Yesterday, I had taken a mystery shopping job just off of the University of Texas campus. I have avoided this shop for the majority of the year, but because the Nuthaus is so close, I knew we could park there and walk.

Before we left the house, Daphne was doing school and working on a Minecraft skin and was still wearing what she’d worn to bed: a t-shirt and a pair of mismatched shorts left over from her gymnastics days.

When it was time to go, she asked if she could wear what she had on, and I told her yes. She asked where we were going, and I said that we were going to walk to dinner, then go to the grocery store. She seemed to vacillate between changing clothes and being comfortable.

At one point, she asked what she should wear. I told her to wear whatever she wanted.

As we left, I asked one last time, “Do you want to change clothes?” She said, “Nah, it’s Austin. Why should I?”

Confident with that, we took off.

We drove downtown, parked at the Nuthaus, and started walking up to Guadalupe. Pretty soon, we were passing very hipster-looking coeds, and I saw something in my daughter that I’ve never seen before. She was twirling her hair (which is normal) and appeared to be shrinking inside of herself.

“I wish you’d told me we were going to walk like this. I would have changed clothes,” she told me.

I let this slide, though I usually call her on blaming me for her decisions, because I knew exactly what she was experiencing.

My child had no reason to feel ashamed. She looked fine. She did not, however, look as shiny and put-together as a bunch of young adults, and I could read that she felt “less,” that she compared herself to them and found herself lacking.

For what it’s worth, I was wearing sweats in layers, and it was really too warm for it, but I have (hopefully) gotten past the days of comparing myself to “cool” people.

I hope that Daphne gets past that a lot sooner than I did. I still remember sitting around in BSF, looking down and realizing that everyone had nicer shoes (and toenail polish) than I did.

There’s this juxtaposition in me that I think I see in Daphne: I am pretty low-maintenance. I don’t spend three or four hours getting ready, and I don’t particularly enjoy shopping for clothes, and I don’t have my hair professionally colored or cut unless it’s a mystery shop. I like that.

At the same time, I’d love it if every picture of me looked like it could have been in a magazine.

And I understand looking around and seeing person after person (women) you recognize as being somehow a lot more conventionally one of the “beautiful people” than yourself.

If that’s important to you, if you allow it to resonate in your brain, it can really mess you up. I desperately want my daughter to be able to avoid that.

And she was right: This *is* Austin. If we’d gone farther up Lamar, or farther down Lamar, or almost anywhere else, how she was dressed wouldn’t have been an issue for her. I don’t think any of those kids cared how she was dressed, but it was obvious that she did.

So next time, I’ll be the meanie who forces her to spruce up a little bit.

Adolescence, here we come…


Acu_woman_smiling_dreamstime_4554584_2See that lady right there? Just naked and smiling as Thing inserts a tiny acupuncture needle into her back? Just so you know, in case you ever actually go have an acupuncture treatment, my experience was NOTHING like this. I’d post a picture of what I looked like this morning, except that I have dignity. But suffice it to say that I didn’t remove my sweats or my sweatshirt or anything beyond my shoes and socks. And the dude didn’t touch my back at all. Also, I am pretty sure that he had a staple gun and that was how he inserted the needles. But more on that in a minute.

First of all, one thing I’ve heard about acupuncture is this: The needles are so small, you can’t even feel them! Um, yeah. You can. That’s kind of the point. You’re stimulating different parts of your body to open up channels for energy and whatnot, and I don’t totally understand it and maybe it sounds like hooey, but I do not want someone to slice into my vertebral column just yet so I’m going to try some treatment that has been used for thousands of years before we get to that, mmkay?

Basically, the acupuncture practitioner told me what to expect, and how it works (on an elementary level, because I’m dumb and whatnot), and then these three supplements he’d recommend that I take while I’m pursuing this course of treatment.

He sent me home with Boswellia Complex for inflammation, Gotu Kola Complex for soft tissue healing, and Circulation (SJ) for “the sharp pain.” When he said those words and explained that I’d be taking 4-6 pills three times a day, I didn’t flinch. I was ready to down a whole vial of those puppies, if they’d alleviate the “sharp” pain. That’s the *worst.* However, he said, “That might sound like a lot of pills,” (which it didn’t, since I’ve been taking 6 Aleve and 6 ibuprofen per day, as well as the occasional allergy med) “but it’s herbs, so if you think of rosemary… how much of that would you have to eat before your body responded?”

Next, he invited me to take off my shoes and socks and lie down on my back. I was able to do with easily, mentally noting that I need to buy a hard chiropractic/acupuncture table to sleep on at night. There was a firm wedge pillow under my lower legs, too. I laid there for nearly an hour before my body started begging me to move.

The practitioner pushed up my sleeves and the bottoms of my sweats a bit (would have shaved if I’d thought of that… whoopsie) and said that he was trying to open up the energy in the complementary meridians to my back, where the pain is. By stimulating this channel to “open,” the body starts healing itself. Or something like that.

He warned me that it would be like a “dull ache,” and I assured him that I’d just had a tattoo touched up on Saturday, on top of my finger, just so he’d know I am pretty bad-ass.

Well, I still have to say “ow.” The needle insertion didn’t hurt as much as the tattoo, but they were certainly more than slightly uncomfortable. He put needles into my right hand, my left arm at the elbow crease and in that area, my right foot, my left ankle, and he put three on top of my head! What does it say that I felt the skull needles least?

