In Which You Maybe Learn Some Stuff About Hearts

On Tuesday, a cardiologist and her happy minion tried to kill me and then assessed how close they came. Fortunately for me, not close enough. *Buzzer sound* Sorry. Try again next year.

The stress test was the least irritating of all the parts of this appointment, but that’s part and parcel with doctors. You wait in the waiting room for 60+ minutes (which is why you’re called a patient) and, when you leave, they’ve said a lot of words but haven’t really actually told you anything.

Travis, the Stress Test Tech Person, was delightful, actually. He called me “baby” a lot, but somehow it wasn’t creepy. Sort of like how diner waitresses call you “hon,” whether you’re three or 103, and whether they’re 55 or…

Wait. They’re actually all 55.


Travis was telling me what he was doing all along. He did an echocardiogram first, propping my back against his in a totally clinical way to position me where he wanted me so he could get the images he needed, and explaining very nonchalantly why I really couldn’t keep craning my neck to see the picture on the screen. (“Look, see what happens? The picture gets fuzzy.”) He also told me that he was super-annoyed that he kept getting 30- and 40-somethings for stress tests that day. “If one more person has to walk for 15 minutes before we get them to their target heart rate, I’m jumping out a window,” he said.

It took me 11 minutes. You’re welcome, Travis. I shaved four minutes off that last guy’s time. What’s that you say? That’s not a good thing?  The last guy is 58 and had a heart attack at 41 and is, from a fitness perspective, the lifespan equivalent of four minutes’ better endurance multiplied by a differential of 21 years and mitigated by one heart attack better off than I am? Well, what of it? You want to get your schedule back on track, right? That’s what I thought.

Travis is a very put-you-at-ease person. My blood pressure was 100/62, and he didn’t like it, because it meant I’d have to walk longer, but it was a testament to his calming presence. (At the beginning of my first appointment, two weeks ago, my BP was 120/80).

Happily, they did not make me run. They just made me walk faster by three-minute increments on a steadily increasing incline to get to the required target heart rate (220 minus age and multiplied by 0.90, or, in my case, 165.).

I basically still have no official comprehensive diagnosis, because doctors are annoying, but here’s what I’ve been able to figure out so far:

I have what’s called a 2nd degree Type 1 Wenckebach block. Wenckebach is pronounced WENK-ee-bock, which sounds really silly and is difficult to take seriously as a heart condition, but I guess that’s okay, because it’s not necessarily a serious heart condition, and Germans have funny names sometimes.

The two days I was beeping from the waist on the Holter monitor, minus the ten total hours required to be off-telemetry so the highly advanced cell-phone-cum-science-gadget could charge, resulted in the revelation that my heart skipped 3,842 beats during the other 38 hours. Which is considered “frequent” in a seemingly half-assed, three-sentence report of said monitoring.  The Wenckebach block is the reason for the dropped beats. It’s an electrical impulse disruption between the atria and the ventricles, in which the length of time in milliseconds between the electrical signal that contracts the atria and the one that contracts the ventricles gets progressively longer until it gets long enough that the whole heart skips a beat. Because it’s Type 1, it’s benign and generally, on its own, does not require treatment. If it were to be Type 2, they’d have to consider some options—pacemaker, etc.

It looks kind of like this on an ECG:




You’re looking at a series of waves, cleverly named P, Q, R, S and T. The P wave is the bump just before the spike. The Q wave is the lowest point just preceding the spike. The R wave is the tip of the spike. The S wave is the trailing low point of the spike. And the T wave is the bump right after the spike. A 2nd degree Type 1 Wenckebach block results in that flat line you see between the second T wave in the image and the next P wave. You see it happen again three beats later, on the right side of the image. That longer flat line is where the heart skips a beat entirely because the time between the P wave and the R wave (for some reason, the Q wave doesn’t matter to Wenckebach) got long enough that the heart said, “Eff it. Start over.”

This is where it gets fuzzy: This is not considered an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia happens when there’s a premature beat in either chamber of the heart, independent of the electrical signal conduction we’re talking about here. (It’s fuzzy because it’s still an irregularity and both of them are results of electricity within the heart, but different kinds of electrical conduction. MY thing is not considered “abnormal.” Even though it surely seems abnormal to drop 100 beats per hour on average and not even be a hip-hop star.) I have no actual arrhythmia. Apparently, that’s remarkable. I don’t know why, but the doctor said so. I win.

So, the block shows up on the ECG. Fine. The stress test is to see whether the block is consistent even when exertion makes my heart work faster and harder. Adrenaline naturally forces the heart to function more efficiently, so they were looking for correspondence. Excellent news: my heart does what it’s supposed to when I’m walking a stupidly significant incline at a rather good clip for 11 minutes.

Somewhat less excellent is that, after that, during what a normal person would call either a “cool-down” or a “Jesus, let me sit down for a minute,” and which cardiology types call “recovery,” they pulled me back over by my telemetry straps to the table, flopped me down all sweaty and heavy-breathing on it, and put their hands up my gown. It was the least awesome time that has ever happened.

This is when they do the second echo, to compare heart appearance and function under “stress” to the first, relaxed echo.

The echocardiogram revealed that, structurally, everything appears normal. This means it is not heart failure, cardiomyopathy or disease in the valves or arteries apparent in the ultrasound. Huzzah! Mac and cheese for everyone!

