midwestern days

I have not given up hope that there are survivors from Malaysian flight 370.

me freaking out about (not) cancer

(so this happened to me a while ago)

Day 1

Woke up in the morning and felt really sore on my right side.  I started feeling around the right side of my body to localize the pain and it lead to my right breast and then holy christ, no it couldn’t be, there was a lump there.  A large smooth lump that seemed pretty solid but moved around.  It felt painful, like touching a bruise.  A woman’s worst nightmare right?  I kept to myself that morning not saying a word to my husband I went into work that day without saying a word to anyone.  I decide I will keep this to myself until getting a medical opinion because I don’t know if I could bear the pity.  I know I am being stupid.  I could feel it there all day when I wasn’t even touching it, it was awful.

Day 2-3

I google myself into a frenzy.  Does this seem like cancer?  Could it be something else?

Day 4

It doesn’t hurt anymore and it feels slightly smaller.  Call doctors office to make appointment for breast exam.   I couldn’t get in with the doctor I wanted until next month so I asked if I could just wait.  The receptionist said I should have come in yesterday which didn’t make me feel comforted. I said I had read on the internet that I should wait a few weeks until I’d gone through a menstrual cycle.  She told me to stay off the internet.

Day 5-6

Despite the receptionists suggestion I continue to google myself to the breaking point.  Ok if this IS cancer what are my odds what are my treatments what do I have in terms of options for reconstruction after a double mastectomy and what do those look like? (seriously I’m a crazy person)   

Day 9 (pre doc visit)

Well I’ve finally settled down some.  I spent most of my days trying not to think about it.  When I do my google searches are a lot more rational such as:  What happens at a breast exam? What could this be other than cancer? I do check to make sure it’s still there every day (it is).  But other than that I’m just plodding along;  seeing friends, playing music, working etc. My first doctors appointment is today and I feel nervous.  Not bad nervous though, more like giddy nervous.  I think I’m actually excited to have somebody to talk to about this.  Keeping it to myself was stupid but I did it and now I get to talk about it with someone and the prospect of that is making me feel good.

Day 9 (post doc visit)

Well, that did not go well.  I arrived at 11:00 at the doctors office and sat and waited until 11:50 when the Doctor actually saw me.  I’ve had to wait to see doctors before but this was horrible.  When you’re visiting the doctor for a possible life changing illness an hour to sit and stew is awful.  Especially in an OBGYN office filled with pregnant mothers and kids.  It was actually pretty much empty but the few people waiting seemed happy and/or playful.  The Doc did apologize for the wait and confirmed that the lump I felt was real AND the noticed my lymph nodes were swollen in my other breast.  Goddamit really!? She made an appointment for me to go see a breast specialist on Monday morning.  Another weekend of not knowing.  5 horrible days. 

When I got back to work it was hard to concentrate.  I try to fight the urge to google but I google anyways; ‘what’s the life expectancy of someone with breast cancer?’ ’ how to tell your parents you have cancer’ and oddly, ‘were you able to keep your job and fight breast cancer at the same time?’

This sucks.

Day 10

Last night I toughed it through a social engagement totally distracted from my doctors visit early that morning.  Part way though I text Eric that I had a bad visit to the doctor.  I had had enough, I had to get it off my chest.  Unfairly to him I didn’t tell him until about 45 minutes later when I picked him up to get a drink and some food.  Right when he got in the car he asked what was wrong and I told him about the doctors visit and the unexpected swollen lymph nodes and about the specialist they are rushing me in to see first thing Monday morning (it’s Wednesday).

me:  They seemed pretty serious no one assured me that it was ‘probably nothing’ and they’re rushing me in to see a specialist
him:  … quiet… them having you wait 5 days is rushing?

He then announced he would be canceling all his plans to spend the weekend with me.  I insisted he not do this.  I kind of want the peace and quiet also I’ve got a lot of work to do over the weekend so we can leave for vacation on Wednesday.  If we DO leave if I am not as sick as a fear I am. 

I have done a good job not googling.  My brain is still reeling - thinking really bad thoughts but I’ve been keeping the googling under control at least.

