Thursday, June 30, 2011

It Seems Impossible, and Yet--

I won a giveaway! Not a Goodreads giveaway this time, and not just any giveaway, but the one giveaway--out of the approximately thirty I entered yesterday--that I wanted to win the very very most. It is from No Page Left Behind, and it is the giveaway that was giving away this book:
And, well, I don't think I need to remind you how much I love and need to collect the books in this series.

I definitely had to wait about fifteen minutes after finding out before I allowed myself to write this post, so I could have time to get out of the multiple-exclamation-points level of excitement--because you know how I hate to be the person who uses multiple exclamation points, and I very definitely did in my email response to the giver of the giveaway. (Okay, so maybe even judgmental cynics are multiple-exclamation-point people at heart. Sue us.)

Anyway. I am ridiculously excited and very grateful to have won this giveaway, and I can't wait to see that beautiful, beautiful book in the mail. Life is pretty simple when you're a nerd, isn't it? Very few things can make me as ecstatic as winning a book like this.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Philosophy Series: Pregnancy and Childbirth

I started writing this post in August 2010 but never got around to posting it, and now that I've come across it again I realize that it fits perfectly into my philosophy series. The original post focused on Cesarean sections, since it was based on a piece I heard on the radio and that was their topic, but what I want to talk about now is much more broad.

My stance:
My thoughts about pregnancy--like my thoughts on pretty much everything else in life--are that it should be as natural a process as possible. My ideal childbirth would take place at home, not at a hospital; with a midwife instead of a doctor; and without any drugs.

This is a particularly sensitive issue for women, so let me first say that I am not criticizing anyone's choice. I understand how mystifying the whole process can feel, and I understand how terrifying it is to think about something happening to your baby. I understand that everyone's body and experiences are different, and that your views about childbirth depend greatly on the way your parents dealt with it. 

So to give you background about my views: My mother had six children, all at home with a midwife (except for one, where I think I maybe remember something about the labor going so fast that the midwife didn't even make it there in time). My siblings and I didn't go to doctors when we were sick growing up; we jammed our immune systems with vitamin C, echinacea, and goldenseal, were sick for about three days, and got over it (and then had trouble getting an excused absence from school because of our lack of doctor's note). As near as I can count, I have set foot in a hospital six times in my life (three as a patient and three as a visitor). The only times I ever remember going to the doctor were for a physical before Girl's Camp and to get immunizations for school (and no, I wasn't immunized as a baby; none of us were). 

I believe that the best environment for a baby to come into the world is the baby's home, where the mother is comfortable and has the full attention of her midwife. I've always hated the atmosphere in a hospital, where everything is freezing cold and sterile and full of strangers. I honestly think I might choose giving birth outside over doing it in a hospital--although if we're being honest, I don't know that I'd agree with myself when it really came down to it. :)

I also believe that most women are perfectly capable of having a baby at home, if they decide to do some research and educate themselves about what needs to happen. Midwives are capable, well-educated and usually certified professionals, and they are trained to handle things like breech births, twins, and other things that women often think are deadly if encountered outside a hospital. (My mom can attest to this, as I myself was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck twice.) This quote is one I came across when I was writing the original post last year, and I love the sentiment it expresses:

"How you view childbirth is a reflection of your philosophy of life. One of the things I feel really sad about is our culture where the message is that women can't have a good childbirth experience without turning themselves over to the control and interventions of the medical community. Starting parenthood with the notion that somebody else has to manage the process is not empowering. This is something that I think about, but I suspect many of my colleagues would say, 'What is she talking about?' I was really proud of my own ability to birth my 9-pound 13-ounce son vaginally without anesthesia. I remember touching his head at my vaginal opening and holding him on the delivery table and being in love. I was his mother. I am not opposed to C-sections, but I'm pretty sure a 30 to 40 percent rate is not justified."

-Marcie K. Richardson, OB and instructor at Harvard Medical School

Women have been having babies for thousands of years, and I believe that we are fully capable of handling the process without medical intervention. This is not to say that I think it's wrong to have a baby in a hospital, or anything like that; I just believe that it's not necessary, and I would never choose to do it myself. Childbirth is a beautiful, natural process--something that can be approached with excitement and confidence, not fear. 

