Antibiotic Therapy

I’ve been doing some research into the treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the options are mostly crummy. Even the more innocuous drugs seem to have long term use risks, which don’t thrill me. I’ve been on sulfasalazine for several months now (I think I started in October), and I’ve not seen any good results yet. It takes time. So I looked around some more, and found a somewhat old school yet unconventional treatment, which is long term tetracycline use. You take a low and slow approach, taking 100mg of a specific tetracycline 3 days a week. Like other RA treatments, results come about slowly slowly slowly, often 6 months or more, sometimes a year or two. When I looked at the roadback website set up for followers of this protocol, I saw a ‘current protocol’ and an ‘historic protocol’. Current says take 200mg daily, historic is the more intermittent dosage. So I took this information to my doctor, and said I’d like to try it. She doesn’t have a lot of faith in the treatment, doesn’t think it will likely work, but she is willing to let me try it, and wrote me the prescription that I wanted. She prescribed it for 200mg daily, which I took for a week. I felt like crap. Somewhat sore, but really nauseous and sick to my stomach. So I looked a little more closely, found the intermittent dosage, and decided to try for that instead of the amount prescribed.

No difference is pain as of yet, but the feeling like absolute crap is gone since cutting back on my dosage. I’m glad for that. I gave myself a treat this weekend, and took some prednisone Friday and Saturday, which really is wonderful and takes away so much pain, and gives me a reasonable amount of energy. I cleaned up the back yard. I did some other chores. I felt like myself. I love that stuff. I do wish that I could stay on it, but I cannot. It’s too dangerous. So I took a smaller dosage yesterday, and a smaller still dosage today (you’re supposed to taper off, not just go cold turkey).

So now it’s back to no prednisone, giving the antibiotics a chance to work. Apparently tetracycline does not give you issues that some other antibiotics give…no resistance to antibiotics, no yeast issues. I am taking a probiotic to help my gut.

A lot of the people on the website say they get marked relief from going gluten, sugar, and dairy free. I tried those, and saw no difference. I had some blood work done awhile ago to look for food intolerance. I’ll wait to hear what the test results say before I decide whether to give these another try or not. I’m happy to eat more healthfully, but am not eager to eliminate entire food groups, so hopefully that won’t become necessary. I do see that for many people, they only need to restrict these food groups when in a flare, and most of the time it is not necessary. So that’s another consideration. A lot of people on the road back website discuss lyme disease, leaky gut syndrome, and so on. I don’t have any symptoms of lyme nor leaky gut, except for my RA.

I’ve tried several things to help. Acupuncture is known to give some relief, but didn’t help me. Vinegar and honey helps some people, but I haven’t noticed relief. Diet changes have made no difference. Yoga helps some, at least to relief stiffness. It doesn’t do a lot for pain. Swimming helps with energy and stiffness, but again, not much of a pain reliever. I’ve gotten into hot tubs twice, once with immediate relief, another time not so much. I even resorted to taking a bath (with epsom salts), but I hate baths so much, it just made me tense, which is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. I’m taking turmeric, fish oil, and vitamin D. I’m thinking I should try some kind of meditation, but I haven’t gotten there yet. I have had a couple of massages, which generally feel good, but don’t help my joints. I am hoping that the antibiotic treatment works, that I can get off of the sulfasalazine, and get my groove back.

I’ll tell you, this whole thing has been an education for me. Not necessarily one that I wanted. I feel sort of like I’m bouncing back and forth between snake oil salesmen and big pharma. I don’t ally myself strongly either way. I’m all for figuring out the least harmful way to help yourself, and trying to go from there. Wish me luck.

The Drought Continues, and other news

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It’s hard to complain about the drought when the rest of the country is dealing with unheard of amounts of snow, stupidly cold weather, and ice storms. It’s 4:00 on Presidents’ Day afternoon, and it’s 71 degrees here. The birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, kids are running around outside enjoying the sunshine. I went for a swim this morning that was lovely and warm. We’ve grilled outside twice so far this week. I drove to Stockton yesterday to see my Grandma and Great Aunt, and the scenery was lovely, with green hills and fields of wildflowers. It’s a great time to be living in California, and those of my readers East of here are probably using the F word about me right now. I am sorry for your misery, and even more sorry that there isn’t a way to ship some of that excess water, which you CLEARLY don’t want or need, out our way. We had a lovely wet few days last weekend, but then that goddamned high pressure system came back, and it’s been nothing but gorgeous ever since, with nothing but gorgeous in our foreseeable future. We’re so screwed.

In other news, I heard about this guy on the radio awhile ago, and keep meaning to tell you…he’s got an issue with the expression ‘comprised of’, because ‘comprised’ means ‘composed of’, so when someone says ‘comprised of’, what they’re really saying is ‘composed of of’. and that gets his inner grammarian all ticked off. So he goes through Wikipedia, page by page, finding where the term ‘comprised of’ has been used, and replacing it with ‘composed of’. Not everyone agrees with his interpretation of the rules, and some are perhaps offended that he is going in and making changes to their entries, but I kind of like his dedication and persnicketyness. Rock on, Mr. Grammarian, let your freak flag fly!

