Halloween 1992

My best pal Jenny and I have been friends for 25 years. We met in the first grade, went all the way through Catholic grammar school together (including 7th grade, where her mother was our teacher), through Catholic high school together, and then through college together as well. We've lived in the same city all our lives, and last year, Jenny bought a house in my neighborhood, so she lives only a quick five-minute walk away from me.

In the spirit of Halloween, I decided to share this photo, taken in 1992, when Jenny and I were 16-year old high school sophmores. I'm the one with the very bad perm. We were hippies, as if this isn't obvious. This photo was taken at my house, right before we went trick-or-treating (and yes, looking back, 16 years old is a wee bit too old to be trick-or-treating). But we were good kids, not hoodlums, and this Halloween was our last participation in this childhood ritual. It's one of my fondest Halloween memories.

What's yours?

What the Stork Brought

The stork, dressed up like a Fed-Ex man for Halloween, arrived at my house yesterday morning and dropped off a bundle of joy! Inside the bundle was a baby-making kit. And no, it didn't contain scented candles, 500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, whipped cream, and Al Green's greatest hits. Nope, my bundle o' joy contained my IVF drugs, enough needles and syringes to make a heroin addict cry tears of happiness, and a red Haz-Maz container for me to safely dispose of said needles.

In one way, I consider myself quite lucky. I'm able to save almost $2,500 off the IVF cycle's cost because I have left over fertility injection shots from previous treatment cycles. These cycles consisted of me injecting myself nightly with the fertility drugs, and then having inseminations once my eggs were ready to go. I had two of these cycles, and obviously both failed, but I had extra medication left over. And, since these weren't IVF cycles, my insurance company paid for the drugs in full. However, in my state, insurance companies won't cover one red cent of the EXACT SAME DRUGS if they're being used in an IVF cycle. But in this case, I have the last laugh. But I know many other couples aren't as lucky.

If this cycle works for me, and I have extra fertility medication left over, I'm going to ask my doctor if there is a way to donate the extra to another couple going through IVF. My husband and I aren't wealthy. This IVF cycle is draining quite a bit of our savings. I'm working two jobs just to pay for it. But I know compared to others, who must take out loans, or even worse, charge their cycles on a credit card, we're quite wealthy indeed. And if I can help out one of these couples in even a small way, I'll do it in a heartbeat.

So for now, some of my drugs are sitting in the refrigerator next to the yogurt. Others are still in a box in the spare bedroom. We have our "teaching appointment" with my doctor on Tuesday afternoon, where they will tell me when to swallow or inject each drug and how often to do so. Injections start next week. Egg retrieval could take place as soon as one month from today. And I could possibly receive a far more exciting stork delivery come August of next year.

My Rules for the Road

Recently, quite a few Letters to the Editor regarding the proper "rules" for driving on area expressways have appeared in my local paper. They run the gamut from individuals writing in to say that they purposefully drive at the speed limit (55 mph on most expressways in my area) or below in the left or "fast" lane, to teach the speeding drivers around them to slow down, to individuals urging drivers to use the left lane only for passing and to stay right at all times.

As I mentioned in my 100 Things About Me list, I am a very aggressive driver. I know this, and I admit it. I also have some very strong feelings on driving and the so-called "rules of the road." Now, I know these may not be popular. And I know they're not necessarily safe or even PC (and in most other areas of my life, I am a very PC girl!). But as someone who must share the morning commute with some seriously crazy people on my local expressways, I feel I must get these out.

Here they are in no particular order:

Kristi's Rules of the Road

1. Unless you are driving at a minimum of 10 mph over the speed limit, stay out of the left lane. I'd restrict this to rush-hour driving only, but in my world, this would apply at all hours of the day. Seriously, people. Yes, we all should drive at the speed limit to ensure safe roadways and safe passage to our final destinations. Blah, blah, blah. But in reality, this is never, ever going to happen. The left lane is a passing lane, technically, but it's also referred to as the "fast lane" for a reason-Cars drive fast in that lane! So if you're a slow or cautious driver, do your speedier-driving friends a favor and move the hell over! Don't make us tailgate you until we can smell the groceries you have in the backseat.

