MAN is women’s hero!

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Recently a man posted a notice for all the ladies on the Facebook page for my friend’s community. I really want to share his public service announcement, exactly as it was written, because I think it’s something we all need to know.

Ladies…Id like a moment or two of your time, if I may, to inform you of things many of you are doing and probably aren’t aware of.
Countless times, I’ve been standing behind you (“you” is a general term for all the women I’ve observed) in the checkout line at Publix as you pay for your purchases. In almost all of the cases….(Bravo to those of you who I’ve seen doing it right) I’ve watched you pull out your big-ole’ wallet from your overly stuffed purse/bag of bottomless pits. In frightening regularity, you lay your wallet on the counter or on the check writing tables in clear and open view as you search for whatever it is you are searching for…Pen, Cell Phone, etc…
OK, so what’s the big deal?…..The big deal is, if I were an Evil Doer (I assure you, I’m not…{insert Evil Grin, here}), I had visual access to your Full Names, your addresses, Credit Card Numbers…Checking account Routing numbers just to name a few of the biggies. I’ve even been able to see one woman’s Concealed Carry Permit. Good for you, by the way!! Without much effort, I can tell if you are Married or not (in most cases) and I can surmise what type of vehicle you drive by the huge bundle of Keys you place on the counter or fumble with as you conduct your business.
You need to be more aware of your surroundings. That nice young man or woman standing behind you could end up being your worst nightmares come true. When you go into the store, take only what you need in order to conduct business. Identification, Credit/Debit Card or Checkbook…BUT, at the same time, don’t leave your purse lying in the seat of your car. You could come out missing your purse and a Window. If you know you are going to be writing a check for you purchases, you could even take just one check with you. Yes, I know…it seems strange not to take the entire Checkbook with Register, but you’ll have the Receipt with you and you can easily update your checkbook once you are back home…safe and sound. Sometime, I have gone out of my way to make it as obvious as I can that I am looking at your wallet…No one has EVER asked me a question or removed their personal information from view.
Listen, I have six sisters a wife and a daughter. To say woman are an important aspect of my life would be an understatement. Ladies, don’t make yourself a Soft-Target for the Evil Doers out there. Keep your personal information away from prying eyes. I’m just scratching the surface of ways in which you can keep yourself and loved ones safe and secure.
If you want to add more tips and techniques to this…PLEASE DO SO! I didn’t have time to list them all.

Now, I know some of you are really mad right now. You’re thinking, Why are all the good one’s taken? I wish I had someone like that in my neighborhood, watching out for all of us silly women. I had no idea I was paying for groceries wrong all. this. time.

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Ladies, I couldn’t agree with you more! Here I was, thinking I was paying for groceries just like any other person, and it turns out that I was making the person behind me in line victimize me! Seriously, guys! We might as well just go ahead and flash everyone a look at our vag, or business of vag for the plural, while we’re at it. I mean, how could we not realize that during our frantic searches to find what we need in our ridiculously-sized purses, (frantic, because we don’t want to hold up the line and inconvenience anyone) we are, in reality, inconveniencing them by making them look into our purses and at our IDs!

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Ladies, if we want to earn the respect of this MAN, (that’s literally what his profile picture says, so you know it’s true.  Just in case you had any doubts about his masculinity) we really need to heed his warning and follow his advice.

First things first: get a concealed carry permit, even if you have no intention of ever getting a gun, just to prove how badass you are. This ensures that the person collecting your personal information will, at least, respect you.

Secondly, you should really stop carrying a purse that fits everything you need or acquire on a daily basis. I mean, yes, it would be nice if we could continue to carry our wallets, cell phones, pens, lip balms, snacks, kid’s snacks, entertainment for the kids, forms for school, forms from the doctor, sunglasses, eye drops, (if you wear contacts) key rings with the clickers and keys to both cars, keys for the house, scan tags for the grocery store, library, or local dessert shop where we need to buy something chocolate each month while we’re PMSing, tissues, and whatever else ridiculous, unnecessary item we think we need in one comfortable bag that fits over our shoulder. But we really should start carrying things inside our pockets, since they are absolutely impenetrable to pickpockets. And the next time the man in your life asks to store something in your purse, you can just roll your eyes and marvel at how impractical he is. You may also feel free to scoff if he tells you that most identity theft occurs online, and then drift off and dream about the MAN who really cares about you.

