Monday, April 14, 2014

Tech, nostalgia and the coming generation.

Once a week the household gets together with my friend Tess and her family for a 'dinner-and-a-movie' night.  We often revisit old family classics or newer family-friendly fare. On occasion the kids all decide to screw off to my eldest daughter's room to do kid stuff, so at those times we get to enjoy more grown-up fare.

A video came across my Facebook feed called "Kids React to Walkmans" where a group of children are given an early 90's style portable cassette player and asked to figure out what this contraption is and what it does.  As a whole, they're pretty much flummoxed and by the end of the video they have proclaimed modern MP3 technology to be far superior.

Well, duh.  Anyone who has ever had to repair an unspooled cassette with a pen could tell you THAT.
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My kids are fairly savvy with some of the more time-withstanding technologies of the past.  Our cabinet hi-fi sits in the front hall and occasionally gets some play when I get the urge to pull out my limited collection of LPs.  The thing has GREAT sound.  Thank you, Lori.

Watching these kids in the video struggle with what seemed like the relatively simple concept of popping a cassette into a walkman so music comes out the earphones made me think of some of the other near- or completely- obsolete tech that my generation takes for granted.

A few weeks ago for family movie night, we watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which, by the way, is now one of my favourite movies ever.  Surprisingly kid-friendly, too.  As we watched, the thought came to me that it was entirely possible that none of the children present even had any concept of film-based photography.  To the best of my knowledge my kids have only ever used digital cameras or at best disposable cameras.  They've not been exposed (ha!) to the fumbling involved in loading film in to a 35mm camera.

Okay, maybe other people found that sort of thing easy, but I have ruined many a roll in my time.

My kids would not be able to point out or name any of the equipment that used to sit in my dad's home-made darkroom when I was a teenager.  Negatives, slides, spools, washes, fixatives.  All completely foreign.

I wondered how much of this particular film went over their head, not being familiar with the process of photo development.

It's not only technology.  We also take the cultural references for granted.

A week later, we gathered and watched Saving Mr. Banks.  About two thirds of the way through I came to the realization that my kids had never actually seen Mary Poppins (Tess's kids had).  We've got an extensive collection of movies, some dating back to the early 20's, but somehow this one had gotten by us.

There's always this misconception that children and especially teens don't have appreciation for things that pre-date, well, them.  However, it's an appreciation that can be built up, with exposure.

One day in car I popped in a Mountain Goats CD and my eldest rolled her eyes and went "Ugh.. old people music.."  (Seriously?  The Sunset Tree came out in 2005!  Old people music.  Psh.)  My response was to put on The Complete Robert Johnson Collection.

You want to call something "old people music?"  There's your old people music.  Sorry, Grandma.

I dunno.  I guess I grew up with an appreciation of my parent's generation of music and film, because I was regularly exposed to it.  When other kids were listening to New Kids on the Block, I was into The Guess Who, Harry Belafonte and Stompin' Tom.

But there are some things that I guess we can't quite recreate, like the excitement of getting a custom-made mixed tape, or seeing animated penguins dance on screen with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews for the first time.

Myself, I haven't seen Mary Poppins in years.

I think I may have the soundtrack on vinyl, though.

Post-Script:  Holy crap! Typewriters! I didn't even mention typewriters.  What kind of crazy old-timey shit is that, amirite?

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

I think we've been scapegoating the wrong animal.

I don't want to jinx it, but I honestly and truly think spring might actually be here.  I also thing we may owe The Groundhog, (or groundhogs, as it were) for I'm starting to think there is another fuzzy woodland creature to blame for this never ending winter.

Easter is awfully late this year, isn't it? Late Easter, late spring.  It's the damn Easter Bunny's fault! He's been using the Groundhog as a convenient scapegoat.  Bastard.

Ah, well. Such is life. I'm starting to feel the spring time in my bones, in between listening for the almost constant running of the sump pump.  There's so much snow to melt!  My driveway and yard is a maze of channels and slopes created by my lovely Well-Travelled One in a never ending attempt to divert water away from the house's foundation.

This is probably the closest I will ever get to owning an island property.  Let's hear it for low-lying areas.

I'm slowly but surely working on some spring cleaning.  I'm thankful to have been able to be productive at all, however.  Friday morning, as I was preparing for work, I was struck with a case of dizziness, or vertigo or whathaveyou that confined me to the couch for the majority of the day.  I called into work, since I was not in any shape to sit up, let alone attempt to operate a motor vehicle.  The feeling staying with me into the early evening, so I spent the day sleeping and watching Game of Thrones.  I've Harry Pottered this particular series, which basically means I ignored it for a while, wondered what all the hype was about before finally getting curious enough to check it out and now I'm marathoning the hell out of the first three seasons, in an attempt to catch up.

When I woke up Saturday, I felt fine, if leery of the vertigo suddenly deciding to come back.  I took the girls to Open Mic at the cultural centre, and today I swapped out the old and broken handles on my dresser for some new ones.  I was left with just enough of the old ones to replace the broken handles on T's dresser, which came from the same bedroom set as my dresser and bed.  I also managed to clear out a wooden wardrobe that was being used for general storage, but will be moved into T's room , as the kid has entirely too many clothes.

So far the dizziness has not returned.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The lesson here is to check your non-perishables.

It was almost imperceptible, at first.  A niggling sound at the back of my head, so faint that I didn't really pick up on it right away.  There I'd be, late at night, reading a book or watching television and I would hear it: a chuckle.  

The first couple of times I heard it, I assumed it was part of the program i was watching, kind of like when the phone rings and you jump to grab it, only to find yourself calling "hello? Hello?" into the receiver.  Meanwhile, the phone on the television just keeps on ringing, and now you feel like an idiot.

Other times I would hear it while I showered.  Sometimes it was a chuckle, others a giggle.  Once I swear I heard it, whatever it was, snort.

After some time, the sound of giggling became louder.  It was still muffled, but I became more cognizant of it.  No longer did I write it off as a simple trick of the mind.  The nights I heard the sounds, I would shut off the tv, unplug anything that made even the faintest hum and I would stalk the chuckling sound, trying to walk as quietly as possible in order to track where in the house it came from.

I pulled out my children's long-outgrown toys, removed all the old, dead batteries.  I scoured every corner, cleared every closet but the source of amusement continued to elude me.  

Eventually, I gave up the search.  Maybe my home was haunted, or perhaps I was losing my mind.  I tried throwing myself into new pursuits.  One such pursuit was a complete overhaul of my home.  I mean, why not? I had already torn the place to bits trying to locate the source of the mysterious giggler.

I started in the kitchen.  It had high ceilings and rows of cupboards, painted a bright yellow with tarnished brass doorknobs.  An old linoleum floor stretched out and I got on my hands and knees with a giant scrub brush and scrubbed and waxed until the floor shined, trying to ignore the tittering that seemed to come from nowhere.

Only as I scrubbed, as I wiped down every surface and polished every piece of silverware, the subdued chuckle became louder and more frequent, escalating into hysterics.  It was apparent that the sound was coming from within the kitchen, but where?  Frantically, I circled the kitchen, trying to locate the peals that were becoming more and more high-pitched.  I climbed up onto the countertop and began yanking boxes and cans from the shelves. Tossing them half-hazardly into the middle of the freshly scrubbed floor, I pulled every last item out of the cupboards until, in the furthest reaches of the smallest, highest cupboard, covered in dust and cobwebs, I found it.  The source of my troubles.

I blinked in amazement.


"I don't believe it."

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This post was written as part of Studio 30 Plus's weekly challenge.  This week's prompt was really "Canned Laughter" but because my reading comprehension sucks sometimes, I did the wrong prompt.  Visit them at www.studio30plus.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

Forty Dollars

"Momma? I potty..." The little girl's golden blonde curls bounced frantically as she tugged her mothers sleeve.

"Mmhmm?" came the absent reply.  Heavily pregnant and in her early 20s, the child's mother scanned the shelves in the dingy bargain store, searching for the half-price soup that had been promised in that weeks flyer, but there was none to be found.  Sold out already.  What a wasted trip, she thought to herself.  I'll have to get a rain check.

"Momma! I potty! Go potty!!" She yanked her mothers arm again, more vigorously this time, and began jumping up and down in frustration.

