone phocus

Mmmm, winter!

This is my new "I Love Winter" necklace. 

Before Christmas, G went to the doctor because his voice was cutting out. He was snoring so loud I could hear him from downstairs. Sometimes, it felt like something was stuck in his throat.

When I say "he went to the doctor", I mean that he doesn't really do that unless he feels it's necessary. But he went. She sent him to a specialist, an otolaryngologist. He took a look; stuck a doohickey (sorry for the technical term) down his nose and took a peek. Said "that needs to come out."

Wait, what? What needs to come out? Huh?

Some sort of growth. A burst polyp.  You can get polyps in lots of place on your body. Colon, nose, throat, places like that. This one nestled on top of Gs vocal chords.

The Oto said this needs to come out now; G said "Let's wait until after Christmas".  He scheduled the surgery for the second week of January.

While Christmas was fun and traveling is exciting, I had a low-level worry the whole time. Like when you know there's a sliver stuck in your toe or something. Can't do anything about it but you always know it's there and try not to worry.

The surgery was really efficient. We arrived at the outpatient surgery center at 7; we left at 10. G had never had a surgery before. He said the hardest part was getting the IV put in. That man. The doctor told me that the polyp was larger than he thought and that in a week we'd know if it was malignant of benign.

Anyway, thus began three days of no talking and another week of low-level worry. I tried to teach him a little bit of sign language but G figured that I'm good at context clues and lip reading and that for the rest he could trace letters in the air or text me.  Sometimes this was hilarious and effective. Sometimes this was hilarious and frustrating.  Sometimes I just made up stuff he would never say, like "Don't you think it's time we bought a farm in the country", and "Seriously, can you make me a well-done steak?"

He lived. He ate popsicles.  He had to stay home for those three days and while I was at work, on the first damn day, he drove himself to McDonalds and wrote a note for a caramel frappe.  What the ham sandwich?!!

I went to his boss and explained that while he could be at work Thursday and Friday of last week, he couldn't talk. It wasn't a problem. When he went back to work, G reports that he used an entire pack of post-it notes answering questions.  They were not yes or not questions, apparently. And his boss doesn't exactly use email.

So on Dr. King's birthday (which I usually write about but this year I suck), we went back for the test results.


But then the sun came out and it was 51 degrees.

<3 nbsp="" td="">
Confession: I don't have a "low" level setting for worrying. It's sort of my hobby and preoccupation. I like to pretend that I don't worry about things. However, once I set my mind to it, I can worry about just about anything.

Like Eleanor, the sweetest kitty and my best little friend of 18 years, who does have cancer.

I have a full blood panel done on her every 6 months. In May, all was clear. In November, it showed on the CBC.

I am sorry, readers. I just didn't know how to tell you.

She's doing ok, really. Doesn't eat very much. throws up more often. I give her medicine to stimulate her appetite and suppress the vomiting, though it will shorten her lifespan. This could take months or a year or just a few weeks.

When we went to Europe, she stayed with my friend Joy. Joy asked if I wanted to know during the trip if Eleanor died. Yes. Yes, of course I wanted to know that very instant. G was not in favor of this. But no, I couldn't have gone a day without worrying that this day it had happened and I didn't know.  It would have ruined the trip for me.  So Joy promised to tell me and sent me picture after picture of Eleanor, with her daughter, with her, eating, and sleeping on her heating pad. Yes, I sent the heating pad and that wonderful and afghan along to comfort her.  And I set up with my vet that if she needed any kitty health care, she would have it.

This is an exercise in not worrying for me. I don't know the source of the cancer and I'm not going to. I don't want to put her through a bunch of tests. It's not like she is healthy enough for them to remove a growth or even put her under anesthetic. And when the time comes, I'm going to see if the vet will come to the house to help her through those final, awful hours rather than taking her out of the comfort of home.

Until then, I am awakened every morning to what I term "aggressive snuggling".  Eleanor still gets around well and can navigate the stairs.  She sleeps on the bed and wakes me up by purring, then laying on the pillow with me and napping a bit.  Then she puts her face by mine.  Then I pet her. Then she nudges me with her head until I either keep petting her or get up to give her food and/or water. Personally, I think she's using cancer to get into more mischief and get away with it.  Now she'll sit beside me in the kitchen and head butt me until I feed her. She used to get squirted with water if she was a pest. Now I just can't. And somehow,
I'm going to need you to feed me some tuna. By hand.
G is not buying it. Yes, he adores Eleanor. Yes, he will pet her all day and clean up vomit and make a run to the grocery store for me to get cans of the particular food that she's into (while ignoring the 90 other flavors in the pantry).  But when she's bad, she still gets a little squirt of water. I know this because when I told him about her condition, I proclaimed announced that from here on out, she wouldn't ever get into trouble again, he may have quietly chuffed. I didn't hear that part because emotions. But last week, I was petting the sweetest kitty in the world and telling her how awesome she is, and noticed her fur was wet. "Did you give Eleanor a drink?"
"In a sense."
"She scratched on the bathroom door. She got squirted."
"She's well enough to be a bad cat; she's well enough to pay the consequences."

