May 31: Hair watch #2, Day #19

‘Member what my hair looked like back on May 12? Here’s a reminder:

Deanna and Debi pointed out yesterday that I have “ducky fuzz,” so I thought it was time for an update on my hair growth. Here’s how I looked this morning:

Tremendous difference, isn’t it?

OK, fine, you don’t believe me. Let’s go in for the super slo-mo close-up so you can see the buds:

See that? Ducky fuzz! I definitely have growth, and it’s coming in quite blonde. There are just as many dark hairs, but they’re not growing as quickly. Most of what I’ve got right now is light—not even grey-light, which would be more coarse than soft and ducky fuzz-like. Yay (for now). Here’s another close-up, this time of the side of my head. It is not my chin, no matter what my seester might try to insist:

Note the long hairs here and there too. What’s up with that? It’s like someone’s misting my head with Rogaine. Stop that, whoever is misting my head with Rogaine! Not cool.

Click to get a better view of Uncle Earl's 'do I’m thrilled for the progress over 19 days, but right now I’m looking more like my Uncle Earl than ever. That short ‘do might work well on the Saltmarsh men but it is NOT a good look for Jen. Please help! We’re doing the GROW! GROW! GROW! chant, and we’re doing it loud. (But not so loud that that olive-y jackhole OJ hears and thinks it’s meant for him. We hate him.)

…I can’t heeeeeeeeeeear you!

May 30: Girl-y weekend

Ah, how good it feels!  The hand of an old friend.  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I had a fabulous weekend, and I’m exhausted, and I’m extra-glad that tomorrow’s a holiday so I have time to recuperate a bit before the busy-ness of a new week begins.

Yesterday afternoon April and I met up with our Boise girls, Deanna and Debi. They drove over to Portland for the long weekend and invited us to join them at their hotel downtown. We’ve all been friends since high school, and it had been way too long since we’d been together. We sat in their room and chatted for a while and then walked down to Kenny & Zuke’s for an amazing meal of pastrami Reubens. More chatting was followed by a walk back to the hotel and delightfully delicious cocktails, prepared by Debi. In case you were unaware, Debi is the best person EVER to have near a liquor cabinet.

TANGENT: Debi is the booze wench who came up with the infamous Dew-Mi. There are many other drinks she’s created for me in the past, but they were so good I don’t remember them. Last night she played bartender—the girls had packed a small stash for Portland, lucky us!—and although I don’t think she set out to create a memorable new cocktail, that’s exactly what she did. A li’l bit of Absolut berri açaí, some Rose’s lime juice, and tonic, poured over ice, and I SWEAR TO YOU, it tasted like gummy bears! We still need a good name for it; suggestions are welcome.

Funny that we were all grateful for time away from our kids, but we talked about them more than anything else. Isn’t that just the way it goes? Of course, there was also much talk of our incredibly supportive and helpful husbands who single-parented for the weekend so we could be together. We love them! We adore them! We owe them big-time!

Of the four of us, three of us got a decent night’s sleep. Poor ______ had to deal with the other three’s snoring, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.

This morning Deanna, Debi and I said good-bye to April—she had plans with her family—and walked down to Mother’s Bistro & Bar, where we enjoyed an amazing brunch.

ANOTHER TANGENT: You’ve heard my thoughts on the two Portland Lisa Schroeders—one is the nice, sweet, author friend of mine, and the other is the evil, screaming chef who screwed my 20th high school reunion. I just gotta say, Chef Lisa’s food is so delicious, you can almost forget she’s the Devil Incarnate. I hate being supportive of mean people, but I’m making an exception here. Soooo good.

Then came the shopping. Exciting news: Debi, Deanna, and I all have matching shoes now. This makes us utterly precious, doesn’t it? But these are super-duper cute shoes, right? And who could resist the bargain we found on them? Certainly not us.

Totally comfy. And did I mention PRECIOUS? Yes, we’re dorks.

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I won’t bore you with photos of everything else we bought, but we totally wore ourselves out carrying all the heavy shopping bags. Our weekend together was short but cram-packed with treasures. We laughed and laughed so much. We shared silly and frustrating things about our kids, our friends, our coworkers. We used the “cancer card” whenever the opportunity came up. Many stories were prefaced with a strict order that “this is not for the blog!” (I think my friends don’t entirely trust me). We saw lots of volleyball players who completely ignored us. Some of our more frequently used phrases:

  • “…and it comes with a free cat toy!” (thank you, Trevor)
  • “sugar-lumps” (thank you, hilarious Flight of the Conchords song)
  • “Obama lover” (thank you, some jackass Debi knows)
  • “But… I have (she has) cancer!” (thank you, cancer)
  • “I’m a bagel! I can do it myself!” (thank you, Dorothy)

Best of all, we completely enjoyed our time together, catching up and reminiscing. There’s nothing like old friends.

Good friends are good for your health. ~Irwin Sarason

May 28: IDCEAYWTPFriday

It’s Friday, and that means you get a post called I Don’t Care Enough About You to Write in Transitioning Paragraphs Friday.

