Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I've diagnosed my problem, doc...

Today in the NYTimes, there was a short essay on how the doctor-patient relationship has deteriorated, leaving many patients feeling neglected and unhappy. I think most people on the street could tell you they have had a bad run-in with a physician. I know I have. I've had numbness in one of my toes for over a year now. Every doctor I was seeing at the time--Three, since I was pregnant and seeing a specialist--referred me to one of the other doctors, so I was left with no explanation except that it was pregnancy related. Well, my toe is still numb every now and then, so unless I've been chosen to bear the new savior, it's not due to pregnancy.

I've also had other troubles with feeling blown-off by doctors. They will practically laugh you out of the office if you have an idea that might be different from theirs. I've got Katie on Dr. Sears' vaccination schedule, and it's completely conservative, and many doctors won't even look at it. This guy is on Oprah, folks. He ain't no crackpot!

My biggest problem has been with doctor arrogance. We tend to worship physicians as if they are geniuses. Sure, a huge percentage of my friends who went to medical school are quite intelligent. But since I know so many--I went to Johns Hopkins where at least 50% of graduates are pre-med--I also know that few, if any, deserve the genius label. Many were just looking for prestige, money, or validation. Some were blindly following their parents' wishes. And a couple really liked people and wanted to help. When I look back on high school and the folks who are now practicing, I know that they are probably the ones who smugly look at patients as if they are mere peons. My college friends I know are hard working and are probably great, but I still wonder if they've bought into the whole system of entitlement. Reading about the pharmaceutical industry and how they court physicians with money and power, I can't help but feel it's difficult for doctors to ignore the praise.

While I think the work that doctors do is important, I don't think it's that much more important than the work of sanitation workers. I've made the argument for years that a garbage man makes an equal if not more significant contribution to the welfare of society than a scholar--i'm beginning to think the same thing about other professions. We need every last one of them and yet revere only a few.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I tried the whole single mom thing...

Recently, I went to the movies with some friends who had also invited another girl. I had heard about this gal, that she was a single mother, too. Turns out that she was either getting married or had just married the baby's father. She said to me, "Yeah, I tried the whole single mom thing for a year," and then trailed off. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be proud of her or feel sorry for her. She was in the middle of packing up her entire life to move far away to live with the guy--was it love? or was it the need to connect with someone? I will never know, of course. She's gone for good.

The past eight months have been very lonely for me. I have moved away from my friends in order to be closer to my family, but with no job and no resources (like money!), it's been hard to find satisfying interaction with others like me. I've briefly spoken with some women at the library during story hour for babies, but most of them are military wives. And other single moms? I have a great friend who lives thousands of miles away, but none here who are like me. I'm even afraid to talk about it for fear of seeing "the look". It's the one that people give you when they feel sorry for you.

The only times I've ever felt sorry for myself were right after Katie was born and I had no one to take care of me despite an excruciatingly painful episiotomy and the sleepless nights that followed for weeks. The other tough times have occurred when friends asked me to go out and then were offended I had to say no...and then when friends just stopped calling. Otherwise, I've got my beautiful daughter to keep me company. And now with my job prospects looking better every day, I know things will get back to normal. Soon, I'll have the resources to meet other moms at the local indoor playground. Maybe I'll go on a date or two. Maybe one day I'll have sex again, just maybe--although I will have ample forms of protection. My biggest hope, though, is that I'll be able to provide a good example for Katie as a woman who can balance work, family, AND friends while taking full responsibility for my destiny. A mother who defines herself solely through her children --that was my mother. When we left, she had no identity and she blamed us. I do not want to fall into that trap.

Would I marry Katie's dad just because I'd "tried the whole single mom thing" and it was too hard? Nope. Marriage should be about some kind of meaningful partnership based on at least respect, friendship would be better. Love would only be icing on the cake. But just because I'm lonely? Good Lord, no. I have too much self-respect for that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

In the blink of an eye

Katie Bel is now mobile. She's been scooting around for awhile, but in the past few days, she's really started moving. Everyday, she learns a new skill. It means sleepless days and nights, but the end result is awe-inspiring.

Katie has also grown like a weed. After several months of almost no gain in height, she has grown at least 2 inches, if not more, for a grand total of 27.5 inches. She'll be going on her first date before I know it.

The hidden cost of luxury

The NYTimes reported today that some types of granite countertops, whose presence is now ubiquitous in upgraded kitchens, are contain uncomfortably high amounts of uranium, which emits radon as it decays. For those of us who live in homes with cheap landlords, we only have to worry about roaches and uninsulated attics, but those with a history of cancer or high risk for the disease might have reason to get their luxury finishes tested.

