Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Gentlemen, We Can Rebuild Her

I will be saying "boob" a lot in this post.

Tomorrow is my implant swap surgery, where Dr. Hottie McTrottie will take out this tissue expander thing I've had ever since my mastectomy and put in a proper implant. This will be on the right side. The left side will remain in its pristine natural state.

Is this way more than you want to know? Here's some more: I'm also having a nipple reconstruction. How does that work, you ask? I am usually a very informed patient and all, but I have just absolutely no idea how she'll do that. Possibly it could involve that fun polymer clay you get at Michael's. We'll see.

I'm nervous about all this, I admit. Not so much about the being put to sleep and operated on, because just like flying in a plane, I don't think about it that much. I'm nervous because I'm worried that I won't like the outcome.

It's not that my boob looks so awesome now. There is plenty of room for improvement, and the feel of the tissue expander is not great. But the way it looks now was never meant to be an aesthetically satisfactory thing. It was just the way it was. It's been a year and I've gotten used to it.  I think it looks basically okay and Matt thinks it looks great, and that has been that. But now, the purpose of this procedure tomorrow is to produce a cosmetically pleasing result that I will be satisfied to live with for a long time. So I'm worried that it won't turn out that way, you know? I just really have no idea how it will be.

Also, I wish that the general anesthesia could take effect right now because I really don't want to go upstairs and shave my legs and get all pretty for the surgical team to gaze upon. I have already planned my panties though. Now is THAT more than you wanted to know?

I'll keep you posted. I'm giving you a hug.


Friday, April 22, 2011

This Week in Being a Jock

I don't know if it's my short hair or what, but I think of myself as all sporty now. I've become one of those women who wears her workout clothes all day. No kidding. As I write this, I am swathed in various performance fabrics. In the morning I go work out in my neighbor's basement, and then I just stay spandexed. This started because, back in January when I began the 30 Day Shred again, I would get home from exercising and think that I couldn't make it to the second floor of my house to change. I was sure that halfway up the stairs, my strained quadriceps would snap loose and roll up like window shades.

I got over that feeling, but by then I'd begun to appreciate the benefits of staying in workout apparel for long periods of time. Besides the obvious benefit of advertising to anyone you see that not only are you an active and virtuous person, you are a member of the suburban leisure class, i.e., you are a person who doesn't have to work outside your home and you have time to spend improving yourself in various ways. THAT is the semiotics of the yoga-pants-in-Starbucks-at-10am situation, I'm convinced.  It is not that all of these women have just rushed in from their bikram class.

Yes, so for me, the benefit of the workout clothes all day, beyond their value in class signaling, is that it really makes me more active throughout the day. Have you heard of NEAT? Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis? Sure you have! NEAT is the idea that all of the movement and activity you engage in daily life, whether it's pacing while you're on the phone or picking up toys, adds up and makes a significant difference in your health and fitness. The latest news is that even if you are someone who goes to the gym three times a week (yay you!), all the sitting we tend to do the rest of the time is killing us. So increasing your NEAT is an antidote to this. It has a good acronym, so it must be right. When I'm still in workout clothes and Hank asks me to jump on the trampoline with him, I say yes. And I'm more likely to jog to the mailbox rather than send a child. I just feel more ready to move.

Sporty hair.

Pretty Neighbor and I were very dedicated shredders, but this week we started a new workout. It's Jillian Michael's Ripped in 30.  So being shredded wasn't enough, I guess? Now we have to get ripped? It's the new and improved shred, apparently.  We have been doing level 1 and I really like it. Even if after the first workout, I came home and my red face caused Matt to say, "Whoa."

My face gets red. I once had a spin instructor ask, "Is this normal for you?" She wanted to know whether to finish dialing the ambulance.

I also played tennis this week. We lost and I got a sunburn. But Matt came to watch me play, the food was good, we looked cute, and one of the girls I played against knows NeNe from the Real Housewives of Atlanta. (We were playing her neighborhood's team, they are right down the road.) So a good day.

I'm a little bummed because all this working out is going to come to a temporary halt next week. On Wednesday I'm having my last reconstructive surgery, to take out my temporary implant and put in a real implant. I'm sure you'll be hearing more about this. It's an outpatient thing and I don't think the recovery will involve surgical drains and swearing like last year, but I know I'll have to take a couple of weeks off. I'm worried that I'll become completely unripped and unshredded during that time and have to start shredding, ripping, and tearing all over again.