But I'm still going to worry.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Friends, enemies, people I love and people who tolerate me in their lives...2015 is here. And with that comes my annual review of what the heck I've been doing with my life.  I like to use the time between quarters to take stock and decide what works and what doesn't and what needs to go. I think about my health, spiritual life, relationships, career, and life goals. I also like to pay attention to what I do for fun and relaxation. I'm a real type A personality, so it's also helpful for me to think of what I need to just let go of and what I need to give myself a break on. With that in mind, here are a few things I've come up with.

1. I need to practice more emotional self control. Last year, I decided to stop cussing people out when they drove improperly.  I switched instead to reminding myself that not everyone can pay attention all the time and perhaps that text message or phone call is really important. Instead of cussing out loud, I would say "I hope you make better choices!". Of course, nobody can hear you when you're in another car but it was good for me. My next chore to tackle is to pay attention to my attitude when others behave poorly in public.  I know there is a line and that it's easy to cross and hard to know when to speak up.  For example, I felt comfortable speaking up at the Musee D'Orsay in Paris- the signs clearly show that there is no photography of the art, but two people were repeatedly taking photos. It made other people uncomfortable and frankly, it made me mad. I wish I could have taken pictures of some of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen. So did the other 300 people around us. Apparently the rules didn't apply to these two people so I did plainly say "there is no photography in the museum" loud enough to catch a docent's attention.

However, it was perhaps not nice of me to intentionally step on the back of a man's shoes at the Eiffel Tower. He did shove me out of the way in line, but perhaps that's no reason to let me temper get the better of me. It did feel good though, because those were nice shoes.

Clearly, I have some work to do here. And I need to be more patient in waiting at restaurants.

2. Cutting out junk. I love junk food. Not typical junk food like pizza or candy or soda. Junk food as in I don't eat very many regular meals. I'm a snacker. I think it would be better to eat a meal than to eat the pieces of a meal. I will just eat a few pieces of cheese, then later a tomato. Then later a piece of bread. Shouldn't I just make a sandwich in the first place?

Having said that, I am also cutting out all soda pop. That's an easy one for me. They are really, really bad for you. Soda often has carbonic acid, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame in the diet stuff, and all sorts of shit you just don't need to put into your body. Coke is great for cleaning your toilet, just not your insides. Pretty easy; I don't remember the last time I had a soda (like 6 months ago?) and am much more likely to reach for a Monster energy drink- which I will also stop drinking. I think I had three or four last year.

Then there is sugar and additives. I don't eat much sugar on purpose and I like cooking my own food instead of buying prepared stuff. Processed food just isn't good for me and I don't really like chocolate. Here's the real challenge, and try not to laugh: I like to take my daily multivitamins in gummy form.  Yes, I'm a gummy-aholic. If you want me to take medicine, make it something I like and I'm more likely to take it. I take a multivitamin, vitamin D, and a pro-biotic. That's 6 gummies a day. I'm less likely to take a pill, so if you all have suggestions, I'd love to hear them.  Now, those vitamins are in addition to not in place of eating a diet filled with as many vitamins and minerals as I can get.

My other addiction is cheese. I can't get enough of that stuff.  G and I buy three or four packages at Costco every month.

So, more greens, less cheese. And I think I'm going to try adding in more meat into my diet this year. It's kind of yucky to cook and it doesn't taste really good, but I'm going to try for more lean meats. Here's my problem though: I hate chicken, especially chicken legs and stuff with tendons and ligaments and stuff. Barf. May I'll try chicken breast sometime. I'll keep you posted and let you know if that pans out. My favorite local Mexican food place serves a good carnitas platter, which I get from time to time.

In case you just read that last paragraph and thought "I thought she was a vegetarian?!" Yes, I am. I'm a vegetarian because meat tastes yucky and factory farming is an awful, inhumane practice. Actually, we're pescetarians, though I think we eat fish maybe once a month.  There are two stores here in Ellensburg who sell locally grown, humanely treated animal bits. I'd feel ok trying that. No weird growth hormones, no crazy antibiotics shoved into a cow. Whenever possible, we get eggs from my friend Joy, who has lots of happy chicken-pets.

