Friday, December 26, 2008
On a lighter note, my holidays have been pretty fun. I've spent time with my family and some of my friends, and received some really cool gifts, including a new digital camera (I broke my old one a couple of weeks ago), a new MP3 player, books, DVDs, clothes, jewelry, perfume, and lots of Phillies gear. But the best gift of all is that my wonderful husband, Matt, will no longer be working 3rd shift! After twelve long years, I no longer have to sleep alone. Yay!
I'm looking forward to 2009 and I'm making some goals for the New Year. Hopefully, I'll get around to posting a few of them.
Hoping everyone is enjoying their holidays!
Monday, November 17, 2008
The first is going back to work. Well, not going back to the same job I had pre-Jacob, but getting a job of some sort. My reasons for this are varied, but I felt it becoming less of an option and more of an necessity as Mayor Nutter announced last week that he would be slashing Police overtime (and, in effect, our family budget.) I haven't had a real job in about 10 years, and I'm scared nobody will want to hire me. But I'm also somewhat thrilled at the idea of having (non-gym or doctor's appointment-related) time out of the house. Not to mention my own money!
Then there's the possibility of putting Jacob in school. Not because I'd be working -- obviously I could plan my schedule to accomodate homeschooling -- but because I fear that he's falling behind in some ways that I just can't make up for here at home. And I also have begun feeling like homeschooling -- for our family -- is better in theory than in practice.
As far as trying for that next baby, well, it's still going on, though I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for it for the time being. I'm starting to feel like maybe it's time to take a break. Unfortunately, at my age with all my challenges, that means I may be closing the door forever on the possibility of another biological child, which is why the decision is difficult. But it's just how I feel right now -- we've been trying forever (7 years feels like forever, anyhow), and it's like beating my head against a wall.
Change is hard. But I've changed a lot over the past year and a half or so, and anything's possible. Wish me luck...
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
But I did sit and watch every single post-season Phillies game from the comfort of my living room (or my in-laws'). All I dared hope for was ONE post-season win -- that would be one better than they did last October. When they won Game 1 of the Division Series, I was happy. But the Phillies had other plans: ELEVEN post-season wins, and undefeated at home!
It was officially the weirdest World Series ever -- but hey, that's Philly. I am SO proud of my guys right now! I can't wait for the parade on Friday!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Yes we can give America back to the People. Yes we can overcome what divides us as a nation. Yes we can.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Whole wheat pasta isn't as scary as I thought. Actually, it tastes pretty similar to the regular stuff. Also, a cup of pasta is bigger than I thought. With the sauce and some crushed red pepper, it was pretty yummy!
I also made a WW-friendly apple pie earlier this week, with fresh local apples from my favorite fruit farmer. It was the first time I'd ever made a pie, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with myself. Pie crust is actually really simple to make (who knew?) and it didn't have any scary ingredients like artificial sweetener or fake fat.
Trying new things in the kitchen makes me happy ;)
Thursday, October 16, 2008
As most of you know, over the last year and a half I've lost a lot of weight. For the first sixteen months or so, I lost almost sixty pounds simply through exercising -- I started out with two half-hour sessions a week with a personal trainer (focusing on strength training and cardio), then later increased those to two one-hour sessions, and added in a yoga class and an extra day of swimming or biking here or there. No surgery, no pills, no starvation, just exercise.
This summer my weight loss began to slow down, then pretty much stalled completely. I stepped up the exercise routine to 3 days a week of strength training and cardio, one yoga class and an extra swim, but I was still stuck. I had my trainer change the routine, but nothing changed. Finally I had to face the truth: I had to change my food intake if I wanted to lose more weight.
Here's the thing: I think I've read and tried every diet book known to womankind. They're all good in theory, but you get to a point where you just can't take it anymore. Every time I lost any weight dieting, I would wind up gaining twice as much as I lost when I stopped following the diet. And of course that would make me feel terrible about myself. So at some point I promised myself that I would never diet again.
So I found myself with a dilemma. I don't want to diet; I want to make healthy changes to my eating habits so that I can continue to lose weight, but I don't want to feel deprived or restricted. I started by keeping a log online of everything I ate each day (there are a bunch of websites where you can do this, and they count the calories for you -- yay!) I've always thought of my diet as pretty healthy -- I make sure to eat lots of fruits & veggies, protein, more whole than not-whole grains, and very little processed food. The problem wasn't the foods I was eating, but how much I was eating. At that many calories a day, even with all the exercise I was doing, I was just maintaining my weight.
I thought about it for a while, explored my options, and I decided to try Weight Watchers. I made this decision for a number of reasons, the main ones being 1) I needed to learn portion control (what exactly *is* a serving, anyhow?), 2) there aren't any strictly forbidden foods, which means I won't get obsessed with what I can't have (like when I did low-carb and all I could think about was pasta and cake), and 3) I have an appointment with the scale every week, and I have to pay for it, so there's a lot more accountability than if i just read a diet book. Plus, WW have been around for a long time, and I think their plan actually works if it's done right.