After he’d put those in, he talked to me a bit before leaving the room. He mentioned that I should feel the “dull ache” and not a sharpness or itching. But the one needle inside of my left elbow was pretty itchy. He said he might have pierced a vessel through which some blood escaped, creating a “histamine” reaction. He took out the original needle and put another one in, and then left me to relax.

Twenty minutes later, he came back and asked me if I could still feel the needles. I could really only feel the one in my left elbow crease, so he “stimulated” them all again. My body had stopped paying attention, but it took notice again quickly! Yikes! I said, “I didn’t but I do feel them when you do that!”

He said, “You’re supposed to feel it. That’s how we get these passages to open up.”

By the time that my hour was up, I was starting to get fidgety and my tail was getting exhausted. It wasn’t pain exactly, but I needed to move. Also, at one point, my left leg felt weirdly empty.

When he came back and took out the needles, he massaged my arms quickly, and both of my wrists popped, which I don’t know that they’ve ever done before.

I felt no different when I left, but I scheduled 10 sessions because I want to attack this thing aggressively. I need to be FINISHED with my pain before my Haiti trip. I need to be finished with this *now*. I’ll keep you updated.

I have considered buying a SodaStream for a very long time, but as long as it was possible to buy a 2-liter of store brand diet soda for $.50ish, I could not justify the initial expense, because even without it, the syrup didn’t save much.

Lately, though, even store brands are closer to a dollar and name brands are nearly $2. I’ve taken to buying fountain drinks almost exclusively, because if I’m going to pay that much, I might as well have the good stuff.

A couple of days ago, though, I reached my breaking point and yesterday took my 20% off coupon to Bed Bath and Beyond and purchased the $99 SodaStream Genesis. They have other, higher-priced models, but I didn’t see the point. I’d hoped to get the red one, but they didn’t have any in stock. In fact, the one that I bought was the only one that they had left.

The system comes with a base, a carbon dioxide canister, and the top mechanism that allows you to dispense the carbon dioxide without hurting someone.

The system comes with a base, a carbon dioxide canister, and the top mechanism that allows you to dispense the carbon dioxide without hurting someone.

It also comes with twelve soda samplers and three water flavors.

It also comes with twelve soda samplers and three water flavors.

It also comes with two one-liter bottles.

It also comes with two one-liter bottles.

The instructions said to use “ice cold” water, so we put these in the refrigerator overnight. They can’t be dishwashered, no bigs since we don’t have one, but they also can’t be washed with hot water. In fact, there is a mildly frightening warning on the bottle that the containers are “dangerous” if used in a dishwasher.

I didn’t understand that when I read it, but I do now…

You start by putting the base, cartridge, and dispenser together.

SodaStream 003

This doesn’t require any power, because basically the CO2 propels itself and this is mostly a safety system. It makes me glad that I didn’t buy the more expensive models, because I’m not sure what modifications would make this “better.”

The first thing you do is carbonate your water. Apparently you have to screw the bottle into the dispenser. Otherwise…

We learn by doing.

We learn by doing.

Once you actually screw the bottle in, you carbonate the water. I was a little gun shy at first because of this warning

SodaStream 004

This instruction conflicts slightly with the instructions on the flavor syrup, which states to “buzz” the soda five times.

Confession here: We wasted our first batch because we did this wrong. When you “press firmly and quick release,” a jet of CO2 shoots into the liquid. I wouldn’t call it a “buzz,” but we counted each of those. And our first batches of drinks were… well, we didn’t get the hype.

Mentally trouble-shooting later, I realized that perhaps this “buzz” was a release valve of some type, and I was right. We’d “pumped” 5 times, and when I waited for the “loud buzz,” the first time I had to pump more than 30 times to get one buzz, and then it happened pretty quickly after that. The second batch was MUCH better.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pump the button and fill the water with carbonation!

Pump the button and fill the water with carbonation!

Can you guess which is mine and which is Daphne's?

Can you guess which is mine and which is Daphne’s?

The root beer syrup smelled amazing.

The root beer syrup smelled amazing.

You fill the cap with the syrup, then slowly pour it into the bottle.

SodaStream 012

Daphne suggested doing this over the sink. Good idea, because some dripped out.

I did NOT do mine over the sink. Yeah.

I did NOT do mine over the sink. Yeah.

Once we made these the correct way, they were very good. I’m interested to see if I can acclimate to Sucralose; I prefer the taste of Aspartame, and yes I know how “bad” it is for me, so I’m trying to do this instead. All of SodaStream’s “diet” syrups are sweetened with Sucralose, no Aspartame at all. I had read that the Zero is better than Diet, so started with that.

The drinks are crisp and taste very “normal.” We’re looking forward to trying all of the sample flavors.


I have a degree in theater and I’m an insurance agent. I have a friend who has a degree in opera performance and she’s a bookkeeper. I have a friend who went to seminary and is a developer of e-content for a big business (and, yes, I’m still pretty sure that’s not a real thing). My man went to school for classical guitar, and he’s done everything from computer programming to day labor.

There are things we love, and there are things we do. Some people get to do the things they love and they make money at it, and I have absolutely no resentment toward them.

I do, however, resent the people who “sell” their knowledge, based on their experience and the experiences of similarly “successful” people around them, as though if you will just follow in their footsteps, you will have the same kind of success as they do.

