Thursday, August 28, 2014


Painted Lady by Tina Phillips
The Butterfly Effect, or the Chaos Theory, is the thought that a small incident will cause cascading events that result in exponential actions or events. The example, of course, is the flutter of butterfly wings will set off triggers that result in a hurricane down the road. As a writer, I like it. It makes for a great plot line. It can be used in a straight line or in multiple lines in parallel universe type plots. It can be used for time travel forward or back, flashbacks, dreams, etc. In real life, I'm not a fan.

I like predictability and routine and schedules. I have a HUGE white board calendar that hangs in my hallway. I have a kitchen calendar that hangs on the wall. I have a Franklin Planner that I carry everywhere and write everything in it. I have even started using the reminder and calendar functions on my phone. I plan everything and schedule everything literally months in advance. Surprises and spontaneity, I don't like. At all. Period. I don't understand them.

I get that things happen and come up (although I'm not sure why when there are planning devices everywhere) but I particularly dislike the concept of the Butterfly Effect. Just why should a butterfly fluttering in the Congo result in a hurricane taking the roof off my house? Rude! Just where is this butterfly now? I want to press it in my planner. What that is, is something, or someone, making their problem my problem and I don't believe they have the right to do that. And if they try, I don't think I actually need to participate - I can say no. I should say no. Especially when it comes to things that could have been just as easily scheduled with a little forethought and preparation by the first party.

Then again, from strictly an outside perspective there a certain Rube Goldberg-type beauty of the Butterfly Effect. Like intricate cascading dominoes or an M.C. Escher sketch. Who hasn't marveled at one of Escher's sketches and tried to find the logic in the absurdity? Who hasn't stood dominoes on end and then tapped the first one making them fall? Isn't it disappointing when they don't all fall (or is it)?

Maybe the key is to remain objective, to try to see the bigger picture. What is our Muse's plan, or God's plan, or the structure in the chaos? Perhaps on some level we are all butterflies to someone or something else that is bigger down the road. Or, perhaps we are in the midst of a hurricane waiting for the storm to pass. It makes for good musings. I'll have to schedule time to think about it.

Friday, August 8, 2014


A couple of weeks ago I underwent surgery to be spayed. I'm okay with that. Little Man will forever be the only Little Man we have. Even if I didn't have my girl parts removed, he would still be the only off-spring because I am *ahem* over thirty-five. Okay, I'm over thirty-eight. Aside from no longer needing the parts, in my family bad things start to happen to the parts and they turn on us and become toxic. My parts were heading down that road. Rather than take a "let's monitor the progress of trouble" stance, my doctor offered me the choice but told me that eventually we'd reach the removal part. I was all onboard. Just get it over with.

Medieval Barber from Saturday Night Live
There's a whole lot of trust that goes on when you place your life in the hands of other people. I'm not good with that. I know me better than anyone else. I know what I need and what I can and cannot tolerate. When you go into surgery, you have to hope they listened and they are paying attention. And that is usually the case. But always keep in mind they are still practicing medicine and so were Medieval barbers. Yet it's after surgery that I dread.

First, there is discomfort from the surgical procedure. Then there's all the tubes, the uncomfortable bed, the really bad food, and lack of privacy and dignity. Most of the nurses are fine and know how to draw blood and hang a new IV bag. Just remember, they have a number of patients and you are just another alarm going off that needs to be checked. They don't know you and your "things to watch" unless they read through your chart. If you survive for two days, they let you go home. Ahhh, home sweet home.

For me, recovery is tortuous. I can handle the discomfort or pain and I stop the narcotic medications before I go home. If I need something to take the edge off, well, I'm good with ibuprofen. For me what is so difficult about recovery is the idleness and isolation. I can't drive. I can't lift or pick up Little Man. I can't easily go up and down the stairs. I can't sweep, or clean, or cook, or do laundry. I can't sit too long or stand too long or lay down too long. I don't sit still vey well and being idle drives me crazy.

Sure, I've done a LOT on the needlepoint project for church. Yeah, I finished knitting my sister's sweater. Yes, I started a scarf for the church knitting group that resumes in a couple of weeks. Yup, I am working on starting a business, working on the final touches of the ghost writing job I've been doing and I've done some revisions on my novel. But, I'm used to doing all that, and everything else too.

