Friday, November 30, 2007

Group Activity Avoidence

After mentioning the other day that the Prime Geek and I have ventured into the troubled waters of gym life, I received a few emails expressing confusion over why I seemed adamantly opposed to joining any type of organized sport. As I'm stuck right in the middle of a massive house turnover – the woodstove installers will be here soon, and its a tough job to write while your home is infested with chimney sweeps – I thought I might pull up something I wrote not too long ago, in an effort to show WHY I avoid anything that requires any sense of innate grace or agility. Hope you enjoy a little peek into the day to day life of your Natural Nerd.

Recently, your friendly neighborhood Natural Nerd learned a few important life lessons. Shall we go over them today class?

Lesson the first. When home alone, balancing oneself on a rickety stool THEN removing oneself from said stool to kneel atop the pointy two inches of kitchen sink in an attempt to reach and raise an old and HEAVY window sash that has been more than likely left closed for years.... is not the wisest course of action. Although points will be rewarded for the foresight to set the cordless phone within reach if the nice men in the emergency vehicles need to be spoken to. Sadly these points will be removed in......

Lesson the second. Upon REACHING previously stated sash, one should really maybe consider stopping until a stronger person is in the home with one after discovering that not only is it a difficult object to stretch for... it has apparently been painted over at least once, sealing it shut. Points are rewarded for quick thinking and the use of a bread knife around the seals, but these are quickly stripped for failure to think through the need of bracing material once the window is opened. For in this failure, if one simply tries to jamb the sash as high as possible and hope years of thick paint layers will cause a natural brace to be formed so one has time to A) slide UP the screen window and B) slide down the storm window so the multitude of cats cannot escape out into the wild blue yonder - one would be incorrect in this hope. This is where we learn in

Lesson the third, that a 8 paned heavy old wooden sash, when suddenly dropping from a distance of not less than 18 inches at full speed upon BOTH of ones wrists will, sadly, result in a moment where time and space have no real meaning... for there is only pain in that eternal second. Pain and an overwhelming inability to both SEE, and to draw breath. (See previous sentence regarding the only substance allowed in that second, IE Pain.) Upon leaving that eternal void of mind numbing agony, one may gain points for mildly hysterical laughter and an attempt to show that one is really fine, but these will only be awarded if there is another life form in the home to see this strength of character. As the only possible entities are cats... sadly these points will have to be skipped. Also, the immediate - although quickly squashed - desire for ones mommy would have rendered the points invalid anyway. This quickly brings us to

Lesson the forth. Once the immediate assault upon ones person is over, there is still the little matter of removing oneself FROM the encumbering window sash. This is hindered not only by the concern that both wrists might, in point of fact, be smashed beyond recognition AS wrists, but in the realization that to open the window one will have to use the possibly smashed wrists as levers. In this lesson we quickly see that hoping A) some random stranger sent from the heavens themselves will suddenly appear and rescue one, B) that perhaps one could simply wait for ones husband - 9 hours to go - to get home and lift the sash, or C) that ones cats will suddenly drop the facade of being mere felines and unveil themselves as space traveling super beings who have hidden their opposable thumbs just for and event such as this...... are all for naught. In fact, in lesson the fourth, one deals with the sad realization that one must help oneself, and should also do so quickly as ones balance on the previously mentioned two inches of sink is becoming precarious in the extreme. This leads us class, to

Lesson the fifth. Where one learns one CAN open windows using stumps once known as hands.... it just isn't too jolly of an moment. Any points that might have been awarded are quickly removed by the amount of angry invectives spewing forth from one at a rate that causes four cats to scurry upstairs. A window's parentage is brought into the profanity laden shouts, as well as the hopeful demise of any and all that might have had a hand in the construction of the house. However. Points WILL be awarded for bloody minded stubbornness for, after ascertaining that the wrists are not shattered, merely bruised shadows of themselves, going back the window and getting the damn storm windows pulled into place!

Finally in lesson the sixth, we come to the conclusion that the best possible thing to do is to spend the rest of the day sitting very still in a padded chair watching mindless television in the hopes that one will not be attacked by any more of the house around one.

Class dismissed.

Yup. That's my life. Sometimes.... ya gotta giggle and go with it or risk being found banging your head against a wall.

