Monday, March 31, 2014

The Clogged Drains Were A Sign

A couple of months ago, I was unclogging our shower and sink drains a little too often--pulling out a lot of hair. I knew it was a sign of something bad. I thought we had an issue with our pipes. I was wrong.

One evening while we were brushing our teeth my husband, who is a lot taller than I am, said, “Uh, you’ve got a bald spot on your head.”

I spat out my toothpaste and said, “Yeah, right.”

He said, “No really.”

So I got out a mirror, a couple of mirrors since the area was on the back of my head near the crown. My husband was right. There was an oval spot on my head that was completely denuded of hair.

Like any 21st century woman, I turned to Google. And what I found wasn’t great. So I made an appointment with the doctor. He took one look and confirmed my suspicions. I had an auto-immune disease called “alopecia areata.” In alopecia areata*, the immune system attacks the hair follicles. (Isn’t that ridiculous?) The good news is that it doesn’t affect my general health. (Though it is associated with other auto-immune diseases and I had a flurry of blood tests run. And when one came back "bad," I had a couple very meticulous blood draws—basically, they kept drawing blood until the results came back normal.)

Now I’m being treated with lots of steroid injections into my scalp (not nearly as painful as I’d been led to believe) and topical steroids. And though it leaves my scalp tender and I have a few sores, some hair is growing back, though the color is weird. However, other hair is falling out. And I have hair missing on other parts of my body. The prognosis is unclear. I could regrow some hair and lose other hair. It could go into remission. Or, though this is very unlikely, I could lose all the hair on my head (alopecia areata totalis) or all the hair on my body (alopecia areata universalis).

In the meantime, I’m doing the female version of the “comb over.” And I’m investigating scalp makeup. (Who knew such things existed?)

*Because Alopecia areata is an auto-immune disease, it is NOT contagious. If you’re interested in knowing more about it, here’s the website of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Monday, March 24, 2014

All You Need Is A Can Of Spray Paint

First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who picked up a free copy of Screwing Up Babylon. The giveaway blew my socks off. I nearly tripled my expectations. Thanks! Also note, I've now got a Mail Chimp sign up, so if you want to know when Screwing Up Alexandria is available or when I'm having another giveaway, sign up.

As you may know when I'm burned out on writing, I garden. (I also clean house, but that's not nearly as fun.) Saturday I did some "new porch gardening."

Before the new porch, we had some really ugly flowerpots (dead pink colored) that I filled with flowers during the summer. But I couldn't bear the thought of putting the flowerpots back on the porch. I thought about throwing the old ones out and buying new ones, but pots are expensive. So I bought a can of spray paint.

Here is the before. (Okay, not exactly before. It's in process. But you can see they were a dead pink color.)

Here is the after. (WalMart had geraniums on sale cheap. And I read how to over-winter geraniums by making them go dormant, so these hopefully should be the last geraniums I'll ever buy. Squee!)

The color of these photos isn't quite spot on, but you get the idea.
(Yeah, the porch still needs to be painted.)

So much better than dead pink!

Friday, March 21, 2014


Today and tomorrow, Screwing Up Babylon is free at Amazon! Click here to get the free e-book.

 Also today, Screwing Up Babylon is being featured at Kindle Books and Tips. If you haven’t heard of KBT, check out their website for great free and inexpensive e-books. Click here.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Joys of Home Ownership?

A month or so ago, Cal and I noticed that bits of our porch were crumbling. And not in the place you’d expect, like the edges. Nope, these bits were at the threshold to the door. And if you bounced on it a little, it gave. Not good. Really not good.

I tried not to think about what it meant. When your cement porch behaves like a trampoline, it's a bad sign.

So Cal called a mason. He came and inspected. Then, he took Cal on an inspection. This is another bad sign. It means something is horrendous is wrong--it's bad enough that you won’t believe it without seeing it.

The mason showed Cal that not only did the porch support beams have dry rot, so did the beams supporting the front of the house. Gulp.

As you can imagine, I had immediate thoughts of the entire front of the house falling off. Not likely, but possible.

I had thoughts of the house on stilts. Also, not likely. Except they did put the front half on stilts during the repair.

About two weeks later, the porch and the front half house are safe. Thankfully, we have a home equity line of credit—a partial new foundation isn’t cheap. But, hey, the porch looks great. Except we need to paint it and repair some of the stucco. The joys of home ownership…

You can see some of the dry rot under the door.

See the red stilt helping hold up the house. And more dry rot.

From the door to the ground below is a good six foot drop.
New porch is drying.

Friday, March 7, 2014

In Search of a Hobby

The other day, my husband came home with a sad smile and announced, “I have no hobbies.” He’d been at a meeting making arrangements for him to mentor a prisoner. When the officials wanted to match my husband up with a prisoner, they asked him, “What are your hobbies?” And he couldn’t come up with a single hobby.

I said, “Of course, you have a hobby. You paint amazing watercolors.” He raised an eyebrow and said, “That’s not the kind of hobby they’re looking for.”

So, Calvin is a man in pursuit of a hobby. He picked up a novel for the first time in years. I found him a cool, fast-paced detective thriller. I think he got about half-way through before abandoning it. He doesn’t visualize (how can a gifted artist not transform words into pictures in his head?) so some of the chase/fisticuffs scenes got a little confusing.

Now he’s trying baseball. And since we don’t have cable, he bought an MLB membership—you get to stream baseball games. So, he said to me, “Don’t you want to watch a spring training game with me?”

Me: No.

Cal: Don’t you like baseball?

Me: Honey, I sat through ten gazillion Little League games. I’m baseballed out for the rest of my life.

Cal: Oh. I thought we could watch these together.

So we sat together and I watched some pitcher who’s making $155 dollars (oops, $155 million) to pitch for the Yankees, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I could convince Cal to take up gardening as a hobby—I’ve got scads of weeds that need pulling.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Things Are Never Dull

Sometimes I think the reason we believe life is dull is because we forget too quickly. Things are never dull. Take this past week.

My 17 year old got a nasty case of pink eye and went around the house saying, “I am Sauron.”

I found out a friend of mine (a person of respectable age) dragged raced my 19 year old. I find it hard to wrap my brain around two mini-vans barreling down a well-known speed trap. But my son told me, “It was okay. I pinned them between another car and our van—no way, was I going to get a ticket.” Hmm. I’m sure my friend might tell the story a bit differently.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, birds regularly fly down our chimney and into our house. Thankfully, Sauron-son and I are bird removal experts. Jezebel, our bird dog, believes that birds inside the house are pets and ignores them.

My husband missed clicking a button in TurboTax and we went from a refund to “give us your arm, your leg, and your firstborn son.” Since our first born no longer lives at home, I was beginning to wonder how I could lure him back. Thankfully, we found the random unclicked button. I am still recovering from the stress.

I’m hoping for a mellow, quiet week. Dull is good.

File:NGC 4151.jpg
This is a spiral galaxy called "Eye of Sauron." It looks remarkably like my blue-eyed son's case of pink eye.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia.