Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Mom and Me

I was raised by June Cleaver with fangs. Growing up, my mother had it in her head that I was going to grow up to be a by God genius, or she would die trying. She had my trying to imitate songs on a toy xylophone before I could barely sit up. She had my stuffed animals to pretend to play them, and then I had to try to repeat them. She worked with me incessantly with alphabet blocks; I was not yet walking when I could spell out simple words like “cat” and “dog” on my blocks. I actually frightened a babysitter with my preternatural abilities – she thought I was somehow possessed to be able to read and spell these words at such a young age.  She had me work on writing numbers and letters when I was two or three.  I remember going through some childhood things and finding a clipping she had made out of the LA Times describing “How to Raise a Supergenius”.  I looked at mother.  “What is this?”  “Oh, she said airily, “I’m not sure what THAT’S doing in there.”    She had been a French teacher and was teaching me words in French at the same time I was learning English.

When I got older, she started with other stuff.  She started to teach me to cook when I was four or five or so.  We baked cookies, made homemade bread and cooked dinner casseroles.  When I was in the fourth grade she enrolled me in 4-H, an institution that most people don’t even remember anymore.  I had to do baking projects with posters for them, and heaven forbid if my muffins had tunnels in them.  I had to do speeches – I still remember one on savvy grocery shopping that began, “Tuna casserole again?  This must be the end of the month!”  I lost my fear of public speaking (if I ever had one) at a young age.  I did projects in childcare, and most memorably, one on entomology where I caught and pinned bugs and labeled them with name and where they were caught.  My daughter is still horrified that I actually deliberately killed insects.  Mom also had me do meat judging, where we spent a large amount of time in freezing meat lockers identifying and judging cuts of meat.

At school, Mom insisted that I run for student office and had me making posters with stick on letters and writing campaign speeches.  She coached me for hours for the school spelling bee.  I was a very good speller.  I still am – I almost never use a dictionary or spell check.  I suppose I should.

She had me skip the third grade because she thought I was bored.  They had already started a gifted and talented program, but that wasn’t enough.  I spent the entire summer after second grade learning everything they taught in third grade and then some.  My cursive was microscopically inspected.  I took typing lessons and was rewarded with a Pixie Stix from a jar if I did well.  She had me doing French lessons on a tape recorder while doing the dishes.  I also had to do all  my own laundry and mow the yard from the time I was tall enough to reach the respective machines.

I used to hide from my mom as best I could.  I had hiding places scattered throughout the house (including pretending to be on the toilet), and would hole up with a book and read as long as I could before she caught me and gave me something to do.  When I got older, my best friend from our neighborhood would hear my mom coming and whisper, “Hide!”  And we would. 

Mom also taught me how to sew.  I was in elementary school when I was first introduced to a sewing machine.  I made my own shorts, including zippers, and a really schnazzy sundress with pleats.  She also taught me to embroider and I won a contest with an embroidered puppet that contained a sampler of stitches.

Despite the misery that Mom caused me in my childhood, I now look back and am grateful.  I wish I remembered how to use the sewing machine.  I would like to sew some stuff with my daughter.  I am still a great cook, although I don’t cook as much as I might because I am kept at work until almost six PM every night.  I can still embroider, and of course, it came in very handy to know how to do my own laundry.  I am astonished at the number of our babysitters who can’t cook and have never been taught to use a washing machine.  They go off to college not knowing how, and still bring their laundry home every weekend for their mom to do.  My mom would never put up with THAT.    I am so glad Mom taught me how to type.  With the advent of the computer age, I am at a distinct advantage when time is an issue.  And the public speaking was a great preparation for adult life.  I do not fear speaking in public at all.  I do not have even a little twinge of fear when I get up in front of a room full of people because I know I will soon have them eating out of my hand.  I haven’t really thanked Mom for all her coaching, I think because I am still ambivalent about the amount of my childhood that was spent inside working on things that I didn’t really want to do.  I do, however, drop little tidbits about how much I appreciate her support and some of the things that she has taught me.  By my request, she plans to bring her sewing machine to my house and do a little sewing project with me and my daughter.  So she still has things to teach me, and I am finally ready to learn.

Flu Shots

I am adamantly and passionately pro-flu shot since my own run-in with the flu.  I remember the exact year and the place:  1992 and Bethesda, at the National Institutes of Health.  I was working there on a Howard Hughes fellowship for the year, and in the early spring I contracted a most virulent strain of influenza.  I was sick as a DOG.  I literally did not leave my bed for three days, except to go to the bathroom, which I barely remember.  I did not eat or drink.  My fever cranked upwards of 104 degrees and there was no one there to take care of me; my folks lived in Alabama and I did not dare ask anyone else to get near me for fears I would get them sick too.  Not only that, but the flu left me drained, weak and unable to work for nearly a week afterward.  For someone who hardly ever gets sick, that is saying something.  It also left me horribly depressed, a known side effect of influenza.  I called my mother crying every day for a week during my recuperation.  She was terribly concerned about me, as well she should have been.  The next year when the flu shot was made available, I took it.