"Wha..?" the mother said, snapping out of her reverie. "You.. Oh, jeez.  Okay, sweetie, let's find a bathroom."  Taking her daughters hand, she led the two-and-half year old towards the back of the store where the bathrooms were located.  She silently prayed that there wouldn't be an accident.  They had been in a rush that morning and she had neglected to pack extra pants and pull-ups for the child who was only somewhat potty-trained.  She also hoped that this wasn't a false alarm, borne out of boredom and her child's need for a change of scenery.  Exhausted from the strain of carrying not only her late-second-trimester pregnancy but also a diaper bag (minus the aforementioned diapers) and a heavy winter coat as they had trudged through the snow to the local strip mall, she did not relish the idea of hanging out in a public washroom while her daughter dawdled.

The woman awkwardly pushed her way through the heavy door to the washroom, holding it open as the little girl skipped through the doorway and headed into a stall.  She caught the eye of one of two teenaged girls who stood in front of the mirrors.  It was a weekday, and these two looked, in spite of their psuedo-sophisticated air and heavy eye makeup, like they should probably be in a classroom somewhere, instead of sneaking cigarettes in such a depressing place as a mall bathroom.

Truth be told, the woman was a bit envious.  She craved a cigarette like crazy and had indulged a few times over the last six months, feeling both guilty and relieved every time. It had been a rough winter, after the father walked out, and it seemed to her that the risk imposed to her fetus by the occasional cigarette was mitigated by the need to not break down crying twenty four hours a day.

"Momma.. Help," the little girl called forlornly from the stall as she struggled with her pants.  Crouching down, the woman tugged the tiny denim pants and underpants down and lifted the little girl onto the toilet.  The girls by the mirror snickered and whispered to each other.  She tried to pay them no mind.  Grunting, she struggled back into a standing position.

"Hi! Hi girls! I potty!" the little girl shouted proudly.  The girls giggled.  

After a few minutes, a faint tinkling noise could be heard, indicating that the bathroom trip had not been for naught.  The little girl carefully lowered herself to the ground and shuffled her way across the bathroom, pants tangled up around the tiny snow boots on her feet.

"Oh.. Oh, honey.  Come here. Let me pull your pants up.  We're going to have to wipe your bum first." Setting the diaper bag that doubled as a purse on the counter, the woman began pulling items out of the bag until she came across an oblong plastic container, filled with hopefully at least one or two wet wipes.  The toilet paper provided looked little better than number 2 sandpaper.

Cleaned and re-pantsed, the mother lifted the little girl up to the counter so she could wash her hands, then set her down and started tossing things back into the bag, before exiting the washroom.  She thought about letting someone know that the mall's "No Smoking" policy was being violated, but it was getting close to lunch time, and then nap time and if these errands took much longer she knew she'd have a very cranky toddler on her hands.  And cranky toddlers make for cranky mommies.

They made their way back to the grocery section of the store, where the mother grabbed a few staples.. Milk, bread, some arrowroot cookies, a couple of boxes of KD.  Money was tight that month, and there was still a few days until payday, she thought, as the cashier rang up her purchases.  In order to stay within budget, she'd have to stick to whatever could be covered by the forty dollars in her wallet.

My wallet.  

Rummaging through the diaper bag, she reached down into the very depths of the bag, feeling around for her small leather wallet.  

"Uhm.. Can you hold this stuff?  I.. Um... Can't seem to find my wallet."  A vision of the bathroom counter flashed through her mind.  "I think I may have left it in the bathroom."  An older, somewhat chubby woman with a slight suggestion of grey in her hair nodded.  The woman grabbed the little girl by the hand and pulled her in the direction of the washroom.  The child whined and resisted, too close to nap time, so the woman picked her up and kept going.  When she burst through the door, there was no one to be found.  Nor was any wallet.  Dejected, she trudged back toward the cash registers.

As she approached, the cashier greeted her with a smile.  She held up a small, black object.  "Is this your wallet? Another customer just brought this to the customer service desk.  She said she found it in the washroom."

Putting her daughter down, the woman sighed with relief.  "Yes, yes.  Thank you.  That is mine."  The cashier handed her the wallet and she opened up to pull out the two twenties and pay for the groceries.  