Finally, make sure that you let everyone know that you’re aware of your surroundings and not at all paranoid. If there is a creepy person in line behind you, staring at you and getting up in your personal space, immediately stop feeling creeped out and intimidated. Next, turn and face this creepy person and yell, I’m aware of you! Be sure to speak slowly and use big, animated gestures. This will set the creepy person at ease, now that you have removed all doubt of you knowing that they are standing too close and not averting their gaze toward the tabloids. (Jen Aniston is pregnant and dumped again!?!?! Erhmahgah! She deserves love, you assholes! Oooh, lose 30 pounds a day, eating nothing but chocolate doughnuts? Ch’yah!)

Ladies, it is your responsibility not to be victimized. MAN is just concerned about us, and is in no way trying to make himself feel better about looking at our personal information. And we know he only has our best interest in mind because he has so many women in his life. He’s an expert at protecting women and making sure they don’t do anything stupid. He has worked so hard to make sure he maintains his masculinity among so many estrogen-filled females who desperately need him to take care of them and protect them from real creeps, not just the ones who are creepy for the sake of research.

MAN says “Bravo!” to the women who handle their transactions discreetly and don’t force him to look at their personal information. But I say, bravo to you, sir! Without you, we wouldn’t know how to pay for groceries correctly. Nor would we know exactly what sort of asshole we are looking for.

* Special shoutout to the Facebook page admin, as he protected our protector from my friend by deleting her response to MAN. Apparently she told MAN that he was victim blaming, being condescending, and paternalistic. Honestly, I don’t know where she gets off, spewing such feminist nonsense. I guess there’s really only one explanation for her response to MAN.

Bitches be crazy.

Tell Tales: A great game for spoonies and their kids

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Rachael has always liked making up stories. Lately, Zoë has fallen in love with it, too. In particular, she has become enamored with fairy tales ever since Mike made up a story for her one night before bed. Princess Zoë not only saved Prince Stuart from the dragon, also named Stuart, she also engaged in diplomacy with extremely large beavers whose dam was preventing water from getting to her palace garden.

So I’m glad that we gave Rachael Blue Orange’s Tell Tale Fairy Tales game for Christmas. The girls are able to make up stories based on the pictures: a pirate ship; a fire-breathing dragon; a magic carpet; a woodland cottage, just to name a few. They can sit quietly and insert themselves into their own traditional fairy tale. Or they can play together, layering pieces of the story on top of one another, making each and every story unique.
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What’s great about this game is that it’s also an easy game for us spoonie parents to play with our kids. All it really requires is that you be conscious and are able to open your eyes long enough to see which card you have to play next. Yesterday I laid on the couch while Zoë and Rachael sat across the table, and we wove fun, quirky stories together. I loved hearing their imaginations at work. It was wonderful for them to be excited about something other than tv and that I was able to engage with them without having to exert energy I didn’t have. I always feel guilty for having to say I can’t when they ask me to play. Fortunately, with this game, I won’t have to say no nearly so often.

Another Fibro Warrior named Julie? I suspect a conspiracy!

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I met Julie Ryan via Twitter and blogging about chronic illness. Earlier this year, Julie asked me to be interviewed for her blog, as part of her weekly “Fibro Warrior” series. That interview was the first time I had really contemplated the different aspects of my experience with fibromyalgia and afforded me an opportunity to tell my story. I found the experience cathartic, and was inspired to give others I knew the same opportunity. And I certainly wanted to return the favor to Julie.

