Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Move to www.GesundheitArt.com

I have migrated Gesundheitart Art from Blogger to its own web space located at www.gesundheitart.com.  At the new website you can follow the blog via email, RSS (www.gesundheitart.com/feed) or simply update your bookmarks.

Thanks for reading and thanks for the blogging love, Blogger.

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Give Me Something Good to Eat

When I get restless I go walk circles around my neighborhood in the evening.  Usually I am on autopilot, walking wherever the sidewalk takes me and not worrying too hard about Mother Nature.  The other night I did that and nearly walked into a HUGE spider web.  It was stretched from tree to sidewalk to mailbox and hosted an appropriately sized spider approximately the size of a basketball.  It wasn't your standard cobweb.  It was a deadly trap.

I have come to peace with a lot of my fears.  I have the courage to talk in front of a crowd, look over the edge of a high building, and am comfortable with the traditional icky things like blood, guts, small rodents, and snakes.  But spiders?  Uh-uh.  I consider it a personal victory I have let the pea sized one live on the outside corner of my garage door for the past week.

So maybe I have uncovered some restraint in my arachnophobic soul and mastered the Art of Not Squishing the small spiders.  They are supposed to be good for the environment and I like the environment so I can work to be okay with them.  But the HUGE ASS spider right in my way on my nightly haunt of the neighborhood waiting for me to walk into his web so he can wrap me up in a cocoon for later?  NOT COOL AT ALL.  I might avoid that particular cul-de-sac for the next year.  I can only be grateful Mr. Spider chose to build his web where I could see it underneath a bright streetlight, presumably to catch all the tasty light loving bugs that hang around there.

Of course I know Mr. Spider's real secret.  He is obviously staking out his spot for Halloween night when he is going to catch all the small and juicy trick-or-treaters in his web.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Motorcycle Class

I am excited to announce have crossed an item off my bucket list: attend and pass the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Basic Rider Course.  The Pirate's preferred mode of transportation is a hefty Burgman scooter with a 650cc engine and I want (and need) to be able to drive it, gosh darn it.

The Basic Rider Course is a two day, weekend course designed to take n00bs like me who have never driven a bike before and give a crash course in how to not crash a motorcycle.  There is book learning to make sure you know the theory, and then they take you out to the parking lot and sit you down on a 250cc motorcycle where you spend the rest of your time learning to safely control the bike around cones and corners and Oh-shit-STOP-NOW stops.  At the end of the weekend if you pass both the written and riding tests they give you a waiver to take down to the DMV and ta-da!  You are licensed to drive anything on two wheels with an engine over 50cc.

I was not entirely new to the world of motorcycles.  Before the Burgman the Pirate and I had a little 125cc scooter I would occasionally drive on the weekends when my motorcycle permit was current.  Since we have upgraded and my permit expired, my motorcycle experience has been relegated to the passenger seat of the Burgman, which is a lot more akin to riding an armchair down the highway than it is to driving a vehicle.

Given my background I was not expecting this course to be super hard.  I knew how to lean into turns, I could swerve if needed, I was (pretty) confident I would not drop the bike, and I had a kickass sparkly helmet.  But dudes!  I seriously earned that waiver they gave me at the end.  It was challenging both mentally and physically.   The information, though pretty basic, came fast and heavy.  The weather was hot and sitting on the bike all day made my hands, shoulder, and butt hurt.  (It always surprises me how much more physical riding a motorcycle is than driving a car.  My horse riding skills from childhood summer camps got put to good use on my practice bike.)  The obstacle courses we rode were challenging enough I had to focus on every. single. run.  It was not easy, but it was doable and if I paid attention, put in all my effort, and exorcised my bad attitude every time it reared its ugly head.

My biggest challenge was all motorcycles are manual, so that required I learn to squeeze the clutch and shift gears on cue.  I had only ever driven automatic cars and scooters up until this weekend.  Trying and failing for the umpteenth time to shift from first gear into neutral on an old and cranky bike when I knew the Burgman scooter I would be returning to was an automatic?  Not my best moment.  Fortunately the kind instructors took pity on me and switched me to a newer, easier shifting bike.  By the end of the weekend I was not a pro, but I was enjoying myself and most of the time I could get into second gear without any issue and only stalled the engine out occasionally.  (Dear practice bike, I am sorry if I hurt you by stalling you out so much.  Thanks for always turning back on!  I was always worried you wouldn't....)  Nevertheless, I am tremenously grateful we have an automatic bike so I can spend less time shifting gears and more time enjoying the scenery.

If anybody is interested in learning how to ride a motorcycle or looking for a way to get their license, I would definitely recommend whatever equivalent course you have in your area.  It provides you with a bike to learn on (Hooray for the practice bike that has already been dropped!!  I love you, practice bike.  <3), access to knowledgable, enthusiastic instructors, and structured exercises that will build your skills and muscle memory to keep you safe on the road.  It was an invaluable stepping stone to learning to safely ride the Pirate's prized Burgman.  By the end of the weekend I felt very comfortable on the practice bike both running through the basics and trying new skills.  I was riding!  I had fun hanging out with my fellow students.  I am proud I learned a new skill and persisted when I got really frustrated and was outside my comfort zone.

