Archive for December, 2012

There’s snow on the ridgeline this morning. I’m back in my mountain home after 10 hours on the road with my 4 month old Bug and her parents. She did well for about 7 hours with many stops, which is 1 hour more than my limit in a car. And yesterday I did the hand off to the other set of grandparents for their New Year’s week visit. In the midst of this transition, after my long stretch of babysitting, I had a nightmare.

The Bride was leaning back on the balcony of a large white iconic building (hospital?) and she fell slowly over the edge. I watched incredulously but could not reach her in time. When I looked over, she was hanging on by her fingertips. “Help her!” I yelled at Bob and then promptly woke up in a sweat. She had worked 5 straight nights in a row (including Christmas Eve and Christmas) and before that, 4 daytime shifts. Shift work takes its toll on a body, just ask any nurse or police officer.

“Society is oriented toward traditional daytime work hours and work at night will often intensify fatigue and reduce alertness. Workers generally will not acclimate to night work, and sleep patterns will generally be disrupted so the non-work periods do not provide full recovery, resulting in sleep deprivation. Studies suggest that it can take up to 10 days to adapt to a night time work schedule.” http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/faq_longhours.html

When I was writing about normal holiday stress, I didn’t factor in having to change your circadian rhythm or nursing a 4 month old baby. I always joked that Bob became a director because he didn’t want to work nights; only it’s not a joke. He won’t do nights, he sleeps…at night. If he met a doc who wanted to work nights, he would hire him/her immediately. Keep this in mind future EM residents, if you are a night owl, you have an advantage.

Naturally, the Love Bug is off her schedule. Babies will change it up just when you figure it out, but this little nugget has been in 2 different homes the last few days and her mama was away many nights and sleeping-in many mornings. I tried to explain it all to her, I told her that she can be very proud of her mommy for saving lives. I told her that things will get better in the New Year. Her daddy and I did our best to play guitar and sing her to sleep at night. Hang on baby girl. Our country may sail over a cliff, but your mama is on solid ground.

My big news of Christmas week is the birth of 2 brand new baby girls! Congratulations and welcome to the world Great Nieces’ Francesca Lynn and Evan Margot. Have a very happy and healthy New Year everyone!

Read Full Post »

Someone once told me that you have to live in a place for at least 10 years before it becomes home. When I was young, I called Victory Gardens home. It was a development in NJ for the support staff that worked at an arsenal during WWII. It was meant to be temporary; four rooms and one bath made out of concrete. We lived on Washington Avenue, all the streets were named after presidents. I would dream about this house for years, because this is where I learned what love is.

When you marry an Emergency Physician, you also learn to love moving. It was never easy. I’ve made friends in other states that will never be replaced, the kinds of friends who know where the spoons are in your kitchen. Women who would supply all the flowers and food for the Rocker’s bris without ever asking or saying a word about it. Women who would show up to escort an au pair to the train station, thereby saving her from physical harm and me from an arrest record.

And I learned to love each place. The snowy farmhouse at the edge of a bird sanctuary in the Berkshires. The brick, mid-century modern between two rivers on the Jersey Shore. And I’m learning to love my view of the Blue Ridge, on the cusp of Mr Jefferson’s Monticello and his Academical Village. This is the place where the Bride met her Groom and now the next generation is just beginning. They are making their home in the Music City and the Rocker and Ms Cait are feathering a new nest after super storm Sandy.

“Home” is the best gift we can give our children. That feeling that we belong, that we are loved unconditionally. It doesn’t matter where we find ourselves today. We were all tucked in our beds, in TN, VA and NJ. Well except for the Bride. Santa found her anyway. Wishing you all a warm and lovely Christmas.

Read Full Post »

While I was searching for some old pictures, I pulled down a big Frye boot box from the top of my closet. Inside I discovered the purple sweater that my Nana knit, probably around the turn of the last century. It was chock full of cables, an Aryan style, and since I knew it was a tight fit at 16, almost six decades later I didn’t have to try it on. I want to give it to the Bride; and I want to teach the Love Bug how to knit like a laidback knitter when she gets older!

Yesterday I walked into the Haus of Yarn in search of a certain size needle and walked out with this book, “10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters, A Guide to Holistic Knitting, Yarn and Life,” by Vicki Stiefel and Lisa Souza. Post Christmas sales were in the air, (as in, “Come back on Wednesday when everything is half off”) and a woman was delivering a big box from Nothing Bundt Cakes, http://www.nothingbundtcakes.com I love this knitting store, they had fudge in the back and invited me to their Thursday night knit club. Back to the book, there are all different kinds of knitters, on a spectrum from the up-tight anxious type seeking perfection all the way to someone who knits in a recliner and doesn’t mind a dropped stitch.

I have to admit, I don’t like making mistakes, but I’m aware that what I want to be is a laidback knitter. And now I know how! I may never do any spinning or roving, but I do know where most of the yarn I use comes from. And I can still walk down the road to the Rivanna River Alpaca farm and say “Hey” to my friend DeeDee. Her animals make the softest fiber in the world. Thanks to The Knitting Lady, I don’t fear dropping stitches or even ripping out rows of wool with abandon. I can say with satisfaction, I am the slowest knitter ever! “Slow” in the sense of the slow food movement; and to be fair, in the sense of time spent on a project…

Have a slow moving Sunday y’all. As our President said, “Drink some eggnog.” I’m working on a rosy pink dress for my little Bout de Chou – translation “tiny piece of cauliflower!” I intend to keep knitting…and writing about gun control, in light of the tone deaf statements of the NRA. Let’s bring our voices to Washington via petitions, phone calls and those really hard to ignore, snail mail letters. Slow and steady will win this race.
photo copy

Read Full Post »

Here I am, inbetween the Love Bug’s morning nap and her Mama coming home from a night shift at the hospital. It’s raining so I guess there will be no trip in the Big Bob stroller to the bagel store for lunch. The diapers were all washed (yes, she wears real cloth diapers) and put away with care, in hopes that St Nick will visit the Music City and find this new, wee one. It’s stranger still that I wrote about holiday stress right before the unthinkable shooting in CT, and now it feels like happiness may be harder to come by this holiday season for the whole country. Why did I turn on CNN this morning to hear that some savvy business is selling bullet-proof backpacks? And others are talking about teaching teachers to handle a gun. So along with learning how to administer an EpiPen shot for the occasional peanut allergy, who thinks we should require teachers to attend a shooting range?

Let’s give ourselves a break – a news break and a happiness boost. This is a short and sweet article about the 5 things you can do to increase your happiness. Or rather, the five mistakes people make; the lies we tell ourselves in order to achieve some sort peace. So by inverse reasoning, you should be able to just stop doing these things and smile. I was intrigued to find there is just one lie I tell myself:

#3 “It shouldn’t be work!”

I’m not happy because it’s just too darn hard to be happy. The author, Amy Shearn talks about her friend who is very Eeyore-like, “…terrible things befall her constantly, confirming her belief that the world is a grim place. Her Eeyore-ish, “Oh bother”-ness is so much a part of her that she seems to think happiness is simply not for her, as if some people were just Eeyores and some were just Pooh Bears (happy, simple, kind of dumb).”
So it’s good to remember that happiness actually takes some work, keeping up with our friends – and not just texting them. Taking time to help those in need – like the therapy dogs that walked into Newton and stole their hearts. Just getting out of our own heads for a time will improve any old rainy day!

The Bride has returned and when I told her I was writing about happiness, she smiled at me and said, “Like being a Grandmother?” So true baby girl!! photo

Here are the other 4 lies:
1) Happiness will come after my big success
2) My happiness comes in a box from Amazon
3) Happy people never quit
4) There’s no point in asking the universe for what I want

Read Full Post »

It’s that time of year. Flu season. The Love Bug’s nanny doesn’t believe in vaccinations – or flu shots – I know. So I’m starting my Christmas love fest with the Grand Baby a little early. I packed the car, finished up an audio book, and rolled into the Music City just in time to see her waking up from a nap! Image

And this old reporter is taking a news sabbatical. I’m happy to hear that the President and Congress may be revisiting that assault weapon ban. That Morning Joe has had a change of heart. That Dick’s Sporting Goods are pulling some of their guns off the shelves. Sixteen year olds at Columbine, twenty-somethings in Blacksburg; but the tipping point had to be 6 year olds in Newtown. My Tangerine Tango editor, Lisa Winkler, was a beat reporter in Danbury, CT. Her blog post hit home for me. http://cyclingrandma.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/newtown-ct-my-town-your-town-our-town/

On my way across TN, I stopped at a Drive-Thru of Christmas Lights extraordinaire, and of course took an Instagram picture for my family followers.Image

Still reading some news today (sworn off TV news), I read this:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20767537

“Facebook’s photo-sharing site Instagram has updated its privacy policy giving it the right to sell users’ photos to advertisers without notification. Unless users delete their Instagram accounts by a deadline of 16 January, they cannot opt out.”

Seems more and more like we are living in an Orwellian world. 


Read Full Post »

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?”

But I don’t want to know his name
Or that he wore combat armour
That he lived with his mother
Or they seemed like a normal family

I don’t want to know the number
The size or make of the guns
Or that there will be 20 brighter
Stars in heaven this Christmas

I don’t want to know “Why”
What motivated a man to
Wake up one morning and
Cowardly mow down children

Because it doesn’t matter
All that doesn’t begin to explain
The unexplainable or to stem
The tide of grief and anguish
Still to come in this nightmare

What matters is that we
Wake Up
And take a collective sigh
And make gun violence a priority

“And if I am only for myself, then what am I?”
“The signatures on this petition represent a collective demand for a bipartisan discussion resulting in a set of laws that regulates how a citizen obtains a gun.”

Our society will always have mentally ill people; they will go to a classroom at VA Tech or Columbine High School, they will walk into a shopping mall or a movie theatre. They will get into a taxi, then stroll into a parking lot and shoot a congresswoman. I must be crazy to think that the overwhelming factor in this national carnage isn’t the shooter – so let’s lock all our doors and live in fear, and btw let’s arm ourselves?

NO, the problem is GUNS…the abundance of guns in our country and their easy access. The United States loses 87 people a day to gun violence. Yesterday we lost 27 people in a small New England town, including the shooter and his mother. Let’s not play the blame game, and ask how he got into the school, or if somebody heard his threats. Without those guns in his hands, he would have injured his mother, with a knife or a heavy object or his own hands, and maybe, just maybe that would have been all? We place second in the world to gun ownership per citizen, next to Yemen.

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” Rabbi Hillel

Read Full Post »

We’ve all heard of seasonal workers, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) when you live, say in England, and rarely see the sun. Well seasonal stress disorder (SSD) should get its very own ICD9 code. For the non-medical reader, these are the letters and numbers that correspond to a diagnosis your doctor provides you and your health insurance system with – then someone at a desk decides if the doctor (or NP or PA) gets paid. Simple as that. I imagine that depression gets its own ICD9 code, with all its reasoning and corresponding symptoms, but the stress of everyday life? Probably not so much.

Starting with the Thanksgiving day bird that needs stuffing, and quickly moving on to the next day…the Blackest of Shopping Fridays…the push is on to get going:
Deck the halls and drag out or cut down a tree;
Find our buy ornaments;
Decorate the tree and serve eggnog;
Bake cookies;
Mail holiday cards:
Attend parties;
Act happy.

