Footsteps that you hear down the hall

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” –Anne Lamott

“If you find yourself in the wrong story, leave.” –Mo Willems


I had just come out of my new psychiatrist’s office with a prescription for Lexapro. I was tired of battling down anxiety constantly, for forever. What used to make me function, write, tick, clean like a motherfucker, and overachieve was now making me exhausted and dulled my edges. Anxiety would also make me explode or collapse, turning on myself. I felt new and clean after describing how it felt to her, like I had the chance to step out of a trap. Side effects, which I had always feared given my health, seemed worth risking. I told her briefly I had a pretty crappy childhood, and not much family or support.

As I walked to my car, I thought about having Strudel, being in labor for a long time, and then being given an opiate when I was at the hospital and physically at my weakest. It’s nearly impossible to see anything a few feet beyond your face when you’re in heavy labor. The pain lifted and I looked out the window. The moon was a tiny little sliver in the darkening sky and it was beautiful. I told my midwife an embarrassing story about the time I had accidentally smoked opium in high school and it felt like this. Then it was time to push and I forgot about the moon.

Maybe if I tried an antidepressant, I reasoned, I would see things that were a few feet beyond my face. I could turn down the hypervigilant klaxons that were usually going off, whether it was dangerous or not.

She told me it sounded like I had PTSD. As we were wrapping up, she said, “Is there anything else I should know about?”

“No,” I lied.


A few weeks earlier I had met with a different therapist in hopes of being prescribed medication. I called the front office and asked for someone who could diagnose and prescribe. They told me there was an opening with someone with a man’s name. I never wanted to see any male providers for anything. I have a cyst on my nose and I am waiting months until a woman dermatologist is available.

I told myself it didn’t matter, since I knew the check up visits would be short. Plus my anxiety was on sabbatical, since depression was taking up too much room. I didn’t really care who I saw. I would have said, “Am sad, give pill now” to a moderately friendly tapir at that point.

I talked to him for an hour and I really clicked with him, and felt a little bummed that we would only have short appointments. I’m going to call him Ted. Ted had the same kind of ping-ping crazy word association ADD brain that I have when I’m feeling more normal. I was so deep in depressive brain sludge I didn’t really try to keep up with him, but I felt more comfortable with him than the therapist I’d seen for a year and a half until quitting recently.

At the end he told me he’d like to see me for therapy and I said “but pills now?” We looked at each other in a moment of silent confusion. He told me he was just a talk therapist and couldn’t prescribe. I figured out the wires had gotten crossed at the front desk.

“Can I come back anyway?” I asked. We made another appointment, and gave me the name of the psychiatrist I ended up seeing. Ted said he used to work with her and thought we would get along.

I didn’t get what I’d come for, but it didn’t panic me. I felt better just talking about the deep situational depression I’d been in since something sad happened in May. Like many people with depression, I’m a great actor and can fake my way through my workday, or through other stuff. I’m genuinely on when I’m talking with Strudel, because I’m interested in her and care about her. I wanted to be more resilient for her. When I was at home alone I felt hollow and powered down. Battery low.

The next day I woke up feeling un-depressed. I started thinking about my day. Tick tick tick, anxiety immediately came back. There it was. It looked tanned and rested.


The third time I was driving to Ted’s office, I was having the normal “my-brain-is-trying-to-murder-me” internal chatter that I was trying to block out with a podcast. Suddenly my brain got even louder than usual. MAYBE YOU CAN TELL TED ABOUT THE THING, it said. HE SEEMS NICE.

–Ha ha, no one wants to talk about that. Let’s start slowly, like with my fear of voicemails and Crocs.

In response, I felt pain rip through my head–one of those flashing, searing headaches that I get when I’m having insomnia or am under a lot of stress. It’s like a little lightning strike on one side of my head, and sometimes I even feel nerve twitches that make my skin or eyelid jump.

It passed and I looked in the rearview mirror. I saw my kindergarten teacher in the backseat. She was beautiful, though her makeup was a little too early-1980s frosty to just be a fun retro take. She was wearing beads and a brown tweed skirt. I had forgotten she had nice freckles.

“Oh hey…this is awkward. I don’t actually remember your name.”

“Really? Who doesn’t remember their kindergarten teacher’s name?” she said. She looked cross for a minute and then the calm expression of a person who voluntarily herds five-year-olds for a living returned.

“You know I have memory problems,” I said.

“Who do you think I look like?” I looked at her hair, which was feathered in a way that would be out of date on the coasts at this point, but not in 1982 rural Michigan. She was so young! I thought she was so pretty. I bet she’s retired now.

“You’re definitely a Carol. Why are you here?”

I parked and turned around to face her. Carol played with a screwdriver that I’d forgotten was in the backseat.

“This is the last time you were happy,” she said, gesturing at herself.

“This is really bad writing,” I said. “Even for me.”


I left Carol in the car and went to talk to Ted about 2019. I’m his last appointment and he said he tends to go a little long if he knows no one is waiting afterwards. We were coming up on the end of the hour.


–Shut UP!

“Do you think it’s possible to forget sexual abuse for periods of time?” I asked.

Ted blinked, clocking the complete conversational one-eighty I’d just taken.

“Yes,” he said. He told me he believed the brain can suppress events to protect us.

“Hmm, that’s interesting. Wow, where does the time go, see you in a week!”

I left his office so fast I probably left little poofs of heel smoke like a cartoon character.


When I was 11 I stole a rowboat with a friend and ran away from home. The cop who drove me home asked me why I would do such a stupid thing.

“My parents are abusive,” I said.

“What!” she said. “A kid like you, out here in the suburbs? You don’t know what abuse is.”


Conversion on the Way to Damascus, Caravaggio, 1601

I was in a lift at work, 20 feet in the air, hanging six-foot long ceiling fan blades when I started having flashbacks. Carol was working with me, wiring a cord into a box overhead that was aimed at the wall of the gym I was working in. She had a safety vest over the blouse she was wearing, which had Lurex threads interspersed into the plaid pattern. She smelled like a fresh perm.

“We’re not sparkies,” I reminded her.

“Yes, I know that!” she snapped, rolling her eyes a little. “You’re not licensed to wire this projector.” She flipped a switch and it started.

“Oh,” I said. “The picture is very clear.” That was me, with my inane nattering to always change the subject.

“What do you see?”

I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the feeling of the wrench I was using to tighten the screws. It was hard to stay in 2019–my head felt like it was going to float off somewhere, or disappear. The wrench clicked like the old-fashioned projectors they would bring into our classes in grade school. I remembered the way the music or narration would occasionally distort if the filmstrip sped up or slowed down.

I saw my sheets from when I was nine. I had completely forgotten I had Garfield sheets. It literally made me gasp. I saw my bedframe–the color of the wood stain and the shape of it. I began to sweat profusely in the lift. I remembered the wall next to my bed–the paint had sand mixed into it and the walls were sharp and gritty and I was always scraping myself when I was in bed. I had a memory of being ground into the wall by something, someone. My hand started shaking and I dropped my wrench into the bottom of my lift.

“SJ!” My boss, who had been teasing me for dropping things all day.



Carol had already gone off to lunch. I didn’t know what company hired irritating, reality hell-demons, so I wasn’t sure which trailer she was in.


A few days later I was working by myself in a smaller lift, in a classroom with 9-foot ceilings. No one was around and it was extremely quiet, except for an earth compactor outside that was causing such strong vibrations it was making my lift rumble and sway. It was making me a little peaky but I ignored it. Then the sparkies started testing the fire and lockdown alarms. Lights were flashing and sirens were going off and a recording was saying there was an emergency in the building. I wanted to scream and run down the street. My shaking hand reached up to adjust a ceiling grille.

Carol walked in.

“Oh god,” I said, when I spotted her.

“Well, that’s just rude,” she said. Her heels clicked as she walked across the freshly linoleumed floor that was just waiting for an army of children to come and scuff it up. There would be teachers like her in this building soon, but probably with less aggressive rouge. “We need to talk.” The emergency lights strobed around her, shining on her moussed hair.

“Yes, we do,” I said. “Every time I’ve remembered this before, a door slams shut in my brain and I stop thinking about it. What is happening to me? It’s not going away.”

I had to raise my voice to be heard over the sounds of the alarm: “LOCKDOWN. LOCKDOWN. THERE IS A LOCKDOWN IN PLACE.”

I’ve stopped thinking about it for months or years at a time. It resurfaces as dreams or as a memory. I tell myself I’m being dramatic, that there is something wrong with me, that I am a crazy person, that I am a liar. These are things I was told repeatedly when I was a child. I’ve literally told myself I don’t have time to think about it. I started having vivid flashbacks a few years ago when I got very sick and stopped eating gluten. I don’t know if it was the trauma of being very sick and in a lot of pain, losing control, and being bedridden, or reducing inflammation by changing my diet, but there they were. Carol was there then, and I had neatly forgotten about her once more.

She handed me an envelope. Actually, it was shaped like a cootie catcher and looked like it had been riding around in someone’s pocket or purse for a long time.

“What’s this?” I said.

“I wrote down what’s wrong with you.”

I was starting to suspect that I knew what was wrong with me, but I hadn’t seen it played back on the projector yet, thank fuck. Here it was on a piece of paper. I could just read it and have the answer? Where was this paper when I was 19 and afraid to answer my door or phone? Where was it ten years ago? I felt myself shaking my head again, knocking images out of it. If this kept up I would probably concuss myself.

“I don’t know if I can open this. Can you give me a hint about what it says?”

Carol sighed. She was tired of my bullshit. That makes two of us, Carol! She pulled out a compact from somewhere and started looking at her teeth. She reapplied her mauve lipstick. She was making a real meal out of bothering me.

“I’ll tell you two things,” she said. “This paper will tell you exactly what’s wrong with you, but it’s going to make you feel much worse. The second thing is kind of a riddle. Ready?” I nodded. “You’ve been afraid of ropes and hoses your whole life, but what you’re actually afraid of is–” She trailed off and I couldn’t hear what she said.

“What?” I whispered.

“This is like a METAPHOR,” she explained, shouting. “You can’t remember what you’re actually afraid of so you couldn’t hear me!”

The lift rumbled under me and now a woman’s recorded voice was saying, “There is a fire or other emergency in the building. Please proceed calmly to the exit.” The lights were flickering on and off. I clung to the lift’s rails and looked down into Carol’s face.


“It’s snakes! You’re afraid of snakes!” she screamed.

The alarm tests stopped abruptly, though the rumbling continued. The lights came back on. She was right, I’d completely forgotten snakes existed. I took a deep breath and began to open the layers of the cootie catcher.


A “fun fact” about me is that I first started noticing that my uterus was prolapsing when I was in my late teens, before I had children. Uterine prolapse does not run in my family.


I’m spending a lot of time in closets lately. I spent a ton of time in my closet growing up. It had a light, so I could read secretly and never, ever sleep. I wrote a suicide note on the wall of my closet when I was ten, in black crayon. Boy, I was sure looking to get attention, wasn’t I? That was so crazy! So dramatic! What on earth was wrong with me that I went to that extreme?

“You know what’s fun?” Carol said. “Lying on the floor in the fetal position.”

