Friday, July 30, 2010

This One Or This One?

I went for my annual eye exam today, and by "annual" I mean every three or four years. One of the reasons I had been putting it off for so long is that I needed to find a new eye doctor. Because things didn't work out with the one I originally chose when I moved to North Carolina. I only picked her because of the close proximity of her office to my house. (Any closer and she would have been operating out of my garage.) And, really, what other factors do you consider when picking an ophthalmologist? It's not like you go around scouting out who has the coolest eye charts.

Well, it turns out, that for me, there's one other consideration I now make. Does the doctor speak English? Because it was ultimately my inability to overcome the language barrier that led to the dissolution of my previous eye doctor/sight-challenged person relationship. But, before I start coming off like some kind of ethnocentric bigot, which I'm not, I would like to point out that I was completely open to the idea of a foreign eye doctor. I understand that American eyes probably work the same as Russian ones, but after struggling through that hour long initial eye exam and contact lens fitting with this woman, I was so stressed out I needed a cigarette. AND I DON'T EVEN SMOKE! (And, for the record, never have or will.)

Any eye exam is stressful enough with that whole "this one or this one" test that takes as long as the S.A.T.s and is almost as difficult. Because, most of the time, I can't see any difference whatsoever in option one or option two. But, I've learned, they won't just let you say, "Pass", or even "Can we skip this one and come back to it later?" I usually just pick one at random so we can move on. Though, sometimes, in an effort to give my best optical performance, I'll take it very seriously and debate at length on each choice, saying, "Let me see the first one again." Mmmm. "Okay, back to the second one." Hmmm? "One more time?" Eventually, the eye doctor caves and says, "So, not much difference in those for you?" EXACTLY!

But then try doing this exam and other eyesight evaluating activities with someone who's first, nor second, nor third language is English. I never even knew if we were still choosing between options one and two or had moved on to options three or four. Or possibly even pyat and shest. I never knew what she was asking me to do because I couldn't understand anything she said. During the contact lens fitting, she told me that one brand I was considering was good because I could even wear them if I got kidnapped! I do not exaggerate when I say it took me almost five minutes to figure out she was saying "You could even wear them if you took catnap." And that was the end of that relationship.

Today I saw a new ophthalmologist who was a lot easier to communicate with. For instance, he understood that the accuracy of my prescription would be a bit of a crap shoot because I not only saw no difference between "this one and this one", but I also did not possess the mental faculties or patience to make educated guesses on the subject.

But, at least today, after completing my eye exam, I got to go back out and pick something from the treasure box. New glasses! I forewarned my husband that this purchase would be taking place today, because I've had the same pair of glasses since our troops left for Iraq. I needed new lenses to match my current prescription and new frames to match our current fashion trends.

I perused the racks of frames, with total disregard to brand or price, and chose about ten pair that were cute and I wanted to try on. One of the optometrist's assistants sat down with me as I tried them on. I organized them in sets of two and then modeled the pairs as I berated her with the "this one or this one" question that they're so fond of around there. When we got to pair #8, it was game over. Those were the ones, no question. I pulled them off and unfurled the tiny price tag. $320.oo!!!

I made no attempt to disguise my sticker shock as I passed (basically threw) them to her and said, "Am I seeing that right? Three-hundred and twenty dollars?" There was at least some possibility that I wasn't, since I was sitting in that chair due to my inability to see right. She said, "Yes. They're Gucci and those," she pointed to a thin quarter inch strip of sparkles on the side, "are real Swarovski crystals." Okay? Well, "Do they offer this pair without the bling?" She walked over to the appropriate section then returned and said, "No. Sorry." So I requested she, "Show me something less expensive, like a seeing eye dog, maybe." She did and I really liked them. I won't say love because my heart still belonged to Gucci.

The ones I bought were half the price, so when I came home to share my receipt with my husband, I expected congratulations not a conniption fit. But, when he was questioning my powers of restraint, I climbed up on that high horse with him and said "I almost bought a pair with Swarovski crystals, but decided I would sacrifice so our family could buy groceries this month." He rolled his eyes and I thought to myself that he would really regret overreacting if I do in fact get kidnapped!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Inconvenient Injuries

