Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the category “Technology”

Shooting Kids

I know, we’ve all been tempted, right? It’s not what you think. If you want to accuse me of using a sensationalist title to draw in readers, fair enough. Guilty.I’m referring to photography. I am an amateur photographer. I like to photograph many things, but one of my favorite things to do is shoot kids. Think of it as going on safari. You stalk them, you grab pictures quick when they’re not moving, and do lots and lots of deleting later.

I am by no means a pro, but I have found over the years that there are some things that can help you get good kid pictures. (Or any pictures, for that matter).

First, closer, closer, closer. I have read this advice numerous times from photographers who are professionals, and I don’t think that this can be emphasized enough. Pictures whose subject is in one corner of the photo are not good photos. They look messy, and busy, and you really can’t tell what the picture is even supposed to be illustrating. Also, all sorts of photo bombs get in there. Make sure your subject (in this case, the kid or kids) completely fill the whole frame as much as possible.

Snow Girl

Snow Girl

You will also of course need to include at least a portion of what they are focused on – a ball field, a swing set, etc. But you really don’t need to include the whole object of attention – just enough to get an idea of what it is.

Snow Fort

Snow Fort

Second, if your camera has a sports setting, turn it on. The ability to take multiple photos in rapid succession is very important if you are shooting kids in motion. If you take a ton, at least one or two of them will turn out well. If you only take a couple, you most likely will not get anything worth keeping.

Honest Work

Honest Work

If you are outside, turn that flash off. It will only delay the clicking of the shutter if you are in a hurry to get multiple photos. Often, you can get away turning the flash off inside too, if you have a good DSLR camera that can compensate with correct aperture and f-stop settings. Take a couple photos inside of the same subject, with and without flash. If the quality of the no-flash pics are acceptible, turn off the flash.

Don’t pose your kids, except maybe for a few final pictures of them all together, with a finished product. Say they are making a snowman. You want to catch as many action photos of that as possible. You can pose them at the end, with the snowman, to insure that all the kids are in the pic and facing the correct direction. Just remember that most kids quickly sicken of posing for photos. They want to be DOING something. They will soon ignore you, and the stupid faces and stupid poses will rapidly ensue.

Girl and Guck

Girl and Guck

Make as little fuss about the camera as possible. Don’t even mention that you will be taking pictures. Try to maneuver at as much distance as possible, with the lens zoomed in so that the subject is well framed, so your presence is unobtrusive. The kids WILL notice that the camera is there, and at first they will clown around and act crazy. Get a couple of pics of this – one of them might be cute. Don’t ask them to pose or not to make faces. They will soon acclimate to you and the fun at hand will soon take precedence.

Look Out Below!

Look Out Below!

Now, snap snap snap. Set up your photos by establishing yourself at a point distanced from them (this is where a long range or zoom lens comes in handy) and adjust focus and zoom until the kids are more or less filling the full photo frame. Test focus on one of the kids – that way the focus will be more or less established when you are ready to snap. Hold the focus, and pan after them with the camera. Adjust focus as necessary, and as soon as one turns their head so that their face is towards you, especially if they are smiling, snap, snap, snap. Stop when they turn away. Focus on a different kid if that one is faced away from you. Make sure you try to frame both kids if you have the opportunity to show them interacting, particularly if they are both faced toward you. Again, snap, snap, snap. Get ten or more pictures if you think you have a good composition. You will edit them later.

DSC_0077

Just remember, especially you older folks, that the camera you have is now probably digital. That means you have NO FILM. Back in the day, only pro photographers shot this many pictures, since film development was slow and expensive, especially if 90% of shots are discarded. My mom has been an amateur photographer since before I was born, and she is still timid about snapping multiple photos. There IS NO FILM! Your picture taking now is only limited by the size of your SD card and your patience with prolonged review and deletion of photos. Make sure you have an extra SD card – you may fill this one. An extra camera battery is also a good idea.

Be prepared later on (preferably later that day) to download and look at a LOT of photos. The kids were in constant motion, and most of them will be blurred, or the kid will have turned away at the last moment, or they may have a weird expression on their face. Or, the composition of the photo may just be crappy. DELETE, DELETE, DELETE. If you wouldn’t want to show anyone else the photo, or wouldn’t want to look at it again, dump it. The other day was a snow day and I took almost 800 photos – filled an entire 16 GB SD card. You DO NOT have room in your computer for this many pictures. DELETE. Out of those 700+ pictures I took that day, I deleted until I had less than 100 photos left. Then I made a second and third pass and got them down to less than 50, but those were really good.

DSC_0045

You don’t have to be an expert with photoshop to improve your photos. I certainly am not. Most computers come loaded with a photo processing program that is free and reasonably intuitive. All I really do is correct red eye and crop. You can accomplish so many improvements with these two edits! Never print out or upload photos to Facebook, or anywhere else, if the people in those pics have red eyes. Those photos are instantly crap. No one wants to look at vampire people. Red eye correction is super easy to do.

Cropping is the other massively useful ability. You may have a good picture, but it may have been taken from too far away, or there may be photo bombs around the edges of the pic. Crop. If you have a decent digital camera (and they’re all pretty much decent these days) the crop will still have good resolution and not be grainy. If you think the photo would be better composed if just a portion of it was used, crop. You can always undo this before you save. You will develop a feel for the most pleasing ways to crop pictures by moving around the crop box if you do it enough.

Kissy Face

Kissy Face

Hope this is helpful! Probably most of you don’t need my advice, but these are tips I’ve found useful. Happy hunting!

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Etsy

Carnelian Eni Oken Style Bracelet

I have thought of writing a post about Etsy for quite a while now, but something odd today really triggered me to write.  First, Etsy is a web site.  It is a place where handmade items, art supplies, vintage items, etc are sold.  Mass marketers are not encouraged to be there, so it is a wonderful place to find something unique!

I have had a shop on Etsy for three or so years now, since I make jewelry and I like to sell it, so I can justify buying more beads and jewelry supplies.  Jewelry creation is my real passion.  I do strung work, off-loom bead weaving (my greatest love), chain maille, wirework and metal work.  Everything I create is one of a kind – I’d get bored making the same thing over and over again.

