Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Merry

Hello internet people!  I hope none of you celebrated Christmas Eve like I did, which was by having an emergency root canal that morning.  Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!

I had gone to the dentist early last week and he had put a temporary filling on a tooth that had cracked.  Basically, although I brush and floss and have very healthy gums, my teeth are apparently made of pound cake and break easily.  I ended up being in intense pain for two days following this appointment and the dentist's office squeezed me in on Christmas Eve to end all my agony.  Nothing helps the holiday spirit like two hours of drilling, almost fainting and being forced to chew a Xanax.  By the time the surgeon was done, he could have driven a train through my mouth and I would have been a-okay with it.  That Xanax is powerful stuff!

So I had a good Christmas, although I missed a lot of celebrating because I slept about sixteen hours each day.   I am feeling much better now, but I am very much ready for 2010 to end.

Santa Claus continued her tradition of torturing me by bringing up repressed memories of the time I accidentally murdered a squirrel.

On the diet front, I am down 2.8 lbs this week for a total of 9.2 pounds.  The dental diet works for me again!

Hope all those who celebrated had a great Christmas, and all who did not had a wonderful weekend.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's the Howliday Season

Merriest of Christmases from me and poor dignity-stripped Cooper.

When you read about a dog in Chicago mauling a lady to death while wearing a reindeer costume, know that it was completely justified as I make him do that one humiliating trick where he has to hold the bone on his nose until I say he can have it.

His life is hard but I do buy him premium dog food from Costco, so there are bright spots.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Horror-idays

Popular wisdom tells us that if a child is ill behaved, Santa Claus will bring him or her only coal for Christmas.  This apparently wasn't graphic enough for my parents.  When I was a little kid, they both informed me that if I were bad, the only thing Santa would bring was reindeer poop.

Incidentally, our extended family didn't grow up calling it poop.  We called it coo.  No idea why, but this lead to some embarrassing laughter from my cousins, sisters and me in grammar school when teachers informed us of the sound that doves make.

Anyway, back to reindeer coo.  One Christmas morning when I was three or four years old, I reached into my stocking, filled with breathless anticipation and the magic of the season, and what did I pull out?  A gigantic plastic pile of number two.  I screamed, immediately flashing back to each and every incident of disobedience from the previous year.  That Santa really was a stickler.  My parents laughed and laughed and thought it was hilarious, because honestly they are a pair of extremely disturbed people.  They gave me my real stocking after that, but every Christmas a little part of me still was wary that I would once again receive a hot steaming message from the man in the big red suit.  

That's a picture of sweet, innocent, adorable me when I was that age, just to drive in the point of how sick that little joke was, by the way.  You people thought I was bad with the chicken foot, but I came by it honestly.  Sadistic humor is apparently genetic.

It got worse.  When I was fourteen, I started trying to pry it out of my mom in early December what I'd be getting for the big day.  She looked at me with wide eyes and told me that we were low on cash that year and that she was down in the dumps about it, so our Christmas might be a little different this time around.  Because I am like the reincarnated Mother Teresa, I put on a brave smile and said something about material things not really mattering.  Then I started praying that the next year would be better and I'd get the Poison CD I wanted needed.

On December 25th, my sisters and I came downstairs and saw that Santa had come.  I plastered a happy expression on my face and opened my Santa sack. Inside was a handkerchief with "Happy Anniversary" embroidered on it, a VHS copy of "La Bamba," and a plastic doll head.  I held up the last gift and my mom said, cheerfully, "I think Santa wanted you to make your own doll."  I exclaimed over each present like it was the best thing I had ever seen because I am a wonderful person and didn't want to upset my poor broke Mom and Dad.

Then I looked over and saw that my sisters were opening presents that were considerably better than the offerings that were spread in front of me.  I heard muffled sounds from the living room couch and saw my parents crying with laughter and I realized that once again, I had been psychologically manipulated and damaged beyond all repair by these evil people who were entrusted to raise me to be a productive member of society.  

Not the same year, but an example of how great I am at pretending I love a gift.  Also revealing to the world that I never sleep without a nightcap.

