Friday, August 21, 2009

Ten years old!


J and me, 1999


J and me, 2009

Pink

I haven't embraced the pink. In reality, I loathe the pink ribbon, pink t-shirt, pink everything that is somehow supposed to help "cure" breast cancer. It just makes me sad.

So I was in the parking lot of McDonald's today, and this is what I saw:

It's an oil truck. A PINK oil truck. With the words "promoting breast cancer awareness" on the side.

I guess they are trying to do a good thing. But it just makes me sad.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

(mis)Understanding health care reform

As much as I love President Obama, I don't think health care reform is going to happen this summer. It's just too complicated. I consider myself an intelligent person, and I really don't understand it. So I imagine that most other intelligent people (and maybe some less intelligent people) don't understand it either.

To make it even worse, the right wingers have used some pretty annoying tactics to try to derail Obama. Focusing on several issues that are hot-button issues to many, such as abortion (i.e. saying that abortion "on demand" will be paid for by the new health care plans) and "death panels" (i.e. saying that elders will be unable to receive life supporting care at the end of life). And finally, sending disruptive people to town hall meetings all over the country. Here is an example of one, and Barney Frank's amazing response.



This is what I do understand.

Under the new plan, you will probably still get health insurance through your work, if you do so now. But if you don't get health insurance through your work, there will be a different way to get it: through the government plan. That plan will guarantee everyone basic health insurance. This sounds good to me. But I don't understand exactly how it will work.

I've tried to understand, I really have. I've even looked up information on other country's health care systems, like France and Israel. It's been interesting, but I'm still confused.

Speaking from my experience of this past year, while I'm grateful for my health insurance and health care, I'm pretty confused by it. Every time a procedure was submitted to the insurance company, the hospital or physician received approximately half of what they asked for (or sometimes less). Does this mean that the price they asked was inflated intentionally? Or has my health insurer negotiated a lower rate with them? And either way, what is the ACTUAL WORTH of the procedure? Or is there no such thing?

Here's an example: for my lumpectomy this winter, the surgeon charged $3056. She received in payment $1038.52. This is about a third of what she charged. What does this mean? The hospital fees for the surgery were $9519. They were paid $4890. So that was about 50% of what they charged. Again, what was the actual worth of the services? $9500? $4800? Or something in between?

Apparently I'm not the only one who is confused, as there isn article about this very topic in the NYTimes today.

If any of my readers can shed light on health care reform for me, please do so in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Idol

Some random thoughts upon returning home from the American Idol Live! concert:

1. I'm really too old for this.

2. People were there to see Adam Lambert. Period. Whenever a photo of Adam popped up on the big screen, everyone screamed. When the real Adam arrived, everyone roared. My ears are still vibrating from the noise.

3. Danny Gokey seemed the most comfortable in his own body of all the idols. He finally learned how to dance.

4. Matt Giraud was in very good voice, and was very entertaining.

5. Adam Lambert was tall, lanky, and seemed a bit awkward to me. Also, he did all of this hip shaking stuff, which seemed somewhat inappropriate, as the average age of the attendees was about 10. There were lots of parents with kids in tow.

6. Taking public transportation always seems like a good idea, and works out fine for the first part of the trip. Getting home is another story.

7. Did I mention I'm really too old for this?

Monday, August 17, 2009

At the spa

I've visited a number of spas over the years, including Kripalu, in Lenox, MA, and the Norwich Spa, in Norwich, CT. Someday I aspire to spend some time at the famous (and costly) Canyon Ranch which is also in Lenox, MA. However, since I'm not quite yet flush enough with cash for that, this time I decided to try something different, and made my reservation at The Spa at Grand Lake in Lebanon, CT. The reviews on the internet led me to believe that I would have a similar experience to Kripalu in terms of modest housing and 3 included meals a day, with the advantage of a larger schedule of exercise classes (not just yoga) and an included massage! And I was right!

I actually wrote a review online, but I wanted to give some more detail here.

Once I registered, I went into the main dining room. It is a large, modern, bright room, with a variety of round tables seating 6 and small tables seating 2. I was invited immediately to sit down for a late lunch with some other late-arrivals, and we enjoyed a nice chicken salad plate while getting to know one another.

This table turned out to be my "permanent" table, and I got to know these women quite well as the weekend progressed. My table-mates included a mom and her 30-something daughter on their annual mother-daughter get-away; two retired African-American women from the New York area on a little get-away; a teacher from Manhattan; and myself. Turns out that six women tend to have a lot in common, and we discussed breast cancer and other health problems; children; marriage; work; movies; you name it.

Women definitely out-numbered the men, but I was surprised to see a number of husbands in tow: it would never occur to me to drag A along to a place like this. But I saw at least 5 husbands there. Not that they were doing anything but eating, gabbing, and sitting around. No men graced the exercise room floor. Not a one.

During my 2 days, I bumbled and sweated my way through Yoga, NIA, Zumba, a Gentle Stretching class, a water exercise class, and tried my hand (feet, really) at Latin dance one evening. I was so sore after the first day I had to take a hot bath before bed! My hips were aching!

In addition to the exercise classes and spa treatments, there were 2 pools (indoor and outdoor) and a jacuzzi. The grounds were green, lush, and beautiful. The weather was warm and sunny, so sitting outside or swimming and then sitting out by the pool were great options.

This was not a place of toned bodies and fancy workout wear. There were lots of bulges and bumps to be seen: these were real women. And they were working as hard as they could to become healthier.

I enjoyed my time there a lot, and really felt like I'd been away for more than 2 days. Next time: 3 days, and I'm going to try one of the lower calorie diets!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer doldrums

This is a strange time of year, the "Ides of August," so to speak. I've been feeling...well, strange. I chalked it up to being tired, but maybe there is something else going on?

There is so much anticipation to the summer: wanting to enjoy "sun and fun," the excitement of school being out and schedules being less, well, scheduled, trying new activities, etc. But then again, there is the lack of scheduling that causes other problems (like too-late bedtimes), and the lack of our regular routines that give us our day-to-day connections with friends.

For example, our shul doesn't have kids services in the summer, and there is no way I'm going to bring J to temple for a 2 hour bore-fest (from his perspective). So we (and many others) tend not to go in the summer, which is a shame, because during the year, attending Shabbat services is a mainstay in our weekend plans. It kind of gives us an anchor. And we know that we will all see friends there.

I thought I was the only one who felt this way (of course), but then a friend mentioned that she was feeling disconnected from her usual activities and friends, and another friend mentioned that she was feeling kind of down, and then I realized...it's not just me!

So I guess as much as I'm sad about summer ending, I'm looking forward to getting back to some of our routines, and seeing some of our friends again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What people do all day

This is a really awesome graphic from the NY Times. It's kind of weird looking, but if you spend some time playing with it, if you can learn some interesting things about how different groups of people spend their time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Little yellow signs


Taking a walk around my neighborhood the other day, my nose was assaulted by the sharp scent of lawn chemicals. It seemed that almost every other house had one of those tiny yellow signs sticking out of the grass -- pesticide application, keep off! -- and the smell to prove it. I've always wondering about those signs. If what you are putting on the lawn is poisonous, how will placing a tiny yellow sign on the lawn for a day or two prevent any harm at all? I truly do not understand the logic.

This is not an idle thought for me; rather, something I've been pondering for years. It's become even more salient as I've dealt with my own breast cancer, something I'm certain resulted, in part, from estrogenic compounds in the environment such as pesticides.

Consider this from the Breast Cancer Fund:
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that exposures to toxic chemicals, including pesticides, in the environment are contributing to high breast cancer rates. Pesticides used in and around the home and in agriculture are used to control pests like weeds (herbicides), fungus (fungicides), insects including fleas and ticks on pets (insecticides) and rodents (rodenticides).

Pesticides are just one of many daily toxic exposures. We can be exposed to unsafe chemicals through the use of pesticides in our yards, on our pets, in public parks or on the food we eat as well as from certain plastics, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Even though some pesticides have been banned, they remain in the body and the environment for decades. DDT, perhaps the most studied pesticide, was banned in the U.S. in 1973 but can still be found in household dust samples and in the body fat of humans and animals and in human breast milk and placenta.
Let's just say that I'm not counting on those little yellow signs to protect me from anything anytime soon, okay?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Work-family 'balance' goes mainstream

It seems that work-family balance (or lack thereof ) is coming into the mainstream -- kind of.

I've noticed two articles in the Boston Globe in the past two days that seem, well, different.

Yesterday, in the G section, I was amazed to read an article You've come a long way, baby sitting issues. It opens like this:

Given the gravity of the situation, the comment went mostly unnoticed. Except by working parents and work-life balance advocates, that is. To them, it called out loud and clear.

Attorney Alan McDonald was introducing the cops who’d assembled to show support for the officer who’d arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr. when McDonald dropped this surprise: The president of the Cambridge Multicultural Police Association couldn’t attend the press conference, the lawyer explained, because he had “baby-sitting issues.’’

The statement - delivered casually and causing no stir onstage - shows the degree to which the workplace has changed to recognize the needs of working parents, according to human resources professionals. And although they’re quick to add that difficulties persist for working parents, that moment at the podium would seem to mark a notable if slight shift.

“It moves [child-care issues] from an excuse and a failing to a statement of fact that we all deal with,’’ said Cali Yost, author of “Work + Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You.’’

“I think it’s very powerful,’’ she said, particularly since the “baby-sitting issues’’ claim was not only made in regard to a man, but one working in a traditionally male-dominated field “where life and work never used to intersect at all publicly.’’