Etsy is fairly affordable.  It costs nothing to create and open a shop.  What costs you money is posting photographs and info about each individual piece for sale.  Etsy charges you 0.20 for each item you place on sale, and this lasts for three months.  When items expire, you need to renew them, if you still want them sold, and they will cost you 0.20 apiece to renew.  I currently have 130 items for sale, so I guess that adds up.  My Etsy bill is probably about 5-8 dollars a month; you can pay with Paypal.

People can shop on Etsy with all major credit cards, Paypal, and Etsy gift cards.  Etsy sets the whole thing up for you and makes it really easy.  They have recently added the coolest feature EVAH.  From your home computer, you can type in the weight and dimensions of the package of merchandise that you wish to ship to the purchaser, and you can print out a USPS mailing label right on your home printer and attach it to the package.  For most small items, all you have to do is walk down the sidewalk and put the labelled package in your mailbox.  SWEET!  Etsy deducts the postage cost from your Paypal account.

I check Etsy every few days, to check merchandise and check if there are purchases.  Etsy automatically emails you if there are any purchases or communication, but it also seems wise to check.  Also, you need to manually check and make sure there is no merchandise you need to renew.  You can check your shop stats and see how many people looked at your site each day or week, which items they looked at, and whether anyone has favorited or “liked” your shop or a particular piece.

Here’s the weird thing.  When I checked on my Etsy shop today, there had been a MASSIVE amount of traffic in the last few days.  I had dozens of favorites of my shop and of items.  The really odd thing was, it seemed to be the same 2 or 3 items that were favorited, over and over again.  One of those pieces is the piece shown above.  Now the Etsy Home Page features selected items (I’m not sure how they select them) and it is said that you will have a massive surge in traffic if one of your items is featured on their home page.  The thing is, I checked the home page and none of my stuff is on it.  Maybe it was there a few days ago?  I can’t quite figure it out.

You can also pay extra money to advertise items through Etsy, either through paying to have little ads posted, or paying for a bump in their search engine.  Thing is, I’ve only tried advertising once, it was a long time ago, it didn’t do squat, and I’ve never done it again.  So, weirdness.  It would be kind of like posting a blog and suddenly having traffic leap up  by a factor of ten on one post, without being featured on something like Freshly Pressed.  I did notice that 40 hits came through the Etsy search engine, but I don’t know why.

I will of course have to make a plug for my Etsy shop here. I also want to make a plug for my friend Diana, because she does the most amazing Shibori tie dye EVER and I’ve bought like a million of her gorgeous pieces.  She uses the best quality shirt material, including bamboo, and you can machine wash without losing your color.  You can check her out here.  She has no idea I am doing this, so she may be similarly bewildered by a sudden increase in traffic.

If you create something you’re proud of, and you want to try to sell it, Etsy is a great place to get your feet wet.  And no, I don’t work for or with Etsy, and they haven’t paid me any money to write about this (although I think they should).  I have had very good experiences with Etsy, both buying and selling (and, yes, I have bought quite a number of amazing things off this site over the years).  I have yet to get ripped off or deceived, which is a pretty cool thing.  So check it out!  Surf!  Run a search!  And hold on to your wallet, because those cards are gonna be jumping right out of there!

When Bread Machines Attack

We have a bread machine.  Specifically, it was my father-in-law’s bread machine.  Apparently he used it quite often to make delicious raisin bread, about which my husband waxes lyrical even now.  We have had it since my father-in-law passed away, which has been about twelve years ago.  It has sat in a cupboard in the kitchen gathering dust, along with a George Foreman grill, a salad shooter, and a milkshake blender, to name a few.  We haven’t been too domestic.

The irony is, I was raised to be very domestic.  My mother was Martha Stewart with fangs, and June Cleaver all rolled into one.  She could sew anything.  She could cook anything.  She could craft anything.  And she did, and she wanted to make sure that I could too.  So from a very young age, she had me baking in the kitchen, and doing public speaking about it, and entering cooking competitions.  She showed me how to sew on the sewing machine, and we made shorts with pockets and zippers, and skirts, and sundresses.  She even taught me how to bake homemade bread, and we entered it into several competitions.

So despite my homemaking dormancy lo these many decades, I was raised to do all these things.  I know how to do them.  I just haven’t had time, or energy, or inclination until recently.  So while cleaning and organizing the kitchen (a task eleven years in the making), I rediscovered the bread machine.  And I decided that if I can make bread from scratch, surely I can figure out how to use a bread machine.

The gods are laughing.

I went to the grocery store and picked up all the ingredients I needed to bake bread in the bread machine.  I read through the manual, and the recipes, until I was pretty sure I knew what was going on.  I was ready to make bread.

“Are you sure the bread machine works?” I asked my husband.  “Of course it works, ” he said.  “It always worked.  We wouldn’t have kept it if it didn’t work.  My dad used it all the time.”

I loaded the ingredients into the bread machine.  It was so simple!  It took me all of fifteen minutes to get everything in there.  I turned the machine on, and it started mixing.  The game was on!

I checked on it a bit later.  The dough was in a cohesive ball, had the appropriate shine and texture, and seemed to be coming along nicely.

I peeked at it a little later.  The dough was rising, and it was just peeking up to the top of the inner baking pan, and looked just about right.  My husband made fun of me for staring into the bread machine.  I told him to hush, that it smelled good.

I went off and worked on something else.  It wasn’t too much later that my husband called me.  “I think you have a problem,” he said.  I looked at the bread machine.  The dough was rising all right.  It had risen out of the baking pan, and up to fill the outer lid, and was beginning to flow over the sides of the smaller pan.

“Should I turn it off?” I asked.  “I’m not going to justify that with an answer,” my husband replied.

I thought about it.  “I may just let it run,” I said.  “Perhaps when it begins to bake it will shrink back into the pan.”  “It might,” said my husband.

“Also,” I continued, “the machine may be easier to clean if the bread is baked.”  “It may,” my husband said.

About that time the baking cycle kicked in.  The mushroom top on the bread did, in fact, shrink a little.  What it did not do was shrink back into the baking pan.  It baked for not very long.  Then the cooling cycle kicked in.  I peered into the machine.  The edges of the bread inside the oven appeared quite brown.  However, there was a big mushroom cloud of raw dough hovering over the top.

