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Archive for November, 2007

Hello friends! I know this may seem odd but I hope you will celebrate with me the fact that I have an ovarian cyst! It is the good news I have been waiting months and months for. It is a diagnosis that finally addresses all of my symptoms. And lastly, it is a diagnosis with a cure!!!

I’ll still be doing some other tests to rule out any other sources, but it seems like this is THE diagnosis. Next week will be my endoscopy and after that I’ll be meeting with doctors to discuss treatments for my cyst. I assume I’ll be having a procedure, but the good news is that it’s a very small procedure usually. They’ll know more once they complete the series of upcoming tests. All in all though it seems to be a very hopeful situation.

In other good news I have taken a job! I am now a private tutor for high achieving students. It is a dream come true to work with students who actually care about the outcome of their grades and their futures. It’s still just part time, but I am glad of that. Since I am interested in pursuing a writing career it seems fitting to me that I have time to write. The only downside is that I have mornings off and I work afternoons and evenings, which is my more creative time. I suppose I’ll just have to be diligent in my efforts and force myself to work in the mornings.

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Bad Day

I’m exhausted today due to my mystery illness acting up. I’ve been in pain for almost 24 hours now. I take Vicadin to help with the pain, but I think my body is becoming used to the medication, because it doesn’t seem to work as well as it did before. It still makes me very tired, a little loopy, and nauseous.

I’m still waiting for test results to come back in, hopefully I’ll hear tomorrow. I’m growing more and more sure that there is something wrong with my “girl parts,” as my cousin said.

So for today, I’m going to snuggle with my dogs, watch reruns of Law and Order, and pray that someone figures out what’s wrong with me.

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I will most likely not post tomorrow, Thanksgiving, and I would assume that many of you will probably not be reading many blogs amide the festivities of the day. So I thought I would post today about my first experience making green bean casserole tomorrow. I’ve never made it before, or actually ever eaten it, because, well, I hate green beans. But I got stuck with vegetables this year and my husband and my dad both voted for green bean casserole over roasted butternut squash (which I was pulling for).

So any suggestions on how to make an excellent green bean casserole? I bought about five cans of chopped green beans, two cans of cream of mushroom soup, and 2 cans of french onions for the topping. What else do I need? Does anyone have any special ingredients they add to make it even tastier? I won’t be able to taste it as I’m cooking since I hate green beans, so if anyone has a sure-fire recipe please let me know!!

Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving!!

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They’re like my kids. I don’t have any children yet, so my dogs get all that maternal love and obsession. As time goes by they become less like dogs and more like children in their mannerisms, their little personalities, and their interactions with each other.

Penny Lane, my oldest, is two and a beautiful copper colored lab/pit/shepherd mix. She ways about 50 lb and is the fast dog at the park, aside from the gray hounds. We adopted Penny from the pound about a year and half ago. She had been abused and neglected when we got her, so she was a wreck when we got her home. Penny was so malnourished, that the skin hung between her ribs. She resembled Santa’s Little Helper from the Simpsons. She was so scared of everything, including stairs, brooms, toys that squeaked, and even me. When we brought her home the first day, Penny was medicated and scared out of her mind. She ran in the door and promptly tried to hide the downstairs bathroom (where she then pottied and threw up). We got her out of the bathroom and into the backyard so she could finish pottying and she tried to find the quickest route to escape, running around the perimeter, finally hiding behind some bushes. She tried to sleep out there in the flower bed, since she was so tired from her surgery that day, but my husband picked her up, carried her up the stairs, and put her in her little bed at the foot of our own bed. I spent that whole first night lying on the edge of the bed stroking her so she’d go to sleep.

It took Penny several weeks before she would climb the stairs on her own, several more weeks before she would bark, and several more weeks after that before she would snuggle with either me or my husband. She’s a thousand times better today, thanks to her new home with us and also thanks to her brother, Dodger, who we got about 6 months ago.

Where Penny is shy and skittish, Dodger is friendly and excited. For example, when my husband’s friends come over the house, Penny barks and barks and barks, trying to force them out of the houses with just the sound of her voice!! She circles the downstairs, making a very exact path through all the rooms, making sure to keep at least 2 feet away from any visitors. She does this for at least 20 minutes until she’ll get close enough to sniff a hand or a shoe. However, any sudden movements and we start the cycle all over again!

Meanwhile, Dodger is desperately trying to kiss the visitors on the mouth! That’s right! My Dodger wants to love everyone who comes through the door so much, that he wants to lick them all over, especially their faces. People are always confused when he starts licking their shoes, but there’s not any real explanation to that other than his love for licking. Dodger runs around them trying to get everyone to pet him and scratch behind his ears. He jumps in the air, nearly doing flips, he’s so excited to see anyone come over!!