Any questions now in my aversion to activities that put me in close proximity of : hard balls, heavy bats, slippery floors, or groups of people running?

I thought not.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nerdly Natterings

The turkey coma has finally begun to recede – helped no doubt by the simple fact that we went out to family for Thanksgiving and managed to hie tail it out without many leftovers being tossed in the Jeep. Let's hear it for the newlywed shuffle, managing to combine two full Thanksgiving meals within a mere 4 hour window. One delicious turkey dinner with my family, and a hour in the car down to the Prime Geeks we did it all over again.

A serious yearning for flannel pajamas by this point is a rather obvious desire... but one I reveled in for four days. Today is the first time my (distressingly tighter) jeans have graced this nerd's body since the meal-a-thon began. Which... in a wandering way, brings me to the newest initiative in Casa De' Nerd.

With a heavy heart – and a MUCH lighter wallet – we have willingly signed over our bodies for the next year to the local rec center. I wanted to avoid the desperate push to improve every aspect of my life that seems to hit us all as the ball drops in Time Square, so rather then join the throng at the gym in the New Year... we're gonna shuffle our respective booties there now.

Now, please don't think that this means the Natural Nerd is going to dissolve into a diet site. There will be NO yammering on about how many “reps” we did last night, nor will there be any hostile threats toward either carbs, fats, or transfat. There will be no counting – of the calorie OR carb variety. I'm a good Irish lass, and I will NOT give up a tuber my family immigrated for. I'm also a confirmed carnivore. Steaks WILL be eaten, anyone attempting to substitute a soy burger for that steak had better be sure they can run faster then I can. (And remember, as a tool using creature, I see no trouble in using the Jeep to do my running for me.)

No, instead... I'm trying something new. An experiment, if you will. From here on out, this Natural Nerd is going to indulge in the diet of moderation. Moderation in all things... including moderation. (There. That leaves enough wiggle room for the odd moment of chocolate induced insanity.)

My goal is not to be a size 2, or look like I could be shaking my “thang” on the latest MTV award show. (Granted... the size requirement seems to have gotten a LOT looser these days for that particular honor.*) Instead, a balanced hope for a stonger body, a bit heathier might be nice as well, and maybe toss in the hope of fitting into my clothes a tad bit better. Nothing extreme. Let's be honest here. At 6'1 (ish) with the bone structure of a quarterback, I'm never going to be tiny. I'm just shooting for healthy. How does this all tie into a site devoted to trying to live a naturally nerdy life? Fair enough question. My answer runs along these lines...

A healthy body is cheaper to operate. Stronger body = fewer doctors visits. As the rising cost of health care has many of us contemplating a jaunt back to the days of a leather thong gritted between your teeth and a rousing bout of home surgery, it makes sense to try and spend a bit more time on the upkeep of the old model to avoid having to buy parts for the new. (We have discussed my skinflint habits numerous times.) With a stronger body, I can maneuver myself around my environment cheaply and greenly. - IE Bike or walk my happy tuckus through my daily errands. Joining the rec center gets me involved in my community, therefore prospering all. Group activities ranging from sport teams (well. I'll cheer. Anyone who has watched me walk into a door jamb... TWICE in ten minutes knows better then to think I'd be going out for a team sport. But I'll help carry the gatorade.) to several local outreach crews. It might be nice to get to know my neighbors for a change.**

See. All valid and even mildly green reasons for having some overly perky blond chirp “And one, and two” at me for hours a week. Oh god.........

If I EVER am heard uttering the phrase “Feel the burn” in a manner NOT rife with sarcasm.... kill me. Please?

*I swore to myself it would never happen, but it did. Against all reason, a Britney Spears crack has wormed its way into my site. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

** All good and noble reasons. Okay. There might also be in the back of my head a slightly unnerdly like desire for just ONE year of being the hot wife before the Prime Geeks and I, as he put it only a few weeks into our courtship, spawn. And maybe a hidden desire for a pair of leather pants a fellow merchant is peddling. But those are only a teeny tiny reason. The others are the big ones... really. Honest.

Don't judge me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Doing the Time Warp

Wow. Watch your step folks.... that time portal in the corner has a doozy of a last step. Who 'da thunk a week or so could slip away so fast? Sorry about the delay, I have started another project (yep, another... the frenetic gerbil is spinning the wheel at hyperspeed.) that sucked most of my time this last week as I tried to figure out how I wanted to tackle this particular mountain. The mountain STILL isn't climbed, but I have safely reached my first summit face, and the Sherpa's assure me I'm headed in the right direction.

