Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the month “October, 2012”


Pumpkin Guts

I did everything at the last minute this year.  I finished putting up the decorations the week before Halloween.  I didn’t take my daughter to get her costume until the weekend before.  (The Bluebell Fairy).   We bought it on Friday because she had a party to go to on Saturday.  I was pretty much sucky slacker mom this year for Halloween.  The day we got the costume, we also got her hair cut, our toenails painted together, and bought our Halloween candy.  What we did not do was get a pumpkin.  It was cold that day, and we were busy, and it was time to get home for dinner, and I just didn’t do it.  I guess I figured she could do without one.  And my friend, who usually has a pumpkin carving party every year, is not having it this year.  So I guess I made an executive decision that we just did not need a pumpkin this year. 

Yesterday, my husband spoke to me sternly.  “Amanda told me you did not get a pumpkin for her,” he said.  “She says you told her you were too busy getting her hair cut and your toenails done to go and get one.  You know that stuff like that is very important to her.” 

“I’m sorry,” I told him.  “She just didn’t say anything about a pumpkin while we were shopping, and we just weren’t anywhere that they had pumpkins.  I’ll take her to get a pumpkin after work tomorrow.”

Well, tomorrow was October 30, so it was the night before Halloween.  After I picked her up from school, we went first to the little outdoor produce stand where I had seen pumpkins before.  They were closed.  “They don’t have any pumpkins,” my daughter said sadly.”

“Don’t worry,” I told her.  “We’ll go to Kroger where they’ll have pumpkins.”  On the way to Kroger, we passed a church that usually had a yard full of pumpkins for sale.  There was nothing and no one out there.  I began to have a sinking feeling that she was not going to have a pumpkin and that it would be all my fault.  We got to Kroger and they had two sad pumpkins sitting outside that were rotting on one side.  We went inside and there were no more pumpkins.  I began to have a very bad feeling.  My daughter had gone from singing happily in the back seat to being very, very quiet.  “We’ll go to Publix,” I told her.  “Surely they’ll have some.”  We went to Publix and there were no pumpkins outside at all.  Just empty bales of straw where they had been.  “I’ll call Wal-Mart.”  I told her.  “I bet they’ll have some pumpkins.”  I called the Wal-Mart pharmacy, because that is the number I have saved in my phone.  I spoke with the pharmacist who told me they had pumpkins big enough for carving in the produce department.  I shuddered because I so hate Wal-Mart, but at this point I was willing to go anywhere for this little girl whose sadness I had caused by being cavalier about getting her pumpkin.

We went to Wal-Mart.  There were some straw bales sitting outside with some mums.  “All I see out here are mums,” my daughter said sadly. 

“Let’s go inside,” I said.  “The pharmacist told me that the pumpkins were in the produce department.”  We went to Produce and they did have pumpkins, yes, but there were two great big bins with just a few pumpkins at the bottom of each one.  The orange ones were sad and misshapen and moldy on one side.  There were green and white pumpkins in the other bin.  One of the white pumpkins was a decent size and looked carvable.  There was just one small gash on the back side and I figured we could work with that.

“I want an orange pumpkin,” Amanda said sadly. 

“There is only this white one,” I told her.  “If we don’t get this one we won’t have one at all.”  She sighed and I put the pumpkin in the cart.  The place was packed, of course.  We stood in the “express” lane a while and got some gum.  We put the pumpkin in the van and got home fifteen minutes late.  It was almost seven.  Now we had to get dinner and carve a pumpkin before Amanda’s bedtime at 8:30.  I made her a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich and we set about carving the pumpkin.  I set out some newspaper under the pumpkin. 

I got a knife, and hey, it carved much more easily and smoothly than an orange pumpkin!  I cut out the lid and we scooped out the insides.  There were many fewer seeds and much less pulp than inside an orange pumpkin.  I had her draw on a face and we cut it out.  It had triangle eyes and a snaggle-toothed grin.  I made a flat spot in the bottom and we lit a candle in there.  We would have a pumpkin on the porch for Daddy to see when he got home!  I told her we would get a white pumpkin next year as well.  “This was was so easy to carve and clean!”, I told her.