  • I got a Yankee Candle air freshener thingie that plugs into the wall and is supposed to fill the house with a light, fresh scent. So why does the air taste like soap whenever I breathe? Ick. Good thing it works (the house now smells like a Yankee Candle store), because I’m gonna hurl from the stench any minute now.
  • Victor got an iPhone! Victor got an iPhone! I keep telling him that soon he’ll love it as much as he loves me. He’s doubtful. He lies so big.
  • I’ve been helping him get the new phone set up. See, he actually got my old phone—a 3G—and I got a 3Gs because I have cancer. That means I get good stuff sometimes, like bigger and better phones and balloons sometimes and gummy bears if he remembers and the less rancid steak and occasionally the last of the creamer and wow, I’m full of it, huh? A lot of our time yesterday was spent deleting things that were on my phone and replacing them with things he wanted, like cool ringtones and apps and photos and music, oh my. But something really funny happened while we were doing that, and it was funny enough that it deserves its very own bullet. So here it is:
  • Vic was looking through the photos and goes, “Um, I don’t think I need this picture of Sunshine, and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t want me to have it.” I looked up, expecting it to be this one and wondering why that was such a bad thing for him to have:

    …but instead it was this one, which Sunshine emailed me when she FB’d that there was Kleenex hanging out of her nose and she wanted to prove to me she wasn’t lying:


    (Okay, I’m not posting the real picture because Sunshine would kill me. But I bet I had her worried for a sec. Heh heh heh… that was fun.)
  • Victor also has pics of Cassie’s tramp stamp, my eye all swollen and stitched up, and his belly button, which looks like a butt. I am not kidding. I’m thinking maybe I kinda take pictures of weird things with my camera phone.
  • Speaking of Cassie, her kids spent the night at our house last night. There’s no school today, and Cassie went to the Cirque du So Much Poopay show last night. To thank us, when she dropped off the kids she handed over a giant bottle of Midori. This makes Cassie our very favorite person in the whole wide world right now. And yes, the four kids together made tremendous amounts of noise, but they were actually pretty good so we’re not complaining. Plus we’re both still totally drunk from all that Midori.
  • My date for chemo on June 8 will be Erin, who used to be my niece and is now my awesome friend. Kim F’n—the most experienced chemo companion EVER—is going to be my date on the 29th. It’s looking like I’m dateless for July 20. Let me know if you want to come hang out with me. We can piss off all the cranky old people; it’s so much fun! August 10 is tentatively April’s. See how you guys make these chemo sessions fly right by? I love you.
  • Katie’s been wanting a Zhu Zhu Hamster, and the other night we stopped by Toys R Us to get one. They didn’t have the one she wanted, though, so she left empty-handed and sad. I promised I’d check the Internet when we got home, and I found out that Yo-Yo, the hamster she simply must have, is brand new and not even in stock in most stores. I got all sweaty going through every one of those racks of hamster boxes for NOTHING??? Blarg. But all may not be lost; I saw that Webkinz is coming out with Mazin’ Hamsters and they’re way cuter. Here’s my proof:

    Zhu Zhu Yo-Yo—Whatevs.

    Way cute Webkinz Mazin’ Hamsters


    OK, so the white hamster looks like a cat, and the whole bottom row is wack. But the first two are super adorable. Momma’s pushin’ THAT direction. If your kids are dorks or you’re a dork, here’s a page that compares the Zhu Zhu pets to Mazin’ Hamsters. I point and laugh at you now.
  • I can’t remember exactly how old I was or why I got second holes pierced in my ears, but the novelty wore off quickly. Two’s hard enough; four was too much work. I’m really lazy with earrings for everyday wear—I tend to stick to styles I can wear constantly; they aren’t dangly or annoying or fall out easily. But since I lost all my hair, I started wearing earrings regularly—usually just studs, since hoops with my scarves make me look like a fortune teller. Last week I tried putting earrings in my second holes, and was surprised to find they still went in just fine, even after 20 years of not being used. But within a couple days I was all, WHY DID I DO THIS? I’ve already lost three earring backs and woke up with one earring jabbing my neck. Being pretty is hard.
  • Cristina, if you’re reading this, don’t let Phoebe see! Katie’s going to her friend Phoebe’s cupcake-themed birthday party next weekend, and we found this adorable gift on the always-delightful etsy:

    Click the photo to go to the seller’s store and see the other things she makes. The necklaces we ordered—one “Phoebe” and one “Katie”—arrived yesterday and they’re absolutely, adorably perfect!

Have a fabulous weekend, all o’ youz. Smell ya later—

May 27: Good Grief

Every once in a while I see a book that interests me but I’m hesitant to buy it because I know nothing about it or its author. Unless I’m at the library, I usually don’t risk it. But sometimes I walk on the wild side, y’know, and. I. Buy. That. Book. Yes, folks, that’s where I get crazy: Barnes & Noble.

Last week I got two books by Lolly Winston; Good Grief and Happiness Sold Separately. Look at the cover of Good Grief—do you SEE the bunny slippers? Do you think I could resist a book with bunny slippers on the cover??? Well, I took a chance and guess what? I totally won. Okay, I haven’t read Happiness yet, but I finished Good Grief the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it. Here’s the Publishers Weekly review:

“The grief is up already. It is an early riser, waiting with its gummy arms wrapped around my neck, its hot, sour breath in my ear.” Sophie Stanton feels far too young to be a widow, but after just three years of marriage, her wonderful husband, Ethan, succumbs to cancer.