There’s so much more to tell, but this blog will be 5 pages long if I talk too much about their little personalities. So for today, suffice to say, Penny and Dodger are perfect together!

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Let me preface this posting by saying I am a typical Libra and making any kind of decision has always been hard for me. Life changing decisions, like what job to take, are even more difficult. So I’m having a hard time with my current decision.

Today I interviewed for a position with a nonprofit in the development department. It’s a position that would allow me to learn about every aspect of development, as well as allowing me to gain valuable experience in writing pr copy, development copy (such as donor letters, invitations, thank you letters, etc.), and grant writing. They would even pay for me to take classes in Grant writing in order to take the lead on all of the grant writing work.

Sounds great right? They’ll even pay me my asking price. What I’m worried about though is the organization itself. Though the organization is 40 years old, the foundation is relatively new. It’s still going through relatively obvious growing pains and they’ve already experienced a high turnover rate in the employees already. Their offices were dull, empty, and disorganized. My immediate supervisor was uncomfortably nervous and painful to speak to (and therefore conducted the interview poorly), which makes me worried about the development department since it is dependent on interpersonal skills. My big boss was extremely nice and has a successful background in development working for higher education. This would make him an ideal mentor. However, he was scatterbrained, easily distracted, disorganized, and spoke plainly about how he can be incredibly demanding as a boss.

So what am I to do? Should I take the position because it does offer the opportunity to learn so much about the development process and nonprofits? It’ll also offer a chance to gather so much needed experience writing copy and publishing it on a larger scale than in the past. Are these things worth sacrificing a positive, low stress work environment with people that will be easy and pleasant to work with? Is experience worth sacrificing everything else one looks for in a job?

Let me know what you think.

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I heard this phrase in a Gym Class Heroes song and it inspired this very short story that follows.

He said to her, I hate you like a slug hates salt.

For Majorie, this was more than just one of the usual insults that are thrown her way on a daily basis. She had gotten accustomed to the dark scowls and stares in the hallways. She grown used to the whispers in the locker room, or the threatening notes slipped between the slats of her locker. Majorie had even found the “I hate you” statements said straight forwardly to her face, or sometimes to her back, as she walked through one clique or another, rather ordinary.

But this one was different. This insult meant something more to Majorie than the other ones. This insult at last revealed something about the hatred she had found so absurd and incomprehensible. Why would they ALL hate her so? Surely there must be one of them that could like her, just a little bit; someone to say hi to in the mornings and wave to as they passed on their way to class. Surely someone could sympathize with her plight. She hadn’t know what she had done was wrong. It had felt like the right thing to do. And that’s what was so puzzling, it had felt SO right, deep in her soul, in her stomach, down to the cells in her toenails, she knew that it was the right thing to do.

What had it gotten her, this surety of justification? The scorn of the students that surrounded her day in and day out. Majorie recognized that the politics of high school were difficult to navigate. She consciously knew that by alienating those students most popular, she had created a ripple effect in the social pool, eventually creating the tidal wave that swept her away to an isolated island so far, she couldn’t even see the other unpopular people from here. Majorie sulked and cursed silently when she thought of those freaks and geeks who suffered at the hands of the popular kids, but still did nothing to aid her isolated suffering. How could they not see how closely their stars were aligned? How could they not see how she was just a hair’s breath away from where they might be should they choose to do the right thing as well? How could the social outcasts of high school leave her so outcast?

And then one day, that boy, the one who stared at her over lunch tables and through crowded rows in class, had said this to her. “I hate you like a slug hates salt.”

Majorie knew that slugs would definitely hate salt as it was deadly to them. But Majorie felt there was more to this that just a reference to how she poisoned the student body. She felt that there must be a clue here; that somewhere in this statement was the life-line she had been waiting, praying for. Majorie must break it down.

She mulled it over in her mind at night before bed and in the morning over the sink. She focused on the words as she walked silently through the noisy halls, as if the phrase had created a protective bubble around her. Notes that had been slid into her locker fell to the ground unnoticed. The unspoken words that seemed to deafen her at lunch and after school, went unheard as she listened to the phrase over in her head and rolled the words carefully around in her mouth and over her tongue, tasting each one. This last insult formed a shield, armor, steel plated around Majorie, so that the cruelty of each day sounded like a faint ping upon that armor instead of the slashing wounds it had been prior to the day of the insult.

I hate you like a slug hates salt.

I hate you was clear enough, but it was in the simile that Majorie felt the clue must lie. She’d already recognized the reference to poison, and how she must be the salt in this comparison. So it was the slug she found intriguing.

