29 February 2008

The Doctor Is In--and Fading Fast

Last night I began to watch the 1965 epic film "Dr. Zhivago." I love Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness. I love Russian and Soviet history. I love epic films, particularly during their hayday in the 60s. The score, particularly the well-known "Lara's Theme," is absolutely beautiful. But I cannot stand "Dr. Zhivago." I've tried to watch this film THREE TIMES and I simply cannot get through it. Last night I was praying for death after 20 minutes. It doesn't help that the film is 57 hours long (and TCM plays their films without commercial breaks). 56 hours of those is staring. Staring at each other, staring after someone, staring at the landscape, staring at grass growing. I consider myself a patient filmgoer, but I can stand only so much staring after a while before I curse the filmmakers. After each attempt at this movie I wait a few years, afterwhich I've forgotten why I hated it so much. I think that perhaps I was just tired when I last watched it, or I wasn't in a good mood, or whathaveyou. I decide to try it again afresh and I actually get excited at the prospect of perhaps actually enjoying it this time around. The film begins as we're welcomed by the sight of Guinness, who has never performed poorly in a film in his life. "This is the time!" I say to myself. By the time Omar Sharif finally takes the screen at around 10 minutes in I hate it all over again. "YOU SUCK," I yell at it. "YOU'VE LIED TO ME FOR THE LAST DAMN TIME. YOU'RE AS ENTERTAINING AS MY WRISTWATCH." Fortunately, The Daily Show was on by then, saving my TV screen from further scorn and ridicule. That is, until three years from now when I wonder why I don't like "Dr. Zhivago" and decide to find out why.

Speaking of films, I've decided to make a list of my favorites. Why? Because I can.

*Musical: "Gigi" (1958: Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan); "My Fair Lady" (1964: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison)

*Classic Comedy: "The In-Laws" (1979: Peter Falk, Alan Arkin); "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!" (1966: Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters)
*Modern Comedy: "Groundhog Day" (1993: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell); "Office Space" (1999: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston)
*Black Comedy: "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (1949: Alec Guinness, Dennis Price)

*War Drama: "Stalag 17" (1953: William Holden, Otto Preminger); "Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957: Alec Guinness, William Holden); "Twelve O'Clock High (1949: Gregory Peck)
*War Comedy: "Mister Roberts" (1955: Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, James Cagney); "No Time For Sergeants" (1958: Andy Griffith, Nick Adams)

*Western Comedy: "Support Your Local Sheriff!" (1968: James Garner, Harry Morgan)
*Western Drama: "High Noon" (1952: Gary Cooper, Gracy Kelly)

*Science Fiction: "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher)
*Non-Star Wars Science Fiction: "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie" (1996: Michael J. Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy)

*Epic: "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962: Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness); "Spartacus" (1960: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis)

*Documentary: "The Fog of War" (2006: Robert McNamara)
*Mocumentary: "Best In Show" (2000: Christopher Guest, Parker Posey)

*Fictional Historical Drama: "Empire of the Sun" (1987: Christian Bale, John Malkovich); "The Power of One" (1992: Stephen Dorff, Morgan Freeman)
*Nonfictional Historical Drama: "Thirteen Days" (2000: Bruce Greenwood, Kevin Costner)

*Action/Adventure: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen)
*Dystopic: "Equilibrium" (2002: Christian Bale, Emily Watson)
*James Bond: "Goldfinger" (1964: Sean Connery)

*Sports: "Cinderella Man" (2005: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger); "Field of Dreams" (1989: Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta)

*Chick-flick: "Return to Me" (2000: David Duchovny, Minnie Driver)
*Romance: "The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1982: Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, Ian McKellen)

*Horror: "The Changling" (1980: George C. Scott); "28 Days Later" (2002: Cillian Murphy, Christopher Eccleston)
*Hitchcock: "Strangers on a Train" (1951: Farley Granger, Robert Walker); "North By Northwest" (1959: Cary Grant)
*Suspense: "Gaslight" (1944: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer); "The Others" (2001: Nicole Kidman)

*Foreign Language: "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (France, 1964: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo); "Raise the Red Lantern" (China, 1991: Gong Li)

*Silent Feature: "Safety Last!" (1923: Harold Lloyd); "The Cameraman" (1928: Buster Keaton)

*Holiday: "White Christmas" (1954: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye)

*Animated Disney: "Sleeping Beauty" (1959)
*Live-action Disney: "Summer Magic" (1963: Hayley Mills, Dorothy McGuire)
*Pixar: "Toy Story" (1995)
*Non-Disney Animated: "Anastasia" (1997)

*Parody/Satire: "Airplane!" (1980: Robert Hays, Leslie Nielson); "UHF" (1989: Weird Al Yankovic, Michael Richards)

*Cult Classic: "The Princess Bride" (1987: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright); "Napolean Dynamite" (2004: Jon Heder)

*Independent: "Saints and Soldiers" (2004: Corbin Allred, Kirby Heyborne)

28 February 2008

Every Democrat in America Reads My Blog

Or so it would seem, given that they've abandoned Hillary and gone with Obama. Seems they want the White House badly enough. Good for them for thinking before they vote.

An Obama-McCain presidential race will be a good one. I think this will make the first time in years I haven't been plagued with that lesser-of-two-evils thing. I'm actually starting to get excited about November; I dare say, possibly even giddy. And all because Hillary decided to self-destruct when it became obvious to her that she wasn't going to win the bid as easily as she thought. The desperation on her part is getting just plain sad. Everyone knows that anything that could possibly be less than good about Obama that's been picked up by the press was intentionally put there by her campaign. It's now so transparent that everyone just tunes it out. Why, he could be an actual terrorist and we'd never know it because we'd just chalk it up to Hillary freaking out. If he blows up the White House, I'm blaming her. I also loved it when she mocked Obama at a rally for being bi-partisan and optimistic. Really? What are we supposed to be voting for? Stubborn stupidity and an end-of-the-world mentality? Please. Even I think we can give the Democrats a little more credit than that.

By the way, I've solved the whole running-mate quandry every presidential candidate has to deal with. McCain's running mate will be Obama and Obama's running mate will be McCain. It will be kinda like it was over a century ago when the loser became the VP; so I guess it's not so much as solving the problem on my own, but rather bringing back a good idea. They'll still have to debate each other about who would make the better president, but either way they both make it in. That would make people happy, wouldn't you think? And then we can all hold hands, sing "Reunited" together, and cry (mostly because we've been reduced to singing "Reunited." Terrible song.).

I'm such a friggin' genius, it's scary.

27 February 2008

Doth I offend?