And it’s the “acting happy” part if you’re feeling blue that can hurt. I don’t want to be all Scrooge about it, but even if you’re a reasonably sane person for most of the year, the stress of added or forced jubilation coupled with going into debt to serve a consumer-driven culture during the last six weeks of the year can squeeze the joy out of a season that’s truly all about giving. According to this article, 90% of doctor visits are due to stress-related problems. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/29/reduce-stress-real-life-tips-that-really-work_n_2204938.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009#slide=1814158 So how to avoid burn-out in a nutshell when we’re getting down to the wire? Easy. Put on the brakes and give yourself permission to relax:
Take a walk, preferably with your dog; EXERCISE
Take a bath, or better yet, jump into a hot tub; STAY WARM
Write down 3 things you are grateful for; THINK POSITIVELY
Help someone else who needs help; ACT KINDLY
Watch a funny movie LAUGH
Learn to love chaos ACCEPT YOURSELF
(ie give up perfection or trying to live a “clutter-free” life)

Where have you gone Betsy Ford? OK, maybe that last part is more mine than yours, but studies show that putting a smile on your face makes the brain trick the mind into feeling happy. Most moms today are working AND trying to do all of the above Christmas-related chores which would drive anyone nuts, IMHO (which I just learned means “in my humble opinion”) but if you use this too much are you really humble? Just heard Deepak Chopra say that babies learn very early on whether life is going to be “Yummy or Yucky.” So I’m starting my NEW New Year’s List
and it’s not about the good the bad and the ugly with resolutions galore to add up to more stress. It’s simply a reading list and Chopra’s new book “Super Brain” will be on it. Here’s a little brain test – can you tell which card doesn’t belong? I forgot, along with keeping Santa, I also do “Merry Everything” cards, which is much easier with Shutterfly. There’s Betsy upper left, my Rumson Clutter Counselor.
photo copy

Answer key: The new 2013 card of the Love Bug is nestled in last year’s display. Don’t worry, I’m archiving the old to make way for the new. Make it a perfectly yummy holiday and Happy Hanukka to all my Jewish friends and family…is it easier or harder when Hanukka comes so early? Answer key: Easier!

Read Full Post »

Call me crazy, but I’m a little befuddled by the “Right-to-Work” movement. Union members are swarming over the Michigan State House, protesting the bills that were introduced during a lame duck session last week seeking to strip unions of their power. “Proponents say the measure would bring more jobs and economic benefits to Michigan, while opponents say the laws are designed to weaken unions and would lead to lower wages.” The Governor said to BBC news, “This is about being pro-worker.”

If passed, Michigan would become the 24th Right-to-Work state. My Great Grandmother helped to unionize coal mines in PA, after losing one husband after another to mine accidents. I understand their historic significance. I also believe that police and firefighters will not have a choice in Michigan today, they will continue to belong to their unions. I guess legislators don’t want to take on those union members. Two school districts have closed around Lansing in order for their teachers to be present at the vote later today.

I’ve had two close and personal encounters with unions. One when I was teaching pre-school at a Head Start program in Jersey City. Some heavy playground equipment was delivered early one morning when I was taking the 6 am shift, alone for an hour. The trucker said he could not help me get the equipment off the truck! That wasn’t his job. So we had to wait around until more teachers and aides showed up so we could gingerly unload the boxes. It was an “Aha” moment for me. The second time was before I started student teaching, I was unaware that I would automatically be signed up for the teacher’s union.

And that seemed wrong to 20+ me then, that I didn’t have the choice. Most likely I would have joined. But I also felt that if teachers’ wanted to gain respect and higher wages, if they wanted their jobs to be viewed as a “profession,” then wouldn’t a union be unnecessary? It’s a conundrum, supposedly the union keeps the superintendents from filling jobs with his cronies, but it also tends to keep incompetent teachers in the classroom.

