Friday, April 29, 2022

Friday Five, Conscious Dreaming

I've had nightmares for as long as I can remember. They are vicious and come in every flavor of horror.

My husband Calvin doesn’t have nightmares—never had one. Lucky him. One day, I said, “Don’t you ever have a dream that goes bad? A nightmare that leaves you soaked in sweat and gasping for breath?” He said, “If they’re going bad, I fix them. I change the story.”

Via Google, I discovered this is called conscious dreaming and decided to try it. So, I made up endings for each type of nightmare I have. Here’s how it went:

Nightmare, type 1. Pursued by an evil creature on a horse through a dark wood.

My plan: I’d pull a shining sword from a scabbard, stab the evil creature through the heart, and lop off its head, à la Eowyn in Lord of the Rings.

My reality: Me to the evil creature, “You’ve made a mess of the woods—slime and monster droppings everywhere. Go away so I can clean up.” The evil creature slinks away, tail between its legs. And now, I feel bad for hurting the evil creature’s feelings.

2. Nightmare, type 2. Claustrophobic panic attack. I don’t have claustrophobia or panic attacks. Except in dreams.

Plan: I use superhuman strength—this is a dream after all—and burst whatever I’ve been shoved into.

Reality: (Discovering I’ve been shoved into a tight sack) “This is ridiculous. I am not claustrophobic and I don’t have panic attacks, so I’m going to wake up.” And I did.

3. Nightmare, type 3. Chased by a murderer and I can’t run away or scream.

 Plan: The murderer attacks. I raise and fire my gun. Afterward, I blow smoke from the muzzle.

Reality: My feet are stuck, I unstick them. But I don’t run. *Facepalm* Instead, I scream and start laughing. Cowed by laughter, the murderer retreats into darkness. Then, I do the happy dance.

4. Nightmare, type 4. Rotten teeth nightmare. According to Google, this nightmare is an expression of anxiety I’m feeling about losing my identity.

Plan: Um, I think I have this nightmare because I hate paying big dentist bills. Maybe I can pretend the dentist works for free.

Reality: I see holes in the back of my teeth. This dream is dumb—no one can see the back of their molars. Besides, the dentist says my teeth are fine, if only I’d stop grinding them. I tell the nightmare to go away and never come back. It works. But I still wish the dentist was free.

Nightmare, type 5. A pain nightmare is when real pain breaks into your dreams—30% of people with chronic, acute pain have pain dreams. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is the gift that keeps on giving…

Plan: I’ll dream of a capsule containing a swirl of blue, red, and yellow mini-pills. A stained glass of pain relief. I’ll swallow the pill with a shot of bourbon. Presto. No more pain.

Reality: Yeah…I haven’t got this figured out yet. Maybe I can use that flaming sword leftover from the evil creature nightmare to kill the pain. One slicing strike. Pain dies…it dies a painful death. 😊 Sorry, I couldn’t resist that.

 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance, Book Review

 

Notes On Your Sudden Disappearance by Alison Espach

     The title of this novel could give the impression that it is a thriller—it’s not. It's something more. Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance tells the story of Kathy’s accidental death and whether her sister Sally, her family, or her boyfriend Billy will survive the guilt that haunts them.

     This elegantly written novel is about more than a single deadly accident. In its pages, the reader experiences four subsequent accidents in slow-motion—the unfolding tragedies of four ruined lives. The reactions of Kathy’s parents, Sally, and Billy wrenched my heart as they made one bad decision after another to staunch their pain. In spite of this, the novel is a story of redemption. While guilt is what brings Sally and Billy together and rips them apart, forgiveness and love finally unite them in peace.

     My one complaint is that there is a lot of teenage sexuality in this novel. While it makes sense in a novel that is a coming-of-age story, there were times it felt overdone and slowed the novel’s pace.

Four Stars!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Spring!

