Thursday, December 30, 2010


I went to Houston over the holidays, and there - in addition to playing with my adorable niece - I had a gustatory revelation: pomegranate.

I had only tasted pomegranate juice, previously, and was a trifle confused when my epicurean sister presented me with a fruit salad one morning at breakfast. Contained therein were the little fleshy pips of the pomegranate.

After a confused silence on my part, followed swiftly by "How do you eat these?", I launched into tasting my first unadulterated pomegranate pip.

It was heaven, Dear Reader!

When I finally returned to my own little home - thankfully migraine-free - I realized that I had absolutely no food to eat, so I sashayed over to Whole Paycheck to pick up some artisan cheeses and pita bread and apples and... Lo and behold: pomegranates!

Of course, I bought two, not realizing just how difficult they are to cut.

For a few minutes after the cutting ended, my kitchen resembled the shower scene from Psycho, with me in the role of blood-spattered shower curtain (I wore an apron).

One thing forgot to mention in its "How to Cut a Pomegranate" article: lay down tarps and drop-cloths everywhere that you don't think pomegranate juice will reach, because that is exactly where it will go.

There is probably pomegranate juice on the ceiling along with last year's spaghetti sauce.

I also miscalculated the number of pomegranate pips in a relatively small pomegranate.

In case you're wondering, there's a bazillion. That's a lot of pips, people.

I couldn't eat all of them (my tongue is sore, as it is, from sucking the flesh off the seeds of 1/4 cup of pips), but I couldn't let all that yummy goodness go to waste.

So I broke out a sieve, a metal spoon, and a bowl, and proceeded to manually juice the pips, according to's instructions (again, sans tarp warning).

Fresh-smushed pomegranate juice is so much better than anything you could ever buy at the grocery store, fancy schmancy or not. By the time I was finished, I had about 6 oz. of juice, and that was with my lazy crazy way of juicing them and giving up because I'm a wuss and my wrist was tired.

Monday, December 27, 2010

"Forever Amber" by Kathleen Winsor

I was, as usual, in need of a book, and I decided that - if I was going to spend good money for literature - it had better last me a long while.

I looked initially for Emile Zola's Odette, but failed to find it in Barnes & Noble's notsohallowed grounds. My eyes alit on Forever Amber, and I plucked the weighty tome from its shelf. I scanned the back of the book, which described it as "unforgettable." The fact that it was banned in multiple cities when it was first published in 1944 helped seal the deal, and I headed home to read away.

I have never been so infuriated in my life at a book's characters. If you've read my tirade against Gone With the Wind's Scarlett and Ashley, you know I get miffed at characters pretty easily.

Scarlett's got nothing on Amber St. Clare. Ashley Wilkes' mind games pale in comparison to the incessant teasing Lord Carlton gets up to.

To put it this way: the main characters both get the plague, and you find yourself rooting for the plague! It's absolutely insane.

Essentially, Ms. St. Clare only has two things going for her: her beautiful face and her shapely body. Other than that, she has nothing: no common sense, no intelligence, and - unlike most canines, lab rats, and parrots - no ability to learn. She's a bit of dull-as-dishwater fluff who is absolutely certain that THIS TIME he will marry her, and that THIS TIME she will be happy.

The only people in the whole damned book who I liked were: 1) one of Amber's lovers who gets himself killed fighting a duel over the idiot girl; 2) King Charles II; 3) yet another guy who will love Amber, treat her like a princess, and actually marry her, but who she throws over for his best buddy.

In the end, Amber doesn't get what she wants, the reader wants to strangle her, and none of the other characters can stand her (so the reader isn't exactly alone).

If you want the most frustrating read of all time, then pick up a copy of Forever Amber (presumably named as such because she is forever making the same mistakes). If given a copy of Forever Amber - but wanting to preserve one's healthy blood pressure level - then use it to fuel a barbecue or something.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dr. Useless

In the past seven days, I've had three doctors' appointments. I saw Dr. Pain last Wednesday, and he prescribed physical therapy (woohoo!) since the previous treatment didn't work at all.