I guess I should go now. Being such a jock all day long does leave time for blogging, but not much time for folding laundry or picking up clutter. Funny how that works.  We are going up to Chattanooga for the weekend and I need to get four people and a dog ready. xoxox

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

From the Pillow Archive

When I look back at this post I wrote last year, when all the Liberty of London stuff was in Target, it is obvious to me that I was buying a crapload of it because I'd just been diagnosed with breast cancer and I wanted something pretty.  I think I knew it then, in fact I even remember saying to my sister, around the time of my first chemo treatment, "It's like I just want to shop." I mean, look at this.

Liberty of London for Target

Hilarious. And there was more, much more.  People gave it to me as gifts. I wound up with nearly every darn thing in that collection. But I loved every bit of it, and it worked. All those pretty patterns really did cheer me up, and a year later, I'm still enjoying this stuff.  A few days ago I was down in the basement and I paid a visit to my pillow archive.  I'd had some black and white pillows on my sunroom sofa (my winter-into-spring transitional pillows, doncha know) and I felt it was time for a seasonal change. The orange and yellow floral pillows had yet to see the light of day, so I brought them upstairs where they could breath.

orange liberty pillows

I'm liking them a lot, but they are fighting a bit with that dark kilim rug. I'm ignoring that problem for now. Before too long I'll roll that puppy up for the summer. Also--and this will be in my upcoming book about photography styling--a single, mysterious rain boot, on a sunny day, and a banana peel, placed casually on the coffee table, are just the accessories you need for that lived-in look.

And look, weeks before, in an unrelated move, I'd brought this flower pot into this room.

liberty flower pot

Matchers!  So uncharacteristically coordinated of me.

So that's my jam. Are you Springing up your place?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Boycotts

Every now and then, it comes to my attention that I need to be boycotting this or that major corporation for their support and/or espousal of repugnant causes. Okay, I try to follow through with that, 'cause you gotta put your money where your mouth is, right? But I will here confess that the boycotts that I never waver on, that get all my unslacking boycott energy, and that I will evangelically share with people are two places closer to home.  My own private boycotts. I am boycotting these places because they ticked me off.

I would love to tell you how.

The first place is the Hallmark store near my house. It is next to the Publix I go to all the time. Hey Carol's Hallmark, if you're reading this, good.  This boycott is tough for me, because this store is my most local purveyor of Vera Bradley and Crocs.  Those two brands are like the oxygen and nitrogen of my suburban lifestyle, I need them and they must be replenished regularly for smooth biological functioning.  And yet.

Back in the Christmas season of 2009, I had a $5 off coupon for Hallmark. These coupons were in all the lady magazines at that time of year. I was over there with Hank and I thought I'd take him in and let him pick out a Christmas ornament.  I thought the ornaments might be 7 or 8 bucks, and the coupon would make them a nice deal. So in we went. Well, Hallmark ornaments are more like 10 to 16 bucks and up.  Even with the coupon, it didn't seem worth it, so we looked around the store.  Hank, who was just 3 then, fixated on this display of little light-up cottages that played music. They were supposed to be strung together with other little houses to make a village, and they all harmonized together. Okay, this was something plastic and noisemaking, and I wouldn't have been eager to spend money on it, except that they were clearanced down to $7.50.  "Cool," I thought. This is a great use of my coupon. It will be dirt cheap and Hank will enjoy it."  So Hank carefully picked one out, with the music he liked best, and I carried it up to the counter.

The nice old man at the counter--I think he must be the proprietor--chatted with Hank and started to ring up my purchase.  Then I produced the coupon and he drew back, his good cheer shriveling before my very eyes.  "That coupon can't be used on clearance things."  I turned the coupon over and looked at the back, all innocence. I read aloud, "Valid for all merchandise including sale items, at participating locations." I looked up, "Are you a participating location?" I said this in the most pleasant voice in the world. I chirped and glimmered. I am really freaking charming.

Reader, he snatched the coupon from my hand. Snatched.  From my hand. "I guess we are now," he mumbled.  He continued ringing up the sale in the most snatchy and grumpy way possible. I continued to radiate holiday cheer.  "It just makes it that much a better deal," I said happily. I thought I would give him a chance to recover is politeness. "Not for us," he said.

