You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2011.

We got our Girl Scout Cookie fix early this year.  Mr. Apron brought them home from work, where 2 coworkers are selling them (assumedly for their daughters, but I see more adults shilling the cookies these days…).  He bought the lame peanut butter sandwich cookies, which don’t even have a proper name, and also a box of Thanks-a-lots. 

Thanks-a-lots, which were new last year (or recently, at any rate), are the best cookie there is.  Yes, Thin Mints have their die-hard fans, and Samoas do satisfy a certain need for junked up cookie + caramel + chocolate + coconut, but Thanks-a-lots are special.  They have the gimmick of the phrase “Thank You” printed in different languages on their circular surface, but at the basest level, they’re just shortbread dipped in fudge.  They are beautiful dipped in tea, as the fudge melts ever-so-slightly, and the cookie soaks up the yummy warmth.  They’re excellent following a snow-day meal of soup.  They’re just the best.

The cookie is no different this year.  The packaging, however, is.  From the GSA’s PR department:

“It’s Girl Scout Cookie time, and this year’s sale demonstrates thinking outside the box—literally.

“In a pilot program, “Thanks-A-Lot” Girl Scout Cookies, a shortbread layered with fudge and embossed with “Thank You” in five different languages, will be packaged only in its film-overwrapped tray, discarding the use of the traditional paperboard carton.

“Even though the cookies come in a different container, each package has the same number of cookies found in the traditional paperboard box, and the film-overwrapped tray keeps them fresh. Both the film and tray are recyclable. In addition, the packaging change saves energy.”

To which I say, bullshit. Now, instead of a cardboard box I can recycle easily, I have to throw the whole package into a large Ziploc bag since the “film-overwrapped tray” does not reseal.  I cannot find the # the plastic is made of on the outer packaging, so I effectively cannot recycle it.  Many cities do not accept plastic for recycling.  And I am generating more waste with my additional plastic bag anyway. 

“The packaging change saves energy”?  It generates good PR for GSA is what it does.  If it’s so awesome for GSA, why didn’t they do it for all the packages, instead of just this variety?  Why didn’t they pack them up in resealable packages to preserve the cookie, too?   Why not use recycled containers?  Why not use eco-friendly inks?  Why not mathematically rearrange the # of cookies to minimize the surface area of packaging in the first place?

I’m not just ripping GSA a new one; I’m venting on the “green” trend so prevalent in commercial products in general.  I’m so sick of companies trying to swindle us into believing they’re good for the environment.  Oh, the Deer Park water is using a smaller cap so as to conserve plastic?  Good for them.  How about getting a reusable bottle and eliminating the need for Deer Park water altogether?  Equally nauseating is trend of the non-woven grocery bags being offered for sale.  They’re all made of polypropylene, so we’re using more fossil fuels (yes, it’s plastic) in order to fuel our need for reusable bags.  What’s wrong with a tote bag made of renewable resources, you know, like cotton canvas?  It seems all companies are doing these days is slapping a leaf or the word “green” on their packaging and calling it a day.  They’re still selling you a product, and more consumer waste products.  Girl Scouts of America is no different.

And now, for a break from the usual introspective fare, I present a spontaneous moment of cuteness our puppy Molly presented us with last night.  I was standing in the office, folding a load of laundry that I began the night before.  We usually forget a load in the dryer overnight, then do the 20-minute refresh the next day.  It’s a rare and beautiful thing when an entire load goes from hamper to drawers within one day. 

So I’m standing there, folding laundry, while Mr. Apron tap-tap-taps away at the computer, spewing words of wisdom into his blog.  Molly, the smaller, younger, blonder dog, usually prefers to sit in one of the 2 chairs in the office, nestled snugly between our back and the chair back.  With her long torso, she is a very effective bolster/kidney warmer.  Because I was standing up, my back/kidneys were unavailable, and she didn’t want to sit in my chair by herself.  She spied the open Ikea bag of clean (and somewhat warm) laundry, stepped in tentatively, and proceeded to turn a few times to flatten the proverbial prairie grass, before curling up into the her sleeping puppy pose. 

I thought only cats could be this cute.