I was scared. I could think of as many reasons *not* to do WW as I could *to* do it, but I sucked it up and went to my first meeting almost two weeks ago. The first week was hard as I adjusted to smaller portions and low-fat versions of the "regular" foods I enjoy, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It forced me to get creative in the kitchen and eat lots of veggies, which I enjoyed. And at my first weigh-in, lo and behold, I had lost 7.75 lbs. Very cool.
I'm almost finished with my second week now, and I've been presented with a few challenges, such as going out to eat, and birthday celebrations -- but I'm surviving. And every day that I work out, I get to eat a little more than on other days :)
But most importantly: I'm resigned to not buying into the whole diet mentality. I don't hate my body or think that happiness can only come from being thin. I love my body and I want it to be healthy so that I can live a long, happy life. I've been amazed at how my body has responded to exercising, and I know now that it's a permanent part of my life and not just a means to an end -- and I'm going to treat WW the same way.
Write about . . .
The subject, length, focus, etc. I leave all up to you. You're free to write whatever you like.
Over the past year, I've become a big fan of Kelly Clarkson. She won the first American Idol competition in 2002 and has since released three very successful albums. I took my best friend/sister-in-law, Becca, to see her in concert last year on her birthday, 10/18. This year, oddly enough, Kelly's playing in our area again on 10/18 (this Saturday!), so needless to say, Becca is getting the same present!
I only knew a few of Kelly's songs when we went to see her last year, but I loved her concert so much that I downloaded all three of her albums after seeing her. Her songs really speak to me, and I just love her voice and her energy.
Lately, I've been listening to her music while I work out at the gym. Know what's really cool about her songs? Not only are they great for cardio (I maintain 100 RPM on the bike during the verses, then do a quick burst of speed up to 115 RPM during the high-energy choruses) but a few of the songs are actually fun to sing about the weight I've lost. I'm serious!
Like this one:
Since u been gone
I can breathe for the first time
I'm so moving on
Thanks to you
Now I get
What I want
Since u been gone
I'll spread my wings
And I'll learn how to fly
Though it's not easy to tell you goodbye
I gotta take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget the place I come from
I gotta take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway, breakaway, breakaway
See what I mean? ;)
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Name your favorite movie, your favorite character from that movie, and why you like that character so much.
This is a toughie, as I have soooo many favorite movies, and it's tought to pick one favorite character from any of them! I'm going to go with Guido Orefice from Life is Beautiful.
The movie is set in Italy in the 1940s. Guido is an Italian waiter, who happens to be Jewish. He falls in love with a gentile woman, Dora, and works very hard at capturing her attention by making her laugh. She eventually falls in love with him, and they get married and have a son, Joshua.
When Joshua is five, he and Guido are taken to a concentration camp. When Dora finds out what has happened, she demands to be taken to the camp as well, although she is held in the women's section and doesn't have contact with Guido and Joshua.
Guido doesn't want his son to be afraid, so he tells Joshua that what's happening is a game, and that if Joshua plays along and follows the rules, he will win a tank. Even when things are terrible in the camp, he is able to keep Joshua's spirits up by reminding him that they are in the lead and will win the tank when they leave.
I love Guido's character because of his love for life and his incredible ability to maintain a positive outlook even in the worst circumstances a person could find themselves in, for the sake of his family. And of course, at the beginning of the film I see parallels to my own life, because Matt used his own silly sense of humor to grab my attention back when we were kids.
The movie is, at times, side-splittingly hilarious, and at others, gut-wrenchingly sad. I saw it when I was almost at the end of my pregnancy with Jacob, and I remember Matt and I holding on to each other, weeping, as we left the theater. It won the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor in 1999.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Name your favorite and least favorite vegetables.
1. Brussels sprouts! One of the most reviled veggies, yet undisputably my favorite. This may have something to do with the fact that my dad always said they were "Barbie cabbages". I love them quartered, tossed with olive oil and kosher salt, and roasted in the over... yummmm.
2. Zucchini! Nothing says summer to me as much as this veggie, and I buy loads of it at the farmer's market. (I also love growing it myself!) I like it steamed, grilled, stir-fried, broiled, grated and mixed with egg for "zucchini latkes", and -- yummmm -- baked in zucchini bread! This summer, Jacob was frequently heard complaining, "Why do we have to eat zucchini every night?"
3. Baby bok choy! Sauteed with garlic and sprinkled with just a bit of soy sauce. Mmmm.
1. Raw onion. I can't even swallow it... it triggers my gag reflex the moment it enters my mouth.
2. Celery. I have tried so hard to like celery ever since I found out it's a "negative calorie" food, but I just can't. It's mostly a texture thing.
3. Bell peppers. I love hot peppers, but for some reason I just really don't like bell peppers, of any color. Yuck!
What are your faves (and least faves?)
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
My favorite yoga teacher, Pat, always drops a printed "fortune" on our mats during savasana (the final resting pose in our class). Today, mine was the quote above, which was very relevant for me -- and so I thought I'd share it.
I spend a lot of time focused on what's wrong with me, what I don't have, what I can't do. I'm working on it, but it's easy to slip back into old, negative thought patterns. Sometimes little reminders like this one can be helpful!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I'm going to try to do better. It was a long, difficult summer. Things are improving.
