Blogroll

When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

Archives

For posts sorted by date or label, see the links below.

For posts on frequently referenced topics, click the buttons to the right.

To search this blog, type in the field at the top left of the page and hit enter.

Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

We're ready for 'em


Our first trick-or-treaters! They should be here very soon.

The candy bowl is filled, and D is in his costume, which involved putting a bald cap on him(!). It was a three-hour job but definitely well worth it. I think my makeup skills have been tested to new levels.

Time for me to get dressed, after which we'll take photos. For now, I'll give you a shot of our work from the pumpkin carving party. D's is on the left, and mine is on the right.


And yes, those are naturally occurring warts in the flesh of the ghoulish face.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Last hint

I won't say what this item is since that would be almost a complete giveaway on the whole costume, but there you go.

So the thesis installment has been sent off! And it's nearly time to start dinner prep. Man, I'm tired. I'm tempted to lobby for a meal out.

With my work, I also sent a query to my advisor about moving my defense date from April to July. I found out that I have funding I can put toward the summer since I didn't use the funding when it was first offered in 2008. It would be great to have an extra few months to keep writing, as it's going well -- that would mean more time to turn this project into a substantial piece of a book manuscript. Which would be incredible. There's nothing like paid-for writing time.

I'm just nervous my advisor will say no. Every writer who teaches needs the summer to work on his or her own things, so there's a high likelihood this professor will turn me down, especially since I'm not behind schedule or truly in need of that extra time. This is what I was in a funk about on Tuesday. But maybe, maybe -- ?

I'm going to be on tenterhooks until I get an answer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another clue

A package of headwraps.

I will probably use only one of the two we bought -- the intent is for this item to be attached to the costume parts in the previous post. At this time I don't foresee any obstacles that might compound the problem, if you know what I mean, of getting things to stick. But we'll see how it works out.

Other Halloween news: D and I attended a pumpkin carving party last night. I was in a funk before we went -- stressing about thesis funding-related stuff I have to get into the works with Little U. on the Prairie -- but it turns out that a little gourd sculpting in the company of others was all I needed to perk me up. And not because I was sticking sharp objects into things either; I actually made something I was proud of! Pictures to come, I promise.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's that time again

Halloween is Saturday, and I actually have a costume in the works.

I wasn't expecting to make something new for myself, but we've been invited to a party. And it's our first Halloween together since the year D and I were married(!), so it seemed like the occasion needed proper feting.

To that end, here it is, the first part of my costume:


Before you furrow your brows too heavily, let me clarify -- the pumpkins are not part of the ensemble. They were just convenient for propping up the other items you see in the picture. What are those sparkly hemispheres supposed to be? You get to guess! And the costume is entirely G-rated (unlike some of what we saw at a costume supply store this past weekend), so no, the parts you're looking at are not what you might initially think they could be.

Submit your guesses in the comments! I'll post some more clues as we get closer to Saturday.

In other news, thesising continues. I'm still working my way through my committee's recommended reading list, and the most recent stuff has been really helpful with encouraging me to think in scene form, so I thought I'd share titles:
  • David Mura's Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity. This one was great fun to have with me on my way back from the wedding in New York. The woman sitting next to me on the plane asked to see the title, and her comment after I showed her was, "Well, that's certainly not a light read." Amusing reaction, accurate assessment. Powerful, honest memoir with the most effective parts being the use of scene.

  • Judith Levine's Do You Remember Me?: A Father, a Daughter, and a Search for the Self. The narrator chronicles her experience of her father's decline from Alzheimer's and its effects on her entire family (primarily through scene). The limits of human compassion get pushed as the disease progresses -- and the author does not shy away from showing her limits or her mother's, does not ask to be liked. But you end up feeling for the family all the same.

  • Sue William Silverman's Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You. Really stunning scene-based reconstruction of the way a child sees and understands trauma while having to keep that experience hidden from the outside world. The narrator is relentless (and I mean that in a good way) in her ability to make clear the emotions of characters who start off fairly inscrutable without beating the reader over the head with explanation.
Okay, enough for now from me. I need to start on the next stage of costume construction ...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The house has been warmed!

And it was great fun.