Until then, there is a massive amount of turkey headed straight for most of us, so instead of my usual blog and a frantic attempt to catch myself back up on the Nerdly Plains I'm going to simply give you a quick overview of a few of my favorite chill buster ideas. The real blogging will start back up again on Sunday – once the Prime Geek and myself recover from our food comas.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving folks. Hug your families and spend a little time between feasts to be thankful for all the gifts in your life.

Quick Tips and Gifts for Keeping a Body Warm :

1) I confess... I almost feel guilty for this first one. Staying warm and staying green should entail hard work and sacrifice... not the convenience of simply plugging something in and flipping a switch. However, screw the guilt.... it has made my mornings blissful since I first unwrapped it (and hey, I gotta use a gift from my mom, right?) We all know of electric blankets. Most of us have even figured they are cheaper to run then the heat all night, so wrapping ourselves up toes to nose is often the first attack of beating the winter freezes. Sadly, as a married women... its an ephemeral bliss. My nights may START with both myself and hubby under the warming glow of the electric blanket, but by morning I'm left freezing and blue by a husband who whirlwinds in his sleep and wraps the blanket around himself. What's a gal to do? Last year, it meant I had to keep 4 or 5 extra blankets on my side. Not anymore! There is now an electric mattress pad, capable of generating constant warmth and comfort from below.... no matter how much your significant other my try and steal your covers! Bliss! Joy! Pure decadent hedonistic delight! (A bit much? Perhaps. But YOU wake up with warm toes for the first time in months and see how YOU feel about it.) Heck, its almost medically required. My back feels pretty good for sleeping on a crappy mattress. Trust me. This is an item you want Santa to bring.

2) Blankets aren't just for the bedroom. Here at Casa de' Nerd we have warm and cuddlies draped over the back of every seat, tucked into the corners of each room, and stacked beside the sofa. At this point, I should point out that not only are the Prime Geek and myself confirmed cuddle bugs, we throw a mean cuddle pile party. (Get your minds out of the gutter people!)

3) Acquire (if you haven't already) a FOS.... better known as a Fugly Old Sweater. These beloved objects may have absolutely NO style or sense of glamor. They must be either gifts from a color blind but well meaning relative, relics from your misspent youth, or the prize of a trip to the thrift store. They must be over sized, baggy, and most of all warm. This is a key piece of your armor against the ravages of winter. Keep it close at hand for the first sign of a draft or a chill. If this item doesn't set the teeth of at least one fashion forward friend on edge... its not gonna keep you warm. This is what you will drape over you in the morning stumble towards coffee, it is your go to grab for the jaunt to the mail box, and it must only leave your immediate area while being washed. (Not too often.... part of its protective shield is created by the smells of your home.) Resist any attempts to replace your FOS with a more attractive sweater. Be vigilant.... friends and family members will attempt to destroy it.

4) Now is the time to gather up all those mismatched socks that have gathered in the bottom of your underwear drawer. Seek these lone wolves out in the corners of your closet, follow your cats frantic drags under the stairs to the hidden sock lair. Wash all of these, using extra fabric softener. Once clean and soft, pile into a small basket and leave in the living room. Use these as instant slippers for wet feet, cold feet, and any bare feet that may wander past. You may hesitate to off a friend a pair of sock if they troop in with soaking boots, but a mismatched set is easy to hand off.

Stay warm and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Ta Ta For Now, from the Natural Nerd.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jeering at Jack Frost

I'll confess the following is a tad hard to write today. It might be the middle of November in the snowbelt, but someone forgot to tell that to the weather. It's a drizzly day with streaks of sunshine trying to emerge, and it must be at least 58° degrees outside. The furnace kicked off last night and hasn't even tried to warm the place, as the inside temperature is holding steady at a balmy 68° degrees all on its own.

Be that as it may be, this Indian summer can't last, and eventually we'll have to face the cold. If the news is to be believed, this winter is going to be harder on most of us... environmentally AND financially. Doom and gloom reports of possible price hikes for heating fuel – gas, oil & electric all seem to be in-line to rise as high as 40% above last years already high costs. As the proud owners of a lovely old (re : drafty) home, the Prime Geek and I are urgently attempting to weatherize our home before the snow flies.