I gotta get this off my chest while I can still remember it. For a few years I taught the young women in our ward here. There was a ward missionary assigned to the Young Women who would show up once every few months to see how we all were doing. The two of us got along pretty well together as our senses of humor seemed to click. She would even stay past opening exercises to sit in on my lesson once in a while in hopes of being amused. I was always happy to see her and I'd strike up a conversation with her when I did. I had been told that she can be easily offended, that she left the church for a while because someone offended her. But I didn't believe it. How can someone with a sense of humor like that get offended so easily?

One day I came in and sat in front of her in YW. She hadn't been in for a while so I said with a smile, "Good to finally see you again. I had started to take it personally." Minus a smile, she countered with, "Really? I would think you'd be used to rejection by now." Huh. Ouch. That's something that my good friends would say to me. I rarely see this woman and I would not consider her a good friend so it surprised me that she wanted to take it to that level. But hey, I can kick it up a notch too, so I laughed it off and asked how she was. She went into a long tirade about how her dog was dying, her job sucked, etc. I joked, "Wow. You're the type of friend I call when I'm having a bad day so I can feel better about myself." Now, I've said this to applicable friends in the past, mostly Misty because, holy crap, she has the worst luck of nearly anyone I know. Anyway, I felt it was a mild comment, particularly given her comment to me before that. Did she laugh like my friends with crappy lives do? No. She ran out of the room in a fit of tears and hid in the women's bathroom. After that she ran off and the YW President had to go look for her to comfort her, after which the bishop had found her crying and was also comforting her. What the huh? Needless to say, the "easily offended" label came true for me. I even called her that night to apologize and she curtly replied, "I know you didn't mean to," and hung up. That was the last time she ever spoke to me. She avoided me thereafter like the plague and I haven't seen her back at church for at least a year now.

Holy crap in a hat, what is WITH people? If you can't take it, then don't dish it out, lady. To this day her reaction bothers me. Not because I think I was at fault, because she indicated that's where she wanted the conversation to go. You lead me down a certain path, I'll follow. It bothers me because she seemingly had humor about her previously--a sarcastic humor at that. So where did it go? If she was honestly in a bad mood that day, why respond to me at all? If you're going to be snarky to me, I'm going to be snarky back, particularly if I've been led to believe you were only joking. See, this is why I hate people.

26 February 2008

Diagnosis: Ugly Baby Syndrome

In order to begin this episode of Dr. Combat I must start by describing Peawhistle as a baby. Every mother thinks their babies are beautiful. That's the only thing keeping the little screamers alive sometimes. Naturally, I thought Peawhistle was a beautiful baby myself. I wondered from time to time if it was just me, but then someone else would make a comment that reassured me that I wasn't the only one who found her attractive. From the start, I had people stop me and tell me that Peawhistle was the most beautiful baby they'd ever seen. The phrase "porcelain doll" came up about every other time in describing her (although I admit I've seen my fair share of ugly porcelain dolls, but I figured they weren't talking about those). And it wasn't just the old ladies who stopped to gawk, it was women with babies of their own telling me she was the prettiest baby they'd ever seen, it was children of all ages saying how beautiful she was, and even grown, manly men stopping me in the Commissary to say, "Now THAT'S a beautiful baby." Total strangers begged and begged me to let them hold her. I swore she was going to be kidnapped at any second, and I was prepared with my latest Karate Kid moves. Peanut gets his fair share of attention now; he is very popular wherever we go. But nothing like what Peawhistle got. Peawhistle, was in fact, a very pretty baby.

Dr. Combat disagreed. He never outright said, "Your baby is ugly and I hate her," but I have evidence, spanning three distinct events, proving that he didn't find her particularly easy on the eyes. I'll let my readers be the judges.

Exhibit A:
The day after I had given birth to Peawhistle, Dr. Combat, whom I had not seen for a week, popped his head in the room to wish me a hearty congratulations. After they moved me to the post-partum ward, he joined the nurses in the nursery to lend a hand and administer newborn examinations. As I was wheeling Peawhistle down the hallway in her cart to get some ice from the snackroom, I came upon Dr. Combat coming from the opposite direction. He smiled brightly and said, "Awww, let's see the baby!" He bent over her expectantly. He just stared at her. "So what's her name?" "[Peawhistle]." And then he just stared at me. He gave me a look that suggested, "You're one of those idiot parents who just makes up names, aren't you?" For the record, Peawhistle's name is centuries old, a Catholic saint's name, and not uncommon; and yet, there are still those who have never heard it before in their lives and are convinced I invented it (I had to explain to Peanut's nurse the other day--a Catholic no less--where the name originated. She only sparked with recognition after I pronounced it the way its country's origins do. Go figure.). Dr. Combat was one of these people. After all of that, the best he could muster was, "Congratulations." And he walked away. Hm.

Exhibit B:
The next time I saw Dr. Combat it was at least a couple of weeks after Peawhistle was born. I was coming into the hospital at all hours of the night for reasons I won't disgust you with. I picked him out immediately, as he was the only person talking up a storm to every nurse in the vicinity. After he assisted me and my issue, he asked how Peawhistle was doing. I told him that she still wasn't back up to her birth weight yet, mostly because she kept falling asleep while she was eating. He said, "Well, I would too. You're eating, you're warm and cozy, your mom's rocking you to sleep, she's singing to you...." Note: Peawhistle did not enjoy my singing. She typically responded with singing of her own, namely the kind that shatters your eardrums. I learned not to sing to Peawhistle. Attempting to add an alternative suggestion of my own, I instead inserted, "...and telling her she's cuter than all the other babies." He looked at me with a harsh "You wish," sort of look. Man, tough crowd.

Exhibit C:
I'll be the first to admit that fresh-out babies look strange as far as human beings go. But by around the second or third week they begin to look the way they're supposed to look: cute and babyish and stuff. After the last encounter with my unexpected visit to the hospital, Dr. Combat wanted to see me back for a follow-up in the clinic. I made an appointment a few weeks after that and brought the baby to the appointment in her carrier as I had yet to find a suitable babysitter for my young child. At the end of the visit he said very happily, "Now let's see this baby!" Peawhistle was looking her best. She was sleeping. And she was adorable. I waited for him to finally admit she was attractive on some level. He looked at her for a second, stretched a thin smile across his face, and flatly declared, "Cute." Ouch. The appointment was over and I left with my ugly baby.

Perhaps he couldn't help it. It's very possible that he was merely used to his own children, who likely were so gorgeous that no human could gaze upon them without falling into a coma. Perhaps he had higher expectations for my offspring, what with my being so particularly stunning myself. Perhaps he was momentarily possessed by baby-hatin' demons. On three separate occasions. Regardless of the reason, would it have killed him to lie? Did he think he would be barred from the AMA if he did?