With the world rolling on, unaware of her pain, Sophie does the only sensible thing: she locks herself in her house and lives on what she can buy at the convenience store in furtive midnight shopping sprees. Everything hurts—the telemarketers asking to speak to Ethan, mail with his name on it, his shirts, which still smell like him. At first Sophie is a “good” widow, gracious and melancholy, but after she drives her car through the garage door, something snaps; she starts showing up at work in her bathrobe and hiding under displays in stores.

Her boss suggests she take a break, so she sells her house and moves to Ashland, Ore., to live with her best friend, Ruth, and start over. Grief comes along, too—but with a troubled, pyromaniac teen assigned to her by a volunteer agency, a charming actor dogging her and a new job prepping desserts at a local restaurant, Sophie is forced to explore the misery that has consumed her.

Throughout this heartbreaking, gorgeous look at loss, Winston imbues her heroine and her narrative with the kind of grace, bitter humor and rapier-sharp realness that will dig deep into a reader’s heart and refuse to let go. Sophie is wounded terribly, but she’s also funny, fresh and utterly believable. There’s nary a moment of triteness in this outstanding debut.

The subject matter—cancer causing a young spouse to be left behind—almost kept me from buying this book; that’s a little too close to home. I can’t say that the story was totally cheery or uplifting throughout, but it was definitely not a big bummer of a book either. I think what helped is that when things really started to get dark, the story moved on. When things turned toward happy and positive, it wasn’t long before reality hit and Sophie fell into her grief again. In fact, it seemed like a fairly realistic portrayal of what I imagine a young widow’s first year would be. By the end, you could see that there had been progress all along, and those baby steps were what got Sophie through her first year.

I admit, one of my favorite things about the story was that most of it was set in Ashland; having been born in that part of our fair state, it holds a special place in my heart. Anyone familiar with the area will recognize the much-discussed weather, landmarks mentioned, and culture of the city. (I did wonder exactly where “Jackson” is, though… did she mean Jacksonville? I don’t know.) I can’t remember ever reading a book that was set in southern Oregon. Well, there was a true crime one I read a while back, but we’re not going to bring up that creep-fest of a book.

The thing I really love about discovering new authors, though, is the thrill that comes with reading a book I’m not constantly re-writing in my head. You know how some writers word things so poorly or awkwardly that you just can’t get beyond some sentences? Let’s not use this blog as an example, please. I’m thinking of the trashiness that is Danielle Steel or Jackie Collins. Ugh. It’s a lovely thing to find an author who writes in a way that I can enjoy. Lolly Winston is one of those, and I’m eager to get started on her second book, Happiness Sold Separately.

May 27: Shivers

This morning I ran across an article entitled 5 Loveable Animals You Didn’t Know Are Secretly Terrifying. The whole piece is pretty good/creepy/terrifying, but the caption for this photo of a mostly hairless spectacled bear made me LOL:


“It’s like they’ve taken everything you’ve ever done wrong in your life and built an animal out of it to punish you.”

Yep, I dare you to try to get that image out of your noggin and go on ahead with your day.

May 26: Inspiration for those days

Maybe it’s because my burdens seem heavier nowadays, or there could be a chance it’s quite possible I could be wrong but maybe I’m more of a drama queen than ever, but there are some mornings I wake up and think it’d be best for everyone if I stayed in bed all day. Covers over my head, the whole bit. I feel snarly and pissy and weak and I don’t want to face anyone or anything. I don’t want to be mean to nice people, and I don’t want to pretend to be happy-as-can-be for someone else’s sake.

The thing is, I am happy. Sure, there are sucky things about life right now, but generally speaking I am a happy girl. I have a spectacular group of friends, the best family I could ever hope for, and an ability to laugh at things I probably shouldn’t; who wouldn’t be happy over that stuff? But some mornings, when I’m in the fog of a hangover sleepiness, life feels overwhelming sometimes. It feels something very unlike HAPPY.

I need to print out these inspiring quotes and keep them near my bed—or as Nana suggests for important notes, “Pin them to your bra!” (That’s when she’s speaking to me. Okay, so maybe not everyone in my fam is the best.)

“Giving up is giving in to whatever may be keeping you down. Overcoming is beating what you need to, and becoming stronger in the process.” — Cynthia Mercedes

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” — Mark Twain

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” — Anonymous

“All problems become smaller if you don’t dodge them, but confront them. Touch a thistle timidly, and it pricks you; grasp it boldly, and its spines crumble.” — William S. Halsey

“Life is like an onion: you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” — Carl Sandburg

“Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed.” — Corita Kent

Brenda shared this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on Facebook today. If I had time, I’d put all of these quotes on backdrops of beautiful photos. Instead, I steal them from my FB friends. Heh.

A few more:

“We are not defined by our trials, but by how we face them. We are all afraid; bravery is a choice, that though you may lose, you shall never be defeated.” — Jill Pendley

“Life is too short to wake up in the mornings with regrets. So love the ones who treat you right, forget the ones who don’t. Remember that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance take it, if it changes your life, then let it. No one said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.” — Anonymous

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” — Helen Keller

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ ...You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

“Sometimes I wish life had subtitles. In a big font.” — Anonymous

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” — Walt Disney

“No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap.” — Carrie Snow

If you have days in which you don’t want to get out from under the covers, maybe these quotes will inspire you to take baby steps until you get in the groove of making something of your day. Yay for us get-out-of-bedders!