So that means no fast food, which is not a problem. I haven't ordered at a drive-through in a long, long time. No sodas, no pre-packaged stuff from the grocery.  I don't think I'm going to commit to getting away from buying bread. Seriously, I have to have a life. I'm not baking my own damn bread. I think I can do this.

3. Letting it go. G and I don't often disagree but I do like to keep track of what I can do better to listen in tense situations.  One thing I hear is "you need to let things go more".  Now, I am as tenacious as a bulldog. When I get my teeth into something, academically speaking, I see it through to the end. In this way, that's a character asset. In my personal life, I don't let many people close to me so I don't like secrets and I tend to not stuff slide- I get a little too confrontational at times. I know this; I'm working on it. I did a good job a couple of years ago in learning to cut my significant other some slack in relationships. To be clear, I don't think I'm horrible or a control freak (too much). I just think I could do better than I currently am. In practicing, I also give myself a break sometimes and try not to hold my own feet to the fire so much.

4. Sleep. Funny you should mention sleep. I've got insomnia, which I've developed in the last two years. It's stress related, and coffee related and age related. Right now, I can get to sleep just fine, but wake up about 3-4 hours in. Then I'm awake for 3-4 hours, then I sleep again for a bit if I can. There are a few things I absolutely lose sleep over and I plan to knock both of them out in the next few months. With less stress, hopefully I'll be able to be more productive, more happy, and more able to give it a rest (literally).

5. Miles.  This one is fairly easy for me. I want to make sure I get in 35 miles a week for 2015. That's about 1,800 miles for the year. I think I came in at about 1,400 this year. Two miles per day are just walking to and from work, so the rest is about intentionality. One thing that will help is my other resolution: to get a 10 minute mile at least once every month. I'd like to also get at least a couple 9:30 miles, but that depends a lot on air quality and my poor, failing lungs.  I have seen a huge decline in my lungs since I taught at an inner-city middle school which was remodeling while we were in session. They had posted mold and asbestos and I had bronchitis for 10 straight months. It was "not happy". But I'll do the best I can.

6. Speaking of my physical health, I'm going to find it in me to go to a massage therapist from time to time. I always think of this as a major luxury rather than a necessity. I broke down (metaphorically, not literally though it was close) and went to a chiropractor here in town. After 5 or so visits he said I don't really need him anymore but that I'd benefit from massage. I'm doing yoga twice a week right now and that helps, but maybe a massage a few times this year would be nice.

7. Relationships. I always think I have this dialed in, but relationships take effort and work. I'm hoping to do a little better at visiting friends this year, so if you want me to come visit, please invite me. I'll practice saying yes more than no, even though I'm a total homebody introvert lazy bum. I've done a better job of enforcing boundaries with loved ones and at school, but it's hard for me to say "no" when something is easy to say yes to. So, more authentic connections, less overcommitting, and more awesome conversations with people I care about.

Ok, that's it. Seven is a lucky number. I do welcome input, of course.  What are your goals for this year? Do you even make resolutions? I find them helpful but try not to become too attached. Let me know.....
The author in her natural, confused state

Thursday, January 1, 2015

London and Paris

I sit in front of a computer screen wondering where to start. At the beginning, when we caught a bus to Seattle, then a non-stop international flight to London?  At the fourth day of our trip when I started getting sick? At the day before Christmas Eve in Paris where we had to find a doctor? Maybe Christmas day when I finally got a prescription for antibiotics filled.

The Rosetta Stone; a good symbol
for this trip
I guess I'll start right here: sitting in front of my computer screen with a hot cup of sinus soother tea, still coughing out the bronchitis that invaded my lungs and which will take another month to really clear out. I'm tired. I've had insomnia for almost 2 years now but these last few days paired with jet lag, I've gotten either 4 hours of sleep or I go to bed for a few hours, get up for 4, then sleep a few more.

It almost seems incompatible to say how much I enjoyed the trip, given how sick I got. G has been to Paris before, but neither of us had been to London and we greatly anticipated this trip. Those first few days were really great. I mean, we lost an entire day in travel, but the London Eye, the Tate Museum, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, and high tea were great. That was just the first day. There was the Trafalgar Square,Tower of London, the British Museum, and an incredibly yummy meal at a place called Dishoom. At Dishoom, they added some magic, a black olive and green tea holy crap to Gs old fashioned; he reported it being one of the best drinks he's ever had. We got to figure out the metro system (thanks entirely to my husband's excellent research), and took a double decker bus for a bit.  Just as an aside, all museums in London are free.  Isn't that cool?! We also visited the Cathedral of St. Peter; it's quiet and huge and is a working church. We climbed to the whispering gallery where you can supposedly whisper on one side and hear it on the other. That didn't work for us but it was an amazing view.  Then we climbed even higher- to the very top- and were rewarded with breathtaking views of all of London.
This is all he packed
Along the Queens Walk, Thames

A Barbados Lion (extinct) in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square 

London Eye

A View from the Eye

Westminster Abbey

This was a County Administration building. Now it's an aquarium

Westminster Abbey

Guards at a government building

This is how you enter the Ministry of Magic

I took this in St. Peter's before I realized that no photos were allowed

A View from the top of St. Peters

St. Peters

Evening in London

Isn't it beautiful?