Why is it the norm to assume a substance is safe until proven otherwise? I understand that we can never prove something is safe beyond any shadow of a doubt, but when you're dealing with a natural stone mined from the Earth, I would think that wondering if it were radioactive wouldn't be that far-fetched. But one expert in the article says that they don't even know the provenance of the granite being imported into this country right now.

Lesson for now? Beware exotics, folks. It's better for the planet to stick close to home anyway. And if you're worried, get your granite tested. Maybe go with concrete for your next renovation. That's a super green kitchen finish and pretty trendy, too.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Land of Fruit and Nuts

Although it just isn't in my food budget this year to join the local CSA co-op, I plan on doing it next year, so I joined the list-serve devoted to the topic. Most of the members either subscribe to the co-op or are interested in going local, organic, and natural, so we've talked about doctors willing to go with alternative vaccination schedules, grocery stores, etc. Recently, we had a discussion on how having an organic grocery store would be great! And I agree. There is a 7th Day Adventist store nearby that offers a small inventory along with a daily cafeteria style vegan offering. The Country Life, as its called, is really quite a treat for such a small town like Columbus. However, there are days when the shelves are practically empty.

Well, one poster recommended Peachtree Natural Foods as well as Ben's Fresh Market. I've never been to Ben's, but P'tree Natural Foods is very expensive. Plus, it has no produce. The employees do not sample the goods, unlike many natural foods stores I've frequented all over the country. That tends to take away from its authenticity. It also doesn't help that the owners also run supplement-based weight-loss centers. Sends up red flags for me!

Anyway, at the same time, someone complained about the produce from the subscriptions. Several posters responded, wondering how anyone could have a problem with any of it since it's local! Here's what came about as a result (i've removed identifying information).

Hi Everyone,
I was the one who called [the organizer] to express unhappiness about the
produce. I thought some of the vegetables seemed small, the carrots
were way too small, my husband thought it was overpriced compared to
Lewis Jones organics, and we don't like southern vegetables. I have
really tried to like the okra, the turnip greens and the collards, to
name a few, but I guess because I was not raised on them, my family
and I have not been able to like them. We really did try. I love the
idea of a local,co-op farm, and natural foods. I also really love the
farmers that I have met each week at the Loft. This was one of the
hardest things to say, as I really fought with my truth and how much I
liked the people doing all the work for us. I do know how hard it is
on a farm, my husband comes from a farming family. However, it really
is not personal, it is just my experience. I am used to going to Whole
Foods in California and getting organic foods, so I suppose I have
been spoiled. I was very sad to hear about how evil some say Whole
Foods is, I have had the opposite experience.
While I am confessing these sins, I also want to say that I thought
Ben's Market was very overpriced, and I did not think the vegetables
were that fresh. The lettuce was wilted. I bought two potatoes and a
lettuce and a whole chicken, and it cost me $15.00. I don't pretend to
understand economics, but that seems to be a lot. Also the garlic was
sprouting and from Peru, so I can't see how that is local.
I am not interested in getting into a heated argument with anyone, I
try to live my life with compassion and kindness. I just needed to
express my reality about the produce. I hope this group is open to
hearing everyone's opinion about the co-op so the CSA can thrive.

Now, i'm all about varied opinions, but this letter is full-fledged whining. Just because she's seen happy faces at Whole Foods doesn't mean their business practices are sound. I bet she also thinks that Walmart employees are really pleased with their lack of health insurance. Honestly, I don't know what the official beef with WF is. However, I've spent enough time reading about corporate America that I don't trust any company "just because". I also know that the CEO of WF did not want to indicate the place of origin for their produce. hmmm....

And not liking southern vegetables is an issue that can only be solved by moving away from the South. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) co-op supports local farms, so you're not going to get other types of vegetables if you live here. Sorry.

FYI: For anyone familiar with online list-serves and message boards, the claim that you are "not interested in getting into a heated argument" is actually a provocation. Go back to California, please. All you do is drive up real estate prices here anyway.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Saving energy is for the birds

I just got another electric bill. This is after a month of sweating, running fans instead of the A/C, cutting down usage of the dryer, using less hot water...And it was exactly the same as last month's bill. Granted, it covered 3 more days than before, but I only saved a whopping $.65 a day by being miserable. What's next? Turning the a/c off? I just can't do that. GA Power did an energy audit on the house and suggested insulating the attic and getting fans. The landlord has ignored my request to insulate the attic. Do I have any legal rights regarding this matter? Anyone?