“That’s not…oh.” I feel my knees buckle and I go down, curled up on the rug in my 2019 closet. My breathing starts to change and I hear a whistle coming from something, a wheezing. From far away. “This isn’t over. We’re not done talking, Carol.”

“We are for now,” she said. She loomed over me, running her nails down my arm as I shook. I pulled my knee up to protect my ribs. I didn’t know I could still make myself so small.

A man’s familiar face appeared over mine. He was dressed in a heavy, wet, reflective coat and pulled his face shield up to look at Carol. He was dripping on the carpet but I wasn’t worried. I was relieved and knew this would end soon.

“Hello, Walter,” Carol said. He nodded curtly.

He smelled like Chinese restaurants and furniture polish. I could see the lines around his eyes, from squinting against heat and fire and the horrors and sadness they bring. Walter’s collar dripped onto my face: alcohol, not water.

“Hey kid,” he said, kindly. I sniffled and put my head into his lap. He stroked my hair with his gloves on. “We’re going to get up, and we’re going to pour gin on Carol until she shuts the fuck up, ok?”

My shaking hand took his and he helped me off the floor.

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” she said, flipping through my tee shirts.

“I know,” I whispered.


I was up in the big lift again, this time with my kind, sweet, funny boss. There was no room for Carol. Regardless, my brain was zapping back and forth between timelines. I heard my parents fighting. I saw myself standing over my newborn sister’s bassinet and I remember saying: I’m going to protect you.

As an adult, I always thought that memory was so strange. Who sees their newborn sibling and makes a weird nigh-feudal vow to protect them?

If I stayed in 1987 for too long I would start shaking my head, as if it was an Etch-a-Sketch I could erase. Today my brain was telling me: I think my mother knew about THE THING, and did nothing. She had never been responsive any time I asked her for help or protection. I asked to go to therapy in high school (I was disassociating and cutting myself) and her response was to ground me.

Why is this happening now? I thought.

Look around you, Carol whispered. I looked down. There were a few women on the site, but as usual it was 98% men. They were everywhere. I was surrounded by them. Why did I go into construction to surround myself with one of things I was most afraid of? Then I realized: I wasn’t afraid of them anymore. They didn’t make me jump or startle. Most of them were nice, or at least inoffensive. I could deal with the few jerks with some snappy putdowns. I felt differently out in public, too–I wasn’t constantly monitoring my environment anymore. I didn’t make stupid choices like wandering down dark alleys now, but I could be comfortable and even relaxed. I had desensitized myself.

I could take just a little bit more now. It was opening the doors to the past in my mind.


There’s something else, too, and I need to talk about this really carefully. Someone encouraged me to see my attacker last summer. When we had the conversation about how it would be good for me, and that things were different now, I cried in public in the bar we were in. That’s a little extreme, I thought. I went to the bathroom to pull myself together.

I looked at myself in the mirror–is that really what I looked like? I felt like I was dreaming. I had no memories, only emotions. I splashed water on my face and cleaned up my trashed makeup and returned to my seat.

“You’re having a really hard time getting over your childhood,” they said.

“Yeah,” I heard myself say. That was mean, I thought. Walter poured me another glass of wine.

When I saw my attacker a month later, I immediately snapped outside of my body. Everything I said felt unreal, like I was dreaming and hearing my voice on a bad speaker from far away. I was getting the sparklies you get when you faint.


I breathed and the world came back, though I was still outside of my body. I held onto a nearby counter for support. The shell that was my body kept talking and smiling, and pretended to be happy. It made jokes. I don’t remember what happened for the rest of that day. I went home and went to bed. It was obvious a bunch of mast cells had exploded and all I could do was sleep.

We all spent more time together. The person who had instigated this meetup was pleased, and I tried really hard for them.

At the end of the day my attacker hugged me and kissed my cheek and it felt super super wrong and bad. I stiffened mentally but I think I made myself act normal.

This was the last piece of the puzzle that would blast the door off the hinges forever, but it would take almost another year.


I started taking Lexapro, and slept very fitfully. Sleep is my respite and has not usually been a problem for the past couple of years. I shit you not, within 48 hours I had no anxiety. Placebo effect? WHO CARES. I didn’t feel great, but it was weird to experience the absence of both anxiety and depression. I was drenched in sweat at work, and sweated all night long. That was not great. Also, Carol evaporated. I stopped having flashbacks.

Wow, solved, right? Happy ending tied up in a bow? No. What site do you think you’re reading, anyway?

I stopped Lexapro. I wasn’t ready to let go of Carol and her hateful projector. I read the truth that was on the piece of paper and it almost ripped me in half. I don’t want to tell you what I saw. I won’t. But I needed to see it. Every time I tried to stuff the abuse back behind the donkey door, I would see some innocuous detail of my room or remember a conversation and I completely knew my brain was finally showing me the truth.

I feel very weirdly calm now, deep down in my center someplace. I almost feel happy about it? I’ve found THE splinter and I’m not going to stop until I pull it out. I’m not going to stop until I put it back in 1987 where it belongs. I’m going to be one piece. A very chipped and wobbly piece, but one piece.

“Shee, you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.”


School happened again a couple of weeks ago, as it does five times a year. Three weeks post-surgery, but I knew there was no way I could make it up. It was the second part of the architectural unit, and now we’re done with that. I was super dreading it because the first part of architecture week was pretty hard, and also it’s miserable being indoors with a bunch of guys who smell like flowers and cigarette smoke.

We usually start with a classroom test, but this time we started in the shop, a refresher on what we’d done for the first part of architecture. I made another piece of coping (the cap that protects the top of a parapet) and it was frankly terrible. For my coping final last time, I got a D on it. This time I got a C. I can do better, but I didn’t. I knew the measurements were off, but the big machines that we use to cut and bend metal were kicking my ass. I showed my teacher my light duty/surgery letter, and he said, “You’re on your own with that one.”

