Holiday thoughts without words

Customer (non-) service

  • By way of "review" a couple of remarks about recent customer service experiences. (Y'all already know how I feel about T-Mobile!)
  • EMTEC. I had an Emtec SD card (1 GB) which died. I used the form on the Emtec site (try to find the form! I dare you!) on two separate occasions (August 9 and August 23) to report the problem and ask for a replacement. No answer. I rooted around some more on the internet and found an e-mail address ( and repeated my request, asking that they forward my request to the appropriate department. I have received no answer whatsoever to any of these attempts at communication. Customer service?? No way! Now I'm also out the money for a new card, besides being pissed off. I hope a lot of people Google "Emtec SD card" and end up on my site....
  • LACIE. Totally different story! My LaCie "itsaKey" USB drive was suddenly invisible on both the Big Computer and the laptop. Mailed LaCie and received a prompt answer with ticket number. I could provide them with an e-mail copy of the purchase receipt and they quickly issued a return number and instructions for returning the item. All correspondence was quick and to the point, so I expect that replacing the thang will go just as well. *UPDATE* I received a new "iamaKey" (different model) within about a week.
  • Anybody else with an electronics customer service gripe (or a *good* experience)?

Breaking Dawn wedding dress??

  • OK, am I the only one who thinks it's weird that there appear to be no photos of the Bella Breaking Dawn wedding dress on the internet?? Not that I've followed any of it at all, but geez, there was so much hype, and I love looking at wedding dresses anyway, but...nothing. Who knows a link?

Steve Jobs

  • Steve Jobs has died. I think everyone saw it coming, but it makes me sad anyway. As you all know I'm an Apple fan, and in my mind I always associated Steve Jobs with the products I use. I wish his loved ones, friends and colleagues strength, and Apple a new successful era that builds on what he accomplished.

What is "too much"? Part 1: recognizing the signs

Recent events in the lives of a few people close to me have gotten me thinking, "how much is too much?" and "how do we know when that is"? We tend to be able to realize we've overloaded ourselves, but we often realize it pretty late in the process. It would be better all around if we could recognize it earlier, at a point when little damage has been done, and when simple changes can turn the tide.

Here's a list of some Early Warning Signs, chosen because they're easy to spot. Again, the key is early detection! In a future post I'll offer a compact and easy-to-follow plan for the next step: what to do about it?

  • You forget things. Physical things (keys, cell phone), but also - and maybe more telling - whether or not you've done something. This often results in sending that second e-mail because we've already forgotten we sent the first one. Or going back into the house to check the stove, and not trusting your memory of the check once you're in the car. Forgetting things other people have told you is another example.
  • You have aches and pains you don't normally have. Most people know not to ignore the warning signs of a heart attack, but physical symptoms of stress can be more subtle, like achy joints, or a low-grade headache, or feeling like you're going to get a cold (without actually getting one).
  • You're angry, really angry, angry enough to yell and/or break things, in a situation that would normally just piss you off. Someone walks past and stares at you without saying anything. The driver of the car in front of you waffles between turning right or left. A friend of yours changes some arrangement you two made, but doesn't consult you first.
  • You treat your partner, child, pet or other loved one with indifference (hopefully nothing worse), because you "just don't have the energy" - and you don't explain why.
  • You can't stop. You're so wound up you watch late-night tv even though it exhausts you. You go to bed late because you're hyper. You're caught in a loop and can't seem to get out of it. In the same vein, you might find yourself constantly eating or smoking. This kind of nervous activity doesn't result in much real productivity. It's just busy-ness.
  • Your bathroom habits are not what they should be.
  • You wear your glasses instead of your contacts, because (1) you haven't cleaned your contacts in six days, and/or (2) you've gotten so little sleep you can't bear to have the things in your eyes.
  • You forget or otherwise don't do exactly those things that would help you: doing the laundry, picking up milk for breakfast tomorrow, straightening up your desk, paying bills.
These are all relatively small but telltale signs that are easy to recognize. 

What would you add to the list? Please leave a comment!

Weight loss visualization tool

  • I came across Weight Mirror, a site where you can upload a photo of yourself and it will "photoshop" your photo to give you an idea of what you could look like at different weights. It's free and you don't have to register. (No, I'm not affiliated with the site.) Pretty cool tool that might help those of us working on attaining a healthy weight.

And she's done!

  • Irene turned out to be less dangerous than expected and I can at least report that my uncle's fine. He was most amazed by the sight of young trees "spinning" counterclockwise, in the same direction as the wind. My thoughts are with those who lost loved ones, and with those contending with the aftermath in other ways.

Irene, don't be mean

  • My uncle lives in North Carolina, so I'm waiting to hear how it will turn out with hurricane Irene. He doesn't live too close to the coast, so probably it will end up being a lot of wind and rain and hopefully not much else for him.
  • My thoughts are with everybody who has to evacuate. I was very happy to read some reports that pets will be allowed in (some?) shelters. Please everybody, take care of your pets. I know that organizations will be helping people and pets in areas that will be hit hard.