I should also say that I do know there are some circumstances under which a doctor and a hospital might be necessary. Women have been having babies for thousands of years, and in that time there have also been a lot of birth-related deaths. (Many of them were caused by the inferior living conditions, not complications inherent to childbirth, but it's still a valid point.) Sometimes there is a serious complication, and in that case, the intervention of modern medicine is a wonderful thing that could save the life of a child or mother that may have been lost in a different time. I definitely understand that. 

But I do believe that those are rare circumstances. I believe that in preparation for childbirth, parents don't need to be thinking about all the things that can go wrong. I think parents should have a plan in case something serious does happen--and after having made that plan, do everything they can to educate themselves and become comfortable with the process. Childbirth is one of the most basic functions of nature, and we are qualified to deal with it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations

Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
Chocolat, by Joanne Harris
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien--haven't read this, but I think the movies are pretty fantastic.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen--A&E, obviously.
Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding
An Ideal Husband/The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
The Hours, by Michael Cunningham--I actually like the movie quite a bit better than the book.
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk--I loathed this book, but the movie was pretty incredible.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Birth Order Book, by Dr. Kevin Leman--7/10

When I picked up this book, I wasn't expecting much in the way of depth--I mostly thought it would be fun to read the lists about what a typical oldest child is like and compare myself to it, read the other ones and laugh and see my siblings in them, etc. I was not expecting to discover much about why I am the way I am (which is, granted, a tad ironic considering the subtitle of the book).

So. Surprise, surprise. 

To give you an idea of what I am talking about, here is an anecdote. Toward the end of the book, I read this passage (directed toward firstborn parents):
Relax your perfectionist rules a bit. Maybe part of cleaning up the room is making the bed. Since 4 is a bit young to make beds, you may have the child help you, but be sure he does as much as he can, and if it's wrinkled in spots, congratulate him but don't do it over for him. So what if some of it looks like a toy truck got left under the covers? You can shut the door, and no one needs to see it. 

And you know what? I felt a wave of anxiety when I read that second to last sentence, an actual tightening in my chest. I envision that bumpy bedspread in my mind, and I can't help it--I am freaking out. Right now! That picture in my head is driving me crazy. 

The thing is, a thing that probably most of you don't even know about me: I am a perfectionist. A bad one. 

(Former college roommates, you are gaping in shock, right? You are remembering my messy side of the room (which wasn't even nearly as bad as it used to be in high school), and how I always left dishes in the sink, and how I despised cleaning checks, and how I got so annoyed when other people cleaned up the bathroom and put my things in the cabinets instead of on the counter; you are remembering these things and you are saying to yourselves, "She has finally gone insane.")

But it's true... It is true. Since Mike and I got married, basically, I have become both obsessive and compulsive about cleaning and organizing. My emotional calmness is directly connected to how messy our apartment (or room, right now) is; as things start getting cluttered, I start getting irritable and short-tempered, until one day--usually right in the middle of something else, or right as we're sitting down to eat or watch something--I just start picking things up and keep going until it's all clean. Mike always knows I'm not doing well emotionally when I silently begin cleaning--but he also knows that I'll be better when I finish.

And actually, according to this book, it is also typical for perfectionists to be very messy in some area of their lives, the way I used to be--it's the old "my desk at work is a mess of piles but I know exactly where to find everything in those piles" story. This is apparently called being a discouraged perfectionist, and Leman's explanation is that firstborn children have a combination of ridiculously high expectations for themselves--expecting perfection, basically--and something learned in childhood that tells them they can never be good enough. They create messes to mask their failure to be perfect--but even within that mess, they have a system.

I have always had this, but I have a lot of other emotional problems, too, so I have always kind of assumed this was part of that. The earth-shattering thing about this book was, for me, just learning that this might not be a particular-to-my-problems problem, but a typical-for-all-oldest-children problem--and therefore one that is now easier to understand. It was a very surprising experience for me to read through this book and see myself in so many of the examples he gives. In one chapter he talks about Emily, a firstborn who freaked out about cutting a circle as a child, because she couldn't cut it perfectly. I actually remember hating having to draw or cut out a heart in elementary school, because I could never get both sides to match! And it never occurred to me that this was something related to birth order, of all things.