And as a bonus to getting my motorcycle license?  My instructor says that since I passed the tests I am totally allowed to get a biker tattoo now.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stress: The Action Plan

A co-worker recently asked me how I deal with work stress.  Because all this overtime?  More stress, less time to deal with it.  So here's my action plan, because life is more manageable with action plans.
Summary: Prioritize self-care!  Self care = functionality = less stress.  I am a big believer in the mind-body connection, so a lot of dealing with stress for me is making sure my body (and therefore mind) is up to the task.

1.  Go to bed early.  Hoard sleep like it is going out is style.

2.  Eat good foods.  Eat non-processed, low sugar, whole foods like avocado, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, lentils, oatmeal, salmon, and cottage cheese.  Walk away from the donuts, especially on an empty stomach.  Sugar + stress = crazed weasel tendencies.  The temporary burst of taste is so not worth it.  PS - srsly.  I mean it.  Even the Smarties.  They do not make you smarter.

3.  Meditate.  Let go.  When in doubt, take deep breaths.

4.  Pamper with food, hot baths, and well-loved books.

5.  Spend time alone to re-charge.  Hi, I'm Ondrea and I'm an introvert!  Go away (please).

6.   Take the easy way when possible and be forgiving.  Say no to obligations I will not have the energy for, let non-essential chores slide, and sometimes spend extra money for more convenience.

7.  Stick to routine. Boring, yet beneficial.  Also, autopilot clears headspace for other things.

8.  If the stress is work related, I keep my nose to the grindstone.  Eyes on the prize.

9.  Keep the negativity you exude and consume to a minimum.  Ruminating only extends the pain.   Glom onto the positive instead.  Laugh instead of cry.

10.  Move your body.  Walk.  Stretch.  Bellydance.  Yoga.  Play Fruit Ninja on the X-Box Kinect. Unfold your hunched shoulders.

11.  When your boss tells you to go home, go home.

12.  Write an action plan that gives me stepping stones.  Boil life down to to-do lists.  Post on blog since blog posts can't be misplaced like post-it notes can.  Refer to when needed.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Autoimmune Diseases in Rats: A Case Study

Several months ago we had to say goodbye to one of our pet rats, Percy.  Rats are a relatively uncommon pet and do not have the same knowledge infrastructure as the more popular pets.  I publish his symptoms and story here for anybody else frantically googling in the middle of the night like I was:

I picked Percy up from a Petsmart. I honestly intended to go with a rat rescue to honor my animal shelter roots, but I played with him on a whim and it was akin to being hit by a spiritual truck. I was a gonner and had to have him.  He bloomed into an intelligent, feisty, and adventurous companion. His favorite thing to do was follow you around the house in his over-sized hamster ball.  He never sat still unless it was to gobble a dried cherry.

In the space of a weekend road trip when he was about a year and a half old, I came home to discover he had scratched all the fur off behind both his front legs.  There were quarter sized patches of scabs while the rest of his fur remained glossy and healthy.  His upper lips were also swollen.  A skin scraping at the vet turned up mites, so we started treatment for both rats in our house (each were already housed individually).   The vet also prescribed antibiotics in an effort to treat the lip.  Then more concentrated antibiotics because Percy was sneaky about spitting the doses out. Then a different combination of concentrated antibiotics because there were hints of improvement. A ring worm test turned up negative. 

Meanwhile, the other rat in the house (who kind of became the default "control" rat to rule out infectious disease even though I kept them very separate) continued happy and healthy and Percy's scabby patches grew and his lip became even more swollen and started scabbing over.  He started loosing weight so I switched his diet to soft baby food in an effort to keep weight on him, which he devoured.

Finally, the vet gave me the steroid prednisone.  And it worked!  Rapidly, Percy's fur started to grow back, the scabs fell off his lip and swelling reduced, his energy that had drained away came back, and he gained weight. Around the time I tried to taper his dose of steroids down, he took a turn for the worse. Within a week I had lost all progress gained plus more, and no matter what I did I could not reverse it.  My poor Percy looked like a miserable plague rat carrying a whole host of infectious diseases, and you could finally tell he felt awful because he stayed in one place for extended periods of time, wouldn't eat his favorite treats, and got super snuggly (adventure rats don't sit still long enough to snuggle). We made the gut wrenching choice to have him put down instead of having him decline into nothingness.  It was the first time I have ever had to make the euthanasia decision and though I believe it was necessary, I do not wish to make it again in a hurry.

Side note that did not sit anywhere else, but might be useful to somebody: I had a cat in high school who was also diagnosed with an autoimmune disease where prednisone was the treatment.  Albert presented with the same swollen upper lip as Percy, but instead of raw patches on his shoulders Albert's paws would bleed.  After several years Albert's end was also euthanasia.  I noticed and worried about similarities early on in Percy's illness, but the vet seemed quite convinced antibiotics were the best initial treatment in the hopes the illness wouldn't require steroids.


Ugh.  I have been trying for weeks to think of an adequate closing to this post, to give some sort of closure beyond e-hugs and love and sympathy to anybody else going through this.  I even thought about not posting it because why dwell on the end when there was so much good before that?  Somehow I do not think Percy would understand my brooding.  Rats are the greatest teacher of zen I know.  Falling in love with a creature who has a big personality and naturally short lifespan only serves as a reminder to stay anchored in the present moment and enjoy the good while it exists alongside you.

