27 December 2014

more illness

We are severely pathetic over here. There is a lot of napping and tea, and virtually nothing else going on. We moved the party that was supposed to be held here, and my dad went to it alone.

Last night I could not sleep for the coughing. Well, first for the coughing and then for the force of will it took not to cough. It is really incredibly hard not to cough when your body wants to cough. And yet, in some cases, coughing is doing nothing but hurting you, but it won't stop. So I just decided not to cough. That... sort of worked? It was virtually impossible to maintain that kind of control over my throat while I slept, so I just didn't sleep very much or very well.

My mom's and my colds have diverged. Largely this is because I was awake for four and a half hours this morning and then took a three and a half hour nap. I had to take a nap because my eyes hurt too much to keep them open. But after 3.5 hours, I woke up feeling sort of almost human. Not really, you know, because there is still the sore throat and the headache and the sneezing, but at least my arms and torso and eyes do not ache like they did this morning.

My mom did not nap, at least not for long, and so she went to bed by 7:15. 

A. spent the day either in bed or on the couch (she seems to have taken permanent possession of it, which we are not fighting because it is now fully contaminated with norovirus germs). She went to bed by 7:30. 

That leaves only me in the dark house, which is usual (I am the most night owl one here), but not usual for 7:54 pm.

My eyes are starting to hurt, though. It might be bedtime.

26 December 2014

house of sickness

Greetings from the house of sickness. 

Despite the fact that my mom and I have been hacking our lungs out and my sister A. had two rounds of barfing this morning, we tried to go do things like buy 50% off wrapping paper at T@rget and pick up Dutch cheese at C0stC0. 

A. had to turn around and go back to the car a few steps into T@rget. 

Ditto C0stC0, where the third round of barfing occurred in the parking lot.

After C0stC0, we gave up and turned around. We did stop for ginger tea and gatorade, but neither A. nor my mom left the car. (Public Service Announcement, gained by 15 minutes of looking and asking: H@rdings does not carry ginger tea. Go to the natural food store.)

A. spent the entire afternoon and evening on the couch, with a pan and some cups of water and tea and ginger ale. There was a round four of barfing. She was so cold that we had to add a comforter to the two throws under which she was shivering. We finally helped her to bed around 7:30, looking grey and haggard.

"Does your throat really hurt?" my mom asked me, sitting in the living room.

"Yes," I said.

"Does your head really hurt?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Do your eyes really hurt?" she asked.

"Yes," I said, "but I do find that my throat hurts a little bit less when I am constantly drinking something."

My mom and I have exactly the same cold. It's almost eery. 

It looks a lot less awful in comparison to a stomach virus, though.

We are supposed to be hosting a Christmas party here tomorrow, but the newspaper informs us that norovirus (which is going around in this town) can live for several days on surfaces. Anyone want to come over to our house and be contaminated? 

Ugh. Assuming neither I nor my mom gets sick (my dad stayed further away), we are, first thing in the morning, washing all the throws and pillows that A. was using. 

25 December 2014


We had one of those Christmas Days wherein several people are regularly dosing themselves or their children with ibuprofen. The baby was still wheezing a little. B. turned lethargic and hot during the meal. I drank so many cups of tea with honey that I might float away on a river of tea, and I napped on the couch in the middle of the post-gift chaos.

We do breakfast food, rather than a dinner. After a church service full of Christmas hymns, my mom whipped up a crustless quiche, and I tried to make my famous coffee cake, but we were out of butter., so I couldn't put it in the oven until my brother and sister-in-law got here, and then brunch was delayed waiting for it to bake. And because I used gluten-free flour, it took an even longer time to bake and at some point we couldn't wait anymore and I flipped it out onto a plate, more like a pudding than a cake. "Candy cake" we called it, scooping it out with a spoon. It was, I cannot lie, incredibly delicious.

Due to the ridiculous quantity of tea I drank today, I cannot tell you whether I overate or not. I felt like I overate. I felt incredibly full, and most of what I ate contained either 1. sugar or 2. chocolate, but I cannot tell whether the fullness was from tea or from food. I guess I will find out if I wake up starving in the middle of the night.

