Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Holidailies Day 5 - First I Drink the Coffee

Well, I managed to miss yesterday, but I'll just carry one from here with a quickie cross stitch update.

Yesterday, I worked on the Steotchalong 6 piece  and then turned to this:

Coffee Quaker
Heartstrings Samplery

I am enjoying this one so much - Quaker style samplers are always fun to do, with each separate medallion its own mini-project.   For this one, I'm using a selection of brownish flosses from my stash instead of the colors the designer chose.  When it's finished, it will say "First I drink the coffee, then I do the things.

Today, I did the things - cleaned out the fridge, and knocked a few minor items off my neverending to-do list.  

Tonight, dinner is going to be simple - some sort of noodle and cabbage thing with a mushroom stroganoff on top.  The sort of thing that can only be appealing on a cold day.

For right now, though, I am tired. The sun more or less never came up much and all I want is a nap. 

Or more coffee.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Holidailies Day 3: Steotchalong 6

Michael and I go back and forth a lot on trying to 'eat healthier' - for us, that's more or less got to do with holding the weight gain at bay, get a grip on portion sizes (him) and avoiding things that set off the worst of acid reflux (me).

Honestly, I ought to be on a full on anti-inflammatory diet to help control the rheumatoid arthritis, too.  But the damage has already been done, and taking away all the foods I like on top of that hardly seems fair.

But... we tossed all that overboard in October, when we had houseguests - there was just no way I was going to feed two kids and two extra adults with very different tastes from ours, and do it all with fresh produce, well sourced meats and no shortcuts.

So as of now, we're trying to mostly cook at ho me, but the bread monster has crept back into our daily lives and we're back again to "We'll deal with this in January."  Poor January. January sucks.

Yesterday afternoon, Michael reheated some leftover pizza from the night before. We do pizza very, very rarely, so we were looking forward to the leftovers.

Except, he plated the slices and turned around to bring one to me, and I guess he turned around a little more quickly than he thought because the pizza on both plates slide off at warp speed and landed in the sink while we just stared at each other, stricken!

Short story long... tonight he's going to pick up pizza for dinner.  And then, that's probably it for us and pizza for the next few months.

Today, I'm stitching on Steotch's Steotchalong 6 - every year, the snarky stitchery designer, Steotch, reels out a mystery pattern a week at a time.   It's usually some sort of pop culture reference, and guaranteed to be funny, snarky, and a little bit twisted.  The last section usually involves several 'choose your own adventure' options.

This year, it was also choose your own colors, before it began.  This is how mine looks, current as of this past week.  The fabric is a sparkly off-white evenweave, and the threads are all variegated silks.

The latest section became available last night, so now I have a much better idea of where we're going with this, but I won't say until I can show it in stitches.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Holidailies Day 2: Yellow Submarine

Quiet day today watching movies and stitching.

We saw Love Actually for the first time yesterday - I'm not sure how we managed to never see it before.  I liked parts of it a lot... and all the focus on boobs and asses and and calling tiny people 'fat' made me highly annoyed.  The whole movie is very, very British.

We also watched the latest episode of Outlander, and I truly am enjoying that series.  I read the books years ago when I was recovering from a broken hip and had a lot of downtime to pass.  After so many years, I can't recall all the finer plot points, but it does seem to be hitting the major ones just fine, and capturing the 'feel' of the books.

For dinner I made Gulashsuppe - a recipe I've been working on for decades and is just about my favorite comfort food for a cold night.

My stitching today:

Blackbird Designs
32ct Stellar Lugana over 2

This is part of an entire series of Beatles-themed pieces, and eventually I hope to do them all.

Recently Read: The Cooking Gene, Michael J. Twitty
Currently (Re)Reading: Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Frazen Foer

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Holidailies Day 1: Holiday Magick

Welp, here we go again - Holidailies, the once a year attempt to post daily for the month of December which I always give up on within the first week. Traditions! They're important!

I feel like this first entry should be a catch up of sorts of my life-in-general.

Michael and I moved this past spring to an apartment in Fairfax, and I love it - good neighbors, just the right size to give us room to turn around in and not so much that we stuff it full of things that would turn into mountains of debris that will one day crush us.