The temptation is to simply crank the heat and hang the consequences, but... well. I'm too cheap. I know, I know. I could gussy it up and say that I was attempting to limit my family's carbon footprint, that I am strenuously trying to avoid using our dwindling fossil fuels, that we have decided to be vigilant in guarding our little green nest from the evils of corporate plundering of virgin land for oil... but the simple fact boils down to the basics.

I'm cheap. So is the Prime Geek. Toss into the equation our home is older (see above re: drafty as a dowager's drawers) and even WITH the heat ratcheted up to “Swedish Sauna”... it's hard to get the old girl above 68°. Frankly a $200-$300 monthly gas and electric bills is far too much to consider for a mere 68°... and that was at last year's prices. I shudder to think what it would cost us this year to try for a heat wave.

At the end of the month, the Prime Geek and myself are hoping to finally have installed our new soapstone woodburner. This will be our primary source of heat (along with being our occasional slow cooker) and we plan to use the gas for just cooking, heating water, and occasionally running our dryer. After the install is complete, I'm sure the PG will once again hijack this site to wax lyrically on his new toy and his own cleverness in obtaining said toy. Until then, we are trying to get the house wrapped up for winter, and see what all we can do to keep ourselves and the four terrors warm and comfortable this year. Having lived in various chilly abodes over the years, I have quite a few nerdly tricks up my sleeve to battle the season. The next week or so of blogs will be dealing with simple (and let's not forget CHEAP) ways you can keep yourself warm.... without having to sell a kidney or dig a coal mine to achieve it. They will be ranging from odds and ends you can score at your local resale shop, quick do-it-yourself projects for those brave enough to face either a sewing machine or a hammer, and the odd investment that has proved its worth already.

Jack Frost doesn't stand a chance.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Rebuttal to A Favored Writer

Today I'm going a little off topic, with very little nerdly or natural content. Pretty much all that will be in this particular post is just little old me discussing a small portion of my life. I hope you either read it and understand, or read it, roll your eyes, but come back in a few days when this rather lengthy mind burp is done. We'll see where it all shakes out in the end.

I should start things off I suppose, by explaining where this particular little mind diversion got started. Now, in addition to writing, attempting to run a nerdly natural nest, and more then a tad bit of sewing in my day.... I also spend my fair share of time surfing the web and reading some very talented peoples work. Some makes me laugh, some think, others groan. At times I find some that cause ideas to pop and yell for attention, becoming either springboards to my own writing or even flat rebuttals. Some of my favorites can be found over in the right side of this page if you're in the mood to wander. I'll warn in advance, a few aren't exactly work safe, so you might want to meander around on your own time.

Now, there are a few writers out there that I check every day. , are three such blogs that I eagerly await each new posting. All captains of well turned phrases, all intelligent (and often wonderfully snarky) disputants of a myriad of subjects. But today, it AD's site that caused a slight mental tizzy, coupled with both irritation and dread. I have started a dozen letters to him, (and I'll be sending him a link here, as I think this might be a clearer way to explain then any of the letters I began writing and gave up on.) some angry, some annoyed, a few that sounded frankly whiny, and several that just didn't clearly make my point. A few days ago, he posted another bit on the wonders of fibromyalgia... and that's where it all got terribly difficult for me.

Ambulance Driver is a marvelous writer, chronicling his life as (you might have guessed) an EMT. Funny, dryly droll, educated in his subjects. He has touched on fibro several times, once with me responding, and his latest with another sufferer taking their turn at bat. This time, I'm going to try it separately... and see if I can explain the perturbation his writing is causing some of us.