Monday, September 23, 2013

ACME Overtime

Just as life settled down after an awesome wedding and travel season and I was beginning new projects....BAM.  Like Wile E. Coyote in that shining moment of promise before he grabs the roadrunner I got hit with a LOT of overtime at my day job.  My boss is convinced I sleep under my desk, my loved ones feel unloved, and the lizards don't recognize me (not that they ever did....)

It is not the worst thing by any means as I enjoy the opportunity for a challenge and the bump in my paycheck (Thanks for the shiney new iPad, overtime pay!), it does mean in the low moments I feel like weeping for lack of time and energy for creative pursuits.  Though it is stress release to type out drafts of blog posts during lunch, energy for editing to publish is scarce.  When I get home I usually opt to play free iPad games that take a long time to play and often require minimal cognitive effort. (For anybody interested: Pocket Minions, My Singing Monster, Skylanders, and Tribez)

It unexpected how much I appreciate the opportunity to put my nose to the grindstone on a large corporate project.  It reminds me of the rythm of school more than my own projects do.  School had a seasonality to it.  I would loaf through the first few weeks while I built a routine and marveled at the newness of my supplies and subject matters.  After fall break things pick up a head of steam until the critical pitch of finals where you drink so much coffee that your hands vibrate when you type and you giggle nervously at nothing.  Once finals are done there is the release of energy and recovery period before it all begins again.  My nine-to-five cubical job, which pretty much does the same thing all day, every day, doesn't create the same yearly work cycles in my life.  Being busy at school usually fueled a burst of energy in my independent pursuits even if I didn't always have the time and energy to see them through.  I find the same thing happening now.

In a month or two my workload will migrate to the desks of others, I will get some good sleep, and I will try to capture some of the corporate momentum for my own purposes.  Until then, if anybody has some free and easy iPad games to recommend...I would love to hear them!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

There is probably a life lesson somewhere here

I was recently gifted a blender by Mudflap, who tends to adopt flotsam and jetsam of the material world and try to find a home for it.  I often pick up my phone to find a picture text with the caption: "Do you want this?"  It's kind of like a year-round Secret Santa, only more random.

The blender he turned up is a hardworking little machine.  It is a thing of beauty because it provides crushed ice for the Pirate and smoothies for me.  Yet I find myself running into the age-old problem: when I make a smoothie, I want to put EVERYTHING TASTY into it. I toss in whatever is in the fridge.  Spinach, flax seed, yougurt, orange juice, random fruit that needs eating.  This results in a smoothie bursting with nutrients, but perhaps not quite as delicious if I had restricted the ingredients.  This is a chronic pattern of behavior whenever I "build my own" food item.  Frozen yogurt, stir fry, sub sandwiches, salad bars. I pile my plate so full of delicious goods that the flavors run together and I end up not really tasting them at all.  I notice this with recipes too.  The fewer ingredients the recipe has, the tastier it is and the more I like it.  

Note to self: taste is not additive or exponential in nature.  Possibly with the exception of butter.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blogging Boundaries

Okay, I admit it.  I was nervous about the IUD post going up, and ever since then I have struggled with the impulse to post a lot to bump it down the front page.  The post garnered a lot of page views fast (yeah, I'm totes watching you guys) but dang was it scary to publish.  I was actually forced to post it early because I hit the "publish" button instead of the "save draft" button and caught the mistake a bit too late to take it back.  Instead of freaking out I took a deep breath and concluded it was the universe giving me a gentle nudge in the publishing direction.

Blogging and boundaries is a topic never ceases to fascinate me.  On the one hand, it would be very easy to pour my soul into this blog.  Letters to the world.  I love writing letters and sharing secrets and telling stories.  On the other hand, privacy WHAT.  As I was growing up I hoarded privacy and put significant energy into controlling who knew what.  Slowly I have opened up, thanks to five years in an liberal college environment, yet I still tend to become hostile when I learn unintended people have learned something I meant for private ears only.   And my wee blog on teh internets?  Why, it is open to EVERYBODY.  How bloody terrifying is that?  VERY.  Mean, judgmental people are out there!!  Instead of hyperventilating, I try to look at the flipside: How friggen awesome is that?  VERY.  Friends and besties and social connections ahoy!

The ironic thing is the blogs I love the best are the ones that bear all.  Joys, fears, pain, challenges, laughter, advice.  As a reader there is nothing I like more than feeling I am a best friend the author is imparting secrets to.  I devour archives and life stories.  I swear I'm not a stalker, but I do sometimes feel like a creeper who should occasionally send out an email saying "HI THERE. I read all your secrets.  In exchange, a list of my secrets is attached.  Kthxbai."

So here I am, trying to strike a balance.  Trying to be respectful of my friends and family and employers that might not want their stories shared while being true to my own.  Trying to follow my intuition and write soulful posts I would really like as a reader, even when they take courage and personal pep talks to post.  Trying not to be a perfectionist and edit my archives to erase or update my story.  Trying not to make this blog into something it's not or somebody else's vision.

So here's to future blog posts and the archives of the past: may I be a writer who is brave and coherent enough to tell a story that contributes to the blogging world and seeks to repay the joy I have reaped for so many years.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday morning hoorays

1. With the magic of one cross-country flight I get to spend the next few days with some of my favorite people.  HOORAY!!

2.  I made it to the airport with no snafus! (I am always paranoid about this.) Hooray!

3.  I get to see a new region of the country.  Adventures ahoy!

4.  See number 1.  And they're totally getting married too.  Hooray!!

5.  *Censored secret things* Hooray!!

6. I am totally shoe twins with the lady sitting across from me. 

7. Boarding!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ask Me About My IUD

A heads up to readers:  This posts talks about the female reproductive system.  Menstrual cycle, methods of birth control, sex.  If this doesn't interest you, please move along!  Thanks.

When I was trawling the internet one day I came across a post on A Practical Wedding about birth control.  One of the comments said "I love my IUD!  I want a shirt that says 'Ask me about my IUD."  This blog post is my equivalent to that shirt.  It is what I would have wanted to read when I was researching my birth control options because the actual process of getting an IUD freaked me out.

As you read this post, please keep in mind that your body is completely different from mine.  What works for me might not work for you.  As always with random medical information you find on the internet, please talk to your doctor about these things!


When I was younger my menstrual cycle was very erratic.  Halfway through high school I was placed on a hormonal form of birth control.  It was a little pill I took every day.  It significantly lightened my periods, made them predictable, and was a very positive change in my life even if it was a pain in the butt to remember to swallow it every day.

When I graduated college my health insurance shifted and I thought it was a good time to try changing things up.  I really wanted to see how my body reacted to no hormones; a general life rule for me is that if I can go simpler, I will. Plus, I really got tired of remembering to take that little pill Every. Single. Day.  So I stocked up on condoms, told the Pirate what I was doing, and stopped taking it.  The results were mixed: I noticed a significant improvement in my depression, my skin became a lot more sensitive and acne prone, and my periods remained regular and manageable.  I'll take it, hooray!!  

Even though the condom does have many things to recommend it, I was interested in something that was more permanent and more auto-pilot.  Because condoms?  Have to be put on Every. Single. Time.  Off to google I went to research my options.  Short of surgical sterilization (too permanent for my tastes) the only option that did not have hormones, was reliable, and could be placed on autopilot was a copper IUD.  For more information on what an IUD is (I am not the expert), this article from Planned Parenthood does a good job of explaining the options.

Feeling quite confident in my decision but hella nervous about actually having the implantation procedure done, I booked an appointment with my doctor.  I shared my reproductive health history, listened to the options my doctor presented, and pestered him with questions.  I learned that:
1) It was expensive!  Fortunately my health insurance covered it.  HOORAY!!
2) I could not get it that appointment.  I had to come back after they ran their required tests and checked with my insurance.
3)  Also, the implantation appointment had to be schedule when I was on my period.  Since I have not given birth, that was the time my cervix would be the most willing to have something shoved through it.  (Yeah, I know.  It's not rainbows and unicorns.)  My doctor also performed a pelvic exam to gauge whether or not I could sit still through the IUD implantation process and to see if my uterus, which has not been stretched out by pregnancy, was actually big enough to accommodate the IUD.  

Everything aligned and I showed up a month later to get my IUD.  My internet travels had told me some women had a painful implantation process and some were so unaffected they were able to go right back to work afterwards.  I aired on the side of caution and took a half day vacation from work, ensuring I would have time to take myself out for celebratory ice cream after the appointment.  Or curl up in horrible agony, either one.

How was the pain?

Not bad, actually.  It was a mixture between getting a body part pierced, a few painful menstrual cramps, and that unpleasant feeling you get from the dentist of you-know-it's-good-for-you-but-what-you-can-feel-squicks-you-out-something-fierce.  For how incredibly nervous I was going into the appointment, the pain did not live up to my expectations.  Uncomfortable?  Heck yes.  Painful?  I've had stubbed toes that hurt worse.  I did notice tenderness that lasted for at least a week after.  It went away after I spent an afternoon bending updownupdown searching for the perfect 3 alphabet mugs out of 300 mugs on the top shelf of a local home goods store in a fit of wedding craftiness.  It's like it got popped into place or something.

How was the implantation procedure?

The actual implantation procedure was like a very intense pap smear.  The doctor had me take ibuprofen before I arrived and he gave my cervix some of the pain meds they give to your gums during oral surgery.  Then my feet went up in the stirrups and I tried to patiently sit and meditate through my breathes while the doctor fiddled with my girly bits.  It only took a few minutes with a few unfortunate extra minutes since my cervix didn't want to cooperate.  It's not open heart surgery, but it's not a pap smear either.

How was the emotional side of things?

Whenever the doctor would leave the room and I didn't have to put my brave face on I would start shivering uncontrollably from nervousness.  That surprised me.  I knew I was nervous, but I didn't know I was that nervous!    I had procrastinated on the IUD for at least a year because I dreaded the implantation process so much.  Once I was done, though?  I felt like I could do *anything.*  It was one of the more empowering experiences I have had, which was unexpected.  For various reasons the Pirate was unable to come to the appointment, but gave a lot of support in the form of hugs and dinner and flowers when he got home.

Can you feel it?

I was very aware of it for the first two weeks or so.  But as my body adjusted to it, kind of like adjusting to a new piercing, it was relegated more and more to the "oh yeah, this happened" box instead of the "Hello, this is currently happening" box.  Once it got popped into place after that afternoon of bending updownupdown I don't notice it at all.

How's the sex?

Yay!  :D  It took me a while to feel comfortable with the whole "I have this random metal thing in my uterus, let's have some sexytimes!" thing, but you know...practice makes perfect!  Communicate to your partner what you are feeling.  Every once and a while we can feel it, so whenever we do we simply change positions.