My next-door neighbors, the ones who cut down my favorite tree AND brought all sorts of vermin into my life, have decided to move to Florida and put their house up for rent. At the beginning of this summer, *we* had planned on being the ones to move, but our plans fell by the wayside as we contemplated spending loads of money on other things. Now that we've decided not to go that route, we're re-contemplating a move.
Yes, we still own a car. But, we've been doing a lot more walking and using public transit, and it's really not so bad. In fact, I kind of prefer it. For instance, yesterday I was driving across the SAME intersection where my accident happened in March, and the SAME thing happened -- only instead of getting slammed into, I just got the horn-and-finger for *daring* to let pedestrians cross before completing my right-hand turn. (I guess I didn't get the memo that it is now okay to run down pedestrians!) I am so sick of drivers and their egos. It's much nicer to let someone else do the driving or let my feet take me places.
I can't even remember what else I had written about here before my long absence. Anyhow, I'm really going to try to keep up with this blog, I promise!
Friday, May 23, 2008
I don't have to tell you about gas prices. But with the cost of driving increasing daily, our family is forced to take a good hard look at whether or not driving is actually necessary. After all, we live in a big city. There's a bus that stops at the end of our street; there are at least six more buses that run within three to four blocks of our house. A mile away is the mass transit hub of our part of the city, with buses and trains coming and going every minute of every day. In addition to public transit, there are taxi companies and the up-and-coming Philly Car Share. We also own bicycles. And within walking distance, we have a supermarket, a CVS, several restaurants, bars, stores, banks, hair salons... So honestly, having a car is really more of a luxury than a necessity for our family.
And what an expensive luxury it is -- for us, the monthly cost of driving, including car payment, car insurance, and gas (I've conservatively estimated six fill-ups per month at the going rate), is about $740 per month. That doesn't count parking, or routine maintenance like oil changes, car washes, etc, or big expenses like the new battery we needed two weeks ago, or traffic tickets from someone in my household's tendency to run red lights (ahem). So it's really over $800, on average, per month. (And we just have one small, fuel-efficient car.) In comparison, an unlimited pass for our mass transit system costs $78 per person, per month. (Single-ride tokens are only $1.45.)
So, for the first time in my adult life, I'm really considering the possibility of not owning a car. I know it will make some things more of a hassle, and I won't be able to just hop in the car and go somewhere at a moment's notice. But at the same time, maybe it will force me to make a concious effort to be more organized, to make do with what I have, and to appreciate my surroundings.
If you'll permit me, I also have an Eckhart Tolle-influenced observation to share. As I drive around the city, I notice how much of the act of driving has to do with the ego. I'm not talking about luxury cars, premium gas, or even my big pet peeve, gas-guzzling SUVs, but things I'm guilty of, like impatience, speeding, not letting someone cut in front, road rage, talking on the cell phone while driving, etc. Sitting in traffic stresses us out. Everybody's in a Big Hurry, and everybody wants to be First. I know that the guy who rear-ended me in March was driving with his ego -- he was in a Big Hurry and couldn't wait ten seconds so I could let the pedestrians cross; instead he tried to to go around me, wound up underestimating how much space he needed, and crashed into my car. Maybe if everyone slowed down and took a walk, or took the bus, every once in a while, instead of being in such a Big Hurry, we could become less impatient, less competitive, more aware of the world around us... Okay, maybe I'm dreaming, but at least it might reduce some of our stress and make us happier people overall.
Or maybe it's just me. But having an extra $800 in the bank every month sounds really good right about now...
Monday, May 12, 2008
Jacob: Have you seen this movie, Mom?
Me: The new one? It's not out yet.
Jacob: I know that, Mom, I meant the Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Me: Yeah, I saw all of the Indiana Jones movies when I was a kid.
Jacob: Wow. How many were there?
Me: Three of them.
Jacob: Did you see them in the theater or on DVD?
Me (amused): In the theater. They didn't have DVDs then.
Jacob (alarmed): They didn't have DVDs?!
Me (feeling very old): Nope.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Because it's so early in the season, there wasn't a whole lot of produce to choose from, but Jacob and I did buy two lovely, purply-green bunches of asparagus. We sampled cheeses and baked goods, and I had a hard time restraining myself from buying a gorgeous strawberry plant for $22! We did buy a hunk of Alpine cheese, a chocolate chip cookie and some pains au chocolat (which I've come to realize that, while yummy, are just not the same in the US... sigh.)
In other produce-related news, I've decided not to do a vegetable garden this year (boo - I know) because I want to concentrate on getting the house ready to sell. One of my criteria for a new home, of course, is that it have a space for me to garden. And I'm hoping for a composter for mothers' day!
You know you're a theater geek when you go to see two musicals in one day. Yesterday Jacob and I saw Seussical at my friend Tatlyn's school. It was a terrific production, and the show itself was much better than I'd hoped. I teared up at the end when all the Whos yelled "we are here! we are here!" (Alright... I had to choke back sobs... but I wish to assert my time-of-the-month privileges!) I also went to see Hairspray at the Academy of Music. I went to see the movie version twice last summer and absolutely loved it. The play was just as fabulous. Now I can't stop singing "Good Morning Baltimore!"
