New glasses + weekend shenanigans. (Wedding! Anime Comic Con! Dinosaurs! etc.)

It seems like a long time has passed since my last posting date on Thursday, but that’s just because I’ve spent most of the intervening days out of town. We went to the Bay Area for a friend’s wedding. It was a French wedding attended by lots of (mostly) French people speaking (mostly) French. It took place on Bastille Day and the day before France won the World Cup, so it was a very French affair.

We made our hotel reservation months in advance. Unbeknownst to us, the Anime Comic Con would be going on in the hotel at the same time. Surprise!

Spoils from Anime Comic Con 2018:

 

Marvel Black Panther bag and Sen. John McCain action figure

 

[Sidenote 1: I got to chatting with the cool guy who sold me the Marvel Black Panther bag. Turns out he’s a musician. He’s a member of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (aka D.R.I.). He said they’re coming to my town at the end of October to play a gig. We’re going, Callaghan and me.]

[Sidenote 2: I thought it was hilarious that they were selling Sen. John McCain action figures at Anime Comic Con in California. I couldn’t resist. McCain’s been my senator since I moved to Arizona in 1991. I don’t have to agree with all of his political positions (and I certainly do not) to say in all honesty that he’s one of my heroes.]

Next:

New glasses, part I-don’t-even-know-what.

 

[Sidenote: These pics were taken late last week during a time of hot dusty winds, when the AZ monsoon skies were a haze of golden brown. Even the indoor pic on the left looks dusty.]

You may be wondering how many new pairs of glasses a person needs in a year. I am, too. Hopefully the saga ends here. It should, provided that a). my prescription doesn’t change again, b). I don’t step on my new glasses, and c). in the event that I do, my replacement frames don’t come from overseas on a slow boat that either hits an iceberg or gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Those are the three things that have happened in the last 12 months. Luckily, the debacle cost only $25.00 to fix – it was $25.00 to replace the broken frames, and when they never showed up, the glasses lady let me pick new frames for a complete re-make (fresh lenses included) and trade the new glasses for the replacement ones.

I’m enjoying my new granny specs. I’ve worn dark, plastic/acrylic frames for as long as I can remember; these super thin gold-toned ones are a change I’m loving. They seem treacherously light and delicate, but the glasses lady assured me that they’re very strong (titanium) and difficult to break.

Returning to the weekend! We got back yesterday in a dramatic climatic shift. On a summer morning in San Francisco, middle of July, I wore jeans and a t-shirt, as usual, but also a sweatshirt over the t-shirt, and a pleather motorcycle jacket over the sweatshirt… and I was still cold. San Francisco in the summer is antithetical. I boarded the plane dressed for a Phoenix winter, landed in Phoenix 1.5 hours later, and stripped myself back down to summer while still on the plane. I walked into Sky Harbor airport in just the jeans and t-shirt again.

And that, my friends, is one reason why I’ll never move back.

The day before, though, we spent a balmy and beautiful afternoon strolling through Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. We had a great time, but I was glad to come home, as usual. There’ll just never be anything like the steady hum of creative energy in our quiet house in our quiet neighborhood in our quiet desert – it always seems quiet, even when it’s not – with the wide-open space all around, the huge sky overhead, and the sound of our Arcosanti bells speaking for the monsoon breeze out front.

OH! We went to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom while in Concord. I thought it was good enough for entertainment, but not good enough for a “monthly favorites” list.

The movie-makers told a familiar story this time, didn’t they? An ark with all the different species, a clashing of good and greed-driven evil, and the not-subtle suggestion that Owen and Claire are Adam and Eve in their neo-Jurassic world. Even the movie’s title (Fallen Kingdom) sounds biblical.

I found myself emotionally wrought at the beginning when the brachiosaurus got left behind on the island, watching everyone sailing away to safety. I cried. Callaghan assured me, “No brachiosaurus was harmed in the making of the movie,” but it didn’t help. I spent most of the movie thinking the poor dinosaurs. Gah. I’m always upset to tears when I see horrible things happening to animals, and I guess CGI dinosaurs are no exception.

 

THE PLOT THICKENS

Remember this post? I have updates.

THE PLOT THICKENS

A man parks his nondescript SUV along a curve on a residential street and crosses the street. He is Delivery Guy. He walks up to the house and rings the doorbell. No one answers the door. Delivery Guy sticks a small piece of paper on the door, crosses the street, gets in his SUV, and drives away.

A woman and a man are inside the house. They are Kristi and Callaghan. They watch Delivery Guy leave from their living-room window. Callaghan opens the door to get the piece of paper stuck to the door.

Callaghan brings the piece of paper to Kristi. They see that it’s a pre-printed form note that looks like it came from a quirky gag gift post-it pad one can buy at a hip independent bookstore. The note is printed with: DELIVERY NOTICE! Important Time & Date Sensitive Material

Kristi sees her name hand-written on the note. The note does not feature the names of either the sending company or the shipping company. The note is printed with: Please call within 24 hours to reschedule your delivery

CUT TO FIVE DAYS LATER

Kristi calls the number on the note. A funeral home voice mail recording picks up.

We see Kristi’s face. Her expression is wondering what Time & Date Sensitive Material a funeral home would need to deliver to someone’s door.

We see her face remembering that she received in the mail an invitation to purchase a cemetery plot.

We see her face realizing that it’s the same funeral home.

CUT TO THREE HOURS LATER

Callaghan walks into the house.

KRISTI

They REALLY want to sell me a cemetery plot. But why does their note say Time & Date Sensitive? Do they know something I don’t? Am I on their list of people who are going to die, like, tomorrow?

CALLAGHAN

It’s time and date sensitive for them. They have to grab you first, and before you die.

[/END SCRIPT]

(Sorry, I don’t know how else to show that I’m done writing in screenplay mode)

So here’s the punchline: I finally got the funeral home person on the phone and found out that the delivery guy was trying to deliver the funeral home’s “complimentary gift.” The one they said they’d include with any promotional info I’d request. Remember how I filled out their form just to see what they’d send as a complimentary gift?

“Please share your name and address to receive your complimentary gift and any information you requested.”

I asked the guy, “What’s the complimentary gift you were trying to deliver?”

He said, “The complimentary gift is a brochure.”

Er, right.

 

File this under “Things no one tells you about aging.” (Mortuary letter WTF.)

Have you ever received a survey asking whether you’ve made your final arrangements? If you’re 50+, you probably have, because evidently you’re ripe for the picking.

I’m turning 50 this year, and I’m now being solicited by mortuaries (in a letter sent by an umbrella mortuary corporation) whose promotional mailing wants to know all kinds of intimate details about my death plans.

My jaw dropped in disbelief and amusement last week when I opened the mail addressed to me (not to Callaghan, who’s 14 months younger) and read this letter and survey asking the following questions:

  • Have you already arranged for a funeral in advance? If no, would you like more information?
  • Are you aware that you can lock in your costs at today’s prices by arranging for a funeral in advance, no matter how many years it is between commitment and use?
  • In the event of your death, who is responsible for making your final arrangements?
  • Are your loved ones aware of your preference in funeral arrangements? If yes, have you provided detailed written instructions to them about your arrangements?
  • Have you already purchased a cemetery plot? If no, would you like more information?

I have a question for them: Really?

First of all, if you’re struggling with depression, it is – at the least – darkly hilarious to receive a mortuary corporation’s sales pitch. It’s not every day Callaghan walks into the kitchen and finds me laughing over a random piece of junk mail. 

At the worst, this sort of mail could be awful should it reach a person at the wrong time, during the wrong circumstances, depression or otherwise.

Secondly? Everything.

But it gets better. Beneath the survey, the letter says, “Please share your name and address to receive your complimentary gift and any information you requested.”

I’m tempted to send in the survey just for that, because I would LOVE to see what a “complimentary gift” from a mortuary would be. In fact, I think I will. Seriously.

We’re all on their list, my friends. THEY are waiting for us to reach their target demographic. They’ve decided that 50 (49.5!) puts you in the shadow of death’s door. These mortuary corporations have your birth dates, names, and addresses, and they’re waiting.  

So here we are with my minor gripe: AARP forgot all about me, but the mortuary people did not… and they’ve wasted no time in attempting to sell me their wares.

I want DISCOUNTS, not a cemetery plot.

“The Beast in the Belly.” (My favorite medical mystery.)

Have you ever read an essay or a magazine article that’s stayed with you?

24 years ago, a surgeon in New Haven, CT wrote a narrative essay about one of his patients, a young woman whose mysterious ailment led him to investigate a medical condition the likes of which he’d never seen before. His essay appeared as an article in the February 1995 issue of Discover Magazine, which I found lying on a table somewhere – probably in an office at ASU, as I was in college at the time.

I opened the magazine to the most interesting and horrifying medical story I’ve ever read. I say this without a shred of hyperbole.

Real-life mysteries fascinate me.

I’ve never forgotten this particular medical mystery; I’ve sought out the article several times in the 20+ years since. It’s the only magazine article I’ve wanted to re-read over and over, and it’s the only article whose title I’ve never forgotten. Granted, its title is somewhat sensational: “The Beast in the Belly.” Sensational, yet apt.

The first time I wanted to revisit the article, I had to go to the media library in the campus’ main library’s basement to hunt through the archived magazines. I Xerox’d the article so I wouldn’t have to repeat the effort in the future. I re-read the article several times over the passing years, and I also shared it with friends and family, like you do when your fascination borders on obsession. At some point, I lost my copy of the article, but by then we were far enough into the Digital Age that I was able to find the article online. (I remember how amazed I was at the idea of someone putting archived magazine articles on the internet!)

Perhaps the medical mystery in question may not be as much of a mystery today as it was 20+ years ago. It’d been mysterious enough back then, though, that this surgeon encountered it for the first time and learned about it as he frantically worked with a team to save the young woman’s life (which they did). Even if the ailment is less of a mystery now, it’s still rare in western countries, I believe.

The ailment is not common in western countries, and that is why this surgeon and his medical team in New Haven didn’t know what they were dealing with when this patient landed on their table with her guts rapidly necrotizing.

I’ll now leave you to read this essay – “The Beast in the Belly” – for yourselves, if you’re so inclined. (I spent the morning at the hospital, and this story occupied my thoughts while I was there, in case you were wondering why the medical mystery came back to mind this time.)

Grab the beverage of your choice and enjoy!

 

When historical energy lingers. (Story-time!)

I don’t usually come at you with far-out stories, but I read something interesting the other day, and I had to share it. It’s kind of a weird story:

The first night Callaghan and I spent in this house, we both dreamed about Nazis.

We were both in each other’s dream, and our dreams were similarly, unusually detailed and eventful, marked by a sense of vivid awareness. “It was so real” – that kind of dream awareness.

Within minutes of waking up, we told each other what we’d dreamed. We woke up and said, “I dreamed about Nazis,” and then found out that the other one did, too, and not only that, but we were in each other’s dream, and the story-lines of our dreams overlapped.

Of course, we were kind of creeped-out to learn that we’d basically had the same dream. About Nazis.

In Callaghan’s dream, he and I were with a hundred other people engaged in some sort of battle at a Bavarian castle, and only 10 of us made it out alive. The Nazis, he said, were turning into actual demons.

My dream picked up where his left off, but it branched into another direction: the two of us were running through a horror camp outside of the castle, trying to find a way out, except we were already on the outside, and we were trying to find a way in.

Totally over-the-top, right? As in, the brain takes something random yet specific and drops it into LSD before releasing it into your dreams… that kind of over-the-top.

Totally over-the-top, totally out-of-the-blue. It wasn’t like we’d recently seen a movie or anything on T.V. about WWII, either.

So what could have caused us to both dream about Nazis? And why on our first night in this house – and only then?

Maybe, we speculated, a Nazi lived in this house at some point. The house was built in 1958; it was possible, though unlikely, we thought, that a German war criminal lived here in Tempe, Arizona.

This brings me to the weird part: The other day, I stumbled upon this bit of trivia on the “interesting facts” page of “things to do in Arizona” (last bullet point):

The largest escape from a U.S. Prisoner of War camp during WWII occurred in the Phoenix area at Papago Park POW camp. 25 German prisoners escaped.

Papago Park is a five-minute drive from our house.

Our house was built in 1958, 13 years after the war, but being in the vicinity of the POW camp, we’re thinking it is possible that a Nazi or two (or 25) made their way across this land. We’re thinking that it’s maybe more than likely, because we did both dream about Nazis the first night we spent in this house.

It’s just too uncanny. It seems to me that we picked up on some sort of residual historical energy that first night here.

[/storytime]

Anyway, apropos of nothing, here’s a gratuitous selfie I took for no reason at all except that I was outside (yesterday) and felt like taking pics:

 

(07 Feb selfie for no reason at all)

 

If you will, please admire that gorgeous fence behind me (on the left side of the pic), as Callaghan has worked hard building it! He just finished it. This weekend is going to be all about building a kick-ass tortoise burrow. I ordered two tons of dirt to be delivered tomorrow. Exciting times!

Phoenix Forgotten. (Failed non-review movie review!) (+PTSD diagnosis story)

We went to watch Phoenix Forgotten, which brought back the year of 1997.

As I sat there, it occurred to me for the first time that the beginning of my PTSD coincided with the Phoenix Lights.

[NOTE: The link function to open the linked page in a new window is down at the moment, so you’ll have to back-arrow to get back here]

 

 

Probably many of us living here in Phoenix metro in 1997 remember the lights that moved over the Valley in March. For me, 1997 was also eventful because it involved numerous doctors throughout the year. 1997 was the year I was diagnosed with PTSD. Yes – six years post-main event.

I wasn’t in school in 1997. I was taking a year off, the year after college and before grad school. There were only two things on my agenda for 1997: write poems and train for my black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I was also working.

So I was doing all of that, just minding my own business, like you do, and then, one night, I went to bed feeling sick to my stomach. As soon as I closed my eyes, my heart jumped in and crashed the party, like, Hey! I’m here too! Whheeeeeee! Cannonball!!!… and I couldn’t breathe, and I thought I was going to die of a cardiac event.

Then I was waking up. It was morning. What the hell just happened?