Day 14 (pre doc visit)

After a long weekend of trying not to think about what’s happening with varying degrees of success I am headed to the specialist this morning.  What kind of specialist you ask?  A cancer specialist, sigh.  I woke up before my alarm pretty well terrified.  My heart has been racing so fast this morning I’ve had to sit down a couple times for fear of passing out.  The 5 day wait between doctor visits was hard but not as hard as these few hours the morning of the actual visit.  My life could totally change today by lunchtime I will either be starting my battle with breast cancer or publishing these entries with a sigh of relief and a, ‘thank g-d it’s nothing’.  That’s pretty huge.  The thing that is scaring me most about the possible cancer diagnosis right now is having to tell my 70+ year old parents.  That’s got to be the hardest thing to have to tell your parents ever right?  The thought makes me sick especially my father, I don’t know if I can stand to see the look of sadness on his face.

Day 14 (post doc visit)

I pull up to the Piper Building (women’s health building).  There is a nice convenient parking lot right there but man is parking steep.  Hospitals should provide free parking!  I go to the information desk and say I need to check in and she says for what procedure and I stand there confused.  I’m confused because I have no idea because the Doctor I saw last week never mentioned to me what this appointment entailed… but we’ll get to that later.  They eventually send me on my way and I check in for my first step which is a mammogram and who do I check in with buy my childhood neighbor, Donna.  Man, she looked great.  Of course the first thing that came into my mind was that if I was even considering hiding this from my mom that that would no longer be an option now.  You know what though, it was great to see her.  It was great to get a big hug and hear about her travels and things she’s done with my mom lately.  Talk about calming.

The mammogram was more awful and painful than I’d ever imagined.  It was also nothing like I’d ever imagined.  After the mammogram they decided to give me an ultrasound because apparently I have dense breasts.  The ultrasound/mammogram tech was nice and calm and just exuded, ‘this is no big deal’ which I needed.  She talked about house-hunting and I talked about the nervous breakdown I’ve been having for the last 2 weeks and finally she turns to me and says, I just know this is a cyst.  I can’t diagnose you but this is really nothing. I had been wanting to hear those words for so long and at the same time I didn’t believe her and I just sat there and waited.

Eventually the doctor came, a pretty blonde woman with a little lesbian vibe.  To make me feel better about my ‘dense’ breasts she said they were ‘womanly’ and confirmed it was a cyst.  I didn’t really believe her either so when she said there were two options:  let it go away on it’s own or stick a needle in and remove it I opted for the latter because during my hours of internet research I read of woman that were mis-diagnosed with a cyst, or the cyst was hiding the cancer and I wanted to see that thing gone.  I mean if she stuck a needle in it and it didn’t go away then she was wrong and I needed to see that play out.

Long story short (heh) not only can they get rid of the cyst in about 20 seconds but you can watch the entire thing on the ultrasound monitor.  You actually see it disappear, it is AMAZING I mean how often do you go to the doctor, get a definitive diagnosis AND get the option to make it all go away.  Never right?  As blonde doctor finished curing what ailed me I expected her to fist pump and shout “booya!”  Instead she declared, “now you can’t do THAT to cancer!” Truth is better than fiction.

This whole experience was pretty eyeopening.  I’ve always known I’m terrified of major illnesses but I didn’t know that my powers of overreacting were so massive.  Had today gone differently I would have gotten a biopsy.  If it came back with a prognosis of cancer I would have probably had a lumpectomy or a mastectomy followed by chemo or radiation  (something like this) you don’t have a lot of choices - you get diagnosed and you have to go through the process and hope for the best right? There’s not much else you can do so it seems strange to lose your mind with worry over it.  Not that that will stop me.

I will never see that gynecologist again I think she was terrible.  Ok fine she left me waiting for 50 minutes that would be forgivable if I didn’t feel rushed through my appointment after waiting so long.  She confirmed I had a lump and said she had to send me away for further tests.  She never once told me what it could be other than cancer.  She never once told me how low my odds were of this being cancer.  She never once told me what the follow up appointment would entail.  The whole thing makes me angry but not enough to do anything about it beyond finding a new OBGYN.

Call me a drama queen I don’t care but the speech from the first episode of Friday Night Lights really touched me during this (non)ordeal.  I think it’s beautiful writing and though I didn’t fall this time, it’s just a matter of time.

"Give all of us gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives… fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts… that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves."

