Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Circle…..or, Why I Want to Slap the Shit Out of Ophelia

The Circle…..or, Why I Want to Slap the Shit Out of Ophelia

I’m not sure that I can write cohesively and coherently while I’m swimming in a cesspool of negative emotions, but I’m going to try.  I think the bright white honesty of this topic might be lost if I wait until I calm down, and raw honesty is probably more important than the flow.  Or not.  We shall see.

I’m not going to identify the persons in this post, and it should be because I want to respect their privacy.  In truth, privacy is the last thing in the world I care about right now, but there’s some red flashing light in the back of my head spelling out “DISCRETION“, and I’ve learned to trust the red flashing light in the back of my head.

There is a woman near and dear to me whom I shall call Ophelia, because it means “helper” in Greek.  Ophelia has established a permanent sidekick whom I shall call Chaos.  Over the years, Chaos has actually taken on the form of various people and situations.  As one version of Chaos leaves  just long enough for me to think that maybe Ophelia is ready to move on without some sort of Chaos, *poof*, Chaos returns!  I hate that bastard.

For the last few years, there has been one consistent person filling the Chaos role in Ophelia’s life.  He is an abusive, addicted, dishonest, criminal, low class, bad person.  This is not my opinion, this is fact.  Even Ophelia acknowledges all of these attributes as valid.  I don’t know anyone who would disagree with this assessment of Chaos.  I hate this particular Chaos most of all.  Yeah, yeah, I’m not supposed to “hate”.  So sue me.

I didn’t get crazy the first time Ophelia tried to intervene and help Chaos change things around, find a new direction, make some better choices.  Chaos was her friend, and she wanted to help.  She’s a big helper (codependent) by nature, probably because she was raised by a codependent parent.  Anyway, the “help” didn’t quite take, but somehow Chaos became the romantic interest anyway.  That’s when I got confused.  Chaos brought nothing to the table except, well, chaos.  He’s not funny, handsome, smart, hardworking, rich, popular, or kind.  Seriously.  On a scale of 1 to 10, he’s a 2.  Ophelia is way out of his league.  Like, light years.


Just Stop

I should mention that Ophelia has another concern:  Theo.  Theo means “watcher” in Greek.  Theo and Ophelia are a team, and Theo watches all.  Sees all.  Theo is near and dear to my heart, too.

I could recount example after example, scenario after scenario, of the destructiveness of this relationship with Chaos, until your coffee was cold and my fingers were bleeding, .  I won’t, because the flashing red “DISCRETION” is still invading the back of my head.  Instead, I’ll give you The Cycle.

1.  Enter Chaos.  2.  Commence Crisis (property destruction, physical violence, vile verbal confrontations, theft, infidelity, threats, etc.)  3.  Theo watches.  4. Chaos departs, at least from public view.  5.  Ophelia’s circle surrounds her, and starts picking up pieces (both figuratively and literally).  6.  Ophelia begins hinting at how Chaos needs her help.


That is Ophelia’s cycle.  My reactive cycle to Ophelia’s goes like this:

1.  Bite my tongue until it bleeds.  2.  Anger and fear overwhelm me.  Communication during the Crisis is typically fragmented and hysterical.  3.  Shield Theo as quickly and thoroughly as possible.  Sometimes it’s not possible.  4.  Relief and gratitude, with anger and fear still lingering in the background.  5.  Whatever it takes.  Talks, encouragement, friendship, advice.  6.  A quick spiral into a pathetically pointless conversation.

Ophelia loves Chaos.  I get that.  You love whom you love.  What I don’t get is letting love dictate poor decisions.  Chaos needs to be in rehab or jail, period.  Ophelia has the ability to put Chaos in jail, but won’t.  Rehab is a decision that Chaos has to make, but right now it’s just a word that Chaos throws around to manipulate Ophelia and give her delusions of a Happily Ever After something to cling to.

And Theo watches.  Theo hates Chaos when Ophelia does, and welcomes Chaos when Ophelia does.  Theo has already learned to display the opinions and feelings that will cause the least resistance:  one version to Ophelia and Chaos, another set to others.  I don’t know what Theo’s true feelings are, and I don’t think Theo knows either.  The knot in my stomach is indescribable when my brain thinks too much and I envision Theo repeating this cycle.