Julie lives in Huntsville, Alabama. She is working toward earning her degree in psychology and is an online chronic illness health advocate. She blogs over at Counting My Spoons, maintains a Facebook page with the same name, and tweets at @drunkitty2000.

Other interviewees in this series are Elizabeth, Megan, and Trisha. If you haven’t had a chance to meet them yet, check out their interviews as well.

1) So, what ails you?
Fibromyalgia, migraines, endometriosis, TMJ, hypothyroid, cluster headaches, and probably a handful of other odds and ends.

2) When did you receive your diagnosis (diagnoses)? How long was it from the onset of symptoms before you had a diagnosis (diagnoses)?
I’ve had migraines since I was a kid. I have no idea when I was officially “diagnosed”. The TMJ symptoms started in 2008 after I had braces put on. It took me almost 6 months to even figure out what was wrong and then find someone who knew what they were doing to diagnose it correctly and help me. I thought things were turning around, and I had a few months in 2009-2010 where it felt like things were getting better. I’d started back to school. Then in the early spring of 2010 I started feeling really tired, having really weird eye/head pain, and general aches and pains that continued to get worse. I was diagnosed with Fibro pretty quickly, (compared to many.) Once again, in 2012, I was finally starting to improve and started having abdominal pain that eventually lead to the endometriosis diagnosis. They hypothyroid dx came along in 2013.

3) How does your illness manifest itself, (symptoms)? Does it or has it manifested itself in a way that is atypical? Did that delay receiving a diagnosis and/or does that require that you receive different medical treatment?
Initially there was a lot of worry that I had MS. They did every test possible to rule that out, because of the eye pain, combined with bilateral neuropathic pain in both hands/arms. The TMJ came about after I had braces put on so the orthodontist blamed my extreme headaches on my teeth moving. He treated me like I was just some kid whining. What he didn’t see was that I did nothing but lay on the couch in pain for 3 months. The only help I found was my chiropractor. He was the one who finally figured out it was probably TMJ.

4) Have any unconventional or naturopathic treatments worked for you? What are they?
My chiropractor does acupuncture. It helps quite a bit and it was the only thing that helped my TMJ initially. Diet change has helped me more than anything else, especially with the Fibro. Since I gave up gluten completely I don’t have the full on flare days (the total and utter fatigue combined with pain that lasts for days or weeks). I still occasionally have bad pain days, but they are one-offs and never last longer than a day.

5) How has your illness affected your daily activities? How has it affected you long term? Are there things you used to love doing, but can no longer do?
Initially, it had a huge impact and there were a few years there where I did pretty much nothing. I had to put school on hold. I’m not nearly as active as I used to be. The long-term aspects of the TMJ (neck/shoulder issues) has probably had the biggest long-term impact because, when I do things that require a lot of upper body for any periods of time, it increases pain. These days I’m back to a pretty much normal daily routine. I work out several times a week.

6) How has your illness affected your mental health?
It caused me a lot of depression. There was a time when I hit bottom and seriously considered ending it. I’m doing better these days, but it still gets to me. I do my best to stay positive, focus on what I can do, and do as much as I can.

7) How does your illness affect your family and friends? Have they been supportive?
My family has been very supportive. I’ve re-evaluated some friendships and made some new friends. Most of my friends, these days, also have some sort of chronic illness. I still have a few very close friends from before that are understanding, awesome people. I think chronic illness changes your views about what is important in a friendship, (and in life.)

8) What do you wish people understood about your illness?
I don’t know where to start. For those who are healthy, I just want them to understand that those of us with chronic illness are doing what we can. We are trying. For those with chronic illness, I want them to understand that there is hope.

9) What do you wish people understood about you in light of your illness?
That I’m doing the best that I can. That I want more, and I’m working for it. That I’m trying.

10) What has pissed you off the most during your journey with this illness?
The “Have you tried…” “I read…..” “What about…” “Maybe you need to exercise more..” “You just need more sleep”. So, I guess that would be the unsolicited advice. It makes me feel like you think I’m stupid. You know I’m doing everything I can.