May 24: Gotta-have iPhone apps

I have more iPhone apps to recommend! Even if you don’t have an iPhone, some of these may be available in other formats, or you might find a similar app that works with your phone. I’ve previously recommended iPhone apps here and here. Now for my latest finds:

  • First, I must recommend PandoraBox, which lists apps that are on sale and sometimes free. It’s updated constantly, and it’s where I’ve been finding many, many apps. I download tons and then tell you about the ones worth keeping. The only thing I don’t love about PandoraBox is that it’s a little clumsy switching itself over to the App Store. Still, it’s a great little program to alert you to sales. Rumor is they’re going to set up a “watch for your favorite app to go on sale” thing, which makes it an even cooler thing. FREE.
  • This one’s not just for the iPhone: U.S. Bank. If you’re a U.S. Bank customer, this mobile app will let you check balances and transfer funds. FREE
  • CardStar is another convenient app that made for several types of phones. If you have rewards/loyalty/club cards for stores like Albertsons, Safeway, Barnes & Noble, Office Depot, etc., this ought to come in handy. Simply enter the numerical code and this app will store it as a UPC and let you scan it at the store. No more digging around looking for those cards. No more bulky wallets from carrying them with you all the time! I love this one. Reviews are so-so as far as the stores’ ability to scan, but I’ve had no trouble so far. FREE
  • Touch to Give. You’ve heard of The Greater Good Network (The Hunger Site, The Breast Cancer Site, The Animal Rescue Site), and you probably visit them every day to donate. Now you can do it from your phone. FREE
  • Tenplustwo. This is the total deal-maker. I’ll work for ten minutes, then Facebook for two. Or I’ll exercise for ten minutes, then eat a pound of butter for two. However you choose to use this app, it works like this: a timer starts a countdown of ten minutes, then dings when it’s time to switch from work to play. 99¢
  • I love this one: Gratitude! List the things for which you’re grateful every day. It’s a lovely way to remind yourself that life does NOT totally suck all the time. Lots of nice little features. 99¢
  • Along the same lines, you’ll find iPositive. Motivating messages every day. Gotta love it. Was $2.99, now FREE
  • You’ll spend a lot of time in the mirror with this one: MouthOff. The best way to see how MouthOff works is to watch this video. Pretty silly and fun. Jack thinks it’s the awesomest iPhone app I’ve got. FREE last week, now it’s $1.99
  • What was Tweetie is now Twitter. Twitter’s official iPhone app is better than ever. Lots of new features. Available for Android and Blackberry too—just search for it. FREE

Check out Free App a Day and FreeAppAlert for newly free apps. 148apps tracks price drops in the app store. Find out the latest hot apps at Top App Charts.

May 23: Super Terrific Happy Thing #16

You meet one of your favorite celebrities and AREN’T disappointed; he or she is even nicer, more charming, and friendlier than you imagined.

In the few opportunities I’ve had to meet a celebrity whom I admire, I think I’ve been pretty lucky to discover them to be decent people. It probably makes a difference that a lot of the public figures I admire are writers—typically intelligent and at least a little bit intuitive, they tend to do more than just say, “Hi, nice to meetcha.” Some have been downright chatty.

The local celebrities I’ve met have been a mixed bag of dazzling and, well, the opposite of dazzling. Former coworkers who were at a company Christmas party at my house in 1997 know of whom I am referring to and that is ALL I’m going to say about that. Let’s see… Mike Donahue? Super-nice guy. Jim Bosley, what a dude he was. Paul Linnman? Friendly and personable. Ramblin’ Rod? He was Portland’s Captain Kangaroo!

I think I’ve blogged about most of my author meeting or seeing experiences over the past few years: Armistead Maupin, David Sedaris, Heather Armstrong (dooce), Lisa Schroeder, and Sarah Vowell are the ones I easily remember. I keep an eye on the bookstore lists of authors scheduled to read in the Portland area so I can support these brilliant writers—no matter how popular they are, I always fear they’ll end up with a small crowd. If I decide to hang around to meet them personally, I usually feel nervous when it’s my turn, but I almost never regret it. Of course, it’s a treat to have my book signed, too.

The other day I wrote that I was all excited because Pamela Ribon visited my blog. I emailed a reply to the comment she left, and today I received an email back. Again, I have to try not to blather myself into a puddle of author worship, but I am thoroughly impressed with her kindness, especially after I asked her a question that totally bummed her out.

Here’s the thing. Y’know that camera commercial with that awful Taylor Swift where all her fans are brought in so she can take a panoramic photo of them? And they’re screaming, and she pretty much ignores them all and acts totally unimpressed while she takes the picture? And there’s that one guy who won’t leave and she just stares at him like he’s a freak (because he is)? Well, that’s how I think most celebrities see their fans—it’s probably unfair and inaccurate, but I just imagine that they don’t really care all that much about any of us, ESPECIALLY when we fawn all over them. So it’s nice to find out that there are some out there who are nice, considerate, normal kinds of people, who show an interest in their fans and truly appreciate our presence. Either that, or they’re really good at pretending we don’t drive them nuts.