I know I said I'd try to get shots of the food, but once things got going, there weren't many chances (if any) to do that. Fortunately, our good friends from Portland came up for the occasion and stayed overnight, so we made strudel the next day (at left). They even brought their own steins!

Here are some shots of the finished decorations before guests started arriving. We were delighted that the flags we ordered arrived in due time.



And the gingham-checked tablecloths too.


D's parents sent us proper music (yodeling, alp horns, etc.) as well as D's lederhosen -- the same pair they hung at their Oktoberfest last year.


And to entertain our guests when they first arrived, we invited them to guess how many grains of rice fit into this one-liter stein.


We also put trivia questions about Oktoberfest and the Mid-Autumn Festival around the room (hence the little signs you might be able to see on the walls).

So now our house has seen its first official party and we're looking forward to a few quieter weeks before the holiday season arrives. Which means I'd better get cracking on that next set of thesis pages. Progress on that front continues, slowly but surely. Next deadline in one week ...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

And now, we celebrate

Yep, the endoscopy went smoothly -- I have no memory of the procedure, and there were no unexpected allergic reactions. So now, we wait for the results from the biopsies.

In the meantime, D and I are having a party -- a housewarming, to be precise. It's slightly belated because of our hectic summer (couldn't find a large enough window between family visits and weddings to throw a proper shindig). But no matter. We've finally managed to pull together plans for a fun evening celebrating our move to our new place and our long-awaited reunion.

In keeping with this, the theme for our party is East Meets West: we're honoring traditions from Oktoberfest and the Mid-Autumn Festival as an homage to our heritage. (Even though D's family name is Dutch, he's a good part German from his mother's side.) This means there will be many a German beer, all kinds of wurst, and pretzels the size of your head, to be served alongside a variety of Chinese dumplings and, of course, mooncakes. In the spirit of true fusion, we're also making Asian cole slaw and serving a fine Riesling by Pacific Rim.

We are hoping the German province flags that D ordered will arrive in time for the celebration. For now, we've got Chinese lanterns already in place:


(It took some creativity to get the two to hang between the lights in the background of the photo with just fishing line and no nails; I think that was our biggest accomplishment this week.)

So I'm off to finish doing what I can ahead of time to prepare for 30 guests (thus far -- there are still some RSVPs that haven't come in yet!). More on how it all turns out very, very soon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Good news!

Avoiding this stuff is paying off.

I went to see my endocrinologist today, and he says my blood work looks terrific. The cholesterol (LDL) levels are continuing to come down (87 now, with the goal of 70 or under) and my oxalates are finally within spitting range of normal (34 now, with the goal of 30 or under). So in his book, I'm in fine shape. "Don't change a thing!" he said at the end of my appointment. "This is exactly where I want you to be."

It is so nice to hear that I'm doing things right. It may not mean that I get my pancreas back to its normal function, but I'm maintaining the status quo, and that means no drugs. Just diet and exercise as usual.

The picture above is from my trip to visit Almost Dr. Sis -- this is like her version of Pike Place Market, and it had so many tempting tasty things at each stand. We steered clear of the bad-for-you items and got some fresh salmon, which Almost Dr. Sis grilled up for dinner. Amazing stuff, especially with fresh asparagus and Mom's recipe for wild rice pilaf and stir-fried mushrooms:


Speaking of which, it's time to start dinner. I'm turning in early after that -- the endoscopy is tomorrow at 7 a.m. Looking forward to having that over with! If all goes well, I'm treating myself to sugar-free molten chocolate cake for dessert afterward.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

When is something worth fixing?


I asked myself that question a lot over the last two days while I was trying to get my work in better shape for my advisor. After 24 hours had gone by without significant improvement, I decided I'd better start putting editorial notes into the draft with my thoughts on everything just as it was -- and hope that that would show my advisor what my intentions for the piece were and where I was having trouble making it do what I wanted.

Sigh.

It was all going so well while I was visiting Almost Dr. Sis -- every day, I camped out with my draft for a few hours, and by bedtime, I'd have measurable progress: maybe a new section of a scene or a much more fleshed-out revision of a previously written part. But once I got back to Seattle, the whole thing bogged down and sentences began to sound labored and I was reading paragraphs over and over without actually remembering a word. That was what told me that I needed to get some space from the piece. So I sent it off.