The President has said that Right-to-Work bills are about giving you the right to work for less money. I tend to agree. So many of our manufacturing jobs have shipped overseas because of the cost of doing business in this country. We no longer employ children, our sweat shops have closed and unions help American garment workers earn a living wage; which is why Walmart has its clothes made in China, or Indonesia, or Vietnam.

I would always include a gift of Lenox fine china when I sent a gift overseas, because it was made in Trenton, NJ. No longer, after many mergers and acquisitions even Lenox is made in China.

But wait, there is one Lenox plant left in the states – in Kinston, NC. A Right-to-Work state.

Read Full Post »

Tis the season. Cookie baking is in full swing and potato pancakes are about to be fried all over the world. Usually I dread this time of year. I gave up Christmas when I married Bob and tried to make Hanukka fun, while keeping some of my tradition – latke parties, M&M dreidel games, Santa delivering a present on Christmas morning. Santa was the one childhood memory I would not do without. But when I happily brought the young Bride to her very first Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, I gave up. Her reaction as we left the theatre, was sobbing about how there was absolutely NO mention of Hanukka anywhere! Christmas wins every time.

But this year it’s getting better. I’ve given up the fight for a religion-neutral holiday season. I smile when strangers wish me a “Merry Christmas.” I will even say it right back at them. And I won’t be alone while Bob goes off to save lives. This year I’ll be taking care of the Love Bug while the Bride and her Groom are busy saving lives. I’ll have a comrade in arms, literally!

The Emergency Department (yes everyone, it’s a department, not a room according to Bob) Holiday party was last night, and everyone had a genuinely good time. I met a chatty cardiologist and a new NP from Alaska, jumped for joy with a fellow author/nurse who is about to be published (Bravo Pat!), patted the pregnant belly of the best mom/NICU nurse/friend, and danced my little feet off. The food was good and the wine was served in very small glasses. The only hitch came when we were playing a memory game, and Bob thought the picture of a Christmas tree ornament looked like a bomb. Well in his defense it was round, with a string.

I’ve ordered some actual paper pictures to be printed at CVS for the Ireland Christmas package, and I found this one of the Rocker and Aunt Cait, so I had to include it here. Peaceful wishes for a happy holiday season y’all! photo

Read Full Post »

Progress. It’s here to stay; technology races further ahead than most of us can imagine. How to stay at the cutting edge, how to know what’s next. Should we get the smaller “Tablet,” the thinner “Laptop?” One of my first newspaper articles in the 80s came about because I was tending a wood stove while Bob was carting his first “At-Home” computer up the stairs to his office. The juxtaposition of these two events piqued my funny bone. Bob likes to tell the story of the man who sold buggy whips.

He made the best, most beautiful buggy whips around. Just the right length, real leather, with handles that were oh, so ergonomically correct. The problem was it was 1896 and Henry Ford had built his first Quadricycle. You can see what’s coming, right? “And as the Quadricycle began to attract public attention, investors were intrigued. With the backing and influence of the mayor of Detroit, Henry Ford incorporated his first automobile company, the Detroit Automobile Company, in 1899. It had a short life, but Henry Ford’s career as an automaker had begun.” Who wants to be the buggy whip guy at the dawn of the automobile age?

Warning – Bob stop reading now! I just heard about a book I think I’ll be stuffing in Bob’s Hanukka stocking. “The Disappearance of Darkness” by Robert Burley http://darkness.robertburley.com is about the end of the analog photography era. When we were first married, Bob always longed for a dark room in any house we looked at. It didn’t have to be much, maybe a closet, a place where my amateur photographer could develop his film. It seems truly amazing that in the last 7 years Eastman Kodak has gone from being a top Fortune 500 company to a buggy whip. Steve Jobs was the Ford of our day.

Video stores and record stores are closing, maybe even bookstores? When you can make a memory book of photos for a Great Grandma, then type a little more and have my holiday cards done sealed and delivered (thank you Shutterfly); if our music can come from a cloud, what’s next?

photo copy

photo copy 2

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: