Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feeling All Tilt Shifty

There is a mechanism in my brain that works in a funny way -- depending on how you look at it, it is either blocked and doesn't work so well or it works entirely too well, putting in too many over time hours. I first became aware of it in college.

When I was a sophomore in college, I roomed with one of my best friends from high school, and for some time, it was fantastic. That is, until we hit a rough patch. After some weeks and months of bickering and giving each other the silent treatment, I developed irritable bowel syndrome. When I visited the doctor's office, she asked if I recently made any changes to my diet. I told her no. She then asked if I was going through a lot of stress. I thought about it, then told her no, not that I could think of. I hadn't started consuming more fiber, I wasn't under any new stress, but still I suffered. Terrible gas, stomach pain and other bathroom horrors plagued me daily, but I couldn't figure out why. What had happened to give me IBS?

It wasn't until years later that I understood that that sophomore year of college was, indeed, very stressful. While she thought I was sleeping, my roommate had hovered over me in the middle of the night and threatened to smash my glasses, steal my cell phone and scream in my ear. Before this, we went for months without saying a single word to each other. Near the end of the year, no one on the dorm floor visited our room anymore because no one could stand the palpable tension, thick like walls made of cheese blocks. It is amazing to me now to think that I didn't find any of that stressful enough to report to the dr.

After this, I realized that the mechanism in my brain that allows me to accurately interpret my emotions is off. When I'm distressed or angry or tiffed or anything like that, I have a hard time putting my finger on what is bothering me. I could wake up one morning and find that my neighbor has blown up my car and I would walk to work feeling not quite like myself, but not sure why. I would ask myself: did I sleep funny? Am I hungry? Did I forget to turn off the coffee machine at home? The obvious would completely escape me. The mechanism instead brings my emotions and feelings to my attention by manifesting them into some sort of physical ailment -- if I am stressed out, I won't know it until I have IBS, if I'm depressed, I won't know it long after all my hair and teeth have fallen out.

Since Alan's been diagnosed with cancer, I feel mostly fine. At least, I think I feel fine. I think I am handling it all pretty well. But lately I've had trouble sleeping at night which is maybe my mechanism's way of telling me I am actually distressed. The not sleeping well has caused me to feel under the weather this week which means that I've had a sore throat with a license to kill. On Monday night it was so bad that I didn't want to talk to anyone at all, and Alan, fed up with my moodiness, finally told me to to take one of his Vicodin pills before bed.

I never really thought Vicodin did anything special until that night. Until I experienced an odd, but pleasant sensation, one that felt like I was on a big fluffy cloud floating away to a warm, tropical and sunny island of sleep. From a small mole hill far, far away, a tiny voice broke through my cloud to talk about things that had happened during his day and things that he wanted to do tomorrow. The voice was nice enough, but so far away. It kept going on and on until I recognized that it was Alan's voice. If I were on a big fluffy cloud headed toward an island of sleep, Alan was on a Tilt Shift picture, a tiny person in a scenic background that I could hear from light year's away.

I found out about Tilt Shift pictures about a month ago and consequently spent a whole night searching through all of my photos for pictures to Tilt Shift.







Sunday, February 22, 2009

A New Sharks Fan

Throughout my life, I must admit that I have never been the hugest sports fan, but I do like some of them for various reasons. I like watching baseball games because of the opportunity to eat fried foods that I might otherwise feel guilty about eating elsewhere. There is something about eating fried foods in an open air environment that is quite liberating. While living in LA, at Dodgers' games, I also found that I could squeeze in at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise while doing the wave and hitting beach balls in between every other play.

My appreciation for basketball began while I was at UCLA. I understood that we had a pretty good team and so had a pretty good reason to put on our UCLA-branded attire and partake in lots of taunting of the opposing team. I also liked football games, although much less, and mostly because I liked doing the 8-clap.

I find that sports are about as entertaining as watching an exotic animal giving birth. For instance, if I were on my way to work and happened to see a giraffe about to give birth, I would probably stop because, well, I would already be there and all. Since the giraffe and I'd already be there, it'd be sort of exciting and so I would feel compelled to watch. This is like when I walk into someone's house and find him/her watching a basketball game. I would sit down and fix my attention on the game because it's right there in front of me, and I couldn't help but be mesmerized with all the running back and forth across the screen.

Watching the giraffe give birth is also similar to my regard of watching sports because I don't actively go seeking animal births as much as I don't seek out sports. I never know what sports are in season and am made only mildly aware from the clips I see on the TVs at the gym. But if a giraffe were standing outside my house or a baseball game was on the TV at a friend's, then sure, I would watch.

But lately when I hear people talking about sports, I feel a pang of envy. I am envious because I can hear the excitement in their voices, the way they talk about their favorite teams as if their teams were their personal, long time friends. I, too, want to care so much about my favorite team that I absolutely cannot make any other plans that coincide with the televising of their game.

More than just a desire to start following and watching sports regularly, I want my eyes to light up and glisten when my team scores. I want to be able to shout and belittle my favorite player when he makes a mistake, all the while knowing I don't really mean it, that I would take it back if he just started playing like he meant it, gosh dammit! I want to care, I want to want to watch. I want to be let into the sports fans' club.

Last week, when Alan had Sharks' tickets and was trying to decide who to take with him, I knew I had to make my case. This could be the sport that made it all click for me, and what better way to tell if it was than seeing a live game? Somehow I convinced him that I would really appreciate it, so on Tuesday I found myself sitting in the cold pavilion watching the players slip around on the ice, battling each other for the small black puck. It turned out to be very enjoyable watching the players tumble over the walls of the rink and spilling onto the ice, taking off in all directions. It was great learning how to make the shark mouth, but most of all, it was fascinating to see the fights breaking out on the ice -- pound, pound, crack, slam! The noises, you could hear it all. It was almost Jerry Springer meets Baby Giraffe Being Born good.

I have no idea what this building houses, but it's right outside the pavilion and I always admire its handsome lighting whenever I drive by.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Are we on Candid Camera?

I can think of a number of different occasions in which consistency is really important. Making frosting is one of them -- you have to whip it up just right to get it to that light fluffy texture. Another example is branding. Consistent branding can help better communicate a company's message and value to its consumers. But perhaps the biggest occasion in which consistency is important is at dr.'s visits.

Alan's doctors all work at the same hospital and all of them are working to help him get better. For this, I am thankful for their long years in med school and the extra work it took them to specialize in gastrointestinal medicine or oncology. It feels good to know that they must see hundreds of cancer patients a year, all with a different story, all with a customized treatment plan; treating people is what these dr.'s do. It's their job.

What gets me though, is that despite the fact that they are all seeing the same problem (Alan's cancer), they all see different things, or rather, different levels of things. This might be expected since they each do/look for/care about different things according to whatever specialization they have. It only becomes a problem when they speak to us about Alan's cancer and it seems as though they are all reading a page from a different book. The GI doctor who first broke the news said that the tumor wasn't that big. A few weeks later, the surgeon said that the tumor wasn't the biggest she'd seen, but also wasn't the smallest, and that the cancer was in stage 1b/2a. In passing, she mentioned something about lymph nodes. This morning, we visited the oncologist who informed us that since the cancer was present in the lymph nodes (so this is what the surgeon was talking about), the cancer was really in the 3b stage. Now, on a scale of 1-4 stages of cancer, it's quite shocking to go from a 1b/2a to a 3b in a week. This is where some hint of consistency across dr.'s visits would be helpful.

Next week, when Alan meets with his radiation oncologist, I am pretty sure (at least I'm hoping) that a "nurse" will come in and interrupt the dr. while he's speaking to us. She will hand the dr. a different chart than the one he is already holding in front of him. He'll look at the report inside, smile at us, then point to the upper corner of the room. "Smile!" he'll say. "You're on Candid Camera!"

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Valentine Cake

Valentine's Day stopped being a big deal for me after I left the sixth grade. After the sixth grade you became painfully aware of how no one sent you a secret valentine in fifth period and how you didn't have any flowers to tout around in between classes. But during all of elementary school, when a whole day would be devoted to making mail boxes in which to receive valentine's from every single one of your classmates (because those were the rules), those were the golden days. Even though we had to give everyone a valentine, whether we wanted to or not, I still took my time the night before addressing my cards to the right people. If one of the pre-printed Garfield cards I had said "Be Mine," I had to make sure that didn't go to just anyone. I didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea after all. The best cards were the ones that could be given to any one, ones that said things like "You're swell!" or "Happy Valentine's!"