My advisor sent me her feedback today with reassurances that she thinks it's going well -- the scenes I'm sketching out are not meant to be perfect and we're going to reexamine everything I write this semester when the new term starts in January. That's definitely a relief. I have my doubts about this particular set of pages, though. Sometimes it really is easier to start a piece over from scratch than to try to take apart and reassemble a badly mangled draft. Guess we'll see what happens ...

In other news, my gastroenterologist got back to me yesterday (via his nurse) about my CT results. The good news: on the pancreatic front, there's nothing visibly wrong. We'll still do the endoscopy next week to see what there is to see and then go from there. The not-so-good news: certain lady parts looked abnormal on the film, so now I have to go get all that checked out by yet another specialist.

Where does this end??? I just want to figure out what's wrong so I can do something about it sooner rather than later. It would be nice if new issues didn't keep cropping up.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Life is a bowl of cherry bombs

Cherry bomb peppers, that is.

You might remember that I briefly mentioned getting to pick our own produce at a vegetable farm when D and I had our getaway weekend in Yakima. Since then, we've been working our way through some delicious peppers that we picked (see below -- and yes, you can laugh; I'm hearing the nursery rhyme in my head too). It was great fun -- we just drove our car to the field behind the farm stand, parked it, and stepped out into rows of pepper plants (that's what happened to be ripe). The aroma was incredible.


The only problem was that none of the pepper plants were labeled. There were long red peppers growing next to short green ones, and sometimes there were even peppers of different colors on the same plant. D and I looked at the field, looked at each other, then looked at the field again. "Okay, I guess we just pick whatever looks good!" he said, and we waded in.

We weren't really concerned with the general flavor of pepper -- roasted, stir-fried, scrambled with eggs; all of it sounded good to us. We just wanted to be prepared for any extra spiciness in our meals. So before we left, we cross-referenced our selections with what was on display at the farm stand. That's how we learned that the cherry bomb is a pepper to be handled with care.

Now, yesterday, I came home to a distinct change in the weather after visiting Almost Dr. Sis. It was cold. As in, down-into-the-30s-at-night cold. And that means it's time to put our cherry bombs to good use! So tonight, we are making white bean chili with them in honor of all things autumn. Mmmm mmm mmmmmm. I love temperatures that make me want to curl up with a warm blanket and a bowl of spicy goodness.

It was quite cool in Almost Dr. Sis's part of the country too. The leaves were just beginning to change color everywhere, which made for a gorgeous backdrop while we were picking apples over the weekend (are you sensing a common interest yet?). We filled two giant bags with fruit -- the perfect accompaniment to baked acorn squash filled with roasted corn pudding. Props to Almost Dr. Sis for finding the amazing recipe here.


It's hard to believe my week of long-awaited sister-time is over already, but that's okay. Almost Dr. Sis AND Marketing Sis are coming to Seattle for Thanksgiving! (The plans are official as of this past weekend.) And Almost Dr. Sis will be bringing her boyfriend, whom I met during my visit (such a sweet guy). I can't wait!

There's more I want to write about from the last few days, but my next thesis deadline is in 48 hours, so I'm off to polish up the pages I wrote while I was traveling. Updates soon ...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Missed connections

I flew to New York last weekend for the wedding of a good friend of mine from college. On my way there, this (see photo) is what I saw from my window.

Creative advertising, no? If only I'd had an internet connection while I was at 39,000 feet. Supposedly, such a luxury is now available on some flights -- probably at a price I'd rather not pay. It would be tempting, though, on the next cross-country trip. This one was five hours, which was actually a very good deal since it was nonstop. Most of the time, I have to change planes in either Chicago or Dallas, and the legs between Seattle and those cities are almost as long. Add layover time and at least one more flight, and five hours on one 757 looks perfectly decent in comparison. Especially with Wi-Fi.