I suppose when I finally get a job--maybe soon--it won't be so bad because I can turn the thermostat to boiling temperatures during the day. In March when the lease is up, Katie and I will move to a more energy efficient place, even if it means downgrading in size. I don't really need all this space anyway.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Going Local

I just finished the book This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader by Joan Dye Gussow. Gussow outlines all of her trials and tribulations as she attempts to "go local", eating mostly what she grows, while providing recipes using much of the produce from her gardens. Although the story gets a little bogged down in the details--is the book a "how-to" on growing a garden or a narrative of her life story or what?-I gleaned some great information from it. It also has inspired me to at least try keeping to locally grown and produced items.

Unfortunately, that means I'm going to have to give up my morning smoothie if I really mean it. In the past 3 weeks or so, I have been getting in all of my fruits for the day by throwing in a banana with whatever else I got at the grocery store, whether they be strawberries, blueberries, raspberries (only once-heaven!), peaches, oranges, and mango. I put in a few tablespoons of yogurt, a shot of water from the tap, and blend, blend, blend. I've never been one to sit snacking on most fruits. It's just not a habit of mine. But I need to be a better example for my daughter. I don't want her to enjoy a High-Fructose Corn Syrup snack more than a yummy piece of fruit.

But I digress. The problem is that none of these fruits, except for the peaches, came from anywhere near Columbus, GA. All of them were shipped in from afar--thankfully nowhere foreign. Gussow says a place to start is by giving up bananas, the perpetual exotic since they don't grow except in the tropics. I don't really like bananas, but they have their place in my smoothie. Gussow tried to find a banana substitute in paw-paws, though she never had any luck actually producing them from her plants.

So what's a girl to do? For now, I'm going to at least try to stick with items that came from the East Coast. That's as local as I can do with the fruit for now. For veggies, off to the farmer's market. I'm still baking my own bread. Who knows where all the ingredients in that came from!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

These sounds delicious. I'm going to make them this week.

Update: I made the cookies. They are heavenly. I made them in three batches, one the first day, another 24 hours later, and finally again today. Not sure if waiting more than 24 hours is worth it, but they really are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever tasted. I think I've gained 5 lbs.

Dishwashing Disaster...and success

This past week has been an adventure in dishwashing. I ran out of my ultra-expensive stuff--the kind with the powder and liquid put together into a neat packet, and decided that I might as well give making my own a try. I mean, making my own laundry detergent was easy, so this can't be that hard, right?


It turns out that homemade dishwashing detergent doesn't work that well. And the recipe that everyone uses not only doesn't work that well, it SUCKS. 1 part borax to 1 part baking/washing soda. It leaves a nasty film on everything. I had to run a rinse cycle twice with vinegar to get it off. That's not too environmentally friendly, is it?

So I tried an easy alternative I found online: 1/4 c. soda and 1 T dishwashing liquid. I thought, well, I've seen how Dawn can cause the dishwasher to overflow with suds, but that only happens in the movies, right? Plus, 1 T hardly seems like a lot. Let's give it a shot. So I tried it and went to bed. About 30 minutes later, I woke up in a cold sweat, made a run for the kitchen, and witnessed half the floor covered in suds. D'oh! Again, I had to run a couple of cycles to get all the soap out of the system. Again, a waste.

Finally, I ran into another alternative on The New Homemaker. I've copied it here. Don't expect perfection, and yes, I did use the Kool-Aid instead of the citric acid, but it definitely does the job in aiding the dishwasher in sanitizing the dishes. Thanks to Lynn Siprelle of TNH.

In a plastic container with a firmly fitting lid, mix:
1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup citric acid (available in brewing stores among other places--if you haven't tracked it down yet but must try this formula, use two packets of Lemonade-Flavored Kool-Aid, ONLY lemon, or you'll dye your dishwasher! and ONLY unsweetened Kool-Aid!)
30 drops citrus essential oil--lemon, grapefruit, orange, tangerine, or a mixture

Put all of it in the container, shake it up.

I have decided that for the stuff I use, I'm going to do my best to handwash from now on. Katie's stuff goes in the dishwasher. But this mixture saved me lots of dough, so I don't feel so guilty!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Too cute


Research has shown that even a free pen given to a doctor by a drug company can make the doc feel obligated to write more prescriptions for that particular drug. Finally, something is being done, and it's actually a voluntary agreement on the drug companies' part. More action is necessary, especially when it comes to so-called consulting fees that doctors receive to market drugs, but this is a start.

Here's the article on how drug companies won't be handing out that free stuff anymore.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Homemade Laundry Detergent

In an effort to save money and maybe even help the environment a little, I have started making my own laundry detergent. Here's the recipe:

1 cup Grated Soap
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Washing Soda

For the soap, some people use Ivory, others use Fels Naphtha, and I used Zote. I found it at Big Lots for about $.80 a bar. It's bright pink! I used the food processor to grate the soap, first with the grater attachment and then with the regular blade. You have to make sure the pieces of soap are small enough that they'll dissolve in the wash. Borax and Washing Soda are available at the grocery store. Even podunk Columbus had it at the Publix.