Morale was feeling extra poop-scented, because one of our classmates left at the beginning of the week for a job at Boeing with a major pay cut. We attend classes with the same people every time. We have each other’s phone numbers. I’ve started a homework group at my house that involves, “let’s get this done together and then have some damn dinner and yak.”

I’m smart; those who can’t, network. I think I’ll have a new high of 4-5 people over next month. I like these people so much. Our teachers marvel at how well we all get along and help each other. I hear about their jobs, their babies, their dying relatives. I catch them up on my life. When we get stressed out in the shop we yell lines from Silence of the Lambs at each other. I play Clarice.


This is the time when people start getting weeded out who can’t make it through the apprenticeship for whatever reason. I heard a teacher make a comment that they don’t even tell us the “secrets” of the union and our trade until next year, the third year, for this reason. Please please don’t let there be Xenu at the end of this tunnel. I can’t take it.

Making coping was a new low for me. I was worried about how the week would go because I knew our next task was to take what little we knew about mitering and cover a small house in metal so it would, in theory, shed and repel water. We split up into groups and I jumped into flashing. We made the supports that held other people’s parts, as well as the finishing touches that would cover roof seams and corners. I did the math for our group since we had to calculate measurements and square feet of material used, as well as turn in sketches for the drafting test on Friday.

I lobbied for an all black house with a death star theme, but some people wanted silver. Adding silver turned out to be a great idea. In my head I was thinking about Disaster Area’s all-black ship from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but I figured no one would know what that was. Developing burnout motifs to decorate the house with kept the teacher busy, so he was happy (he encouraged us to make use of the burn table).

We almost ran out of time on Friday, but finished it with about five minutes to spare. The teacher bumped our grade because we all rallied around the guy who did an extremely elaborate dormer and helped him finish. It was like the British Bake-off but probably more swearing and screws flying everywhere. Less ice cream cake chucked in the trash.

The week followed a sharp uphill trajectory after Monday. I aced a quiz, and then got near-perfect scores on my Friday math (missed one) and 100 on my drafting. I have been averaging Bs, respectable, but barely limping through, miserable with being cooped up indoors and struggling to remember basic math stuff.

What changed? Repetition with the math certainly helps. We’re at that phase now where we’re building on what we’re learning. First year was triangle basics–critical, but pretty easy. Now we’re expected to apply triangles to things like the house project and more complicated math.

The other piece that’s helping is pain reduction and medication. I’m already doing so much better with daily pain levels post-hysterectomy and leg vein procedure. Strudel and I went to see a mast cell specialist in Oregon in late March and he prescribed some asthma medication and a rescue inhaler for me. It’s helping at work and school. Moringa and other flavinoids seem to be helping a lot as well–I have fewer hives now.

The one thing that’s still hard and exhausting is work. They threw me on harder stuff last week and I hit the wall and left before lunch on Friday. I thought I could handle it but it was too fast paced and heavy, and I started feeling pain in my lower abdomen, and making a lot of dumb mistakes. My body’s been dumping the fluid I accumulated post-surgery as well (I gained ten pounds almost instantly after surgery and my body’s been “puffy,” not just in my stomach area). I woke up a couple of days last week with my face visibly swollen, which was weird, and now have been peeing a lot. I’ve been sleeping A LOT. But overall I’m glad to be back to work. I’m going to push to be back on true light duty next week.


Around New Year’s I get reflective about what I’m doing and what I want to be doing. I’ve been thinking about starting a podcast for a long time, so I finally did. My friend Debbie and I are recapping the old TV show Roseanne. It’s called Queen for a Damn Day.

Kind of like when I was running the Victorian blog, it’s giving me a way to fuel one of my hobbies, as well as a closer collaboration with an old friend. I like that I’m more up on what she’s doing and thinking, rather than just peering through social media and talking too infrequently. She’s a very creative person who likes to develop ideas like I do. Our viewpoints are similar, but not identical, so while we are enjoying talking about feminism, class issues, sitcom history, the show, 80s fashions, and our dogs, we’re coming at things from different angles.

We’re mostly keeping politics out of it, even though I KNOW I KNOW there’s a LOT of issues with Roseanne Barr and politics. Debbie and I get a big heaping helping of that elsewhere so we’re trying to provide a respite from that for others to some extent.

It’s conversational and evolving over time. We’re discussing season 1 and season 10 concurrently, and will just keep going with it until we don’t want to anymore. Her husband pointed out that 10+ seasons could mean 4 years if we did them weekly, but right now we’re aiming for putting out three a week, which will go faster.

This is probably a small selection of the Venn diagram of people who still read this blog (hi!), like Roseanne still, and like podcasts, but I thought I’d let you know what I’m up to and that I’m not dead fro the neck up. There’s no ads (as usual I am a completely apathetic about monetizing myself outside of my, you know, actual job) and it’s available off our site to stream or DL or at almost any podcast spigot. We’re on twitter: @QFADDpod. I like to warn people that we are over-enthusiastic amateurs, so hopefully the production values will improve over time as we learn more.

I also like to tell people we’re the best Roseanne podcast out there. No matter that we are the only one out there. Happy spring.


The daisy deadheads are sprouting. That’s a new one.

I told myself I’d wait a week before posting and I barely made it, just to give a little time to let the chemicals start swishing around. I went to the doctor on Wednesday after posting and I got put through the same sized fun factory hole that most people diagnosed with adhd get. Go in as a delectable scented blob that never comes out of carpet, extrude out as Adderall-flavored spaghetti.