11) What has been the most helpful?
The most helpful thing for me has been changing my diet. I’ve totally removed gluten, which has helped the most. But I also avoid dairy, eggs, and processed foods as much as possible.

12) If you could shoot one of your doctors/healthcare providers out of a cannon because of their asshattery, who would it be and why?
This is an awesome question! LOL! It would be the doctor that I referred to as Dr. Obvious. When I hurt my shoulder earlier this year, I went to an orthopedic doctor that I’d seen previously for another issue. I think he saw fibro on my chart and just dismissed me. He didn’t even look at my shoulder other than to force me to move in directions/positions that made me scream (literally). Then he dismissed me with a diagnosis of “shoulder pain”. The other would be the orthodontist that put my braces on. Even after I found out it was TMJ he wanted to be an ass. I asked for a refund because I’d pre-paid for the whole braces thing, and he wanted to: 1) deny that it was TMJ; 2) tell me that if it was TMJ he was not responsible because I obviously had it prior; 3) not refund me my money. I had to threaten lawsuit on him to get my money back.

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Flatbread S’mores

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In the past, I have professed my love for s’mores. So I was delighted, to the point of squealing schoolgirl, when we had dinner at Bonefish the other week and they had s’mores flatbread for dessert. Both girls, particularly Zoë, were going a bit nuts by the end of dinner. So I ordered dessert to go.

Getting the girls to bed was a bit trying, so I was really looking forward to rewarding myself with dessert. I skipped into the kitchen and found this waiting for me.
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Henceforth known as Bird Poo Surprise

Doesn’t it look like a bird took a giant crap on the plate? Who thought it was a good idea to serve this to anyone? The flatbread was flavorless and chewy and the Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread was lost in a puddle of overly sweet, melted marshmallow fluff. And I really don’t get the tiny little bit of brown. Were they trying to reinforce the bird poo effect by only caramelizing that one spot? Irritated, I sat there nomming on the flatbread, because it was there, and wondered what I would do to make this better. I needed to avenge my mouth and pocket of fat that was headed straight for my ass. I needed gastronomical justice!
It’s a thing, okay?

From the bottom up
The first thing that needed to be addressed was the flatbread. It was too thick, which caused me to have to use a knife to eat the dessert. The only time a dessert should ever require the use of a knife is to cut a piece of cake, pie, etc. The bread was also in desperate need of some flavor. Once the chocolate and marshmallow melted away in your mouth, all that was left was the taste of oil and flour.

Next, I needed the chocolate to not be a pussy and stand up for itself. If you can barely taste chocolate in anything s’mores related, you’ve done something wrong. I also wanted a way to fix the problem of the cloying sweetness.

Finally, the marshmallow. S’mores, in my opinion, are all about a perfectly toasted marshmallow. Get it wrong, and you may as well have an angry German slap it out of your hand into the fire and shout, Wieder!* For me, the marshmallow needs to be complete melty gooeyness encapsulated in brown, crisp, tenuous burnt sugar. Melted marshmallow bursts as you press it between the graham crackers. Shards of the caramelized sugar crunch as you bite into the s’more, adding smokey and buttery notes to your messy dessert.

Did I just write marshmallow porn? I think I just wrote marshmallow porn.
…..aaaaaaaand, after doing a quick Google search, that is apparently an actual thing. ……………. Ahem!

Flatbread S’mores
Cinnamon Flatbread
For the flatbread, I used this recipe. Since the flatbread from Bonefish was so bland, I wanted to make sure that this bread was flavorful, but would also play nicely with the other flavors. I used a roasted cinnamon, which had a robust flavor and an almost spicy quality to it. The thinner the rolled out dough is, the more likely the bread is to crisp up. If the finished product isn’t the desired level of crispness, or even after the bread has been sitting for a few days and needs to be revived, just pop slices into the toaster oven and toast like regular bread. Make sure the dough has come up to room temperature before trying to roll it out. If it’s really difficult to roll it out and the dough draws back in after each roll, it’s not ready. Let it warm up some more and try again.
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Cherry Chocolate Sauce
I decided to make the chocolate component a cherry chocolate sauce. The tart, almost sour, flavor of the cherries help to balance all the sweetness. Bites of cherry also add some texture.