It was empty.  Tears sprang to the young mother's eyes.  

"Mommy.."  The little girl whined and fidgeted.  

"Is everything okay, ma'am?" 

The woman swallowed hard, trying like hell not to cry in front of the cashier. "Yes.. Erm.. No.  I mean, no.  There was forty dollars in here."

"I'm sorry, ma'am.  There was no money when it was turned in."  The cashier looked at her with sympathy in her eyes. Feeling the sob building in her throat, she mumbled an apology and took the little girl by the hand.  They walked out of the story, leaving the few merger groceries behind.  Outside, the woman sunk down onto a nearby bench and proceeded to let the tears of frustration flow.  

"Mommy?"

"Yes, honey," the woman sniffled.

"Mommy, you sad?"

"Yes, honey.  Mommy sad."

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This was written as part of the Studio 30 Plus weekly writing challenge.  This week's prompt is "Stolen".  Visit them at www.studio30plus.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Case of Mistaken Identity or When Life Gives You Lemons...

I was reminded today of an odd phone call I received about three weeks after the birth of my youngest daughter, as surrounded by half-unpacked boxes and children's toys, I attempted to nurse said newborn child.

Picking up the phone and awkwardly squeezing it between my ear and shoulder, I heard a male voice on the other end ask for me by my full name.

"This is she," I replied, adjusting kiddo in one and dragging a nearby chair over to the telephone table.

"Oh, hi!" the voice on the phone said affably. "My name is Dave*.  I know your friend Mike*."

I plunked myself down and took a moment to switch my fussing child from one boob to the other.

"My friend... Mike?" I replied, grunting as she latched.   I knew a few Mikes.  Puzzled, I asked, "Which Mike?"

"Your friend Mike that works for the OPP.  Yeah, he said you were single and that I should call and introduce myself... See if you want to get a coffee sometime."

By now it was obvious this guy had the wrong number, as I was 99% sure none of the Mikes I knew worked for the OPP.  Apologetically, I told the guy, "That's very nice but I'm afraid I don't know Mike that works for the OPP."  

"Are you sure?" The stranger that is called Dave asked, sounding perplexed. "Your name is {redacted}, right?"

I chuckled and replied "It is, but I assure you, I don't know any Mike that works for the OPP."

There was a lengthy pause as he mulled this over.

"Are you black?"

The conversation had officially hit a new level of weird.  Glancing down at my arms, I said "I'm definitely sure I'm not black."  (In fairness, I don't exactly have my genealogy entirely mapped out, so theoretically I could have been wrong).

"Oh.  Mike told me you were black.  I must have the wrong number."

"Yup, I you do," I replied.

The stranger on the phone that was called Dave paused again.

"Do you want to go out sometime?"

Flabbergasted, I searched for words. "Um.. Yeah.  Actually, I just gave birth less than a month ago.  I'm not exactly in a dating place right now.  But thanks? I guess?"

"Oh well, figured I'd try!" He said, then hung up.

I guess some people just gotta take a chance when it presents itself.

*names have been changed, because quite frankly, I don't remember them.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I won't be getting my own X-Title any time soon.

Back when I had my colectomy and all that fun asshole cancer stuff, I also agreed to take part in some genetic research in regards to a condition known as Lynch Syndrome, which I assume has nothing to do with Stephen Lynch.  Initial tests showed a deficiency of a protein called MLH-1.  This deficiency can be an indication that I carry the Lynch Syndrome gene, but it can also be caused by irritable bowel disease, including Crohns and colitis.

I agreed to the testing because for one, INTERESTING; two, I kinda think it'd be cool to be in a medical journal; and three, since Lynch Syndrome can also predispose one to not just gastrointestinal cancers, but uterine and ovarian cancer as well, I thought it'd be handy information to have, being the bearer of a uterus and ovaries and the like.  If found positive, I may find it prudent to no longer be the bearer of a uterus and ovaries and the like.  Meaning I'd have to give some consideration to a hysterectomy, because its damn hard to get cancer in your baby-maker if you ain't got a baby maker.

Besides, I am DONE with the making of babies.  Periods are kind of bullshit, too.  However, early-onset menopause doesn't exactly sound like an island cruise.  Also, I have an irrational fear of developing facial hair.  All is vanity.

So since December I've been waiting on the initial test results from my genetic screening.  The blood test to determine what was causing the MLH-1 deficiency showed that the gene contained a variant, which lies somewhere on the spectrum between a polymorphism, which is your basic, no-big-deal change in the gene, and a mutation, which is pretty much what it sounds like.

So, long story short, results were inconclusive.  I may have Lynch Syndrome, I may not.

Next step is additional testing, which pretty much just involves signing a paper saying they can send a chunk of my tumour sample to Utah, to frolick among the Mormons.  Uhm, I mean, to get tested.  The other option (although its not an either/or) is to test other members of the family who have had colon cancer.  Easier said than done, since the only other family member has been passed on some 23ish years now.  So that will involve some discussion.

So, I'm not a mutant, I don't get my own comic book series and for now I guess the plumbing is going to stick around for a bit until we have some clearer answers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Conversations with my kid: Life Skills

In the car:

R: my bra is itching me.
Me: take it off then.  You'll want to learn how to take your bra off without taking your shirt off, anyway.  It's something every woman should know.
R: I already know how to do that.
Me: well good.  It's an important life skill to have.
R: yeah in case someone puts a tracking device on it.

In other news, I'm starting to wonder if my kid is working for the CIA.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

(Overheard) Conversations with my kids: perspective.

In the car while we headed home from getting groceries, my children discussed an incident on the bus where another kid expressed sympathy for their father and stepmother for having to listen to the girls fight over stuff like taking their dogs out to go to the bathroom.

T: "... Thing is, when they said that  on the bus, about feeling sorry for our parents, I wanted to say 'at least we only fight over little things. We don't really ever have to fight over big things.'"

R: "Yeah, like getting rid of a corpse."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Save the assholes, or Hey, apparently we get a month too!

Here's a fun fact I just found out via Tumblr.  Apparently, March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month (or as i and others have referred to it, Asshole Cancer, because its fun to say and well, it's kind of an asshole).  Rather than take to the Facebook and invoke some meme where you post the colour and length of the skid-marks in your underpants, I'm going to take the time to spread some actual awareness, courtesy of the good folks at Colon Cancer Canada (www.coloncancercanada.ca) mainly because their tag line is "We're Behind Your Behind" which I think is cute as heck.  Other info is from my own personal experience with colon cancer.

So, some stuff you may not know:

Colon cancer is ridiculously treatable if caught early, yet has a high mortality rate because many people don't catch it until it is well advanced.  My grandpa Murray died from colon cancer, mainly because by the time they caught it, the cancer had spread to his liver.  On the other hand, my own cancer was discovered while in Stage one and was removed without the need for chemotherapy or radiation, mainly because it was found during a routine scope I had for my colitis.

The thing is, a lot of cases go undetected because folks can go a long time without showing any outward symptoms.

There are things you can keep an eye out for, however:

- blood in your stool.  Not just red.  Black or dark purplish stool can indicate blood as well.  I learned that the hard way.
- weird, random changes in bowel movements.  Getting all bunged up, or a constant case of the runs for no discernible reason.
- gas pains, stomach pains, bloating, pooping
- feeling like you gotta go, but not producing much.
- going, but not feeling empty
- sudden weight loss
- constant fatigue

These are things that might indicate a problem, but as mentioned, a lot of people don't experience any symptoms until the disease is well advanced.  This is one of those proactive things, where you're going to want to get screened, especially if you meet certain criteria for risk:

- you're over 50
- you have a history of irritable bowel disease, such as Crohn's Disease or Colitis (oh, hai! *waves*)
- family history of colorectal cancer. If its a parent, You're gonna want to start screening 10 years before the age they were diagnosed.  My lucky ladies will need to start screening in their early 20s.  Thanks, genetics!
- family history of inherited uterine, ovarian or breast cancer.
- have been previously diagnosed with polyps or precancerous cells

Screening can consist of a couple tests.  There's a fecal occult blood test, which sounds a lot more neat and spooky than it is, where you use a small stick to smear some of your poo on a card you get from your doctor who sends it to a lab to get checked for traces of blood.  