Last fall, our lovely old beagle, Sadie, passed away at 16 years and we still miss her. This year, we brought Sasha into our lives.  She's about 3 years old and while I call her a chihuahuah mix, on consideration we are sure she's about 98% Jack Russell Terrier.  She's sweet and obnoxious, as all the best dogs are.

We spent a few days in Bethany Beach, DE in September - I enjoy the area a lot but definitely prefer the 'off season' when it is far less hot, less crowded and dogs are allowed to walk on the beach.

October saw my daughter and her family come back to the US after a 3 year tour of duty in Stuttgart with the Army.  They stayed with us for a month while they transitioned to civilian life, and now live in Stafford, VA.  At a mere hour away, that's closer than any of my kids have lived to me in many years!

This evening, we saw their new place for the first time - the kids spoiled Sasha for several hours, and we had a quiet evening playing boardgames.

So, that's the brief catch up. I plan to use each day here this month sharing my cross stitchery. I plan to work on one of my WIPs (works-in-progress) each day this month.

I finished this quirky little thing this morning:

Ink Circles

Recently Read: The Cooking Gene, Michael J. Twitty
Currently (Re)Reading: Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Frazen Foer

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Princess Bride

(cross posted at Reviews, Chews & How-Tos)

I am often terrible at getting the things I plan to write actually written - I keep a long, long list of post ideas I plan to write and then experience writer's block about getting the actual words down, even though I'm thinking about what I want to say often.  Usually, this is because I very much want to make a positive commentary, but the subject matter itself turns out to be problematic.

Months ago, now, I received a book via Blind Date with a Book (an excellent service, and I highly recommend you give them a try!).  You can read my review here - I talked about their service, but kept the book I received a secret so it wouldn't ruin the surprise for anyone wanting to choose the book based on their hints.

What they do is wrap books - some old classics, some newer offerings - in plain brown paper labeled with just a few key hints at what it might be. You select your book based on those keywords and then a lovely surprise book comes to you!

The hints for my book were "Spoof fairy tale * Romance * Adventure * Fantastical * Hilarious".  My guesses when I picked it were that it might be 1) something by Terry Pratchett, 2) The Princess Bride or 3) something wonderful I had never come across before.  Any of these options sounded great to me, so it was win win win, no matter what.

It turned out to be Princess Bride - which I'd checked out of the library and read once long ago, and I've seen the movie several times. Hooray!

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman was originally published in 1973, and then updated and expanded in 1999, well after the movie release in 1987.

For those that love  the movie (also written by Goldman), there is much to love in the book, because most of the movie dialogue is lifted wholly from the book without change.

I am pretty sure that the first time I read it, it was the earlier edition - the one I received was the update.

So first, the good - it is the same rollicking tale as the movie, which makes it an easy, fast paced read that feels very nostalgic and familiar.

I don't have a lot else to say about that - I don't think I've ever read a book with a movie tie-in that so completely mirrored one another. What's in the movie is in the book, although the book does provide some additional backstory and expansion on the history of most of the main characters.

On that basis, I'd recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the movie.

So what led to my discomfort with writing about it? It's the expansion.  The premise of the movie is a grandfather reading an old book to his sick grandson.

In the book, Goldman makes a fictionalized version of himself the main character - while in real life, he has two daughters, his fictionalized self has an unhappy relationship with his wife, and a son he doesn't connect to.

His descriptions of his thoughts toward this family of his were really off-putting to me - he blames his wife for being a strong, successful woman, and refers to his son with contempt - he's fat (depicted as a character flaw more than merely a physical trait), he isn't interested in the things his father is, which is evidence that he is an unworthy son.

He wants to have a better relationship with him mainly as a matter of duty, but he pretty much puts the fault on the kid for not being the son he actually wants.  And there is never any irony in this, never any sense that he, the author, knows the mistake in this. His family disappoints him, so he avoids his son  and cheats on his wife.  Their fault.

I have a really hard time seeing this as anything other than a veiled dig at his actual non-fictional family.