I had to go pick up my daughter.  “Guess what I did today,” I asked.  She couldn’t guess.  I told her, “I tried to make bread today, in the bread machine.  Instead, I made The Mushroom That Ate Dallas.”  My daughter thought this was hysterical.  She couldn’t wait to get home and see the giant raw mushroom.  “Will I need to climb onto the counter to see it?” she inquired.  I told her I thought she could see the damn thing from just about anywhere in the kitchen.

When we got home, she ran into the kitchen.  She began laughing hysterically.  “Let’s get it out,” I said.  “Let’s see what we’ve got here.”

I must say, I was very pleased with the non-stick properties of the bread machine.  The stem of the mushroom was baked.  It actually looked like viable bread.  The cap of the mushroom was raw dough, and did not look very tasty.  My husband came into the kitchen to inspect my handiwork.  We agreed that maybe we could rescue the bread by beheading it, and cutting the raw part away.

It worked!  Lo and behold, we had bread.  It was almost normal looking bread, once the gooey monstrosity was removed from the top.  My daughter began picking at the edges.  “Mmmm, ” she said.  “This tastes like bread.”  “Of course it tastes like bread,” I told her peevishly.  “It is bread.”  My husband picked at the edges.  “I think this is edible,” he said.  He sliced it up into pieces.  “I think if we toast it,” he said, “it will be pretty good.”  He toasted it.  It was pretty good.

So my first bread making attempt was a rather funny pseudo-failure cum pseudo-success.  I was rather put out that I had been bested by the bread machine, however.  I announced my plan to make a second attempt as soon as possible, as this one would be a success.  I was sure of it.

When I cleaned the raw dough out of the lid of the machine, the sharp metal edge gashed my palm.  I bled.  And swore.  And found a bandaid.  And marveled that the bread machine had managed to get off one more parting shot before it was done with me.  Curse you, bread machine!  We shall meet again, on a more even battlefield!  I shall be armed with less yeast, and more determination!  I shall not be defeated!  And if all else fails, I’ll make the damn stuff by hand.

Beauty Hurts

I had a very unique experience this week.  Since I’ve been on a self-improvement kick, and have lost all this weight and stuff, and got a wild hair and actually went and got my teeth cleaned and had a checkup with my doctor, I decided since I have time to make appointments now, that I was going to get my teeth officially whitened.  I haven’t been too happy with the color of my teeth since my braces came off all those years ago, and I had bracket staining (that is the official term), and then I spent all those years smoking (yes, I did, for years, shame on me, but I haven’t touched one in over ten years and I never will) and powering down Starbucks, and with my work schedule, I got my teeth cleaned about once every three years whether they needed it or not, and next thing you know, “If you’re not whitening, you’re yellowing.”  Haven’t smiled real big in quite some time.

So, I talked to my dentist about it, and she explained that I would come in and have a Tooth Desensitizing Treatment, and then they would send me home with two tubes of bleaching gel that had to be kept refrigerated, and a set of tooth molds that they made by cramming trays full of polymer in my mouth, and I was to Desensitize my teeth every morning, and put the gel in my molds and wear them every night for two weeks.  At the end of that time I was to come back and they would do the WOW appointment where they apply the super gel and do the super whitening on my teeth.

So for two weeks, I flossed and brushed and painted this nasty stuff on my teeth in the morning, and flossed and brushed and put cold gel in my molds at night, which I slept in, and man that stuff tastes nasty.  I was away working as a locum during the two weeks, so I had to figure out a way to keep the gel refrigerated in my luggage so it could travel with me.  Can you say, breast milk storage cooler?  Yep, still got that sucker sitting around.  The kid is seven.  Go figure.  But see, it came in useful for something.  I just knew it would.

The day after I got home was my WOW treatment at the dentist (yes, they really actually call it that, it’s even on the bill), and I was soooo excited, because I was going to go home that day with white dazzling teeth.  They had actually whitened up quite a bit with my nightly treatments, so I was very optimistic that I would end up with pretty results.

I couldn’t remember if my appointment was at eight or at nine, so even though I had just flown home the day before, I got up at six thirty and went to the dentist.  Of course, the appointment was at nine and they had me sitting there over an hour.  I just didn’t want to miss my appointment.  They finally called me back, and the hygienist said, ominously, “You’re going to be here for quite a while.”  So I hung out for quite a while just waiting for the technician to come in, which took a while.  They had stressed bringing my tooth mold trays, so I made sure to bring them.  They didn’t even use them.  Go figure.

The first thing the nice technician did was cram these red plastic lip spreaders into my mouth, which made me look like The Joker in a very unpleasant and uncomfortable kind of way.  She then did a Desensitizing Treatment on my teeth (I write it with capital letters, because that was how they pronounced it, like it was very significant).  I would just like to say that they should say it with lower case letters, because it DOES NOT WORK.

Next, more entertainment.  Lip spreaders firmly in place, she then painted my gums with this polymer putty that set when she waved a UV light over it.  Apparently this bleach crap is so strong it will eat up your gums.  So she puttied, and set it, and puttied and set it, a bit at a time while I lay there with my lips stretched out like an unhappy Cheshire Cat.

Then, (which she announced with dramatic flourish), she was going to get the bleaching treatment out of the refrigerator.  It was my big moment.  She had previously advised me that we would apply the gel in twenty-minute treatments, possibly as many as three if I could tolerate it.  If I could tolerate it.  That sounded a little bit ominous to me.  Perhaps I should have fled the chair as was my first instinct.  She gave me four ibuprofen to “help with the zingers”.  At that point, I should definitely left, but I swallowed the pills like an obedient little patient.

So here she came with the gel.  She stuffed cotton under my tongue, so I wouldn’t drool and wash off the gel.  She firmly told me that I must not move my lips, or I would get the bleach treatment on them.  She then painted cold stuff on my teeth.  And left me there.  For ten minutes.  She came back, inspected, proudly informed me that I had not moved my lips or smeared the bleach, and left me for another ten minutes.

At the end of twenty minutes, she asked me if I was hurting, and if I could tolerate a second treatment.  I was miserably uncomfortable with the lip spreaders, and the cotton wads, and the drool running down the back of my throat, which she firmly suctioned from time to time as if it were somehow inconveniencing her.  But I was not exactly in pain and I was determined to go through the whole treatment to get the best possible results.  So I told her to go for round two.  She returned with a new round of bleach, washed off the old batch, and painted on the new.