That was quite a climb

We took the Eurostar to Paris, from St. Pancras International to Paris Gare de Nord. The trip was just over 2 hours since the train goes under the water and travels at an average rate of about 215 miles per hour.

Let me pause here to say that not everything was peachy keen. I got sick, but I also have a different travel style than G. He's a planner, thank goodness. He does research and plans meals and activities. He'd even planned a day where we visited Shakespeare's Globe Theater and took a boat to Greenwich for some shopping. We didn't get to do that day because I got sick. He even makes lists of possible yummy places to eat. This is for the most part the reason our trip was so fun. He doesn't like shopping for trinkets; I do. My travel style is much different from his. I'm a "not planner".  That's a polite way to say "squirrel on crack".  I like to go see what we feel like doing that day and then do it. I like vague plans. The advantage is that two people can give input and then decide from there.  The disadvantage is that it's impossible to make reservations. Let me reiterate: I didn't buy a museum pass for Paris in advance.  The downside is that we spent almost 2 hours waiting in line, outside in the cold, while I had bronchitis and G had a slight fever, just waiting to get inside to buy the museum pass.  The upside of that is that since we had both gotten sick, we wouldn't have been able to use a 4-day pass and saved a lot of money. It took some doing for us to get used to each other's style.  I mean, we're in our 40s, and neither of us really wants to change that much since we've purposely evolved our styles. I appreciate the value of what he does and I know he derives pleasure from planning. I derive pleasure from discovering along the way. One of the many things we have in common, however, is our mutual love for and fascination with museums. We were like "Hello Europe. We've come to look at your dusty old stuff". This really united us in our travel excursions and made for an exciting trip. I think wandering around the Louvre and discovering all the beauty inherent with G was one of the best things I've done in a long time.

In Paris, instead of the 7 days we thought we'd have, we both got sick and we ended up with 3 pretty good days at the end. I learned how to navigate Paris pharmacies and even to talk to medical professionals in French.  One of my Facebook friends remarked that if I had to get really sick, there were worse places to be. In some ways I agree; it was only 23  to see a doctor and the pharmacist didn't need to see my prescription for the cough medicine in order to give me a refill.  And the cough medicine- sans sucre (without sugar)- tasted like cake batter.  Liquid cake batter. On the other hand, my french speaking doctor didn't understand about my history of bronchitis and was reluctant to give me an antibiotic, so I suffered an extra two days. When you're in a hotel room in Paris, nobody brings you food or water. We ended up going next door to the bed and breakfast in the mornings to the Starbucks for two liters of Evian, some yogurt, and coffee. I also ended up way over-taking the antibiotic. As in I doubled the dosage because I don't actually speak french and she didn't write anything down. 

One of the fellows from Easter Island
There were some really neat things about London that I observed.  Our bed and breakfast, The Ridgemount, was really fun. I enjoyed the staff and the breakfast every morning was delicious. They even offered things like beans for breakfast and sometimes, broiled tomatoes. Our room had it's own bathroom with shower, something of a rarity in European traditional hotels. And it was centrally located; we were half a mile from the British Museum. The new "Night at the Museum" movie is set there and part of their promotional advertising was inviting children to enter a contest to spend a night in the museum.  I was really tempted to sign up. Wish I wasn't so old.  Sigh. My favorite part of that was the Assyrian exhibitions. I'll post some photos. 
This is an optical illusion. From the front he has two legs, from the side- 4. In total, he has 5 legs!




Unrealistic beauty standards

By the British Museum. Marx used to drink here after a day
of writing in the Reading Room at the Museum.

I think my other favorite part of London was the Tower of London.  We spent all day there. I'll post a ton of photos, but one I didn't get was of the crisps (potato chips) in the coffee shop. They were called  Real brand, and the salt and vinegar was the best I've ever had. G concurs. 
A Beefeater at the Traitor's Gate

Amazing tour guide and royal guard
at the palace

Tower and the Tower Bridge

Three queens were beheaded on this spot

Graffiti from the prison

More graffiti

Check out the date on that


Pretty intricate graffiti

I guess when you have time on your hands..

