Monday, May 31, 2010

If You're Happy And You Know It...

Somehow, the book "The Geography of Bliss" ended up in my looming stack of books to read this year. And I'm not sorry that it did because it is really, really good.

How can you not love a book that tells the adventures of "one grump's search for the happiest places in the world?" In fact, after my last two reads, both of which centered on life in Afghanistan during the Taliban reign, I was certainly ready for something more uplifting.

In the first chapter, the grump - or the writer - finds himself in the Netherlands which he describes as being pretty dreary, on the surface. Despite the uninspiring landscape, the author explains that it's the "freedom" of the culture in the Netherlands that really makes people happy there. Freedom, according to the author, is legal access to "soft" drugs and prostitution.

You can see why this book is a little addictive, no pun intended.

Along with rampant drugs and easy sex, one can also find The World Database of Happiness, or the WDH in the Netherlands. The author, who set up camp for several weeks at the WDH, had access to all of humanity's accumulated knowledge of happiness. I wondered, when reading about this place, if the smiley face sticker was born at the WDH.

(It wasn't; I checked. Although the US isn't as happy as the Netherlands, we created the happy sticker. Go figure.)

The research findings on happiness from the WDH are interesting; both expected and surprising; some are completely counter-intuitive.

Here are some of the points, and my thoughts:

Extroverts are happier than introverts.
Does having an active Facebook life count as being extroverted?

Optimists are happier than pessimists.
Really? I never would have guessed.

Married people are happier than singles.
Sometimes. But not always. I'm happier now.

Republicans are happier than Democrats.
No comment.

People who attend religious services are happier than those who do not.
There are a lot of happy people at my church. I wonder if I'd be happier if I went more often?

People with college degrees are happier than those without.
Finally, that damn BA is paying off.

People with advanced degrees are less happy than those with just a BA.
Thanks, USC for saving me from years of debt. I didn't want your damn MA degree, anyway.

People with an active sex life are happier than those without.
Do ya think?

Women and men are equally happy.
Really? Men seem happier perhaps because...

Women have a wider emotional range.
Wider? That's a kind way to put it.

Having an affair will make you happy but will not compensate for the massive loss of happiness that you will incur when your spouse finds out and leaves you.
No personal experience on this one. But good to know, nonetheless!

People are least happy when they're commuting to work.
After commuting for endless hours in the Bay Area with Xanax in my glove compartment, I can attest to this.

Busy people are happier than those with little to do.
So true. What's the saying about an idle mind?

Carbs are the cornerstone to happiness.
OK, I made this one up but if you're wondering, click here: and see how "Atkin's Lite" is going. Can happiness really be found in a chicken breast, a head of lettuce or a daily protein shake?

As for "The Geography of Bliss," I'm captivated with the destinations and the author's quest. It's a page-turner and quite enlightening, as well.

Sadly, it also makes me want to move. Switzerland, anyone?

Monday, May 24, 2010

What Not To Eat

I had an idea earlier today about what I wanted to write about and I was going to fashion the post after the show, "What Not To Wear."

But, frankly, all that's in my brain right now is the deluge of information that I'm getting from my nutritionist (who's help I've enlisted in getting through this thyroid "storm"). For someone like me, that is, someone who is somewhat obsessed with health and wellness, having access to a nutritionist is a great thing.

It's also a significant investment that I want to leverage. If I can help my clients, my colleagues, my friends and my family with new information and help myself in the process, then it's money well spent.

I'll be posting each week here:

And I'll be coming back to that "What Not To Wear" post. But it has to do with summer and since the sun has yet to shine for two consecutive days, I think I have some time. Which I'll need, because having to tackle a subject like what some females deem appropriate attire for inferno temperatures in this town will take some tact. On that note...

Shots of flax oil await.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Doing Time In The Dugout

As much as I love Ben's dedication to baseball, I do not love what he is learning from the older boys on his Little League team.

The fact is, Ben is the second youngest on his team and he is totally and completely enamored with the team troublemaker. Ben seeks out this boy in the dugout (despite the rules about sitting according to the batting line-up) and repeats everything this child teaches him, much to my horror and shock.