Five years ago, I made the decision to go to graduate school.  I gathered my transcripts, went fishing for letters of recommendation, and took the GRE.  I applied, and was accepted.  I began studies in the fall of 2006, scarcely 2 months before I was to be married.  It was an exciting time, full of change, new experiences, and I was bursting with untapped potential. 

It was not the school I thought I would be attending.  It was not the program I had planned on pursuing.  It was not the career path I had tried to lay for myself.  Instead of becoming a speech-language pathologist, I was going to apply my artistic inclinations to my analytical skills, and become an architect. 

I did not, however, do so.  This week, in a fit of regret and seemingly doomed to an eternity of suburban sameness in an unending career (spear-headed, of course, by my “well intentioned” sister-in-law, who chanced to ask if there was any opportunity for advancement for me in my field/place of employment), I pondered the decisions that sent me to SLP school. 

It seemed a logical choice – given my background in linguistics, my high verbal abilities, the ease I feel working with children – and I made it sincerely.  But it followed another, more difficult choice: the choice to put architecture away.  From time to time, as Mr. Apron and I discuss our unrequited interests, we speak of doing all these things “in another life” – his becoming a police officer, my opening a “cupcakery”, my studying/living abroad, his pursuing a life as a professional actor, and my becoming an architect. 

It seems as though my peers have found their callings.  The one who was a gifted flautist in high school is touring with the Manhattan Symphony; the one who never really was into teaching is finally feeling fulfilled pursuing music therapy.  I keep waiting for mine.  I wonder if I appeared to my friends or teachers to have a calling, and if so, what it is. 

I thought it might be architecture. At least, I can see myself doing speech pathology, but I don’t want to be “stuck” with it.  I began to think of my parents and my in-laws.  We sat around my in-laws’ table for dinner recently, and I lamented with a shudder how I can’t imagine staying in the same job for 20 years.  Of course, my mother-in-law then offered that she will get her 20 year plaque at the library next year, my father-in-law has been working for himself in essentially the same field since 1987, and my sister-in-law started working for him 17 years ago.   My own parents have changed jobs many times in my lifetime, but they are not so different.  Their careers have been set since before I was born (yes, the Beginning and End of Time is my lifetime, thank you), and I can’t see them starting over in any life, least of all this one.  I think my father would really enjoy teaching high school math, (as he never seemed to forget his calculus) or organizing a non-profit that provides quality musical instruments to promising student musicians.  My mother has always professed an interest in rabbinical studies, but for them both, the careers seem set in stone.

 As I saw on the couch this evening, sobbing to my therapist, she asked why I had given up on architecture.  I considered.   I had all the intentions as an idealistic undergrad. Though I didn’t have the foresight to apply to a school with even an architecture minor (Who at 17 has foresight when applying to college?), I did bother taking the recommended prerequisites that could be needed for a graduate program.  As linguistics major (with music minor) I found myself taking architectural history lectures, drawing classes, physics, and calculus.  Calculus, voluntarily!

By the time I was ready to apply to graduate school, it was 4 years later, and I’d had my head cracked open by then.  It took a little longer than I’d planned, but I needed to relearn how to walk, tie my shoes, and stop drooling first. 

I went to an open house at Penn.  I filled out applications; I collected work for my portfolio.  And I got very, very intimidated.  Though the brochures say “applicants from other backgrounds, such as liberal arts, are welcomed” I felt awash in unfamiliar terminology, ashamed of my lack of drawing skills, and deeply insecure about my potential in a career in design.  I never even applied.

I lied to myself and others, saying that the program would take too long (3 years + 3 year internship), the field was too competitive for me (deadlines, projects, competitions for work), and that the lifestyle of an architect wouldn’t be compatible with the family I hoped to have soon.  All these reasons may be true (though I never actually talked to a real, live architect about them), but the most valid was my own fear of failure.

Or even success.  If I applied, if I was admitted, if they said I had enough potential or talent or creativity, it would mean a huge time commitment, new ideas, and hard work.  I was afraid of it all.

That’s why I gave up the closest thing I had to what I wanted to be when I grew up.

But based on our discussion tonight, I tried a new perspective. I am not “stuck” in my career for life.  I do have a career, but nothing says it has to stay my career until I retire.   

I came home and pulled down my dusty architecture school materials.  I guess I saved them for a reason.  A reminder?  A hope?  A bookend?  I perused updated websites, scanned for degree requirements, and was immediately disheartened again.  There’s not just one school in the Philly area for people with “other backgrounds” to pursue a MArch; there’s just one school in all of Pennsylvania (oh, and the tri-state area, for good measure). As I looked at the Penn website, saw the daunting list of admission requirements and prerequisites, and tried to begin to understand the coursework, I experienced déjà vu.  My dreams were dashed again. 

My specific dream, perhaps.  I’m hung up on nuts and bolts, on logistics of full-time/part-time, tuition, studios, GREs, and portfolios.  Maybe architecture won’t happen, at least for now.  Maybe I still don’t know if I’d be any good and that will continue to haunt me, but I did have one realization that just might hold me over:

I only get this one life. (I know, I’m Sally Field for Boniva; give me a break.)

 I can’t redo where I went to college or what courses I took freshman year or why I didn’t spend one moment in the career counseling office, but I can do more with the remainder of my life.  If I wake up one day and decide I’ve had it with being an SLP, I can change that.  It doesn’t have to be architecture, either.  I can pursue one of my Plan C or D career paths, if I really want to.   If I can get past the mental blocks I have chaining me to routine, sameness, comfort, and stability, I might be able to think about continuing my education in a different way than the CE credits offered in speech pathology. 

I need to stop looking disparagingly at people my age who are already changing careers.  I need to stop judging people who “don’t use” their professional degrees, or people who won’t finish schooling until they’re 35.  I need to let myself acknowledge my regrets about my career path, and realize I am not done yet.  I am most certainly not done learning, and I may not be done schooling either.

I pulled at my dog’s leash, guiding him towards the strip of snow by the street, as I chided him gently, “We don’t poop on people’s lawns.”  The use of “we” began to gnaw at me, until I’d pieced through it. 

“We don’t poop on people’s lawns.”  Well, I don’t.  And I don’t want him to.  This use of “we” would seem to mean, “I don’t want you to,” or “Don’t do it.”  I have the authority (if not the absolute power) to make commands like, “Don’t poop here,” but I didn’t say it that way.  I used “we”. 

“We don’t hit.”  This is something I have heard countless times in countless preschools and out of countless parents’/teachers’ mouths.  This use of “we” is similar to the first, in that the parent/teacher has almost complete authority to decide (and mandate) what is acceptable behavior. Somehow, the “we” softens the command. 

“How are we doing today?” Here is the classic, cloying yet condescending nurse, peeping in on you as you wake up from anesthesia after having your skull cracked open or your belly vivisected, asking you to comment on how “we” feel.  As in the other cases, it is clear here the nurse does not expect you to common on her own state; “we” plainly means “you”. 

The first two cases I can comfortably group together under one tier of a hierarchy about power.  In his book “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell examines the role ethnicity plays in airplane cockpit communications, and the crashes that happen (or can be avoided).  What he found was that if lower officers (e.g., flight engineer, first mate) tried to warn a superior officer (e.g., captain, pilot) of dangerous circumstances, they often hinted, or hedged their comments, rather than being direct and admitting that the pilot had made an error.  They said nonspecific things like, “We’re running out of fuel,” (as Gladwell points out, planes are usually running out of fuel as they prepare to land) or mitigated their observations by saying, “I think” or “We might,” or even went at it obliquely by saying, “The weather sure is nasty, eh?”  My instances of “we” for “You do it” would seem to be the opposite: a superior speaking to an inferior.

At least, I use my language to make myself seem superior to my dog.  However, he has me pretty well trained.  If I am in the office and he wants to come in, he scratches gently at the door, effectively knocking, and I immediately spring to action to open it for him.  If we are in the kitchen and it’s any time between 3:30 and 7pm, all he has to do is start barking incessantly, and I will serve his dinner without delay.  My spouse and I are programmed to walk him 3 times a day, and we even stoop to examine and pick up his shit, as if his leavings are some fecal oracle.  With my language, I try to repair our power rankings, though, apparently, I don’t want him to feel bad about it.

“Finley, get your arthritic ass off the neighbor’s lawn before I yank you to the curb!”  Of course, people may be watching.  You don’t speak to a companion animal that way.  He wouldn’t understand.  Not that he understands, “We don’t chase cats; they’re not in season,” either, but that one is for me. 

