Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Friday, September 30, 2016

Mumford, take 3

We took our two oldest kids to a Mumford & Sons concert on Wednesday. My third and their first.  I possessed a number of reasons for taking them out on a school night, the most important being that a Mumford & Sons concert is a transcendental, semi-religious experience. On the practical side, we had the two extra tickets (and Daniel at camping, so not missing out), and the concert venue is five minutes from our house.

Back to the transcendental portion of my reasoning. Music, singing, stomping and arm-waving that pass for dancing, they all spring from an ancient segment of our DNA. We stood with a large group of friends from our neighborhood, and the kids' eyebrows rose past their hairlines when all of the adults began jumping around like grasshoppers on pogo sticks, singing off-key at high volume. The fifteen-year old appeared only slightly embarrassed, and she liberated her own feet, arms and voice as the evening wore on.  The thirteen-year-old was quietly stunned, and at times wanted to just lie down and nap until the craziness passed. (He eventually shuffled his feet, clapping and shouting for the encore performance of "I Will Wait.")

I whisper-shouted into my daughter's ear that no one cared to criticize, that riding the wave of musical and tribal energy was free-ing and energizing. She loved the performance, but her favorite part of the evening was the miraculous, cell-phone enabled neighborhood reunion at the heart of an 18,000-seat venue. Being on the lawn, watching the sunset, nibbling contraband chocolate while the other adults drank beer, observing the awe in both children's eyes when thousands of cellphones lit the sky during "I Believe" - transcendental at the very least. The night was magic and well-worth the sleep deprivation and croaky voices that resulted from our mid-week evening out.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mourning my Collagen

I looked down recently and saw that someone had replaced the skin on my legs with elephant hide. Yes, indeed, as I dutifully climbed the outside stairs at a nearby park, congratulating myself on strong quads and hamstrings, I happened to glance down and - wham! - buzz-kill; there were dimples and wrinkles where my smooth skin used to be.

I've come to terms with the deepening wrinkles around my eyes and on my neck by never looking in the mirror, but it just isn't fair to see the skin on my legs detach from its foundation and go sliding off in whatever direction it pleases.  Like an old flame, my collagen has left the building, and I never knew how much I cared until it was gone.

After doing some research, I'm even more irate. Women's eggs have a pre-programmed end date, and our estrogen production declines as the eggs lose their bounce. With the loss of estrogen comes - you got it - the sharp drop in collagen, that magic stuff beneath our skin that keeps it smooth and glowing. The worst part is that men don't have an expiration date on their sperm, so even though testosterone decreases somewhat over time, it doesn't have such a pronounced affect on their wrinkles.

So my husband, eighteen months younger than I, will look progressively more young by comparison?  That is so unfair. The babies came out of my body, and the task of cleaning the cat litter box falls to me - shouldn't I catch a break on the collagen?

And if matter and energy are conserved in this universe - nothing new created and nothing old lost - who gets my supply of collagen? Perhaps a new baby snagged it, or my glowing teenage daughter caught it by osmosis. If anyone sees my old collagen, tell it I miss it and wish it would come back!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Outlander and Antibiotics

To follow: a sad commentary on the state of basic medicine as well as the state of my bedtime reading. Taking the latter problem first, I confess to purchasing (and devouring) the first four books of the Outlander series. I had steadfastly resisted picking up the books in the past, for mysterious reasons related to stubborn pride and lack of time, but Rob got me started on the TV series and from there my capitulation was complete.

I find the series to be diverting and non-anxiety producing. Author Diana Gabaldon makes me laugh, invites me to ponder the advances of the twenty-first century, and never creates nightmares (just the lurid fantasy or two). I'm astounded by the characters and predicaments that Gabaldon conjures. Currently, the main female character, Claire, attempts to reproduce penicillin in her rural frame house by using beef broth and stale bread as petri dishes for mold.

What Claire, a 21st-century doctor, knows about living in the boonies in 1770 is that antibiotics are magic. Without penicillin and its kin, infection can kill an individual after a minor injury or bacterial illness. Though I admire Claire's gumption in recreating Alexander Fleming's 1929 experiment, I'm truly thankful that antibiotics already exist in our time. We now have a new problem, which is the overuse of these magical meds.