I saw my neurologist/best friend on Thursday, and broke the news to her that, although I hadn't called the office to complain, I'd had a headache every day since Dec. 4 (my trip to the ER). I thought she was going to cry. Somehow, I managed not to. I told her I was going to go to the Baylor Headache Clinic, and she thought it was a great idea. She encouraged me to go.

Yesterday, I hit the Baylor Clinic - which is neither in Waco, nor is it at the Baylor Hospital campus east of Downtown Dallas. No, it's across Park Lane from Northpark Mall, which meant that mumsie and I spent a good time battling pre-Christmas traffic to get there. We cut off several people who don't understand that "Yield to Ramp" means you yield to the people on the highway's exit ramp.

Hopefully, they have now learned their lesson.

So I arrived about ten minutes early for my check-in time, filled out all my paperwork for the appointment, and sat down in a chair next to my mom to read until I was called back. We waited for about 30 minutes.

I went back into the examination room, talked to the nurse for a while, and then sat down to read while I waited for the doctor to show up.

Forty-five minutes later he waltzed into the room, and began to ask me questions that were all answered in the comprehensive medical questionnaire I'd filled out a week before to give to him. I was kind of irked by the fact that he was AN HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES LATE and yet hadn't even looked at my paperwork. And he didn't apologize for his tardiness either.

First impressions, Doc. First impressions.

After an exam, he informed me that migraines tend to come in waves, so what I was experiencing wasn't abnormal. When I looked at him and said, "Two month waves?" he just shrugged. This after I'd told him that I wasn't able to work because of my migraines.

His solution? Here's some more pills to try to prevent the migraines, and I'll see you in six weeks.

EXCUSE ME???? I wanted to tell him that, in six weeks, without being able to work, I won't be able to afford to see him, and it was nice meeting him (although that last bit would have been a lie).

He didn't say anything about changing my diet, doing physical therapy, or anything else that I'd seen on multiple websites for other headache clinics across the country. No, it was just, "Here's more pills, see you in six weeks."

At this point, I'm positively drowning in pills, what with the ones that I'm already taking to prevent migraines (that aren't really working), the ones that treat my nerve pain, the ones that are supposed to help prevent the nerve pain, the ones that treat a dietary problem I've had for years, the ones that treat another digestive problem (partially caused by all the other pills I'm on), and the ones that help treat eczema. Oh, and the ones that treat nausea brought on by migraines, and the ones that are supposed to treat acute migraine attacks, but which only work sometimes.

So I'm back to square one, essentially, and I have no intention of going back to see Dr. Useless at Baylor. It's time to look for other headache clinics, and to possibly be hospitalized (again) by my neurologist/best friend after Christmas.

The not-so-Merry-Go-Round continues.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Wait for Me!" by Deborah Mitford Cavendish

I just finished reading Wait for Me! by Deborah Mitford Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. I recommend that everyone - not just Anglophiles and fans of Mitfordania - read it.

Debo, as she was known to friends and family, was the youngest of the Mitford brood. Although her oldest sister, Nancy Mitford, nick-named her Nine (the mental age beyond which Nancy teased she never matured), she went on to be a prolific authoress who graces the page with humor, poignancy, and interesting tidbits of information.

This is one of the few books I've read that is literally laugh-out-loud funny, and I frequently found myself having to get up to close the door to my bedroom so I didn't disturb my mother, asleep across the hall, as I hooted hilariously upon reading her anecdotes.

The book is Deborah's memoir, and gets its title from the fact that she was youngest, and as a child had short legs that meant she couldn't keep up with her older siblings (she had one brother, and five sisters). Her father nicknamed her "Stubby" for her short little legs, and called her that until his dying day.

