Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Bugs Are Reading My Mind

Or at least my blog.

After my midnight post last night as I stumbled off groggily toward the bedroom, what did I find waiting stealthily to ambush me in a dark hallway?

An enormous cockroach.

They're out to get me! They're all out to get me, I say!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Battle of the Bugs

First I must apologize for my slackness in posting the past few days. I still have a bit of lingering infection from my recent dental surgery (yes, still, even after two rounds of antibiotics), and two-and-a-half weeks of constant pain in my jaw (pain when I talk, pain when I eat, PAIN when my son affectionally slams his head into my face as toddlers are so wont to do) has really been dragging me down. And no, I haven't been back to the dentist yet, because I keep hoping if I ignore the problem hard enough it will just go away. And yes, I am being irrational and sort of a wuss, but read my recent wisdom-tooth-removal-related posts and see if YOU feel like going to the dentist. See? And you didn't even live it. You just read it. So there :P

Now, on to my post.


A few days ago, I saw one. A big fat slick black waterbug, lying legs-up on my carpeted hallway floor, twisted, twitching. Death spasming.

I hopped over it with a shudder of my own, and grabbed a wastefully thick wad of papertowels from the kitchen. I scooped it up gently in the towels, and bundled them tightly around it, and then made myself smash the little bundle as hard as I could. Quicker that way, I thought. Put the poor damn thing out of its misery.


You see, I have a problem with bugs. Bugs in my house.

Oh, they're all right outside, keeping to themselves, living their little buggy lives. Part of the ecosystem. Circle of life, and that. Pollinating and nourishing my garden. Tiny, intricate creatures, so delicately made, so alien to my comparatively massive mammalian self. Outside, sometimes, I think they're facinating. Sometimes even beautiful. In fact, there is a tattoo of a dragonfly on my back. Dragonflies seem so lithe and graceful, and have such lovely iridescent glassy wings; yet, there is a fierceness in their movements that is startling. Quite engaging creatures, certain bugs.

When I find them in my house, I want to smash them.

(I usually make my husband smash them for me).

There is something about these little creatures invading my domain that seems to activate a primal warding instinct. That line of little ants that seems so quaint and prim to me upon the sidewalk looks like an invading army of ugly, filthy marauding thieves crossing the threshhold of my patio door. The spider that seemed so friendly and useful spinning her delicate web above my basil plant seems full of malevolent intelligence on the rim of my bathroom sink.

Last summer I discovered much to my horror that the thin, shoddily constructed walls and poorly sealed window frames of my apartment building here in the wooded suburbs admitted many more unwelcome arthropod guests than I'd been accustomed to living closer to the city. In the space of one season, we suffered no less than three ant invasions, from three different species of ant-- black ants in the bathrooms (coming through my mildewed water-damaged wall), pharoah ants in the baby's room (coming through a poorly spackled fist-sized hole in the wall adjacent to the windows, and then around the unsealed window frame itself), crazy ants in the living room (sneaking under my patio door). Every time it rained, we played host to at least three quarter-sized refugee spiders. Waterbugs and spindly crickets abounded in the utility closet. And in one week, I caught no less than three GIANT FLYING COCKROACHES. I didn't even know Missouri had flying cockroaches. They sure showed me.

After I filed several complaints, the apartment office finally sent over a bumbling exterminator who looked amazingly like a stereotypical TV caricature of an exterminator-- right down to the poor posture, stained clothes, creepy stare, and amazingly bad teeth-- who tended to spill things in places he shouldn't, and once asked if he could pour some sort of toxic pesticide from one container to another in my kitchen sink. After two visits, he and his noxious chemicals scared me more than the bugs did, so I stopped asking the apartment office for help (which I strongly suspect may have been their plan all along).

My second line of response to this mass invasion was to invest heavily in boric acid traps, seal every crack in the poorly made, water-damaged walls I could reach with spackle, insulating foam, and caulk, and put all the food in my pantry in air-tight plastic or glass containers.

