Saturday, August 29, 2009

The fourth.

It's been four years. And I'll say it - it's easier. Last year I went through a forced catharsis in two parts: the first, the first a trip to the city to let the images in my mind heal, the second in finishing and publishing my zine of the Katrina experience.

It's not that I've forgotten. It's that I've finally begun to heal.

I spent a little while this afternoon reading the zine again, which I haven't done in probably ten months. For a while I had been unhappy with it - it's such a complex subject, and no matter how much I edited when I read the final copy I felt I'd still missed things and got things wrong. But now, with the perspective that time gives to writing, I can see that it's good. Just oddly paced. The reading confirms what I've known all along: I need to turn it into a book.

And that's my plan. I hope to publish it in time for the fifth anniversary. I think I can do it in a year. There's a lot to do, a lot to write. And there's the matter of finding someone who might want to publish it, or else deciding to just publish it myself. Yes, there's work to be done, and that work began today with the reading.

I suppose this is how I cope with the atrocities of life - converting them from "my trauma" to "my story". I'm not the first, lord knows. It's as good a method as any, as far as I'm concerned. At least it produces something, unlike other approaches I've tried.

Today is odd, far too much going on in my world for me to process it all. But the sun is coming out, which is some consolation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You knew I'd do it eventually.

Frankly you're surprised that I haven't done it sooner. You understand why I'm not double-posting; it's too personal and too specific to put those posts here. So you'll go look at this other blog of mine, the one I'm calling The Plague Project. You don't need to see his identification. These aren't the droids you're looking for. He can go about his business. Move along.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Breakfast? Sure! Lunch? Sure! Dinner? Um...

Since I was maybe twenty, I've been trying to figure out how to eat meals. This perhaps sounds stupid, but I'm sure I'm not the only person to have this problem. It's the paradox of choice: with so many food options before us, it actually becomes more difficult to make good decisions about eating. When combined with the daily trials of modern life, this can lead to some ridiculous eating habits, and three squares goes right out the window for many of us. The wisdom of the three-meal-a-day eating structure is of course debatable, as many to most of us will benefit from eating smaller meals more frequently. But for a person like me who became totally lost in the food forest, it's a good place to begin when trying to find some gustatory structure.

Breakfast.

A while back I worked out breakfast. It's not a complicated solution either: it's cereal. Now, granted, I'm picky. I don't drink soy milk because I don't want to have a constant stream of soy in my diet. There are may other types of "milks", like rice and oat and hemp and mixed grain and every kind of nut you can think of, but they frequently have high sugar content - often 15 grams per cup or more. (Soy milk of course also has this issue.) It took me a long time to discover the miracle that is unsweetened Almond Breeze almond milk, now my breakfast cornerstone.

Then of course there's the matter of the cereal itself. Talk about added sugars! Naturally I want something whole grain, multi-grain, and prefer a cereal that features little if any wheat. Lately I've been eating Barbara's Shredded Spoonfulls, which has an acceptable sugar content and is composed largely of oats as well as corn, rice, and a few other staples. I try to switch it up so that I get a variety of nutrients. Quantity of course matters - I do half a cup of cereal and half a cup of milk. In the winter I sometimes like cooked things like the Bob's Red Mill cereals; I find the warm meal really sustaining when it's freaking fifteen degrees outside.

Alright, I'm fed, I can leave the house.

Snacky!

If I tried to wait until 1 pm, my work-designated lunch hour, to eat again, I'd pass out. So I have my 11 am snack: Whole Soy & Co. vanilla yogurt. The fruit flavors have way too much sugar, and the plain is too blah. I like this company, or at least I like it way better than I like Silk, who at this point I downright hate. I tried eating other items here, like granola bars or fruit, and for whatever reason they just didn't do the trick. The yogurt seems to have just the right amounts of sheer volume, indulgence, and I dunno, maybe plain old fat and sugar to get me through till lunch.

Lunch.

Recently I finally, finally got lunch together. This has taken years! The inspiration came from a silly "health food" take-out place called The Pump. From them I was purchasing overpriced meals which consisted largely of a bed of rice smothered in some type of bean, and topped with hunks of baked tofu, or variations on that theme. Well it didn't take long for me to realize that I do not have to spend ten bucks a pop for this type of dish, and that it's easily recreated at home.