I got the flu shot every year since then.  I have already gotten my flu shot this year.  I have gotten them for twenty years in a row and have not missed a year.  I have never again had the flu and I pray I never do.  I got my flu shot the year the H1N1 strain of flu got out, and I doctored plenty of sick pregnant women without ever catching it.  The flu shot is recommended for women in all three trimesters of pregnancy, and I highly suggest they get it.  Pregnant women with the flu are highly susceptible to influenza pneumonia, and we had pregnant women that year who were on ventilators for it. 

What people don’t understand is that the flu is lethal.  There are several thousand deaths from flu each year in the United States alone, but people dismiss it as “just the flu”.  If some new disease killed that many people, we would all be freaking out.  If you want to read a shocking description of a flu pandemic, read “The Great Flu”.  It describes the great flu pandemic of the early 1900s and it basically states that one out of ten citizens who were stricken with it died.  An eye witness described riding on a streetcar and one of the passengers and the driver being dead by the end of the run.  Very few people take the flu seriously but when I see a new strain described I get very afraid.

I did witness the funniest thing today.  One of the nurse practioners works for a physician hospitalist who has a great sense of humor.  Apparently she refused to get her flu shot when the infectious disease personnel came around with them.  Her physician boss was quite put out with her for refusing her vaccine and he was not going to take no for an answer.  He and she and I were all sitting around the physician dining room today when suddenly two nurses wheeled in with a tray containing flu shots.  He had had them come to the physician’s lunchroom to get her!  She couldn’t say no and she got her flu shot on the spot.  She vowed revenge and told him he would not get a Christmas gift from her THIS year!  He tried to give her a piece of cake but she turned her back on him and pretended to give him the cold shoulder.  We were all laughing at his insistence but I totally agreed with him.  Got to get that flu shot!

As for those who claim they get “flu-like symptoms” when they get their flu shot, I say this:  There is a whole lot of difference between “flu-like symptoms” and the flu.  As in, the real flu is about a hundred times worse.  A little stuffy nose and an achy arm from the flu shot is NOTHING compared to the real flu.  I strongly advise people of every age and walk of life to get their flu vaccines this year and every year.

Worst Camping Ever

I have been camping a number of times in my life, and while it’s not my favorite thing to do, I have had some reasonably fun camping experiences.  I have had two awful ones, each on opposite ends of the weather spectrum.  Mostly on camping trips, I worry about bears.  I hate bears.  If I saw a bear I would absolutely come unglued.  But there are other menaces on camping trips…

My camping trip on the Mississippi coast was at one end of the weather spectrum.  We camped on July 4th weekend, and the temperature was over one hundred degrees during the day.  The trip started off auspiciously enough.  My boyfriend at the time knew how to sail and had the use of his dad’s sailboat.  He and I and another couple loaded our camping gear onto the catamaran (don’t ask me how many feet – I don’t remember) and set sail for an unoccupied island called Horn Island.  The island had been frequented in the past by a well-known painter.  As my boyfriend was a painter too, he felt an affinity for this island and frequently camped there.  On the trip to the island we were followed by a school of dolphins – I climbed down the back ladder of the sailboat and held on to it and let it pull me through the water.  The dolphins were all around me and it was an awesome experience.  When we arrived at the island we set up our tents and made a campfire on the sand.  We were waiting to watch the fireworks which were set off at the beach in Biloxi.  After the fireworks (which were beautiful), we drank some beer and turned into bed.  That was where the misery began.  It was SO HOT.  I am sure it was still well over eighty degrees in the middle of the night.  The mosquitos got into the tents despite the mosquito flaps, and I began to hear their whine in my ears.  I couldn’t sleep and I finally couldn’t stand it any more.  I got out of the tent quietly and slipped down to the water’s edge to get wet and cool off.  I waded in up to my knees and was splashing the tepid water on my arms and legs when I heard a voice.  My boyfriend had followed me down to the water.  “Watch out for the floating logs,” he said.  “Say what?” I said.  “The floating logs.  The alligators.  They come all through this inlet.”  I hauled butt out of that water so fast, nearly screaming.  “Alligators!  There are alligators here?  In.  The.  Water.  With.  Me?”  I couldn’t believe he hadn’t warned me about the alligators.  He didn’t seem too concerned that I might meet my death by colliding with a giant man-eating prehistoric lizard.  I returned miserably to our tent, not cooled by the warm water at all, and letting more mosquitos in when I came back in.  The rest of the night was a wretched blur as I tossed in the heat, swatted at mosquitos, and imagined large gators waddling around outside of our tent like awful horizontal green bears.  The following day, after we laid in the sun on the island (no gators during the day), we packed up our stuff (I hate packing up camping stuff, just for the record) and loaded up the boat.  We were sunburned, exhausted, hung over and hot and we were making poor headway in the wind on our way back.  There was a catamaran race going on in the part of the water we were approaching.  Suddenly, a funny thing happened.  The catamarans just started flipping over, one after another.  A microburst gust and a gale were coming up out of nowhere.  My boyfriend frantically cranked the sail down to keep us from flipping over too.  We retreated to the inside of the boat and were violently slapped back and forth, up and down as the water and wind raged around up.  The other girl on the trip started getting seasick.  All we needed was vomit and hysteria down in the hold of that little boat, so I frantically went through my stuff until I found us all a benadryl – helps with seasickness.  I persuaded the girl somehow not to get sick.  I don’t know how long we were down there before the wind calmed and we were able to come back above.  For some reason, we couldn’t get the sail up and my boyfriend turned on the trolling motor.  It was hiccuping and spitting, and it occurred to me that we might not be getting home ever.  What seemed like hours later, we pulled up into the marina.  I literally kissed the dock when I got on it.  Then came the worst part of all – my boyfriend insisted that we clean the boat before we could leave.  I mean, I know that’s the correct protocol after taking a boat out, you clean it up and swab the decks, but I was so desperate to get out of there that having to stay on the boat and clean it up was just awful.  It seemed an eternity before the thing was done.  We finally got to drive out of there and I vowed I would never again camp on the Mississsippi coast in the dead of the summer.