Grumbling about my teeth

Today was a new experience for me, and not one for which I am thankful. Well, perhaps I’m a bit thankful*, but it was unpleasant. What could it be? A crown on my tooth. One of my teeth cracked, which exposed a bit of root, and made me very sensitive to both hot and cold. Blech. So off I went to the dentist, where she filed down my poor tooth, fitted a temporary crown on it, and sent me on my way. I have to say, I wish I didn’t know that they file your tooth down. The whole time that stupid file was in my mouth, I kept picturing my poor tooth being worn down to a nub. Not pleasant.

We have a new dentist, and this was my second trip to see her. My first was when she diagnosed my problem. I like her well enough, she’s gentle, which is a good thing. But I do miss my old dentist, Dr. Ochikubo. Dr. O was such a sweet guy, and had been practicing dentistry for many decades. He would sometimes tell stories about when he and his family were put in an internment camp during World War II, he being Japanese and living in California. Not a fun story, but interesting, and such a part of our history. He retired last year, not because he wanted to and was going to travel the world, but due to health issues. So that’s sad, and at least at this point, it brings a whole level of sadness to going to the new dentist, who is in his same office. Sigh. So now I have a crown, which somehow feels like a moral failing to me. Like I failed to care for my teeth or something. I know, I’m weird. I sometimes feel guilty when my eyesight gets worse, too. Everything that’s wrong with me is surely my own fault, and if only I had done things differently, I wouldn’t have these issues. Never mind that it’s all hereditary, and I’ve always taken good care of myself (except perhaps for my soda addiction, which I finally quit in late 2013). None of that matters in the face of the guilt.

You know what would make me feel better? If my ‘Downton Abbey’ DVD would hurry up and get here. It’s supposed to arrive today, and yet here it is, almost 8:00 at night, and NO DVD!!! Uncool.

*A bit thankful, or should I say, very thankful really, that modern dentistry exists, and there is help beyond just yanking a painful tooth out of your head. That would suck.

All The Light We Cannot See

Marie-Laure is a young blind girl, living with her father in Paris, 1940. Her father is the keeper of the keys at the Natural History Museum, and he builds her a miniature replica of their neighborhood, so that she might memorize the details and learn her way around. When the Germans invade Paris, Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris, for the coastal town of Saint-Malo, where they live with his brother Etienne in their childhood home.

Werner is a young orphan, living in an orphanage with his sister, other children, and their care keeper, a woman who speaks French and tells them stories of France. Werner and his sister discover an old radio, on which they listen enraptured to a French scientist describing the wonders of the world. Werner discovers he has a gift for putting together and repairing radios, a skill that takes him out of his coal mining town and frees him from a life underground.

Nazi fervor sweeps through Germany, and carries Werner along with it, though he is less interested in the goals of the Nazis than he is in his radios and his job of finding illegal transmissions. Along the way, he comes to question his own bravery and morals.

Marie-Laure finds a small role in the French resistance, carrying messages and wishing that she could be reunited with her father, who was arrested and taken away soon after their arrival in Saint-Malo, though not before he has time to build her a miniature replica of the city, so she can once again find her way outside of her door and through the streets.

All the Light We Cannot See travels between Marie-Laure and Werner, travels backwards and forwards in time, and lyrically spins a tale that is lovely, horrid, and suspenseful. I liked this story quite a bit, and I highly recommend it.

Friday Randomness

I had such high hopes for this month and blogging. I posted on January 1st, and again on January 2nd. I was on a roll. Sure, they were both just recipes, but still. It was momentum. Then I lost it. And here it is, 3/4 of the way through the month. Sigh.

Guess what? I’m a human pincushion. I’ve decided to try acupuncture for my non-rheumatoid rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve heard it can help. I went for my first session last week, and it wasn’t horrid, but I didn’t feel any relief. I was told that it sometimes takes a few sessions, so I went back today. I do feel a little better now. I also have Chinese herbs that I’m supposed to take, though I keep forgetting.

Also on the arthritis front, my doctor increased my dosage of my meds. I think that’s finally helping a little, too. I dislike the side effects, which include a nasty taste in my mouth, and often feeling queasy. Plus many my tinnitus is getting worse, but I’m not sure on that. But the pain isn’t as bad as it was before, and I’m not as worn out, so that’s a good thing. I can’t believe this has been going on for 6 months now. Miserable. Is this the rest of my life? I hope not.

In other news, Ted again received DVDs to watch so he could vote in the SAG awards. Last night, we watched ‘Cake’, which came out in theaters today. I liked it a lot, though it was fairly depressing, and I found myself watching Jennifer Aniston walking around in such pain, and wondering if that’s how I look. Stiff and careful and miserable all of the time. Ugh. Aniston gives a pretty amazing performance as a pill popping drunk trying to cope with her physical and mental pain.

Are you watching Downton Abbey? I am, and I’m loving it. Looks to be a great season. I do wish the seasons weren’t so short. Will Mary find love, now that she’s gotten lust out of her system? Will Granny find love with the Russian Prince? What about Tom? He seems to be leaning back towards his more socialist roots. Personally, I think he should move out of the abbey, and live in a cottage in the village. Certainly there must be a fancy house he and Sybbie can live in with a nanny. His school teacher friend is lively and pretty, but I don’t really see a romance between them. We’ll see if I’m right about that. Sigh. I do love the clothes. My brother gave me a copy of the Season 5 DVD for my birthday, and that will be coming along any day now. Then I’ll binge watch, and will have to refrain myself from spilling all.

