Sunday, October 31, 2010

In a Continuing Theme

Sunday was also busy. My weekend has been fantastically productive, although I haven't accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. I'm working on those last unfinished tidbits as we - er - write.

I was up by 9:30 a.m. which prompted Major Tom to ask if everything was okay, and did he need to take my temperature, because something was certainly amiss. I assured him all was well, gave him a treat, and he quit questioning my motivations and let me shower in peace.

I restocked my makeup bag, seeing as my concealer decided to explode and spew its contents everywhere - the military should look into this, I think, as a new form of IED - and I was using samples of mascara accumulated over the past few months instead of my usual. The samples weren't as good, and I was having flashbacks to the Great Lash Mascara debacle of 2009: mascara everywhere on my face except my eyelashes.

I also looked for a new pair of shoes, because my brown flats are looking kind of flat. I struck out, but I did find some lovely dark green patent leather ones for $26. And I bought shoe polish so I can take a run at rejuvenating the boots and shoes I already own that just need a bit of buffing.

I returned to my parents' casa for a while, scratched Major Tom for a good long while, and then decided it was time to head to my own humble abode. I needed to do a bit of laundry - since I can only do tiny loads - and I wanted to rotate my wardrobe, swapping out summery things for fall/winter items.

At the same time, I culled the herd, so to speak. Summer skirts I hadn't worn in two or three years were relegated to a trashbag, awaiting delivery to the Genesis Women's Shelter Resale Store. A slew of T-shirts went into the bag, and some turtlenecks that are still wearable, just not colors that are particularly flattering, I've come to realize.

Purple = Hello, undereye circles!

The unpacked sweaters were mostly placed in a pile to be delivered to my dry cleaner, because they're almost all some blend of cotton or silk with cashmere. Winter gets expensive, around these parts. It's the curse of having delicate skin that won't tolerate more than about 30% wool or cashmere in anything worn next to the skin.

Seersucker pants went into the underbed storage boxes, as did white jeans and trousers, sundresses, and the white cotton skirts printed with politically incorrect stereotyped Mandarin Chinese scenes and Native Americans that I bought at a resale shop.

My Korean drycleaner loves the Chinese and Native American skirts, and his Hispanic employees love the one I have with sleeping sombrero-clad Mexicans printed around the hems. I have another one with barnyard animals, but I have yet to get a solid opinion on that one from horses or cows.

It's frustrating putting away all my summer clothes: there are armfuls of skirts I no longer wear, either because I don't work in "that kind of office" anymore, or because the shirts I used to wear with them have died, being worn too often with too many other skirts and pants. So the brown floral skirt hasn't seen service in over a year, and neither has the tan one with the embroidered flowers (which might be because it doesn't fit properly these days... I can't remember).

I can't bring myself to part with them, quite yet, because there is always the possibility that I will work in an office where I will be back to wearing skirts and heels again, or the skirt might fit me and I might decide to wear skirts as an everyday matter of course in the future, like next year. Will I still want to wear the sort of skirts I've just packed away? Possibly not. My taste, as I matured in my role at the last office, began gravitating more towards pencil skirts, and less towards swishy circle skirts like I used to buy.

Mexican and Chinese-printed skirts excepted, of course.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

All Operators are Busy

At least, I'm busy.

I woke up at 8:00 a.m., startling Major Tom, who stared at me groggily and grumbled at me for waking him up (he's a grumpy old man). I dressed, and drove to Dallas, swinging by Starbucks for a cup of coffee and an apple fritter en route. And I filled up my car with gas. And got it washed.

All before 9:30 a.m., baby. That's right: I'm productive!

I got to my apartment and began straightening up, putting things away. I ironed some pants (I loathe this chore, above all others), reupholstered an ottoman, the usual.

Yup, I now have an ottoman - okay, it's a repurposed vanity stool - that was once upholstered in goldenrod cotton damask, and is now covered in lovely saffron silk. It is currently in my living room, where it holds a metal tray, upon which I can rest a drink when I'm lying on the sofa, watching a movie.

I picked up my lampshades - the ones my mother bought me for my birthday - and squealed with delight when I removed their cellophane wrappers.

The carpet cleaning guys returned my rug, unrolled it, and put my furniture back where it belongs. I then put my lamps on their beautiful chinoiserie tables, with their pretty new lampshades, and oohed and aahed at the results. And decided I need to rehang some pictures, but that can wait until my mother returns from her vacation.

I washed clothes. I washed miniscule loads of clothes. As in, two pairs of jeans, or the equivalent of two pairs of jeans in underwear and T-shirts.

Guess what? There's something wrong with my washing machine. It is still jumping and rotating like a teeny-bopper at a sock-hop, so I emailed my apartment complex about it. And asked them to please tack my carpet back down in my bedroom and replace the porch lightbulb, while they're at it.

I updated my apartment inventory (the spreadsheet of everything I own) and documented the contents of my humble abode with a camera, then printed out the pictures and put them in my firesafe.

And then, I went shopping.

It's been a rough couple of weeks for Ms. Strainedconsciousness, and my oh-so-generous mother left me a little cash gift tucked inside a Halloween card before she hightailed it to Santa Fe for her birthday. The card read "Do something fun!"

There hasn't been enough fun for me, lately.

So I went to Northpark and bought a couple of shirts - within the defined color spectrum - and some new jewelry. The shirts set me back $20 each, and the jewelry was $45 for both a necklace and a cocktail ring.

The cocktail ring has an enormous cognac-colored gemstone, and it will look ravishing with my steel-toed boots.
Ha. Haha.

I've discovered that, in addition to not being able to carry heavy purses, wearing heavy necklaces gives me a headache. So I bought a lightweight necklace in matte gold (I don't look all that great in super shiny gold).

I filed some more paperwork. I paid my rent. I put stuff away.

I calculated the taxes I will either owe or be refunded, depending on how the IRS calculator works. I'll either owe $415, or get back $2,000. I'm hoping it's the latter. I can't tell if their calculator defines "federal income tax" as including the social security and medicare taxes, or if it's just the federal income tax. I guess I'll find out in January.

I was productive. It felt good to be productive.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Perusing the Interwebz

I just finished stalking Craigslist for a good 45 minutes.

I think physicists need to study Craigslist, just for the record, because it warps the space-time continuum. I could swear I was only on Craigslist for 10 minutes tops, but nope, it's been 45 minutes. Okay, an hour, but who's counting?

Not the physicists, who seriously need to get on this mystery pronto.

I'm in the habit of looking for treasures in the form of armchairs that might need to live in my apartment (now that it's dried out), and so I decided to kill some time browsing the offerings, when I should have been paying attention to Major Tom.

Major Tom is not a fan of Craigslist, in case you were wondering. He wants the physicists to study it so they can declare it a hazard to humanity's survival so I'll pay more attention to him, and less to the offerings on - er - offer.

What is there on Craigslist on a typical Friday evening?

Crap. Lots and lots of crap.

That "wingback chair" is no wingback, honey - it's a La-Z-Boy recliner. And that Queen Anne chair? Good grief! Don't you know an Eastlake style chair when you see one?


Beautiful typically means run screaming as fast as you can and gorgeous usually translates to don't bother opening this posting.

In fact, the postings I tend to look at aren't the ones that include designer in their headline - because La-Z-Boy is not "designer" - but are the ones that give a brief description and the brand and the color.

So Red Hickory Chair Wingbacks definitely gets a look, even though they're more than I can afford right now, and the wrong color, because this lady 1) buys nice furniture and 2) I'm a sucker for Hickory Chair. It's described perfectly. I really wish I could use them in my house, somehow (especially since the price has dropped from $1200 to $800 to now $500 for the pair... want the info? Leave me a comment).

I've learned that certain terms - Queen Anne, for example - are horribly abused. Antique is by far the most overused. Armchairs from 1974 are not antique. Armchairs from 1910 are. In case you didn't know, the strict definition of an antique is that it's at least 100 years old. Anything less than 100 years is just vintage.

None of the posters on Craigslist appear to know what Queen Anne style actually is (cabriole legs, shell motifs, figural-profile back splats on sidechairs, etc...), and they bandy the term about with abandon.

Bandy about with abandon. Say that one five times fast.

After I'd hit all the chair postings I cared to see, I decided to take a peek at art.

It is yet another term loosely applied by frequenters of Craigslist.

Call me strict, but I do not consider an original painting to be something you bought at Z Galerie. Because it wasn't actually painted. If there are multiple of them on a rack in a store, then it's not original.

Original means: Not derived from something else; fresh and unusual.

Original does not mean that you are buying the 80th one of something. It means that there is only one, that you are the first to do it or to make it or to find it or to say it or to write it.

And now, I'm thinking of Eddie Izzard's riff on original sin. I think I'll leave you with that for your listening pleasure.