The other test is a colonscopy, which consists of having a tiny camera on the end of a long flexible tube inserted into your bum and up into your colon with the help of a localized anesthetic, and it is buttloads of fun *snicker*.  You'll be instructed to fast the day before and to take a purgative to clean out your system.  My advice is as follows for the pre-scope cleanse:

- don't make plans for the day
- stay near a toilet
- shell out for the softest, squishiest toilet paper you can afford.  It's worth it, trust me.

There's also the colonoscopy's little baby cousin, the flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is a smaller camera on a tube, about the size of that thing at the dentist they use to suck the spit out of your mouth.  The downside is they probably won't put you out for it, so its a bit uncomfortable, but the upside is that since you're awake, you might have the option of watching a video of your own rectum.  It's kind of gross and fascinating at the same time.  

Fun story: A few days after one of my sigmoidoscopies, we had a sewer back-up and they sent robots into the sewer to find where the blockage was.  Afterwards they gave us a copy of the video.  Had we had the scope-video, it would have made a rather humorous split-screen.

Anyway, during the scope they'll check for weirdness and abnormalities such as polyps, and may take tissue samples.  If biopsies are done, you may feel a bit sore and tender in the abdominal area for a day or two afterwards.  

So this is some basic info on screening and prevention, because for something that is fairly easy to treat if caught early, a whole lot of people die unnecessarily.  Food for thought.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday. Bloody #^%+?! Sunday.

I'm a bad Canadian.  "Why?" you ask? Because I cannot bring myself to give one thousandth of a fuck about this Canada vs. Sweden game.  And it's hockey, so it's pretty much akin to treason to not care. Social media this Sunday morning has become a vast wasteland of play-by-play updates.

Oh, well.

I am grouchy.  My body has decided to play an elaborate joke on me, which culminated in a trip to the emergency room yesterday with a laundry list of symptoms dating back to last Tuesday.

I'll give you a brief timeline:

Tuesday: headache
Wednesday: headache, brief dizzy spells, coated tongue
Thursday: body aches, fever, chills, coated tongue
Friday: fever, chills, body aches, rash covering neck, shoulders, chest.
Saturday: ridiculously bad indigestion (7 on pain scale, enough to inducing sobbing) and severe, sudden onset full-body muscle pain, more rash covering most of my arms, trunk etc.

So the Well-Travelled One and I make the trip to Emerg, because why wouldn't I want to spend a Saturday afternoon at the local hospital? Most of the ER doctors are tolerable, however the one I got insisted on cutting me off and talking over me, as I listed off the symptoms above, and noted that I am a recovering cancer patient lacking a colon and that I had just (on Monday) gotten off a 21 day run of corticosteroid based anti-inflammatory enemas.

Yeah, you read that right.  21 days of enemas. That's a fun tale for another day.  Or perhaps a medically-themed Christmas carol.

"Oh, yeah.  We've been seeing a lot of this," the doctor tells me.

"What? You've been seeing a lot of people with fever, chills, headaches, rashes, stomache pains, full body aches and coated tongues?"

"Yeah."

"At the same time?"

Jesus.  So, Dr. Interrupto tells me it is viral and to treat the symptoms until the virus runs its course.  Amazing. I'm not sure I'm convinced.  My love who, sometimes to his own detriment, lives to research the shit out of stuff, thinks some of it could be a withdrawal from the anti-inflammatories.  The rash, which inexplicably comes and goes, feels like an allergic reaction. It's not out of the realm of possibility that I could be suffering an allergic reaction, a withdrawal, and some sort of virus at the same time because let's face it, this is ME we're talking about.

All of the symptoms come and go.  Yesterday, the body aches showed up whenever the indigestion subsided.  Then, when the indigestion came back, the body aches would go.  Then, when both of them subsided, that's when the rash came back with a vengeance.  

And I tell you, I am the worst at not scratching.  This is what I managed to do to my tender inner-upper arm flesh yesterday:

I know, that's pretty hot, right?  Sexxaaaaay.

So, today I am sitting at mildly achy, a little itchy and crazy-lethargic.  That could be Sunday talking, however.  I'm hoping whatever this is runs its course soon, and that no one else catches it, as I would not wish this on my worst enemy.