Student Loans

They’re bringing me down man.  This New Years I vowed to double my payments… now,  reality sets in and I’m not sure I can swing it.  So I increased my payment by 75%!  Maybe I can handle the additional 25% this summer if I stop splurging on expensive meals and cancel my parking/gym membership. My estimated payoff date is now:


Though if I don’t pull this off earlier I’ll explode.  Better than my old ‘Projected Debt Free Date’ of March 2021!

Was it all worth it?  Considering I spent very little time working in either field you might be surprised to hear, ‘maybe’.  Nothing’s black and white right? Education is never a bad investment - that’s what my mom always says.  And I met my husband and one of my closest friends there so… not for the intended reasons, but I guess yeah it wasn’t a total loss.

Them Dance Hall Girls

The first quote I ever heard about this duo was, "Fraser & DeBolt were the greatest Canadian band never to have made it."  Who could resist exploring a band with that accolade?

Them Dance Hall Girls by Fraser & DeBolt on Grooveshark

The foundation of our course is based on correcting a misconception: that to make a marriage work, you have to find the right person. The fact is, you have to be the right person…

The First Lesson of Marriage 101: There Are No Soul Mates (The Atlantic)

I may not truly understand what this quote means but I like it.

Cinnamon Brown Browns

This frigid day was one of baking experiments.  Today… a cinnamon cake cookie topped with Martha Stewarts brown butter icing that has a caramel taste. 

Wet Ingredients (mix these together first):

¼ c. butter
¾ c. brown sugar
1 egg
2 envelopes (or squares) unsweetened baker’s chocolate (melted)
½ c. sour cream

Dry Ingredients (add these to wet mix above):

1½ c. flour
½ t. soda
½ t. salt
1 t. cinnamon

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 min

Martha Stewarts Brown Butter Icing:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk


1. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and pour butter into a bowl, leaving any burned sediment behind.

2. Add sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon milk; stir until smooth. If the icing is too thick, add the remaining tablespoon milk, a little at a time, until consistency is spreadable. Let cool 5 minutes. Use immediately.




Tortilla De Patata

When I lived over in Europe I had a boyfriend from Spain who taught me this dish. I don’t even like eggs but this meal was delicious. 5 simple ingredients and totally tasty. Also, unlike most egg dishes, it is great cold - and it is even better the next day. It’s also great for picnics if you cut it into bite sized pieces.  


5 eggs
3 medium Idaho potatoes
1 medium to small onion
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt


1. Peel potatoes then slice them very thinly (you can use a mandolin, I use a peeler)

2. Slice onion very thinly

3. Place potatoes and onions into 10” non-stick pan with the oil on medium-high heat. (potatoes/onions will overflow this pan but eventually cook down). Cook until potatoes are cooked and onions translucent. About 15 minutes.


4. While potatoes and onions are cooking. Take a big bowl (a bowl you could fit potatoes/onions in) and break 5 eggs into it. Beat eggs and salt together for a few minutes.

5. When potatoes and onions are finished, strain the excess oil and add potatoes/onions into beaten eggs.

6. Mix potatoes and eggs together.

7. Add entire concoction back into 10” fry pan (you can wipe the pan and add 1 tsp of oil or if there is a little oil left in the pan just reuse it). Heat on medium-low for about 10 minutes. When the eggs look like they are starting to set and you can slide the tortilla back/forth without it sticking it is time to flip it.

8. Put plate on top of fry pan and flip the tortilla onto the plate. Put fry pan back onto burner and push the tortilla back into the pan. Cook this side an additional 8-10 minutes.

9. If the tortilla is misshaped flip it a couple times.




(Philip Seymour Hoffman) did not die from an overdose of heroin — he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine.

He didn’t die because he was partying too hard or because he was depressed — he died because he was an addict on a day of the week with a y in it.

If I was to be honest about my time-sheet this morning it would go something like this:

.25 - Do some work
.50 - Check Airfare Prices on Kayak (or maybe this one)
.25 - Do some work
.25 - Work on my tiny-mod-cabin pinterest board
.25 - Empty Company Dishwasher
.25 - IM with co-worker about work that spirals into other non-work topics

ok, time to focus.

