August 29, 2012

A Small, Sweet Pearl

" 'After all,' Anne had said to Marilla once, 'I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.' "

--Anne of Avonlea
by L. M. Montgomery
(photo by Tanakawho)
Today was not a grand adventure or a major event.  That will come tomorrow; I'm turning 35, and thus far, all that's been revealed to me about the big surprise coming up is that Michael, Brigid and I will be dining with my in-laws tomorrow night, Brigid will be staying there at Grandma's house, and Friday morning, Michael and I will be setting off to some "major metropolitan area" to do something that I am assured I will be "thrilled about" that will take up most of the holiday weekened approaching.  My family knows my tastes pretty well, so I have no doubt the surprise will live up to their promises, but for tonight, I remain in suspense.
(The only picture I have easily available of the vehicle in question [see below]
is from our wedding day five years ago--hence the snow.)
However, I got another lovely birthday present yesterday evening, in the form of my little Ford Focus resurrected from its coma and breathing new life thanks to a new transmission.  (In case you're wondering, yes, everything you've ever heard about how expensive it is to replace a transmission is perfectly true.  "Somewhere between 'Ouch!' and 'Boing!' ")  Sweet little SuperToddler Brigid loves my car almost as much as I do, so we were both deeply excited to hear that "Blue Car is fixed!"  In celebration, she and I spent the day simply enjoying our re-established freedom, i.e. our ability to leave the house even when Papa is at work and has taken "Green Car" with him.
We went to her favorite restaurant, The Olive Garden--expensive tastes, my child--where we BOTH ordered off the children's menu.  It's cheaper, it's actually less food, and it's pretty much the only guaranteed way in that particular establishment to order garlic-free food.  Thus, a meal without IBS pain for Mama, allowing her and SuperToddler to continue their day out together.  I'm learning as quickly as I can how to manage this thing.
Naturally, at some point in the day we had to make a stop at the bank, which is never really fun but unavoidably necessary.  The nice lady behind the counter gave us a pretty blue balloon, which brightened up the proceedings immeasurably!  Still, we were both much more pleased with our next port of call, one of favorite places in the whole world.
THE LIBRARY!  Brigid gets excited the moment we pull into the parking lot.  It's funny, because we spend most of our time playing with the toys in the Children's Department; we looked through a book or two briefly, but took much longer creating a "perfect tower," as my budding architect deemed it, with Duplo blocks.  Still, we're building positive associations with books, reading, and the public library system, and I always consider that time well spent.
Finally, we found our way to Wal-Mart--surprise, surprise--where we picked up a few household supplies, but it was mostly an excuse to extend our day just a bit longer.  Besides, we enjoy toy shopping together, believe it or not.  It allows me to have a direct say in what comes home with us (or at least to try), and at times, I'm as excited about our new finds as she is!  Tonight was DEFINITELY one of those times.  Remember THESE little beauties?!

Ah, the View-Master!  How my heart lept with joy when I caught sight of one on Wal-Mart's Toy Department shelves tonight!  How I mentally kicked myself for ever letting my precious childhood friend and its little film reels get away from me!  The SuperToddler wasn't interested at first--too busy with more tangible-looking treasures--but when she figured out that I was really enjoying viewing something she wasn't seeing, human curiosity reeled her in, and the magic of those tiny "3-D" images did the rest, like with every other kid since the thing was first invented.  We had at least an hour of fun with them when we got home, and I'm already fondly imagining shopping for new cards on Amazon or even for vintage cards on E-Bay.  So THIS is why people have kids!  It's the only way to have this much fun again once you've gotten old and boring!  It was a lovely day, just a day out for me and my girl.


August 28, 2012

I Review, Therefore I Am

Good evening, my dears.

I must admit at the outset that I've had a rather depressing week, with pain, nausea, and pills that may very well hurt more than they help.  After days of this, I've decided to shout a big "PISS OFF!" to everything that could be depressing me right now, and write you all a review of a lovely book, instead.  Shall we?

by The Countess of Carnarvon

If you haven't watched any of Downton Abbey, or have no idea what Downton Abbey even is, may I first congratulate you on finding so remote a rock under which to live for the past two years.  That aside, Downton Abbey is a "period piece" which is filmed, at least in part, on location at Highclere Castle, the seat of the Earls of Carnarvon for several generations now.

For those of you who may have some interest in Egyptology, yes, we are talking about THAT Carnarvon, the family that was to have such a crucial role in Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the early 20th century.

Written by the current Countess, this book chronicles the setbacks and ultimate triumphs of one of her predecessors, another woman who married into the title and all that came with it.  (Such books are often ghost-written, of course, but I don't believe this one was; after all, the author is speaking--with great authority--about her own home in which she currently resides, and her acknowledgements make it very clear that she delved into the necessary archives herself.)  Almina was the 5th countess and wife of the 5th earl, the man who poured so much of his own blood and sweat, not to mention a great deal of his money, into excavations of the Valley of the Kings, so that he and Howard Carter could enter the tomb together as partners when King Tut was finally found.  Unfortunately, Carnarvon didn't live more than a few weeks after the dig began, but he did have his moment of triumph.

Still, the center of the story is Lady Almina and how she kept her husband's estate running smoothly through "wars and rumours of wars," and in all honesty, I found much of her story more compelling than the tapestry of fiction that has been woven around her house by the BBC.  I have enjoyed very much watching Downton Abbey and am anxiously awaiting the next season, but I have to wonder if I wouldn't have enjoyed it even more if they had included less of the fanciful and more of the facts of Highclere Castle's life.  I avidly read my way through this book, made quick work of it, really, and can recommend it to anyone who likes love stories, Egyptology, adventures, period pieces, Victorian or Edwardian history, or just wants a decent, simple, enjoyable read.

August 22, 2012

Another fine day...

...spent in the hospital.  At last, we have a semi-solid diagnosis--Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  I say "semi-solid" because there's a hell of a lot that medical science still doesn't know about this deal, hence its on-going designation as a "syndrome," which is doctor speak for "We know it exists, but we don't really know what the hell it is."  We now enter the lengthy process of figuring out which foods or food combinations trigger my flare-ups, so we can very decidedly NOT DO THAT EVER AGAIN!  The front runner seems to be garlic right now; don't ask me how this works, but every time I've ended up in the hospital recently, I've eaten something containing copious amounts of garlic some 6-12 hours before.  Coincidence?  Who knows; we continue experimenting to find out the best ways for me to live each day ER-free.

Check out the Spoon Theory at But You Don't Look Sick!

Meanwhile, it has been pointed out to me by some cyberfriends of mine that I am no longer just a Spoonie in solidarity with my late mother and all others affected by lupus, but am now a Spoonie in my own right.  A rather dubious honor, but I'm very glad there's a community out there that I can count on in such times.  For those of you who are not familiar with "The Spoon Theory," I suggest you click on the link above and found out all about it.  I also recommend all those who are on Twitter to take the little birdie's advice and follow @bydls (which stands for "But You Don't Look Sick!").  Even if you don't have lupus, fibromyalgia, Crohn's, IBS, or one of the other mystery syndromes that torment so many people and continue to baffle medicine, odds are pretty good you know and love someone who does.  We can use all the support we can get.

August 19, 2012

It's Alive!!!

Yes, dear friends of the blogging community, I AM still alive, although rumors of my continuing health catastrophes have not been that greatly exaggerated.  To make an excruciatingly long story short, the doctors suspect either Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome at this point (sorry to anyone who's eating while you read this), I've been in the hospital TWICE more since I last wrote, and have finally decided that since I'm obviously going to live through whichever I have, I'm going to start living my life again.  That's more complicated sometimes--for example, I've given myself permission to just read what I want (or not!) for now, and if I magically finish all the reading challenges I took on at the end of last year, that's just icing on the cake--but I'm going to live, all the same.  I've also continued surviving a sort of mini-nervous breakdown over all the deaths in my family in the past few years and the "joys" of PTSD, but I have good friends, dear family, a good medical team, and helpful drugs.  Let the blogging recommence!

May I just say here and now, throughout the last few months of not blogging, I've only lost two followers, and that says a lot for you guys, I think.  You're loyal friends, good and true, (at least, those of you who actually check your subscriptions regularly, =D ) and I'm grateful.

Okay, a few quick announcements:

*ahem* Moving on...

Photo by Rev Stan

The Olympics!  Did you watch?  The world's greatest atheletes and some great painkillers got me through my latest hospital stay with my sanity intact.  London, you did yourselves proud, and your most wayward offspring (namely, us bloody defectors here in "the Colonies") still love you all.

Fellow Geeks (and those who love us despite our Geekiness), behold some of my three-year-old SuperToddler's current favorite toys--

She chose them herself, and would not let them out of her hands for hours after they were bought!  Her Geeky training is coming along beautifully, and my motherly Geek cup of joy runneth over!  (If you're thinking that C3PO looks slightly terrifying, I agree with you--he's oddly made, but she loves him, anyway.)  If you're thinking that the picture is blurry, you are also correct.  I'm still learning to take pictures with *drumrollllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll*

THE WONDERFUL NEW iPOD THAT MY EVEN MORE WONDERFUL HUSBAND BOUGHT ME as an (early) 35th birthday present!  I have named her Casilda (I'll give you a moment to Google that name of one of my favorite Roman Catholic saints...*Jeopardy theme plays in background*...), and she is one of the highlights of each day, as I discover all the things of which she is capable.  I use a PC laptop, I love my iPod--I know, I'm "bi" where my computing is concerned. =0)  My Mac-loving husband cannot understand why I cling to my PC, but he puts up with it, bless him.

And finally, for all my fellow book bloggers--

throughout my recent trials, I have continued to read, and am excited to announce that I have acquired and am getting ready to read my first Georgette Heyer novel!  It was a two-fer, actually, a beautiful, hardback double edition that I found in the Bargain Books at Barnes & Noble.  I LOVE shopping their Bargain Books; finding a book like this one for $9.95 makes me feel like I just discovered the Rosetta Stone or won the Nobel Prize or something much cooler than what I actually did, which is give Barnes & Noble $10 of my money.  It's the little things that make life worthwhile, you know?  After all my troubles, however, I'm giving myself a free pass on any review backlog, and am just going to enjoy reading and blogging as time permits for a while.  Thank you all for your patient faithfulness, and I hope you swarm me with comments--I've missed you all.

Oooooo! Very important P.S.

MOCK THE WEEK!  If you haven't yet discovered this rib-crackingly hilarious BBC show, search for it on YouTube--you won't be sorry!
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