Have you noticed any change in periods?

The first few periods after implantation were a few days longer than normal and super heavy.  Like, maybe-I-will-just-hang-out-on-the-toilet-all-day heavy.  Once my body has adjusted to the new addition, the periods went back to their normal level.  Thank goodness!

tl;dr Logistics summary, please?

  • 3 doctor's appointments (initial, implantation, follow up) over 2 months
  • $1000ish that insurance covered
  • 1/2 day vacation (I totally had the best ice cream date with myself afterwards)
  • 1 week of tenderness
  • 3 months of heavy periods
  • 10 years of birth control! w00t w00t!

Help, I'm still nervous!

E-hugs, love, and support to you!  You can do it!

I have a random question about IUDs and birth control.

I am not who you should ask; I can only speak to my own personal experience.  You should ask a medical expert.  Please keep in mind that your body is completely different from mine.  What works for me might not work for you.  As always with random medical information you find on the internet, please talk to your doctor about these things!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Learning to Write Again

When I was younger, I used to write.  Like, Write.  With good grammar and clever words and everything.  I wanted to be a fiction writer.  I went to a week-long writer's camp for several summers and did extra work to pay my way.  I wrote creatively for as many school projects as I could.  Inventive stories bubbled out of me, inspired by everything I saw.  I interned for the local paper.  I participated in my high school literary arts magazine and was head editor my senior year.  In the evenings I wrote long emails and snail mail letters to friends and family on a daily basis. I scribbled in every spare moment in my journals.  I had so many handwritten journals I had my own private library of Ondrea's Innermost Thoughts and Angst. Buying new journals was the Best. Feeling. Ever.

Then I got to college and I slowed down.  I was required to write with a more academic slant.  I was no longer enrolled in classes that prescribed my kind of creative fiction because I was taking classes that would give me Practical Skills for the real world.  Trying to build a career of freelance writing (or anything artsy) worried me because it didn't come with steady benefits like a 401(k) or health insurance.  Plus, science!  I am from several generations of scientists and heard the lab coats beckoning.  My story well stopped bubbling and dried completely.  I stopped reading fiction because I had a hard time finding adult authors I liked, so when I started reading mostly non-fiction.  My emails got sloppy with punctuation and run-on sentences. I switched to knitting instead of scribbling non-stop.  When journaling, it was simply to-do lists and things I needed to remember and bits of inspiration.  I bought no journals.


Suddenly, I am ready to write again.  My story well is bubbling with new prompts, only this time they are mostly non-fiction.  Except it is harder than I anticipated to get my groove back.  I re-read things I write and think I need to be whacked with the Grammar Nazi Stick.  I have an awesome idea but when I sit down at my computer I stare at the blank screen and shuffle words around like puzzle pieces that you suspect don't quite fit but you have to hold them up to the light to see if any shines through the cracks to be sure.

But sometimes, when I hit that sweet spot?  The judgement stops and words flow and they are exactly what I need them to be, grammatically perfect or not.  I don't feel the need to delete.  I look up and realize it's hours and paragraphs later.  I feel my intuition thawing, wiggling, waking up to a writer who the same but different than the writer it left several years ago.  And I think Yes. Welcome back and it's good to be home.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday Hoorays

I give you a most enthusiastic Hello!! from my couch on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  I am feeling very grateful today, so here is a round of hoorays:

Hooray for Houseguests!

When I was scribbling my hopes, dreams, and To Do items for 2013 in January, I put "see friends and family" on there.  Adulthood can be kind of lonely and boring, and I am keen to keep in touch.  Since then we have been happily bowled over by entreaties to couch surf with loved ones and loved ones who generously travel, often long distances to see us.  We just finished a week with family that was filled with tasty food, local attractions (Aquarium!!!), and late night zombie games.  The house we live in now is perfect for hosting, and I am working on improving my hostess skills.  This round of houseguests I finally invested in some folding chairs to expand our seating possibilities and it improved the experience more than I anticipated.  I never thought I would be so excited about folding chairs (I totally got the fancy kind with cushions).

Still having fun with Instagram

Hooray for Belly Dancing!

While I am rather good at tasks that require small motor skills like drawing, knitting, and threading needles, I am terribly uncoordinated when it comes to moving my whole body coherently.  My only attempts at body choreography was a modern dance class and about a year practicing the martial art of Aikido in college.  I had been looking for opportunities to move my body again (and had even wished for belly dancing) when a local friend posted on her Facebook wall looking for a belly dance partner.  Heck yes!  I jumped on board and am absolutely loving it.  The studio is welcoming and upbeat, women of all ages, races, and body types are welcomed with open arms, and the style of danc is something I can actually follow.  Plus, the classes are pay-as-you-go and fit into my schedule and budget.  I've been going for a few months and it is the best way to begin my weekend.

Hooray for Belly Button Piercings!

I toyed with the idea of a belly button piercing in high school, but I kept denying myself and waiting for the "perfect body."  It occurred to me a week ago that my self esteem is a whole lot better and I enjoy my body as it is, so I went out and rewarded myself with a belly button piercing today.  I suppose this hooray could alternatively be titled "Hooray for not being a teenager wading through depression and angst!"  But that isn't nearly as fun.  :)  

What are your hoorays today?

Sunday, July 21, 2013


tl:dr  I'm on Instagram as GesundheitArt.  It might be cheesy and I might be late to the trend, but it makes me happy!


