Lynn's blog

I meant to make a note here yesterday but got distracted. ("ooohh, shiny...")

I have now lived ten years past my first heart attack.

First heart attacks usually kill women. My theory is because the "first" heart attack is not really their first. The earlier ones are misdiagnosed, usually as anxiety. Mine was, initially. I probably had two minor ones before the one that finally landed me in the CICU.

But I lived, because the doctor I butted heads with the most in the practice I saw then was also the most conservative. While the other doctors in the practice blew me off, he sent me to the ER and probably saved my life. Thanks, Dr Hudson. All is forgiven. ;)

My heart condition is unusual--just this side of rare. It's called Prinzmetal's, or variant, angina. It happens at rest, not during activity. My heart isn't clogged. It's cleaner than a lot of 30-year-olds' hearts. It just decides now and again to spasm so hard I have a heart attack.

Nevertheless, a heart attack is a heart attack. My symptoms were the same as a lot of women's. If you don't know them, learn the symptoms of heart attack in women. They are different for women than they are for men. Learn them if not for yourself then for the women in your life that you love--your grandma, your mom, your sister. And if you experience the symptoms, GO TO THE ER. When I went ten years ago, I was sheepish and sure they'd send me home shaking their heads at the stupid panicky woman.

They didn't.

So here's to ten years I wasn't sure I'd get. I'll keep celebrating a year at a time, the rest of my life.

The New Homemaker is 13 years old today! I wonder if it'll start getting petulant and slamming doors on me now--which is a weird thing to say, considering that my (human) teenager doesn't do that. I don't even get that many rolled eyes, though I do get the occasional incredulous stare.

When I started this website, that 14-year-old was 18 months old. I was in the first flush of staying home with a child, and I didn't know what I was doing. The only thing that's the same now is that I still don't know what I'm doing half the time! :D

I've had trouble sleeping lately. So has John. We both like cold bedrooms, and we're plenty warm under our comforter especially in this mild winter. So it surprised me when John's solution turned out to be a nightcap--no, not that kind of nightcap, a literal nightcap. He's taken to wearing a wool watch cap to bed. It worked. "You should try it, honey." Shouldn't we just warm up the bedroom? "No, that's too hot. I'm telling you, try it."

Well, I didn't want to wear a watch cap. So I hit upon the hat to the right. I knit it back before we got Calcifer and we had the heat down so low I could almost see my breath. Here's the free pattern at Ravelry; it makes for a darling, quick-to-knit cap for anywhere, not just bed.

Reader, it worked. I'm sleeping much better wearing the nightcap. I wouldn't have thought so, would you? So if you're having trouble sleeping, grab a watch cap or something like and try it.

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I got a call in early November from the guy I call my brother--John's best friend, who the kids call Uncle Tex. "I know what I'm getting you for Christmas."


"Yes. I'm getting you a pellet stove." Now, usually we get each other the same thing every year. Tex comes over every Wednesday night for tea and chocolate. Consequently, he gets us tea and we get him chocolate; we drink the tea and eat the chocolate together, and that's our Christmas.

We got our tree down FINALLY, after two weekends in a row getting eaten by stuff that had to be taken care of. Lou and I put away the ornaments and the train sets, and John is taking the tree itself apart for storage.

Yes, we have a fake tree. We love it. It looks awesome. Somehow, since it sustained some water damage this last year, it looks awesomer; the very tips of a couple of branches turned brown, and it looks more like a real tree than ever.

So remember how just last week I said we were focusing on "Sound Mind in Sound Body" for the New Year? Right after, JJ came down with pneumonia! He's doing well now, but it was kinda scary for a bit.

He stayed home one day, didn't feel right and decided to go into the doctor. I went with him and while I was sitting in the waiting room he texted me that he had pneumonia. (This modern age...) Into bed he went and stayed there for a couple of days.

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For years, our family motto has been "Emergency Rooms Suck." Not surprising, considering how often we were in them the years I was so sick. But we haven't been in an emergency room for any of our immediate family in years. (There was the unpleasantness in 2009 when I almost bled to death from a period that wouldn't end, but that was fairly minor.)

This year, JJ has decided we need a new motto: Mens Sana in Corpore Sano, Latin for "A Sound Mind in a Sound Body." This year we're going to change the focus from not being sick to being healthy.

When I started this site, Josie was 18 months old and Louisa wasn't even an idea yet. Jo turned 14 late last week! She is the same height as me, but she still has the same punkin head. She is funny--really funny--and smart and beautiful and I am still blessed to be her mama.

After her party over the weekend, she said, "Mom! It's the first party where I've worn heels AND eye makeup and it wasn't Halloween!" :)

I'd post a picture but John hasn't sent them to me yet! I will nudge him and try to post one later.