(Warning: some offensive language... and a man in drag.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Guess I'll Go Eat Worms

Okay, I didn't eat worms.

I ate snails. Escargot if you will.

I'm classy like that.

Tuesday was my mother's birthday, and we went to eat Wednesday evening with family friends to celebrate. They treated us to dinner at Rise No. 1, a restaurant that specializes in souffles.

Yes, Blogger, I mean souffles, not snuffles, or scuffles, or snuffler.

One of the savory souffles on offer was the souffle escargots a.k.a. souffle full o' snails.

I have never eaten escargots, and never in my wildest dreams could I imagine encountering souffled snails on a menu in a Dallas restaurant.

So, of course, I ordered it.

J'adore les escargots.

Yes, I know, I probably mis-conjugated that verb, because my French is atrocious, and for that matter, I don't know if "escargot" has a plural, or if it's like moose, where one word serves all quantities. I'm blaming it on the evil French teacher I had in college who demanded I present her with doctors' notes prior to my chemotherapy sessions, instead of after them (because I had all the time in the world to drive to Dallas to get them, deliver them to her in Denton, and then drive back to Dallas for chemo. Right, Lady.)

The escargots were tender and juicy - as you'd expect, if you've ever seen a snail's trail - and floated in garlic and butter, with a light souffle crowning each of the individual snails. It was fun to dig down through the poufy souffle to get to the pseudopods, before whispering "Come here, little invertebrate, so I can eat you!" and stuffing the steaming snails into my mouth.


We followed up with two souffles for the table for dessert: one chocolate, one pumpkin.

The chocolate was good. The pumpkin was amazing. Get the pumpkin, if they have it, because it's like putting little fluffy bits of heaven into your mouth.


And now, I'm off to bed, full of snails and pumpkin puree and creme fraiche and bits of deliciousness.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Aftermath of the Great Flood of 2010

I returned to my apartment, Tuesday, for the first time since Sunday's flooding disaster.

Monday was spent having a minor medical procedure and recovering from said procedure.

I found a little pink piece of paper in my kitchen, from my apartment complex, informing me that they had fixed my washing machine. It malfunctioned because the balancers - little rubber strappy thingies - had broken, and that caused the hose to detach, spewing water everywhere.

The note mentioned that balancers breaking is a direct result of overloading the washing machine.

Okay, I can buy that. I had more in the washing machine than I typically put it in.

As a rule, I don't cram a ton of clothes in the washing machine, because I don't have a ton of clothes to cram into the washing machine, so they are washed more frequently, in smaller loads.

But why, pray tell, was I not informed of that when oh-so-helpful Jaime replaced the balancers on my washing machine twice before? Why was I not told that overloading the machine might be causing them to break? I definitely wouldn't have put as much stuff into the washing machine as I did on Sunday, when I was desperately trying to get washing finished, chores done, etc... so I could get to my parents' house pre-minor-medical-procedure to have dinner and rest up.

It's my fault, I know, but if the girl in the third floor apartment has to have her balancers replaced twice don't you think you should address the potential cause of said replacement with her, instead of just doing it and saying, "Okay, that's done. Have a nice day!"

He also wrote, helpfully, that I should only use the washing machine when I'm home.

Fat chance of that happening, since I have a job, and since the woman on the second floor requested I not run the washing machine or dryer after 10 pm.

The dryer makes a terrible noise when it finishes its cycle, and even I hate hearing it. The thing could wake the dead.

Maybe she's less fond of listening to me run to the kitchen to make the loud blaring foghorn sound stop, though, followed by my yelling, "Shut up, you stupid machine! I hate you!"

That could be it, too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Great Flood of 2010

Sunday was supposed to be a day of efficiency, when I would do 4 loads of laundry, organize medical receipts from income taxes, and in general get stuff done.

Sunday was not efficient.

Sunday was a disaster.

In a fitting metaphor, my life is a beach, and the waves of misfortune crash on me ceaselessly.

Thank you for indulging my soppily sentimental side. Pun intended.

I put a load of clothes in the washing machine - after filing some receipts - and walked out the door to go get lunch. I was washing things I would need for Monday, when I was slated to have a minor surgical procedure, because it is inadvisable to show up to places without pants as a general rule.

When I arrived back at the apartment, my neighbor on the first floor was hauling a soaked rug out of her apartment, which was flooded. I asked her if she needed help.

"There is water coming from my ceiling, from the floors, from everywhere. You live above me?" she asked.