Twenty more minutes elapsed.  More suctioning and questioning were done.  I was still not in any pain, to my relief, and nodded for round three.  After the painting was done and she had left the room, I felt a bit of burning in my gums.  It was not horrible, and I was determined to finish my treatment.  I completed it in much the same way as I finished my residency:  I can do anything for four years… I can do anything for three years… I can…  You get the gist.

At long last, the final treatment was done.  She blasted my teeth with a fuselage of cold air and water that made me cringe.  Then she began chipping the polymer off my gums, piece by piece.  She yanked out the sodden cotton.  I was vigorously suctioned.  “Let me get some Vitamin E oil,” she said.  “I’ll put it on your gums.  The bleach has temporarily whitened them, but the effect will go away very quickly.”  That stuff was YAK!  It tasted like rancid vegetable oil.  (I suspect that’s what it was).  She gave me a tube of stuff to smear on my teeth at night that would even out the color.  Then, TA DA!  She got out the mirror and proudly showed me my white teeth!  I admit, I was thrilled.  They looked fabulous.  She told me that I could go for further whitening, but that it might look unnatural as the color of the teeth should be similar to the color of the whites of the eyes.  I found that an interesting little factoid.

She brought me to the checkout desk, and I paid my, yes, over four hundred dollars.  But I flashed my fab new smile on my way out the door.  The whole process had taken an hour and a half.  I still had a full day of errands to run.

I went to CVS.  I went to Publix to buy supplies to try in the bread machine (tomorrow’s story, friends, tomorrow’s story).  I bought a drink there and lunched on an Atkin’s bar.  The cold drink and the bar felt a little twingy on my teeth.  I figured, well, the two weeks of treatment made my teeth a bit twingy, I should expect that this would too.

I went to the hospital where I used to work to complete some charts.  After that, I had a two o’clock meeting with administration about incentive pay, my final paycheck, and a possible locums job working with the people I had just manage to evade by taking a new job.

As I was signing my charts, I noticed that my teeth were aching and zinging more and more.  I began to feel drooly.  By the time I got to my meeting, my attention was almost wholly on my teeth.  The gums had an achy feeling, as though they had just been vigorously reamed out with dental floss after a two year hiatus.  I began to feel shooting pains in the teeth, one after another, the way you feel if a dentist’s drill hits a nerve, or if an errant stream of cold liquid hits an exposed nerve root.  The drooling became more pronounced.

I rushed my way through the meeting.  I hope I seemed at least coherent.  I considered explaining my predicament, but by that time, the air generated by mere speech was more stimulus than the nerves in my teeth could stand.  I became a bit concerned as I got in my car in the parking lot.  All I could think about now was my mouth.  I wasn’t even sure I could drive effectively.

I called my dentist’s office.  It was now about three in the afternoon.  No one answered.  There was an emergency cell number on the voice mail, and, after some consideration, I used it.  You have to understand, in my line of work as an Ob/Gyn, there is nothing we hate more than the abuse of an emergency line.  A yeast infection at three AM does not constitute an emergency.  We also hate patients who are seeking pain medicine for recreational reasons.  But it was with a sinking feeling that I called the emergency line – something was really wrong, and I was in a lot of pain.  A whole whole lot.

No one answered the emergency phone.  I realized, on the drive home from the hospital, that I would pass right by my dentist’s office.  I decided to stop in and see if they were still open.  They were!  I explained my plight to the receptionist, who stated she had never had her teeth whitened and she had no idea what had been done to me.  She told me she would get a hygienist to come talk to me when one got free.

The hygienist came out and began what was obviously a pat speech that she had given many times before.  Sensitivity after a treatment was common, she said.  I should take more ibuprofen, she said.  It would be better by bedtime, she said.  My dentist walked out of a room and looked at me, then walked away.  Either she had not been told that I had a problem, or she didn’t care.  I could tell by the attitude of the hygienist that at best, she thought I was a total wuss.  At worst, I might be some drug crazed freak seeking pain medicine.  It was obvious she wasn’t hearing me at all when I told her how much I was hurting.

I should have insisted on speaking to my dentist.  I knew something was wrong, I was in such bad pain, but it is so ingrained in me as a physician not to be a wuss, because we don’t like wusses, and not to be needing pain medicine, because after dealing with drug seeking addicts all day, everyone begins to look like one.  I left, shamed, and drove home.

By the time I got home and my husband met me at the door, I was crying.  Let me just say, I am not a wuss, either.  I have a fairly strong tolerance for pain.  I was almost hysterical, both from the horrible sensation in my mouth and from the feeling that I had just been cruelly blown off by my dentist and her office.  She knows I’m a freaking doctor, for Chrissake.  I don’t often pull the doctor card, but, seriously, if I saw a physician patient in my waiting room having a problem, I’d have damn well stopped by to find out what it was.

Crying, I explained this to my husband.  At this point, he did exactly what I expected, and told me that it was my own fault, if I had been more forceful in promoting my own well being and forced them to bring me my dentist, the problem would have been solved.  I screamed at him, “I fucking HATE you for saying that to me right now!” and he said good, maybe that would convince me that I needed to make more effort on my own behalf.  Furious, I realized he was right, I don’t like conflict and I had weenied out, afraid to look weak.

I called the office back.  No answer.  I left another message on the emergency phone.  My husband called, from the other room, “That didn’t sound nearly emphatic enough.  They’re not going to call you back!”

Weeping, I went upstairs and found some Tylenol and some Ultram samples.  I took them and crawled in bed.  I was out of my head with pain at that point – even standing required too much effort to coordinate with my constant awareness of the pain.  Even holding my eyes open was too much.

I laid there for I don’t know how long, and called the emergency line again.  This time I begged them to do something to stop the pain, to please call me back.  My husband finally came up to check on me.  Sobbing, I told him I’d called the emergency line again.  “I did too, ” he said.  “This is getting ridiculous.  I got her home number.  I’ll dial it, you talk to her.”  No one answered at her house.

I hunkered down in bed.  My cell phone rang!  But it wasn’t my dentist.  It was only the hygienist.  She told me she had put in a page to my dentist when she got my message.  Which one, I wondered.  A page?  Why the fuck didn’t she just call her?  We had left four messages.  I was drooling and crying.