Okay! Okay, asshole!  You need to ball up your issues and keep them away from my holiday shopping experience. Clearly this guy had not read How To Win Friends and Influence People. He was too busy poring over How Coupons Do Not Work and How To Lose Customers Effortlessly.  He made me feel that by bringing in this coupon (which Hallmark would reimburse their agents for) I was imposing on him and basically robbing them. Here I had come in to spend money in his store, having spent untold amounts on Webkinz and other Hallmarky gewgaws in the past, and he totally utterly screws up what could have been a chance to make a friend.  Efficient.

When he handed me my package, I wished him a "Merry Christmas!" in the most dulcet and sincere way I could muster, and I enjoyed how he could barely bring himself to grunt in response.  Then I left and I have never been back there in a year and a half.

What is so funny is how mad I was. I was fuming at being treated that way.  I came home and told Matt all about it, and you would have thought somebody shot my dog. And since that day I have told anyone who would listen. I don't know if they're feeling the pinch of my boycott, but I have taken my custom elsewhere.

So annoyed!  I'm annoyed just writing this. Have you had a customer service experience that got you in this state?

The other place is the Burger King near Laura's swim practice. I pulled into their drive-through to see if they had unsweet tea one day.  No one spoke to me from the speaker, so I said, "Yoohoo?"  Then a guy said, "Yeah, we hear you."  And he was sullen about it.  I said, "No need to be rude." Then I pulled out of line, drove away, and have never been back. This is difficult because it was a very convenient place to get beverages during Laura's frequent swim practices. I wouldn't feed their food to a dog, but I do like a large tea now and again. But oh well.  When one is on a crusade against sullen behavior, one must be willing to suffer some discomfort.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Adult Spring Break: Matt Looks at Water

As I downloaded photos of our trip from my camera, I noticed a pattern. I took lots of pictures of Matt looking at water.  Here.

Matt at the FDR Memorial

Matt on the Phone on the Potomac
Looking and phoning.

Potomac Popcorn
Looking and snacking.




There you have it. SubMat is getting all high-concept today. For men who look at water and the women who photograph them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Adult Spring Break


With the selflessness borne of a full decade of parenting, Matt and I dropped the kids with my parents last week and set out on our own little vacation.

It's around a nine-hour drive from their place in North Carolina to Washington, DC, our destination. We rolled along, I-26 to I-81, through the mountains and the hills. We watched out the windows. We chatted. We were silent. We listened to a lecture about a Middle English poem. We looked at cows. We listened to a Fresh Air interview with Jon Hamm. About six hours into the drive, I said, "I don't even feel like we've been in the car that long."  Matt waved his hand over his shoulder, back toward the seats that weren't occupied by our children. "It's because there's none of that," he said.

We got to stay with my brother Dave and his wife Kate, who are really fun. And dang, when you don't have kids with you, you can cover a lot of ground.  Here is our itinerary, with snapshotty illustration.

Day 1: Dave dropped us at the Jefferson Memorial. We got our Jefferson on, then walked on around the tidal basin to the FDR Memorial. Comparative memorial architecture was discussed, with Matt being on Team Lincoln and me on Team Edward. Oh Edward. Wait, I mean Team Franklin!

New Deal
Matt said, "Look like you want a New Deal." 
The cherry blossoms were in full force, and they were gorgeous. This memorial is all stone and water, and the trees took it to a whole 'nother level of beauty. It worked. Oh, and also, in the picture above, I'm modeling the warm-up jacket and puffy vest combo that I wore the entire trip. I recommend this highly utilitarian ensemble, but all our photos look like one long day, because I'm wearing the same clothes. Often, Matt and I both had our puffy vests on at the same time. Don't worry, you'll get to see.

Then we wanted to head on around the tidal basin to the Washington Monument. I've never been up in it, but anyway, I think it is one of those buildings that is best appreciated from afar.

washington monument

So to get from the FDR Memorial down to the little path that hugs the water, we had to get over a chainlink fence that the city fathers had placed there to corral the Cherry Blossom Festival crowds. I was studying the fence, planning my approach, when suddenly something whooshed by my shoulder. It was Matt, vaulting over the fence. Then he was kind enough to grab me under the arms and haul me over.