Amanda was happy.  She had a pumpkin; it was carved.  With the light inside it, it looked orange.  Suddenly a great weight lifted off of both of us.  We had a pumpkin!  We had a jack o’lantern!  I sighed an internal sigh of relief and we put the pumpkin on the porch.  “Everyone will be scared of our pumpkin,” my daughter said matter-of-factly.  It was a given.  It was a great pumpkin.  It would scare everybody.  I felt so much better.  But I still felt guilty.  I had put my daughter’s pumpkin off to the last minute and we had nearly both paid the price. 

Next year, I will get two pumpkins and we will carve them both, much, much earlier.  We will have out the decorations.  She will have a costume.  I swear.



The picture above is supposed to be a perfectly round, stylized picture of a peppermint candy.  It popped up when I transferred it to this blog, but it was subsequently replaced by the dreaded red X.  I ran into this photo on Google Image search and was asked to write a post on what it made me think of.  The answer is, my father and my daughter.

My father loves peppermint.  He can buy an entire bag of Starlite mints and crunch them down, cheerfully reeking of peppermint and piling up wrappers.  He has eaten peppermint since I can remember.  He used to love going to restaurants where they had little mints in a dish at the checkout.  He would mortify my mother by grabbing a handful and blissfully crunching them on the way out.  When his heart went out of rhythm and they did the ablation procedure, they told him he couldn’t have peppermint anymore.  Apparently peppermint can trigger heart arhythmias.  Who knew?  Since then he has cut back a lot, but I have caught him with the odd peppermint in hand.  Apparently he can’t completely do without them.  I will never be able to see or smell peppermint without thinking of my father.

This picture also reminds me of my daughter.  I had a lot of games when I was little, but Candyland was not one of them.  I think it was not intellectually challenging enough; a toddler’s game with pictures of squares on little cards to mark your travel along the board.  I always wanted that game as it was bright and colorful and I loved candy and anything associated with it.  My friends had it and when I was little, I loved to play it.  So when my daughter was about three, we got her a Candyland game.  She still loves to play it, and gloats when she gets a free ride through Gumdrop Pass, or when someone else gets bumped back to the beginning.  I think it was perfectly appropriate for a three year old mind.  I still wish I’d had one, but I can play it with her any time I want to.  She is seven now, and she is playing SlapJack and Old Maid and Go Fish and having a blast with those.  Her father has also gotten her No Stress Chess, and she is learning her way around the chess board.  Her second grade at school has a chess club and he is hoping she will be included.  But her old Candyland game has pictures of candies like the one above, and it always makes me think of that game and her.

Weekly Writing Challenge: I Wish I Were

When I first started pondering this writing challenge, narrowing it down enough to pick one thing that I wished I were seemed impossible.  I wish I were rich.  I wish I were travelling.  I wish I were thinner.  I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener.  I realized after going through slews of “I wish I weres” that what I really wish I were is more satisfied with my current circumstances.  I can never seem to be happy with my own life; I always wish I were somewhere else or doing something else or doing something with someone else.  I guess some of that is just human nature:  the grass is always greener and all that.  But really, the true definition of happiness seems to be being present in the moment and enjoying it just for what it is.  So what I really wish I were is happy.

