Tuesday, November 18, 2014


When did it become acceptable to use "ask" as a noun, i.e., "I need to take care of a client ask," or "Here's a list of the asks."  What's wrong with "question," or "request," or "requirement?"  Too many syllables?  Where did it come from?  Is this just a case of someone trying to be clever and it spilled over into marketing-speak?  I've started to hear it all over the place, and I think the thing that annoys me about it the most is that it's not a new, made-up, word, but an existing word used in a weird, awkward way.  I see no need for it.

I went to the allergy doctor several months ago and he said that he believed that I had both asthma and acid reflux, which often go together.  He prescribed several, well, five, medications for me.  I dutifully filled the prescriptions and have been taking everything at the mandated times.

For about a month I have had excruciating pain in my knees. I figured I had twisted my knee or something, although I couldn't really remember anything.  I wore a brace for awhile, and that helped, but I hated to get dependent on it.  It was getting so bad that I could hardly walk.  Hot baths helped, but getting in and out of the tub was almost impossible due to the pain in my knees.  I've been hobbling around like an old woman, thinking maybe I'm just too heavy, and I reached the point at which my knees could no longer take it.

On Friday evening, I was lying in bed with my legs up over a pillow to keep them in a semi-bent position, which seemed to work the best.  If I laid when them out straight, it was terrible to bend them, and vice versa.  I thought, this is ridiculous, I feel like I'm in a hospital bed. And I had this epiphany--maybe the joint pain was a side effect of one of the new meds I was taking, because it didn't really make any sense.  The arrival of the knee pain corresponded closely with the time that I stopped using a sample Symbicort inhaler that the doctor had given me, and started using a new one, Advair, since my insurance wouldn't cover the Symbicort.

So I didn't take anything on Saturday or Sunday, and Monday morning I would estimate my knees felt 80% better.  On Monday afternoon, though, my chest was feeling tight, so I went ahead and took an asthma pill (Singulair), and I was having heartburn later in the afternoon, so I took the acid reducer (famotidine) when I went to bed. I did not use the Advair inhaler, which is what I believe is causing the problem.  (This may be just because I hate it -- it tastes bad, is unpleasant to use, and is very expensive.)

Last night I ran a bunch of errands after work -- got gas, went to Bed, Bath and Beyond for a small space heater and humidifier supplies, picked up a book at the library, cashed a check at the bank, went to Kohl's to spend a $5 coupon that expired today, and went to the grocery store.  By the time I got home several hours later, my legs were really tired and sore, but they didn't feel too bad this morning, certainly better than they had for weeks.

I called the doctor's office yesterday, wanting to talk to him to see if it was plausible that one of the meds was causing the joint pain, and someone from the office called back this morning.  She said he had left a note that I was to stop all meds for one week, then add them back in, one per week, and see if the pain came back.  This was extremely upsetting, because the whole reason I had gone to him in the first place was that I was coughing so badly that I was sleeping on the couch so as not to keep Bob up, and maybe sleeping two or three consecutive hours a night.

I understand what he is trying to do, and it makes sense, but I just don't see how I can do it.  I would be absolutely miserable for six weeks without anything to treat the asthma, allergies, or acid reflux.  The nurse asked, "Is that something that you can do," and I told her no, I just didn't see how I could.  I said that I would think about it and maybe call the doctor back next week.  I don't know what to do.  I really like the doctor, and I want to do what he says, but I just don't think I can do it.  I think I'll try a few more days without the Advair and see how it goes. That will be my version of a scientific experiment.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Creating habits

I'm doing a photo-a-day thing over on Instagram. I love Instagram, and I'm having a lot of fun playing around with different photography apps and filters, and making my photos look interesting (at least to me). The person running the project picks four photos each day, and I don't know whether to say they're the "best," or her favorites, or what the criteria is. She says that's difficult, and I'm sure it is. I've looked at a few of the ones that were picked, and so many of them look like professional photos, with lightboxes and staged object and posed subjects. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I couldn't be less interested.

I love the little moments, the everyday things. I love seeing a blurry photo of someone's scruffy dog, or the flowers that they got for their anniversary, or their kids' Halloween costumes. My own photos tend to be what I see out the window at work, or Dinah lying in her chair, or one of the dogs at work acting goofy, or a fortune cookie fortune that tickled me. I try to make a nice composition, at least sometimes, but I usually don't give it a lot of thought. For me, the point is recoding something from my day, and making the commitment to look for something beautiful, or at least interesting, in that day. And to take the photo of that everyday object and play around with it and make it more interesting, or more beautiful.

Rachel Herron writes:

That part, the cataloguing, feels important to me. We’re so good at posting the pretty and the perfect. We like Pinterest for a reason. Pretty is attractive. We like the well lit, the well composed, the perfect. It’s good to open that up and post the real things, the attempts that don’t work as well as the ones that do.

She's talking about a sketch-a-day project that she's doing, but the sentiment is the same.

This month the project is alphabetical, i.e., the first day of the month was A, the second day B, and so on. I couldn't think of anything for yesterday (N) until I went to the cabinet for a snack and saw the container of mixed nuts. Aha! The picture isn't very well composed, or particularly interesting, but it's a slice of my life, and when I see it I will remember the process of creating it.

The benefits are two-fold. One, it's a commitment to do something every day, whether inspiration strikes or not. Because you can't wait for inspiration to strike, you have to forge ahead and keep your eyes open, and make it happen. Make it happen every day, make it into a habit, and it will be so much fun to look back on. I'm also doing two other "every day" projects right now. One is affirmations that I write every morning, and the other is a gratitude journal that I write every night. I put them in my iPhone reminders, and it is always a temptation to say, "oh well, it doesn't matter if I skip a day," but it does matter.