For those of you looking at this posting oddly, wondering just what the heck fibromyalgia is, allow me to give a quick(ish) explanation. Its a wonderful mixed bag of chronic pain and fatigue, often coupled with such party favors as IBS, heart arrhythmia's, allergies – chemical & environmental, mental fog, and... just as the perfect icing on the cake – depression. To be fair, fibro is really an umbrella term used to describe a whole collective of connecting “issues”. The best way to describe the pain element is to short hand it to – arthritis not in the bones but in the connecting tissue that holds everything together. If you have ever trimmed a roast, that thick silvery skin that keeps the muscles connected to muscles.... it in that. Fun. Now, why do I care about this? I was diagnosed three years ago. Now, don't get me wrong. Some days I'm fine. Beyond fine in fact. The reason the Prime Geek refers to me at times as a hamster on speed is when I'm having a good day, I spend most of it desperately trying to catch up and then get things done ahead for the bad days. I have a fun grab bag to deal with, pain is a pretty constant thing. Now, in my case... I've had health “issues” most of my life and my pain threshold is pretty high. It has to be, I simply have too much to do to sit out my life just because I hurt. But, it IS there. Cold damp days suck for me (the reason we camp in palatial style... or at least the excuse the PG gives to explain his thrill for the ostentatious!), as do severe weather changes. Moving is critical, if I'm still for too long my body will cramp, and that just gets ugly. I don't sleep much (laying still is worse then sitting still) and that no doubt plays a part in all the other issues. Hubby often thinks if I could just get a solid week of sleep in, I could catch my body up and have longer periods of good days. Still searching for something to shut my brain off (a mix of tylenol pm, over the counter sleeping pills, herbal tea that frankly tastes of horse piss, and the odd shot of vodka is where I am at the moment. Any suggestions, feel free to send me a hint.) so that is a case of maybe. No doubt its the lack of sleep that makes me tired, often gets me cranky, and leads to massive brain farts as my mind desperately tries to tunnel through all the assorted piles of crap to get to one needed thought.

I have the heart issue, in my case a fortunately mild malformation of a valve that while I pass out from time to time, my body has figured out how to essentially reboot itself once it figures out there is a problem. A moment or two of my blood not flowing, my brain kicks out its own Mayday yelp and I'm back in business. More annoying for me then anything else (my backside is well padded and injuries are usually nominal.) its more of a trauma for those around me. A 6'1 female suddenly going white and hitting the floor is a concern for any shorter person around me. My mom laughs that's one of the reasons I married the PG, if I fall on a power lifter I will not risk crushing him.

The fog? Check, got that too... but as a writer, I'm rarely without a pad and pen. With lists shoved in pockets and taped to walls, notes to check for lists on mirrors and computer screens, even reminders typed into my cellphones alarm, I manage to keep my life flowing more or less smoothly. The things that I do completely space out on, I have a portable brain (wave PG) usually somewhere near that I can pump for help.

IBS? Well, we covered that when I was discussing giving up toilet paper. There's a reason I don't have a magazine rack in my bathroom, I have a bookshelf. With the new laptop I'm considering having the Prime Geek build a lap desk to mount next to the toilet. Might as well be productive when I'm stuck in there, right?

Allergies? Check – fun ones too. I don't mind the food allergies all that much, although I could kill for a piece of my mom's banana bread some days, and I do miss shellfish. But the chemical ones are the biggies. Can't take most pain killers, as they would, well... kill me. Vikoden? Seizers. Oxy? Same. Anything with the word "Codone" or "Codeine" in it are big no-no's. Heck, if you wanted to find out where people are partying when they shouldn't, have me walk around, I'm better then a drug dog. One sniff of weed and I'm puking in the corner. Avoiding “those” kind of parties in college was no biggie, the thought of my dad killing me didn't keep me away, the thought of ruining my new leather boots did. Its these allergies that lead to so much difficulties in treating my fibro. If I can't take painkillers to manage the pain.... what can a doctor do other then pat me on the back and say “Sorry kid, it sucks to be you. Next incarnation try for an upgrade.” I've seen countless doctors, many who simply shrugged and admitted themselves to be at a loss. Only in the last few years was I able to find a doctor who could identify my “issues” and allergies as part of one illness. I lucked out and found the doctor who actually DID end up writing the book on fibro. Sadly, not all are as lucky as I.

Depression? Yeah. Sometimes. It's hard not to when you're hurting, aching, sitting in a bathroom being sick. Its a tad bit of a downer. Frankly, only the fact I have a sick and twisted sense of humor keeps me going at times. I laugh when normal folks cry, I get a morbid curiosity over what is gonna fall apart next. Its what keeps me sane(ish).

Which leads me to what started this post off in the first place. Apparently some folks are using fibromyalgia (a hard to diagnose, often MISdiagnosed, still not terribly well understood syndrome) to scam their way to hard core meds. I can fully understand how frustrating and sickening that would be for a heath care provider. I can sympathize with the annoyance of having drug dependent people littering up ER's and urgent care facilities with long lists of why they need their fix dragging them away from people who need REAL care. Honest. I get it. I can even see the humor in his post regarding the Fibromyalgia Claus ala' Virginia's Santa. AD even throws us a bone by stating “Just because I've never personally seen a legitimate fibromyalgia sufferer does not mean that they don't exist. It may just be that they're too busy living their lives to show up in an ER six times a month begging for a fix.” He states he's willing to believe in us, just that those that HE sees don't fit in his head as a real patient.

Too busy? Damn straight. Being 28 and having to have my husband remove the round shower handles and replace them with ones I CAN grip is embarrassing enough. Showing up at a hospital just isn't in my plans. Hades. It's hard enough to get me to a doctor anymore these days. And, frankly.... that reluctance is built on mindsets like AD's. Years of being thought I was lazy, stupid, mentally defective, unmotivated, or worse – all of the above make me dread going to the doctor. The day I found out there was a portion of my heart that was visibly not what it should be was an actual relief. I wasn't nuts! I wasn't lazy... frankly the doc was shocked when I rattled off my day to day list of things to get done. It took a seizure in the waiting room for another to realize I really WAS allergic to certain meds. (A cracked skull I was glad to get.) My tp usage is proof of the stomach issues. I've been poked and prodded, tested up and down,and swallowed more green glowing goo then anything that is landbased should ever contemplate ingesting.

I'm not nuts. I'm not lazy. I'm not a hypochondriac junkie looking for her fix. I live my life as best I can, always trying to find ways to work around my health issues. Some days all I need (as
one commenter on AD's blog stated) is a hot bath and a handful of tylenol. Others aren't as rosy... but I get through.

So why the rant? Why the need to address someone else's view on my own site? Why, to put it simply, am I doing this?

If a police officer said the following, how would you react? (Oh boy, I'm gonna get some nasty comments from this....) “All I even see are black men beating on their wives. Everyday, smacking their women and kids around. That's all black men are doing as far as I can see. Course, the good ones might just be living quietly, being good husbands. Perhaps. But all I see are black men beating down on people.”?

A politician who stated “All the gay men I know have been pedophiles. There may well be some good gay men out there. I just don't see them.”?

Riots in the streets, media screaming for their heads, or worse..... a Barbara Walters Special. (shudder) I respect AD. I do. I love his style, I'm thrilled he has book coming out. But, well, this part is the only section of a letter to AD I will write here.... maybe he'll read it, maybe not. But so its said....

Can we just drop the fibro=malingerers thing now? Yeah, you're having a rough time with people in the ER. I get that. I do. But at a time where fibro isn't really very well understood, when doctors are still arguing over treatments AND diagnosis, when people are still struggling to figure out what is wrong with them and why they just don't seem to be getting better... can we just drop the whole shtick? I'm the last person to scream for PC behavior, but at the moment you're making a lot of people's life that much harder. Saving face by hiding behind the lines of “You just haven't met them, they might be real” is perpetrating a bigger problem... and frankly it stopped being amusing awhile ago.

Lupus was once “All in our heads”. So was MS. You state in your own comments that you realize the majority of fibro sufferers are not the problem. That you fail to see the harm in you spouting off after a bad day. Here's the problem.

Not everyone reads through the comment following a post. To someone reading a site, written by a medical professional – you've essentially explained away fibro as nothing more than a crappy attempt to get prescription meds. To someone seeking information on a possible diagnosis... a MEDICAL professional has just waved it away. Yes, no one should self-diagnose or refute a doctor's diagnosis from something a humorous slice of life website says... sadly however, its a common things. PG calls it the Wallmart factor, ie – the lowest common denominator. You are an amazing writer with a huge audience. Several times now people have written into your comments reactions ranging from fury (a bit melodramatic, but some folks are) to despair, with a fair amount of frustration and epic long explanations and attempted reasoned replies... and yet it still gets dragged back up again in a few months.

Can it just be let go of now? Please? At this point its just getting worn into the ground. Your website, your point of view, your slice of life as it happens around you. I get that, but what I also get it there is power in words – be they written or spoken. Now it just comes off as a bit smug and somewhat pat. Please. Just move on.

I have never met a fibro patient who simply walked into an office and was clapped on the back with an instant diagnosis of fibro. Most of us endure years of misdiagnoses, meds that cause more ills then good, dark periods of wondering if we really ARE just nuts (lazy, stupid, what have you). Maybe we did something wrong, was it a punishment... why can't we fix it and get better. There is no magic pill to pop, no surgery that will render us better once the bandages are off. If we're lucky, we have a lifetime of searching and researching ahead of us, therapies to try, diets to follow, exercises to do, and family members to placate. We often hear the chant of “But, you LOOK fine.....” and either have to keep silent to avoid the views such as yours or accept the stares and doubts and try to educate those around us in the hope that in time others will have an easier life because we tried to explain.

If all you see in your ER are the fakes and the phonies... before you smirk and dismiss so many others who, as you said yourself, are simply trying to live their lives quietly... look around for us. Take an afternoon and read sites like for the facts, or track down one of us and talk to us. Most of the ones just trying to live their lives will be happy to answer anything that might help others skip the path we had to walk to a diagnosis.

I think you might be surprised.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Wonderfully Warm

This week seems to have been fixating pretty firmly on one concept above all others – being warm. I started the week pulling carpet, then our local chimney sweep gave our plan of a soapstone woodburner the official go ahead. A cord of wood has been ordered... and plans to split and stack several more have been laid. At the moment, I am dawdling over my next big sewing project of two new winter skirts, both out of fuzzy polartec – long enough to warm my feet when curled up in a chair. The bizarre weather that plagued us all September and October is finally at an end (air conditioners on high in October? Global warming became a tad more real to this nerd!) and we seem to be settling into the pattern of hunkering down and playing ant vs grasshopper.

So, as I dither over which needs done first – new slippers or skirts, knitting or sewing – I'll let you in on what is bubbling away in my cauldron at the moment.

The BEST Beef Stew (bar none, no exceptions – she said modestly)

1 beef chunk (at least a pound, more for crowds or greedy carnivores, less if you're eating this alone – although, leftovers of this are a wonderful thing to contemplate when refrigerator rummaging.... chuck, stew meat, blade, whatever. I'll be honest, there are about 2 ½ pounds cooking away as I write this, and I'm not planning on sharing with anyone other then the Prime Geek. ) Just chop into rough bits, about an inch cube works well. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Heat a touch of olive oil in a heavy stew pot. Toss in the meat. Now. LEAVE IT ALONE! Just for a minute, but resist the urge to mess with it. If you must keep your hands busy, chop an onion into rings and crush up some garlic cloves (how much garlic is up to you. My mom uses 2 cloves, I use the whole bulb.) Once the meat has brown a bit, scootch it around and brown each side, toss in the onion and garlic.

At this point, part of the magic begins. First, pour in a tad of gravy master (its in a small bottle in the seasoning section. Only substance in the world that simply tastes.... brown. But in a good way.) and then open two (2) bottles of Honey Brown beer. (Sadly, they only come in 6 or 12 packs. You'll have to figure out what to do with the rest. Beer bread is one way to go..... chilled and drunk while eating the stew is another.) Pour this over the sizzling meat. Watch out, its gonna foam. Add to within 2 inches of the top of the pan beef broth (canned, homemade, or made with water and beef base all work. No time to get picky.) Lid on, and turn down to low.

Simmer at least 2 hours..... but longer is always better. If the liquid boils away to much, add more broth. 2 hours makes it fine, 6 hours makes it spectacular.

When you can't keep the wolves at bay any longer (try bribing with beer if possible to allow it a bit more time to cook) lift off the lid, raise the heat, and drop in potatoes and carrots. I usually use peeled white potatoes chunked into slightly larger then bitesize and peeled carrots cut into rough matchsticks – but use what you have. Prefer the peels? Leave 'em on. Like more onions? Toss them in. Any root veg will work here, turnips to parsnips, sweet potatoes and reds.

Lid and cook until the veggies are soft and your stomach is threatening to climb out and grab the stew without waiting for you.

Eat. Loosen your pants. Eat a bit more. Go to bed. - Alcohol or not, rambunctious behavior is not encouraged directly after consuming. Food comas likened to those of the major holidays have been known to occur.