He remembers a book his father (or grandfather? I can't actually recall) read to him as a child, and thinks perhaps his own son will bond with him over this book, so he goes to great expense to locate this obscure book in a second hand shop and has it sent to his son while he's away on a business trip.

Later he asks him how he liked it and the kid says he didn't and tried to read it but couldn't.  Again the son has failed him - how could he not love this wonderful story of love an pirates and adventure?  What is wrong with this boring lump of a kid?? What a waste of time and money getting him the book!

Well - it turns out the book wasn't fiction - it was a very dry and badly written book of history, and while the stories were in there, they weren't written to entertain.  His father/grandfather had greatly editorialized the book when he read the 'good parts' to him so long ago.

So, he sets out to rewrite it as it should have been - a fairy tale.

And thus, we enter the story of the Princess Bride

Goldman definitely makes it a fairy tale - Buttercup isn't simply beautiful, she is the Most Beautiful Girl in the World.  And that is all she brings to the story - her personality is petulant, kind of mean, bland, and incurious and she is a very passive participant  in the adventures that center around her.

And yet - she is Beautiful, and therefore a reasonable object of desire and all the resulting intrigue and chaos that ensues. Westly holds no interest for her at all other than as a thing to order around and demean, until he expresses love for her (because of her beauty) - then she loves him back.

Even more problematic, when Westly is still disguised as the Dread Pirate Robert, he enjoys a good round of actual physical violence toward her before revealing himself to her - and neither one of them seem to think this is disturbing. It's what Love does when it's angry, right?

The movie was better and now I'm afraid to rewatch it again because this is still a very strange 'love story'.
I'm not sure I'd have such a negative impression of her and their relationship if I hadn't read fictional-Goldman's criticisms of his wife for not being content to be a passive, supportive ornament for his own life.  And because I am not sure where real-Goldman and fictional-Goldman part ways, I wound up reading the entire thing through this somewhat annoyed lens.

Very disappointing!  It doesn't take away one bit from the fun parts of the story, but overall I think it doesn't age well... so much of this is rooted in the tail-end of the Mad Men era's notion of women, and he did nothing to correct it in this later update.

I'm glad I read it and don't want to discourage anyone from reading it who wants to, but I do think it's not suitable for younger readers unless there is a long discussion of how sometimes authors have some disappointing sexist views that need to be understood as such.

I get that when you read older books, you have to account for the era in which they were written - and I remember the early 70s well enough to recognize the attitudes Goldman brings to his story. But there is little cultural excuse for it in the late '90s, and I'd like to think that here in 2017, girls are no longer content to believe their value comes solely by how beautiful and willing they are to let men suffer and fight to attain them.

So, my assessment - problematic.  Just as fictional-Goldman needed to reframe dry history as a fairy tale, the resulting fairy tale needs some reworking. But - if you liked the movie, you'll probably enjoy at least the parts of this book that found it's way into the film!  If you don't want to be rabidly annoyed, feel free to skip the prologue, and maybe a lot of the parts about Buttercup and Westly.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Healthcare Anxiety

It's official - I have some sort of traumatic stress response to dealing with healthcare issues.  And mind you, I'm one of the lucky ones - I HAVE insurance and a cadre of good doctors trying to make sure I don't die unduly soon.

The background stress, of course, is the one we all share as we watch the politicians-currently-in-charge working their old white asses off to make sure none of us have affordable access to this, and knowing I have a collectors set of chronic conditions that put me second only to cancer patients on the list of people likely to see deductibles rise straight up into the nosebleed seats.

But down here, where it's personal, the whole process is causing me to burst out into tears everytime I have to talk to a doctor.  Here where it's personal, we maxed out of our out-of-pocket limit (which was pretty high) back in FEBRUARY - so I haven't had to pay for a thing since then.  Which is good, in a dark way.

But that's about to start all over again as January 1st - and Michael is currently between jobs. This means, if he doesn't have work by then, we'll not only be starting fresh having to pay out of pocket in January, but then we'll do it all AGAIN as soon as we flip over to a new insurance policy.