Last week, James had me listen to a marketing coach conference call with him, and what struck me about it was that the guy conducting the call obviously LOVED marketing. He was energized by calls from people posing a problem he could solve. He answered questions they didn’t even ask, because his brain was further down the road than theirs were.

Apparently, he’d said early on in the call that his dad had kind of ruined him by saying that, to make money, you have to work hard. His point was that he was not working very hard, and all you have to do is find something people need, have passion for it, develop great ad copy, and the money rolls in.

This is the same basic idea in “The 4-Hour Workweek” and many other paid subscription services for breaking into the internet market or sales or fill in the blank.

This fails on a couple of levels.

The first is that this guy was conducing a conference call after hours, and my guess is that he actually *does* put in a lot of time and effort; he’s just not up to his elbows in insulation or sewage. But I’m not a sales person, and to hawk myself and my program the way he encourages would make me exhausted and I’d throw in the towel pretty quickly, even if the money were rolling in.

Some people have a marketing mentality, and others have a really great idea about which they are passionate. I think you have to be one of those two things for his program to have a a chance of working.

Kind of like when I used to sell stuff on eBay. I knew what would sell well for kids whose parents were going to Disney World because that’s what I researched and loved. I could find things out in the wild and sell them on eBay because I knew my market and loved it. I could not have had the same success with electronics because I don’t care enough to put in any research or pretend to care about what I was selling.

The second is that no single person’s (or dozen or hundreds of people’s) individual experience is a blueprint for what will happen for others, even if they follow “the program” exactly. You can try, but you might not be as charismatic. You might not meet the right person at the right time. You might not be good-looking or have rich parents (which, statistically, is the biggest predictor for financial success).

James has a book called “Fooled by Randomness” that goes into great detail about the part that circumstance or luck or chance or whatever you want to call it plays into everyone’s lives.

I’ve grown very tired of the arrogance of people who happen to be making money doing that they love asserting that if everyone else will only do the things they did, we, too, could be spending our vacations in the Antilles, phoning it in two hours a day, instead of clocking in like a schmuck for eight to ten hours a day.

Do I believe that we’re meant to work in cubes, under fluorescent lighting, devoting the main portion of our existence to eeking out a living? Nope. Is that the reality that most of us will live in? Yep.

Here’s why: Because while some people may just live to tend to lawns or see children learn (neither of which I understand, but it takes all kinds), probably no one grows up dreaming of putting the lids onto ice cream cartons at the Blue Bell factory. Yet there is a demand for that particular job to be filled, and someone does it.

When I was discussing this whole thing with a friend, he brought up that he was thinking of buying Jon Acuff’s newish book, Start (subtitled: “How to punch fear in the face, escape average, and do work that matters”). This is a follow-up to his book Quitter, in which he details how he “cultivated” his dream job.

This is a one-time purchase, not a subscription, but it still chafes at me a little bit. He is a Christian, and I know that he loves Jesus and means well, but it seems that he’s selling the same thing that everyone else is: discontent with your job.

“Does what makes you money leave you feeling hollow? You don’t have to do it!” Well, you know what? Maybe you DO. Jon Acuff is male, white, relatively good-looking, very charismatic, and he used to be pretty funny (how I miss “Stuff Christians Like” circa 2009). All of these things undoubtedly helped him along his path. Your path will not be his path.

He is going to be in Austin next month. Here is the blog post announcing early bird registration. It sounds just like the secular marketing coach stuff, but with Jesus! Not a fan.

I believe in keeping an eye out for and exploring every opportunity to find fulfillment in how you spend your time. But every single one of these “programs,” which seems, on the surface, to be selling dreams is actually selling a lack of contentment.

“You’re not as happy/rich/fulfilled as you could be, and I’m going to show you how to get there!”

You can’t promise that! And how dare you imply that someone who has a crappy job is somehow “wasting time”? Maybe that crappy job keeps her home with her kids when they’re out of school, and that is her priority, not being rich or starting a business that would require her whole life for three or four (or twenty) years. Maybe that crappy job has benefits that have helped him care for his wife, who has cancer.

Just because I don’t walk away from my job at the end of the day feeling like I changed the world, this does not mean that my life is without deep meaning or significance. Just because I can’t afford to vacation two months out of the year doesn’t mean that I’m doing something wrong, or inefficient, or “less than.”

To turn Acuff’s term around on him and hit him with a Jesus Juke, what about Colossians 3:23?

I have made a lot of decisions to support my lifestyle, and this includes having a job I’m VERY fortunate to have in, yep, insurance.

You know what my low-income job provides me that I value more than money? (By the way, I have been offered more hours than I work on a couple of occasions, so it’s not like “the man” is keeping me down; these are choices I am making.) Flexibility. I can go serve at a food bank. I can take off in the middle of the day to take D on a field trip. (Within reason, after having made sure it doesn’t inconvenience my employers.) I can homeschool.

I choose to find meaning in my live outside of my vocation, and I believe with all of my heart that that is what the majority of people MUST do.

At lunch today, I met with some people to collaborate on a visual art project for which not only will I not be paid, but I will actually spend some money on supplies to create. But you know what? I’m excited! I’ve never done anything like that before. I will probably never be paid to create visual art (or write, or purvey chocolate, or any other in a long list of “dream” jobs), but I think that I can manage to eek out some significance in this project, anyway.

So how about a reality check program? You send me $15 and I tell you to do whatever you want in your free time, and maybe try to balance unwinding with service and loving on your friends and family. I promise no results. How’s that?