On the recommendation of my dad and step-mom, I downloaded the NYTimes bestseller, “All the light we cannot see”. I’m about 1/2 way through, and am really enjoying it. I also downloaded “The Goldfinch”. I got that one from the library first, but it was so amazingly thick and heavy, it was uncomfortable to hold and read in bed, and that is my preferred place to read. Also because it was so thick, I doubted I could finish it before it was due. One of my Christmas gifts was a gift certificate to Amazon.com, so I went ahead and ordered these two books as gifts to myself.

Lastly, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I dislike it when people use the wrong ‘there/they’re/their’ in a sentence. You know what’s worse? When I see it in a work email. One that I wrote. Ugh. It’s not that I don’t know which one to use, but my fingers are sometimes confused. I blame the arthritis. Really.

Potato and Onion Gratin


photo and recipe found here

Trudy, the lovely 99-year-old lady on my Meals on Wheels route, sometimes enjoys perusing the weekly insert that comes in her paper, Relish, with me. We also get a daily paper, but ours is a San Francisco paper, while Trudy’s is local, so we don’t get the insert. A while ago, I came across this recipe, and liked the look of it so much, I made it for dinner that week. I made it with a roast chicken, and it was delicious. It was enough of a hit that Ted requested that I make it for Christmas dinner. Christmas is a bit of a pot luck in our family, and while the main dish was to be rack of lamb (YUM), I was in charge of side dishes. The gratin was a big hit, enjoyed by all. I opted for thyme rather than rosemary, though either would be delicious. You should likely give this one a try.

Potato and Onion Gratin
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

1/3cup olive oil
2large onions, cut into halves and thinly sliced
1teaspoon chopped thyme or rosemary leaves
2pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Golds), thinly sliced
1teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a shallow 6-cup baking dish.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in thyme.
Arrange one-third of the potatoes in prepared pan. Top with one-third of the onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat layers twice, ending with onions. Pour broth over top. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour. Remove foil and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Monday Morning Cooking Club’s The Feast Goes On (Harper Collins, 2014).

KISS and Brussels Sprouts


Back when Ted was a kid, he was a fan of rock divas, KISS. How appropriate then, that this long lost Folgers commercial appears online, at around the same time that Ted decides to make me Brussels sprouts for my birthday dinner. Watch the video, it’s too funny. I guess it was filmed in 2000, but never aired. I like how into the song he is.

Ted and Maya are not fans of Brussels sprouts, and Ted hates dried fruit in general, but for some reason even he really liked this recipe. Maya ate 1/2 of one Brussels sprout, and declared it not bad, but not something that she would actually order on purpose. If you’re at all a fan of Brussels sprouts, give this a try. It’s delicious. For my birthday, it was served with a wonderful roast duck, mashed potatoes, and delicious tarts that Ted purchased at our local store.

RECIPE: BRUSSELS SPROUTS À LA STANLEY

Serves: 6
INGREDIENTS

Brussels sprouts
Prosciutto, cut into half-inch pieces
Dried cherries
Hot pepper flakes
Aged balsamic vinegar
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt to taste
Zest of one lemon

INSTRUCTIONS

First of all, don’t measure out the ingredients. I don’t stress about that kind of thing. Cut a nice amount of Brussels sprouts in half and set aside, whether or not you even like Brussels sprouts. These are off-the-hook delicious. Steam until a little soft.
Next, fry the prosciutto in olive oil until soft. Remove for later.

Put the steamed Brussels sprouts into the pan and brown, turning frequently.

Add dried cherries (I use Mariani) into the pan and cook with the Brussels sprouts. Add the cooked prosciutto and hot pepper flakes.

Stir in high-quality, aged balsamic vinegar. Add enough to coat all ingredients. Don’t be shy.

Add cheese and salt to taste.

Serve in a large bowl and top with lemon zest.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday!  This is the last year of my 40s, and next year I’ll be 50, which seems so much older than I feel.  Then again, with the arthritis that’s been plaguing me, I am feeling a lot older than I did 6 months ago.  Oh well, I’m treating myself to a prednisone, which should help somewhat and allow me to have energy for the things I want to do today.  Which include:

  • Going to breakfast with Ted and Maya.  We’re going to a place in Pleasanton that is known for its omelets.  I love eggs, so this seems like a great idea to me.
  • Going to San Francisco, to the Yerba Buena Center for the arts.  I thought of going to the Legion of Honor or the DeYoung, but neither of them have exhibits I really want to see right now, and we’ve been so many times…so we’ll go somewhere new for a change.  Fun!
  • Shoe shopping!  A DSW opened in our neighborhood a few months ago, and we’ve not yet gone.  I’m not sure what I’ll find, but hopefully there will be something interesting or comfy or pretty (or all three, how would that be?)
  • Nice dinner.  Ted’s making duck, per my request.  We’ve never cooked duck at home, so this will be a treat and an adventure.
  • We may or may not stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year.  It’s rarely my favorite thing to do…I generally like sleep more, but who knows?  Could happen.