And speaking of choking back sobs, I couldn't stop crying yesterday when I heard about the murder of Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski during a robbery yesterday, less than four miles from my home. He was only 39 years old and had a wife and three children. Sometimes I really despise this city...
Monday, April 21, 2008
Yes, we're moving. I've had enough. There is much to do to get this house ready to sell, and I understand that right now is not the best time to put a house on the market, but it's time for us to go.
Unless Matt finds a new job (not likely -- he likes where he is), we are required to stay within the city limits, though that's fine with me. There are a zillion different neighborhoods from which to choose, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
If I could afford to buy my dream home, I'd look for an old four-bedroom Victorian with a huge kitchen, wood-burning fireplace, big backyard and laundry room on the main floor. And my own writing room, preferably in the third floor tower room ;)
But I'd settle for something with some kitchen counter space!
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
So, if I still want to watch TV after February, I'm going to have to shell out money: either I'll have to replace our perfectly functional TV set, subscribe to digital cable (no way), or buy a converter box (the cheapest ones I've seen run about $46.00). The federal government is offering $40 coupons, for every household in the USA, towards the purchase of converter boxes. I don't know if it's more disturbing that the government has decided we must all watch digital TV, or that they're going to subsidize the switch. The same entity that refuses to provide health care to its citizens will happily assist us in converting our TVs, because as we all know, TV is much more important than our health and well-being. Kids in schools don't have all the supplies they need, there aren't enough police on the streets, the soldiers fighting in Iraq don't have the proper protective gear, but by god, the people will have their TV!
I'm certainly not ready to give up TV completely; I do enjoy watching House and Grey's Anatomy, and I watch the news each night. However, I can get all those programs online, in their entirety, without upgrading anything. I'm perfectly okay if my TV just becomes something on which to watch DVDs and play video games. It's certainly more appealing to me than spending $46 to upgrade my set (or asking the government for TV assistance.)
Matt, on the other hand, says we should just suck it up, get the coupon, and buy the converter box... he doesn't want to miss the Sunday afternoon Phillies games ;)
Monday, April 7, 2008
I haven't driven at all since my accident on March 20. I didn't feel comfortable driving the rental car, and I was still shaken up from the accident. Every time we went out on the road, I felt my body bracing for impact.
I thought once I got my own car back, I might feel safer. But the rental was a biggol' SUV, and my car is a little Ford Focus station wagon. I'm much closer to the ground, and I feel even more vulnerable.
I've been in four car accidents in the past five and a half years. None of them have been major, but they've all been traumatizing, and three of the four left me with injuries that required physical therapy. This most recent accident was the worst of the four, and I'm pretty much in constant pain on my left side as a result. I'm going to the chiropractor three times a week, and it's helping, but very slowly. And I'm not allowed to box or do yoga, which just SUCKS.
I realize that I should be glad that my accidents have been minor -- Matt and I saw a car that was flipped onto its roof on Saturday night -- and I am grateful that I've been able to walk away from each of the accidents with minor injuries. But at the same time, I just feel like I don't even want to get in the car anymore, much less drive. I don't want to be in another accident.
I wish I could avoid being in moving vehicles altogether. Pathetic, huh? I know that fear is just a manifestation of the ego (been reading "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle -- great book, btw) but I really don't feel like it's unfounded or irrational to be afraid in this case. There are just too many idiots on the road... and I just know one of them is going to crash into me.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
I'm eating those words now, because the race has gone on a lot longer than usual, and so we Pennsylvanians actually get a chance to help decide the Democratic nominee this year. And, I actually found a candidate to support.
I'm excited that there's actually a race this year. I like that my vote actually counts. But can I just tell you, I'm so tired of the campaign commercials, the op-ed pieces, the endless debates... I really just want it over with so that I know who I'm supporting in November.
Yeah, I know... the grass is always greener...
Friday, April 4, 2008
I actually taped it, because I had a doctor's appointment @ 8:30 am, but I watched it as soon as I got home. And yes, the rumors are true! Donnie confirmed that they have been recording a new album and there WILL BE A TOUR in the fall!!!! I think they look good, too... they've aged, sure, but who hasn't -- and they've lost the big 80's hair, thank goodness (though I think Donnie's hair needs some work -- maybe shaving his head.) They'll be performing on the Today Show on May 16th. I can't wait.
Here's a few clips from Today, in case you missed it:
Monday, March 31, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Today is the anniversary of our first kiss. It happened March 27th, 1991. 17 loooonnng years ago, and I was 17 at the time, which means I have been kissing this man for half my life. That makes me feel old, but more than that, it makes me feel very lucky ;)
On another note, here's why the Phillies suck: This year, you could only buy opening day tickets if you bought season tickets, a partial season plan, or at the very least a 6-pack of game day tickets. I haven't missed a home opener since before I got married. Jacob was 5 weeks old at his first home opener, and has never missed one. But this year, because of the Phillies' stupid new policy, we're missing out. I'm thinking about writing a letter, but then, I don't know how much good it will do... obviously they're not interested in tradition, just money.