For an example of how it's supposed to be done, here's how my 6-week post-partum conversation went with my OB after Peanut was born. After she requested a peek at him, I removed the blanket over him so she could see him.
OB: *gasp* "ABBY! You didn't tell me you made such gorgeous babies!"
Me: "I thought that went without saying."
OB: "He is so perfect, so beautiful."
Me: "But then, every baby's cute, right?"
OB: "No way. I've seen some ugly babies in my time."
Me: "And what do you say to their mothers?"
OB: "'Oh, how precious!'"

See, even if she was lying, she was convincing enough that I'd never know it. One thing's for certain: Dr. Combat is not a good actor. It's just as well he's otherwise occupied during the day or he'd starve.

25 February 2008

"He looks like my Uncle Oscar."

Anyone else watch the Academy Awards last night? I'll just assume that at least some of you did. Personally, having only seen two of the movies that were up for anything (Bourne and Ratatouille, and not even in the theater), I couldn't have cared less who won anything. However, I'm always up for a good time, and that good time was in the very short form of Jon Stewart. The first time he hosted, he bombed, regardless of my thinking him very clever. Apparently these people just can't appreciate good humor when they see it. It was very Daily Show-esque, and perhaps they weren't used to that (having been a fan for over 10 years myself, I certainly didn't mind). His second attempt at hosting last evening (Stewart said after he was asked to host again, "The third time's a charm....") seemed to go ever much better with the crowd. While still Stewartish, the tone had changed slightly; it seemed much more like what the Oscar crowd was used to hearing. It was a bit more lighthearted and fun. It helped that he kept the political jokes to a minimum and concentrated mostly on the entertainment industry. In short, he knew his audience this time, and they appreciated that.

As I said, I also watch for the Here's Who Died segment. I'd completely forgotten about Deborah Kerr, Jane Wyman, Bud Ekins (Steve McQueen's stunt double in The Great Escape), and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). And what I think is so sad is when hardly anyone claps for some of these people, if at all. It's like saying, "And you are...? At least we won't miss you, eh?" I'll miss you, agent Freddie Fields! Whoever you were!

Oh, and the "Best Song" from Once? It sucked.

24 February 2008

"In the Not-too-distant Future...."

Those of you who are familiar with me--both of you--know that I love "Mystery Science Theater 3000." It remains one of my favorite TV shows to this day and I nearly cried when it ended. Well, "yelled and swore at the TV" is probably more accurate, but the idea is I was upset. And who made the magic happen on that genius program? Michael J. Nelson, head writer for 10 years and on-air host for the last half of those. Amazingly enough, he can actually write. As in, books, not just TV show scripts. "Mike Nelson's Movie Megascheese" started my love for his writing. A book of collected essays about really bad films and actors, it is what my friend, Teri, described as "laugh-out-loud, startle-the-cats funny." This only whet my appetite for his second, and my favorite book of his (I've read it three times now), "Mind Over Matters."

Because I can per the Fair Use clause of U.S. copyright law, I will publish one of my favorite excerpts here. In this particular chapter he is discussing the small mid-western college he attended, which was staffed entirely by insane professors. One English professor, whom his students dubbed "Beaker" because he resembled the Muppet so closely, performed various tricks of crazy for his students, never once realizing that he was in fact, certifiable. My favorite event Mike describes in excellent detail:

I was present at the following bit of strangeness. While lecturing on James Agee, he suddenly became curious about the hole in the countertop of his lecturing table, which was really a large cabinet with storage space beneath it, accessed by sliding doors. Without halting his lecture, he began to probe the hole--squarish, about the size of a small book--sticking his whole arm into it, tentatively at first and then up to the shoulder. Soon, and without stopping his talk on A Death in the Family, he was fully inside the cabinet. He hesitated for a moment during the exertion of closing the sliding door behind him, but then continued the lecture. Then another pause during the exertion of trying to get the cabinet door open again, which he was unable to do.

"Could someone come up here and free me?" came his muffled voice.

The class laughed uneasily, still not sure if this was a joke.

"Well, well, well," he said, his tone thoroughly elusive. There was the sound of a minor struggle. "This is what I get," he said, still without humor or embarrassment or panic or any sign as to whether he was asphyxiating.

After a moment, two similarly dressed jock guys got up, walked toward the front and out the door of the classroom.

"What time is it?" he asked, and no one answered. He had never managed to connect on any identifiable human level with any member of the class, so direct communications from him (not that this was terribly direct) usually went unanswered.

More people got up and left, then more, till there was only a handful of people remaining. Finally two young women looked at each other questioningly and then walked up to his cabinet. Figuring he was in capable hands, I left.

That is quality writing, people. I wish I could write like he does--he is mind-bogglingly funny. I figured it would be an excellent book to read while otherwise occupied nursing Peanut, until I discovered that my bursts of laughter were waking him up. Trying to hold it in only resulted in Shaken Baby Syndrome, so I eventually gave up trying to do both at the same time.

As a side note, Mike's third book, a novel titled "Death Rat: a Novel," is an excellent read. It's not as hilarious as his essays on life, but it is incredibly well written, intelligent, and witty. His characters still make me laugh, particularly the governor, with whom I share a rabid distaste for weathermen. Just a tip from your friendly neighborhood blogger.

23 February 2008

Success! Sort of.

Peawhistle has finally earned back half of her toys. She has consistently cleaned up her toys every night for two weeks. Mind you, she often required coaching ("Where does the teddy bear go? Go put it where it goes. Where do the Mr. Potato Head pieces go? Go put them in their case.") and in some cases threats, but she has at least always finished the job before bed. It was like Christmas again to rescue two whole bags of toys from the depths of our closet; the reunion between Peawhistle and her stuffed Dumbo was especially touching. I've reminded her that if she fails to put away these new toys they will go right back into my closet. Her assurances that she has turned over a new leaf in this department I'll admit are not terribly encouraging, particularly given her many broken promises to leave the cat alone (at least once a day I'm forced to rescue a crying cat from beneath Peawhistle's weight). So only time will tell if her toys remain hers hereafter.

Peanut had his 4-mo-old visit the other day. Despite me being convinced that he weighs a ton, he hasn't even made it to 12 lbs yet. Peawhistle was much the same way, meaning he will hopefully catch up to a normal size and weight by two. At least he won't look as strange without hair at two like she did.

On a side note, does anyone know of a good solution for baby constipation? Mind you he won't take a bottle, ruling out juices and fiber/laxatives. Suppositories only get part of the job done, and nothing else seems to work, despite him obviously straining. Thoughts?

19 February 2008

Dr. Combat vs. the Girl Scouts of America

As promised, here are the Continuing Adventures of Dr. Combat. As a side note, these adventures are not necessarily in order--that would take too much thought and organization.