What a summer. My body has been on a roller coaster. We didn't get summer here in Oregon until July--mid-60s and sometimes colder! And then when summer hit it was WHAMMO! 95 degrees. Now? After a period of 95-degree weather we're back down in the 60s, with no mediating period. Suffice it to say my body is not happy.

When my body is not happy, I don't exercise. When I don't exercise, I get anxious. When I get anxious, I am afraid to exercise. Argh! It's a hard cycle to stop.

Boy, I was bound and determined to get out into the yard today. Since my illness, things have really gotten out of control out there, and now that I'm finally feeling up to tackling things I'm gung-ho. (Until I get out there, use up all my spoons, and take a few days recovering.) My goal was to clear--yes, clear--a path from the front gate to the back steps. We were halfway there after the last round of yardwork two weeks ago, and I was going to get us the rest of the way. It didn't have to be perfect, it just had to be traversable.

So I grabbed the string trimmer, plugged it in, and got to work. Except it wasn't actually cutting anything. Dang it, it must need more line says I, and I tap it on the ground to release more line. Nope. I tap it again, harder. Nope. (More after the jump.)

I am fifty today. Usually on my birthday I write "Cinco de Mayo means Lynn's Birthday in Spanish." Which it does. But today I am too somber I suppose for pinatas.

I don't mean to be. I'd rather be fifty than dead, most days. It's just sobering to realize that more of your life is over than not. It doesn't help that I have a mammogram scheduled for today and medical stuff makes me nervous any more.

But! I have chocolates, gifties, and some birthday money to console me; I intend to get a pedicure after the mammogram as a reward for finally getting it done. :)

Pinata photo courtesy gusdrinks on flickr

When I started this site twelve years ago, I had one kid--Josie. Those of you who've been with me a while followed my pregnancy and c-section with Louisa. Welp, Louisa turned ten today. :jawdrop:

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John and I were out running errands today on our bikes: trip to the studio, tai chi for him, bellydancing for me; trip to the bike store; trip to get groceries. It's been a typical, if chilly, spring here in Portland, which means patches of beautiful blue sky punctuated by rainstorms.

Today we got caught in a hailstorm. The back of my bike was uncovered; I stupidly didn't put the cover back on when we stopped. So we pulled under an eave, just long enough to put the cover on out of the hail. We weren't blocking anything and we weren't staying.

A man came charging out of the cargo bay in a physically threatening way yelling at us that it was not a parking lot, it was private property and to get the hell out of there. We replied that we were only putting a cover on out of the hail and we'd be on our way. He yelled, "If you're bike people I don't want you here, now get out before I call the cops!"

(More past the jump)

Twelve years ago, I was still in my 30s, I had only one child, and that child was 18 months old. I went looking for a website for homemakers that didn't push a particular religious agenda, that didn't participate in pushing the work-outside and stay-at-home moms into an unnecessary rivalry, and that didn't assume that all stay-at-home moms are right-wingers.

I couldn't find one. So I made one.

And here we are, twelve years later. Josie is thirteen (going on thirty). Louisa, who was born in 2001, is not quite ten. John and I have been married over fifteen years now. I've survived several heart attacks and a cardiac arrest, and deal with fibromyalgia. All in that twelve years.

TNH has evolved over the years to be less of a community and more of a resource, which is to be expected; so much has changed on the internet since its founding in 1999, and there are so many ways to connect to others that weren't available then.

But for those of you who've been along for the ride--and I know there are those of you who've been here the entire twelve years and watched my second pregnancy and my children growing up and me deal with both chronic and critical illnesses--thank you. This site has always meant a great deal to me and will continue to be close to my heart even with my forays into other kinds of writing.

Happy birthday, TNH!

I'm an odd thing. For instance, I like Dickens. Love him, actually. Acquired the taste late in life and am now gobbling him up.

Currently on the gobble is Our Mutual Friend, a savagely funny and at once heartrending account of Victorian life as it was led by the lower, middle and upper-middle classes. (Reading about Podsnappery, the philosophy for living espoused by an upright businessman named Podsnap, is like reading about certain political types in our current age. It's really rather frightening.)

