Monday, July 11, 2011


I am about five feet tall. Maybe five one. (My license says five one, but the DMV didn't actually measure me. I just decided I was that tall and told them so.) I think I maxed out around the time I was fourteen or fifteen. It has its advantages and disadvantages, as all heights do, I am guessing. It works for me, which is convenient, as there is little I could do about it.

My weight, on the other hand, is a funny little thing that seems to have spiraled out of control. I weighed 115-125 in late adolescence, adding a few pounds Freshman year, shedding a few the next, pretty much squatty but very toned until I became pregnant. Nursed each kid forever, and had no problem shedding baby weight (don't hate) either time. Maintained the 120ish until my sweet Momma got really ill and did a 6-week stint in the stepdown unit of the ICU, with me living in the hospital room with her. Then the weight started creeping up on me, as I lived on hospital food (actually many quite good choices at New Hanover Medical Center, if you are ever hospitalized in Wilmington), takeout, and stress. Thought I was huge when I reached 135 (which, by the way, is also what the DMV thinks I weigh). Managed to maintain that, though, through moving to a new state and all that entailed.

Then, life got a little crazier. Momma and Daddy both died 11 months apart. I had a hysterectomy. My thyroid got wacky. I started teaching again and entered graduate school. None of these things served my waistline well. When I hit 145, I realized I hadn't weighed that much full term with either pregnancy. I did Shrinkdown through the school and the Y, and was developing some pretty good habits, but life took over and I got lazy. My blood pressure got wacky. I kept on eating whatever I felt like eating and sitting more than ever. At 164 I realized I was only a pound away from being fifty pounds heavier than I was 10 years ago. They say five pounds a year can sneak up on you. They are right.

My bestest buddy and roomie of all time (Nicole) is scary fit these days. She and I used to share clothes like we shared giggles and secrets, but my stressors have made me rounder and rounder, while hers have made her leaner and leaner. She had four children within three years, and her party-of-6 has led a healthier, more active lifestyle than my party-of-4, with far less TV, insanely fewer Happy Meals, and many more athletic endeavors. She's a physical therapist (my personal one, thankyouverymuch) and I've always depended on her to help me stay motivated and well, to power through injury, to tell me when I need to get off my butt.

And so I am doing that. A high school classmate of ours developed a neighborhood Lazyman Triathlon last year in Virginia, and Nicole is coordinating one in her Maryland neighborhood this year. She told me about it months ago, and I made her promise me she would hold me to participating at-large (punny, punny). Godblessher, she did. Basically, participants have one month to complete the distances of an Ironman Triathlon. For the month of July I need to accumulate 112 miles of cycling (or spinning on a stationary), 26.2 miles of running (or walking), and 2.4 miles of swimming (or moving in the water). I could have signed up for the Half Lazyman (y'all are smart enough to figure out what that would be), but I figured if I was going to do this, I had better do it full on. (Mind you, I did NOT see any sense in going for the DOUBLE Lazyman!)

Lemme tell you friends, it sounds easier than it is. I need to average 6.55 miles/week of walking, 0.6 miles/week of swimming, and 28 mi/wk of spinning. For those of you leading active lifestyles already, that might not sound like much, but boy howdy, I am spent just trying to get it all in without pushing myself to the point of injury. I was short of my target this week (which was actually 10 days), but when I think about it, I'm okay with it. I have felt myself pushing a little harder, going a little farther, trying to do one more length of the pool because I have a goal and a deadline. These are ordinarily things I don't handle well. I ignore deadlines until they are upon me, and I try not to quantify life. But I am working little by little to improve this one aspect of my life, and it feels fantastic.

Saturday afternoon, my whole family went to the Y and worked out in the Wellness Center for an hour. Tonight, the boys and I went for another hour. I have been walking around the neighborhood. I have been to the pool with my girl and made myself swim (not my favorite thing to do) while she played and encouraged me. This is all good stuff. We might reach the point where we all feel ready to go hiking, which my love and I used to love doing together. I might even learn to enjoy cycling, which my love has wanted me to like for years. More than anything, I know I will not be lugging 165 pounds down the blue hall to my classroom every day next year and trying to lift it off the floor every morning. This is good.

Anyway, that's what I am up to. My endurance on the stationary has already increased dramatically, mostly because I can READ while I do that, but partly because my heart and quads are learning to cooperate with me. I even came home after spinning ten tonight and walked another 3/4 mile with the yellow dog. Tomorrow I'll see if I can squeeze in both a long walk and some extra lengths in the pool. I can do this!