This year I only had to worry about giving away one valentine. I decided to surprise Alan with a cake from Margaret's French Bakery, a divine place that I had visited a year earlier with Denise and Justin during a wedding cake tasting. After the tasting, I thought long and hard about getting married, if only just so I could have a cake by Margaret. Luckily enough for me, Margaret also makes mini 5" cakes. I thought about how Alan and I would get to eat 2 bites of it each before it was all eaten up, but I figured it would be so tasty, that those 2 bites each would be worth the $20. When she asked what I wanted written on the cake, I thought about having her write something really original like "Will you be mine?" or even "I love you," but then I thought better of it and had her write "You really WoW me!" I considered asking her to add a picture of a druid next to it, but thought that might get messy on a 5" cake, so asked her to do a heart instead.

When I went to pick it up and Margaret walked out with a cake that looked like this, I was blown away. It was a lot bigger than I had pictured it, and Alan and I have been enjoying slices for nearly 3 days now. It's moist and delicate and beautiful. I want to have her make me a different flavored cake every week. The next one on my list to try is the banana flavor.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Before March Madness Comes January & February Madness

Alan's birthday banana cream tart from Tartine's

Company holiday party -- We were really thirsty!

Bar hopping in the City -- at this point in bar hopping I still really liked Joe (far right).

At this point in bar hopping, I still really liked Joe and Jon (second in from the left). However, shortly after eating pizza on the sidewalk, Joe and Jon collapsed on top of me into the sidewalk. It had been a really long time since I'd gone out and fallen to the ground. I discovered that when you go out and someone else causes you to fall to the ground, you can show them the two huge purple and brown bruises still covering your knees 2 weeks later. If you are lucky, this will cause them to feel bad enough to go out and buy you juice and a nice card.

Chinese New Year's mini-celebration at Grandma's

Here she is getting the goods ready.

This is something kids often do; it's called playing.

A crazy antique store/nursery (?) in Half Moon Bay

Hayden is growing up so fast. I expect that the next time I see him, he's going to be sporting a 'stache.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Possible Valentine Card Replacement

When it comes to the criteria for whether or not we should end a relationship with someone, we all have standards. For example, I won’t date someone who is below 5’ tall. I know no man asks to be born 4’11” or below, but that is just one of my qualifiers. Also, if I go on a date with someone who doesn’t speak to me, that is grounds for relationship termination. It doesn’t matter if he physically can’t, or even if he’s mute, if he doesn’t even try to make pleasant conversation somehow, it’s over. I’m a real stickler, but hey, that’s just me.

Alan is even worse than I am. Whereas I would want to break up with him if he went out and tattooed his entire face and came home and didn’t say a peep to me about his day, he would break up with me if I got a tattoo -- period. Even if the tattoo was a freshly baked, piping hot pie, in honor of his last name, Pies. I don’t consider myself a huge fan of PDA, (mostly limited to the kind which involves excessive groping, tongue-y kisses and pet name calling), but I feel that a Pie tattoo would be an honorable gesture of my affection. The fact that he feels so strongly against it made me sad, but I eventually got over the scorn.

This morning I found myself waiting in a drab hallway hospital while Alan underwent another procedure. Because the young family sitting on my right didn’t speak English and the older Asian woman on my left looked inconvenienced, I decided not to make conversation with anyone and sat quietly instead. After half an hour of staring at the wall clock, I started wondering what I might say to the Asian woman next to me. She looked rather upset, and I wanted to assure her that it would be all right. But then I thought she might just be going in for a routine check up and there was no need to be worrying people unnecessarily. I pondered over the color of the walls and then the tiles, and just when I was about to start mulling over the placement of the waiting room chairs, an important thought struck me. Behind a closed door close by, a doctor was giving Alan a tattoo on the clump of bad cells within him. Now that he has a tattoo, this could be the perfect opportunity for making my case for getting one myself. I just need to decide on what kind of crust to get…

Monday, February 9, 2009

Beef is an Ugly Word

When I was fifteen I worked in a semi-pizza shop. There I became good friends with another fifteen year old named Ali, a vivacious and candid girl. During any down time, we would decorate pizzas slower, taking the time to spread the sauce more evenly. We'd also find ourselves having those deep, meaningful conversations about life that only fifteen year olds can have. One day, she asked me if I had any words that I thought were particularly terrible. I couldn't think of any that I harbored feelings of disgust for, so I told her no and asked her if she did.