She gave me the “this is a controlled substance” spiel so there’s a couple of extra hoops and I guess I’m supposed to be on the lookout for medicine cabinet pirates. (Spoiler alert: keeping the bottle in the ol’ meat wallet because there’s nothing like popping a warm Adderall in the a.m.)

?? I don’t know either.

The good news is that people who actually have adhd are less likely to abuse it. The bad news is that I am now noticing stuff like this everywhere. (TL;DR: Writer chooses to take Adderall without diagnosis, has a bad time, presents self as n=1 study.) I am hearing the NYT generally has a hate-on for Adderall. I guess you can’t sell news about people who are having an OK time. This kind of shit always made me go, “Yeesh, Adderall sounds bad, mkay?”

I had been warned about EUPHORIA. Well. We’re no strangers to love (or stimulants), so Day 1 was more like Mr. Toad’s Moderately-Amusing-But-Home-Before-Curfew Ride. I don’t feel really happy or sad, just calm. If something happens, I do have an emotional response, so I’m not zombie’d out either. I told Pete I felt like I was on wheels, like the alien spy girl in Mars Attacks! I was pretty shocked at what I’ve been putting myself through by self-medicating for so many years, because this is far superior to that. People say Adderall is really harsh and the comedown was a bitch on the first day, only because I wasn’t able to eat on schedule. Once I ate I felt better. I had about three days of new afternoon headaches but now I feel fine. Right now I have to remember to eat and breakfast and lunch tastes like cardboard, but I am told this will pass too.

My doctor said, “Let’s try extended release every day for a month, instead of the weekend breaks some people take.” I am VERY glad about this, because when I’m with friends and family is when I least want to be a confused bitch. Historically, I’ve been most functional at work, since I know people are expecting me to produce something. I can feel it wearing off in the evening, but it’s such a relief to have had many hours of calm, accomplished focus that I think I’m happier at night knowing I’ve had a pretty good day.

Here’s what’s not happening: I am not accomplishing everything that’s been on my to-do list for the last three years. I’m not walking through glass doors. I haven’t plucked all the hairs out of my arm. Guilty as charged: I did write my friend a six-paragraph email this morning. But we DO have some things to discuss, honest.

Here’s what is happening that is surprising. I have realized I get frustrated approximately 7000 times a day. The first day, Thursday, I decided to wear some boots to the noir festival. They didn’t go on quite right and part of the boot turned inside out and went under my foot. I felt a little BZZT in my head. It was like a little placeholder: INSERT TITTY BABY MENTAL TANTRUM HERE. Normally this would really annoy me, to the point where I might swear. Instead I just…fixed it. WHAT. This keeps happening. Maybe someday I won’t get the placeholder anymore?

I drove Franny to school that morning. I have a long, LONG history of hating Seattle driving. It’s terrible. I have even become part of the problem as I find myself going ten under often for no reason. I did not care about traffic Thursday morning. It wasn’t horrendous or light. It was just there, and I drove through it. I realized I wasn’t bored, even though I could reason with myself and say, yes, this driving is routine and boring.

Here’s a funny one: I hate writing, like with a pen. I love typing (CLICKY NOISES! FAST!), but I actually feel a sense of dread if I have to write a card or note. My brain skips around, which causes me to omit letters or words. Somehow it feels like a struggle to even hold the pen and drive it around, like my fine motor skills don’t work quite right. This goes back to being a kid as I tried and failed to keep a journal several times. I really wanted to write about my life, but it was pretty hard (hooray for blogging!). I didn’t start consistently writing fiction until high school when I realized I could use word processing software.

As a result of all this, I have serial killer writing most of the time. On Sunday night I wrote a note for Strudel, and I felt that little BZZT in my brain. “This is going to be frustrating and I am probably going to misspell things.”

However, I composed a fine note, and when I sat back I noticed something: my writing was better. It was…kind of fun to write again. I decided to test this a little. Obviously I knew I was testing myself, but I tried to put myself in the frame of mind that I was writing a routine note or a letter.

OK, it’s a little blurry but maybe you can see what I’m getting at. Top is last night, bottom is this morning. The top is actually better than usual, sadly.

I went to the grocery store on Monday, started at one side, and hit every item on my list in order. It was so fast. This is embarrassing: I used to take lists to the store, sometimes grouped by section, and I would STILL miss items. I spent a lot of time in grocery stores, circling around, backtracking, “ONE MORE THING!”

And now, a weird thing, that I’m not sure that I like. My head feels like a huge chunk of ferrous metal and whatever is loudest and most attention-grabbing (the biggest magnet) is going to drag my head towards it. On Thursday I had to go to a mini-conference for work. What a perfect day to start taking a new psychotropic drug, the day you go off to be trapped in a ballroom with 50 new people! Naturally I was dreading this, because normally I suck at people’s names, dealing with the boredom of sitting for long periods of time, and stammering when I speak as I forget words. I can fill up multiple pages with doodles at functions like these, like I did during my week of orientation last month.

A folk singer was part of the programming, which I was not looking forward to. She was obviously talented and had been at her craft for a long time, but generally I just don’t care for folk music. This is normally the point where I look like I’m listening, but I’m actually on a spaceship with Samuel L. Jackson and a unicorn. Escape! My brain is the best at it. It has inbuilt peril-sensitive sunglasses! I was already feeling pretty good, because I hadn’t been wracked with anxiety while talking to people, like I normally am.

However, I could not get away. I tried to count things on the ceiling. I thought about doodling. But I heard every activist-y lyric, every folksy guitar strum. This is what was in my own Room 101, I thought. But I didn’t get irritated, and it ended. Things keep ending, and I can move on, calmer and less exhausted. I’ll be interested to see how I feel after a month of this, and I’ll try to update then. And probably before then, because it’s not currently a struggle to form a sentence.