If you read my blog regularly, you'll know we moved to Winston-Salem three years ago and bought a home that suited our needs, i.e., a large room for my husband's office, a much smaller room for mine, etc. What we didn't realize at the time was how extensive the original gardens were. Or how neglected. Slowly, we are recovering the gardens getting rid of kudzu, poison ivy, blackberry brambles, wild roses, poison hemlock, and some weird stinky vine that sends out runners beneath the soil. Here are some photos of what we've found beneath the mess.

Azaleas.                                                                                                            Archangel.
I think this is an unusual variety of trumpet vine.
                        Solomon's seal                                                                                                                                                                                                  
     Deciduous magnolia called Jane magnolia.   
                           
Massive azalea blossoms the size of my hand.

Fat bumblebees are swarming the gardens.

Here's the reality of beautiful gardens. Lots and lots of sweat. And more yard waste than we can hope to compost, so most of it will go to the city compost. Plus, there are more bags of yard waste than you can see in the photo. And tons more still waiting to be cleared out. Huge, huge hugs to my husband who comes to the garden and says, "Tell me what to do."


 

Friday, February 25, 2022

Friday Five, Spring Isn't Here Yet

 Winter is drawing to a close. But I’m not quite ready for spring, even though it’s one of my favorite seasons. Here’s why I’m trying to live in the last bits of winter.

 1. I refuse to think about all the weeds the last snowfalls germinated. It will be thousands. Tens of thousands. Or, given I spent the late fall working on the kitchen reno, instead of weeding…hundreds of thousands.

I prefer to think about the view from my office as snow falls.

2. I refuse to think the Canada geese will be mating soon. They screech all night long, waking me up at midnight, 1 am, 2 am, 3 am… You get the picture. Why can’t they fly home to Canada for mating season—after all, they are Canada geese.

I prefer to think about them walking on the frozen pond, very peeved they can’t swim. 


3. I refuse to think that I will soon be changing clothes five times a day.

         1. Early morning: undershirt, shirt, jeans, wool sweater.

         2. Morning: remove wool sweater.

         3. Noon: remove undershirt.

         4. Afternoon: exchange a long-sleeved shirt for short-sleeved.

         5. Late afternoon: shorts and t-shirt.

         6. Dinner: jeans, undershirt, long sleeves, and wool sweater.

         7. Bedtime: fleece jammies, undershirt, heating pad.

Seven times a day... I’m going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head. I don't even want to think about the time change.

4. I refuse to think about kitchen reno, part five. Painting the upper cabinets. I really, really want to do this—to finish part five of a six-step reno. But that means a disaster, stench, and exhaustion.

I prefer to think about how much I love what we’ve already done. 

But the upper cabinets are pretty yellowed...

5. I refuse to think about…too late. I saw the first flowers. SPRING is here!!
Crocuses

Snowdrops

A hellebore

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

HEDGE Study, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

 
Early this morning, I had my blood drawn. And aside from the fact that I’m a difficult stick because my veins collapse, this shouldn’t be something to write a blog post over. But this is a big deal.

 I was invited by the Ehlers-Danlos Society to participate in the HEDGE study. Its goal is to find the genetic markers for the type of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome I have. They will do a whole-genome sequencing study of 1,000 people from 86 different countries who have hEDS.

I’m very thankful to everyone who has donated time, money, and blood to run this study. (It’s hard to find research money for rare diseases.) My hope is this study will make diagnosis quicker and easier and raise awareness in the medical community, so that no one else will have to wait 50+ years for a diagnosis. Go, zebras!

 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Book Review, Jazz Age Cocktails


 Jazz Age Cocktails: History, Lore, and Recipes from America’s Roaring Twenties by Cecelia Tichi.

As the title of this book suggests, this history-cum-recipe book is a jazz of Prohibition, flappers, and cocktails. In the book, Tichi details, through sociological narrative, how literature, music, “politricks,” and cocktails intersected to give birth to the Jazz Age.

To top it off, Tichi includes authentic cocktail recipes from the Jazz Age. While I’m familiar with several of them, there are others I can’t wait to try, including the Clover Club Cocktail, Live Wire, and Lipstick.

Bottom line: This book is a Champagne Cocktail—a sugar cube of recipes, music bitters, and lots of bubbling history. Serve in an iced flute and enjoy while reading “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” or A Moveable Feast. Five Stars.

