Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shame on You, O Magazine

Welcome to Media Outrage, Volume 1!  Picture me climbing onto my soapbox to report that O Magazine thinks the following is so funny that I should be laughing.  Hahaha—oh, wait…:

I read somewhere that men’s biggest fear is that women will laugh at them.  And women’s biggest fear is that men will kill them.  Kind of different stakes that we’re working with.

That’s a quote from Chelsea Peretti, and it was part of a subfeature called “laugh” within an article, “o, happy day” in the July 2013 issue of O Magazine.  I don’t know if Peretti intended for that to be funny.  I certainly don’t.  From what I’ve learned, women are far more likely to be raped by someone they know.  And Leslie Morgan Steiner posits that the most prominent reason why domestic victims don’t leave is this: they fear their abusive partners will kill them if they leave.  (Listen to her TED talk on this subject; it is both chilling and informative.)

There is something deeply disturbing to me about making a joke out of male violence against women.  Humor can be used to defuse a tense subject, but sometimes those attempts at humor backfire.  I think the example above is a backfire.  And I’m not convinced that violence against women will ever be funny to me.  It’s scary.  For those of us who have suffered from angry, violent men in our personal lives, it’s too close to home.

Shame on you, O Magazine.  You should know better.

Monday, July 29, 2013

What to do with that bag of self-rising flour…

Self-Rising Flour

Before she moved to Africa, my friend Sam gave me several bags of flour, including this bag of self-rising flour.  And when she did, I had no idea what I would do with it.  My thrifty side wanted to do something with it, but I had never, ever used it.  It’s a foreign ingredient to me.

The truth is that self-rising flour is about as versatile as you’ll allow it to be.  As I try to use it up, I’m working off the assumption that one cup of this flour contains 0.5 teaspoons of salt and 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder, as defined by this recipe.  I thought it was a reasonable standard, and it’s the same ingredient list on my bag.  (And the flour in self-rising flour is just all-purpose wheat flour—simple, right?)

I’ve bookmarked this recipe for fluffy pancakes as my next project with this flour—I’ll use that recipe as a template, but I’ll mix in some other flours as well for nutritional reasons.  I like carbs as much as the next person, but I also like not being flattened by low blood sugar.

Meanwhile, I’ve made a loaf of banana bread that is now, sadly, history.  It was completely delicious, which isn’t surprising since I adapted it from a Smitten Kitchen recipe.  I used Deb’s base, tinkering with it slightly to use my self-rising flour, and I added chocolate chips and granola to make it interesting.  After that, my friend Tonya suggested slathering slices with butter, and how could I resist that idea? 

Banana Bread with Butter

I couldn’t.  That’s the answer.

I don’t bake banana bread very often, but it’s a lovely thing to do during these weeks of unexpected free time.  I start my new job on Thursday, so this week my goal is to get myself and my kitchen geared up for the 9-to-5 life again.  It’s been so long that I can barely remember how to pack my lunch!  Wish me luck.

Unemployed Banana Bread or Banana Bread with Granola and Chocolate Chips

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Crackly Banana Bread

Makes 1 9-inch round cake pan

I think this bread could very easily be vegan.  I’d give it the ol’ flax egg treatment by whisking two tablespoons of ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water, letting it sit for a few minutes, and then whisking that mixture into the bananas.  If and when I get around to a vegan version, I’ll report back in the comments.

3 medium or large ripe bananas

1 egg

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of cloves

3/4 cup self-rising flour

3/4 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup granola (I used this one.)

1)  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a round 9-inch round cake pan with a bit of coconut oil.  (I just dribbled some oil into the pan and used a paper towel to wipe it around.)

2)  Place the bananas in a large bowl and use a potato masher to mash them into a mostly smooth consistency.  Whisk in the egg, then the oil, sugar, syrup, and vanilla.

3)  Sprinkle the baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves over the banana mixture and whisk.  Stir the flours into the wet ingredients, then stir in the chocolate chips and granola.

4)  Bake for 40-45 minutes.  Mine was perfectly done at 40 minutes on the dot.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Adventures in Spending: Next!

Greenery in Commons Park

Commons Park Graffiti{A few photos from Commons Park in Denver, Colorado}

Last time we chatted, I told you about my summer of travel and its cost.  I’m currently about $4650 in the red for this year, which is to say that I’ve spent $4650 more than I’ve earned.  I wanted to say a few words about that upfront.