Adult Spring Break is dignified like that.

Then we walked around to where the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is under construction. We peeked through the fence and could see the big statue of him. Lookit. You can see his face up there.

MLK Memorial Under Construction

Then I stepped back from the fence and almost knocked a jogger into the water, causing Matt to tell me that I shouldn't have stepped backwards like that, but honestly, she was too quiet, sneaking around jogging, and it's not like she actually fell in. Let her have her moment of cursing hapless tourists. I sail on.

Then an older lady power-walking on the path in those "shape-up" sneakers fell down right in front of us, hard. I knelt down and asked her where she was hurt, and she said her ankle. Sure enough, her ankle started to swell up in an alarming way. We helped her sit up, and then stand, but she wouldn't let us call anyone or walk with her, and instead hobbled off back to her office. We thought we better leave the tidal basin before anyone got seriously hurt. Adult Spring Break is hazardous.

Then we walked across the Mall to the Museum of American History.  Overall we did not think much of the big renovation they did, but it still has some of our favorite stuff.  Like the First Ladies' Dresses.

michelle's dress
ZOMG it's Michelle's Inaugural Gown! 
Dave joined us and we did that museum and then walked over to the Old Post Office, but the tower was closed (awesome view and still free), and then we walked down the street to the National Archives. Now, at some point in the past, I remember just walking up the front steps and right into the rotunda with no waiting. These days, not so much.

There was a line out the side of the building, and just huge crowds inside. I was like, "These people know there's not really a treasure map on the back of the Declaration, right?" Dave said the crowd was because of the Cherry Blossom Festival, but I blame Glenn Beck and his exhortations that his flock should study the words of the Founders.

So then we called it a day, but dang, we couldn't have done half of that with kids. My feet were tired and I was thinking about asking Matt to carry me, I don't know how Hank could have lasted.

Day 2: We drove out to Mount Vernon.  I don't know what gave us that idea, but the weather was fantastic. I love house museums, and that place is well worth a trip. However, once we realized that part of National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets was filmed there, it brought on paroxysms of Nicholas Cage impressions that were unstoppable and that continued the whole week. Like so.

The camera is a little jiggly because I was laughing.

dave and me
My funny brother and me on the porch at Mt. Vernon

That night we went out for swanky drinks downtown with Jenni and Nelson, and then we ate at the Old Ebbitt Grill, because I wanted to dine with the power elite. We were seated next to some congressman I didn't recognize who was there with his staff, and he was getting all cuddly with this chick, which did not escape our notice, and then as we were leaving his younger aide was in the foyer cautioning him to be more discreet. Good crab cakes too.

jennie and me
Jenni and Me
Day 3: Dave, Matt and I went up to Dupont Circle to the Phillips Collection museum for Impressionist and modern art. I went to college in D.C. and had never heard of this, but Elle tipped me off.  It's in one of those mansions near Mass Ave. This is wonderful and you should not miss it if you are in town. However, this is not one of those museums that is knocking itself out with "Discovery Zone!" type stuff for kids. More like, "Here, you may seal your child tightly in this bag, place it in the coatroom, and retrieve him when you exit the museum."

Then we came out of the museum and it was raining, but we made it across the way to Kramerbooks. We used to love to come here when we were in college, so we got to relive the founding myths of our relationship. An agreeable way to spend a rainy day.

Then Katie arrived in their car and picked us up at the door, depositing us at the Natural History Museum. Having a driver is awesome. And we had so much fun wandering around what is probably Matt's favorite of the Smithsonian museums. It seems like it never changes, at least not in essentials.

natural history

He loves this place so much that I just left him alone to commune with the bones. I think a museum cafe is the best place in the world to be on a rainy day, so I repaired there with Katie and Dave. Oh, and we did push our way through the crowds to see the Hope Diamond and all that jazz.  Could not believe the crowd in that room. Could not believe. But seeing this elephant was a sweet and nostalgic end to our DC time.

Then we saw Matt's cousins who also live on Capitol Hill, literally around the corner from Dave, and we drank wine and ate salami. Then we ate some more and watched the news of the budget deal and watched some Drunk History on YouTube. Then there may have been more Nicholas Cage.

