Saturday, December 7, 2013
December 7, 2013
Thursday afternoon I got a frantic phone call from my son who was incoherent and hysterically sobbing. He had fallen and hit his head somehow and had absolutely NO recollection of what had happened. I was driving home from work, and he was alone, sobbing, hysterical and terrified. He was clearly very confused, and had NO short term memory. He was unable to make new memories and kept asking me the same questions over and over.
"Mom, am I going to be okay?"
"Mom, I don't remember coming to the phone. I don't remember how I got to the phone. I don't remember calling you . I think I have amnesia." then hysterical sobbing.
Then, "Mom, should I call 911?"
Over and over again.
I asked him, "Do you remember asking me that a minute ago? What did I tell you?" I was trying to figure out if he was just hysterical or if he really couldn't remember.
He couldn't remember.
I was freaking out. Should I call 911 from the car? Should I wait to get home? He wasn't able to follow commands because he forgot what he was doing in the middle of the task-like getting ice.
I kept him on the phone, talking, trying to hold it together for both of us, until I could get home and check him out.
When I got home, it was clear he was in trouble. He didn't know what month it was, what the last holiday was, where he went for Thanksgiving, or anything for the last week. Worse, he couldn't form new memories at all.
I called 911 and the EMT's/BLS (basic life support)ambulance came. My husband came home around the same time. The Basic Life support ambulance upgraded him to ALS or advanced life support. They took him to a local trauma unit. My husband accompanied him in the ambulance and my terrified daughter, who came home in the middle of the chaos and thought her brother was dying, went with me in the car.
When we got to the hospital, I wasn't sure who looked worse, my husband, who looked shell shocked, or my son, who kept repeating himself. It was so bad that my daughter finally wrote down what had happened and each time he asked us, she said, "Get the paper out of your pocket. It explains everything."
He'd say in amazement, "I've read this before? I feel deja vu, like I've seen this before." Then he would laugh uncomfortably as we told him he'd read it almost 20 times. I videotaped him repeatedly asking the same questions over and over, and our very patient answers.
"Is Esther okay?" "Yes, she's fine." "Am I going to be okay, Mommy?" "I think so. That's why you're here." "How long have I been out?" "You haven't been. You've been awake this whole time." "Am I at Swedish Covenenant?" "No, you're at _____ hospital." "What happened to me? I'm scared, Mom" "We're not sure. You hit your head." "How long have I been out?" and so on...
The resident and attending trauma physicians both came in several times and checked on him. The CT of the brain and the xrays were all okay. They took off the hard collar and took him off the back board. They gave him some morphine for his back pain.
Because we're both doctors, they let him go home with us. They told us the memory loss could last from 24 hours to up to 4 weeks or more, to let him get a good night sleep. Sleep would allow his brain to heal and rest. They told us not to let him play sports for at least 6 weeks, up to 3 months. They gave us all of the instructions and answered all of our questions. We were terrified that he was permanently damaged. I'd seen traumatic brain injury up close with a patient who was in therapy for a year before her short term memory and working memory became normal again.
Since he was sort of okay, we decided to have some fun. It WAS kind of funny that he asked the same questions over and over. We gave him funny answers, which he believed, and promptly forgot. Ellie put an EKG monitor pastie on his cheek. She had him convinced that it was to monitor his jaw movements and it was important to keep it on. He wasn't sure if he should believe her, but he kept it on. At first it was funny. Then, it wasn't. Poor kid. I felt horrible for him and then I felt an overwhelming sense of fear that he would be like this forever, that my smart, beautiful, funny, anxious kid, would be living Ground Hog day--over and over again, forever. His future could be completely erased in a freak home accident.
Fortunately he is recovering most of his memories from the last week. His working memory is still a little spotty-he's sluggish on calculations, but it's getting better. It's only been a day and a half.
What do I tell his teachers? How long should I keep him out of school? Questions racing through my head.
I guess it's human nature to try to find the humor in everything. In retrospect, there were funny moments, but I am so grateful that he is recovering. It was funny that he believed we needed to monitor his chewing muscles. (Poor kid)
"Bad stuff can happen in a split second. Life is short."
People say this kind of thing all of the time. It never really means anything unless it's YOU it's happened to. You can warn people until you're blue in the face, it will do no good. It takes personal experience, fear and terror from a freak accident or unexpected illness, to make you realize it's true. And yet, even afterward, we still live like we've got our whole lives in front of us. We live like everything is always going to be fine. That we have plenty of time to do get things done.