My “debt,” if we can call it that, is only a debt to myself.  Until this year, I’ve always lived at or below my means.  My only real financial responsibility is to take care of myself, so I’ve been able to save money, most of which I plan to put toward a home.  There’s no real secret to my lifestyle: I spend money in ways that are meaningful and pleasurable to me.  I don’t spend money in areas that don’t matter to me.  Knowing what my priorities are, spendingwise, brings me peace of mind.  (If you’re curious, I’ve written two posts that speak in broad strokes about what I splurge on and what I pinch pennies on.)

Ideally, I’d be able to pay myself back this year once I start working again.  But I won’t have enough left over after expenses to cover that $4650, even though I’m looking forward to living simply for the rest of the year.  And on top of that basic fact, I have two exciting things to announce.

The first is that I am adopting a cat!  My friend Courtney (check out her awesome Pinterest boards!  I heart her and her good taste.) is making some transitions in her life, and she won’t be able to take her kitties with her.  Lucy is going to come live with me, and while I am nervous about becoming a cat-mom, I am really excited.  I love cats and have thought about adopting one many times.  What’s stopped me?  My long work hours and my travel.

Spendingwise, I’ll now be budgeting for cat food, kitty litter, a pet deposit for my apartment, and the occasional visit to the vet.  It sounds like a lot when I list it out, but I suppose it’s about time I started taking care of someone besides myself.  It’s good practice if/when I become a mother.

The second announcement is…(drumroll please)…Paul and I are talking about buying a car together!  Indeed, my carless days are coming to an end.  There are two sides to this story, and I’ll start with Paul’s.  He’s been thinking about selling his current car to get something smaller and more fuel-efficient.  On top of that, he just bought a bike (hurray!), so his need for a car may be lower now and in the future.  My side of the story is that I’m growing a bit tired of being so limited without a car.  I have to grocery shop at least twice a week because of the limitations of biking home with groceries.  I can’t shop at the Saturday farmers’ market because it’s about twelve miles round trip on the bike, and I’m just not that hardcore about biking, especially in the summer here.  My range is geographically limited by my willingness to pedal around town.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m still a huge advocate of biking for fun and errands, but can you imagine being 30-something and not having a car?  Keep in mind that I live in Texas, not Chicago or NYC or any of the other big cities with good public transportation.  I’ve been thinking that it’s time for me to have regular access to a car, but I’d rather not pay for a car that I want to use once or twice a week.  The price of keeping a car on the road seems prohibitive if I don’t need it every day.

Sharing a vehicle makes sense for us.  We love traveling together to other places.  We also like to go out to eat sometimes, and I’m just not keen on riding my bike in the dark.  And of course, grocery shopping is way easier with a car.  (Let’s be honest: it all comes back to food for me.)

Perhaps it seems a little premature for Paul and me to start sharing finances in a significant way.  We’ve been dating for about five months.  I know, I get it.  What if we break up?  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the speed of relationships.  What’s too fast?  What’s too slow?  And as I’ve been talking about this topic with others, it’s become clear to me that there are no rules about commitment.  You learn as you go.  Paul is a wonderful partner.  He is reliable, funny, and caring.  He’s smart, open-minded, and easy-going.  He values trust in his relationships; he has a deep concern for social justice.  While I hope that we don’t break up, I believe that if we did, we’d do so in a way to minimize the damage to each other.  For that reason, I feel good about making a financial commitment with him.

Plus there’s a lot to be said for sharing the cost of a car.  We can justify getting a better car, which will hopefully be a greener vehicle with good gas mileage.  I feel better about sharing a car with someone rather than buying one on my own.  And this way, we’ll be sharing the cost of our adventures, which seems more fair to me.  (Thus far, Paul has been footing the bill for our trips around Texas.)

The first step in this car-sharing plan is to get me a driver’s license.  And so, with that in mind, I’m off to figure out what exactly that entails in the state of Texas.  Wish me luck!

Happy weekend, friends!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Adventures in Spending: A Year of Opportunities

I always love it when Chrissy shares a new “Adventures in Debt” post.  Money is such an interesting lens through which to learn about people’s lives, and I think talking about money in an open, nonjudgmental way lets us exert some control over our money rather than letting money control us.  I’ve been wanting to talk about the money side of my summer for a while now, so let’s go!

(And because this is kind of a pithy topic for me right now, I’m going to break it up into a few posts.  Today: where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, and what it took to pay for my adventures.)