When it comes to correcting the behavior of young children, the projected “we” (meaning you) is also used.  I have of course observed many child care providers and parent making liberal use of direct commands and corrections with their children.  “Stop that right now.” “Don’t hit her.”  “Get off the wall.”  “Don’t touch that.”  “If you wander off, you’re gonna get took!” I wonder if the difference between, “Don’t touch that” and “We don’t touch that, it’s dirty” is cultural, based on socio-economic status, situational, or some combination thereof.  Again, though, as with the pets, we are “in charge” in some way – the superior officer – and we are giving commands.  We wish to mitigate the strength of our commands in a small way, to take the edge off being direct.  Perhaps we hope this will increase compliance.  I know as a preschool teacher I learned the indirect construction, “I can’t let you…” (jump from the top stair, come to lunch without washing your hands, hit another child, throw sand) as a way to increase compliance and stop sounding like such a meany.  It seemed to work, too.  Maybe the effectiveness was in the strangeness of the phrase itself.  Kids did not recognize, “I can’t let you throw sand,” as a reprimand, and it seemed to reduce their defiance.  Perhaps adults use “we” with the same hope – to seem less harsh, to increase the likelihood they’ll be obedient and to make the task of raising model human beings less odious.  In that case, as with the dog, our “power” never seems truly absolute.  Sure, we may set bedtimes, and offer absolute “no”s, but kids can keep on throwing sand (and dogs will poop wherever and whenever they want) until we take it away. 

To the third example, our saccharine nurse friend.  Arguably, she (or he), too, is in a position of power, albeit artificial and temporary.  Does the use of “we” take down the harshness, the clinical side of nursing?  Yet at the same time, does it hope to increase compliance?  “Did we take our meds today?”  “Do we want dinner now?”  “Did we do all the exercises the PT recommended?”  Maybe the nurse is trying to put herself on your side, so you’ll be more likely to try to please her.  She can hope you’ll be a good little patient, following directions, not demanding too much, just to make her life easier.  I think this third “we” is related to the first two, that it is an attempt by a “superior” to cut herself down one notch verbally, to forfeit one level of power so that you’ll be more comfortable and more compliant.  Unfortunately, due to the artificiality of the situation, most adults chafe at the patronizing construction and/or tone.  It’s ironic that a form intended to alleviate the disparity in power is often perceived as exactly the opposite – as a construction used with small children and animals. 

And we know how that makes us feel, don’t we?

If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve seen the commercials for toothpaste with either mouthwash flavoring or mouthwash “extracts”.  I’m not sure if it’s a combined product, or if they’re just trying to fool us into thinking it is by splashing the Scope logo on the box. 

In either case, it’s not working on me.  I don’t like mouthwash, don’t use mouthwash, and wouldn’t pick up a box of toothpaste with a Listerine or a Scope logo unless I had just eaten poop-flavored garlic onion pickled herring. 

Then we’re deluged by promises that our toothpaste (with or without mouthwash) will last all day, or 12 hours, or overnight, or through meals, or at least past the awkward meeting with the cute girl. 

Let’s back up to the premise here.  Why exactly are we supposed to have minty fresh breath in the first place?  Do parents holding their newborns for the first time breathe in that sweet baby smell and ask for a replacement that smells like mint?  Mint would not seem to be our default, would it?  Yet it is mind-bogglingly difficult to find a toothpaste without mint flavoring.  My dearest husband and sister both hate mint.  My sister suffers through it, but for Mr. Apron, we have discovered Tom’s of Maine orange-mango.  Sometimes even that is hard to find, and he ends up with the mango flavor in their kids’ line.  Because he is not partial to mint, and I’d like to encourage him to floss more (more than twice a year, that is), I try to purchase floss that is unflavored.  (Mr. Apron doesn’t like cinnamon floss – who would?  Why is floss cinnamon-flavored to begin with?)  There are times when I literally cannot find unflavored floss in the drug store.  When did the string we use to fish out bits of broccoli and popcorn necessarily become minty?  Why is mint the default?  The replacement for the naturally occurring mouth essence? 

I think all comes down to an insecurity.  We think we smell, and horribly at that.  Our feet, our crotches, our underarms, our mouths.  It’s not enough that we are marketed and sold products to ameliorate, mask, or neutralize our scents.  We don’t trust the products unless we can detect their proprietary scents.  They have to cover up any of our own humanity with “Vanilla Mint” or “Powder Fresh” or “Arctic Force” or “Pure Sport” or “Cherry Mischief”.  Worse, now they’re trying to convince us that our choice in deodorant scents is somehow linked to our mood or personality.  It’s a fricking zodiac, people.  If you’re feeling sassy, you’ll wear “Diva la Daisy”?  Really? 

My favorite “breath” is kissing my husband and tasting nothing but him.  My favorite “scent” is cozying up to him in bed, and smelling the spot by his collar bone that smells just like him.  Not mint, not “Zestfully clean”, not “fresh” because there is nothing in the world that smells like him.  When we were first dating, long-distance, he came out to my place for a few visits.  After his early-morning departure, I would roll onto his side of the bed and nuzzle into his pillow for just another whiff of him.  Not even Crest can bottle the power of lingering boyfriend-on-the-pillow.

Nothing quite makes you have to pee so acutely as hearing someone say the toilets are not working.

As I lounged on the couch yesterday morning, in my usual half-stupor, I barely registered the news or traffic reports, let alone the ticking timer that serves as a constant reminder that I cannot be trusted not to fall asleep completely in the minutes before I leave for work.  I heard about a burst water main near my school, so I grabbed the GPS in case I needed to reroute through the tortuous one-way city streets. 

I arrived at work, the timer having done its job, and I prepared to do my own. My supervisor came in a few minutes later and told me we had neither water nor heat in the building.  The 100 year old building I work in is heated in a manner similar to my home – hot water.  I do not know how the boiler and the pipes and the radiators work, but I do know that it’s a system that is slightly dependent on, well, water.  I had not registered that it was cold – the 3rd floor of an old building often is, first thing in the morning – but it became clear this was to be no ordinary work day.  Since it’s illegal to hold class in a building with neither heat nor water/toilets, we found other facilities – a nearby basement/bingo hall/cafeteria – and traipsed over there.  We then commenced to have a “normal school day” full of “productive, educational experiences”.  I could barely meet with any of my speech caseload, due to new schedules, a lack of materials, and the noise level — jet engine – that occurred as a result of cramming an entire middle/high school into a room usually suited to church suppers and bingo night.  Literally, there is a giant bingo board at one end of the room, and all the chairs face it.  Three giant “Smoke Eater” machines from another era are bolted to the ceiling, reminding me more of clubs and bars than a learning environment.  Some kids had class in the kitchen, and other classes convened around long tables, with sporadic internet and creative teachers to keep them busy.  It.  Almost.  Worked.  Mercifully, administration let the kids go at noon, lest we tempt mutiny by prolonging the tenuous arrangement. 

The worst part, however, was not the feelings of futility, the rage at freezing temperatures, the uncertainty of kids’ rides home, or the disappointment at having to stay the afternoon to engage in some faculty-oriented “learning activities”.  It was missing out on Adult Lunch.

Adult Lunch is a marvelous invention.  When it’s lunchtime, we shoo all the kids down to the cafeteria, and immediately proceed to take a much-needed mental break by eating together in the library.  Some days there are as few as 4 of us; other days the census at the round table swells to 8 or more as we compete for elbow room, but we never run out of space.  Round tables are magic, as is the time spent in adult company after a morning of discussing video games, new cell phones, and ”The Wizards of Waverly Place.”  The other thing we do is drool over each other’s lunches.  There is a vast continuum of cooking ability represented, from those of us who grab Lunchables or Uncrustables from the fridge/freezer or rely on Lean Cuisine, to others who always have leftovers from gourmet meals.  Homemade soups, pasta dishes, panko-coated chicken, and more.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle, but I always lust after the effort (if not the product – being vegetarian and annoying as I am) of the thoughtfully cooked meals. 

