Monthly Archives: September 2010

Breakfast at epiphany’s

My day-to-day life is unremarkable. Except for visiting the jail each week and fending off the specter of exsanguination, I do not often do exciting things. I am not averse to deviations from the norm, but neither am I bored by lifestyle. “With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?” asks Oscar Wilde, and though this sentiment is a bit drippy, the man’s got a point.

Besides the bragging rights afforded by this lifestyle, i.e., I read more books each year than you do (dissenters, please dissent in the comments below), I am free to luxuriate in contemplation. Actually, if it weren’t for the presence of other inmates, I think I would be suited to living behind the bars that currently imprision my ex and formerly imprisoned Oscar Wilde: I’d have unlimited time to read and think and write.

On second thought, I take that back. Prison libraries and prison food would not suit me. Perhaps a house arrest could be arranged?

At any rate, I like to think. If I’d been a man in Enlightenment Europe, I could have made a career of musing and reflecting. I would not call myself a philosopher nor a logician, and I am simply not cut out for meditation, but I enjoy a good old-fashioned internal monologue.

Lately two themes have emerged in my thinking, or perhaps it is one theme with two distinct foci. The first is more pedestrian, and I apologize for this obvious pun, but I just can’t help myself. This theme is more ordinary than the other, but it also involves walking. Get it? Get it?

A few weeks ago I read Mark Bittman’s Food Matters. Very little of what he said was new to me, but he said it in such a succinct and convincing way that I have rededicated myself to his cause, to wit: we need to stop eating junk because it’s bad for our bodies and bad for the planet.

So I’ve been eating even more vegetables and fruits, and even less meat (about a pound a week should do the trick, says Mr. Bittman), and on top of that, I haven’t driven to the grocery store in two weeks. I’ve gone to the store nearly every day, but I’ve been walking the 1.5 mile trip. Carbon footprint: zero!

In that time, the only animal product I’ve purchased has been a half-gallon of milk. Carbon footprint: noticeable, but not horrible!

Added value: the walking trip gives me even more time to think about stuff!

That is the first theme: I have been thinking very, very hard about food. I’ve been thinking about its nutrition and its place of origin. (Like Mr. Bittman says: if your organic lettuce traveled two thousand miles, is it really organic?) Each time I consume an animal product, I think about the life of that animal and the environmental costs of raising it. And I’ve been thinking about how lost I’d be without my slow cookers. Without them I’d be helpless. If you wanted me to scramble two eggs on the stove, you’d be appalled at the results.

Slow cooker experiments lately have included a ratatouille (which was okay, but it needed more spices, but I got tired of plucking leaves from the thyme stems so possibly this is my own fault), a stew (which was delicious, but it used chicken stock and chicken meat that I already had in the freezer), a peach and kiwi cobbler (with two tablespoons of butter and bad-for-you flour), a batch of homemade chai mixed with homemade almond milk rather than moo milk (not as creamy, but super tasty), and a possible jelly. I won’t know the results of this particular experiment till tomorrow morning. My only comment at this point is that one must never, ever purchase scuppernong grapes. They are more expensive, which might lead you to believe that they are superior, but you would find this to be a mistaken conclusion as you spent a full damn hour removing the seeds from them and then realizing the only thing you could realistically do would be to put them in the slow cooker and hope a jelly came out.

I should have fed them to the horsies. Why didn’t I think of that? I’ve made friends with two horses I pass as I walk to and from work. I do not know their names, but I know that they like carrots, bananas, and apples that I’ve already half-eaten. I bet they would have liked scuppernong grapes, too.

Anyway: food. At this point I do not anticipate becoming a vegetarian, but I do see myself following a diet that is mostly vegan (!) with the occasional indulgence.

The second theme consuming my attention lately has also been environmental, at least in part. Deep Lofty Thoughts of ecological health, human society, animal society, politics, libraries, and sustainability have danced about in my head. These disparate topics are joined by one crucial link, viz., my role in each of them.