I’ve been all over the place this summer, so let me give you a bird’s eye view of my life as of late.  Jobwise, I left my last position on May 17, and I’m scheduled to begin a new job on August 1.  That means I’ve been off (and free!) for about two and a half months.  I’ve put that time to good use with a lot of travel.  In early June, Paul and I visited friends in Houston and Dallas—easy trips and lots of fun.  After that, I spent most of June in Michigan with my family, making my semi-annual pilgrimage north.  I returned home from Michigan with just enough time to prep and pack for a big trip out west with Paul.  From Texas, we drove to New Mexico and Colorado for an amazing, trip-of-a-lifetime to see the mountains.  After the trip out west, we returned to Texas, I had a freaky accident, and I have been relaxing, cooking, cleaning, writing, and reading.  Oh, and walking, as I’m preparing to walk/run the Detroit Marathon in October.

It’s been a big summer for me, filled with a lot of new adventure.  The cost of all this adventure, including my living expenses?  An estimated $7423.38.  (My expenses for July are estimated at $1700.  I won’t know the actual number until all my July bills arrive, of course.)

Without my accident, the number would be closer to about $6000.  The trip to Colorado cost me about $1650; Paul paid about $640 for our trip.  (The trip out west was my idea, so I footed the bulk of the bills.)

“Wow,” you might be thinking to yourself.  “$7500 is a lot of money for one unemployed person to spend in less than three months.”

To which I would reply, “Yes, but allow me to explain.”

First, after my last job ended, I was so emotionally spent by that roller coaster of a ride that I really had no choice but to take time off.  If it was at all possible, I needed to be away from the world of work for a while.  I was drained.

Second, the opportunity for me to do big travel to anywhere but Michigan does not present itself very often.  Seeing my family is always my number one vacation priority.  They are my rock, my foundation.  So when I knew that I could make time this summer to see my family and have a big fun trip, I jumped at the chance.  Once I made that decision, my mind was set.  I would be taking off some real time this summer, not just the amount of time it took me to transition from one job to the next.

Third, life is short.  Who says work should dominate our lives, especially during our years of good health and energy?  I have spent the better part of the last ten years working very hard, between graduate school and my postdoc.  To choose not to work for a few months was refreshing.  It was an exercise in intentional living, and I do not regret it for a second.

Fourth, my accident was hardly a choice.  Accidents happen, and that’s why we bank money “in case of emergency.”

It’s been an incredible, if somewhat expensive, summer.  As far as 2013’s money goes, I owe myself about $4650—that is to say, if we add up my earnings for the year so far and subtract my expenses, I have spent $4650 more than I have earned.  Which is okay—seeing Colorado alone was worth the money, the time, and the long drive.  And sharing that experience with Paul was very special to me.  On that note, how about a few photos from Colorado?  And stay tuned for Part Two of Adventures in Spending.

On the road in Colorado…

Forest Mountains Clouds

  Red Rock Formations

Coming Into Routt

Monday, July 22, 2013

On Inadequacy and the Other Side of Beauty, Part 2

This post is Part 2 of a series.  You can find Part 1 here.

I think inadequacy is the greatest myth our culture has forced upon us.

The more I see American culture through this lens, the more convinced I am that we are marinating in a bath of manufactured inadequacy.  Consumer culture, it seems, needs us to feel inadequate so it can sell us stuff to cure our inadequacy.  Except nothing we buy can accomplish that goal.  In the battle against feeling broken, we cannot win.

Until we start believing that we are not broken.  We are just human.

As I mentioned in Part 1, Self magazine reentered my life just a day before I fell and broke my front tooth and split my chin open.  I was not such a pretty picture.

I Miss My Toof

Granted, this photo was taken at night, so the lighting is not terrific.  But I maintain that having a jagged half-tooth is pretty scary-looking.  In addition, losing that tooth gave me a temporary lisp which was bad enough that when I left my phone number on the dentist’s voicemail, I worried he wouldn’t be able to call me back because what number is theven? thero? thikth??  I’m exaggerating a bit here, but the lisp was really frustrating.  And there wasn’t really much I could do about it without a dentist.

Flipping through Self that weekend, I was struck by the way the rhetoric of the magazine took normal human needs, activities, and body parts and turned them into problems.  Your appetite is a problem.  Better eat high-protein/low-carb to tame that appetite!  Ugh, you know what else is a problem?  Your ass.  Better do this work-out before it gets any bigger.  Also a problem: your desire to be in a romantic relationship.  Better be hard to get or else the menfolk will think you’re desperate.

Now, I realize that to some extent, much of the content of Self could be filed under self-improvement.  But how much of the “need” for self-improvement is actually being manufactured by magazines like Self, with their endless barrage of flat abs and tall models?  In my mind, this question stood in stark contrast to my own situation, where my lovely, imperfect smile had become a trainwreck.  I could no longer eat or speak normally.  I could get through a few days like that because I had faith that a dentist could fix me, but what if I’d been stuck with my broken tooth for six months?  I’m sure that over time, I would have become more self-conscious in front of others, sticking to close-lipped smiles to avoid that awkward feeling.  I didn’t mind being with Paul while I felt ugly because he didn’t seem to mind.  But I did enjoy growling at him with my teeth bared, just because I thought it was funny.

When you’re missing your front tooth, other beauty inadequacies seem so much more contrived.  When you lose something valuable, you are reminded of your assets.  A few days after I got my new tooth, another issue of Self arrived, this one with an article about (of all things!) cosmetic dentistry.  Let me just say upfront that I am so glad this article arrived after my dentist appointment, as it was a series of horror stories about how things can go terribly wrong in cosmetic dentistry.  My experience with Dr. Kaiser’s office was wonderful—I could not have asked for better care.  In my case, the dental work didn’t feel optional, though I suppose that strictly speaking, it was.  Even getting a crown was optional: at first, they were going to give me a “smiler only” tooth which would not allow me to eat crunchy vegetables and fruits.  That wasn’t good enough for me; I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my eating habits to save money.  So I got an expensive crown, and now I can eat raw carrots again.  In the Self article, the women interviewed had experienced different dental issues.  One had yellowish gray teeth from a childhood tetracycline treatment.  Another woman, like me, had an accident and damaged her front teeth.  Both women sought help for their imperfect teeth, and both had awful results from cosmetic dentistry.  The upside is that eventually, after lots of botched results and money spent, both women are happy with their smiles.

Happy with their smiles.  Is that too much to ask?

In Front of the Cookbooks

Thinking about their stories, I decided to make a plot for the Beauty Inadequacy Scale in which the axis goes from completely manufactured “inadequacy” (like the idea that abs should be perfectly flat or that teeth should be perfectly white) to not manufactured, such as the damage after a bad accident.  I put my own accident on this axis, too.  This image puts things into perspective for me.  

Beauty Inadequacy Scale_JPEG

It’s not complete by any means.  The point is to remind us that many of our feelings of inadequacy are manufactured for us by others, particularly advertising and media.  I know that’s not a groundbreaking revelation.  But being on the other side of beauty, feeling ugly, even just for a few days, reminded me of how much I take my everyday appearance for granted.  How much I take my teeth for granted.  There’s a strong temptation for us to compare ourselves to others or unrealistic images in the media and to think, I want to look like thatBut when we lose something, we forget about those comparisons.  We think, I want my teeth back.  Or I want to be able to walk again.  Those losses serve as powerful reminders of how wonderful it is to have a healthy, fully functioning body.  They remind us that we were never inadequate, just human.  Flawed and beautiful and perfectly adequate, just as we are.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

On Reverent Materialism

Ooh Cornbread!

I’m reading a fantastic book right now: Saved by Ben Hewitt.  It’s about wealth that transcends money, real wealth, the kind that fills our daily lives with food and shelter and clothes.  The book is on loan from Paul, who read it almost obsessively while we were camping a few weeks ago.  (Paul is turning into my own personal lending library, which lends more evidence to the idea that what I really want to date is a library.)

I feel like I live somewhere between the extreme do-it-yourself lifestyle of rural Vermonters and the Standard American Lifestyle of living beyond your means through debt and consumerism.  I like living in an apartment, with running water and electricity.  I like my couch.  I like my kitchen, with its cooking gear and pretty glasses and softly humming refrigerator.  Tonight, I cooked dinner using two of my most important pieces of cookware, the cast-iron skillet you see above and my Le Creuset pot.  My relationship with these pieces has gone beyond love: they are more like an extension of my body in the kitchen.  They are strong and steady, resilient even in the face of damage.  They remind me of a passage from Saved that I want to share with you tonight.