I will try to remember not to take things for granted, but it's hard work to live like that. I don't want to constantly be worried about what's around the corner, looking for the next bad thing to befall me or my loved ones. I'd rather live optimistically, like all will be well. Bury my head in the sand, and be happy. Live in the now. Live in the moment. Hope for the best. (My irish self says, "and expect the worst.")
Here's some information on Concussions. Please read it and become familiar with it. It might be important for you some day.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
December 4, 2013
Yesterday I noticed there was a new sign on the outside of our hospital notifying the public that bringing a gun into the hospital was not welcome. No kidding.
There are signs all around us. Some we pay attention to, others we choose to ignore.
Some signs should never be ignored-- like a red stoplight. Recently I was almost killed when a guy blew through a red light. I had waited my usual two seconds after the light turned green before I proceeded into the intersection. (Thank you State of Illinois’ defensive driving course). I had just enough time to stop with a good 2 feet between the man’s car and mine. The man appeared bewildered and confused and I truly think he just didn't see that the light had turned red. He wasn’t paying attention.
It's funny because I was thinking aboutsuperpowers at the time. I was wondering what superpowers people have, and what they can do on a daily basis to effect change. I was also thinking about how short and brief life can be. Then BOOM! Well, almost boom. Fortunately not a single person was hurt, no cars were damaged, and I was able to proceed after the gentleman backed up out of the intersection. But again it reminded me how quickly our lights can be snuffed out. My superpower that time was good peripheral vision.
There are signs all around us for our health as well.
If we choose to ignore those signs and proceed into the intersection, we might crash. It's a fine balance between deciding which signs to heed and which ones to ignore. If we look at every single sign on the road, we will become distracted.
Sometimes signs seems more of a suggestion. If you do the speed limit when everyone else is doing 80 mph, you're more likely to get into an accident from someone tail-gating. On the other hand, ignoring the speed limit in a school or park zone is a BAD idea.
It's as difficult sometimes to know which signs our bodies are giving us and whether or not to pay attention to them.
Some people never learn what “normal” is. Normal is not “perfect.” Normal is not being free of symptoms or signs. Everyone has aches and pains. It's knowing when to be worried that is the trick. Is this pain my heart? Is this pain my chest wall? Could this be a blood clot? Is losing 30 lbs without trying good? Or bad?
Our parents/guardians help when we're younger to cipher out the background noise our bodies are constantly putting out there. Growing pains, catches, itches, hiccups, colds with runny nose and scratchy throat, cramps in our muscles, feet and hands going to sleep in certain positions–all are things our elders teach us how to deal with when we’re kids.
There are however certain signs one should never ignore. A mole that's changing in size or color. A lingering cough. Unexplained weight loss. Urinating frequently, painfully or with blood. Changes in the color of or blood in your stool. New daily persistent headaches. Flashing lights in your eyes. Unexplained weight loss. Uncontrollable nausea and vomiting with abdominal pain.
We learn which signs to ignore through experience and through the help of experts like our parents or our friends or our doctors. The trick is not blowing through the red light. Not missing the signs.
That's kind of how disease can sometimes be too. All of a sudden the light goes from amber to red, the hoarseness became vocal cord cancer. The weight loss is lymphoma. The mole is melanoma.
AND BY ALL MEANS...Talk to your doctor. And your Mom.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
I've been thinking about healing a lot lately.
It's funny, but I've always thought physicians should be required to take acting lessons. It doesn't matter what kind of day I'm having. My patients need me to be fully present. To be their doctor. It doesn't matter that one of my staff is a no-show and I've got a sick and crashing patient at the hospital and my 15-year-old riled me up to the point of explosion that morning. I act my way through each day. I become what my patient needs. I channel my inner doctor.
This weekend, as you read in my previous blog post, I had a full weekend to myself, including an entire day to be completely alone without responsibility. What did I do with that day? I had all of these grand ideas of things I wanted to accomplish. I read somewhere that it's the days where you feel that you've had too many things to do and yet you've accomplished them all where you feel the most satisfied. I believe that. But it makes me feel guilty when I want, when I NEED to rest. When I want to do nothing.
Yesterday I did nothing but watch The Vampire Diaries. I watched all of seasons three and four. I accomplished nothing but watching that program and walking the dog.
This morning I woke up, dressed, and got ready to go to the hospital to round. I walked the dog and I went to work and discovered something important. The Vampire Diaries had healed me. I had needed healing and didn't know it. I needed a day to not feel guilty about doing Nothing at all--a day to rest-- to escape--to turn off my compassion and my empathy and my need to accomplish things and serve others.