Let me begin by making one thing very clear: Dr. Combat never, EVER found me funny. In fact, he never even realized I was attempting to be amusing at any point in our strange-yet-entertaining relationship. If I tried to make a joke out of something he would immediately implore me to "calm down" as if I were about to tear the room apart. My tendency to joke about things with a straight face probably didn't help, and it clearly threw him off. He, on the other hand, had an easily identifiable sense of humor. I would say that it was a mild, family-friendly humor, suitable for holidays and dinner parties. To give you an idea, one conversation went thusly:

DC: "Do you have any allergies?"
Me: "No."
DC: "Just to doctors, right?"
Me: [insert mercy chuckle here]

Not exactly my style, but I was kind nonetheless and usually at least smiled at his harmless jokes anyway. To recap: I always knew when he was joking. He never knew when I was joking.

Now with the disclaimers out of the way, on with the adventures. I first met Dr. Combat in the Labor and Delivery unit of an Army Hospital in the DC area. I had mild pre-eclempsia (gestational hypertension combined with proteinuria) with my first pregnancy and had to be monitored twice a week in L&D for the last two months before giving birth. As a Family Practice physician, Dr. Combat also worked in L&D as an OB/GYN. In his own words, he and the rest of his Family Practice compatriots were Jacks of all trades. I resisted the temptation to complete the phrase for him with the well known "and masters of none," thinking better of it. Considering his overly developed ego, it was likely better for my health that I refrained. He later proved, after also being adept as a pediatrician working in the baby nursery and elsewhere, that perhaps he was not far off the mark with his assessment. I had visions of him walking past a brain surgery in progress, popping in, and having his own go at it. Such would not have surprised me.

I had been going to L&D for about a week before Dr. Combat first showed his face in the unit there. His first remark to me was, "There's glucose in your urine." This, after a nurse knew this and did not tell me, let alone a week's worth of doctors and nurses apparently knowing this and not telling me, irked me a little bit. To top it off, he said it in such a way as to suggest that I should have known it on my own and was purposely failing to correct the problem, likely out of spite. I asked, "Well, why didn't anyone tell me that before??" Looking back, I may have sounded more upset than I actually was, especially given his reaction, which was to stare at me and, I do not exaggerate, slowly back out of the room without another word. Such was only the start of Good Times to Come. At the end of my appointment that day he commandingly instructed me about my diet, which obviously was inadequate, despite the fact that I was following the hospital's dietician's guidelines for pre-eclempsia to the letter. He told me that everything I was eating was bad and I had to do better, providing me with his own version of what my diet should consist of, which boiled down to next-to-nothing to eat for the next two months. For his wife and children's sakes I did not at that moment strangle him with his own stethescope. Instead I stomped out of L&D, forcing the Husband to remain and get the rest of the instructions from him.

To avoid a confrontation and to avoid the dreaded, telltale glucose, I did indeed follow his dietary guidelines. Again, he found glucose in my urine (too much information? too late) and proceeded to diplomatically accuse me of cheating on my new diet. And again, I spared his life. He quizzed me on everything I had eaten over the past 48 hours, only to conclude that I must have left something out.

There was only one instance in all of my visits when my urine was satisfactory to him, upon which he declared that it was beautiful; he was truly happy the rest of the appointment. The reason, of course, for all of the hubbub was that glucose can be a sign of gestational diabetes. It finally dawned on the doctor in charge of L&D to test my blood-glucose levels, which amazingly, registered perfectly. No one ever mentioned the glucose in my urine again, despite my having suggested for weeks that perhaps if my kidneys leaked protein, perhaps they could leak glucose too. But I'm not a doctor so what do I know, right? Incidentally, my hunch was correct, confirmed by Johns Hopkins, in case you were wondering.

My strict diet went on. Each and every time I came to L&D I had to be weighed, and despite not gaining weight, he always looked at me as if he dreaded the hour when he would have to make a call to the Army Corps of Engineers to get a crane just to get me out of my apartment. I had ordered Girl Scout cookies before it was discovered that I had this condition, and they were due to arrive any day. I had begun to dream about them at night, and certainly fantasize about them in my waking moments. The intensity with which I longed for them was magnified by Dr. Combat's ban on anything that tasted good in any form. I couldn't stand it any longer. Finally, at the end of one of my appointments, I confronted him with my problem, pointing out that the cookies had penetrated my subconscience and were taking over. He looked at me and said, "All right, you can have one cookie a day."


(Exasperated sigh) "OK.... two."

It was the way he said "two" that made it very, very clear to me that he was never going to three. I smiled sweetly, "Thank you Dr. Combat."

And then I went home and ate half a box each of Thin Mints and Do-si-dos. Now, don't get me wrong. I started out with the best of intentions. I won't bore you with the thought processes and rationalizations that took me from "only two cookies per day" to "only two cookies in my mouth at a time," but sufficeth to say that it happened. The next time I saw Dr. Combat I had gained an impressive four pounds, making my total weight gain to that point (for the pregnancy as a whole) 23 lbs. He read the nurse's notes wrong, and thinking that I had instead lost six lbs, he congratulated me heartily. His smile quickly disappeared when I corrected his misgivings, and he replaced it with a very Ward Cleaver-ish look of disapproval and disappointment. To make myself feel better, I whined to my midwife, who immediately declared all men incompetent and incapable of understanding the most basic of situations. We both felt better for it.

At a later appointment in which he threatened to put me on hypertension medication if my blood pressures didn't improve, never thinking for a minute that at least some of my high blood pressure was a direct result of my interactions with him, he admitted that he "learned a long time ago that [he] had to speak very quietly and calmly" to me. I chose not to be offended by his remark, choosing instead to see him as a doctor who saw a need in his patient and did his best to meet that need and help me by adjusting his own behavior in response. Even if he was off the mark a bit, his solution is still an example of what I think good doctors should be aiming for in the doctor-patient relationship, and unfortunately, something that escapes many doctors now. And I still respect him for his efforts on my behalf. Even if he couldn't tell I was only joking.

Stay tuned later for More Adventures of Doctor Combat in which he Thinks My Baby Is Ugly!

18 February 2008

A Moderate Proposal

I've been interested in politics since I was five years old. I never watched Sesame Street--I watched C-SPAN. My life through college was already mapped out. Politics gave me direction. In high school, I was the weird one. And I mean weird. In a decidedly Democratic state and seemingly even more Democratic school district, I was the proud iconoclast, a Republican enthusiast like none had ever seen. I went as Rush Limbaugh for Halloween one year, Dan Quayle the next. Senior year I was voted (with no small contribution from my friends) most likely to overthrow the POTUS (who was Bill Clinton at the time it might help you to know). My friend and I crashed Young Republican meetings (and were sent on our way for being too young), I volunteered at Republican Headquarters, and I manned phone banks for Republican candidates. I knew I would major in Political Science in college--it was the only thing for me. I was thrilled to be accepted into Brigham Young University, a hotbed for Republicans just like me. It would be like coming home.