However, while I was lying there all schvitzy, the rhythms went wonky – I could feel and see on the monitor the way my heart tends to trip over itself, even when I’m not doing anything but sitting on my couch watching Orange Is the New Black. This essentially looked like the lines were trying to draw the Rocky Mountains instead of the usual rhythms. I have tried to find an image of this, but it’s tough to do a Google image search for “electrocardiogram that looks like Rocky Mountains.” To the best of my memory, it looked a lot like this highly technical medical thing I drew:

WTF wave

WTF wave

I got no explanation of what this Rocky Mountain Wonkiness was and, as strange as it sounds, couldn’t ask, because in those few moments, I wasn’t allowed to talk, and afterward, the doc who administered the test (different from the one I saw two weeks ago, because he was on hospital rounds) had another patient waiting and had already explained the block and the difference between the dropped beats and the arrhythmia and basically told me she had to go.

I did get to talk to my other doc the next day, and while he hadn’t seen everything at that point, I did manage to get him to look at the report and he said the Rockies were about the “P wave getting buried in the QRS complex.”

I hate it when that happens.

Basically, he’s a little surprised by the frequency of the dropped beats, and he says the fact that I drop them in recovery is “not quite normal.” Clearly, he doesn’t know me well yet, or he would realize that everyone knows I’m not quite normal. The upshot of these two surprises is that he and I will have a standing annual date to make sure things don’t get any more caddywompus. Because that’s possible, and then we’d have to discuss pacemakers or what-have-you.

Remember how half the reason I called the cardiologist with my hair on fire a month ago tomorrow was that I was swelling inexplicably? Yeah, we still don’t know what that’s about. But since my Lyme titer definitely, definitely says I may or may not have had Lyme Disease one time in the last 37 years, I might be able to pursue the 341 other possibilities for swelling with my general physician when I see her tomorrow to find out how many tests and dollars it will take to rule out the Lyme Disease thing.

So. Current diagnosis: Heart-wonk. Treatment: Eh. We’ll see. Recommendation: annual check-up. Follow up with general physician to find 27 other things that might or might not be a problem.

Ah, medical practice. Twenty-four hundred years after its beginnings, it still hasn’t made perfect.


Random WTFs including why Pinterest is the devil

Couple things.

Someone wound up on my blog because they searched the entire internet for “images of men in england wearing speedos whoeing two inches…”

The ellipsis was included in the search terms in my dashboard, but I couldn’t find out what it represents. I can only assume it means the search was still more detailed than it appeared.

I literally have no idea why they landed here after searching that. I have never written anything about men in England. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything about Speedos, mostly because I’d like to pretend they’re not real. I don’t know what “whoeing” is. And “two inches”… I don’t even want to think about what that could mean, corresponding to the Speedos.  Usually people land here because they Google plastic surgery and I wrote ah post about that that seems to have been SEO optimized while I wasn’t looking.

(Click here and watch til about :55 seconds in to find out where I got my tendency to say ah instead of “a.”)

Also: got a 95% on the first official research paper I’ve written in nigh on 15 years. An arbitrary 95%, wherein no specific reason for subtracted points was noted. Fine. I don’t care. Ninety-five percent on the first research paper I’ve written in nigh on 15 years. I will take that. I will take it and I will like it. Because grad school.

But here’s the main reason I’m posting right now. I’m posting right now to ask all the mothers of young children to stop consulting Pinterest for stuff. You people are going to drive yourselves insane.

Shiny New Niece turned one a few weeks ago, and Youngest Neph turned four last week. They have the same mother: Sister 2. And she loves theme parties.

You see where this is going.

I can’t post the pictures of the stuff she did because the person who searched for men in England wearing Speedos and whoeing two inches would probably be able to figure out who she is if I did that… but suffice it to say she lost her damn mind.

I will say this. I will say Google “Pinterest Octonaut party” and you will get just a vague idea of the madness involved in this two-hour birthday party for a four-year-old.

I’m talking about marshmallows covered in just-the-right-shade-of-blue frosting, their bottoms rolled meticulously in graham cracker crumbs intended to look like sand, with tiny pearl candies to look like bubbles stuck strategically about, and little Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers stuck to the sides.

I’m talking about a not-insignificant amount of the dwindling supply of helium packed into balloons of varying blue shades, covering the ceiling to make it look like the attendees were under water.

I’m talking about Rice Krispie treats rolled in Gummi Worms and masquerading as sushi.

I want you to know that I actually Googled images of those things, found them, inserted the pictures into my blog post and then deleted them, because I don’t want to drive traffic to Pinterest to encourage this kind of insanity.

Today on Facebook I saw a Pinterest picture of little Teddy Grahams, cut just so, appearing to drive cars made from bite-sized candy bars with mini M&Ms stuck to their sides as wheels.

You guys.

Stop trying to impress the other moms.

Look—I get it. It’s fun. It’s a challenge. It makes you feel like you can really do something when you attempt something like this and it turns out well and everyone marvels at it. But mostly, you’re making people wonder how you have so much free time to do this kind of crap for the sake of a four-year-old’s birthday party. 

What happened to cone-shaped cardboard hats with pinchy rubber bands under the chin and some boxed cake mix?

Why are you doing this to yourselves?

As is well documented here, I am not a mom. I suppose I arguably have never loved another human being with such ferocity that I felt the need to put this much effort into something that was going to last two hours and get destroyed or thrown away. I appreciate the art of well-crafted meals as much as anybody, and I love to entertain. But they’re kids. They really don’t need all this stuff.

Do you?


Who is it for, really? Why stress yourself out? Isn’t there enough to worry about without pulling your hair out over algae-inspired guacamole?

Your mothers and aunts, by the way, resent this stuff. They think you spend too much money and too much time making them look bad for the parties they threw for you when you were a kid.

Give yourself a break. Give Pinterest a break. Give all the other moms a break.

Failing all of that, give me a break and don’t post the pictures of your attempts at wee children’s party favors on social media.

Unless they look like this.

pinterest fail





The Lost Art of Being An Ass. Or Maybe Not Lost. Because History.

Of all the ways to try to insult people, of all the ways to convey displeasure, of all the ways to express anger, I have the biggest issue with one simple gesture.

The Finger.

I actually looked it up, and Wikipedia (Online Knower Of All Facts) says it is “roughly equivalent in meaning to ‘fuck off’, ‘fuck you’, ‘shove it up your ass’, ‘up yours’ or ‘go fuck yourself.’ It is performed by showing the back of a closed fist that has only the middle finger extended upwards, though in some locales the thumb is also extended.”

I had no idea about the third and fourth definitions, which now has me questioning my previous definitions of those phrases and the antecedent for “it.” But I rather enjoyed the academic approach to the gesture’s implications and mechanics.

Whatever its intention, I find it to be, frankly, the least intelligent,  least creative way possible to share one’s unhappiness with another person’s behavior.

I’ve always had a beef with the finger. I can honestly say I have not once in my life used it in anger, irritation or frustration. In fact, rarely have I even used it ironically. I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to express exactly why I refuse to use it, but this morning, on my way to work, I think it finally gelled:

The only people who ever flip someone the bird are the people who are in the wrong.

I was proceeding in an orderly fashion in a westerly direction on a main road in my city when a woman decided she would neglect entirely the laws of traffic and attempt—nay, complete—a right turn from her southerly orientation across several lanes of westerly-traveling traffic so that she might arrive in the lane of her choosing at the time of her choosing. (The lane of her choosing was the second-to-left on a four-lane road.) In order to do this, you’ll perhaps not be surprised to learn that she wound up perpendicular to the westerly flow across 2+ lanes for a period of time, blocking said lanes from proceeding in their orderly fashion.

I laid on the horn.

Admittedly, I find that to be an irritating behavior, as well.

She looked over at me and I put my hands up on either side of my body, at shoulder level, palms up, and said aloud, “What are you doing?”

And she gave me the finger.

No. No, no, no. No. Sorry. You. Are. WRONG. You are in the wrong here. You do NOT get to do that. I don’t care that your gloves are cute. No.

After she had gotten to where she wanted to go at her will and against that of the rest of us, and after I had made it onto the expressway for which I was aiming, I kept contemplating that thought. And I realized… Hey, you know what? Every time anybody flips anybody else off, it’s because the flipper is the ass and the flippee is pointing that out. Ipso facto: all flippers are wrong, and usually selfish.

Think  about it: if you’re a finger-flipper, what makes you do it? Do you do it when you know you’ve done the right thing and someone is mistreating you for it? Probably not. You probably do it when someone shows you you’ve done or said or maybe just thought something wrong, and you don’t feel like addressing your conscience and correcting the matter. The finger is not the gesture of a martyr. It is the gesture of an ass. It is the witless expression of one too lazy to find a more creative, intelligent approach, or of one too self-absorbed to admit fault and simply wave in a gesture of apology.

Sorry. I like you and all, but still.

And since we are a community of writers, my dear frogs bliends froggers blienders bloends blog friends, I feel sure that we are a community with better ways of expressing ourselves. Or… you know… controlling ourselves.

Turns out, the finger dates back to The Proverbial Day in Ancient Greece and Rome. I had no idea humankind has been so afraid to use their words for so long. And the Greeks and Romans had some damned fine words—words from which our present-day language emerged. The finger was meant to symbolize the penis, with the fingers on either side representing the testicles (which makes one wonder what the extended thumb referenced above was all about, and which also confirms that one is always larger than the other, as implied by the two fingers to one side, one finger to the other orientation). Apparently it was also used as an implication that a man submitted to anal penetration.

I’m guessing the recipient of the gesture might have found that an offensive implication.

*Eye roll*

So, if or when tempted to use the gesture, keep that in mind.

But really, folks. Even if you do feel entitled to make this move, isn’t there some other, more creative, less over-used, more intelligent way you could find to make your feelings clear? It may seem odd, but I might actually prefer someone to actually say “Fuck you” aloud. At least then they’re using words. I realize that my preferences are diametrically opposite the flipper’s cares,  but most people don’t want others to find them imbecilic—particularly people who frequently use this gesture. So maybe try not to look imbecilic.

There are better ways to be an ass. Is what I’m saying. If all else fails, go with this movie clip’s method.


I have enough adorable kid photos to fill a recycling bin.

When did Christmas cards become all about photos of people’s kids?

This is really two different things, in my mind. One is that so few people even send Christmas cards anymore. I know they’re a pain in the ass. Every year I think, “Oh, I can write Christmas cards while I wait for the laundry/cookies/dinner/this show on TV,” and every year I get halfway through and think, “Why the hell does it take so long to write some Christmas cards?!” But it’s tradition, and I think it’s lovely to actually spring for the $0.46 (and whatever the breakdown cost is for the card and envelope) to let someone know I’m thinking of them during this season.

As of right now, I have received 15 cards. That’s it. How sad is that? Granted, a lot of my friends and family are last-minute types, so maybe I’ll get a few more in the coming days, but I’m going to bet that I top off at 25, outside. Which means that half the people I send cards to don’t return the greeting. (I’m pretty sure that half the cards I’ve received only came because they got mine first.)

I haven’t even gotten a card from my parents yet.

Of the 15 cards I’ve received, eight are collages of kids. The only cards that came with art and not snapshots of precious children are the ones that came from people who don’t have children.

Here’s the irony: 20 years ago, these photo cards would have been grand. You know why? Because it would actually have been a year since I’ve seen some of these kids. I wouldn’t have been force-fed photos semi-weekly on social media since the day they were born. I have actually seen these kids grow up. Which means I have no need for photos of them in my mailbox.