I’m looking forward to my birthday gifts, which are mainly in the form of delayed gratification this year.  My brother got me Season 5 of Downton Abbey on DVD (can’t wait!), but that isn’t released until near the end of January.  Ted got me the annotated biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is on back order and I’m not sure when it will come.   My parents sent me money, which I am going to use to go to the hair salon.  That won’t be as long of a wait, I just need to make an appointment.   I got a gift certificate for a massage for Christmas, which I haven’t used yet.  I haven’t decided WHEN I want to use it, yet.  Maybe on a warmish day, as the spa is connected to a gym, and they have a nice outdoor pool.  The shoes, should I find them, the breakfast, the day with my family, the duck, those are all no-wait treats, and I know that I’ll enjoy them mightily.  One nice thing about a New Year’s Eve birthday is that I always (at least since I left hotel work) have the next day off.  So that will be nice.  Oh, and Maya has a job now, which means that she has spending money, and bought me very nice Christmas gifts, and there’s something under the tree from her for my birthday, which I look forward to opening.  (A birthday near Christmas often means birthday gifts under the Christmas tree!)

There’s something about birthdays that tends to make one reflect a bit, and a birthday on the last day of the year likely enforces this proclivity.  So I’m reflecting today on all of the things I am thankful for…my beloved husband and daughter, my family, my friends, my home, my job, my health. I feel so fortunate to have so much.

I miss my mom every day.  I miss her on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and the anniversary of her death (which sometimes falls on Father’s Day), more than ordinary days.  But the day I miss her most is my birthday.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps because of everyone on Earth, she knew me the longest.  We were together before I was born.  She knew me for all of my childhood, my ups and downs, successes and failures.  I’ve lived with Ted now longer than I lived with my mom, which is a crazy thought.  So likely he knows me more than she did, or at least, the adult me.  But there’s something about that mother/child relationship that is unique.  I miss her uniquely.

Deciphering Arthritis

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to give the whole ‘gluten free’ thing a try, to see if it helps with my inflammation and non-rheumatoid rheumatoid arthritis.  I have mentioned on Facebook that I’ve been having this pain, these problems, and several people mentioned to me that their pain was significantly managed by going either gluten free, dairy free, or both.  I’ve also talked to people for whom these options did not make a whit of difference, but they at least gave them a try.  The first two weeks I was gluten free, and now for this last week, on the recommendation of a friend for whom the combination of gluten and dairy was the issue, I’m  going gluten and dairy free.  Yesterday was day 1 of this horror, and today is day 2.  My fear is, what if it helps.  Will I then need to go entirely gluten and dairy free, for the rest of my life, in order to keep this condition at bay?  Ugh.  I hate that thought. I’ll do what I need to do, but seriously, gluten and dairy are two of my favorite food groups.

Yesterday, I also tried a yoga video that I get as part of my Amazon Prime membership, “Easy Yoga for Beginners with Christine Wushke”  I woke up stiff and in pain, as I do most mornings.  After the yoga video, I still had my pain, but the stiffness was markedly reduced.  That’s a step in the right direction, I’d say.  If you’ve ever done yoga, you would likely say this is the easiest yoga sequence EVER, and mainly works on stretching your back and legs.  There are a total of 2 downward dogs, a few warrior poses, and a lot of resting poses.  The J who used to take yoga regularly and could do all of the poses fairly easily would laugh at today’s J, barely able to get into the posts.  Today’s J can’t do a downward dog properly, because it hurts my wrists far too much.  I can modify the pose by being on my elbows and forearms rather than on my hands.  So this yoga sequence is a good thing, basic and forgiving, and I think I need to make it a part of my daily routine.  See what that does for me.

At my last appointment with my rheumatologist, she doubled my dose of one medication.  You have to ease into it, as it is sometimes hard on the stomach.  So I started with 1 pill a day, then was up to 2 pills a day, then she put me on 4 pills a day, and said if that was too much, back off to 3 for a bit.  4 pills a day was horrid, my stomach felt like crap all day, and I pretty much wanted to throw up.  Gross.  So I pulled back to 3, which was much better.  Today I went back to 4, and thus far I seem to be handling it fine.

So, I’m feeling a tiny bit better.  Is that due to the yoga?  The medication finally starting to work?  Just a good day?  The no gluten/no dairy diet?  I don’t know.  I sure hate the idea of no gluten or dairy forever.  But a friend on Facebook, who I did know in real life back in High School, said that her husband also has an auto-immune issue (gout in his case), and he deals with it by eating some gluten and dairy and red meat when he’s feeling well, and then if he has a flair, he cuts back to a super limited diet until it goes away.  That’s something to consider, at least.  Of course, that only works if these foods are a trigger for me, which I just don’t know yet.  The key is to get to where I’m feeling better, hopefully, and then reintroduce these foods one at a time, and see if the symptoms come back.

For now, I just want this current flair to subside, so going shopping for an hour doesn’t bring me home in so much foot pain, so doing every day things doesn’t leave me worn out at the end of the day, and maybe I can do a proper downward facing dog, arms and all.

Wild


Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman destroyed by the death of her mother. Cheryl has fallen into a seriously self-destructive spiral, shooting up heroin, having sex with strangers, sabotaging her marriage. One day she hits her own version of bottom, and while in a drug store, spies a travel book, for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and she sees some sort of peace there. Her mother was that rare, truly good, happy-in-spite-of-it-all person, and told her many times to find the beauty in life, to let that beauty find her and wash over her. So she decides that the way to come to terms with the person she has become is to hike this trail…from the Mexico/U.S. border up into Oregon. She has no experience hiking, no experience with her camping equipment, no knowledge of what she is getting herself into. But into it she must get.