So lunch becomes a meal that is based usually in brown rice, rarely in pasta, or occasionally in steamed vegetables - or sometimes a combination of steamed vegetables and one of the first two starches. Then is added veg chili or lentils or black beans or something of the like. And finally there's usually a protein (not that there isn't plenty of protein in the beans, but I mean something more dense) like smoked tofu, or seitan maybe, added on top. Vegetables are often mixed in, really, in the form of spinach or steamed broccoli or diced tomatoes - they add lots of flavor and texture and other goodness. For flavor I use tomato sauce or peanut sauce - something in the sauce genre really. Sometimes if there's enough fresh tomato in the mix and it's good enough tomato, that alone provides plenty of flavor. Lemon is also a good booster, and pepper.

The only thing to really watch out for here is salt content, and to make sure that I'm not eating the same items every single day. Ideally I will begin to experiment with other grains here too, like barley and maybe wheat berries. Love those. Ooh, and quinoa. I've have some fledgling success with that one. I believe that one of the keys to good nutrition is variety, so I don't want to eat brown rice five days a week.

Home from work - more snacky!

Here's where I start getting into trouble. I get home from a long and grueling day. I've just used public transportation with a few hundred thousand other tired grumpy New Yorkers. I'm exhausted. I'm annoyed. Various parts of me hurt. And I start looking for sugar. If it's here, I'm going to eat it - as much of it as I can get. Newman's O's? Half a package without blinking. Pint of Tofutti? A pint becomes a serving. This is bad news.

You're thinking, there's an easy solution to this! Don't keep sugar in the house - done! Oh, but you don't know me too good. See, there's a grocery three blocks away. And when the craving is bad enough and there's nothing in the house, I'll just go get the cookies. It's kind of like when a smoker wants a cigarette. Will he sit there not smoking, or will he find the nearest Quickie-Mart? Don't get me wrong - I don't make a habit of keeping junk food around the house. But we get things sometimes. And because of this tendency of mine, we may have to stop entirely.

One good solution I have found to this is frozen fruit bars. They have enough sugar in them to satisfy the craving, but not so much that I'm really wrecking myself. I get the kinds that really are made with fruit juice and don't have high fructose corn syrup in them. Sure they have sucrose, but it's still a far cry from eating a whole box of Tofutti Cuties. (Oh yes I would. I have. There are witnesses.)

What also helps - and this is going to sound silly, but I'm serious - is drinking a large quantity of good water. It's not a cure, but it makes me feel nourished. And I need to drink more water anyway.

Dinner...? Like, every day?

Once I'm at home and settled, I need to think about dinner pretty quickly. On a good day I get home at 6, and often I don't get home until 7 or 8 or even later. My man and I have a bad, bad habit of procrastinating, and we end up not eating until 9:30 or 10 at night. This is ridiculous for so many reasons. Eating an hour or two before bed is never a good idea. Waiting for eight hours after lunch to eat again is also bad. And so on. The other half of the problem is that by that point we're often just ordering Thai delivery. While tasty, it's pretty much entirely starch, salt, and fat - and way more than enough of each. It's a stupid pattern of behavior that we've got to stop.

But in order to stop behaving this way, we have to have some system to replace it with. Jonathan and I comprise a very modern American household, with all of the problems that presents. By the time we get home at night, we're tired. He carries stress particularly badly, and I have a host of physical problems. Often, neither of us feels up to spending an hour or even a half hour in the kitchen preparing a meal. We can never decide what to eat. Having very different metabolisms and palettes, he tends to want to make dishes with lots of salt and fat while I insist that foods are whole and fresh and healthy. All of this is what leads to the procrastination in the first place, and it makes dinner seem like a very hard thing to do.

But I believe, perhaps, we've stuck upon a solution. It's going to sound absurd. And yes, it is going to take some self discipline, and us doing some work in the kitchen when we might not want to. But it might work. And it's... salads! Not just green salads, because often I can't eat raw greens. But all kinds of salads. Black bean and corn salads. Pasta salads. Potato salads. Tofu salads. Chickpea salads. Whatever kind of salad you can think of, on a cracker or not.

We will, of course, also eat all-vegetable salads, including green salads. Especially when our landlady has brought us bags of arugala and raddiccico and fresh tomatoes from the backyard. There's also tomato and cucumber salad, a personal favorite. And I'm sure we can think of others. Vegetable salads that incorporate fruits and nuts are wonderful...

I know. It sounds a little ridiculous. But I think it'll work maybe. While it's still warm out at least. And when it starts to get cool, we're going to get a slow cooker. Then we can have stews and such, with I believe just a bit of prep time in the morning or the evening before.