I received this book from NetGalley to review

Friday, January 7, 2022

North to Paradise Book Review

 


North to Paradise by Ousman Umar, translated by Kevin Gerry Dunn

This memoir is the harrowing story of a boy’s trek from Ghana to Spain in search of an education and a better life.

At the age of 12, Ousman sets out on a five-year journey to Paradise. Along the way, he travels with smugglers, crosses much of the Sahara on foot, and struggles against racism, abuse, and loneliness. Yet, he finds compassion and help—in the most unlikely of places.

The book does an excellent job of balancing the horrors Umar endured with the hope that allowed him to persevere. The one caveat is the memoir could have been longer, giving Umar’s experiences more depth and texture. That said, it is an engrossing and timely book, perfect for anyone who wants a better understanding of the harsh realities experienced by migrants traveling through Africa. Truly eye-opening.

Monday, January 3, 2022

DIY Kitchen Reno, Part 2

 We completed step three of our kitchen reno! I know it's Monday, but here's a Friday Five of step three.

Calvin stripping with Citristrip.
1. Use a stripper. (Not that kind.) We chose a low-voc paint stripper because the odor of chemically suspicious oranges is much better than the kill-you-in-your-sleep fumes of acetone, methanol, and toluene.


Painting with a dark-ish primer.


 2. Have your husband do all the hard work—scraping and stripping off decades of paint and then sanding. When that’s done, you can paint at a restful, cathartic pace. Or, you can listen to “Girls Just Wanna to Have Fun” and try to finish the work before Christmas. (I finished in time.)



3. Shelves! When you buy an old home, you discover people didn’t have pantries. They had a broom closet, which we turned into a pantry. But my spice collection took up more than two shelves of broom-closet-cum-pantry. So, Calvin put up shelves. (Brackets from Amazon, wood and stain from Home Depot.) I told him, “Two shelves should be more than enough.” I didn’t realize I have 70 different spices, including sumac, nigella seed, and multiple varieties of za’atar. (Some folks collect tchotchkes, I collect spices.) Sadly, not all my spices fit on the shelves…


4. New refrigerator! This was not our plan. Especially not when appliance prices are obscene. But when the old refrigerator compressor dies… I love the new fridge. Its more compact size means I can put a desk next to the window—it’s good to have writing nooks and laptop space.

5. Finally, don’t forget to take dance breaks—even if you know your ruptured discs, inflamed nerves, and fusions will slap you later because, like I said earlier, girls just wanna have fun. (Clearly, I’ve listened to too much Pandora 80s radio.)

 Now that the kitchen reno is half-finished, we’re taking a break till spring. Then, we’ll paint the upper cabinets light gray and the walls white. And I hope to talk Calvin into a new light fixture instead of the 80s ceiling fan, which is coated with grime that even bleach won’t budge.

 The lower cabinets are painted with Behr paint, satin finish, in "Calligraphy."














Saturday, January 1, 2022

Book Review, Box 88

 

Box 88 is an espionage thriller by Charles Cumming (New York Times bestselling author of The Trinity Six).

Lachlan Kite is a member of Box 88, a black ops group so secret few people know of its existence. But rumors persist... When terrorists kidnap Kite, they also take his pregnant wife as leverage, forcing Kite to reveal information about his recruitment and first mission. As Kite tells the truth in bits and pieces to buy time to escape, he relives those events, remembering the friends he betrayed and the horrors that followed.

The novel’s structure, which flashes between present and past, brilliantly reflects the cat-and-mouse game of espionage and propels the reader through the story. The characters are complex and nuanced, and the relationship between Kite and his wife is poignant, though I would have liked this developed more (but that’s what sequels are for). Finally, the reveal at the novel’s climax slakes the reader’s thirst for a smooth, sharp finish—a perfect martini, shaken not stirred.

Final evaluation: Five stars. Box 88 is perfect for fans of Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. Buy it here.

Juicy tidbit: What makes this story even more gripping is the author was an MI6 agent.