Because I have not reached any conclusions in this broad vein—none I’d care to share at this point, anyway—I will refrain from writing publicly about them for now. Which is a bit of a letdown, innit? Some of my conclusions are unsettling or even disturbing, so I’d rather not broadcast anything till I’m confident about them. Also, these particular thoughts, being all Deep and Lofty, are taking longer to incubate. Food is one thing; it is important, but it is familiar and domestic, and it doesn’t take a Goethe to reach some conclusions. (“Hey! I should probably eat more fruits and vegetables! Is this an epiphany I’m having? Because this feels like an epiphany!”).

But I will leave you with another thought, which is in no way original, but it’s 2:30 a.m., give me a break. Some of you will have been directed here by a link on my facebook page. I’d like to point out that I despise facebook. I have an account for two reasons—to keep up with distant relatives, and to be findable online—but I loathe the medium. The brevity of the posts renders thought into an abbreviated, cheapened, superficial exercise, and for the love of everything holy, I do not give a shit what you are going to watch on television tonight. “Communication” on facebook (those quotation marks are supposed to be ironic, mmkay?) is dissatisfying. It is like drinking two glasses of water and pretending you’re full.

If you disagree with me, you probably aren’t reading this because the thousand-plus wordcount of this post will have scared you off ten paragraphs ago. If you agree with me, thanks for taking the time to read my attempt at legitimate communication.


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Hysterical

While at the doctor’s office two days ago, waiting for the procedure to begin, I kept my nose in the Carl Hiaasen I was reading. I’ve mainly given up on thrillers and mysteries, but I haven’t ditched Mr. Hiaasen yet: his books are funny, and they tend to feature scathing social criticism, often to the tune of environmental themes, which is particularly important at the moment because I’m trying to finish up five books for a week of eco-themed book reviews at the library’s book-review blog.

Then the doctor came in, saw the book, and said “Oh, he’s great.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “He’s hysterical.”

I wasn’t consciously making a pun, but I’d like to take credit for it anyway. The doctor was on OB/GYN, and the procedure involved my uterus, so I think I should get credit for “hysterical.”

The doctor was there to implant an IUD, a little gizmo that sits at the bottom of the uterus and releases copper for ten year. It is not very often that sperm get anywhere near my ova, but just in case any of the wee beasties find their way to my girl bits during the next decade, I will be in no danger of reproducing. With my insurance, the whole thing cost twenty bucks. I think I can handle two dollars per year for birth control.

The procedure was rather painful. Because I have a small, delicate little cervix (Never been used! Like new!) the doctor had to dilate it. From what I understand, this is the sort of thing that happens when women deliver children. No wonder they say childbirth is painful. My few minutes of enduring a slightly-enlarged cervix was bad enough.

The worst of the pain was finished by the time I left the doctor’s office, but the cramps have continued—and my small, delicate little cervix has been leaking blood ever since. From what I gather, this is not entirely atypical, so I am probably not going to keel over dead. I hope.

The fact remains that my reproductive organs have been on a low, steady drip for 42 hours now. I was sort of using that blood, you know? Yesterday didn’t seem to bad, but then I took a nap, which turned into, if you can believe this, fourteen hours of sleep. Even I, one of the world’s champion nappers, cannot sleep for fourteen uninterrupted hours unless something’s wrong.

Then today I definitely noticed the effects of operating with rather less blood than normal. I’ve been feeling dizzy and distracted (and crampy, don’t forget that), and also irritable, but that’s pretty much par for the course so I’m not sure that’s a symptom. Tomorrow, if my uterus is still giving away blood like it’s going out of style, I suppose I’ll break down and call the doctor.

And now, since it is getting on toward ten o’clock, I think I’ll take a nice long nap. This is several hours earlier than my typical bedtime, but considering that my typical bedtime is absurdly late, I think I’ll take advantage of the drowsiness caused by my leaky plumbing and get to bed at a reasonable hour for a change. If it transpires that I die overnight, please refrain from putting the cause of death on my tombstone, okay? That would be embarrassing.


Nothing but the tooth

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Dear Tooth Fairy:

You may wonder why I’m addressing this to you, when I know you don’t even exist. Remember how I  tried to discredit you, Tooth Fairy? Second grade, wasn’t it? There was that unholy pact with Mom. It was that shared treachery that kept me from the truth, all those years.