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

18 years later

So, as the anniversary of my marriage to my beloved approaches, I am getting all sentimental. I've been scanning photos and uploading them to facebook, promising myself that I'll find time this summer to scan the negatives and preserve them digitally. It's funny how pictures can put you in a time and place in a surreal way, isn't it? Before I started scanning them in, I was thinking of posting here a secretish tale of all the things I hated about my wedding. Believe me. There were many. Nasty emotions were present, control issues abounded, and if I had it all to do again with today's eyes, the whole thing would be a world different. But as I scanned and read the thousands of words each photo carried, I remembered all the wonderful things, the happy emotions, the love that held it all together and made it happen. So what you'll read here is a blend of all that, a few pictures of the reality I have created for myself of that day.

We'll start here. The man in the stole is my beloved priest, mentor, friend, grandfather figure, Frank Mason Ross+. He and I spent countless services together at the altar, where I came to learn how to sense his needs before he would verbalize them, and he would gently guide me through caring for God's people. He and his lovely wife, Evelyn, meant more to my family than many a relative, and every Hart wept and giggled at his funeral some years later. He had retired before my wedding, and a new rector had come to lead our parish. I did not like the new guy, and I did not really want to. I wanted my Frank+ to marry us. I wanted MY priest to lay his hands on my beloved and me, to offer God's blessing on our new life together. But the new guy insisted that he be a part, and I questioned his motivation from the beginning. (These many years later, I still do.) Nonetheless, Bob was the one who led our "premarital counseling" (which was actually just a wedding plan - shame on him for not guiding us through important and tough questions!). Bob was the one who insisted during the rehearsal that God was okay with just the bride and groom receiving the communion. Let me just say, Hays-then-Hart showed her royal bridal ass and was plenty ready to run away that night and do it all differently. Nonetheless, my Frank+ made it all better. My friend Maxine+ gently persuaded and firmly insisted. I let the three of them hash it out theologically. Know what's funny? I don't really remember the resolution. I couldn't tell you if we all shared in the bread and cup or not. I just don't remember. All I remember is that I felt let down, disappointed, betrayed by the politics surrounding my faith. But the next day, when my Frank+ asked my love and me to say our vows to each other, when he held my hand before my husband put the ring on it, when he cried all the way through it, I just wanted to jump up in my white dress (which felt like an acolyte's vestment, come to think of it) and sneak into the parish hall and get him some water to help him clear his voice. I kind of wish I had. But I didn't want my Jimmy, who didn't fully understand my relationship with this old man, to think I was running. I didn't care what the hundred other folks crammed into the church thought, but I for sure didn't want my beloved to feel any more uncomfortable than a groom already does. When I think of my wedding, I think of Frank+, and I miss him terribly.

My face pretty much sums up everything I was feeling, I think! My sweet Momma. Oh, how I miss her, too. She tried so hard to be enthusiastic about the whole wedding mess despite her health, her uncertainty about my marrying at not-quite-22, her worries and concerns about pleasing me on a budget (which I later found she had blown completely). I look at the pictures of her dressing me and dressing my niece the flower girl, and I remember how tender she was in her gruffness, how her touch made all things better, and how she cared for me always in all ways. We were playful and silly and positive despite the stress and foolishness of it all. And my Nicole, in the red dress, was and remains my dearest friend of all time. With such a small church, I kept my bridesmaids to just my sisters, and Jimmy had his dad and brother on his side. But my Nik was there to do all the things a Matron of Honor would, and she did. She reminded me to eat and fetched me food. She ran to the drugstore for tampons and hairspray and all the things a bestie grabs from the honeymoon-needs list. She made me nap. She jumped right in and helped to dress me, she checked on the menfolk to make sure all was well there, and she surely did a thousand other things I have no idea about today, because that is what friends do. All these years later, after being pregnant together and raising kids and battling depression and all that life has thrown our way, we know that when we are old and need wiping, that the other will be there.

I don't know if I ever saw this picture before yesterday. I love it.