Presents were given and received. Children were overwhelmed. Adults were pleased. I have a new blanket scarf that will probably become my signature piece for the winter because now that I have discovered how much cozier life is with a blanket scarf about one's shoulders, I can not return to the chill of no blanket scarf. I'm considering having it surgically attached to my shoulders in shawl-fashion, except that the dripping when I get out of the shower might be problematic. 

24 December 2014


My mom and I both woke up in the scratchy throat stage of a cold, so when we stopped at T@rget, I picked up some cough drops. It was a big bag of generic cherry ones, and I popped one in my mouth as we left the store.

I put the bag back into the cart, into a plastic bag containing my mom or sister's purchases. 

As we neared the car (my mom has a newer car, so she parks at the far end of the lot far from everyone else), I heard a funny little plop. 

I looked down, and the bag of cough drops had fallen over and about 25 of them had spilled into the cart. From there, they were falling one by one through the holes in the cart. A few had collected above the wheel on a little metal piece a few inches above the ground. A few more had been lost along the way. 

A. and I started collecting all the cough drops from the cart and the nearby ground. Our mom went running back to pick one up off the pavement a dozen feet back. 

We ate the damp ones (from the ground) immediately, or I stuck them in my coat pocket. The rest went back into the bag.

As I went to put the cart in the cart corral, I saw, far off toward the door of the store, another cough drop lying wrapped on the ground.  A car ran over it as I watched. I did not go rescue that one.

21 December 2014

observations in DTW

It's been a while since I flew through Detroit, it seems. Probably this is because Delt@ doesn't fly to Universe City, so I flew Un1ted for those years, and then I had elite status on Un1ted, and it all snowballed.

I have elite status on no airline at all right now, thanks to having been broke and going nowhere all year. 

DTW used to be my airport. I would fly in here of an evening and pace all 72 gates and have one last US-ian meal and then come back to somewhere in the middle of the terminal, to a big-bellied plane filling with people from the whole world over, heading to Amsterdam. 

When I disembarked from my plane this morning, I caught myself planning to get chai at a particular spot, until I realized that the Bucks of Star of which I was thinking is actually in Chicago-O'Hare. The Bucks of Star is hard to find in DTW (pro tip: down by Gate A61). I had to inspect a map, while thinking to myself, "I can't believe that I need a map in DTW. This is absurd. This is my airport."

I did find the Bucks of Star, and I ended up eating a bag of butter popcorn for either a normal-hour breakfast (DTW time) or a very late night snack (Gone West time). 



One does not take the tram. (We tried once, on our way to Liberia in 2000. We almost missed our flight and got stuck in the doors of the tram. Never again, no matter how much I was lugging, have I tried that tram.)

The large-disc fountain is still doing its water-leaping thing. Kids are still mesmerized. For some reason, though, they have removed the comfy chairs. I am sitting on a folding chair, which is sub-optimal.

Birds are still trapped in the terminal and drinking from the fountain.

They changed the announcement about carrying an item for someone you do not know, just a tad. Also, I haven't heard the announcement that says, "Detroit, Michigan is in the Eastern Time Zone. Please check a clock or a flight monitor for the correct local time" in several languages. This is unfortunate, because I was close to knowing how to say that in multiple languages.

There appears to be a Spanx store visible from my seat.

That underground hallway with the creepy lights and music is as creepy as ever. They even found creepy Christmas music. Why would you let a hallway get almost completely dark while it is filled with travelers pulling luggage and pushing wheelchairs and carrying children? It's creepy.


One time, when I flew through DTW on my way back from Rwanda for Christmas / doing some work here, I found my gate and cast myself upon the ground in a corner to wait for the flight to Greater River City, because it was in the little terminal and there were not enough seats. I ended up talking to the woman sitting on the ground next to me. 

"Where are you coming from?" she asked, in friendly Midwest fashion.

"I live in Rwanda, but I was just on the coast of Kenya," I said, fresh from a delightful week on the beach in Malindi. 

"Oh," she said. "Aren't you scared to live there? Aren't they all terrorists over there?"