Never should have trusted Mom. She recently admitted to a parenting technique she used when I was younger: when she wanted time to herself, she would run the vacuum cleaner to send me scrambling to my room.

An aside: I don’t know why this has been on my mind lately, but I keep returning to an incident from my tooth-losing years. I would have been seven, I think. The school assignment asked for us to draw a circle, then to draw a larger circle underneath that, then finally to draw a final larger circle underneath the first two.

So I did. My drawing looked like an archery target: three concentric rings.

But noooo, my perspective was all wrong. I was looking at the page from a bird’s eye view, not from a side view. The rings were supposed to be the frame of a snowperson, seen from a person standing in front of the construction, not above it.

Is it my fault the directions were ambiguous? No? Then why did the teacher frown at me and tell me to start over?

But I digress.

I used to look forward to losing my teeth, Tooth Fairy, truly I did. There was the exquisite satisfaction of working through the pain to pry loose the interloper, then the guaranteed payoff the following morning. Through twenty-some teeth I happily participated in this deception, never suspecting I was a pawn in a larger conspiracy.

Do the chickens on the farm know their purpose? Do they sense the ax looming in their futures? For years I was content to faithfully produce my teeth, assuming the good will of the collectors, but even the ignorant hen might get a glimpse of the truth.

Slowly the possibility of a greater consciousness dawned on me. Gnawed by doubts about a fundamental truth at such a young age, I naturally turned to my mother during my crisis of faith. She assured my that the Tooth Fairy was real, of course she was real.

My misgivings vanished. My mother’s word was the alpha and the omega. Besides, I had independent proof, the letters written to me by the Tooth Fairy.

I prayed to you, Tooth Fairy, do you remember? In my imagination you looked a lot like Disney’s Tinker Bell. Could have been her sister.

But oh, this happy hen could not rest in her coop! Even with the presents rendered after the successful delivery of a tooth, these bribes to win her complacency, the doubts began to return. I began to fear I would never find peace. For even as I aged, growing more cynical and circumspect by the day, my baby teeth were diminishing in number.

At the loss of the penultimate tooth, I daringly kept the news to myself, telling no one but Mom. This would weed out imposters, surely! And when the letter appeared under my pillow the next morning, how happy I was!

Santa Claus I had rejected gracefully, years prior, but you were unassailable, Tooth Fairy. I believed in you to my core. Beauty is tooth, tooth beauty.

Yet my internal cluckings returned, despite the incontestible proof of my experiment, despite my unwavering faith. One tiny little niggling detail squeaked for recognition. It scarcely deserved my attention—indeed, I dismissed it out of hand—but it slowly poisoned my thoughts till I could bear it no more.

I steeled my nerve and again confronted my mother, with the most daring accusation yet. “Mom,” I demanded, “are YOU the tooth fairy?”

“No,” she said. Alpha. Omega.

True enough: her handwriting looked nothing like yours, Tooth Fairy. You wrote in capital letters. Mom did not.

How is it that the opiate of the masses did not soothe the soul of one little hen? One more egg to lay, and she would be embarking on her well-earned retirement. It should have been a time of joy and anticipation. Instead it was a time of unprecedented suspicion, of doubt, of paranoia.

Weep you for the innocence! In one terrible act I ripped the lid from Pandora’s Box:

I did not tell Mom when I lost my last tooth.

All day I was nervous, stinking of my crime, knowing I was likely betraying my mother’s kindness forevermore. I clasped my hand over my mouth and spoke only when necessary, mumbling so as to keep my deed private.

When morning came—oh, Tooth Fairy, such relief! The tooth was gone, your words were on the page, your existence was demonstrably proven! Pity the poor hen her delusions!

Ah, Tooth Fairy, I suppose I should be glad. Your act of deceit permitted me the luxury of belief for years after the other children grew wise. And more: you gave me a glimpse of the goddess, a taste of a religion that embraced the matriarchy.

But know this, Tooth Fairy: more than twenty years have passed since your deceit, and I do not forget. I do not forget.