My second camping trip was just the opposite.  This was another camping boyfriend and we had been invited to go whitewater rafting.  I didn’t cotton on to what this would mean in West Virginia in late October.  I had been whitewater rafting many times in the summer and it had been lots of fun.  I bought us a double mattress so we could sleep in comfort off the ground and we both had warm sleeping bags.  We loaded up my two dogs and the Suburban and took off.  First, the drive to West Virginia from Atlanta was endless.  On arrival, it was literally snowing.  Snowing!  Ohmygosh.  We made a warm campfire and pitched our tents (which were somehow not cooperating, maybe because all opposable digits were frozen).  It was so cold that I was literally trying to climb IN to the campfire without getting burned.  I would do the front half, then the back.  The dogs were uneasy.  They had only been camping once or twice before and they were skulking around the fire.  I hadn’t seen them go to the bathroom since we had arrived.  When it came time to go to sleep we set up our sleeping bags on the inflatable mattress, which would hopefully protect us from the frozen ground.  We decided to let the dogs sleep in the tent since it was so cold.  Of course, they were so nervous they barked at every little noise, which in turn persuaded me that there was probably a bear skulking around our tent, and this rendered sleep nearly impossible.  We finally fell asleep and awoke in the morning to – WET!  And freezing!  The stupid dogs had held their pee the whole damn day and had both released their bladders in our sleeping bags.  My boyfriend’s sock was yellow and dripping and he snatched up that dog by the scruff of her neck and gave her a shake.  There was no hope of lying in and snuggling because our warm haven was ruined.  We were wet and cold and we stunk.  It was time to go rafting so we struggled into our wetsuits.  The wind on the evaporating dog pee was glacial.  We loaded up our fellow campers and drove to the put-in spot.  And when we got in the boats I realized something awful.  There was snow on the ground.  And the water was freezing.  And we were about to get wet.  Sure enough.  Water splashed into the boats steadily as we worked our way downriver.  I was so cold that I literally prayed for death.  I hoped I would fall out of the boat and bash my head on a rock and not have to be cold anymore.  This went on for hours.  When we finally staggered out of the boats I felt I was near death.  I could not get warm.  We returned to the camp site to be greeted by the dogs and the person who had stayed behind (oh, how I wished I was that person) and changed clothes.  I spent the rest of the day hunkered as close to that fire as I could get.  I don’t ever want to go camping in the winter time again.  I am just not into being cold, and now that I know how cold it is in West Virginia, I won’t be going there in the winter again.  The only thing missing from this scenario was bears.  A few bears thrown in and it would have been the sucky camping trifecta.

So now I don’t camp.  I was all about being a Good Sport when I was younger, but as I get older, I am less about good sport and more about self preservation.  I like camping in hotels.  I used to hate people who say that, but here I am, in my mid-forties and I am totally over camping.  My husband likes camping a lot and has all sorts of camping gear, and he plans to go camping with our daughter when she gets a little older.  Who knows.  I may go with them.  As long as I can be guaranteed no bears, no alligators, and no snow.

Rocks

Since my child discovered she had an opposeable thumb, she has been crazy about rocks.  I have never seen a child so obsessed with them.  She used to try to put them in her mouth.  When she outgrew that, she begin picking up rocks out of parking lots and driveways.  It never made a difference whether they were attractive or unusual, she just liked plain old gravel rocks.  She begin to stuff her pockets with them.  A lot of our clothes became “stone washed” because I couldn’t manage to keep those rocks out of those pockets and out of the washing machine.  There was constant rattling when loads of laundry were run.  We fished pebbles out of the dryer lint.  When she was old enough to go to school, she filled her backpack with rocks.  They were alway ugly, mousy rocks and they looked all alike to me, but heaven help you if you threw one away.  She would know in a minute and squawk indignantly.  The rocks wore holes in the corners of her backpack.  I understand her love of rocks as I have always loved them myself, but I have never been attracted to ugly rocks, only beautiful ones.  My favorite stone is agate, which turned out to be my zodiac stone.  Who knew?  I attempted to shift her attention from ugly rocks to pretty rocks by giving her a grab bag of smooth, colored tumbled rocks.  Those promptly found their way onto the carpet and into the vacuum cleaner.  We took her to see an exhibition of rocks and minerals, which she adored.  She promptly demanded the purchase of yes, more rocks, from the gift shop.  I have been showing her pictures of attractive rocks and minerals in hopes of sublimating her interests away from gravel rocks, but she still loves them and picks them up anyway.  As far as precious rocks go, her birthstone is the ruby which is lovely.  Her father finally had to forbid her to pick up or bring home any more rocks.  I guess we will make an exception if she finds something rare and beautiful.  Fortunately, as she has gotten older, her interests have turned more to boys and drawing and coloring and music, so the cheerful rattle of the rocks in the washer, dryer and vacuum are pretty much gone.  Maybe one day she will bring home a nifty fossil or a colorful mineral and we can set up a little display for her.  In the meantime, the rock habit seems to have burned itself out for the time being.  We are invaded by rocks no more.

Smartphones

What did we do without our smartphones?  They entertain us in doctor’s offices, while waiting for car service, and while waiting for food in restaurants.  I’m not even talking about talking on the phone, since that is considered rude in those places.  But we can text (and snarky texting mid-meeting is extremely entertaining) and play all those games, and access dozens of apps.  On my phone I have Kindle (and I read novels on there all the time – right now it’s Pride and Predjudice), Etsy (so I can check my online store and make sure nothing has sold or expired), Listia (so I can check those online auctions), Pharmacopoeia (so I can check medications and dosages for my patients, Wix (which is a free site where you can display your photography and I can check my pictures), Facebook (goes without saying), Twitter (so I can check on all three of my followers), and, of course, WordPress, so I can see how many reads and reposts and comments and likes I have had.  What did I ever do without this gadget?  And this does not even mention the main functions of the phone, which are to carry on conversations, and naturally, check emails.  And I check my emails constantly.  Like every hour, because there are the notifications from Etsy, Listia, Twitter, and WordPress and this is my big link with the world when I cannot access a computer.  I have a weather app that even has Doppler of weather in the area, and a GPS in case I am out of town and get lost.

The phone is as good as cigarettes used to be.  It provides a redirect in social situations where you are not really being included, and something to do with your hands when you are bored.  I almost wonder if there has been a decrease in smoking since smartphones have been around.  I log on to that thing if I feel ignored, or overlooked, or bored, or just have a few minutes to kill.  Just like cigarettes.  Since I can’t smoke anymore you have no idea how handy this phone thing is.

And of course, we actually communicate.  A friend of mine last night texted me a list of things she hates and things she loves and asked me to reciprocate.  Later that night she sent me an outraged text – she had gone to bed early with cramps and awoke around eleven to find her teenaged son completely missing from the house and walking around the neighborhood with a girl “friend”.  Since he had just gotten a previous girlfriend pregnant, needless to say, she was not pleased to find him catting about.  So she promptly added that to her “hate” list. 

As an Ob/Gyn, I use my phone as my paging service.  I receive texts from my paging service from various patients who need medications called in, are having problems, or who just plain need to be seen.  I also get calls from the Emergency Room.  I can call the answering service back and get any missing information from my texts or get them to ring a call through to the patient trying to reach me. 

I play games on my phone from time to time.  I really enjoy Words With Friends and for a while had about five games going at a time.  I confess to liking a game called Jewels, where you line up matching items to make them disappear and earn points.  I used to play Tetris.  Anything you want to play is available as an app. 

In case you are wondering, I have an Android Bionic.  It’s a little large, but I really love it.  I have never had an iPhone, so I can’t compare them, but I really do love this phone compared to the crappy Blackberry Storm I had before that.  There were no apps for that phone (or very few) and I believe Blackberry has knocked itself out of the smartphone market.

At any rate, I love my smartphone and cannot even imagine what we did without our phones.  I ask my patients, who are invariably playing with their phones while they are waiting for me to come into their rooms, and they cannot imagine what we did without them either.  I don’t mind my patients having cells in the room as long as they get off them long enough to communicate with me.  Some even text or play games to take their minds off the exams they are having.  I know some would find that bizarre, but hey, if it makes them feel better.  At any rate, the information age has engulfed us and we are now completely dependent on these crazy things.  I love my phone and would die of boredom and isolation without it.

Blogger Without A Clue

The only thing I can do on this blog is write.  I have been surfing around WordPress, which I am unabashedly addicted to, in search of ways to do savvy things like, oh, I don’t know, add pictures or links or video.  Not that I have any of that stuff to add.  The only thing I have wanted to add so far was a link to another one of my blogs, and I could figure out absolutely no way to do that.  I am technicologically broken.  I swear, I think I’m a reasonably bright person, but the last time I pushed one of those little link buttons, my entire post disappeared (which was not saved, because I am using a Neanderthal browser and unless I choose New Post from one specific spot, the New Post does not have auto save OR a save draft button.  It has only a Publish button.  I don’t feel like publishing every time I want to save. 

Fortunately, the one thing I can do is write, and that was, at least originally, the point of having a blog.  I just have to hope that folks like me on the strength of my writing and don’t need illustrations or video to make it interesting.  I need to sit down and just play with this thing some more – hmmm, idea forming here – maybe I will create a FAKE post that says nothing important.  That way if I lose it while practicing adding media, nothing will be lost because it will just be a TEST.  My husband would be laughing at me if he were sitting here now, because I am sure that he would know at a single glance exactly which buttons to push to make all these things happen.  However, I feel vindicated because I know he does not know how to do a c-section. 

So this will be the No Frills Blog.  Folks will come here from far and wide to avoid the media explosion that are most blogs these days.  I will attract the plain folk.  Maybe Mennonites will follow my blog!  I would go so far as to say that this blog is so simple-minded that I haven’t been able to add even buttons or zippers.  I type this thing between patients in clinic, while my nurse is working up the next one.  So I haven’t been able to explore WordPress on any current browser.  I don’t even know what browser my work computer is on, but I keep getting these flashing warnings that WordPress will no longer be supported on the current browser.  That will be an evil day, indeed, when I am unable to do my WordPress posts during clinic.  Writing these keeps me feeling calm and optomistic about my day.  I will have to bring my own personal laptop from home so I have a current browser.  Maybe then these little buttons and widget-things will actually work as advertised.  Until then, I will continue to blame my simplicity on an expired browser.  And, um, I am sure that is the actual problem.

Homework

I firmly believe that homework is sent home to test the parents, not the children.  My daughter is seven, and in the second grade, and already she brings home the most ridiculous assignments.  The latest was called “Express Yourself!”  Apparently they have been studying methods of verbal and nonverbal communication as a study unit.  For this project, she had to pick something important to her (softball) and write four reasons why it was important to her.  Then she had to make a poster about it and a five minute speech incorporating verbal and nonverbal methods of communication, creativity and good speaking skills.  They are graded on all this.  She also announced that she wanted to run for Student Council, and the poster and speech for that were due four days after the softball project.  I tried my best to talk her out of it, until her father caught me, because I knew just how my week was going to be spent.  I say my week, because despite K’s enthusiasm for A running for office, I knew he was going to do nothing on either the posters or the speeches, because I am “the creative one”, which is manspeak for “You’re stuck with it and I’m going into my office to play games on my computer with the door shut.”  So Amanda and I spent all weekend on posters and speeches.

On Friday I went to Hobby Lobby and picked up a piece of poster board and a bifold foam board.  The Student Council project was very specific:  exactly one half poster, no more, no less, and no foam boards.  Their permission slip to run for office had to be taped to the back of the poster along with a copy of their campaign speech to read.  The “Express Yourself” project was much more nebulous and listed as a suggestion posters, power points, videos, songs, poems, etc.  Amanda had already elected to make a poster, so hence the folding foam board.  I also bought four packs of stick-on one inch black letters for neatness on the posters.  I also bought a sheet of softball stickers.  This was how I spent some of my half-day off on Friday while Amanda was in school. 

When she came home from school, we tackled the Student Council poster.  We cut the poster board in half, lightly drew straight pencil lines on the poster with a t-square (an antiquity now for sure) and put down the letters:  “Vote Amazing A for Secretary”.  We then went upstairs and printed out a photograph of her with a big shit eating grin on her face.  We put that on the bottom of the poster.  A was dying to put glitter glue on her poster, because she had seen that another girl had glitter glue, so we turned the “V” in Vote to a hand drawn check mark and filled it in with pink glitter glue.  Then we made another bigger check in the lower left side of the poster and filled it in too.  There.  She had input into the poster and her beloved glitter glue.  Then we put that aside and started on the softball poster.  That was a little more challenging.  We had to come up with a list of four reasons that she loves softball, and we finally came up with Fun, Friends, Learning and Teamwork.  We put those on the left side of the poster in black sticky letters after a little bit more t-square wizardry.  We printed out a big colorful picture of her with her softball team in their opening day parade, and she decorated the right side with the photo glued down in the middle and softball stickers around the pictures.  Now the hard part?  What was she going to say?

We started working on the speeches on Saturday.  I asked her to just try to speak off the poster and describe what she was doing for Fun, Friends, Learning and Teamwork, but she proved incapable of extemporizing.  I then had a rather inspired suggestion (if I do say so myself):  she should address the classroom as if she were arguing with her mother in favor of playing softball.  I thought that would satisfy the creativity, enthusiasm and expression categories quite nicely.  However, she shut this down, stating that “the kids would laugh at her.”  Since it is “supposed” to be her project I had to defer to her on that.  We were going to have to write out a speech.  Instead of doing that I asked her if she would like to do a power point and she agreed.  So we went upstairs and made out six slides for her to speak from regarding her four points about softball:  a title page, a slide for each of Fun, Friends, Learning and Teamwork and a wrap-up slide, where she again described the four points.  Their grading algorithm was very specific that she make sure to include four strong reasons why this was important to her, and I wanted to make sure they were in there.

It was then time to finish the campaign poster and finish up the campaign speech.  We got on Microsoft Word and typed her up a quick campaign speech (it only needed to be a minute long), printed it out and taped it to the back of the poster with the permission slip for her to run for office.  Then we practiced the softball speech ad nauseum since it was due the following day.  She ran through it with me and the babysitter who was there that evening.  Since she was also being graded on enthusiasm, communication (verbal and nonverbal), visual aids and tempo and diction, we worked on all those things.  Her father emerged from his man-cave in time to hear the presentation a couple times and offer constructive critisicm.  We made her an emergency printout of her softball speech in case her power point crashed, put it with a USB key with the power point on it in her back pack, and packed up the posters for her to carry on the bus.  And that was my weekend, except for some weeding and grocery shopping.

The point is here, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I really wrote those damn speeches and made those damn posters.  She was incapable of doing anything except brainstorm the four points about softball, stick down the letters where I had drawn lines for them, stick stickers on the poster and write out part of a campaign speech.  She was unable to extemporize on her subject at all, was unable to come up with bullet points under each of her four categories, and was unable to glue down any pictures evenly.  Her main demand was that she get glitter glue on her campaign poster because someone else had had it.  And all this is not because she is stupid.  It is because she is SEVEN and she can’t think that way yet.  I tried to get her to do this work herself every step of the way, since I am not one of these parents who wants to hover and control and design all student projects, and she just shrugged and looked blank.  So who is that homework really for?  Are there any kids that age who would be capable of coming up with all those points, writing a speech and designing a coherent poster?  And are there any kids aged seven who know how to manage their time well enough to complete a project like this on time?  I grant you this is the magnet school, but my daughter is pretty darn bright, and she was coming up empty on all that stuff.  So I hope I get a good grade on my poster and I hope she does a good job of giving my speech.

Louisiana Wildlife

I don’t trust the wildlife in Louisiana.  I lived there for four years, half of which I spent in New Orleans, and the other half of which I spent an hour south of New Orleans in a little city called Houma.  Over those four years, I encountered wharf rats, Formosan termites, striped mosquitos that would suck you dry, nutria (giant swamp rats), giant dragonflies, car tire sized snakes, turtles, plagues of tree frogs and numerous aligators.

The wildlife in New Orleans was about what you’d expect.  The city is full of rats.  (See my blog on the rats in the walls).  Our house was full of rats.  We could hear them in the attic all night and when they got bored, they came down into the walls by our beds and scratched at the wood.  They were giant Norwegian wharf rats, and they resembled small puppies with hairless tails.  We would sit on our front porch at night and count the rats as they traveled the electrical wires from house to house and kitchen to kitchen.  They would eat and destroy everything that wasn’t in a can, so all groceries including flour and coffee had to be kept in the refrigerator.  And that’s not even mentioning the giant flour weevils that would infest any and all baking supplies, sealed cannister or not.  The mosquitoes were a force to be reckoned with.  They were a funny looking mosquito, not like the ones in Alabama where I grew up, with black-and-white striped legs.  And they left black-and-white striped bloody dust on your legs when you popped them.  The weirdest wildlife in New Orleans were the Formosan termites.  They were giant winged things that had sneaked off some ship in the harbor, I guess from the vicinity of Formosa.  They were horrifying.  You had to turn off every outdoor light and most indoor lights at night in the summer, or the swarms of Formosans would come and invade your house.  Then they would infest it permanently.  We were swarmed by Formosans once in the upstairs bathroom.  Something must have attracted them; a light left on or perhaps all the rotting wood.  They were terrifying to behold.  All over New Orleans were houses covered in brightly striped fumigation tents, trying to get rid of their enormous termites.  We gassed them with an industrial sized can of Raid, which we kept for the cockroaches.  The cockroaches of New Orleans are of Jurassic size, with the unlikely benign-sounding name of “palmetto bug”.  They are extremely aggressive and will fly out at you if you open a kitchen cabinet at night.  One evening my roommate and I got brave and hit one of those big suckers with a shoe.  Instead of politely dying, or even staggering, the behemoth made a lunge at the two of us where we stood.  We fled, screaming, into the next room, where it promptly followed us.  It was a thing of which nightmares are made.

The wildlife in Houma was even stranger and more exotic.  In addition to the enormous rats, cockroaches, mosquitos and termites, there is a selection of prehistoric-seeming critters that crawl up out of the swamps.  First, there are nutria, which are really giant swamp rats.  Bigger even than the rats in New Orleans.  Fortunately they prefer swamps and stay in them.  They resemble nothing so much as the ROUSes in Princess Bride.  Apparently the nutria were once very popular in trade with the Russians, who made fur hats out of them.  Alligators go without saying.  You could see them every day in the bayoux that ran along the roads.  What did NOT go without saying was that there was a six foot alligator they hauled out of our apartment swimming pool.  There were also red eared slider turtles constantly hatching in our pool.  We would pull silver dollar sized baby turtles out of the drain traps all the time.  We used to keep them as pets.  And the tree frogs – well, let’s just say that we were near to having a plague of tree frogs.  You could hear them chirping and croaking all night, and if you left the porch light on, it would be covered with cute green red eyed frogs who came to eat the bugs.  Armadillos were rampant.  And they got BIG.  They dug holes in everyone’s gardens and yards.  When startled they jump, and they would jump while crossing the road and hop up right into the axle of a semi.  Then they were dead armadillos – they were lying around as road kill everywhere.  My residency program director hated them so bad you couldn’t even say the word “armadillo” to him.  There were swamp snakes as big as truck tires.  One morning in clinic I heard birds squawking hysterically so I went and looked out the window.  There, winding through the grass behind the clinic and heading toward the bayou, was a snake so large it rivaled the ones I have seen in the zoo.  It was literally as big around as a tire, and as black.  The locals creatively dub them “swamp snakes”.  The bayoux were full of prehistoric garfish.  You could see them roiling up the water in the bayoux if you sat and watched.  They were tough as old shoes, but the locals caught them and made garfish patties out of them.  And the mosquitoes were disastrous.  They were even worse than the mosquitoes in New Orleans.  We used to have crawfish boils out by the pool of our apartment complex, and you would just have to run and jump in the pool about every five minutes to get them all off.  They would be clustered on us by the dozens, and they hurt worse and welted up worse than the ones in Alabama by far.  Enormous dragonflies hovered in the sky. You could imagine them flying around during the age of the dinosaurs.

Let’s just say my life in Louisiana was educational.  I have always been big on animals, so to speak, but I must say some of the creatures I encountered there were nothing short of sinister.  So as I always like to say, I don’t trust the wildlife in Louisiana.

My Email Obsession

It used to be that email was just that:  email.  Someone typed you a letter or a memo and you answered it.  End of story.  Since the advent of social media, the character of email has changed.  It now serves as your link to attention from others.  For those of us hams who want to make sure that someone is paying attention to us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, email is our ego stroking outlet.  Want to know if someone answered that silly post to Facebook?  Check your email.  Want to see if your auction on Listia has been bid on?  Has anyone commented on it?  Check your email.  Want to see if anyone liked your latest WordPress contribution?  Yep.  You got it.  Check your email. 

I must confess, I check my email about once an hour.  I get messages from my folks and my husband, notifications of confirmation numbers for hotel stays and airline flights (which I flag – love the flag thing), the latest local Groupon offering, new jobs from recruiters in my field of medicine, whether somebody loved my Pinterest contribution and repinned it.  I just check it to see who in the world is out there thinking about me and caring enough to send some kind of message.  It’s all just a cry:  “Is anybody out there?”  And once I’ve checked my email and found some kind of message, I’m satisfied and feel loved again for about an hour – til it’s time to check the email once again.

Sonic

I don’t know how many years Sonic has been open here in the United States, but it seems to have become an American institution.  At least in the South, it might be the last of the drive-ins, and like the restaurants of yore, you pull up to a stall with a big menu and a big red button that you push.  A disembodied voice comes to you almost immediately through the speaker and asks to take your order.  No matter what you order, the voice would like to know if you would like tots with that.  Sonic is one of the few places that I know that actually offers tater tots as part of their menu fare.  Then, usually unbelievably quickly, a skating (yes, SKATING) car hop comes out to your car with your order.  You can drive away, or you can sit and eat your order there.