It happened again the next night, and the next and the next. It got to a point where I was too gun-shy to go bed. Going to bed had become a horrifying prospect, so every night, I put it off until I was passing-out tired. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the doctor sooner.

Eventually, I did go to the doctor, because I had an episode that was different than the others, and that was the proverbial last straw.

In that episode, I was trapped in another dimension and I was going to die for sure. Somewhere between awake and sleep, something happened. If I was completely asleep, it would’ve been a nightmare. Whatever this was, it was psychedelic and real, like, 3D real… and that was on top of the physical Armageddon that was my new normal. After I survived that night, I finally went to the doctor.

*****

1997 became a year of medical mystery. I went back and forth between different internists and specialists, cardiology and gastroenterology and cardiology again, everyone referring me to everyone else. I was deemed healthy – good news! – but I was still having these ridiculous episodes.

Then my baffled first internist started asking me questions about my background. When it came out that I was a combat vet, she referred me to a shrink. The shrink explained that panic attacks mimic heart conditions and other physical issues, which was why no one thought of the PTSD possibility.

He explained that the first episode was a panic attack. After it recurred nightly for a period of time, it became a panic disorder (PTSD, in my case). And the next-level attacks, he said, were “night terrors.”

Why did it take so long for the PTSD to manifest? He said it wasn’t unusual for vets to come home fine and then experience a trigger years later. The trigger could be anything, he said. So what was my trigger? We’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter.

All we know is that my PTSD was triggered by something in the spring of 1997. Coincidentally, I’m sure, the Phoenix Lights also happened in the spring of 1997.

*****

I sat in the movie theater remembering and pondering all of this, and that is how my non-review movie review became a post about my PTSD diagnosis.

I can’t be objective about this movie, but I can say that in my opinion, it wasn’t bad.

Phoenix Forgotten begins on a robust note, then bleeds out into the Found Footage horror movie sub-genre. In my experience, Found Footage movies made after the first Blair Witch Project are doomed to the basement where Bad Horror Flicks live. I often really enjoy Bad Horror Flicks, but I can’t even say whether this movie was bad enough to qualify as that bad.

If you’re intrigued by the Phoenix Lights and/or you’re a fan of Found Footage horror movies, you may dig this one.

 

 

A little levity, literally. (Height doesn’t work that way!)

If we’re friends on Facebook, you might already know that I went to the doctor recently and found out that I’d lost over an inch in height. Almost two inches, actually.

My whole worldview was shattered.

I’d gone to my mid-day appointment and stepped onto the height-measuring apparatus without thinking about it, because I had no reason to. There was no suspense. My height’s never changed: I’m 65 inches tall. That’s 5′,5″.

But the guy in the blue scrubs said, “Looks like you’re 5′,3″ and just about…” He looked closer at the number lines. “A quarter.”

I shook my head in surprise. “No, I’m 5′,5″.”

“Sorry. It says 5′,3” and a maybe a quarter.”

“There must be something wrong with it,” I said, referring to the apparatus. “I’ve always been 5′,5″.”

He chuckled. “Okay. Here… let’s try it one more time.”

I stepped onto the apparatus again (is there a name for that thing?) and stood as tall as I could.

“Five three and a quarter,” he said. “For sure.”

I thought, This is fake news. 

“Everyone loses height as they age, I’m afraid,” he said, still grinning and chuckling.

I stalked after him to the examination room. His cheerfulness was out of line. It could be that his height-measuring apparatus needed to be recalibrated, but he wasn’t questioning it!

I thought, how could I lose almost two inches?  I was measured at the V.A. – where I usually go – just weeks ago, and their result was the same as always: 65 inches. 5′,5″.

It wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it was wrong.

Later, a friend told me on Facebook that most people tend to measure, on average, half an inch shorter during the day, then spring back to their normal height overnight while they sleep. My appointment had been in the middle of the day, so I thought, that could be it. But still! Almost two inches?

I asked Callaghan to measure me first thing the morning. The result was exactly 65 inches, as it should be. Ha! Then he measured me again in the afternoon, and GUESS WHAT. Still 65 inches. Ha! Ha! Not only am I 65 inches tall, but I’m 65 inches tall all day. My driver’s license is still correct: 5′-05″.

 

65 inches.

 

“His apparatus does need to be recalibrated,” I said to Callaghan. I was annoyed. “The guy was totally condescending. He didn’t even consider that his equipment might be faulty. He probably just thought, ‘She’s old, so she’s shrinking, and I’m young, and I’m wearing blue scrubs, so I’m right, and I’m not going to listen to her, ha ha ha’.”

How would this be characterized in the parlance of our times? Did he mansplain my own height to me, or did he youngsplain it? (If he -splained anything by way of not questioning the apparatus.)

“It’s true, two inches is too big of a difference, especially all at once. It doesn’t matter anyway, though,” Callaghan said. “He’s going to die of a moltnoma!!”

“What’s a moltnoma?”

“I can’t believe you still don’t know what a moltnoma is. Over the last seven years you’ve asked me five times what is a moltnoma, and you never remember it when I say that someone will die of it.”

“I don’t know why I can’t remember it. So what is a moltnoma?”

“It’s a county in Portland, Oregon.”

Typical Callaghan.

“…when I was working in California, we worked with this person who lived in Portland,” he explained. “And then I learned that the county was “moltnoma.” That’s where Portland is.”

I was already cracking up when he concluded, “So I was like, it sounds like a disease like “melanoma” so now I just say that someone will die of a moltnoma as a general cause of death.”

I looked it up. “Multnomah County.” Cool.

Anyway, I’m going back to that doctor on Wednesday, and I’m going to inform the guy in the blue scrubs that his machine is off. People probably do shrink a little over time as they age, but I’m not there yet, and I’m probably not going to lose almost two inches all at once, either. Ha.

Callaghan is designing clowns and I don’t know what to do.

Heading into off-season at the amusement parks, Callaghan’s evenings of late have been filled with lots of freelance work. He hung onto a few of his European amusement park clients when he accepted his position as a motorcycle designer, because why not? It’s feast or famine in that industry. He’d only be swamped a few months out of the year.

Now that American Halloween hype has started to gain traction in France, French theme parks want a piece of it in a more major way. So they’ve asked Callaghan to design some clown attractions… because you can’t have spooky, ooky Halloween décor without clowns, of course. If there’s one thing the French have picked up on in their Halloween education, it’s that clowns are essential elements of the fear factor.

Even better, some of this Halloween-inspired design will remain a permanent fixture, so visitors can enjoy the park’s creepy side no matter when they go. Here’s Callaghan’s first design, a rough draft of a horror fun-house-type attraction (with mirrors inside):

 

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

Clown mirror house of horror (original design by Callaghan)

 

You have to have clowns with wide open mouths as entrances, you know.

And there will be more. Oh yes. I’m already imagining waking up at night, shuffling into the kitchen for a glass of water, and noticing a dim screen-light casting vague shadows on the wall. I see that it’s coming from Callaghan’s office. I go in and find that his computer has turned itself on. The clown file is displayed, and it’s flickering.

Thanks, Parc St. Paul. And Festyland (You mean FESTY THE CLOWN-land, I said to Callaghan when he told me the park’s name), and thank you, Parc du Bocasse.

Here’s a draft of his Parc du Bocasse poster, featuring the bee mascot he’s been creating for years:

 

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

Buzzy (the bee) the Vampire (original art by Callaghan)

 

He loved my idea of designing a vampire version of the bee. Buzzy the Vampire is made of awesome because Callaghan’s art is kick-ass. It’s great no matter the subject. Even clowns.

Let’s resist talking about each other just for one minute.

Overheard in line at the V.A. pharmacy the other day (for real, not metaphor):

Man’s voice: She looks too healthy and young to be here.

Woman’s voice (sounding snide): She’s probably just picking up for someone else.

I thought: They’re so close, and so loud. They can’t be talking about me…?

[::looks behind::]

[::sees no one but the two people making the remarks::]

And I realized that it really does suck to be talked about literally behind your back within close earshot, regardless of what the people are saying. I would have preferred that they address me directly, if they were so curious. I wouldn’t find that to be rude in the slightest.

When I turned to look at them, they were staring at me. I stared back. The woman’s eyes were cold. In fact, she was glaring. Like I didn’t have the right to be there.

Then the man said, to my face this time, that I looked too healthy to be picking up meds for myself at the V.A. pharmacy.

To which I replied, actually, yes, I’m picking up for myself. (I held up my veteran’s I.D. card, which I had in my hand. It’s required to pick up meds.)

Yes, I’m a card-carrying vet. You don’t believe me? Look. Holding up my I.D. as if I was a cop pulling someone over.

The man said, Whoa! You don’t say!!

A brief conversation about my combat service in the 1990-1991 Gulf War ensued before the pharmacist called my name.

NOTE: I was not offended. I was annoyed that I felt like I had to justify my presence there.

No one should feel that they have to validate their illness to strangers in line at the pharmacy.

No one should have to owe anyone an explanation to correct a record made because of an appearance-based judgment.

No one is safe from scrutiny.

It happens that “too healthy and young” are not hurtful words. I know that. But it was still a judgment based on appearance, and it was dismissive. It carried the insinuation that I was trespassing on sacred ground that belonged to others. Context is important. If you’re in line because you were ambushed during a ground war, it sucks to be dismissed because of how you look.

More often than not, though, people hear outright mean things when they overhear someone talking about them. People say hurtful things about others without caring. I’ve witnessed this kind of assholery; it’s awful.

The thing is, we’re constantly making judgments about others based on appearance. If that’s unavoidable because “it’s human nature”? At least don’t be an asshole.

 

lifecoach

 

When I had active Sjogren’s Syndrome, people actually did say to me, “But you don’t look sick!”

When someone found out that I have Hashimoto’s – autoimmune hypothyroidism – they actually said, “OH but you don’t LOOK like you have underactive thyroid disease.” (This has happened more than once.)

You’ve heard it all before. Invisible illness, blah, blah, blah.

Appearance: young/healthy = CAN’T BE A VET

Appearance: healthy = MUST BE HEALTHY

Appearance: heavier than average = MUST BE A LAZY OVER-EATER WITH NO SELF-CONTROL

Appearance: thinner than average = MUST HAVE AN EATING DISORDER OR A METH ADDICTION

Appearance: not white = MUST BE (insert stereotype associated with the applicable ethnicity)

Appearance: a cop = MUST BE A RACIST, BLOOD-THIRSTY PSYCHOPATH

Appearance: tattoos/piercings/other body modifications = MUST BE A DEGENERATE

Appearance: clean-cut = MUST BE AN UPSTANDING CITIZEN

Et cetera, ad nauseum. And we’re often wrong. We can get in trouble because of it. Remember Ted Bundy?

Most of us hear “Don’t judge a book by its cover” from the time we’re old enough to write a sentence. We know better, and yet we still do it! We are fallible human beings, all of us, by nature. In my opinion, since we’re born with the propensity to f*ck things up, we can at least try to be kind, decent, and respectful human beings.

(I’m sorry to come back to you with another ranty post. I prefer being positive here, but sometimes, there are things I need to say.)

Thank you for reading, as always!

Doesn’t that taste like cardboard? (and other questions about food)

[Not a metaphor this time!] The following strange thing happened at Target on Saturday.

I was reaching for a box of energy bars next to a Target employee who was with his product cart. He was stocking the shelves and chatting with an older woman (customer) who was standing off to the side.

Me: *takes a box of energy bars off the shelf*

Employee: Don’t those things taste like cardboard?

Me: No, not to me.

Employee: But I bet they do to your husband.

Me: Actually, he likes them, too.

Employee: Really.

I ignored his sarcasm and turned to leave, but I stopped, because I couldn’t bite my tongue harder without severing it.

Me: There’s this misconception that healthy things taste like cardboard.

Employee: *pauses, then points at the price tag on the shelf* Well you sure PAY for them, though.

Me: *walks away, not looking at him* WORTH IT.

I used this exact rhythm and tone:

 

 

…because I thought walking off singing “worth it” in a Men On inspired delivery was taking the high road.

It so happened that the energy bars I got weren’t even expensive. A box of Lucky Charms costs more.

Also, mister Target employee man,

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-EatingHealthy

 

Ahem. My thoughts:

  • [Just curious: How did he know I was married? Callaghan wasn’t there, and I wasn’t wearing my ring.]
  • It’s the woman who’s buying and eating healthy things.
  • Since the woman is the harpy who buys the healthy things (aka “rabbit food”), her hapless boyfriend/husband is forced to eat them, too. Real men eat meat, so this is tantamount to castration.
  • All such energy bars are healthy, so they all taste like cardboard… because everything healthy tastes like cardboard, or is otherwise disgusting.
  • (Newsflash: there’s a difference between healthy and nutrient dense; not everything is both.)
  • “Healthy” foods are gross, and “unhealthy” foods are delicious.
  • “Healthy” foods are expensive.
  • Must broadcast ignorant opinions about products at the store where you work.
  • Must make a negative comment about a product a customer is buying.
  • Must try again with a second negative comment about the product when the customer contradicts the first one.
  • Must make a negative comment to a customer in the presence of another customer.
  • Must make a negative comment to a customer, regardless.
  • Rude.

To be clear, I wasn’t offended by his commentary. There was just a lot of stereotype, misconception, and unprofessional manner packed into that short exchange, and it surprised me.

So, yeah. In 2016, there are still folks who think that if ONE healthy food tastes, to them, like cardboard, then ALL healthy foods must be distasteful in one way or another. Never mind that there are plenty of “unhealthy” foods that are gross to a lot of people. Not to mention, most “healthy” food now is the bomb.

Dear Target Employee: The 1970s called. They want their Four Food Groups chart back. And their “party fare” Crusty Salmon Shortcakes. Party food can’t be healthy, ergo, it’s tasty!

 

It's a party in your mouth!

It’s a party in your mouth!

 

Because why pair your tower of sweet biscuit-cakes with strawberries, cream, and strawberry syrup with whipped cream on top when you can have SALMON! YAY!

