Monday, March 19, 2012


Last night I was going for a fifth attempt at Haitian rice and beans while Don took Lucy down to the park to play for an hour or so.  It was vegan Friday, so the rice and beans were going to supplement our main dish of non-dairy cheese nachos, which I was very dubious about.  We have had very few stumbling blocks this Lenten season giving up meat, and those few stumbling blocks always seem to happen on vegan Fridays, when I forget that non-dairy creamer does contain milk products or Lucy shoves a cheddar bunny snack into my mouth.  But rice and beans are always welcome in our house, and I actually had the Haitian necessities of scallions, onions, garlic, shallot, hot peppers and bullion, so we were good to go!  Cheese disaster or no, at least there would be diri ak pwa!  (Note: I read a lot of online reviews of non-dairy cheese to try and figure out which brand and style to go with.  Soy based?  Tree nut based?  Does it melt?  We ended up trying a few different kinds of one brand, and I think I can safely say that barring any lifestyle changing illness or event, I will never be able to go vegan.  I.  Love.  Cheese.  And non-dairy cheese is NOT cheese.  Enough said.)

So I am frying up the spice mixture for the rice and beans when I get a text from Don down at the park:
            Lu’s got a crush on an older boy.

I run from the kitchen to our guest bedroom where I can see down to the playground out the window, and search for my beloved daughter, not yet two years old.  She is running around the big kid play area, trying to climb a chain link ladder to the upper level.  Don waves up at me while spotting her, and I text him back suggesting he destroy the boy, and then asking what he is wearing so I can try and spot him.  Lucy makes it to the top of the ladder just as I get the message that this alleged male interloper is twice Lucy’s age and is wearing a green shirt.

I message Don back, telling him I can’t believe she can climb that ladder now when she has been trying unsuccessfully for the last year.  I scan the playground for a boy in a green shirt, and finally spot him climbing up a rope onto the same piece of the castle that Lucy is playing on.  A series of completely irrational thoughts run through my mind.  Good God he is like five years old, Lucy what are you thinking?!  Oh…he likes to climb too.  That is so bad.  Climbers are trouble Lucy Jane, I should know.  Jesus how do we get her away from him without driving her further toward him?!

As I am embracing this irrationality I see the boy run past Lucy to the fireman’s pole and slide down out of sight.  Lucy runs after him, grabs the edge of the railing and leans out over the ten foot drop to see where he has gone.  My stomach drops and my heart explodes.  Jesus God, I am going to watch from my fucking window while my daughter falls down a fireman’s pole onto her head.  Shit!!!  I bang on the window to try and get Don’s attention, but he is on the other side of the castle from Lucy and making his way toward her nonchalantly, unaware that her newfound fascination will be the death of her in a few short seconds.  Finally, fully aware of the shitiness and irony of the situation I text him:
            She’s on the pole!!!!!

Of course by the time I have sent this ridiculous message she has backed away from the pole and run over to the twirly slide instead, having seen that her beau ran in that direction once he reached the ground.  I text a quick apology and retraction:
            Oh my God I just had a heart attack.  I’m sorry, I’m not watching anymore.

The reply:
            Stop it.  You’re killing me!

I go back into the kitchen to finish dinner, convinced that my voyeuristic communication with Don will cause Lucy some injury, and more than a little happy not to be taking part in the romantic drama unfolding.  Ten minutes later, I get another message from Don that has me running back to the window:
            She really badly wants this boy to push her on the swing, but doesn’t know how to ask him.  It’s ripping my heart out.  Mega flash forward.

I see my daughter, not yet two years old, on the large red recliner swing down in the park.  Don is standing off to the side, and when he moves in to push her she swings her arms at him in an obvious gesture of dismissal.  She then leans out of the other side of the swing, her arms extended toward something I can’t see.  A second later, the boy in the green shirt walks into view and starts to push her on the swing.  Lucy settles back into the swing in contentment, occasionally turning around to make some comment to the boy and check to see that he is still there. 

My heart explodes again.  I immediately go to the dry bar and make myself a Jack and Coke and go back to the window.  Don and I message back and forth about what she is doing.  I ask if this boy promised to honor and cherish her, and Don says that Lucy showed him the ouchie on her nose and then immediately pointed out that her boogers were in her nose.  Pure seduction to a five year old boy.  A few minutes later Lucy slides off of the swing, holds her hand up for the little boy to take, and they run off to ride the bouncy horses together.  In a few more minutes, she and the boy run back to the swings, and he faces him and lifts her arms up for this little five year old to lift her into the swing.  He does it without hesitation.  