Along her journey, we are shown many flashbacks of her life up to now…life at home with her mother and brother, her mother’s illness, her marriage, her self-destructive behavior. She is struggling with these memories, and not so much trying to absolve herself or find forgiveness for her sins, but rather to come to terms with who she is, and see if there is a glimmer in there of the woman her mother wanted her to be.

I really liked the movie a lot. Reese Witherspoon is definitely an Oscar contender for her performance as Strayed. Laura Dern (who isn’t that much older than Witherspoon) did a fabulous job as her mother. Go see if it you get a chance.

Still here

In years past, I have often, if not always, participated in NaBloPoMo, posting on my blog every day for the month of November. This year, it didn’t even occur to me. What did occur to me was to not post even one blog post for the month of November. “What if I take the entire month off?” I thought, “would the world end?” Of course not. If I don’t care, then why should anyone else? Those heady days of busy busy blogging are long gone, at least around here, and no one worries if I don’t have anything to say for a week or two. Or maybe a month.

But tonight I’m sitting, sipping wine, watching old reruns on TV. Ted’s at work, Maya’s upstairs doing homework. I’ve got a good book next to me that I’ll dive into after I finish this, so I thought I’d say hello.

In my last post, I mentioned several books that I had put on hold at the library. As sometimes happens, three books came in at once. This is a situation that can stress me out. The books are all due in three weeks, and what if I can’t get through the books in time? When the books are popular, I can’t renew them. Rats. The first one I read was “Let me be Frank with you”, by Richard Ford. It’s 4 novellas in one book, all around the same time. Frank Bascombe lives in New Jersey, and the stories all take place in the months after Hurricane Sandy, though they don’t all relate to the storm. They’re internal stories. Not much happens. Mostly Frank observes and considers what is going on around him, trying to figure out his place in the world, how to do the right thing when he’s not always sure what that is. I liked it a lot, and I would recommend it to anyone, whether or not they’ve read any other of Ford’s books about Bascombe.

Next is “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage”, which is a series of essays by Ann Patchett. Thus far she’s writing about the experience of being a writer. I’m enjoying it, and I think there’s a lot of good advice there. Next up could be short stories by Tom Perotta, or it could be the new Felix Francis book. I’m looking forward to that.

It’s that time of year at work, where things get busy. Busy busy busy. I like being busy, but I don’t like everything about it. I don’t like how we sometimes are made to feel guilty for wanting to take time off on weekends. I don’t like how my company, this year, decided that the day after Thanksgiving is not a company holiday. Jerks. Thankfully, my immediate boss isn’t a jerk, so I have that day off.

Maybe you’re wondering how the arthritis thing is going. It sucks, is how. Here I’ve been healthy my entire life, and suddenly I feel pain almost all of the time, in various parts of my body, and I don’t know how much worse it is likely to get or if it will ever go away. I finished the prednisone two weeks ago, and the pain has been coming back ever since. Actually, it started coming back when I was tapering off of the prednisone. But since I’ve been off entirely, the pain is worse. I hate it. It’s not nearly as bad as it was before I started the prednisone, but the fear of whether it will come back is scary. I’ve read about rheumatoid arthritis, and everything I read sucks. I try to keep focused on the knowledge that every person’s body is different. Every person reacts to medications differently. Sometimes issues like mine mysteriously go away. I cling to that, hoping that will be my story, and that this almost-but-not-exactly rheumatoid arthritis will go away and life will be pain free. In the mean time, swimming helps. Ted bought passes to our local community pool, and days that I go are generally better than those that I don’t. Did I mention work is busy right now? Sigh. Also, sleeping with my wrists in braces helps. Also, wearing my bite guard helps, because the discomfort in my hands seems to make me grind my teeth, which make my cheeks hurt, and also maybe gum recession gets worse. I feel very sexy, with my hands in braces and teeth in a guard. Blech. Taking some new meds that so far I’m not allergic to. They take a couple of months to kick in. So let’s see. I sure hope they work, and that things get better on this front.

What else. Maya’s liking her job at her elementary school. She’s starting to think about where she’d like to transfer when she’s finished at the local junior college. She isn’t enjoying her time there, sadly. She does have several friends nearby, but no one at school to hang out with. I hope things get better there.

Thanksgiving is coming. We’re going to Ted’s parents’ house, where the plan is that we all chip in so no one person has to do everything. My contribution is cranberry sauce, yams, rolls, and vegetables. Pretty easy stuff. Really, none of the Thanksgiving dishes are that complicated, so I’m not sure why some people get so stressed about it. Maybe if it were at my house, and if it were anyone but loved relatives, it might be more stressful.

I was supposed to go see my Grandma yesterday. We got a call at 7:30 in the morning, that Grandma had been in too much pain all night (arthritis in her back) and hadn’t slept. Ugh. My poor Grandma, tiny like a little bird, in so much pain. I don’t know why her being tiny makes it worse. She just seems so frail and vulnerable, I guess. Which she is. She’s also amazingly strong. Strong in her spirit and heart, frail in body. She told me that the only way to avoid this crap is to die before you get to be her age. I need to put some thought into this whole process, and what I want when I get to be old.