In the war against this health craze (responsible for the proliferation of over-hyped, newfangled healthy food), gloppy salmon chunks dumped over cake with olives on top will prevail. At least this example of “party food” from the dark ages doesn’t involve crimes against Jell-O, as many of them did. I was there. I remember. NEVER FORGET.

Mom never foisted this particular monstrosity on us, but I remember foods like this glistening on other people’s tables at gatherings:

 

Nothing says "festive" like lime Jell-O mixed with vinegar, onion, cottage cheese, and mayo, with a pile of mystery seafood nested in the middle.

Nothing says “festive” like lime Jell-O mixed with vinegar, onion, cottage cheese, and mayo, with a pile of mystery seafood nested in the middle.

 

This is why we older Gen-X’ers are all in therapy now.

P.S. By the way, mister Target employee man, it might be a good strategy to encourage customers to buy things. Just a suggestion.

I’m off to fix a plate of cardboard for Callaghan. It’s what’s for breakfast.

Roach milk latte, anyone?

A few weeks ago I was innocently scrolling through my Twitter feed when my eyes were assaulted by a news headline announcing that cockroach milk has superfood potential.

When I told Callaghan on the phone, he said, “You need to stop reading stuff.”

To which I replied: “I need to get off of Twitter.”

I rely on Twitter to bring me breaking news the minute it hits the ozone. I follow two local channels and one national channel and therefore I’m up to date on ALL of the news. But just because you CAN know all the news, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD.

You’ve probably already heard about this cockroach milk thing. I myself may (or may not) have jumped onto Facebook that same day to air my angst. I don’t really remember. I could feel the panic attack igniting in my chest cavity and burning away at my rib cage like fire licking at a paper scrap, blackening the edges and curling them inward before culminating in a flame of victory that extinguished itself to leave a trail of smoke and a sad smudge of ash where the paper used to be.

In other words, I felt like I was having a heart attack and I couldn’t breathe. I was practically hyperventilating on the phone with Callaghan.

It’s about time to do something about this ridiculous roach phobia. (“Katsaridaphobia,” apparently.)

Anyway. In case you haven’t heard, it’s been discovered that a certain roach produces milk that might be the elixir of life. And here I thought that would be grapefruit juice.

Let’s break down this article (from http://www.livestrong.com/article/1012179-roach-milk-next-superfood/) and my thoughts as I read it.

Got (roach) milk? A team of scientists do, and they’re developing it for possible human consumption.

WHY.

Researchers from the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore, India, have been analyzing the “milk” produced by the Pacific beetle cockroach (Diploptera punctata).

Trying to make it sound less horrifying by calling the roach by its flowery Latin name. Diploptera punctata. The string of syllables might sound melodic when you say it out loud, but the second word seems kind of… suggestive, doesn’t it? They’re not fooling me. A roach is a roach is a roach.

Their goal: to create roach-milk-derived protein supplements that can feed the world’s exploding population.

Protein supplements.

Also, what was going on with the person who gazed upon an oily-looking, long-antennae’d, winged demon and mused, “What if I were to crack it open and lick up its roachy milk?”

And who do these lunatics think they are, anyway, thinking about feeding starving people in the world?

Grossed out? We are, too, but there’s a method to their madness.

I don’t care to know the method, thank you.

While researching for this masochistic blog post, I came across a few articles in which it was proposed that roach milk could be used in protein shakes. Never have I been so relieved to be vegan.

The researchers found that the milk protein crystals from Pacific beetle cockroaches contain four times the nutritional value of cow’s milk. These crystals slowly release proteins, fats, sugars and essential amino acids overtime, which can help maintain steady energy levels.

I know another thing that releases a badass energy source slowly over time. It’s called Superstarch; we often blend the chocolate one with peanut butter and half a banana. Voilà… slow-releasing energy with protein, healthy fat, and sugar from the banana. Roach milk unnecessary.

The scientists won’t be corralling cockroaches like farmers do cows, however.

Oh, right! They want the roach milk, but they don’t want to do the dirty work and corral the roaches.

They’ve envisioned a roach milking future that’s far more high-tech: using biotechnology to sequence the genes and reproduce the milk in a lab setting.

AH HA. Unlike cows, God didn’t bestow upon roaches a languid demeanor, adorable sound effects, trendy color patterns, and big, sweet, fluttery eyes. Roaches are therefore exempt from the horrors of factory farming. Only cute animals get to experience terror, pain, and suffering when being used for food! ROACHES ARE SPECIAL SO LET’S LET THEM LIVE PEACEFULLY. God forbid we use biotechnology to reproduce other animals’ milk in labs.

Their findings are found in the International Union of Crystallography Journal.

There’s a whole society of experts here throwing a roach party to celebrate the premiere of this nightmare.

Roach milk. If this milkshake brings boys to the yard, I’ll be like, WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE.

I couldn’t bring myself to search for roach pics to accompany this post, so here, have some baby bunnies. Baby bunnies are the opposite of roaches, as everyone knows.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Lapinou2

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Lapinou

 

[/rant]

 

I sleep-ninja. (I have somnambulninja.) (Also, sleep and other unfair advantages.)

The quality of my sleep has improved a lot in the last three weeks. I even slept through my alarm one day. It happened on a Sunday, still the only day of the week I sleep in until 8:30.

My body sensed the height of the sun and the lateness of the morning. Panic brewed before I opened my eyes. It was 9:30. “What happened to my alarm?” I asked Callaghan. “I set it for 8:30!”

“You asked me to turn it off, so I did,” Callaghan said.

Sure.

I use the alarm on my phone, which I keep next to my side of the bed at night. I’ve never failed to wake up and turn it off. I’ve certainly never asked him to turn it off for me.

“You were awake and we talked for a little while,” he continued. “Then you went back to sleep.”

“I don’t understand… how could I have done that without remembering…”

“But you did.”

“Really?”

He looked at me for a second. Then he changed his story:

“You woke up. You beat me up. You disappeared!” he claimed. “You don’t remember?”

And that would be why we don’t own a gun.

“I disappeared?” I wasn’t about to voice the morbid sarcasm that popped into my head. I was going to pursue the intriguing part of his claim: that I disappeared.

“Yes. You disappeared. You beat me up and then you disappeared.”

I thought about it for a second.

 

My ninja t-shirt. "Today's Lesson: Division"

My ninja t-shirt. “Today’s Lesson: Division”

 

“I sleep-ninja’d,” I said. “A sleep-walker is a somnambulist… I’m a somnambulninja.”

“I guess.”

“What other ninja things have I done in my sleep?” I was pleased with my epiphany.

“You texted that one girl and plotted something. I don’t remember what because I was asleep, too, and you sleep-deleted it. But it was sinister.”

“It wasn’t supposed to be you,” I broke in, still thinking about his claim. “I mean, if I was going to beat anyone up, it wouldn’t be you. But I wouldn’t beat anyone up at all unless it was in self-defense. Anything other than that wouldn’t be necessary.”

“Why not?”

“Because what comes around, goes around. If someone does me wrong, I wouldn’t worry about it, because they’d get theirs eventually. I wouldn’t have to do a thing.”

And that reminded me of the folk song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”… specifically, Johnny Cash’s cover. Have you seen the video?

 

 

Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin’ in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down

Not sure how I digressed into the laws of moral causation when this was just to mention that I’ve been sleeping well. Sleep is good. It’s good for the sleeper, and it’s good for people who want to claim that you said and did things while you were sleeping. Excuse me while I disappear.

Lopsided eyes and mild panic: A cautionary tale.

Life changes and I’m back to a routine of walking to work every morning. I’m loving the extra little workout every day! I also walk home three days a week. The big change in the equation is that on the other two days, I take the bus home so I can get there fast, change my clothes, and drive to Mesa for Body Combat. Why? Callaghan now works on-site full-time, and the site happens to be in BFE (very far away, in case you didn’t know the acronym). This necessitates me taking myself to the gym. Which is fine. As long as I can get there!

(The adjustment to Callaghan’s new schedule and location has been a learn-as-we-go process in many ways. Our lives are very different now. And on Monday, I did NOT make it to the gym, because I literally had no way to get there. That was the last time that was going to happen!)

On Wednesday, I got to the bus stop early and wondered what to do with the spare 15 minutes. People-watching opportunities were oddly nonexistent at University and Mill. What else is there to do while waiting? Take a selfie. Or twenty.

I don’t take selfies very often. It doesn’t occur to me because I’m always looking for interesting, stationary subjects to photograph, or I’m stalking my cats with the camera. There was nothing of interest from my vantage point at the bus stop, and my cats were selfishly sitting at home, so I thought it would be amusing to capture a rare moment of myself being bored in an unusual place.

All that happened in the end was I freaked myself out, though. A little bit. Just a little.

The selfies I took showed my eyes looking lopsided. They were mismatched. One eye looked larger and different than the other. This alarmed me because I thought I remembered reading somewhere that psychopaths often have in common a noticeable difference between their eyes. While no one’s features are perfectly symmetrical, the eyes of a mentally unstable person can be very obviously unlike each other. (I know I read this somewhere, but now I can’t find anything about it, of course.)

Thing is, I do live with mental illness in the form of clinical depression and PTSD, but I never thought I looked mentally ill. The selfies suddenly made me feel paranoid. Then I became paranoid about being paranoid, and that made me feel crazier. I wondered if my mental health situation was really what I thought it was, only. And very quickly, the whole thought process took off on a continuous, self-perpetuating loop inside my brain.

To stop the merciless cycle, I deleted all of the selfies.

I went about the rest of the evening not thinking about it. I went home, went to the gym, and went out to dinner with Callaghan, and I didn’t think about it at all.

Later that night, I went to remove my make-up and saw that my eyeliner was thicker under one eye than the other, and the two lines didn’t match in shape. All along, it was my eyeliner that didn’t match! That would do it. Eyeliner can change your face dramatically. Of course the eye with more liner would look larger, and the two eyes would look different with different liner shapes!

I looked like that before I went and sweated at the gym, so I’d gone around at work with lopsided eyes. How fun.

Either I was in too much of a hurry when I was getting ready that morning, or the eyeliner wore off unevenly during the day. The result was the same, though: I looked like a Picasso painting at work, and I almost drove myself crazy wondering if I was crazier than I actually am.

Yesterday morning, I took extra care with my eyeliner. In the afternoon, I took a selfie in my office:

 

(February 18, 2016)

(February 18, 2016)

 

I came out looking more normal, though the left eye still had slightly more liner than the right. Probably only I would notice it, now that I’m hyper-aware of the thickness and shape of my eyeliner. I may have to just set the camera down and back slowly away. It’s hard to get the two eyes to look exactly the same, and I only allow myself 15 minutes to do my make-up before going to work. It is what it is.

The lighting was surprisingly flattering, too, though. Also, it was a rare day that I put on e.l.f. primer under my foundation. I think I like it, after all.

And Callaghan loves his new job!

Body Combat in da club.

We were thankful that we could fit two Body Combat classes into our schedule while we were in France last week. We went on Sunday and on Wednesday.

As I may have mentioned before, our friend Chantal’s gym, FitLane, is like the 24 Hour Fitness or LA Fitness of the French Riviera in that it’s a popular gym with multiple locations. Last time we were there, we did Body Combat at one of the Cannes locations. This time, we did one each at two locations in Villeneuve-Loubet.

I wasn’t planning to write about it, but guys. I would be doing you a great disservice in keeping this experience to myself, because should you ever find yourselves in the south of France and you decide to jump into a Body Combat class, you need to know in advance in case you land at this particular location in Villeneuve-Loubet. (I emphasize that because the other Villeneuve-Loubet location had been pretty standard.)

Wednesday evening last week, for the second time in a week, I entered the Twilight Zone.

Just when you thought that deserted hospital in Antibes was strange enough…

 

"WELCOME TO BODY COMBAT. No, we are NOT turning on the lights."

“WELCOME TO BODY COMBAT. No, we are NOT turning on the lights.”

 

The Body Combat room was blacked-out dark except for thousands of tiny, colorful lights moving frenetically all over the floor, in the air and on the walls.

 

Body Combat IN DA CLUB.

Body Combat IN DA CLUB.

 

JUST LOOK AT THIS.

Needless to say, this is not a Power Ranger-friendly Body Combat situation.

I might have asked for confirmation that I was in the right place had the room not been outfitted with this handy tell-tale stage for the instructor:

 

Body Combat up next, bitches

Body Combat up next, bitches

 

…and if Chantal hadn’t been standing there going, “See, I told you!” (Love you girl!)

Chantal had tried to warn me beforehand. I just didn’t get it until I saw it. Even then, I couldn’t believe it. When I looked into the room, I turned to Chantal as I thought, For sure they’re going to turn on some kind of light when class starts?

Chantal was laughing.

Callaghan was also laughing, sitting comfortably at his little table outside of the room. He was not participating in the class. He was laughing at my pain.

I entered the room with Chantal and stood still, holding the side of my head against the instant dizziness as I tried to make sense of my surroundings in the dark. I’m night-blind without glasses, so it was just a frenzy of wildly moving dots of colored lights, the room awash with chaos over its inky nonexistence.

“Don’t look at the floor,” Chantal advised. “That’s the only way I can do it.”

Of course I looked down. The floor was a bottomless black sea alive with ethereal, multi-colored, round flying fishes.

I held onto hope, still incredulous that the instructor would teach in such darkness and confusion. The room was a spinning disco ball in outer space. I couldn’t stand still without my head swaying inside my skull. I’m supposed to orient and balance myself in this HOW?

The only mirror at the front of the room was about 15 feet away from the front row, tucked in a dark corner next to and behind the stage. I use my reflection as a tool in Body Combat, and I stand in the front row so I can see it clearly. In this room, I might as well have been looking at a black wall.

“This is why I usually don’t come to this location,” Chantal said as I quietly went to work on my mental game.

Because it was a mental game. The challenges here were dramatic; I had to turn the circumstances to my advantage. What if I ever have to use my skills on the street at night? It would be dark, and the darkness might include random, flashing lights or some other kind of sensory chaos. In the darkness, I started to see how this change of training environment could work in my favor. This was good. It was certainly better than dwelling on how the room looked like an 80’s nightclub hooked up and procreated with the blackbox theatre/iStage we have at work.