Wood’s here

Oxtail Enchiladas for no reason really

I know you woke up this morning and were like, “SJ, I have too many hours in the day. I need a dinner that takes at least 4+ of them.” And I’m like, “Yo doggy, I am here for you.”

Sometimes I like to make little cooking challenges for myself, and Saturday’s was, you know what, I have never had enchiladas with oxtails. Let’s makes this happen. I got inspired at the store because I saw one of my favorite things in the world, Hatch chilies. My only bummer is that I feel like oxtails are more expensive in the past couple of years. NUTS. I’m writing this down because I’m sure I will not remember what I did by, like, Tuesday.

So here is what I did, without a million pictures, because I am not Pioneer Woman and I trust you have not been sucking on a tailpipe. However I do like to roll like Chris KimBOLL so let me tell you a wacky story. Oxtail soup is one of the first things I made in my Victorian year. The recipe was so greasy and awful that to this day majorly shitting yourself in this house is called “making oxtails.” Bon apetit and wacky Vermont local color in the hizzle.


3 lbs oxtails
2 yellow onions
4 oregano sprigs
6 Hatch chilis
2 bell peppers, anything but green
28 oz. can ground peeled tomatoes
garlic paste or 6 garlic cloves, chopped
ground cumin
8 oz. feta or queso fresco, crumbled or shredded
bunch of cilantro
10 corn tortillas (6-inch size)
olive oil, salt and pepper

1. Set oven to 500. Place oxtails upright in a heavy pan with a lid (like a dutch oven), if possible, or something that foil can be wrapped over tightly. Set oxtails in pan–it helps to have a pan that the oxtails fit in pretty well, since you’re about to make a meat/veg parfait, and you’re going to want to separate part of it later. Slice one onion and scatter over oxtails, then sprinkle half the chopped garlic or about a tablespoon of garlic paste over the onions. Set oregano over the top of the mixture. Pour pureed tomatoes over the top. Even if there is a lid, I recommend a tight foil layer to keep in moisture. Cover and place in oven and immediately turn down to 325. Cook for 3.5 hours.

2. When oxtails come out, let it cool without a lid for a few minutes. Steam is not your friend. Pick off oregano stems and using a slotted spoon, scoop out as much tomato and onion as possible into a bowl or blender (avoid oxtail grease at the bottom if possible, but don’t go crazy). Use tongs to pull oxtails out onto a plate, spread out to cool slightly.

3. In the meantime, set oven to broil and halve 4 Hatch peppers and quarter one bell pepper. Toss them in olive oil on a cookie sheet, and place them skin side up. Broil for 5-6 minutes 4″ from heat or until they are pleasingly charred. When they are finished, drop them in with the tomato mixture that was spooned off the oxtails. Set the oven to 375. Add about 1/2 c water, 1-2 tsp salt, and some black pepper to this pepper, onion, and tomato mixture and then blend into a sauce (I like an immersion blender for this, but a regular blender or small food processor would be fine). You should have between 2-3 cups of sauce. It should be fairly thick. Eyeball it, don’t panic.

Fire roasted!

4. Wrap the tortillas up in a sheet of foil and put in the oven for about 5-10 minutes. The goal is to make them a bit more flexible.

5. The oxtails should now be cool enough to handle. Separate the meat from the fat and bone to the best of your ability. If you have never worked with oxtails, you should know they are slimy, treacherous, delicious bitches. Shred up larger chunks of tail meat.

6. Chop remaining onion, Hatch chilies, and bell pepper. Saute onions in olive oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until they get semi-translucent. Then add peppers and the rest of the garlic (three cloves, chopped, or another T garlic paste). Saute for another 3 minutes or so. Toss in oxtail meat, 2 tsp cumin, and 1 T paprika, and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat and mix in half of the cheese. Salt and pepper this mixture to taste.

7. Spread about 1/2 c. sauce in the bottom of a 5.5 qt rectangular dish. (This is like the baby cousin of the 13 x 9 casserole. If you don’t have this size, you can go larger and leave some room or you might be able to squinch this into a 9 x 9, the world will not end.) Load this filling into the shells, fold up, and place in pan seam side down. I ended up with 2 rows of five. Cover with the rest of the sauce.

8. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top, and bake for 10 more minutes to brown the top slightly and crisp up the exposed edges of the shells (so good). Let set up for 5 minutes and then serve with Uncle Tapa, cilantro, and sour cream if desired.

Get these hairs all out of my face/get these bugs all out of my place

HEY GATHER ROUND KIDS and hear a boring tale of medical issues. Dig this, I’m about to become as interesting as Obligation Visit Grandma. I’ll sweeten the pot with pictures.

Twenty pounds. Trust me.

You may have heard about this yesterday: rosacea is possibly caused by microscopic mites with no anuses. WHAT. I know! I’ve always been pink. That pink kid, who does a couple of laps and gets all flamey-red. I shrugged it off since I come from red peoples. I grew up into that lady whose face would itch and burn for no reason.

I think I was about 26 or so when I thought I was running fevers. My face would burn and I would take my temperature and wonder what the hell was happening. Hormones? A virus? I felt fine otherwise. Finally, I figured it out. The big R. I didn’t really care about my face except to slap on some moisturizer or sunscreen–it didn’t bother me until the pain started. I saw a couple of dermos and was given the usual stuff to quell the symptoms but it wasn’t really working, not really. Maybe a 25% improvement. The weak antibiotics did nothing and the strong ones brought morning dry heaves and annoying limits on when I could eat. The creams…eh.