We speak of materialism as if it were something bad and even sinful, but sometimes I wonder if we have it all wrong.  Maybe what we need isn’t less materialism, but more, to the point that we actually respect and even revere our material goods, rather than see them as disposable and constantly begging to be upgraded.  Of course, it doesn’t help that disposability is purposefully engineered into the overwhelming majority of products offered to us.  To seek out true quality requires the determination to look beyond the convenient venues of big box retailers and online mass merchants; needless to say, it also demands a willingness to pay for the upgraded materials and craftsmanship such quality demands.

I want to live my life in a way that’s reverent to the people and things around me, not because I want to worship them, but because they are my world.  In a sense, taking care of our things now is like taking care of ourselves in the future.  The more we care for them, the more likely they are to last, engineered disposability notwithstanding, of course.

PS  I’m working on Part 2 for my last post.  I hope to share it later this week, despite my tendency to be distracted by other projects :-)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Inadequacy and the Other Side of Beauty, Part 1

A strange coincidence is that in the very same week I had an accident that left me bloody, damaged, and ugly, an issue of Self magazine was in my mailbox.

I used to enjoy Self magazine a lot.  I’d peruse my issues for diet and exercise advice, poaching the ideas I liked.  I read it for the well-written stories on all kinds of topics, especially health-related ones.  I liked the self-care theme.  I especially loved one article about being at one’s “happy weight.”  Your happy weight is a weight at which you are healthy, vibrant, and yes, happy.  It’s not a fantasy number.  It’s your real life, I-live-in-this-body number.  It’s a weight that is sustainable and even a bit forgiving—it doesn’t require “perfect” behavior from you.  (Let’s see if I can find that happy weight article on-line…hmm, I didn’t find the one that I wanted, but this one isn’t bad.  I like this excerpt: “When I'm feeling insecure—about work, a relationship—I'm apt to turn that dissatisfaction toward my body, maybe because it's easier to do that than to cope with whatever is truly bothering me.”  Indeed!  Maybe I’ll dig around in my physical archives to see if I saved the happy weight article.)

I stopped reading Self in my late twenties.  I’m 31 now; it’s been several years since I’ve sat down with an issue.  Perusing one now, I’m kinda shocked by how much of the magazine is flagrant product-pushing.  Here I’m not referring to the ads, which are (of course) pushing products.  Rather, it’s the magazine itself.  And when it’s not pushing products, it’s pushing an agenda that whispers, You’re not good enough.  You aren’t thin enough, pretty enough, sexy enough.  And as soon as I’ve absorbed that message, there’s another product waiting to rescue me from my own inadequacy.

How about a few examples?  Here, let’s pick up the June 2013 issue, the one with Shay Mitchell on the cover.  Five random flips gets us:

* p. 44.  “Let us be your hairstylist.”  Question: “I’m so over my bangs.  How can I look cute while they grow out?”  Followed by four product recommendations.

* pp. 110-111.  Recipes for feta-dill dip, minty meatballs, and yogurt with pistachio brittle.  Part of an article on summery Greek dishes.

* p. 51.  “You look awesome in that!”  A piece on “block frocks.”  Three colorful dresses, complete with shoe pairings.  Buy more stuff!

* p. 72.  “2013 healthy food awards.”  A list of “healthy” foods you can buy; the winners are low in “fat, calories, sugar” and high in “nutrients, fiber and most of all, flavor.”  What was notable to me is the almost fat-phobic attitude that seems to guide these food choices.  Even the cheese!  String cheese at 3g of fat per piece and Swiss cheese at 3g per one ounce.  When I think about fat in my food, I think about satisfaction, and low-fat food sounds profoundly unsatisfying to me.  (Also, please note that this is an article about processed foods, not heads of cabbage.  Not that Self wouldn’t encourage you to eat cabbage, but when you buy processed foods, you are paying for the processing, the packaging, and the marketing.  You’re paying for a whole lot more than the calories you’ll ingest.)

* p 94. “Awkward!”  Situation: “Nooo!  I sent my friend a ranting text…about her!”  (This is an advice column.)

Of these five samples, the only one of real value to me is the recipe article.  Out of curiosity, I looked at the healthy food awards but was immediately turned off by the fat-free quality of most of their choices.

What is the impression that has stayed with me after reading two issues of Self?  First of all, that the ideal body is slim, slim, slim and preferably not too muscular.  Second, you should spend a lot of time on your looks—beauty time, that is, not just working out time.  Third, eating healthy is so haaarrrd…I just want to eat ice cream!  I have this feeling that Self is writing to readers who have a swinging pendulum relationship with food—that food is either naughty and indulgent or super healthy…unless you buy these less naughty treats that we’ve recommended for you!  Maybe I’m just a freak in my moderation, but once I cracked the code to my sweet tooth, I developed a real passion for eating well—which means eating healthfully.