So here I am, in the middle of a storm, choosing to get soaked rather than open the umbrella known as Codependency.  I’ve been in this storm with Ophelia more times than I want to admit to.  Over the years, Ophelia’s choices with Chaos (and please note that I’ve progressed to putting the responsibility on Ophelia for her choices, rather than on Chaos for just being Chaos) have resulted in Ophelia and I not speaking for months on end; hours and hours of ugly, skin blotching, snot running hysterical crying; and sad endings to (or cancellations of) celebrations that happened to intersect with points 1., 2., or 6. in Ophelia’s cycle.  The thing about making memories is that sometimes you wish you hadn’t.


Ophelia refuses to give up on Chaos.  I refuse to give up on Ophelia.  Every time the Crisis arrives, she thinks, “Chaos has really learned his lesson this time.” and I think, “Ophelia has finally hit the end of her rope this time.  Chaos will be gone for good this time.”    I find myself on the phone with her, totally exasperated, saying “Why do you do this to yourself?  You KNOW how it’s going to end up!”  Then someone points out that *I* am doing the same thing:  getting worked up over the situation when I know how it’s going to end up.  Oh, the irony.

So today I sit here crying, realizing that there are no magic words I can speak to change Ophelia’s mindset.  My heart is breaking, again, knowing that it’s not over.  I try to talk myself into acceptance.  I pray.  It’s probably not good that I get all attitude-y with God when I talk to Him about this, reminding Him that I don’t ask for much, and never for myself, so it would be really appreciated if He would just HANDLE this somehow, and exactly as I would like it handled, thankYouverymuch.

I suspect that Ophelia’s somewhere crying as well, realizing that there are no magic words she can speak to change Chaos’ behavior.

What I really want to do is cut Ophelia’s head open, and somehow insert the thoughts that I want her to have.  “I don’t wish Chaos anything but the best, but I need to remove him from my life.”  “I’m worth so much more than this.”  “I need to show Theo that mistreatment is never OK.”

We can build rockets that travel to outer space and regrow human organs from a pig’s ear, but no one has invented a vaccination or a pill or maybe some electroshock therapy that will make Ophelia do what I want her to do.  Dammit.

And that is why I want to slap the shit out of Ophelia.


Mu Shu Pork & Pancakes

Mu Shu Pork & Pancakes
I love Mu Shu Pork, and thought it would be fun to try to make at home.  The recipes I found sounded complicated, but in reality it’s just the prep work and number of ingredients.  It’s quick and easy.  There are lots of substitutions that can make it an easier recipe to tackle.  I’ve put those in italics next to the original recipe.
Chinese (Mandarin) Pancakes
1 1/2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Flour for rollingDirections

In a bowl, stir together flour, pinch of salt, and boiling water. Add cold water, stir until dough forms. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Divide dough in half, cut each half into 5 pieces and roll each piece into a small ball.

Mu Shu Pancake DoughOn a lightly floured surface using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 3-inch pancake. Brush 5 of the pancakes with sesame oil, top each with another pancake. Roll each pancake into an 8- inch pancake.

Heat a dry heavy skillet. Cook each pancake, without browning, on both sides until blistered with several air pockets.

mandarin pancakes
Mu Shu Pork

4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
2 tablespoon dry sherry, divided (any cooking sherry)
Hoisin sauce
1/2 pound boneless lean pork, shredded (leftover chops or roast work well, too)
4 dried black mushrooms (the grocers here carry a jar of mixed mushrooms in the $1 aisle that work really well)
2 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
1 carrot, julienned
3 scallions, white and light green parts, slivered
1 cup bean sprouts
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
3 tablespoons chicken stock
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugarDirections

Combine 2 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. sherry and 1 tsp. hoisin sauce in a bowl. Add the pork, toss to coat evenly, cover, refrigerate and marinate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak the mushrooms in enough hot water to cover for 20 minutes. Drain and thinly slice. If you are using jarred mushrooms, just drain, pat dry, and slice thinly.  Set aside on a plate, along with the cabbage, carrot and scallions.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium/high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and swirl to coat. Pour in the eggs, swirling and tilting the wok to form a thin film. Cook just until the eggs are set and feel dry on top, about 1 minute. Transfer to a platter, let cool slightly and cut into 1 inch strips.

Return the wok to high heat, and swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry to release the aromas, about 1 minute. Add the pork and stir fry until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. If using leftover (already cooked) pork, cook the veggies first and then add the pork.  Add the reserved mushrooms, cabbage, carrot, bean sprouts, and scallions, along with the chicken stock, and stir-fry another 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, and sugar, and cook, stirring until sauce boils, about 1 minute. Add egg strips and mix well. To serve, spread a small amount of hoisin sauce on a warm Mandarin Pancake. Spoon about 1/2 cup mu shu mixture in center of pancake, wrap like a burrito, folding the ends to close, and serve.

mu shu pork

Picture of Health

Picture of Health

I think it was The Kinks who penned the lyrics

Silly boy ya’ self-destroyer.
Paranoia, the destroyer

Self-destroyer, wreck your health
Destroy friends, destroy yourself
The time device of self-destruction
Light the fuse and start eruption

Last week, I needed to have a complete physical for my job.  I got the confirmation of the appointment the night before, with a full list of tests that would be performed.  EKG.  Stress test.  Extended Drug Screen.  Audio test.  Vision test.  Thyroid test.  Chest X-ray.  Lipid check.  Pulmonary screening.

Quite a comprehensive exam.  My first thought was “Woo Hoo!  It’s time for my annual physical anyway, and now I won’t have to pay for it.”

My “first thought” usually doubles as an alarm clock for my gremlins, and that night was no exception.  The gremlins jumped on this like flies on fecal matter .  With less than 12 hours between notification and the time I had to check in at the clinic, my inner demons were going to have to pull out all the stops to turn this free wellness check into a nightmare-inducing anxiety attack.

Those gremlins.  Such skilled little imps, they are.  It’s no wonder, considering how well fed I’ve kept them over the years.  I’ve nurtured those mental monsters like they were helpless orphans for as long as I can remember.

It started when I had to forego my nightstand drink when I went to bed.  Since it was fasting blood work, I could have nothing to eat or drink after midnight.  What happens when I can’t have liquid?  Like any normal person, I become parched beyond all belief.  Thirst makes me restless, and restlessness is the favorite food of gremlins.

I begin mentally reviewing the procedures that are required.  It seems in line with the requirements for space travel.  I wonder if somehow my job grade has been entered improperly somewhere.

Drug screen.  Pffffffft.  Expected and unconcerned.  I don’t even eat poppy seeds on my bagels.

Blood tests to check lipid levels, sugar levels, electrolytes, kidney function, liver function, blah blah.  Yeah, my lipids and I have a dysfunctional relationship, but I know what makes them go screwy, and haven’t been pushing my luck there, so no worries.

Except….thyroid, eh?  My sisters and I just had a conversation about thyroids.  They both have had issues with theirs, and just a few weeks ago encouraged me to have mine checked.  What’s the worst that can happen with a thyroid?  I make a mental note to look that up.

Audiogram and vision test.  I just had my eyes checked the day before, no surprises there.  Although, the optometrist said, “Well, you don’t have cataracts yet, but you’re on your way.”  Well, thanks.  Like most married people, I occasionally have selective hearing, but I’m pretty sure I can squeak by the test.

Pulmonary exam, stress test, chest X-ray, and EKG.  Wowza.  What are they looking for in a chest X-ray?  Making sure I’m telling the truth on my non-smoking status?  Do I look like a walking heart attack?

What if something is discovered during this battery of tests?  I wonder if I should go online and double my life insurance coverage before I go to sleep, just in case.  What if the EKG shows a blockage?  What if the chest X-ray shows a dreaded spot?  If I wait until I know about it, I have to disclose it on my life insurance questionnaire.    So I should do it before morning.

Downstairs I go to research life insurance policy updates.  It’s 1:00 a.m.  I need to be pulling out of my driveway in 5 1/2 hours.  I’m thirsty.  The reasonable voice in the back of my head  is telling me to stop being ridiculous and just go to sleep, but, alas, I cannot listen to reason.  The gremlins are afoot.

As I’m going through term life rates, weighing a new policy vs. a current policy increase, I begin to wonder what happens if the tests show something bad.   How sucky would it  be to find out I have a dreaded condition at the same time my employer says, “Sorry about your dreaded condition….and the fact that now you don’t have a job.”  I mean, that’s what it comes down to, right?  They aren’t running all these tests for curiosity’s sake.

Insurance project complete.  Steve, the kids, and grandkids will be able to mourn my passing in style, while grieving inconsolably on a tropical beach somewhere.

I need to get some sleep, but the gremlins won’t let me forget that thyroid thing.  Since I’m already online, I may as well check into it.

Google “thyroid disorders” and you get this:

About 9,840,000 results  (0.34 seconds)

Well, THIS will be fun!  First task is finding a list of symptoms, which is pretty simple.  Here are the Top Five Symptoms Of Thyroid Malfunction:

1.  Fatigue – well, duh.  I mean, is there a human alive who isn’t tired?

2.  Weight changes – hourly.  Maybe not hourly, but I can fluctuate 20 lbs. in a 2 week period.

3.  Depression / Anxiety – of course.  Again, is there a human alive who doesn’t get anxiety?

4.  Cholesterol issues – yes.  My levels, like my weight, fluctuate wildly.

5.  Family History – yes.  I didn’t know I had a family history until a couple of weeks ago.

Apparently I’ve been walking around with a thyroid disorder for 25 years.  I’ll probably have a goiter by morning.  Oh, wait….it IS morning.  2:18 a.m., to be exact.  I have to go to bed.

I think I napped, but at 4:32 a.m. I am fully awake.  I’ve mentally walked through how the insurance money should be disbursed after my untimely death.   I’ve revised my bucket list to accommodate only the most important things I want to accomplish, careful to consider that I’ll be doing them in a state of exhaustion, and with a goiter on my neck.




I set a reminder on my phone to look into a Do Not Resuscitate order so my family won’t have to make those awful decisions.  I’ve evaluated the most obvious candidates for my husband’s next wife, and I have to say that each one of them will be a sorry replacement.  One of them, specifically, is an insufferable bitch, and I swear a solemn oath under my breath to haunt them mercilessly if he lowers himself to her level.

Groggy, headache-y, and thirsty like a camel, I make my way to the hospital.  I’m ready to hear the news, and am almost disinterested in which body part will be responsible for my demise:  thyroid cancer…..90% blockage in a main artery……harmless looking tumor on the lung that has metastasized to all of my major organs?  In the end, does it really matter?

I was so accepting of my fate that my blood pressure was lower than normal, “perfect” according to the nice Medical Assistant that checked it.  My hearing was fine, and my vision was exactly as it had been a few days before.  So far, so good.




Time for the EKG.  “Looks perfect, ” the nice Medical Assistant chirped.  Alrighty, then.  That means that I need to brace for the chest X-ray.

The happy M.A. takes me back to Radiology and introduces me to an equally happy woman who explains she’s going to get some pictures.  I get lined up and take a deep breath and hold it as instructed.  The gremlins are giddy with anticipation.  This is the moment that will change my life forever.

“I’d like to take another one.  I need a better look.”

AHA!  I knew it!  Here it comes.

“OK, we’re done.  I’m going to take you back to the Dr.’s office, and he’ll be in shortly.”

The wait in the Doctor’s office seemed to last a long time.  I checked my watch, and was surprised that I’d been at the hospital for 4 hours already.  I am still weighing burial vs. cremation when the Dr. comes in and introduces himself.

I’m a little taken aback at his casual demeanor.  I mean, this is my LIFE we’re talking about here!  I’m watching him intently while he flips through the papers on the clipboard, trying to identify when he hits the information that will make him scrunch his eyebrows, purse his lips, and let out an exasperated sigh.  I imagine that it’s still tough for him, after all these years, to give people the news that they dread hearing.

He’s got a great poker face, this guy.  He’s not giving off any clues at all.

I’m trying to decide how I’ll break the news to Steve when Dr. Death says, “Well.”

“Well”?  What the hell does that mean?

“It will be a few days before we get all the blood work back.  Hopefully by Monday.”

Monday.  So Monday we’ll decide what the options are, get some referrals to experts in ….. wait, in what?  What are we dealing with here, Doc?

“So far, everything looks great.  Your UA was negative, but I’m sure that’s no surprise to you.  The EKG was perfect, and so was your pulmonary test.  Your chest X-ray is clean.  Stress test is fine.  Based on all this, I don’t expect we’ll be getting any surprises from your bloodwork.  You’re a picture of health, young lady.”

At first it doesn’t register.  He’s saying I’m FINE?  No tumor?  No goiter?  No hypertension?  I don’t need to have my Last Will & Testament reviewed?

I’m not dying?

“Do you have any questions?”

I think back to The Kinks…

Doctor, Doctor help me please, I know you’ll understand
There’s a time device inside of me, I’m a self-destructin’ man
There’s a red, under my bed
And there’s a little green man in my head

I smile and shake my head.  “Nope, I’m great.  Thanks, Doc!”

Thank heavens they didn’t give me a paranoid idiot test.