Sunday, October 28, 2012


I have a lot of thinking to do.

I'm in Amsterdam, and today is the day when we set our clocks back an hour, and it is so silent outside. I've booked into an apartment which looks back into the courtyards off one of the canals, and it is all windows and trees and the sky. It's a cold morning, it rained a bit, but it's sunny now, and the heat vents are giving off steam. Outside no one is about, all enjoying their lie-ins, and the beautiful city waits for me, with its bridges and alleys and canals and secret things to explore, things I have seen many times yet continue to enthrall me every time I come here.

I have a lot of thinking to do. All these windows remind me of all the lives around me, all with their own worries and dreams, and in the scheme of things my worries and dreams are no bigger than anyone else's, but since they are mine, they are big to me.

It's so beautiful here. And yet I just want to stay in bed. That picture, by the way, is the view from my bed. Here in Amsterdam. I tend to retreat here when I want to think or just get away. It's a city of huge happiness and in some ways, huge sadness, too. I think this time is a sad time, even as I fight it.

There's going to be some big changes happening in Texpatriate-land over the coming months. Exciting, scary, irrevocable. I'm in the calm before the storm and to say that I am kind of freaking out is an understatement.

I've got some thinking to do.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

14 years ago, a reminiscence

(Forward: In 1998 I went to stay at my parents place for a couple weeks while my parents traveled. They have a large plot of land, and my grandmother was still alive then, so I went down to hold the fort, take care of my grandmother so she wasn't alone, and generally keep up the home farm. I don't know if blogging existed back then, but I had just gotten my yahoo email address, so emailed my friends stories of what I was doing. I have always thought the stories that resulted were rather cute, so in a fit of nostalgia, I am reposting these 14 year old missives here. I should note: all the dogs mentioned in this story are now dead, as is my grandmother. Sigh. Funny, though,  I remember this time so well, hanging out in the country, playing my guitar (I was learning to play bass at the time), spending quality time with my grandmother, who I adored and I miss every day,  and just reading and trying out the country life. (Part one was just about the drive up to my parents and the wreck I almost got into while sourcing a Starbucks in Plano.)

Notes from the Ozarks Part II, dammit

I wrote a truly HILARIOUS version of what I am about to write you...then something happened to this Freakin' Mac and it got lost. Trust me, it was truly brilliant, the likes of which I will never write again and which would have gone down in the annals of email as the BEST EMAIL EVER.
Well, to rewrite. Ahem.

"The dog who would be a pony."

The weather here has definitely cooled's in the 50's right now, and is supposed to drop into the low 40's tonight. The dogs are frisky, and up to their doggy hi-jinks.

My folks have four large, goofy dogs...Heidi, Teddy, Maxie and Ginger. Heidi is the grand dame of the lot...she's quite old in fact, I remember picking her out of the litter in 1989 right before my parents moved out here. I think I picked a good one. Shes a crotchety old thing, she arues with you if she doesn't like what you are trying to get her to do, keeps the other dogs in line and won't take shit from man nor beast. She's also built like a brick shithouse...a very solid dog. Ozark livin', while rough, can also produce very solid German Shepherds.

Then there's Ginger....Max's mom. She's kinda shy, but when she gets close and lets you love on her, she's incredibly gentle and soft. She is the alert one, and if she barks I better look out the window, cuz there's something or someone out there.

Max is full of the devil. She has a crooked, wicked grin due to an injury when she was a puppy. Actually she looks like Lyle Lovett if Lyle was evil. She is just full of energy and loves to jump up and kiss me on the chin.

Last, but most favorite of mine, is Teddy, the dog who would be a pony. Teddy is, unarguably and without doubt, the biggest German Shepherd I have ever seen. And I have seen lots of Germies over my 30 years of existence. (note from 2012 Karla...sigh.) . He weighs somewhere around 150-160 pounds, feet like saucers, a chest that is two hand spans wide. He is huge and scary looking. But he is the biggest oafiest Germie ever put on this earth He had floppy puppy ears until about 3 years ago. He likes to play catch.
Playing catch for him means that you hold the stick up in the air, and then watch him squirm. He gets more and more anxious, waiting for the stick to be thrown. He wines, he wiggles, he hops. (The earth shakes when he lands after a hop.) Then, when he can't stand it a second more, he lets out a tremendous WOOOOFFF!!!! that reverberates off the hills and valleys. Then I throw the stick. He looks after it, watches it land, then looks back at me and waits to be teased again. It's all foreplay with him.

His other trick is that he, when you least expect it, tries to play "pony". So far he's gotten me twice. "Pony" is where Teddy walks up behind you and then tries to walk between your legs, ostensibly either to give you a ride or because he still thinks he's a puppy and can fit. Now, he is taller and wider than most people's leg spans, so earlier yesterday I ended up head first in the bushes when Teddy tried to play. He got me again just now, when I was cutting some flowers to bring in. I was bent over, and Teddy came up to play, but ended up head butting me in the ass and I landed on my face in Mom's mums. Once I got the dirt off, it was funny. I may well just saddle him up and see if he really can cut it...I'm tired of getting dumped on my ass (or worse) in the dirt. (He loves doing that to Mom, too. On our Saturday phone calls she always has at least one "Teddy dumped me on my face" story to tell. Endless entertainment, for him, and it seems, in the retelling. Don't bend over when that dog is around)

These dogs, by the way, eat better than most people in the Ozarks. Each meal time they get huge cans of dogfood, plus a whole package of cut up hotdogs and whatever other goodies have been set aside for them. No wonder they are so huge.

Well, that's my story for today. Like I said, the first version was better, but at least I got the flavor across. Damn squeebie Imac.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Pretty pictures from Ireland, because dentists are scary and I want to move on.

At Glendalough. I love the trees on the hill, it's like someone missed a spot when they were shaving.  

Again at Glendalough. Some of the gravestones fell towards each other, making an arch over the pathway. I don't know about you, but *I* wouldn't walk through that. That is just tempting fate a bit too much. (I am oddly superstitious for someone who is 98% certain she's an atheist. Still, some things you don't mess with. Like black cats, broken mirrors and umbrellas being opened inside.)  

Panoramic view of the Hill of Tara. I LOVE my new camera, and what a great day that was.....

Well THAT sucked

You know when you have a feeling, a worry, a sense that something you are afraid of is going to happen and you are helpless to stop it?

That was me yesterday. I had a rather awful dentist experience. Woe was me.

(Note I know I am being an absolute baby here, but let me have my moment, ok?) (Also note, I have good teeth, but there's always that one that is the rebellious one.)

For a couple of years, now, I have been fighting a troublesome tooth. I'd had a root canal done on it long ago and then it was crowned, and it was fine for many years, until it started acting up. Very painful infections kept cropping up, every 6 months or so, for which I have a standing prescription of antibiotics (which I don't like taking) but I thought I could hold off the inevitable until I could get home to my dentist in Austin to get it fixed. I love my dentist in Austin. I am never afraid of going to see her. She rocks, and I have never felt any pain with her, either. Not once.

Time ran out this week, and the tooth got infected again, and the Norwegian dentist basically said "It's now or never, you are going to damage the bone if you continue". The options are: pull it or do another root canal. Then they told me why pulling it isn't REALLY an option, it's more of a last resort. Fuck, ok, fine, let's do the root canal AGAIN. I really wanted to hold off, but it seems I can't anymore.

Some notes on the difference between dentists in Norway and in the US:

  • There is no dental insurance in Norway. It is all paid for on a cash basis at the dentist after treatment. It is, of course, expensive. 
  • The dentists here tend to be a bit rough, but maybe that is just in comparison to my dentist in Austin, who has the best chair-side manner EVER and is so skilled and practiced, she's utterly amazing. It just feels more rough and tumble and sort of butcher shop style here, while in the States it's all comfy chairs and calming colors and soothing hygienists.
  • They don't like giving you pain pills in Norway. 'Take a paracet", they say. 
  • Nitrous (oh I do love  nitrous) is a very expensive extra option that needs a pre-consultation and costs the earth. It's basically for wimps. My Austin dentist uses it rather liberally, it seems, and it costs $75 or so and is so much fun. No nitrous for me in Norway.
I don't have any particular fear of the dentist, beyond the usual "This sucks", but I had a bad feeling about this appointment going in. The shots weren't as bad as I had heard (which was good) but maybe the dentist didn't use as much novocaine as he should've because midway through I STARTED FEELING EVERYTHING. White hot metallic agony that ran straight through my brain. I could hardly move it hurt so bad but I think they noticed my altered breathing and perhaps my eyes which might have rolled back in my head. I finally managed to gasp out a tortured "Ow" through all the instruments they had sticking out of my mouth. They paused, then the dentist actually ASKED me if I wanted another shot, he said he was 'almost finished' and he grudgingly gave me another dose as if I was some sort of wimp or something, and kind of 'harrumped' as he waited for it to work again. Like novocaine is so rare and precious and I had used my allotted dose and what sort of lame ass was I to complain that it hurt? IT HURT MOTHERFUCKER, IT HURT A LOT. 

This dentist was also different from my one in the States as it just felt rougher. I mean, he just bored into my head and scattered my old crown to the winds, didn't even bother trying to make a smaller hole and seeing what's what, nope, just destroy and tear down. CROWNS ARE EXPENSIVE. He could have at least tried to mitigate the damage (I have had a root canal done on a crowned tooth before, so I know it can be done.) And maybe it was different drills and stuff but jesus GOD was it loud and grindy. I felt like a jackhammer was in my face. I was listening to Louis CK on my iPod, hoping to drown out the noise, but it was so loud Louis got drowned out. Next time, Metallica. LOUD.

So after he was done, he very roughly filled the tooth (feels like a little rock is shoved in there) and then gave me a detailed rundown of the cost, what it does and doesn't cover (it basically only covers the hole he has created really, and does NOT cover the final filling or the new crown which he destroyed) and a prescription for antibiotics. I staggered out of there, shaking so hard the receptionist made me sit down.  Then I paid a massive amount of money for what was, in effect, torture, at least as viewed by the UN or any other rational governing body in Western civilization. I have to go back at least three times, for him to finish what he started (the tooth is packed with medicine and whatever) and then to replace the crown he destroyed.

I took a cab home. Could not face the bus.

Got home, and as the novocaine started wearing off, it touched off a migraine. A horrid visual migraine. Couldn't see, head was splitting. I went to bed at 9pm. Woke up at 1am from the pain, and realized the doctor had given me NO pain pills nor instructions for same. (My dentist in Austin gave me codeine if I sneezed. I AM HOMESICK, PEOPLE.) Taking today off work.

(My friend Karen texted me this morning, she, too had a toothache, went to the dentist, her wisdom tooth was acting up, they pulled it and she was off and on her way to work with a mouth full of blood in less than half an hour. I feel like such a wimp compared to her, but I guess in my defense, hello, DRILLING. Anyhow, Karen, you are a super stud.)

Sunday, October 07, 2012

A Sunday afternoon in Oslo, Frogner edition

I've been feeling kind of punk the past few days. I have a tooth that is going to need a root canal for which I have an appointment on Monday (its second, apparently root canals don't always take?) and I have this cough that feels like something is trying to bubble up but won't quite happen. Like I am on the verge of a cold or bronchitis or something, but not yet. It's really annoying, I just feel sort of low level blah, but not enough to just stay home and sleep. I haven't been sick in a long time, so maybe it's my turn, but my body just won't let it happen all the way, and the fight is taking it out of me.

Needless to say, my energy levels are not that great. Even so, after a day yesterday where I literally did not lift myself from a horizontal position except to pee and make dinner, I forced myself to go out today, to go to the gym, to be out in life, and to get out of the flat, if even for a little while. I needed to feel the crisp air and kick a few golden Fall leaves about.

A lucky thing about my general disposition is that, even if I feel down, or punk, or listless, there are always things that make me smile. To whit, today:

1) En route to the gym, which is about a kilometer away and a pleasant walk, a guy turned the corner in front of me with two basset hounds on leads. Basset hounds always make me smile, and these were such excellent specimens of the breed. Low to the ground, but massive, they probably each weighed a good 70 lbs, like walking cement blocks with little bitty vestigal legs and big floppy saggy ears. If one of those were to run into you, you would be knee-capped and taken down in an instant, that powerful low center of gravity would brook no opposition. One was a boy (I was behind them, yep, he was a boy) and one was a female, and they waddled and galumphed and swayed ahead of me. Each step they took, their entire flesh and skin would sway one way, and then in the next step would flop back to catch up with the bits that had just gone the other way, it made them look like nothing more than swinging waves of dog, their tails gay and upright and tick-tocking trying to keep up with their wiggling butts. That made me smile.

2) My time at the gym was spent just doing whatever the hell I felt like, because, I don't want to push it and my lungs just feel a bit wierd. No aerobics today. For some reason I have VERY strong abs, like crazy strong, and was on that chair where you do sort of backwards sit ups, you bend face down over the chair that supports you at your hips, brace your feet at your achilles heels and then pull up using your lower back muscles and abs. Anyhow, this muscle bound guy was next to me on the same sort of chair, doing the same exercise. He was using a 5 kilo weight to add extra oomph and I was using a 10 kilo one. Obviously a girl couldn't do a heavier weight than him because when he saw me using the 10 kilo one he hastily changed for the 10 kilo one, and I think he was surprised at how hard it was. He tried to out do me, but couldn't manage it, I did my reps and he valiantly tried to outdo me but couldn't. (I don't know why my abs are so strong, but they are. Genetic, my mom has it too.) hehe. I enjoyed that. Didn't even break a sweat.

3) The leg press machine at the gym is facing a low wall, and just above the wall is the free weight area, with a glass surround. I enjoy doing the leg press machine because the eye candy from that lower angle, looking up just slightly above my head, is magnificent. You really can't look anywhere else and all you see are hot guys doing arm weight thingies, and shoulder thingies, and then if you are lucky, squats, (and always with their back to you) and you are sort of under the action with a, well, a basset hound's perspective...low and up. Oh man do I get pervy on that leg press machine. There are some damn fine specimens of boy up there, and somehow that angle....rrr. My legs are always very sore after a leg press session because I stay there just a little too long watching the boys. I often wonder if men have any idea that women are just as pervy, possibly more so, than they are? (Or is that just me?)

4) Coming back from the gym, feeling a bit more invigorated after my perving, walking up the slight incline of the road, an older gentleman came down the street to my right on one of those kid scooters, the one-legged ones with the handle to hold on to? Oh he was SO dapper, a checked tweed jacket, a pressed blue shirt over another shirt and with an ascot, for Christ's sake, as well. Khaki trousers, brown loafers, his hair just so, and freewheeling down the road on that scooter. He must've been at least 70, and if he wasn't the spitting image of how I envision getting older, I don't know what is. I want to be 70 and hurtling down the road, nattily dressed, wind in my hair, riding a scooter and not caring at all what the world may think. He was the best thing I'd seen in ages. He smiled and waved as he turned the corner to go down the hill I was coming up. What fun.