It wasn't until I sorted through all my childhood paraphenalia that I realized how much my life revolved around photography as I was growing up.  It was a hobby that both family and friends embraced.  I spent many hours posing, taking, developing, and printing pictures.  To me it was a universal art that could be shared with everyone important, creating memories as well as preserving them.   It is the reason I now have 10+ boxes of photo albums detailing the first 18 years of my life.  I put the hobby on hold in college for lack of materials and a thirst to try new things, but I am nagged by this persistant desire to spend a whole month's rent on a droolworthy, digital SLR camera.

Of course, my inner Scrooge thinks this is a terrible idea.  A whole month's rent??  Do you know what you could DO with that money?  Pay the rent!  Geeze Louise.  You always procrastinated processing digital photos anyways.  Would you actually use the camera if you bought it?  If you really want to just post snapshots online, you can jolly well use Instagram.  It's FREE.

My Ego protested that Instagram was too popular and overdone and so not my thing before being whacked upside the head by the thought "Screw you Ego, why don't you want to be happy?"*

Ever since then I've been happily Instagramming away.  My joy was compounded when I started experimenting with hashtags (it pays to be easily amused sometimes).  It is not professional grade photography and a digital SLR is very likely still in my future, but this free app fills a need in my life I had forgotten about.  I like taking pictures.  At this moment in time I am in love with shapshots.  I like sharing the details I notice with other people.  Instagram is a way to do that, and the rent still gets paid.  Hooray!

*yes, window to my brain right here.

Come again another day

For the billionth time this summer, it is raining.  Dark and kinda dreary with pitpatpitpatpat on the roof and flashes of lightning through the window.

It is the perfect day to stay inside and Get Shit Done because my to do list, oh!  She has a clarity I have sought after for years and is a thousand miles long and I am soclose to jumping on my dreams.  But my attention span wanes and my drawing hand is sloppy and I find myself staring into space in the middle of thoughts.

So instead of muddling through my arts I try to take breaks to refuel with family time, fresh green foods, homemade pretzels, lavender bath salts, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, and sleep.  I try to embrace taking care of myself and recognizing the crash after the creative burst, the rain that comes after the sun.  Life is a balance.  I know this.  I try not to get overly fussed about it.  But dang.  Do I have a hard time with my brain not playing the following on infinite repeat:

Rain rain go away
come again another day

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Operation Avocado: Week 1

For anybody interested, I used the method outlined here.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday morning hoorays

So I ended up at my belly dancing lesson an hour early (instead of researcing times last night I just kind of fell into bed...it was one of those weeks) and I was kind of disgruntled because All The Projects are at home a long drive away and what was I going to do for an hour besides shopping that I don't want or need to do and also I forgot my knitting?

OH WAIT! Here is my fully charged smartphone with the internets.  Internets, instead of being disgruntled I am going to tell you about my life with some hoorays:

1. Pirate and I are married!  While I loved our wedding and wish it could have been a whole day affair instead of just an evening one, I am overjoyed at the emotional, mental, and physical space I have now I am not wedding planning.  (Seriously, one year of planning for 7 hours?  Per APW, I suppose it's all about defining the relationship instead of just the party.)  Married life is peaceful and amazing and I wouldn't trade it or the journey that got us here for anything.  Hoooray!

2.  While the two weeks of waiting for it after the wedding were excruciating, the honeymoon itself was awesome! We went on a cruise to the Caribbean.  We spent most of the wedding weekend seperate due to different social obligations, so it was exceptionally nice to have the honeymoon as a unifying (tasty, sun drenched, tropical, caarefree) experience. Hooray!

3. This hedge I am parked by.  What can I say, I like hedges.  I park next to them at work too.  Hooray!

4. Unexpected time to blog. I am off to write posts on different subjects now.  Hooray!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Parade of Socks: Online Merino

Yarn: Online sock yarn that had a lot of merino in it (sorry, old post from the drafts folder....I lost the ball band long ago)
Pattern: my own basic with rib and wrap-and-turn heel

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Parade of Socks: Random Bin Cotton Socks

Pattern: Basic ribbed with wrap-and-turn heel
Yarn: Something that was mostly cotton that the Pirate found for free in the dorm hallway, woo!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Parade of Socks: Stranded Show-Off Tofutsies

Yarn: Tofutsies (Can I say how much I love Tofutsies.  Makes an awesome fabric that holes up amazing.  Note for those who like stretchy fabrics: Not stretchy)
Pattern: Show Off Stranded Socks with clever heel

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Parade of Socks: Malabrigo Stockings

Yarn: Malabrigo Sock
Pattern: (modified) Evening Stockings for a Young Lady (Ravelry link)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Impatience. Excitement! Also, death.

With big events I tend to wait until the last minute to get excited, and when I do I want the exciting thing to be here NOW.  This means that all the excitement for our wedding (now LESS than a month away!) pounced on me this weekend as I wrapped up some of the final wedding projects.  I'm having a hard time sitting still, having any other expression on my face other than a stupid grin, and I am repeatledly checking the counter on my Wedding Party picture app as the day ticks ticks ticks closer.  I feel like I should be writing this post in ALL CAPS because I am SO EXCITED.  Excited to see this thing we have been planning for a year to bloom, excited to see friends and family from across the country, and excited to be upgraded from fiancee to husband and wife. Excitement!  Impatience!!