I had already been keeping my house quite clean (not always neat, mind you, but clean). I consider superior cleanliness necessary when you live with someone who spends a good deal of his time on the floor looking for odd things that aren't food to put in his mouth.

The Battle of the Bugs raged on into the fall. I lost most of my patio herb garden to the crazy ant invasion, but I did manage to keep my kitchen and pantry bug-free. (Except for that unfortunate flour weevil incident, but I blame that entirely on my Schnucks grocery. After all, who on earth expects a swarm of mature flour weevils to eat their way out of a sealed bag of chickpeas purchased at the store only two weeks prior? Well, I do. Now.)

Then winter came, with its blissful killing frosts. And away went the bugs.

But the winter was unseasonably mild.

And spring has once again sprung.

As they say in the movies:

This time, I'm ready.

Caulk gun? Check. Non-carcinogenic bug killers? Check. Enough air-tight plastic in my pantry to make a entire Tupperware party swoon? Check.

I don't care if I have to lay down a perimeter of diatomaceous earth and boric acid around this whole apartment building, my pretties. I don't care if I have to pot three different species of insect-repellant shrub. I don't care if I have to hire a team of trained bug-eating bats.

You're not taking my house, bug army. Go build yourselves a buggy civilization outside.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Nothing Much

Just wanted to mention if you like my new manga-style profile portrait you can make your own at this site. Their English needs work, and the interface is a bit tricky, but it's still fun.

In other news, I am considering actually designing a new look for my blog instead of just using this cheap-but-cute-cookie-cutter template from the Blogger template collection.

You wanna know a secret? I've designed websites a few times before. And site graphics. From scratch. And sometimes people even paid me for it.

So why, you ask, have I allowed my words to languish here so unadorned for months on end?

Well, there are three main reasons.

1.) See blog subtitle.
2.) I've been busy doing paid work and chasing a small red-haired whirlwind.
3.) I know HTML. I use Dreamweaver. But I don't know CSS, which is what I would need to employ to create a really spiffy layout for this blog.

But I saw Mrs. Fortune's snazzy flipped blog the other day, and I got jealous.

Lucky for me, it does just so happen that I'm sleeping with a professional web developer who might be persuaded to help me out with my CSS deficiency.

So . . .

Give me another week or so to get over this crazy debilitating post-dental-surgery infection, and we'll see what happens . . .

Monday, March 20, 2006

Round Two: Fight!

In Which I Go Back to the Dental Surgeon, Get Stuck with More Pointy Things, and Am Sentenced to at Least Another Week of Dieting upon Pain Meds, Antibiotics and Mush

(Okay, so, I meant to post about this a few days ago, but as many of my fellow Blogger-users may well know, Blogger has been having a lot of technical issues over the past several days, and my blog seems to have been one of the ones that was particularly hard-hit, and I have therefore had extreme difficulty posting of late. I apologize if any of my regular readers have come upon a "forbidden access" error message or a whacked-out, barely-readable layout here lately. It was, unfortunately, a situation entirely out of my hands).

So, this past Thursday I went back to the dental surgeon who had removed my wisdom teeth the week prior to have my sutures removed. That's right-- instead of those nifty Space-Age disappearing sutures most dentists use on extraction patients now, I had positively archaic non-absorbable wire stitches stuck in my mouth for a week because my dental insurance is just that cheap.

Anyway, I was glad to have an appointment already scheduled, because while three of the four areas where my teeth had been removed seemed to be healing nicely, the removal site in my lower left jaw was still hurting. A lot. I had sort of expected it to hurt more than the others, because that tooth had been tilted at an odd angle, and was difficult to remove-- it took twice the time to take out that one as it took to take out any of the others (I know this because, as I've previously mentioned, I was fully awake and aware with no drugs besides a local anesthetic during the surgery. See above description of cheapness of dental insurance company). But I hadn't exactly expected my whole left jaw, my left cheek, and every tooth on the lower left side of my mouth to be throbbing in serious pain that I could still more-than-vaguely feel through the three Advil and two Extra Strength Tylenol I'd been popping along with my prescription penicillin every four hours.