We're back! And so is the computer

  • After two weeks of, well, sketchy weather and a strange (for us) house, we're back home. It was a good vacation. I read six books, made applesauce, practiced a foreign language, didn't sleep too well, and enjoyed the sound of wasps in a wall full of something like Virginia creeper, as well as a lot of sparrows, a couple of bats, about a hundred cows, and a weasel. Proof of the last two (see if you can find the weasel!):

  • The wireless modem verdict: not much of one, since I didn't try out my own sim card and unlocked modem, probably partially because I was afraid of the roaming charges. In any case I didn't trust my language skills enough to buy one where we were. The one we rented worked fine. The only problem was that we were in a valley out in the country where there weren't many GSM cell sites. We checked our text messages and mail by putting our cell phones and the modem on the fence twice a day. Worked fine, though the connection was still slow. :-) We drove out of the valley to a more populated place to use Skype to call my Mom. Here's our Communications Center:

  • Once back home, I read Bruce Feiler's article "Our Plugged-In Summer" on As always, vacation makes me think about my "digitality" and what's good/what's not so good about it. I agree with the basic idea of his use of the Internet on vacation: checking out useful information on attraction, looking things up with the kids, etc. We did something similar, although probably less often than Feiler and his family did. And yet...I find it hard to describe, but when the Internet is an option, as useful as it is, it means a small part of our attention is not where we are. We're partly "out there" and not "here". My experience is that this detracts from a vacation (and from "regular life," if we're not careful), even though I am a huge fan of getting information when I need it. There are lots of pros and cons to this question, so let me know what you think!
  • The big computer is back after being repaired for the "flashing folder of death" problem. Apple replaced the hard disk, and to my delight they were able to copy the data onto it, so I didn't even have to use the Time Capsule. Fantabulous.

Iconic and a kind of software review

  • So here I am, sipping a latte and typing on my laptop. I've always thought this was an iconic picture of...what? Modernity? Coolness? Someone who's got her priorities wrong? Today it's just functional, because (a) I just woke up from a much-needed nap and now need coffee, and (b) I screwed up the "big" computer yesterday. I decided it was time to install Undercover, the computer tracking software made by Orbicule, on the big computer and on the laptop. No problem. It's easy to install and you can even test it. (The reports you get of the current location of the computer are amazing and cool, but caused Man to exclaim, "I'm not touching that thing ever again!" :-)) Anyway, that was all fun and games.
    The Undercover people do suggest you set a firmware password, so thieves can't wipe your hard drive/start up the computer using another hard drive, and they give you clear instructions how to do it. OK, so I did it. Also no problem. But something happened with the reboot of the big computer and I got the flashing folder of death (I hope none of you has ever seen the flashing folder of death).
    Apple Care was helpful, at least after somewhat chidingly saying, "Oh dear, firmware passwords are rather advanced for the average user..." (grrr), but unfortunately the flashing folder of death remained. So the big computer is being sent to the top nerds* even as we speak. At least it won't be stolen from my house, haha. 
  • Let me stress that the laptop is completely fine, so it's not Undercover's fault. This isn't much of a review in that I can't tell you how great the software is for recovering your stolen computer (you can find enough of those stories if you Google a bit), but I can say that it was very easy to download and install, that the informative site and the site you use to report your computer missing are just about perfect, and that the Orbicule people were very sympathetic and helpful when I reported the boot problem (just in case they had any ideas) and they want me to let them know how things turn out.
  • As a side note, I also got the Kensington MicroSaver DS keyed lock for the laptop. I'd read reviews saying that certain locks don't work in the MacBook (I have a regular unibody MacBook.) This fits fine. 
  • And in other news: I sat outside today, looked at clouds, and played with my dog. Much needed recreation, especially after about six straight days of rain, during which my outdoors time was purely functional. 
* Disclaimer: I use this term in the most positive way possible. My way of life depends partially on the help of nerds on various subjects. I love my nerds.

A feel-good photo

  • One of the loveliest photos I've seen of the whole Wills/Kate trip. Love that little girl's expression!

So let's just let the veins rest for now. Wifi/mifi experience!

  • Everything's fine with the veins, so we'll just move on for now until someone has a question. :-)
  • I'm just getting into mobile internet and researching the various possibilities. I'm not the type of person to have my laptop (no smartphone yet!) open all the time, or even with me, so the thing for me is affordable internet access for occasional use.
    I got an unlocked wireless modem (Huawei E585, as small as a cell phone!) and a prepaid laptop internet sim card from T-mobile, a provider I had no experience with yet. (It was the cheapest option.) Oops. The sim card did not work. The laptop and the wireless modem could see each other and wave, but internet was not happening. Didn't even get to the point of the software download/installation they said would happen. Still corresponding with the T-Mobile on that one; I want my money back. So far they are refusing and are basically washing their hands of the whole thing. Recommendation? Don't go for T-Mobile.
    Decided to go ahead and get a small mobile internet plan (not a prepay) from my 'own' provider, since people who already had an account with them could get it for half price. Stuck the thing in the modem en bam, internet. (Obviously the modem is not the problem; hear that, T-Mobile?) Well, not bam; it's not as fast as I'd like, but it should be fine for my purposes. A friend's sim card (from yet another provider) worked as well. (Getting it yet, T-Mobile?) What I'm hoping is to get a local prepay sim when I travel to other countries; that's why I got the unlocked modem.
    We've rented a thing for an upcoming trip over the border, just in case I don't get the sim thang going right. It's a pretty good deal: mifi to be used in the country of choice, for a reasonable price. I'm looking forward to comparing it with my own setup.

Smile again: the scoop on varicose vein stripping (3)

  • I love all the traffic on the varicose vein posts here and here. Any other operations you'd like to see featured? :-) But seriously, I'd love to hear your comments. Was the information useful? Anything missing? Let me know!
  • I realized that some of you might want to know why I chose the stripping method, which a lot of sites call "old-fashioned" (or words to that effect). I had the choice of getting the veins stripped or getting them lasered. At first I thought the laser treatment would be better, less invasive etc. But two things made me decide to get them stripped.
  1. The area around the veins would have to be numbed before the laser treatment. That involves putting a thing all the way through the veins and inching it back, injecting anesthetic fluid every so often. According to the surgeon that would be about 10-15 injections. Per leg. This did not sound attractive to me at all. I've had anesthetic injections before and they aren't fun.
  2. Since the veins have to collapse and heal, I would have had to wear compression stockings for six weeks. This wasn't necessary with the stripping method. Apparently there are studies suggesting that six weeks after stripping, there's not any (or much) difference between patients who wore compression stockings and patients who didn't.