Could a slug hate? Was a slug even aware of salt in the first place? Was it only once the slug was placed in the salt that it became aware of it’s hatred for it? Making any hatred the slug had prior to that moment, just hatred of the unknown possibility of poison or death. Thus was Majorie this threat, the threat of the unknown, the threat of the possibility of death, of destruction over everything the slug is? Did Majorie wield that much power? Was she so challenging to this world of petty politics and feuding cliques that she was to be equated with the death of just such a world?

This was a revelation for Majorie. This was a moment of greatness so overwhelming, Majorie nearly fainted in class. She hardly noticed the stares and gawks as she slipped out of the classroom down the hall to the bathroom. Majorie this time didn’t shrink from the room, she smirked and stood tall.

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If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I am a modern housewife. One of the qualifications of being a “modern” housewife is that I am very well educated. I am also an avid reader (but this has been the hallmark of housewives for at least a century). I was once told by my grad professor at over 60% of high literary fiction published each year is consumed by women, particularly well- educated women. I would definitely fall into this category. And to round out the picture, I started a book club with some friends that meets once a month to discuss the book du jour. We spend a good amount of time talking about the book, and also a good amount of time gossiping, drinking wine, and nibbling on appetizers.

My book club has found that we lack structure. We aren’t sure of themes to discuss or questions to ask, if not readily apparent. So in response, I’ve decided to do a weekly blog on a possible book club book. This week’s selection: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

This book does come with a section devoted to book-group discussion questions, as well as a conversation with the author, but I thought it would be a good book to start with.

To begin with, I was pleasantly surprised to find this an excellent read and truly deserving of it’s New York Times Bestseller status. So often, I’ve found books on those lists to be lacking in one respect or another, whether it is in plot, character development, description, etc. I found none of these areas to be lacking in Water.

It is a tale told simultaneously by one man, who has become two over the years. One side of the story is told by Jacob Jankowski at 90 or 93, and the other is told by Jacob Jankowski at 23. You can imagine the difference in these two men as 70 years has passed. The whole story is sparked by a circus setting up across the street from Mr. Jankowski’s assisted living facility (in other words an old folks home). It is this seemingly insignificant event that causes a wave of memories to come rushing into Mr. Jankowski’s dreams and waking moments. These memories begin with the Jacob at Cornell University, finishing his veterinary degree. It is in the final weeks of his degree that his parents are both killed in an automobile accident. Though this in itself is shocking enough, Jacob returns home to find that he no longer has a home. We, the reader, then start to patch together the time period. We know that Jacob’s story is set in the early part of the 20th century, but just how early or late was unclear. It is with the death of his parents and the bank taking his parent’s home, land, everything, that we understand that this is the particularly devastating time of the Great Depression. We also learn that having a good job like being a veterinarian doesn’t mean you’ll be spared the crushing despair of the time period, as we learn through the fact that Jacob’s father, also a vet, took payment in the form of beans or eggs or whatever his customers could pay.

Jacob is left alone and bewildered. He returns to school only to leave moments later and wanders off into the dark, where he just walks and walks and walks until exhaustion and hunger stop him. It is at this moment that his adventure begins. Jacob hops a train and inadvertently joins the circus. Things grow increasingly interesting as the cast of characters is revealed. Jacob’s bunk-mate is a defensive dwarf, his love interest is a married horse-performing Marlena, his adversary is the director of animals married to the lovely Marlena. Things become more complicated as the world of Depression Era circuses is revealed to us. The desperation is tangible and the air tense as we discover that the circus owner and operator is as dangerous as he is cruel, and his second in command, August the animal director, is an unstable and paranoid schizophrenic.

It is a joy to watch Gruen unravel the tapestry before our eyes to reveal the secrets behind it. The characters seem to dance a waltz around each other that we know will only end in disaster, but we cannot turn our eyes away. We, the readers, seem to feel their emotions and tensions as our own, as we cringe in horror or gasp in excitement. There are few books that can create this type of transferable emotion.

The only part of the novel that verges on disappointment is the time we spend with Mr. Jankwoski. Though he is a sympathetic and somewhat interesting character, our time with him often languishes in the doldrums of old folks home politics. My biggest joy in reading these passages was knowing that they led another piece of the Jacob puzzle.

If you or your book club is considering reading this book, here are some themes or questions I suggest discussing:

1. The desperation of of the Depression and how it affected people morally

2. Describe the circus

3. Treatment of animals then vs. now

4. What causes a person to dramatically break from their past? or their morals?

Also use the book club guide in the end of the book. And as a side note here are some possible snacks for the meeting: roasted peanuts, popcorn, cotton candy, lemonade (in other words, circus fare).

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