I had a great time at the wedding, which was sandwiched between two brief reunions -- I got in on Friday just early enough to have coffee with a friend from high school (she’s getting her MBA now) before hurrying off to the rehearsal dinner; the day after the wedding, I met up with a friend from my current program and stayed the night with her. Everything felt a bit rushed, but it was really good to see so many people whom I haven’t been able to catch up with from afar. Letter writing isn’t something they tend to do; fortunately, things are easy with us when we’re back together, and it’s as if we haven’t been out of touch at all.

Leave-taking is another matter, however. Ever have trouble saying goodbye because the person you're saying goodbye to starts telling you something really personal or heartfelt and you can't really just respond with, "Okay, thanks! See you around ..."? That was what happened as I was trying to get to the airport on Monday. My friend from Little U. on the Prairie has truly been going through some difficult stuff and was very grateful that I'd stayed an extra day just to see her. She came with me to Penn Station to give us a little more time to catch up and to see that I got on my train to Newark without any problems. But as we were getting close to the time the train was supposed to leave, she started talking about relationship stuff, heavy stuff, stuff you don't want to brush aside because clearly the person telling you about it is in pain. So by the time there was an appropriate opening to check my watch (and I felt horrible doing it anyway) I'd missed my train. And there wasn't another for 40 minutes, which meant that when I did finally get to the airport, it was too late to check in for my flight. There were still 30 minutes to go before its scheduled departure, but that's not within the accepted time limit for passengers to get through security (even without checked bags).

The folks at Newark were quite displeased with me, to put it mildly. When I told the agent at the check-in counter that the self-service kiosk wouldn't issue me a boarding pass, she immediately began scolding me. "It's not the computer; YOU were late!" she said (among other this-isn't-our-fault phrases). I never meant to imply that it was a system glitch, but I didn't think arguing over semantics was going to get me on my plane. So I kept my mouth shut.

She sent me to the gate, where I tried to get the attention of the agent there. He happened to be on the phone and held up a hand as if to say, "Hang on," so I appealed to another woman taking tickets since there was no one left to board. Big mistake -- "You're going to have to WAIT, miss," the gate agent said, with a tone that might as well have implied a "young lady" afterward. I knew there was no point in telling him that I was inconveniencing him because I'd been providing an ear to a friend who needed one, so I didn't bring it up. Alas, such snark! As soon as he'd hung up, he turned on the attitude and started shaking my priority verification card (what I needed to get through security without a ticket) at me. The worst part was that I knew that if I wanted the guy to get me back on my original flight as a standby passenger, I'd just have to take it from him like I'd been a bad little Troubadour. So when he felt the need to reiterate that it was MY fault, not his, that I'd been bumped "because YOU were late checking in!" -- yes, I'm not trying to blame this on your being on the phone, Mr. Gate Agent, why do you think I am? -- I just gave him my best whipped puppy look and behaved as meekly as possible for the rest of his finger-shaking until the new boarding pass was in my hand.

Afterward, I felt really disturbed for allowing those people to behave in such a demeaning way toward me. It was all in the name of getting what I wanted in the end, but I guess part of me feels betrayed by the other part of me that let it go on without defense. Can't win, can I? Sigh ...

I'm at Almost Dr. Sis's place till next Tuesday for a long overdue visit. That, of course, is what getting on the flight was worth -- I wanted every minute I'd planned on having with her. (If I'd been heading back to Seattle, I would have just waited for the next flight three hours later.) So far, it's been a terrific three days here. More on that soon. For now, though, if you've got stories about airline agents with attitude and how you got around them without having to give up your dignity, I'd love to hear them.

