Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Migraine PSA

I got a migraine this morning, and now I'm doing fine. I don't know whether I've just been lucky these past couple of times or whether I've finally figured out how to deal with them. But because I get silent migraines most of the time, which are fairly unusual, I thought I'd mention them in case any of you has the same symptoms and is looking for a solution.

A silent migraine is basically a migraine without the headache. Everyone has different migraine symptoms, but mine are always the same: a sort of motion-sickness-like nausea, oversensitivity to light, extreme oversensitivity to smell (it's a dead giveaway when I'm in a place I've visited many times and smell things I've never smelled before), and difficulty processing visual cues. I know that visual symptoms like flashing lights or jagged lines are common with migraines, and I don't get any of those. I can see fine, but I have trouble understanding what I see or responding appropriately to it, which means driving with a migraine takes 100% of my attention. On rare occasions, I've also gotten tingling in my extremities, particularly the toes on my left foot.

Migraines are really, really weird.

Maybe 15 or 20% of the time I get these symptoms, they're followed by a severe headache, of the moany-groany, can't-do-anything, please-kill-me-now variety. The rest of the time, the nausea just gets progressively worse until I can't do anything but lie on my back. Fortunately, I seem to have found a formula that forestalls or stops these serious symptoms most of the time. For a silent migraine, three Tylenol (aspirin works better, but I can't take it) and a glass of water, followed by a small dose of caffeine and at least an hour of quiet "down time" seems to work. For a migraine with headache, Tylenol and water, followed by a nap or at least a couple of hours of lying down in a dark room, and finally a hot shower and another glass of water. I have no idea why the shower helps, but it really does. Also, this may be just superstition, but I never touch alcohol until I'm sure that the migraine is completely gone.

Finally, I'm fortunate that one of the drugs I take occasionally for my stomach, metoclopramide, is also used to treat migraine-related nausea. This drug can, rarely, have nasty side effects, especially in large dosages, so I'm not recommending that you Go Ask Your Doctor necessarily, but it might be something to consider if you have severe nausea with migraines. (I haven't had any side effects from the tiny dosage I take.)

Finally, I would like to complain about how annoying it is that no one knows what causes migraines, or even what they are, physiologically speaking. It's obnoxious to have to treat a disorder by trial and error, without having any idea why certain things work and others don't. If anyone knows anyone who does research on migraines, let me know so I can give that person moral support and brownies.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New Things

Yesterday I did two things I had never done before: I went to the public library down the street, and I baked bread. I guess technically I had baked bread before, but only in the bread machine on "auto," and usually with a boxed mix. This was a simple recipe, but it involved figuring out what it meant for yeast to be proofed, realizing that 6 cups of flour was not, in fact, enough on an incredibly humid summer day, knowing when each rise was finished, and testing whether the bread was cooked through. It wasn't difficult, but it was all new to me, and I enjoyed it. Plus, now I have a big ol' loaf of white bread in the freezer for later and a gallon bag of dinner rolls on the counter for the next couple of days. And I have conquered Fear of Yeast. It was a good day.

I would like to do some small new thing each weekday over the next few weeks. Trying a new recipe counts, but I'd also like to go new places. I've always been afraid to go to new places alone. I'm not afraid of the place itself, I'm afraid that I won't be able to find it, or that I'll get there but not know which door to go through (this is a huge fear and I've found that a surprising number of people share it), or that I'll somehow sense that I'm not welcome. The thing is, in a few months I'm going to be moving to Pittsburgh, and Shawn isn't going to be coming with me, nor will I have my cadre of law school friends or my family to accompany me on new ventures. So I'm just going to have to get over it, or else I'm going to end up reliving my last stint in Pittsburgh, going only where I've gone before. And that would just be sad.

Anyway, today I think I'm going to try making a tortilla española for dinner. And sour cherry crisp, because my beloved translucent-red sour cherries were at the grocery store yesterday, in big quart boxes. Because I could lie on the couch all day and read things on The Internets, but then I really wouldn't be acquiring any skills. And I'd rather learn skills than facts any day.

Monday, August 03, 2009


I guess I am still getting my calm back after all that tension.

The bar exam is over and please don't ask me how it went. I guess maybe there are people who come out of that exam feeling like they knew the relevant law, wrote coherent essays and picked the best answer choice rather than the second best (or the "sucker choice," as the BarBri instructors like to call it). I am not one of those people. Taking the bar exam showed me in blinding detail just how much I didn't know. Now I just need to hope there were a sufficient number of exam-takers who knew even less.

We spent the weekend on Cape Cod, at Shawn's adviser's summer house. We ate delicious fresh food out on the back deck by the garden, I pored over cookbooks for hours, and I started reading The Secret Life of Bees, which got me so hooked that I'm about to leave for the library so I can finish it. I continue to be amazed at how deeply I'm sleeping. I guess I'm making up for lost peace of mind.

The things I thought I would want to do when I finished the bar were mostly mindless, like watching lots of TV and wandering around the mall. But those are the sorts of things you crave when your mind is totally occupied and taxed. Now, with brain waves to spare, I want to do things that fit in that sweet spot between total attentiveness and meditation: bake bread, sit in the shade and write poems, go for walks with the dog, knit a sweater from a new pattern. I'm going to let my intuition take the lead for a while.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ten Things I Will Do When the Bar Is Over

  1. Spend an afternoon window-shopping at a really big mall for no particular reason.
  2. Bake bread.
  3. Knit a sweater.
  4. Watch old episodes of SVU on Netflix (probably in conjunction with (3), above).
  5. Cook nothing but new recipes for a week.
  6. Go running.
  7. Get health insurance before mine runs out.
  8. Do a bunch of car-related junk, like fixing my air conditioning, re-registering my car in MA, and getting my car inspected.
  9. Plan a trip to Germany.
  10. Really, really enjoy shipping my books and iPod back to BarBri and getting my $750 deposit back.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Folk Music Reconsidered, and Self-Image

Now that I've left Charlottesville, I've been slowly collecting songs and albums that I loved when I was a DJ at WNRN. My latest purchase is Songs from My Funeral by Snakefarm. It is a very strange record. It's a collection of sort of electro-folk, sample-heavy, rhythmic renditions of old American folk songs (e.g. "Laredo", "St. James", "Frankie and Johnny"), with processed female vocals. I can't stop listening to it. The lyrics are all sad and most of the songs are violent, but the arrangements are so bizarre and energetic that it's mesmerizing, kind of like how Nick Drake's songs are all sunshine and suicide. I'm finding it to be great studying music.

This reminds me that I need to buy Nick Drake's entire catalog. It seems like good summer music.

It's funny how mental fatigue works. I find that if I've been studying intently for several hours, I don't feel like doing anything even mildly cerebral when it's time to take a break, but I also can't really unwind enough to focus on something passive like TV. I end up doing a lot of online window-shopping and not buying anything. Collaterally, I sometimes read blogs about shopping and fashion. It blows my mind that people my age spend many thousands of dollars a year, every year, on clothes. Maybe that's because I expect to be throwing much of my discretionary income at my student loans for the next several years.

I also find it particularly mesmerizing to read the "fashion" blogs of people who seem to have no idea which clothes are flattering on them. One person whose blog I find objectively useful (because she posts a lot of real-life pictures of J. Crew clothes that I normally only see in highly-retouched website pictures on size 0 models) often posts dressing-room pictures of herself wearing clothes that look terrific on her and then immediately says that she disliked x or y about the fit and decided not to buy the outfit. Then in the next post she's fawning over some shapeless thing that isn't at all flattering and saying that she bought it in three colors.