This week, we had a game in the rain. I was huddled with the other moms on the lawn, near 1st base and a good distance from the dugout. We were discussing important details of one mom's upcoming getaway to Napa - sans kids - when I heard this:


I furrowed my brow (which is why I need that damn Botox) as the other moms immediately ceased their discussion of how fabulously romantic Silverado would be - and looked at me, wide-eyed.

No other mom has ever been called to the dug-out. At least not on our team.

As I silently cursed my ex for missing the next few games (due to work), the command was repeated. Loudly.


It was one of those rare moments in parenthood where I momentarily lost my identify. Who is Ben's mom? I'm Janeen. Am I really someone's mother? Then, I snapped back to reality and sheepishly made my way to the dugout.

The dugout was mayhem. Little boys and helmets and bats and gloves were everywhere. One mother peeked around the corner and quickly backed away. "It's a hurricane in there!" The mom in charge of the dugout threw up her hands in exasperation. "You need to sit with him," she ordered, as she pointed to Ben.

Ben was in the eye of the hurricane. Next to, of course, the team troublemaker. Between the two, there was a flurry of pokes, jabs, and body slams. I also saw a kick and a good drench from a water bottle.

I planted myself between 60 pound Ben and the 75 pound troublemaker but the physical exchanges continued. I realized - after the tenth body slam - that the two boys combined outweighed me and that they needed to be much farther apart - like one boy in Fair Oaks and the other in Carmichael. I settled for opposite ends of the dug-out and settled myself on the bench for the rest of the game.

On the way home, Ben and I had a little chat about appropriate behavior in the dug-out. What Ben must have heard was "wah-wah-wah" because as soon as I finished my lecture and asked if he had any questions, the conversation went right to the troublemaker:

"When can we have a play date with him, Mommy?" "He's my very favorite person on the team."

Right then, I realized that I might as well leave my lawn chair in the trunk for the duration of the season. I think I'm destined for the dug-out. Which might not be so bad. Because...

Yesterday, I emailed a friend who has coached for years, which makes him somewhat of an expert on Little League matters, since he has two boys who also play. I relayed the dugout story to him.

And then he told me what happened in the dugout of his 11-year-old's son's team this week.

His son's team is comprised of one 4th grader and several boys from each grade up through middle school. During this week's game, the older boys tested the knowledge of the younger boys with this question: "Do you know what a BJ is?"

Dear Lord.

So there is yet another benefit to Little League: my son will get schooled on activities that I do not want him to know anything about until he is, say, 30.

My friend went on to relay all the rewards associated with team sports: boys learn to channel their physical energy in a collective way, they are exposed early to team building and the character building that comes with supporting one another both on and off the field, and the "pack" mentality that boys generally gravitate toward is fostered and strengthened.

As a bonus, they also learn about BJs. From their teammates. Which gets me off the hook for that conversation. Unless the boys get the information wrong.

I'm staying in the dugout. Indefinitely.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Inquiring Minds. Or, Fun on a Friday Night

It's a contemplative day. I've resisted the urge to update my Facebook status with the questions that have been burning in my brain all day long. I'll do it here instead.

How have I lived an adult foodie life without a "real" food processor?

I drank two Kombuchas today. I am:
a.) so healthy that I can fend off any and all diseases (hey, that's what the bottle says!).
b.) a fermented fool. Who spends a lot of money on health fads.

Why is there a whole case of wine in my closet? Why has it been there since Christmas?

Bad idea or good: my ex-sister-in-law friended me tonight on Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, how many stalkers do I have since my information, my wall, my pictures all have been accessible to THE WORLD until this evening. Am I the only idiot on earth that didn't secure any of this stuff? Thank, C!

Has a Blackberry ever broken from excessive texting?

Should guys who are jerks - and who re-surface - be given second chances? Does sincerity count?

When you go into Jiffy Lube with a 50% off coupon, why do they convince you that your engine will fall out if you do not spend at least $100 on transmission/battery/coolant/blah-blah-blah/stuff.

When did it become common for the person providing your waxing service be of the male gender? And why is this so weird, even with just a simple brow wax?