Honestly, I am shocked that I grew up to be as normal as I am today.  I think they wanted to raise a serial killer just to make life a little more interesting.

EDIT:  My sister ordered me to update y'all on my diet progress.  I am still trucking away but did not lose or gain and weight last week.  This is pretty good considering we celebrated not only Kerry's graduation but also my best friend's birthday and had our family Christmas party.  Still cooking at home and the hip is still healing so I'm hoping to get back to the gym soon.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

With Honors

When my sister Kerry was in first grade, she was very upset that, even though her grades were good, she couldn't officially be on the honor roll.  She had seen our sister Annie make the A honor roll at Christ the King time after time, and she wanted in on the action.  (Note I don't mention myself making the honor roll.  This is called focusing on the positive, or denial, depending who you ask).  Unfortunately, students in the primary grades couldn't be make the big list and be named in the church bulletin, but Kerry waited and counted the days until she too could take her place at the top of the heap of academic glory.

When she was in fifth grade, she finally made it.  The award went right up on the fridge, and she beamed with pride.  I decided that such an achievement deserved a reward of some sort, so off to the store I went, returning with a small wrapped package.

Kerry was thrilled.  She loved when someone recognized her hard work.  She sat on the couch in the family room and opened the package in front of our family.  Inside was a chicken foot I had purchased at the deli counter at the grocery store for seven cents.

She cried.  My mom was furious.  I think I got grounded from the phone, horror of horrors.  Those were the days of our lives.

This weekend, little overachiever Kerry received her Master's Degree in Secondary Education.  She finished with a 4.0 GPA having worked full time throughout and also having struggled with the effects of Lyme Disease.  I watched her graduate and I was very, very proud.

This time I didn't buy her any chicken pieces.  Maybe for her doctorate.

PS:  That's our cousin Kate who also graduated with honors with a nursing degree.  We have some pretty smart cookies in my family, and now Kate can take my calls when I have a cough and think I have tuberculosis.  

PPS:  This picture speaks for itself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Plantation Frustration

Every year, my sister Annie and I go to a Bears game in a random city.  Our goal is to visit every stadium in the NFL.  It's important for people to have dreams.

One year we were going to Charlotte, North Carolina to see a Bears-Panthers game.  Annie planned the trip and called me, very proud of herself.  "I planned stuff to do that we would both enjoy.  For me, we're going to visit an old plantation and museum."  (Insert long pause)  "For you, we are going to a water park."

That pretty much sums up the difference between my sister and me.  She is smart and full of curiosity and culture and I like to go down water slides and people-watch and eat elephant ears.

Incidentally, we both enjoyed the pig race we stumbled upon.

We set off for the plantation on a day where the temperature reached 102 degrees.  We pulled up and took a tour of the house where volunteers in period costumes told us all about china patterns and home design and blah blah blah.  We were the only people there, probably because of the heat, but the house was blissfully air-conditioned and beautifully restored, and Annie was in heaven.

At the end of the tour, the guide told us we could walk around the grounds and look at the barns and the slave quarters located a couple of hundred yards from the house.  I immediately headed towards the car, but Annie needed to see more so off we went, sweating our butts off.

The slave cabin was tiny and it had no air conditioning.  Inside was a volunteer dressed in overalls and a long-sleeve shirt.  He was squatting next to an open fire, pretending to cook dinner.  Did I mention there was no air conditioning?  It must have been 110 degrees in that place.

The volunteer stood up and started talking to us in character.  He told us to take a look around his home.  Now this was a slave cabin.  It was bare and depressing and terrible and the purpose of the reenactment was to look at the opulence of the plantation house and compare it to the starkness of the cabin.  The differences truly were striking, so the lesson hit home.

Annie, however, got all nervous because of the guy on the verge of dying of heat stroke giving his all to pretend to be a slave for our entertainment and education.  She looked around the cabin and then smiled nervously at him and said, very sincerely, "Beautiful, just beautiful."  About the slave cabin.

The guy broke character right away and we all laughed, but we left right after that because my sister was embarrassed and I was drunk on too much history.