The plan right now is to go see Grandma next Saturday. I hope so. Maybe even if she’s not feeling better, I’ll go. A difficult decision. I should likely leave her alone and let her rest, so she doesn’t feel like she has to be up and feeling well when I’m there. On the other hand, sometimes having someone come and visit makes her feel better. I know it would make me feel better.

That’s it. Nothing else here. I hope you’re well, that November is treating you well thus far.

Friday Randomness


OK, I know I said I don’t care about baseball, or sports in general, but I must admit I got sucked into this series. The drama of it all captivated me, and the scores kept flopping from one team to the next. First SF kicked KC’s butt. Then KC kicked SF’s butt. Back and forth, and it sometimes felt like you weren’t watching the same teams from one night to the next. After the first game, when SF won 7 to 1, I was kind of disgusted with the local press. It was very smug and sure of SF superiority. Sort of like, “Of course we’re going to win, it’s an even year. That’s what we do.” It turned me off, and I was kind of hoping that Kansas City would teach San Francisco a thing or two. Which they did, the second night, when the score was 7 to 2, with Kansas City winning. Then it looked like SF was going to take the victory, with the next few games either close or SF winning. Until Tuesday’s game, when the Royals kicked the Giants butts, 10 to 0. Ouch. That one was painful to watch, and actually we gave up, took a walk, and did other things. Then there was Wednesday’s game 7, which was a real nail biter of a game. I’ll admit, I did other things while watching. But that 9th inning…Bottom of the 9th, Giants to Royals 3 – 2, a runner on 3rd base, two strikes, GAH. That is the drama of baseball. This guy whacks it hard enough, the game could be over. Or, it could go into a stupid amount of innings, like the game a few weeks ago that went 18 innings, and something like 6 1/2 hours. Blech. But no, the guy hit, Panda caught the ball, the game was over. We squeaked that one, and we learned a bit of humility along the way. Today’s the parade, which means traffic will be hell going into SF today. Glad I don’t commute, and I wish Ted didn’t have to.

I love Facebook. You may have read some of my blog posts about my time in Alaska, and I’ve mentioned my friend Amy Derocher, who lived across the street from us. Well, I discovered a group on Facebook the other day, “You know you’re from Fairbanks when…”, where people go to tell their tales. Mostly they fall into two camps, those who were there in the 50s and 60s, and remember the big flood, and those who harken back to the 80s, and talk about what store is now where another store used to be. I was only there for 5 years, from age 4 to age 9, in the early 70s. So anyway, I posted a link to a blog post I wrote several years ago, and Amy Derocher saw it and commented! Of course, I have her name spelled entirely wrong, both the Amy and the Derocher, but still, how wonderful! So we did some FB chatting between the two of us, and it turns out she lives in Santa Cruz, just a couple of hours from here, and she has a beautiful horse. I think I may have to go down there and visit sometime, and bring some pictures to share. Amazing.

I just started a new book, recommended by blog friend Simon, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, which may have the best first sentence I’ve ever come across. “My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded.” So far, so good. I’m really enjoying it.

I’m also really enjoying watching “Call the Midwife” on Netflix. I recently noticed that many many of my Facebook friends were talking about it, how much they loved it, how well done it is, etc. So I thought I’d give it a try. If you haven’t seen it, if you like period dramas, I suggest you watch. It’s post war London, the East End, and there’s a group of nuns and nurses who serve as midwives to the community. It’s an era and neighborhood where there doesn’t appear to be any birth control, where women have baby after baby after baby, even though there’s not really enough money for one or two. There are, quite expectedly, lots of scenes of babies being born, all gooey with their umbilical cords looking all blue and alien. I love it. I love the characters and the story lines. It’s produced by BBC and shown on PBS here in America. The first 3 seasons are on Netflix.

Ted and I went to a movie and book shopping the other day. We saw “Dear White People”, which was very good, but maybe not as good as the reviews might lead you to believe. Still, I liked it quite a bit and I’m glad we saw it. We then went to Moe’s, an independent bookstore in Berkeley, which has been around since 1959. My parents likely went there often in their college days, amongst other places. I found several books I wanted, one of which I bought, Why Teach, a book that seems to conform very closely to my own beliefs about education…that the best major to be is an English major, because that’s where you learn to think and grow and be. (I was not an English major, I’ll admit. International Relations for undergrad, Comparative Literature for my Masters. Comp Lit is very similar to English, but the books you read are not American or English, they are instead from other countries.) That the current university system is doing students no favors by catering to them and praising them and inflating their grades, instead of teaching critical thought.
I also saw a couple of other books that I wanted, but couldn’t afford, so I wrote them down and put them on hold at the library. Better for the bank account, and also because we have little room in our house for books, sadly enough. I have the following books on hold:

  • Nine Inches: Stories ~ Tom Perotta
    I’ve read a couple of other books by Perotta, The Leftovers and Little Children. His subject matter is generally very dark, but I like his writing and am interested to read his short stories.
  • Let Me Be Frank With You ~ Richard Ford
    I read what I think is Ford’s most recent book (until this one), Canada, which I really enjoyed. This one is going back to a character he’s had in other books, Frank Bascombe. I read Independence Day, which has the same character, but I don’t think I’ve read The Sportswriter.
  • The Bone Clocks ~ David Mitchell
    I loved Cloud Atlas, the only other book of Mitchell’s that I’ve read. I’m looking forward to reading this one.
  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage ~ Ann Patchett
    I think my favorite Ann Patchett book was Bel Canto, though I’ve read a few others as well.
  • California ~ Edan Lepucki
    Now we’re getting to a new author, at least for me. I’ve not read anything by Lepucki before, but I keep hearing really great things about this book, so I’m hopeful. I’m number 75 on the list, so it will be awhile.