I was afraid that maybe despite, being the amazingly good girl that I am, having followed the written instructions the dental surgeon had sent me home with to the letter (including not eating anything hot or drinking anything through a straw the first day, brushing and rinsing my gaping wounds according to a tight schedule, etc.), I had wound up with this thing called a dry socket. Or, worse, that the dental surgeon had accidentally cracked my jaw without realizing it, or left a piece of my tooth in my gums, or something. So I was glad to have the opportunity to ask the dental surgeon if anything bad was going on.

However, when I arrived, the dental surgeon was nowhere in sight. Instead, a dentist's assitant, whom I remembered had been present during my surgery, apparently mostly to hand tools to the surgeon and occasionally yank on my jaw, came into the exam room. She started rooting around in a couple of drawers and pulling out various tools, and I began to get a little nervous. This woman could not have been more than 20 years old. At the ripe old age of 25, I am still getting used to the idea of medical professionals being younger than me, and I have to admit it always makes me a bit uneasy. But even putting my unfortunate ageism aside, the chick seemed to me to be, well, a little ditzy. The day of my surgery she had spent at least 15 minutes searching the entire room for a set of clips that happened to be dangling from my chair. Then while we'd waited for the surgeon to come in, she had related a story to me about how just the last week she had gotten lost trying to avoid traffic in a construction zone and wound up being so late that she'd decided not to come in for work at all.

Was this woman going to CUT WIRE STITCHES out of my mouth?

"Okay, let's take a look at those stitches!" She sang out cheerfully, approaching me with large tweezers and an enormous pair of wicked-looking curved scissors.

"Um . . . look! I need to see the surgeon! I'm still in pain, you see, a lot of pain, on this one side, from the surgery, and I sort of expected to be in more pain on that side, you know, because you all had to work so much harder on that tooth than the other ones, but I'm in more pain than I should be after a week, you know, so, um . . . well, you see, I was hoping he could look at me and . . . I thought I might have that dry socket thing or something, you know?"

The other workers in the office overheard me through the open exam room door, and started laughing. "She had her wisdom teeth out and she wants to know why she's in pain?" someone called. "Hello! Tell her to take her pain meds!"

The assistant, though, looked concerned. "Hmm, what kind of pain is it? Is it a throbbing pain?"

"Yes, it throbs sometimes."

"How bad is it?"

"Well, I've been taking a lot of pain medications . . ."

"Is it like the last time you had a toothache? Like getting a filling?" She asked, standing in front of a huge glowing X-ray film of my completely cavity-free teeth.

"Umm, I wouldn't--"

"Is it a screaming pain? Like, the kind of pain that makes you want to scream at your husband?"

Thinking of how I'd come out of my Vicodin-pain-and-lack-of-food-induced fog on the Monday morning after the surgery to discover that my son's hair had not been brushed in three days, there was a new abstract artwork in green crayon covering the lower third of my dining room wall (and another in permanent black pen scrawled across the newly-crumpled pages of my son's favorite book), and my laundry basket had overflowed into giant piles on the bedroom floor*, I said, "Well . . . "

"Hmm, let me have a look," she said. She shifted the tweezers and scissors to one hand, and picked up a mirror to look in my mouth with the other. As she manuevered the mirror, she leaned forward, and suddenly,


She hit me in the lower lip with the scissors.

"Oh! I'm so sorry!" she gasped, giggling. "I swear, I'm really not that clumsy. I'm not that clumsy!" she continued as I felt my lip to see if it was bleeding. "I just forgot those scissors were in my hand!" Not quite bleeding-- the sharp tip had only grazed me; she'd mostly hit me with the flat end.

"Anyway, let me go ahead and take your stitches out," she said matter-of-factly once she'd recovered from her giggle fit, "and then the doctor can have a look at you and see what's wrong."

Before I could scream for the doctor in terror, she shoved her hands in my mouth and started cutting. I was afraid to breathe. At last she pulled the last stitch out. As far as I could tell, there was no new damage. The assistant left to get the surgeon, and I felt like I had narrowly escaped having my tongue cut out by a madwoman. Which may have been true.

After shining various lights in my mouth, turning my head this way and that, and making several grandfatherly "Hmmm," and "Ahh," noises, the surgeon determined that the top of part my gum had healed before the bottom part had a chance to finish healing, and that this situation had lead, despite a week of prophylactic antibiotics, to an infection.

"You just heal too well, that's your problem! We'll have to cut you back open," he said cheerfully.


"I said you heal too well! Great healer. Now open your mouth. Got a little bitty bit of novocaine." Before I knew what was happening, he shoved a needle into my gums. The left side of my tongue immediately went numb. My jaw itself and the area around the original incision, however, kept throbbing. Seconds later, he grabbed some sort of sharp silver implement and jabbed a new hole in my gum.

"OWWWWW!" I said, as well as I could with a half-numb tongue.

"Well, it was just a little bit of novocaine."

Anyway, now I am on another, stronger round of antibiotics. The enormous red pills look EXACTLY like the Red Pill from the movie The Matrix. The package says side effects may include nausea, tiredness, headache, vomiting, or mild diarrhea. (I'll let you guess which four of those five I've been getting with every dose).

Four days later, my jaw still hurts.

And I STILL CAN'T EAT NORMAL FOOD. At least, not if I don't have an hour and a half on my hands to sit there and chew every very small bite of normal food extremely carefully only on the right side of my mouth.

This totally sucks.

*My man does deserve some props, though: he did go out in the middle of the night to get me a mango smoothie once during all this.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Extreme Makeover, Amish Home Edition

We had some seriously severe weather here in Missouri last weekend. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, golf-ball-sized hail-- you name it, it came to visit. Luckily for me, there was no damage to my family's home or property (though in a previous storm a couple of weeks ago our car got some pretty serious hail damage). However, lots of unfortunate people in rural areas on the outskirts of town had their homes completely destroyed.

Although (knock on wood) such a terrible disaster has never happened to me, I have witnessed this kind of devastation up close, because my sister lost her home to the weather last year. The roof came off of her rented townhouse during a storm. She and her boyfriend escaped alive with most of their pets, but they lost almost everything they owned. Clothes, appliances, furniture, food, tolietries, school paperwork, important financial and legal records. Paychecks. Souvenirs from trips they had taken outside the country. Artifacts they had collected on archeological digs. Family photos.

It took my sister months and months to get everything sorted out. Fighting with the state housing authority (they did not want to allow her back on the site to salvage her few remaining things), fighting with her landlord (who had neglected the property in a way that might have contributed to the disaster-- she had complained to him repeatedly that her roof had been leaking for months), fighting for her renter's insurance settlement (the policy, of course, was inside her ruined townhouse). She stayed with friends for weeks, then finally moved into an apartment on the same property that was only partially finished.

This month she and her boyfriend were finally able to buy a new home. But it has taken months of struggle and heartache for them to get there.

So, when I saw these poor people on TV (the lucky ones, who could still stand), standing shell-shocked in the ruins of their homes, I really felt for them, I mean physically, viscerally felt pain on their behalf. The hurricanes down south several months ago have taught us all how little our government is willing or able to do for its citizens who have lost everything to a storm, and how quickly charitable organizations that do try to help become overstretched. And my sister's experience has shown me how instantaneously and unexpectedly this sort of disaster can happen to any of us, and how difficult it can be trying to get life back together when it does, even when you have family and friends around who want to help you.

That's why I'm absolutely in love with this story.

After this Amish family's home was destroyed by the recent storms, their tiny community came together and built them a new house in 15 HOURS.

Sure, they're Amish-- they didn't have to put in electical wiring or fancy plumbing. That might have required and extra day or two. But nonetheless. What's important here in my mind is the sense that building a house for a neighbor who'd lost one was an absolute priority for these people. It needed to get done, so they did it. Just like that. Nobody sat around and argued about who should be in charge of designing the rebuilt house, or whether or not the new house should be built in the same place as the old one, or whether this family really deserved a new house, or whether building the family a new house might make them feel somehow entitled to community house-rebuilding in the future, and whether such a sense of entitlement on the part of citizens to receiving public services in exchange for their contribuitions to society is good or bad for the community, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam.

Nope. They saw a house needed to be built, and built it.

Our greater society could learn from this example, dontchya think?.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Historical Figures I'd Most Like to Have Over for Dinner

Not sure why I was thinking about this today, but I'm sure you've all heard this question before: What historical figure would you most like to have over for dinner, and why?

Here are my current top ten:

10.) Jesus*: You know, to ask him what he would do. I'm not a Christian**, but I have the feeling he wouldn't hold it against me. Might have to pick up an Aramaic phrase book beforehand, though.

9.) Sacagewea: The escaped tribal war refugee and teenage mom who helped lead an expedition halfway across a continent through unexplored foreign lands, acting as tour guide, herbalist, medic, translator and diplomat, with a nursing baby strapped to her the whole way. I think she could give me some excellent advice regarding how best to balance a fulfilling career life with motherhood.

8.) Edith Wharton: I am mostly just hoping she might give me advice on writing bitingly sarcastic, razor-sharp social commentary offering timeless insights into human relationships and human nature that will resonate with audiences for centuries to come, in the guise of popular chick lit.

7.) Jane Austen: See Edith Wharton.

6.) Albert Einstein: Well, duh.

5.) Mary Wollstonecraft: Survived an abusive, dysfunctional home to become a self-made independent woman and successful political essayist. Authored this little bombshell called A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792. Hung out with a fascinating crowd of revolutionaries and Romantics. What's not to love?

4.) Jorge Luis Borges: If you don't know why I'd want to have Jorge Luis Borges over for dinner, then you'd better go out and buy his Collected Fictions RIGHT. NOW. Hop to it. THE LIBRARIAN IS WATCHING YOU!

3.) Joan of Arc: Okay, so I'd have to learn medieval French for this one, but still. How could the dinner conversation possibly bore when the guest of honor is a cross-dressing, sword-wielding teenage visionary who claims to have a direct line to celestial management?

2.) Ben Franklin: I am hoping that maybe he could give me some tips on money management, fire prevention, and international diplomacy. Also heard he's quite the expert on the proper enjoyment of beer.

And the number one historical figure I would like to invite over for dinner is:

Thomas Jefferson: The same man who wrote the words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," also kept his own secret illegitimate biracial children as slaves. Fascinating. What a puzzle. I'd really like to know him better. I get the feeling if I understood Jefferson, I'd truly understand American politics.

So what's your list?

*This guy would rank higher on the list, except that I find the prospect of discussing the things people like the Spanish Inquisitors, the Crusaders, and Fred Phelps have done in his name since his death kind of depressing. I don't think he would like the subject at all, but at the same time something tells me he's just the sort of matryr to insist upon bringing it up.

**I should probably add, anymore. I was raised Christian, sorta. In that my father was a self-idenitfied Baptist, my paternal grandparents were German Catholics, my maternal grandparents were nondemoninational pretenders, and my mom was in a sort of New Age explore-all-religions phase during most of my childhood, and therefore did not offer much in the way of specific religious guidance. So, I've read the Bible, more than once, cover to cover, and been to Sunday school, church services, etc. But I don't ever recall being without scepticism on the subject.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Weird Bad Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

So, I FINALLY got my (impacted) wisdom teeth out yesterday. I had the surgeon do it with local anaesthetic instead of getting put under, because 1.) I'm thrifty! Or two paychecks shy of broke and stuck with crappy dental insurance, whichever way you wanna put it, and 2.) I'm just that hardcore (as in, I pushed a 7 lb 3 oz person out of my vagina with no pain medication, people! I can sit perfectly still and let a dentist cut my gums open, bash my teeth to bits inside my jaw with a hammer and drill and then rip out broken the pieces with pincers while I am still fully conscious without totally wigging out. Really. Seriously. I know I can. I hope. Can you hold my hand now?).

The procedure wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I have a terrible, irrational fear of needles, but for some reason they don't scare me nearly as much if I can't see them going in, so I just closed my eyes while they injected my gums, cheeks, throat, etc. like 20 times. And the local anaesthetic really did do it's job. I felt an incredible amount of pressure while they were removing my teeth, and weird cracking sensations that might have sent pre-natural-childbirth-kind-of-hardcore me into a bit of a tizzy, but I didn't freak out and start flailing around and trying to hit people like I was secretly scared I would.

Anyway, now I'm on Vicodin, or rather, generic hydrocodone actually, because my insurance company is too cheap to pay for brand name pharmaceuticals (though that's one kind of cheapness on their end I'm actually cool with). In case you don't know what Vicodin* is, it's a narcotic-plus-Tylenol combo that is known to kill pain quite efficiently while also making you loopy and sorta high. It's one of those addictive-over-time prescription pain killers that people bribe and cheat their doctors into getting them extra refills for.

I guess now I know I'll never be an successful smack fiend, because just like its narcotic cousin codeine, which I had quite a rocky first date with a couple of years ago after minor abdominal surgery that left me worshipping the porcelain gods for hours and then dry heaving for three days straight, this Vicodin is making me almost constantly nauseous (though this is a much milder reaction than I had to the codeine-- i.e., I still can eat stuff. Soft, cold stuff that doesn't have to be chewed, anyway).

It is also TOTALLY not getting me high. Loopy, yes. Frequently I can't remember what I've said ten minutes ago, and I have lost all sense of the passage of time. My brain doesn't seem to want to hold focus on anything. Which I suppose is a good thing when you have gaping holes in your mouth. If I were focusing on that fact all day long it would probably disturb me, come to think of it.

But all in all, I have to say this Vicodin is not all the street dealers hype it up to be. I can't imagine using this stuff on a daily basis without also consuming at least 15 cups of black coffee just to keep my mind focused enough to have coherent conversations with people. I think tomorrow I will be switching back to my trusty old Advil bottle, thank you very much.

And no, you can't buy my leftover Vicodin from me :P

*In case any nursing mamas are wondering, Vicodin is rated "probably safe for nursing" on

Monday, March 06, 2006

Cowboy Diplomacy

So, I'm watching the Oscars last night, even though being the parent of a toddler I am completely out of touch with the mainstream movie scene. I'm watching because Jon Stewart is hosting, and I love Jon Stewart. I would watch a televised log rolling competition if it were hosted by Jon Stewart.


So, I'm watching the Oscars, and I'm feeling more and more sorry for my main man Jon Stewart, because he looks nervous from the moment he steps on the stage, and the uptight Oscar audience can't seem to to find its sense of humor with two hands and a flashlight, and their consequent awkward inability to laugh sincerely at jokes about themselves is clearly freaking him out, and the show seems to be drowning even a little more than usual in its own pretentiousness, and he just can't seem to pull it out. But I'm not sure what I was expecting. Sure, the man is funny, but he's no superhero. The Oscars always suck.

Anyway, as I continue watching, I realize that I really, truly haven't seen any of the movies that have gotten non-techinical nominations. I mean, I really, truly, seriously haven't seen a SINGLE ONE. I saw the Harry Potter movie, back in November-- that got nominated for Art Direction,--and I saw part of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which got nominated for costumes, on DVD at a friend's house during a party, but Isaac started screaming uncontrollably once he caught a glimpse of the Squirrel Attack scene, and after that I spent most of the rest of the party in another room trying to keep him from breaking stuff.

But I hadn't seen anything that got nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director . . .

You get the picture. Or lack thereof.

So I start complaining to my husband about how we never see any movies anymore since the baby was born, and saying how a lot of these Oscar-nominated films are already out or are coming out soon on DVD, and proposing that we rent or buy a few, and he says to me, "I don't want to see that Brokeback Mountain."

Before I can respond, he continues, "It has cowboys in it. I don't want to watch a movie about cowboys . . . you know I can't stand anything that makes me think of country music."

That's right, fair readers. I'll come right out and say it. I just found out my husband suffers from COWBOYPHOBIA.

Guess I'll have to watch that one by myself.

Thursday, March 02, 2006