I first began reading about the Mitford family - all fascinating characters - when I received The Sisters as a Christmas gift. I have since gone on to read the collection of their letters to one another, and own a rare copy of Unity's biography, now out of print. I have two novels by Nancy (and look forward to buying the re-released Wigs on the Green, last published in 1937 as a parody of her sister Unity's Nazism), and Communist Jessica's memoirs. I have yet to purchase sister Diana's memoirs, but they're on the list, too.

Deborah was married to her husband, Andrew Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, during World War II in a ballroom, the windows of which had been blown out by a bomb, and whose curtains were destroyed in the air raid. Her creative mother bought rolls of silver and gold wallpaper and pleated them to look like curtains, before nailing them to the walls. Her wedding cake had a cardboard cover in lieu of icing, because sugar was rationed (along with everything else).

She talks at length of the fight to keep one of the Cavendish family's homes, Chatsworth, from being sold to pay death duties when her father-in-law died, leaving her husband to wear the mantle of Duke. He was not supposed to be duke, but his older brother was killed in World War II, along with many of Debo's friends. She discusses these young men in detail prior to the advent of war, and it's tear-jerking when she describes their deaths.

Debo was friends with everyone. She attended John F. Kennedy's inauguration and funeral. She attended Elizabeth II's coronation, only weeks after the premature birth of her fifth child, followed hours later by that child's death. She gave birth in all to six children; only three of them survived.

She talks about being a duchess, living in a huge house, and how she and her husband used to wander the grounds of Chatsworth before they moved into it, and she teased him by exclaiming "What a lovely house! I wonder who lives here?" (His response, "Oh, do shut up.")

She discusses with candor and yet with respect her husband's battle with alcoholism, only won when she deserted him in the middle of a house party, only agreeing to return if he took sobriety seriously and vowed never to touch a drop of alcohol again.

Such was the force of her attraction and her character that she was not forced to follow through on her threat; Andrew never touched a drop again, and they spent the next 20 years happily married.

She discusses her sister, Diana, and her marriage to the leader of the British fascist movement, Sir Oswald Mosley (father of Max Mosley, former head of Formula One Racing), and their subsequent imprisonment as enemies of the nation during World War II, as well as sister Nancy's treachery in trying to convince MI5 not to release the couple from prison. She makes no apologies for the fact that, despite their politics, she continued to love and cherish Diana and Unity (who was great friends with Hitler), and somehow you don't blame her for this blindspot. They were, after all, her sisters.

Fascism served to end her parents' marriage, and she discusses this with her brilliant clarity and incredible empathy; her mother had met Hitler and admired him, as did her father, but when World War II broke out, he renounced his admiration, whereas her mother did not do so. They separated, only finally reconciling when Debo's father was on his deathbed.

If you have the money, I highly suggest you buy a copy of Wait for Me! It's one of those biographies that I already look forward to reading again and again.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sounds of Silence

I haven't been writing much.

I know, I'm a bad blogger.

I also haven't been reading the blogs I usually check on a daily basis, because... well, I forget. And too much computer time gives me a headache, whether I'm lying in bed or not.

Why haven't I been writing?

Well, there's not a whole heck of a lot going on, these days. I write, I run one or two errands each day, I get myself lunch, sometimes (but other times it's cereal for me), and then I scratch good old Major Tom (who is very lazy, this winter, and is almost constantly lying on his bed in the living room).

I don't want to blog constantly about my health problems, although this space has sort of become a clearinghouse for 'what's wrong with me today.' I feel kind of whiny when all I blog about is my health, and I'm sure it's not very interesting, and is possibly distressing, and the last thing I want to have in my already super-guilt-riddled-for-no-good-reason mind is the added guilt of causing my readers - who are mostly family and friends, and a couple of people of whom I have no knowledge (Bangladesh, what up?) - to worry about me.

Example of guilt-ridden Ms. Strainedconsciousness: A couple of years ago, a harmless garter snake was on my parents' back patio. I flipped out and killed it, and it took longer than I'd thought it would to actually kill the thing. I've felt awful about it ever since for depriving the harmless little snake of its life.