My mother humored me and even encouraged me to a small degree. She drove me to all of my functions. However, she assured me that my fire would diminish one day. Clearly, she was insane. She reminded me that she had been just like me in her day. This was the same woman who as a Boston teenager would sneak over with her friends to Democratic conventions and put Republican candidates' bumper stickers on every car in the parking lot. Not only do I still find this funny, but also highly illegal. She was a firecracker. She has mellowed, but she still has her moments. At the time though, I knew I would be different. I would never mellow and I liked it that way.

And then I went to college. My Freshman year went well enough. Most of my PoliSci classes were 100-level courses and students from all over the university had to take their pick of them as well in order to graduate. As I progressed through to my Sophomore year and closer to my Junior year, I noted that the concentration of hardcore Republicans increased. Made sense. These were the people who were going all the way and not dropping out like 90% of PoliSci Freshmen wind up doing. But the intensity and fervor with which they spoke began to bother me. I remember thinking during one of my classes, "Holy crap, these people are freaks." By Senior year, my opinion of my fellow classmates was solidified. On my best day of high school I could never have held a candle to these people. I found their dogmatic beliefs alarming and bordering on the absurd. Surely no rational person allowed mere political opinions to dictate every single facet of their lives? Apparently they do.

I recall one Junior year class I took (Political Action Committees and Grassroots Campaigns) in which Utah's 3rd Congressional District (Utah County) Representative to the US Congress, Bill Orton, came as a guest speaker. Orton, a Democrat, was a three-term candidate. My class and professor, rabid Republicans all, absolutely hated him. As it turns out, the professor invited Orton as a means to get his class riled and badmouth the representative after he'd left. For those of you who don't remember Orton or never heard of him, he was indeed a Democrat, but in name only. He could give most Republicans a run for their money in a Who's More Conservative contest. He voted the way his mostly Republican constituents wanted him to vote. He was censured on a constant basis by his party for refusing to vote along party lines and he was rejected for a lack of party loyalty. When a student asked why he was a Democrat, he said not only is it nearly impossible to get a spot on the Republican ticket in Utah (the Democratic side being wide-open of course), but his family, whose LDS heritage dated back to before Brigham Young's time, had always been Democrats and that's just how he was raised. [Side note: for those unaware, the LDS Church was originally exclusively Democratic. The new Republican Party at the time had only two platform issues: anti-slavery and anti-polygamy, i.e., anti-Mormon. Needless to say, the second issue didn't appeal to too many Mormons. In fact, Mormons hated the new Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, with a passion, going so far as to call him a baboon face, etc. It was only until a lack of political diversity, combined with polygamy, threatened to prevent Utah from becoming a state that Brigham Young divided the territory down the middle, instructing half to vote Republican and the other half Democrat. Utah finally attained statehood in 1896.]

Orton, despite being a better representative to his constituents than most would think despite not sharing their party, was ripped apart after he left the room. The professor began the "dialogue" by saying, "Doesn't he just make smoke come out of your ears?" They all hated him simply for being a Democrat, despite what he actually practiced in reality. It was then that I hated my classmates for their blindness and stupidity. Orton was defeated in the next election by Republican Chris Cannon, a man who used Mormons' paranoia about the government to his advantage. I still recall his campaign commercials that said (paraphrased), "I feel like the pioneers of old with the US government coming after us. We have to circle the wagons!" And Utah County fell for it. They deserve him.

By Senior year my political outlook on life had changed. I think it changed for the better. Despite, or perhaps because of, the ultra-conservative atmosphere in which I received my education, I had learned never to take anything at face-value. Things are not always as they seem in the political world, and more than anything, a political party doth not the candidate make. I learned that simply because a pundit or National Republican Committee chairperson tells you that you must believe in this or that specific platform issue in order to be a "true" Republican, doesn't make it so. I compare that to a Lutheran or a Baptist telling me I'm not a Christian because I don't believe the same things about a specific piece of doctrine that he does. I don't recall anyone ever copyrighting the terms "Christian" OR "Republican." I am one if I say I am.

I am TIRED of commentators acting as if "moderate" is a bad word. If there's one thing I remember distinctly from college, it is the political bell curve. Pundits would have you believe that there are voters on the right and voters on the left, with very few voters (i.e., "fence-sitting cowards") in the middle. Such is simply not true. The majority of voters in this country register in the middle with very, very few people being truly on the right or on the left (we call those people far right and far left--and for a reason as you can see). The people on the extremeties of the bell curve are just that: extreme. Thus, by definition, they are not the norm, as in, abnormal. They would certainly have you believe otherwise; nobody likes to be out there on a limb by themselves. However, it's just not the reality of the situation. The facts prove that a majority of voters are moderate in their political views by their own definition. That means that despite the extremists telling them that they aren't true Republicans or Democrats because they don't believe absolutely everything their chosen party reportedly subscribes to, they still register with one party or the other. Sometimes they're confused by what the "experts" tell them, wondering if they truly belong to either party at all, but they still maintain some identification with one or the other regardless. I suspect many a voter, wanting to truly identify with their party, believe the talk and automatically agree with many issues without giving it much thought; it's what their party believes in and they want to be a good party member so that's what they believe, too. The Party knows best.

Diana asked me if I had any solid views at all, what with my complaining about everything and everyone under the sun. I do. I am a moderate Republican. I also consider myself a very proud moderate Republican. I refuse to allow any idiot to accuse me of being a bad Republican because I believe in both national security AND the protection of our civil liberties. I am still a Republican even though I care about the environment and believe action needs to be taken on both a national level and an individual level to protect what we have. I recycle more than anyone else on our street, and on several other streets, too. Why does that make me a turncoat? If I believe that something needs to change in the healthcare system to allow each and every American the opportunity to good health care despite his economic circumstances, how does that make me a traitor to my party? Who said that only Democrats are allowed to care about such things? I am a registered Republican because many of the big-ticket issues I believe in still fall within the Republican camp. But not all. That's the beauty of choice.

Pundits like Rush Limbaugh have accused McCain of being a bad Republican because he is moderate. That's nice that he lives in his own personal fantasy world and all, but Rush is not the god of the Republican Party. McCain IS a Republican. Simply because he's different does not make him disloyal. I'll freely admit that I don't agree with everything McCain believes in. But that's to be expected. As moderates, we, along with most of the country, believe in a hodge-podge of issues and how best to deal with them. The chances of agreeing on every single one would be amazing. I dare say that not only is McCain a Republican, but he is a better Republican than Rush. McCain is right there in the middle with the rest of America; one would say almost a perfect representation of just what the average American actually is and how he/she actually thinks. "But if he isn't far right, how are we supposed to know what he stands for?!" Well, you could listen to him. I'm sure he'd be happy to tell you. If you agree with what he says, vote for him. If not, vote for Obama. If he's not on the ticket, move to Canada.