At last!  My dentist called me back.  I think when she heard who it was, and how many messages there were, and how hysterical I sounded, she realized that maybe she’d better make nice.  “This happens very rarely,” she told me.  “It’s only happened maybe twice in the last two or three years.”  She called me in some pain medicine.  My daughter had a function at school that evening that my husband needed to attend with her, and I had a doctor’s appointment that evening that I simply could not miss; I had already missed two and needed refills on my medications.

My husband drove me to the drug store and got me my Lorcet.  I swallowed one in the parking lot.  We picked up my daughter, and he dropped me off at my appointment.  He didn’t want me driving.  I explained to my doctor that I was going to be fairly useless; that at the moment I was too deranged by pain to talk and in a minute I was going to start getting slurry from all the pain meds.  I told him how mad my husband made me, and he said, “Yes, I think he missed out on the empathy gene.”  I was able to finish my appointment, although I was getting a bit giddy by the end of it.

Hubby and daughter swung by to get me, leaving one remaining question:  would I be able to sleep at all?  The pain medicine was helping, yes, and it was making me drowsy, but the background aching and zinging were still there, and I didn’t know if I could defocus on it enough to go to sleep.  I stayed up another couple of hours so I could fit one more pain pill in before bed.

I slept.

In the morning, the pain was gone.  All gone.

The dentist’s office called back that morning to check on me.  I think they realized I’d felt a bit neglected.  Not to mention desperate.  And abandoned, desperate patients are angry people.  Best for them to avoid that.  I told them I was all better.  They sounded relieved.  God, so was I.

The teeth are beautiful.  They look every bit as nice as I had hoped.  But I should have remembered, nothing comes for free.  Surely if it were that easy to whiten teeth, people would do it more.  But if you ask me now, am I glad I did it?  The answer is yes.  My teeth should look lovely for a lifetime now.  And I remember what my grandmother used to tell me, as she and my mom yanked on my hair to get ready for special occasions, “Beauty hurts.”  Yep.  Beauty hurts.

Freshly Pressed: The Aftermath

I feel all obligated, in the wake of my fabulously flattering Fresh Pressing, to come up with exciting, insightful blogs for all my new followers who will be expecting great things to me.  (That’s why yesterday I posted a photo of my jewelry in a hotel bathtub).

First, I must say that being Freshly Pressed was all that I dreamed of and more.  Ever since I found out what Freshly Pressed was, I was dying to be chosen for it, as I suppose an overwhelming majority of bloggers must.  Maybe not.  Maybe not everyone thrives on praise and stroking the way I do.

When I got the email, there was a lot of excited shrieking, followed by a bit of disappointment that there really weren’t too many people I could share my exciting news with.  After all, I don’t want people who actually know me to follow my blog.  It’s just too personal.  I find a lot of bloggers feel that way; it’s easier to share the dirty little details with relative strangers than it is to share with people who are in your life, who might judge or feel differently about you.  I couldn’t even tell my parents, because I don’t want them reading my blog.  So, my husband was it.  And half the blogosphere.

It wasn’t as hard to keep up with the likes and comments as I thought it would be.  One thing I did fall down at doing was checking out the blogs of my new followers.  I’ll be doing that next.  I did manage to answer all the comments.  Everyone was overwhelmingly kind.  No one said anything mean at all.  I had decided I would not delete negative comments, unless they were obscene and abusive, because I feel everybody has the right to their opinion, and I was not going to censor just because the commentor and I didn’t see eye to eye.  But I didn’t even have to contemplate that, because everyone was really supportive and nice.

This Fresh Pressing was what I needed to jump start my blogging again.  For months, I produced a post a day, but kind of fell down on the job when I started working as a travel doctor.  It was easier for me to post daily before I changed jobs, because we were on a computer medical records system, and it took the nurses so damn long to enter their data, that I found myself twiddling my thumbs, surfing the net, and, ultimately, revisiting my blog to use up the time I had to spend waiting between patients.  Once I began traveling, I had day trips to make to explore my surroundings, call to take, television to distract me (we don’t have cable at home), and a rebirth of interest in my jewelry making.  I fell behind on my posts and went almost a whole month without producing one.

So this has been just a super encouragement to me, and I feel so gratified and flattered that I must consider some better posts.  Once I get home, I’ll have access to my photos on my desktop, and I can start responding to photo challenges and putting pictures into my posts.  Right now I’m just trying to keep up.  For the past week, I’ve been on call for 5 of the 7 days I’ve been here.  That’s kept me a little busy.  I have managed to keep up using my Android Word Press app, which I really must give kudos to.  It’s a great app!  You can upload photos from your phone to your posts, write posts on your phone and submit them, and access all the categories available on the site.  The Reader, Freshly Pressed, My Posts, Comments, and Stats are all available there, and much more.

So today I’ve been doing a little writing.  I hope I’ve been able to give y’all a feeling for the Freshly Pressed experience, if you have not been so yourself.  I will now try to increase the quality and quantity of my writing, and perhaps I will not feel compelled to print pics of my jewelry in a bathtub.  But I probably will continue with the foolishness – I like foolishness.  If you are new followers, I hope you will enjoy this blog.  If you are long term followers, I sure thank you for sticking with me!

I think my next post may be a summary of what this blog is about (although there are a pretty broad range of topics).  My Categories section pretty much explains things as well as I can.  But I’ll see what I can do for creating an overarching mission statement, so to speak.  Happy Saturday, everyone!

Losing The War On Our Minds

I have never watched so much TV in my life.  I think this is truly safe to say.  I’ve been trapped alone in a hotel room in North Dakota for two weeks now.  Yes, I have spent some time seeing patients in clinic, but I have been booked pretty lightly.  All my nights are free.  And I find it safe to say, in this town of 18,000, in the dead of winter, there is nothing else to do.  Well, there is a Walmart.  And some bars.  But I don’t drink anymore, although I am strongly considering it.

A little background on the TV thing.  You see, I grew up without one.  Yes, I was a freak.  I was a freak for a lot of reasons, mainly because I was brilliant, and because my parents were Wally and June Cleaver in a world where everyone else’s parents partied and screwed around and, well, watched TV.  I’m not saying I had a bad childhood.  In fact, the opposite is true.  I had a wonderful childhood.  I have no early traumas to draw on when I do my writing.  Trauma for me was coming in second in the spelling bee (which never happened, by the way).