I immersed myself in a fantasy.
When I rounded today at the hospital I found that I was a better doctor. I was able to draw upon a deep well of empathy that I hadn't been able to dip into easily because I'd been drained. I was able to help a woman who has no reason on this green earth to smile and laugh--to do just that.
It got me thinking about healing and how it's not just the purview of physicians and nurses and medical people. Artists heal people. Actors heal people. Authors heal people. They allow us to disappear into another world, a fantasy. I wonder if they ever think about that. I wonder if they know that they are healers.
Now you can laugh at me for enjoying the Vampire Diaries. It's a program filled with INCREDIBLY good looking actors (Ian Somerhalder-ooh la-la!), acting out the things that vampires and werewolves and witches and what-not would do if they existed. It's totally engrossing and the actors are all quite convincing. They are acting out things that I can't do anymore because I'm 51. I have done all that stuff already anyway. Well... I haven't bitten anybody in the neck and sucked their blood or healed anybody with vampire blood, or had sex with a werewolf, but I've lived my life and had a good time before settling down, before getting married and having children.
I wish that I could leave a body of work behind like a writer or an actor or a screenwriter or producer or musician. Something that people could draw on again and again--Something permanent and durable and healing.
I have a friend who's a singer and songwriter. He has a whole body of amazing music. He shares it with his friends and his family. He gives a little bit of himself to everyone he knows and loves. His music heals.
Actors and actresses, writers, and artists do the same thing. Some are lucky enough to be able to share their gifts with millions of people. They have no idea how their work is going to affect their audiences.
I wonder if they realize that they are healers.
I see people who come into the hospital and watch DVD's the entire time they're there, to maintain their sanity and block out reality. They disappear into paintings on the wall and make up fantasies about where the scenes are from. They read novels. They escape their pain.
I am also amazed by the actors and artists, musicians and writers who effect change in the world beyond the scope of their profession, develop a fan base and take on projects and causes. They activate entire social networks to make change in the world. They heal the world. They use their fame for good.
I heard one actor say that he was just the microphone amplifying the message of the cause he was promoting. Somebody called him humble because he wouldn't take credit, but he's right. And it's awesome that he can be the microphone. He has that base of people that are paying attention to him right now because he's a famous actor, not because he came up with the cause. He just amplified it using the power of his profession and loyalty of his fans.
My friends Sue and Leslie and Sally are amazing and incredible artists. I have high school acquaintances who are actors or musicians. I have met people along my life path who are writers or actors, or musicians.
They are all healers.
The Arts are critical for the health of our souls, minds, and bodies. Yet they're the first things cut from schools when the monies get short. Don't get me wrong. I think that attention to the STEM-Science Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum--is great, especially for girls, but it shouldn't be at the expense of the arts. We need to experience a full and balanced education. If you focus solely on science and lose the compassion, depth, empathy, and ethics found in studying the arts, we all lose.
The arts center us.
As I continue in my own little world, whirling around doing the things that I do, the shopping, the laundry, the house cleaning, and my life's work--being a physician and a parent-- I'm going to look for ways to change the world. I'm going to keep trying out new things. I'm going to keep taking risks. I'll keep acting my way through life, looking for ways to impact others. I am looking for different ways to effect healing and leave a lasting imprint. AND, I'm going to take time out to enjoy the arts. And to rest.
I want to thank the cast of The Vampire Diaries for a brief respite, battery recharge, and for healing me for a day, AND for showing me a different healing paradigm.
And Ian Somerhalder, Wow. Those EYES.
(Just because you're on a diet doesn't mean you can't look at the menu. Stop being all judge-y! Okay?!)
Michele Carlon MD, a.k.a. DoctorDiva
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I swear that I have developed superpowers. I can never be in the bathroom without someone else feeling the magnetic pull of my need to be alone----and then not letting me.
It used to happen when the kids were little all the time. I didn't really mind then. They were so cute and helpless and cuddly.
Now my children are pubescent, and much less cute and cuddly. It matters not what I am doing in the bathroom. The moment I sit on the toilet, or get naked for a shower, someone will knock and without waiting for a reply, shove open the door exposing me in all my glory.
It's not that I'm ashamed of nudity. I have absolutely no problems with seeing or being seen naked. If I haven't seen it before, I point and ask questions. It's just that my children cannot enter the bathroom without pointing out my flaws. "Mom, you're fat." "Mom why do you have all that pubic hair?" "Mom… your thighs hang over the toilet seat."