* * *

So that's the plan. And I hope to enact it just as soon as I can eat solid foods on a regular basis again - right now my IBS is rockin' and my daily food intake is more like a little bit of miso soup and maybe a few crackers. *Sigh.*

Ah, eating. So basic, so complicated.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

So here's the thing. (Notes from The Subway Project.)

I know. You're so super duper sick of my excuses that you're not even going to read this blog post. And I don't even really blame you for that. But I'm going to tell you what's happening anyway.

At the moment it's really hard for me to type because my right hand is so messed up. Why? I don't really know. What I do know (thanks to an MRI) is that I have a pinched nerve on the left side of my neck. It's basically just being folded in to a general flare-up of my chronic illness. This has not left me in a good position to do any subway riding.

I know. You hate me.

I have material for at least four posts for you! And when I can type better I will post them! Among other things, I promised you I was going to bring back pics of the D.C. Metro, and I did I did! I haven't shown them to you yet because I suck, or more specifically because my body sucks and it isn't letting me do the things I'd like to at the moment.

But look. The project isn't abandoned - far from it. In fact, come early September I have a date to ride the J train. I have high hopes of being more functional by that point, and I'll have a partner, and damnit I have determination.

I know what you're thinking. She hasn't posted the G train yet.

Bear with me lovelies.

Until then, a consolation prize.

Treehugger's "World's Best Alternative Subway Maps". Unsurprisingly, NY is heavily featured. Wish I could give you the whole slideshow here, but they're not so big on the embed features. Anyway...

Thanks Dan!

My favorite assessment yet of the world ending in 2012.

Thank you Dinosaur Comics for this insightful review!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mail.

I'm very particular when I address an envelope. I check and double check the recipient's house and apartment numbers, go over the spelling of the street (and city, if it's unfamiliar) three or four times. I check my own address a couple of times as well - just in case. I place the stamp carefully, squarely in the corner. If the envelope is at all heavy, I add extra postage.

Walking to the mail box, I check the envelope a few more times. Is it sealed? Are all the parts of the address really there? Did I remember postage? I do one (or two) more checks before I slip it in. Once I do, I check to make sure it really got in there and isn't caught halfway.

And then, a moment or a minute or ten minutes or half an hour later, I have a split second panic. Did I put the address?! Did I seal it?? Did I put postage on it!??

Heaven help me - heaven help us all - when I mail the invitations.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

So, what is it like to have an MRI?

It's sort of like being in the middle of an air raid siren. No, I mean inside of the actual siren - the thing that makes all that noise. What else could explain that level of sound and vibration? It's actually comforting that the quality of the sound changes every couple of minutes - from a honking kind of alarm to a jackhammering kind of noise, and so forth.

It's also a bit like being stuck inside of a Squarepusher album, which itself is stuck on one of the more noisy bits.

Honestly, though, it wasn't so bad. I was only doing the cervical spine, so my test only lasted for fifteen minutes. My tech was really nice, and saw that I was clearly anxious. So he let Jonathan come to the back with me, and then had him fill out a few forms so that he could come right on into the test with me.

Laying down on that plank, I sure did want to start crying (again). But they put a nice blanket over me, and a foam wedge under my knees so that it would be more comfortable to lay still. They gave me ear plugs of course. The "camera" for my neck was attached to a crazy contraption that fit sort of over my head and face, and made me feel a bit like those poor kids with headgear that you see in awful 80's teen movies. Before they slid me in, they handed me a sort of ball attached to a cord, and told me that if I needed to stop and come out, all I needed to do was squeeze that ball. It's the kind of shape that's just reassuring to hold in the hand. And of course, knowing you have a killswitch is comforting in and of itself. Then, in I went, into the tube.

And then they pulled me back out. It was a little disconcerting. But they did it to give me a mirror, one that fit onto the thing that straddled my head, so that I would not only feel Jonathan touching my legs, but would also see him. I think it made all the difference.

It was definitely a test of endurance. I am very, very sensitive to sound. It is also terribly hard for me to stay in one position for more than about two minutes, let alone fifteen. But I did a lot of slow conscious breathing - knowledge left over from my yoga days - and for the last five minutes I was counting down. I have a pretty good sense of the length of a second, because of a habit I had as a kid of literally watching clocks.

When it was over I was quite relieved - and quite stiff. My neck hurt for the rest of the day, just because I'd made it stay still for so long. But more importantly, it was over. Now, hopefully, by Tuesday I'll know what is and is not wrong with my neck.

As one of my attorneys (that I work for - I'm not suing anyone) said, let's hope it's just effed up enough to get me some physical therapy.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

And in a shocking turn of events, health insurance companies SUCK ASS.