2. If you are retired, there is no need for you to be driving your Caddy or Lincoln on my expressway during rush-hour. Yes, I know it's a stereotype that older drivers are slower drivers. I know at least one senior citizen (my grandma) who drives like a bat out of hell. But in the vast majority of cases, when a trail of vehicles is backed up behind a single car on an expressway, when the driver of that car turns off the highway, a tiny little wrinkled white-haired or bald head is usually peeking out over the steering wheel. You're retired! Enjoy it! Sleep late! Go out to breakfast at a restaurant within walking distance of your house! Just please, please stay off the expressway during rush-hour. It's not safe for you there.

3. If you must talk on a cell phone while you're driving, pull over. In my state (New York), you must use a hands-free device to talk on your cell phone while driving, or else you can receive a ticket. Now, I don't think this has curbed cell phone use by drivers in the least, because I am always seeing drivers holding their phones to their ear...while swerving, slowing down to an interminably slow speed, etc. I must say here that I loathe cell phones (and the rude behavior that often accompanies their use) to begin with. I don't have a cell phone (although my husband does) and I don't want one. But it seems that some of the worst driving I see while on the expressways is attributed to people chatting merrily away on their cell phones, completely oblivious to the fact that they've slowed down their car to 40 mph, in the fast lane, and that they have a stream of irrate drivers backed up behind them. This is not only supremely annoying, but also very dangerous.

4. If you're entering the expressway from an on ramp, merge into traffic without slamming on your brakes. If you think expressways are such scary places that you need to literally come to a stop before you can merge, you shouldn't be driving on them in the first place. I can't tell you how many times I've seen this behavior come *this close* to causing an accident. Yes, you should merge into traffic from an on ramp cautiously, but you can do this without applying your brake. The purpose of these ramps is to accelerate to the point where you can join existing expressway traffic without slowing it down. If a person slowly creeps into existing expressway traffic doing 30 mph, this is going to cause an accident because everyone behind you is doing, at a minimum, 55 mph.

5. When you're exiting the expressway via an off ramp, do not slow down to the speed of the approaching road until you reach it. I'm applying the same principle from #4 here. Many of the exit ramps off of expressways in my area are quite long, sometimes over a mile long. Once you exit the expressway, you may slow down slightly, in preparation for the stoplight or the merge into a regular roadway, but don't slow your vehicle down so that it's practically crawling. You have a ways to go before the speed limit changes. And technically, you're still on the expressway. Unless there is a sign that indicates otherwise, the speed limit is still the same.

I'm sure there are others I'll think of once I post this, but these are my top 5. Do you have any to add? Or are you a cautious, level-headed driver, very unlike the crazed author of this blog?

My Grandma Doesn't Know Me Anymore

In my recent post about my family, I didn't much mention my dad's side. My parents divorced when I was two and my sister was one, and we lived with my mom and saw my dad every other weekend. My dad was an only child, and his parents (my paternal grandparents) were divorced as well. We hardly ever saw his father, which was fine with me because I found him creepy, but we saw his mother, my grandmother, every weekend that we spent with my father. I was never anywhere near as close to her as I was (and still am) to my maternal grandmother, but my dad's mom was a lot of fun when I was a kid. She taught my sister and I to play cards. She loved to shop, and would often take us out and buy us whatever our hearts desired. She loved rootbeer floats and sweets of all kinds. My paternal grandma is still alive, but she's lost to me at the same time. She has Alzheimer's.