Two, it's creative. It may be a tiny bit of creativity, but it's creativity, and every little bit helps push me to the next level. It's like Anne Lamotte's concept of "shitty first drafts," or Barbara Bretton's "butt to chair." You just put it out there, and keep putting it out there, and even if the first iteration is terrible (and it almost always will be), it will just keep getting better as time goes on. You just have to keep doing it.

So, I just keep doing it. Today's letter is O . . . .

(I designed Barbara Bretton's website, and I'm pretty proud of it. I'm not even going to put any caveats or false modesty in there, because I know it's good. Once in awhile you just get it right.)

(Oh, and I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year, and it's not like I have nothing else to do. But the busier I am, the more plates in the air, the better.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Photo apps and magical thinking

I like the idea of having rituals that I do every day, but I'm not very good at sticking to them. But there are all kinds of iPhone apps that help me do it, and I did pretty well in September.

I've tried to the "photo-a-day" thing before, but I always kind of fizzle out. In September I did it every day. Part of it was having fun with a bunch of iPhone photography apps, and having a new iPhone with the space to install a bunch of them.

Aside: When the new iPhone 6 came out, the price on the previous models dropped dramatically. I had a 16GB iPhone 4, and the home button was starting to be unreliable. I was able to get the 32GB 5S for $149. Then the battery on Bob's cell phone stopped holding a charge. We were both out of contract, and he could have gotten a 5C for free, but he decided he would be happy with my old 3G, so he swapped out the SIM card from his old phone, I added a data plan, and he's back in business with a new (to him) iPhone for just a few dollars more a month. He's really enjoying it.

My current favorite photo apps:

Instagram, of course. It might be my favorite app of all.

Little Moments. This is the app built for the Fat Mum Slim Photo a Day project. It has a bunch of nice filters and doodles. This is the photo-a-day project that I did in September and will probably continue with.

CCDays. I don't use this one so much for the photo-a-day challenge aspect as for the calendar view that automatically pulls in your Instagram photos and displays them.

Afterlight. A photo filter app with lots of nice, soft filters.

MagicHour. I love this one! It has tons of user-created filters, and new ones are added all the time. My favorite is the default "Magic Hour" filter.

Some more good ones:

DistressedFX. Lots of really nice distressed-looking filters, and you can add birds to your photos as well.

Aura. A nice group of good filters.

Instaplace. Adds overlays to your photos with location and other info.

Day of the Dead Me. Decorate your photos for the Day of the Dead!

I kind of got carried away with the iPhone photo apps, but there are a couple of other rituals that I am doing lately. One of them involves another iPhone app, this time, Gratitude Journal. I have it set to send me a reminder at 10:00 every night, and I open up the app and add at least 5 things that I'm grateful for. It's usually small things like getting a compliment, having something good for lunch, sleeping with the windows open, etc. And sometimes it's a stretch to think of five things, but it's a good exercise to go through every day, and I think it helps mood-wise.

I'm also doing affirmations first thing in the morning. I am going through a Daily Om course for the second (or maybe third) time, called "Make Yourself a Money Magnet." It's all about changing your mindset about money, and I have to admit mine is pretty bad. It's really hard for me to change my thought patterns, but I'm trying. It always seems to work to a certain degree, i.e., when I'm going through it I always start getting a bunch of little things, like finding coins in the street or getting my annual $1.87 dividend check from a former employer.

It's a form of magical thinking, of course, but I do think that if you can change your thought processes, you can sometimes make changes in your world. You just have to believe that change is possible.

Here's another photo app: Simplique - For making cool iPhone wallpaper from your photos.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I am so annoyed at Target

I used to love shopping at "my" Target store. It had everything I needed, I knew where everything was, and I just liked it. I almost never shopped anywhere else. I got all my groceries and drugstore items there, they had a great office supply department, household stuff, pretty much everything.

Then they remodeled. For the last few months it's been a mess, but I kept going, assuming they'd figure it all out and it would be the same, but better. That didn't happen. They finished, I guess, or at least it seems like it's finished, but it's kind of awful.

One of the reasons I liked it was because it was big, and spacious, and it was just kind of fun to wander around in. Now the aisles are VERY narrow, and REALLY long, it's almost claustrophobic. And they switched to those huge plastic carts that look children's toys, and you can barely get two of them down on of the newly narrow aisles. And of course, they've moved everything, which I expected, but I'm not really excited about doing a scavenger hunt every time I need something. I went there on Saturday, and I can't remember what it was, but there was something that I never did find. I just gave up.

Tonight I wanted to make soup when I got home, and I was thinking, well, Target has good produce, usually, I'll give it another shot. It's like the produce department is just for decoration now. I wanted celery, and they had a few packages of celery *hearts,* but no actual celery stalks. I like to use the tops in my soup, but nope, they didn't have any. They had baby carrots, but no whole ones. There was a lovely little display of peppers, though, like four of each color arranged very artistically.

It's like a boutique grocery store or something, like the one down at the lake that drives me nuts because they have one brand of pickles and one brand of jelly or whatever . . .

My dad complains that all the stores now want to be all things to all people, like how they're all adding gas stations and coffee shops so they can get all your money. I'm not sure what the aim here is, but I think at some point stores need to realize that they can't be all things to all people. I actually did enjoy going to Target as kind of a destination, but it was just because I could get what I wanted there, and it was a pleasant shopping experience.

I actually couldn't believe that they didn't have celery stalks. They had some organic celery for about twice what I was willing to pay. So I bailed and went to the Price Chopper across the street. Bye bye Target, it was nice knowing you.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New site for Barbara Bretton

I designed a new site this weekend for my first client, author Barbara Bretton, to highlight the October re-release of two of her books set in the 40's and 50's.