    The scoop on varicose vein stripping (2)

    • So I got a whole lotta traffic on the varicose vein post. Made me smile. I'm also one of those people that searches the whole web for pictures and descriptions of any procedure I may undergo, any product I'm thinking of buying, so I get it. I'll bet y'all are begging for more.
      Here's a pic of my right leg, four weeks and a few days after the stripping.

    • Please don't think my leg is actually this exact shape. :-) It wasn't easy to get the leg in the right position and take a picture with my other hand, while not being able to see the little camera screen. Also, I have very pale skin. I just do. So any marks look more intense in the photo than they do in real life.
      Anyhoo. As you can see there are several little scars in various stages of healing. A couple of them are already healed; I remember I had nine little incisions and two of them don't even show on the pic. So these little scars are gradually fading and I don't think there will really be anything to see after a while.
      You can also see a few spider veins I can have treated at some point. Too bad I didn't think to take a "before" pic so you could see the difference. There was a big vein lump right around those spider veins, for example, and a couple big ones halfway down my calf. All gone now!
      In the first post about the operation I mentioned having a reaction to the dissolvable stitches, but that turned out to be just some fluid that collected there; apparently that's normal. (And it's gone now.)
    • I don't think about the operation during a typical day, because I'm not reminded of it anymore. I don't feel bruising or tightness, and I can do everything I'd normally do. Isn't that great?
    • Information about how I made the decision to have the stripping here.

    Ahhh. What a relief!

    • I ended a relationship today. (Not the one I wrote about in my previous post.) This wasn't a virulent relationship like the one with my family member, but it had been eating at me for some time. There were no fights during the almost three years we knew each other, and a lot of good things. I learned important things from this person and for those things I will always be grateful.
      But at some point in the last year or so the relationship ran out of steam. It happens. That doesn't necessarily mean anyone's at fault; sometimes you've just said everything you can say to each other. Our mistake was not recognizing that. There were hints both ways, but neither of us took the initiative of saying it was time to move on. The result was a really draggy year in which we didn't look forward to seeing each other, but hoped that we would enjoy it sometime again.
      That didn't happen. We saw each other for the last time several weeks ago, we agreed that that would be the last time, and that seemed to be fine. But today some unspoken feelings reared their heads, and the relationship saw its only above-board confrontation. I said what was on my mind; the other person did the same. It wasn't fun, but it needed to happen. 
    • In retrospect we both could have avoided the final confrontation by speaking out earlier in the relationship. We had understandable reasons for not doing so, but it meant that we spent a year ignoring the elephant in the room. Everyone's done that. It's perfectly human and we'll all do it again sometime. The problem is, it costs a lot of energy, energy we can use positively. That in itself is a reason to speak up.
      The other reason is perhaps more subtle. It's actually a social lie to keep a relationship going that's not benefiting the people in it. Again, that's something we all do sometimes. And sometimes it's useful in other ways, for example, if you desperately need a job at the moment and you consciously decide to "deal with it" in order to keep the job. But there's something poisoning about it, especially in a personal relationship. Being honest with one's self and with another person is an expression of a "lovingkindness" we need to cultivate.
    • That being said, the final confrontation between me and the other person was actually a relief. It was crystal clear that we disagreed on some key points and would not agree on them again. That's the "closure" we all keep hearing about, and I've got to say, it feels great. Light. With freed-up energy. I'm happy. It's a good feeling.

    It's his problem, not mine. But where does that get me?

    • I just read (and commented on) a great post by Peter Bregman on the limitations of trying to communicate in difficult interpersonal situations (my words). As I understand it, the gist of his post is that there are limits to what you can accomplish using communication. His example was that of a friend who disappointed him and then became angry when he called him on it in a reasonable manner. His (probably wise) conclusion is that it's sometimes better just to accept that the other person is the way he/she is, and that you won't always be able to change their behavior by talking to them. 
    • As I mentioned in my comment, theoretically (and practically, for the most part), I agree. I definitely agree if I let my closet Buddhist alter-ego speak. :-) I can change myself but not others. But does that mean I have to accept every kind of behavior from someone else?
    • Case in point is a family member of mine. I'll call him Fred. Our relationship (we've known each other since we were babies) has always been up and down. Even the fun moments were tinted with a kind of uneasiness, because the mood could change in a snap. I essentially moved to another state at 17 to go to college, and since that time we haven't had constant contact. We do have sporadic e-mail contact, though, because we're both involved in keeping an eye on a third family member. My experience with Fred is that he has a very short fuse. He takes offense easily. His response is to lash out verbally. (And I'm definitely doing the understatement thing here.) His words are chosen to be sarcastic and hurtful. I've even had him on an e-mail filter so I wouldn't be confronted with his negativity.
      (I should add that my relationship with his wife is fine.)
    • A few years ago I tried the "modern" approach. I did not attack him for "being" a certain way; I told him how his abuse made me feel. His response was that he didn't give a s**t how I felt. About a year after that there was an almost identical situation. I told him again how I felt, said that I understood that he was having a rough time (he was, at that point), but that I would appreciate it if he would answer mails in a way that wouldn't discourage "people" (me) from having a conversation with him. Again, he didn't give a s**t.
    • I can think of a lot of reasons he might be this way. He might be jealous of me. He might have a lot on his plate (he does). He might be afraid he's not going to measure up and is putting on his he-man suit. I have sympathy for all these things, if only because I've felt them myself. 
    • But in this situation it just doesn't do enough for me to realize the problem is his, even if I'm convinced of it (which I am). I do have to deal with him, and I hate the way he treats me. How to deal with that gap? I'm following the comments on Bregman's article, but would love to hear from readers here. How do you deal with similar situations?