  • The Goldfinch ~ Donna Tartt
    Another new author for me. I keep seeing this one on the best seller lists in the Sunday paper, so I thought I’d give it a go.
  • Damage ~ Felix Francis
    This is the newest by Felix Francis, son of the late mystery writer, Dick Francis. Dick Francis wrote dozens of mysteries, all relating to his first love, horse racing. After his wife died, Dick started pairing up with his son, Felix, and they would write stories together. Then when Dick passed away, Felix kept the tradition going. I won’t say I like his writing just as much as his father’s, but really it’s very close, and I do enjoy being a part of that world. I don’t actually have this one on hold, Ted’s aunt does. But she lives in my same town, and she reads quite quickly, so she’ll read it, pass it to me, and I’ll tear through it before it’s due back at the library. Yay!

Speaking of Ted’s Aunt, Sondra, she works as the office manager at Maya’s old elementary school, which is a public charter Montessori school. I used to be on the board of directors there, and when they were looking for an office manager, I suggested they interview her, as they needed someone organized to come in and straighten things up, and Sondra is without question the most organized person I know. She started working there in 2005. Fast forward to today, and Maya has been working at Forever 21, and hating it. Hating that she works until 11:00 on Friday and Saturday nights, dreading working on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and during Christmas break when her friends are home from college. Ted and I don’t like the thought of her walking around the downtown parking garages at that time of night, either, so we end up picking her up after work. Not fun, since we’re old and don’t necessarily want to stay up that late every weekend. So a few weekends ago, I was having lunch with Sondra, and she asked me if I thought Maya might like to come and work at the Montessori, doing after school child care. Um, Yes Please! Maya loved the idea. She truly wanted OUT of F21, but didn’t want to go from having a paycheck to no money (we stopped giving her an allowance…), and this sounded like much better hours. So she applied, which pretty much meant giving them her resume, and she was hired, based on Auntie Sondra’s good word. Nepotism rocks! So she works 3 days a week after school, and is off work at 6, and has weekends free to study or go out with her friends, no holiday working, all of that. Very good news indeed.

Next week is the elections. All of the pundits seem to be predicting a big win for the republicans in the Senate. I hope not. I haven’t even really looked at my voter guide yet, to figure out how I’m going to vote on propositions and so on. I guess I have my homework for the weekend.

I just got an email from Ted…he met Jacques Pepin today! He has been in San Francisco, recording his new TV Show, “Heart and Soul” for KQED, and was at Ted’s radio station to be interviewed. GAH! I’m so envious. I’ve loved Jacques for years. Remember when he had his cooking show, Cooking with Claudine, where he cooked with his daughter? The show where he cooked with his dear friend Julia Child? Sigh. Why not me? He’s like a rock star in my world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

tableHappy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! Our Friends to the North celebrate Thanksgiving in much the same way we in the U.S. do. Get together with family, eat some turkey, stuffing, sides, maybe a pumpkin pie. Very nice. My loyal readers will remember that my darling husband, Ted, was born in Canada, and has citizenship there, though he’s not claimed it in any way at this point. Because we are a family that enjoys celebrating life when we can, we like to have a Thanksgiving feast in October, just us, and then again in November, with Ted’s family (my parents came to California last year and joined in, which was wonderful). So I spent the day cleaning and shopping and cooking. Set the table with our wedding china, crystal, and silver. I vowed years ago to start using it more often, but when I said those words, I lied them.  (My little homage to Dr. Seuss there…anyone know which story?) So we haven’t broken out the good stuff all together in years. You know what? It was really nice. The table looked beautiful, the food was delicious (even if I do use Stove Top stuffing rather than making my own), and we had a really nice evening.
Here’s the menu:

We had flowers and candles and wine. It was lovely. Generally, we have Canadian Thanksgiving dinner on Monday evening, but this year it made sense to do it on Sunday, which appears to be more authentic anyway. So yay us! It was a little strange, though, as it got up to be almost 90 today, and the talk is about the Giants and their World Series dreams.

It’s Sunday evening as I write this. The Giants just lost game 2, but it’s best 4 out of 7, and it’s currently 1 game each, so don’t give up yet. (I pretend to care, when one of our local teams get this far. Truly, of course, why would I care? The players don’t know me or care about my victories and losses, so whatever.) Ted’s celebrating Thanksgiving by watching “The Walking Dead”. Ugh. I think I’ll read my book, this is far too gory for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

* The formatting here is bugging the crap out of me. I’ve fixed this list 3 times, and it keeps getting wonky. I’m going to have to ask you to just ignore how wrong the spacing is on the bullets here, if indeed they are rendering strangely on your screen. For me it’s fine once, then a mess again.