Happiness has eluded me.  I can remember a few times in my life I have been truly happy: one time in college when I was all done with my studies for the winter and I had my boyfriend with me and my Christmas presents bought and no bills to worry about.  I remember distinctly thinking:  I am really happy right now.  I was happy the day I got married.  I was happy the day my daughter was born (although it was a horrible day for me, physically).  But during my day-to-day life, I have virtually never been content.  Medical school was actually pretty good.  But then I got to residency, and that was one of the most horrible experiences of my life.  We were completely abused by the staff and the upper level residents.  Living in New Orleans during that time made me happy, and I did get some time to enjoy the city.  But while at work I was distinctly miserable.  Then I took my first job in Atlanta, and things went from bad to worse.  I hated Atlanta.  I was miserable.  The driving and traffic situations were horrible.  I got lost all the time.  I didn’t really make any friends and for most of the time, I couldn’t find a boyfriend.  I was really lonely.  Then at work, they worked our butts off.  We were kind of like a sweat shop for young doctors out of residency.  My boss went through seventeen partners and potential partners in a matter of a few years, because she was so controlling.  Most days I didn’t even get lunch.  When I finally found a boyfriend, he turned out to be a real nut case.  I understand that pornography for most men is a must, but he had an entire room devoted to it.  I felt like I had stumbled into a den of iniquity.

When I met my husband and we moved back to the deep South, I felt things would be looking up.  I would make new friends and we would be closer to my parents, since we were planning on having a child.  I wasn’t overly thrilled about moving to a small town, and as it turned out, my reservations in that area were well founded.  I just don’t fit in.  Again, all my friends are old friends that I’ve had since childhood, adolescence and college.  And none of them live around here.  My husband blames me and my hermitlike nature for the no new friends thing.  But I didn’t use to be like that.  I just feel so judged here; I don’t go to the right church or have the right friends or know the right people.  This is a pretty tightly woven city, and they just don’t welcome newcomers.  So my only company is my husband and my child, and sometimes that’s just not enough.  And I hate my job.  I mean, I really hate my job.  I am tired of the hours and the call and the tiredness and the stress and the near-fatal emergencies and the surgery and the clinic and just, everything.  I have told my husband I would really like to retire from this job but he just doesn’t think he can support us on his salary alone.  But I have so much stress at this point that I just feel I am really really going to lose it.

So, I wish I were happy.  Some of my unhappiness is my circumstances, and some of it is that it is just plain not in my nature to be happy.  Spending time with my daughter and husband makes me happy, but as I said before, I don’t have nearly enough time for that, and sometimes I just need something a little more.  I miss my friends.  I hate that I haven’t made new ones.  So if I could wish for one thing, that thing would be happiness.

What The F**k?

I tend to swear mostly around my husband and best friends, because that is what we’ve always done.  When I write, I swear very seldom, unless it will add something to dialogue that will develop a character.  I don’t swear at work (usually), and my husband and I are really careful not to swear in front of our seven year-old.  He’s ex-Navy, so sometimes that’s kind of hard for him.  Last night he and I were waiting to hear David Sedaris, and I told him about a little experiment I’ve been running for some time.  I maintain that the word fuck can be used as every part of speech.  Give it a try.  It’s a fun game.  We also discovered that breaking down sentences with the word fuck in them can be incredibly difficult.  We were remembering the seventh grade, when we used to be good at diagramming sentences.  We don’t really remember how to do that anymore, but we were realizing that diagramming sentences with derivatives of the word fuck in them can be really difficult.  Consider the following:

What the fuck are you doing?

What part of speech is fuck in this sentence?  How would you diagram it?  What about this:

What are you fucking doing?

Now what part of speech is fucking? I think this might be an adverb.

What the fuck?

Again, what part of speech is that?

Fuck off!

I think we agree that is this case, fuck is a verb.  Plus imperative form.

You are so totally fucked.

I think this is an adjective.

He gave his employees a good fucking.

I believe this is a gerund.

She is fucking up.


The fucking house is on fire.

Definitely an adjective.

Are you fucking lying to him?

Maybe an adverb?

Are you going to fuck him over?

Infinitive verb?

Leave me the fuck alone.

This one just stymies me.

So you see what a fun game this can be.  We were on Dictionary.com last night several times and my husband posted sample sentences on Twitter.  We got varying answers, some correct, and some we were pretty sure were not correct. 

Want to play the game?  Feel free to analyse any of the sentences above (or diagram them, if you can figure out how).  Feel free to contribute your own sentences to illustrate various parts of speech.  I would love to hear from you!  Everyone can play (if not horribly offended, of course).

The Tarantula In The Box

My entire college career, I had a job in a biology lab that studied toxicology and teratology, basically the effect of chemicals on animal and human development.  My illustrious professor, who was quite a character, had two pet tarantulas that he kept in a cage in the lab.  One night, one of the tarantulas got loose and we returned to work the next day to discover that the housekeeper had squashed it flat on the floor.  She outright refused to clean the lab until he got rid of the other tarantula.  Since I had had plenty of weird pets, but never a tarantula, I told my boss I would love to take it home.  I put it in a little square box and carried it with me that afternoon.  Since the first six months of college I lived at home (God help me), Mom was giving me a ride home.  Now keep in mind that throughout my childhood and adolescence, she had put up with hamsters, anoles, toads, praying mantises, mice, gerbils, tadpoles, fish and snakes, so she was a) a saint and b) naturally suspicious of my tightly closed box. 

“What’s in the box?” she said, when I got into the car.  “Nooooothiiiiing,” I responded.  “I SAID, what’s in the box?” she said.  “Noooothiiiiing”, I responded.  “I’ll see it when we get home,” she said.  I clutched the box on my lap.  Nothing was coming between me and my new furry friend.  “I know there’s something alive in there,” said Mom.

When we got home I scuttled off to my room.  I picked out a tank approximately the right size for my new spider friend.  I opened the box and HOLYCRAPITLEAPEDRIGHTOUTATMYFACE!!!!  I let out a banshee shriek as I caught a glimpse of hideous fangs and evil little eyes and scruffy little hairs.  It ran right by me and headed for the wall, which it started climbing.  My mother came running in.  “I KNEW it,” she said.  “I KNEW it was something like that!  I KNEW it!”  At that moment I realized what I had forgotten:  I HATE spiders.  Oh yeah.  Small detail.  Saint that my mother could be, she helped me scoop the giant spider back into the box and seal off the lid.  I was shaking.  I could see those fangs, clear as day.

The next day, I brought the tarantula back to work with me.  I wordlessly handed it to my boss.  He wordlessly took it back from me and put it back into the tank.  “So what,” he seemed to say.  “We don’t need a housekeeper in THIS lab,”  True to her word, the housekeeper refused to come back in the room.  So he hired the wife of one of his researchers to do the cleaning.  Apparently she didn’t have a problem with spiders.

The Iguana In The Toilet

My daughter asked me to tell this story to someone yesterday.  I had forgotten all about it.  While still single, and living in Atlanta, I had a pet iguana I had had for ten years.  I had a three bedroom apartment, and he lived in the spare bathroom.  I kept his water bowl in the sink, and his heating pad and food bowl on the counter.  I left the toilet open just in case he got lost and needed something to drink.

I came home from work one day and went into the bathroom to check on the iguana.  He was gone!  I looked all around the bathroom, but there was no sign of him.  Then I happened to notice that the toilet was closed, which was not how I left it.  I looked a little closer, and the shag toilet cover had strings coming out of it, and big torn up loops.  I opened the toilet and…

Let’s just say the iguana climbed into the toilet, and then grabbed the toilet seat lid to pull himself out.  When that happened, his claws hooked in the shag and he pulled the toilet seat closed on top of him.  His claws were then hooked through the shag as he was hanging upside down on the inside of the toilet lid.  So he panicked and began to rip with his claws to try to get loose.  Instead, he ripped more and more loops off the toilet seat cover and they wrapped around him, over and over again, until his front legs were pulled out to the side of him and his hind legs were stuck in the loops too. 

When I raised the toilet seat lid, up came the iguana.  He was tied to the underside of the toilet seat, with loop after loop of the destroyed toilet seat cover wrapped around him.  He looked like a mummified, crucified iguana.  He gave me a look of sheer horror.  He was not longer trying to struggle (or maybe he just couldn’t).  I had to run for the scissors and cut loop after loop to set him free.  As soon as he could get loose, he streaked across the bathroom to get away from that toilet.  He was very fortunate that he had not hit his head, or pinched a foot under the seat, or pulled so hard against the loops of toilet seat that he cut himself.  He was all in one piece!  Only his dignity was impaired.  So he survived the Toilet Seat Incident, as it came to be known, and lived to a ripe old age.


depression places

me in a foxhole


to lift my head

i am dug in

i lack the strength

to dig me

out of a dark grave made

just for me

i cannot move or breathe

it all seems too

much trouble

to take my eyes away

from the wall

at my feet

and tomorrow will

be the same

the same

the same

the same

the same

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

I am familiar with North American, Central and South America and Europe, but any part of Asia is very foreign to me.  The people look different, the language looks and sounds different, and there are so many cultural nuances to learn.  China has more people than any other country in the world, yet I have never been there.  I feel as if my education were somehow lacking.  This Chinese dragon makes me think foreign in an exciting way.  I would love to see a Chinese New Year celebration!

Chinese Dragon

The dragon seems to say “welcome to my culture” and “be impressed” at the same time.  With his lovable googly eyes, he looks at the passers by and brings them in to witness his society and his celebration.

Explain Something You Know A Lot About To Someone Who Knows Nothing

I read a writing challenge today and it stopped me short.  “Take a complicated subject that you know a great deal about and explain it to a friend who knows nothing about it at all.”  Here’s the thing:  that’s my job.  That’s my job description, in a nutshell.  I am an Ob/Gyn and I deal with women’s reproductive health, which the average woman knows little about at all.  Women don’t know where their female parts are, what they do, what they look like, and how they can fail.  Most women aren’t even familiar with their external parts; they don’t know that the outside of their nether regions are called a vulva and not a vagina, which is internal.  The vagina is the canal inside.  The vulva are the parts outside, which are not called lips but labia.  Show me a woman who knows this and I’ll show you a biology major.  So I spend my days explaining everything.  I explain what the body parts are called.  I explain what they do.  I explain what they look like.  I explain compicated procedures, as I did in this blog post here.  I’ll admit, that’s not even too helpful without visual aids. 

Have you ever tried to explain how a baby passes through a dilated cervix, or how the cervix dilates?  I explain it like this:  you are putting on a turtleneck.  Your head is the baby’s head and the turtleneck is your cervix.  Imagine the hole in the turtleneck enlarging and the neck thinning to allow the head pass through.  And there you have it.  I have made up one of these little analogies for everything.  You can also describe a grapefruit passing through the opening in a tube sock, and this is useful explaining how the opening of the cervix can be behind or in front of the head. 

We can describe the pregnant uterus as a big light bulb with a blown up water balloon inside of it; the baby is in the balloon.  Again, this is my life.  It is my job description.  Describing the mechanics of a physical situation, or describing the reasons behind a physical reaction are challenges that I hope I meet every day.  I think I have come up with some good analogies over the years and hope to create many more.

How do you explain that cysts on ovaries are normal?  First of all, a cyst is defined as a single layer of cells filled with fluid.  A blister on your toe could be a cyst.  It’s just the word “cyst” that frightens people.  It’s not so frightening when you know what the definition is.  Ovaries create cysts every month; it’s their job.  An egg develops and it makes itself a nice little bubble filled with nutritive sugar water to support it.  Over the month the little bubble (gasp, CYST – now hopefully demystified) works its way up to the surface of the ovary and pops, releasing the egg.  So normal women of reproductive age make and release cysts every month.  So the next time the Emergency Room sends you out with the explanation “It’s a cyst,” they’re just trying to give you a reason for your pain and get rid of you.  That leaves your Ob/Gyn to deal with a panicky female:  “Oh nooooo, I have a cyst!!”  You have to talk them down out of their tree and explain that right now, I probably have a cyst too.  That’s just how things work.  Now this is not to say that a cyst can’t be abnormal; sometimes they are oversized, occupy space, and can cause pain.  Sometimes they even twist on their skinny little stem of blood vessels, cutting off the blood supply and causing a torsion, which just means that the blood flow to the ovary or cyst is gone, which causes incredible pain and is a surgical emergency.  So there can be bad cysts.  You just need to understand the difference between the two.  Cysts can also be abnormal if they have a solid component, which is not included in the definition of a cyst (remember, single layer of cells on the outside, fluid in the inside).  Solid component means a cyst may be more likely to be precancerous or cancerous.  That’s something that makes a difference.  But come to me and tell me that you have a simple fluid cyst under six centimeters on your ovary, I will probably say, “Meh.” 