Well, crap. Yes, I do. Directly above her on the third floor. I dashed up the stairs, opened the door, and confronted a 1/2" of water standing in my living room. In my kitchen, my washing machine was spewing water from its top and from behind it.

I turned off the machine and surveyed the wreckage. I called the property company. The emergency repair dispatch lady informed me that, yes, Jaime (his real name) was on his way to help out, because the lady in the apartment on the first floor had called about her apartment being flooded.

I hauled my dining table into my bedroom - which only had a little bit of the carpet wet, fortunately - and proceeded to heft a drenched sisal rug over my shoulder, carrying it out to the narrow strip of concrete landing outside my apartment door. I rolled up my pants legs, abandoned my shoes in the bedroom, and called my parents.

I cried. They said they'd leave immediately.

I went downstairs to tell my downstairs neighbor that my washing machine had malfunctioned while I was out, to take ownership of the difficulty. Mea culpa. She glared at me, her arms crossed.

"I never run my washer or dryer when I'm not home. Never. I cannot go in my house now, I will be electrocuted!" she said. I was about to launch into tears - nevermind telling her that she's not going to be electrocuted - and she seemed to sense this, because she said, "Is an accident. Is no one's fault. But I never leave anything turned on when I'm not home. Never. You should not leave it on when you're not there. Never. I never leave nothing on." Her mouth said, "It's not your fault," but her body language disagreed completely, as did the expression on her face. And her claims that she's the Mother Teresa of home appliances.

I could hear my phone ringing upstairs, and I had my own apartment to look after, so I excused myself hastily and ran up the three floors of stairs, answered my phone, and started thinking.

I moved my dining chairs into my bedroom, tucked the skirt of my sofa - my beautiful brand new sofa - up under the cushions, and prayed that my loveseat was ruined beyond all hope.

I was looking for a silver lining, okay? And in this case, that silver lining would be money with which to buy two chairs.

I put a towel across the door to my bedroom to try to prevent any more water from seeping into the carpet, and dragged my load of clothes out of the washing machine, depositing them in the bathtub (they were heavy with water, and it took me three trips).

My parents called me and told me to call my insurance company, to find out what to do with The Rug.

When I had my "cancer wish" granted through The Make A Wish foundation, I wished for an oriental rug. Ladies and gentlemen, I got it: an 8'8 x 10'6 Karastan Kirman rug.

For future reference, Karastans make excellent sponges when you need to soak up 30 minutes worth of washing machine gusher.

The insurance dispatcher told me to go ahead and call a company to come get the rug, since it would ruin the parquet in my living room (yup: income restricted apartment with parquet flooring), and I called a company. They sent a guy out, who claimed over the phone to be able to lift an 8'x10' rug, but retracted that statement when confronted with the Multicolor Panel Kirman behemoth.

My parents arrived while I was talking to the claims rep at my insurance company, and my mom was harangued by the lady on the first floor, about how she never leaves her washer on when she's not home. Mom excused herself to come help me.

We toweled up as much water as we could, moved my end tables out of the room, along with the floor lamp, and thanked heavens that my apartment building sags in the center of my living room so the water pooled there instead of infiltrating my bedroom and ruining my sofa.

The other rug from my dining area - a relatively (compared to the Karastan) inexpensive jute rug - was a goner, so when the rug guy arrived to assess the damage and haul it away, I didn't bother to show it to him.

According to my claims handler, to whom I spoke on Monday, I have to keep it to show it to the rug people so they can write on the invoice that the 5x7 Pier One Imports special is not salvageable so the insurance company can pay me money to replace it. I have to let it dry, and then keep it until they return my Karastan and give me their verdict in writing.

I lost a full day of productivity, which I badly needed, and most likely made an enemy of the lady downstairs - particularly since, as I was leaving to go to my parents house in preparation for the medical procedure Monday, she started in with "Like I said earlier, I never -"

I kind of lost it, and said, a bit too forcefully, "I know," and walked off. She apologized faintly, according to my mom, but I didn't hear her because I was halfway to the courtyard exit by that point. Definitely not one of my better moments. I think I'm going to send her flowers and a note of apology.

Mea culpa.

On the upside, there is -kind of- a silver lining: the Karastan needed to be cleaned, anyway.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Exciting Exciting Excitement

Tuesday morning was the weekly site meeting, with Connie, Pacman, and Big'un in attendance. When I arrived at the construction site, all the fellas were up on the roof, jabbering away, having climbed up a ladder to get there.