My heart explodes a third time, and I see her life flash before my eyes.  She is thirteen, with a crush on a boy in her class, and she deliberately plays poorly in sports so that he will like her.  She is sixteen, desperate to be asked to the school dance but unable to tell him that she likes him.  She is eighteen, a freshman at college and all she wants is to be accepted and loved.  Does she make good choices?  Does she fall in love with nice boys?  Does she know that her own self-worth comes from inside, and is not assigned her by someone else?  Has she ever had her heart broken?  Does she know how strong, intelligent, and kind she is?  Does she care?  Do we know how to teach her all of these things?  Oh my God, we have to start now, right now!  It is already spinning out of our control!  Boy in the green shirt, what have you done?!

Don stands to the side of the swing set, now relegated to the role of chaperone and observer, no longer needed as a playmate.   He messages:
            He said “ufta” when he lifted her into the swing.  She gave him her barrette.  This is so masochistic.

I tell him dinner is ready and to bring her up.  A few minutes later Don walks in with Lucy in arms, and it’s clear she has been crying.  “Are you ok?” I ask him.  I know Lucy will be fine in two minutes after sitting her in front of a bowl of rice and beans.  But if my reaction to the situation was this strong just watching it through a window, then I know that Don is crumbling apart right now.

“His name is Carter.  He has a little sister just a little older than Lucy.  I think he was playing with Lucy like he plays with his sister…but I don’t think that she knew that.  Oh man…I need a drink.”

Our terror continued to hold us in sway for several days.  Don left for Mankato on Saturday morning, and that day I refused to take Lucy to the park by myself because St. Patrick’s Day at the park on a 75 degree day in Minnesota means that there are 167 five year old boys in green shirts running around.  It was just too much for me.  I finally got the chance to talk to a good friend about the whole episode on Saturday evening, as a few friends with kids got together at the local nature center for a picnic dinner.  As I was recounting the story, my humorous retelling an attempt to belie the feelings of true helplessness and terror that the episode actually produced, I noticed something that made the ache in my heart subsist.  Slightly.

Lucy was acting the same way with our friends’ five year old daughter.  She was following her around everywhere, eschewing the company of the adults and other toddlers her age for this older girls’ attention.  Is it a crush on a person, I wondered, Or just a crush on an age.  An idea of being older and everything that means.  To a toddler I suppose being older means running faster and playing with better toys and sitting on a big girl chair when you eat without a bib on and drinking juice instead of milk.  It seems pretty awesome.  So, no problem right?  It’s a crush on the ideal of the older kid, the freedom and the choices and the grass is greener on the other side.  Right?


Well, that is what we are prepared to tell ourselves for the foreseeable future, at least.  Unless you have a son that is wearing a green shirt, in which case please don’t bother coming over because you are no longer welcome.  Just kidding…?

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Little Bit of Knowledge Can Be Very Dangerous

My promises to myself to write daily have fallen flat for the last few weeks.  At first I very successfully laid the blame at the foot of The Cold, thinking that I needed to rest while Lucy napped instead of write in order to ensure my immune system was strong enough to defeat the germs that were travelling through our house.  However, as with pretty much every infection I ever get, The Cold has found a new home in my genetically cursed sinuses and morphed into The Sinus Infection.  Since this is an annual or semi-annual event, I usually avoid taking antibiotics until The Sinus Infection has been in residence for at least a month.  By that time treatment is less a logical move toward health and more a desperate last resort to a) enable me to stop sleep sitting up or draped over a humidifier, and, more importantly; b) save my marriage.

Everyone knows that doctors make terrible patients.  Popular culture is rife with images of proud, egotistical doctors waiting too late to get treatment for serious illnesses because they refused to accept that they could be sick, or turning into completely incompetent babies when laid low with the smallest cold or flu.  My love, D, is no exception to the stereotype, although he could never be classified as egotistical or a baby.  He only ever goes to the doctor when forced and under duress, and then usually when I make the appointment for him.  When he injured his knee a moth before the Chicago marathon this summer I finally got him to see a Sports Medicine doctor by telling him they were having a free clinic at our gym, which happened to be on an afternoon that he had off.  Two months before we got married he took a short trip to Haiti and when he came back he had stomach problems for weeks.  But he was a medical student and didn’t have time to see a doctor, or go to the gym either.   So instead he left his stomach problems to resolve naturally and just lost ten pounds before the wedding.  Note: this is not a doctor recommended weight loss plan, nor a good way to endear yourself to your future bride.