"Beef," she said, sprinkling a fistful of beef crumble onto the pizza before her. "Beef is such a gross word."

I thought about that for awhile and for a long time afterward I could see her point. The way your mouth takes shape while saying the word is a little unsettling.

Now, a decade later, I find myself thinking about her question again. Except this time, I know what my ugly word is. It's "cancer."

About a year and a half ago, I had my first memorable run-in with the word when I found out my mom had breast cancer. I had no idea what to think and in the quiet of the closet-sized room I was subletting in San Francisco, it shook me. I didn't know what cancer looked like, what treatments were available, what would happen next. In the even quieter calm of lying in bed in my teeny-tiny subletted room, my mind would jump faster than I could ask it to stop, and I cried when thinking about the possibility of losing her.

On Thursday, Alan went to the dr.'s office for some test results, and I went into work. While waiting for the doctor he texted me that his throat hurt and he was pretty sure I was the one that got him sick. I rolled my eyes at my phone. A little bit later, he called me and when I picked up, I could tell something was wrong. He asked me to meet him. I asked him what was wrong; I asked him what the dr.'s said.

"I have cancer," was all he said.

On the way home, I fell apart. When I saw him, I fell apart. There was lots of falling apart and regaining composure, only to lose it again soon after.

A day or two later, when the falling apart had let up a bit, Alan commented on the scariness of the word "cancer." I couldn't agree more. I would much rather prefer to hear, "You just have a spot of bad cells here, but not to worry! We'll just snip it right out, give you a little friendly zap or two and you'll be as good as new!"

Tomorrow we find out the details on the spot of bad cells and the snipping it out bit. Think good thoughts for us.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Somewhere In The Middle

Whoever said life is like a roller coaster was spot on. I mean, really nailed it on the head. The variety of build ups from quick and small to long and slow, the drops that go straight down and send your stomach flying into your throat, the turns that throw you against the side of your chair, the turns that go upside down, the parts that go straight, the parts that go so fast you lose your voice. It's a lot like life in many ways. Just think about the entirety of your life and how many times you've had food poisoning. Food poisoning definitely drops you way, way down and makes things from your stomach fly up to your throat. And that is just one example. Life is crazy, bumpy, smooth -- like lots of parts of the roller coaster. However, unlike the ones found in theme parks, the real roller coaster of life offers no guarantees. When falling down a particularly long and steep descent or just when riding along in general, your safety harness might just fly off, the person next to you might beat you up mid-ride for all the money you had intended to spend at the gift shop, a bird could fly into your eye and cause permanent vision impairment. There are no guarantees that you'll get to the end of the ride still safely strapped in and just as happy as when you got on. I suppose the eternal optimist would say, "But that's the fun part right?" And the Debbie Downer might say, "Let me off this thing." I think today I fall somewhere in the middle.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself, Unless You Live on My Street

People on my street have been acting very un-neighborly lately. It started some time ago when someone's dog decided the walkway leading up to my door would make a nice spot indeed for doing its business, and its owner also agreed with it, leaving the poo swirl as it was, decorating the cement. But maybe the owner forgot to bring a bag or maybe he had a lot on his mind and didn't notice. Whatever it was, I let it go and eventually learned to walk around the poo pile.

Last week, neighborhood relations got worse, as only relations can when they involve motorized vehicles and the questionable people who drive them. On my way to work one morning last week, I hadn't even made it out of my street when a red Jetta pulled out of a driveway and nearly crashed into my passenger door. If my memory doesn't fail me, I believe she was also talking on her cell phone like a good driver ought to. I should have honked, but when I didn't, I found that at the very least I wanted to give her a nasty stare, but she stalled behind me for so long, I figured she realized cell phones, idiots and red Jettas are never a good combination on her very own.

A few days later, I walked out to my car and noticed a citation officer giving me a ticket. In the hopes that maybe he was writing up the person behind me, I slid past him and almost made it safely into my car when he came up to me. When he said "You're blocking this man's driveway," there was no denying the fact that he was in fact talking to me. I looked at him, looked at my neighbor of three doors down who was standing, but not looking at me, on the sidewalk, and then looked at my car "blocking" his driveway. As intelligently as I could, I said that I didn't think I was blocking his driveway. The citation officer said "You're a foot into his driveway." I wanted to say – oh so badly I wanted to say – "Yea, but he has another 15 feet of driveway and it's not like he has very many customers anyway driving into his driveway, so I really don't see what the problem is."