Now, I had spent Sunday and Monday with a migraine. Monday's migraine left me reeling, quite literally. I looked like a drunk stumbling down the halls, back and forth between our office and the ladies' room, or our office and the elevators so I could get myself another Dr. Pepper to ward off the waves of nausea.

I declined to climb the ladder, but made my way up the stairs and stood on a roof terrace just next to where the fellas were all standing, Connie's superintendent included.

Oldsmobile arrived after me, and so did Big'un's mom - our client - and we discussed the project. Pacman headed off with Superdeeduper to discuss the ceiling treatment in an area of the house, and I stayed behind, listened to a couple of questions from Big'un and his mom, and then went in search of Pacman to learn the answers.

I asked the pertinent questions, gave a few answers, and then...

Felt weak. And dizzy. And I couldn't see straight. And it sounded like I was underwater.

I was, in short, about to lose consciousness.

This has happened often enough in the past ten years that I can recognize it before it happens. Superdeeduper also seemed to realize something was wrong.

"You okay?" he asked. I couldn't hear him, but I could see his mouth beneath its Yosemite Sam mustache forming the words. I said I felt dizzy, and needed to sit.

A mechanical boot was quickly uncovered, and I sat down on its galvalum surface while Pacman ran to my car to fetch a Dr. Pepper.

After a few minutes, during which Superdeeduper stood by wringing his hands, I told Pacman I was going to go home. I honestly felt better, by this time, although still shaky, but nowhere near passing-out shaky.

This has happened to me a couple of times in the past year that I've worked for Oldsmobile, almost always the day after a migraine, when I haven't slept well, and when I don't have a wad of protein (usually from McDonald's) settling comfortably in the bottom of my stomach.

I went home, fell asleep immediately, and awoke around 1:00 pm, at which point I ate an apple and... something else, I can't remember what, called the office, and hammered out the details for an upcoming excursion to another project in Oklahoma, to take place Wednesday. Pacman was incredibly concerned when I spoke to him on the phone, and I was grateful for his worry. He said Superdeeduper - a nice guy, a good'ole'boy but without the usual chauvinism of a good'ole'boy - had called the office to check on me.

I think it's time to place a call to the neurologist, though. This is the second multi-day migraine I've had in as many weeks, and I can't keep passing out on construction sites... or almost passing out, for that matter. So I'll have to prepare for another round of doctor's visits, probably medication changes, etc... none of which are pleasant, and none of which I'll ever quite get used to.

Just as I start to think I'm back in the saddle again, I fall off the horse.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Magic Lamp(s)

A few months back, before my niece was born, I visited my sister in Houston. I went expressly to help her find lamps for her bedroom, and a dresser to use in the nursery as a changing table. It's always best to have a friend along, for these momentous decisions.

I came home with two brass lamps of my own. They're big: 34" tall from base to the top of the solid brass finial. The lamps themselves are solid brass, and polished to a mirror-like sheen, except for one small tarnished spot on the back of one of them.

Because they're solid brass, they are also incredibly heavy. They double as weapons in case of zombie attacks.

The lamps forced me to buy end tables for my living room, as I had nowhere to sit them. So I bought the 1960s Baker Chinoiserie end tables I blogged about in May (see Eating Crow).

The lamps are also, at present, indecent. They are naked. Undressed, if you will. Devoid of lampshades.

When I bought the lamps at a charity retail shop in the Heights, they had enormously broad aubergine coolie shades on them, a bit dented and scratched, and altogether unattractive. I tossed them in the trash before bringing the lamps home with me.

For months, I looked at lampshades online, searching for the perfect ones. I received money for my birthday with which to buy lampshades for my beautiful lamps. I visited a lamp shop just down the street this past Thursday, and received a quote for the lampshades, about what I had expected to pay for them. I just wasn't entirely satisfied with the dimensions.

Coolie lampshades are a strange and rare breed. They were popular in the 1950s and 1960s - which is why they have such an atrociously politically incorrect name - but their desirability has fallen off significantly as everyone rushes around, snatching up drum shades and square pyramid shades and the like. Coolie shades are much much smaller at the top than at the bottom. Most of them in the 22" diameter category - the category I need - have an 8" aperture at the top. Which was broader than I desired. I was afraid I'd have to have custom shades made.

And then, I discovered Enchanted Lighting, which gets rave reviews in D Magazine. It's the sort of place that does inexpensive lamp repairs, but sells $600 lamps. No, that does not include the shade. And that's a small ceramic bird lamp, mind you, not a big lamp. Not like one of their carved rock crystal pillar lamps, standing 48" tall and costing in the thousands.