So, the jury’s still out on whether or not my jaw is fractured. My family doctor thought it might be, so she sent me to get x-rays yesterday. My arm looked so rough that the nice lady at the radiology clinic took some pictures of it, too, on the house. Of course, she owed me a favor after she touched and manipulated my sore jaw so much that I was considering breaking hers.
My family doctor also instructed me to take some time off of all strenuous activity for a couple of days, so that my left bicep could heal. I wanted to clarify that running was still okay, but she said, no, because it was too jarring. I was thinking if I run more, there would be less of me to jar around, so it was somewhat counterintuitive. (Don’t get to use that word every day.) And three miles never killed anyone, so I went for a careful jog this morning. But, I did decide to take a break from other strenuous activities, like laundry, dishes, and making my bed.
I get to return to boot camp tomorrow, where our instructors continue to experiment with ways to make us scream and nearly pass out. The low point in Tuesday’s class was when we had to get in a plank position and jump our feet forward then re-extend. Sounds rough, right? Well, it gets worse! We had to perform this circus act all the way across the gym! I made it six inches from the finish line and face-planted. It took everything I had just to drag myself the rest of the way. But, for the record, I had a fractured jaw, bruised bicep, and two hours of sleep the night before. And, for a different record, I’d really appreciate it if the custodial staff would mop the gym floor with something in a peppermint flavor next time.
I would be remiss not to point out that the class is so intense that we’ve not only lost classmates, but one of the instructors seems to have dropped out, as well. Of course, I’m only assuming they dropped out, maybe they succumbed to their injuries. I’ve never seen the investigators on C.S.I. find a body and determine the cause of death to be hamstringulation or tricepitis, but I guess it’s possible. Maybe I should send out a search party? I’d go myself, but I’m fighting off a bad case of gym floor poisoning.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What Constitutes An Emergency?

What does a broken jaw feel like, exactly? I can deduct the “it hurts” part on my own, but wouldn’t a bruised one hurt, too? The thing is I’m not a big fan of emergency rooms and even though it’s two in the morning and I’m awake and abusing over-the-counter pain medications, I’m still hoping my jaw will rally and I can avoid professional medical intervention. In general, I’m the complete opposite of a hypochondriac, which, for the record, is not hyperchondriac because that’s not a word. Basically, I wait out injuries and illnesses far beyond the point any rational person would. For the most part, it’s worked out for me. But there are a couple of times that it hasn’t. (Don’t worry; I’ll come back to how I might have broken my jaw.)

The first time I really underestimated an injury was in college when I broke my finger playing flag football. I didn’t know I had broken my finger and I not only finished the game, but kept trying to pull my finger back out like the joint was jammed. And, yes, that hurt, and I think I probably even screamed, but I don’t seek emergency attention unless I’m one hundred percent certain there’s an emergency. For instance, I would only consider a headache an emergency if it was a partial decapitation.

The broken finger was on my left hand, so I was able to function normally while it healed. I use the terms “healed” and “function normally” loosely, as it’s a stretch to call what my finger did healing and calling any part of my college life functioning normally would be an even bigger stretch. This “healing” was a month long process that involved a kaleidoscope of bruise colors and ultimately left me with a slightly disfigured middle finger because it grew back together wrong. So, in that case, I should’ve walked off the field and gone to the emergency room, but we won the game that night, and that was almost a fair trade for one measly broken finger.

Once, I had a sinus infection for almost four weeks, and knew that I had one, but didn’t want to pony up a co-pay and find a babysitter just so my family doctor could touch my forehead and eye sockets while I said, “Ow!” Eventually, it got so bad I couldn’t lie down. That was probably a defensive mechanism in my body that was preventing the infection from traveling to my brain and killing me. Of course, if my body was that good at defense, why did it let my stupid sinuses get infected in the first place? I eventually caved and went in to collect my prize of two full weeks of antibiotics.

And then there was the time I let myself get so severely dehydrated that the admitting nurse at the ER couldn’t get a blood pressure on me, at all. She freaked out and I got to go straight back, which is a bonus in the emergency room game. My organs were starting to shut down just a smidge, which explained some of my excruciating pain, but they eventually got me all fixed up and sent me on my way. I really tried to avoid going that time, too, but staring down the grim reaper left me no choice.

So, here I am, in the middle of the night writing a blog when I can’t even close my mouth normally. And I’m dreading how tired I’ll feel tomorrow during my exercise boot camp. I might be able to hold myself in a side plank position, as the jaw muscle is the only one you don’t use for that, but there will be no counting out loud during push-ups, so my drill sergeant CAN HEAR ME! Because, in the most depressing admission of my life, I don’t think I’ll be able to talk tomorrow. Actually, this may be what constitutes an emergency.

But you’re probably still wondering how I potentially broke my jaw. Well, I was playing basketball again with my friend, E. Some of you were privileged enough to see the enormous bruise that she left on my bicep two weeks ago. Undeniably, the worst bruise of my entire life and possibly the worst bruise I’ve ever seen on anyone. It was positioned just right so that people who didn’t know me did a double take to see what my tattoo was of. (It was a large rendering of busted veins, not the state of Alaska.) Some strangers who took note of it had really concerned looks on their faces and I just knew that my husband was probably going to get picked up by the police. He didn’t. Though if I went into the emergency room tonight with that baseball-sized bruise still healing on my arm and a freshly broken jaw, I don’t like his chances. Because who would believe that a 32-year-old mother of three got two serious injuries in one month playing basketball with her friend?

Maybe I can wait it out a few days. I have to admit I’m kind of stoked that I can’t chew at all because I really need to drop these last ten pounds and there’s nothing like a liquid diet to give you a boost in the weight loss department. And since I think emergency rooms are where people go when their arms have been sawed off in construction accidents or they have bullets in their person, I’ll just try the ibuprofen, Tylenol dance for now. I’m normally not a medicine taker either, but with some recent sports and running injuries along with muscle soreness I’ve made quite a dent in my price club sized bottle of ibuprofen. It’s become a staple of my diet, really. But, I don’t think pervasive use of 200 milligram Motrin requires an intervention or treatment at a methadone clinic or anything. I’m pretty sure the best prescription for me would be to act my age. Maybe I should be inside baking cookies instead of taking shoulders to the jaw in a raucous game of driveway basketball? Well, not this week, though, because I can’t chew.

I think I'll save this and post it in the morning because sometimes things seem a lot funnier in the middle of the night than they really are, and I'm under the influence of a lot of Tylenol. Who knows, maybe I'll take my injuries more seriously in the morning when I'm pureeing my cereal in the blender, so that I can drink it through a straw.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Forgive Me My Chocolate Trespasses. . .