Back when I was still a subscriber, the thing I still liked most about Self were its essays.  The essays were smart, pithy reads, and I looked forward to them each month.  What these essays did not do (at least in my memory) is push products.  They were stories about science, health news, families, personal tragedies and personal triumphs.  They were fundamentally about people and our collective desire to live a good life.  The stories I remember were a breath of fresh air away from the consumerism that pervades most of American life.

Stay tuned for Part 2…I know, I know.  Another multi-part series on the blog!  What can I say?  I like to meander, but we’ll get to the point, I promise. 

PS  Here’s a series I did a while back on love.  Though Matt and I are no longer dating, I still like that series.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Sweetest Words

It’s funny: if you are seriously hurt, treatment is all that matters.  That, and hearing someone say, “You’re going to be okay.”  They are the sweetest words.

I suppose “seriously” is an exaggeration of my injury, but damn, it is hard living without a front tooth.  By the time Sunday night rolled around, all I could think about is how awesome it was going to be to have a full set of teeth again.

Indeed, it is awesome!

Check Out My New Tooth!{Hi!}

You can see I’m all patched up now, new front tooth and all.  My smile has been restored.  Want to see a before and after?  Bam!  Check it out:

BeforeAfter July 2013_JPEG

The dental work was expensive—$1300 and counting! yikes!—but it was fairly pleasant, even interesting.  I was so, so lucky to get into the office on Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon I walked out with a new crown and a repaired lateral incisor.  My dentist, Dr. Kaiser, and his team were total professionals and very concerned about my comfort and restoring my smile to its former glory.  And did I mention that Dr. Kaiser called me back on Saturday, just an hour or so after the accident?  I think I did, but I’ll mention it again because it meant so much to me.  I was terrified that my tooth would become infected or that it was going to die on me, and I had no idea what to do.  His words of reassurance were priceless.

Have you ever had a crown put in your mouth?  For the curious, I’ll tell you my story.  First, my team took X-rays to check the location of the nerve and (I think) to assess the damage.  Fortunately, my tooth broke below the nerve, so the nerve is still alive in there.  Next, they sawed down the existing tooth into a tiny stump; my stump was scarier than the broken tooth!  They cautioned me not to look at it, but I was too curious and even popped into the waiting room to frighten Paul with my ghoulish tooth.

After prepping the existing tooth, they began making the crown.  Tooth color was assessed and discussed; my teeth are not uniform in color, but we ended up matching the two front incisors to each other.  From there, two crowns were made.  The first was a “test” crown to check any fit issues.  Dr. Kaiser and I adjusted the crown’s position so it wouldn’t stick so far out of my mouth into my lip.  The first crown was also a smidge too big, so the overall size was adjusted.  The second crown was perfect and was installed on top of my stump tooth.  And finally, Dr. Kaiser applied composite to the lateral incisor to repair the chip.

“You’re going to be okay.”  That’s what Paul kept saying to me on Saturday.  I felt pretty devastated by the accident—it was just so freaky and weird.  On the one hand, I’m lucky it wasn’t worse.  On the other hand, I fell down.  I didn’t get hit while riding my bike, or trip while running, or burn the heck out of my arm while cooking.  I fell down.  It makes me nervous to think that my body is so fragile now.  Or maybe we’re all fragile, and I hate being reminded of it in such a dramatic way.  As someone who occasionally runs into door frames, you can imagine I’m a bit less at ease at home.  I don’t often injure myself, but this one’s going to leave me feeling shaky for a while.

I may be nervous, but I’m also more grateful than I can say.  I paid for my medical care out of pocket, but I’m lucky I had access to the best care and the resources to pay for it.  Not everyone is so fortunate, though I hope we are haltingly, lurchingly moving toward better care for all, regardless of circumstances.  So here’s to feeling whole and happy again and to being able to eat carrots again!

(Next up: a discussion of inadequacy, real and imagined.  Sometimes timing is very strange and interesting!)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Memo to You

Casas de Suenos Gate

Have I mentioned that I am kind of a spendthrift when it comes to time?  Yeah, time management is not my strength.  I like to have some wiggle room to spend my day in the most enjoyable way.  I like to linger over coffee, let a conversation spill over, hear the full song.  What this means for tonight: I’m not quite done with the post I’d intended to share today.  I’ll give you a sneak preview: my smile has been restored!  I’m really happy with the results.  I look like myself again.