Oh my Lord we had such a good time, and believe it or not, there's more to tell you.  But we will leave it here. I also have less-crappy photos, but darned if these camera phones aren't so convenient.

Did you have a nice week? Was it your Spring Break? We are back to the grind today. By which I mean, I'm blogging, visiting my neighbors, and tending the kids while Matt works his ass off.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Go Play Matt's Game, Dungeon Blitz!

Dungeon Blitz Map

Oh hey! Where have I been? Playing Dungeon Blitz! Those of you who have been around a while and have some familiarity with the Matron family might know that Matt, my beloved husband, is a computer game developer.  That's what took us out to live in California, eleven whole years ago, to work in a start-up with friends, and we were able to move back to the South when he got a job at another game studio here in Atlanta.

A while back he and our friend Lincoln started their own company, wanting to make some fun games that didn't take 200 guys and 50 million dollars to build. (Did you know that the game business was that big? It is.)  Last weekend, their first game, Dungeon Blitz, went into open public beta.  Beta means that there might be some kinks to work out that arise when lots of people are playing, and it is not totally finished, i.e., all of the story isn't complete.  It is super fun, you should check it out, plus it's free and you can play right in your browser. Even if you're not a big gamer (I'm not), there is lots to run around and do, and lots of monsters to school, and you can chat with your friends while you do it. Keely is playing.  So are Gretchen and Jenni.  I think it hilarious that my mom blogger friends are into it. Hilarious awesome. You can play in ten minute increments, so it's very mom-friendly. Keely's character is named Stabitha, Jenni's is Violencia, and Gretchen's is a swarthy dude named Mo.  Keely and I teamed up and brought the smack right down on a dragon the other day.

It could be that this game is helping us work out some of our aggression issues.

But my character's name is just Becky. Here I am!

DB at night

See how cute my outfit is?  You would think that furry skirt would make my hips look big, but with the chunky magic boots and the long staff, it somehow works. You can choose how you want your character to look, and then you find gear along the way. When this screenshot was taken, my butt-kicking Mage was enjoying a rare quiet moment, admiring the night sky. Sometimes after I have saved a village from a ravening goblin onslaught, I just like to look at the stars and think about how insignificant our goblin problems really are. You know, in the grand scheme of things.

Dungeon Blitz screenshot

Here we are down in a dungeon putting the hurt on some skeletons and their ghost overlord.  The handsome fellow on the left, holding the stone mallet, is Matt.  His character's name is Matt, if you happen to run across him. There's an emote that lets you do a little dance for him. He likes that.

Dungeon Blitz screenshot

One of the things I most enjoy about the game is the art style. It's fun, cartoony, and interesting, and I think the background art is beautiful. I like to just run around the different zones and look at all the scenes and creatures. (That character is Walpole, my young paladin. He is new but I think he's going to work out.)

Since they announced the open beta last weekend, 6,000 people have created accounts and played.  It is so much fun watching it take off.  What used to be this empty online world, that only we knew about, suddenly has a lot of people running around in it. If you've ever worked at a startup or made something for an audience, you know how exciting it is. It is a neat experience for Matt and Lincoln, and their artists, to watch people enjoying something they've worked on for so long. They both took a chance starting Blue Mammoth Games, leaving perfectly comfortable jobs to make Dungeon Blitz. I'm loving it and I'm proud of what they've done.

And for me, the whole cycle of making games is connected to the growth of our family. I was pregnant with Laura when we first moved to California. It seemed like a big leap: new job, new state, new baby. Then, when City of Heroes (the game they made out there) launched, Laura was three, and I would sit with her on my lap and let her play. When we moved to Atlanta, I was pregnant with Hank, and it felt like another momentous start. Now Hank is playing Dungeon Blitz, with great gusto, and part of the fun for both kids is that this is the game their daddy made.

Hank has characters named Sparky, Roguey, and Awesome at Fighting, if you happen to see him. He may behave erratically. Laura will mostly be changing different parts of her outfit.

If this game does well at launch, it will mean that we can keep the lights on and Hank won't have to be put out to work in an Alaskan salmon cannery. So go play around with it! And show it to your kids and your nerdy friends!  Matt would love to hear your feedback, especially if you don't usually play these kinds of games. And look for me in there, I am the hot one.

Dungeon Blitz