Well! Even powerful men can have "baby sitting issues" these days, it seems. Hmm....

And this morning, in Schools asked not to close if flu hits, this quote really stood out for me:
“The focus is going to be on avoiding closing schools if at all possible,’’ said Dr. Lauren Smith, medical director of the state Department of Public Health. “And that’s not only because of the educational disruption, but also because of the disruption that happens in a community when 300 or 400 or 500 kids aren’t in a school and all those families have to scramble to make plans to take care of them.’’
What's interesting here is what the state medical director DIDN'T say. She didn't say: well, it's not such a big deal, because the moms will just take care of the kids. She gets it.

The article continues:

In recent weeks, Boston health authorities have met with business representatives to encourage them to allow parents to take paid sick days when their children fall ill. The message to businesses has been this, said Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission: “It’s much better for a handful of parents to be able to stay home with sick kids than to have me close a building with 1,200 kids and to now require all of those kids to stay at home.’’

And, so far, that message appears to be resonating with employers, Ferrer said. One business pledged to her that it would double employee sick days if a flu epidemic sweeps across the region.

Not sure if it's time yet for a big "Woo hoo!", but overall, it's great to see recognition in the mainstream media of parents -- both moms AND dads -- having to juggle work, family, and life. Manic Mommies, this one's for you!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

More from the garden

ivy and fence
ivy and fence

coneflowers (and a bee)
coneflowers and a bee

coneflowers!
lots of coneflowers!

bean flowers
delicate bean flowers

Dinner, anyone?

Just saw this ad in this morning's Globe.



And we wonder why there is an obesity epidemic?

FYI Walgreens: pizza, Coke, and ice cream do not fulfill the requirements of the Healthy Food Pyramid. As a matter of fact, I don't think they fulfill ANY healthy requirements.

Just thinking about this "meal" makes me feel nauseous...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

One pill makes you smaller

I have to admit I stole that post title from a Breast Cancer Action post. I hope they don't mind.

So here's a review. I'm taking the Tamoxifen to prevent recurrence of breast cancer. But my anti-depressant might interfere with the Tamox and make it less effective in preventing recurrence. So I switched from the old anti-depressant to a new anti-depressant, one that won't interfere with the Tamox .

The transition from the old anti-depressant to the new one seems to be going alright...no complaints, am feeling fine emotionally so far...EXCEPT I am waking up every night around 1 or 2 or 3 am and can't really fall back asleep. So I'm TIRED.

Talked to the psychiatrist today, and guess what? She's recommending a sleeping pill. Sleeping has NEVER been a problem for me before, so this is kind of weird. But hopefully only temporary.

So while my body gets used to the Tamoxifen and the new anti-depressant (and the medication that stops my periods), I'm going to take yet ANOTHER pill so I can sleep. Ambien...here I come...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Non-information information

I heard this PSA on the radio yesterday afternoon on my regular "oldies" channel, as I was driving to pick up J from the camp bus stop.

ADULT: It’s hard to talk to your kids about the s-word. Cause they’re too young to think about... bedroom activities. So, you try to limit their exposure to adult behavior. But let’s be honest. There’s birds and bees stuff all over the place.

On TV, 64% of programs include...you know.

The Internet’s even worse. 42% of kids between 10 and 17 have inadvertently seen, well, funny business, online.

It’s everywhere.

KID: We know the s-word makes you uncomfortable. It’s embarrassing. But you’ve gotta be the parent. You’ve gotta talk to us about sex. Because everyone else is. And they’re not talking about waiting. That part’s up to you. You don’t have to be explicit about it. You don’t have to talk about the parts. Just tell us how you feel. Tell us what to do. Tell us you want us to wait to… do that stuff. For help starting the conversation, visit 4parents.gov.

KID: Brought to you by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and this station.

So I thought, okay, cool, a radio commercial about sex ed! True, they used six euphemisms for sex, but it IS hard to talk about sex with your kids, and you really DO have to do it. So I went home and checked out 4parents.gov. And then...

I was really disturbed.

Turns out that 4parents.gov must be a left-over from the Bush Administration, because it's basically non-information information about sex. It is a TERRIBLE web site and I can't believe it's still up there on the internet! And that it's funded by HHS!

Turns out that it's been up on the internet since 2005 and 145 agencies have called for its removal, and they haven't taken it down yet!

There are so many wonderful, informative websites out there, and this is what our government is promoting? Oy!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Cooking with Julia


I just came upon this photo in the NYTimes from 1963. Isn't it a scream? I wonder what it was like, being one of four or five people, crouched on the floor, waiting to pass Julia an ingredient at the proper time...Kind of blows your mind, doesn't it? TV has come a long way since then, I guess...You can read the whole article, by Michael Pollen, here. It's about a lot more than Julia Child, and definitely worth reading.