mollyringle: (Default)
 

While Texas drowns and another hurricane barrels toward the East Coast, wildfire smoke is filling Seattle’s sky, filtering the sun to a dim orange circle. We’ve had the driest summer on record, barely a drop of rain since mid-June. Heat and drought have rendered all the grass brown and the plants desiccated. Leaves are shriveling up and falling off trees. The “evergreen” Northwest looks not entirely unlike Mordor.

 

This is all wrong. By now we should have our first rains, cleaner air, a washing away of the summer dust. Instead we’re the Fire Nation and I hate it.

 

So, the time is ripe for a reposting, with a few edits, of something I wrote long ago on being one of those rare people who really, truly doesn’t like summer weather and really, truly does love rain, moss, ferns, clouds, and coolness. Here you go.

 

* * *

 

When I moved to the Sacramento area from my native Pacific Northwest in August of 2000 for a three-year grad school stint, the constant sunshine and 80-to-100-degree temperatures were at first a novelty. Then they began to make me bored. Then unhappy. Then borderline psychotic. I tried to believe it was the natural adjustment to an 800-mile move. I thought maybe I just needed something more productive to do with my days.

 

Then one day it rained--unexpectedly, and for that region totally unheard-of in August. All my tension relaxed. The air was clean, cool, and sweet. I could step outside, take a deep breath, and smile. Of course, it was August, so that only lasted a few days. The sun returned. The drought and 100-degree temperatures came back. Everything was yellow and brown and sky-blue for three months, like a photo of the African savannah, even into October. I plummeted into deeper unhappiness.

 

October is supposed to be the cool month, the month that is definitely no longer summer. In Seattle, October is when the battering rains howl in from the sea and knock trees down--if that hadn't already happened in September. In Cali, all remained warm and bright, the Beach Boys’ "endless summer." It was not so groovy after all. But the weather couldn't really account for my bad mood, could it?

 

Finally the rain returned in November, a true autumn rain this time: soaking, dripping, chilly, misty. The scent of wet leaves and chimney smoke rolled down the streets. Pollen and dust swirled away down the gutters. The wet pavement reflected lights at night. My mood soared.

 

I could no longer rule it a coincidence. After finishing grad school, I hightailed it back to Seattle as soon as possible.

 

Everyone's heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which renders its sufferers depressed in the winter months due to a deficiency of happy-making neurochemicals normally triggered by sunlight exposure. But when I suggest I might have Reverse SAD, I garner little sympathy or comprehension. Who could possibly hate summer and sunshine? What's wrong with me?

 

Some doctors do acknowledge "summer depression," a condition that can cause irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and decreased appetite, but researchers estimate it's only about a fifth as common as regular SAD or winter depression. What causes summer depression is less clear. Too much heat? Too much light?

 

Both, I propose; along with other factors. For example:

 

- Sun exposure can cause wrinkles and cancer. On hot, clear days I have to slather sunscreen upon myself, enduring its greasy feel; and slather it also upon my kids, who complain every time. Never heard of rain causing cancer, did you?

 

- Every summer day without rain, I have to take half an hour to water the garden, or live with beige-colored, dying plants for July and August. I much prefer the rest of the year, when the sky supplies the water cost- and effort-free on my part.

 

- We sleep less in the summer and feel the ill effects. Up here in the north, the sky starts getting light at four o'clock in the morning in June, causing birds to chirp and making it hard for humans to sleep in. It's also hard to get our kids to go to bed at eight-thirty p.m. when daylight still reigns. In dark, rainy weather our whole family regularly sleeps longer and deeper.

 

- Glaring sun in your eyes can cause car or bicycle accidents even when you're wearing sunglasses. Cloudy skies make our roads safer--aside from that one first rainy day in late summer, of course, when everyone temporarily forgets how to drive on wet pavement.

 

- For those of us with school-age kids, they are home all the time in summer, causing a “disrupted schedule” for us all, as this WebMD article on summer depression diplomatically puts it.

 

- I’m uncomfortable when I’m sweaty for hours at a time. Are there people who actually like being sweaty all day? Or at least don’t mind it? I assume there have to be, but HOW do they not mind it?

 

- Rainy seasons give me an excuse to stay inside and curl up with a book or a movie or a TV show. And if I do venture out to the park with my umbrella and waterproof boots, I'm likely to have the forest or beach to myself. In summer, I do want to go outside, but there are PEOPLE all over the place out there.

 

- Did I mention the West is ON FIRE?

 

The good news--besides the fact that autumn will eventually come--is that I'm not alone. When I asked around, family members and friends have come out of hiding to admit their preference for non-summer weather too. My rain-loving Oregonian mother suggests a few names for people like us:

 

SLUG: Sunshine Leaves Us Grumpy

SHINE: Sun's Heat Is Not Enabling

GRACE: Give Rain A Chance, Everybody

PUDDLE: Prefer Umbrella Drip-Drop-Like Environment

HAPPY: Have Always Preferred Puddly Yard

 

I’m ready to be HAPPY instead of summer-SAD, please. Hurry back soon, rainclouds.

mollyringle: (autumn leaves & cup)

There's no way to write a subject line like that and not sound like a spam generator, is there? Nonetheless, here you go; three life-hack-ish tricks I have found useful lately:

1. Borax and sugar to annihilate odorous house ants (a.k.a. sugar ants or soil ants). You can find various methods for this all over the web, but basically you mix equally parts sugar and powdered borax (not Boraxo) with a little water in a small low container (I used bottle lids) and put it where the pesky ants keep getting into the house. They'll zero in on the sugar, take the mix to the nest, and get themselves and their nestmates killed by the borax. These teeny ants have plagued us ever since moving in, and despite regular exterminator visits, have been invading the kitchen this season more than usual. So in desperation I tried the borax trick, and hey! Invasion over! They swarmed the lid for about a day (which in itself was an improvement, since then it meant they weren't roaming the dining room table), then their numbers dropped dramatically. Fully worth the cost of a box of borax.