Today was the first day of Boot Camp. Not to be confused with Boat Camp, which is what my reading novice son inquired about when he saw it listed on the calendar. I had to explain that it was “BOOT” camp, and that it had nothing to do with boats (or boots either, for that matter). Which is unfortunate, because I love boots and I am completely open to going out on a nice boat two days a week. So, what is it then? Well, officially, boot camp is the intense period of training that soldiers endure when they join the armed services. Their bodies are strengthened and their minds are conformed. For us civilians, it’s basically a modern-day torture device, popularly used in the summer months, where we are punished for our crimes involving carbohydrates and cream sauces. Basically, I’m paying to be reprimanded twice a week for the next five weeks. Reminding me, yet again, that I was born in the wrong era. Why does thin have to be in? Why can’t we bring fat back?
Until someone answers that dilemma, I’m doing my best to blend in with the moderately-fit crowd. I exercise regularly and feel serious Judeo-Christian guilt over indulgences like ice cream. And, I do questionable things like enlist in exercise boot camp. When I walked into the gymnasium today, there was a huge camouflage sign with the words BOOT CAMP 2010 written on it, flanked by two Army-esque white stars. It was almost cute, except it was a little frightening. Especially when viewed alongside the three uber-fit instructors wearing camouflage tank tops and black shorts, their toned arms and cellulite-free legs taunting me from across the room. Once I saw them garnishing their necks with whistles, I started looking for the nearest exit. I didn’t leave; I just wanted to know where it was in case of emergency. Like if the paramedics who had to come and peel me off the floor needed directions.
The class started off okay, with a little jogging for a warm-up. This was very agreeable to me since I’m a runner. Next we moved onto jumping jacks, which are far less agreeable to me. I have the cardio wherewithal to handle those, but I think my knee joints are hand-me-downs. Because even though I’ve only had them 32 years, they feel like they’ve been around at least four score. (That’s eighty years for those of you that don’t speak Abraham Lincoln). I may have to do modified jumping jacks, which I hate to do because I think they make me look like I rode in on the short bus, but if I’m not careful with my antique knees I’ll be riding in on a wheelchair and that’s not going to help me achieve any of my goals, except the goal of getting great parking spots. Jumping jacks are also not my fave because I have the pelvic floor muscles of a woman who’s had three kids. If you know what I mean, you have my sympathies, if you don’t, you have my envy.
Next we moved onto some cardio interval training. This wasn’t too bad either. I especially liked the kickboxing moves we worked on. I’m almost hoping for a surprise attack, so I can pummel my assailant with my fierce upper cut and jab and then take him down with a nice sidekick. He’ll be distracted by me doing everything in an eight count, an eight count I will vocalize for fear of being sentenced to push-ups because the instructor CAN’T HEAR YOU!
After we prepared ourselves for all the hand-to-hand combat that we housewives face virtually every day, on our missions to places like the supermarket and the library, we moved on to some drills. This portion of the class went a little slow for me because we were on teams and had to wait for our turn. And, yes, I know there is no I in team, but there is an I in skinny, which is what we’re working on here, people.
The remainder of the class was devoted to a multitude of tasks that I’ll group together under the heading “You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me!”. I can’t remember the order we did the following activities in because pain tends to muddle my brain a bit. We alternated push-ups and sit-ups in a nine of one, nine of the other, eight of one, eight of the other fashion. The problem wasn’t what we were doing so much as the speed at which we were doing it. I was like, “Gee, do you think you could count any faster?” Drill Sergeant J was shouting “nineeightsevensixfivefourthreetwoone” faster than my hearing could digest it. Can I get a two-Mississippi up in here? And the quick turn from one position to the other was supposed to be achieved in under ten nanoseconds. By the time we got down to the twos and ones, there were ladies that were basically just rolling in circles on the floor with no actual time to do a push-up or sit-up. At one point, during the quick change over, I banged my knee so hard on the floor that I suspected little cartoon stars and exclamation points to be flying over my head in a circle pattern. How I banged it on the floor is still a mystery, since I was performing these exercises on my yoga mat.
We also got to spend some time in the purgatory that is the plank position. Front, back, and both sides. I have to say here that I didn’t even know there was a side plank position. The instructor kindly showed us four different levels at which we could do them. Level One was this-hurts, Level Two was this-really-hurts, Level Three was my-body-is-going-into-shock, Level Four was does-this-come-with-a-side-of-physical-rehabilitation? I attempted Level Three because shock dulls the pain sometimes. There was a woman of more advanced years than me to my right (she was about a score older), and she was practically yawning in the Level Four position! I felt like I just got served.
I’ll be going back on Thursday, but may or may not have recovered the use of both arms by then. Perhaps, by next summer, America will have gotten over this silly notion that less is more and we’ll finally learn to appreciate a large behind for what it is, a symbol of prosperity (I can afford cheesecake) and happiness (I eat cheesecake). And, following the suggestion of satirist, Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter is the New Black, we could introduce a flat abs tax. Then we could all sign up for something more fun in the summer, like Boat Camp.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Yesterday, a good friend from Texas sent me an email and in it she asked if I text. And it’s interesting that she should bring that up, because I guess the answer is yes, I do text. Sort of. I only have two friends that text me, A and E. I don’t know if these two friends hate the sound of my voice and have become anti-email snobs, but in both cases, their main form of communication with me is texting. I know when I hear that beep, beep that it’s either A or E. If it’s A, the text could be about virtually anything; refrigerators, movies, his dinner companions’ table manners, human tracking devices, airplane maintenance issues. But if it’s a text from E, it’s a text about scheduling a game of tennis or basketball. Working out a time that she can beat me, which, now that I think about it, is her main form of communication with me.
Personally, I’m at whatever level comes before novice with this texting thing. I don’t know any texting shorthand beyond using u for you. But, I realize that there is an entire texting language out there that some people, especially teenagers I would imagine, are fluent in. I’m just not that kind of person. I don’t care what my phone, computer, digital cable box, etc. are capable of; I just want to know how to do the basics and carry on with my low-tech life. But, I have friends that utilize every feature their phone has to offer. It goes without saying that these friends are proficient texters, but they also take pictures and videos with their phones – instantly uploading those and sharing them with friends and loved ones around the world, they access the internet through their phones – just for kicks, so they can look up the twenty-eighth President of the United States or how much lime juice to put in their guacamole, and they’re always checking the weather – here and in Bangladesh. And, now, I think there may be cell phone features that let you toast a waffle, dice a tomato, and add creamer to your coffee (cell phone addicts are unanimously coffee addicts). I’m almost positive that my best friend’s husband could launch our nation’s nuclear warheads with his phone, and sometimes I wonder if that’s what he’s doing on there. But, I know if he did, he’d be getting updates on the destruction to his phone and showing all of us the live footage, so, for now, I think he’s just checking on his stock portfolio.
And I feel like when I’m with a prolific cell phone user, I could ask them anything and they’d pull out that phone, to consult with it. Okay, yeah, when I say, “Do you guys want to come over for dinner on Friday?” it makes sense that they would pull out the phone and consult the calendar. (I don’t even use the calendar feature and that may explain my reputation for double-booking and completely forgetting.) But when I say, “Do you have a band-aid?” I don’t understand them using the phone for their answer. Are they texting the answer to me? I’m right in front of them! Or, are they ordering the band-aids? I sort of needed it now, not in three to four business days.
There are other obstacles I need to overcome to become a certified texter. The first one is my phone doesn’t have a full keypad. I have a basic can’t-toast-your-waffles model, and it’s quite tedious to type out replies. It would be easier if I was a succinct and to the point person, but I’m not. Obviously. I live by a the-more-words-the-better code of communication, so texting is a bit of a chore for me. The other obstacle I have is that I get confused when the back and forth texting gets going really strong, like having a virtual conversation. I’ll be in the middle of typing my reply to one topic we’re discussing, and unbeknownst to me, my friend will be moving on to a new topic and preparing that text to send my way. Our messages fly past each other in outer space or wherever and then I read the next message “How are the kids?” and I just finally finished typing out and sending a text on our previous topic of my mosquito bites, saying, “They’re awful. The itching is driving me crazy!” So, now, I’m worried that my friend thinks that was my response to “How are the kids?” and, clearly, that wouldn’t have been my response to that. But, yeah, I text. Sort of.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Those Tempting Toaster Pastries