Posts by date

Posts by label

Air travel Airline food Allergic reactions Astoria Awards Bacteremia Bacterial overgrowth Baggage beefs Bed and breakfast Betrayal Blues Body Boston Breastfeeding British Columbia California Canada Cape Spear Clam-digging Colonoscopy Commuter marriage Cooking CT scans Delays Diagnoses Dietitians Doctor-patient relationships Doctors Eating while traveling Editing Endocrine Endoscopy ER False starts Family dynamics Feedback Food anxiety Food sensitivities Gate agent guff GI Halifax Heart Home-making House hunting Hypoglycemia In-laws Intentional happiness Iowa Journaling Kidney stones Knitting Lab tests Little U. on the Prairie Liver function tests Long Beach Making friends in new places Malabsorption Massachusetts Medical records Medication Mentorship MFA programs Miami Monterey Motivation Moving Narrative New York Newark Newfoundland Nova Scotia Olympic Peninsula Ontario Ophthalmology Oregon Oxalates Pancreatic function tests Parenting Parents Paris Pets Photography Portland Prediabetes Pregnancy Process Professors Publishing Reproductive endocrine Research Revision Rewriting Rheumatology San Francisco Scenes from a graduation series Scenes from around the table series Seattle Sisters Skiing St. John's Striped-up paisley Teaching Texas Thesis Toronto Travel Travel fears Traveling while sick Ultrasound Urology Vancouver Victoria Voice Washington Washington D.C. Weight When words won't stick Whidbey Island Why we write Workshops Writers on writing Writing Writing friends Writing in odd places Writing jobs Yakima

Saturday, October 31, 2009

We're ready for 'em


Our first trick-or-treaters! They should be here very soon.

The candy bowl is filled, and D is in his costume, which involved putting a bald cap on him(!). It was a three-hour job but definitely well worth it. I think my makeup skills have been tested to new levels.

Time for me to get dressed, after which we'll take photos. For now, I'll give you a shot of our work from the pumpkin carving party. D's is on the left, and mine is on the right.


And yes, those are naturally occurring warts in the flesh of the ghoulish face.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Last hint

I won't say what this item is since that would be almost a complete giveaway on the whole costume, but there you go.

So the thesis installment has been sent off! And it's nearly time to start dinner prep. Man, I'm tired. I'm tempted to lobby for a meal out.

With my work, I also sent a query to my advisor about moving my defense date from April to July. I found out that I have funding I can put toward the summer since I didn't use the funding when it was first offered in 2008. It would be great to have an extra few months to keep writing, as it's going well -- that would mean more time to turn this project into a substantial piece of a book manuscript. Which would be incredible. There's nothing like paid-for writing time.

I'm just nervous my advisor will say no. Every writer who teaches needs the summer to work on his or her own things, so there's a high likelihood this professor will turn me down, especially since I'm not behind schedule or truly in need of that extra time. This is what I was in a funk about on Tuesday. But maybe, maybe -- ?

I'm going to be on tenterhooks until I get an answer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another clue

A package of headwraps.

I will probably use only one of the two we bought -- the intent is for this item to be attached to the costume parts in the previous post. At this time I don't foresee any obstacles that might compound the problem, if you know what I mean, of getting things to stick. But we'll see how it works out.

Other Halloween news: D and I attended a pumpkin carving party last night. I was in a funk before we went -- stressing about thesis funding-related stuff I have to get into the works with Little U. on the Prairie -- but it turns out that a little gourd sculpting in the company of others was all I needed to perk me up. And not because I was sticking sharp objects into things either; I actually made something I was proud of! Pictures to come, I promise.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's that time again

Halloween is Saturday, and I actually have a costume in the works.

I wasn't expecting to make something new for myself, but we've been invited to a party. And it's our first Halloween together since the year D and I were married(!), so it seemed like the occasion needed proper feting.

To that end, here it is, the first part of my costume:


Before you furrow your brows too heavily, let me clarify -- the pumpkins are not part of the ensemble. They were just convenient for propping up the other items you see in the picture. What are those sparkly hemispheres supposed to be? You get to guess! And the costume is entirely G-rated (unlike some of what we saw at a costume supply store this past weekend), so no, the parts you're looking at are not what you might initially think they could be.

Submit your guesses in the comments! I'll post some more clues as we get closer to Saturday.

In other news, thesising continues. I'm still working my way through my committee's recommended reading list, and the most recent stuff has been really helpful with encouraging me to think in scene form, so I thought I'd share titles:
  • David Mura's Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity. This one was great fun to have with me on my way back from the wedding in New York. The woman sitting next to me on the plane asked to see the title, and her comment after I showed her was, "Well, that's certainly not a light read." Amusing reaction, accurate assessment. Powerful, honest memoir with the most effective parts being the use of scene.