Every five weeks, I get biologic infusions to control my rheumatoid arthritis - this is why it got used up so fast. Those infusions come in at close to 20K. EVERY FIVE WEEKS. So that yearly out-of-pocket limit is hit all at once.

That is not counting all the other things I need to be seen for, and trust me, when you're 56 years old, there are a lot of things that need to be dealt with.

Today, I had my annual physical.  And it came with referrals for a mammogram and PAP, along with a trip to go see about a colonoscopy and deal with some pretty serious GERD issues, and possibly a sleep study at some point in the next few months to make sure I'm not risking a heart attack by breathing wrong in my sleep.

No way is all this happening before the end of the year, and while talking it all over with my doctor, I burst into tears before I even realized I was upset.

It surprised her and she's so nice, I had to assure her it wasn't her making me cry. She's fantastic, let's me talk and get to the end of a sentence - and awhile ago, I'd mentioned how often male doctors constantly cut me off at every sentence (and then grouse at me later because I didn't thoroughly explain symptions, hello??) - so now she always finds me women doctors, and usually the same ones she sees herself.

But, this marks the fourth time in three years that our insurance has led to a switch - with all new doctors who will take it or not take it, so I don't even want to set any tests up with anyone I may not even be able to see once that happens, or have to go through the approval process all over again.  It's no good to get tests and then not be covered for the follow up care.

I just had to cancel a surgical procedure for my hands that I've been working toward for the last half a year.  It was for reconstructive surgery on my left hand (the dominant one) and it has been both compelling and intimidating to plan for it.

The bottom line is that once it was done, I was looking at about six months of braces and near daily occupational therapy and zero use of that hand - so I'd planned to cut my hair very short, and we were looking at Michael pretty much doing everything for the duration.

Thing is - it would have worked. He was teleworking from home, and everything ahead looked peaceful and quiet enough to get through it.

Then he got laid off. No telework and we sure don't have the means for regular hired in-home care.  And the insurance shift meant maybe I'd lose my surgeon and my occupational therapist right in the middle of it all.

Not to mention, the next job may require us to move.

So no, it just couldn't be done.  So we cancelled and I'm probably going to be mourn and be relieved about that all at the same time for a long time.

The worst part of it - and what really made me cry when my very kind doctor expressed dismay that we weren't going to be able to do it is that I can never trust health care and life stability will stay solid long enough to ever do it.  It would have helped with constant pain but the risk of upheaval is too high - I have to let that go.

I'm traumatized.  And I don't know anyone who isn't.

And I feel bad for even worrying about it when I HAVE care, and will be able - soon I hope - to get all these referrals dealt with, and still HAVE access to the biologics let me have a life, because too many people that I know and love - and so many I don't know at all - are literally wondering if soon, they'll just have to die for lack of affordable care or worse, inability to access health care at any price.

Politicians are doing this. Our country is doing this.  Insurance tangled up with employment is doing this. It's so rooted in partisan politics and yet, it feels like the least political issue I can think of.  Poor health isn't partisan.  I will never understand how we got here, and I don't know how to look at it as if it's not personal.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Herndon Holiday Craft Show

One of the things I like about this time of year are all the craft shows - here in the Northern Virginia area, all the little community centers seem to hold one sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Today, we headed over to Herndon to visit there, and spent a nice couple of hours looking over the various handmade goodies and collecting cards to visit Etsy shops later.  There was a good range of knit, crocheted and quilted items, along with lots of jewelry makers, various artists and soap and candlemakers.

We resisted buying any holiday decor (I always want them all) because our holiday stash is enough for a house and we now live in a small apartment.  But he picked up a nice shaving brush and some beer soap and I scored with a hammered copper bracelet with a lovely blue patina, as well as a fragrance oil diffuser pendant with a tree of life design.


We topped off the afternoon with a late lunch/early dinner at Clydes, at Reston Town Center after a bit of window shopping and enjoying the (mostly) mild weather.

Tonight, we need to  take things easy and get to bed at a responsible time (something neither of us are even a little bit good at), as we each have early appointments - me for a physical, and Michael for a job interview.

Hopeful both with have positive results!