Except my nephews and my niece. I’ll take those.

It’s not that I don’t like children; regular readers know that I do. It’s just that I don’t like narcissism. (And I have noted before the irony of disliking narcissism while being a blogger.) And I thought, for a while, that it was an affordability issue, but then I looked it up and it turns out… these cards are way more expensive than the photo-less ones I buy at a store. Way more!

I realize that many of you who are reading this right now might be photo-card-senders. Please understand that I don’t dislike the people who send them. I love them; that’s why I get cards from them, and why they get cards from me. But I guess I’m kind of old-fashioned in addition to being childless. I guess that means I don’t get it. When I was a kid, parents didn’t brag that much about their children. When my parents were kids, parents mostly thought their children were horrible burdens and gaping mouths clamoring to be fed.

It was a simpler time.

My cousin, who is single and childless (and 41 and has never moved out of her parents’ house, but I digress) also sent a photo collage card… but it was a collage of places she traveled to this year. She’s always been a little all about Eve, but once I got past that, I couldn’t help but like the idea. “In your face, Parents of Adorable Offspring. Did you get to go anywhere besides the grocery store this year? Nope.”

So, though I love all the kids who are peering happily at me from the meager string of cards I’ve collected, I’d like to ask that people do two things next Christmas:
1. Send an actual card
2. Try to make it about something other than themselves and their kids

Feel free to tell me I’m an asshole in the comments section.

Decent or Douchey. Totally Your Call.

I feel like the world needs a lesson in being decent vs. being douchey. Maybe it’s because Rudolph is inexplicably on TV before Thanksgiving and I’ve always thought Santa was douchey in that show, but mostly it’s probably because of the following story.

I get home tonight and of course there is a series of parking fails on the block resulting in several half-spaces and none full, so I circle around and start to head into the alley to park behind my house. I get a car-length in and there are two guys in my headlights with a two-wheeled trailer – not a huge thing, probably five, six feet long. It’s blocking the alley. So I stop, thinking the guys will move it – perhaps to the half-pad that’s to my right.

They appear to chat a bit, and then they look at me and kind of shrug. And I shake my head and gesture in the universal sign for Move That. The one guy walks through his gate (I’ve never met this guy), holds it to let the other guy in, and they both walk into the back “yard” (which is walled in with cement block, so I can’t see them).

So I wait, because I figure they’re strategizing or something, because obviously they’re not going to be that dickish. But one minute turns to three and then to four and I finally accept that they’ve actually gone into the house.

Really? That’s how you’re going to play this? I mean okay…

I debate approaches because clearly these guys are douchebags, but since at least one of them is apparently my neighbor, I decide to kill them with kindness. I turn off the motor, leave the lights on, get out of the car in the alley in the freezing rain and walk through the still-open fence to knock on the back door. (There are windows in the door and no curtains, so they really can’t ignore me or anything.) They have popped open some beers—how nice!—but they come to the door. I’m smiling.

“Oh, hey,” the one guy says.


“You need to get down the alley?”

“Yeah…” (smiling)

“Oh, really?” he says flatly.

“Yeah, that’s why I’m sitting there.” (Smiling. Possibly a tiny bit passive-aggressive but I’ve kind of earned that, haven’t I?)

“Oh, really?”

Seriously, dude? Are you stoned? Is that what’s happening?


“Oh, okay.”

“Um, so…”

“You want me to move that thing?”

“Yeah. Oh! It IS yours, right?” I mean of course it’s yours, but for right now let’s pretend I’m not making safe assumptions and I’ll be generous enough to let you own up.

“Yeah. Well I mean it’s his but…”

“Oh, hi, yeah, that’s actually mine, but…” says the other guy.

“Hi. Yeah…” (I think I’m still smiling, but there are amorphous blobs of ice-rain landing on my head, so I’m not 100% sure.)

“You need to get, like, what, all the way down?” the one guy wants to know.

“No, um… like halfway down.” (Smiling and fully aware that he wants to challenge why I didn’t just drive down the block behind us instead of the alley between us and it… yet not willing to tell him exactly where I live in case he decides that my requirement that he be decent warrants a tire-slashing party later tonight. His house is clean and he doesn’t seem to have criminal tendencies—he’s just a regular douchebag—but you never know.)

“Oh, okay. Can you back out and we’ll move it?”

“Um… well I’ll back out as far as I can, but… I can’t see into the street and I don’t want to back into the street, so…” Which is why I didn’t already back out, but you guys are A) douchey; and 2) kind of bad at context clues.

“Oh, yeah, okay, well…”

“Oh, actually, if you can just back up a little bit we can roll it into that half-pad right there,” says the other guy, who’s apparently the brains of this particular operation.

“Great!” If only someone had thought of this before, when you were both looking at me and I was making the universal gesture for Move That and then you WALKED AWAY AND LEFT ME THERE.

So they both come back out, into the freezing rain, and I back up and they easily move the thing into the half-pad. And I gesture at them to go ahead and walk back inside out of the rain before I drive by, but they wave me through. So I roll down my window and thank them and wish them a happy Thanksgiving and then silently plot to set their house on fire.

Moral of the story: if you have a choice between being a decent human being and being douchey… don’t be douchey. It makes people want to set your house on fire. (Hashtag DBD)

But honestly, why feel the need to be jerks in situations where you are clearly in the wrong? Not only were you blocking me from getting through the alley to my parking pad, but you were also illegally blocking the alley itself. Why stubbornly insist on doing something that could land you in hot water with the fuzz? If they drive by and see your contraption blocking the path of hypothetical emergency response, you’re going to get cited for it. And it would be a shame if, say, your house was on fire, and the emergency personnel couldn’t access the burning area.