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Ingredients
1 lb fresh cherries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream

Stem and rinse cherries. Place cherries in a pot with a wide bottom. Add water to the pot, just enough to cover the cherries. Over medium-high heat, bring cherries to a simmer, and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off heat, cover the pot, and allow cherries to sit for an additional 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove cherries to a separate bowl and allow them to cool.

Remove lid from the pot and bring liquid from simmering the cherries to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and allow the liquid to simmer, reducing down to approximately 2 Tbsp of liquid.

Once cherries are cool enough to handle, remove pits. I used a paring knife and cut the cherries lengthwise down the middle, separating the sides. Gently remove the pit by prying it loose with your index finger and thumb.
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To make the sauce, combine chocolate chips, cherry liquid, and heavy cream in a small pot. Over medium heat, melt the chocolate, stirring constantly. Remove from heat once the chocolate is just melted and allow to cool until slightly thickened. You may mix the cherry halves into the chocolate or serve separately.

Vanilla-Bourbon Marshmallows
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I used this recipe for the marshmallows. If you’ve never made marshmallows before, do not be intimidated; it’s easier than you think. A couple things for these particular marshmallows: When the instructions say to mix until you have thick ribbons, this is what you’re looking for.
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Secondly, I would suggest letting them sit for 8 hours or overnight. While the recipe says four hours is the earliest time you can remove the marshmallows, I still found the mixture to be gooey and not entirely set on the inside after 5-6 hours.

These marshmallows are delicious, especially once I set the brûlée torch on them. They are full of sweet, vanilla flavor and finished off with just a hint of spicy bourbon. If anything, my complaint would be that I wished for more bourbon flavor. I do like bourbon flavor, or a well-mixed Manhattan. I tried to taste the bourbon I used straight so I could describe the flavor. Unfortunately, this was basically my reaction.
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Someday I’ll figure out how to embed GIFs.

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Mike wanted to take a picture of the dessert, bathed in bourbon light.

The result? It was scrumptious! I still don’t know that flatbread beats the trusty graham cracker in terms of a delivery method, but it does make it prettier. I practically had to stab Mike to get him away from it once he had tasted it. And really, isn’t needing to stab someone the best indicator of having done something right?

*Again

Chocolate sauce recipe adapted from Food 52.

Blackberry mojito lemonade tea

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Normally I’m not a huge fan of the Arnold Palmer, iced tea mixed with lemonade. But I became slightly obsessed after trying the blackberry mojito lemonade tea at Starbucks. Sweet blackberries, tempered with the sourness of lemonade, all grounded by the earthiness of tea. And just for an extra kick to make this drink unforgettable, a light, natural mint flavor suddenly appears, leaving your mouth refreshed and tingling.

After having a couple of them, I decided that I could make my own at home. I had made flavored lemonades before, so I knew it would be simple. All it would require is some muddling and the right balance of flavors. I feel like this was a great success. I’m also happy to tell you that it’s quite a lovely cocktail with some vodka mixed in. I know fall is coming but it’s still hot here, (94 with a feels like of 101 today.) So this drink is still perfectly lovely for the time of year.

Blackberry mojito lemonade tea
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Ingredients
24 oz by weight blackberries
1/2 – 1 cup fresh mint
64 oz lemonade (I used Santa Cruz organic lemonade)
1 1/2 – 2 cups brewed mild-flavored tea, cooled (I used English Breakfast)

Bring 12-16 oz of water to a boil, (8 oz per tea bag.) Once water has reached a rolling boil, turn off the heat and submerge the tea bags in the water. Allow tea bags to steep for approximately 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and allow the tea to cool to room temperature.