Now, an update on my bod: I went to see my chiropractor yesterday, and he did an assessment of my injuries from the accident. I have a rib misalignment, the whole left side of my back is in spasm, and my left hip is messed up. I'm going back tomorrow and will likely be seeing him 3x a week for the next few months. He also wants me to wait to go back to the gym for a little while longer, which I understand, but still makes me mad. It's so annoying that someone else's driving mistake is costing me so much.
I also still have the annoying cold, which unlike most colds I've had started in my chest and then worked its way up to my head (usually they go the other way for me). Mucinex is helping with the cough but nothing's helping with the snot situation... bleh. I think I'll have to do Lisa's warm-salt-water-in-every-orifice trick soon. This is always my time of year to be sick.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The worst thing about being laid up -- again -- is missing my Tuesday yoga class and trainer session -- again -- while there's all this Chocolate Bunny Sex Day candy in my house. This is worse than the Girl Scout cookies...
And on top of the car accident, Jacob and I now have a chest cold. Bleh. He seems to be recovering (fever's down today) but I'm getting worse...
Any way I can just fast forward to 2009...? Oh wait, I just remembered how old I'll be in 2009! EEK! I'll keep 2008, never mind ;)
Sunday, March 23, 2008
On the way home from the ER in our rental, we were almost sideswiped. I think maybe I'm never getting in a car again...
Friday, March 21, 2008
Yesterday I left for the gym a bit early, hoping to stop at Target to pick up a few essentials for Jacob's chocolate bunny day basket. Long story short, I had stopped before turning right to let a handicapped woman and a child finish crossing the street, some idiot slammed into me, and I was rushed to the hospital. As you can see, I'm alive, but my back and neck hurt like a motherbitch...
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
At this time of year, my thoughts always turn to Matt's godmother, whom we affectionately referred to as "Aunt Purple." Not a relative by blood, as his parents' best friend she was nevertheless his favorite aunt and they were very close. I first met her at Matt's brother's wedding, and she and I hit it off immediately and spent the reception dancing together and having a blast -- she was one of the most fun people I'd ever met.
One year, almost half my life ago, she and Matt and I began a tradition of getting together every year for St. Patrick's Day. We would dress all in green, including green false eyelashes, temporary tattoos, mardi gras beads, glow sticks, etc, and we'd go out to eat, drink, dance and laugh, usually at our local Bennigan's. Every year I looked forward to our get-together. It was my favorite holiday tradition, and the only one that truly felt like my own -- no obligations, just fun.
Over the years, I got to know Aunt Purple better, and we became very close. One of the things I loved and admired most about her was her ability to truly be herself in every situation. She knew who she was and she never compromised herself in order to fit in -- and you couldn't help but love her. She adopted me as her goddaughter, and when I had Jacob, she couldn't have loved him more if he'd been her own grandson.
Her early life had been quite difficult. Her birth mother died while Aunt P was still a baby, and her father remarried, then he died a few years later. She was raised by her stepmother and older stepsisters, who never truly accepted her as their sister. Like me, she married young, and also like me, struggled with infertility before finally becoming a mother (she and her husband adopted a baby boy.) Like me, she made the decision to forgo outside work and make her home and family the center of her world.
But unlike me, Aunt Purple had an abusive husband who eventually broke her heart and left her emotionally and financially devastated. For many years she struggled to find a steady job that would pay her bills, but her lack of education and a changing economy made that very difficult. She was frequently out of work, and the jobs that she was able to find didn't pay well and had little or no benefits. Her ex-husband gained sole custody of their son and, without his mother's influence, he became as abusive and self-serving as his father, only calling his mother when he wanted something from her. One day, she tripped and fell on her front step and shattered both of her feet. It took a long time to heal from the injuries, and she missed a lot of work as her medical bills piled up. Eventually, she lost her home and had to move into a cramped one-bedroom apartment.
In the spring of 2002, Aunt P was out of work once again and receiving unemployment, which was barely enough to scrape by. One day, she had what she believed to be a heart attack. A friend took her to the ER, and was admitted for tests, but a few days later they sent her home and told her that she hadn't had a heart attack. The hospital bills began coming in immediately, and she decided to try to apply for medical assistance. They told her she made too much money (with unemployment) to qualify. "How much is too much?" she asked. She made $20 a month over the limit for medical assistance. Aunt P reached into her wallet, pulled out a $20 bill, and laid it on the table. "Now, do I qualify?" The answer was no.
In the days that followed, she had dizzy spells and trouble breathing, and she went to yet another ER. She was admitted to this hospital and seen by a doctor who blamed her problems on her excess weight, and once again she was sent home, where she continued to have dizzy spells and trouble breathing. She drew up a living will and named Matt her executor, although he and I both told her we were sure she would be just fine.
A few weeks later, one of Aunt P's close friends, panicked by the fact that she hadn't answered her phone all day, went over to the apartment, let herself in with her key, and found Aunt P's body on the floor. She immediately called Matt, and he and I were both shocked and completely devastated. We requested that an autopsy be done, and when we got the coroner's report, it said that the cause of death was suffocation due to scar tissue that had been caused by a heart attack. Yes, the very same heart attack she'd supposedly never had. She was only 54 years old.