There are a lot of reasons that Don doesn’t go to a doctor, reasons that I am sure many other doctors share.  One: he is a doctor, an Emergency Physician, and as such is trained to handle pretty much anything.  Barring the presentation of some very specialized problems or a significant trauma, he can handle most of the health issues that he and the rest of our family face at home.  So we go to the doctor for Lucy’s check-ups, when necessary for prescription refills, and when pregnant.  Two: he has NO time.  He is a resident physician.  They call them residents because they used to physically live at the hospital.  That is how much they worked.  Despite great strides made in the US to reduce resident work load to manageable weekly hours, he still works a LOT.  And when he isn’t working in the Emergency Room, he has weekly lectures, monthly simulation sessions, grand rounds presentations, research projects, studying for boards and other exams, etc etc to do.  Most doctors’ offices are open Monday through Friday from 8am until 5pm.  The chances that Don will have any time off during those hours are very slim.  The chances that he will have any time off during those hours that he would want to spend seeing another doctor instead of hanging out with Lucy and me or getting in a workout or talking to his family and friends?  ZERO.  If Don is sick, he’d much rather spend his free time (excuse me while I laugh hysterically here) just nesting on the couch watching Ratatouille with Lucy for the 718th time with a sock full of Vicks VapoRub wrapped around his neck.

However bad doctors are about being sick, I guarantee that I, a doctor’s wife, am exponentially worse.  Perhaps it is just me, or perhaps it is a function of being married to a doctor, but I guarantee that I am a ridiculously awful patient.  Don and I started dating the last week of college.  We have been together through his entire medical education process.  The first year of medical school I used to quiz him on anatomy and pathology as we drove back and forth to his families’ house or to see his brother David wrestle.  I had to learn the correct pronunciation of many ridiculous Latin terms.  In the process of medical school and residency and Haiti and having a baby a teensy, tiny bit of medical knowledge has soaked into my savage little mind.  There is has taken root, and grown into a very dangerous, and really annoying, beast.

I have said it before – an Emergency Physician’s job is to assess and meet the needs of the patient.  They do this based on a myriad of diagnostic tools: physical exam, medical history, patient charts, other doctor’s notes, tests, labs, etc.  If a patient comes into the ED with a preconceived idea of their own diagnosis, this makes it very difficult for the doctor, and sometimes very frustrating.  Even worse is when the patient comes in with an idea of their own diagnosis and treatment – sometimes it makes Don feel like people don’t view him as a trained professional with skills and knowledge to help him, but just an antibiotic or narcotics dispenser.  I know this, because this is exactly what I do, over a period of many days, when I am sick.

For example, go back and read the first paragraph of what I have written.  Look at how I was able to diagnose The Sinus Infection!  You may have suspected when you read that the first time that I had been to the doctor and they had done some sort of culture or test or looked into my sinuses with amazing scopes, but you would be wrong!  Oh no…I looked up my own nose with a tiny flashlight, and examined the color of my tissues and concluded that I had sinusitis.  Yes, I am that smart.  And also, I look at my own tissues?  Gross.  And when Don asks me how I am feeling, I give him vague and leading responses concerning my history of sinus infections and the number of tissue boxes I have been through and then it gets worse from there.

Now I am not saying that it is not good to be an informed patient.  Far from it.  Be aware of your own body!  Be aware of your symptoms and your medical history!  If you have done research on a problem that you have or think you have, make sure you talk to your doctor about and present your questions and concerns clearly…but do so clearly!  Don’t meter out information and questions in a way that you think will lead the doctor to the same conclusion that you have made in the four hours you have spent online at WebMD.  I caution because I care, and because I do this myself with a calculating efficiency whenever I see other doctors.  I write about this now because I would also do this to my poor, long suffering, husband, only he knew me well enough to get pissed off instead of call me in a prescription, and for that I am thankful.