But we had no TV.  My parents did not buy a television until I was grown and out of the house.  They thought TV was a waste of time, and money.  And although I hated them for it, in hindsight, they were definitely right.  I spent some of my childhood snatching moments of TV at my friends’ houses.  When I spent the night at my best friend’s house, we spent all Saturday morning watching cartoons.  I went to friends’ houses after school and we glued ourselves to The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island.  I got every precious moment of TV I could get.

On occasion, my parents would rent a TV for big events.  When the Olympics came on, for example, I would keep that TV on every minute I possibly could.  The folks would pull me away after an hour or so, but I got to watch M*A*S*H, and I got to watch Nadia Comanici win her gold.  But I felt left out all through junior high, and high school, because the kids were talking about shows, and I had never seen any of them.  In junior high, I went to a class party that was held just to find out Who Shot JR.  I watched that show, and I had no idea what was going on.

Funny thing, though.  After I left home, TV lost all importance in my life.  We never had one at the apartment when I was in college.  I was so busy out meeting people, and partying, and studying, that it just didn’t seem relevant.  Once I was in medical school, I certainly didn’t have a TV.  I didn’t have the time, and I couldn’t afford it anyway.  Same thing for residency.

There was one brief period in my life when I did watch TV.  When I took my first job out of residency, I rented an apartment which included cable in the price of rent.   I felt it would be foolish to waste the cable, so I bought a TV.  Since it was my first job as a real doctor, I bought a BIG TV.  I still didn’t watch it much.  When I watched, the TV stayed on Comedy Central.  It cheered me up when I was feeling down, or when I was staying up late making jewelry.  I loved old episodes of Saturday Night Live, and I loved the Daily Show.  But my absolute favorite was What’s My Line Anyway.  The original one and the one with Drew Carey.  I watched that show for hours and hours.  It made me laugh hysterically.  And by this time in my life, that took a lot.

Once I got married, we never got cable again.  We love to watch movies, and we test shows that we hear are good on Netflix.  We’ve enjoyed Burn Notice, Bones, Buffy, Angel, Heroes, In Plain Sight, White Collar, Castle, and most recently and delightfully, Big Bang Theory.  We watch kid’s movies with our daughter.  I don’t think she even realizes that we don’t even watch “real” TV.  We are commercial free.

But this brings us back to where I am now:  a hotel in North Dakota with a winter storm on the way.  I have spent the weekend holed up in here, except for a brief period yesterday when the weather was so beautiful I had to go out.  There was nowhere to go, really.  I went to Walmart, and the little mall.  Not much going on there.  But I could go out without my coat.

Otherwise, I’ve been a shut-in.  Watching regular TV.  And thank goodness for movies.  And thank goodness for Law & Order.  You can find that on anywhere, any time.  But these ads.  Oh my God!  They’re giving me nightmares.  The asinine Sonic guys.  The Geico pig.  McDonalds Fishy McBites with the rapping wall fish.  That Geico thing where the African basketball player runs around slapping everything out of the air?  Trojan vibrators being sold on prime time TV?  Seriously?  Really?  When the hell did that happen?

And the shows.  Holy cow.  The world has gone to hell in a handbasket, for sure.  Duck Dynasty?  The Virgin Bachelor?  Honey Boo-Boo?  Almost Naked Animals?  Amish Mafia?  Swamp Pawn?  Teen Mom 2?  These names sound like they should be satires of real shows.  No wonder my patients are so darn dim.  It’s not their fault.  Their brains are being poisoned.  It’s not even insidious at this point.  It’s overt.  War has been declared on the minds of the world, and we are just letting it happen.  And I think I know why.  I can’t turn this thing off, because I’m so damn bored.  I think we’re all giving up.  Because we’re just damn bored.

Standardized, Bastardized, Smothered, Covered And Chunked

I spent all day filling out a standardized application online for a state medical licensure.  All day.  It went something like this:

1.  Name:

1a.  Ha!  Not that name, you sucker!  Now list all the other names you use:  the one you robbed that bank with a couple years ago, your ex-husband’s last name that you didn’t take…  By the way, why DIDN’T you take his name, you deviant?  Attach extra paper to explain here.

2  Address:

2a.  Is that really your address?  Why do you live in such a shithole?  Attach extra paper to explain here.

3.  Where did you go to medical school?

3a. Because we know you don’t remember,, we want the actual day of the week you started there, the street address, since you haven’t been there in over 20 years and haven’t the foggiest, and oh, we want their fax number too.  Even though faxes weren’t even invented when you went there.

4.  Where did you do your internship?  Your residency?  Never mind that they are usually both done at the same institution; we want you to fill out all the same information twice.

4a. What years did you go there?  If you were ever absent for more than three days during your entire residency, attach extra sheet to explain why you are so self centered that you thought you deserved a 2 week trip to Vail.  Because seriously, you should have been working.  Explain yourself.

5.  List everywhere you’ve worked since medical school.  We want exact dates, addresses, contact names (even though they bulldozed one of the hospitals you worked at – we want to be able to contact them at the Home Depot they built over it), email addresses, and, oh, if there is more than a month gap between any work engagement, attach extra sheet to explain here.  Vacation is not a real reason.  What were you really up to, what sinister antisocial behaviors were you engaged in that kept you from work?

5a.  Seriously, why weren’t you working that September in 1990?  You know we don’t believe you.  Enter your lame excuse and have it notarized.  In triplicate.  Send one copy to our office, one copy to your recruiter’s office, and one to the local paper so we can all laugh at you.  Send it Fedex Overnight.  On your bill.

6.  Enter all licensing exams you’ve ever taken, the exact dates, the exact scores, and whether or not you cried when you left the testing room.  If you ever failed anything, explain yourself.  Attach extra sheets if necessary, but don’t make the ink all runny with your sniveling.  Entries with sniveling runny ink will be returned, and you will have no opportunity to redeem yourself.

7.  Have you ever:  Pooped twice in one day?  Been laughed at for being too fat?  Been late paying a phone bill?  Forgotten to brush your teeth?  Made an illegal u-turn?  Withdrawn your hospital priveleges (even though it was just because you moved and there wasn’t a damn thing sinister about it)?  Been sued by some asshole?  Hung up on a telemarketer?  Missed church?  If any yes answers, tough noogies, attach extra sheet for each question and waste the rest of your day explaining yourself.  And don’t think we won’t check up on you.