I mean I’m just trying to help you out, here.

Hopefully the upshot of this mild neighborly battle of wills is that these guys feel kind of guilty for being dickish to the nice lady who was all dressed up and had to climb out of her car in the alley in the freezing rain because they were dickish for really no reason at all except laziness and an apparent forgetfulness of having had mothers who would be disappointed in them right now. This is why I’m always telling Gaybor Steve not to go all sassy on people right from jump. If you get bitchy at step one, you make the other guy feel justified in his initial behavior, and you’re at the added disadvantage of having nowhere to go from there. If you start out with civility and a smile, you get to be the bigger person and you have wiggle room for possibly escalating behavior.

Also? #DBD.


Anti-Social Network

I can’t decide if Facebook is particularly annoying today or if I hate all people in general.

Which is the kind of thing I’d rather like to post as a status, but I can’t. For obvious reasons.

Seriously, though:
1. (disappointment emoticon followed by FB explanation that we’re looking at a disappointment emoticon, which, to me, indicates Facebook’s failure to design sufficiently emotive emoticons) “What an unbelievable day at work. Not appropriate for Facebook discussion but I just had to vent for a minute.”

^Okay, you know what? This is not a valid status update.^

Also? You just got that job. Stop complaining about it.

2. A. Night. With. NOTHING. Feeling so happy. 

That last part was actually spelled out. No emoticon with accompanying emoticon explanation. Also no interesting content whatsoever. Nor am I interested when this person tells me what she’s doing on all the other nights.

3. Time for some more work after a lovely evening. 🙂

That was a plain old smiley face, no explanation needed. And I know this guy, and I know what “a lovely evening” means, and it’s to do with the guy he may or may not be dating. He wants someone to ask what he did. I’m not doing it. I’m not.

Throw in the usual baiting (today it’s about George Zimmerman and Toronto’s charming mayor); today’s selfies from the same people who posted selfies yesterday; excessive use of exclamation points; some Map My Run shit from a few people who apparently think the rest of FacebookLand gives a flying flaming turd about them going for a run, taking a particular route and running a particular distance in a particular time; an occasional fitness system sales pitch from someone who hasn’t been able to talk about anything but her weight loss since some time in 2011; and a snarky person-to-person-for-everyone-to-see oblique attack on another person with whom they’re no longer friends (but I am) and you have a day on the social network.

And then there are the grammar horrors.

recognize the irony in a blogger deciding that social media “status sharing” is the lowest form of self-serving narcissism, and I realize that I can’t exactly impose my personal Facebook rules (make people laugh or make people think – do not, repeat, do not complain or seek attention – that’s what the blog is for) to everyone on my news feed. I also recognize that the logical reader might, at this point, suggest that I remove myself from Facebook, or remove these particular friends from my list of personal contacts. Well, I can’t remove myself from Facebook because it’s like Communist Russia; you either go along with it or you die a lonely death in cold, cold isolation with nothing but a quarter-loaf of stale bread. And I can’t remove these folks from my list because sometimes they do offer something amusing or useful or interesting and I would feel bad ignoring it. One of them may or may not be my sister. Who may or may not often post things from Map My Run or summaries of funerals she’s been to that day. But often shows me my nephews doing something adorable. Oh, I’m torn.

Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of apparently un-self-explanatory emoticons, Facebook had an algorithm that would allow it to filter stuff you just don’t have the time or emotional energy to see? Maybe you could set it daily. The first time you take a look at the feed each day (if you’re a frequent FBer), you answer a quick series of questions designed to protect you from the people you know and love:

1. What is your mood today?
A. Fine, why?
B. I’m great!
C. Meh.
D. None of your goddamned business, asshole.

And Facebook would note that, if the answer is D, you should not see any posts like this:

FB post 3




(Granted, you might appreciate the comment. But the narcissism of the person who took a screen shot of their own comment would probably cancel that out.)

2. How do you feel about insert today’s political phenomenon?
A. Brilliant!
B. Horrible.
C. So horrible it’s brilliant!
D. I don’t even know what you’re talking about, but I vote.

And Facebook would note that, if the answer is D, you should not see any posts like this:

fb post 2






3. Which characteristic are you likely to exhibit today?
A. Relatively even tolerance.
B. Hysterical laughter at satire/irony/stuff about horrible things happening to people.
C. Rage.
D. I love Jesus!

And Facebook would note that, if the answer is C, you should not see any posts like this:

fb post 4









4. Rate the strength of your opinion on the following statement: A user’s status updates should contain that user’s original thoughts most of the time.
A. Strongly disagree
B. Somewhat disagree
C. Neither agree nor disagree
D. Somewhat agree
E. Strongly Agree

And Facebook would note that, if the answer is D or E, you should not see any posts like this from that guy who always, always posts things like this, like, five times a day, for crying out loud:

FB post 1







5. Of the following people, who will probably piss you off/annoy you the most today?
A. Your mother, who really should not be on Facebook anyway and definitely should stop Liking all these anti-government pages
B. Your ex, who probably shouldn’t be your FB friend but we’re not going to go there right now because clearly you’re still sensitive about it
C. Your boss, who probably shouldn’t be your FB friend but he asked you and what… you were going to say no?
D. Your kid, who, despite the attention you’ve paid to his/her education, still doesn’t seem to understand that “OK” is not spelled with seven Ks
E. That friend who posts totally senseless stuff that nobody ever clicks Like about, but she still hasn’t taken the hint

And Facebook would filter your news feed appropriately.