One of the original walls in 1100.

The Tower Bridge

Outside of the Traitor's Gate

One of the 8 royal ravens. For good luck. 

The original tower, the White Tower

Part of the outer walls 

One of the guarded entrances

The blue door on the right is the chaplain; the left is the village doctor

Inner structures. We walked the entire wall

Some goofy person

The Crown Jewels are kept at the Tower. Here is a guard

This hasn't been used in 150 years

Another shot of the White Tower

A schematic of the Tower

In Paris, one of the first things we were able to do was to visit Les Deux Magots
Best Chocolat Chaud in Paris! 
We ordered in French - my first time with major props to G- and I had my first real hot chocolate. I mean melted chocolate with some sort of magic creamy chocolatey stuff in it.  I don't think I'll ever have chocolate that good again.  Mostly because I don't like chocolate very much. It was lovely and the server was also really kind. In fact, most of the people we encountered in Paris were really nice. Since it was off season, and the tourists weren't crazy, I think everyone was pretty relaxed.  We tried our best not to be obnoxious tourists and for the most part, were successful. We even hit up a movie, An American In Paris, and shopped at a local grocery store where we found paprika flavored Pringles. Here are some highlights: 

We hit up the Eiffel Tower: 

Paris is HUGE

It's a long way down

This is the Seine

Another of the Seine

The Louvre
The wait was closer to 2 hours

Do you hear the people singing?

Crossing the Seine on the way 

Part of the palace

An older part, I think

It's a big place

Over by the pyramid. In that building is a
cafe called Cafe Marly; good food

Cat worship was for the Assyrians too!

The Flying Victorie

The pyramid at night

Under the great pyramid!

Venus de Milo

The Code of Hammurabi

Even ancient kitties didn't want to be petted

Palace grounds

and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. 



An alcove dedicated to the Pope 
I do love this pope

One of the Rose windows


flying buttresses

Side entrance 
I love this photo

A View from the South

Finally, the day before we were to leave, we hit a restaurant on Gs Great Paris Restaurants list.  Angelinas is supposed to rival LaDuree for macaroons.  We ate macaroons from LaDuree. There is no contest so we didn't even try! Angelinas is amazing though. Since we had week-long Navigo passes (the metro system in Paris), we just hopped along for brunch on Sunday. It was amazing.  I was too tired to even really try to order in French; the server kindly switched to flawless English and delivered one of the best meals I've eaten in a year.  There was hot chocolate too, though not quite as perfect as Les Deux Magots. Every other restaurant we'd been to didn't bring us water. In fact, you have to ask for and often pay for water at restaurants. At Angelinas, I know it's a small thing, but there was water at the table for us. Perhaps the silliest realization I had from this whole trip is that I have a favorite restaurant in Paris.
Thank you very much; I'll be back!

Now, I'm sure I've complained about airline service before.  American Airlines is on my list of companies never to patronize again. But Delta, on the other hand, was awesome for international flights.  I didn't even need the customary Dramamine in order to fly with them. Comfy seats and lots and lots of beverage service. Their partner from Paris to Seattle is AirFrance and that was a fantastic flight too. We ended up at Seattle in good time and caught the shuttle bus two hours home within 2 hours of landing. I was so tired from not having slept in 22 hours that when we were dropped off at Starbucks in Ellensburg, I ordered a coffee like I had been doing for the last week at the Starbucks in Paris- and had to stop myself from using the french words.  It was an odd linguistic situation. In an American company in France I had to come up with new words to get what I needed; in the same company at home I had trouble switching back. 

I know what you're thinking, and what you've probably been thinking all along: what about the cat? 
Eleanor went to stay with my friend Joy and her husband and little girl. She did great; she loved them and they cared for her so well. Eleanor even put on a little weight when we were gone and I'm glad for it.  I'm so grateful to have friends whom I can trust to pill her twice daily and spoil love her like I do. 

I'm glad to be home. G went to work the day after we got back, and we passed a very quiet New Year's Eve at home last night. I still have jet lag; I'm tired but I have to stay up a few more hours, else I'll wake up halfway through the night. 
Not ready to come home

On the other hand, I feel ready for a new quarter at the university. I love the bracing winter winds, the snow, the shortened daylight hours. Once my lungs recover, in about a month, I'll be back to running. This next year, 2015, will be a good one. That's my only real prediction. I know I'll spend time in front of a computer screen, wondering what to reveal and what how to reconcile the life I think I live in my head with what I know is probably closer to reality. Thanks for staying around while I sort it out.