That's what we call an "aspirational lamp."

They do have reasonably priced lampshades, however, and their customer service is wonderful. Unlike the customer service at a couple of other lamp stores I've visited, the clerk didn't try to push me to buy what they had in stock because it's such an imposition to order a lampshade.

It's the sort of store where they don't see a young person and immediately assume that I have no idea what I'm doing, even though I'm carrying an enormous brass lamp.

A brass lamp the likes of which you would be hard pressed to find new in Dallas.

Because it's amazing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Intimate Dinner

For one.

I had planned to go to Happy Hour, this evening, to watch the baseball game and pretend to be a Rangers fan along with the rest of the normally apathetic architects, but when I checked my account balance - it was pay day, after all, and I needed to make sure my money was deposited - I discovered that I'd paid more on my credit card bill this month than I realized.

Quite a bit more.

On what? Well, replacing the clothes that fell apart (and which I will be paying off for a couple of months, it seems), but mostly on... you guessed it: Doctors' bills. $600 worth.

Woohoo! Yes! $600 in one month! So I stayed home and watched "North by Northwest" on the DVD and ate a meal comprised of random food from my refrigerator, cobbled into a "wholesome meal."


Almost as awesome as being accused of "ganging up" with the contractors against Oldsmobile, today. Who accused me? Oldsmobile. My cohorts in this gang? Pacman and Connie.

Hmmmm.... Neither Pacman nor I like Connie. We both have a low opinion of him.

Why was I accused of "ganging up" against Oldsmobile? Well, the contractor ordered the wrong stone, we think, for the house. The contractor pointed to the mock-up of the stone and said, "But it's the same color under all that dirt. The mock-up's just dirty."

During a discussion with Connie - at which Oldsmobile was not present, because he had to leave - Pacman and I requested that the mock-up be power-washed. But only half of it should be power-washed. Then, we could compare the stones properly.

We - Pacman and I - were attempting to explain the logic of this to Oldsmobile, and he began accusing us of colluding with the contractor to prove that the stone on the site was the correct stone.

He would not let us explain ourselves.

He left for an appointment in a snit, as he is wont to do, and returned later, even angrier, because his appointment was delayed by a lax employee at the City of Dallas, and he started in on us again. When we tried to explain, he cut us off, accusing us of colluding.

We finally stopped trying to explain.

We let him tire himself out roaring at us, accusing us of deception, trying to change his opinion, conspiring with the contractor (who we don't like or trust, mind you) against him.

And then when he was good and out of breath, we explained.

We are somewhat back in his good graces.

I have a feeling, however, that I am no longer seen as an innocuous presence in the office; that I have become "one of the guys" at last, meaning that I am finally to be subject to the same fits of temper they are subject to regularly.

I'm used to high maintenance employers. I excel at high maintenance employers. But they're usually of the benevolent kind, who are high maintenance in a "I carry granola bars and spare pens and pads of paper in my bag to keep them fed/supplied" kind of way. The kind who expect you to wipe Wite-Out off their face before meetings.

That kind of high maintenance. Not yelling, accusing high maintenance.

Maybe I'll keep my head down for a few days. Beginning Tuesday. Because Monday, we go look at the stone again.

Which brings me back to my original point: I don't get paid enough for this job.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dr. Pain - Part Deux

Thank you for humoring my little Mel Brooks reference.

I saw Dr. Pain on Tuesday, and he seemed baffled that I hadn't had an MRI of my neck - which would be the source of pain in my arm, but not my left leg, alas. So he ordered one. I had it performed that same day - er - night. Bonus: his MRI center schedules appointments until 9:30 at night so I didn't have to miss work for the MRI.

Laying aside the fact that Dr. Pain reminds me of a Korean Jackie Chan - complete with manic bouncy energy - and that he made me feel much better about my whole ordeal and proposed an immediate solution, the fact that his preferred MRI clinic is open late makes him tops in my book.

He did prescribe me with some pain pills, but only because the pain is keeping me awake at night, which means I'm fatigued, which means I almost get into a wreck with a Suburban because I'm not as aware of what's going on. Ahem. So, pills only at night, and in a couple of weeks, I'll have a minor surgical procedure performed, called an epidural steroid injection. In other words, they put steroids in my spinal column with a little bit of anesthesia and I (hopefully) will feel better. Because I will feel less.