2. Alternate hot and cold water in the shower for overall well-being. This is an ancient custom, of course; the Romans with their many-temperatured baths knew of it, as do spas all over the world. (Those intrepid Scandinavians sometimes like to hop from their jacuzzis straight into a hole in the river ice. Naked. You're hardcore, people.) I'm more or less switching from 30 seconds of comfortably hot water to 30 seconds of "as cold as I can take it without screaming," back and forth a few times. The cold part is not particularly fun. But the process does seem to leave me feeling rejuvenated, and many people claim it's excellent for your circulation and immune system. So. Try it if you dare.

3. This isn't new, but is worth a repost, and anyway you can't have just two items on a list; you must have three: my cure-all spice drink. Helps with headaches, digestive issues, bloating, colds, PMS/hormonal blahs, and probably more, given all the crazy-high levels of antioxidants in herbs and spices. I'm having a cup right now and my "been a long week" headache is already improving. We all might need it as Election Day draws nearer, eh, America? (Seriously, world, we're so sorry to have subjected you to this.) Be kind to each other out there, everyone.

mollyringle: (bradley)

My list goes to 12:

1.     Quitting Facebook, or at least spending waaaaay less time on it

2.     Finishing a trilogy!

3.     Starting a new novel that is not going to be a trilogy and is way simpler and smaller in scope but still paranormal and romantic and quirky in my usual ways

4.     Getting into the habit of daily meditation - I like the app Calm to help guide the practice, but there are lots and lots of others that do similar things and look good too

5.     Stepping up my exercising. In addition to making sure I take walks on an almost-daily basis, I've started doing some high-intensity-ish exercises a few times a week. (Try this one if you dare. Calling it "beginner" may be a stretch! But it'll give you a workout for sure, and I'm getting better at it with practice.)

6.     Also tai chi. I've been doing various YouTube sessions of that on occasion, and find it really does make my joints all feel happier.

7.     Recognizing anxiety for what it is; i.e., my imagination working overtime; and redirecting that imagination into creativity, such as writing stories, or thinking up ways to improve my surroundings

8.     Probiotics for all in the household. Or at least, definitely for me, in the form of things like kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and fermented pickles, and for my kids in the form of chewable probiotics when they won't eat those other things, which is usually. It has correlated to a notable decrease in number of viruses and other infections we've caught. I won't claim it has caused the decrease, but it has at least correlated, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's a cause and effect here.

9.     Earlier bedtimes for kids, better enforced. More sleep for me too. The meditation and similar breathing exercises help relax insomnia's grip on me. And more sleep surely helps our health too.

10.  Being a lot gentler in how I think of myself, and getting a lot better at not giving a damn what other people think of me. Self-care feels real good, and ends up making me more patient with everyone else, so hey, win-win.

11.  Leasing my soul, for a time anyway, to the Merlin (BBC) fandom, and in particular the Merthur ship. Yay, slash daydreams and fanfics! I've missed your siren song.



(It's pretty much canon, anyway.)
Also, maybe I just haven't dug deep enough yet, but so far the Merlin fandom is one of the sweetest-natured I've ever encountered. Everyone has been wonderfully nice.

12.  Trying doing things in new ways, or doing new things. I'm starting small, no bungee jumping yet, but practicing flexibility in daily life is like yoga for the brain.

So my resolutions for 2016 are pretty much to keep all of those up, and do even better at them. Happy New Year, everyone!

mollyringle: (Legolas - do I please you?)

I'm feeling like I'm harping on the subject of cutting back on Facebook, and I apologize. BUT. I also want to elaborate on my reasons for too-casually comparing FB to a toxic friend in the last post.

What I did not mean: that the people on my friends list were, themselves, toxic friends. To my knowledge, they weren't. Mind you, the vast majority of them, I haven't seen in real life in years; haven't even met some of them at all; so to be completely truthful, I can't judge what kind of friends they are.

But that's part of the problem. My daily free time--and to too great a degree, my daily work time--was being spent involved in the posts of people I hadn't seen in years or possibly had never met. Sure, that's life for us all, this day and age, right? What's the problem? Am I condemning the entire internet because it's composed primarily of people I've never met?

Well, no. I see great value in lots of the internet. I'm picking on Facebook in particular. Not even the professional-page side of FB: I actually think it works fairly well for groups, where everyone has an interest in common, and also works pretty well as a professional notice board for us artists and other businesses (assuming FB shows our posts to our followers, which I'll bitch about in a minute). It's the personal pages, and their associated friend feed, and the culture thereof, that I am mainly disillusioned with. Why, then?

Because of the likes. And the algorithms, which are tied in to the likes.

Every social media site, through its design and through the possibly unpredictable alchemy of its users, develops a feel. An ambience, a mood, an ideal. On FB, the ideal is to get as many likes and comments as you can. Well, sure, that's the case on most sites. But FB makes the game a little more diabolical, because if you don't engage your friends and followers, FB actually does not show your posts as often to them. That alone is one of the major reasons I lost patience with the site. It's really simple, FB, and it's what we all want: just show us every one of the goddamn posts from all the people or pages we're following, in the order they were posted, and don't filter them, don't re-sort them, don't fuck with them in any way. (Look, it's making me swear; that's how irritating it is.)