Prior to Saturday, I hadn't seen my paternal grandma in almost two years. When we would have family gatherings with my dad, stepmom, and my half-sisters, she wouldn't come. In the beginning stages of the disease, it was because she was embarrassed that she would forget things in front of us. That, and she had always been slightly agoraphobic, and the Alzheimer's intensified those feelings. I kept up with her health via my dad, who would tell me things like "She has good days and bad days" and "she's on a new experimental drug, and we're hopeful it will stop the disease's progression" and more recently "she's forgetting to eat" and "we're looking at nursing home facilities." My grandma lived alone in her house, and my dad, who is recently retired, would spend most of his days with her. One week ago, in a night-time rainstorm, she wandered next door and stood in her neighbor's yard. She couldn't find her way back home. The neighbors called my dad. He stayed over at her house, and went home the next evening. And that evening, the neighbors called again. My grandma was standing in their yard, didn't know where she was, and couldn't find her way home. The need to place her in a secure, safe facility was now imminent. Two days later, my grandma became a resident of a nursing home.

My husband and I, along with my dad and stepmom went to visit her on Saturday. I brought her some pumpkin bread and some cinnamon-pumpkin bars I had baked to tempt her sweet tooth. I knew she likely wouldn't recognize me, but I held out some hope that she might. We met with her in the recreation room across the hall from her room. She only knew my dad. She didn't know my stepmom. She didn't know my husband. And she didn't know me at all.

We sat at a table with her for two hours. She asked repeatedly, every few seconds, to be taken home. Or to be taken out for a drive, or to go shopping. My dad, in response, patiently answered her the same way each time she asked. No, she had to stay there and see her doctor who was coming for a visit. She asked to leave hundreds of times in that two-hour period, never once remembering that she had asked the same questions and received the same responses from my dad just a few seconds earlier. She has no short-term memory at all. She was present in the room, and from a physical perspective, seemed fine, but her mind wasn't there at all. Most of the things coming out of her mouth made no sense. It was heartbreaking for me.

Alzheimer's is a disease that I believe is much harder for the family and friends than for the patient herself. My grandma is at the stage where she doesn't realize that she should recognize people. She isn't struggling to recall names or faces or events. They're simply erased from her memory, and she doesn't know they were ever there to begin with. But for my dad and for me and for all others who love her, we know what she no longer does. We are the witnesses to the disease as it erodes her mind. We hear her words, which often times mean nothing, and we see the vacant expression in her eyes as she stares out the window. And we know the person she was before Alzheimer's stole her memory. And it is incredibly hard to experience.

My grandma is still herself in one way. She still loves her sweets, and in the one happy moment of the visit, I smiled as she ate almost all the treats I brought her, and as she proclaimed them delicious. She didn't know her granddaughter had baked them with her in mind. Or that I remembered sitting at her formica kitchen table with my sister as she made us her favorite treat-rootbeer floats-for dessert during our childhood visits. But she enjoyed the experience of eating the food I had brought her in that one moment, and that made me realize that as hard as it was for me to see her as she is now, I can still affect her life in a positive way, and bring her some joy. And for that reason, I know I'll go back. If I can make my grandma smile, even if she doesn't recognize me at all, then I know I must return.


Beginning the IVF process has made me reflect on what my life was like growing up in the late 70s and early 80s. When my husband and I started trying to conceive, we would often talk about what we wanted life to be like for our future offspring. Those kinds of discussions ended about a year ago, when we realized that we were having problems. It became too painful to imagine baby's birthday parties, or the relationships we wanted our children to have with my family members, or who would watch our kids if we wanted a night out.

My family is very special to me, and I had an amazing childhood, despite my parents' divorce when I was two. I practically lived at my grandma and papa's house. They played a very significant role in raising me. I never wanted to leave their house. Before I went to kindergarten, I would spend days on end sleeping over there. Once I went to school, my weekends were always spent with them.

They were young grandparents. When I was born, my grandma was only 46 years old. My papa was only 51. This picture is of my papa at 51, holding me at several months old. When my grandma took me out as a child, people would think I was her daughter and not her granddaughter. As you can imagine, this pleased her enormously.