    The scoop on varicose vein stripping (1)

    • For those of you interested in the whole experience, here's the deal. I went in early (7:30 a.m.), nil by mouth, for the op. Luckily Man could come with me, so that was great. Kind of compensated for the lack of coffee. Blood pressure was checked and I got a bed and a hospital gown. To my surprise, I was allowed to keep my cell phone, which was a lot more convenient than having nurses call people later.
      Around 9:00 the nurse got the call that she could bring me to the OR. Man was allowed to walk part of the way, then we said goodbye and I got wheeled on to the OR. Bed transfer, check of who I was and what I was there for, and got wheeled in. It just kind of flowed over me. I let it happen.
      Veins were drawn on, I got an IV and got put on the heart and blood pressure monitors. Anesthesiologist whipped in, injected some Dormicum, and I sat up to get the epidural. Actually, I think it was a spinal. It was only one injection and there wasn't a catheter. It worked quickly; I could feel my legs getting warm within 30 seconds or so. Got laid back down and they draped the scene. Legs were then numb and I couldn't move them.
      At that point it would take a little more than an hour to do both legs. (I later heard that this surgeon likes to work fast. Also, he had an assistant.) I couldn't see the area directly because of the drape (and didn't want to), but I could look into the OR lamps and vaguely (no contacts in) see what they were doing. The nurse anesthetist was great; she was fun to talk to and at one point she asked whether I wanted to see one of the blood vessels. I said OK and she came back with a clamp with a kind of worm on it with some branchlike vessels. Unfortunately, that was right when my blood pressure started to drop, so I felt like a wuss when I said, "actually I'm not feeling too well." (Turns out that this is pretty normal and is related to either the spinal or tension, or both.) She wasn't worried at all, injected something into the IV and I felt better within a couple of minutes.
      Felt a lot of movement and looked down to see my own feet on the shoulders of a couple of nurses. Really weird. They were putting on the compression bandage. More on that later....
      Got wheeled into the recovery room and was totally bored there because I was awake and not feeling ill, but they keep you there until you can start to move something below the waist. I expected the toes, but in my case it was the stomach muscles. The toes turned out to be the very last things I could move. One of the nurses put on jazz radio for me, which was pretty cool!
      After about an hour, when I could move the stomach muscles, I got picked up and wheeled back to the room. At that point I was allowed to eat and drink (woohoo!) and just had to wait until I could stand up. That took about three hours total from the time I left the OR. Spent the time texting everyone, having some lunch, and napping.
      At about 3:30 p.m. I could stand up, a bit shaky, so I was allowed to call my friend and Man to come and pick me up. (Man doesn't drive, so a friend picked him up and waited while he got me out of the room.) 
    • Recovery: well, this is what I looked like when I came home:

    • And why does it look so weird there on the thighs? Well, apparently I got the trainee bandagers there in the OR. The whole thing started to slide south as soon as I got out of the car to walk into the house. I pulled it up and around and secured it as well as I could with sport tape, but sheesh. I'm an amateur, but I'd think compression bandages are supposed to compress. Which means they should stay on. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    • By the next morning it looked like this, and the whole foot part was loose. I almost tripped over it.

      So I cut the foot part off; I was allowed to remove the bandages later anyway.
    • And the further recovery. Well, the first few days you walk around like you're wearing a full diaper. And you are supposed to either walk or put your feet up (as little standing as possible). The pain is controllable with Tylenol/paracetamol. Actually, most of the pain is from the bruises, not really from incisions. (I had the two larger groin incisions, 9 little ones on the right leg, and one little one on the left one.) Now, 10 days later, I'm doing most normal things, but still putting my feet up often and not doing heavy lifting. Have an appointment with the surgeon two weeks after the operation. I notice I'm having some kind of reaction to the dissolvable stitches in the groin, but it looks like that's going OK.
    • Any questions? Feel free!
    You can find the 4-week update here.

    For the three people who haven't seen it yet...

    • I have fallen in love with this dog. Just look at him! It's another creation by Andrew Grantham, the talking animals guy.

    A quiet weekend and app review

    •  Happy Mother's Day to everyone celebrating it! Was pleased that Mom liked the presents I sent: a necklace of beach glass, and two framed photos: one of me and Man and one of me and Border Collie. I live too far away to go and take her to lunch or dinner, as I'd really like to do.
    • I've had a more or less quiet weekend, resting up a bit for the operation day after tomorrow (varicose veins, sigh). I've never had an epidural before. And I hope the recovery time won't be too long.
    • I discovered two apps I've been enjoying using. One is "Perfect Diet Tracker". I actually haven't found anything in the program I'm disappointed with. You can select a type of diet ("diet" in the broadest sense), work with targets, enter your personal data (height, weight, activity level etc.) and, of course, all food items at each meal. As for the food items, there's apparently a large database, but the fantastic thing is that the program does an internet search if the food item you want isn't in the database. And if that doesn't work, you can enter and save the information yourself, using information on the product itself, for example. And there are automatic graphs and charts to play with. You can enter exercise, too, but I haven't worked with that yet because I want to concentrate on the food aspect. The interface is pleasing, modern, just right.
    • The other app is equally fantastic, but fantastic in its simplicity. It's called "DrinkMoreWater". It's a simple interface, just a screen with eight glasses on it and buttons below for 1 small glass, 1 large glass, and two sizes of water bottles (you can use milliliters or ounces). You click on the appropriate button when you've had a drink, and you're rewarded with a nice gurgling sound. :-) You get applause when you've reached 8 glasses (and anything above 8 glasses). A convenient detail is that the icon in the toolbar shows how many glasses you've got left to reach 8 for the day.
    • If you get motivated by charts, graphs, lists, and general geekiness you might want to give these a try!