But FB does filter them and hide them and boost them, according to the algorithms, and we all feel the effects. Because then what we often find ourselves trying to do, subconsciously, is support the popularity scheme. Boost our friends! Get them to boost us! You better not forget to click "like" on the good stuff or else it might actually disappear! And how can that mood NOT result in a deterioration of quality of interaction? In short, what I've concluded is that Facebook breeds competition, not relationships. As a result, people are snarky more often than they'd be in real life, because a funny, snarky response will get likes from other commenters--never mind how rude it is to the person whose wall you're posting on. It also means people will post whiny, trendy, or obnoxiously controversial things more often, because those get more attention and interaction than a quietly thoughtful post would. (And if you do post something quietly thoughtful, brace yourself for the snarky commenters fishing for likes.)

"But Molly, then you were doing it wrong," you might say. "I use Facebook to empathize with my friends and family far and wide, and to feel comforted and uplifted by staying in touch with them." Okay. If that's your FB experience, I won't doubt you, and I'll count you lucky. What I know is that for me, it became anxiety-provoking. And not just for the usual reason the articles give: the ones that say "Facebook is depressing because it makes you see only the awesome side of your friends' lives, and thereby makes you feel bad about yours." That actually didn't happen to me too often, though sure, it makes the list of my grievances.

I actually had the opposite problem, as someone prone to anxiety: I'd see posts about something upsetting happening to someone I sort of know somewhere, and I'd feel my worry ratchet up. Not just worry for THEM, but worry for my own family: if this upsetting thing happened to an actual person I'm reading about right now, WHAT IF IT HAPPENS TO US? IT TOTALLY COULD. Because that is how anxiety works. Yes, it's stupid, but it's also very common, which is why I think FB is doing a lot of harm to an awful lot of people, because, remember, thanks to the interaction algorithm, you get a lot of comments on passionate complaint/rant/life-is-unfair posts. So people post them a lot on FB. They actually don't post stuff this whiny on all sites on the internet. If you spent most of your time on Pinterest, you'd think the world was mainly a pleasant place devoted to baking cupcakes, collecting pretty clothes, and squeeing about fandom. (If only! Ah, I do like Pinterest...)

By the way, as a psychological aside, the more time you spend fielding commiserating remarks about your annoying problem, the longer you're spending thinking about it. You're giving it life. You're choosing to feed the wolf of anger instead of the wolf of serenity. You're *wallowing*, when you could be doing something else.

I could have been doing something else instead of scrolling and liking my way through the friend feed, and monitoring the likes I was getting on my own posts. That right there is probably my number one grievance against FB. There was writing and reading I longed to do. Family and neighbors to talk to face-to-face. Exercise to get. Things around the house to sort out and fix up. A whole real, actual world to look at and get involved with. So why had it become so seemingly important to ANSWER ALL THE NOTIFICATIONS several times per day--per hour, even?

It wasn't. It was not important. I finally grasped that. And life has become so much more peaceful, my outlook so much more reasonable, after letting the FB fog clear from my mind.

This whole post is probably pointless. Most people either fall into the "Yep, I already hate FB" camp, or the "Noooo! You're wrong and I heart FB!" camp, and I won't change anyone's mind. But it was on my mind, this bit of statement for the defense, so I wrote it down, mainly to sort out my own thoughts. If it does spark any useful ideas in anyone else, so much the better. I do wish you all peace and happiness, whatever your camp.

Now I already feel like I'm wallowing in anti-FB resentment, so I'll go read one of those books I so wanted to read. :)

mollyringle: (Avatar)

My stress and anxiety levels in recent months have been so much lower than last year's. I could yet stand to improve my overall happiness, but "equanimity" does now describe me far more often than it used to. As a result of being calmer, I sleep better, which means I have more energy and don't get sick as often, so my physical health's much improved too.

There are lots of changes I've made, large and small, that I would say have contributed to this improvement. But here are a nice tidy three:

1. Ditching Facebook (and not replacing it with some equally time-devouring online activity). I've discussed this in previous posts. But just in case you wanted an update, I still think this was a fabulous, wondrous move, on par with breaking up with a toxic friend. (In fact, it basically WAS breaking up with a toxic friend. Or at least, a conglomerate of mostly non-toxic people who, together, somehow added up to one gigantic toxic friend.) I miss it less and less with each passing month. I'm stronger in my solitude; I have wise thoughts and am happy to keep them to myself or tell them to someone I know in real life rather than feeling any need to rush online and share.

[Edited to clarify: I'm not calling any individuals "toxic friends." I'm fond of everyone I was friends with on FB, and am happy that I'm still in touch with many of them via the *several* other ways available to us these days. It's the Facebook environment as a whole that I'm calling toxic. Too many posts, too much snark, too much drama, too much getting messaged and tagged for unnecessary reasons, too much intrusion on my work and thoughts. It felt like being trapped at a loud party I wasn't allowed to leave. Not everyone has that experience on FB, clearly, but that's what mine was like. So I post this because if anyone else is suspecting FB is detrimental to their peace of mind, I want them to know it's quite possibly so. And I want them to feel healthier too, so I do recommend reconsidering one's relationship with the site. Not with the people, necessarily--that's not the same issue.]

2. Meditating every day, or almost every day.

(I have yet to achieve the Avatar state, however.)

Yeah, meditation's all trendy and stuff these days. In fact, I hesitate to even mention that I do it, because it's so ridiculously trendy, except I must recommend it because the results are marvelous. I really do feel calmer and more compassionate on average, even with just 5 or 10 minutes a day of sitting with my eyes closed and somewhat half-assedly telling my thoughts, "Shush, come back and focus on the breath, and stop replaying that hilarious YouTube video from earlier." The practice of noticing what my thoughts are doing in the first place is the valuable part, it would seem. And though noticeable progress did take months in my case, it was so worth it. I would sooner go back to Facebook than stop meditating now. (Yes, even that!)