Is it really pathetic to be genuinely bummed out that I have to wait an ungodly amount of time for Season 4 of Mad Men to release? Am I crazy for loving Don Draper as much as I do?

Is there any other mom who is NOT looking forward to the long, hot and unstructured days of summer?

Now that I've added the Visual Bookshelf application to my Facebook page, have I convinced anyone that I am a literary affection ado?

What will it take to get my son to eat "adult" food? Will we ever share a meal that doesn't involve a nugget, an egg, pizza or a Zone Bar?

Why does Costco sell a three month membership to Lego Land for just a few dollars more than a one day pass? What am I missing here?

What happened to good pick-up lines? If I'm in the store with a zillion pound bag of dog food, is there a better opener than: "Soooooo, do you have a dog?"

Is it true that when you stop looking for something (a job, a date, a dress, a purpose), it finds you?

Would it be in bad form to not return a borrowed food processor? Can I at least keep it for a really, really long time?

Who are the geniuses at Trader Joe's behind the dark chocolate, sea salt and turbinado sugar almonds?

Can there be anything sweeter than a 6-year-old jumping up and down with excitement over a $9.99 set of sheets with skulls and cross bones?

When the 6-year-old hits the ball so hard, that it lands square on the face of the second baseman, is it in poor taste for mom to jump up and down with excitement? Not that I did.

Does blogging on a Friday night - at 9pm - whilst sipping warm milk basically mean that I have no life whatsoever?

Is the end of "Duplicity" worth watching?

When the insurance company sends me the MRI bill, will it be $2,000? Or closer to $4,000?

Should I care about who wins "Survivor?" Or "Idol?"

If 40 is the new 30, should I get the Botox going now?

And finally...

Whose idea was it to throw out all the chocolate and all the cookies and anything that resembles dessert, except for that damn agave and the unprocessed honey?! Does a Double Fiber English Muffin, slathered with agave, qualify as dessert?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mom Is (Almost) Always Right

I may have the upper hand when it comes to nutrition and exercise, but my mom certainly does know her way around a stack of MRI slides.

"Looks fine," she said on Monday, as she held the images up to the sunlight.

And on Wednesday, that's what the doctor said too. Of course he said a few other things as well, the main issue being that the stand-off in communication continues with my pituitary and my thyroid and that he will continue to throw a boatload of synthetic hormones into my body in an effort to foster good feelings between those two glands. I guess it's true: I really do avoid confrontation at all costs, and on all levels.

As for my mom, I have a renewed appreciation for her optimism and intuition. I left the house this morning convinced that I had a malignant tumor the size of Canada in my head. She shook her head again. "I just don't think so."

I hardly ever say this, but it's certainly a profound statement today: I should listen to my mother more often.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Here's Lookin' At Ya

I came home from work tonight to find my MRI slides relocated from their place in the dining room to the family room couch. My mom was holding one up to the sliding glass door, which faces west. As the end-of day light streamed in, she gazed at the slide she was holding.

"I can see your pituitary gland," she said. "It looks fine to me."

My mom can now expand her resume: doting mother, amazing grandmother, consistent dog walker, occasional chef, daily vacuum-er and board-certified radiologist.

Nevertheless, she made me feel better since I've been staring at that huge envelope of slides for two days now.

She shuffled through several more slides. "I have to show you something really interesting," she said. "OK," I replied, "but bear in mind that you have several thousand dollars worth of images in your hand and knowing how persnickety a-hole-ish Dr. C is, he's going to have a shit fit if there's even one slide that's out of order." "Yeah, but this is really funny," she said. "Call Ben in."

I acquiesced. "Ben, come in and see Mommy's brain pictures before dinner!" Just another normal night at the Thompson home.

Ben raced in. "Are you gonna show her the EYEBALLS?" he inquired. Obviously, my mom had already provided a lesson in Radiology 101 while I was at work.

Mom threw a sheet of film up on the slider. And there, in each image, were my eyeballs. Huge. Cartoon-like. I did a double-take. We all dissolved into laughter. I wished my sister could have been there. I couldn't decide if she would have laughed the hardest or shrieked the loudest. Nevertheless, it was one of those priceless family moments when levity overrules anxiety and everyone lets go. Even for the briefest moment.