But what I miss most is Little Man. While I was in the hospital and during my recovery he has stopped needing me to lay down with him to fall asleep. He goes to bed on his own. He has stopped asking to sit in my lap and goes off to be by himself. He has stopped giving me random hugs. He stopped needing me. I don't know if I'll ever recover from that.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What's In It?

I am the product of parents with allergies. Not weird allergies, just your run-of -the-mill allergies like hay fever and minor food allergies. Their combination, however, manifested in all three of us children allergies of the most serious kind - anaphylactic reactions. All three of us have adverse reactions to nuts. And also other things, but primarily nuts. Now, I can eat some things that my siblings can't and they can eat things I can't and the sisters can eat things my brother can't, and he can eat things we can't. All-in-all, we are an allergists dream case study! What are the odds? Well, 1.3% of the American population has this type of allergy to nuts and when one sibling has it, then the other siblings are 7% more likely to have it too.

photo by franky242
This food allergy battle is one we've fought our whole lives. Both my sister and I carry Epi Pens in case of an emergency and all of us have gone to the hospital at one time or another because we inadvertently ingested something we shouldn't have. We've also endured the comments from the non-allergic people about our being odd or even people making fun of the nut allergy. I get it, they don't understand and don't care. The kind side of me shrugs it off. The bad side of me envisions putting a plastic bag over their heads and watching them struggle to breathe. That's what an anaphylactic reaction feels like. Maybe then they wouldn't joke about it and they'd take it more seriously.

In 2004 a federal law was pass (the Food Allergen Labeling Law) that requires packaged foods to disclose ingredients that are food allergens such as nuts,  soy, eggs, wheat, etc. This was expanded to restaurant menus too. Personally, I'm grateful for the notices on the restaurant doors that tell me they use peanut oil. Thank you Five Guys, Chick-Fil-A, Maryland Fried Chicken. I will never eat at your establishment - not because I dislike you, but because I can't. I am, however, forever grateful for the life-saving warning.

There have been a number of deaths due to the unknowing ingesting of allergens. Most notably was the 1986 case in Providence, RI. A restaurant used peanut butter in the chili as a thickener. A girl ate the chili, had an anaphylactic reaction and died before she could receive treatment. There are countless other stories, just Google it. Most recently there was a blog post from Christina’s Cucina  circulating on Facebook about a girl who had a reaction to a spice that was used in her food. The 2004 law eliminated the requirement for labeling spices since they are used in such small amounts as to not be troublesome. I disagree with that since I get tingling from nutmeg. Not enough to make me stab myself with the Epi Pen, but still I tingle unpleasantly. Anyway, this girl reacted to pink peppercorns in the pepper blend the restaurant used. Apparently, pink peppercorns are not peppercorns but a cousin of cashews. I’m glad I saw this post. I had just purchased a new bottle of peppercorn blend and wouldn’t you know it – pink peppercorns. Yup, I tossed it. No reason to poison myself in my own home.

Now that I’ve gotten the introduction out of the way, this is what I’m trying to say. Yes, I know it’s my problem. Yes, I know it’s my responsibility to stay away from the things that will hurt me. Yes, I know it’s my responsibility to ask what’s in the food. So, here it is. Ready? When I ask, it’s your responsibility to know what’s in the food and tell me. What? Yes. When I ask, “Are there nuts in that?” you must to be able to tell me yes or no. My life depends on it.

In case anyone is confused about what constitutes a “nut” or you were too busy rolling your eyes to read how serious this issue is; below is a list to clarify my question, “Are there nuts in that?” this is what I mean by “nut.”

Almond paste (marzipan)
Nutella (hazelnut/chocolate spread)
Pine nuts (watch for in pesto)
Almond extract
Pink Peppercorns
Macadamia nuts
Peanut butter
Brazil nuts
Peanut oil
Walnut extract

 Please don’t invite me over for fried turkey you fried in peanut oil. Please don’t offer me hazelnut coffee. Please don’t put ground walnuts in the crust of your pie or cheese cake and offer me a piece. Please don’t put nutmeg on my cappuccino. Please don’t put almond extract in your fruit pie. I do not want an amaretto sour or an Alabama Slammer. No, I’d rather not have pesto sauce. No Pad Thai noodles made with peanut flour or Mexican molĂ© sauce with the peanut butter either. Please don’t offer me anything to eat unless, of course, you can tell me what’s in it.