6. What is most likely to set you off on an uncontrollable tirade today?
A. Poor grammar and/or punctuation
B. Willful ignorance
C. Self-serving pith
D. Public displays of affection
E. Someone else’s total lack of self-awareness
F. Stuff that, I swear to God, doesn’t even make any fucking sense.

And you’d be spared the worst of possible provocation.

BIL 2 once summarized FB etiquette/non-annoyingness like this: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t literally yell in a room full of people numbering the same as the number of FB friends you have.

Sometimes, though, it’s a pretty great way to spread the word about a pretty great thing. Here’s my favorite of the last few days. I’d be more than happy to shout that one from the rooftops.


Serenade, motherfucker. Or: On the Occasion Of Your Wedding

I’m slowly congealing a fantasy about showing up at Jack’s wedding reception and blowing the doors off the place.

Metaphorical doors, since I imagine it will be outside. I don’t know why I imagine that, but I do. He’s not one for showiness, and it’s hard to find an indoor venue that doesn’t fairly smack of showiness, even in tasteful settings. I don’t know exactly what I would do, but I’m pretty sure it would involve a mic drop immediately followed by – in a graceful fit of vengeance I got from my gay-bor Steve the other night when he was telling an interminably long but hilarious story about how he was cock-blocked at every turn one summer by a particular Asian doctor – the single-motion swiping clear of every finger sandwich from the refreshments table on my way out.

It seems I’ve made it to the Passive-Aggressively Bitchy Stage of Loss/Grief.

Do you ever get pissed off at yourself for not being over something that happened, let’s say, four to 18 months ago? Yeah. Me too.

But how bad-ass would that be, for me to show up at wherever this bullshit joke is taking place (poor Gwyneth – no idea) and somehow pull off with class and grace and aplomb a giant Fuck You? “And although there’s pain in my chest, I still wish you the best with a fuck you…”

Cee-Lo Green is a damned poet.

I feel like I would need to channel Audrey Hepburn instead, though. But singing. I just Googled “song about a guy getting what he deserves” to figure out what I could sing at the tasteful reception that could end in a mic drop and the spectacular hoarding of crustless watercress-prosciutto-and-cucumber nibbles. And then I tried “song about guy who cheated getting divorced.” That brought up, I shit you not, 75 country songs. 

I hate country. And I can’t do a mic drop after “Friends In Low Places.” Also I’m now irrationally angry at Tracy Byrd for recording a song called “Revenge of a Middle Aged Woman.” Predictably, it ends with Tracy in the woman’s bed.

Someone send Cee-Lo over to Tracy Byrd’s house.

(Pause for image of miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to throw punches at a doofus in a ten-gallon hat.)

(That’s funny ’cause Cee-Lo has weirdly short arms.)

Then I Googled “song about woman getting revenge,” and either there has never been such a thing or I’m starting to freak Google out, because the screen was blank.

Sara Bareilles has a song called “Sweet As Whole” that I find completely delightful and very singable and even kind of pretty, but it blames Gwyneth a little too much. Still, it would work with my voice.

Jack never heard me sing. In ten years he never once heard me. He had plenty of opportunities, always knew when and where I was doing it, but he never once showed up. Didn’t even ask, usually. One time he offered to pay for my voice lessons because I was stressed out about a vocal problem I was having and about being able to afford the lessons. He said it would mean a lot to him if I let him foot the bill. Which I, of course, refused to allow because no one else should have to spend $200 a month on a voice they never care to hear.

Huh. Not even once.

What do we think of Kelly Clarkson’s “Never Again”?

Yeah. That’s the one.

Lesson 2 of the Week: I’m Not Really A Bitch

I know I can be difficult. I spent my entire childhood (through age 18) hearing on a regular that I was stubborn, argumentative, bull-headed, etc.

This mostly came from my Irish father. I have no idea from whence I inherited these traits…

Anyway, I got it, okay, Dad? Yes. I can be a pistol. And therefore, I tend to overcompensate as an adult by being as easy-going as possible. That includes trying to be fair a lot. “Fair” is a big word in my head, and not the way adolescents use it when protesting basically anything they disagree with.

I want people to like me. I want certain people to really like me.

So I found myself in a bit of a pickle mid-week when I got a voicemail from Rick at work.

As you know if you’ve been playing the home version of our game, Rick was the first guy (oh, also last guy) I dated after the Jack Debacle, and therefore I got to practice some of my new rules.

Rule #1: Stop Being Too Fair/Nice

At work Tuesday afternoon, I’d sent Rick an email with the link to an article in the local paper that he needed to see. It held legislative ramifications for work, and that’s his area. He replied to my email saying he had read the article and thanking me for sending it.


Wednesday afternoon I returned to my officle from a meeting to find a voicemail from Rick.

“Hey, it’s Rick giving you a call. Give me a buzz back when you get a minute…” and then he tried to say something and stumbled over his words and then finished, “Ugh, gah, sorry – I’m so out of it from being in the hospital. Um… (deliberate pause for effect)… yeah, so give me a ring when you get back. Thanks.”

I wish you could see the face I made, but it was something like this:



So I called him back. He said he had called to thank me again for sending him the link to the article. Come on, dude. You already thanked me via email like 22 hours ago. And you could have just thanked me in the voicemail. I didn’t save your job or help you escape from entrapment in a crevice. It was just a link to a story. No, what he had really called to do was tell me about how he’d been in the hospital for two days. The “thank you” lasted exactly as long as it took you to read it. The story about his hospitalization took like 15 minutes.