I enjoy a good challenge. I made it through the class without falling over or throwing up, and I got in an amazing workout! For some reason, I worked harder than usual in that environment of simultaneous sensory deprivation and overload. Rawr.

L’Hôpital d’Antibes – Silent Hill (with a touch of American Horror Story: Asylum).

Back in Arizona as of last night!  This morning, I woke up after sleeping for 3 hours out of the last 31. It always takes my body a few days to resolve east to west jet-lag across 8 time zones. Luckily, the weekend starts tomorrow.

So, France. We had a good visit with everyone despite the somber circumstances. In an extension of “funerals bring people together,” I got to meet several of Callaghan’s cousins from his Mom’s side, even though Papy was his father’s father.

One of the cousins had her baby the day of the service. The next day, I went with Callaghan, his sister, and his mother to visit her at the hospital in Antibes.

Little did I know.

Walking into the hospital, I had no reason to suspect that the place wouldn’t resemble any other hospital, medical clinic, or urgent care center. You know what I mean… a place brightly lit and charged with the hectic energy of people working and visiting, information desks and nurses’ stations, and the background noise of beeping, clicking, and clanging sounds… machines, doors opening and closing, patients shuffling down the hall with their I.V. poles, people talking, phones ringing, alarms, voices over the announcement system… normal hospital sights and sounds.

Even the quieter hospital areas feature sounds and human activity of some kind.

Naturally, I was taken aback when I found myself in a hospital that resembled the abandoned hospital in the horror video game Silent Hill. 

First, the interior of the hospital opened to a vast, cold emptiness.

 

Hospital lobby/foot traffic area... ?

Hospital lobby/foot-traffic area… ?

 

Hello?

Hello?

 

It was so quiet, you could hear an ant yawning.

It was so quiet, you could hear an ant yawning.

 

It was surreal. So silent, and so very strange.

 

Another deserted hallway

Another deserted hallway

 

Where is everyone? Why is it so quiet? What’s wrong with this picture?

Let me explain about Silent Hill. I generally don’t play video games. Silent Hill was the exception years ago because when I looked over my then-boyfriend’s shoulder and saw that the game he was playing was a 3D survival-horror-type deal with an eerie atmosphere, it hooked me, of course. You know how I can’t resist the thrill of any kind of horror! Silent Hill sucked me in. Next thing I knew, I was up playing it in the dark in the dead of night, every night… because 2:00AM is the best time to maximize the game’s creeptastic effects.

The game’s intriguing narrative involved an old hospital in the abandoned town of Silent Hill.

I felt like I was in the game.

It was bizarre how the inside of Callaghan’s cousin’s room seemed normal, with the right people stationed in the right places – mother and newborn in the bed, baby daddy and visiting family members standing around – but when we left and walked back through the hospital and it was still unnaturally quiet, dimly lit, and devoid of human life, I found myself listening for the spooky static noise forewarning of approaching malevolent creatures.

 

Yet another deserted hallway

Yet another deserted hallway

 

There wasn’t even a nurses’ station in sight of the maternity ward! There was literally nothing and no one. A nurse did come into the room briefly while we were visiting, but where she came from was a mystery.

I found an evacuation plan posted on a wall in a (deserted) general area. Who was there to evacuate, exactly? At that point, everything about the hospital seemed sinister to me.

 

Hospital evacuation plan

Hospital evacuation plan

 

I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the hollow corridors on our way out. Callaghan and his sister jumped in to photo-bomb the pics.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-HospitalAntibes_interior6

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-HospitalAntibes_interior7

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-HospitalAntibes_interior8

 

(Maman joined in on the monster act, cracking up with the rest of us, but I’m not posting her pic because I know she wouldn’t be okay with it.)

Impressed with the interior’s resemblance to Silent Hill’s hospital, I rushed out to give the hospital’s exterior a good look as we headed back to the car, since I’d been oblivious going in.

I swear the only missing elements from the game were snow and monster birds swooping in to attack us.

Here’s the exterior:

 

Hospital in Antibes

Hospital in Antibes

 

And here’s the hospital in Silent Hill:

 

Hospital in Silent Hill

Hospital in Silent Hill

 

Right?!

In fact, the hospital in Silent Hill looks less creepy than this one in Antibes, on the outside, at least.

 

Hospital in Antibes

Hospital in Antibes

 

Hospital in Antibes

Hospital in Antibes

 

Hospital in Antibes

Hospital in Antibes

 

Seriously....

Seriously….

 

AND THEN. We passed a certain building, and suddenly the whole thing merged with American Horror Story: Asylum.

 

AHS: ASYLUM

AHS: ASYLUM

 

The picture was complete, but of course, Callaghan and his sister ran up to pose.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-HospitalAntibes_exterior6

 

At the end of the day, I can honestly say it was the weirdest hospital I’d ever seen.

Callaghan’s cousin and her baby were sweet, though.

Halloween Merriment (and the unexpected adventures of Callaghan’s butt)

Happy Halloween Eve!

Callaghan and I have been celebrating Halloween all week, wanting to make up for the fact that we’ll be apart on the actual holiday. He left yesterday for a 12-day business trip in France (Normandy)… so yes, the week-long celebration was necessary. Priorities.

Actually, we’ve been in Halloween celebration mode all month.

I have no Halloween plans for tomorrow. At first I wanted to go to SCARIZONA Scaregrounds with a friend, but then I chickened out re-thought that plan because they promise to prey on “every possible phobia,” and there’s no way I’m risking the possibility of roaches (real or not). I’m thinking roachaphobia is common enough that Scarizona masterminds would use it in the creation of their haunted house “experiences.” I’m a risk-taker in some ways, but not in the roach way. NOPE. Not going.

Instead, kitties and I will enjoy a quiet, spooky Halloween together.

 

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o'-lantern pumpkin.

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o’-lantern pumpkin.

 

I’m looking at 12 days of quality bonding time with Nounours and Nenette. But fear not – I am planning on some crazy shenanigans for the duration. As they say, the cat will play while the Callaghan’s away.

Here’s some of what’s about to go down:

  • Reading (All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr)
  • Writing (I round-filed both of my neglected big projects, but this new one is actually a starting-over of one of the discarded ones.)
  • Watching Netflix (Yes, I’ve returned to Netflix. What can I say.)
  • Playing with furbabies (Nenette will learn that I can be just as fun as Daddy when it comes to playing.)
  • Taking the bus (to work – this is new) and walking (home from work). I still refuse to pay for parking at work when we live so close.
  • Eating simply. (For the next 12 days, I’m basically going to live on salad, baked sweet potatoes, broccoli, brown rice, quinoa, hummus, peanut butter, bread, and fruit. Because these are foods I love, I’m lazy about cooking, and I don’t want to spend time thinking about it.)
  • Getting my hair cut. (YAY new hair, plus I get to see my girl Melanie!)

And, so as to not make too much of a ruckus up in here:

  • Updating/cleaning up some of this blog’s details, i.e. the About page, stuff in the sidebar, some of the links and tags and categories, etc., etc. Long overdue.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it captures the main agenda. You get the idea. It doesn’t take much to amuse me.

Case in point: I was too easily amused by this exchange with Callaghan yesterday morning when he was at the airport, texting to tell me about his pre-boarding adventures.

You know how a text conversation can get off-sync when you receive a message while you’re texting, so after you send the one you were writing, you immediately answer the new one that came in, and the messages accumulate out of order because the timing got messed up, plus you were talking about two different things at once, so now your phone displays a merging of replies on different subjects, and it either doesn’t make sense at all, or it just looks wrong?

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Callaghan-AirportScreenShot

 

This is what happens when you’re texting about airport security procedures and breakfast at the same time. It’s all fun and games until someone gets a scone up his butt. Of course, it had to be Callaghan.

How to cover a door window.

Plans for the ongoing renovation project at my workplace include new doors for the offices. The construction crew finished installing the doors last week. Now my heavy, dark, 70’s-ass door is history, and in its place hangs a sleek, pale, Scandinavianesque door, outfitted with… a huge, clear window.

Plus: The new door looks great!

Plus-Minus: The new door looks great, but it doesn’t block out sound when it’s closed. (In fact, it seems to amplify sound.)

Minus: Because of the big window, there’s no privacy when the door is closed.

Like when I close the door because I’m trying to concentrate on a project.

Or when I close the door because I’m taking a lunch break and wish to hide.

Or when I close the door because I’m changing my clothes after working out.

The window is so large, it’s almost like having a dutch door with the top half open all the time.

Understand, this really isn’t an issue. I love the new door in all of its contemporary splendor, and its downsides mostly don’t matter because I keep the door wide open at least 95% of the time.

 

Gorgeous new door all the way open in my office.

Gorgeous new door all the way open in my office.

 

When I do close it, though, it’s for a reason, right?

What the window does is it invites people to look in as they’re walking past. It actually draws the person’s attention toward the office interior, meaning at me because I’m right there in front of it. Invariably (human nature), I look up and make eye contact with the person. This sometimes leads to interaction, which defeats the purpose of closing the door.

It’s obvious that other people in my department share my concern, as some of them have already reclaimed their privacy by covering their door windows. One person covered his with blank white paper. Another covered hers with some kind of reflective material, like aluminum foil. This inspired me to create my own privacy, as well.

But what to use to cover my window?

In case you, too, find yourself in this predicament and ask yourself this very question, here are some privacy window-covering décor ideas from me, That Asian-Looking Martha Stewart:

 

Office as Velociraptor-occupied room outside of the kitchen in Jurassic Park.

Office as Velociraptor-occupied room outside of the kitchen in Jurassic Park.

 

Office as horse stable.

Office as horse stable.

 

Office as Nicolas Cage magnifier.

Office as Nicolas Cage magnifier.

 

 

Office as friendly aquarium.

Office as friendly aquarium.

 

Office as spooky haunted room.

Office as spooky haunted room.

 

Office as Oogie Boogie's lair in Nightmare Before Christmas.

Office as Oogie Boogie’s lair in Nightmare Before Christmas.

 

Office with Grumpy Cat "Do Not Disturb" sign.

Office with Grumpy Cat “Do Not Disturb” sign.

 

So many options for this huge window!

This being a tough decision, my door window will probably end up looking something like this:

 

Because you can't go wrong with black.

Because you can’t go wrong with black.

 

Onward!

I finished “Make Me” by Lee Child. (This is not a review.)

Lee Child’s latest Reacher novel, Make Me, delivered. The story is tight and the tension is high, and Reacher is his usual, taciturn self. Reacher “said nothing” about 20 times. I kept track of all the “nothing” that he said. It was deafening.

If last year’s Reacher novel left me disappointed at all, Make Me more than made up for it. Reacher gets off a train and the story takes off, engaging instantly with intrigue (heightened by the knowledge that very little is extraneous – a perk of being a seasoned Reacher reader, though you absolutely don’t need to have read previous Reacher novels in order to enjoy this one), but I particularly loved this story with its details that correlate to details in my reality. It’s always fun when personally relatable aspects leap out at you from a novel.

There’s the female agent being Asian-American (which I am), and the tertiary character, a journalist, being a science editor with a background in molecular biology (I’d worked as a science editor in bioinformatics and molecular biology in the past), and the moniker ‘Callaghan’, “which at least was Irish.” (Hello, Callaghan! I’d written a blog post about how my French husband’s nickname is an Irish name.)

So here’s Reacher hanging out with this Asian-looking chick, and they find themselves, at one point, right here in Phoenix, where familiar places and things are mentioned. (Sky Harbor International Airport. Maricopa County sheriffs. Scottsdale. The “baking desert heat.”)

All of this coated the bad-assery with an icing of familiarity that added amusement to a reading experience that was already supremely enjoyable. But even without those details, there’s nothing like an excellent, well-developed, well-paced thriller/mystery to facilitate a much-needed escape.

If I ever find myself having coffee with Lee Child, I’m going to thank him for this one, especially.

 

Lee Child's 20th Reacher novel

Lee Child’s 20th Reacher novel

 

Make Me gives us classic Reacher, yet it deviates from the Reacher formula in a surprising way, at the very end. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

The problem with Reacher is a classic one, too… you can only hang out with him for the time it takes to finish the book. Then you have to wait a year for him to come back. I remind myself to be grateful that he comes back at all… surely Reacher will retire one day, and that will be the end. Meanwhile, the countdown is on for Reacher’s return.

Death by Palm Tree?? (And good riddance, lawn.)

At the beginning of August, we’d occupied our house for almost a year, and we’d never seen a roach on our property, inside or out. Not a single one. Then the Great Roachapocalypse went down on our front lawn. As of that moment, the lawn’s days were numbered.

It’s hard for me to admit this, because roaches, but the event was your proverbial blessing in disguise. We never liked the lawn. It was Bermuda grass, and it irked me to think we were wasting water in the desert to keep it green. Mowing it took time we didn’t have, and even when freshly-mowed, the grass looked ragged. Getting rid of the lawn sat high on our list of things to do when we felt we could afford it. The roaches simply expedited the undertaking. Let me tell you, it’s amazing what you can suddenly “afford” when a thousand sewer roaches start swarming in a cloud above your lawn.

We were instructed to have our palm tree trimmed first. Not only was it badly in need of it, but it was suspected that the droves of sewer roaches had been lurking beneath the palm tree’s fronds. That’s probably exactly what they were doing… keeping to themselves under the palm fronds, waiting for our sprinklers to come on so they could skitter down and frolic in the glorious, cool oasis that was the sprinkler water puddled where the lawn dipped toward the metal plate covering the water main.

So we had the palm tree trimmed and we were progressing toward the goal of a grass-free front yard when we were unnerved anew. Because astonishingly, the horror story that began with the Great Roachapocalypse continued during the front yard conversion process, when we learned things from our landscaper. Specifically, we learned about a manner of death that I’d never heard of before, an unfathomable manner of death that I wouldn’t wish on anyone: Death by palm tree.

Did you know that the most common way to die while trimming a palm tree is to get murdered by the tree, itself? Neither did we. I listened, aghast, as our landscaper described the phenomenon, an instance of which she’d actually witnessed.