It just gets me thinking about body image. Having lost about 40 pounds in the last three years, I'm now what I consider normal-sized—not skinny, but squarely within a normal weight range for my height. The variety of styles of clothes that I can now wear is huge compared to what I used to feel comfortable in. Still, it took me a couple of years to get used to this. I used to feel very uncomfortable showing my legs at all, so I wore jeans all summer long and my only skirts were full and past the knee. The first time one of my friends told me that miniskirts were comfortable, I laughed at her. Turns out she's actually right. They also look kinda cute on me, whereas mid-calf-length skirts just make me look shorter than I am and make my legs look wider (since the hem cuts me right at the widest part of my calves). Still, it took a lot of very carefully scrutinizing myself in dressing-room mirrors before I was willing to buy my first short skirt, which I think was on sale at Ann Taylor Loft for less than $20 (probably why I was willing to take the risk).

I wonder if other people whose bodies have changed are still clinging to outdated notions of what flatters them.

Getting over these outdated perceptions is a really fun process. I will now try on pretty much anything that appeals to me even a little bit, because I know I can't depend on my preconceptions to tell me what will look good. This is how I ended up, last summer, buying a strapless, white, form-fitting dress with huge pink and yellow flowers splashed across the midsection. (Also at Ann Taylor Loft for about $20.) I couldn't believe it at first, but I look great in that dress, and I feel great in it because it's so different from the other things in my closet.

Just a few thoughts about, well, not fashion per se. Dressing oneself, I guess. My old friend Rebecca from high school once told me her secret for always looking great. "I only buy things that make me look and feel fantastic," she said. "I never settle. That way I can pick anything out of my closet and feel awesome all day long."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Things With Which I Have Had It

  1. The rain. Basically three solid weeks of rain, with maybe one or two sunny days thrown in.
  2. Property BarBri questions. I feel like I have no hope of ever getting good at them.
  3. Zits. I am 28 years old now. Come ON.
  4. The craving for fried fish that I have had for three days now.
Whew. I feel slightly better now.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I've decided that I'm going to blog more because it's fun and it offers me a sort of outlet, without the responsibility of having to carry on a conversation with an actual person. It's like text-based navel-gazing: totally self-indulgent. I always admire bloggers who have altruistic purposes, like raising money for worthy causes or providing intelligent commentary on various issues in the news. Me, I just want to be able to collect minutiae.

So, since I last wrote, I've packed up all my stuff, had movers put most of it in storage in Pittsburgh, and moved the rest to a lovely little suburb of Boston, where I'm staying with Shawn until it's time to move to Pittsburgh to start work in January. It's really, really nice here. My one and only complaint about our little town is that it's not on the T (or, rather, technically it might be, but it involves a bus to a train... does that count?). It's cute and quiet and there are tons of places to walk to, including a plethora of restaurants, a grocery store a block away, a Starbucks, and even a Penzeys (for all my spice needs). Most of all, finally getting to spend time with Shawn is really great. We joined Netflix and have been watching several movies a week, trading off selections. I've been cooking a fair amount, but we've also been exploring some of the restaurants around here, as well as trying not to get takeout from the really great Thai place around the corner too terribly often. Sometimes we play poker with some guys at MIT, and once a month we get together with Shawn's roommates from freshman year and play board games. (Last week: Agricola. It took hours and I actually liked it.)

During the day I study for the bar. This mainly involves listening to long lectures on my iPod while filling in blanks in the handouts Bar/Bri provides. Which is to say that, after I spent many thousands of dollars on law school, my firm is now spending several thousand more dollars to help me "review" for the bar. Much of what I'm "reviewing" is stuff I never learned in the first place, so it's a little intimidating. It's also mind-numbing. The actual content of the material is often interesting, but the process of learning it is not, at all. By the time each lecture is over, all I want to do is read some cooking blogs or watch poker on TV or do something that involves casual learning without pressure to remember anything.

But the bar is at the end of July, and after that, I don't have too much planned. Looks like Shawn and I are going to be going to Germany in September, so I'm really excited about that. I'll have to come up with some projects to occupy my time. Otherwise, it'll be all cooking blogs and televised poker all the time.