And it’s not that I don’t care. I do. I’m truly sorry that he was feeling so awful and that it turns out he’s either got IBS or Crohn’s Disease. I empathized as much as I could while thinking he was being an attention-seeker. I know some other people who have those conditions and it’s pretty miserable when it’s flaring up, and I don’t want that for him. And yes, it also sucks that he has kidney stones and may not be so fortunate as to have them broken up by ultrasound, thereby necessitating the other, far less pleasant procedure. I displayed, I think, an appropriate amount of conversational concern.

But listen, bub. You might be hot. And I might still like you. And if we were actually friends, I would have been very concerned and probably would have come to visit you. But I am holding fast to my policy of not caring about your life beyond our building, precisely because I still like you, and therefore could do without caring too much and getting all wrapped up in yet another game of “Fall For The Emotionally Unavailable One! Yes! Do It!” For the first three weeks after I found out about Jack’s engagement, I found myself looking for excuses to come see you in your office or call you about something, but you know what? I didn’t actually do it. Because even though it would have made me feel better about myself, it would have been manipulative and self-defeating. And I don’t play that.


Also? I don’t tell you anything about my personal life anymore. I don’t seek you out for storytime so I can feel like you still care. So stop it. Your girlfriend was with you, right? I thought so.

See? Difficult. Possibly unfair. Old Me tried not to be that way.

The next day I turned to find him standing near my desk. “Hey!” he said. “Just uh, bringing you two invitations to the grand opening of the new building on Monday…” (he held up and then handed to me two invitations that my division designed, thanks – and why two? This isn’t a gala. It’s a workday event. It’s the least grand opening of anything ever.)

I looked down at my desk calendar and pointed squarely at the blue ink in the Monday box. “Yep. Right there on my calendar,” I said.

“Oh, great! And…uh… also I wanted to tell you that I’m going to send you the link to a live camera we have now of the construction going on over on that side of the grounds,” he said, pointing in the direction of the area. “So if you guys want to write up a story on it or anything…”

I was approximately this expressive:

Then I realized it and remembered to move my eyebrows or something, so I did as I replied, “Oh, uh-huh. Okay, cool.” Why are you here, exactly?

“Great,” he said, rubbing his hands together. “Okay! Thanks!”

“Yep! Thank you!” I replied, consciously trying to insert the exclamation points.

And then he never sent me the email. Which is fine because I’m not writing a story about the camera. And I have a feeling he knows that.

And I felt kind of bad, you know? Like I was unnecessarily dismissive. I mean I really couldn’t figure out why he was standing in my officle that day, but had I been rude?

But then the most amazing thing happened. I told Brad the story, and I told Angie and Joey the story, and I told Sister 2 the story, and I told Mama-Friend the story… and they all said basically the same thing.

“Oh please. Eff him. How pathetic.”

You mean… you mean I’m not a bitch?

I’m not?

OMG I’m not! I’m not a bitch! I’m not difficult! I’m too nice! I worry too much about other people’s feelings and not enough about my own! This is amazing!



I totally win at Rule #1.

Yogurt For Everyone!

You guys. Apparently there’s been a biomedical breakthrough that’s going to save us all from our stress, anxiety and depression without having to take another pill ever.

I say this in sweeping generalization because I’m pretty sure all writers are angsty.

Okay, so I found this on the internet – much like I found blogs – and that means it must be true. According to Yahoo! Health in association with something called Healthline and some quotes from the lead researcher at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine…

…I’ll get back to that in a second…

…yogurt is going to keep us all sane.

No, really.

It’s the probiotics! All those scrumptious live active cultures and happy bacteria supposedly create a neurochemical reaction that changes the way our brains respond to the environment we’re in. Another researcher, this one in New Zealand,  is running a study following 80 patients diagnosed with depression while they receive probiotic supplements for four months. That researcher said she hoped the study would find that probiotic treatment “changes levels of certain substances in the blood and brain, essentially making people happier.”

Nobody in this particular story mentioned exactly what those chemicals or happiness ingredients are, so I’m kind of assuming it’s the live active cultures and happy bacteria.

““When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘gut feelings’ take on new meaning,” said the UCLA researcher.

Yeah. She said that.

And she works at the medical school funded, evidently, by a huge donation from one of the most prolific and successful music producers ever.

Not a doctor. Music producer. Slash film producer slash theatrical producer slash philanthropist, so good for him, but maybe don’t let them put your name on the school, because huh?

Anyway, this is super-exciting news, for obvious reasons. I mean, I just ate some Chobani 0% plain yogurt mixed with some strawberries and blueberries and kiwi and a drizzle of honey. There’s a whole tub of that Chobani stuff in the fridge. And a leftover Yoplait I mistakenly bought because it was on sale and I didn’t realize it was full sugar and not really that good. So since I have all this yogurt in my fridge, clearly I can toss out my Lexapro prescription.


Now this wonder-food that helps regulate my digestive system, keep my stomach functioning properly, contribute to bone health and allegedly (with the proper sugar content) help me keep my waist trim will also keep me from having those pesky anxiety attacks!

This is huge!

I’m going to save so much money on alcohol!

What? The prescription is $30 for three months. That’s how much I spend on one magnum bottle of vodka.

Don’t get me wrong. Despite my satire, I totally believe that we’ve strayed so far from the evolution-established path of whole foods for whole health that we no longer understand that it’s not an “important discovery” when we reach back to cave time and remember it was better for us to eat real food than the processed crap that comes in boxes and cans at the store. But having said that, and adjusting for the environmental elements that make us crave more love, attention, self-actualization, etc than we needed in the paleolithic era, I’m still pretty sure that there were some cavepersons whose seratonin levels slipped below par. Hence all the clubbing.

I bet they wish they’d had some Dannon Fruit-on-the-Bottom.