Dreams are good, but have your own. Don’t buy someone else’s.

Now we’re going back to the beginning of the MRI story. Spoiler alert, I suppose… You know how it turns out.

A couple of weeks ago, I’d priced MRIs. They’re a couple thousand dollars. X-rays are less expensive, but I don’t feel like that is something I need, and it’s still not cheap.

I had posted the question to my Facebook friends about affordable imagining, and a friend mentioned Volunteer Healthcare Clinic. I looked it up and found that they see patients on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and that their requirements are that you have no form of healthcare whatsoever, make 200% the federal poverty guidelines or below, present a photo ID, and have proof of county residence.


From what I read, the doors opened at 5 and they started seeing patients at six, after which time no new patients were admitted. I left my sister’s at around 5 and see, with hindsight, that showing up at 5 would be a good idea if you were actually sick. I look pretty healthy, so probably would have been shoved to the back in triage, anyway.

I got to the facility at 5:15ish and had to park two blocks away. When I walked in, a gentleman was conducting an orientation of sorts. He directed me to a place where I could grab a ticket, then he continued explaining, in both English and Spanish, that all services were being provided by volunteers: the administrators, pharmacy, doctors, intake, nurses, etc. They would treat the client with respect and expected the same in return. He talked through what would happen and what wouldn’t happen there at the clinic.

He mentioned, for instance, that they do not have care for expectant mothers. They had a dermatologist there for that night. He said that they had vouchers for an eye exam and free glasses, but specified that you had to ask for the voucher when you were being checked in. Then he asked if anyone there had used an eyewear voucher before, and three people had. He asked them to hold up their glasses. He asked them, “Did you have to pay for them?” Everyone indicated no, they were complementary. “So you got them for free? It worked?” They all confirmed it. You could tell that some people might be nervous about whether they’d be baited-and-switched. That others had already blazed this trail and not been “taken” seemed to soothe them. The same spiel happened when they talked about orders for x-rays and flu shots.

A bit before six, we all lined up outside, in order of our ticket numbers, to be checked in. A cold front had blown in, and we all stood shivering in the beautiful, flaming Austin sunset, as rain begin to pelt us. We were allowed to queue up near the building to avoid getting wet, but the whole check-in took fewer than fifteen minutes.

A gentleman asked to see my photo ID, and asked why I was there. When I explained, he seemed a little put out. “Are you experiencing pain NOW?” he asked. It was with extreme self-restraint that I answered calmly, “All of the time. Yes.”

I was given a number and went back in the big room to sit down… or, in my case, stand up.

The clinic asks for a donation of $5, but most of the people I saw were giving $10-20.

Those with children were allowed to go first, regardless of when they arrived. One boy apparently had whooping cough (something I’m sure I shouldn’t have heard, but which I will explain later), and it was a school night, after all.

Everyone was called back to get paperwork handled in order of our numbers. My number had been assigned as 27/adult (this was after 11 or so kids), so after an hour, when we were only on 9/adult, I knew I’d be there a while.

As I watched, though, I noticed that people were being processed and seen and sent to the lab and pharmacy as they could. Finally, after over an hour, I went to the back to start my paperwork. I was asked questions about my income, and where I would have gone for heath care if the clinic hadn’t been available.

When that was finished, I was sent back out to wait for the next step.

At just before 8:00 PM, or more than two and a half hours after I’d gotten there, I was sent in to be weighed (I closed my eyes and asked her not to say it out loud) and measured… and decided to ignore that I’ve apparently shrunk one inch since I was measured for my high school senior cap and gown.

Then I was sent back out to wait for triage.

I went back to be interviewed by a nursing student from UT. She was very attentive and pleasant, nearly three hours in, even though I did chuckle when she asked me how to spell “sciatica.”

She took my temperature (which was “normal,” which is high for me) and my blood pressure (which was “low,” which is normal for me), then, you guessed it: sent me back out to wait.

There was a line of five seats along a narrow hall in the back of the building, and I’d learned that this was the waiting area for seeing the doctor.

Gradually, everyone else was called back, even people who’d been assigned numbers behind me. I got it by then: I had no overt illness, and could wait. No problem. I had taken, “The Real History of Chocolate” to read (again) and was engaged in any number of fascinating text conversations to pass the time.

I watched clients hanging out at the lab in back of the room. When the lab techs weren’t working, they would talk with the patients. When the admin who was taking “donations” was not busy, she just sat and talked with whomever might come to share a bench with her.

The idea of mutual respect in my head from the orientation leader’s explanation, I saw it. I especially saw it when, shortly after 9:00 PM, I was finally called back to the “the doctor will see you now… almost” chair line.

While I waited, a group (made up largely of UT med students) of volunteers was standing around the corner chatting. That’s when I heard about the sick kid’s diagnosis. They were also talking about putting together a 20,000-piece puzzle. They were enjoying each other, and had nothing else to do for the night. They were basically waiting for me to leave. And they sounded a lot less tired than I was, making plans to go out afterward.

Dr. Gonzales called me into his office, the last patient of the evening. What I’m about to tell you might cause you a great deal of shock, but it’s the honest truth: This man, this doctor, this gentleman who could have been at home but had chosen to donate his time and experience to help me and people like me… He LISTENED to me. He asked what was wrong, and before he tried to tell me what he thought, he LISTENED to the words coming out of my mouth. He was positive about my chiropractor. He agreed with everything she’d told me, and was surprised himself that the month of adjustments hadn’t helped yet.