To me, meeting some of my favorite celebrities has been a super, terrific, happy thing. What about you? Have you had a rotten experience meeting one of your favorite public figures? Do you limit yourself to sightings only? (That’s OK too, Laura; lots of people go through life without ever taking the chance to invite fake Sammy Hagar to a barbecue...) smiley

May 22: What?

I have no trouble remembering exactly how much Monopoly money to distribute as banker, even though I haven’t played the game in a hundred years. But ask me where I parked my car this morning and it’ll take me a while to remember.

Our phone number when I was seven years old? Piece. Of. Cake. But the last three times I went to Target I meant to get bathroom cleaner and every time I left with a cart full of stuff and no bathroom cleaner.

I need to remember new things, but the unimportant stuff that’s been tucked away for no reason whatsoever won’t leave. There’s just not room for anything else; my brain is full. This is all kinds of wrong.

I can recite every word of almost any Seinfeld episode, but if I’m not thinking I’ll tell the beagle what a sweet kitty she is.

May 21: IDCEAYWTPFriday

It’s Friday, and that means you get a post called I Don’t Care Enough About You to Write in Transitioning Paragraphs Friday.

  • I started my chemo follow-up regimen this week, which, it turns out, is not all that different from my regular chemo regimen. Same side effects (except for hair loss), same length of time in the chair every three weeks. Bleah. I am not a fan.
  • I was bizzy bizzy bizzy at the school this week with volunteer orientations and paperwork processing, all to keep our students safe. Next year my PTO doodies are going to change. I’ll be taking over the things Fancy Lori™ has been doing—treasurer, webmaster, yearbook editor, and maybe a few other titles. These things will all make me more awesome, right? Here’s the important question: will they make me FANCY???
  • For the last two days I haven’t taken any pain pills. No Vicodin, no Oxycontin, not even Advil. Yay me! It’s not that I’m pain-free, I’m just trying to tolerate the everyday stuff better. Please let me know if I’m being extry-grouchy and I’ll start poppin’ pills again.
  • I want, nay, MUST HAVE something with this printed on it:
  • Yahoo! Travel published America’s Top 10 Underrated Cities, and Portland’s on it. So are Providence, Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Kansas City, Louisville, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Sacramento. I’ve only been to Minneapolis in the dead of winter, so I’m not a good judge of that city. But Sacramento? Really? It’s just really quite “meh” to me.
  • It is shocking to me to see how horrible Sharon Stone is on Law & Order: SVU. Seriously, is she the worst actress on the planet? During the hostage situation on this week’s season finale I was really, really hoping she’d die—that’s how bad she is on that show. I hope the fall season brings us a new ADA.
  • Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  • I had an echocardiogram on Wednesday. I don’t know when they’ll compare it to the one I had in December and let me know if there have been any changes. Dr. O says it’s unlikely that my heart is damaged because of the amount of adriamycin I had, and the echo tech said at my age, the heart heals itself surprisingly well. These things are both comforting, but I’m still eager to hear the results.
  • I know, this is really pun-ny, but I love it anyway:
  • You’ve been asking yourself, and asking others, and dying to find out: if someone were to put together a list of the most awesome mustaches, who would be on it? Now you know. I would have totally called shenanigans on this if #1 wasn’t #1.
  • I’m going to a party at Sunshine’s house this evening! There will be food there! On Tuesday I’m meeting up with Loveliest Lori, Kim F’n, and Sunshine for lunch! And Deanna and Debi are visiting from Boise next weekend! I’m super-dee-duper excited to see them! As Jason Mraz sings, “la-la-la-la-la-la-la-life is wonderful.”

Have a great weekend!

May 20: Why Girls Are Weird

whygirlsareweird Over the weekend I was busy reading and laughing too hard to write much. The good thing for you is that now I have a book to recommend. Yay, right? I kinda suck at writing coherent book reviews, so let me just tell you this: read Why Girls Are Weird, by Pamela Ribon. Start to finish, I loved this book. It wasn’t so riveting that I couldn’t put it down, but it was so entertaining I didn’t want to put it down. I pretty much didn’t.

From the publisher:

She was just writing a story.

When Anna Koval decides to creatively kill time at her library job in Austin by teaching herself HTML and posting partially fabricated stories about her life on the Internet, she hardly imagines anyone besides her friend Dale is going to read them. He's been bugging her to start writing again since her breakup with Ian over a year ago. And so what if the "Anna K" persona in Anna's online journal has a fabulous boyfriend named Ian? It's not like the real Ian will ever find out about it.

The story started writing itself.

Almost instantly Anna K starts getting e-mail from adoring fans that read her daily postings religiously. One devotee, Tess, seems intent on becoming Anna K's real-life best friend and another, a male admirer who goes by the name of "Ldobler," sounds like he'd want to date Anna K if she didn't already have a boyfriend. Meanwhile, the real Anna can't help but wonder if her newfound fans like her or the alter ego she's created. It's only a matter of time before fact and fiction collide and force Anna to decide not only who she wants to be with, but who she wants to be.