(I just had the most awesome image of cavepeople dancing to a thudding bass beat under glow lights. Maybe the grunting was really just a vocalization of the rhythm? Uhn-tz uhn-tz uhn-tz uhn-uhn-uhn-tz uhn-tz uhn-tz… OMG I JUST CRACKED CAVESPEAK!)

Now, when you’ve had a bad day at work and someone cut you off in traffic and your significant other is acting strange and your mother is in the hospital, you can walk in the door, scarf down some yogurt and avoid that crushing chest pain, sensation of breathlessness and sleep trouble. You can sit in front of the TV stuffing your face with creamy cool white dairy goodness and forget bouncing your knee or sighing loudly. You can unclench your jaw without even thinking about it as you down spoonfuls of wholesome low-fat superfood.

Yeah… um… I’m gonna stick with my martini and Lexapro. You know. Until further research is completed.

The Question

Over the long holiday weekend (the university closed on Friday, too – is this real life?) an old friend from grade school – grade school, I say – was in town with his wife and three daughters on a whirlwind road trip, so we got together for brunch. 

He looks exactly the same as he did in eighth grade. No, really. Exactly. Even his wife agreed that he hasn’t changed since she met him in high school. She and I are Facebook friends, which is how this whole thing went down (we went through three years of HS together before I moved). And honestly, you would think there would be awkwardness when you meet for brunch with the guy you had a crush on when you were eight through 14 and who you haven’t seen in 19 years, but no! No awkwardness at all! We chatted endlessly for like two hours! Including that usually awkward time when you’re standing around waiting for your table because the joint is crowded.

The only thing I really didn’t understand was that Jenna and the girls all ordered lunch food. I never understand ordering latter-hour food when breakfast is an option. I’m a breakfast- all-day- long kinda girl. David backed me up, though – ordered almost the exact same thing I did.

His midwestern gentility and kindness haven’t changed, either. Then again, that’s probably because they still live in Indiana. About four miles from where they grew up, actually. He teaches at the Catholic grade school around the corner from where my family and I lived (which was not, to be clear, the one we went to – that was 15 minutes away). Whatever else one can say about the midwest (and I’ve said some stuff), its residents are just good people. I’m pretty sure, in the 15 years I was in Indy and Ohio, the only asshole I ever knew was me.

Oh, wait. I forgot John Kasich.

john kasich

Seriously. I met him on election night 2000. He’d been voted out of  Congress in 1998 and wasn’t yet employed with anything else and he was still incredibly rude. What a dick. Now he’s governor of Ohio. For some reason.

David caught me up on all the folks we have shared history with – some we went to grade school with and some from high school. He and Jenna have dinner once a month with a few folks. Seems everyone’s married with kids, doin’ the midwestern living thing, suburban tract houses in the same zip code as their parents, all things I just can’t relate to. And then he, very pleasantly, asked The Question.

“So! Did you ever get married?”

Wait, you know what? Let me back up. That’s not The Question. The Question is actually one of two:  “Why aren’t you married?” or “are you seeing anyone special?” It struck me that this Question was actually past tense. As in, “Now that we’re on the downward slope of our mid-30s, are you divorced or what?”

None of our friends from Indy are divorced except for one that I can think of. She just bought a house on the street where I lived, which is down the street from her oldest sister, who has lived with her husband in that house for about 25 years. I used to babysit their kids.


I smiled around the inquiry because he was smiling and he was totally meeting my eyes, which told me it was an honest to goodness curiosity and not a judgment. “Nope,” I replied with the return smile. “Never married!”

“Just livin’ the single girl life, huh?” he grinned, nodding.

“Yep! Just…” I was looking out the window at the view of the city from the table, trying not to use those exact words in my response, thinking about how much I actually like being single here, and how much better it is than being single in Indy.

“Well I would guess with your old job, the schedule would have made it hard,” David offered as an explanation for my marital status.

“Well, yeah,” I cooperated, “because the hours can be crazy and you work holidays and stuff. Actually, you wind up dating people you work with, or at least people in the same field, because they understand, you know.”

David’s head was set on Affirmative Bob.

Do this right, I was thinking. Talk just enough, but not too much. Too much sounds kind of pathetic. Don’t let your indignation at perceived judgment make you go into how you’d like to get married someday but you’re nowhere near it right now and you’ve had kind of a rough end to a complicated relationship not too long ago but apparently he’s getting married which what the hell is THAT about and you’re not really interested in having kids even though they would be nice to have around when you’re old if you don’t do such a bad job at parenting that they’d rather smother you with a pillow which you’re pretty sure is why you haven’t had any and hey why are your daughters suddenly crying?

Every time someone asks me one of these Questions, it feels odd to answer. I guess that’s because I always infer judgment from it, when that’s only the case some of the time, and fairly often it’s probably wonder at what life is like when you don’t get married and pop out offspring by 25. It’s a totally different life and people like a glimpse of the other side. Those who are married with kids rarely get that glimpse because all their friends are also married with kids.

It’s like the Rare Species exhibit at the zoo. “Wow, look at that! Do you see it? It’s single and childless. It seems just like the other ones, but there’s something so different about it!”

We moved on smoothly from that and it really was lovely to see them all and catch up. That evening I spent several hours with other members of my own species (I’m so glad I moved into this neighborhood). Saturday Sister and BIL 1 and Twin Nephs came to visit for the first time since I bought my house. A few of my neighbors – none of whom had been at the previous night’s gathering – stopped by late for drinks as Twin Nephs slept soundly. Three of them belong to the other species, but they’re cool with my genus. When all is said and done, I like both varieties just fine almost all the time. But it’s nice to have other members of mine around… even if we never get around to propagating the species.