Before the appointment, I had to go through a loooooooooooooong set of paperwork, most of which dealt with personal background (Have you ever had problems with drug abuse? Alcohol abuse? Do you have any relatives with drug or alcohol abuse problems? Do you have mood swings? Oh, buddy, do I have mood swings...) and current medications, and then a long contract stating that I would not share my medicine or sell it or use illicit drugs, or socialize with people who use illicit drugs.

Sorry, stoners, I can't be your friend, any more. Or, at least, hang out at your house or ride in your car, where you might have illicit drugs, and where I might be arrested along with you for being in possession of them during the course of routine traffic stops. I'm not joking.

And I had to take a drug test. I will, during the time I'm seeing Dr. Pain, be submitted to random drug tests, just to make sure I'm not bolstering my legal pain medicine's effects with nightly doses of heroin.

The best part is that the contract isn't just with Dr. Pain, it's a United States DEA legal document - if I understand it correctly - so I sort of just signed a contract with the government.

I think I'm scared, now.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dr. Pain

When I was little, my pediatrician was named Dr. Paine.

I'm not making this up.

We used to laugh about it, as much as a 4 year old can when she goes to see a man called Dr. Paine who jabs her with needles.

On Tuesday, I will see a whole different kind of Dr. Pain (not his real name, natch, and hopefully nothing like T-Pain, featured above - a grill does not lend itself to a professional appearance). This doctor will, supposedly, help relieve my pain. This past week has been pretty atrocious, and I feel the worst I've been since I started back to work at the beginning of August.

Before I called to schedule my appointment, I Googled the new Dr. Pain, because I was curious about him: why my neurologist referred me to him, how long he'd been practicing, where he did his residency.

She referred me to one hell of a pain doctor.

Dr. Pain did his residency at Walter Reed Medical Center, and he is board certified by a bazillion different boards of specialization. A bazillion. That's a lot of certifications, Dear Reader. His website listed a bunch of different types of therapies he uses - most of which I didn't recognize, but none of which were "pills", so I felt better about that. I've been terrified of going to the type of doctor who just shoves a bottle at you and says, "Have fun with the narcotics. Don't drive too much."

Much like tequila and Coca-Cola, narcotics and construction sites don't go well together.

Not that I know from experience. About either of the above.

Hopefully, though, come Tuesday, there will be some path forward towards feeling better, again. Because this constant pain in the left half of my body is starting to become a royal pain in the-

I think you get the idea.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Le Bron James

I had a massage, this evening, to celebrate my birthday.

Wait. You had a massage? That sounds lame. Yes, thank you for your ego-boosting, dear reader. For a brief few minutes, this morning, I considered getting together a few people to hang out for the evening (hang out = drink), but then I realized I wasn't up to it.

No, I'm not that old, I'm just suffering from a migraine hangover. It's like a regular hangover, but without the knowledge that you were hammered and had a rollicking good time the night before. And you don't usually go to a neurologist every 2-3 months because of hangovers.

Yesterday's migraine didn't have a headache along with it, but it was the worst aura I've ever had in my life, and I threw in the towel after two hours at work. In theory, it shouldn't have happened at all, as I could feel it coming on Tuesday evening, so I took my "rescue" migraine medicine as a preventive measure.

The rescue medicine failed. BIG TIME.

So today, my birthday (Thursday), I was exhausted, and had a little headache, and my shoulders were all tense and achy. I called and booked a 90 minute massage appointment, and scarfed down my birthday cupcake, and went about my business.

My masseuse was new to me. Dell - "Like the computer" she said - was a tall woman. And by tall, I don't mean she could have been a supermodel. I mean she could have started for the Miami Heat.

The tallest fellow I've ever dated still would have had to look up at her, and he was 6'-5". Tall man, short relationship.

Dell knew her business, though, and my muscles are looser than they were this morning. She asked me if I had a high-stress job, and I told her I'd had a migraine Wednesday, and that I had a pinched nerve in my back that gave me trouble by the end of most days.

That's something else I've noticed about the massage therapy thing: my left side - the one afflicted by the nipped nerves - is much more sensitive than the right side. My left knee and foot are ticklish, but not the right. My left thigh hurts disproportionately when massaged, but not the right. It makes sense, I guess.

As an update, my neurologist told me I could try taking an extra neuralgia pill at night if I was in pain. Tried it, and I was so groggy I couldn't function. So now, I'm off to see a pain management specialist. We'll see what he has to say - and what he recommends - when I go see him. After I make the appointment. Which I will do in the morning.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happy Feet

At my former place of employment - a more corporate environment where I spent half my week in meetings with clients - my wardrobe consisted mostly of high-waisted skirts and sky-high heels, typically with rounded toes.