Oh, and we drove to the water park and it was CLOSED.  I still think she did it on purpose, but I promise, no matter how hard my sister tries, I will never become cultured and/or classy.  I don't have it in me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Week One is Done

Early last week, I called my sister at work and told her I was going to the gym.  Always the voice of reason, she convinced me that perhaps that wasn't the best idea when I was still limping around because of my stupid hip injury.  I can walk about half a block before pain kicks in and I start dragging my leg, and for some reason, Annie thought it might be a bad idea for me to get on a treadmill.

I believe her exact words were, "Don't expect me to push you around in a wheelchair, dummy."

(Dummy is a term of affection in my family)

So I'm still waiting for my marvelous health insurance to announce if they'll be paying the hospital bill for this last foray into feebleness.  I have an appointment with an orthopedic doctor and he'll hopefully get me into some kind of physical therapy.  I'd really like to get all this behind me, as it's not fun being 32 and having to turn down invites to concerts because I can't stand for two hours.

Yes, Mom, I know there are people out there a lot less fortunate than me.  (Excuse the snark.  My parents and sister are in California right now, where Kerry complained that she was bored.  We have blizzard conditions and it's currently 9 degrees outside with a wind chill of -6.  I hate them all right now).

Anyway, I didn't have high hopes for my first week of Weight Watchers Online, because to me, exercise equals weight loss, so I was happily surprised this morning to get on the scale and see I lost five pounds!  Hip hip hurray!

I attribute a lot of this to cooking at home.  Here comes the food photography.

This was Cooking Light Turkey Jambalaya.  It s super easy to make, looks impressive and is delicious.  It also freezes really well.  I feel like Billy Mays here, but it was very good.

I love this recipe for turkey burgers.  They're fast and scrumptious and I love squishing raw meat up with my hands.  I paired it with sweet potatoes cut up, sprinkled with olive oil and baked in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or so.  Flip them over halfway.  I don't like sweet potatoes at all but I like these.  Go figure.

Finally, this is Cooking Light Chili Pasta with Beans.  It's an old family favorite, meaning my mom calls me once a month and asks for me to read her the recipe again or she calls from the grocery store asking what spices are in it.  It is seriously ridiculously quick to make.  I am not one for spending hours slaving away in the kitchen.

So yeah, I'm thrilled and feeling pretty motivated.  This week my goal is to start drinking less Diet Coke, shudder.  Expect Coca Cola stock shares to fall sharply upon the release of this news.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Annie!

When I was two years old, my mom and dad told me I was going to have a baby brother or sister.  I was immediately sure what I wanted to name him or her:  Dr. Smith, after the mean and sarcastic villain from "Lost in Space."  Can you even believe that my parents didn't allow this?  Dr. Smith Wright is the most beautiful name of our generation, better than even Fifi Trixibelle Geldoff.  I'm still a little disappointed.

Here's an annoying little character flaw about my sister: she literally can't tell a lie.  One night, when I was seven and she was five, I was giving myself a manicure (as you do at seven) and I spilled nail polish remover all over our dresser.  Annie and I scrubbed and scrubbed but watched in horror as the chemicals ate away at the finish of the dresser.  There was nothing we could do.  It was ruined.

We were supposed to go to the zoo the next morning with our next door neighbors, Nancy and Ken.  I really wanted to go.  Somehow I convinced Annie that she should take the blame for my mishap.  She reluctantly agreed.  I'll never forget sitting in the bathroom listening to my mom screech, "What happened to this dresser?"  Annie hesitated, then said, "I did... TARYN DID IT!"  Oh the joys of a sibling who can only tell the truth.

Annie has a major phobia about blood.  One day at five years old, she lost a tooth, looked at the bloody root and promptly fainted.  The next time she had a loose tooth, my mom sent her to kindergarten in a football helmet.  Problem solving, it's what she does.

In early 2001 when I traveled to visit her in Italy after she had been studying there for a while, Annie decided to convince me that she had become sophisticated and European chic.  She dressed all in black and headed to the airport to pick me up.  My luggage had been lost so I was delayed at my gate.  At one point I turned around to see Annie rushing towards me, attempting to act disinterested and European.  She couldn't understand why I didn't look happy to see her, but then again, she didn't see the five Italian army guys with machine guns chasing her because she had wandered beyond the security checkpoint.  