3. Cool tip I heard somewhere that works: when feeling stressed in a rushing-around, not-enough-time kind of way, I intentionally slow down, to the degree of doing something fully three times slower than I have to. It wouldn't make sense to take your whole day that slow, of course, but doing one minor task that slow, as a token gesture, shows your brain that it's okay; taking 45 seconds instead of 15 seconds to put away the bread isn't going to make the world collapse. Also it buys you a little time to think, breathe, get your next move figured out. It works. I like it.

Calm down, world. Calm down.

mollyringle: (kodama)

In my teens and twenties, when I woke up in the morning from disturbing dreams, I often found that a good way to dispel the lingering feeling of dread was to do something about my hair. That was something I generally had to do anyway in order to get ready for the day, but its oddly therapeutic quality struck me time after time. I'm not the sort of woman who particularly likes doing hair (my own or anyone else's), and am merely average at hairstyling. So I could only conclude that the therapy came from letting go of troubling thoughts by focusing on a mundane task, especially one associated with vanity and a certain amount of whimsy. Doing my hair centered my attention on the here and now, and made me think about what I wanted today to be like, or at least what I wanted today's hair to be like.

I didn't know at the time that this was mindfulness. The mindfulness gurus tell us that to find peace, think only about this moment; be immersed in what you're doing now, and do it with full attention. Do that as often as you can, and those little spells of tranquility will sweeten your whole day; indeed, your whole life. It works, these days, when I manage to do it, but it's the kind of thing kids and youths do instinctively and frequently, and we stressed-out multi-tasking grown-ups have to read lots of books and web posts about before we remember how to do it. And then it still takes tons of practice.

As a kid I used to go out in the backyard and just wander, touching plants and watching the creek flow and swinging on the hammock. I knew what each tree's leaves and fruits and flowers looked like and felt like and smelled like. I'm pretty sure I'm not that familiar with my own garden now, even though I'm one of the primary people in charge of tending it. Now I'm rarely taking my time in the garden and noticing all its details. It's usually a chore I'm rushing through to get to the next ten things I have to do; or gardening is something I'm doing for exercise, and I'm listening to a podcast while I do it, so it's not really the relaxing communing with nature that my childhood lazing in the backyard was.

I don't think it's just about growing up, either. I suspect it's the modern lifestyle, a way of living our parents didn't experience, and indeed, no other generation has ever experienced. With the entire world and its trillions of webpages in our pocket at all times, and our hundreds of "contacts" expecting us to pay attention to their updates hour by hour, we're enslaved to our devices rather than being free to wander and relax. It's no wonder every other person you know is stressed, anxious, and/or depressed, and that we have to ask Google what's wrong with us and find our way to mindfulness posts to figure out a solution. (Part of the solution being, with some irony, to get off the internet more often.)

Quitting Facebook has freed up more of my time, and indeed, I've filled those hours with going outside, sitting or wandering in parks or my own garden, browsing books, and interacting with people in real life. It's all felt a lot healthier than coming up with appropriate comments for an endless scroll of status updates. But I still have worries and troubling thoughts--part of the novelist mindset, I guess--and obviously I had bad dreams and needed to fix my hair to get over them even before the internet was a part of my life.

So: keep fixing your hair. Keep studying leaves in the garden. Keep noticing what's actually around you. I'm mainly telling myself this. But I'm telling you, too. Yes, you. In fact, fix that one piece of hair--there, you got it.

mollyringle: (angsssty)

Short version: I've broken up with Facebook.

Long version, in the form of a mental conversation held with myself many, many times over the last couple of years:

Me: I need to cut back on all the ways I waste time.

Mind: Such as Facebook?

Me: Maybe, but, you know, other stuff too. All the activities that are mostly just adding to my stress instead of helping me.

Mind: So, Facebook.

Me: Haha, but it's handy to have a login there, in case people need to tag me.

Mind: So that you can come to the site and wind up wasting tons of time on Facebook.

Me: I guess, but also, I mean, the news, I should avoid the news. That's just an endless stream of upsetting stuff.

Mind: So is Facebook. Which also is half advertising and news stories these days.

Me: Well...I could just try avoiding Facebook but going to it sometimes...

Mind: We've tried that. You suck at it. You end up spending as much time there as ever. Pull the plug.

Me: But I have to keep my author page. Marketing says I have to.

Mind: So keep that. Pull the plug on the main one, though. You know it felt good that one time you did it before.

Me: Well...true...but people might forget about me.

Mind: People you've never met, or hardly ever see? You were just complaining about how you wanted more time to yourself, and more time for the people you know in real life.

Me: Hm. Then. Okay. Yes.

Also, I was tired of having snark lobbed at me on my page when I don’t do that on other people’s pages. Tired of people forgetting there are human beings on the other end of the internet. Tired of keeping track of everyone else’s drama. And tired of the clickbait, and the ads, and the hiding of posts, and everything else FB does wrong. I’m sure I do have “issues” to work out (look up "generalized anxiety disorder" and "highly sensitive person" to name two of the major ones), but I would submit that so do lots and lots of my friends list, and they may not even realize how much worse FB is making those issues.

Today in the wake of clicking the "delete" button, I feel drained and still tired, but lighter. Freer. Once I unhook the Pavlovian reaching for social media from my brain ("An interesting thought! I should post it on Facebook!"), I will probably be freer still. Of course, I did come back here, to social media, to discuss it, but LJ has always been better at being a solid and fairly sedate record of life, rather than a snark-comment badminton-match like Facebook. (And lately, like, almost no one is around on LJ anyway.)

Stuff I'm doing and enjoying instead: Amazon Prime's music library is pretty sweet. That has supplied me with a delightful soundtrack of all kinds of stuff the last few days. And I've been watching "Merlin" on Netflix, and am now in the early episodes of season 4. Adorable Arthuriana angst and sparkly magic and all-too-easy slash potential! Yay! And of course, loads more time for reading and writing. (The reading lately is book 2 of Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series - fun mostly-teen high fantasy with a refreshing Native-American-like slant to some of the tribes.)

This weekend I plan to spend more time outdoors, sitting under leafy trees, gazing at Puget Sound, picking flowers, that kind of thing. May you be fortunate enough to do similar. Cheers!

mollyringle: (fruit)

I mainly hate soda because there's nothing healthful in it and it leaves you feeling gross (well, it does for me, anyway) and it's a huge waste of money and resources. But THIS ginger beer is probiotic and gets its bubbles from the interaction of yeast and sugar, not from being injected with pressurized sterile carbon dioxide, and you can make it pretty easily in your own kitchen.

I was hippie enough to make some, and after fermenting for 48 hours, it tastes good and, more importantly, makes me feel good rather than gross. Plus, to make it cheaper and easier, I used powdered ginger instead of ginger root, and it still worked fine. So. Try it for a chemistry/cooking experiment if YOU, too, are hippie enough.

mollyringle: (tea setting)
Your mom always said, "Drink your spices!" Well, no, she probably didn't. But she should have. They've got natural healing properties and, when imbibed as a hot drink, can do you more good and certainly less harm than many over-the-counter drugs. The following is my loose and adaptable recipe for a Feel Better Spice Drink. Works to relieve nausea/indigestion, headaches, and nasal/chest congestion--and most of the world is suffering from at least one of those right now, it would seem.

To one mug of hot water add 1 generous pinch each of:
ground cloves
ground ginger
ground cinnamon
ground nutmeg
ground allspice
ground cardamom
ground coriander
ground fennel seed or anise seed
dash of ground black pepper or cayenne pepper (if you're feeling brave)

Stir well. Mix in some honey to sweeten if you want, but it isn't necessary. Strain the drink if the little bits of ground spice swirling around are going to bother you. If you hate or can't tolerate (or don't have) any of the above spices, omit them. Or add in your favorites--pretty much all spices are good for you. Freshly ground spices will be strongest and most flavorful, but ordinary pantry spices are fine and certainly quicker.

The ones I use in slightly larger amounts than the others are cloves and ginger. They seem to have the most potent and beneficial health effects for whatever ails you.

Thanks to this mix, I haven't taken antacids for years--this stuff works much better for an upset stomach. As for colds, well, we all know nothing really cures them except time, so this is at least a good way to get those warm fluids that temporarily relieve symptoms, while boosting your immune system a teeny bit with all those natural healthful substances.

Experiment and enjoy!
mollyringle: (laughing - hates life)
I wrote this shortly after getting my braces removed last year. It will be of interest only to those who have once had braces or are considering getting them. To the former I say, "Keep wearing your retainers"; to the latter, merely, "Godspeed."

---

Brace-face. Metalmouth. Train-tracks. Chances are, if you had braces in middle school, you got called those things. One plus about getting braces as an adult is you probably won't be. At least, I wasn't. But I thought them every day when I looked in the mirror.

Ordinarily I'm not that vain a person. I don't go into hiding if I have a zit or a bad hair day. I wear sunscreen and don't usually bother with fake tans, so my legs are pasty Northwest white, and I don't care who notices. I often forget to bleach or trim the rather thick hair on my otherwise feminine arms. My physical flaws are part of me; love me, love my chipped toenail polish. I didn't even mind letting people see me lumbering around nine months pregnant.

But I did not like being seen in braces. I smiled with my lips closed for photos. I would consider going to visit old coworkers if I was in the neighborhood, then reconsider--"I have braces. Maybe I'll wait till after I get them off." Metal brackets and wires lining my teeth, top and bottom, back to front, at age 33, made me feel far more uncool than I'd felt since, well, middle school. And I didn't even *have* braces then.

Part of the trouble was that I didn't get braces for aesthetic improvement reasons. My smile garnered compliments before. People, even dentists, sometimes asked if I'd already had braces. But I did have one crossbite--a spot where, when I bit down, an upper tooth ducked behind a lower tooth instead of settling in front of it like it's meant to--and that was wearing down the teeth in question, and throwing off my whole bite to a degree. It was worth it, said my perfectionist dentist, to look into braces, and get that fixed before I broke the crossbitten tooth in half.

I consulted two orthodontists. What I hoped for going in was the Invisalign option: clear plastic trays designed for your own teeth, which you wear all the time but take out for meals and toothbrushing, and which no one can tell you're wearing unless they look really close. The first orthodontist flatly told me, after I'd waited 45 minutes to talk to her, "No." Invisalign wasn't an option for my case. Titanium was required to haul those teeth into place. And by the way, it was going to take four hours to put the braces on, it had to be from 7:30 a.m. to noon some weekday because that's just how they did it, and I'd have to wear them for about fifteen months.

Maybe I'm not in middle school anymore, but I did want to cry.

The second orthodontist looked around my jaw and said, "There's not much wrong here." I liked him already. "Could I do Invisalign?" I asked him. He shrugged and said I could. But it would cost more because of the lab fees involved in designing tray after tray for each stage, and would also take longer overall. Patients often start with Invisalign, he said, but get frustrated at how long it's taking and how little progress is being made, and switch to metal braces. For adults who want it done fast and economically, he said, metal is the way to go. And by the way, in *his* office they'd put the braces on in about an hour and a half, and I'd wear them, say, ten months.

He was definitely my guy.

So, despite my initial preference, I went with metal. It was just ten months, right? Sure, they'd look stupid and feel scratchy, but I could cope. How bad could it be?