Every holiday was spent at their house. Our extended family gathered there as well, but there was never a "family reunion" atmosphere to Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter dinner. We didn't have to spend time catching up on each others' lives, because we all saw each other (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) all the time. We all usually gathered for Sunday dinner, or an impromptu weekday meal, at my grandparents house frequently. We knew each others' lives inside and out, which as you can imagine, sometimes wasn't always a good thing. But such was the close nature of my family as I grew. I know my aunts and my uncles (and my great aunts and great uncles) and my cousins in a way I think few people do, simply because I was surrounded by them so often as I grew up. They were (and still are) as much a part of my life as my parents and sister are. Our lives are wholly intertwined.

That's why it's somewhat ironic that despite this level of closeness, no one in my family knows a thing about my struggle to conceive. They don't even know we've been trying to have a baby for the past almost two years. And the reason is that I don't want them to worry. My older relatives (my grandma and great aunt and uncle) are getting older. I don't want to add any stress to their lives. They have spent their entire lives worrying about my health problems, and I know they would be concerned about the medical impact of IVF on my body.

If IVF works for us, I want my child to experience life as I did growing up. I want him or her surrounded by the close family I was blessed with. We were never wealthy, and in fact being raised by a single mother (in between her numerous marriages) was often very difficult. But my sister and I never wanted for anything, thanks to the generosity of my grandparents and my great aunt and uncle. I want the child I may have some day to have what I had. He or she would be a lucky child indeed.

The IVF Journey Begins

My fertility doctor called me today with the results of my bloodtest this morning. All systems are a go. My six-week IVF cycle starts today.

It begins with three weeks of the birth control pill. Ironic, isn't it, given what we're trying to accomplish here? But during the last two weeks of taking the pill, I'll inject myself with Lupron, a drug that will "shut down" my body's normal monthly hormones that cause ovulation. Doing so will bring my hormones under the complete control of my doctor.

Once I finish the three-week pill cycle, I'll continue the Lupron for another week or so while I also begin injecting a second drug, Gonal-F. This drug, which I've taken before during previous fertility treatments, will cause me to produce many (hopefully) mature eggs. I'll stop the Lupron injections, and then continue the fertility injections until my eggs are ready. (Over-easy? Sunny-side up?) At that point, I'll go under general anesthesia, and they'll remove my eggs. My husband will provide his "sample." Then they'll mix the two, and (fingers-crossed) at least three or four will fertilize. This will give us one shot at a successful cycle. If more fertilize, they'll freeze the rest, and I can do a "frozen cycle" later on, with half the success rate of a "fresh" cycle. But I digress.

They'll implant in me up to four embryos, either three or five days after they remove my eggs. The exact day is determined by how well the embryos are developing. At this point, I'll begin injecting myself with a third drug, progesterone, to create a "hospitable environment" in my uterus for the embryos to implant. And two weeks after the embryos are implanted, I'll know.

If this is meant to work for me, then I am hoping for twins. My husband and I want two children. Given the emotional toll this process of trying to have a child has taken on us, it would be nice to only have to endure this once.

I am excited. I am nervous. But most of all, back from the place where I had long ago buried it, I have rediscovered hope. I haven't had a hopeful feeling about this process in months. I'm going to hold on to it for as long as I can.

My Completed "100 Things About Me" List

It's only taken me two months to complete, but inspired by Amy (whom I inspired, apparently!), I have rounded out my list with the final 29 "things." Here it is in all it's crowning glory. For the new additions only, start at #71.