She's the only person I trust to drive me and the only person who will see movies like "Snake on a Plane" with at the theater.  I feel very lucky to have a baby sister like Dr. Smith, even if she is THIRTY now and her looks are going downhill fast!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Remember How I Cook Sometimes?

Weight Watchers Online, day 2, is going swimmingly.  This morning I restocked my fridge for the first time in, oh, four months or so.

(After carefully cleaning it so The Internet doesn't know I somehow have dog hair in my refrigerator, or "frigerator" as we call it in Chicago) (or at least I do).

What is this lump of Italian-ish stuff, you may ask?  Cooking Light Sausage-Stuffed Manicotti, and boy was it good.  Kind of a giant pain in the butt to prepare because it needed four pans, but worth it.

Cooper is blown away that I am actually using the stove.  

Gosh, I even forgot what a gifted food photographer I truly am.

So it was good, I am down 20 lbs in 2 days so far, so right on target.  I should hit my goal weight by tonight at midnight.  Hurray!  

That last paragraph was brought to you by magical thinking and delusions, proudly serving my life since 1978.

The Impostor

I just braved the 15 degree temperatures and -2 degree wind chill to take Cooper out. One of my neighbors, a rather humorless fellow, stopped me so we could chat, which is just what you should do when it's bone-chillingly freezing outside.

Before I go on, the man doesn't like me.  Five years ago, I went outside and discovered someone had thrown a paving stone through the windshield of my car.  A group of neighbors had gathered around to inspect the damage.  I took one look at it and I laughed.  I mean, what was I supposed to do, cry?  We have bars nearby and drunk idiots wandering around at all hours of the night, so I doubt it was a personal vendetta or anything.  This particular neighbor was very disturbed by my laughter and has been giving me the side-eye ever since.

So this morning, as boogers froze in my nose and Cooper eyed his lapdog suspiciously, the neighbor asked me, "Is that the same dog you've always had?"

I looked down, inspecting Cooper carefully.  "Umm, yes?  I think so."

The neighbor looked doubtful.  "He looks younger and thinner."

First of all, no one ever says that to me.

Seven years ago, when Coop was only a year old, I took him to Petco so they could cut his nails and give him a bath.  Keep in mind, my dog is crazy and any interaction with strangers is accompanied by shaking, peeing, whining and attempting to run away, so I was prepared for a fun and exciting time.

I came back an hour later and the lady lead out a black lab wearing Cooper's collar.

"Hmm, did you guys shave his chest or something?" I asked, examining the newly-developed grey hair around his belly and mouth.

"What?  No.  All we did was give him a bath."

I paid, looking down at the dog and petting his head.  I figured that this grooming experience had taken a lot out of him, even turning his hair grey.  From then on, I figured I'd stick to giving him showers in my bathroom, the poor dog.

I left the store and was halfway to the car when another employee chased me down.

"Ma'am!  Ma'am!  That's not your dog!"

Confused, I eyed the dog again, who seemed perfectly happy to be leaving with me.  "Uhh, are you sure?" I asked.

The woman couldn't hide her disgust for me.  "That dog is twelve years old, ma'am.  That dog has got cataracts."

The dog looked at me, again perfectly content, and I noticed the milky film over his eyes.  Yeah, this wasn't my dog after all.

So this morning when my grouchy neighbor questioned the identity of my dog, I actually had to look.  As far as I know, the dog in my house is still Cooper, but if you read about a lady from Chicago eaten by a strange dog in her apartment, don't be surprised that it's me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wow! A Diet Post!

Oh, so remember that whole thing about this being a weight loss blog?  I have managed to use magic tricks and glitter and stories about petting coyotes to make all of you forget about that.  Except for you, Jess L.  You're my conscience when it comes to that whole thing, and I appreciate that.

As my friend Susan reminded me last week, my fifteen year high school reunion is in April.  I am not sure how the heck that happened since I am still mentally fifteen, but that's what the calendar says.  As a result of this and not wanting to have people not recognize me because of my many chins, I am putting this fitness and diet crap back on the front burner.