I knew next to nothing about this book before I started reading, but it was recommended by a friend whose tastes I trust. And the first chapter easily drew me in; who could resist stories about the naughty things a girl used to make her Barbies do with her Donny & Marie dolls? (Here’s that chapter because I know you’re dying to read it.) I love books that make me look for Victor so I can read excerpts to him. This was definitely one of those.

Anna introduces us to some questionable fans and her family members, which are where some of the more serious elements of the book come in. I was especially touched by the way Anna dealt with her father’s sudden death—I could identify with her so well. She was single and in her twenties; I was married and a mom and in my mid-thirties… but regardless of age, when an adult daughter loses her dad, she goes through an identity crisis to some degree. There aren’t very many books that make me cry, but this one did. Just a little.

Mostly, though, it made me laugh. And ignore my family.

(I don’t think they even noticed.)

P.S. I wrote this review the other day. This afternoon the amazing Pamela Ribon left a comment on my blog. I’m totally “Tess”-ing out about it, and it’s taking everything in me not to revise the above review to include many occurrences of the words “fabulous,” “life-changing,” “epic,” and “most awesomest writer EVER.” Please commend me for my fan-dom restraint.

May 20: Thursday Thunks #7

Thursday Thunks (TT) is a blog meme for those who need a little kick in the butt to find something to post about. Your blog posts/answers to TTs can be type or pictures, doesn’t matter! YOU pick, not us, we just give you the assignment (yep, just like English class... only we won’t grade your spelling and grammar).

For this week’s Thursday Thunks, we describe something in our lives for each letter of the alphabet. This might be harder than it looks.

abc A: Ambulance drivers. Careful, they kill critters. My paramedic friend Kim F’n can tell you all about it, though not as proudly as my sister.

B: Books. I’ve got a stack of good ones right now. Reviews and recommendations coming soon.

C: Cancer. I can think of lots of things I like better. Like hangnails. And cleaning toilets. And flat tires.

D: Desk. I have a helluva time keeping mine clean, no thanks to the kids, who load it up with their crap. Whenever I do get it cleared off, though—enough to see the top, anyway—it feels like I’ve done something really, really good for humanity. But not really.

E: Exercise. I’m actually doing it. I’m proud of myself for this because I really, truly hate exercise.

F: Facebook. It rocks. I love being able to communicate with my friends so easily. I love the re-connections I’ve made there. It’s almost always a happy thing.

G: Garbage truck guys. They stop in the middle of the street, where there’s no way to get around them, and slowly pick up, like, five houses’ garbage at once, and won’t make eye contact because they obviously know you’re glaring at them from your car. They’re assholes. I’m sorry, but it’s true.

H: Happiness. It’s planning a lunch date with my girls.

I: iPhone. I’m working on another list of iPhone apps I love. Stay tuned.

J: Joe’s, Trader: I love finding new items there. Yesterday it was a Thai chicken salad, fresh mozzarella in snack stick form, and delicious frozen coffee bars. Of course, I got my standard favorites too: frozen macaroni and cheese, Caramel Bites (stroopwafels), and a small block of Havarti. Yum.

K: Kitty. Seems Millie is a scaredy-cat, literally. Another cat chased her into the house this morning. The other cat stayed outside, but Millie growled at it from her side of the pet door. Her tail was huge, but otherwise she was not exactly menacing. We thought she was kind of a bad-ass kitty, but when another cat chases you out of your own yard, I think that means you’re the opposite of bad-ass. Nice try, Millie. Stick to stalking grasshoppers.

L: Lucky. I’m a lucky girl. I’ve got the best of friends, a wonderful family, and much happiness. Sure, there’s that itty-bitty cancer nuisance, but all those other things make it totally do-able. Lucky. That be me.

M: Modern Family. Did you see it last night? Great show. So funny.

N: Naps. I cannot speak highly enough of naps. Are they the best? I think they just might be.

O: Online shopping. I love most of it, but some eBay sellers are being jackasses lately. Taking your time to ship things means I won’t buy crap from you again, get it?

P: Piano. The kids’ recital is coming up. This will be Jack’s first one and he’s actually excited about it—unless you ask him; then he says he hates piano and hates lessons and hates music. Funny, because we can’t keep him off the piano—he plays at least an hour a day. It’s the same series of songs over and over and over and drives us insane, but we’re glad he’s playing.

Q: Quiet. I love the peace in the house when the kids first leave in the morning.

R: Recital. I already mentioned it. See ‘P.’ Duh.

S: Strawberry pie. My mother-in-law brought over a homemade one yesterday. She made it with the shortbread crust she uses for her pumpkin pie, and OMG, it is delicious. I hope Victor enjoyed the pieces he had yesterday, because the rest of the pie will probably be gone by the time he gets home from work today. Heh heh heh…

T: Teeth. Jack said yesterday a dentist talked to their class about proper dental care, and when he mentioned yellowish teeth, “everyone” looked at Jack. I asked why, and he said, “Because they all know I have yellow teeth.” Nice. I’m so proud.

U: Unconscious. I will be soon. It’s almost naptime.

V: Vacation. I want one. I’ve probably mentioned that before.

W: Weather. We had a weird, wild storm yesterday, but at least it wasn’t anything like this one (thanks to Darby for that link). It’s continuing today; this morning I went out to my car after a short hailstorm and it looked like it was covered in snow. Crazy, I tell ya.