I am well aware of my imperfections. I don't need a an obnoxious 13 or 15-year-old to point them out. Unfortunately our bathroom door lock hasn't worked for years. The thought has crossed my mind that I should buy a hook and eye and put it on the inside of the bathroom door to keep out intruders. The problem is that is I think of it, get busy, and forget.
I've tried to set a good example by knocking first, waiting for a reply, and most of the time not barging in once they've asked me not to.
The frustrating thing is, WE HAVE ANOTHER BATHROOM UPSTAIRS! USE IT!
My family is leaving me behind for the Thanksgiving weekend because I'm on call. They're off to visit relatives in a faraway state. Everyone keeps asking me if I'm going to be okay being alone. Are they freaking kidding me? Seriously?
Being alone is a luxury! I will enjoy a terrific Thanksgiving meal with my multicultural brother in law and his fabulous wife and kids. Friday I plan to quilt and work on projects that I have not had time to work on because I'm always doing stuff for other other people . I can eat popcorn for dinner. Or just not eat dinner. Or eat ice cream for dinner. I don't have to worry about anybody else but myself (and Esther, aka Crime dawg). I can walk around naked in the house (okay, It's too freaking cold to do that, but you get my drift).
I don't have to rush anybody off to anything or attend any meetings or concerts. Granted I am on call for the weekend but that won't take up my whole day. I plan on making a turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes for when my family gets home so they'll have leftovers to feast upon for a week and make turkey sandwiches with. But that will be enjoyable because I love Thanksgiving food.
So, What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? I am thankful to be able to go to the bathroom for four and a half days without anybody else bothering me. Happy Thanksgiving!!
video credit: http://persephonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/friends-monica-turkey.gif
Sunday, November 24, 2013
No one really prepares you for the onslaught of the failure of estrogen in your body.
As soon as you start menstruating, you can’t WAIT for it to stop. The mood swings. The irritability. The questioning stares of loved ones when you are on the emotional rollercoaster of hormonal insanity. The migraines. The cramps. The expense of “feminine hygiene products.” I can’t tell you how many pairs of pants and panties were trashed in my lifetime by miscalculations/timing problems.
The first thing my 12 year old said after her first period was NOT “Oh, I feel like a woman now,” or “How can I feel fresh as a daisy?” as the TV commercials for tampons and pads imply.
She asked, “When does this stop?”
In case you aren’t “UP” on all of the new PC language, perimenopause is now called the MT or Menopausal Transition. I don’t care WHAT you call it, it sucks. It can start 6 years before your last period. The menopausal transition can start anywhere from age 45-55 with a Bell Curve distribution with outliers of 2.5 % on either side.
I think we should call the whole process, “ovarian hiccups.” That’s what it’s like. Your period goes wacko, either you’re skipping and getting hot flashes and night sweats for a month or two before you bleed again, or the periods come closer together, heavier, and more debilitating. Then, suddenly, normalcy returns for a couple of months and you’re “good.” Relatively, of course.
This reinforces your belief that you can’t WAIT for it all to be over and done with.
Cue the ominous music. When you DO stop menstruating, a whole NEW set of issues crop up affecting you and your family and friends.
The night sweats: My husband wears layers of flannel to bed because I’m whipping the covers on and off all night while the ceiling fan is set to “Hurricane Katrina.”
The Hot flashes:
--You start to wear waterproof makeup, or just completely give up on makeup because dripping sweat pouring down your face is not fixable even with soft focus and air brushing. The red flush glows/shines through makeup anyway.
--You discover why they sell those stupid little “personal fans” at the grocery store.
--You fantasize about inventing a “hot flash button” for your car dashboard that when activated would shoot freezing cold air directly into your face and neck.
--You dream of inventing a car seat butt cooler instead of a heater
--Your vagina dries up and gets stiff-losing it’s elasticity. There’s no pretty way to say this. It can be itchy, painful, and cause burning with urination.
--Sex can be painful or impossible. Lubricants may or may not be helpful.
--Your libido goes into the crapper. Here you are, for the first time in decades, not worried about pregnancy or emotionally psycho for two weeks out of the month and you can’t take advantage of it.
Arthralgias/Arthritis: Oh, did I mention that your joints become more prone to injury because you lose the estrogen effects there too?
Your skin and hair change: That one came as a big shocker to me the other day. I’ve always had fine but abundant hair, and oily skin. I HAVE WIDOWS PEAKS NOW. I was just combing my hair and pulled it back and saw a big area of my forehead that didn’t used to be there!!! WTF?
My grandmother used to say, “Golden Years, Schmolden Years.” My patients tell me, “Getting Old is not for Sissies.” They are NOT kidding.
As a physician, we want to fix stuff. But here’s the thing.
Menopause is not a disease. This is in contrast to what the drug companies want us to believe. That’s how Hormone Replacement Therapy became so ubiquitous before they finally did the studies showing it could cause harm. Harm like increased breast cancer risk with combined estrogen and progesterone. Like heart disease risk if started 9-10 years after menopause. Like blood clots. Like endometrial cancer with estrogen pills used without progesterone in women who still have their uterus.
What is a girl to do?
There is so much out there in the lay literature about things like soy, and black cohosh, and testosterone. Movie stars purport to be experts on menopause, selling their books and wares based on unscientific information.
Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and God KNOWS what is actually in some of that stuff. I’ve seen some Male Enhancement pills over the counter that actually have Viagra hidden in them –dangerous if you’re on medications that can kill you with Viagra and you don’t know it’s in there. I’ve seen over the counter diet pills spiked with prescription amphetamines. You have to be so careful.
You ask, “DoctorDiva, What are YOU doing?” Funny that you should ask.
First, I talked to my gynecologist. (doctors who treat themselves have a fool for a doctor.)
I discussed my concerns, my family and personal history of cancer, blood clots, my personal history of whether I smoked (I don’t).
I tried NON prescription fixes he suggested like personal lubricants, (glycerin and silicone based) and EXERCISE. (By the way, silicone is REALLY slippery, and the bottle will slip right out of your hands and slide across the floor if you're not careful.)
I tried DIET and WEIGHT LOSS (a whole ‘nother column). I discussed it with my husband too, since he is intimately (pun intended) involved in this.
When that stuff didn’t work, my doctor and I decided on a prescription medication to try. I elected for topical estrogen. Not everyone can use it depending on their personal and family histories, or risk factors like smoking, hypertension, blood clots, strokes, etc. I’m still in the trial period. WELL, not PERIOD. Thank God. But you know what I mean. So far, so good. My Doctor and I will re-evaluate on a regular basis.
Don’t depend on the internet for all of your information—and use reputable websites, like Mayo Clinic, emedicine/Medscape. USE YOUR DOCTOR. Your gynecologist is an expert.
And Good Luck.
Getting Old(er) is not for Sissies.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Talking to My Kids About Alcoholism
"You know that alcoholism runs in our family. I really hope that you guys make the right decisions when your friends start offering you alcohol and drugs. YOU are at really high risk to become addicted."
"Mom, you've told us this a million times. We're not stupid."
"I know you're not stupid. I just think that you underestimate how powerful the urge to be to be like your friends is going to be. Alcoholism just kind of sneaks up on you. It's pretty easy and you don't even realize it's happening until it does."
"But you drink."
"Yes but not very often and not very much. I get migraine headaches when I drink."
“So is that the reason you're not an alcoholic?"
"No. I made a decision a long time ago not to drink because I saw how easy it would be to become an alcoholic. Also life situations helped. I was working at a rural hospital and I didn't want to take a chance having a glass of wine at night to relax and then getting called in. Driving with even one glass of alcohol in me and trying to make critical medical decisions would have been a mistake. It was then I realized that having a glass of wine every day to ‘relax’ would possibly lead to two, three, four glasses of wine like my parents used to drink."
“What was it like growing up with alcoholic parents?”
"When my parents had been drinking they lost their filters, their inhibition to tell me exactly what they thought. There was no ‘constructive’ criticism. It was mostly destructive criticism and impulsive behavior. I remember one night when my mother sat in front of the kitchen sink looking for a detergent or something to drink to kill herself. She was completely loaded and when I went sobbing and panicked upstairs to beg my father to stop her, he was falling down drunk too and wouldn’t help.
“One time, I remember my father coming down from the attic with one of his antique rifles while he was drunk one night. He wanted to clean it up and kill himself with it. Of course he doesn't remember any of that.
"There were always fights at holidays. My mother would get completely shit-faced drunk in order to deal with her social phobia. She hated everyone and everything about the holidays and one year actually spear chucked the Christmas tree out the front door. She did it because no one was interested at that moment to help her decorate it. It was not fun to be in that family growing up.
“After my grandmother died I spoke with her doctor who called and he said ‘I don't know if you knew this, but your grandmother was an alcoholic.’ I started laughing because I knew very well that she was. She always laughed that she got her knees replaced because she couldn't get up on the barstools anymore. We kept a bottle of scotch at our house just for her.