I don't even have the energy to recount the whole thing again, so I'm simply pasting in what I emailed to them. Fucking bastards I hate them all. And tonight, that goes for Walgreens as well.

* * *

To Heath Net:

Tonight I attempted to pick up a prescription for Yasmin - for which I am forced to get Ocella, since it's cheaper and as we know, if there's a cheaper alternative that's all the health insurance company will pay for. Well, since there's apparently some kind of promotion going on, Ocella is not currently covered. Yasmin is. The Ocella is what they filled my prescription with, and of course it came up not covered at about $67. I'm sure as hell not going to pay that. Well, despite the fact that Yasmin is what is WRITTEN ON MY PRESCRIPTION, the pharmacist refused to give it to me even though she could see that it WAS being covered by the insurance, simply because the prescription slip did not also say "dispense as written". So, the doctor has to both write down the name of the drug and then again say "yes, that's what I'm really prescribing" for a patient to get the correct drug? Can anyone explain that to me? And let me mention that my drug store is Walgreens - a huge nationwide chain. If they don't know about this little game you're playing, who does? Essentially, I am being punished for the financial gain of Health Net. The insurance company just does whatever it needs to do to save as much money as possible regardless of the effect on peoples' health. I never wanted to be on Ocella to start with - it is NOT the same as Yasmin and it took months for my body to adjust - but now that I'm used to it I sure as hell don't want to switch back, only to have to switch again in another few months! I HAVE talked to my doctor about it, and she agrees with me! But doctors are powerless to fight against the insurance companies - clearly, when what she prescribed to me isn't what is given to me at the drug store because it's not what's best for YOU. Nothing about this "promotion" indicates that anything but Health Net's gain is at interest. And my experience tonight proves that nothing has been done to ensure that this little trick won't cause massive inconvenience to your customers. In case you haven't gathered it yet, IT'S CAUSING MASSIVE INCONVENIENCE TO YOUR CUSTOMERS. As if switching our drugs on us and forcing us to take drugs that we were not prescribed isn't inconvenience enough.

* * *

And to Walgreens:

Tonight I attempted to pick up a refill of a prescription which I have been taking for about three years. The prescription is for the birth control pill Yasmin, but of course since the generic Ocella came out my insurance company has been forcing me to get that drug.

At the moment, the company that makes these drugs is apparently having some sort of "promotion", by which the brand name drug, Yasmin, is being offered at my lowest copayment. For whatever reason, during this time my insurance company is NOT covering Ocella.

Tonight when I went to pick up my prescription, I noticed with some confusion that it was not being covered by my insurance. I asked the pharmacist who was helping me, and she simply pointed to the slip and said, "It says right here, drug not covered." Well I knew that was wrong, since I've been getting it for years and it's always been covered, and my benefits haven't changed. Then I remembered that I'd gotten a letter about the "promotion".

I explained the situation to her, and asked her to see if Yasmin was indeed being covered by my insurance. She did, and it was. She also showed me the image of my prescription, which clearly stated the word "Yasmin". However, she refused to fill the prescription with Yasmin. She told me that it was "against the law" for her to fill my prescription with Yasmin, despite the fact that my doctor wrote Yasmin on the prescription and that my insurance was covering brand name Yasmin, because my doctor had not ALSO written "DAW" (dispense as written) in the box at the bottom of the prescription. I tried for several minutes to explain to her the absurdity of her statements, but was only told repeatedly that it would be "against the law" for her to give me the drug that my doctor had clearly prescribed! She told me that I would have to go back to the doctor to get a new prescription... for what I already had a prescription for.

I worked in customer service and retail for a long, long time. There are about a hundred ways in which this pharmacist could have handled this situation better. She was rude, unhelpful, and basically acted like I had done something wrong or was asking something unreasonable by requesting that she give me the drug that was a) prescribed by my doctor and b) covered by my insurance. But beyond that, I feel that the pharmacy staff should have noticed the problem before I even got there, when the prescription that had always been covered came up as not covered. Honestly, after three years of getting the same drug at the same location every month (among many others), is that too much to ask?

Needless to say, I am very displeased with the "service" I received tonight. I was not able to get my prescription, because I am certainly NOT going to pay full price (almost $70) for a generic when my insurance company is covering the name brand for $15, and so am forced to make a second trip there tomorrow to speak with the manager.

Perhaps people cannot be taught common sense, but they can be taught proper customer service, and this pharmacist had been instructed in nothing of the sort.