  • Judith Levine's Do You Remember Me?: A Father, a Daughter, and a Search for the Self. The narrator chronicles her experience of her father's decline from Alzheimer's and its effects on her entire family (primarily through scene). The limits of human compassion get pushed as the disease progresses -- and the author does not shy away from showing her limits or her mother's, does not ask to be liked. But you end up feeling for the family all the same.

  • Sue William Silverman's Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You. Really stunning scene-based reconstruction of the way a child sees and understands trauma while having to keep that experience hidden from the outside world. The narrator is relentless (and I mean that in a good way) in her ability to make clear the emotions of characters who start off fairly inscrutable without beating the reader over the head with explanation.
Okay, enough for now from me. I need to start on the next stage of costume construction ...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The house has been warmed!

And it was great fun.

I know I said I'd try to get shots of the food, but once things got going, there weren't many chances (if any) to do that. Fortunately, our good friends from Portland came up for the occasion and stayed overnight, so we made strudel the next day (at left). They even brought their own steins!

Here are some shots of the finished decorations before guests started arriving. We were delighted that the flags we ordered arrived in due time.



And the gingham-checked tablecloths too.


D's parents sent us proper music (yodeling, alp horns, etc.) as well as D's lederhosen -- the same pair they hung at their Oktoberfest last year.


And to entertain our guests when they first arrived, we invited them to guess how many grains of rice fit into this one-liter stein.


We also put trivia questions about Oktoberfest and the Mid-Autumn Festival around the room (hence the little signs you might be able to see on the walls).

So now our house has seen its first official party and we're looking forward to a few quieter weeks before the holiday season arrives. Which means I'd better get cracking on that next set of thesis pages. Progress on that front continues, slowly but surely. Next deadline in one week ...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

And now, we celebrate

Yep, the endoscopy went smoothly -- I have no memory of the procedure, and there were no unexpected allergic reactions. So now, we wait for the results from the biopsies.

In the meantime, D and I are having a party -- a housewarming, to be precise. It's slightly belated because of our hectic summer (couldn't find a large enough window between family visits and weddings to throw a proper shindig). But no matter. We've finally managed to pull together plans for a fun evening celebrating our move to our new place and our long-awaited reunion.

In keeping with this, the theme for our party is East Meets West: we're honoring traditions from Oktoberfest and the Mid-Autumn Festival as an homage to our heritage. (Even though D's family name is Dutch, he's a good part German from his mother's side.) This means there will be many a German beer, all kinds of wurst, and pretzels the size of your head, to be served alongside a variety of Chinese dumplings and, of course, mooncakes. In the spirit of true fusion, we're also making Asian cole slaw and serving a fine Riesling by Pacific Rim.

We are hoping the German province flags that D ordered will arrive in time for the celebration. For now, we've got Chinese lanterns already in place:


(It took some creativity to get the two to hang between the lights in the background of the photo with just fishing line and no nails; I think that was our biggest accomplishment this week.)

So I'm off to finish doing what I can ahead of time to prepare for 30 guests (thus far -- there are still some RSVPs that haven't come in yet!). More on how it all turns out very, very soon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Good news!

Avoiding this stuff is paying off.

I went to see my endocrinologist today, and he says my blood work looks terrific. The cholesterol (LDL) levels are continuing to come down (87 now, with the goal of 70 or under) and my oxalates are finally within spitting range of normal (34 now, with the goal of 30 or under). So in his book, I'm in fine shape. "Don't change a thing!" he said at the end of my appointment. "This is exactly where I want you to be."

It is so nice to hear that I'm doing things right. It may not mean that I get my pancreas back to its normal function, but I'm maintaining the status quo, and that means no drugs. Just diet and exercise as usual.

The picture above is from my trip to visit Almost Dr. Sis -- this is like her version of Pike Place Market, and it had so many tempting tasty things at each stand. We steered clear of the bad-for-you items and got some fresh salmon, which Almost Dr. Sis grilled up for dinner. Amazing stuff, especially with fresh asparagus and Mom's recipe for wild rice pilaf and stir-fried mushrooms:


Speaking of which, it's time to start dinner. I'm turning in early after that -- the endoscopy is tomorrow at 7 a.m. Looking forward to having that over with! If all goes well, I'm treating myself to sugar-free molten chocolate cake for dessert afterward.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

When is something worth fixing?