But the fragment that prompts this post is the following. The former Miss Bella Wilfer, newly Mrs John Rokesmith, is learning how to be a housewife:

She always walked with her husband to the railroad, and was always there again to meet him; her old coquettish ways a little sobered down (but not much), and her dress as daintily managed as if she managed nothing else. But, John gone to business and Bella returned home, the dress would be laid aside, trim little wrappers and aprons would be substituted, and Bella, putting back her hair with both hands, as if she were making the most business-like arrangements for going dramatically distracted, would enter on the household affairs of the day. Such weighing and mixing and chopping and grating, such dusting and washing and polishing, such snipping and weeding and trowelling and other small gardening, such making and mending and folding and airing, such diverse arrangements, and above all such severe study! For Mrs J. R., who had never been wont to do too much at home as Miss B. W., was under the constant necessity of referring for advice and support to a sage volume entitled The Complete British Family Housewife, which she would sit consulting, with her elbows on the table and her temples on her hands, like some perplexed enchantress poring over the Black Art. This, principally because the Complete British Housewife, however sound a Briton at heart, was by no means an expert Briton at expressing herself with clearness in the British tongue, and sometimes might have issued her directions to equal purpose in the Kamskatchan language. In any crisis of this nature, Bella would suddenly exclaim aloud, 'Oh you ridiculous old thing, what do you mean by that? You must have been drinking!' And having made this marginal note, would try the Housewife again, with all her dimples screwed into an expression of profound research.

There was likewise a coolness on the part of the British Housewife, which Mrs John Rokesmith found highly exasperating. She would say, 'Take a salamander,' as if a general should command a private to catch a Tartar. Or, she would casually issue the order, 'Throw in a handful—' of something entirely unattainable. In these, the Housewife's most glaring moments of unreason, Bella would shut her up and knock her on the table, apostrophising her with the compliment, 'O you ARE a stupid old Donkey! Where am I to get it, do you think?'

Dear me. Poor Bella, how astonished you might be to know how little has changed 150-or-so years later!

Rain and wind so hard it rattled the windows woke me up early this morning. I heard John leaving for work, and wondered if he should be biking in weather like that.

Poor lamb! He forgot his keys, stopped to call me to bring them to him at work, and then discovered that the rain had flooded big chunks of Ladd's Addition. He was soaked nearly to the skin already and had barely gone a quarter of the way to work. He just came home and I drove him in, and as we were driving we realized that it wasn't raining, it was "slushing!" Big globs of barely-frozen snow. It is cold and miserable today, and I just want to curl up with my tea and knit the rest of these slippers. (Boy, I wish I had mine made already. I could use them today.)

But instead I ventured out to the new doctor.

Reader, she is everything I hoped she'd be. She listened, she proposed appropriate remedies, she not only believed me when I said my digestive problems seemed to bring on PVCs, she was actually able to explain *why* and suggest solutions. In the past all I've gotten were shrugs. "Well, you'll have to learn to live with it."


It snowed today! I know for most of you this winter that'll earn me an "OH SHUT UP," but we don't get much snow here. We look forward to it with an avidity that confuses Midwesterners no end.

It's late in the winter for us, and we figured that was that, no snow this year--until today! OK, it wasn't much, but it covered everything in a lovely blanket of fluffy white for a few hours, the kids got to play, and I got to make coconut milk cocoa for Josie, who's off dairy. Here's the recipe:

I hate change. Hate it, hate it. "May you live in interesting times" is the ultimate curse for me. I WANT BORING. The Middle East is driving me nuts right now. (And that last is facetious; I want those people to be free, and the current movement is just about the best news we could get because Mideast freedom--without US interference--robs Al Qaeda of recruits. I just wish things would slow down so I could catch up.)

Consequently, my decision to change doctors after nearly 25 years with the same practice is earth-shattering. But one misdiagnosis too many finally pushed me to leave. Our old doctor is more or less retired, the new ones don't know who we are and we never see the same one twice in a row.

John's been to the new doctor and has pronounced her good; she practices integrative medicine--natural as well as allopathic--and comes well-recommended. I'm seeing her on Monday for my way-overdue annual girly parts visit.

I don't wanna go. Because I really hate change.

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I'm riveted to the coverage on the attempted Egyptian revolution. I'm remembering one of the reasons we got rid of cable; when these kinds of things happen I am riveted to MSNBC or CNN for HOURS, until JJ has to pull me away protesting.

Now I'm watching it all unfold on Twitter and Al Jazeera's excellent online coverage. I'm dumbfounded. It's right up there with the fall of the Berlin Wall to me.

What worries me is what's going to happen tomorrow--tonight our time. Will it be Tienanmen or Romania? What do you think? Are you watching?

Once, long ago, Elizabeth Edwards was a member of this site. It was right after the 2004 campaign. We corresponded briefly, mostly so that she could assure me that it really was her. She was a gracious woman who took my fangirl-ing in stride.

She died today. She was only 61, and leaves still-young children behind. (The less said about her ass of a husband, the better.)

Ms Edwards was a true inspiration to me. She was everything an American woman should be: smart, brave, independent, caring, gracious. SHE should have been the Senator, not him.

This country has lost a great woman, not least because we never got the full benefit of her. Godspeed, Elizabeth.

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Last picture I showed you was a bunch of yarn I've recently spun. Well, I've taken the soft pastel-like rainbow merino-tencel and I've decided to make very simple garter stitch fingerless mitts for Lou and me, and wrist warmers for Jo--she doesn't like mitts.