A couple of days ago, there was a snake in my parents' kitchen (um, I'm living with the folks, since I can't really take care of myself right now. I'm a toddler all over again... but a toddler who's paying rent on an unused apartment). Instead of killing it and smushing its little serpentine brains out, I put on garden gloves and carried it outside, flinging it into the yard to go about its happy little life.

The snake was maybe 5 inches long, cold (so lethargic, kind of like Major Tom), black, and had a slightly triangular head.

It was a baby water moccasin.

Guess what? I didn't kill it. +5 points for me. It's a water moccasin and might 1) re-enter our home at some point and kill us all in the night and/or cause abject terror; 2) it could kill Major Tom while he's in the backyard "powdering his nose." So -475 points.

More guilt. It's an issue. And occasionally, someone will chide me for feeling so damn guilty all the time and... then I feel guilty about feeling guilty.

Vicious cycle, people. Vicious cycle.

Almost as vicious as a water moccasin a.k.a. cottonmouth. But not nearly as deadly.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Time to Kill

I am not working, at present. Seeing as I am plagued almost daily by migraines, it's pretty much impossible for me to work. I haven't lost my job, though, and I will get back to the office as soon as I am well again (or, as well as I ever will be). Granted, I'll be hourly when I return, but them's the breaks, and you can't really blame them for changing the terms of my employment, seeing as I require so many days off for medical leave.

So for now, I'm working on my portfolio (always good to keep it updated) and writing.

But Ms. Strainedconsciousness, you haven't been writing much, you chide.

I've been writing stories, Dear Reader, ones that have been locked in my addled brain for years, and that only now have the chance to flow out onto paper (and then into the computer).

Several years ago - 20, in fact - I came up with a ghost of an idea for a fairy tale of sorts. Later, influenced by reading The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, I refined my ideas, and they started taking shape more fully.

A month ago, I made a first pass at the story, but it had ventured too far from its starting point, from that original idea, and so I scrapped it and started over, stowing the legal padful of scribbles away so some of the ideas wouldn't be lost.

On my second attempt, I blazed through the story in a handful of days, filling a legal pad and part of a spiral notebook, then jumping onto printer paper because I'd left my writing at my apartment and couldn't get to it. Now, all of those pages are typed and printed out, to be revised and added to in copious amounts.

There are additional events and places still to be visited, and more trials and tribulations to be overcome by my character, but we'll get there eventually. I typically launch into writing and then, just as quickly, stop, bored or frustrated because I've worked my character into a situation that she needn't be in. Instead of going back, culling the wheat from the chaff, I just abandon the whole thing.

My invalid author status has a few significant precedents throughout history: Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind after either an illness or a car wreck, I can't rightly remember. And it's no wonder, really, because lying supine or on my side - the only positions in which my head doesn't pound like a kettle drum - are two of the best possible positions for writing. And I've already got an idea - another long-gestating one - in my head for another story, one I have had for a long time, but couldn't come up with an ending to.

I have an ending, and once I've finished with my current story, I'll start at the beginning of the next one.

At least I'm not bored out of my mind!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Trials and Tribulations of Ms. SC

I was hospitalized, as you know, and released last Thursday, December 2. We rejoiced, thinking my migraines were gone.

Chickens. Counting. Hatched. Right.

Saturday, I was back in the hospital, but the emergency room, my insomnia - caused by steroids to treat the migraines - having cause another migraine. My prescription migraine medicine had no effect on my headache, and my mother and one of her friends came to get me from my little apartment. I took with me the pearlescent green plastic trash can from my bedroom, since I was - um - not feeling too well, my green snake-skin purse, and an overnight bag.

My mother's friend remarked that only I would think to coordinate my sick-can with my purse.

I was doped up right proper in the ER, slept a bit, and was then sent home to my parents' house.

I'm now stepping up my medical game: I have, in addition to an appointment with my neurologist, an appointment at the Baylor Headache Clinic.

You hear that, migraines? It's on. Bring it!

Seeing as I'm now talking trash to myself, I might also need to make an appointment with a psychiatrist. Hmmm...