I’ll share the full version of that story with you tomorrow.  For now, how about that pretty gate at Casas de Suenos, the bed-and-breakfast where we stayed in Albuquerque?  So pretty, right?  I wanted an excuse to share this photo with you, and it seems I found one!

I’m off to do some yoga now.  Adios, amigos.  Until next time!

Sunday, July 14, 2013


2795 miles and 12 days later, Paul and I have returned to Texas.  It was a glorious homecoming.

Or maybe not.  Our return on Friday night was uneventful.  We were lucky enough to spend Thursday night in Dallas with our friends the Minnericks.  They cooked us a delicious vegan dinner, we stayed up way too late, and I spilled coffee grounds all over their kitchen on Friday morning in an attempt to satisfy my addiction.  We had lunch at a vegan Chinese buffet, Veggie Garden.  For real, you guys, in Dallas, of all places: a vegan Chinese buffet.  It was awesome.  Who knew Dallas had such great vegan eats?

After lunch, we said a bittersweet farewell to our friends and promptly entered gridlock traffic.  Isn’t that how it always works?  After driving more than two thousand miles, we were just a few hours from home and we crept toward College Station, slowly and painfully.  To reward ourselves for actually returning to Texas (believe me, I could have stayed in Colorado and just sent for my things), we ate delicious Indian food at Taz; the softness of palak paneer turned out to be a blessing, though I didn’t at the time know what was in store for me the next day.

I collapsed into my own bed and slept soundly.  Saturday morning, I puttered around, enjoying a new favorite song and the soft comfort of a deeply familiar space.  Around 11 AM, I set off toward the bank to deposit a small check and do a short running work-out.

It was hot outside—you know, the usual in summertime Texas.  I knew that I wasn’t in top shape for Texas heat, so I planned to keep my run short and sweet.  I warmed up as usual with five minutes of walking, then I ran for seven minutes to the bank.  Inside, there was a line, which was discouraging.  Who likes waiting in line at the bank?  You don’t even get food as a reward for that!  I thought about turning right back around and heading outside, but with my to-do list in mind, I got in line.  I felt a little dizzy, so I put my hands on my knees and leaned forward.  Then I passed out.

When I came to, it was confusion and chaos around me.  Someone was holding my head, with a wad of paper towels against my chin.  It took me a few moments to figure out what was going on: I was staring up at the bank ceiling, and people were telling me I’d lost my front tooth.  I tried to sit up, and they held me down, saying I shouldn’t move.  So I laid back for a few moments.  Then I started to get annoyed and insisted on sitting up because I felt like I should sit up.  I even got ballsy and decided to stand up, despite the small crowd that was now gathered around me and protesting that I should not move.  But sitting up felt fine, and really, it felt worse to be the center of a freak show, so I stood up, walked over to some couches, and sat down for a few moments.

The kind bystanders at the bank had called the paramedics, but there was no way in hell I was getting in an ambulance.  The loss of control I was starting to feel made me panic.  Someone handed me another wad of paper towels that contained my tooth, and with this wad in hand, I forced my way out of the bank, away from the chaos and the paramedics and the crowd.  I slowly walked home, stepped inside, called Paul to tell him what had happened, and crumbled into a weepy mess.

I had hurt myself, badly enough for sure but not so badly that I could surrender myself to strangers.  My chin had a deep gash in it and was dripping blood.  And indeed, my front tooth was broken in half, and a second tooth had a substantial chip in it.  Looking at my chin in the mirror, I realized oh my god, this is bad.

Paul arrived and became my voice of reason.  I was angry and panicky, feisty even.  He insisted that the people at the bank had done the right thing, and in hindsight, I saw he was right.  The whole scene in there had frightened me.  What had happened?  How could I have just crumbled to the ground and with no memory of it at all?

We went to urgent care, where the kind people stitched up my chin, gave me a tetanus shot, charged me $204, and sent me on my way.  While we were on our way, a dentist called me back, asked me a few questions, gave me some advice, and assured me I’d be okay until Monday if there was no pain and no bleeding in my mouth.  “Okay” is, however, a relative word: I still have a gaping hole where my front tooth should be.   