As far as the way the book is written, I found it a little annoying. Dr. Leman grew up in the 50s (I think?), and you can hear it in the way he talks--his voice is kind of cheesy and he says things like "Say, don't we need to buy milk?" (This is not a quote, but I had to return the book to the library and now it's checked out so I can't find any actual examples.) Anyway, it's fine, it's just not my style.
There are people who don't believe birth order has anything to do with anything, and I have to say that I can't imagine how that could be true. Obviously these things aren't always true about everyone, and Dr. Leman says that many times in the book. Certainly some people don't fit their descriptions, especially middle children, who have much less specific descriptions in the first place. I know several people, actually, who don't fit their descriptions at all. But there's no way I could have read that much stuff that describes me so well and not believe it has validity as a theory; besides that, it just makes sense, because it's all about how you relate to different people in your family and the kinds of experiences you're going to have, based on where you fit in. So the moral of the story is this: You might learn some surprising things about yourself if you read this book, and even if you don't, you will at least learn some useful things about other people in your life. I think you should check it out. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Reading Stereotypes

There's a book blog I like to read called The Best Little Bookshelf in Texas. Personality-wise the writer and I are maybe not the same, but we appear to share a lot in the way of reading tastes, and her writing makes me laugh. She did a post called "Readers by Author," in which she lists writers and describes the kind of person she imagines when someone says they love one of those authors. I'll just repeat her disclaimer here before I post some of my favorites:

"A caveat, I’m not so much serious about any of this… as I am extremely serious. But really, don’t be offended, because what do I know?" Ditto on that for me, because what does my opinion matter, right? And also because if you read the authors I make fun of, that doesn't mean I love you less.

Harper Lee: You could’ve been a reader, why did you lose steam?
Emily Dickinson: Girls who would go to Canada just for the Anne of Green Gables museum.
Dan Brown: People underexposed to books.
Sophie Kinsella: Women who will call themselves “girls” well into their forties.
Agatha Christie or any other mystery writer: Grandmas.

I haven't read these authors (except The Alchemist), but I have two Paulo Coelho books on my shelf that I've been meaning to read for a long time, and I laughed out loud when I read her description of people who like him. Also, I now suspect I should check out some Howard Zinn.

Paulo Coelho: People who sometimes contemplate one idea for an entire afternoon and then wake up and are like, “Wait, is Chipotle still open?”
Howard Zinn: People who can’t let a Thanksgiving go by without being like “You know, what we’re really celebrating is smallpox and genocide…”

And finally, these are all authors I love (or really like insofar as I've had experience with them). Some of the descriptions aren't right for me; I am terrible at keeping secrets and don't scour Wikiquote, but I think that's partially because I'd never thought of it. Also, I am neither anorexic nor vegetarian nor rich, but I think I have to be honest and admit to a certain level of self-righteousness (although I promise I actually do try to overcome my proclivity toward it). 

Kurt Vonnegut: People who look on Wikiquote a lot in search of something that really really defines them.
J.K. Rowling: Mostly Gryffindors. Some Ravenclaws, the occasional Slytherin. No Hufflepuffs.
Roald Dahl: People who don’t seem sentimental but are.
Madeleine L’Engle: Weird girls who are actually totally awesome.
Haruki Murakami: People who are good at keeping secrets.
Michael Pollan: Self-righteous anorexic vegetarians, or rich people who like doing things halfway.
Jonathan Safran Foer: Impressionable people who take all the outlets at coffee shops.
Philip Pullman: Not sure, but they’re all frustrated.

I think the Roald Dahl and Madeline L'Engle descriptions are my favorites--don't they seem so accurate?

Math: the Language of Love

My favorite from the Worst Analogies Ever Written in a High School Essay contest supposedly run by The Washington Post at some point in the unidentified past:

"Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left cleveland at 6:30 pm travelling at 55mph, the other from topeka at 4:19pm at 35mph."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is Teen Fiction Too Dark?

This isn't really a philosophy series post, but I figured I may as well label it as one, since the intent of it sort of fits in with the series.

Last week Lindsey emailed me a link to this story from The Wall Street Journal, asking what I thought about it, and then she and Megan and I emailed back and forth for a while discussing it. It's a piece called "Darkness too Visible," and the subtitle says, "Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?"

The other day on NPR I discovered a response to the article. Both pieces are thoughtful and interesting, and though I don't agree with every word, I can easily identify with both perspectives. So now I want to know how you feel about it. Do you think it's dangerous for teenagers to have access to so much literature about rape, abuse, depression, and other dark topics? Do you think it does teenagers a disservice to think that you can keep them from being exposed to the hard things in life? It's a hard question, and I don't think there's an easy yes or no answer.

To be honest, my first instinct is to say that teenagers have enough problems, not to mention terrible judgment, and this kind of exposure isn't good for them. 

But then my second thought kicks in, and says that in the first place, many teenagers experience this kind of darkness in their own lives anyway and seeing it addressed in literature can help them understand and cope with it; and in the second place, if you believe a teenager's predilection toward darkness is growing unhealthy, simply trying to deny them access to it isn't going to help the situation (and will probably make them seek it out even more, if not accompanied by some other kind of reaching out). 

And then my third thought kicks in--the thought about which I did a page in my giant journal after reading The Golden Compass, wondering what kind of parent I'm going to be. I think about how much there is in the world that scares me, and how as a bossy oldest-child perfectionist I hate to not be in control of things, and I worry that when I become a parent myself, I won't be able to live up to all my own open-minded expectations. 

So, like I said--it's a complicated question. What side of the fence are you on (or are you on the fence itself)?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dreams of Joy, by Lisa See--9/10

It appears that my love affair with Asian historical fiction continues, although now we are back to China after having been in Japan for a while. Guys--this book is incredible. 

Dreams of Joy is the sequel to Shanghai Girls, and although it does a fairly good job of filling you in on what happened in the last book, you'll be much better off if you read them both. I can't say much about the plot of Dreams of Joy without ruining Shanghai Girls, so I will restrict myself to telling you that it takes place in Red China, which is just... horrifying. An estimated 40 to 70 million people died during Chairman Mao's rule, which is not surprising when you read about the things that happened during his ridiculous campaigns for economic superiority. 

If you've read 1984, you already have a fairly good idea of what China was like during this time--which is interesting to me, because Mao took power and created the People's Republic of China in 1949, and the book was published in 1948. Neighbors and family members turned each other in for not being "red" enough, for harboring capitalist, imperialist, or bourgeois beliefs. They held neighborhood "struggle sessions," in which an accused person was brought in front of the group to be humiliated and sometimes beaten or tortured, all supposedly for that person's own good, to help them reform.

The story is intense, and my stomach was in knots for a good third of the book. Of course it isn't just about the political climate of China; it's about Pearl and May and Joy, their family, their relationships with each other and with Joy's biological father, their desires and beliefs and passions. This is a fantastic book for anyone, whether you like historical fiction, Chinese history, drama, or just a good love story. I can't wait until it's released in paperback, and after that I can't wait for whatever Lisa See is writing next. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Birthday: Second Half

This weekend was kind of a second birthday celebration, since last weekend was taken up with Joseph's graduation (my youngest brother! Graduated! So weird). To begin with, Friday night we went out with my parents, Joseph, and Daniel (which wasn't about birthdaying, but about getting out of the house while Benjamin threw a wild college party for his friends). That was a really lot of fun. Then yesterday we went to lunch with Lori, Meredith, Zach, Bethany, and Dave, and had some fantastic tacos in Dallas. Then we went to Half Price Books--because we are not a group of people to skip checking out a location we've never been to--and Meredith and I spent the HPB gift cards we'd just received as birthday gifts from the lovely Bethany. 

We did a bit more hanging out in the afternoon, and at various points Bethany and Dave and Lori had to leave, so we ended up with Meredith and Zach--and we decided to spent the evening going to Choctaw in Oklahoma. It was pretty fun, although I didn't do any gambling. Mike and Meredith played the slots, and Zach actually did win some money playing blackjack (while I learned that I can't do math in my head fast enough to be able to play that game). As Mike's manager, I allowed him a strict $20 limit; he spent $19 then actually won $8.50 back, so we ended up only spending about $11. Not bad for your average night out.

Today we went to Dafni and Brandon's and had a joint birthday celebratory dinner for me and Benjamin, who is turning 20 tomorrow (weird!). I got to see my Goose, had a delicious dinner, was presented with yummy cake, and got my last round of presents! (Then on the way home our car overheated and we spent about 45 minutes cooling down the engine and getting coolant and all kinds of things, so that was fun.)

Anyway. It's been a lovely birthday, and I ended up with a whole new group of presents from this weekend, so I will now share them with you because I know you are so interested.

Round two:

  • a new pair of jeans from Dafni and Brandon, plus a promise from Talia to go shopping for some more
  • this amazing copy of Wuthering Heights from Talia, since she wanted to have something to give me today
  • this beautiful copy of Alice and Wonderland from Meredith, who made sure to tell me that this wasn't all I was getting (even though I told her it could be!)
  • the Half Price Books gift card I mentioned from Bethany (which was used to purchase a copy of The Goose Girl and Enna Burning, which I have looked for at every HPB location I've been to in the last year and have never found the versions I want until yesterday when there they were!)
  • and finally, from my parents... a new camera!!! This one was a total surprise because I hadn't even begun to start thinking about being able to buy a new one after the old one has become so sadly beat up. I am very, very excited. 
So once again--thank you, everyone! I am feeling very lucky lately, because I have some really wonderful people in my life and even though things are rough, I have a lot of things to be thankful for. 2011 has had some serious ups and downs, but halfway through the year I think I can say I'm in a pretty good place.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Birthday Haul

I've gotten some really great stuff for my birthday! Thank you, everyone who sent me something. You are all very kind. 
  • Newsies and the Chocolat soundtrack, from Nathalie and Rick
  • this beautiful copy of Wuthering Heights, and this amazing journal, from Lori and Christian
  • another copy of Newsies (which I will have to exchange) and Harry Potter 7 (!) from Dan and Candice.
  • The Adventure of Food, a collection of traveler's tales about eating around the world, from Lis and Jeremy
  • the Listography journal and This I Believe, a collection of "the personal philosophies of remarkable men and women," from my lovely online friend Megan
  • a cute children's book called Fox and the Mountain, from my aunt Miki (and which, weirdly enough, is written by someone who was in my Sunday School class growing up)
  • a gift card to AMC from Lana's parents, Chelsea and Jeff

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Do One Green Thing, by Mindy Pennybacker--8/10

This is a great book. Pretty much everyone's biggest problem with going green is not wanting to do a total overhaul of their lifestyle, and this book solves that problem by telling you what the one most important change you can make is in each area of your life. These are some of my favorites--the easiest to implement, the most interesting, or the ones that address an issue I didn't even know about.

For you seafood eaters, there's a hefty section about the kinds of fish that are good and the kinds you should avoid--whether because of the amount of mercury they contain or  because those species are being overfished. (p 35)

Skip red meat at least one day a week. This is a health issue, but also helps reduce carbon emissions and save water (because meat production causes more environmental harm than the production of any other food). (p 55)

Wash your laundry in cold water--which I always do anyway out of laziness, because you don't have to separate your colors if you wash everything in cold. Heating the water requires a huge amount of energy. (p 81)

If you don't have a water-saving toilet (one that doesn't fill the bowl all the way like an old one does), put a 1-liter bottle full of water in your toilet tank. I'm not completely sure how this works but apparently it keeps the bowl from filling up more than it needs to. (p 114)

Turn down your water heater to 120 degrees (the average is usually 130). Same reason as laundry. (p 109)

As you finish off the ones you have, buy household cleaners that don't release toxic vapors. Don't use anything with ammonia, lye, phosphates, or fragrance; if you only go green on a few, make sure they're your oven, drain, and toilet cleaners. (p 117)

Here is one I'd never thought of: Buy a green mattress, because conventional ones are treated with chemical fire retardants that have been shown to cause behavioral and developmental problems. (p 127)

Don't put things on top of your refrigerator; try not to put your fridge next to the stove; keep your freezer full; make sure the door seal doesn't leak. The refrigerator is one of the biggest users of energy in your home. If you're buying a new one, go for the kind that has the freezer on the top; these use the least energy. The side-by-side ones use the most. (p 100)

Another one I knew nothing about: Find a green dry cleaner! Eighty-five percent of U.S. dry cleaners still use a highly toxic solvent that is listed as a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. If you can't find a green one, take off the bag at the dry cleaner's and let your clothes air out on the way home. (p 137)

Try to find clothing made with organic, sustainably produced fibers, and this is actually a health issue as much as an environmental one. Babies' sleepwear is required by law to be fire-resistant, and flame retardants can release formaldehyde or perfluochemicals, which have been linked to nervous system damage. (Same with wrinkle-proofing, permanent press, moth-proofing, and anything else-proofing.) (p 196)

When you are pregnant, avoid things that have added fragrances, like nail polish, perfumes, shampoos, deodorants, etc. Added fragrance is also the number one ingredient associated with allergic reactions and can trigger asthma attacks. (p 156)

If you want to recycle something but don't know where, check out to find the closest location for any kind of recycling that you want to do. It will tell you where you can take batteries, paint, etc. 