I wonder if multiple personalities all get migraines, or if there's one in there who's migraine, free?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again

While hospitalized for my migraines, I received copious quantities of steroids.

I look something like the Creampuffs Marshmallow Man from Ghost Busters, as a result. Meaning, my face is puffy, as is my tummy.

I hate the word "tummy," just FYI.

Another fun tidbit about steroids is that they cause insomnia. INSOMNIA.

I don't need any help with the insomnia department, as it is fully staffed and operational at all times of the week/month/year. Need someone who can't sleep? Oooh! Call me! Call me!

So I've spent the past two nights not sleeping when I'm supposed to be recuperating from my hospital stay. Because you have to recuperate from recuperating. Yes, really.

Thursday night, I read and wrote in alternating shifts, because I get restless when I have steroid insomnia. I want to do something. Now. Something different. Now. Something different again. Now. Okay, thanks.

So I read for five minutes, then wrote for five or ten, then back to reading for maybe 15 minutes, then back to writing for ten, etc., etc., ad adendum, ad infinitum.

I did the same thing Friday night. It was just as exciting the second time around, except I wasn't 3/4 of the way through a book I wanted to finish.

So I'm running on 4 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours, and that seems to be how things are going to stay, for right now. Awake. They will stay awake. For a long time.

The last time I had steroid insomnia this bad, I was on chemotherapy. I was also 17 and reading Harry Potter, so it wasn't like I lacked for something to do. I plowed through those books. And dreamed of pancakes and sausage, because in the first three books, J.K. Rowling talks about food a lot.

This time, there is no thrilling boy-wizard trilogy (at that time - now there's 7 of the books!!!) to get through, nor is there much of anything to do. I've cleaned out all I can clear out of the soon-to-be-office that used to be my (onetime) bedroom at my parents' house, and I've almost finished the first very rough draft of the story I'm working on.

So I'm blogging at 6:45 in the morning, as my dad gets ready to go jogging in the cold (for Texas) December air. He's crazy.

He's crazy for jogging, but I'm the one who's been up all night, and will probably be up all night again, tonight. Hopefully this doesn't trigger another migraine...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blogging Under the Influence

I was released from the hospital, today.

Okay, wait.

Back up.

Tuesday, I had an appointment with my neurologist. She entered the exam room, in which I'd turned off all the lights, still had on my sunglasses, and I was curled up in the fetal position on the exam table.

I am never on the exam table when she comes in, nor do I wear my sunglasses or turn the lights out. She pointed to the darkened ceiling, and said, "I don't like what I see, here."

After about five minutes, she informed me that I was going to hate her, but she was hospitalizing me for my migraines.

I definitely didn't hate her for that. Yet. But I knew that I needed something other than the "wait and see" approach we'd been taking.

Four hours later - after 3 hours in the emergency room - I was in a hospital room, and my mom was on her way to pick up my schtuff from her house. I'd just missed dinner at the hospital, so I had Chik-Fil-A for my first hospital meal.

I was in the hospital all day Wednesday, and spent most of the time reading a novel by Henning Mankell called "The White Lioness." I recommend it, by the way. It's a novel thriller mystery type thing, so obviously, it was purloined from my mom's collection.

Wednesday night was pretty hellish, though. I couldn't sleep, so the nurse had to give me a super-sedative, and I only fell asleep after 5:00 a.m.


But my migraines had stopped, and I was doing much better, I thought. So did my neurologist, who announced Thursday afternoon that I could go home. Three hours later - yes, three - I finally left the hospital for my parents' abode, and here I am.


Once home, I discovered that my brain isn't working, properly. I've been loaded up with demerol, Atavan, and gobs of migraine drugs and steroids for the past 48 hours, and they're all working their way out of my system, now. So I can't concentrate on reading, writing, or even scratching the dog (whose back leg starts shaking, threatening to topple him over).

So I'm blogging. Blogging under the influence.

Hope the internet police don't pull me over for this one.