"Let's see it again," Ben demanded. We admired my eyeballs for several minutes. My mom pointed out my nose. "You can't miss that ski slope nose." We debated the "bright" spots on the pituitary gland and the dark spots. She said it again: "Looks good to me."

Although I could easily Google MRI images pertaining to the pituitary gland and match up that information with my slides, I'm not going to. It's way more fun to laugh about my enormous eyeballs with Ben and to know, with absolute certainty, that the rest of the information will come in time and that it will be all be okay. Because it is, it always is.

Ben's class is studying the brain this week. He ran out of class to greet me yesterday with a brain - fashioned like a crown - and affixed to his head. Why is life so ironically weird sometimes?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How I Put The "Happy" in Mother's Day

Having a MRI smack dab in the middle of Mother's Day didn't make for a cheerful household. I could lie, but truth be told, everyone was glad when the super low dose Valium was consumed, followed by the proper elixir (two wine coolers smuggled in from the AM/PM next door. oh, and a straw too).

Knowing that Sunday was likely to be a complete stress-fest between my mother and myself (which it was, although I am solely to blame), I took Friday morning off so that I could go to the Mother's Day Brunch at Ben's school. Being there more than made up for every anxious moment on Mother's Day.

Can you tell?

P.S. I tried every possible angle and worked every card I had (Mother's Day, single mom, 'my endocrinologist hates me and is going to make me wait until Christmas for these results'), to no avail...the MRI tech wasn't divulging any results from the scan. I do have, in my possession, about a hundred slides of my brain which Ben found incredibly fascinating. His reaction to the ink pumped into my veins to "light up" my brain was priceless.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Just What I Wanted For Mother's Day

This Sunday, I have scheduled a very expensive and much-needed treatment for myself. It's happening downtown, in the middle of the afternoon. Ben isn't coming with me; it's definitely an "adults only" event. Mind altering substances will be served. Then, I get to come home and take a nap.

Before you begin cursing me for having the gall to check myself out of the most honored day of the year for mothers, let me tell you a few more details about my "treatment."

It is short - in terms of duration - 45 minutes for a couple thousand dollars (at least I'm not paying the bill).

It is not relaxing- unless you enjoy traveling into a small, narrow tube (which I don't; I even hate airplanes).

I'll have an IV - and it won't be filled with great drugs. Instead, it's used to pump dye into my veins. (Yay. I so love the idea of synthetics in my body.

The irony is this: last year I spent Mother's Day alone. In a hotel room in Reno. Sick as a dog. Trying to get better for a training session that I never did muster up the energy to attend. Did I mention that I was in Reno? Alone? I told myself that the next Mother's Day would be different. Little did I know just how different.

So instead of doing the traditional Mother's Day outing that I had envisioned - dragging Ben to church, rewarding him for good church behavior with a donut brunch, and maybe letting him humiliate me with a long round of miniature golf - I am going for the dreaded, yet necessary MRI.

My pituitary gland is finally getting the look-over that it very much deserves.

I did some reading on the internet to anticipate worry about the details of the procedure. Specifically, I really wanted to know about the drugs I'd be getting. The drugs that would keep me from freaking out in the tube. The drugs that would make it just a little bit okay that I have to go into the tunnel, instead of golfing in the sunshine with Ben.The drugs that would help me be a bit more zen with the whole experience. And I realized, that's gonna take a whole lot of drugs.

I learned that some MRI centers have a "BYOB" policy as in "Bring Your Own Benzos." I called my facility this morning and to my relief, they dispense Valium. But only on weekdays. Yikes. "Feel free to bring your own," the receptionist said. Oh yes, you bet I will. Then, she hit me with a list of screening questions.

1.) Are you claustrophobic?
"Uh...YES. Why else would I ask you about THE DRUGS?"

2.) Will you be bringing a child with you?
"A child? Is this like, a field trip? I would bring my small child...WHY? So that he could explain to his therapist in a few years that the reason he suffers from anxiety is because he had to watch his mother go into a small tube and freak out for an entire hour and it just so happened to be Mother's Day???"

3. Do you wear a pacemaker?
"How old do I sound to you?"

4. Are you allergic to iodine?
"How would I know? I only eat sea salt."

5. What is your diagnosis?
I search the paperwork. Do I know my diagnosis? "My doctor's not terribly communicative. But, oh wait, here it is: Patient has Pituitary Dependent Hypothyroidism." Huh. That's more than he told me. In three visits. I need to hang up and get on Google.

But first, I have a few Valium waiting at the pharmacy. Maybe they threw in a few extra. In honor of Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's Complicated. Really Complicated.

I didn't see the movie "It's Complicated" because I thought that the story line would hit too close to home. My ex and I are still close. Not in the physical sense (at all!) but in the sense that we know each other so well and can still easily share our feelings and frustrations. We can (and do) make fun of each other, we can lament stories of our families and our work. Mostly, we can come together and make sound decisions on Ben's behalf. All without drama. We are, for all intents and purposes, Bruce and Demi. Except that I haven't found my Ashton yet.

I'd be lying if I said that ideas of reconciliation never bounce into my head. But here's the thing: those thoughts might jump into my brain every now and then but then they're gone as quickly as they came. And they NEVER make it down to my heart. Because I know what I know. And honestly, what divorced person has never had thoughts of "what could be" from time to time? Particularly when a small child is involved. And when everyone gets along so swimmingly.

So because my ex and I are still pretty tight, we have these complicated situations arise occasionally. Situations that my friends and family find great humor in because they are soooooo typical of my ex.

Like this morning. It's K' last day in Thailand. He told me last night that he had spent all of his money (and he took a boatload) and that he was even buying another piece of luggage "to bring the loot home." So I was between and an email shows up from K. This is the subject line:

Wanna do me a favor?

Ahhhhh, no. N-O. Favor Department is closed down. Gut instinct tells me to carry on with the errands and ignore the message. I put the phone away.

Five minutes later it beeps again with another message alert:

I know you get your messages on your phone.


So I read the first message.

"Last day here and I want to do something really great but my credit card isn't working." (duh, you spent too much!")
"Please go to my bank and deposit $400!"

Ugh. Why? So that K can saddle up an elephant and ride into some remote village for a Thai massage? With a happy ending?

Because I am such a NICE stupid ex, I re-read the details of the email to find out where he banks these days.


Bank of El Dorado? Headquartered in Placerville? Limited Saturday hours?

I am on the other side of Earth, at this point, and needing to go to B of A - to make a deposit - so that I can go to BFE to make his Thai fantasy come true.

Email back to K: "Huge inconvenience. Nowhere near your bank. Switch banks."

Reply email: "Please?????????????? I'd use my card but it's not working."

Email back: "I wonder why. Fine. I'll go but you owe me big time!"

I'm thinking that all of a sudden I have some decent leverage for an upcoming Tahoe weekend when I need child care.

I make it to the wood paneled Bank of El Dorado - where the tellers are dressed in gingham and remind me suspiciously of my mother - with just a few minutes to spare.

Pulling out my checkbook, I have the teller - who is a dead ringer for Paula Deen - access my ex's account. I don't know why she cares but she asks, "Oh, is this your husband?" - all friendly like, "Take two cubes of butter, 12 eggs, a bucket of sugar, and a little flour and ya'll have yourselves a cake!"

"No," I say. "It's my ex-husband."

She goes on in her Southern grandmotherly way, that starts to become a little inquisitive): "Ohhhhh. Well, it's certainly nice of you to come in and make a deposit for him."

"Why yes," I agree. "It is. Especially since he's in Thailand and he's just run out of money and he has to have ONE MORE EXCURSION." I leave out the part about my happy ending massage theory.

Then she does a double-take at her computer screen. "My gracious, it does look like someone is having a very fun time!"


"Bye-bye," the teller says. I see her turn to a Caucasian version of Aunt Jemima. "That was the nicest girl...ya know what she did?"

"Why am I so nice?" I asked a friend, whom I called upon leaving the bank. "Because you love Ben," she replied without hesitation.

I know, I know - Ben is the happiest kid of divorce that I know and it's because we (K and I) keep it that way. Still, all that niceness can be very, very complicated.