I thought about the friendly Muslim Kenyan in the seat next to me on the flight from Malindi to Nairobi, and said, "Nope. I don't worry about that. And if I did, I think that my being friendly and willing to talk about both of our countries does more to prevent terrorism than staying here would."


I am also flying into Hometown. That hasn't happened in years. I can't remember the last time I flew into Hometown, although it may have been that time that there was a girl on the plane who was flying to meet her biological father for the first time (she had been adopted at birth). That was a moment. 

She was so nervous that she spent the whole flight into Hometown telling the person next to her (they were in a row adjacent to mine) about her adoption, and so nervous that when we got to Hometown she went straight to the restroom. 

When I came out to baggage claim, my dad had been talking to the girl's dad, and so he wanted to linger to see the reunion, but then the girl didn't come out with the rest of the passengers. Once I got the story, I was able to tell them that she had indeed been on the flight and would probably only be a moment, and she was.


I remember flying into Hometown, that time when I was coming from Kenya, and recognizing the scene below me: the roads on which I used to drive kids to school when I worked in social services, the lake with the beach we went to in the summer.

Today, I would recognize everything still, but it's been a dozen years since I lived in Hometown. I've forgotten the names of many of the streets and the parks. It's strange how they leave you.

20 December 2014


Most years, I end up flying to the Mitten right before Christmas, if not on Christmas Day. Last year, I flew on Christmas Day, and my sister flew on New Year's Eve (well, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, thanks to weather delays). 

This year, if all goes as planned, I will arrive in the Mitten four entire days before Christmas. That is half a week. That is time enough to bake cookies and decorate and wrap presents. It's a whole new and wonderful concept.

So I am packing, and running through the rain to the recycling bin with bags of recycling, and washing all those dishes in the sink. I'm hoping to leave the house in a condition that will not horrify me when I come back (good luck with that, right?). 

My flight is a red-eye, of course. They always seem to be, lately. Flights are expensive, and somehow one night of sleep always seems less important than a day of work or several hundred dollars.

And so, as always, I will pace the Gone West airport for a while, all the way down to the end where there are only a few flights a day - S. and I left from there when we went to Vietnam - and then back to the other end, where all the late night flights are boarding. I will spend a few uncomfortable hours upright in the air, and then a few delirious hours of half-sleep on my parents' comfortable couch, and then the house will be full of kids and hugs, and I will be home for Christmas.

18 December 2014

narrow escape

I have been happily typing away on my new computer for almost a month now. I hardly remember what life was like when I had to wait half an hour for the computer to even consider deigning to open a web page. Now I just pop it open and look things up, or open a document, or make a spreadsheet.

Today I wanted to retrieve a recipe from my old computer, which I haven't even turned on since I got the new computer, not even to transfer data, so I plugged it in and let it do its booting up thing.

I typed in my password at the prompt. 

Apparently it cannot load the user profile. The password is right, but the profile cannot be found.

I am going to have to get some help with that, but the only thing I could think was, "What if that happened while I was depending on that computer to make a living?"

It could have been so bad. So, so bad. I bought a new computer at exactly the right moment without even knowing that it was exactly the right moment. I thought the old computer had a little bit of life left in it but that I could no longer tolerate the time wasted. 

Now I know that I barely escaped being computerless for a week or two, or buying another cheap, crappy computer at the nearest box store out of desperation. I am so happy to be, instead, working on the pretty little computer that I ordered with extra RAM so that it hopefully will last for a very, very long time.

This computer makes me happy.

15 December 2014


So, in the spirit, as previously mentioned, of occasionally Dressing Like a Professional, I now own a couple of shells to wear under suits. Specifically, I own two silk ones and one that I originally thought looked and acted like silk, but now I know better. (Polyester = static. NEVER AGAIN.)

I'm sure you can imagine exactly how much damage I can do to silk.

One of them is black, so that one is a little more indestructible.

The other one is a nice bright blue, and the first time I wore it, I went to an event after working hours. I got a glass of club soda, but the nice people behind the bar added some cranberry juice for flavor. I  also got a straw. Everything tastes better through a straw, especially when the glass has ice in it. (Because otherwise you have to try to sip around the ice when you tip the cup.)