To make matters even worse for Don, in addition to the scheming and manipulating and wild speculation based on dangerous knowledge, I have a somewhat hilarious kind of synesthesia (again, self diagnosed).  I feel some things in color.  When I have a cough, my chest is white.  When I have a soar throat, my throat is pine coney and green.  Sinus infections are an icy green.  In addition to that (yes, there’s more!) I am completely and 100% unable to give you a simple answer to a pain scale question.  You know that piece of paper in your doctor’s office that has the scale from 1 up to 10 with the various faces illustrating people in pain.  Face number 1 is smiling, eating brunch and drinking mimosas with friends, with no pain whatsoever.  Face number 10 is being tortured in a CIA black site in Southeast Asia.  You know the paper I mean.  That piece of paper makes me want to punch someone in the throat, which is what I almost do every time a doctor asks me the question “where is your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?”  This made for a very dangerous situation while I was in labor with Lucy.  There were nurses and midwives in danger of being throat punched all over that hospital.

Don fares only slightly better when he asks me this question.  My response usually comes through clenched teeth, as I fight to restrain myself from punching him.

“Well…when I cough its like a burning white pain in my chest.  Like a sixish at the worst at the peak of the cough you know.  But then my throat is a pine coney four all the time, except when I cough which is a seven, and oh, swallowing is very thick and grey and an eight sort of.  My ears also feel orange inside.  And my sciatica is acting up in my back leg knee.  It feels like lightning.”

At this point Don either walks away for a moment because I am being totally serious, and he is about to kill me, or he just looks at me and tells me I need to call my primary care doctor because he is not going to do this anymore.  Or, more probably, I have dissolved into nervous, hysterical laughter because I know I am driving him insane, and then he walks away to get me drink of water so I can breathe again.

Because this was becoming a vicious cycle anytime I would experience any pain or discomfort, I have recently begun taking some drastic steps to ensure that I do not drive my husband insane or remind him of his worst patients or ruin our marriage.  I have tried to come up with a script to use when I want Don’s medical opinion on something, a script that will not be leading or manipulative at all.  I had the opportunity to try it out in the car the other day, after using up the last of my fifth box of Kleenex since I first…started to need to blow my nose….two weeks ago. 

Me:  <<looking out the window pensively>> So…I have been thinking about how to ask you this question for the last five minutes, and I think I have it right now.  OK?”
Don: <<looking warily at me>> Okaaaay  Go for it.
Me: So…what do you think is wrong…no.  Damn it.  How do you think I…no.  No.  Argh.  OK.  What I mean to say is…Don.  Don.  What is your opinion on the current state of my health?
Don: <<staring at me, eyes wide, then breaking into hysterical laughter>> BWAHAHAHAHH ahahaha hahahahaa ahhhhhh ah…wow.  Ha.  You have an Upper Respiratory Infection.  Seriously though honey, I’m sorry you feel so crummy.  I love you.
Me:  Oh.  OK.  So…like…should I do anything?  I mean, is there anything you recommend I do, or not do, or something?  Or…take?  Not like antibiotics, or anything, but…you know.  Tea?
Don: You want me to prescribe you antibiotics, don’t you?
Me: NO!  No.  No I actually don’t want any antibiotics.  I just wondered if you thought there was anything else I could do to help the healing process.
Don:  No, not really.  Just keep on keeping on.  It’ll resolve itself in time.
Me:…..that’s what I thought.  I should get some more herbal tea.
Don:  Yes…that’s exactly what I said.  Drink more herbal tea.
Me:  I’m glad we had this talk.  That was good, wasn’t it?  Better communication.
Don: <<looking at me out of the corner of his eyes>> Yes.  Yes.  That was great communication, honey.  Great.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Coming soon...

Tonight finally making the extra falafel that I've had in the freezer since June! We were going to fry them up last night but it was Lenten vegan Friday and I cannot/will not have falafel without feta and tatziki, so we postponed.

After falafel I am really looking forward to making these new red chori beans and fresh cardamom pods into a chori bean masala!

I guess I'll have to wait until I get back to Rochester though, unless I want to buy all new spices and a new curry pot. Somehow I don't think Don would appreciate me buying another two pound bag of garam masala...

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Cold

I wanted to send a quick post apologizing for not writing anything for a while.  Last Friday Lucy caught the Side by Side childcare cold, and since then both she and I have decimated the Kleenex supply of this city.  I haven't had the inspiration to write anything that doesn't involve long descriptions of mucus colors or the frustrations of trying to teach a toddler that your shirt is not something on which she can wipe her nose, and I refuse to subject you all to those prolonged, disgusting rants.

I promise to be back soon, with thoughts hopefully more insightful than wondering what is the perfect decongestant cocktail to enable me to breathe at night without drying out my head like a slab of beef jerky or rendering me completely comatose for ten hours.