I once had a patient ask me, “Do hysterectomies run in families?”  I found this to be a very interesting question.  After all, a hystorectomy is not a DNA linked trait.  It is a procedure.  The question kind of made me giggle.  I had to explain that things that cause a need for hysterectomies, such as fibroids, can run in families, but the procedure itself?  No.

A lot of things I can’t even answer, because nobody knows.  Why do women get recurrent vaginal discharge?  Rule out infection and I don’t know.  If I knew, I could retire and buy an island.  And I tell my patients just that.  Why do women lose their sex drive?  This is a huge problem, and there are so many potential answers that it is almost impossible to narrow down.  And for women, there is no treatment.  Viagra works in less than ten percent.  We are just out of luck there.  Occasionally medical problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure (or medications) can be a cause, but you can’t count on that.

So I explain what I can, and I fess up when I can’t, and between the two I think I’m giving patients a pretty fair shake.  But the little analogies I’ve developed over time have come in handy over the years, time and time again.  Like I said, it’s my job.

Blow Up Dolls

I am obviously cruising for attention with a title like this.  No,not THAT kind of blow up dolls.  But I bet I get a lot of hits on Google.  🙂  I am actually writing about inflatables, just not the ones you get at the naughty stores with the plain brown wrappers.  I am talking about the ones used in advertising.

My husband and I spend a lot of time contemplating the way businesses try to attract attention using inflatables and motion.  The Chevy dealership has the giant Santa at Christmas, another has a pink elephant blown up on the roof.  How do these things work?  What is the purpose of them?  A giant purple gorilla will catch a child’s attention, sure, but it is not the six year olds that buy the family cars.   I never heard of anyone buying a car because their child liked the blow-up doll on the dealership roof.

Then there are, of course, balloons and streamers, also which grab attention with bright color and movement.  I guess just getting someone to look in the direction of the store – after all, the human eye is drawn above all to motion – might cause them to notice a service that they had been looking for.  Maybe.  Again, they mostly seem to attract children.  Also, American flags are heavily used, presumably to cause a feeling of patriotism and a wave of  “if I buy this four-wheeler, surely I am aiding my country,” feeling.

Then, our favorite:  the air-filled tall skinny men with the blowers under them that cause them to bow and wave incessantly.  Again, I’m sure motion and color are the factors but, really?  Who has ever run into a store to buy something because there was a giant wavy guy in front of it?  My husband and I smirk every time we drive past one.  “Must… buy… something…” we croak.  “Must… get…a puppy…” 

After I wrote this, I went home and Googled inflatables.  The first thing that came up was a company that creates these inflatables specifically for various brands.  They had a list on their home page of reasons that inflatables work:

  • Drawing traffic to your location
  • Improving branding awareness
  • Increasing sales
  • Creating an emotional connection with consumers
  • Easy relocation
  • Affordability
  • Increasing media attention

I found a very interesting use for an inflatable here:

 Obviously, studies must have shown that gimmicks like this do get customers in.  If they didn’t,  businesses wouldn’t have them up front.  I would love to see those studies. Does anyone know anything about the advertising studies that show that these work?   Have any of you ever gone into a store and bought something because there was a giant wavy man or a pink elephant in front of it?

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