    Hello, fellow kitchen-users!

    • So suddenly last week I got a call from the contractor. "Can we start tomorrow?" Pfff. After waiting almost 4 months they have to start in the week Man and I had (with difficulty) kept free. Well, better get on with it then, we thought.
    • Now it's a couple of days later and it's almost done. Will post pics. The fabulous countertop has been installed, as well as the oven (much fancier than the old one), gas cooker and range hood. The tiles were done today. Tomorrow there'll be some caulking and taking care of other details. At some point the electrical outlets will be done and there'll be a new faucet. Still amazes me how much "damage" a small fire can do. Seem to have a good contractor, which kind of astounds me.
    • And in other news I of course thoroughly enjoyed the Wills-and-Kate-O-Rama. Am more than a little proud that the night before the wedding I had an idea of what she'd look like and it turned out to be almost exactly right. Very interesting. (I thought she looked perfect, by the way.) I wish them all kinds of luck. They'll need it. And I hope they keep finding strength in each other, as they seem to do so far.
    • Also woke up this morning with the idea that someone 'important' had died. That of course turned out to be true, if we can believe the news reports about the attack near Islamabad. Wonder whether I'm learning to listen to my intuition.


    • Recently I've been coming across more and more blog posts that contain only links to other posts (sometimes there's a little added explanation or comment). Sometimes it's about the blogger's earlier posts ("One year ago today on [name of blog]...", etc.) and sometimes it's links to other blogs.
    • While it can be useful to see links to other people's posts (and it's definitely one of the ways bloggers keep their networks going), sometimes I think it's a bit of a cop-out to do this too often. As far as the blogger's own posts is concerned, sometimes a link to an earlier post is integrated into the text ("As I mentioned earlier [link], I think..."). That's useful, because you can refer to the earlier information if necessary. But those "One year ago today" links without any further content annoy me sometimes.
    • What do you think? Are these "link posts useful?" Do you read them? Do you skip them? I'd love to know. Drop me a line!

    Starting up again after turbulent times

    • I read a post by Esther van der Wal on Henri Junttila's blog. Esther writes about re-becoming a socially functioning member of society (my own words) after a major trauma in her personal life. You can read my comment there, but her story got me thinking about getting back on track.
      I posted last week about the huge fear I had that my beloved Border Collie had a tumor (luckily, it's not one, but the fear hasn't totally left my body yet). At the same time, I had a "light" case of pneumonia. Joint problems are acting up. Mom fell again. Money questions. Questions about moving house. The husband of a friend of mine died rather suddenly. Lots of other stuff happened right in the same couple of weeks.
      What happened? I was paralyzed. Overwhelmed. Cried a lot. Had no idea how to do anything but the most essential things. The house was a mess. I wouldn't have eaten anything remotely healthy if Man hadn't been here more than usual to help out. I let my e-mail inbox grow to 200+ messages. Didn't pay bills.
      The thing is, it was OK. Sure, it would have been great to have my fear under control. (Really, really great.) And the messy house didn't help me feel any better. But that's just the way it was. And I knew it. I knew that at some point the fog in my head would lift and that I would gradually get going again. My own tried and true first sign of the fog lifting is that I want to clean something up. This time, it was doing the dishes. I hate doing grocery shopping, so that was an especially tough thing to get on track again, but I managed it. One day I suddenly decided to run the Roomba. And things snowballed after that. 
    • I think we have to be able to accept the times that things just aren't working. If getting some practical help is possible, these are the times to do that. (I felt like I was hiding behind Mommy's skirts when I asked Man to do the grocery shopping, but it helped.) Accepting that it's OK to be like this temporarily makes it easier to notice the signs we're starting to come out of it, and to act on them. Then we can feel the relief of doing something "normal" and trusting that things will work out somehow. That's the beginning of recovery.

    Good news!

    • The vet called and it's not a tumor, but an infection in the bone! Still work to do, but what I was so afraid of turns out not to be happening. Bottoms up!


    • BC had a biopsy today of a bump on his right front leg. The vet is thinking bacterial infection in the bone, or tumor. I'm terrified.


    • Haven't posted for several days; my life was temporarily revolving around sheep! We were going to participate in a sheep herding trial the day before yesterday, and because BC is visually impaired I decided to take a lesson on the trial field, so he'd at least see it beforehand. So last Tuesday we drove 2-1/2 hours there, had a lesson and drove back. 
      On Thursday we had a lesson somewhere else ("only" an hour away), with a possible new instructor. (Our regular instructor is out of commission for a while for health reasons.) And Sunday we had the trial. The first lesson was kind of wild, since BC hadn't seen a sheep close up for three months. And I had to get into it again as well. 
      The lesson on Thursday was somewhat better. Interesting to take a lesson from someone who isn't primarily into trialling. She actually herds, well, a huge herd of sheep, about 350 animals. 
      And Sunday was the trial. Decided to go there Saturday evening and stay in a B&B so I wouldn't have to get up at five on Sunday morning. Sunday turned out to be a lovely day. The trial didn't really go as planned (the sheep high-tailed it back to their starting pen twice), but I noticed the commands were going much better and I was happy about that. Even though we exceeded the time limit we ended up being tied for 5th place out of 19. Not bad!
    • Now getting back in gear with the rest of life, like continuing with getting rid of stuff, getting the repair work done on the kitchen etc. I picked out a really nice countertop; here's a pic. (And now to bed!) 

    There's something I just don't get

    • Why, oh why, are there so many "leaked" sex tapes and nude photos? I'm talking about actual leaks here, not stuff people put out there themselves and then pretend it's leaked. If it floats your boat to make them during the act, why not delete them afterwards (and format the memory card)? If you want to look at them again, why do you store them where someone obviously can get to them? And...on your cell phone? What's up with that? The easiest thing in the world to lose besides your house key? Not a shining example of a good place to store sensitive information. I just don't get it.

    A grammar note

    • Am I the only one who's still annoyed at the phrase "eat healthy"?

    Aha! The clothes solution!

    • In my very first post I complained about the used clothes problem: what do you do with the clothes you've worn but don't need to be washed yet? My pattern is: get undressed in the bathroom and leave the clothes on the edge of the bathtub, so I can grab them as soon as I get out of bed and have to take Border Collie out. But the pile seems to grow daily, it slides into the bathtub or onto the floor, and was making me unhappy. But I only just thought of this solution: an over-the-door clothes hanger for just a few dollars! Now I have a place to keep the clothes accessible, but not in an ugly pile. Happy!

    Do we recognize this?

    • Oh, dear. I don't want to think about how much this is true! (source: Failblog)

    Less TV and general update

    • Just have to crow about something so simple that it's amazingly easy to miss. I get so much more done when I unplug! Of course I'm not giving up my TV or computer (I'm even entertaining the idea of a laptop for when Man is here), but I am definitely stepping away from the screens more often. More consciously. And then I'm getting the bill-paying done, getting the laundry done, reading something, sitting on the sofa with coffee, enjoying Border Collie. And I forget less. Very rewarding. Anyone else amazed at how simple this is? Tammy Strobel isn't, as she explains in her post on Rowdy Kittens.
    • I'm even doing a better job of the whole food thing. Attention is the key. Attention and calm.
    • No new half kitchen yet. Have to wait for approval by the insurance company. 
    • Horse seems to be doing well. Biked with her for half an hour today. She was frisky because of the cold, sunny weather. Had to trot some to express herself, which looks pretty cool next to a bike. :-) Here's a video (not me); imagine this, but with several times more excitement, hehe.
    • She's really shedding at the moment, removing her winter coat. I find stroking a lava stone all over gets a LOT of hair out. 
    • Border Collie had a sort of dislocated toe last week. Seems to be fine now. If it persists (which it could if ligaments are too loose) the vet will show me how to tape the toe to its neighbors before sheepherding or anything else intensive.


    • The children at the school near my apartment have a few free days this week. I am used to the school. While I passionately hate the bring-and-pick-up times because there's so much car traffic from more or less annoying parents, the noise of kids playing during recess doesn't bother me much. But I do notice how QUIET it is when there's vacation or a few free days! Also, families around here tend to go somewhere else for vacations, so there's less general traffic/movement/busy-ness during those times.
    • I'm planning to move sometime during the next couple of years, and I notice that "quiet" is at the top of the list of things I'm looking for in a new house. Not on a busy street (this is not only because I have a dog!), and if possible adjacent to fields or some kind of open land. As few man-made sounds as possible (this really makes a difference). As a person who is often too reactive, I notice that I don't reach a peaceful state or flow state easily if I'm constantly hearing things around me. Last week on a sunny day I was out with my dog and more or less forced myself to sit quietly in the sun on a bench looking out on a natural landscape. I heard a plane once in a while, but that was about it. It made me realize how much I need that quiet. 
    • Reactive people (there's overlap with Elaine Aron's concept of "highly sensitive people"("hsp's") need to create the silence that's so important to them. It may be literal silence, or a beautiful view, or it may be a day without appointments. The effects of the stress of "too much" are even more obvious once we've experienced the calm and the flow. As a kid, I got "absorbed", as they used to call it, in many of the things I did. I read a book in my bedroom and didn't notice that the neighbors' house was on fire. I could look at bugs for hours, just noticing what they did. My challenge is to create in my adult life the circumstances I need to be able to reach this state again. And I realize it's not just about saying "no"; it's also about saying "yes" to the things I need. Like sitting on the sofa and looking out on the garden. Or really reading an article or a chapter in a book (not just skimming!). Or playing music and feeling what it does in me.
    • How much silence do you need? What kind of circumstances do you need to be able to be silent? Do you have your permission to create them?

    Who are you??

    • Just curious: who are some of the people reading my "thoughts"? I know where you are, hehe, maar who are you? Drop me a line!


    • This morning I was sitting on the sofa with Border Collie, who was lying on his back hoping I'd do a long-term scratching session. I scratched a little, and then the pile of read newspapers on the coffee table caught my eye. I decided to get up and put them in the recycling bin. But then I stopped myself. I was able to ask myself: what's more important at this moment: putting the newspapers away, or enjoying my dog (and giving him enjoyment)? I had the time to do some extra belly scratching, and the choice became clear: I'd be more fulfilled by scratching right now. 
    • It's something I'm always working on: how do I decide what to do at a given moment? As I've said recently, I tend to be pretty reactive: basing choices on external stimuli. Gotten a mail? Quick, see who sent it and probably answer it right away. Laundry lying next to the washing machine? Get that out of the way before writing. Horse needing some kind of care? Has to be done before I plan my meals and do the grocery shopping. I often have trouble deciding for myself what my priorities are and asking myself whether what I'm doing contributes to achieving what I want. Reactive instead of proactive. That's why I often mention "Getting Things Done" and similar books/sites, which I like to read for ideas on how to answer these questions and go about getting what I really want and/or need.
    • The biggie for me is often the short-term reward of having something "fun" to eat, versus the long(er)-term rewards of a healthy weight, and less joint inflammation. Really working on that one.
    • What are your  challenges being proactive/reactive? How are you trying to achieve the balance you want and need?


    • So yesterday I worked with Horse again for the first time in several months in the round pen, using a kind of "natural horsemanship" system I've been trained in. The attractive part is that the horse is completely free within the ring or area you're using (not on a long line) and he/she is not wearing a halster or anything else. The horse can therefore choose its response to what you're doing. And what you're doing: it's body language, asking the horse to change gait and/or direction. This video shows the general idea, although the woman in the video (not me!) is using a much larger area than usual. As you see, she's not shouting directions or using a whip; she's using body language to ask the horse to do different things. (The rope is to emphasize her arm movements, not to hit the horse with.) Anyway, I enjoy doing this and Horse is very good at it. She kind of exploded with fun/excitement at the beginning, since she's full of energy and hadn't done this for a while, but she finally settled down.
    • She's been coughing some recently, probably some kind of dust allergy. The vet is going to check her tomorrow. Luckily money grows on trees....

    Time out: why? how? when?

    • Why take time out? During the last couple of crazy weeks I've been confronted (yet again!) with the consequences of just going on and on without enough rest, or breaks, or whatever term you prefer. It just doesn't work. Actually, it does work temporarily, which is the sneaky part. You get stuff done, are happy about it, and just keep on truckin'. But at some point it will bite you in the butt. None of us is exempt, so don't think you are. People who work out know, or should know, that rest days are necessary to let the body recuperate, repair muscle fibers etc. The same thing applies to mental work. If you just...keep...going, at some point you start noticing there's something wrong. Your concentration goes out the window. You get crabby. You forget things. You don't take basic care of yourself (showering, doing the shopping and eating in a reasonably healthy way). These are signs that you've already let things go too long. The best thing is to prevent this situation, but OK, we're human. Sometimes we have to turn the tide when it's already gone pretty far.
    • How and when? There are lots of ways, depending on whether you're going for the prevention angle or having to do damage control. 
    1. One of my favorite tips, even though it's hard for me to implement, is: don't go online first thing in the morning. If you do, you're likely to start the day in reactive mode and end up chasing your tail the whole day. The best thing is to start the day quietly (literally) and just let the ideas about today, this week, whatever, surface in your thoughts. I tend to turn on the computer as soon as I get out of bed, mostly because Man and I communicate often by e-mail. That's a pretty legitimate reason, but I admit I also just can't wait to see what's in my inbox. That actually makes me dependent on the actions of others and tends to get me all fired up before my own day actually begins.
    2. What about during the (work) day? Ideally, we stop doing what we're doing ("Step awaaay from the computer!") and take a real break, ideally involving something like talking to another human being, or playing with the dog or cat, or breathing some fresh air. Failing that, we can use the computer environment to help. I like the site that invites you to do nothing for two minutes. You get an ocean picture on your screen and ocean sounds from your speakers. The site counts to two minutes. If you do anything with the computer during those two minutes, the counter starts over (and you get a red "fail" on the screen; I haven't decided whether this motivates or punishes). You can also use a mindfulness bell (even if you're not Zen-oriented) to gently invite you to take a break. Even the simple TinyAlarm (for Mac users, but there are surely similar Windows applications) can be helpful, and you can set the alarm to use different sounds (the gentle gong is my favorite). Speaking of sounds, I find that turning off the incoming e-mail warning sounds is a huge step towards reducing stress, especially if you tend to be a reactive type like me.
    3. And long-term? Not everyone can afford frequent vacations, but people who work at home can turn off their work mail on the weekend or during a designated free day (or days). Avoiding distractions in general, and keeping focused on the task at hand (planning and goal-setting) can reduce stress. There are lots of suggestions and plans out there; this article on nuking laziness without becoming a workaholic is a place to start, and of course the classic is Getting Things Done and variations thereon. 
    • The basic idea is to be aware of what you're doing, and why. Keep that Dr. Phil voice in the back of your head: "How's that working for you?" If it's not working, dare to change it. And to tell me all about it!

    I'm still here!

    • Hello, faithful readers; you've had to miss me for a couple of weeks, but I haven't forgotten you. I got caught up in daily life, big time. Recovering from the rib thing, dealing with the kitchen thing, big work project, but also enjoying the company of Man as he stayed here for a ten-day sort-of-vacation. I got an amazing amount of stuff done, just didn't write during that time.
    • I've been brainstorming about lots of stuff and hope to share ideas with you during the next weeks/months. Stay tuned! And I'm always very happy to have comments!

