Needles Shmeedles

Imagine me, chatting away with the phlebotomist as she drains blood from my arm, my head actually turning down to watch the process at one point.

"All finished."

"So fast? Well, thanks.  See you again tomorrow"

If this situation doesn't strike you as monumental, then you missed the post about about my extreme needle phobia.  Or should I say, my former extreme needle phobia?  (Trypanophobia for anyone who wants to wikipedia the official name for this phobia like we just did) 

That's right.  I think I've kicked the habit - the habit of passing out and having a panic attack around needles.  Fertility treatment means, among other things, needlemania.  For the first and second blood draws I laid down, for the third I sat in the chair but had Max sit by me in case he needed to catch me, for the fourth I sat in the chair without a Max safety net (just wike a big giwrl), and for the most recent one I chitty chatted away with the phlebotomist and even watched part of the process.

I'm ecstatic.    

On top of regular blood draws I decided to start seeing an acupuncturist.  I was a bit nervous for the needles at first, but they are so small and the relaxation so intense that I quickly got over it.  She has been a great intermediary between the Western and Eastern approach to medicine and the body.

On top of acupuncture and regular blood draws, I have been giving myself a shot every night when Max gets home from work.  Well, to be fair, Max has actually been the shot giver, but I have been the bravest.  The first night I iced the area down (a nice tummy roll - I've never been so glad to have a few extra pounds) cleared a spot on the couch where I could faint gracefully without hurting myself and prepared for doom.  But to my great surprise (and Max's as well) I could hardly feel it.  Subsequent nights went better and better to the point that I began looking forward to our 5:00 PM date so that I could face and hopefully conquer my fears a little bit more.

So it's official, I'm a grown up.  



After a hearty breakfast of salmon and eggs benedict we stumbled upon a delightful little bookstore at the corner of Essex and Derby with a most enigmatic owner.  When I asked aloud, mostly to Max, if I could take a picture of the store a voice coming from a small space between two mighty stacks answered

"If you buy a book, you can take all the pictures you like."
Max ponied up and purchased World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War  by Max Brooks.  Zombies and Witches and Bookstores - oh my! 

The Comic Book Store Was Open
Not a lot of things were open in town but we were able to take a tour of the Witch museum where we learned not only the history of the famed Salem Witch trials but also about modern day witches.  We are regular people, just like you.  When you meet us, let us explain our religion the animatronic figures dressed in crushed velvet say to the crowd.  Evidently Wiccans are like old fashioned pagans.  They worship nature and "[their] religion has nothing to do with the devil".  Their tenants, as described by the figures, are 1) Do no harm   2) Do as you will   3) Everything you do comes back to you three fold.  And do not refer to them as warlocks.  That's derogatory...to people who refer to themselves as witches.    

All of this got me thinking about the moment when the town's leadership decided they could make a tourist destination based on their horrible Witch history.  I mean really, it's a terrible story, many innocent people were killed.  I would have loved to sit in on the meeting where the mayor said "You know, it's time we turn this whole witch thing around and make it work for us."

You have to imagine that it was a great shame for the city for some time, as well it probably should have been.  But at some point they started erecting witch museums, witch statues based on popular television, and luring in scads and scads of palm readers and fortune tellers.

However that went down, we had a delightful time in the snow filled city including a spot hitting crab roll on our way out of town.               
Witch House, which we were misled to believe was open


Oh...that's a...

 Scrotum.  That's right. It was a scrotum.  I debated telling this story or not, but the more I think about it, the funnier it is and I just have to.  Sorry Mom.  As promised, after several tangential posts, I will resume reporting about our trip to Boston in which we sip Saudi Arabian Lime Tea, escape a near death by butter incident, and yes, have an epic encounter with Scrota (that's plural if you don't spend much time writing about male genitalia as I previously had not).
 After a terrific but exhausting day hoofing it through Boston we ended up at our Airbnb hostess's lovely home in the suburbs of Boston.  Airbnb is great for many reasons, but the most rewarding thing about it is the new friends you make with diverse backgrounds.  Friends you probably wouldn't have made otherwise.  And the local advice ain't bad either.
 Shortly after we stowed our bag in their wall to wall library that served as a guestroom (awesome) we got to talking about Morocco and Moroccan food.  We found out that she was a trained chef and Moroccan food was one of her specialties.  She told us about this Moroccan cooking substance called "Smen" which is basically aged butter.  She pulled an old babyfood jar from the fridge with a label across it reading "Smen: 1997".  As she shared her dream of visiting the Berber tribes of Morocco high in the Atlas Mountains she cracked open the lid, releasing a whoof of agedness, and burnished a spoon.  She dug around in the container a bit and came out with a spoon of the white flaky substance. 
"I think I'd better try it before I give you some."  She said as she raised the spoon to her mouth and winked at us.  
I didn't know we were in line for tasting, and we would have done it, but the gastrointestinal angels were watching out for us.  She coughed a little, took some drinks of water, pulled the bottle away from her face to examine it from the inside and out, and then giggled "Wow.  It's a good thing I tried that first."  It was a rather strong batch of Smen evidently.  Maybe a little too aged.      
When we told our sweet hostess that we were thinking about a day trip to Salem she promptly called her friend to come over and give us the low down.  Both women are artists and the one had lived in Salem for sometime.  These two women spent about two hours telling us the ins and outs of what we should do and not to, eat and not eat the next day.  It was like they had nothing more important to do in the world.  It was very kind.  After dumping a box of maps and pamphlets on the table for us to peruse our hostess plucked a few shriveled limes from a two foot jar on the table marked Saudi Arabian Limes and put a kettle on the stove.  The tea was sweet but still citrusy - just boiled dried limes -no sugar.  Who know?  (The Arabs, that's who.  They are the kings of tea afterall)  The women, longtime friends, argued back and forth about which routes to take and which sights were worth it as we sipped tea late into the night. 
At about a quarter after midnight I shyly said "So, I understand the two of you are artists, I'd love to see your work if you have a minute."  
Despite the late hour they put on their boots and we tromped out to a large shed in the back where they both had studios.  It was wonderful to see their art and talk about process with real artists.  I forget how much work there is in art.  I know that sounds silly, but you get this idea that artists have a burst of creative genius, slap together a Starry Night and call it a day.  The truth is most artists work and work and work tirelessly to improve their skill and create something they are happy with.  
Our hostess's particular art was enormously scaled objects drawn in minute detail - flowers mostly.  We're talking 6 foot by 6 foot flower petals and 4 feet tall blades of grass.  All hand drawn, implementing various processing and transferring techniques.  They were just beautiful.  Just as we were about to leave she cocked her eyebrow and said "let me show you something."  
By this point we could tell that she was imminently good natured and perhaps she "had a we bit of the devil in her" as a Scottish friend of ours said about me once.  She pulled out three large sheets of drawing paper, three or four feet squared, and laid them on the studio floor.  Both of them looked at us with anticipation to see if we could tell what the super close up drawings revealed, a bit of a smile on our hostess's lips. 
I spoke first "Why, I think that's..."  
"Huh." Max added when he realized that the pictures were minutely detailed, extra enlarged scrotum.  
What does one say to that?  I like how you captured the realness of the subject?  What was your inspiration?  How in the world did you get that angle?  
I have to say we kept our cool pretty good and found a way to talk about the drawings without being 1) 6 years old or 2) hacks that acted like we 'got it'.
She actually said some pretty interesting things about the reception they got at an art exhibit on the Cape (that was eventually shut down for its obscenity).  She said that she watched people encounter the pieces and it was almost always women who recognized what they were before men did.  Go figure.  As her friends said "I guess we do have a different perspective of it then Men"
She also said something about the scale of the pieces and what she liked about this subject matter at this size "People will look at it for sometime and not know what it is.  When they figure it out they either laugh from embarrassment (check) or frown with disapproval.  Between the time people figure it out and have a reaction to it I think there is a great opportunity for them to be surprised by their own innocence."
Whether you buy that or not, it made for an interesting trip and has definitely sent us into giggles several times since.  


Reality is really...real

Today we finished a security seminar where we learned, among other things, that we will be victims of food poisoning, we will have a car accident, and in our case we have determined that we will get evacuated - probably multiple times.

All this in light of the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Egypt today and Tunisia last week really puts things in perspective.

My friend over at Small Bits has written a great post about what it is like to be evacuated from post and Diplopundit, as always, has all the details about the recent evacuations.  The embassy personnel and their family in Tunisia was evacuated to Morocco for a short time and has now returned to post.  There are several flights today and tomorrow that will evacuate officers and their families serving in Egypt.

All I can think about is preparation, preparation, preparation.  There are so many unpredictable things about living overseas, but there are a few things that we can do now to make the unthinkable a little more manageable.  I came away from the seminar with lists of things to do and after reading through some posts and information about the evacuations in the Middle East I added even more things to it.  So it's triple spreadsheet mode for me over the next few weeks.

Any tips for a first timer?

All I can say is may the combined force of the blogging community good will be with all those who have been evacuated.  My thoughts and prayers are with the officers and families - especially those whose job it is to manage crisis' like this within the embassy.  You do a hard job and it doesn't go unnoticed.