"All of this is to say that you guys have to be super careful. You're not like other kids. It's in your genes to develop alcoholism. You can't do the usual things that kids going to college do, like drinking way too much.”
“It’s shown that kids who wait to drink until after they’re 21 years old have a lower chance of becoming alcoholic. MOST kids are NOT drinking in high school. NOT drinking or using drugs is the NORM, and you’re at risk if you do drink.”
“Okay.. OKAY. Enough. You’ve told us this a million zillion times!”
I hope they hear my voice in their heads as they get older, reminding them. I hope they listen. I hope they follow through.
image credit: http://fotoimagepics.info/wp-content/uploads/5_i_love_my_parents_so_much_quotes.jpg
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
|Esther, Smacking her lips|
|She sees a squirrel. LOOK OUT!!|
In our minds we were going to adopt a cute little lap dog. At the shelter, a big, goofy, floppy-eared lab/pit mix glommed onto us and we were hooked.
Who knew, but big dogs need big exercise, something that we didn't do. I had no time to exercise or walk, (we all know the excuses) but when a dog threatens to pee on your shoes or poop in your bed, you see reason. So we started walking Esther. A lot.
At first I was plagued with injuries. I took comfort in my ability to diagnose myself--Plantar fasciitis, knee pain, etc. I recovered (mostly) and started back to walking the dog again, at least once a day. My husband takes the early morning shift, the kids the mid afternoon shift, and we walk as a family together at night.
The kids love to walk with us. Who knew? They've invented a game they call Stealthing, with rules, and everything! They wear black and run ahead, hiding in the bushes, and then jump out screaming, trying to scare the bejesus out of us. That was great until they almost got skunked. That's a whole 'nother story.
The fact that they enjoy walking with us at night doesn't stop them from bickering over whose turn it is to walk her in the afternoon. I swore that I was going to make them hold in their pee for 8 hours so they could see what the poor dog goes through. But I digress.
Turns out I was walking---a lot. I wanted to know how far I was walking and I figured there was an App for that. Boy is there! "Map My Walk" is a super cool app for your smart phone that maps out where you walked and how long it took you and even pauses while you talk to your neighbor! (I talk a lot) This is where I learned that if you walk three long sides of a block, cut across two short sides and make a rectangle back to your house in the city, you will have walked a mile!
Soon, I was able to see that I was walking anywhere from 7 to 12 miles a week! Cool. My husband is doing twice that as my knee recovers BUT WOW! A mile a day!
It turns out that walking in the city has some hazards,though.
Yes, you read that right. City squirrels. They are dangerous bad @$$ mofo's, who get very territorial. There is a GANG of squirrels who have some serious attitude two blocks away. They guard this big dumpster like it's their own personal property. There are like, FIFTY of them. This weekend, my husband was telling me about these squirrels with 'tude. I was laughing and trying not to pee in my pants (it was cold and I've had kids--'nuff said) as he walked a bag 'o poo over to said dumpster. As he lifted the lid, a squirrel came flying out and stood right on the lid staring him down and chittering like crazy.
Juan jumped back as the squirrel leaped onto a pole next to the dumpster. It turned around and sat at eye level giving Juan the stink eye and cursing him out as he deposited the poo into the dumpster.
After depositing the poo, Juan pulled out his smartphone. He has an Android with a Translation App that includes squirrel, dog, and cat dialects. (Cat mostly is mostly insults.)
The THINGS this squirrel was saying would make a sailor blush.
Juan backed away slowly, flipping said squirrel the bird and hoping it wouldn't pull a shiv on him. I mean, these squirrels are tough. Even Esther (a.k.a.Crime Dog, Esther-Bester, Goofy, Prancy-Pants) was afraid.
Living in the city, you learn to avoid certain blocks. We all know which blocks are safe, and which are not. These squirrels have marked their territory, and we'll have to avoid it unless we want to invoke their wrath.
But at least we're exercising. A mile isn't that far. Now listen here. I DO NOT RUN. My pelvic floor muscles and my knees decided that for me a long time ago. But walking helps your bones, your heart and your brain. It slows down Mild Cognitive Impairment from moving on to Alzheimer's dementia. It helps depression and winter blues. It prevents wrinkles and makes you sing and move your hips like Shakira. Okay, maybe not, but I got your attention, didn't I?
Thirty minutes a day, five days a week is all you need to do and you can break it down into three 10 minute walks. Just start. Hopefully you won't have to get a dog to motivate you, like we did.