I liked McCain more when he was more moderate. Believe it or not, he has drifted to the right over the course of this campaign in an effort to appeal to Republican voters who may not recognize him as one of their own, especially when political commentators tell them he isn't. I haven't liked him as much since then, but I still like him more than others who are too far right to know what they're doing anymore. I liked Romney when he was a moderate, too. He was a real, average American then (well, minus millions of dollars that is). The fact that he abandoned everything he reportedly subscribed to just to get a spot at the top job is what made me turn on him. The candidates on the far right and the far left have little in common with the average voter. A Democratic voter today has more in common with a moderate Republican than he does with a far left candidate, and the same goes for Republicans. I would like to know just how long it's going to take candidates to figure that out and release the voting public from this strict right-left spell they've put us under.

As I told my brother, the Republican Party is not my religion and the Elephant is not my lord and savior. Politics is not religion. It's OK to change your views on things that don't quite fit what you believe in anymore. Despite what Rush or Glenn Beck assert, you will not find yourself in Hell because you don't believe everything they do. I assure you that there will be both Republicans and Democrats in Heaven, and definitely both Republicans and Democrats in Hell. It's what you choose to do with your political beliefs, and the motivations behind them, that determine your place in history and in God's eyes. I guarantee the Lord doesn't care which political party you align yourself with as long as you are trying your best to do His will. After all, His teachings can be found on both sides of the political spectrum, can't they? Now get back out there, America, and do what you do best: sit in the middle. It's OK; I'm there, too.

14 February 2008

I'm Here to Keep You Informed

As for commentary on this particular trailer, I think iwatchstuff.com said it better than I could:
Well, it's finally here: the trailer to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. If you like adventure, nostalgia, explosions, soundstages as exteriors, long inexplicable pauses in action for joke delivery, or any combination thereof, you're going to be excited as s***. And let's be honest, even if you hate the trailer, you'll be excited anyway--it's Indiana Jones, for god's sake.

Barack W. Reagan

I was going to post something about the presidential race a few days ago, but I got distracted. I'm sure you don't mind. I certainly don't.

So the DC/VA/MD area had their elections this past Tuesday with McCain and Obama winning by a hefty margin. Good for them. I've been giving considerable thought to Obama over the past couple of weeks and this is what I've concluded about him: he could be the Democrats' Reagan. Reagan was a conservative, no question. However, he had the ability to attract voters from both sides of the spectrum and everyone in between, and in record numbers at that. Obama is a liberal, no question. What I'm seeing thus far is that he also has the ability to attract voters from both sides, despite his left-leanings. Compare that with Hillary, who is by her very nature a divisive personality. Many Democrats love her, or at least think she would be effective. On the other hand, Republicans DESPISE her. While she is partly to blame, her husband is in many ways to blame for this as well. Now, he wasn't the worst president we've ever had; that honor still belongs to the Republicans as far as I can tell. At least when Bill was president he had slightly more tact and a diplomatic enough way about him. Lately, he's just turned into a complete hoser. We've all known that he was capable of whopper-sized lies, but he's really outdone himself in his efforts to "help" his wife. The lies aren't even well-veiled anymore, they are out-and-out BALD-FACED LIES. And they are so obvious that he isn't fooling a single person on this earth except himself. All supposedly for the benefit of his spouse. She continues to assert that we are voting for her, not him, but how stupid does she think the voting public is? We are putting Bill back in the White House, period. His presidency had been far enough removed so that most of us remembered that we perhaps weren't fond of him, but we couldn't exactly recall why; it was all kinda hazy and we began to think that perhaps we had judged him too harshly. His coming out for Hillary's campaign has vividly sparked our memories ("Oh yeah, now I remember. He's a douchebag.") and made us hate her by association. If Hillary wins the nomination, Republicans will come out in DROVES to keep her and Bill from being elected. Whether they like McCain or not, they will vote for him just to keep her/them out.

Obama is another story. As liberal as he is, there is something about him that seems to attract conservatives. When I can put a decisive finger on it, I'll let you know. Almost every conservative Republican I've spoken with about this very issue has ranted to the point of frothing at the mouth by the very mention of Hillary. But when a McCain/Obama race is put before them, they indicate that they wouldn't cry themselves to sleep if Obama won over McCain. As in, they'd still be OK with the situation, even though their party's candidate lost. There are exceptions to this naturally (*coughryanncough*), as everyone is different and sees something they like in different candidates. But I still get the feeling that overall, Obama appeals to just about every different kind of group out there. He has a very inclusive personality, possibly leading voters to believe that he will work for them--not just the people who voted for him--even if they don't agree on all the issues. They seem to believe that he will work out issues of difference rather than fight against those who disagree with him. Reagan had that effect on people. Democrats voted for him over their own candidate. And many Republicans, disenchanted or not, will vote for Obama over McCain. If the Democrats really want to win the White House at all costs, they would do well to get Obama in the spot vs. Hillary, because it will ultimately be conservatives who ensure he gets there.

The Husband made a good point about Hillary. She would make a kick-ass Secretary of State. She's nobody's yes-man and no one would be stupid enough to screw with her for fear of losing a vital organ. The president needs people who disagree with him in order to make the best possible decisions--a concept that escaped Bush completely. Hillary would tell the president exactly what he needed to hear, not just what he wanted to hear. She is no pushover. Her powers just need to be guided in the right direction for maximum benefit. Do I think she'd actually take the job? Probably not. I think she'd think it was beneath her. But she'd be excellent, no doubt about that.

07 February 2008

Your Christmas Wish: A Long-Winded Medical Account, Right?

Because you care (and by "you" I mean me), I have de Quervain's Tenosynovitis, aka Something I Can't Pronounce and Assumed Was a Made-up Name But Hurts Like Heck. This is a condition where the tendons leading from your thumb to your wrist become damaged, swollen, and painful. This syndrome, sometimes called New Mother's Wrist, they believe is caused by the unusual position in which you are forced to stretch tendons previously unstretched in order to do things like pick up a baby under his armpits. Apparently the scooping motion combined with forcing the thumbs outward causes the problem.

I had this in my right wrist for several months after Peawhistle was born. My doctor at the Army Hospital (we'll call him Dr. Combat; few things amuse me more in this world than seeing my physician eternally dressed in BDUs and combat boots) injected the tendon with a cortisteroid mixture and all was well without any further pain. That is, until Peanut was born. For nearly four months I have had the same thing in now both wrists, the left being the worse culprit this time around.