8.  List all states in which you have ever had a medical license.  If you forget any, you are screwed, discredited, and we will hound you until you die.  Now what were those exact dates again?  Better not be a day off, or we will know you are lying.

9.  Attach triplicate copies of:  your state medical license, your DEA number, your residency certificate, your board certification and your med school diploma.  Never mind that they are indelibly framed and sitting in your garage and you are somewhere in North Dakota.  There’s no excuse for not having them copied.

10. Attach notarized originals of your birth certificate and your passport.  We need them for our files.  We will not return them.  What?  That’s your problem.  Go out to the hospital you were born at 45 years ago and get them to give you a new copy.  We’re keeping these.

11. Have you ever been diagnosed with sadness?  Feelings of hopelessness?  Inadequacy?  Stress?  Depressionbipolardisordermentalillnessobsessivecompulsivedisorderdissociativeidentitydisordermaniaanxiety?  If so, attach notarized letter from your doctor and explain yourself, you piece of shit.  Why would we let you work for us if you’re damaged?  And don’t lie.  We have friends at your insurance office.

12.  Have you ever commited a felony?  No?  Feeling smug?  What about a misdemeanor then?  Parking tickets?  Jaywalking?  ATTACH EXTRA SHEETS AND EXPLAIN WHY YOU DESERVE TO LIVE.

13. What is your address in the state you’re applying for?  We know you don’t live there yet.  We don’t care.  Fill in the address, or the app will be stuck on this page for the rest of the day.  And you’d better not be making stuff up.  We know where you don’t live.

14. OH, SORRY.  YOU LET THE APP TIME OUT WHILE GROVELING ON THE FLOOR FOR YOUR MISSING BIRTH CERTIFICATE.  Go back to Go.  Do not collect $200.  In fact, you owe us $200, one for each copy of the application.  And you must fill everything out again, because our IT people suck so bad at building cheap websites, they don’t let you save as you go.

15.  Welcome back.  What was your name again?  I’m sorry.  That password is incorrect.  You should have changed it the last time you logged in.

16.  I’m sorry.  The number you’ve reached has been disconnected.  Actually, it was never connected.  Sucker.

 

 

The Five Stages Of Grief (In Four Days)

At first I wasn’t going to write anything about the Newtown school tragedy, because I felt that I simply had nothing to add.  Did I cry?  Yes.  I have a seven year-old.  Was I enraged?  Yes.  How could any human being do what this animal did, gunning down babies in cold blood?  Did I ponder all the questions this event raised?  Yes, I thought about gun control and safety and the deficit of mental health services in this country and the signs that might have been present in this disturbed individual that were missed.  Everyone in the world was thinking and doing and questioning the same things.  I had no dog in this fight.  Although the tragedy affected me, as it did most everyone else, I had no particular statement to make about this awful event that everyone else had not already made.

But I did notice some interesting things on Facebook.  I follow Facebook fairly closely, as I like updates from family and coworkers, and heaven knows, I like to publish pictures of my daughter’s latest antics.  In fact, I first learned of the tragedy through Facebook.  It is possible that many others did as well.  After all, I was at work, I don’t watch TV or news at home, and there is no news outlet that I consistently follow.  Yes, this makes me a bit of an ignoramous.  But most of the news is, so, well, bad.  Bad news is not good for me, mentally, and I try to avoid it.  As I watched the Facebook entries come in over a series of days, I began to wonder if there were parallels there from Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief.  I made sure I looked them up so I knew what they were.

The first stage of grief is denial and isolation.  Tentative questions began popping up on Facebook the morning of the tragedy as news of it began to filter out.  Individuals were asking, “Is this true?  Did you hear the news?  What do you know?  Were there really children killed?”  These entries began few and far between, a few individuals who felt isolated and confused by the news.  Did anyone out there know anything?  Were they alone in their knowledge of something so terrible?  Did it really happen?  Could something this terrible really have happened?  There were hopeful feelers sent out that perhaps things were not so terrible as feared.  Those who had information from their news services began to type out what they knew, to increase knowledge and bring the few with a little knowledge of the tragedy in from the cold.  Next, the actual news services began posting what they knew.  There were updates by NPR throughout that day as they filtered in verifiable data.  They were very careful not to include hearsay, as much as possible.

The second stage of grief is anger.  As the news was disseminated, individuals appeared on Facebook raging about their pet beliefs (I am neither endorsing nor opposing these beliefs).  What kind of a terrible individual would kill innocent babies?  There were rants about how the individual responsible would be judged by God and sent straight to hell.  Why is gun control not made and reinforced?  How did this whacko get an assault rifle?  What lobbyists are blocking gun control?  The anti-gun-control advocates came back with their anger.  Why are you blaming the guns?  Don’t you see that if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns?  People will just find other ways to hurt people.  The rage extended to a tirade that went, as well as I can recall, like this:  “If you ever wake up and it occurs to you that it is a good idea to walk into a school and massacre innocent children, please muster whatever scrap of sanity and decency you have, take the gun, point it at your head, and DON’T MISS.”  That one went around a lot.  That’s a lot of anger.

The third stage of grief is bargaining.  On Facebook, a lot of this began to show up Friday evening and into Saturday.  Folks began evoking their faith, and rapidly cobbled-together posts with flickering candles and angels and Jesus in classrooms began to appear.  It seemed that now that the horrible truth was verified, people knew nothing could bring those children back to life.  They began to evoke their faith and were bargaining and praying for everlasting peace for the children and adults that were lost.  They were praying for themselves also, in the face of an unspeakable event.  Please Lord, please don’t let this happen here.  Please don’t let this happen to us.  Support and charities sprung up quickly to support the survivors who were trying to survive and pick up the pieces.  Some of this altruism may be seen as bargaining:  if I help the stricken, will God please not send this terror in my direction?

The fourth stage of grief is depression.  That began to show up on Facebook on Saturday and Sunday.  Pictures of adorable smiling children, now dead, were passed around the internet.  Their names were given.  People cried.  Pictures of the beautiful heroic teachers, also dead, were passed around with vignettes about their lives and how brave they had been in the face of death.  You would have to be a stone not to be moved by these tributes.  I confess, I cried too.