In a large pitcher, muddle together the blackberries and mint. (You can use a large spoon or, in my case, I used a mallet. *shrug* It works.)

Add lemonade and tea to the muddled mixture. Stir and refrigerate for two hours. The longer you allow the ingredients to hang out with one another, the better flavor you’ll have.

Pour drink mixture through a fine mesh sieve before serving.

Enjoy!

Geek Girls

I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t know what to make of me. I feel equally comfortable gasping over a gorgeous dress or pair of shoes and correcting someone when they quote Star Wars incorrectly. I have a deep emotional investment in both Hokie football and Doctor Who. I’m a 33 year old woman who is positively squeeing over the fact that, when Mike and I go to Orlando in a few months, I’ll get to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I love super hero movies and think Phil Coulson, (or Clark Gregg even) should be my freebie. I get giddy when I fuck up someone’s Munchkin battle. I was shocked when someone told me that her child dressing up as Spock for Halloween was weird. When someone says they’ve never seen Lord of the Rings, I stare at them blankly because I literally can’t comprehend how that can be true. (Not figuratively. Literally!) I was bothered for several days after Chris Hardwick was wrong about something in Star Wars on @midnight. I didn’t tweet him about it, though. I’m a geek, not a dick.

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Photo by Victory Comics

I was a geek before I even knew that word described me. I was a geek back when the word still had a negative connotation and it was weird that my favorite movie, as a 12 year old girl, was Return of the Jedi. Fortunately, geekery has become culturally normative.
Unfortunately, it’s still weird that I’m a girl woman and a geek. I interact with other female geeks so often that I sometimes forget that it’s still not always okay to use the words “Star Trek” in a sentence. Seriously, you will never encounter a more baffled group of people than upper-middle class suburban moms after you’ve said something geeky.

I’ve been fortunate in that no one has been aggressive toward me for being a geek, but there are plenty of women who have endured verbal and sexual assault and threats of physical and sexual violence. (I won’t even link to the Tweets she screen capped and tweeted because of how upsetting they are. They are truly horrific.) But I have been on the receiving end of stares when I’ve walked into a tabletop gaming store. I have been excluded from gaming, either because the guys didn’t think I’d want to play or didn’t want me there. There have been times when someone has assumed that something geeky belonged to Mike. I have been hurt when people have suggested, or flat out said, that the things I like are stupid or juvenile. And it’s not just me.

“Going to a video game store, the male employees act completely befuddled and stunned when you start speaking intelligently about games or asking pertinent questions that make it clear you are a serious gamer.”

“We also get comments about how we must just be pretending to snare a guy.”

“Yeah, I totally spent months farming materials in Warcraft just to ‘impress a guy.'”

“I ran into a bit of opposition doing admin work for an iPhone game that was a mmorpg. Because I was female, they automatically assumed I didn’t have authority or that I didn’t know as much as the guys.”

“I got a lot of, ‘run along and let the big boys talk'”.

“I’m in database and software engineering… Most of my experiences haven’t been negative but just weird/’you know guys don’t get this crap’. Recently joined a new guild on WoW and a guy immediately has to ask me my hair color.”

“I play a fantasy-style iPad game where you can make your character female, but the NPCs still refer to every character as “sir” or “lad” or the instructions are phrased like your hero is male. It can’t be that hard to program for both options, but it feels like they assume everyone playing is a guy, whether their avatar is male or female.”

“I’ve gotten “you’re too old to like Harry Potter” once or twice…”

I hope that we female geeks will continue, or even begin, to be open about who we are. Even if you’re not a geek in the stereotypical sci-fi/fantasy sense, be passionate and transparent about what makes you happy. Whatever your obsession, be it music, theater, knitting, books, cooking, or fantasy football, be proud of it. May we all be so lucky as to love something enough that it causes us to twitch when someone says something incorrect about it.