And watch out for the squirrels.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
We all know that singing has known therapeutic effects. It's GOOD for you. It increases endorphins and lowers cortisol levels--making one feel exhilarated and decreasing stress. It helps improve depression. Oxytocin (a brain chemical involved in breast feeding and milk let-down and uterine contractions) is released during singing and helps you to bond with the people with whom you are singing. (Or want to breast feed them or extrude them from your uterus). People who have had a stroke affecting their speech can learn to speak again through singing. Singing helps to improve diaphragmatic control and expands the lungs. (So does shrieking at your kids.)
In the Carlon/Hereña family however, singing has multiple roles.
1.) Singing for FUN and family dysfunction:
Take Christmas for example. We massacre Christmas songs just for fun.
We often sing the beloved "Jingle Bells" mutation-- "Jingle Bells, Santa Smells , Easter's on its Way."
The Radio City Music Hall singers have a beautiful little tune called "Christmas in New York." It is a lovely song. There are descriptions of how beautiful New York City is at the Christmas season with lovely voices and good cheer.
We Carlon/Hereña's have changed the lyrics to describe our PERSONAL experiences of New York City at Christmastime:
"Muggers are beaming, Children are screaming, Tempers are steaming, It's Christmas in New York! Car horns are blaring, Tempers are flaring, People aren't caring, It's Christmas in New York!! It's Christmas in New York!!!"
In the Carlon family, no dysfunctional holiday was complete without the Christmas fight. We would sit for a lovely meal lubricated with alcohol and the interactions between people who really didn't like each other very much anyway.
The Hereña's are so much nicer to eat with. They are the polar opposites of dysfunctional. They don't have acrimonious meals. (That really helps digestion! Who knew?) The Carlon's felt obligated to be together because it was Christmas, dammit. The Hereña's look FORWARD to seeing each other. Weird.
In the Carlon household, holidays were almost always accompanied by a big brouhaha complete with screaming, yelling, cursing, and gnashing of teeth. One year my sister, my aunt, my mother, and I were hiding out in the kitchen washing and drying the dishes (no dishwasher) when my aunt noticed that we hadn't had our Christmas fight. To the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree" she raised her voice with glee and started singing:
"Oh Christmas fight, oh Christmas fight, we haven't had our Christmas fight!"
I don't remember all of the other verses, but needless to say, this became a yearly staple of the Christmas holidays in the Carlon family.
2. Singing to irritate your spouse
There are many ways to irritate your spouse by singing--WAY too many to go into here-- but one technique is to sing the wrong words on purpose and insist that they are the correct lyrics.
For example: Take the tune "Home on the Range". This is one of my very favorite shower songs. I sound FABULOUS singing this in the shower. My husband however, to torture me, changed the lyrics to:
"the skies are all cloudy all day."
I sweetly pointed out to him that it's:
"the skies are NOT cloudy all day"
but he said he liked it better the other way and sings it that way every chance he gets. (ARGGGHH!!)
3. Singing to embarrass your children (see previous post on "The Mother's Manual".
One of my favorite things is to put Bruce Springsteen on while driving somewhere with the kids and their friends. "Born to Run" sung at the top of my lungs in the car ALWAYS SOUNDS AWESOME! It cracks me up when my children apologize for me. Their friends inevitably say that their parents also sing in the car and a discussion ensues about whose parents are the worst singers or the most embarrassing overall.
(As pointed out in the previous blog it is in the Mother's Manual that as a parent one should take every opportunity to embarrass their children in public by doing completely normal things like singing to a song they like or talking to perfect strangers. The worst is when perfect strangers and parents start singing together. Mortification ensues.)
4.) Songs to gross people out (OR campfire songs):
I am a gross out song aficionado. "Great green gobs of greasy grimy gophers guts" OR
"Did you ever think when a hearse went by that you might be the next to die?" (Did you know that depending on what area of the country you are from, the lyrics are DIFFERENT? Isn't that Cool?)
I also love tongue twister songs and ballads--long ones. Oh, and SEA SHANTIES!! I LOVE Sea Shanties. (My kids HATE them now...I wonder why?) But I digress.
Singing in front of your daughter's or son's Scout Troop in front of a roaring campfire sure is fun-- and the grown ups LOVE IT. The kid's usually hang their heads in shame, but my endorphins and oxytocin are way the hell up there so I don't give a damn what they think 'cause I'm having FUN!
In conclusion, I suggest that you take full advantage of singing for family fun and torture while your kids are young. Kids grow up so fast these days. Pretty soon they'll be OVER being embarrassed and will be singing in public WITH you at which point it won't be fun anymore---until they have children of their own to embarrass. Mawwhaaahhaaaa (Evil laugh).