X: X-rated. I wish my son would stop telling naughty language stories in class. OK, they may not be x-rated, but they’re definitely R. Mr. N says they’re funny, but I think he’s just being nice and secretly thinks I’m the worst mom in the world.

Y: Yikes. That’s what I say when I think about the kids being home all summer. I have GOT to think up some ways to keep them busy and most importantly, out of my hair (so to speak).

Z: Zero. Zero letters left. I’m outtie.

Sheesh, that took forever. Feel free to play along if you’ve got four hours to kill.

May 18: Chemo #9

I started the “new” chemotherapy regimen today. As I mentioned last week, I’m now doing only the ‘R’ of my original CHOP-R regimen, which I completed three weeks ago. Rituximab (aka Rituxan, MabThera) is a targeted therapy and the idea is that continuing it for six months will kill the rest of OJ and, most importantly, keep him from coming back.

Today I decided that I don’t like this chemo regimen any more than the other. Here’s why:

  • When I was on CHOP-R, I started the process by getting the IV, then getting very small injections of Ativan and Aloxi (for nausea) and oral Benadryl (for possible allergic reactions) and Tylenol (for fun, I guess). The majority of the time was spent getting either C, H, O, or R. The ‘P’—prednisone—was oral and taken for the four days after chemo.

    With ‘R’ now, I start with Tylenol and then get small IV bags of Benadryl, Pepcid (why?), and Decadron, which is a steroid and makes me think of ‘dodecahedron’—a very fun word to say and something I never really understood about geometry because a 12-sided polyhedron? What is that???


    Then they start the Rituximab. It goes through an IV pump and it. is. molasses.

    (It’s not really molasses. I hope.)

    For me, the very slow process of this new regimen means that my time in the chemo chair is no shorter than before. That sucks. I really hate it.
  • And that Decadron? Another steroid? Why? I hope it doesn’t do to me what prednisone did to me. Decadron’s side effects are similar to Rituximab’s, so that’s another pisser. The idea of feeling for the next six months the way I’ve been feeling for the past five months does not appeal to me in the least. Don’t be surprised if I start complaining about it.
  • (I know, I know. I complain about everything. You won’t be surprised at all.)
  • I asked my Facebook friends today what I should call this chemo thing now that it’s not a full chemo regimen, but a partial one. And is it #9, or is it #1? I got some very good suggestions, but after going through it today, I think this new process is not very different from the previous eight treatments. This makes me cranky cranky cranky.
  • Today was the first time I’ve ever gone to chemo by myself. I figured since I wouldn’t be there very long, it wasn’t worth Victor taking the whole day off work. I also didn’t invite anyone else along, and that was stupid of me. I enjoyed blocking out the noise of the room with my ear buds and the “Rent” soundtrack, but it got old. I was bored. I was so bored I even chatted with Crazy Hat Lady. She’s very sweet but she’s, like, 350 years old and I have enough elderly folk in my life.
  • Vic came by on his lunch hour and did a quick run for vittles. We smelled up the infusion room with our Taco Bell food (aromatherapy!), AND we got to have lunch together. Win-win for us. Not so much for the other patients.
  • Some guy’s daughter brought in really good frosted shortbread cookies today. Crazy Hat Lady made a cake. Those things made me happy. Then the guy who shared the cookies fell asleep and snored up the whole room, and Crazy Hat Lady wouldn’t shut up about her damn cake. I really wanted to not be there anymore.
  • Anyone want to be my chemo date on June 8 or June 29? Otherwise I will be lonely and sad.

I’m trying to keep a good attitude about the next six months of my treatment, but it’s frustrating. I’m tired of going through this every three weeks and feeling crappy right up until it’s time to start all over again. I’m just tired.

May 18: St. Helens memories

Wow. Today marks 30 years since the big Mt. St. Helens eruption. It’s one of those major childhood events that I can remember so many details about that it’s hard to believe it was that long ago.

I was in sixth grade when Mt. St. Helens first showed activity after years of dormancy—earthquakes, steam eruptions, and small ash bursts. Having a volcano in our backyard was a pretty cool thing. (I was also kind of a science nerd, or didja already guess that?) Depending on which way the wind was blowing during eruptions, Portland sometimes got ashfall. There was one eruption that filled our gutters and covered everything with a thin layer of gritty, dusty soot. Once the novelty wore off, it was nothing but a nuisance.

My classmates and I had pen pals at a school in Michigan at the time, and we frequently wrote to them about the latest on “our” volcano. We sent them small bottles of ash—they thought it was a huge deal, but all we had to do was scoop it off our sidewalks. It’s funny now to visit museum gift shops in the Northwest and see ash for sale. No one would have guessed 30 years ago, when we were having a heck of a time getting rid of it, that someday people would PAY for tiny bits of it in a pendant or a jar.

It was a Sunday morning when Mt. St. Helens really blew her top—May 18, 1980. I remember walking into the family room where my mom was watching the news, and although there were a lot of pictures of the ash cloud, not much was known yet about whether any people were hurt, or the extent of the damage. I remember being disappointed that there was still no lava. Why no lava? Volcanoes are supposed to spew lava! I was glad to see that the ash—so much more than what we’d seen so far—was falling to the east and NOT toward Portland.