Sonic has been a part of my life since I was a child.  It was one of the big cruising spots where I grew up, and it was not unusual to see the place packed on Friday and Saturday nights.  I was not immune to the novelty of this and I decided I too would cruise the Sonic.  My father collected antique Chevys, and I was not yet old enough to be embarassed about them.  He was currently driving a 1960 Chevy station wagon, white, two-ton, with red interior.  V-8, of course.  The thing looked like a giant white hearse.  My mom, dad, and best friend were in the wagon (I callled it Christine) one Friday night and I persuaded them to take us to the Sonic for an ice cream.  Little did they know my nefarious plans.  (Mua ha ha).  As we drove around the Sonic looking for a station to park in, there were older kids laughing and honking their horns at each other as they cruised the drive-through.  “Honk the horn,” I told my dad.  “I want you to honk the horn.”  “Absolutely not, said my proper mother.  “We will not be honking any horns.”  Having had my grown-up cruising plan crushed, I quicked rolled down the window and yelled out of it.  “HONK,” I yelled.  “HONK HONK!”  My friend and my mother promptly slid down in their seats.  I had people looking at me!  I was cruising!

Sonic continues to have some of the yummiest fast food around.  And they do awesome things with ice cream and drinks.  Sonic became a big part of my life again when I was pregnant with my daughter.  I became ADDICTED to their fresh fruit lemon-berry slush, size Route 44 (read, giant 44 ounce).  I got one of those damn things nearly every day while I was pregnant.  That stuff is manna from the heavens, people.  If you have never had a lemon-berry slush, I urge you to go get one immediately.  There are frozen strawberries and fresh cut lemon slices in the bottom.  The taste is AMAZING.  I don’t even want to think about how much sugar they put in there.  I just persuaded myself that it was NATURAL, what with all that fresh fruit and whatnot. 

The first time my daughter went to Sonic she was days old.  I had been trapped in the house alone with a newborn for days, as my husband decided that my time off from work was time for him to do some of his consulting on the road.  Now, my daughter hated her car seat.  She hated the car.  She hated her stroller.  She hated the summer heat.  She was, in fact, a nightmarish colicky child, and I needed a break.  I decided to brave the screaming that would ensue if I put her in her car seat and by God, I was going to Sonic for a slush!  It wasn’t all that far up the road.  By the time we arrived at the Sonic, however, the screaming was at a fever pitch and there was no distracting her from her misery.  I was shaky and weak and I had postpartum depression, and when I pulled up to the Sonic, I burst into tears.  I was a terrible mother.  I was forcing my child to ride in the carseat in the car when I clearly knew she hated it, just to gratify myself and get myself a slushie.  After sobbingly ordering my drink, I hopped out of the driver’s seat and went around to the back seat of the van to try to comfort my daughter.  At this point, the carhop arrived with my drink.  And she knew me.  “Hi, Dr. Beadstork!” she said cheerfully.  I could see her looking me up and down, at my bloated red tear-covered face, at my bloated post-baby body and at the screaming little baby in the back and I could just tell she thought I was a terrible mother too.  At the very least, she thought I was losing my mind, which in fact I was.  It is amazing the craziness that goes through your mind when you are a brand-new mother and those hormones are raging and you haven’t slept in days.  In retrospect, it was crazy that I felt guilty for going out for a slushie, but at the time…

I took my daughter to the Sonic for the first time for a slush when she was about three.  She decided on green apple (NOT a fresh fruit variety) and I ordered it for her along with my giant lemon-berry concoction.  Now, if there is one negative thing Sonic is notorious for, it is their flimsy styrofoam cups.  I know multiple people with children who at one time or another, have had their kid ram their straw right through the bottom of the cup to release an entire slushie into their laps and the car seat.  I did warn my daughter about the cups.  I DID.  But she was only three, and sure enough, that straw went right through the bottom of that cup.  Bright neon green ran right through the bottom and into her lap, and all over the van.  She was wailing about the cold and about the loss of her slushie.  To shush her I let her slurp out of my Route 44 lemon-berry slush (whilst carefully holding the cup so she could not push the straw through it).  To this day there are green stains on the rug of my van.  One strike to Sonic for the flimsy cups.

My latest Sonic obsession:  chocolate malts.  Now I love a good chocolate malt about as much as I love anything.  Never mind that they are about three thousand calories apiece.  I have travelled the world tasting chocolate malts, and the Sonic malt is the best that I have found.  It is better than Dairy Queen, and that is saying a lot.  It is so thick you need a spoon to eat it.  It has real whipped cream on top – not that fake stuff that Dairy Queen uses.  And the large is SO large that even I can’t finish it.  Wow.  I can’t say enough about those chocolate malts.  And they go really well with fried mozarella sticks.

Another good thing about Sonic is their specials.  They are always having specials.  Shakes and malts are half-price after eight PM.  I have never felt the need to have one that late at night, but if I do, I will know exactly where to go.  Sometimes when I get a breakfast burrito, they have two for the price of one.  That is not necessarily a good thing, because I will always take the free one if offered.  Also, before four PM every day is the drink happy hour.  I can get a 44 ounce slushie for a dollar and some change!!

Sonic definitely has a dear place in my heart and has since I was a kid.  If you have never been to Sonic, you owe it to yourself to pull up over there, introduce yourself to a skating carhop and order some tots and a malt.  See you there!  I’ll be in stall number two.

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