Thursday, December 29, 2016

Unexpected Side Effects: Four Tips for Breast Cancerians

(1) Chemotherapy curls your hair! After you lose it, that is, and after it starts to grow back as hard little stubbles that hurt when you lie down. One day you realize your hair's gotten soft again. Then comes the moth-eaten nun look, or the determined dyke or the Roman-emperor do. Then comes the curls. Or the cowlicks. Remember Tintin's big old cowlick? Lots of those, plus tight little curls.

(2) You start watching Grey's Anatomy. There's an episode somewhere in the fifth season that saved an Israeli woman's life. She'd found a lump while breast-feeding and her doctor said it was just a clogged milk duct. A character on Grey's Anatomy was told the same thing, had second thoughts, and got a second opinion. The Israeli woman got her own second opinion after watching that episode. TV saved her life. Besides, the spectacle of interns kissing attending surgeons in stairwells, anesthesiologists dozing off on duty while drunk, nutcases getting shot on purpose as performance art, is all so distracting that I hardly think about my own cancer. When I do, I'm more clearheaded about what to do next.

(3) You make a will. And it's about time, Sweetie.

(4) You learn to take one thing at a time. When you panic, as I did the other day upon learning that I had to have another surgery, you tend to do many things at a time, or to think frantically about doing many things. Now's the time to slow down, make a list, and focus on the first thing before moving nervously to the second.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Cookies with the Critical Mom

I make the kind you roll out and refrigerate: here's the recipe:

We've had some delightful results. My son produced a "Diabetes" cookie:
For a sugar rush, if not actual diabetes, eat some of these!!

My daughter made one with the four houses of Hogwarts:
Clockwise, from left: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff
And now for a glimpse of our other cookies:
One way we plan not to lose weight this holiday season

Have yourselves a yummy, yummy Christmas! I recommend cookies with red wine. Or milk.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Went to the Christmas Market

Because I wanted to smell the Glühwein and spices; because I wanted to see if I'd missed some one thing I wanted to buy my husband or children; because I have time, at least for the next few days, to feel lazy. Police presence was obvious, and a police car--lone barrier to any runaway trucks that might be around--flanked one end of the pedestrian walkway. Near the other end, I saw a truck slowly moving past a few booths, but it did not pick up speed and crash through anything or anyone. I bought nothing: I just walked around with the increasingly irate feeling that I had a right to be there, and damned if I'd stay home.
We all have a right to be at the Christmas market, to enjoy the season, to relax. Relaxation has never come naturally to me, even less so today as I looked over my shoulder and listened for slight changes in noise-and-laughter level. I thought of Berlin, I thought of Germany, I thought of a world grated at by Donald Trump--but our Christmas market is still standing, and people are still buying little wooden angels, sausages, and mittens. It's still Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The "Dear Lucky Agent" Writing Contest

Hey there, all you writers--here's a not-to-be missed opportunity:  the 28th (free!) “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog. This is a FREE recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here’s the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. If you’re writing a memoir, then this 28th contest is for you! The contest is live through end of day, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016. The contest is judged by agent Jennifer Wills of the The Seymour Agency.  Here's link to details:

The Critical Mom is entering of course, with--what else? A memoir called Divorcing Mom.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lumpectomy 101: How To Have One in Nine Not So Easy Steps

What's it like? Depends on how many lumps they're removing. The surgery's a big nothing if, like one friend of mine, you've just got a speck, "crystals" on a mammogram, no cancer, you're in and out the same day, "no big deal," an aspiration. Pain levels go up according to the number of lumps (lymph nodes, actually) removed. I was advised they'd be taking out eight-to-ten, and although I'm sore, I got out of the hospital on the same weekend I went in. Here's what to expect:
1. Doctor drawing magic marker lines where he or she is planning to cut. This is done while you're gooey with ultrasound gel.
2. Mammogram plus insertion of wire in breast (yeouch!) in order to help the surgeon find the tumor that chemotherapy shrunk.
3. Photo op: "just from chin to waist!" they said, but of course, you're naked and have a lot of tape and bandages on the breast with the wire dangling from it. 
4. Surgery. I don't remember too much about this part, except the slight bungle with anesthesia: while a large amount of it was being chugged into my arm, the nurse had neglected to remove the very tight blood pressure cuff on my upper arm. Result: the kind of pain you feel if your hand gets slammed in a car door. This problem was quickly remedied and I don't remember the rest.
5. Wake up very thirsty and hungry. Get fed. Discover that you are wearing two vacuum bottles attached to tubes extending from the incisions: this is your drainage system, and when there's the right amount of lymph, blood, and goo in there, you get to have the tubes removed and go home. 
6. Yes, it does hurt when those tubes are removed, but only for a moment, but yes, about three times as much as a shot.
7. Photo op two! The "after" shots.
8. You put on your compression bra, for which you were fitted back around step 2, and keep it on pretty much for the next three weeks, unless you're taking a shower. 
9. The black ones really have  dominatrix look. Smile back at your image: you've earned the look. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Why Doesn't Twitter Shut Down Trump's Account?

Well? Isn't Lauren Batchelder's story enough?
Way beyond enough! We are way, way beyond over-the-top enough. 
While I'm asking, why hasn't the FBI been investigated by the Justice Department? Why is Comey still walking around? Why are Trump's taxes still hidden? Why is the New York Times still not writing about business fraud, or any of the above? Where is the Deep Throat who can bring out the secret that will remove Trump from office before he takes it?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Critical Mom's Cold

I do seem not to be able to get through Winter without at least one cold. I keep a dispenser of hand sanitizer in my office. Despite religious use of the stuff, I can't escape the coughs of my students, who insist on handing me their bacteria-laden term papers. Or my children, who get every cup of tea they request from me. And despite gallons of tea made with honey, fresh ginger, and lemon, plus my comfort drink, the laryngitis got so bad I couldn't talk at all (shouldn't have gone in to teach on Monday and Tuesday) so I went to the doctor who has prescribed a three-day antibiotic. I took one this morning and crawled back into bed and damn, but the stuff is already working! I'm coughing up the green stuff that refused to emerge before, despite all healthier remedies, including loads of hot steam. These are the consequences of a childhood spent practically teething on antibiotics: I just can't seem to master one of these really bad colds without them. At any rate, recovery would take weeks of lying in bed and who's got weeks? I wonder what Hillary Clinton would have done. If I know her, she'd have chowed down on the antibiotics and then, through an effort of extreme will, kept going long past the point when I would have been collapsing in bed. This kind of infection does separate the girls from the goddesses . . .

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Comfort Drink: A Recipe

This one's seasonal--goes with colds as well as Christmas. Take a glass of sweet red wine--I used König Arthur Republik Moldau, or King Arthur Red Wine from Moldavia, available at our local Aldi's for one euro fifty-nine cents per bottle. Pour wine in small pot on stove. Add: a cinnamon stick (plain cinnamon as  powder will do), a chunk of fresh ginger, a few cloves (again, the powdered stuff will do) and two small tangerines or clementines (discard peels and add sections to wine). Put on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid boils. Pour into huge mug. Add a teabag of fruit tea--hibiscus is nice, as is orange, but anything you like--and pour in a little boiling water. Add about a tablespoon of honey. Stir. Drink. Soothes a scratchy throat; allows one to stop worrying about Trump, at least for a few moments.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Comfort Food: Recipe Fast, Easy, Healthy

If you haven't come across spelt semolina, you'll find it a pleasant alternative to oatmeal. I pour half a coffee mug of the stuff (known in Germany as Dinkelgriess) into a pot and add a coffee mugful of whole milk and a dash of sea salt. Stir. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly--a whisk is best. When most of the milk is absorbed, pour the hot cereal into a bowl--you'll probably need a scraper to get every drop. You can add a bit more salt, butter, and milk--or you can add blueberries and cream. Or maple syrup. Or raw sugar and cream. Or a compote. A truly comforting winter food.