Whenever I hear anyone dismissing the idea of universal health coverage, I wonder if they've ever had the opportunity to watch a person that they loved die due to a lack of health care, simply because they didn't have or couldn't afford coverage. After all, it's not an uncommon thing in the USA -- the only wealthy, industrialized nation which refuses to provide its citizens with this most basic of human needs: across the country in 2006, twice as many people died from lack of health insurance as died from homicide. 11.3% of Pennsylvanians are uninsured, and an average of two working-age Pennsylvanians die every day because they lack coverage. Uninsured people have to forgo routine health screenings, and they wait longer to see a doctor, and so they are more likely to be diagnosed with diseases in their advanced stages. Uninsured people have a 25% higher rate of premature death than those with private insurance, and lack of insurance is the third-leading cause of death for people aged 55-64. Uninsured people also pay more for care, because they don't have insurance companies negotiating lower costs for them. (These statistics are from familiesusa.org).
I'm very fortunate, as a full-time mom who chooses not to work outside the home, that I have excellent coverage through Matt's job. Still, a roll of the dice and I could have easily been in Aunt P's shoes (and to be honest, so could any of us.) She was a wonderful, vibrant human being who was taken far too soon, and her death was completely preventable. For me, the national health care debate will always be deeply, profoundly personal.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Paris Travel Journal
I tried to sleep in, as we had been out late (by Parisian standards, anyhow) the night before, but it’s hard to sleep when Paris is right outside your window, and pains au chocolat are right downstairs!
Although it was raining, after breakfast we returned to the Quartier Latin, this time for the “literary walking tour” outlined in one of our travel guides. The entire tour would have taken three hours, but because of my ankle we decided to just do a few highlights: the Hemingway stuff. I had read “A Moveable Feast” in preparation for our Paris trip, and was excited to see the places where “Papa” lived and worked in Paris.
74 rue Cardinal Lemoine, where Hemingway lived with his first wife, Hadley, and their son
37 rue Descartes, where Hemingway wrote. This building is also where the poet Paul Verlaine lived (and died).
Place de la Contrescarpe -- a very pretty plaza once described by Hemingway as a "cesspool"... lol.
For lunch, we stopped in at a little pizza restaurant and shared a pie with salami and mortadella, and I had a glass of the house red. Everything, of course, was delicious, and it’s fun to hear French spoken with an Italian accent!
After that, we walked across the Seine to Notre Dame, the famous cathedral immortalized in Hugo’s “Hunchback.” We walked around the outside of the building first, admiring the gothic architecture.
Then we went inside, and in this church, we were actually allowed to take photos (I suspect they got tired of telling people not to!)
One of the little "chapelles" around the perimeter of the cathedral
Matt tries to blend in with the spooky gothic-ness of Notre Dame, lol
We left Notre Dame and crossed back to the Latin Quarter. There were so many cute little shops, and it was time for souvenir shopping. And, when my ankle pain became unbearable, a stop in a boulangerie for another café crème and pain au chocolat ;)
Rue de la Huchette, an old, winding street full of places to eat and shop
We topped off our day with a boat ride along the Seine. We walked along the river to get to the boat, and saw a few cool things along the way:
Le Grand Palais, an exhibition hall
I love these teensy little French cars!
Just thought this tree outside Le Grand Palais was really cool-looking
The Pont Alexandre III bridge
The sky looked so pretty!
The boat ride was a nice, warm break from the cold and rainy streets of Paris, and along the way we we got an extra-special treat:
Un arc-en-ciel! Très beau!
After our boat ride, it was time to say au revoir to the sights of Paris, because our flight would be early the next morning. On the way back to our hotel, we saw a fruit vendor and stopped and got some fraises:
They had some competition from the pains au chocolat, but strawberries are still my favoritest food ;)
I really wish our trip had been longer, because there was so much we didn’t get a chance to see or do (or eat, lol). If – no, WHEN I travel there again, I would love to rent an apartment for two weeks, although I suspect that still wouldn’t be enough! I’m trying to convince Matt that we could live very happily in a little farmhouse outside Paris, but he’s not yet convinced that he could learn enough French to survive…
I cried a bit when our flight took off. Although I missed Jacob, I really did NOT want to come home. Life is so much better when you’re traveling – no work, no cooking, no bills to pay, and someone comes in and cleans your room for you! Add to that the magic of Paris and… I’m surprised they didn’t have to drag me kicking and screaming into the airplane.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my attempts to take you with me on my travels!
Friday, March 14, 2008
Paris Travel Journal
I awoke on the morning of 8 March to sunlight streaming through the window of our hotel room. Paris looked beautiful, and I certainly didn’t feel any older ;)
Looking out at my Paris :)
We kept our boissons cold on the windowsill, à la Bill Murray in The Razor's Edge.
After another breakfast of pains au chocolat and other deliciousness, we went back up to our room to make plans for our day. Part of me wanted to just sit all day and allow my ankles some time to mend, but, I mean, it’s Paris! I ignored the pain, donned my ankle brace, popped a few preventative Aleve, and we set out for the Canal Saint-Martin.
We strolled along the canal for an hour or two, enjoying the less-touristy neighborhood and the beautiful scenery. Even though Paris is at a higher latitude than Philadelphia, it seems spring comes a bit earlier there – trees and flowers were beginning to bloom, and everything was just lovely.
Matt said that when we live in Paris, he wants to have an apartment in a building like this, with a little balcony. I'm holding him to it ;)
After our stroll, we got on the Métro for a few stops toward Père-Lachaise Cemetary, where some very famous people are buried. But first, we stopped in at a Sandwiches Turcs shop (roughly the Parisian equivalent of a cheesesteak place in Philly – there’s at least one on every major street!). Warm sandwiches served on yummy bread with, of course, frites.
We walked towards the cimetière, which I’d first wanted to visit when I read that it was where Jim Morrison was buried – not that I’m a big fan of The Doors, but visiting his famously defaced grave, as I told Matt, is a “thing” (my description of something that people just need to do or have for reasons that I can’t quite comprehend). Then when I’d read more about the cemetery, I’d learned that many, many important and famous people had been interred there (Édith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Frédéric Chopin, etc), and decided it might be an interesting place to visit.
As we approached the cemetery, we saw a man selling maps at the entrance. We said “Bonjour,” but he was American and could tell we were, too. He asked us where we were from, and we told him, and he asked if we had any “greenbacks” – he would sell us the map for two American dollars rather than two Euros, which he called “Monopoly money.” We looked at one another, forked over the $2 and said thanks, wondering if the guy had any clue that the dollar is worth considerably less than the Euro! We figured he must have been in Paris a looooong time ;)
The cemetery is something to behold… you step off a noisy, crowded street into a quiet place with tall trees and cobblestoned streets… it’s like stepping through a door into another world.
It’s over 100 acres, and the graves, memorials and tombs are all really interesting to see. There are memorials to the victims of the Holocaust, to people who died for the French resistance during World War II, and to the soldiers who helped liberate the Nazi concentration camps. Matt and I both got a bit emotional reading the markers.
We found several of the graves that I wanted to see, but unfortunately, the cimetière was closing and they kicked us out before we got a chance to see Jim Morrison’s famous grave. Ah, well.
Sarah Bernhardt, actress
Oscar Wilde, Irish writer. The tradition is for female visitors to leave a lipstick kiss on his tomb...
Gertrude Stein, American writer who was born in Pennsylvania and spent most of her life in Paris (hmm... why do I feel drawn to her? lol...). Her love, Alice Toklas, is buried in the same grave, and her name and dates of birth & death are etched on the back of the stone.
Édith Piaf, famous French chanteuse (singer) and subject of the recent film La Vie En Rose, for which Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for Best Actress just a few weeks ago.
After leaving Père-Lachaise, we went back to the hotel room to relax for a bit before setting out for the Latin Quarter for dinner and a show. On the way back to the hotel, we spied a flower vendor on the street and Matt bought me a lovely little bouquet of daffodils… my favorite!
Getting off the Metro in the Quartier Latin, we knew we had found the happenin’ part of town. The streets were crowded with people our age and younger, smoking and laughing. There were lots of bars, clubs, shops, restaurants, etc. We found a place to eat dinner, and ordered moules (mussels) à la crème, steak with a creamy bleu cheese sauce, and for dessert, and apple tart that made me weak in the knees.
After dinner, there was a very special show I’d been hoping to see. Can you guess what it was?
Yes! The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course! The Paris RHPS cast was THE BEST cast I have ever seen, and I could only understand half of what they were saying! They do some of the more traditional callbacks in English, but they have their own French callbacks as well, and their props and costumes are flawless. Best of all, they get really involved with the audience, and there is never a dull moment in the tiny basement theater where the show takes place. My favorite moment was during the Janet bedroom scene, when their Frank-N-Furter, played by the delightful Antoine, came over to me (we were sitting right in the front row) and asked me a question in French. I just looked at him helplessly, but he quickly switched to English: “Do you like sports?”
“A little,” I replied.
“Well, you’ll like this one!” he said, grabbing my ankles and, well, basically dry-humped me while yelling things like “We will try out for the Olympics! We will be the French-American team!” as I melted into a pool of helpless giggles in my seat.
After the show, we chatted a bit with another American who'd been in the audience, and then it was time to head home. (It really was beginning to feel like home...)
All in all, I’d have to say that it really was a rather wonderful day… and, as was the point of the trip in the first place, the number 34 was the farthest thing from my mind ;)
Coming soon: Day 5!
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Paris Travel Journal
On Day 3 of our trip (Day 2 in Paris), we woke up refreshed after finally getting some decent sleep. After showering and getting dressed, we went downstairs to the lobby of the hotel for breakfast, where we got to savor our first *real* French croissants! Coffee, pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants – my new favorite food!), mini-baguettes, frommage (cheese), salami, and dried apricots (soooo tender and sweet – nothing like the ones we have here!) were also sampled by moi. Matt the non-foodie had a bowl of cereal… and got the “I didn’t fly over 3500 miles to eat cereal!” from me. LOL.
After breakfast, we bundled up and set out for Le Tour Eiffel! I was soooo excited… I felt like I would *really* know I was in Paris once I got a glimpse of the famous Tower.
We took the Métro (Parisian subway) from our hotel. The subway system in Paris is similar to the one in New York; there are many different lines which run to all parts of the city, and you’re never more than a few blocks from a Métro station... ours was half a block from our hotel.
After we changed trains from the one that took us from our hotel to the one that would take us to Le Tour Eiffel, a man with an accordion boarded our subway car. Once the train started moving, he started to play, and it was so pretty and so Parisien that I almost cried from sheer happiness.
We had to get off the Métro one stop early because the one nearest the Eiffel Tower was closed for repairs. We came out of the station, rounded the corner, and I gasped – there it was! The very symbol of Paris!
We took many photos along the walk towards the tower, crossing a bridge over the Seine.
We walked along the river until we reached the Tower. The closer we got, the more amazing it was. It’s HUGE. As we walked underneath, Matt asked “why do my feet hurt when I look up at it?” I had to laugh, because I really did marry my mother – she gets “pains in her feet” contemplating heights, too!
We got in line for tickets to go to the top of the Tower. There are three levels; you can buy a ticket to any of them. Matt asked me if I wanted to go all the way to the top. "Mais oui!" While waiting, we chatted with the couple behind us, who were from the Canary Islands, and we sampled some frites from the concession stand. Matt had a coke and I had a café crème that I promptly declared “the best coffee I’ve ever tasted in my life.”
A word about French food – everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING tastes better in Paris. From the obvious things like croissants, chocolate, and rich, buttery sauces, to even things like potato chips, Coca-Cola (made with real sugar -- no high fructose corn syrup!), and mayonnaise. Food is intended to be enjoyed. The point of eating in France is not to just satisfy hunger (which we Americans tend to do by gulping down as many bland calories as we can, as cheaply as possible, while dashing from one place to another) but to really experience the sensual pleasures of food – the tastes, the aromas, the textures. One of my only regrets about our Paris trip is that I didn’t have enough time to sample as many different foods as I wanted... but everything I did get a chance to eat was divine.
After waiting in line for what felt like a hundred years, we finally boarded the elevator which would take us to the second level, after which we’d get a second elevator to the top. The elevators go right up the “legs” of the tower, and it’s a bit unnerving to watch the ground drop away from this tiny car filled with people! Matt looked at my face and teased me about being afraid. I replied, “I said I wanted to go to the top; I didn’t say I wasn’t scared!”
We spent some time on the second level before journeying to the top. We took lots of photos, of course. I stopped in at the gift shop and bought a mini-replica Tour Eiffel for Jacob, as well as a few other souvenirs. Then we boarded the elevator and soon we were about 300 meters off the ground! I tiptoed to the edge to peer down. The view was dizzying. And yes, you really can see all the way to the ocean.
Holding on for dear life!
Matt can't even look!
The view from the top
On the way down, we stopped on the first level, where we mailed some postcards from La Poste and sat for a bit before journeying back down to the ground. There was an ice replica of the Tower on the first level – when Jacob saw our photos of it, he declared it the “Ice-el Tower” ;)
While waiting for the elevator, the tendonitis in my ankles really started to flare up from all the standing I’d done that day. It’s odd; I can walk moderate distances without much trouble, but if I stand in one place for more than ten minutes I can really screw up my ankles. We thought about calling it a day and heading back to the hotel, but I decided to ignore the pain and keep going.
The wheels that move the elevator cables... just watching them turn is enough to make you dizzy!
Au revoir, Tour Eiffel!
After leaving the Tower, it was back to the Métro, which we took to the Musée du Louvre, home of some of the most famous art in the entire world. Before going into the museum, we had dinner in the food court below. Yes, it’s a food court – but nothing like the food courts of American malls. There are several stands serving different types of cuisine from all over the world. I considered carefully and opted (quelle surprise!) for the French: a generous filet of salmon topped with a creamy sauce, vegetable gratin, couscous, and a glass of rosé. (Oh, how I adore being in a city where a soda, a glass or wine or a beer all cost the same!) Matt the non-foodie had a burger and frites. Well... to each their own!
I discreetly put my feet on the chair across from mine while we ate, hoping that would help ease the inflammation in my ankles. Afterwards, we went into the museum and viewed the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and several other Greek/Roman pieces before going up to the first floor to see the most famous painting in the world, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Despite the admonishing of the museum’s brochure that no photographs should be taken on the first floor, people were snapping flash photos of the painting while the museum guards just stood watching. (My dad’s theory as to why they don’t care if people take photos: it’s not the real Mona Lisa.)
The infamous inverted pyramid
Venus de Milo -- I have a miniature replica of this sculpture in my bedroom, which my parents brought back from their trip to the Greek Isles.
Winged Victory -- this statue is near and dear to my heart, because she was one of the symbols of my high school. We had a life-sized replica of her in our "Pink Marble Hall".
The most famous painting in the world -- Da Vinci's La Giaconda, or in English, the Mona Lisa.
By the time we left the hall where Mona Lisa was, I was in tears from my ankle pain. We sat for a bit and then ventured back to our hotel. I took some Aleve and Matt went to the convenience store near the hotel and got me a Heineken, which helped a bit. A quick phone call to our boy, and we were soon fast asleep.
Coming soon: Day 4!