    Not much room for writing

    • I've been so busy dealing with the aftermath of the kitchen fire and with some tax thangs, that I haven't had much time/energy to write. Turns out that even the small fire in the kitchen will probably end up costing around $4000.00, since the stove and the counter and some tiles will need to be replaced, the walls etc. need to be painted, and all that. (I seem to have gotten a pretty cool insurance adjuster, so I assume all reasonable repairs etc. will be paid for.) I guess the flip side is that I can finally ditch the funky orange countertop that's been in there since before I moved in. Anyone have any experience with a countertop made of hardened glass? That looks pretty cool to me; I love glass. And I can get a new espresso machine. :-)
    • The rib pain is getting better. Today I went to the barn again and did some basic work grooming Horse etc. Friends are still helping me do the stall and exercise her. I hope to start up again "for real" sometime next week. And I hope she won't throw me off ever again.
    • Yesterday I did have a lovely day. It was my birthday, and Man was here most of the day (and night). We went out and got cake, and I opened his presents (a very interesting book and a dvd set of Jeeves and Wooster! Woo-hoo!) and my Mom's presents. Later we went out for Indian food and came back for a couple of episodes of Jeeves. Just a lovely day. As an added bonus, one of the groups I work with (we can guess which one it wasn't) sent me a huge bouquet to cheer me up because of the rib thing. Just a princess kind of day!

    A little comic relief

    • Just have to lighten up a little here before I make myself crazy. Check these out! Though preferably not with a full bladder (or bruised ribs)....


    And a real classic:

    Things are rolling again

    • I've got less pain now that I have better medication (1000 mg acetaminophen/paracetamol, plus diclofenac, three times a day). It lets me move around more, which is good for the muscle cramps in my back. And it makes me more human instead of some kind of amazingly crabby creature obsessed with its own problems. Luckily I've got a few good people who are taking care of Horse this week. Mucking out the stall and giving her exercise...not yet an option. 
    • The kitchen fire did more damage than I first thought. It's not that things are all burned up, but there was smoke, and the stove and exhaust fan are damaged, I had to have someone come in to clean, there'll have to be new paint, the coffee machine is slightly damaged (luckily only slightly!), etc. Thursday I'm getting an estimate for the painting and Friday someone from the insurance is coming to estimate the damage. I hope there won't be any problems with that.
    • The telephone line is being changed next week, kind of scary, because I just do not want to be without internet for even an hour. Pfff.
    • And I need to call a plumber for the kitchen sink, which drains slowly despite the use of different kinds of drain cleaner (and sticking a wire in the pipes and moving it around).
    • Looks like it's the month of Acting Like a Grownup. It seems like I'm doing things I don't really feel equipped to do. Winging it. I've read that this is a pretty normal thing, doing things you don't totally think you can do. Acting like a grownup when you don't totally feel like one. Thoughts on that?
    • Check out the video of Neil Pasricha of "1000 Awesome Things". Personal, honest, moving. We can all learn from him.

    Maybe I should start this year over

    • So this afternoon I forgot to turn off the stove after I had melted some butter in a small pan. After doing some e-mails I decided to get a letter that was in the kitchen. And the pan had caught fire. There is some damage, and the apartment is cold because I had to leave windows and doors open for a while. Luckily Cat and Border Collie and I are OK.
      I think I need to start the new year over.

    Honoring the old; in with the new

    • During our free time between Christmas and New Year's I made a list of what I had done in 2010. I used my calendar to jog my memory. (Now that I'm using Remember the Milk and the tasks disappear when I complete them, I don't know how this will work for 2011.) I was really amazed at how much I had done in my personal life. And I realized that I had not done much as far as friends are concerned. There are a few people I want to see or have more contact with, so I'm going to make it a point to do that.
      I shared my list with Man, who even suggested a few additions to the list. Maybe something for you to try?
    • Speaking of that week, we had a wonderful time in a rented, well, cottage, I guess I'd call it. Border Collie was along for the first time; usually he stays with a friend if I'm away. We didn't do much because of the snow and ice. We stayed in, watched dvds, and read lots. What we didn't do was hear lots of noise. We heard almost nothing outside the house, and it really did us good. Border Collie thought the whole situation was bizarre but settled down pretty well except for when he heard fireworks. 
    • Put a few things on eBay today. I earned a couple hundred dollars that way in 2011, and since I'm downsizing anyway, selling what I can is a perfect fit.
    • Feeling a bit less sore today. Hope I can sleep through tonight. Have to keep finding people to take care of Horse until the soreness is pretty much gone.
    • What did you do during your free days, if you had them (I'm hoping you did!)? Did you do anything to take stock and/or make plans? I'd love to read about it. Let me know!

    Just take two

    • Still here, hurting all over. It took me half an hour to get into position in the bed. Had to slowly lie down on my stomach, try to turn over, and hooch up into the right position, groaning and panting all the while. Half an hour. And when I got there I discovered I could hardly breathe because of the pain around my shoulder blade. Ended up calling Man in a panicky, hyperventilating voice, and then cutting the call short because I couldn't do anything except try to deal with the pain. Slept for two hours in a chair. Took more painkillers and some valium (to relax the muscles) and slept some more in the bed.
    • Going to go to bed now. Did manage to do the dishes, but I'm really cranky from the pain and not being able to do much (almost exploding if something falls on the floor or the cat meows) and can't deal with anything else at the moment. I know. So sue me. Tomorrow's another day.
    • I did have some success practicing my "take two" rule. If things are really a mess and I can't (for whatever reason) put everything away, I just take two things out of the room I'm in and put them where they belong. It really helps.

    I'm back. But be patient...

    • Hi everybody! Hope you had a wonderful holiday season and I wish you the very best for 2011! I'm hoping to share lots more with you this year, and hope that you will share with me. Comments! Ideas! News!
    • Just a short post today, because I got launched from Horse this afternoon and I hurt all over. Nothing broken, apparently, but everything hurts. More later.