Of course five minutes into making small talk with other lawyers, I flipped the straw out of my glass, spattering cranberry-soda onto my silk shell. My dry clean only silk shell. Lovely. 

Cue ridiculous amounts of googling regarding dry clean only silk and whether hand washing it would send it to instant doom. 

Googling suggested that there is only one kind of silk that truly cannot be hand-washed. The rest is just over-cautiousness on the part of the manufacturer, who does not want to be blamed when you ruin your clothes. 

I decided to risk it. This shell cost me $6. (I had rewards from b@n@n@ republic.) At $6, I could almost just buy another if I ruined this one. I did, however, go purchase Ivory dish soap for the gentleness factor. (Googling tells me that I should have bought the Ivory laundry detergent. Blame Target. They didn't have it. Or any other gentle detergent.)

Here is what I did (in case you ever have a similar dilemma): I put a light dusting of Borax into the bottom of a big metal bowl. I added cool water and a bit of Ivory dish soap. I dunked the silk shell a couple of times, then emptied the bowl and rinsed the shell a couple of times. I did not scrub it or ring it out. Instead, I laid it on a towel and rolled the towel up around it, squeezing the towel roll. Then I hung it up to dry.

It worked miraculously, until late that night after I had taken out my contacts and, to see if the spots were all gone, I leaned too close to the shell and touched my nose to it. My nose that was still wet from the sinus rinse I had just used.

I had to wash it again (yesterday) to get the waterspots out. 

I wore it today. Guess what I had to do tonight?

I cannot be trusted to avoid spills. 

12 December 2014


I went to put fuel in my car last night (it was either give in and fill the tank or test just exactly how much fuel I have left after the fuel light starts to come on intermittently), and the guy working at the gas station was young, friendly, and black. He was wearing a lumberjack hat with flaps down over his ears that flopped around when he turned his head. 

I was struck, again, again, again, by the fundamental unfairness of the world. 

It is not fair that this nice young man (I feel old) should have to worry when he goes out into the world that he will be stopped by the police for things that I can do without concern, and that after he gets stopped he has to worry that if he doesn't keep his hands in exactly the right place and act exactly the right level of compliant, he might be arrested or shot. It is not fair.*

It happened again today. I read this article in the New York Times about how black girls in school are punished more harshly than white girls, and darker-skinned black girls are punished more harshly than lighter-skinned black girls. It is not fair. 

Sometimes I just want to go out into the world and show people, and say, "See? It isn't fair." I want to believe that everyone would see that if I showed them, and everyone would want to fix it.

It isn't fair. 

And it should be.


* Note that this is not a criticism of police officers. It is a criticism of institutional racism that permeates all of us, including police officers. See, for example, this article on How Our Brains Perceive Race. In order to change things, we have to fight the patterns with which our brains have become comfortable. We ALL have to fight the patterns with which our brains have become comfortable. 

And the thing about comfortable patterns is that it is hard to break out of them. It is hard even to want to break out of them because, well, it's uncomfortable. But we have to do it, if we want to make this world better.

I want to believe that we all want to make this world better. 

11 December 2014

two randoms

I randomly really like Taylor Swift's new song Blank Space. 

Only, true confessions, that line where she says, "Got a long list of ex-lovers"?

Until I looked up the lyrics a week ago, I thought she was saying, "Gotta love my Starbucks lovers," and I thought she might be talking about writing the guy's name on the coffee cup in the, um, blank space. 

Even now that I know the truth, I sing along incorrectly about half the time. 

Yeah, that's embarrassing.

(ETA: Or not so embarrassing. I am not the only one.)


Driving home this afternoon, I was on a pretty main road, the sort of road with two lanes in each direction and a middle turn lane that occasionally turns into islands to keep the pedestrians safe.

Suddenly there was a man walking down the middle of the street, brown hair blowing in the wind, with his hands out like he was holding bicycle handlebars. 

And he wasn't just walking. He was grinning, turning the handlebars and his body like he was speeding down a hill.

10 December 2014


Hours spent on the phone with various health care providers and health insurance companies today: approximately 2.5.

Why: I paid extra this year for an insurance plan that purported to have better prescription coverage, only to find that the company excluded a bunch of my prescriptions from their generic coverage (even though they ARE generics), costing me even more than the extra I was already paying for the insurance I thought would cover them.

Result of prior insurance coverage: I am currently not taking most of my allergy medication. I have sinus headaches on the regular again.

Result of today's 2.5 hours on the phone: an insurance plan that is $60 less per month and covers everything I need at generic prices, with one or two necessary prior authorizations.

Further result of today's 2.5 hours on the phone: I now know that no one really knows how health insurance works. I had to piece together whether my prescriptions would be covered with information from two insurance companies, two doctors' offices, one pharmacy, and one medical records company.

09 December 2014


State of Happiness is the land of rainbows. We do not have to content ourselves with the occasional pretty spectrum of colors in the sky here, because it so often rains and suns at the same time that rainbows are numerous and brilliant. Double rainbows are not uncommon. 

Today, driving back to Gone West from a meeting, there was a short but very wide and very bright rainbow over on the right side of the highway. I'm actually not sure I've ever seen another rainbow like it. It was nearly as wide as it was tall.

I tried to take a photo through my windshield, as one does, while driving 60 mph on the highway (I was merging, otherwise I would have been driving faster), but it was too far away and the iPhone does not exactly specialize in zoom. 

You will have to settle for my description: short, wide, bright. 

07 December 2014

pingety pongety

I went to play pingpong today at the invitation of a new friend. 

It had probably been 20 years since I last played pingpong. We may (?) have had a pingpong table in our basement at one point, but we didn't play much. 

Initially, I was terrible. I couldn't return the ball at all. I couldn't have returned the ball if someone offered me one million dollars. (I wish they had offered me one million dollars, though.) I kept swinging too early, just as the ball came over the net, and then swinging again as it passed me, missing both times. 

"I don't know how you manage to get two swings in!" my new friend said, as I actually hit the ball on the second swing one time. 

The game came back pretty quickly, and within a few minutes I was hitting the majority of the directly lobbed balls. By the end of the night, I could sometimes even keep the ball relatively low, rather than letting it bounce high into the air. I still missed it when my opponent had any skill at spin or aim, and I have a bad tendency to swing too hard. 

It sort of makes me miss real tennis, although I would probably need an occupational therapist on speed dial if I ever decided to use my golf elbow arm that way again.

05 December 2014

tins #4 and #5

Tin #4 of the Advent Calendar (which I forgot until tonight because I spent yesterday evening helping a friend move) was full of Trader Joe's Coconut Flakes. So delicious.

I immediately opened Tin #5, even though I thought about saving it for tomorrow so as to save the treat, only it wasn't a treat! It was cute little gold-and-green earrings left by Sinterklaas, because it is Sinterklaas Eve.

I will take little surprises every day all year long for $800, Alex. This is fun.

04 December 2014

open wounds

Something that I think about every now and then, when I have a cut - which let's face it, happens a lot - is how little I worry about infection here. 

I mean, yeah. If I had something amputated, I would worry. If I had serious surgery, I would worry. That antibiotic-resistant bacteria stuff is not playing.

But compared to the humid climate and, okay, let's be honest, all the playing in the dirt I did as a kid, in a place where most houses did not have indoor plumbing, I really don't do much to care for things like cuts. 

We were never a hydrogen peroxide family. We were a soap and water family. 

I don't even know if I own anti-bacterial ointment. 

Literally all I do when I have a cut (unless it is actively bleeding, in which case I do own some bandaids, somewhere) is occasionally wash my hands. At the times when I would always wash my hands, like after using the toilet. 

It feels too simple, somehow. 

Although I probably did the exact same thing in Rwanda.

This is the sort of thing one thinks about when living in a mostly sterile place like Gone West after spending so much time in different parts of Africa. It isn't that the places I lived in Africa were more germy necessarily so much as that everyone spends all this time warning you when you travel to Africa about how you are going to die from the germs because lack of running water toileting upstream from drinking water no place to wash your hands whatever. 

