Monday, January 21, 2008

Thank goodness for sunglasses, quiet moments, and quilts

the much-requested quilt portrait
Originally uploaded by katzeye

It seems like life is never really smooth, or even all that peaceful. Between us we have ten kids, four grandkids, and several jobs.

There are certain aspects of our lives that are especially stressful, things that I have not mentioned thus far, and probably won't. Hardly a day goes by without some kind of extreme stuff going on in the corners of our world.

And we have a great many financial obligations (definitely related to the first two paragraphs) and so we are often left to do without.

Mark gets up well before the sun rises to take care of business, and is exhausted after working a long, long day, usually until 10 or 11 each night, Monday-Saturday.

I juggle many things, too, work-wise and otherwise.

But the thing is that here, in the center of our little apartment, there is peace. In the center of this relationship, there is peace.

And that makes all the difference!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Does Panda Inn Use MSG?

Girls' Night OUT!
Originally uploaded by katzeye

I am suspecting that they do. Here are my reasons why I suspect this:

1-I had a neurological virus a few years back that nearly crippled me in more ways than one. Doctors are actually pretty amazed that I pulled through with as much capability as I enjoy. But it left me with a few glitches.

One of them is a sensitivity to certain chemicals that affect the central nervous system-such as caffeine, aspartame (and a few other artificial sweeteners), and MSG.

This is how I react to MSG. I lie awake all night, exhausted, not ruminating, not tense, not going over and over something, not worried, just awake. AWAKE, AWAKE, AWAKE.

MSG and a few other things, are excitotoxins, in that they stimulate the central nervous system in unpleasant ways. If you have a "normal" CNS, you may not notice any reaction at all to MSG, or you may get a headache, or some insomnia, or a flushing, or discomfort, or, you may be sensitive and have an anaphylactic shock experience, complete with a ride in an ambulance!

Or you may just be awake for about two days, like me.

2-I was awake most of the night last night (slept maybe an hour and a half), after eating at Panda Inn, and today, exhausted, tried to nap, but only managed to get about 15 minutes of sleep with about two hours of trying to sleep, and incapable of much else.

3-Because those who like to use MSG in foods, also like to disguise it, due to the fact that some people are not very happy with that additive, a restaurant could say, MSG-free, but the chemical may still appear in some broths or bases that they purchase, or it may appear with one of its AKAs such as “natural flavorings,” “hydrolyzed yeast extract,” “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” etc. So, even though I have contacted Panda Inn to see if they ever use MSG in their foods, and even though they have not responded yet, the fact remains, they could be using it and not really realize they are, or hope that they are fooling us, or any variation of the above.

4-MSG is in just about everything processed, and it is difficult to keep up with all of its AKAs.

Why, if it causes problems to a large enough segment of the population, and is known to do so, and many food manufacturers try to disguise that they use it, is it used at all?

Because it makes food taste better than normal, but that is an illusion. It causes your central nervous system to think that what you are eating tastes better than it really does, and it causes you to eat more.

So then, what is it anyway, a drug? There are some who would like to classify it as such. And many who would classify it as a harmful drug. Anyone who is sensitive to it would agree with that.

Those of us who react to MSG might be considered to be the canaries in the mine. Just because you don’t have a reaction to it (and you don’t get hungry again immediately or eat too much, or have a headache, at least), doesn’t mean that you are free from any and all harm from consuming MSG.

I don’t know about you, but I think I would rather eat food that actually tastes good than eat food that has been laced with a chemical to make me think it tastes good. There’s just something smarmy and brave-new-world-ish about that.

Still waiting to hear from Panda Inn and see what it is that they use in their food. If they are able to convince me that they never use MSG in any form whatsoever, I will report back here (and wonder where I got the neuroexcitin, maybe chewing gum?)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The States I Have Visited

Originally uploaded by katzeye

Kiera posted on her blog (see Jeremy and Kiera link below to the right) a states map indicating all the states that she and Jeremy have visited together. This is my version of the states I have visited. Granted, some of them were simply drive-through states, but most were visited for more than a day or two. I guess I have a few more to go.

If you want to make one of your own, take a look at her blog. She has the link there.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Remembering Our Trip to the Dominican Republic

Boats to Repair
Originally uploaded by katzeye

Okay, so one of you told me to write a bit more about the Dominican Republic since what I’ve written so far has only touched on trying to get back home again. So, even though it was a year ago now (a fact that is so startling to me that I cannot even be startled!), to recap:

We went to the DR to visit Mark’s parents. His parents were presiding over the Santo Domingo temple. We also went there to bring some humanitarian aid supplies. So, shortly after Christmas, we packed and headed for the airport. I had one bag and a backpack. Mark had one bag and there was one more, very huge, red rolling bag that contained the supplies. It was difficult to make our way to and through the airport with all of that luggage. Mark was pushing/pulling two large rolling bags, and we were convinced that the big red one (the one with the supplies) would likely be:

1-totally inspected, as in throw the stuff all over the place and ask, “What is this? Why are you transporting so many diapers out of the country?”

2-weighed and found to be so much over the limit that we would be charged about $89.73 for the extra weight and one of those stickers would be slapped on it to warn the baggage handlers that it was a back destroyer.

3-laughed at.

4-seen as being a bomb, and blown up.

Well, it went right through, and we even found it again in Miami, where we had to leave it in one of the most casual baggage collection locations I’ve ever seen. I was convinced that some thieves just came into the airport and roped off an area with twine and called out to people on their way to board the flight to Santo Domingo to leave all of their valuables with them. I was certain we would never see the red bag or our own bags ever again.

We arrived in Santo Domingo that night, and sure enough, the bags were missing. I remember being exhausted, watching the same bags go around and around, over and over again. When the trolley stopped, Mark ran to the counter to put in the lost luggage claim (apparently he has experienced this before. And yes, it happened more than once after this experience.)

As an aside, I recall asking my mother if her luggage had ever been lost in any of her travels. She said that when she went to Italy, her luggage was lost, and it was NEVER recovered. That was encouraging.

So, we went a few days without our luggage, which, in my case, meant borrowing things like contact lens solutions, and underwear. I wore the same things for three days. There I was, in a tropical climate, and for three days I wore a tee-shirt, jeans, and trail runners. My feet were begging to be set free. I did find, though, that if one washes clothes the night before, and they are not all that dry the next day, they are still okay to wear in a tropical climate. Damp clothes actually work in such a climate.

Well, we called day and night for our lost luggage. We went to the airport a few times, too. Again and again we told that they were not there. On our last visit, we brought the temple president. We were determined to find our luggage. We spent about four hours standing around in jeans and trail runners, and the temple president (okay, my father-in-law, FIL for short), and my husband, were both talking to anyone who wore a uniform (thank goodness they are both pretty good with Spanish. I was only understanding words like please, lost, and three days ago.

Let me backtrack for a moment. When we first entered the airport that night, we stood near the entrance and spoke to a few officials. Near where we stood is also where the passengers exit after finding, or not finding, their luggage. Our luggage was finally found to be just inside that area. But we couldn’t see it because there is a passageway there. We had described our luggage to these officials, and they said they would take a look, and they left and came back empty handed. And that was only the first of about a dozen requested and promised searches.

The airport nearly closed by the time we found our luggage, but we had no plans to leave until we found it. Someone had told us it was, finally, for sure, really, at the Santo Domingo airport, so we persisted. We spread out. I was on the top floor where a very official man had promised to bring our luggage to us and he took off with an empty luggage cart. My FIL was downstairs somewhere, and Mark hovered in between trying his best to get some action.

After what seemed like about 6 hours of standing around on the top floor, and after there were no more passengers appearing there, I saw Mark bounding up some stairs, and he motioned for me to come. I was reluctant to leave my official, promising man with his luggage cart, but went to see what Mark had to say. The luggage had been right there, in that passage way, and my FIL was loading it into the car as we spoke.

I was sooooo happy to see my bag again, and sooooo happy to change my clothes, put on some sandals, and some lighter weight pants, oh, and my little down pillow, at last!

And then, we spent the rest of our time in the cities, and in the jungles, where we saw that the manhole covers were missing because people used them to create other things that they needed, and some people lived in shacks constructed from corrugated sheet metal that they had collected from roadsides, and there were cooking fires along all the highways and freeways, and about ten people per run-down taxi, and many of them carrying a live hen for dinner, or a stack of plantains, and a baby wrapped in a shawl.

We saw a lot of very poor people in this third-world country. But everywhere we went, we saw happy and friendly people. In the Dominican Republic, when you go to church you are greeted with a kiss. If you look at someone they look right back at you (with gorgeous, big, brown eyes) and they smile. There are colors everywhere. There are pigs everywhere.

They have hardly anything. They have everything. They are happy in the jungles.

When we got back to the USA (which was another post, down below), finally, everything seemed so sterile and new, and almost even somber in comparison. And every so often, I kind of envy those people.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

If Only I Could Just...

heavenly light on surfers with seagull
Originally uploaded by katzeye photography all day long, every day. Sigh. (I guess I should get back to editing that math book.)

What would you do all day long if you had the choice?