Through the Wringer

As some of you may know, I’ve been out of circulation lately. First was the dog’s surgery. As she ameliorated post-op, she became more and more difficult to control; she didn’t want to be cooped into her cage all of the time. It was a full-time, hands-on ordeal as she became increasingly petulant.

Well, that all pales in comparison with my weekend. We received a call late Saturday that my brother-in-law was seriously injured and that his injuries were life threatening. From that moment until now, it’s been a whirlwind of totally sleepless nights and multiple 3-hour trips to the hospital.

The one positive in all of the mayhem was the overwhelming sense of family that arose. My parents drove to the interstate in the middle of the night to pick up Sunny and cared for her until today (remember, she’s being whiny and needy). My sister offered her prayers and asked multiple times to help; her husband offered to drive us the three hours to the hospital if we were too tired. My brother- not the person with whom I usually discuss spirituality- prayed for my brother-in-law, a guy he’s met only a handful of times. My husband’s family dropped everything to be with him; his father’s assistant pastor even made the long trip to the trauma center.

With a head full of staples and a piece of his skull detached, my brother-in-law is going to be OK. I helped him walk through the hospital corridors tonight and he was more talkative than I’ve ever heard him. If it weren’t for the stress of it all, I would dare say we had fun! I love him dearly and I haven’t been shy about telling him.

I am not big on petition style prayers. I pray thankful prayers and hopeful prayers, but don’t feel like I deserve to be heard when there are so many other people who need so much more. I broke down and petitioned God this weekend. It felt odd to open that kind of dialogue. But it didn’t feel wrong.

Lots of people live who deserve death, and many die who deserve life. I don’t know if God grants our wishful prayers or if what we pray just happens to coincide with chance, fate, or the master plan, or whatever, but I feel thankful to have my brother-in-law still in my life in this world.

So if you pray, pray thanksgiving that he’s going to be OK, and I’ll be praying that he has a positive outlook on this second chance. Thanks for listening, God.

Sunny Post-Op Update

Swaddled! I wanted to update everyone on Sunny’s surgery mentioned in an earlier post.

Sunny is resting, and is still a little loopy from pain meds. I have her swaddled in a blanket so she doesn’t need the E collar while she’s with me. She’s eating and drinking OK so far. She’s not quite herself, but she’s had a rough couple of days. I haven’t taken her outside to use the bathroom yet, but she will probably just tripod and be OK.

When I walked out of the exam room with the little princess in the basket, the whole waiting room full of people were smiling and saying “awww.” Everybody loves her braids, too. She didn’t eat it up like usual; too tired and drugged. I’m glad she’s back home and that I could work from home to keep an eye on her.

Thanks to my wonderful sister who chauffeured me to and from the surgeon, and is out retrieving lunch for me so I can work and be with Sunny.

Well, I have to get back to real work- someone has to pay for this surgery!!

40-Year-Old Virgin directed by Judd Apatow

IMDb link

Steve Carell has a Will Farrell type of stranglehold on American comedy. I don’t watch “The Office,??? so I’m missing part of it.

This movie had me laughing out loud in certain sections. I identified with a lot of Andy’s (Steve Carell) angst; with his habits; with his hobbies. I have a Barbie doll collection. I love to play RPGs and board games. I have tremendous respect for the opposite sex.

A few of the scenes were a little too close to home. Unlike Fear of Girls, I felt that the director was poking fun at a group he didn’t understand, not engaging in amusing self-flagellation. Most difficult for me were the scenes depicting miniature painting, a hobby I’ve really started to enjoy in the past 18 months. He’s talking to the mini like it’s a real person. It infantilized something that takes skill and lots of patience. Portrayed correctly, it could have shown his immersion in a geeky hobby and highlighted his ability to be patient.

I was QUITE amused by the big box electronics store jokes, because one of my friends works for such a retailer. I wonder how much of it hurts him to watch because it’s too true.

Anyway, I did like that they portrayed the complex nature of sexuality. First, Andy (the virgin) is not just a person who’s been unlucky in love. He also feels truly respectful of women and dislikes how his coworkers talk about women. He tries to fit with them but is extremely uncomfortable- both with lying and with the disrespect. He does have some serious anxiety about sex, but lots of people do!

And Andy isn’t the only person with sexual hang-ups. His coworker David (Paul Rudd) is unable to cope with a breakup, mostly because he misses the sex. Another coworker, Jay (Romany Malco), nearly loses the love of his life because of his dalliances. Jay realizes he put sex in front of true love and regrets it; David refuses to see that he is wasting away over the past. In contrast, Andy is relatively healthy! It underscores the fact that our culture spends so much time and money on sexuality that we lose sight of everything else. This singlemindedness leads to people who lack true substance beyond sex, a gift that has lost its importance through cultural oversaturation.

I won’t ruin the ending, but I liked it.
It wasn’t intentional, and maybe Carlton was in a comedic mood when he put movies in our Netflix queue, but I keep seeing comedies. I’m growing bored of the Farrelly brothers-style comedy. Here was a movie with some really good content that is ruined by some overly juvenile sight gags. There were a few scenes that could have been cut with no ill effect to the movie, either comedically or plotwise.

Here’s a thought: if the sight gag requires a prosthetic, I’m not going to find it funny. That said, I liked the movie’s themes and thought it was very well acted.

[rate 2.5]

Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired

For the fourth or fifth time in eight weeks, I’m sick. I had so much planned this weekend; not only unpacking from the trip last week (yeah, that’s right, I haven’t unpacked), but also cleaning the house, working on my weekly to do list for Lent, going to church.

Six people in my department were out of the office on Friday due to illness. My boss had been out earlier in the week, and everyone caught whatever Plague he was coughing on us. So now I have a fever and a very disgusting cough. I am a little down about it, too, because I had such high hopes for a fresh Lenten start this weekend; I’m hopped up on medicine today and my heart is racing, I’m dizzy, and I’m trying to fold laundry.

On a better note, I’m decorating a room of my house and almost all of the packages have arrived. Carlton had wanted to make our house more loft-like, more urban. Right now we have put so much effort toward buying a car that most of the rooms are barely furnished. Our lower-level family room has one brown, one orange, and one tan chair, all leftovers from other areas of the house. Anyway, I’m decorating one room at a time and I’m really excited about it.

Just sitting here typing feels better than when I was walking around. I watched a movie last night and clipped Sunny’s hair in preparation for her surgery later this week. Since they’re shaving her leg, I thought it would look really weird to have one tiny spindle on a mop of a dog. She looks like a lion, with a tiny little body and fluffy white mane!

OK, enough for now. I have some work to do.

Garlic Lemon Grouper

It’s Lent, it’s Friday, so it only seemed appropriate to have a fish recipe.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a bowl, combine:
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
(can substitute white wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon brewed soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
a few good grinds of fresh black pepper
(about 1/2 teaspoon)

Whisk ingredients and drizzle in

1/4 cup olive oil. Whisk until thickened. Rinse a

1 pound grouper filet– head-end

Cover fish in sauce and marinate at room temperature at least 10 but no more than 25 minutes (more than that and the lemon juice will seviche-cook the fish and make it tough). Drain and reserve marinade.

Put fish on greased broiler pan 5-8 inches from top of oven. After 10 minutes, turn off oven (trust me here!) and turn broiler element on high. Broil about 5 minutes more, until garlic flecks are golden brown. Remove from oven.

While fish cooks, heat small saucepan. Make a roux with

2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon flour

Add reserved marinade and allow to simmer and thicken. Remove from heat and add a dash of lemon juice to “brighten” the sauce.

Serve fish with sauce! You can also add the pan drippings to the sauce
for a roasty flavor.

Why marinate at room temperature? Because it promotes even cooking of the meat. It also shaves time from the cook time. As far as food safety, if the fish is spoiled after 10 minutes at room temperature, it was spoiled already!!

Grouper is a very mild fish, so it can be overwhelmed with strong flavors. Have the fishmonger give you a filet that doesn’t smell like fish and is from the “head end” of the fish. The tail is tougher meat. As for the smell, any good monger will know why you want to smell it. It’s better to feel a little weird smelling raw fish than to serve bad fish to your guests! Ask what’s good today before you buy the grouper- it could be old! This recipe will work with any whitefish.

Prep time: 10 minutes (5 for marinade, 5 to make sauce)
Total time: 30 minutes

Taste [rate 4]
Ease [rate 4]

Crystal Springs Dive

Standing by our rental car, packed with all of our gear! After we decided to go to Florida for the INXS concert, it was only reasonable that we take the opportunity to do little diving. The place where we stayed had no internet access (I nearly died), so we printed some information on several places that did manatee snorkel tours and/or dive tours. As we called several shops, we found that the manatee tours were fully booked. We decided to do a couple of freshwater dives at Crystal River Springs.

It’s been four years since my last dive, so I was pretty nervous. I practiced some movements and mask-clearing the day before the dive. Mask-clearing really unsettles me; I have to keep my eyes closed so I don’t lose my contacts. Being blind, almost deaf, and breathing from a regulator is sensory underload.

The springs flow into a river. I saw a HUGE gar and was so interested I was almost carried off by the Crystal River current! The main attraction of the springs is the caves. I’m not cave certified and have no intention of becoming so. Our first dive was into the mouth of the first cave. It was pitch black in the interior and the cave opening was quite large. As my eyes became accustomed to the darkness ahead, I crept closer to the cave. My buoyancy compensations was terrible, so I kept crashing into boulders, afraid some huge catfish was going to snap at me. I looked back to make sure I could still see the water surface. The last thing I want to do is die from stupidity.

Our second dive was a crevice dive with a max depth of 45 feet. The walls were about 3-10 feet apart, so I had to make sure my reg hose didn’t catch on an outcrop. At the bottom of the crevice was another cave entrance; this one did not have the sloped entrance of the first cave, so it couldn’t be explored at all without moving inside.

I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not cave diving. I enjoy being underwater a lot, but it can be unsettling. I don’t think I could relax if I couldn’t see the water’s surface. Other divers were carrying nitrox, double tanks, and drysuits to cave dive. The left mini-tanks at the cave’s entrance so that they could have extra air for their decompression stop. I wouldn’t want to be in a spot so far from the surface that I need an emergency tank!!!

That said, Crystal River isn’t a fantastic dive for us non-cavers. I’m really glad I went so I could be in the habit of diving again, but I don’t think I’ll dive there again.

What’s Wrong With a Little Denial?

I’m fasting today in observance of Ash Wednesday. A friend of mine left a message on my voicemail asking me to have a Fat Tuesday drink with him and calling Lent “Guilt Season,??? but I think he missed the point.

I don’t feel guilty all season. I let go of bad habits and I stop doing some pleasantries as homage to Christ’s time in the desert. Great prophets and leaders from every group observe self-denial as a cleansing. MK Ghandi fasted to protest and obtain rights for others. My fast probably won’t free a nation, but it definitely makes me more contemplative.

I fast by denial of food for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I observe a half-fast every Friday, all year long. I used to do a full fast, but realized that eating fish symbolizes being a “fisher of men.???

I also fast through denial. I’m shirking television for Lent: no TV, not even cooking shows. I can still watch movies. But my TiVo will be lonely. I’m also not allowing myself to use vending machines; all my change goes into a change jar for the child I’m sponsoring in Haiti.

However, early in my catholic schooling, we learned that Lent could also be used to start positive habits. I am going to hand-write, on actual paper, one letter per week to family and friends. I will read my Magnificat (prayer book) daily. I will finish my chore list every single week.

These things are not extremely difficult. But they do require me to shake my daily habits and remind me of my faith. I’m nicer to people. I’m more centered. I feel healthier at the end of the season and prepared to celebrate Easter.

Is anyone else doing anything?

Bad Idea Update II

Well, I’m not doing as well as before. I’d make excuses for my vacation, but I could have been exercising more instead of lying on the couch and watching the Olympics. I did exercise two days in a row on vacation (hence the bigger spike). Hopefully I can work on it more this month. I’m not losing hope!!I need to eat more salad!