I have a new doctor through Johns Hopkins. She's a lovely individual who is kind, patient, humble and welcomes criticism. In the negative column, I don't think she typically knows what she's doing. However, I think she knows this, and thus when something comes up that is unfamiliar to her she is more than willing to admit it and if necessary send you off in the direction of any number of specialists who hopefully have a better understanding than she. This is why I like her. She's basically me, but with the legitimacy of a doctor and access to prescription and referral forms aplenty. Thus, I'll call her Dr. Referral. Going in to her about the recurrance of the wrist pain I had an inkling that she would be at a loss, particularly with how to treat it, so I brought along Dr. Combat's medical notes he made at the time. As I started to describe my symptoms to her and the confusion began to spread across her face, I whipped out Dr. Combat's notes and she was simply delighted. She had to look it up in her online medical dictionary (always the willing learner, that one), noted the remaining treatment (injection), declared she couldn't do it and wrote me a referral for an orthopedic hand specialist. She attempted the test for deQuervain's, called Finkelstein's Test (pictured below), which is supposed to result in consideral pain, confirming the diagnosis. "Does that hurt?" "No." She did not administer it correctly. Nevertheless, she sent me to the specialist with her blessing.

I came home and did some research of my own, given that Dr. Combat never told me what the condition was even called (I think he felt such communication was unnecessary and pointless). He had written it in the notes, but I couldn't even read it until Dr. Referral looked it up with me. I realize that it is a cliche that doctors' handwriting is unreadable, but I seriously contemplated sending my medical record to NSA, convinced they would immediately offer Dr. Combat a job designing the country's newest unbreakable code. But back to my point, I found Finkelstein's Test and decided to administer it myself. My result was something like this: "AHHHHHHHHHHH!!! SON OF A .... AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!" I administered the test correctly.

The next day I went to the specialist and his nurse-practicioner, who both poked and prodded me individually and then together. First, the nurse (aka Nurse Excruciating) took notes, did the test, ("AHHHHHH!!"), and then called in the doctor (aka Dr. Pain). He did his own exam, intentionally inflicting pain and then asking if it hurt. Fortunately he asked before doing the Test again: "You've already done the test, yes?" "Yes. And we're not going to do it anymore." "Fair enough." I elected to have both wrists injected in the same visit as I am not one for making unneccessary trips. I didn't understand at the time why they then gave each other "a look." I certainly understood afterwards.

To give you a better understanding of my willingness to have both done, let me explain how Dr. Combat treated me and my conditon. First, the diagnosis went like this:
Manipulating my hand as little as possible, he asks "Does this hurt?"
"Depends. Are you even touching me?"
(exasperated sigh, which his conversations were well peppered with when it came to me) "Fine. You do it."
"OK, it hurts when I do THIS."
*scribble, scribble*
He leaves to go get the medications for the injection. I wait 10 minutes while he chats up every person in the hallway (the man talked more than a 13-year-old girl), strongly tempting me to get up and yell out the door, "Hey Oprah, could you cut the interview short? I'm in pain here!" until I recall that he could very well inflict great pain upon me "accidentally" so I keep my trap shut and patiently wait for him to make his jr. high locker rounds.
He finally returns having got the talking all out of his system enough to continue his habit of exchanging as few words with me as humanly possible. He holds my wrist in a very comfortable position, gently and slowly injects the cortisteroid, massages and works it into the tendon, and then checks on my pain level. The pain has disappeared utterly and completely. He laboriously scribbles some more, hands me my chart, and shoves me out the door with his fondest fairwell. Overall, a satisfying and pain-free experience.

Nurse Excruciating and Doctor Pain do things differently. After deciding that it would be better to send me into complete shock, they choose to do both injections at the exact same moment. Forcing my wrists and thumbs into the most painful position available to them, they jab each tendon with the needle and dispense the medication as quickly as possible. They seem perfectly oblivious to the neverending trauma they are inflicting. To ebb the now-steady flow of blood from both injection sites, they apply large bandages to each wrist, which, to the unknowing observer, now strongly resemble a botched suicide attempt on my part. I am instructed to obtain specialized braces for each wrist, which incidentally my insurance does not cover through their office, forcing me to travel into my arch nemisis, Annapolis, to obtain them. I made it out by the very skin of my teeth, particularly given that I cannot move my wrists or thumbs in the new braces. Apparently, those are important in operating a vehicle, reducing my ability to steer to that of your average, large household pet. I am to go back to the specialist in a few weeks so I can tell them that their hack job didn't do the trick, leaving surgery as the final available option. They strike me as the sort who would do it without anesthetics, too, possibly on a dare.

It was not until this week that I became fully appreciative of the level of competence displayed by Dr. Combat, the medical one-stop-shop. Not only did he immediately know what was wrong with me, including that horrendous name for it, but also how to treat it, how to administer it himself, and with as little pain as possible. He did the work of three people, only better. Incredible.

Stay tuned later for the Complete Adventures of Dr. Combat, where not a single encounter ever resulted in anything less than complete amusement and entertainment on my part (on his part: an ulcer)!

Romney's a Gone-Gone

So Romney has dropped out. It's just as well and this way he keeps his dignity and the rest of his cash in tact. Good on him. I'm sure he's a perfectly nice and decent fellow; in fact, I've been told by many that he genuinely is. I just don't want him for my president. Now if only Huck would drop the act and bow out too we could be done with this fiasco altogether and get on with it.

And did I mention that I had a dream about Romney the other night? I dreamt I was the organist at one of his campaign fundraisers. Apparently my subconscience has no idea what goes on at political fundraisers. This, coupled with my Matt Damon dream, leads me to conclude that I'm retarded when I'm asleep. The jury's still out on my intellectual status when I'm awake.

05 February 2008


Peawhistle has been testing my patience and I do believe I've reached the end of my tether.

Let me take you back to two weeks ago. I was about to start dinner so I washed my hands before beginning. I went to dry my hands on the hand towel on the fridge when I noticed it was crunchy. I looked closer and also noted that it was stained yellow. I was perplexed. "Why the heck would the Husband clean something up with the towel and then put it back?!" I wondered. When questioned about what was on it, he denied any knowledge, leaving Peawhistle and the cat as suspects. Correctly, I guessed Peawhistle was the one with the most information. Under intense interrogation she admitted to having played with some eggs (which she had then responsibly thrown away) and then cleaned up the yoke-covered floor with the towel. Amused, I thanked her for cleaning up her mess and asked her not to play with eggs anymore. "Okay!" And off she skipped.

Two days later I find yet another crusty, yellow towel on the fridge. "Peawhistle, have you been playing with eggs again?" "Yes." "No more eggs, OK? No. More. Eggs." "Okay. Sowwy." And there hasn't been a recurrence since. At least not with eggs.