I asked myself that question a lot over the last two days while I was trying to get my work in better shape for my advisor. After 24 hours had gone by without significant improvement, I decided I'd better start putting editorial notes into the draft with my thoughts on everything just as it was -- and hope that that would show my advisor what my intentions for the piece were and where I was having trouble making it do what I wanted.

Sigh.

It was all going so well while I was visiting Almost Dr. Sis -- every day, I camped out with my draft for a few hours, and by bedtime, I'd have measurable progress: maybe a new section of a scene or a much more fleshed-out revision of a previously written part. But once I got back to Seattle, the whole thing bogged down and sentences began to sound labored and I was reading paragraphs over and over without actually remembering a word. That was what told me that I needed to get some space from the piece. So I sent it off.

My advisor sent me her feedback today with reassurances that she thinks it's going well -- the scenes I'm sketching out are not meant to be perfect and we're going to reexamine everything I write this semester when the new term starts in January. That's definitely a relief. I have my doubts about this particular set of pages, though. Sometimes it really is easier to start a piece over from scratch than to try to take apart and reassemble a badly mangled draft. Guess we'll see what happens ...

In other news, my gastroenterologist got back to me yesterday (via his nurse) about my CT results. The good news: on the pancreatic front, there's nothing visibly wrong. We'll still do the endoscopy next week to see what there is to see and then go from there. The not-so-good news: certain lady parts looked abnormal on the film, so now I have to go get all that checked out by yet another specialist.

Where does this end??? I just want to figure out what's wrong so I can do something about it sooner rather than later. It would be nice if new issues didn't keep cropping up.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Life is a bowl of cherry bombs

Cherry bomb peppers, that is.

You might remember that I briefly mentioned getting to pick our own produce at a vegetable farm when D and I had our getaway weekend in Yakima. Since then, we've been working our way through some delicious peppers that we picked (see below -- and yes, you can laugh; I'm hearing the nursery rhyme in my head too). It was great fun -- we just drove our car to the field behind the farm stand, parked it, and stepped out into rows of pepper plants (that's what happened to be ripe). The aroma was incredible.


The only problem was that none of the pepper plants were labeled. There were long red peppers growing next to short green ones, and sometimes there were even peppers of different colors on the same plant. D and I looked at the field, looked at each other, then looked at the field again. "Okay, I guess we just pick whatever looks good!" he said, and we waded in.

We weren't really concerned with the general flavor of pepper -- roasted, stir-fried, scrambled with eggs; all of it sounded good to us. We just wanted to be prepared for any extra spiciness in our meals. So before we left, we cross-referenced our selections with what was on display at the farm stand. That's how we learned that the cherry bomb is a pepper to be handled with care.

Now, yesterday, I came home to a distinct change in the weather after visiting Almost Dr. Sis. It was cold. As in, down-into-the-30s-at-night cold. And that means it's time to put our cherry bombs to good use! So tonight, we are making white bean chili with them in honor of all things autumn. Mmmm mmm mmmmmm. I love temperatures that make me want to curl up with a warm blanket and a bowl of spicy goodness.

It was quite cool in Almost Dr. Sis's part of the country too. The leaves were just beginning to change color everywhere, which made for a gorgeous backdrop while we were picking apples over the weekend (are you sensing a common interest yet?). We filled two giant bags with fruit -- the perfect accompaniment to baked acorn squash filled with roasted corn pudding. Props to Almost Dr. Sis for finding the amazing recipe here.


It's hard to believe my week of long-awaited sister-time is over already, but that's okay. Almost Dr. Sis AND Marketing Sis are coming to Seattle for Thanksgiving! (The plans are official as of this past weekend.) And Almost Dr. Sis will be bringing her boyfriend, whom I met during my visit (such a sweet guy). I can't wait!

There's more I want to write about from the last few days, but my next thesis deadline is in 48 hours, so I'm off to polish up the pages I wrote while I was traveling. Updates soon ...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Missed connections

I flew to New York last weekend for the wedding of a good friend of mine from college. On my way there, this (see photo) is what I saw from my window.