And now with the discovery that I may have an overgrowth of face lice, I take matters into my own hands. I am very excited. I love root causes. I dove back into the remedy rabbit hole to look around. I was never interested in any of the rosacea diets. I remember one dermo asking me what caused flare-ups for me.

“Wine, coffee, being sad, being mad, being happy, not enough sleep, sex, hot weather, cold weather, sun, hot water, cold water…”

“Well, just cut those things out and you’ll see improvement,” he advised me. Would the pills cut out the burning? No, it was just for the acne. Some message boards say to cut out dairy and fats. Others say gluten. I say I would rather hang myself. If I had a legit allergy and I felt miserable and/or dead eating any of those things, then yes, it would be worth it. Otherwise, no.

I don’t shy away from the “unnatural,” because I know herbs can kill you dead also, but I am starting with tea tree oil. Also I am all about the cheap and easy. I understand the mites hide in one’s pores, but I thought it was worth a try. I followed the information I found on a support group page about cutting tea tree oil by half (I used some sweet almond oil I keep around) and swabbed it on my face and left it for 15 minutes. The oil at this concentration did not irritate me at all (I had heard a lot of advice against using it full strength on your face).

So, the next step is to do some thinking. The mites are on a 10-14 day breeding cycle. I know we’re all covered with them constantly, and my aim is to see what beating back an overgrowth does for me, so I’m going to treat daily at first with hopes of catching the population I may be teaming with now and new hatches. And if I am seeing improvement, I will go with a once or twice a week upkeep session. There’s one more thing–I’m also trying permethrin. I know it’s crap for common head lice, but this isn’t head lice. I swabbed some on this morning and let it sit for ten minutes, as the packaging suggested for scalp treatment of lice. I’m going to be very careful with it since it’s very toxic for cats.

There was something I stumbled upon accidentally among all the rosacea stuff I read yesterday as well. There seems to be some kind of correlation between people who have rosacea and people who have stomach problems. I frequently suffer from acid stomach and heartburn. I’m going to make an attempt to increase my stomach acid as well, since if it works I should just feel better overall. And this is probably magical thinking, but who knows, maybe having a more acidic system will repel the extra bugs. We’ll see. I’m starting with a hyrdochloric acid supplement. Oy with the treating of the symptoms, already.

My face doesn’t hurt today. Maybe it’s just clean. HA! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Ha ha ha, I am eating all the low berries. JOLLY TIMES!

Process berries for jam!

Process berries for sorbet!

Make a buckle!




My New Pink Scam

Well, my constituency has spoken: a majority of you in the past few days voted for me to try out My New Pink Button ($29.95, free shipping), the temporary genital dye as reported about on Jezebel and elsewhere. Well, guess what? Just in time for a wild and crazy Friday night, it is delivered discreetly to my house.

For those of you not yet familiar with the product, My New Pink Button is there for us ladies who feel that their junk needs some pinkening up due to age, hormones, or ethnicity. I have not really thought about the color of my ladyparts, well, ever, and I have probably not done the Our Bodies, Ourselves hand mirror thing since before I had children. I feel that anyone who has an opinion about the color of my junkdrawer can take their disco sticks elsewhere, but I was curious about this product for the sake of SCIENCE.

The kit contains 20 of the cheapest eye shadow applicators you will ever see, the kind where the foam is kind of wonkily glued on to the plastic stem. Also included is a small vial of pink powder, helpfully labeled “Marilyn.” I chose this shade because I felt like my vagina could most identify with her: pill-popping, confused, and crammed into small garments. Someone else would have to be a Bettie or an “Audry” (sic?). My favorite part of the kit was the weeniest, most adorbs shot glass I have ever seen. Perhaps this was a hint that I should drink to steel myself for what was to come.

Next up: the instructions.

“Occasionally a woman is self-conscious of her Labia since childhood.”

The instructions say to sprinkle a little of what looks like Barbie blow into the shot glass, wet the applicator, and pick the powder up with the wet applicator.

An overpowering sweet smell rose out of the vial as I sprinkled the powder. The ingredients say it is made from about every fruit that has been trendy for the past ten years, and includes cinnamon. There is also an ominous warning in the instructions that “for some, a slight ‘irritating’ feeling may occur upon application and last for about a minute.” An irritating feeling? Like the cosmetics industry telling me I should be self-conscious about yet another body part? Oh, wait, a different kind of irritating.


Myrrh is misspelled. Should I be concerned?? So is chamomile. Never mind, on with the rejuvenating of my drab baby cannon. I picked up some of the powder, which immediately bloomed with color. Oh dear. What was this, Lik-a-Vagina?

I put the product on and let it sit as the instructions advised. Things were okay for a few seconds, and then…THE BURNING! I have certainly felt worse, but it was very noticeable. The instructions assure me that this burning is “due to the ingredients reacting to your bodies own PH balance which is normal and will go away upon rinsing off the colorant.”

Rinse it off I did, and did I notice a difference? I did not. I will confess to you I took before and after pictures for my own scrutiny. Well hello there my vulva. Long time, no see. Sorry about the burning sensation.

Since I am Irish and turn pretty white in the winter, I decided to do a patch test on my arm, where it did not burn, and I could view it up close to see the staining effect.

During the staining:

After the rinsing:

See that barely-perceptible color change? Yeah. I had a hunch after the way it smelled and how it looked when wet, so I licked my arm before I rinsed it, and it tasted just like unsweetened Kool-Aid.

In summary, I would file this with magic creams that purport to take twenty years off: don’t bother. And don’t think so hard about your vulva, either. Just enjoy it, FFS.

ETA: Hello new visitors. I will be in and out throughout the day releasing new moderated comments. Once you comment once, you’re golden. Thanks for your patience and for the feedback already.