He felt my back and said it did seem uneven (not surprising since he had me bend over and I can only do that if I bend my left knee significantly), but that he didn’t feel anything that concerned him. He thinks the wonky sacrum is the most likely reason my nerves are shot and I’m in so much pain. He agreed that a bulged disc might be the cause, also, but that the odd thing there is that typically, if that happens, it hurts for six weeks or so and then scars over and the pain subsides. He said that sometimes it will last as long as eight weeks, which is around how long I’ve been in this extremely severe pain.

The doctor said he was not at all concerned that I might have a tumor or anything more serious, but that, to rule it out, he’d be glad to order blood work (to check for infections and cell count) and an MRI.

I almost cried.

The nurse who’d triaged me had suggested an x-ray, and I didn’t want to be a choosy beggar, so I wasn’t going to say anything if that’s how the visit went.

But do you know what?

The doctor listened to me. I think he could tell what I wanted and he met that need. I was extremely grateful.

After he sent me off, I went into the lab to have blood drawn. Another volunteer was turning off the lights in the main room. I literally closed the place down.

I left at a bit before 10:00, thanking everyone who was still hanging out.

Fortunately, the rain had quickly visited and moved on, because that two blocks was much more nicely traversed in the cool, still evening than it would have been in a cold soaking-to-the-bone rain.

As I processed this visit on my drive, I realized that I’d basically been paid (or granted?) $500 an hour to sit in that clinic. No imaging centers use a sliding scale. Having now gone through the MRI, I can more appreciate why it’s so expensive, and would not want to save money by finding a cut-rate operation.

Another friend here in town said that this is one thing he loves about Austin: That there are people here who have the means to make a difference, and they do. They’re not just bleeding-hearts, they are actual do-gooders.

Adding up all of the donations from that night doesn’t come close to making a dent in the free service I received. I’m grateful to the benefactors who support Volunteer Healthcare Clinic, and to every single person who works hard to make the services available.

I am going to tell the second part of this story first, but that’s because this part is fresh on my brain so I wanted to get it “on paper” before I lose my delightful afterglow.

Yesterday at 2:00 PM, I called ARA Diagnostic Imaging to make an appointment to be magnetically resonance-imaged. The nice lady at scheduling asked me if I could be at a place about 45 minutes away in an hour and a half. I was both mentally unprepared and (embarrassingly) not as freshly-scrubbed as I might like to be when engaging in activities that require people to evaluate my body.

I told her the nearest center to me and asked for the earliest appointment they had. I was surprised when the answer was two hours earlier than I’d expected: six o’clock! “But they ask that you be there half an hour early to check in.”

Whatever. Let’s get this over with. So I made the appointment.

There are no dietary restrictions or anything else pre-MRI, so I just went to bed at 11, hoping to get a good 6 hours of sleep. By midnight, I was still awake and saw that James had just posted on Facebook, so I called him and we talked for an hour.

Then I still just lay in my bed for who knows how long. My sleep skipped across the night like a smooth wide stone on the surface of a pond, which is a pretty poetic way of stating something sort of obnoxious, except that at least when my alarm went off at 5:00 AM, I was able to turn it of when it was still vibrating and before the annoying sounds started.

Since I had my clothes laid out and did not plan much in the way of daily beautification rituals, I was ready to leave by 5:15. I walked out the door at exactly 5:15. I pulled into the radiology center at exactly 5:30.

I got checked in and invited to have a seat to fill out my paperwork, but asked for permission to move away from the guy at the front desk but still stand. I’m not accustomed to sitting this early, and the drive over was an unpleasant one.

There were a lot of questions I had to answer about former surgeries, metal implants (which my dad has, but I do not). I noted about the tattoo on my left ring finger. I noted that I have asthma but had taken 2 hits off of my inhaler already today (raise that to three by the time I got in there). I marked that I did not have motion/spacial issues, although this is not entirely true.

Here’s the thing: I used to be a rather compulsive liar when I was younger. I lied about everything and usually for no reason. As I got older, though, I lied to my parents about what I was doing sometimes because of this stupid rationalization that would happen in my brain.

For instance, I knew that they did not want me to get drunk or to have sex, but I did want to go to parties where my friends did those things. The thing is, I didn’t want to engage in any dangerous activities, anyway; I just wanted to hang out with my people and, frankly, laugh at them when they were idiots. So I wouldn’t tell my parents I was going to a party because I knew they’d say “no,” but I told myself that this was okay, because I understood that their underlying spirit was that I not do anything stupid, and I knew I wouldn’t do that.

Which, now that I look at it, is pretty funny. I’ve heard that the definition of “sin” is when we tell God “I got this. Don’t worry yourself.” I believed in my own self-governance, above the will of my parents… which pretty much means I sinned against them, even though I did an awesome job of self-denial in that respect.

I digress slightly.

Allow me to do so again:

About a year and a half ago, I got a day at the spa for my birthday. During the facial, the lady asked me if I were claustrophobic. I said, “No.” The truth is that I *am* claustrophobic, but I’d read about the electric shock therapy to the face (which is overstating it; they *do* run a current through your facial skin, though) and I really wanted to try it.

So I interpreted her question as, “Are you going to freak out when I put all of these layers of wet cotton on your face and then it gets really hot and you have electricity running through your epidermis?”