“The dead fronds on the underside fell on him and pinned him to the tree trunk. That’s what happens. You get suffocated.” She made a motion with her hands to demonstrate a palm tree’s fronds slapping downward, like when you collapse an umbrella.

That’s what happens. The fronds clap down, and the tree-trimmer is swallowed up. By the palm tree. My mind veered to the image of a palm tree as a monstrous, upside-down Venus Fly Trap, which, in that case, would be a Venus Human Trap.

Of course, I had to research this atrocity. I was half-hoping to find it debunked on Snopes, even though our landscaper had seen it for herself, but I found news articles reporting such palm tree deaths in three different states, including Arizona (Arizona and California have the highest palm tree death rates). I also found an informative article penned by an experienced palm tree-trimmer by the name of Rich Magargal. In the article, Mr. Magargal describes the three most common ways that people can die while trimming a palm tree, and some preventative measures that can be taken to avoid such a demise.

Here are some quotes from the article:

“Finally, and most importantly, is the alarming and growing death rate by suffocation.

The vast majority of suffocation accidents are the result of fronds sliding down, or sloughing, onto the climber. Just a few feet of fronds can instantly and completely immobilize a climber. There is absolutely nothing he or she can do to remove them because their entire body is forced down and against the palm trunk with hundreds of pounds of pressure. The force of the fronds is primarily on the head of the climber, forcing the chin into the chest. This is how suffocation occurs. Take a moment to put your hands behind your head and pull your head forward bringing your chin in contact with your chest. Notice how little pressure is required to make breathing impossible. Now, imagine several hundred additional pounds of weight on your head and picture yourself under the skirt of fronds 50 feet in the air.”

This already far exceeds my capacity for imaginative comprehension, BUT THEN the author goes on to say:

“Remember, when a climber is working under the skirt, the fronds hang down to around his or her knees. Also note that it is much darker and cooler underneath, so every manner of creature having two to eight legs can be present with you.”

ROACHES.

The only true phobia I have other than roachaphobia is claustrophobia. I’m also an anti-fan of heights.

So I’m reading this article and imagining that I’m trapped high up on a palm tree, pinned beneath a hundred pounds of dead fronds with my neck bent down and suffocating to death while covered in huge roaches, and I die a little bit inside, like some of my cells are withering in a sympathy death for my imaginary worst-nightmare self, and I’m SO GLAD AND GRATEFUL that we were able to have our palm tree trimmed, our lawn torn out, and a flat bed of gravel put in its place.

This is the gravel we chose:

 

We went with the option on the right-hand side of the circle.

We went with the option on the right-hand side of the circle.

 

(I love how she arranged those samples for me!)

Here’s how it looks:

 

Behold our newly trimmed palm tree and our grass-free, roach-free front yard.

Behold our newly trimmed palm tree and our grass-free, roach-free front yard.

 

We now have a flat bed of gravel that will be inhospitable to roaches when they come back with the heat next summer. There will be no water there to attract them, and nowhere for them to hide. THE YARD IS BEAUTIFUL.

See that mark on the ground on the left? Here’s a close-up:

 

Roachapocalypse Ground Zero.

Roachapocalypse Ground Zero.

 

This would be what attracted the roaches when it was hot and our Bermuda grass was being watered. The water was collecting here on this plate. Our landscaper created that border around it before she put in the gravel.

Enjoy some pics of I took of random palm trees with deadly frond skirts on full display:

 

The pic on the left was taken on Saturday morning, and I took the one on the right on Saturday at dusk.

The pic on the left was taken on Saturday morning, and I took the one on the right on Saturday at dusk.

 

The tree on the right shows the most dangerous scenario for a palm tree-trimmer, with its loose fronds hanging down. As Mr. Magargal says:

“There is a lack of knowledge about sloughing. At any point along the trunk of a fan palm it is natural for the fronds to come loose and remain near the trunk, unattached but woven together in a skirt. When the skirt drops nothing can survive beneath it. Even experienced arborists miss the potential of sloughing. Usually, if a palm is going to slough off it may occur as low as 25 to 30 feet from the ground.”

We still have a small patch of grass in the backyard, but there were no roaches on that lawn, because there’s no dipping-down point to collect water back there. We’re keeping the grass there for now.

Those palm trees, though. I’ll never look at them the same again. They’re full of surprises. Our landscaper pointed out some hummingbird eggs she found in ours:

 

Sadly, these hummingbird eggs were abandoned when the palm tree was trimmed.

Sadly, these hummingbird eggs were abandoned when the palm tree was trimmed.

 

So that, I hope, is the end of the story as far as we’re concerned. If you have a loved one who trims palm trees, please share Mr. Magargal’s article with him or her. Let’s save our palm tree trimmers!

Hello, I am a CNTJ.

“Hey Baby, guess what?” I asked Callaghan the other night.

“What?”

“I realized that I’m not an introvert, and I’m not an extravert. Guess what I am!”

“A bear.”

This took me by surprise. Wasn’t it obvious where I was heading?

“No.”

“A mama bear.”

“No.” Although I am.

“I don’t know, mon amour. What are you?”

“I’m not an introvert, and I’m not an extravert,” I began again. “I’m a catrovert.”

Callaghan paused, then snorted with laughter.

“That’s a good one,” he said. “It’s TRUE.”

Yes, it is.

In a world of introverts and extraverts, I’ve always been a textbook introvert. The personality tests I’ve taken have reflected this unfailingly. According to Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTJ. But actually, I’m a CNTJ.

I’ve yet to see catroversion documented anywhere in the literature concerning personality types, but it should be, because I know that I’m far from the only one.

Introversion and extraversion are terms that describe how people replenish their mental and emotional energy stores, right? The way I understand it, introverts “recharge” best in solitude… they get their energy from within themselves, so they need alone-time. Extraverts recharge by being with others; they’re energized in the company of other people.

Catroverts, meanwhile, recharge by being with cats. We derive our energy from those of the feline persuasion, so the time we spend with them is the most profoundly therapeutic time we can know.

 

Catroversion with Nenette

Catroversion with Nenette

 

These pics with Nenette were taken on Sunday. Lots of Labor Day weekend fur-baby bonding went on around here!

And Nounours got all kinds of snuggles in the aftermath of his dental surgery a couple of weeks ago:

 

Catroversion with Nounours

Catroversion with Nounours

 

Since I just did a search and found no mention of catroversion anywhere online,* I figured it ought to be published somewhere, which, I guess, means here in this post. Let’s take it a step further and break catroversion down into two types:

  • Type A catrovert: Derives energy from being with cat(s)
  • Type B catrovert: Derives energy from being ALONE with cat(s)

The Type A catrovert often tests as an extravert on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. (That would be Callaghan.)

The Type B catrovert is essentially also an introvert. (This would be me.)

“Voilà,” I said to Callaghan, “We’re not really opposites in this regard! We’re both primary catroverts.” It was easy to flesh out my theory as I went, so I kept going. “And your secondary extraversion and my secondary introversion complement each other.”

Seriously… with a few exceptions, if Callaghan wasn’t around to encourage me to go out and do social things (i.e. attend parties), I just wouldn’t. He’s good at busting me out of my comfort zones. Pretty much the only place at which I look forward to socializing is the gym. Outside of that, give me one-on-one interactions with friends, and small groups over large ones.

Callaghan had to admit that I was onto something when I presented catroversion to him.

So what are some things we should know about catroverts?

1). The catrovert with secondary extraversion (Type A catrovert) may be prone to:

  • Overspending the household budget on cat birthday party preparations
  • Bringing home every stray cat on the street
  • Struggling to resist adopting all the cats in the shelter
  • Feeding the neighborhood stray cats
  • Insisting on going over to talk to the cats up for adoption at PetSmart and PetCo

2). The catrovert with secondary introversion (Type B catrovert) may be prone to:

  • Being accused of being anti-social (if not an all-out misanthrope)
  • Being labeled a “crazy cat lady” (even if not a lady)
  • Taking longer than average to grieve the loss of a beloved cat
  • Feeling inexplicably jealous if kitty responds to a visitor’s affection
  • Dying alone with cats

3). Advice for the employer, since the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is heavily used as a resource in the workplace: the best way to handle your catrovert employees is to allow them to bring their cats to work.

4). Being a catrovert does NOT make someone a strict cat person; being a catrovert doesn’t preclude loving and/or appreciating dogs or other animals.

I could go on. I may even expand this topic into a book-length volume at some point. For now, I’ll just sign off with the observation that the only reason we don’t have a houseful of cats is that my being a Type B catrovert balances out Callaghan being a Type A catrovert.

—–

*ETA: I just searched on a different engine, and I DID find references to catroversion elsewhere. Catroverts REPRESENT!

When the sea boileth over. (My roach nightmare come true.)

We interrupt (what has become) our standard Friday kitty-update programming for something entirely the opposite, and I’m abjectly horrified that I even have such a thing to report.

The cataclysmic event happened the day of our recent exterminator appointment. I’d arranged to telecommute that day because we didn’t know what all would be involved.

We didn’t want to call the exterminator. The idea did cross our minds when the crickets started showing up at the beginning of the summer, but we thought we could get away with avoiding it. We said to each other, “The crickets will leave. The problem will resolve itself.” Which, of course, led to the brisk proliferation of crickets in the house, until such a point arrived that we were living amongst them like no civilized people do. Finally, just as we’d wound up vacuuming herds of spiders in our house in France, we had to get medieval on the crickets in this house… Creepy Crawley Pest Control style.

We’d seen no insects other than the crickets. We had lizards, mostly baby ones, but we’re fond of them and don’t view them as pests. Scorpions don’t trouble us, either. My one major, remaining phobia, as many of you know, is roaches. Summer in Arizona brings the sewer roaches, which I always envision as boiling up from the bowels of hell. Had we seen a roach anywhere on our property, inside the house or out, I’d have been on the phone with Creepy Crawly that same second.

I knew this company. I’ve used them before, in previous houses, and I had confidence in them. I know that their product isn’t harmful to dogs and cats, and I know that they’re effective, so I’m happy to open the door when Z from Creepy Crawly rings the doorbell.

He’s a no-nonsense guy and explains the process succinctly. He would “blast” the outside first, then come in with a different apparatus to drip-deposit the de-insecting solution along the baseboards inside the garage and house. 

Now, let me just pause to assert that if I had my druthers (am I old enough to get away with using that phrase? I’ve been waiting to age into the right to say it, kind of like get off my lawn, which would actually be funny considering this post)… if I had a choice, I wouldn’t choose to have a lawn. I dislike the maintenance involved, and, moreover, I don’t believe in cultivating lawns in the desert. Alas, our house came with its front lawn and the smaller lawn out back. When we moved in, ripping out the grass and xeriscaping our yard went high on our list of “Projects to do one day.”

We bought the house about a year ago. We still have the lawn.

No-nonsense Z from Creepy Crawly explains the treatment process and wastes no time. He does the exterior first, spraying his lethal brew along the front of the house near the door and making his way around the perimeter of the lawn, winding around the date palm and wrapping around to the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, Callaghan is in the garage, getting it ready. The garage will be done next. I go to give him the tool I’d retrieved from the house as requested and walk back out onto the patio, stopping to stand under the awning. I’m looking out in the direction of our neighbor’s house when –

“This is why you need me,” Z announces loudly as he heads toward me from across the lawn.

“What was that?” I turn my head to look at him.

“THIS. Is why you need me,” Z says again, a note of glee ringing in his voice as he gesticulates with the hand not holding the hose. He’s indicating something on the sidewalk. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be looking at, and then my eyes pick up movement.

It’s movement happening so fast, it’s literally a blur. It’s actually happening on the lawn. There’s an animated cloud flashing in shades of dark and red, a fast-moving, chaotic cloud glinting in the sun. I’m confused. It reminds me of the swarm of bees that appeared in front of our neighbor’s house back in San Jose that one time….

My chest seizes up, my insides suddenly on high alert. It’s summer in Arizona.

“What is it?”

“Roaches. Those are sewer roaches.” Z sounds downright triumphant.

The word “roaches” grips my larynx and I feel paralyzed in my throat. My mind falters. I CAN’T be looking at a huge, thick cloud of spastic roaches on my lawn, I think. It can’t be possible.

“Don’t worry, they’ll all be dead within 15 minutes,” says Z merrily, as if that solves everything.

He has no idea. Or maybe he does. He does this for a living. How can anyone do this for a living?

“Baby,” I croak.

“What?” Callaghan steps out of the garage.

“Over there.” I’m fighting my roachaphobic body’s urge to hyperventilate. “It’s… roaches….”

“Roaches? Where?” Callaghan studies where I’m pointing, and the look of confusion on his face probably looks exactly like the one I wore when Z said “roaches.”

“There. That cloud…”

Callaghan slowly makes his way to the sidewalk and approaches the area with unusual care in his step. He stops and looks. I can see his face, and it tells me everything.

I’m shivering in the heat. The broad span of air up to two feet above the lawn gleams thick with oily, reddish-brown wings. Callaghan stumbles back up the driveway and says, in awe, “It’s a sea of roaches.”

And the sea boileth over.

Z is laughing. He’s laughing at our shock. He’s laughing at my pain. He explains that water from the sprinklers has collected where the lawn dips down to the metal grate covering the main water valve. Moistness attracts sewer roaches in the summer, he says. When he sprayed the lawn with his lethal concoction, he activated them into the frenzy stirring before our horrified eyes.

I’m thinking, I’ve walked across the lawn over that exact spot many times. I’VE BEEN TREADING OVER A SEA OF SEWER ROACHES.

My ankles prickled. I was mired in a scenario straight out of my worst nightmare.

I went inside and Skyped a message to my co-worker.

They like to take shelter in palm trees, sewer roaches. This roach population likely came from the palm up against our house. It’s unbelievable, miraculous, even, that we’ve never seen a roach of any kind on our property, outside or in.

Later, I asked Callaghan how many roaches he figured there were. He thought out loud: “I could only see maybe 450 of them, so if you take into consideration what I couldn’t see, I’d say… around a thousand. There were probably a thousand roaches.”

“That’s it,” I said. “That lawn is HISTORY. I don’t care if we can’t afford actual landscaping right now. WE HAVE TO KILL THE LAWN.”

Callaghan, who’d peered inside the swarming sea of a thousand roaches hovering above the lawn, and who, unlike me, is not phobic about roaches, needed no arm-twisting. “I’ll shut off the sprinklers,” he declared. “The lawn will die.”

We stopped watering the lawn, but it’s monsoon season, so we’ve had some rain. The grass grew, and I couldn’t help but think about a thousand huge sewer roach corpses hidden in it.

Before long, Callaghan had to go out and mow the lawn. I watched from my office window as he courageously pushed the lawn mower over the mass roach grave.

The grass is slowly dying, but the ghastly image of the hovering, flashing roach cloud refreshes in our minds every time we look at the lawn, because this is what the lawn looks like right now (I took this picture yesterday):

 

Our front lawn right now.

Our front lawn right now.

 

Lest you wondered whether my phobia caused me to exaggerate, as that can certainly happen, LOOK AT THAT LARGE PATCH OF GRASS THAT’S LUSH, LONGER AND GREENER THAN THE DYING GRASS AROUND IT. That is Exhibit A. That’s where the roaches were. The decomposing bodies in the mass grave have been fertilizing the grass we’re trying to kill.

The lawn can’t be ripped out soon enough! I’m going to call the City of Tempe today to ask about their conservation program (that financially assists with homeowners’ xeriscaping costs).

Z the exterminator is coming back this morning for a follow-up treatment, but I’ll be at work this time, so if another cloud of roaches rises above the ground, I won’t be here to witness it.

Lost in Translation: L’Etat des Restos de Montréal.

Have you ever experienced an amusing “lost in translation” moment?

Let me preface mine with the assertion that I’m NOT making fun of Callaghan’s French accent. Honestly, I don’t even notice his accent most of the time, especially since some of our French friends’ accents are so thick that Callaghan’s is comparatively nonexistent (to my ears, at least). But there are times, usually when we’re with other people, when I realize that, yes, he does have an accent. Someone might ask him to repeat something, for instance, or something he says might be misinterpreted. This was the case when we went to my friend’s wedding last month.

We were sitting at a table with a few of my co-workers, as the bride was a friend from work. Callaghan wasn’t the only one with a foreign accent… we also had accents from Australia, Germany, and Ethiopia at our table. Such is the beauty of the States, right? So anyway, as conversation flowed lightly along, Callaghan mentioned that he’d heard about a new law up in Montréal. (It’s not uncommon for Montréal to come up in conversations with work friends, since our department maintains a strong historical, collaborative relationship with our Director’s former unit up there. It’s like our sister unit.)

“Apparently, in Montréal, they passed a law,” Callaghan told us. “Now it is illegal for a terrace to be across the street from a restaurant.”

Maybe it was the abruptness of his announcement that threw us off, along with the strangeness of the news and the quirkiness of his English as a Second Language syntax thrown into the mix… or maybe it was his pronunciation. Probably, it was a combination of all of the above that resulted in momentary confusion. On my part, while I thought I understood what he’d said, I was hesitant to believe it. Others at the table either didn’t hear him, didn’t understand him, or couldn’t grasp what he’d said. What ensued was a bombardment of demands for a repeat of the statement. We all needed clarification.

“Terraces can’t be across the street from restaurants in Montréal anymore,” Callaghan said.

There was a pause, and then, at the same time someone exclaimed, “I thought he said ‘terrorist’!” another person blurted, “WHAT? Montréal passed a law making it illegal for TERRORISTS to be across the street from a restaurant?”

Cue hilarity.

“No more terrorists across the street from restaurants in Montréal!!” exclaimed Callaghan. The rest of us were cracking up along with him.

“Calling all terrorists! You can no longer be across the street from a restaurant!” One guy boomed to an imaginary crowd of terrorists clamoring to get across the street from a restaurant in Montréal.

We couldn’t stop laughing, none of us, including me, and that was a blessing.

Because the date was May 16, and my beloved Wrah-Wrah hadn’t even been gone for 48 hours. When Callaghan and I walked into that wedding an hour earlier, I was in the worst possible place mentally and emotionally, utterly devastated and absolutely not in the mood to go anywhere or see anyone… but I wasn’t about to miss my friend’s wedding. She and I had been talking excitedly about her big day for a year, and there was no way I was going to fail to show up!

To complicate things further, Wrah-Wrah’s ashes had been brought to our door as we were getting ready for the wedding, so minutes before leaving, I was standing in the middle of the living room with his little urn held close to my heart, thinking, How am I going to get through a social event right now?

The answer was in the question. It was the social event that got me through the rest of the day, and that absurd and perversely funny “lost in translation” episode was a big part of it. I found myself reflecting on the keen truth of the cliché that laughter is the best medicine. A few moments of bubbling mirth that evening had granted me a much-needed respite from emotional pain, if only fleetingly.

It was also a blessing to be able to sideline my grief while focusing on the celebration of someone else’s pivotal life event, and sharing the experience with a fun group of people helped tremendously. I mean, it’s impossible to not smile and laugh while holding hands with others and running through the room during the Mexican wedding dance, let me tell you! Mexican weddings are good fun, and it was just a joy to see my friend looking so radiant and happy.

And what of that strange new law in Montréal? It turns out that Callaghan wasn’t remembering it correctly, anyway… the crux of the law is actually the space on the sidewalk between the terrace and the street, which Montréal says should be a meter and a half to allow for wheelchair passage. We had a case of a telephone game mix-up merging with linguistic misinterpretations! And that’s how you get from wheelchair sidewalk access to “no terrorists allowed in front of restaurants in Montréal.” Human communications can be a riot when there’s a glitch in the lines.

Speaking of terraces, Callaghan (being French) refers to our back patio as a terrace (la terrasse); the other day, we rearranged our small signage collection out there and hung our handy zombie warning sign prominently in the center of the main wall (with a nod to my zombie experience last week):

 

It should say, "TERRASSE INTERDITE AUX ZOMBIES" (NO ZOMBIES ALLOWED ON THE TERRACE)

It should say, “TERRASSE INTERDITE AUX ZOMBIES” (NO ZOMBIES ALLOWED ON THE TERRACE)

 

Like this:

 

To match the "NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE GRASS" sign beneath it.

To match the “NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE GRASS” sign beneath it.

 

I’ve always enjoyed this sign, but I have a whole new appreciation for it now.

People in the Wild, Downtown Tempe edition: Five types I see on my walk to work.

As I’d recently mentioned, I’m in the habit of walking to work these days. It’s just over a mile and a half, and it’s straight down the street, so my thoughts wander while I walk. I observe, and my mind does that thing human minds do and it classifies people.

Today, I thought I’d present my scientifically precise classification of the types of people I observe on my walk to work every day (and home from work 3x/week). The following is brought to you by my notes:

Group one: Exercisers.

There’s always an assortment of people doing healthy-human things, such as cycling, running, or power-walking (with and without hand-weights). I see them alone, often in pairs, and sometimes in small groups. The sight of them makes me happy.

Then, at the opposite end of the health spectrum, we have:

Group two: Altered-state people/zombies – (???)

In this group, I run into “regulars” and random people, alike. Some of them are homeless, some are not, but they all display the under-the-influence characteristics of the shuffling walk and the glazed-over eyes.

This compels me to share an anecdote:

Walking to work mid-last-week, I passed four random people as I was heading east and they were heading west. They seemed to be inebriated to varying degrees, but it was all pretty normal until the last guy shuffled my way and did something totally random and unexpected: he literally (emphasized because I never use the word “literally” unless it absolutely is) lifted his arms straight out in front of him, turned his sightless gaze to my face, adjusted the position of his feet so as to steer the vehicle of his body in my direction, and moaned a long, gutteral “Uunnnhhhuunnngg” as he approached.

Okay, I never make things up, but just so you know, I am SO not making this up. Neither was he playing around. There was nothing behind this person’s eyes, no hint of cognition whatsoever.

A chill skittered down the back of my neck like an insect with icy feet as I quickly side-stepped him to rush past, because in that instant, the word ZOMBIE flashed through my brain while my neurons fired in all directions with the realization that should a zombie apocalypse occur, I AM NOT PREPARED. NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST.

 

THIS WAS HIM.

THIS WAS HIM.

 

I mean, what could I have done? I didn’t recognize the guy’s zombieness until he was directly in front of me, and that, my friends, won’t cut it. My brain generated questions I couldn’t answer, and I mentally floundered for the next five or ten minutes as I pondered. How do you handle zombies masquerading as normal drunk people? Even if you recognize a zombie from further away, how could you know whether he’s a fast-moving zombie, or a slow-moving one? WHAT IS MY LIFE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY I AM SO NOT READY FOR THIS MAYBE I SHOULD START WATCHING THE WALKING DEAD SO I CAN GET SOME PRO TIPS.

These were my thoughts until I came across the first of two specimens I’d see that morning from the next group:

Group three: Leaf-blowers.

They’re so polite, the leaf-blowers. They cease their activity as soon as they note your approach, and they smile and nod at you as you walk by. Leaf-blowers are our friends!

Next, that same day, I spotted some people representing the fourth group:

Group four: Circle K regulars.

As with Group two, some folks in this category are homeless and some aren’t, but the characteristic that bonds them – the one, critical thing they all have in common – is that they know a good cup of coffee when they have one in their hands. That’s why they’re Circle K regulars. They hang out in the shade at the front of the building, or off to the side, usually in pairs or in small groups.

Basically, anyone with any kind of java savvy at all knows that the best-kept coffee secret in Arizona is that humble little pot o’joe at the Circle K.

Anecdote two: When I worked as a barista briefly while I was in college, I used to open the shop on the weekends, so I’d get there very early in the morning to grind the beans and prepare for opening. I started giving free cups of fresh coffee to the homeless couple who lived in their car on the periphery of the premises. We became friendly fast. We learned each other’s stories, and sometimes, in addition to coffee, I’d give them “old” pastries or muffins that were being replaced by fresh ones. After a few months, one of them landed a job, and they were able to rent a place to live. I missed them after they left… they were the nicest people, and the smiles on their faces when I’d give them coffee made my day.

Group five: Skateboarders.

Skateboarders are plentiful around town, and they embody an awesome sort of freedom in movement and spirit. They’re also the most diverse of the groups listed here. I see younger and older people on skateboards, and people of varying gender. There are skateboarders of all shapes, sizes and colors. There are girls in hijab on skateboards, and people dressed as students, professionals, professional students and professional couch-surfers. I see them getting from Point A to Point B on their skateboards, and I see them just hanging out, practicing their kickflips and heelflips and what have you.

This leads me to anecdote three: Walking around to the entrance of my building at work recently, I ran into two young guys on skateboards. They were practicing tricks flying off a ramp. The guy poised with his board at the top of the ramp looked over at me and said to the guy on the ground, “Okay, this one’s for her.” And he shot off down the ramp… and missed his landing. His friend cracked up, but the guy nonchalantly got up and called to me, “Well, I tried!” With a big grin on his face. And I couldn’t help but smile back as I walked away.

The Spirit Animal Question (and my hair needs a cut)

Ever since I heard someone say that their spirit animal was Jackie Chan, I’ve been trying to figure out what mine is.

I used to think that my spirit animal was the wild horse, but that ended when I moved to France and found myself living with the presence of a gigantic horse that was on our land there. He wasn’t wild, but I think he was there to show me the error of my previous thinking and the extent of the unhorsey quality of my spirit. I still love the vision of running, wild horses… it’s just that the reality of being near a horse is different for me, I guess.

Exhibit A:

 

Clearly, I'm taken aback here. Also, this was taken in April (2013), and I remember how cold it was. I'm wearing a thick sweater under that jacket.

Clearly, I’m taken aback here. Also, this was taken in April (2013), and I remember how cold it was. I’m wearing a thick sweater under that jacket.

 

Look at the body language here! I’m not at ease. I’m smiling a little, but I’m leaning away from the horse, rather than toward him. He was a nice horse, though.

There was also a donkey there, and that was a totally different story. I adored that donkey. We called him Buddy.

 

Buddy! We often gave him treats. Here's Callaghan feeding him an apple.

Buddy! We often gave him treats. Here’s Callaghan feeding him an apple.

 

Our neighbor put a sign on the gate that proclaimed “Âne Mechant” (“Mean Donkey”), which we didn’t understand. That donkey was an absolute sweetheart.

Anyway, spirit animals. I’ve taken online quizzes that ALL tell me that my spirit animal is a wolf, but somehow, that doesn’t seem right. Something of the feline persuasion would make sense, but if anything, I feel more like an honorary cat due to being a cat mom. There’s a difference between being an animal and having that animal as a spirit animal. I can relate to the Wrah-Wrah better than I can relate to most people, but I don’t feel that I’m being led through life by a cat.

Okay! Different subject, since I came across this picture as I was going through my pictures from France in search of the horse and the donkey:

 

Me with short emo hair in France.

Me with short emo hair in France.

 

…and I do need to get my hair cut. Here’s a selfie I took by the elevator at work yesterday, specifically to see the length of my hair:

 

What is this length...

What is this length…

 

I’m not going to cut my hair short again, but I’m considering going for longish bangs, and maybe some long layers.

On that note, I’m off to get ready for work. Have a great day, guys!

Airport Security FAIL (story)

No one likes going through security at the airport. I don’t know anyone who’s travelled in the last 14 years who doesn’t have a nightmare airport security story to share, or at least a general gripe about the whole process.

Up until our recent trip to France, I’d been indifferent (in that resigned kind of way) to the hassles of airport security, relatively speaking. But now that I’ve had my own airport security, um, experience coming back to the States last month? I’m sharing it here. It’s a pretty ridiculous story that I think you’ll appreciate.

This happened at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris when we were coming back to the States in March. We were flying with United Airlines.

At first, everything was normal going through security. I walked through the screening doorframe thing with no issue, went to the conveyor belt to collect my handbag and my laptop with its case, and put the laptop back in the case. Then I waited for my carry-on to come through on the belt.

And I waited.

And I realized that my carry-on, a small suitcase, had been set aside for a more in-depth inspection. I was told to wait at the far end of the belt. There was a dude there who’d also been told that he needed further inspection, for whatever reason, so I took a place behind him to wait.

It’s very rare that I get stopped at any point in the airport security check-through process, so this was mildly annoying, but I said nothing as I stood there. I kind of zoned out as my mind wandered to a hundred places during the wait, but at some point, it registered in my consciousness that there was a fiasco happening with the dude waiting in front of me. It seemed that he was getting quite the robust security once-over all of a sudden.

I glanced down the conveyor belt to my left. My carry-on was still sitting there, untouched.

The minutes continued to pass, and they got longer and longer. The dude in front of me was now being questioned by two or three security people. Since all the security personnel at our end of the belt were preoccupied with this one dude, my carry-on was being ignored. It was getting late… our flight would start boarding soon! Our gate was within view, and I could see that people were standing and lining up. I looked over at Callaghan, who was waiting on the periphery of the area, and we exchanged eye rolls.

The fuss going on with the dude in front of me continued and intensified, and then, in the middle of it, one of the security guys involved noticed me standing there and demanded that I hand him my laptop.

I think I did one of those things where I quickly looked to my left and right, saw no one, pointed at myself, and said, me? With just the expression on my face. I was confused. My laptop and its case had both been cleared in the digital screening process on the conveyor belt, along with my handbag. That’s why I was standing there holding these things; you’re not allowed to collect and hold things that are suspect!

The spontaneous demand to inspect items that had already cleared security just seemed gratuitous. No, it was gratuitous. I was waiting there because of my carry-on, not because of my laptop!

It was almost like Security Guy asked for my laptop on a whim, as in, I’m on a roll here with this other dude, so hey! Why not check out her laptop, too, because you NEVER KNOW, she might have slipped something illegal into her laptop case AFTER it successfully went through on the belt!    

I tried not to let my incredulity overwhelm me, but I’ll tell you what, it was tough. At least I didn’t let it show. I played along with a cheerful outward attitude and handed over my laptop without complaining.

Meanwhile, across the way, our flight had started boarding. In fact, they looked to be more than half-way through. Callaghan and I were in the second boarding group, so it was well past our boarding time. We’d been at security for almost an hour!

Security Guy removed my laptop from its case and made a big to-do inspecting it and the case.

Across the way at our gate, the last group was boarding; we were now in danger of missing our flight.

Security Guy returned my laptop to me and told me to hold out my hands, first palms down, then palms up, so he could screen them slowly and carefully with his little hand-held scanner thing with the little red light, just like they’d done with the dude in front of me. Really?! I thought. Why don’t you go inspect my carry-on, since that’s why I’m standing here! It was seriously like he was just thinking of things to do, just for the fun of it. I couldn’t believe it. My carry-on being held for inspection warranted none of this; my person and my laptop and its case and my handbag had all successfully cleared security already.

Finally, I was handed my carry-on. I grabbed it and ran with Callaghan to the gate, where some words were exchanged with the airline lady who was collecting tickets. She actually lectured us sternly and said that we were “too late” and couldn’t board the plane! Callaghan argued with her briefly (It’s not our fault! We were held at security for an hour!), and she relented. Merci, Madam. We didn’t have her blessings, but we were granted passage onto the plane.

It was surreal; it was like everyone at United Airlines at Charles de Gaulle that day woke up on a pumped-up power trip.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about all of this was the fact that my boarding pass designated me as a “Pre-TSA” passenger. Callaghan was “Pre-TSA,” too. This designation is a privilege meant to expedite a passenger’s security process, allowing for a less involved process! Instead of that, I had the opposite experience. Something was very wrong with the whole picture.

 

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

Now, would you like to know what happened next? Yes. Yes, you would, because you know I’m not writing all this just to complain. Here’s the punchline:

After ALL of that unmerited, borderline-harassment rigmarole that got us scolded for tardiness by Airplane Lady at the gate and very nearly caused us to miss our flight, I finally boarded the airplane…

Wait for it…

WITH A KNIFE IN MY HANDBAG.

Because I, myself, had forgotten that it was in there, and no one found it.

Yes, you read that right. After all of that, no one found the knife in my bag!

I couldn’t believe it when I realized it.

Just like my laptop and its case, my handbag had sailed past the cameras on the belt with no problem at all. It wasn’t stopped, held, re-checked, manually inspected, or anything. It passed right on through, and I collected it as soon as I stepped through the screening doorframe. The whole time Security Guy was making a big deal looking at my laptop and my carry-on was being scrutinized for I don’t know what, I was standing there with a knife inside the bag that was on my arm, and then I boarded the airplane with it.

 

My keys, complete with my Victorionox Swiss Army knife (which includes pointed-tip scissors).

My keys, complete with my Victorionox Swiss Army knife (which includes pointed-tip scissors).

 

Do I even need to say that this constitutes a spot on the Top Ten most absurd airport security FAIL stories you’ve ever heard?

It’s a small knife, a pocket knife on my keychain, but it’s still a knife. I checked United Airlines’ web site; United doesn’t allow knives of ANY blade length. The rules on their web site are clear:

 

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

The knife in my bag is a Swiss Army Victorinox pocket knife, exactly as stated on the not-allowed list, complete with “scissors with a pointed tip.” I should not have been allowed on that plane with this knife. The security people should have found the knife, and they should have confiscated it, after which I would have come home and gamely purchased what would have been my third or fourth such knife. (Yes, I’ve had several of these knives confiscated at airports over the years, and I never blame anyone but myself. I always have a knife on me, and I’m just really bad at remembering that there’s a blade on my keychain when I go to the airport. Trivia: I always replace the confiscated knife with the exact same knife, and always in black.)

Also, while I’m at it, I should say that I had a tube of hand lotion that was neither in a 3-oz (or smaller) container, nor removed from my bag and sent through in a clear plastic Ziploc bag. Airport security DOUBLE FAIL.

I’m not telling this story to bitch about being held for an hour at security. I’m telling it because I was held for an hour at security for the wrong reasons and then let on the plane armed with a knife, and everyone should be aware of this. Don’t trust your fellow airplane passengers just because they got past security and got on the plane. If I was someone else, it might have ended badly for a lot of people. Knowing that all of this happened, how much can we trust the security measures taken at the airport, especially on trans-Atlantic flights? We can’t. We can’t really trust them. We have to “stay alert to stay alive,” as they teach you in the military. And on my part, I’m going to try to remember to remove my knife from my keychain before I travel from now on.

On that note… Happy Friday, everyone!

Ronnie James has a new nickname: Cat Squared (he has 81 lives, apparently)

I wanted to thank you all again for thinking of us and taking part in our journey to better health for Ronnie James with your kind well-wishes and interest in his story. I didn’t mean to tease in my last post. I just didn’t have much time for writing last week! Also, I wanted to talk to our doctor again before I sat down to scribble this out.

This is the short story:  Ronnie James was sick and gradually dying when we rescued him in the fall of 2012, but we didn’t know anything was wrong until he started coughing about 11 months ago. We now know that he’s been evading death for years, somehow surviving a thing that would have killed most mammals. We are in awe of him.

 

Ronnie James, Sunday night, 4/12/2015. Angel kitty with his halo of lights!

Ronnie James, Sunday night, 4/12/2015. Angel kitty with his halo of lights!

 

The detailed story goes like this:

In the operating room on Friday, April 3, Dr. M, our surgeon, opened up Ronnie James and found his left cranial lung lobe in a state of semi-decay; he said it almost looked like it was “rotting” in his chest. The mysterious mass seen on the CT scan turned out to be a mushroom-shaped (“pedunculated”) object that oozed a “weird, thick mucus-like material” when the stem broke off.

Dr. M tried to describe what he saw in the center of the mass, but he couldn’t quite find the words. I got the impression that he’d never seen anything like it before.

He told me, “It looks like it might be something of an infectious nature,” but he seemed to be baffled. He suggested that the mass might be a remnant of an old infection that Ronnie James’ body had tried to wall off. As he spoke, I envisioned an oyster protecting itself from grains of sand by coating the foreign material with its own bodily secretions.

But the bulbous, sickly pearl inside Ronnie James almost killed him. At first, its point of origin wasn’t obvious; it appeared to be attached to the bottom of the left cranial lung lobe. Actually, it seems to have grown off of one of the bronchi, clogging it and causing the lobe to collapse and consolidate. It’s possible that the mass ultimately caused blockage of Ronnie James’ thoracic duct, either directly or indirectly, as it was on the same (left) side. We’re hoping that this was the case, because if it was, then it answers the question of “What caused his chylothorax?”

Chylothorax, the filling up of the chest cavity with chyle, was the chronic issue we were aiming to fix, the problem we had to solve in order to save Ronnie James’ life. If the mass was causing it, well, problem solved! The mass is gone now.

Our surgeon said, “Until the labs come back, we can’t rule out cancer. I’ll tell you what, though… this doesn’t look like any cancer I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what this is.”

All along, Ronnie James’ labs have consistently tested negative for cancer. Dr. M had to say that he couldn’t rule out cancer until the labs came back, but the fact was, no one really thought that it was cancer.

Whatever it was, it was weird.

The weirdest thing was that standing before our kitty’s exposed insides, Dr. M and his team were still more or less flummoxed. Nothing was adding up or making sense, but he went ahead with the planned lung lobectomy, which was absolutely what had to be done, and removed “the entire mass and left cranial lung lobe as well as a small amount of an adherent adjacent lung lobe.” Samples of everything were sent to the lab for analyses and cultures.

While Dr. M was working in Ronnie James’ chest cavity, he also did an ultrasound on the second, smaller mass the CT scan had detected in Ronnie James’ neck.

 

Ronnie James' left cranial lung lobe, part of an adjacent lobe, and the mass were removed. The mass seemed to stem from one of his bronchi.

Ronnie James’ left cranial lung lobe, part of an adjacent lobe, and the mass were removed. The mass seemed to stem from one of his bronchi.

 

When the lab results came back a few days later, they showed that the inside of the lung mass was comprised of fat necrosis (dead fat). Necrotizing tissues and edema were also found throughout the lung lobe. There was “scattered mineralization.” We were indeed looking at decaying organic matter and an old infection, an infection with a history… and it was chronic.

Considering all of this, it’s miraculous that we didn’t lose Ronnie James to something like sepsis or cardiac arrest. Other than his intermittent episodes of coughing and his more recent bouts of prolonged lethargy, he had seemed just fine. He’d initially been diagnosed with asthma, which he may or may not actually have.

But what could have caused Ronnie James’ ancient infection? He’d tested negative for Valley Fever. He’s been an indoor cat since we’ve had him, anyway. We couldn’t stop thinking about it… we were faced with a medical mystery that had to be solved so we could take the best next steps toward complete recovery. It was maddening. What could have wreaked all this havoc in Ronnie James’ pleural cavity?

Then we thought back to the first time we ever took Ronnie James to the vet, when we were still living in France, and we remembered the cause of that problem. It was the Chenille Processionnaire, and it explains everything.

 

Chenille Processionnaire, or Pine Processionary.

Chenille Processionnaire, or Pine Processionary.

 

In October 2012, soon after we adopted 8-year-old Ronnie James from an impoverished woman in Montélimar in southeastern France, we noticed that he was having trouble eating. We took him to the veterinary clinic closest to us, which was down in Bourg de Péage. (In France, our home-base was in the Alpes, about 100 miles from the recent plane crash. I’m sorry to be able to use the location of that awful event as a point of reference, but there it is.) We thought that dental problems might be causing him pain, but when the vet opened his mouth, he simply remarked that Ronnie James had experienced some sort of contact with a Chenille Processionnaire (“Pine Processionary” in English), a venomous caterpillar common in southern France. The tip of Ronnie James’ tongue had been “burnt off,” and it was this disability that impeded his eating. Our vet immediately recognized the characteristic chenille processionnaire damage to Ronnie James’ tongue; there was no question about it.

I’d never heard of anything like it. The Pine Processionary doesn’t exist in the United States. According to Wikipedia, it’s only found in southern Europe and in parts of Asia and Africa.

From what we can understand, animals such as dogs and cats are harmed by this caterpillar either because of poisoning from its venom, or because of an allergic reaction to it, or both, in any case being potentially – even often – fatal. Incidentally, I found some disturbing images of dog and cat tongues either burned, like Ronnie James’ tongue, or amputated at the tip (due to contact with this caterpillar).

 

Les Chenilles Processionnaires (Pine Processionary caterpillars) are often seen traveling end-to-end. They're common where we lived in the Alpes and all over the French Riviera.

Les Chenilles Processionnaires (Pine Processionary caterpillars) are often seen traveling end-to-end. They’re common where we lived in the Alpes and all over the French Riviera.

 

The caterpillar’s venom is released when its tiny hairs break off, or when the caterpillar ejects the hairs in self-defense. The toxins are in the hairs. Dogs and cats suffer when they have direct interaction with the caterpillar, or when they come into contact with pine needles or other organic matter on which the caterpillar’s hairs had fallen. Ronnie James could have licked the caterpillar, or he could have stepped on the hairs while walking around outside, or, more likely, knowing him, he might have played with the caterpillar with his paws, batting it around. Whether he walked on the hairs or played with the caterpillar, the toxic hairs would have stuck to his paws (they stick to whatever they touch), and Ronnie James’ tongue would have been burned when he went to lick his paws, as cats do.

At the same time, a venomous hair or two could have traveled down into Ronnie James’ lungs.

It happens. It happens to dogs and cats who roam outside in areas infested with the Pine Processionary.

Dr. M, who had (along with the rest of his surgical team) noticed the unusual damage to Ronnie James’ tongue when they were prepping him for surgery, agrees that more than likely, this is what happened to him. Though we didn’t witness the caterpillar encounter, we can all look at the evidence before us and do the math. In this case, 2 + 2 = Pine Processionary caterpillar damage in the Wrah-Wrah’s lungs. It would also account for the smaller mass found in his neck, lodged in his throat area, as the way that was presenting also matched the type of damage that could be done by the Pine Processionary.

Everything we can see points to this caterpillar.

Two things are for sure: Ronnie James survived an inordinately long time after his encounter with the caterpillar, and he was certainly dying by the time the surgeon removed the dead lung and surrounding infected areas. And we’re not finished yet. One of his lab cultures came back positive; the infection is alive.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-pineprocessionarycaterpillar

 

One for the “WTF, Nature?” archives, if you ask me.

We’re so proud of Ronnie James. He’s been such a good sport throughout this ordeal, and he did extremely well in surgery. Everyone was surprised when he didn’t need oxygen therapy to transition out of anesthesia, as dogs and cats typically do after surgery. He started breathing on his own again as soon as they unhooked him! We credit this bit of badassery to the fact that the Wrah-Wrah had long since learned to get along without that nasty old lung.

So that’s what happened. Years ago, Ronnie James inhaled or ingested toxins from a caterpillar. And to think that I’d blamed myself for bringing him here, back when we thought he’d developed asthma from being in the dusty desert! The whole time, he’d been suffering the effects of an environmental hazard that doesn’t even exist in North America. I can’t believe we brought this demon caterpillar venom back from France with us, embedded in the Wrah-Wrah’s lungs. That was more baggage from France than we’d bargained for.

Now that we know the root of the problem, we have a better idea of what to do for Ronnie James. We’re going after the remaining infection with an aggressive, extended course of antibiotics. We’re also continuing him on his asthma treatments, as he’d shown slight improvement on them (the steroid inhaler was helping to hold the infection at bay, and the bronchial dilator inhaler was helping to open up his airways).

Tomorrow, the Wrah-Wrah goes back to Dr. M to have his stitches removed, and he’ll be checked for need of further thoracentesis (chest tapping/draining). We were cautioned that it wouldn’t be unusual for him to need to have his chest drained one or two more times following the surgery. Our hope is that after a month or so, he’ll no longer have to deal with chylothorax and all the treatments it necessitates.

We’ve had a couple of scary episodes with coughing and vomiting in the last few days, but he checked out fine at the hospital; the episodes aren’t surprising given that his insides are adjusting to the changes, and he’s still recovering. Overall, the Wrah-Wrah continues to do much better. He’s happy and more active now than we’ve ever seen him. He is exponentially better, in fact. He’s next-level Wrah-Wrah!

A happy kitty is a kitty without dead lung tissue rotting in his chest with a weird, bulbous, rotting-fat-filled mass. We still have a long road ahead of us; Ronnie James’ long-term prognosis depends on how he responds to treatment from this point on. Anything can happen, but we’re optimistic!

 

Sleepy Ronnie James. He just woke up from his evening nap. (4/13/15)

Sleepy Ronnie James. He just woke up from his evening nap. (4/13/15)

Chili Pete strikes again.

Our trip to France gave me a good opportunity to strengthen my French a little. I enjoy learning new words, slang words, like “la thune” (money) and “les potes” (friends). I’d already known those two particular words, but it was cool to hear them in the flow of other peoples’ casual conversations.

Speaking of French slang, right before we left for our trip, Callaghan had a dubious moment of discovery about his online (Facebook) identity. He was talking to one of his French clients on the phone and hung up with a strange look on his face. His expression fell somewhere between chagrin and despondence.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I just realized something,” he said. “I was talking to Patrick at the bug shop, and this other guy Marc was there, and Patrick told him that if he’s looking for me, he can just look on Facebook for ‘Chili Pete’ – ” He paused.

“And?”

“He said ‘Chili Pete’,” he repeated, exaggerating the “Pete” part.

But he pronounced it the way it would be pronounced in French: “Pet.” Because “pète” is, in fact, a French slang word, and Patrick is French, so when he sees “pete,” of course he’s going to say it the French way. “Pet.” Even without the accent. Which means –

“Chili farts,” Callaghan grumbled. “‘Chili Pete’ means Chili farts in French!”

That would be “farts” as in the verb. Poor Callaghan… he looked like his world crumbled with the realization that his Facebook username is “Chili farts” in French, yet he laughed with me when I busted up laughing, so obviously he wasn’t too upset about it. And that was good, since I was the reason his name got changed to “Chili Pete” in the first place. (It’s a long story that some of you may remember… it started because of an inside joke about a mistake in an ophthalmologist’s notes.)

Just out of curiosity, I went to Babylon.com and plugged in “pete,” sans accent. I wanted to see if it would pick up the slang, and it did:

thatasianlookingchick.com-CaptureChiliPete4

Incidentally, “pete” was also a slang term I’d heard before, but I didn’t know it was spelled like Pete. Now I know!

Callaghan's Facebook banner.

Callaghan’s Facebook banner.

ALSO, while we’re looking at Chili Pete’s Facebook banner, I should just add that he loves taking pics of the word “bite” whenever he sees it, because it’s French slang for “dick.” Usually, the word “bite” appears on food packaging and advertisements in grocery stores, which creates rich hunting grounds for linguistic dick jokes.

On that note, now that I’ve somehow managed to touch on both dick and fart jokes in French, it’s time for me to turn my attention to work. Happy Friday, all! =)

Today is March 6th, and this is significant.

Good morning! I have a few announcements.

One: Next week’s posts will come at you from a different time zone, as we’ll be visiting family and friends in France. I plan to post on Tuesday and Friday at around the usual time, so we’ll see how that works out. Also, I’m thinking there’ll probably be more images here than writing next week. I’m not anticipating having much time to write while we’re overseas, but I know a lot of pictures will be taken!

 

My hats from France, collecting dust on the back of a door, as black hats do.

My hats from France, collecting dust on the back of a door, as black hats do.

 

Two: Today is my brother’s birthday. Happy birthday, Bro! (Trivia: Callaghan and my brother are the same age almost exactly. They were born in the same year, 10 days apart.)

Three: Today is also the 17th anniversary of the opening day of The Big Lebowski in the United States.

LET US TAKE A MOMENT.

17 years ago today, the Coen brothers introduced Americans to The Dude. Can you believe it’s been that long? I can’t.

“The Dude abides.” That three-word quote is genius. The Dude’s paramount personality trait is being laid-back to the point of almost-apathy, but rather than being apathetic, he’s just free of constraints (especially self-imposed ones)! He does care, in his way. He teaches us how to live in moment, and how to prioritize. For example, getting thrown into a police car is secondary to the more immediate and pressing concern of the beverage in his hand that’s in danger of spilling in the process. It’s easy to see why some of The Dude’s admirers would take it upon themselves to create a religion (Dudism) after the sub-cultural icon who embodies “go with the flow” to the point where he simply abides.

I’m not cool enough to exist in a perpetual state of moment-by-moment abiding. In addition to roaches and Costco, my two legendary hang-ups, I can think of several things by which I cannot abide. In honor of the Dude, He Who Has Been Abiding for Seventeen Years Today, I will present you with those things.

I CANNOT abide by:

1). Dubbed movies.

2). Celery.

3). More than two consecutive days of overcast weather.

4). Doing the ginga to Thai music instead of to Afro-Brazilian capoeira music. (This is my only Les Mills annoyance. Would it be so hard to throw a birembau into that Body Combat music tracklist, Les Mills?)

5). The little “silica” packets you find in such things as new bags and outerwear pockets.

And on that note, I’ll wish you a Happy Friday!

“A rumbling sound, then three sharp knocks…”

We’re on the eve of a new month, and we’ve got another Friday the 13th coming up soon! That makes two months in a row. In honor of the underrated yet overhyped doomsday of lore, I’ll regale you with an anecdote. Today is, after all, the halfway point between the two Friday the 13ths.

First, a refresher, or background information for those of you who are new here.

A few months back, Callaghan and I watched The Babadook, which I’ve since decided is the best horror film I’ve ever seen. Being a huge fan of all kinds of horror, including some of the cheesiest of the many bad movies the genre has to offer, I tend to rate a horror film based on its HMISM (How Much It Scared Me) factor. (I just made that up.)

It’s hard to get a good rating on the HMISM scale. I don’t scare easily. I have Exaggerated Startle Response, but that’s jumpiness, not fear… and it’s certainly not the same thing as a satisfying case of creeptastic-movie-produced heebie-jeebies. After a good horror flick, I’ll find myself looking over my shoulder apprehensively, and the back of my neck will prickle as I wander alone through the house. Not only did The Babadook have this delightful effect, but also, it was 99% cheese-free.

We knew we were sitting down to watch a horror movie, but we didn’t suspect we were in for an astonishingly terrifying, brilliant, richly layered and masterfully wrought horror movie. The Babadook has stayed with me, and I can easily call to mind its expertly applied sound effects.

This brings me to the weekend of our last Friday the 13th (two weekends ago), when I heard a mysterious triple knock in our bedroom.

Callaghan was at the gym. I was the lone human in the house, working on my laptop on the bed with Ronnie James and Nounours purring by my side. All was quiet, and then we heard it. Knock-Knock-Knock.

The kitties startled upright, and I looked around with all the neurons in my brain shining through my eyeballs as I tried to ascertain what I’d just heard, and where the sound had come from. It made no sense. It really sounded like someone had knocked on the wall from inside the room, but no one was there. There was no way the sound came from the front door, since that’s at the opposite end of the house.

A few seconds later, I heard it again. Knock-Knock-Knock. This time, it happened while I was actively looking around, and I didn’t see anything either directly or peripherally. There was nothing in the room that could have explained the sound, but I thought I heard it from the area of Callaghan’s night table.

 

Just a night table with the usual stuff on it, right?

Just a night table with the usual stuff on it, right?

 

 

Naturally, I thought of The Babadook. That’s how the Babadook announced himself in the movie: Knock-Knock-Knock. The thought came to me with some amusement, but I was truly mystified. When I told Callaghan about it later, he said he had no clue what it could have been.

One day the following weekend – that would be last weekend – we were lying in bed, waking up slowly, when the triple knocking sound suddenly filled the quiet space in the early morning room. Knock-Knock-Knock.

“There it is again!” I said excitedly, happy to be validated by the recurrence of the sound. I hadn’t been sure that Callaghan believed me when I’d described it to him. He turned toward the direction of the sound, studying his night table.

“It’s this,” he said. He was extracting something from beneath a pile of magazines. I looked and saw that it was a small, slim tablet. With its dark blue cover, I hadn’t noticed it mostly buried on the dark table.

 

Why look at that. It's a tiny tablet.

Why look at that. It’s a tiny tablet.

 

Of course! Now I remembered that little tablet… it was the mini Samsung Callaghan had given to his Grandmother in France last year, specifically so she could use it to Skype us. Mamie isn’t tech-savvy, so Callaghan set it all up for her, simplifying it as much as possible. She only had to open it, swipe the screen, and hit the Skype button… but she never did. She said that she wanted to use it, but it was too complicated. Eight months later, when Callaghan’s Dad visited us in December, he brought it back. I hadn’t realized it and I didn’t even remember that tablet, so it didn’t occur to me to check under the magazines when I heard the triple knock!

It’s a very small tablet.

 

 

We took this pic last night to show the smallness of the tablet. It's barely bigger than my hand. (Yes, it was 18:20 and 75 degrees. Don't worry. In a few months, we'll deal with our scorching summer while you enjoy your well-deserved beautiful temps outside!)

We took this pic last night to show the smallness of the tablet. It’s barely bigger than my hand.
(Yes, it was 18:20 and 75 degrees. Don’t worry. In a few months, we’ll deal with our scorching summer while you enjoy your well-deserved beautiful temps outside!)

 

 

Callaghan’s own tablet is a white, regular-size iPad in a white and red Eiffel Tower case. It’s quite conspicuous, and it obviously wasn’t on the night table when I’d first heard the knocking sound. And my tablet is a regular-size black Samsung with no case. I didn’t see any tablets when my eyes skimmed the night table. My powers of observation are slipping.

“Mamie must have set the sound notification to knock,” Callaghan said. “I didn’t do it!” We checked, and sure enough:

 

 

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

 

 

We tapped it and heard the triple knock. Each time Callaghan received an email, the tablet made that sound. Mystery solved, right?

I just don’t understand 1). Why Mamie would bother changing the notification alert sound if she never used the tablet, and 2). How she could have changed it if she was so reluctant to try the tablet that she never even hit the Skype button to call us. I mean, does this make any sense? The idea of Mamie fiddling around with the settings and changing things in there seems a bit far-fetched. For me, there’s still a feathery question mark hovering in the air above the whole thing.

“Maybe the Babadook changed the notification sound,” Callaghan suggested helpfully.

“Yeah, let’s go with that theory,” I said. “It’s more fun.”

After this upcoming Friday the 13th, the next one won’t occur until November… but somehow, I doubt the eight months in between will be uneventful!

Happy Friday, All!

AARP Invite.

I got all giggly and amused the other day when we found an invitation to join AARP in our mailbox. There was no name on it. It was addressed to “Valued Member,” but I assumed that it was meant for me, since I’m the oldest person living at our address. Right? It was mine, all mine! I’d been joking about this impending day for a couple of years now.

 

"Got a letter in the mail..."

“Got a letter in the mail…”

 

 

"...go to war or go to..."

“…go to war or go to…”

 

 

...not jail. AARP, heheh!

…not jail. AARP, heheh!

 

The only problem? You have to be 50 to join AARP, so I knew I wasn’t technically eligible… I have four years to go… but still, I thought they were sending membership forms for people who are “almost 50” to join early, perhaps. I opened the envelope. The enclosed form looked pretty standard.

 

Nothing unusual here.

Nothing unusual here.

 

Then I flipped it over.

 

Then why send it??

Then why send it??

 

First of all, their membership offer expires on March 31, as in, this year. Secondly, according to their backside print, I won’t be eligible until December 27, 2018.  I did the math, which was never my strong suit, but still, I DID IT, and the AARP people are obviously messing with me and likely others who are within five years of the minimum age requirement. AARP is saying, “You have two months to accept this offer for which you won’t be eligible for another four years.” They’re dangling their discount-dripping carrots over our heads, and they’re probably laughing.

Seriously, AARP… consider saving some trees until eligible people are living at these addresses!

At least there’s recycling.

Oh, and here’s something random for we oldsters (and Tom Petty fans in general):

 

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(Thanks, Dennis.) =)

Have a great day, All!