When I was in my teens, I took an oral antibiotic for acne. This went on for years, and my family thought nothing of it. It worked, my dad was on a similar med for a similar reason, and scientists either didn't know about the dangers of evolving, drug-resistant bacteria, or they just weren't telling.  Fast forward three decades: I can't take antibiotics any longer without producing a head-to-toe yeast infection (including thrush, stomach, intestinal, etc.) which then requires strong and prolonged doses of anti-fungal meds.

I'm the teensiest bit irritated about this predicament, especially when I see Facebook videos on the amazing ability of bacteria to adapt and resist ever-stronger doses of antibiotics. But what really steams my pores is the continued use of antibiotics to fight acne. I went to the dermatologist on Monday with one of the kids, to ask what might be done to alleviate teenage acne. We explained the dietary changes made, the extremely careful cleansing and moisturizing rituals, the washing of pillowcases and special face cloths.  Upon conclusion of our litany, doctor said, "well, you're a candidate for oral antibiotics."  

WTF?  Thirty years later, that's all we have?  I explained that people aren't even supposed to eat chicken that was raised on antibiotics, let alone take it daily for years upon years, and the doctor shrugged. On the way home, as I ranted (calmly - I was in rush-hour traffic), my child noted, "why would they change? they're still making money on the same old stuff."  We've come so far, but - somewhere along the way - we threw common sense out with the moldy bread.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Calling is Cold

I've put off a home improvement project for over a month because I hate cold-calling. Sure, I told myself it was because I was 'busy' or that I was waiting for a call back from the one and only person that I did call (in August), but really it was fear. Fear of the phone. Phone-phobia. True story - the worst year of my life was the year I worked for a PR firm in San Francisco. Not the firm's fault, just the fact that PR people live on the phone. I came home every night and cried.

So what else do I put off for dread of the phone? Doctor's appointments, catching up with friends, siblings and friends of siblings - basically, if a task must be done on the phone, I've procrastinated on getting the job done.  The advent of texting, Evite, online calendars and patient portals vastly improved my life. Even Rob and I communicate mainly via email and Google calendar (at least during the day).

Why does a disembodied voice make my blood run cold? Well, it's hereditary. My parents are loathe to call any of us because "we might be busy," which I understand to mean, "you might answer the phone and not want to talk to us."  I get it, NOT because it's at all true (in the case of talking to my parents, anyway), but because that's how I feel when calling the plumber, electrician, tree service, etc. God forbid that they might want to take my money - that would require our spending time on the phone negotiating dates and times and job parameters.

So the '80's track lighting in the family room will undoubtedly linger into the 2020's, certain appointments (mammogram, anyone?) have been on the list for several years, and I really owe several brothers a phone call, but I thought it better to write this blog instead. The phone sits next to the computer, glaring at me, but - at least for now - it can't call anyone by itself. Ha!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mad as a Hatter

The Drama club at our elementary school used to be called MADD Hatters. I think it's just "Drama Club" now, but my son still calls it by the old name. As I redid the week's calendar to include "MADD Hatters" meeting, I reflected briefly on just how applicable the title is not only to drama club but the 21st - century whirlwind that is our life.

**Disclaimer: any hint of complaint to follow qualifies merely as a champagne problem.  Not to be confused with real issues of chronic illness, or trying to get to school through an obstacle course of Mafia hit men.**

My first-world issue: I don't have time to THINK.  In my Reader's Digest, which I skimmed briefly while searching the backyard for our runaway cat, I read that the habits of geniuses include keeping a partner or mate to manage distractions for them. Geniuses keep a rigid schedule, protect their productive mental time from the slings and arrows of gossip, current events, or household necessities, and employ the significant other to arrange calendars, meals, clothing, and children.

No wonder I can't even write a blog post!  I am that significant other - not the genius but the manager for a whole house of budding genii. I can drive to baseball, answer an algebra II question, cook dinner, and re-make the bed, but there are no brilliant thoughts emerging from the mental fog in my head - only crickets, getting louder as late summer progresses to fall.

I'd feel more resigned to my mental state if parts of my body were not also making a last curtain call: the eyes need new glasses (bifocals - already?!), the left rotator cuff is on a tear (literally), the face is breaking out (thirty years after puberty, people), and the grey hairs proliferate.

But I do have all of my teeth, and there are no Mafia or otherwise armed men blocking my kid's path to school. Despite my lack of brilliance I still plan to get my Masters in December, and my family loves me despite my being as mad as a hatter (the play this year is ironically "Alice in Wonderland". They should take the old name back.)