1. My dream job is to become a travel writer.
2. Unfortunately, I have no experience in this area, other than my own travel journals.
3. I can, however, tell you in minute detail how to troubleshoot a lagging hard drive, and how to protect your PC from viruses and spyware!
4. I am the oldest sibling in my family, and the first grandchild as well. Yes, my family members spoiled me. All of them. My husband would say they still do.
5. My parents divorced when I was two. I lived with my mom, and saw my dad every other weekend.
6. I have a younger sister who is 27, and two much younger sisters from my dad's second marriage. They are 15 and 12.
7. My mother has been married four times.
8. I loathe her current husband with a fiery passion.
9. Luckily, they don't live near me.
10. I like my stepmom very much. This wasn't always the case though.
11. My extended family on my mom's side (grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins) is very close.
12. Of course, this also means that everyone knows everyone else's business...all the time.
13. We usually all get together once a week, with a few exceptions, for Sunday dinner at my great aunt's house.
14. My grandfather called me Dolce. This means "sweet" in Italian.
15. He gave all his grandchildren nicknames. Some of them had actual meanings, like mine. Others were names he created from a combination of Italian and English words.
16. He died 10 years ago. I miss him every day.
17. I went into a coma at age five when the strep throat virus I contracted at school traveled to my brain.
18. I was unconscious for over a week, during which time the doctors told my parents if I awoke, I would likely be severely brain damaged.
19. I did, and I wasn't.
20. Later that same year, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic illness that affects the large intestine.
21. For five years, I was subjected to countless painful tests and procedures, while I was medicated to the max with prednisone, a steroid that made a skinny little girl blow up like a balloon.
22. My doctor told me I was the worst case of colitis he had ever seen in a child.
23. At age 10, a surgeon performed a series of four surgeries to remove my large intestine. Turns out you don't need that 10 foot organ after all!
24. I was healthy until age 16.
25. Then my doctor found and diagnosed Crohn's disease, chronic inflammation of the small intestine.
26. Most people who have colitis have Crohn's disease too.
27. There's no cure for Crohn's, but I've been in remission for many years now.
28. I have been a staunch supporter of animal rights since high school.
29. I was the editor of my school newspaper, and used my position as a platform to tell others about the horrors of animal testing.
30. I will never buy anything made by Proctor & Gamble, the worst offending company in testing their products on animals.
31. I just entered the 21st century last night when I got broadband internet service, and a wireless router for my laptop.
32. Prior to that point, I was using dial-up. I know.
33. However, I still do not own a cell phone, although my husband just got one.
34. I don't want one either.
35. If given the choice to go out on a Saturday night or stay home with my cats, the bathtub, and a good book, I'll take the latter.
36. I realize that's a little strange, given my age.
37. I've known my best friend for almost 25 years.
38. We met in the first grade, and went all the way through Catholic grammar school, Catholic high school, and our undergraduate years together.
39. We roomed together in college for one year.
40. That didn't work so well (I think it's difficult to live with anyone in what constitutes a 10x10 dorm room), so the next year we each got different roommates and lived in the same suite, and later, the same off-campus house.
41. She recently bought a house in my neighborhood. We're less than a five minute walk away from eachother.
42. I work from home on Fridays.
43. It's my favorite day of the week, because I have the house to myself, and it's quiet.
44. I would love to never again have to enter my office, and to be able to work 100% from home.
45. I have more books than I have bookshelves.
46. I have a stack of books 10 deep beside my bed.
47. According to my mom and my grandma, I started reading at age two and a half.
48. There exists an ancient reel-recording of me reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" at said age.
49. I love Christmas, but my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.
50. This is due to the colors of the season, the non-commercial nature of the holiday, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
51. My mom used to make me and my sister Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls while we watched the parade.
52. Now I make them for husband and myself while we watch the parade.
53. He doesn't really "get" the parade.
54. I could eat an entire loaf of warm, freshly baked bread and butter in one sitting.
55. I'm teaching myself to bake my own on the weekends.
56. I watch too much reality tv.
57. The Amazing Race is my favorite of the bunch.
58. Although I'm very much enjoying the The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.
59. I love Martha.
60. I am a feminist.
61. I kept my maiden name upon marrying.
62. I am a liberal.
63. I took an online political quiz recently, and it turns out I'm actually a "socialist."
64. My loathing for W runs deep.
65. I seriously considered running away to Canada with Alec Baldwin following the 2000 election.
66. My family members are staunch Republicans.
67. However, my grandma saw the light a few years ago, and now loathes W as I do.
68. Political discussions are FUN at my family dinners.
69. I could max out my credit card at H&M, Williams-Sonoma, and Pottery Barn.
70. Although, I really don't enjoy shopping in "brick-and-mortar" stores. I prefer to do it all online.
71. I am almost always cold. Even when it's warm outside.
72. My office is the temperature of a meat locker, making this a real problem for me.
73. I don't like chocolate. Not even a little.
74. I would love to live in Europe.
75. When I finished my undergraduate degree, I moved to London for five months.
76. While there, I traveled to Ireland, Scotland, and all over the UK.
77. But there's no city quite like London for me.
78. New York is a close second, though.
79. My three cats are named after characters in Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, one of my favorite books.
80. I have unexplained infertility, and I'm about to embark on an IVF cycle.
81. I am terrified that I'll never have my own children.
82. In part, it's very hard looking into the future and not seeing myself as a mother.
83. It's sometimes even more difficult looking into the future and not seeing my husband as a father, or my grandma as a great-grandmother.
84. I could probably exist entirely on pizza for the rest of my life.
85. However, the only toppings I'll eat are sauce and cheese.
86. And no chunks of tomato in my sauce, please.
87. I drive a 2000 silver VW Jetta.
88. I had to wait an extra three months to get my car because I wanted it to be silver.
89. It was worth it, though.
90. I am a very aggressive driver.
91. My husband is seriously scared to drive with me.
92. I stop at Starbucks every morning on the way to work.
93. I would love to work at Starbucks, so I could drink all the coffee I wanted for free!
94. Growing up, I wanted to be a novelist, a lawyer, and a librarian in that order.
95. Unfortunately, I found out that Calculus is required in order to get an MLS degree, so that derailed my librarian ambitions.
96. I have what equates to a fourth grader's knowledge of math.
97. I'm not kidding.
98. I'm also the one responsible for banking, bill-paying, and checkbook-balancing in my household.
99. The items I most desire right now are a Kitchenaid mixer and an iPod. Oh, and a baby.
100. I am hopeful I'll eventually get all three.

What's Your "Thing"?

In the past six months or so, I've picked up a new hobby. This "hobby-collecting" happens to me every year. Last year's hobby was knitting. The year before, it was counted cross-stitch. The year before that it was...pulling my hair out as I finished my Master's thesis while working full-time. This year's hobby is a full-on obsession with baking and reading food blogs.

Now, I know my own blog should be this year's hobby too, and it is. I started writing Interrupted Wanderlust in July, and I love it. It's so freeing to be able to write about things that have nothing at all to do with software. But I spend a good portion of my blog-reading time cruising food blogs. And if you take a look at my blog-roll, you'll see what I mean.

I love reading about others' adventures in the kitchen: trying new recipes, some of which work and some of which don't. I love looking at food photography, and let me tell you, some of you food bloggers take some truly amazing and hunger-inducing photos. And I love the fact that so many food bloggers not only write about their cooking experiments, but that they also share recipes. I've printed out and tried many of them.

It's only Tuesday morning, and already I'm thinking about what tasty treats I'm going to whip up this weekend. I started a running list in my head: Graham Cracker Brown Bread, which I found on the fun-to-read Culinary Epiphanies. Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes from 52 Cupcakes, a blog which documents the author's year-long project of baking a new variety of cupcakes every week for one year. And the list goes on.

Baking is fun. It's therapeutic. It has nothing whatsoever to do with my job. And best of all, there's always a delicious reward to enjoy at the end of the process. It's my "thing" for 2005. What's yours?


The Seattle house my sister rents with her boyfriend was broken into by thieves on Friday evening. Neither my sister nor her boyfriend were home. The thieves entered by breaking the glass on the door to their bedroom balcony. They took all my sister's jewelry. They rifled through her underwear drawer. They went downstairs, and took her boyfriend's laptop. At this point, my sister believes she actually interrupted the burglary in progress by arriving home from a book reading she had attended with her friend. She believes the thieves heard her arriving home, went back upstairs, and exited the way they had entered.

My sister did not hear or suspect anything was remiss. The front door was locked when she returned home. Other than her boyfriend's laptop, nothing was missing from the main floor of the house, which is full of electronic equipment (my sister's laptop, two high-end digital cameras, an entire wall of DVDs and CDs, a DVD player, stereo, tv, etc.). This is why she suspects she arrived home while the thieves were still inside. She only knew something was wrong when she heard one of her cats meowing to enter the house at the front door. Her cats are strictly indoor, and are never allowed outside. Stoli, the kitty, had escaped from the smashed door on the second floor.

Inside my sister's jewelry boxes was costume jewelry of little monetary value. She doesn't own diamonds, or gold necklaces, or anything a thief could make any money from. Of course they didn't know that. But also inside her jewelry boxes were items that cannot be replaced: a letter my mom had written to my sister during my sister's first year of life and given to my sister on her 16th birthday (I have an identical letter my mom wrote to me in my first year). Palms my grandfather had shaped into baskets and crosses and other intricate designs and given to members of his family on Palm Sunday through the years. The mass card from my grandfather's funeral. Items which have no value whatsoever to anyone but my sister, but items which can also never be replaced.

My sister is terrified. She is afraid to leave her house and her belongings now, since the thieves know now what they missed on the first level of her house. She and her boyfriend packed up everything of value and are storing it at a friend's house. They are moving at the end of the month to a much safer neighborhood (the neighborhood they live in now is on the border of a pretty sketchy area).

She feels completely violated. The thieves rifled through her drawers, and threw her clothes all around her bedroom. She feels sick about what could have happened to her cat who escaped through the smashed glass door, had she not returned home.

I've never been the victim of a crime. I can't even begin to imagine what she's feeling. How do you even begin to feel safe in your own home again? How do you replace those intangible things the thieves have stolen?

Runner Gripes

I haven't been a runner for long. Maybe a year in total. I bought a treadmill last January (yes, it was a 2004 New Year's resolution), used it for about six months, and then...well, didn't. It gathered dust and cat hair. It stood silent in a much-ignored spot in the basement, until this past January, when I decided to start using it again.

I live in upstate New York where the winters are frigid. It's not uncommon to have days with high temperatures in the single digits with wind chills in the negative numbers. So I did all my running inside on the hamster wheel while watching...the Food Network. Yes, I know how bizarre that must sound.

Beginning in the warm weather months though (that would be oh, what, June here?) I began to run outside. It was much different than running on my treadmill. In the beginning it was harder, it hurt my feet, and running the same amount of miles outside that I'd been running inside on my treadmill seemed to be twice as difficult. But I became used to it, and now I love running outside. It's refreshing. The scenery changes. There is sometimes a nice breeze to cool me off. However, I've developed some serious gripes with the outside world as a result of entering it as a runner. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Walkers who occupy the entire sidewalk. Now, I take walks too, in addition to running. And I'm not always aware of a runner coming up behind me. We can be a stealthy bunch. But when I see one coming toward me (or a biker, rollerblader, or a fellow runner) I move to one side of the sidewalk so they can pass on the other, without having to move onto someone's grass or onto the road. However, in running my normal route, I've found this courteous behavior rare. I've often had to run off the sidewalk because a walker refuses to move to one side to let me pass. It can screw up my pace and my breathing, and damn it, it's rude! We're both entitled to the sidewalk, right?

2. Drivers who place their cars in the crosswalks while stopped at a busy intersection. I must admit, prior to running outside, I did this all the time without even thinking about the implications for runners, walkers, bikers, and the like. But now, I'm accutely aware of how dangerous this is, as I frequently have to run around these cars, and often very close to the traffic moving in the opposite direction. Especially irksome are those who watch me run past, and even without another car behind them, refuse to back up theirs cars a bit.

3. Cars blocking the sidewalks. I realize that sometimes this can't be avoided, such as when one has a party and the driveway is already packed (although I think this still might be illegal. Does anyone know?). But when a parked car is blocking the sidewalk, and there is plenty of room for it in the driveway, it irks me to no end. Pull forward!!

4. Fellow joggers yanking poor, panting dogs behind them. Now, I think it's great that people take their dogs out for a run with them. Lots of people don't exercise their dogs at all. But there comes a point when I think this behavior becomes obviously abusive to the animal. Perhaps Misty shouldn't run seven miles in 85 degree weather, with high humidity levels. I think her desperate panting and the fact that she's barely keeping pace behind you should give you a clue. Short runs in hot weather-fine. But keep your dog safe at home with her water bowl when you're running a 10k.

5. Large objects on the sidewalks. Grass clippings, leaves, even the occasional branch-all okay. Rakes, bags of garbage, sinks, bikes, etc.-not okay. Do people not understand how dangerous this can be, not just to runners, but to bikeriders, rollerbladers, and all others who engage in activities at a quick rate of speed on the sidewalks?

I'm stepping off my soapbox now. Ahhh... that was a cathartic experience. I feel a lot better now.

Slots, Tables, or Bed by Ten?

Husband's birthday was a few weeks ago, and being the kind and loving wifey I am, I decided to make the extremely selfless and magnanimous gesture of buying for him one night's stay at a lovely hotel in Niagara Falls, a mere one block from this casino. We left on Saturday morning, and returned late yesterday morning. He thoroughly enjoyed himself, and while I don't like to gamble, I had a nice time too. The entire experience was interesting, and proved to me once and for all what I've been suspecting for some time. I am, indeed, getting old. I went to bed at 10pm.

But let's start at the beginning. Husband likes to gamble. Not the "Oh-God,- I-wonder-if-he's-brought-with-him-the-deed-to-our-house?" kind of gambling, but he enjoys spending a few hours sitting at a poker table with four or five other like-minded individuals, forking over a little money in the hopes of winning a lot of money. He enjoys the activity, even if he doesn't win. I don't understand this. Gambling is not what I would call "entertainment" at all.

My kind of entertainment consists of having something tangible to hold on to after handing over my hard-earned money. Sure, I played the slots for about a half hour and had fun doing it (spent $30 and won $40! Big $10 payday for me!), but at the half hour mark, there came this nagging sense that I could use the money I was up for something else, rather than to continue playing the slots with it, in the hopes of making even more. I had had my 30 minutes of fun, but at that point, gambling had lost its allure for me.

So I left the slot machine, met up with husband and arranged to meet again about two hours later, and off I went. I walked around the casino, which was actually quite beautiful, for awhile, admiring the fountains and high-end stores in the mall area. Then I left the casino and walked along the path in front of the falls, a natural wonder I definitely take for granted, having grown up only 1.5 hours from them, and having visited Niagara Falls so many times before. I walked back to the hotel, grabbed the book I had brought (for I knew before I left that I'd need something to entertain myself with while husband gambled), hit a Starbucks, and found a comfy bench to sit, and read, and people-watch.

Later that night, I met up with husband and we had dinner at the "Grand Buffet" in the casino. I am a casino buffet newbie, never having had the experience of eating at one, but apparently, they are known for good food and lots of it. And that's exactly what we had-good food and lots of it. We stuffed ourselves, and then shared several desserts, including lemon meringue pie, cheesecake, and ice cream sundaes.

At that point I was tired. Husband went off to gamble some more (I'm sure it sounds like he HAS gambled away the deed to our house at this point, but it was only about a hundred dollars), and I went back to the hotel. Read some more. Watched the falls grow dark outside our hotel room window. And yes, I was in bed by 10pm. Husband came home soon after, having won not a penny, but happy to have had a good time all the same.

29 years old (young?), and in bed in Niagara Falls at 10pm. Should I book myself into a retirement community? What's wrong with me? Granted, gambling isn't for everyone, but I should have found something a little more interesting to do with myself that night, right? Funny thing is, I don't feel guilty (or that guilty) about hitting the hay so early in the evening on a night away from home. The bed was comfortable, the view from the room was incredible, and I was content to let husband have his fun. It wasn't as if I could have joined him at the poker tables, considering I don't even know how to play. I had a good time in my own quiet little way.

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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