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Here's what's come off the bobbin in the last month or so:

From left to right:

I've been sick, sometimes critically, for eight years now. In the last 18 months, I've finally started to feel human.

The problem is, so much stuff has been on hold while we dealt with my illness that it's super backed-up around here, especially after the kitchen disaster/remodel last year, and we're just flat-out overwhelmed.

We had the opportunity to buy a whole tuna the other day--just about straight off the boat. I think it had been in the ocean not eight hours before. It weighed 22.5 pounds. Beautiful fish, truly. But we had NO IDEA how to clean it. As it happens, it was much easier than we feared.

Read on for how we did it!

I don't remember if I've mentioned it here, but I've taken up belly dancing at the wonderful Euphoria Studios run by the wonderful Jane Archer. Last night I had my first recital. And I survived it.

The style of dancing we do is called Neo-Tribal. Unlike the belly dancing you probably think of when you hear the word, tribal styles are usually danced in a group. We wear a lot of bling, but not the gauzy stuff the cabaret-style dancers wear (cabaret being what most people think of as belly dancing). We look more like gypsies on an acid trip: at least one voluminous skirt, big yarn tassels, conch shells, beads, flowers, coin belts--coins everywhere--chunky jewelry, velvet, fringe, turbans, feathers--it's awesome...

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Viking bait being, of course, Spam:

One of the few processed products we buy, and one of the few factory farmed items besides Tillamook cheese, is Spam. "What?!" I hear you cry. "That's so not you!" Oh yes it is, when we po'.

Almost all of the meat we buy is ethically farmed (the eggs, too). We know the farmers, we know the conditions under which they grow and harvest their animals. We pay on average $4 a pound for meat. When you eat as much meat as we do--and we eat PILES of it since we don't eat much if any grain--we need to economize somewhere, especially on breakfast meat. Jo needs, I mean really needs, meat at breakfast.

So Spam it is. The Weston A. Price Foundation has Spam on its shopping guide for those folks who can't afford or don't have access to quality meat sources, and that's a lot of folks. It's a good source of both protein and fat. (Remember: Fat Is Good For You, as long as it's not hydrogenated and/or rancid.) Spam has no MSG, it's shelf-stable like forever, and it's tasty. It's also a mainstay of several Asian diets that produce healthy, long-lived people (notably Okinawa).

Spam was on sale at Safeway this week for $1.99 a can. That works out to $2.65/lb. For us, that's cheap. We cleaned them out. The store manager was not happy. We were unsympathetic.

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My bike is about as pimped out as you can get: Xtracycle, Stokemonkey, amber down-low lights, blue light on my front wheel that goes off when I ride over a bump. I thought there was nothing possibly one could add to it. Oh, but I was wrong.

John insisted on one final touch:

a parasol stand on my bike

I let him put it on to humor him, but it's actually a pretty good sunshade.
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So far, we're on track with the 100 push-ups/200 sit-ups program, doing them M-W-F with weekends off. Tomorrow I'm back on it. And we've biked every day so far for the 30 Days of Biking, even though Friday night we only got a ride in around the block and Saturday we had to use a stationary bike at a hotel. If you're riding, you're biking! Tonight we rode to meet a friend at the pub.

Friday night's ride was really rather interesting; I didn't want to take my bike just once around the block--it's a bit of a production number--so I just grabbed my old Townie, which is now Josie's bike. I'm glad I did. I've been feeling as if I'm a biking poseur; my own bike has an electric assist, and I've been telling myself, oh, without the assist you couldn't ride anywhere, you're just kidding yourself, blah blah blah. Then I jumped on Jo's bike and rode around the block like it was nothing. I actually enjoyed myself. It was late at night, the streets were quiet, the bike was so very lightweight and responsive that I over-corrected a lot and had to relearn riding.

Anyway. So far so good with this regime.

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My good friend Katherine Lewis has an article in this Sunday's Washington Post magazine, profiling a woman who's returning to work after 17 years:

"I loved the whole thing," [Amy] Beckett recalled. "I loved commuting, working downtown, using my mind, having my own money, all of those things."

A quick check-in at this task I've set myself. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I'll be doing the pushups/situps; every single day for the month of April, I'll be getting on my bike even if I just go around the block.

Yesterday, I did 17 knee pushups and 20 crunches (I think; I forgot to check). Today was the first day of 30 Days of Biking. We took our usual not-quite-2-mile round trip to the market and back, then hopped up a few blocks more to pick up our eggs. (We get these terrific local free range eggs direct from a farmer who drops off at several points around town.) Tomorrow I'll do the last of the pushup/situps for the week, and I'll get some kind of a quick bike ride in. I need to take some clothes into the local plus-size reseller; maybe that'll be my destination.

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