The former exaggerated the length of my legs in proportion to my body, and the latter exaggerated the utter tininess of my feet.

As I am wont to say when a shoe salesperson looks at me incredulously: "I got little midget feet."

I wear a ladies' size 6-1/2, which, given that I am 5'-8" tall, means my feet are woefully undersized for my height. This creates all sorts of problems, such as the tendency to lose my balance while standing perfectly still.

Now, dear reader, do not believe that I exacerbated my balance issues by wearing stilettos. Au contraire: I had to concentrate more on locomotion, and so tended rather to be more successful at walking than otherwise.

Now, I spend at least one day each week wearing steel-toed boots. I had looked at myself in the mirror while wearing them, of course, but until today, it had not struck me that they give me the appearance of having "normal" feet, or, at least, feet that are more proportional to my height.

I don't think I like this.

As Sir Francis Bacon put it, "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion."

My personal appearance has always played on this idea, although I did not come across the quote that exemplifies the theory until earlier this year. I like to set off my relatively slender frame with enormous handbags and to overwhelm my somewhat delicate features with outsized sunglasses. Then, of course, there are the previously mentioned methods of exaggerating my already uncommon proportions.

At least I know something that the casual observer does not: my boots are too big.

In order to shove my foot into a Wellington-style boot, I had to buy a pair much larger than I would normally wear. In addition to the tiny foot, attached to long legs that reside at the bottom of a truncated trunk, the arch of my foot is extraordinarily high, and has an instep to accompany that trait.

So my high arches required the boot shaft to be of larger diameter than a men's size 5 (approximately equivalent to a ladies' size 6-1/2). I wear a men's size 6. And thick socks.

And I sigh over the apparent return of my feet to a seemingly normal dimension.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cut and Paste

Pacman returned to the office, today, and immediately expressed his satisfaction at how I'd been running our current project. He then left me to continue running the project, while he and Scooter deal with some tricky questions and needy contractors who are bidding a church addition. Let's hear it for earning more Intern Development Program hours for Contract Administration! Woohoo!

I decided to celebrate by... treating myself to a shower caddy. And a little plastic organizer thingy for my medicine cabinet so my tubes of face cream and tweezers don't rain down on my head when I open it to pull out my toothbrush in the morning. I threw in a new cutting board as a prize, too.

Once my shower caddy was installed, and my tubes and tweezers and extractors were all safe and sound in their cubbies, I cleaned my makeup brushes, and decided I'd indulged in enough obsessive behavior for one evening.

Let me rephrase that: enough non-creative obsessive behavior.

Shall I explain?

I'm a scrapbooker. Now, before you decide Ms. Strainedconsciousness has turned into a suburban mother of twelve, I should clarify that it is a highly curated design scrapbook, encompassing multiple facets of design: interiors, architecture (the two are inextricably linked, in my not-so-humble-opinion), fashion, and product design.

My "scrapbooks" are Moleskine A3 sketchbooks and/or watercolor books. They can fit a full 9x12 magazine page, or a multitude of tiny pictures. Recently, I've been arranging - carefully, methodically - the latter.

The pages containing multiple images and are arranged similarly to the salon walls of 18th and 19th century manor houses, with one central painting/image surrounded by smaller ones that are more or less related. I tend to related things by color. For that reason, this lady:

(okay, dame) is surrounded by interior images, all of which have a decidedly orange or red tinge, like so:
And an image of Iris Apfel - who wears the world's most amazing jewelry and spectacles - is accompanied by images of a marine hue. As long as that marine area is not Galveston.

Are you catching what I'm throwing, here? It's a wonderful exercise in the study of interiors and architecture and how they relate to individuals' tastes. In addition to Great Personalities, I also collect images off The Sartorialist website (, firstly to help me in expanding my personal wardrobe horizons and in targeting my wardrobe goals, but also because the way people design themselves can have an impact on the way I design interiors and architectural spaces. The following images are all from the above website.

And I'm in good company, it seems. A collection of Cecil Beaton's scrapbooks is slated to be published in the near future - November, if memory serves. He created his scrapbooks from magazines, movie posters, and snapshots to help him in his studies of lighting photography shoots and how to pose people, and to study how they interacted with their surroundings.

Ms. Strainedconsciousness and Cecil Beaton. Whodathunkit?