We had an official photographer, who was sort of adequate, but who didn't require that I buy an album and whose package price included the negatives. That's what I wanted. I never did a formal bridal portrait - too pricey - and spent way too much time during the reception being photographed. I hardly remember the reception. I remember that the community building was not air conditioned and we all spent a lot of time outside in the ocean breezes coming through the inlet, and I really didn't feel all that social anyway. Most of the people there were my family's and Jim's family's guests - not mine, really. I needed space, and I don't regret taking it. Nonetheless, we had also asked my niece's daddy, Stu, to take candids, too. He captured this moment of Hart life perfectly. We weren't all there, but with six or seven, it's hard to all be in the same place at the same time. We were together, and not necessarily concerned about what the rest of the world was up to. We always welcomed happiness in spite of tension. We pooted and giggled. I like to think that in the midst of the nonsense of the celebration that one of us farted and the rest of us were amused by it. That, or someone said something smartypants and triggered the silliness. Whatever it was, I love the look on my parents' faces, the goofy grins we all share in this shot.

And finally, at least for this post...

All my life I lived with this river. The mouth of the Cape Fear - I've actually been called that on more than one occasion - "The Water." When you live in a place like Southport, you take The Water for granted sometimes. You assume it is everywhere. Believe me, I have lived many places, and it isn't. This will always be a place that heals me, reminds me, softens me. I could sit and stare at this water forever. Our family often did, even if not always together. My Daddy spent countless hours sitting on the swings and benches with old-timers who remembered when Southport really was a quaint fishing village. My Momma and I would take my Beth (and eventually my Babies) to The Water to feed the gulls, watch the tides, enjoy the majesty. I would go-go-car-ride with my Maggie dog to find a few minutes to breathe in the salt-tinged air, just to breathe. We look to The Water for what has been, for what will be. When I look at myself in this picture, I think about how long I've been away from that place and how I can never really leave it. I sense a wistfulness, a tightness in the chest that says, "Goodbye, childhood; hello, marriage." And that is what my wedding really was. It was a time to remember how much I need my family, but that I was ready to make my own. It was a time to let the people in my life celebrate, to love me, to serve my groom and me, to serve each other.

I've said before that weddings are about everyone BUT the bride, and I still think that. The bride has already let go by the time the wedding comes around, at least as much as any of us really lets go, but the people around her need the ceremony to allow the letting-go to happen. The mother of the bride needs to have that moment of getting her baby girl ready one last time. The father of the bride needs to formally say, "This is mine. Treasure her," even if those aren't the words he says. The siblings need to have someone to mock once more, to share the attention with before she goes away. The family of the groom needs to let the bride's family dynamic be what it is, and to welcome her into their own. The groom needs to see how much fuss she is worth, to remember her face as she approaches their life together. Everyone needs to look at how the Bride and Groom show their love for each other and to each other, and remember that weddings are about love, about marriage, about commitment. They aren't about the flowers, or the dresses, or the arguing priests. They aren't about perfect pictures or glamorous cakes. They certainly aren't about getting drunk and partying all night, although that sometimes happens. Weddings are about transition from living apart to living as one. Ours was that. It might not have been perfect, and I would do some things differently if I had known better or if I planned it today, but I do know it was about love. I look at these pictures, and I don't see the sadness or hurt feelings, or stress. I don't see the flowers, or the ribbons, or the venue. I see love. And 18 years later, it's still there.

Happy anniversary to my best friend, my boyfriend, my true love, the father of my babies, the keeper of my tears, the holder of my hand, the pusher of my buttons, the bigger piece of me, my Jimmy, my honey, my husband. Wanna get married?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Random Summer Reading Thoughts

Took the kids to Barnes and Noble yesterday afternoon to make some "Summer Reading" purchases. They have their lists from the schools they'll be starting in the fall (Godhelpme, middle and high) and want to get the required reading out of the way to free up thinking space for their REAL summer reading.

Austin's heading into English II Honors (whatever that means) and has to annotate his readings. He is at that point where I have spent much time - the place where you think it is offensive, at best, to write in a book. And I'll admit, although I have no problems marking up my professional reading, especially printed copies of articles, I still don't like to capture my thinking in my novels. Maybe that comes from having borrowed so many, or maybe it's some other hang-up about letting the feelings and thoughts enter and exit without needing or wanting to capture them. Don't know... Either way, Austin picked one from the required list and one sequel to a book he'd read earlier this year, and will pick the third sometime after making his way through these two.

Kori's list was actually at the house, so we pulled it up in the i(diot)Phone. She's such a fiction girl, so the SC Junior Book Award Nominees list was plenty for her to make her choices. Conveniently, the good folks at the BN had a table set up with stacks of them. She asked for the one that was missing that she most wanted (Anything but Typical) and sent the workerguy scurrying into the back for it. We picked up a few others and I slipped over to the table for the Children's Book Award Nominees, which was the designated list most of my friends from this year would be using to guide their choices. I snatched up four or five for my classroom and for the beginnings of my own summer list.

See, for the past three years, I have only read a very few novels, what with all the reading of M.Ed. things, and my Summer Reading will be stacks and stacks of books from my classroom library. Sure, there are plenty of grown-up books that I might enjoy here and there, but I need, need, NEED to know more books for helping matchmake them with my fifth grade friends. I have to find more books that compel me to keep reading so I can help my friends meet a book that will push them beyond the required chapter or pages or minutes. I need to find out which ones from the required list will be good ones for me to suggest when I run into my friends in the grocery store and harass them lovingly about what they've been reading. I need to read, and so very often, the truest books are the ones not written for adults.

So, I've read two so far this summer break, and I am remembering how hard it is to try to read a book through a kid's eyes. It's hard to remember that kids don't always read a book cover-to-cover in one or two blocks of reading time. They might hit a chapter or two, then wait a day, then read some more, then wait, so they might not notice that the author seems to be rushing through the story - they've had hours or days to exist with the parts they've read, so when they pick it up, they're ready to move forward. It's hard to remember that my younger friends might get stuck on a part that doesn't make sense, maybe because of some word choice the author made, or because they don't understand a reference, or because the stupid publishers keep splitting the words up in arbitrary places... I don't have that problem as much when I am reading their books, so it's hard to remember how much thinking that can take. It's so hard, in fact, that I found myself wondering why I would even try to be a kid-reader. Duh! In order to make the most of a book, I need to read it through my eyes. Of course! I find myself thinking critically about the complexity of the novels, of how I want the author to develop the characters more, or how I wish they wouldn't leave out such big blocks of time, or blah blah blah, and that makes me realize that some kids will be doing the same thing, even if some are not. I need to be aware of what I am thinking when I am reading and not always second guessing what a kid might be thinking. They want to know what I think of a book when I recommend one to them, not what I think they will think. They want to know what a book made me feel, not what emotions I think it might evoke in them. They want to know what my relationship was with the author. They want to know why I think they would like it, which means that I know THEM, not just the book. THAT is what I need to remember as I read this stack I've started.

Once I got that straight in my head, I opened myself to a realization: what I am learning about myself as a reader is that I bring my relationships with others to every book I read, and that is what makes books great. All that text-to-text and text-to-self and text-to-world connecting and the labeling thereof is one thing (and Austin has to label the connections he makes in his annotations - UGH) but I think we might be ignoring or missing out on one important connection we make when we read: Text-to-others. (And yes, I am making this up as I go, so please, friends, tell me if I stole this from someone else in my subconscious readerbrain.)

Take the book I just finished this morning: Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry. I found that I wasn't so much imagining how I would feel if I were the main character (Brother) or how he was feeling or thinking. Instead, I realized I was thinking of friends I have who might read this and what they might be feeling as they read it. I thought of a young Catholic friend I taught this year who would understand all the references to the Mass and to serving as an acolyte, and how that would draw him closer to Brother. I thought of my grownup friend from California and how I had never heard of Basque before I met her and how she would connect to those references. I imagined the life my pre-school nephew might lead, being the son of a Lt.Colonel, knowing that his dad might have led some neighbors into battle and sent them home in pieces, and how that might make him feel if he read this when he was older. I couldn't think about how I connected to this text without thinking about how others might. I had all of those people with me in my bed this morning as I read the final chapter and wept and wept. If I had allowed myself to read this book analytically, or critically, or from a how-would-I-teach-this-book lens, I would not have. Because I invited my relationships into the book, I could feel the story, know the characters, and imagine the life Brother was leading.

I guess what I am thinking here is that I need to help my readers find books that connect to them, to their experiences, to their schema, but maybe I need to spend some extra time helping them build relationships with each other so they can take each other home with them over the summer and over their lives. If they know about more than just themselves, if they know their friends and their friends' stories, if they can imagine that theirs is not the only point-of-reference, then they can grow in their own understanding of books by taking those friends' lives into account when they are reading.

So, as I start my next book this evening, know that one or more of you, dear readers, might be curled up beside me as I invite you in for my experience with the new text. Looking greatly forward to seeing who shows up in my head!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I'd rather be naked

Before you get excited about the title, know that this is still a PG-rated place. No nudity here, unless you let it pop into your mind, and I strongly suggest you don't.

My family is at the neighborhood pool. I am not. There are several reasons for this, which I suppose you could call excuses, but I'll share them with you.

One: It is hot out there. It is not in here. I love the outdoors, but I have perspired enough in the past 24 hours to last a decade. Fifth grade celebration (which is not a graduation, but by golly it felt like one after two hours in the seriously under-cooled theater) and the extended recess yesterday afternoon had me fanning myself so much yesterday I should have sore triceps today. (I love that as I was pushing the last little bits of paper before it started that my little people knew instinctively that I could not fan myself with the laminated Uncle Sam poster while gluing a script to construction paper, and three of them leaped into action, creating my own personal fan system. God bless them for knowing their old woman teacher.) All of that to say, I am paying for this air conditioning and I do not mind one bit being in it.

Two: Swimsuits are bad, bad, bad news for women who do not have perfect bodies. Guys, I promise, not one of us is judging your middle-aged white bellies or your hairy backs or your scrawny bird chests. We are too busy worrying about who can tell how much skin we have that our swimsuits won't contain, or how European we look despite our best hair-removal efforts, or the number of jiggles-per-step our thighs now make. Really. It is almost hard to have fun knowing that you feel like a marine mammal pretending to be human. It is especially hard when you haven't always had a waistline bigger than your hips or bust. Combined. I tried to put on a suit to go join my family. I couldn't get my biggest one-piece on, and the tankini that fits actually makes me look bigger than I do naked. This can not be the phenomenon the manufacturer expected for me.

Three: I like being here by myself. I like napping. I like (well, don't get annoyed by) doing laundry and tidying up when I am home alone. I can clip my hair out of my face and take off my more uncomfortable garments when I am at home on a Saturday afternoon and love knowing that I do not have to go anywhere all day. Heck, I can soak in the tub and pretend it's a pool - and not have to worry about how I look (see "Two" above).

So, I guess I am saying it is summer and I would rather be naked. Is that so wrong?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Are all readers created equal?

Some of you who frequent this space might not know that I am in my capstone course for an M.Ed in Language and Literacy from USC. (Okay, most of you who frequent this space are in that same program. But I like to pretend I have other readers.) It is not a thesis program (hence, the M.Ed. and not the M.A., I am guessing) but we have a culminating academic paper due in, um, 11 days, which is to be a synthesis of our understanding about one of the tenets of literacy instruction we've explored and embraced over these 33 hours/ 3 years. Am I the only one who thinks this is actually a thesis program? Hey, we've been doing academic vocabulary in our district - see that "thesis" root in "synthesis" up there? Yeah. I am to express belief and support it with evidence from the Body of Works we've studied...

Anyway, I digress. (Not shocking.) And I am on this site writing some random ponderings instead of in Word writing the bloody paper. (Also, not shocking.) But not really...

See, I just finished rereading a couple of articles we read at the beginning of our program, way back in the summer of 2008, right at the peak of my mourning and during a time when I still wasn't certain if I would be teaching the coming fall. Both were about Louise Rosenblatt: one was her thoughts on reading occurring in the transaction between reader and text, and on the efferent and aesthetic stances of readers. The other, on her theory in practice at my pal Emily Grace's AMAZING elementary school. As I read these articles with my older and (perhaps) wiser eyes, I experienced something new (as Louise would have predicted). Actually, I think I experienced some of the same old things, just with a different perspective grounded in having experienced more living and teaching and mothering.

Here's what I read today: School too often interferes with growing readers by trying to grow them too quickly, at someone else's arbitrarily inflicted pace and under someone else's definition of "growth."

Now, some of you are trying to figure out how I got there, I am guessing. (Some of you might not have any idea what I am talking about, but read on, and I promise some of it might make sense.) This week, my precious babies (those both borne and assigned unto me) took MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Reading. They sat at their little computer screens and answered all kinds of "comprehension" questions about passages, roots of words, literary elements, and such. Some of them did astoundingly better on this administration of MAP than they had in the fall. A good many of them flatlined within the range they had scored in the fall. My own personal fifth grader kicked its assonance, both in raw score and in fall-spring difference, especially unusual given that she didn't have much room to grow! With all this MAP on the mind and with my existential ponderings of my core beliefs which I call "pre-writing," I came to wonder what in the world is going on in our classrooms and lives that makes one kid's MAP Reading transaction produce results so very different than another's.

It occurs to me that MAP (and, indeed, PASS, SAT, and all other standardized testing) measures not "academic progress" but "dominance of efferent stance in experiencing this text." It also occurs to me that the brilliant things my students have said all year long about the texts we've shared and the ones they've read with friends can not be reflected by this test. Now, I don't teach Kori (thanks be to God) but I do teach lots and lots of little people who have been in her classes since first grade. She has sat alongside these chronological peers for the same "lessons" in reading and writing, math, science, and social studies. She has heard the same lectures, done the same activities and projects, eaten the same lunch, played the same PE games... In short, she has lived with these people school day in and school day out. But she looks infinitely "smarter" when it comes to the numbers she can get the test to produce.

And yes, y'all, that girl is smart. But I can't say that she thinks any more deeply than the people I teach. She is clever and witty, but no more so than many of my babies. She is quick to incorporate new concepts into her current understandings of the world, but I teach lots of kids who are that way. I am definitely not involved in her homework - never have been - and I don't even read to her anymore. (Sad!) Our family is as dysfunctional as the next. (OK, maybe not, but we do argue and keep a messy house and watch a lot of tv...) HOW DID SHE LEARN TO PLAY THE TESTING GAME?

The only answer I have is that reading is a part of her - a big part - and she has always been a reader, not just of texts, but of everything around her. She studies her environment, connects to it, makes everything make sense. But don't these other kids? Didn't their mommies take them to the hands-on museums and the Little Gym and all the other hyper-mom nonsense I've done? Most of them did. Some of them have provided experiences I never even thought of or cared to! But something in her multitude of experiences made language, made literacy make sense to her in a way that it doesn't yet to so many other kids. She can distinguish "paradox" from "oxymoron" and "hyperbole" because she constructed ideas of these concepts, then someone named them for her, and then she managed to remember the name long enough to recognize it on the test. Maybe her aesthetic stance toward life has enabled her to code-switch and recognize when an efferent stance is needed, and her aesthetic reading foundation has made the efferent possible...

It is hard for me to distinguish which of my beliefs about reading and learning were always part of me, which ones were confirmed by my participation in this program, and which ones I have only recently come to hold true. I do know this: learning is harder for some kids than others, particularly "academic" learning. Maybe it isn't even harder as much as it takes longer to take root. But our system fails those kids by making them jump right into demonstrating their understanding before they are ready to even realize that they DO understand. We fail them by spending too much of their life hours doing mundane and damaging tasks rather than helping them see what a life as a reader and learner has to offer. We spend precious hours teaching them how to use each other's expertise to further their writing and how it feels to record your thoughts and share them with the world, and then we have to spend countless more hours helping them learn how to respond to a prompt all by themselves without assistance of any resource other than a dictionary and a thesaurus. It's crap. Pure. Crap. And I don't know how much longer I can endure it.

So, to bring it back to my title - are all readers created equal? YES. Yes, they are, in that each is equipped with the capacity to acquire language and to use it to make sense of the world around them. Each is born to be loved and to experience life fully. Each comes to school looking for someone to help them further their understanding of the world. And we systematically blow it for so many of our kids by doing ridiculous things in the name of Education.

I don't need a test to show me which kids are readers and which are not. They all are. I see it in them every day, and I intend full well to help them see it, too.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring is in the air - and my bronchi

Blucko. I have an official case of the crud. My official self-diagnosis is a bronchitis/sinusitis combo, brought on by the public mating of all God's vegetation over the course of the past two weeks.

And so, I self-medicate. A little of this, a lot of that, hoping to find the right combination that will knock the edge off of my cough-till-I-pee-a-little crud-expelling. (Have I mentioned my affinity for the hyphen?) Today's drugs of choice include Robitussin DM and ibuprofen in addition to the daily cetirizine (Zyrtec) and Flonase (rather, its generic, manufactured by - no kidding - Hi-Tech Pharmacal).

I'm about to bite the bullet and try the much-lauded neti pot. I am a girl who greatly (overly?) appreciates the beauty of pus, that amazing combination of white blood cells, bacteria, and proteins that magically rids our bodies of many rank and raunchy invaders. I openly admit the pleasure I find in bursting big boils, popping pimples, draining abcesses and cysts... So you'd think I'd look forward to the potentially disgusting booger-ridden crud that will pour from my nostril if I find the courage to squirt saline up the other.

Here's the problem with THAT: I have always been mortified of drowning. (Thanks, momma.) I grew up at the coast, and I love the water, and I do know how to swim, but I am still a little anxious about putting myself in any situation in which I might find myself inhaling water. Know what I am saying? Why would I ever squirt volumes of water up my nose? Seems counter-intuitive to the whole breathing concept.

But I might be reaching my limit. Might give it a try.

Or I might just go see the doctor tomorrow and see what other pharmaceutical magic she has up her sleeve for me.