Creative advertising, no? If only I'd had an internet connection while I was at 39,000 feet. Supposedly, such a luxury is now available on some flights -- probably at a price I'd rather not pay. It would be tempting, though, on the next cross-country trip. This one was five hours, which was actually a very good deal since it was nonstop. Most of the time, I have to change planes in either Chicago or Dallas, and the legs between Seattle and those cities are almost as long. Add layover time and at least one more flight, and five hours on one 757 looks perfectly decent in comparison. Especially with Wi-Fi.

I had a great time at the wedding, which was sandwiched between two brief reunions -- I got in on Friday just early enough to have coffee with a friend from high school (she’s getting her MBA now) before hurrying off to the rehearsal dinner; the day after the wedding, I met up with a friend from my current program and stayed the night with her. Everything felt a bit rushed, but it was really good to see so many people whom I haven’t been able to catch up with from afar. Letter writing isn’t something they tend to do; fortunately, things are easy with us when we’re back together, and it’s as if we haven’t been out of touch at all.

Leave-taking is another matter, however. Ever have trouble saying goodbye because the person you're saying goodbye to starts telling you something really personal or heartfelt and you can't really just respond with, "Okay, thanks! See you around ..."? That was what happened as I was trying to get to the airport on Monday. My friend from Little U. on the Prairie has truly been going through some difficult stuff and was very grateful that I'd stayed an extra day just to see her. She came with me to Penn Station to give us a little more time to catch up and to see that I got on my train to Newark without any problems. But as we were getting close to the time the train was supposed to leave, she started talking about relationship stuff, heavy stuff, stuff you don't want to brush aside because clearly the person telling you about it is in pain. So by the time there was an appropriate opening to check my watch (and I felt horrible doing it anyway) I'd missed my train. And there wasn't another for 40 minutes, which meant that when I did finally get to the airport, it was too late to check in for my flight. There were still 30 minutes to go before its scheduled departure, but that's not within the accepted time limit for passengers to get through security (even without checked bags).

The folks at Newark were quite displeased with me, to put it mildly. When I told the agent at the check-in counter that the self-service kiosk wouldn't issue me a boarding pass, she immediately began scolding me. "It's not the computer; YOU were late!" she said (among other this-isn't-our-fault phrases). I never meant to imply that it was a system glitch, but I didn't think arguing over semantics was going to get me on my plane. So I kept my mouth shut.

She sent me to the gate, where I tried to get the attention of the agent there. He happened to be on the phone and held up a hand as if to say, "Hang on," so I appealed to another woman taking tickets since there was no one left to board. Big mistake -- "You're going to have to WAIT, miss," the gate agent said, with a tone that might as well have implied a "young lady" afterward. I knew there was no point in telling him that I was inconveniencing him because I'd been providing an ear to a friend who needed one, so I didn't bring it up. Alas, such snark! As soon as he'd hung up, he turned on the attitude and started shaking my priority verification card (what I needed to get through security without a ticket) at me. The worst part was that I knew that if I wanted the guy to get me back on my original flight as a standby passenger, I'd just have to take it from him like I'd been a bad little Troubadour. So when he felt the need to reiterate that it was MY fault, not his, that I'd been bumped "because YOU were late checking in!" -- yes, I'm not trying to blame this on your being on the phone, Mr. Gate Agent, why do you think I am? -- I just gave him my best whipped puppy look and behaved as meekly as possible for the rest of his finger-shaking until the new boarding pass was in my hand.

Afterward, I felt really disturbed for allowing those people to behave in such a demeaning way toward me. It was all in the name of getting what I wanted in the end, but I guess part of me feels betrayed by the other part of me that let it go on without defense. Can't win, can I? Sigh ...

I'm at Almost Dr. Sis's place till next Tuesday for a long overdue visit. That, of course, is what getting on the flight was worth -- I wanted every minute I'd planned on having with her. (If I'd been heading back to Seattle, I would have just waited for the next flight three hours later.) So far, it's been a terrific three days here. More on that soon. For now, though, if you've got stories about airline agents with attitude and how you got around them without having to give up your dignity, I'd love to hear them.