Wednesday night, Mr. Apron and I made summer rolls, using instructions and materials sent to us from an authentic Asian friend.  I was apprehensive, but we had success!  I even made the accompanying peanut sauce.  They were not bad looking for our first try, and I could not wait to bring the leftovers into work yesterday to show them off.  I mean, to eat them artfully and let others wonder and ask if I had made them myself.  Of course, I would have been modest and self-effacing, yet I would have eagerly shared the process and talked about how it was not so intimidating as my (professional) rolls might make it seem. 

And I missed all this because of a water main.  We’ll have to make summer rolls again, so that I might show and tell, and receive the good, affirming praise all children seek, whether they bring in a favorite stuffed animal, a piece of string, or a story about how grandma fell and broke her hip.

Since the partial or full retirement of the author-illustrators of Foxtrot, For Better or For Worse, and Cathy (not to mention Calvin & Hobbes), there now appears to me a dearth of daily comics which is not entirely filled by the blogger extraordinaire, Hyperbole and a Half.  To be a true daily comic, entrenched in the dying tradition of print journalism, one needs to have reassuring cycles that ebb and flow with the seasons and holidays like the storefront windows of Anthropologie. 

This is your chance, this is your opportunity.  Step up, step into the void.  All you need to be a successful daily comic strip writer-illustrator is a few random, endearing characters (and a few annoying ones, for conflict), a setting half a dozen readers can identify with, and the same hackneyed content that has sufficed since ye olde comics of the 1680s.  Only the technology and pop culture references have changed.  Behold: follow these themes, and you will not be led astray. 

January:  Talk about New Year’s resolutions, specifically about losing weight.  Have your characters make half-assed attempts to join a gym, with hilarious results, or have them impulsively buy a parody of the year’s hottest piece of fitness equipment (see: Ab Roller, Shake Weights, NordicTrak, ThighMaster, BoFlex, the Gazelle).  Jokes about snow and shoveling also work here.  In summary, kids like snow, adults don’t.

February: Include plot lines of women having unrequited crushes on men of unattainable hotness.  They will defensively decide they don’t need men anyway to be a liberated feminist, then predictably break down on Valentine’s Day when no man validates their post-feminist femininity.  For jokes about snow and shoveling, see January. 

March: This is a slow season for weather-related or holiday-related jokes, so you can take this opportunity to delve into some character development or plot advancement.  Or not.  You can just spin around the usual themes of men’s incompetency in the home and women’s feelings of being overworked.

April: Mandatory will be an April Fool’s Day strip.  Start thinking of it now.  Much like the pranks your characters play, your strip will have to be more foolish than the one above or below it on the page. Feel free to make jokes about kids and Easter Bunnies and chocolate eggs and mishaps that may occur when kids find Mommy hiding eggs. 

May: You may begin wrapping up the school year.  Your characters who are of age to have finals will want to start complaining about studying, and their parents will get to harp on them for not studying.  As characters rarely age in strips, you can reuse these frames year after year.  Just make sure to change the children’s procrastination box from Sega Genesis to Wii.  Don’t forget Mother’s Day, you’ll get a lawsuit from Hallmark.

June: Began berating women for not having bikini-ready bodies in time for summer.  Begin culminating events such as graduations, recitals, etc.  with appropriate homage to Father’s Day (see note from May re: Hallmark). 

July: Now is an ideal time to take your family on a trip.  This will have to include unplanned stops, forgotten animals, kids having to pee at inconvenient times, and missed air planes.  This adds to intrigue, and will have your reader tuning in tomorrow to see what other hilarity they can relate to.  Camping also works, if you’re outdoorsy, and know how to draw such things as Sterno, a tent, and hip-waders. 

August: Your strips’ children will have to make the back-to-school bitching session.  The parents will always declare how relieved they are to do back-to-school shopping, and that they are counting down the days until school starts.  People who hate their kids will be able to relate.  You will receive fan mail: “This is SO my house! I can’t wait until Johnny goes back to school each fall!!!”

September: Kids will come home from the first day of school with mountains of homework.  This is a mandate.  You may wax nostalgic about the autumn coming, and start to age your older characters, as it will be the “autumn” of their lives, so to speak.  Don’t kill them yet.  It’s better to do this around the holidays, which will be harder for years to come as a result.  Go for maximum effect. 