I tailored my answer to get what I wanted, so I said, “No.” And it was fine. It was a very cool thing, and I’m glad I didn’t miss out on it by saying, “Yep. I will probably punch you in the stomach, so you might want to stand back and lean way in.”

My claustrophobia comes into play only when I perceive that I am not in control. For example: huge crowds. Ugh. It’s overwhelming. Get me out. An elevator that’s taking too long to go up three floors. Ugh. Stuff like that. I could fold up and hide in a cabinet with D when she was little, because I knew that I could open the door and get out whenever I wanted.


When asked if I had any motion/spacial issues, I said, “No.”

I went back and was given a sumptuous new wardrobe for the occasion.

"I lost 230 pounds with the MRI-wear life plan! It's like Photoshop for your body!"

“I lost 230 pounds with the MRI-wear life plan! It’s like Photoshop for your body!”

When I exited the room, I was asked if I needed to use the restroom, which I didn’t, but then I remembered what I always used to tell D about going, anyway, and I went.

Next, the guy asked me most of the questions I’d already answered out loud, including two separate times whether or not I’d been diagnosed with cancer, which, I’m not going to lie, freaked me out a little bit.

Then we went in the room with the pulsating noise tube and he put small vial of target fluid (these are the medical terms; try to keep up) on the small of my back.

I had purposefully left my contacts out because I didn’t want to be able to see very well. He asked me if I’d taken off my bra, which I took as a compliment, even in the loose clothing, because, as a woman, I think it’s obvious when I’m packing and when I’m not.

He showed me where to put my head (which I couldn’t see, but I understood) and asked me to lie on my back. I begged patience and got into position. He said, “Don’t take any deep breaths or shift your hips.”

Got it.

Then he put these germ-shielding-cloth-lined noise-cancelling earphones on my head and asked me what radio station I’d like to listen to. Oh, yea! Comedy channel! But that doesn’t come in at the center. Boo. Whatever. Except country. No country.

Finally, he snapped my head enclosure shut (I’d closed my eyes by this point) and put a bulb into my hand.

“Squeeze this if, at any time, you need to stop the exam.”

I’m all, “Dude! Please!” but I just said, “Got it.”

And I kind of wanted to squeeze it right then.

If you’ve never had an MRI,you’ve still seen them at some point, so I don’t need to set the scene too specifically. The thing I was not anticipating was the sound. There is a constant, ambient, rather loud pulsating.

Thus, I was lying on my back, head snapped into place, about to be pneumatically tubed. (Not really, but that’s kind of how it looks.)

The bed started sliding up, and my head was surrounded by the machine. I realized that the pulsating was actually a lot like what I’d be hearing if I was over-exerted or scared, and my heart was pounding in my ears.

At which realization, my heart DID start pounding to match the sound of the machine. I was overwhelmed by panic, which was only kept at bay by the knowledge that all I had to do was squeeze the bulb. Just squeeze the bulb. I have control.

I had been told that the process would take half an hour. I was thinking total, not just for the scan itself. But the scanning took a full half hour. In a tube. With lots of loud noises.

Without further ado, I will now allow my brain to narrate the procedure:

I thought he was going to turn on the radio. Okay. Just close your eyes. Calm. Breathe. But not too much! He said don’t take a deep breath! Ah! Radio. “Good Life.” Nice choice… Moving again!

And stopped. Relax. Breathe. Okay, I can’t keep your eyes closed any longer. Oh! Nice. There’s a picture of, where? Greece? Some pretty city. Not here. That was nice of them. I’ll just look into the sky. Breathe. Stupid heart, stop trying to outdo that noise. Just do your own thing.

This will– WHOA! That’s… well, it’s loud but not too loud. I can see why this freaks people out. It’s on one side, and the other side, and back to the first side, and then over to the other side.

Wow. Actually, NOW I do need to use the restroom. I wonder if the MRI signal is doing something to my digestive system.

Hmm… Think about what that guy’s seeing right now. Wonder if he has an opinion.

What if Daphne’s awake and something’s wrong and she’s texting me, but we’re just getting started and it’s still a half hour before I can answer her?

STOP IT! You’re making it worse. Redirect.

Today, I’m going to Ladybird Wildflower Center. The radio just said it’s 38 but the highs will be in the 70s. What am I going to wear? I don’t want to wear the sweats I wore here, so I will wear… Hmm. I need to throw that red shirt out that I wore at Christmas. I don’t look good in that straight collar. I’ll wear my striped shirt and my grey jeans. That way, I can wear my Sketcher dress sneakers so I won’t get any more blisters.

There. That’s a nice distraction. But I’m done with that. What else?

What if I totally freaked out and started flailing my arms and yelling and trying to get out? COULD I get out of here in an emergency? The sound just stopped. What if there WAS an emergency, just now? Like the clinic is on fire, and the tech’s self-preservation kicked in and he just ran out. How long should I give it?

STOP IT! Oh my gosh, you psycho. That doesn’t help. Redirect.

The house. James is moving. He is moving into a house that needs a lot of work to deal with storage. That’ll be fun. It’s on Nueces, which, according to Google Translate, means “nuts,” and therefore should be named “The Nut House.” We’ll have so much fun making that place a home. Yea!

Ladybird Wildflower Center. What else? I should drive down to the Buda Wal-Mart to see if they have those carts my friend posted about on Facebook yesterday.

And that’s it.

I don’t have anything else to think about… Oh. Moving again.

My legs are really stiff. I think I’m tensing them. I should relax them. Except that he said don’t move. Oh, great. Now they’re trembling? This is too much pressure. I have to relax them.

Ahh. There. OH NO! I just sighed! Is he having to start over?

WOW. That’s REALLY LOUD. It’s like really REALLY loud… I wonder if those first sounds were all just to make me less frightened when THIS sound came on. I can see why people don’t like MRIs.

Interesting. They used that clear medical tape to put this Grecian travel poster up here. Cute. Did someone have to crawl up in here to affix it?

That vent feels nice on my face. Except something about the breeze is making the right side of my forehead itch.

NO ITCHING, dang it! STOP!

Is it better to visualize myself scratching it or to try to divert my thoughts toward something else? I don’t–

WHOA! Loud! And… is it heating up, or am I imagining that? That’s actually okay.

What’s even playing on this radio station? Between the noises, I can’t hear it, but I’m “hearing” Liberace-style piano.

Oh. The sound stopped. It’s an annoyingly-voiced commercial. Interesting. I’ll take the piano back, please.

YIKES! And it’s back. That’s really, REALLY loud.

I’m bored.

God, this is overwhelming, and I ask that you let this NOT be cancer, because I cannot imagine a life full of these kinds of appointments.

What if I had to have surgery on my back and I woke up in the middle of it because they hadn’t given me enough anesthesia?

That guy had better not come back in here and grab my toes as a joke. I’d probably kick him in the face and pass out.

STOP thinking about that. He’s not going to do it. He’s a professional.

If it IS cancer, maybe the resonance will break it up into tiny bits and that will be it?

OH MY GOSH! I *do* have “metal in my body that I was not born with”! Fillings! Duh! I wonder if that’s important. I’ll be sure to tell him when I’m finished.

I wonder when that will be.


Dang it! Hope that wasn’t too much.

Ah! The radio just went off! Does that mean… yep. Heading out. My first words will be, “I don’t think I’d like another.”


Except that, when I got out, I just thanked the guy and went back to change clothes. I was pretty wobbly, but I don’t know how much of that was from release of whatever hormones were playing with me and how much of it was just lying still for so long.

When I was in the dressing room, the guy came by and told me, through the door, that I could throw the sticker from my back in the garbage.

I wondered what it’s like to have his job. I wondered if he could see things and watched people walk out of his lair knowing that their lives were about to change, but it’s not his job to talk to anyone about it.

I’m going to spoil part of this story by telling you that the doctor I saw Tuesday night said he is not worried at all about tumors or anything; he thinks my back problems are due either to a wonky sacrum or bulging disc (which he didn’t feel, so he leans toward the sacrum). He just authorized this and bloodwork for my and my family’s peace of mind.

Now I’m VERY glad that’s over with, because I’m ready to be outside, in the wide open, with some nature sounds!



Peace out!

Picture it: July 2012. James and I had just gotten together, Facebook-officially, and there was no moniker for the team that is now Team Dave’s. What there was, however, was a celebration of the birth of our country.

For that auspicious occasion, I went with James to spend the 4th of July with some of his dad’s family just outside of Muskogee. We had a great afternoon and evening, and one of the things that stuck with us, and that we vowed to try, was James’s uncle’s favorite snack: Doritos with buttermilk.

He thought we might be cynical, and admitted that even his kids had been, but that once they tried it, they loved it. His adult children agreed, and said that they still enjoyed it.


Time has a way of slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ on into the future. Here it is a bright, shiny 2013 and we have only just gotten around to trying this family delicacy.

Here are some pictures, along with some things we learned.

James pours buttermilk into his bowl of chips.

James pours buttermilk into his bowl of chips.

And then onto mine.

And then onto mine.

Here is the first thing we learned, filed under “things that make you go ‘duh'”:

1) Crumble up the chips first. Just like you crumble up your crackers before they fall into the soup. Much more manageable with the spoon.

Doritos and Buttermilk 003

Flavorwise, it was pretty good! Consistency-wise, there was a bit of a comfort curve, but I think that that could have been avoided by the second thing we learned:

2) Get lots of chips and then just moisten them with the buttermilk.

You want enough milk to coat every surface, but you don’t want the chips swimming like cereal does in regular milk. James solved this by adding chips three times during the snack-eating, and I dealt with it because I don’t use a bunch of milk in my cereal, anyway, so I was closer to the ideal ratio (though still a little buttermilk-heavy).

Yeah, I'd eat that!

Yeah, I’d eat that!

Doritos and Buttermilk 007

Similarly to how chocolate cereal turns milk brown, this turned the milk orange! Also, this ratio of chips to milk was just about perfect.

Doritos and Buttermilk 008

Done! And it wasn’t even a chore. Tasty, different, kind of like super easy nachos. Try some! You might be surprised how addictive it is!

Today begins a new segment on “Living in a Van Down By the River,” called “Trailer Trash Observations” (or “TTO” for short). Observation the first proceeds thusly:

I have friends who are hairdressers and, once again, I apologize in advance for the fact that I’m such a garbage-sifting cheapskate, but you have to understand both the margins within which I am operating and, well, the undeniable fact that I *am* just super cheap. (Although, if I were independently wealthy, I probably would get my hair professionally “did” because I want vibrant, colorful streaks, and I’ve found that that is both messy and ineffective to try at home.)

This confession out of the way, I have purchased any number of at-home color potions. In order of expense (not accounting for coupons or sales), from most expensive to least, I’ve used: John Frieda Foam, Clairol Perfect 10, L’Oreal Couleur Experte, Garnier Nutrisse, Samy Fat Foam, other “standard” L’Oreal and Clairol dyes, and ColorSilk.

Each of these has its own benefits and drawbacks. Some (Garnier, for example) have additions to keep them from smelling so terrible (I think it’s supposed to make it smell good, but that’s a stretch). Others (the obnoxiously-named Couleur Euxupueurutue) have a two-step process that involves bleaching streaks so you end up with highlights. Some leave my hair soft and polished-looking.

However, regardless of the deep magentas or bright auburns or popping blonde highlights, regardless of the waxy silk feel or the floral/chemical aroma of my mane immediately after coloring, a week later, the result of all of these is the same: my roots got touched up and my hair is a medium red. The only time this was different was after I bleached and dyed my hair pink, and coloring on top of that made my hair a coppery Dr. Pepper-can color for some time. It also killed my fragile ends and has resulted in my having to get layers cut into my once-uniform-length hair.

But I digress.

So what gives? Why is ColorSilk often sold for under $3 while the others top $13? Why the disparity? I think I’ve figured it out.

The biggest difference in the dye packages, reflective of the price paid for the box, is: gloves.

ColorSilkWith ColorSilk, you get gloves that are like the one-size-fits-all-including-Shaquille-O’Neill clear plastic manhands that come 500 for $.25 in a box at the grocery store.

These things aren’t great for precision work, but I suppose they keep your hands dye-free. (Why is it okay to touch the dye in the shower? Because it rinses right off?)

When you price up a bit, the gloves start fitting more closely and becoming more malleable. They move with you and aren’t at risk of falling off if you hold your hand down by your side. You can see this type of form-fitting glove on my hand for the two-tone dye review whose name I shall never mention in full again because it makes me want to slap someone.

High endFinally, when you get the most expensive brand of dye, you receive elbow-length kid gloves, and also inside the box is a disposable homunculus who  actually applies the dye for you. The gloves are just so he doesn’t bite you when you’re trying to flush him down the toilet.

So, there you go… pick your folliclear poison. The only real difference is going to be the quality of handwear you utilize for a few minutes. Choose wisely, Trashies.

Remember our fabulous experience with Gourdough’s Doughnuts a while ago? Well, since then, Gourdough’s has opened a pub!

Of course, as soon as we could get there, we got there.

If you look at their menu, you will notice that most of their dishes feature or include a doughnut!

Daphne’s cousin got a salad, and it came… with. a. doughnut.

Daphne asked if she could solely get a dessert doughnut, and given that their entire menu is basically pre-diabetes, I wasn’t about to insist that she select a savory artery-clogger.

She got the Sin-a-Bomb: melted cinnamon butter and sugar “poured’ (piped, in her case) over cream cheese. On a doughnut.

Daphne's Sin-a-Bon cinnamon cream cheese doughnut.


James ordered the Drunken Hunk: bacon-wrapped meatloaf, potato pancake, fried egg, and house-made candied jalapenos. On a doughnut.

Military Museum and Gourdoughs 031


I got the Count Gourdough Cristo: turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, roasted red peppers, basil, red onions, deep-fried in doughnut dough with an avocado lime sauce. Best plate of the night, I think. 🙂

Military Museum and Gourdoughs 032


The food was, of course, filling. The sandwiches were served with freshly-fried potato chips, which were thick and crispy… they did need salt, in my opinion, and I used my sauce as a dip. It pushed them over the top. Otherwise, they were completely overshadowed by the incredible entrees.

I would like to go back about 4 more times to try all of the stuff that I want to try. In the meantime I’m going to stock up on vegetables and then thank goodness that my chiropractor doesn’t read my blog.


tomtomSomething irritating happened on my way home from Port Aransas in November: the fuse that powers my cigarette lighter in my car blew. Unlike my uber-fancy 1997 Chevy Astro, which had 6 such outlets, this is my car’s only power source available to technological products.

Granted, on the way down, we’d been using it to charge Daphne’s MacBook while she wrote, which might not be the intended usage, so I can see why it might have happened.

Regardless, my GPS ran out of battery juice (yuck) just about the time I got to where I knew where I was, and I haven’t thought about or bothered to replace the fuse yet.

Something interesting has happened during this time: I’ve gotten to know Austin a lot better. Without having that little bossy box to tell me where to turn, I’ve spent more time looking online at my route before I leave the house.

Did I mention that I’m also out of printer ink?

Yeah. So either I write out directions longhand, or I just try to remember how to get there.

Before, the whole system of highways that stemmed off of my most-traveled Ben White did not make sense to me. I didn’t understand where they went, or what they crossed, or really even that Texas North Loop 1 IS Mopac Expressway, even though none of the directional signs tell you that (the frontage street signs do, but that’s not a lot of help when you’re trying to get onto Mopac from another highway and it is all but invisible.

I don’t even have to look up directions for some places now. If I see a street number, I’ll often just “get” where it might be.

There have been some mishaps, for sure. There have been a lot of second-guesses, u-turns, and over-driving. But I’m learning. I’m getting it.

And when I ever get around to replacing that fuse, I won’t have to use GPS so much around here. It’ll practically be “my city” by then.