Nobody even talks about that here. And don't pretend to me that it's because people are so much cleaner. I use public restrooms. For every person paranoid about touching anything in there, there is a person leaving without washing her hands. 

I think it's all in the running water. When waste disappears nicely down a toilet, there is so much less chance of encountering it than any other method, and so no one thinks to worry.

Then again, let's not even get started on how we spread MRSA here. Yikes.

03 December 2014


I took a pair of trousers to be hemmed today. 

I bought the trousers (and the matching suit jacket) for $70 each, about five years ago. They are both talls, so the trouser legs were always a little long, but I used to wear heels inside, and they were the perfect length for that. 

Over the years, the hems fell out. The trouser legs got longer. 

I stopped wearing heels. The trouser legs appeared even longer.

Now they drag on the ground unless I do something dramatic like tuck them into the back of my shoes. The result is that I haven't worn the trousers since, uh, probably 2011. 

I started wearing skirts and dresses most of the time anyway, so it didn't matter much.

But yesterday I finally tried to get them hemmed at a little shop nearby. I went by the shop at 9:54 am (approx.) and it was closed. It opened, according to the sign, at 10:00. It was 27 degrees out, but I waited. 

10:00 passed. I blew on my fingers and waited some more. 

Finally at 10:06, I called it and went to run my next errand. (The bank, in case it matters, which it doesn't.)

I went back this morning around 11:00, to find the store (wo)manned by a chatty Polish woman in her 60s. I put on the trousers, and she safety-pinned one of the legs at the correct length and told me to come back on Tuesday.

Then we talked about her daughters and their similarity to her father, and how Tuesday and Thursday sound the same with her accent (Tews-day and Tuurs-day), and how she doesn't go to the doctor because health insurance is too expensive. 

I hate running a business, but I am a little jealous of her peaceful little shop with people coming and going and all colors of thread on the wall and the hum of a sewing machine.

02 December 2014


My parents sent me an Advent calendar, and it is hanging on the wall. It is a magnetic board with little tins stuck to it, one per day, starting yesterday.

My roommate and I both happened to be in the kitchen making dinner-like things at the same time yesterday, and I opened little tin number 1. 

"Would you like half of a tiny cookie?" I asked. Then I sawed it in half with a serrated knife that had a blade about ten times the length of the cookie. The morsel I ate was delicious.

My parents left some of the tins filled with the original contents, they told me, and replaced some of them. Tonight's little tin had been replaced, because the contents (almonds) were not packaged. 

I haven't eaten plain almonds in a while. (Truth: I usually eat chocolate covered almonds.) I forgot how tasty almonds are, even on their own.

Then I had to decide whether the little tins should go back on the magnetic board or be displayed elsewhere. MAJOR DECISIONS.

Spoiler: they are now beginning a row on the bookshelf, in numerical order. 

01 December 2014

(*%&^*&^ always cold

I can see my breath in the kitchen.

I went outside to take photos of the Christmas tree lot down the street and I froze solid and now I am dead, the end.

Okay, not really. I am just an icicle huddling under blankets. It's been over half an hour, and I'm still an icicle.

Something I noticed in the last few days is that, because I am never actually comfortably warm, because my hands, specifically, are never actually comfortably warm, they burn when I get in the shower. The water is a fine temperature for the rest of me, but my hands burn like they are being re-heated after an actual freezing event.

My bedroom is, by the way, heatable. There is a thermostat on the wall that controls the electric heater. But it takes a while to warm up, and when I turn it off at night, the room is quickly as cold as the rest of the house. (I realized approximately yesterday that half of my room is above a porch. I need a rug for this room immediately. Only I can't afford it.)

To provide some context, when I woke up on Sunday morning, it was 49 degrees in the bathroom. The floor was 49 degrees, anyway. The bathroom has a heated floor, but it takes a while to heat up. 

This here blog has basically become Chronicles of the Ice Age. Why is this winter so cold? I promise that it is colder than last year.