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
As most of you know, I am a mother and a Doctor.
I have two kids, a 15 and 13 year old son and daughter. They are in their obnoxious years.
I keep telling them that all of the annoying things that I do are in the Mother's Manual. For example, I sing in public. Loudly. The Mother's Manual says, (and I quote), "It is your solemn responsibility as a mother to routinely embarrass your children in public. For example, sing loudly, yell across the school parking lot at the top of your lungs that you love them. Kiss them in public. Children cannot grow into responsible adults requiring years of psycho-therapy without these kinds of incidents to talk about to their shrinks."
The Mother's Manual has really helped me through the years. "Children must play outside and must only be allowed back in the house if they're bleeding or a snake bit them." It's there. I swear.
There are handy recipes in there too. Take for example, the late night "I'm too f*&^ing tired to Cook" recipe called the "Johnny Appleseed Sandwich". This is especially good for youngsters who can't cook yet. Take an apple and cut it up into tiny pieces, put the pieces in a bowl. Pour raisins in another bowl. Put out the peanut butter and wonder bread. Spread a drop cloth on the floor. Tell them to make their sandwiches by slathering on the peanut butter first, then adding the apples and raisins. Voila. Dinner. When they're done, roll up the drop cloth and pour the mess into the dog's bowl. Of course this doesn't work if there are peanut allergies in the home.
The Mother's Manual is also very explicit about how to engage your children in helping with the chores. As soon as they learn their colors, set them to work sorting laundry.
When you're sure they won't drown/fall into the toilet, put a rag into their tiny little hands and teach them how to clean the bathroom. Dusting is always a good one. I f(*#ing HATE dusting. I think it is a giant waste of time. IT just comes RIGHT BACK the next week. I only dust for special occasions --like the Pope is coming over for a visit. So the kids got the swiffer duster technique taught to them. Once a year.
Okay, so the Mother's Manual never mentioned ASTHMA except under the "When to panic" section.
When my eldest was 12 or 13, we were at El Mercado on Southport, in Chicago, (an amazingly great South American Grocery store) getting ingredients for a Peruvian dish to surprise my husband. Suddenly, my son starts wheezing. I didn't notice, of course, because I was paying for the stuff we'd bought. Daughter says, "Mom, Tom can't breathe!"
I figure he's faking it and ignore him. The Mother's Manual says that most of the time, the kids are hypochondriacs and are making shit up. Daughter becomes more urgent. "Mom! He REALLY can't breathe! I think he's wheezing." (Being a doctor's child bestows diagnostic skills upon even the youngest).
Sure as shit, the kid wasn't faking! (I felt just FABULOUS at that moment). I put my ear on his back and listened and heard loud scary wheezing. Of course, Tom panics which makes it worse. We walk slowly back to the car in the humid hot weather, and the CUBS ARE PLAYING and traffic is TERRIBLE. I'm thinking, "Should I call 911 to come to my car?"
I try the old Mom routine of being calmer than I feel. Inside I'm screaming, "Holy ^*t" and "What if he dies in the car? What if he stops breathing?" He's never had asthma!
My doctor brain KEEPS TRYING to talk sense into my MOTHER brain and tells it to STOP FREAKING OUT. I calm him down by joking around and all the time trying to get around the A-HOLES holding up traffic on the way to Swedish Covenant. DON'T THEY KNOW I'VE GOT A SICK KID IN THE BACK? Oh yeah, they don't. I try not to drive like a crazy person. All this time I'm trying to keep my panic down so Tom doesn't panic and make his asthma attack worse.
I'll admit it. I pulled the Doctor Card when I hit the ER door. The Mother's Manual allows for obnoxious behavior in the event of an emergency. "Do what it takes to get the care you need for your child, short of prostitution and drug running." (Again, I quote).
Fortunately, the ER doctor saw him right away (the doctor card really helps) and got him started on medication immediately. He was fine, and now has asthma and we deal with it. Of course, just like the Mother's Manual said would happen, the sick kid wanted special privileges. Here, it is very explicit. You may indulge a sick kid for a day, no longer. BOYS especially cannot be indulged for too long because they already have the handicap of thinking they are dying when they catch a cold. Women/girls power through. Men and boys are convinced they are dying. Don't start the pattern in childhood and society has a chance of winning this battle against wanting to be pampered as adults."
My daughter keeps asking me, "When do I get to SEE the Mother's Manual?"
"Not until you have children of your own, dear." I smile. She is now thirteen. I wonder how much longer she'll believe me?