Use 1 Tablespoon per load. 2 Tablespoons if it's really dirty stuff. Be forewarned that you want to put the soap in first and blast it with hot or warm water for a few moments before switching to cold if you're doing a cold load. Then put in the clothes. Also, this mixture doesn't suds up. And finally, I put vinegar in a downy fabric softener dispenser so it goes through the rinse. That leaves the clothes fresh feeling and also soft! Yet another great use for vinegar.

The only time I don't use this homemade concoction is when I'm washing cloth diapers. I haven't been brave enough because I'm afraid of the potential buildup. Therefore, I'm still using my tiny bit of Purex for the diapers.

So it really is cheaper to use this method. Most people, of course, use too much detergent in general, so just cutting back could be helpful as well.

How to Freecycle the wrong way

I first heard about Freecycle on my birth board over on Babycenter.com. I thought it would be a great way to find some free baby stuff while also allowing me to give away some of Katie's old things. In Atlanta, the Freecycle group I joined was tightly moderated with post requirements and frequent notes from the group owners reminding us to be courteous and generous. And so I gave away about $600 worth of maternity clothes in the middle of the night by throwing them over the gate to a middle-aged woman, a whole mess of diapers and newborn sized clothing to a foster parent, and a vacuum to a small family in a beat-up van. How much did I receive? Nada. In order to get one of the many offerings on Freecycle, you must be glued to the computer and answer all posts immediately. I tried to get all sorts of things, but was never fast enough. Or maybe I didn't have a heart-breaking story to go along with my request. When I offered items, I'd say half the responses were "for a friend in need". Hmmm....wonder about that.

Now that I'm in Columbus, I am canceling my membership to the Freecycle community here. It really should be called something like "Cheapskate cycle" or "Freelunchcycle" or "Creepcycle". No one offers anything but ancient mattresses and unwanted pets, something the Atlanta group did not allow. All of the posts are WANT posts. Sure it's allowed, but certainly frowned upon. This week there have been requests for clothes, designer pets, whole houses worth of furniture, and even cars. I have a feeling most of these people aren't successful, but I am appalled by it. I've given away some baby items and a gallon of bleach. Hardly pricey items, but I was one of only a few offering anything at all.

Note to self: never offer bleach again. I got a response from a woman who was going to walk all the way from Phenix City, Alabama, to pick it up. Weird, huh? Well, she came to pick it up the next day, somehow bumming a ride, and I knew immediately why she was willing to walk for free bleach. She was probably a meth addict. I've seen pictures of what meth does to people. It had not even crossed my mind that a cleaner would be used for nefarious purposes. Makes me very sad.

Crying baby alert. More later.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More on this later, but so I don't forget, this is a forwarded email related to home births. I haven't experienced one myself, though several of my friends have had the joy of laboring and delivering at home.

I wanted to draw your attention to this important petition that I recently signed:

"Keep Home Birth Legal"

I really think this is an important cause, and I'd like to encourage you to add your signature, too. It's free and takes less than a minute of your time.


A New Year

In three days, I'll be 28 years old. Every time my dad mentions this fact, I remind him that he is my Dad. He looks at me and says, "Damn! How old am I, then?" And now that he is a grandfather, he wonders if that makes him old. I wonder the same thing about myself.

We have a tradition in our family to go to the Japanese Steakhouse--named as such since it could be Benihana or any of its competitors--eat until we're going to explode, drink a little too much, and then ask the question to whoever is celebrating: What have you learned in the past year?

This year, I'm not sure what to say. It might be that the past twelve months have been the most spectacular, frightening, enlightening, and otherwise life-changing months I have ever experienced. I have watched my baby brother become a man as he navigates both a new marriage as a husband and a submarine as a nuclear engineer. I have gotten drastically closer and more distant with various family members, including my father and mother, my step-family, and even my half-sisters. I have left academia, an environment both intoxicating and frustrating, so that I can pursue more meaningful, albeit currently unknown, work. And most importantly, I have given birth to my daughter Katherine Bel, this precious little girl who makes me laugh, confuses me, needs me, whom I love more than anything or anyone I've ever known.

Katie Bel is now 8 months old, trying to crawl and communicate more and more each day. She has taught me patience by crying for almost three months straight, gratitude by being healthy, generosity by demanding everything I have...the list goes on and on. I'm not sure I was worth much to the human race before my daughter leaped into my life. But now, I think I have something to offer other people, whether it's knowledge, laughter, anger, or support. And it only took me 28 years.