The Benefits of Pushups

Friend: Can you do pushups?

Me: Hell no.  I start up, go down, and once I get past a certain point, collapse on the floor.

Friend: Me too.  Except, I lower myself gracefully to the floor.

Me: Hate pushups.

Friend: There can be benefits, though.  Occasionally I’ll tell my husband that, yeah, I can totally do ten pushups, because even if I can’t, there is nothing to lose and plenty to gain.

Friend: The last time I did that, I went over by the couch, because that’s usually where the carpet is.  I started to do a pushup, and I found a pacifier under the cushions that I’d lost a few months ago!

Friend: Granted, I could just look without doing the pushups.

Me: Naaah.

Friend: Exactly.

Conversations with Butter

Butter (apropos to nothing): If you get a will, don’t forget to make me executor.

Me: Good lord.  I don’t want to make any of you my executor.

Butter: What do you mean, “make any of you?”  Are you talking multiple parts of my body, such as my nose being no more a choice executor than my left heel is, or are you referring to multiple people, and if so who?

Me: Multiple people.  My family members.

Me: Also your individual body parts, I guess.

Butter: Make me executor!  I hear my large intestines, in particular, are quite judicious in their decisions….

Me: Your large intestines are too easily swayed by outside forces.

Butter: No they aren’t.  Me arms say the word on the nervous system is that it would be very good.  But then again, you know how my arms are, always rubbing shoulders and all that.

Me: I think they take bribes.

Butter: No.  Unlike your hands, these elbows ain’t greasy.

Me; I should grease my elbows, yes.  Thanks for the reminder.

Butter: ….

Eosinophilic Esophagitis

I have eosinophilic esophagitis.  If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, my doctor tells me she counted 30 eosinophils per high powered field.  Fun fact!  Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell and get their names not from the function they perform but from the dye, eosin, used to make them show up on slides.  They take up more dye than the surrounding tissues and cells, so they are eosin-loving.

This strikes me as kind of a shoddy naming scheme.

Anyway, back in June I had this feeling of having food stuck in my throat (whether I had actually eaten anything or not) which would persist for a few days.  I’d had this feeling before, but it happened so infrequently and at such small durations that I’d never given it much thought.  This time, though, it was really bothering me, so I did some research.

GERD was the most popular result.  Both my parents have GERD, so it seemed likely to be right.  I’d never gotten heartburn, but maybe I’m just special?  (This is more true than I knew.)

I got an appointment in July with my mom’s gastroenterologist to confirm the self-diagnosis.  She agreed that I probably had GERD, but there was a small chance that I had something else.  She needed to do an upper endoscopy to confirm and, lucky me, she had an opening later that week.

If I ever have another procedure like this, here’s what I want to remember: -As a woman of childbearing age, will I have to provide a urine sample? -Either write medication info on my arm, or write it on a piece of paper and tape to my arm.  How many miligrams, you ask?  Uhh…. -Bring warm socks.

The gastroenterologist didn’t see any signs of GERD, but she did see signs of eosinophilic esophagitis.  The inflammation is in the middle of the esophagus, and if I had GERD she would have seen more irritation closer to the stomach.  She got the biopsy results back the week after that and they confirmed it.

(Also, my esophagus was killing me after the procedure.  I don’t know whether it was too narrow for the scope to pass through comfortably or what, but for about two days I had to sip water and eat squishy foods to minimize discomfort when swallowing.)

She put me on budesonide.  I’m familiar with the respules, because both my brother and I have used a nebulizer in the past.  This time, though, I’m squirting them into a bowl, mixing in five packets of splenda per respule, and then swallowing the concoction.

What you need to know: -Make sure you’re not prescribed a pulmicort inhaler.  I was, at first, and spent a very confused hour trying to figure out how to use it until I concluded a mistake had been made.  The problem is that this inhaler doesn’t squirt the medication into your mouth—you have to inhale through the mouthpiece and the suction of your lungs picks up the powder and delivers it to your respiratory system.  This maneuver doesn’t work if you want to powder to go to your esophagus. -Stick to the splenda packets.  It might seem easier to get a box of baking splenda and just measure out what you need, but something has been done to make it fluffier so that its sweetness/unit of volume is the same as that of sugar.  I tried using it, but it kept fizzing in the budesonide and I couldn’t figure out how much I was supposed to add.

The gastroenterologist also put me on a proton pump inhibitor (which is used to treat GERD).  The jury is currently out on whether it will help my symptoms, but I guess it can’t hurt.

These are both short-term solutions, though.  Ideally, we will identify what is triggering this reaction and I will stop eating that food.

To further that aim, I saw an allergist.  She explained that eosinophilic esophagitis isn’t very well understood (unless you’re participating in a study, treatment depends on self-reporting, which isn’t necessarily reliable, and upper endoscopies, which are undesirable).  Also, it has only been recognized relatively recently.

It is unclear whether the reaction must be caused by a food, and if so, whether the established methods of testing for food allergies will yield a useful result.  Eosinophilic esophagitis is a non-IgE (immunoglobulin-E) disorder, but allergy tests look for IgE reactions because those are the ones that are life-threatening.  Because the mechanisms of the reactions are not the same, the tests do not necessarily pinpoint the food that is causing EoE.

Allergy tests do provide a jumping-off point, though, and are generally preferable to what I call the hell-if-I-know method: eliminating the six most common allergens from your diet at once and seeing if that helps.  For the record, the six most common food allergies are wheat, eggs, soy, peanuts, dairy, and tree nuts.  Rice, veggies, and meat FTW.

We’ve started with a skin prick test.  I had to stop taking allegra for a week before the test, and for some reason my scalp became unbearably itchy.  The itching stopped once I started taking allegra again.

I got the results this week.  I had a definite reaction to soy and peanuts (plus a small one for shrimp, which I might have inherited from my mom).  The allergist says these proteins are similar, and cross reactions are common.  She’s told me to try cutting all soy and legumes from my diet.

While skin prick tests do have a high rate of false positives, I am inclined to believe these results have merit.

It all fits.  I brought this on myself.

About a year ago I realized that, in all likelihood, I was failing to meet my daily recommended intake of protein.  I had heard from multiple sources that Americans eat way more protein than they need, so it wasn’t something I’d worried about.  However, I don’t like meat.  I don’t like the taste or the texture, and I definitely don’t like cooking it.  Take most of the meat out of my diet, and that left me with fruits, vegetables, grains, and a small bit of soy, dairy, and nuts.

Whoops.

I decided to explore the culinary merits of beans and lentils.  They went over so fantastically that now, a year later, I was eating at least one serving of legumes every day.  This is significantly more than before, when my legumes intake was confined to the occasional bit of hummus.

It’s possible that the worsening of my eosinophilic symptoms is not caused by this great change in my diet, but one must admit that the evidence is not uncompelling.

Shades of Death

On the way up we stopped by Hickory Run State Park and did the Shades of Death trail (on Memorial Day weekend we checked out boulder field, which is when this trail caught our eye).  Most of the reviews I found online seem to think this trail is easy and scenic, but we did not find it that way at all.  I think the only reasons Mom and I made it through were her walking sticks and my toe shoes, respectively.

On the way out we passed a family.  The daughter, who looked approximately my age, was walking an adorable miniature dachshund.  She (the daughter, not the dog) said something about my shoes.  I didn’t have time to register her comment–I’d been about to admire her dog and wasn’t able to switch gears quickly–before she was past me.  Next came her mom, who complimented my hair and informed me that she hoped hers looked the same once it had grown out (she was wearing a hat).  She then said that there were two schools of thought about my shoes, and that I should read the NY Times article on them.  I seriously don’t know how she managed to say everything she did–my impression was that our encounter lasted only seconds and I was hard-pressed to properly understand everything she’d said.

Then the dad passed me, and I’m not sure whether he said something about drive-by mothering or only gave me a look to that effect.

Mother and I agreed, afterward, that we didn’t understand how that little dog could deal with the rockier portions of the trail.

The eponymous shade referred to the excessive amount of foliage this path garnered.  The sun was filtered out twice–once by the regular trees, and again by the wild rhododendrons.  I found these groves especially creepy, because in the area I grew up these are ornamental plants.  The leaves are closely packed to obscure the branches and they are pruned to an appropriate size.

Not so with these.  Rangy plants, gawkily bearing their sparse branches to the world.  It’s unnerving, to see something so normally tame and flush looking so wild and sickly.  SO feral.

Yes.  Feral rhododendrons.

On the way back, walking through one of these shadowy groves, we passed a family.  There were either two or three little girls–Mother and I cannot agree.  I thought two, so that each parent had one to lead.  Mother thinks that she counted three.  The father also had a boy in a carrier on his back.

All of them, parents and children alike, looked totally and perfectly unenthused.  The girls were dull-eyed; the parents, stoic.  No one uttered a word, as though this trail was something to be endured, rather than enjoyed.

Once we were passed, I glanced back at Mother and grimaced.  She, laughing uncomfortably, confided that it reminded her of something out of Hansel and Gretel.  I could only agree.

We also encountered a pug so energetically gung-ho that he strained at the leash no matter what difficult terrain he was presented with.  He shattered Mother’s perception of pugs as being uniformly fat and indolent.  He put our dogs to shame.

(Actually, I’m fairly sure that both Ramon and Happy have no shame.)

 

50 Shades of Wish Fulfillment

I’m confused about the success of 50 Shades of Grey, but probably not for the reason most everyone else is.

50 Shades of Grey began life as Twilight fanfiction.  As it stood, Twilight already read like poorly-constructed FF—no self-respecting FF author would establish her ship within the first couple chapters and then wait 400,000 words to get to the sex.  50SoG totally fixed that problem, which is probably what launched it to such heights of popularity.

Anyway.

As someone who has read a fair bit of FF, I grok why people read and write it.  They’re doing it to scratch an itch that the original work didn’t reach.  Maybe the original work was too short, so they want more adventures.  The ending was unsatisfactory, so they want to fix it.  Their favorite minor characters didn’t get enough love.  Their ship isn’t canon.  Their ship is canon, but there’s not enough sex.  Their ship is canon, but there’s not enough conversations about emotions and childhood trauma.  There’s a scene implied in the original work, and they want to see it.  They have an idea about worldbuilding, and they want to try it out.  They have an idea about character arcs, and they want to try it out.  They want to be in the story.  They want their favorite characters from two different works to meet.  They want to fix tragedies.  They want to cause tragedies, then fix them.  (Maybe.)

They want a threesome with tendril sex.

Whatever.  It comes down to itches, and to back-scratches.

(I know there are other metaphors, hurr hurr, but I’m sticking to this one.)

The popular FF works are scratching itches the best, and the most.  50SoG, in its first iteration, was apparently so successful that there was a market for it even with the serial numbers filed off.  It gets at the deep ones that a lot of people might not even know they have (and would certainly not be able to articulate if they did).

I’m not confused about how 50SoG could be so successful.

I’m surprised that people pay money for it when they could have as many itches scratched as they could possibly want.

For free.

On the internet.

It’s called fanfiction.

 

Anime

I need a master list to keep track.

Weird & Unsettling

Ghost Hound (ending was bizarrely Happily Ever After, though)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica (“So if you ever feel like dying for the sake of the universe, please call me anytime.”)

Steins;Gate (Though, in my opinion, it gets less weird and unsettling as it goes on.  I’ve read/watched enough stuff with time travel in it that it feels fairly familiar, and the really bizarre stuff has gotten sidelined.  Also, at first I was convinced that Okabe was schizophrenic, but that was wrong.)

Bakemonogatari (I don’t know this this belongs in the Weird & Unsettling category, but this anime leaves me REALLY conflicted.  On one hand, there’s pretty great character development.  And it has some really funny moments.  On the other hand, all the female characters are sexualized.  Even the young girls.  Well, they’re all young, but the pre-highschool ones, even.  It really creeps me out.  I don’t understand what’s going on here, because in all other respects it is nothing like the normal cheesecake/fanservice anime.  I’m so confused.  And I feel dirty.  Why did those kids have to be sexualized?  Whyyy?  And why does it have to be interesting enough to keep me watching anyway?  WHYY?)

Boring

Skip Beat

Bizarre & Hilarious

Gintama

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Ouran High School Host Club

Slow & Thoughtful

Mushishi

Kino no Tabi

House of Five Leaves (though I thought a lot of the characters looked the same, and I couldn’t distinguish the flashbacks from the scenes set in the “present”)

Natsume YujinCho

Usagi Drop

Anohana

Good

Baccano!

Tsuritama

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

Darker than Black

Ok

Red Data Girl

Blue Exorcist (I liked the first half more than the second.  I think the ending was really fumbled.  I feel like, given what we know about Satan and Yuri, he should have been a lot more invested in his kids, especially because they were the only piece of Yuri he had left.  He shouldn’t have been like, haha!  I’ll possess one and kill the other.  Muahahah, Yuri, darling, this is our dream come true!)

Princess Jellyfish

Almost, But Not Quite

Gun x Sword

Pumpkin Scissors

Otome Youkai Zakuro (I liked the East vs West tensions, but this anime is a bit too…cute? For my tastes.)

xxxHolic (I liked it when I first watched it, but recently I tried to rewatch and couldn’t stand it anymore.)