After watching the reports for a while, I went outside to play. We lived in the Bethany area of Beaverton then, and if we looked down Parkview Drive we could see Mt. St. Helens’ ash cloud that morning. The thing went up about 12 miles into the sky, so it made sense that it was visible where we were (50 miles south); we were nonetheless surprised and fascinated by it. I have no idea where the pictures are that we took of the eruption that day, but I think I still have bottles of ash somewhere. I know I have tons of newspaper clippings in a scrapbook. (Remember? Science nerd. Big one.)

Mt. St. Helens continues to be active, but there hasn’t been another eruption comparable to the one on May 18, 1980. Lava domes have formed, but not once has lava ever poured or shot out of the volcano. Most of the area around Mt. St. Helens has been re-opened again, and several visitor information centers have been built, all concentrating on different aspects of the big eruption’s destruction and eventual re-growth of the forest and return of wildlife. Although the landscape changed dramatically that day, it really is still very beautiful.

It was 18 years ago or so that I went to one of the newer visitor information centers with Victor, Karen and Sherrice. The fog was thick but we still got a good view of the north side of the mountain. However, in looking through my photos from that day, it seems we were more interested in taking pictures of each other than Mt. St. Helens. Here’s one of the few photos I took outside, and even in this one, the incredible close-up view of the crater is behind Karen and Vic’s big heads.

Notice how Sherrice is sticking her butt out? Every other picture (at least the ones in my collection) had someone’s butt in it too. I chose not to scan and post those, and for that, you are welcome. Obviously the theme of our Mt. St. Helens visit that day was not so much ASH as ASS. I have no words to explain this behavior, especially from a science nerd such as myself. Well, the fact that we girls were 23-ish at the time ought to explain a LOT of it. The Much Older Victor has no excuse.

I haven’t been up to Mt. St. Helens since the butt trip. Katie and Jack have—their grandparents took them—and many, many times we’ve talked about going again. It’s one of those “oh well, it’ll still be there if we ever decide to go” things. Every time the anniversary of the big eruption rolls around, I’m reminded that we should plan a trip… and then I promptly forget about it.

But 30 years? I couldn’t let that anniversary go by without marking it somehow. Turns out I marked it by boring the kids silly with my recollections of that day. They were all, THROW LAVA INTO THE STORY AND MAYBE I’LL LISTEN.

May 17: Super Terrific Happy Thing #15

When I first decided to do super terrific happy thing posts, I made a mental note not to write all of them about food. That is me MAKING A SACRIFICE, people! Once in a while is okay, but I wanted to make myself think a little beyonder (a made-up word just for you, Fancy Lori™) and write about super terrific happy things that don’t necessarily end with YUMMY YUMMY IN MY TUMMY.

I made it as far as my third super terrific happy thing post before it became a food one. Shut up.

Dutch Babies (some people call them German pancakes)

I can’t remember where I first ate a Dutch Baby, but it had to have been at a friend’s house because my mom never would have let me sprinkle that much powdered sugar on my breakfast at home. I ordered a Dutch Baby at Elmer’s the other day and had forgotten how much I enjoy them, so I dug out my recipe when I got home. I got this from a long-gone local coffee company and have been using it for about 25 years.

Dutch Babies

2-3 quarts/11” pan      ¼ cup      3      ¾ cup each
3-4 quarts/11” pan      ⅓ cup      4      1 cup each
4-4½ quarts/13” pan      ½ cup      5      1¼ cup each
4½-5 quarts/15” pan      ½ cup      6      1½ cup each
  1. Select the recipe proportions to fit your pan and get out ingredients.
  2. Put butter in pan and set into a 425° oven.
  3. Quickly mix batter while butter melts. Put eggs in food processor and whirl at high speed for one minute.
  4. With motor running, gradually pour in milk, then slowly add flour. Continue whirling for 30 seconds.
  5. Remove pan from oven and pour batter into the hot melted butter.
  6. Return to oven and bake until puffy and well browned, 20-25 minutes.
  7. Dust with ground nutmeg and serve with powdered sugar and lemon wedges.

Jen’s notes:

  • When I first started making Dutch Babies at home, I didn’t have a food processor so I used a blender. Now I have a food processor but I think the blender works just as well and it’s a lot easier to clean.
  • I’ve never in my life had nutmeg on a Dutch Baby. I’ve always used lemon juice and powdered sugar. I had strawberry compote topping at Elmer’s and liked it very much, and am now thinking of all sorts of directions I could take the fresh fruit thang… mmmmmm…
  • I’d be curious to know of anyone who’s tried this with savory toppings. Good? Better? Too omelet-y?
  • I recommend sausage or bacon as a side. Dutch Babies can be sweet.
  • If you add raisins to this recipe I will come to your house and kill you.

Here’s how the completed Dutch Baby looked when I took it out of the oven:

The sides were a little taller before it cooled. Notice the pools of melted butter in a few spots; they signify extreme deliciousness. Here are lots more photos of Dutch Babies. And here are lots more recipes. Take your pick.

Dutch Babies are super, terrific, and they’re a thing that makes me happy. YUMMY YUMMY IN MY TUMMY. smiley


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