Those who say the first few days of wearing braces feel akin to having been hit in the mouth with a baseball are not exaggerating much. The office staff was friendly and efficient throughout, but there was nothing they could do about that "sensitivity," as they euphemistically called it, except hand me a box of wax to stick on the sharpest spots, and advise me not to chew anything tough this week. My mouth hurt everywhere, on all levels. The metal brackets ripped up the inside of my cheeks when I chewed, spoke, smiled, or slept. Tiny ball-tipped hooks protruded from the rings encircling my molars, and those hooks dug especially deep holes in my flesh. (Months after having my braces removed, when I thought of those wounds, my tongue still dove back to those spots defensively and tried to soothe them.) The roots of all my teeth, suddenly finding themselves under permanent tension and being pulled in new directions, throbbed in protest. Chewing anything was an exercise in pain. Room-temperature chocolate was way too hard to manage--which would have been a matter for heavy grief, except fortunately chocolate melts if you suck on it.

The wax I was supposed to stick on the sharp parts was only of marginal help. I couldn't wear it while eating, as it would come off and get swallowed, so the most painful part of the day--chewing--still had to be done without protection. I learned to take a dose of Advil half an hour before meals, but at breakfast that was tricky. I wake up hungry, as a rule, and want my breakfast ASAP.

Also, eating solid foods was disgusting. Seemingly one-quarter of what I tried to eat ended up lodged in my braces until I was wearing a packed layer of rice, lettuce, meat, and bread all across the front of my teeth. Even on the non-painful days, that drove me into fits of disgust and paranoia.

So for that first week or so, and for a few days every time they adjusted my braces, I relied on a mostly-liquid diet. It's what I still recommend to anyone getting braces. Why torture yourself?

Every time I thought my mouth could not get more full of stuff, they would add another facet. One was "crosswires"--those tiny round rubber bands that middle-school kids learn to snap out of their mouths and send flying across the room. I never mastered that skill, but got all too accustomed to the feel of the things, stretching from one upper canine tooth to the bottom canine on the opposite side. This phase lasted a few months and was intended to haul the teeth in my lower jaw over to the left, to center them properly. (While the orthodontist was fixing my crossbite, he figured he might as well straighten every last tooth in my head too.) At other phases, they added a super-tight rubber band that they laid along the wires, splashing a bright color of my choice onto my smile; and, another time, a new set of molar-encircling rings to my farthest-back molars, which previously had gone untouched.

That made flossing even more of a task than usual, and it was a huge task already. Imagine having a wire fixed across all your teeth, and try to imagine how you're supposed to work a string of floss *under* it to clean between your teeth. The answer is, you get a special tool, a little floss-threader that works like a needle to your thread of dental floss. It does the trick, but only once you get the hang of it--and that alone takes a while. I spent half an hour trying to get all my teeth flossed the first night, and wound up throwing the box of floss across the room. Even once I mastered the floss threader, flossing took five minutes every night. Without braces it takes perhaps thirty seconds. And anyone with a toddler knows how valuable five minutes can be.

Professional dental cleaning was no easier, logistically. I had to schedule three back-to-back appointments on the same day: first the orthodontist, to remove the wires; then the dentist, to clean as best as they could around the glued-on brackets; then the orthodontist again, to put the wires back on. After a few unsuccessful phone calls trying to schedule those ("Oh, sorry, we're not in the office on Thursdays"), I made the orthodontist's receptionist call the dentist's receptionist and work out the times between themselves, and tell me afterward what they decided.

My final sentence with braces stretched a little beyond ten months--it was one year almost exactly. When the nice lady at the orthodontist pried off the last rings and brackets, and took a metal pick to my teeth to scrape away the bits of glue, I welcomed the unpleasant sensation. Gone! The damn things were gone! A good flossing (ah, so quick!) and brushing and mouthwashing rinsed away the stale taste in my mouth. My teeth were slick and clean and straight. The orthodontist set me up with Invisalign-style retainers, which I wear only during sleep, and sent me on my way.

A year and a few months later, I still love the results. I didn't expect to notice any difference besides the absence of the crossbite, but actually my teeth are giving me less trouble all around. Less sensitivity than before, temperature-based or otherwise. Less accidental biting of my cheeks. Almost zero random whacking together of teeth that shouldn't whack together at quite that angle. Yes, I do wear my retainers, and yes, I'd rather not. But if it means keeping braces at bay the rest of my life--hell yes, I'll keep wearing them.

I'm still ambivalent on how I'd answer if someone asked, "Should I get braces?", or "Should I go with metal or Invisalign?" As I just said, I love the results, so yes, it was worth it...but just barely. I imagine if you had truly misaligned teeth before, the "worth it?" question will get a more obvious "yes." As for the second question: well, Invisalign will hurt too, make no mistake of that. But it will hurt less, since you have no sharp metal edges to rip up your soft tissues, and at least you can eat and floss normally. Take that under consideration before you decide. And always get a second opinion.

And keep smiling--even if your orthodontia scrapes a groove in your lip every time you do so.
mollyringle: (girl reading with moon)
The third trimester, to my annoyance, is feeling a touch like the first trimester lately--fatigue and touches of nausea and too much smell in the world--though thankfully less on the tired/nauseated and more on the heavy/sore. Standing too long makes my feet hurt, so I sit. Sitting too long makes my back and rear hurt, so I stand. Eventually I'm exhausted, so I lie down. Lying down on my side squishes that arm to death, so I turn over. Then the other arm gets squished to death, so I try to lie against a pillow at an angle sort of on my back and sort of on my side--which makes my joints or stomach or *something* hurt. When I get tired of having been in bed all night without getting much sleep, and besides am getting hungry, I get up. Repeat cycle.