I was just cutting out the coupons from the Sunday paper, when I came across one for Pop-Tarts. We don’t eat Pop-Tarts. We love them, but we don’t eat them. My kids have, of course, sampled them a time or two in their limited existences, but I can’t rationalize making them a staple of our diets. There’s too much research about the benefits of eating healthy, not to mention too much evidence of the results of eating junk food. (I have pictures of me in sixth grade if you need to see some evidence.) And it’s too bad that there’s so much press on good nutrition, because even when I was a kid this whole health movement was in its infancy and nobody judged you for Pop-Tarts in your shopping cart. In fact, I remember how we sprinkled straight sugar on top of our Frosted Flakes. Guiltlessly! Though not without waistline consequences. But, lay people weren’t supposed to consider nutrition back then.

For an example of how far we’ve come, last week, when my son was in summer camp, a friend of mine was talking about how crazy things were by Friday. She said that she had to wake up her boys, rush them out the door, and let them eat Pop-Tarts on the way to camp. And bananas. It was important to mention those lest the child welfare department launch an investigation into the unhealthy eating practices of her family. And the way she told the story was in the everything-is-so-chaotic-I’ve-had-to-resort-to-Pop-Tarts kind of way. Isn’t strange how much guilt and shame we feel over feeding them Pop-Tarts for breakfast, when back in the day the only discussion would have been over flavor varieties?

This brings me to my next Pop-Tart point. Have you seen the flavors they have now? My choices were strawberry, blueberry, or brown-sugar cinnamon. (A disadvantaged friend of mine had parents who only bought the unfrosted variety. She liked to sleep over at my house.) Now they have, S’mores, Hot Fudge Sundae, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Strawberry Milkshake, and many more dream concoctions. I mean, there’s a virtual Baskin-Robbins of breakfast options. It just goes to show how divided our country has become. The FDA powers that be come out and indoctrinate us with all of these food pyramid, whole grain, low-fat, low-carb, sugar is the great satan messages, then the drug pushers over at Kellogg’s, Frito-Lay, Nabisco, etc. develop more provocative products to seduce us. The naughtiness of blueberry toaster pastries wasn’t enough, we became immune to that, now they’re selling us dessert in a pouch and suggesting we start our day with it. Like everything else, it’s taking more and more to shock us.

Yet, despite the statistics and evidence that convince us to buy Special K, or take the time to prepare an egg-white omelet with bell peppers and low-fat cheese, America still turns to Pop-Tarts. And Kellogg’s Pop-Tart business clearly isn’t suffering either, because they have enough money to hire those genius marketing people who keep coming up with exciting, dare I say dangerous, flavors, and art directors who make the box look so appealing it practically jumps off the shelf at us. And so that we don’t feel too bad about buying dessert pouches for breakfast, they advertise (on the page with the coupon) that Pop-Tarts have 25% less sugar than leading toaster pastries. I have two reactions to this claim. 1. Pop-Tarts isn’t the leading toaster pastry? Isn’t that a bit like saying Jell-O isn’t the leading gelatin? And reaction # 2. I could be feeding them something worse, so I shouldn’t feel too bad about the Hot Fudge Sundae Pop-Tarts. Actually, when you think about it, I could be making them an actual hot fudge sundae for breakfast, though that would be hard to feed them in the van when we’re running late and in a hurry to get somewhere. And, surely that would qualify me for some kind of child endangerment investigation. My kids, however, might nominate me for mother of the year.

But, before you start thinking I’m judging you, or that I’m the “Carrot-Stick Mom” that is ever-mindful of my kids nutritional needs, I should say that this morning my daughter had to use a snow shovel to dig out her chocolate chip pancake from the Everest-size mountain of Redi-Whip I let her pile on top of it. I make observations, people, not good decisions.