There are so many excellent tips in this book, and I really recommend that everyone check it out. Obviously you can choose to skip anything that doesn't work for you, and you can focus on whatever area needs the most attention in your life. Even if you only implement one of these changes, it'll be a great way to start, and most of these efforts will make a difference for your own health as well as the health of the environment. We are part of nature, after all--doesn't it make sense that what's good for nature is good for us too?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Philosophy Series: The "Prayer in Schools" Issue

This is kind of a spontaneous post, not in my usual format. I decided to write it when I found myself thinking about my youngest brother's graduation yesterday, and the many Christian references that were part of the program. 

In the first place, there were prayers at both ends of the ceremony, and they were not short. (We were standing while they were given.) Both the valedictorian and the salutatorian were some kind of evangelical Christian, and both talked a lot about how they hoped that all their fellow classmates would be guided by Jesus to discover his path for them. Both of the speakers who introduced them talked a lot about God and Jesus, too. 

I completely understand how important it is for religious people to express their love of Christ. But I just kept looking around the room, at the hundreds of people there, and wondering how the non-Christians felt about it. After all, according to a couple sources, the Christian population of Texas (and Wylie in particular) is only around 50 percent.  So I couldn't help wondering... What makes this group think it's fine for them to dominate ceremonies like this with their religious beliefs and form of worship?

When I was in school I heard a lot about Madalyn Murray O'Hair, that devil woman who was out to silence all Christians forever by forbidding prayer in schools and taking Christian talk radio, televised Catholic mass, and Touched by an Angel off the air. If you listened, the impression you got was of Christians, the poor persecuted minority, fighting their hardest to keep the powerful atheists from suppressing all their rights. 

I am not exaggerating here; there is an outrage and desperation to this movement that is all too real. (Take, for example, the fact that the FCC still receives hundreds of letters each year about O'Hair's petition--even though she's been dead for sixteen years and never filed such a petition.) I remember people talking about this, adults at church and teachers at school, speaking with that fear as though the atheists were out there right now, waiting in the dark to drag them off to the Reverse Inquisition. Only as an adult myself do I realize how false an impression that is. None of that nonsense about O'Hair is true--the only thing she did was get school-sponsored prayer and required Bible study taken out of public schools, which I think was absolutely the right thing to do. 

So I wonder, where does this desperate fear come from? Why does anyone think what O'Hair did was anti-Christian? And the real question: Why is it okay for public school events like graduation and football games to be structured according to Christian practices?

Thursday, June 2, 2011


This is basically how I feel lately. Remember how I've been bored with the internet? It's not really that there's nothing to entertain me--I still enjoy reading people's blogs and everything--it's just that where I would usually feel like getting involved in a conversation, or inspired to write a post of my own, I don't right now. So I end up being online for about ten minutes before I feel like there's nothing else to do. 

I have not been feeling great physically, either. I believe I mentioned the vague sickitude I was experiencing for a few days. Thankfully the sore throat has been gone for a couple days, and yesterday I thought I was all better again, but today I am feeling very allergy-y, with sneezing and blowing my nose and all that... not to mention that my period, which generally moves a day or two later each month, has finally made its way around to the beginning of the month again, just in time for my birthday. (Not that it really makes a difference... but isn't it kind of a matter of principle? Birthdays are not a time for periods. Ah, well.)

The main problem is that I did something to my neck yesterday and it has been hurting like crazy for about 24 hours. I have absolutely no idea what happened; one minute I'm fine, getting in the shower after work, and then suddenly I'm in the shower and feeling like I pulled a muscle or something. I've been trying to stretch it out pretty much constantly since then, and finally managed to get a good pop out of it a few hours ago. The pain is still there, but it's lessened a lot in the last hour, and I think things may get better if I can get Mike to massage it for me tonight. 

My first birthday present arrived yesterday, and I am pleased to announce that I am listening to the Chocolat soundtrack as I blog. It is wonderful. Thank you, Nathalie and Rick!

This is a picture of Lady Gaga having tea with Stephen Fry.