Snowshoeing in the Great White North

We spent this past weekend snowshoeing in central Minnesota.  There was a fresh layer of snow - Felt as deep as 3’ in parts.  It was stunning.  It was silent.  It was totally empty.  I don’t know if it was because it was super bowl weekend or because it was -4 (f) where we were but it felt like we had the whole state park to ourselves.  Snowshoeing was lovely! Staying in a cabin with no electricity and an outhouse on the other-hand, well that was awful.





6 Rules of Eating

A reminder for myself from an old Michael Pollan article:

1. Don’t eat anything your great-great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

2. Avoid foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

3. Spend more, eat less.

Americans are as addicted to cheap food as we are to cheap oil. We spend only 9.7% of our income on food, a smaller share than any other nation. Is it a coincidence we spend a larger percentage than any other on health care (16%)? All this “cheap food” is making us fat and sick. It’s also bad for the health of the environment. The higher the quality of the food you eat, the more nutritious it is and the less of it you’ll need to feel satisfied.

4. Pay no heed to nutritional science or the health claims on packages.

5. Shop at the farmers’ market. You’ll begin to eat foods in season, when they are at the peak of their nutritional value and flavor, and you’ll cook, because you won’t find anything processed or microwavable.

6. How you eat is as important as what you eat.

Americans are fixated on nutrients, good and bad, while the French and Italians focus on the whole eating experience. The lesson of the “French paradox” is you can eat all kinds of supposedly toxic substances (triple creme cheese, foie gras) as long as you follow your culture’s (i.e., mother’s) rules: eat moderate portions, don’t go for seconds or snacks between meals, never eat alone. But perhaps most important, eat with pleasure, because eating with anxiety leads to poor digestion and bingeing. There is no French paradox, really, only an American paradox: a notably unhealthy people obsessed with the idea of eating healthily. So, relax. Eat Food. And savor it.

kitchen remodel

Nearly 5 years ago now my now husband I and bought little house in South Minneapolis, it was in pretty good condition with the exception of the kitchen (and arguably the bathroom).  So we (he) took it upon ourselves (himself) to gut and remodel the kitchen.  And what a long, arduous process that was.  We are talking 3 years without a kitchen and an additional 4-5 months with a not quite finished kitchen.  There were arguments and there were good times too (exploring the world of fondue and making smores in the fireplace…).  Now I present, our before(OK I can’t find any before but ‘process shots’) and after shots:



This morning I threw on an old record as I was getting ready for work, Jerry Jeff Walker - Ridin’ High’ (a great album). I fell in love with Walker when I went through my country swing dancing phase a few years back. He’s great. Who is he? You might ask. Well, he’s probably best known for writing Mr. Bojangles. And with with nothing but respect I’ve got to also admit that he didn’t do it the best. Sure Mr. Walker may have actually met Mr. Bojangles, in jail like he said. But no one really captured Mr. Bojangles like Sammy Davis Junior did they? Jerry Jeff,  the world owes you a debt of gratitude for writing this classic, but lets be honest, Sammy brought it to life.

Sammy Davis

(original) Jerry Jeff Walker

Only in #minnesota do you dress up like an Eskimo to run your car in the afternoon to ensure it will start when you finish work #mn #cold #deepfreeze #freeze

Only in #minnesota do you dress up like an Eskimo to run your car in the afternoon to ensure it will start when you finish work #mn #cold #deepfreeze #freeze

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

(adapted from food network)

In my unabashed excitement of my new Kitchen Aid Mixer I have been experimenting with cookies and trust me these are really something special.  This is really close to the food network recipe but tweaked from personal experience.


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled (old-fashioned) oats
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and oats together.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together for 30 seconds until blended. Beat in the egg. With mixer running on medium high, drizzle in the maple syrup, and vanilla until incorporated. Turn the mixer down to its lowest setting and gradually add the flour-oatmeal mixture. Blend just to combine, then mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop spoon-sized balls of dough onto a nonstick or parchment-lined cookie sheet at 3-inch intervals. With moistened fingers, flatten and round out the cookies a little. Bake for 12 minutes. The cookies are done when they are lightly browned on top. Set the cookie sheets on a rack to cool. 


This recipe should make 24 cookies.  The entire recipe contains about 3185 calories making the cookies about 132 calories a piece.  But remember there are oats in ‘em so they’re healthy, right?