Interesting health stuff

So. In trying to do the counting points thing this time around (wherein I really need to pay more attention again -- this is about the point at which I stop being able to brain it), I gave up on soda for the umpteenth time. And that, you see, is when the interesting things started.

Now, Ohio is somewhat unusual in that in its stores, you can get sucrose Coke rather than HFCS Coke. With Pepsi, the only option is cans of Throwback if they have it in stock, but with Coke it's reliable. I don't know what strange law makes it this way, but it's so. Not sugar, mind you (still have to get Mexican Coke for that) but far closer. This is relevant shortly.

So, here's the thing. I'd been drinking mostly sucrose pop for a while, then, but still getting bottles or fountain out elsewhere. When I started dieting, I (mostly) stopped doing the purchases out. What I discovered is that not only did I lose a lot of water weight -- my fingers stopped feeling so puffy, in the mornings, especially if I've been up and around and moving like I should--but that my nighttime stomach issues went away, something that's been a mild but sadly reliable part of my life for ages. To test the hypothesis, I picked up an HFCS soda again, and the gas and bloating came back and persisted through the next day. Got rid of it and didn't drink more, and I stayed feeling better.

So. I dunno if it's a mild corn issue or fructose maladsorption (it's a thing, really), but whatever it is, I'm happier like WHOA without HFCS, and honestly keeping the corn presence minimal in my life as well. It means I don't eat a lot of processed food, but then again, we really didn't anyway. I can have a soda now and again (I think I'm at 3 or so a week, which is reasonable if not perfect) if I'm willing to make room for the calories, and I can have better health through label reading. It's a far more preferable thing.

For anyone else out there... I'd recommend seeing if you can cut HFCS out of your diet and see if any mild digestion issues clear up. If so, I'd love to hear about it.

Praise me!!!

I planned this weekend, for the first time since bronchitis and illness, to go to the gym today. Not only that, but I planned to start a new regimen wherein I get up with Matt in time to go to the gym before he has to leave for work, since I like afternoons better but cannot be consistent with it on our schedules. This means I got up at 6 AM to go to the gym. And I did it. I didn't bitch (much), I didn't drag my feet, I got up and put on the gym clothes I'd set out the night before and drove myself to the gym, and there I made my body do things, and then after a half-hour's workout I came home. I didn't move mountains, but it was more than I've been doing for the first day back. Once my side is healed up I'll start doing weights again -- right now I'm afraid of reinjuring something when it's so close to being fixed. Laughing still hurts, though. When it stops hurting, I'll lift heavy things and work on getting some muscle tone back. For now, though, cardio will suffice.

I'm under 225 again as of today. I got down to this weight last time before stalling out, after months of trying (I lost like 7 lbs total last time and mostly kept it off--only gained back 3). This time it came pretty easily. Let's see if exercise and sticking to points will keep it going.

Random and Oscar movies

1) We had a plumbing leak in the basement whenever the ground floor shower was run. Fearing the worst, as neither of us are the least bit handy in this way, we knew we had to call a plumber. I decided to join Angie's List and found a discount coupon, and from there found a seemingly well regarded plumber in the area. They came out, looked at it, figured out a fitting on the showerhead had broken and it was leaking down the inside of the wall, rather than the pipe in the wall having the leak. They'll be out today to fix it as they didn't have the part they needed. Cost? About $150 total. AMAZING.

Yes, I admit, in a perfect world we'd just fix it ourselves for $20 or something. But honestly, this house is already a Frankenstein nightmare legacy of homeowners who "did it" themselves. There's scarcely a right angle in the place and don't get me started about the sewer line or the electrical. If anything in this house were reliable or made sense or was laid out in an orderly fashion, I'd feel better about winging it, but as it is, I'm happy to use the more expensive but more reliable services of a professional.

2) Back on the Weight Watchers horse. I'm keeping all my totals in an Evernote notebook this time so I won't be spamming my friends list with them. A week and a half, and at last weigh-in there were 2 lbs lost. Not great, but not bad either. My back feels much better from where it got strained/sprained/bruised/whatever with all the bronchitis coughing, and I'm not in pain whenever my core muscles get used now. I'll be getting back to the gym again this week (I've started shifting my schedule to get up at ungodly in the morning to accomplish this) and that should keep it going again.

3) It's really freaking cold here. Like I-need-to-find-a-better-scarf-to-walk-around=on-campus cold. Damn.

4) We got a new printer for the business. Our old one, which wasn't that old, was supremely cranky and flat-out refused to print about half the time. This one is a laser printer and wireless, and it's all like magic. Not color, but we hardly ever need to print in color anyway, and certainly not for business stuff.

5) Oscar movies! Thus far we've seen Frankenweenie, Snow White and the Huntsman, Wreck-It Ralph, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Brave (naturally), Moonrise Kingdom, Life of Pi, Les Mis, and we have Beasts of the Southern Wild, Pirates!, and ParaNorman on DVD here still to watch. Setting the animated films aside for now, here are my thoughts:

Lincoln: I was surprised at how much I liked this movie. I'm always wary of Spielberg when he gets onto a hero worship/nostalgia kick, as with War Horse last year, but it was really well handled. It's really more the story of the 13th amendment than a Lincoln biopic, and I honestly prefer it that way--it gets past Spielberg's particular directorial weakness. Tommy Lee Jones was just amazing; he's my pick so far for supporting actor. Awesome score, too. Daniel Day-Lewis was incredible as always, but I'm still watching movies, and I'm not ready to say he was necessarily better than Hugh Jackman, and I haven't seen the others yet.

Zero Dark Thirty: I wasn't excited about going to see this one, but in the end it was very good and very compelling. I've seen a lot of talk about whether or not it's trying to justify the use of torture. I didn't read it that way at all. I think it very effectively showed the costs of torture on both the victim and the torturer, as well as the difficulties and benefits of working with and without it from a spy's perspective--which is not exactly balanced in itself. I am newly struck by just how good Jessica Chastain is. She should be getting a lot more attention as an actress than she is.

Life of Pi: I'm not going to say it's my favorite movie thus far, but my god, is it ever pretty. The acting nominations that aren't there for this film are a crime and a shame. The screenplay was really really good, and the score was exactly on point. I recommended it to my parents for their viewing, and I wouldn't mind seeing it again.

Moonrise Kingdom: Up for original screenplay, I think. I can't quite say I hated it, but I didn't like it. The only scenes I really enjoyed were the ones with Bruce Willis, which says something about his ability as an actor, even in a Wes Anderson film. It's just odd. Definitely not my pick.

Les Miserables: I know this seems to be a love it or hate it sort of a movie, as in if the thing you love about Les Mis is the singing, you will hate it, and if you love the story and the characters (or if you're new to it), you love it. I loved it. I love that they sang during the filming and recorded it, I love that they let you get up close to the actors, I love that the songs are acted rather than performed, I love that the singing sounds like real people--because if there was ever a play about the non-elites of the world, this is it. I can believe in this Les Mis in a way that the stage production can't aspire to. Also, Anne Hathaway as Fantine--simply amazing.

Snow White and the Huntsman -- it's definitely pretty, but that's about the best thing going for it. Not prepared to say it's the fairest of them all, though, especially seeing what they did in Lincoln and Les Mis.

Whistler's Peacock Room


I was fortunate enough to get to go see the Peacock Room today. I'd heard about it in my art history class as an undergrad -- the idea not only that one person would design a room to show off their collection, but that you'd get Whistler to do it, and then that other people would buy it and disassemble it and send it to another continent... Well, it was kinda crazy and I got into it.

Then, lo and behold, I find out that it's on display at the Smithsonian until Feb 2013. Boom, it's on my list of things I have to see.

I didn't get to see it with the shutters open, sadly. That's okay, though. The picture above doesn't do it justice. Everything is blue and gold. The room is so very tall, with custom lights and painted ceilings. The backs of the shutters have golden peacocks painted there, and all of the glasswork is themed. It really, honestly, was one of the most beautiful pieces of art I've ever seen in my life. At the other end of the room is a huge Whistler painting, The Princess from the Land of Porcelain. It was breathtaking.

Whistler is not my favorite artist. He was a character, which makes me laugh, and I admire his work, but I don't love all of it. It is not without its issues, and I think his quality varied depending on what he was working on. Not all of his efforts were equally successful (as compared to my feelings regarding John Singer Sargent, for example). But... my god, this was absolutely incredible, and if I live to be a thousand, I will never forget it. I saw a great many wonders today at the Smithsonian, but this crowned them all.

I'm so late -- Meme!

So, the idea of this is that you get your best memory, worst fear, and relationship status from one year of your life. I got this from Janna, who gave me 29. If you want a year, ask and I'll give you one.

29 -- That was 2000. Wow, that really was a year. So, that year I started out in Albuquerque, got laid off, got a job in Chicago, and moved into editing for a living as well as cross-country. I had my first and only Chicago winter, and it seemed like things were going to finally get better after a long spell of not so good financially. David and I were both working, and if money was an issue, it wasn't that bad of one, all things considered. The biggest stresses were taking care of two little ones with no family or near friends around. That said, that was my year at FASA, and I could never regret that, period.

So. The best memory from 2000... I remember sitting in the bay window of our greystone, second floor, on July 4th, watching the fireworks on the street go off. My kiddos were sleeping despite the pops and cracks and light show, but it was cool enough to have air flow through the house so you could have the windows open and be comfortable. It was one of the best July 4ths ever, and I was completely content.

Worst fear -- worst fear was that it wasn't going to last. David was actively unhappy there, and nothing I could do seemed to fix it. Also, we were both broke and stressed, as we didn't /quite/ make enough money to get by and neither one of us could do much about it. I was due for a raise in a year or so that would make up much of the difference and get us above water, if only just, and we had hopes for David's work, but... well, it was all up in the air, especially if David couldn't get himself in a better place emotionally. And he kinda resented me working at FASA and not him, I think, at least a little -- enough to make it harder than it might otherwise have been. It's hard to feel like you're on solid enough ground except that it could fall tumbling away at any time.

Relationship status: married with two little ones. Coming up on 10 years at that point. Divorce was a million years away then -- or at least so it seemed. Not true, but it seemed. Was not the brightest bulb re: relationships at that point.

So there you go! Gosh -- things have definitely changed for the better all around. Happy 2013!


I think I may have found a topic. I thought of it a couple of days ago, and now I dreamed about it last night. It was a sucky dream, mind you, and not one I'd enjoy having again, but I think it rather means that my topic has legs. I think it's going to be the intersection between the Gothic and Things, particularly in terms of genre formulation.

I don't know. I might yet come to my senses. Perhaps this has been written on extensively and I just don't know it yet. We shall see.


Because I Love You
OMG, I've been something a mid-west traveler for the past couple of weekends. It's been wonderful and tiring and LOOK I Have Something To Write About.

So, last weekend we went to Chicago for an overnight, me and Matt and Sarah. We got up in the morning and drove into town, passing through Toledo and such places. We got to about South Bend around lunch. The interstate rest stop fliers pointed to an orchard and winery in Niles, MI, which was only about 10 miles north of the South Bend exit, so we headed up that direction. Urbanspoon also mentioned some restaurants in Niles. In particular, we lighted on Olfactory Hue Bistro ("Smell Color Cafe? And what's the rating? Let's go!") So we went and discovered that Niles is a delightful tiny sleepy town, and in particular, that the Olfactory Hue Bistro is out-fucking-standing. I had a croque monsieur, Matt had a ribeye sandwich with a fried egg on it, and Sarah had a huge freaking salad that I can't remember much about except that the homemade balsamic vinegar dressing was amazing. We lingered over food such that we didn't have time to stop at the orchard if we wanted to make our ticket times at the Shedd Aquarium, but we saw that it would be open the next day, so back to Chicago we went.

The only other meaningful stop we made was in Gary, Indiana. This wouldn't be worth mentioning except that Sarah had to stop, so we unwittingly got off the interstate at the exit for downtown Gary. We found an open eyeglasses store in a former fast-food buildings (I'd have to think it was once a Wendy's) and Sarah went in and asked to use the restroom, and amazingly they let her. It was the Only Thing Downtown -- everything else was closed storefronts and dilapidated buildings and urban decay and city death. *shudder* Poor city.

From there, we escaped with everything but small pieces of our souls and drove straight on to the Shedd Aquarium. We had purchased our tickets ahead of time (always purchase your tickets ahead of time) and thus skipped most of the awful line and went straight inside. The aquatic show was fun, the sea otters were adorable, and much fun was had all around. The shark tank was really quite beautiful, and the ray display (set down below floor level with a glass floor above for part of it that you can walk on and see through) was very fun. We missed a lot of the central displays just due to time, since we had to get on to dinner and checking into the room, but we saw everything we really wanted to see.

We then went to check in quickly (Club Quarters, Central Loop -- trying to figure out how to get in on a membership to that place) and off to Uptown to our restaurant, Demera. They served Ethiopian food, which none of us had had before. Our waiter was cute and El Salvadoran and hadn't been working there too long, so he forgot our appetizer and kind of got the timing of getting our food out to us all off. That was all forgiven, though, because the food was absolutely amazing (as was the shai, as was the bura (coffee)), and we couldn't actually finish all of it as it was. We did a family-style sharing meal with one each beef, lamb, chicken, and fish dishes, and four vegetarian dishes as well, with a fresh salad in the middle. Honestly, the whole thing was absolutely amazing. I am a new disciple of Ethiopian/Eritrean food, and I'm trying my darndest to figure out how to get teff flour in Cleveland so we can make our own injera.

From there, we'd initially intended to go to the Green Mill jazz club and have drinks and hear music (which was right across the street), but then a friend had mentioned Gorilla Tango theater and they have geek burlesque -- Star Wars burlesque that night, to be frank. We then drove over to Bucktown and saw A Nude Hope, which was honestly so much better than it had any right at all to be. Fantastically fun.

At that point, we drove back and went to our room, which was down tiny little hallways but the room itself was clean, spacious, and comfy. If I could get membership (which drops the room price down to an absurdly low rate for something downtown), I'd stay there again in a heartbeat. The location simply can't be beat.

The next day we were going to go see where I used to live, but we slept in a bit and walked over to a brunch place (Wildberry) on the north end of Millenium Park. It was a wait to get in, but it was totally worth it. And then we went and walked around the park and saw the huge bean and saw the amphitheater (I totally wanted to go down to the stage area and sing something, but I restrained myself. Another day, perhaps). At that point it was time to go if we wanted to make the orchard before they closed, so Humboldt Park and Puerto Rican food will have to wait for our next visit.

On the way back, we did stop at the orchard. They had all manner of fruit wines and ciders, and we bought maybe more than we should have. The raspberry was awesome, the peach a bit less so (they couldn't do tastings, so we bought blind). They also do their own meads from honey collected onsite, which should be ready in December. We may be back.

This weekend, Matt had ASHA, which is the national conference for speech-language pathologists. He went down midweek, driving -- it was in Atlanta, which is where his brother and SIL and their kids live, so he got a chance to see family while getting his continuing education credits for the year. I went down on Friday (one-way ticket bought with miles, thank you American Airlines) and caught up with them. On Saturday morning, I got up with him and went to the convention center down by the Olympic park and graded while he did classes. On the way back, we went over to Stone Mountain and I saw where he used to live, and where White Wolf's offices used to be, and we ate at a German restaurant called the Village Corner that he used to love to go to. Our waiter was very nice, but the cultural differences ("I'm told I should have coffee, so I'll have some when you come by next, please." "Well, don't you mind well." *internal snarl*) struck home to me. I may pick up the accent, but I am not from there.

From there we went back and hung out with John and Morgan and the kids--we were planning to play Monsterhearts, but timing didn't pan out and as tired as I was, I couldn't feel as bad about that as I wanted to. The next morning we got up and had breakfast, and John made eggs benedict (I have an awesome brother-in-law) and we visited more about games and politics and sociology and stuff. After breakfast, we had to leave as Matt had to work today. We found another winery we wanted to stop at -- this one in Knoxville -- and so we made our way up I-75.

Knoxville, as it turns out, is utterly charming and its downtown is great fun. I'm really interested in going back and spending a night or two there at some point and exploring -- so much going on there. We ate at a nice Cuban place called Sangria's for lunch, and their food was very nice. We were sad we didn't have time to try their paella, as it is made from scratch and takes 45 minutes. Another time, though. We walked around and saw stuff and ended up down at the Blue Slip winery, which did have tastings and was really quite awesome. We bought quite a bit of wine again there, and ended up walking back and got ice cream at a little frozen custard place (where evidently I left my purse, which is being shipped back to me :( ) and then, happily fed and with new wine to drink, we got back on the road.

I'm really happy to be home again -- the dogs evidently missed us, despite having John to rely upon. I love traveling, but I can tell it was time to come home again for a while. It was wonderful to see Matt's family again, though. I am newly struck at what a shame it is we must all be so far apart. That's pretty much my life, though, and I am grateful we all see each other as often as we do.

Pieces of USA

Because I Love You
I am thankful and relieved and elated about some of the things that happened last night. If Romney had won, I would have been worried. I would ahve been unhappy. I would have probably been launched into some sincere political activism, and that is extra bandwidth I don't have at the moment. I am happy that Obama gets a second term in which to learn from the first, and I have hopes that some of the things I don't like might turn around, while things he's broken ground on can be moved forward. I am at the same time sincerely sad for those of my acquaintance and family who believed that Obama would be horrible and were ready to accept anything else, regardless of how nonsensical their choices might seem. There was no good alternative presented, so therefore they had very few good options.

This lack of good options is what has me most concerned, though. We need a two-party system to be functional -- heck, I'd be good with more parties than that. But at least two parties have to show up with their A game to make that work. They have to know what the hell they're talking about. They have to have plans and decisions that are based in some form of reality, where there are numbers that actually make sense and plans that have some basis in what can actually be done. They have to agree on the basic reality in which we all live, even if they would move on that playing field in different ways... and we just didn't have that. Romney was never a realistic candidate because he honestly didn't have a plan and didn't have a point of view, and whenever he would come into contact with someone who wanted information, would instead say either what he believed would play well at that moment, to be taken back later, or that they didn't have to explain anything right now. What the hell kind of answer is that? And as for other party candidates, the problem is that their platforms are so polarized that they aren't in contact with reality either and don't have individuals who have the experience to serve as a real president with things like foreign policy and economics and such. They're effectively artifacts of a pre-Civil War political landscape, wherein the world was much more isolated and everyone was equally ill-prepared -- and that's not the way the world is anymore.

Honestly, if any of them had a real plan that would work, it wouldn't be that hard to get interest. If the numbers backed any of them, they could make arguments to get money. But in this ideologuic political landscape that is the 2000's, no one seems to believe that you have to know what you're doing to be president, that just sliding by is sufficient because you can get people who know that for you -- the thing is, that really doesn't work either. If you're afraid of real numbers, you can't be president. I just hope to god we continue to remember that after Obama is done.

Trying to write...

bleed words
I'm trying to write an autobiographical snippet for a class assignment... and, since I actually did keep a journal, I've gone back to look at it to get the dates right. Ten years is a long time to think back to, frankly.

I started keeping my journal in 2002. My marriage fell apart in 2003 (although our financial situation cratered in 2001). This means that my efforts to trace back land smack in the middle of the whole thing... and god, it still hurts to read. I don't think it would necessarily feel like that to anyone else, but... damn.

My husband just came in. My life is so much better now.

National poetry day!

bleed words
Well, in the UK, anyway. Close enough.

And if I leave you:
It will not be your fault.
My choices
Whispers of myself
Siren song, forever fading
Broken words and bits of glory
These are the things that lured me away.

And if I leave you:
I will know I failed you.
My issues
Orthagonal to reality
Fighting my way through filters
Bright gardens with locked gates
These are the places I could not reach.

And when I leave you:
It will be against my will.
My failure
Fighting with gravity
Inexorably pulled from orbit
Spinning out to distant stars
These are the courses I could not hold.

But until I leave you:
I will fight to stay with you.
My Love
Longing for you
Magnetically pulled into your field
Cleaving to our uncommon lives
You are the place to which I will return.

Michelle Lyons-McFarland, 2012



Michelle Lyons

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March 2013



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