Gorgeous, Right

So what happened back in the bank?  Fainting is not to be taken lightly, after all.  I suspect three things happened.  The first is that I stepped from blazing hot Texas to freezing cold bank, so the change in temperatures was a physical shock to my system.  Second, I may have overhydrated, which can lead to lower sodium levels in the blood and therefore low blood pressure.  The final point, which is perhaps the most important of all, is that I’ve been away from Texas for the better part of the last six weeks.  I am not at all acclimated to the heat and humidity of this place.  While I felt fine during my seven-minute run, maybe I shouldn’t have been running at all.  At least not yet.

Sigh.  Now I face a week or two of doctor visits and some super-fun medical bills.  I’m not insured right now because my old job ended in May, along with my health insurance.  But it turns out that my health insurance (like many people’s) is crappy and likely would not have covered much of the cost of my accident.  I’m tempted to get all ranty about health insurance here, but I’ll keep the f-bombs to myself.  Instead, I’ll say that today I am grateful for good doctors, good boyfriends, and all the soft and slurpable foods I can eat, including palak paneer. 

Sunday Morning Breakfast

Breakfast this morning was overnight oatmeal with blueberries, and I was so tired of trying to eat it with my gimpy mouth that I gave up two-thirds in and tucked the bowl in the fridge for later.  Don’t get me wrong: it was delicious, but I think my jaw is bruised from the fall, and it’s really awkward trying to eat with only one side of my mouth.  Lucky for me, coffee and water are straw-worthy and sippable, so it’s much easier to embrace a liquid diet until I get some new teeth.

Straws for Breakfast!{Straws for the win!}

That was my weekend in a very large nutshell.  I wanted to dive right into the photographic treasure trove I have from New Mexico and Colorado, but alas, I thought you should know about my unfortunate fall.  On the bright side for blogging, the start date of my new job has been pushed back to August 1st, so I have lots of time to write the vacation posts from my epic trip.  Do you like vacation stories?  I try to make mine interesting without cramming so many photos into a post that you get bored.  Too many photos and I just glaze over, so I don’t want to inflict that on you!  Check back here in a day or two for the story of Paul and Rose-Anne in Albuquerque.

Have a good week, my dears.  Oh, and I should tell you that I’m okay.  Really!  Despite the injuries, I only have a little bit of pain in my mouth and jaw.  And it seems like the damage is mostly cosmetic, so that is the good news.  I feel ugly, but who cares when you’re spending most of the day puttering around your apartment?  And Paul insists I am not ugly, which is very sweet of him to say.  I’m not sure I believe him, but it’s nice to hear.

See you soon.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Greetings from Colorado!

From the Top of the Denver Museum of Science and Nature

Near REI in Denver

Hey There!

Well, well, well!  Hello from Colorado!  Today Paul and I returned from Routt National Forest, the first of two stops as we make our way back to Texas.  After more than five weeks of living out of suitcases, I am very excited to get home and settled back into a routine.  But for now, we are in Colorado Springs, spending the night in sweet little B & B (Crescent Lily Inn, for the curious).  In a little while, we’ll wander off to find some dinner and relax for the evening before beginning our 13-hour trek back to Texas in the morning.

This vacation has been really great.  To be honest, Paul and I haven’t done much in the way of touristy things.  We did spend a few happy hours in the Denver Museum of Science and Nature (the top photo is taken from the fourth floor of that museum—such a cool view of Denver!), but otherwise, we’ve spent a lot of time with our books and each other without much of an agenda.  Denver has an inexpensive “borrow-a-bike” program called Denver B-Cycle, and we gleefully borrowed bikes to ride around the city.  One day we rode from lunch to a park and back to our hotel.  Another day we rode to brunch and back to the hotel.  I loved cruising around the city on two wheels, and we were both happy to leave the car behind for a few hours.

We spent two afternoons lounging about in parks, reading our books and snacking when we felt like it.  You’d think that we would be running around the city like maniacs, trying to squeeze every last drop of fun out of it, but we were really content to have no agenda beyond our next meal.  Being able to enjoy summertime Denver outside, in the fresh air, was enough for us.  (Bonus: it kept our travel budget in check, which was helpful since we weren’t exactly pinching pennies on our meals in Denver.)

I’ll have much more to share with you in the next few weeks.  I love that blogging lets me revisit my favorite memories and stories, but for now, I’ll stop here.  Colorado, you’re alright in my book.  Also, driving up and down all these mountains reminds me of this Iron & Wine song, which is one of my favorites.

About the photos above, starting from the top: 1) View from the top of the Denver Museum of Science and Nature, 2) The river in Commons Park near the Denver REI, and 3) Urban art found near our blanket spot in Commons Park.