Also, the baby kicks like crazy when I lie down, at least for a while. Those little movements are so gentle when you first feel them around 4-5 months; they're like the motions of a goldfish flitting around in a baggie of water. By 7-8 months they're sometimes more akin to those of a cat trapped in a pillowcase (which you are forced to hug against yourself for some reason).

I console myself with knowing I only have 4-7 weeks to go and then I'm DONE.

I also take comfort, as always, in amusing myself in odd ways. For instance...

I'm not a Twitter user--how can one such as I, who so loves to ramble, confine herself to 140 characters?--but I heard this idea of condensing classic novels into 140-character posts/Twitters, and had to try it.

So here's a few...


Les Miserables:
Jailed. Escaped. Stalked by creepy cop. Now foster daughter is dating revolutionary. Everyone I know is going to die. God, I'm tired.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall:
Hot widow with kid moved in nearby. Serious man issues. What's up with that? OMG, she let me read her diary! Think I'm in there.

Middlemarch:
Tried to be do-gooder. Married old guy, then he died. Got screwed over by will (because I want Will). Happy ending plz Eliot? Thxbye.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles:
If I get called a hussy one more time I'm going to kill someone just to prove I'm the victim here.

Vanity Fair:
I'm only friending you for your money, lol. No, seriously.

A Room with a View:
Charlotte's wrong, it means nothing nothing nothing that George kissed me in the violets, and...OK fine, it does mean something.

Jane Eyre:
My employer is totally hitting on me. Yummy. Wait a sec, WHO'S living in the attic??

Lolita:
The last few weeks have been amazing. You'll never believe it--I've been...you know what, I'd better not say.

Go ahead, add your own!
mollyringle: (Dirk - wrath)
These can be applied to anytime during pregnancy, really, as no two women ever experience the same torturous miraculous process.

1. Drink three times as much water as you think you need. Just do it; you'll feel better.

2. Any of the following now count as exercise and entitle you to sit down and rest a while after doing them:
a. Unloading the dishwasher
b. Folding and putting away laundry
c. Carrying groceries from car to house
d. Walking one block to put something in mailbox

3. Given strenuous caloric requirements upon your system, it is fine and advisable to buy Oreos and Cheetos and ice cream in one grocery store trip. You need the energy.

4. Start planning now for your birth and post-partum experience. It is important that your whole family be aware of your preferences; namely, who will bring you your first shot of hard alcohol after the delivery, what that alcohol will be, and how it should be served. (Honestly, how unfair is it that we can't drink? Who needs it more than we do??)
mollyringle: (my life is so thrilling)
Two LJ Genie questions today:

1) Anyone have experience with a Honda Element? We're considering getting one as a mid-sized reliable familymobile.

2) Anyone have experience whitening their teeth with drugstore kits/devices? Did it work? I'm considering treating myself to it now that my braces are off, since, though my teeth indeed be straight, they be also a tad yellow. I suppose tea and chocolate do have that one drawback...


In unrelated news, ultrasound says our second kiddo will be another boy! Cool. We already have all those blue clothes and toy trucks. And I have sisters and a niece if I start pining for cosmetic shopping companions.

Have a good weekend, all!
mollyringle: (Rain - leaves)
1) You can decaffeinate it yourself. Just pour the boiling water over it as usual, wait 30 to 45 seconds, and dump out the resulting brew, but keep the leaves/teabag. This will remove some 80% of the caffeine, which ought to be enough to let you fall asleep. Then pour fresh boiling water over the same tea leaves/bag, and brew as usual. Ta-da--decaffeinated tea. Apparently you also get more polyphenol health benefits that way than if you simply buy decaf tea.

2) Here's one Americans don't always learn: really, only brew the tea for a few minutes. 3 to 5 minutes for black tea, 1 to 3 for green, no more than 2 for white. It becomes bitter and harsh after that. I didn't know this for years, and when I went to Scotland in '96, the locals looked at me in incredulity when I left my teabag in the mug for endless minutes. "How can ye drink it like tha'? It's like tar!" They're right, as it turns out.

3) I was going to add, "Don't drink tea with meals, as it can inhibit your iron absorption," but I lately found that the research is not at all conclusive on that one.

I need a tea icon. Hm. That is, assuming LJ is even here a month from now.

By the way, should you want to join in a grass-roots effort to buy LiveJournal out from under the noses of whoever the hell owns it now and is firing everyone, see [livejournal.com profile] ljuser_buyout. My brother-in-law [livejournal.com profile] kenshi started it up, so I can promise it's not a scam.

Should that fail, technically I do have a blog I can fall back upon. I hardly ever use it now, but I will if it comes to that.
mollyringle: (fruit)
From me to yous-all, it's...

Best Recipes of 2008
from Molly & Steve

Table of Contents:

Florentine Scramble
Mexican Enchilada Sauce
Basil Chicken Salad
Baked Macaroni, Tomatoes, and Cheese
Salsa Couscous Chicken
Skillet Baked Ziti
Pork Pozole
Greek Burgers with Cucumber Sauce
Captain Bay-Schmith's Chicken
Healthier Blueberry Muffins
Orange and Chocolate Chip Dots

Recipes under here )

Now that I'm in my second trimester, I'm loving food again, and smells too. Good thing, or it would've been hard to compile this collection without wanting to gag. Now, though, I'm all, "Jasmine green tea smells so incredibly good! Where can I get a perfume that smells exactly like this? And our Christmas tree! Our Christmas tree smells like heaven! And, mmm, did someone just peel open an orange?"
mollyringle: (haunted house)
We've got lots of volunteers to read a couple lines each of "The Raven," certainly enough to cover at least a few stanzas, but we can always fit in a few more. Check this post to see what's entailed and sign up! There's still time.