(Actually I weigh less now than I did when I graduated from high school.  Also I used to dress like this, so I think we're golden on the whole looking better than I did in 1996 thing)

I don't even know what to say about the above picture so I'll just smoothly segue away from the fact that apparently I not only didn't own a mirror, I also dressed like an easter egg.

So I signed back up for Weight Watchers online, which worked for me in the past.  I am starting that today and apparently there are a billion new aspects to it, but I'm confident I'll figure it out eventually.

I am also exercising, but probably taking it slow for a while.  I think I messed my hip up again this morning.  Just another day at the nursing home I apparently live at now.  Hopefully it's just a pulled muscle and it'll go away, but I think walking is the only exercise I should be doing until I figure out what I'm going to do for physical therapy.

As in every diet that has ever worked for me, I'm going to cook at home more, drink more water, eat less crap and exercise.  I should patent that magic formula for weight loss success, although I'm not sure I'd be the best spokesperson right now.

I will check in once a week and do a ticker thing on the sidebar so you can marvel at how well I am doing.  My pride can't take any more "Well, I tried, you guys, but excuse excuse excuse excuse" type of posts, so keep your fingers crossed. I'm sure that burns calories, so that's a bonus.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Skype Hype

I was wide awake this morning at 5 AM, reading about the death of ReRun from "What's Happenin!" on, when my computer made a funny noise.  I clicked over to my Gmail tab and saw a pop-up window that read "Incoming Call from Kerry."  I hit accept and immediately my beloved sister popped up on my screen.

"Oh hey," she said, like it was 100% normal to be chatting on our computers when we live an hour away from each other and it is 5 AM on a Sunday.

Tonight, she got my beloved mother in on the act.  Keep in mind, my mom is still convinced that she is going to get audited because I posted her picture on Facebook, so this is a big step.

Do not mock my sweatshirt.  I like the color Hillbilly Huntin' Orange, and it was very cold today.

Ahh, finally I see my mom in her natural wine-addled state.  I didn't recognize her for a few minutes.

Kerry is a great undiscovered actress and model.  ARE YOU READING THIS TYRA?  She is both smiling with her eyes and looking totally natural pretending to guzzle cheap wine.

My mom is eying the glass carefully to make sure Kerry doesn't spill a drop.  That wine is at least seven cents an ounce.

I have no comment for this.  It is reassuring to know that my wackadoodle-dooness is genetic.

And of course, since my sister likes to pretend I give a rip about her bird, a creature that I've mentally weighed when running low on chicken while cooking dinner, he had to be included in the experience.

The 21st century has arrived in the Harper-Wright family, and I am frightened.

Friday, December 3, 2010

WUI (Writing Under the Influence)

Well, this one is a little bit embarrassing.

A couple of weeks ago, a publicist working with the company that makes Laughing Cow cheese emailed me and asked if I'd like to take part in a contest they were sponsoring.  They asked thirty bloggers to sample some of their flavors and come up with a description of the "personality" of the cheese in 140 characters or less.

Since I love Laughing Cow cheese, I agreed right away.  They overnighted me a package with a wheel of cheese all wrapped up in cold packs and bubble wrap.  I tried it on some Wheat Thins and all was right with the world.

One problem:  I was completely loopy on painkillers that week.  I have a notoriously low tolerance for any kind of drug.  Ask my mom about when she overdosed me on Benadryl and I slept for two full days.  I think some people might call that a coma.  I wonder if I could call DCFS and have her charged with child neglect retroactively.

Anyway, I sent in my entry for the contest and when I reviewed it a couple of days later, this time with a mind not riddled with narcotics, I was horrified.

Here's my description of the personality of Mozzarella, Sun Dried Tomato and Basil cheese.

Really it seemed so clever when I was seeing pink elephants on parade and talking to the walls.  Sigh.

Anyway, if you'd like to vote for my incredible entry, please click here.  If I win, I get a gift basket of cheese products, and since I'm Midwestern that's equivalent to a medium-size lottery jackpot.

Thank you in advance, and say nope to dope.