ETA again: Hooray, the Consumerist picked me up!

1/18: Helloooo Jezebelles! I am pleased to become part of my thrice daily reading. Someone mentioned “Betty Beauty,” the pubic hair dye in the comments there. I‘ve reviewed that as well.

Call for Writers/Home Cooks; Dilettantes Preferred

Hello, I am starting a group blog for 2010. It will be a focused project on the subject of cooking a particular cuisine. I will be posting (for certain) weekly the results of my experiments, with pictures added. I may post more often. If you have an interest in cooking and photographing your cooking, writing, and (loosely speaking) Victorian England, this might be for you. You will not be paid, but hey, you cannot get fired, either. You can post weekly (or more) but I hope you will check in monthly at least. Humor’s great, and so is serious historical wankery. Let’s learn something together while we entertain the masses.

Drop me a line for more details if you are interested. I am OOT this weekend, but I will get back to you next week. sj@ this domain. Thanks!

My Ride, Do Watch How I Elegantly Pimp It

Sup suuuup SUP?

I am so psyched, because in this life I never run out of opportunities to dance for you like the dancing monkey I am. I have official poop about the Can I Sit with You? reading that is more than just me shooting my mouth off, a la the other day.

It is April 25 at 8 p.m. at Annex Theatre. Tickets are $5 or $12 (your choice how much you care to donate) and there are only 99 seats! Come and see me and I will totally sign your book. Or come and plug your ears during my part and have me NOT sign your book. Just come! Tell your fronds.

Official Poop about Line up

Buy Tickets through Brown Paper Tickets

And then after buy me a drink because I’m pretty when I’m drunk. Wait, that’s not right. YOU’RE pretty when I’m drunk.

Also today I blobbed about International Women’s Day over at Blogher.

I Would Liveblog My IUD, Wouldn’t I? Yes, Yes I Would

Hey! What did you get up to this afternoon? I had a doctor put in an IUD. I always wondered about what getting an IUD is like, so I thought I’d write about it.

First they made me pee in a cup, of course. You can’t do jack without peeing in a cup.

“Okay,” the nurse said, checking my blood pressure. “We did that to see if you are pregnant.”

“My blood pressure?” Hmm, are you guys Doing it Rong?

“No, the peeing.”

“WELL AM I?” Jeez, don’t leave a person on tenterhooks here.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s not done yet.”


“Do you think you are?” she asked.

Sure I do. Does that make me spazzy that I assume I’m pregnant every month until proven innocent or whatever? I thought every fertile woman thought like this. No? Not so much?

Well, I wasn’t. The nurse said that they couldn’t put it in if I was.

Then they took me into a room that had big evil lights, that somehow reminded me of ED 3000.


There were mysterious bottles (iodine?) thrown under the sink.


Then I was asked to strip from the waist down, and the doctor scurried back and forth. She brought in another doctor, who was attending. I always love that look, the naked from the waist down look. At least she gave me a big cover, so I could have a fetching skirt.

I was asked to put my feet in the stirrups. The doctor said, “I won’t make you use the leg rests, because it reminds some women too much of childbirth.” Well, stirrups remind me of all the horrible experiences I’ve had at the gyno. Where is my consolation prize? Can I get some angels to come and gently hold my knees for me?

Interesting, to me, that some women cannot even put their legs in the leg rests after. Also I was like WTFBBQ women are still laboring on their backs??? She asked me how I did it, and I told her squatting and on my knees, because that’s how we peasants roll, and she said, “Oh yeah, I did it like that for someone once. You have to reverse everything in your head.”

Then the rootling started. MMMPH JESUS GOD. Uterus does not like to be rootled around in. Is not junkdrawer.

She pushed a plastic straw thingie up there to “get a measurement” of my uterus. I stared at the ceiling, labor breathing instantly kicking in, as my uterus spasmed. Apparently it is curved, so they really had to crank it around. I couldn’t get a picture, but I imagine it was something like this.


Then it was in, and I was done. It took maybe ten minutes. These were not short minutes, but if it lasts five years it will be worth it. And now I have a cool foreign object in my body. As a consolation prize, Liz sent me a song.

What they don’t tell you is that you may possibly bleed like fuck.


After I was done, I asked her if she would write me a prescription for Viagra. She said she’d check with the pharmacists, and it turns out that it is not approved for women for another 1-2 years, if at all. HELL to the NAW. When it comes out for women, it will probably be recolored PINK and named GENTLE BREEZE instead of “Behold My Rock Hard Clit” ASSHOLES. My words, you must mark them.


me: I took a Viagra last night.
Kaijsa: You DID NOT.
me: Oh yers I did.
Kaijsa: You are CRAZY
me: Now I cannot rest until I get more.
Kaijsa: Your clit will grow into a tiny penis like Chyna’s.
me: NOOO that is an urban legend.
Kaijsa: BEWARE
me: LOL I am cackling
Kaijsa: No, you’ll just have blurred vision and heart problems.
me: Oh foo.


via feministe

Because I Need Something to Do While Listening to Hall and Oates on Youtube

Ice-T’s wife at an auto show or some such.


Mrs. T, is that you? Coco T? Eh, someone told me once she had a last name. Would you really need one if you looked like this? (NO.)

Something is missing, though. Something like…five minutes of protochopping.


Ah. The desert, serene and with pyramids and crap pasted in. EVOCATIVE, NO?

Something is missing from the desert, however, which I know because of my arid learnings. Or should I say something is only partly there.



That’s better. Now all the camels and their little toes can be friends.


Oh well. At least butt cleavage is out of fashion again.

Awesome. She’s a repeat offender. Well, call me repeatedly AMAZED.