Question for those who may know:
It's fairly common to sneeze when confronted with bright light; it has to do with your eyes watering and tickling your nose or something. (Edit: Or perhaps it's just genetic. No one seems sure. I have this trait, anyway.) But why in the world does my son sneeze, just once, almost every morning, after his first bite of toast? It's a mystery to me. But at least it's sort of cute.
mollyringle: (my life is so thrilling)
Recipe for insomnia
------------

Take a handful of any of the following irritations, and stir (and toss, and turn).

- My arm is squished if I lie like this.

- My hip hurts if I lie like that.

- The pillow is blocking my nostril.

- My shoulder is too cold.

- My feet are too hot.

- I should get up and go to the bathroom. No I shouldn't. Yes I should. No I shouldn't.

- The inside of my nose itches.

- I'm so hungry my stomach is eating itself.

- My mouth is dry. My teeth are sticking to my lips. I should get a drink of water. No I shouldn't. Yes I should. No I shouldn't.

- My hair is poking me in the neck.

- My ear is bent funny against the pillow.

- My nightshirt is twisted around me too tight.

- I'm preoccupied by those emails I need to answer.

- I'm preoccupied by thinking about illness, injury, and death.

- I'm preoccupied by story ideas I don't spend enough time working on.

- I'm preoccupied by the insulting things people said to me five, ten, or fifteen years ago.

- I'm furious because I'm going to be too tired tomorrow to get anything done.

- Furious. Argh.

- A bird is singing outside. It's only 4:00 a.m. Argh. Hate the bird.

...And this says nothing about sleep disruptions caused by others, such as toddlers. Then, at least, there's a reason I'm awake. But there is nothing more agonizingly frustrating than lying awake for no good reason while the clock ticks away the minutes and hours. 12:48...1:15...2:09...3:34...4:02...and you bargain for less and less time. I'll be all right if I can just get six hours of sleep...or five...or three and a half...or two...

I've been this way off and on for most of my life. The worst spell was in college, when, for no apparent reason, I didn't sleep at all for about a week. These days I usually do get at least a few hours even on the worst nights, and the worst nights are no more than a few times a month. But I'd rather get seven or eight hours every night, thanks.

I don't want meds. At least, not really, not regularly, not so I rely upon them. Does anyone have other sleep-inducing tricks? Acupressure points? Breathing techniques? Melville novels?

All other insomniacs out there, come here. Group hug. I'm sorry I didn't come out earlier. It's nothing to be ashamed of, except maybe once in a while when we turn into total crazy people and beat our heads against the pillow, or kick the mattress repeatedly with our heels, or throw ourselves upon the floor in a frustrated heap. But sleep deprivation is a form of torture, you know.
mollyringle: (moon over ocean)
(Got this in email. It appears to be real, and even if it isn't, it's still funny.)

This is an actual letter from an Austin woman sent to American company Proctor and Gamble regarding their feminine products. She really gets rolling after the first paragraph. It's PC Magazine's 2007 editors' choice for best webmail-award-winning letter.

Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your 'Always' maxi pads for over 20 years and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core or Dri-Weave absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from the curse? I'm guessing you haven't. Well, my time of the month is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll be transformed into what my husband likes to call 'an inbred hillbilly with knife skills.' Isn't the human body amazing?

As Brand Manager in the Feminine-Hygiene Division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customers monthly visits from 'Aunt Flo'. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week my friend Jennifer fought the violent urge to shove her boyfriend's testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey's Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy!

The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants... Which brings me to the reason for my letter. Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: 'Have a Happy Period.'

Are you kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness - actual smiling, laughing happiness is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak, there will never be anything 'happy' about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreen's armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory.

For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you just have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like 'Put down the Hammer' or 'Vehicular Manslaughter is Wrong', or are you just picking on us?

Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bull . And that's a promise I will keep. Always.

Best,

Wendi Aarons

Austin , TX
mollyringle: (Doctor Who 10 - TARDIS)
1) Finished watching Doctor Who, season 3. spoilers )

2) I would be remiss as a linguist if I didn't link to this story: students in Baltimore (and elsewhere) are using "yo" as a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun. Examples include "Yo threw a thumbtack at me" and "Yo looks like a freak." In short, these kids have managed to do what no well-meaning politically correct language fashioners have been able to do in centuries. Not sure it will catch on everywhere, but it shows there is hope for that cumbersome he/she/one/they business in the third person singular. I think it's great. Oh, come on, it's fun! No, the language is not collapsing. Languages never collapse. Stop being so stuffy.

3) Farewell, Heath Ledger. I am saddened, as I was only just beginning to appreciate you. Also, I have a two-year-old child myself and it breaks my heart to think of your girl growing up without her daddy. So this better not have been intentional or I'll be really angry with you.

4) I'm off to get braces. I'd be apprehensive about the pain, except that the spacers they put between my molars have already inflicted pain upon all four quadrants my jaw for the past week, rendering the eating of crunchy things impossible. So I feel prepared. And you may call me Titani-M* for the next nine or ten months, or however long it takes my little crossbite to straighten out.

*The brackets and wires are a titanium blend nowadays. Stronger, smoother, smaller, faster, sexier, etc.
mollyringle: (haunted house)
Note One: One or two alcoholic drinks a day might lower risk of heart attacks, but definitely raises risk of a bazillion kinds of cancer. Hm, heart attack or cancer? I'll take heart attack, thanks. I'm sticking to my "dark chocolate with every meal but alcohol only a couple times a week" diet.

Note Two: I finally saw An Officer and a Gentleman. I liked it--you get a good eyeful of our Puget Sound scenery. Also, I now finally see what Hot Shots! was parodying, aside from Top Gun. Hee.

Note Three: Still time to sign up for Operation Ichabod. Read a line, be spooky, be awesome.

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