Forward to a week ago Monday. I've already described the toilet-clogging episode, which was also accompianied by her playing with the remote door-opening key to the van, resulting in a visit from the neighbor warning me that the side door was completely open for who knows how long. At least it hadn't rained. It was also around this time I discovered that someone had been taking bites out of pears in the fridge and then putting them back.

Two days ago, I found her sitting in the dining room with an empty pudding cup, spoon, and napkin (well, that was good of her anyway) on the floor while she was busily stuffing chocolate truffles from the dining room table into her mouth. "Peawhistle! You know you're not supposed to take food out and leave it on the floor. Please pick it up." (muffled by chocolate): "OK. Thowwy."

Back to three days ago. Peawhistle and I were playing on my bed when I saw an orange stain on her PJs. "What's that Peawhistle?" "Leg." "No, I mean on your PJs." "Yogurt." "That's yogurt? "Leg." "Yes. Your leg. On your leg on your PJs, that's yogurt?" "Uh huh." Great. I walk downstairs looking for evidence of her adventures with digging through the fridge to find yogurt. I found the empty container, plus spoon, in the trash. As I was rescuing the spoon, I glanced over into the dining room and noticed several colored pencils on the floor. As I went to pick them up, I saw that she had creatively and quite colorfully drawn ALL OVER a section of the dining room wall. White wall, that is/was. "%&*$#@!" I cleaned up the pencils, got out the super-duper Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and set to work. Noting that this was a big job, I used the scrubby side of the eraser. (WARNING: NEVER USE THE SCRUBBY SIDE ON WALLS. IT REMOVES PAINT.) After removing a section of paint ("%&*$#@!") I switched to the soft side, which I found perfectly adequate. After two Magic Erasers, the pencil marks are gone, but the overall color of the wall is now a pale gray. I stepped back to look at it to see if it was really that bad, and that's when I found the yogurt on the carpet via my bare feet. After cleaning up the yogurt, I was not in a healthy mood. As punishment, she was not allowed to take her lunch to the basement to watch cartoons as I sometimes allow as the occasional treat. This was met with screams of protest, mostly "NO!!!", and a refusal to eat the lunch provided, all of which I ignored for everyone's safety and sanity.

By the way, the protests have not stopped since that time, as evidenced by Saturday evening's affair. For most of her childhood I have been cleaning up her toys at night. Often the Husband helps in this endeavour, and on occasion Peawhistle herself helps, once or twice accomplishing the task by herself and without coaching. Nearing four years old now, she is more than capable of cleaning up the toys she takes out. She does not agree. I'd decided to use the time-honored solution of removing those toys from play that had not been properly put away. I consider myself a reasonably fair person when it comes to this sort of thing so I told her several times throughout the day that she would be expected to clean up her toys from this point forward. When the big moment came, however, she played instead of cleaned. I informed her of my intention to take away any toys she failed to put away. Like I was reading her Miranda Rights, I made certain she understood exactly what that meant. "Are you sure you understand what will happen if you don't clean up your toys?" "I understand." "You understand that what I take away you can't play with anymore?" "I understand." "OK. Let's clean up then." "NO!" "Peawhistle...." "No, Mommy clean up!" I went through the scenario again, trying to let it sink in more this time. Same reaction. So I started to collect doomed toys, informing her that she would not be playing with them for a long time. She excitedly started to hand her toys to me. *Sigh.* She doesn't understand. In fact, she grew increasingly pleased with every trip upstairs I made. This exact scenario happened two nights in a row and she has even seen her toys stashed in our closet. She has gone so far as to request one of the toys back, but when I explain the situation from the beginning she does not seem put-out in the least. She plays with all of her toys to varying degrees, and she has enough to last her before she feels the pinch. Last night she finally cleaned up with much prodding and coaching on my part, saving many a toy. We'll see how tonight goes.

And then there was today. We were at Flopsy's house while her mother and I worked on music for church. Flopsy and Peawhistle had the rare tiff, usually with Peawhistle declaring, "NO!" to Flopsy's requests to play with her. That, of course, bothered me greatly (we then had chats about being nice and polite). However, nothing could compare to the wrestling match between Peawhistle and me when it came time to go home. Screaming, shoving, scratching, and running away on her part, anger and extreme humiliation on my part. Never have I had such a difficult experience with her before in getting her to go anywhere, even home after an equally enjoyable time elsewhere. And it's not as if she wasn't going to see her the very next day, either. As punishment, no cartoons today, which, as we all know, is more a punishment for the parent than for the child.

*Sigh.* Again.

02 February 2008

The Very Bowels of Hell (pictured below)

My dad loves trivia. Each time you see him he'll have a new trivia question for you. His favorite as of late is "What is the only state capital without an airport?" The answer is Annapolis of course. Why they don't have one is even more apparent: Annapolis is in the Bermuda Triangle. Some will argue that that's not true, given the established coordinates of the Triangle. To those people I say, "Shut up. I'll explain." If you are within 10 miles of the MD capital region, you will inevitably find yourself at its core, staring at the capitol building. As they say, all roads lead to Annapolis. Unfortunately, those roads are all veritable one-way streets because once within the capital's grasp you cannot go back. If you are foolish enough to follow the scarce signage that indicate the direction of one or more highways nearby, you will instead end your journey in a parking lot. After noting your folly and choosing to return and take the opposite direction, only to again end up in the same parking lot, you finally begin to realize just how sinister this city is. You, like I, come to the conclusion that the only reason Annapolis has a population at all is because these are the people who have never been able to find a way out of the city, gave up, and bought property there instead.

Mark Austin (you remember Mark) was touring with Janis Ian a few years back. He and his lovely wife Whitney (seen together with Janis in the photo on the right) kindly invited me to a gig in Annapolis since I'm a fan (of his, not Annapolis) and I live within a reasonable distance of the locale. A quick learner, I refused to drive home alone after the show and instead waited for the Austins to finish and pack up. If the city was to capture me in its Death Star-like tractor beam, I wasn't going down alone. After circling that cursed capitol (it's a lovely building by the way--the oldest in the country and likely the source of all this evil) and ending up in the Parking Lot of Despair, Mark parked, walked back to my car and said, "OK, you saw those signs for the highway too, didn't you?" I gave him a knowing look--one that assured him that this was only the beginning and that he shouldn't plan on seeing his family again anytime soon. After much prayer and fasting on all our parts, we managed to get out, much to the chagrin of the city. I have not been back.

For those of you wishing to visit historic Annapolis, but also wish to leave it at some point, I give you this advice: pay no attention to signs promising a highway exit in the near future. These signs are a trap, designed to get you to the Parking Lot, which is really the entrance to the city's digestive tract. I suggest you instead pull into traffic, close your eyes, and let the car wander as it may. Within at least two hours you will be free, either by backroad exit or by virtue of an ambulance. Either way, you've won.