October: Make full use of Jack O’Lantern frames, full of fantastic faces your readers will try, but fail, to emulate.  Dress your characters up in costumes way better than anything available in real life.  Include joke about out-of-touch adult mistaking child’s “obvious” costume for something else.  Leaf-raking themes are also acceptable.  Characters will claim to be waiting for neighbors to rake their leaves first.

November: See October’s note about leaves.  This can also tie into a theme about getting teenagers to do chores.  Teenagers hate to do chores, so they will identify themselves in these frames, and will use your strips to roll their joints, which will be ironic.  Somehow.  Begin sappy strips about family.  Alternate with humorous strips about family.  Mothers-in-law are excellent targets.  Mothers, too, as their children will never be able to measure up to their expectations. 

December: Continue with previous themes of family visits and general saccharine feel-good strips.  Alternate with cultural commentary about tacky Christmas sweaters, overeating, gift exchanges at work, the must-have toy of the moment (see: Tamagotchi, Tickle-Me-Elmo, Zu Zu pets, and Cabbage Patch Kids).  You are now perfectly positioned to begin January’s strips all over again with weight loss struggles, gaffs about toys not having batteries, kids playing with boxes and wrapping paper instead of aforementioned must-have toys, and snow shoveling. 

Well, there you have it.  Twelve months of fresh, novel content for your new comic strip.  It makes me all the more thankful for the unpaid, underappreciated online comic strip artists who dare deviate from the formula.  Keep up the good work, guys.  It’s a shame your strips will never be used to wrap gifts.

Pregnancy, or trying to conceive, has officially invaded every aspect of my life.

I have an endoscopy scheduled for next Tuesday due to some generalized “meh”ness having to do with eating.  I’m not sure if it’s related to my acid reflux, food sensitivities, or if it’s all psychosomatic.  I try to be a flexible dining companion, but lately I wonder if the food I put in my body is going to rebel. 

My breakfast options have dwindled down to cereal, soy milk, and orange juice (low acid!).  I cannot eat a bagel or pancakes, let alone anything with eggs, before noon.  My stomach just cannot handle it.  It’s at the point where I fear breakfast now.  I’m like Margaret Atwood’s “Edible Woman” who waits for her body to reject the remaining foods it currently allows.  One morning I had my usual breakfast, and I began to feel the onset of nausea, and I thought, “That’s it.”  So I headed off to my doctor.

My SIL put me in touch with a very nice GI, who listened patiently to my incoherent, disorganized complaints.  He scheduled blood work (all negative), and an endoscopy.

The lovely paperwork I am supposed to fill out and send/bring in asks for a medical history, by system.  They want the typical family history of stroke, diabetes, and any drug allergies, as well as the obligatory, “Are you pregnant?  Is there any chance you could be?” questions, followed by, “If you might be, we’ll do a test.” 

And if I am, will you cancel the procedure?  I’m supposed to stop taking all vitamins 5 days before the procedure.  If I were pregnant, I’d be making frantic phone calls before stopping prenatal vitamins.  Spina bifida is serious shit, bitches.  Even though my fertility monitor didn’t show that I even ovulated this month, I’m on day 35 of an endless cycle, wondering if the machine is broken, or if I am. 

Knowing that I have to a) fill out the stupid forms, and b) stop taking my vitamins, I finally peed on a stick this morning.  Negative.  Of course.  I was weighing all the possibilities in my head as I fitfully slept last night.  Is my machine broken?  Did I use it improperly? Did I not get a big enough sample on the day I ovulated?  Why am I 35 days into a cycle?  Where is my period?  Have I not ovulated since my miscarriage?  Did the miscarriage affect my cycles?  Have I wasted the last year counting useless cycles, tracking inconsistent basal body temperature, counting meaningless 14 day intervals?  When, exactly, do I call my OB/GYN and freak out?  Do I have the strength/energy/time/money to go through infertility testing and/or treatment?  Am I broken or was this month an eggless glitch?  Where is my period?

As I found out this morning about yet another friend who is pregnant, as I see some peers starting on (and producing) baby number 2, as my friend from high school nears her due date, and as I see videos and photo albums of baby A., baby H., baby R., and baby D. ad nauseum, it might further my resolve and my determination to do something, or else send me into yet another bout of apathetic pessimistic depression.

Thank you for listening, as my non-pregnancy continues to overrun even my blog.