** I had a bit of trouble with my cranberry sauce.  It’s early in the year for fresh cranberries, but I found frozen.  I didn’t have time to thaw them before boiling with sugar and water.  I don’t know if I didn’t boil them long enough or what, but after a couple of hours, they still hadn’t jelled.  I read online to add a little pectin, which I didn’t have.  I remember reading that apples have pectin, and I’ve made strawberry jam with strawberries, sugar, and apples, so I diced up about 1/3 of a Granny Smith apple and threw that in, cooked for maybe 8 minutes, and then let it cool.  I had to put it in the freezer to get it cool in time for dinner, but it worked.   Whew.  Thanksgiving is NOT Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce.

Friday Randomness


We generally have a couple of very hot days in late September or early October. I remember moving to San Francisco back in ’87, and it hitting 100 that October. Indian Summer, they call it. So this weekend was Indian Summer, hitting the 90s after a few weeks of cooler weather. Hot weather requires a bit more water for the plants, water I’m hesitant to give in a drought year. Saturday morning I was watering the plants around our little patio garden, in preparation for a hot summer day, watching a fat black bumblebee buzz around the purple flowers of our potato plant, when I am sure I saw said bee poop. Yes, I said poop. You know how when a bird poops, there’s a stream of liquid that drops down? That’s what it was. A tiny drop of liquid dropping from the bee. Very strange.

I may have mentioned that I gave up my beloved and somewhat dangerous (who knows, I like to think of it as dangerous…gives me a little street cred) diet coke addiction last year. Well, since then I’ve started drinking tea most days. A cup of PGTips, an English black tea, with some milk and sugar. Sometimes I enjoy it, and sometimes it’s quite bitter. I read something on Facebook about tea, and it turns out that perhaps I’ve been (sometimes) steeping my tea for too long. So I looked around and found that the right time for black tea is 3 – 5 minutes. I’ve not timed it before, so what do I know. Anyway, I started timing the steeping of the tea, and lo and behold, no more bitter tea. Lovely.

We’re watching a new TV show (new to us, not new), “Call the Midwife”. It’s a PBS show. I like it a lot. Comparing it to some other shows that we have watched on Netflix, this one is not so bingy. The stories are compelling, the characters well acted, and the writing smart. It’s not bingy (or binge worthy) because the stories (thus far) seem to wrap up at the end of each episode. So you’re not pulled into one episode from the next. ‘we watch one or two episodes a night. I like it quite a bit.

Last Saturday, Ted and I went into the city to try a newish Thai restaurant that opened in the Parc 55 hotel, the hotel where I worked during my college years. It was written up in the NYTimes magazine. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but we got there and it was closed. They don’t serve lunch on weekends. Dumb. So we ended up eating at a restaurant across the street, the name of which I don’t even remember. Ted had a delicious burger. I had a mediocre egg dish that I wanted to be better than it was. The woman at the table next to me had a yummy looking crab and egg thing, which I didn’t order because it’s not crab season, but perhaps I should have. I had a (virgin) Bloody Mary that was different than any other Bloody Mary that I’ve ever had. A traditional Bloody Mary is kind of thick, with Worcestershire and maybe Tabasco. This was thin, like maybe it was squeezed from tomatoes that day. It didn’t have a kick. It was tasty, so I didn’t send it back. But I wouldn’t suggest it.

I then went to a movie while Ted went to work. I went to see “Gone Girl”, which I really enjoyed. It was a fun movie about bad people. I won’t say more, though Ted reviewed it here.

Fun new fact, one of the medications I’m now on for my arthritis crap has a nice side effect, which is that I’m much more susceptible to sun exposure. We walked from Ted’s work to the hotel on Saturday, which was about 20 minutes on a hot day (I think it hit 94 later that day). I got sunburned. Not just pink, but burned where it hurt and was itchy, and sometimes it feels and looks more like a rash. Blech. Looked online, and the side effects are….susceptible to sun exposure. Rats. And this one I need to be on for quite awhile. My doctor is talking years. I wonder if the susceptibility goes away after awhile? I hate drugs. Except when I love them (because they help me with whatever problem I’m facing). UPDATE: Turns out it’s not just a sunburn. It’s a rash, which was maybe exacerbated by sunburn, but now is on my legs as well, which were not sunburned, or even exposed to the sun. So I’m allergic to the long term medication that was supposed to help me with my arthritis. Solution, short term, is no more of that drug, up the Prednisone for a few days, then see where we are next week. SO MUCH FUN.

I’ve had two friends that don’t know each other suggest that I might enjoy reading ‘Outlander’, so I’m giving that a try. I think I’m maybe 40% of the way into a very long book. I like it, and I think I’ll watch the show when I’m finished. The thought that pops into my head, though, is, “Do I want to read ALL of the books, or maybe just the one?” I think I’ll read the one, then watch the first season of the show, and see where we are at that point. Some books are so different, and so much better, than the TV shows that come after. Others, not so much. I find this story compelling, but the writing isn’t F. Scott Fitzgerald or anything. I might do just as well watching on TV. We’ll see.

If I say “Ebola”, will that freak you out? I know that it’s not airborne, but still, it’s a scary disease. My friend V-Grrrl’s husband was on the flight with the poor man who died in Texas, from Brussels to the U.S. Her husband is fine, thankfully, but still…it’s scary, and easy to say things about proper safety precautions and so on when you’re a thousand miles away. Not so easy to be nonchalant when the unfortunately infected person is squeezing past you with their luggage.

Anyway, it’s October, and I’m looking forward to cooler weather, maybe making some split pea soup soon. Hope you’re enjoying and it’s not too hot (or too cold) where you are.