The fifth stage of grief is acceptance.  And now, it is Monday.  On Facebook today, there is little mention of the tragedy.  There is a little outcropping from place to place, but by and large the candles and the aid groups and the photographs are almost gone.  People have gone back to posts about their children, their Christmas elves, the trials of the holiday season, funny cartoons and advertisements for various goods and services.  It seems we on Facebook have managed Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief in a handy four days.  I am not sure what that says about us.  I would like to say we show resilience in the face of tragedy, but the truth, I am sure is multi-layered.  Has the internet sped up many of our emotional processes?  Has our media culture inured us to the longterm emotional effects of such a tragedy?  Were people just wringing all the emotional impact out of each development, as hard and as fast as possible because our culture is fascinated with tragedy and we have learned to seek emotional impact out of the media available to us?  Are we just thanking God that it didn’t happen to us?  It seems we have fed on this event, gleaned the emotion and impact out of it, and, if it did not affect us directly, gratefully tossed it away.  All in four days, if Facebook is to be believed.

Instagram

I learned a new skill!  I read the blog post about how to embed Instagrams into blogs, and I have seen friends using Instagram on Facebook, and I decided I wanted to look into it, since I enjoy photography.  So I typed in Instagram.com and got their site that shows what phone apps are available.  I saw that an app was available for my Android so I went on Google Store and typed it in.  It popped up, and voila, it was free!  So I downloaded it to my phone.  It took just a little while.  It puts an app icon right on the front of the phone, so, easy to find. 

I clicked on the icon and it brought up a camera, although it looked different than my regular camera.  You could take a picture with it just like a regular camera.  Then all these icons popped up at the top and pictures of trees popped up at the bottom.  Turns out the trees are the color filters you can apply to the picture.  Each has a name and a different effect.  You can choose a frame or not by clicking on the little frame icon at the top.  You can choose a watery effect by clicking on the water drop icon at the top.  To save the photo and upload it to Instagram, you click on the green double arrows at the top right. 

You can’t save a photo to your phone without posting it to Instagram, which some of my friends don’t like about Instagram.  For that reason they use other programs.  To upload it to Facebook or Twitter or Flickr, you just click on that icon and highlight it.  You can also upload directly to WordPress, I discovered, although I only figured out how to do that once.  Not sure if I can do it again.  So I am very excited to investigate a new skill, and I am just beginning to learn about the Instagram thing!  It’s easy!  It’s fun!  Check it out!

Technology And The Folks

My parents are way late when it comes to technology.  Not that this is unusual; we have the expected jokes about VCRs with their clocks flashing 1200, which theirs actually did.  Even VCRs at this point are hopelessly outdated.  Thank goodness, because they were little more reliable than cassette tapes, always losing their tracking or unwinding great long ribbons that could not be stuffed back in their box.  My husband and I did the best we could to bring them into the twenty-first century, but they had to be dragged kicking and screaming.  As I recall, I bought them their first answering machine.  Mom left this really grim, formal message that sounded like they had just stepped out to go to a double funeral.  We bought them their first cordless phones.  Mom literally still had a rotary dial phone in her craft room that worked. 

They were a little suspicious of all this technology, but we really dragged them into the next century when we bought them a computer.  They both had some computer experience – Mom rather extensive because she taught Engineering Graphics using AutoCad when she was a professor at Alabama.  My dad had a computer in his office and a laptop that the Law School had given him to use and he figured out how to use Word Perfect and that was about it.  Mom could check her email.  They were interested in a home computer, but they were just hung up on what to get.  By the time they did all the necessary investigations, Consumer Reports inspections and such, the computers they were looking at had already gone off the market.  We finally took pity on them, and my husband, the data base expert, picked a home computer and we bought it for them for Christmas.  He set the whole thing up for them, which was a labor of love.  Mom was still a little sceptical of him at that point as he was a recent husband and she expressed concerns that he might be trying to access their financial information.  Seriously?  So they learned to use the computer, and when that one died recently, we got them another one.  By that time, Mom was less suspicious of my husband and she was sufficiently uninhibited enough to call him up when the computer was having problems.  Score one for the husband!

We bought them a DVD player to replace their VCR (which they didn’t replace) and a new TV twice to replace their old one, which I swear still used transistor tubes.  It might have even been black and white.  I think they have enjoyed the heck out of the TV and the DVD player, but they don’t admit it.  I also helped Daddy buy Mom a new stereo, with Bose speakers and a turntable for all their vinyl collection, which is extensive.  They literally still had an eight track on the old stereo.  They actually played Christmas music on it.

The real amusement came in with the cell phones.  We couldn’t really buy our folks cell phones, because we didn’t know what kind of contract they would want.  So forever they went without cell phones.  Smart phones were already coming about when they finally broke down and got a couple cell phones, but they were on a month-to-month contract because Mom was suspicious of the phone companies and did not know what kind of contract to get.  Their phones were ridiculous dinosaurs.  They could text on them only by punching the number keys, but they did not learn how to text.  I don’t even know if their contracts permitted them to receive texts.  So they carried their phones with them sometimes but not always, and they turned them on rarely.  So they would tell us we could reach them on their cell phones, and then they would go merrily off into the breech with their phones turned squarely OFF.  So we got used to being unable to reach them. 

Mom finally broke down and got a smart phone from Motorola the other day.  I have been trying to show her how to use it, as my husband and I both have state-of-the-art Droid Bionics and I figured she could use some schooling.  We set up her email and her WiFi and started working on texting.  That was a little trickier.  Her phone did not have a text icon on it anywhere that we could find, yet she could receive texts from me.  Well, we finally figured it out and now she is PRACTICING.  I received some sixteen identical texts from her the first day she figured out how to text.  I didn’t hear anything from her for a while and then today, she went texting nuts.  She sent me message after message, and at least they weren’t all the same.  We actually had a texted conversation, which was very impressive, and I could tell she was quite excited.  She still has a month-to-month contract though, and her next move will be to figure out what kind of long-term contract she wants to have.  She did not get Daddy a smart phone because, well, I don’t think either of us think that he would want to or be able to handle it.  It would just drive him nuts.  So he will continue with his dinosaur phone, which doesn’t matter because he still never turns it on.

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