I also wanted to tell him that last night I had come home from a very long day of work (just trying to keep my job at the factory I was!) and after a long yoga session after that, all I wanted to do was park my car, get in my house and proceed to melt into the couch, but as luck would have it, there was no street parking available that night except for this rinky dink spot that I made work for all intents and purposes. But thinking that less is sometimes more, I kept that to myself and made a gurgly noise that indicated I could understand where the citation cop was coming from but at the same time said I was not necessarily accepting fault. As if he didn't hear my gurgly noise, the citation cop repeated, "You're a foot into his driveway, so this man has the right to call me and have me give you a citation." Now let me be clear about this that the ticket police never come down my street. This crappy neighbor of mine went out of his way to look up the ticket police's number and had the nerve to ruin their breakfast and demand someone come over bright and early. Luckily, I think the citation man was more annoyed at being summoned here than he was at me for sticking a measly few inches into someone else's driveway, so he let me off the hook.

This afternoon, an almost identical incident to the red Jetta lady happened, except this time a lady pulled out of a driveway right in front of me, so fast that I had to slam on my brakes to keep from crashing into her. I forgot to honk again, but this time I remembered to give her a dirty, dirty look. This would have been very satisfying, except for the fact that when I went to give her my death stare time slowed to a stand-still and instead of being shaken and frightened to the core like Red Jetta lady, this lady smiled at me. Do you know what that's like to have someone smile at you when you are trying to give them a much deserved death stare?

Needless to say, I came home and immediately started looking for dogs to adopt that could start leaving huge piles of odorous, brown presents on doorsteps for all my neighbors driving red Jettas, red Accords or owning desolate and sad looking amplification stores.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The SwitchaRoo

About a week ago, Alan and I started playing this game that I have since come to call "The SwitchaRoo." It involves detailed role-playing where he instantly assumes my speech, demeanor, train of thought and body movements, and I concurrently become him. We try to be the other person for as long as we possibly can and call each other out when one of us breaks out of character. If we are on a particularly long-stint of playing The SwitchaRoo, it is allowed for the other person to break character if he first calls out, "Out of charcter...," and this phrase might be followed by something like, "...I need a haircut." This is so very out of Sobrina-character that it could only be Alan being Alan. He needs haircuts like you or I would need gas for our car. His hair grows at an inhuman rate that requires a trim every other week. If he were to shave his head today, he would have a nice head of dreadlocks by the end of the month if he wanted.

Alan has gotten so good at The SwitchaRoo that now I mainly suggest we play it for my own amusement. It's fascinating to watch someone else's interpretation of you, and it's very telling of how he sees you. It's hilarious to watch because I never fully realized I had so many quirks until I saw Alan acting them all out.

Yesterday after stopping by the grocery store, I drove home as Alan normally would. I pressed all the buttons on the radio, never quite satisfied with what was playing, a nervous habit of his that makes me want to slap his hands to keep them still. From the passenger seat, Alan looked over at me with a big smile. He pulled up the soda pack at his feet to show me and said in an excited voice, "Look! I got this little mini cube of soda for only $2! It only has 8 cans of soda and not 12, but it's just so cute and mini!" Then he stared back down at the soda pack in his lap and smiled at it, pleased with his purchase. I nearly choked laughing. That is exactly something I would buy and for that exact reason.

Once home, we watched one of our favorite movies together, Good Will Hunting, and for the rest of the evening dreamed of what it'd be like to be math geniouses. We were so engrossed in our day dreaming and got so into The SwitchaRoo that after a while we forgot we were even playing it anymore.

Right before bed, as I was brushing me teeth, Alan called out in a feeble voice to ask if I could get him a glass of water. Later, when I laid down in bed, he turned over and pointed to his shoulders, implying that he wanted a shoulder rub. After that, he asked me to check to see if the front door was locked. I was just about to tell him a thing or two about how no one likes demanding people bossing them around when I recognized that voice; he was still in character and was asking me to do all the things I ask him to do before bed. This made me laugh. Partly because he was making fun of me ('haha, do I see what a brat I am' type of thing), but mostly out of relief because the joke's on him. The SwitchaRoo is just a game; when it's over I can go back to being me, he can go back to being himself, and I never really have to deal with myself at all.
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