This is in stark contrast to my job where I read about death all day.  I open a chart and read about someone dying who bears striking resemblance to one of my loved ones and my heart aches for what that family is going through.  It is an odd juxtoposition to my happy home life and the wedding only seeks to magnify the differences.  It makes me hug the Pirate to excess, give my people calls and emails, and write Hoorays! posts.

It also, oddly, made me wig out a bit yesterday and buy lots of random bath products and a single purple cabbage.

29 days 6 hours 6 minutes and 58 seconds.

You guys. 


Inspiration: After a While

“After awhile you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul
and you learn that love doesn’t mean possession
and company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises and you begin to accept
your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of an adult not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build your roads today
because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
and futures have ways of falling down in mid-flight.
After awhile you learn that even sunshine
burns if you get too much so you plant your
own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure
that you really are strong
and you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn…”

Poem by Veronica A. Shoffstall

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Inspiration: Bonobos

So recently I have been ruminating on hate crime and divisive politics and the more mundane question of how do you react in everyday life when somebody spouts something so disagreeably shocking it makes you hiccup as the breath catches in the back of your throat? (You know, the usual.)  It was the "how do you react" question that initially drew me in.  We live in a snarky society.  Snarky media, snarky humor, snarky one-liners to be shared on Facebook to make political points.  What's the best way to react when the snark devolves into downright meanness?  I admit it: all snark and no love can get tiring.  This was originally a post on picking your struggles, analyzing when is it worth it to speak up, and when constructive dialog possible. It included a snarky picture to make a relevant point about snark.  There's nothing like formulating a good old fashioned action plan to help you feel prepared for the next time.

As I composed the post I found that forming an action plan wasn't what was bothering me. I feel comfortable that I know (most of the time) when to speak up and when to just move forward, that I (most of the time) have the courage to do so.  small, everyday conflict I'm okay with.  It's the tolerance bit I (and society, apparently) find tricky.

What was baffling me was why is it so hard to accept another person's worldview that is different than your own. I'm not even talking about accepting the troublesome worldview AS your own, but accepting that it EXISTS and not being hateful or resentful about that fact.  I turn the problem over and over in my head, and mostly what I think of is bonobos.

Bonobos, the a little known great ape that provides science a ripe opportunity to study the biological basis for tolerance.  For more information, read this book, because the author explains it far better than I can:

The passages that fascinated me the most illustrated basic differences in the society of two great apes, chimps and bonobos.  Chimps tend towards violence.  When confronted with a stranger chimp, there is a distinct divide between "them" and "us."  "Them" is bad, meant to be destroyed.  Bonobos do not see "them" and "us."   Bonobos simply see "us" and welcome the strange bonobo.  They share and cooperate and the whole tribe is cared for.  Bonobos are amazing practitioners of tolerance.  Instead of using violence to resolve tension they use consensual sex which is pleasurable to both parties.  Humans fall somewhere in the middle with the potential for behaviors from either side of the tolerance/hate spectrum.  But we must make the effort to remember, and choose the bonobo.


I am also reminded of this little story:

“An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…..He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil – he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth,compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”

His grandchildren thought about this for a minute, and then one child asked, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?“

The old Cherokee replied softly, “The one you feed.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

From the Drafts Folder: Lessons

I have finally reached the point in my knitting career where I can complete a project without Learning a Lesson. After graduating from knitting garter stitch rectangles of varying length, it seemed every project I cast on involved periods of alternatively banging my head against the wall and wanting to gnaw off my fingers until I fully understood the Lesson. A Lesson could be anything, whether it be how to purl correctly, the anatomy of a yarn-over, or what a twisted knit stitch looked like.

Here you see uneven ribbing and stripes that don't match, demonstrating Lessons about the difference of pulling the yarn from the center verses the outside of the ball and how the anatomy of the foot distorts the ribbing you totally thought was centered.

It is so satisfying to know after a year of Expanding My Horizons (i.e. knitting something other than garter stitch rectangles), my knitting skills have improved enough that I can actually craft a garment I am proud to wear or give as a gift.

This sock is supposed to have yarn-overs. The pattern depended on yarn-overs. Do you see yarn-overs? No, you don't. That's because they are butchered yarn-overs that are probably really a make-one-stitch. It still made a neat pattern, so I finished them anyways.

I also don't hand projects to my friends who knit and get "That looks neat! Did you mean for all these stitches to be twisted?"

Wait....what do you mean by this phrase "twisted stitches?" And what do you mean I'd have to tink the entire sweater to get rid of them?

Being a reasonably competent knitter doesn't mean I don't have a favorite swear word on Ravelry, though.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lazy Sunday Hoorays

My pet rat Percy is finally responding to his medication after a few months of trial and error medicine!  Hooray!  Because if the steroids didn't work there was nothing else left to try, and that would have been very sad.   It appears to be an autoimmune disease that initially presented as mites.  He is also regularly (and happily) gobbling baby food from a syringe. I just stuffed him full of sweet potatoes and chicken, so hopefully he won't be so bony in the coming weeks.

I am inching ever closer to being done with wedding planning and wedding decisions.  Hooray!  This weekend I figured out the remaining details of what I am doing with flowers, tables, cupcakes, and sound system.  I am hoping to finish the program and menu before I go to bed.

We had some nice weather and got to deep clean the car!  Hooray for that because it had been bugging me for several months.  Now I won't sit in traffic and feel gross.

And on a related note that deserves its own hooray, I finally got a CD binder for all the cds floating around the car.  Now all the cds are organized and protected from our feet...a definite upgrade from their previous living space of any nook, cranny, and floorboard.

Last week I did something that was personally terrifying for me, but will ultimately bring many benefits.  I did it with grace and courage and the Pirate brought me the most colorful flowers that still look lovely.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Happiness is....

The colors of split pea soup as it cooks.  Wet split peas is one of my favorite kinds of green (even if it turned out a bit yellow here).

Adventures in Sushi

Predictably, at the sushi buffet I tried everything with avocado.  They were delicious!

Not recommended: The banana surprise sushi roll

Better than expected: Squid tentacles and seaweed salad

Surprise find: Shrimp tempura!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Hoorays: Sushi Edition

--The Pirate has recently become enthusiastic about sushi, so we have been seeking out Sushi Adventures. (We have the best Adventures.)
--Tonight we are celebrating an accomplishment of the Pirate. Hooray Pirate!
--Of course this means celebrating with an extravagent sushi bar restaurant tonight. The menu has flavors we didn't even know existed. (We are still somewhat limited in our sushi experience so this isn't hard, but exciting nonetheless!)
--We also spent an evening exploring our local stores and international markets for sushi ingedients and had a pretty good first run at a basic recipe.
--Since we can manufacture the sushi ourselves, this means I can make personal sushi that contains nothing but avocado!


--I brought my colored pencils and sketchbook into work today for entertainment on my lunchbreak.  Hooray creativity!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

For all the frazzled wedding peeps...

Today I made a hotel reservation for a friend's wedding.  I thought I should check on the hotel reservations for my own wedding since I was on a productivity roll and all.  My guest list had the potential for needing a wheelchair accessible room, so I had booked that one early in addition to my own just in case.  Thinking ahead and prepared for every guest, right?

Well, it turns out the wheelchair room is no longer needed and I couldn't remember if I had cancelled it. So I called to make sure because I didn't want my card charged.  Thinking ahead and prepared for every credit card bill, right? Only when I give my name and date range, there's nothing there....not even the reservation for myself and my groom.

So this means I have called the hotel five times.  Bless you, Best Western in Elyria, for being kind to a frazzled bride.  Because I'm pretty sure I have talked to the same person each time.

1.  To reserve special rates for the wedding guests.
2.  To book a wheelchair room in case there isn't one available later.
3.  To book my room.
4.  To cancel the wheelchair room (and they probably cancelled all reservations under my name)
5.  To cancel the wheelchair room, but instead find there are no reservations whatsoever to cancel and end up booking a room for myself.

And that, my friends, is the story of how I very nearly had to couch surf at my own destination wedding.

(Don't worry, I totes wrote down the confirmation number she gave me!!)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Monday Hoorays

--Salmon chowder soup for this week's lunches.
--A satifyingly whittled down to-do list and neatly wrapped personalized wedding favors.
--Friends!  And the technology that allows you to keep in touch over time and distance.
--The bike trail right next to my house and birke rides with the Pirate.
--Re-discovering old cross-stitch projects. Bonus: all thread present, accounted for, and sorted (thanks, Ondrea of the past!)
--That sweet spot between dreaming and waking when you snuggle down into your bedfellow
--That I have access to a private porch, chair, and sunshine since I spent a good majority of Sunday like this:

Avocado Shells

About once a year I become enchanted (read: obsessed) with a food/flavor, usually a fruit or vegetable.  Past contenders have been the cherry tomato and asparagus.  This year's food is the avocado.  Here is one of my favorite ways to eat it, inspired by an Oberlin favorite dish:

Avocado Shells

.5 or 1 avocado
.5 pepper (red, green, or yellow depending on your mood.  I like green.)
.5 onion (red or yellow.  I like red....which are technically purple)
Mozzerella cheese (or whatever cheese you have hanging around)
2 medium-sized tortilla shells (I prefer whole wheat)

1.  Slice the onion and pepper.  For minimum onion-crying, put the onion in the freezer for a few minutes before you slice it---keeps the scent of the onion depressed long enough for you to chop it up.  Or wear contacts, that helps too.

2.  Saute the onion and pepper in oil until slightly limp.  Use the time while they are cooking to do the dishes (why are there always dishes?) and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

3.  Lay out your tortilla shells and sprinkle cheese on one half. (shredded, chunked, sliced...whatever is available). Slice the avocado and place on top of cheese.  I use half an avocado per shell, but I like avocado.

4.  Spoon the onion/pepper mixture on top of the avocado. (good opportunity to sprinkle more cheese here)    Another delicious addition at this point is black pepper.  Fold tortilla in half.

5.  Place the halves of the tortilla shell with all the tastiness on the skillet.  Let cheese melt and tortilla crisp. Flip on to other side.  Crisp.

6.  Devour.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Five things I am thanksul for, in no particular order:

- The Blogger app, which allows me to tap out blog entries on my work breaks.
- TAZO Zen tea
- The Pirate for a lovely evening of edamame bites, X-Files, and pet wrangling.
- Re-reading books from my high school days and realizing I like them just as much as I remember
- It is still cool enough in the South to open our windows and enjoy the weather (also, that I live in a quiet neighborhood)