Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lessons from My Mom's Heart Trouble

Those of you caring for sick or aging parents are on the side of the angels.

Recently, I got an itty-bitty taste of what you do 365 days a year.  My mother suffered a mild heart attack and had to have a stent inserted. My sisters and brother, bless them, had handled the crisis stage, but someone was needed at the family home when our mom left the hospital. Fortunately, my work’s as portable as a laptop, and I had airline miles squirreled away for just such an occasion.

One week ago, I’d have bet five bucks irbesartan used to be part of the Soviet Union. Now I know it’s a drug, better known as Avapro, for hypertension. I learned Coumadin is a brand name for warfarin, and Coreg is the trade name for carvedilol. Heart patients have to be conversant with the generic and brand names of their medications. Oh, and they must be prepared to rattle off the dosages, even when those dosages change every 48 hours. (For “heart” patients, substitute “cancer” or “stroke” or whatever illness your aging parent is battling.)

Pre-trip, I imagined my mom would get lots of rest while I made nourishing soups and fetched her library books. To my surprise, her cardiologist required her to show at his office every two days for Coumadin checks. Hoo! Visits that frequent would rachet up the heart rate and blood pressure of the calmest souls among us. Sadly, those who’ve learned they can’t trust their heart to beat on schedule aren’t calm at all. They’re filled with anxiety, which is bad for their health.

My mom has four children to tap for rides to doctors’ offices, prescription pick-ups, grocery shopping and other errands, but how do patients who don’t have family nearby and/or friends who still drive cope?  All of a sudden, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of 19 Kids & Counting reality-TV fame look like savvy, plan-ahead types.

It’s tougher than I expected to keep up with instructions passed on by doctors, nurses, and medical technicians. Although my mother and I listened intently and thought we understood everything, we later had questions. How do patients who aren’t fluent in English, have dyslexia, are in the early stages of dementia, or merely confuse irbesartan and Uzbekistan cope?

If we standardized the names of medications, we'd trample over brand names and irk manufacturers, but patients' confusion might ease. 

The British TV series Call the Midwife reminds us that in 1950's London, nurses attended to at-home births, traveling from place to place via bicycle or motorbike. In rural America today, visiting nurses are impractical due to distances, and nurses carrying drugs anywhere would, rightly, fear for their safety. A Call the Med Tech movement, however, would allow for in-home medication checks and blood-pressure readings. 

 The cost of medical care is one hurdle for sick Americans. Getting to the doctor or hospital, keeping multiple medications straight, and taking those medications as directed are others.

Number one lesson from my week with Mom?  Bette Davis was right when she said, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Don't Let the Book Snobs Win

We've all brushed up against snobs. They may refer to themselves as "aspirational" about things like purses or neighborhoods, and if we don't share their view of what constitutes the good things in life, they'll move on and up.

The nice thing about Aspires is that we see them coming. They, bless 'em,  wear their wants on their sleeves. The far more dangerous kind of snob is the buddy with whom we're comfortable and very much ourselves until he/she turns judgmental about the coffee we order, our preferred form of social-media communication, and, worst of all, the books we read.

I've got no advice for you about those who insist on French-pressed coffee and declare blogging is dead. I can, however, point you to Matt Haig, who defends books (and readers) in "30 Things to Tell a Book Snob (Revisited)."

Let's say a pal sneers at your Kindle and says he only reads hardback books. Haig's got a comeback: "E-books, like paper books, are as good as the words they contain."

Need an answer for the person who puts down your favorite genre be it paranormal, cozy mystery, romance, YA, or suspense? Haig's got you covered: "To dismiss a book because of its type, not its content, is book racism."

Want to put the snob who dismisses page-turners in his place? Haig does it this way: "Plot is not a dirty word. Plot is beautiful. Plot is the old criminal finding redemption. Plot is the quest to victory, or to love. Plot is the desire for action that is symptomatic of thinking and moving and being alive." 

Read Haig's whole post, I'm begging you. Why? Because you must scroll to the end to land on number 30: "The greatest stories appeal to our deepest selves, the parts of us snobbery can’t reach, the parts that connect the child to the adult and the brain to the heart and reality to dreams. Stories, at their essence, are enemies of snobbery. And a book snob is the enemy of the book."

How do you handle book snobs? 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thirty Days Hath September

"September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret."
-   Alexander Theroux, 1981
For many of us, the start of the school year is more significant, new beginnings-wise, than January 1. Like all fresh starts, though, it's made from equal quantities of hope and fear.
Remember the gray-plaid top you thought looked autumnal and lent an air of sophistication? You wore it the first day of junior high, but the cool kids showed up in frayed jeans and sun-bleached tee shirts. Turns out they didn't buy back-to-school clothes. 
Maybe you unearthed a retro lunch box at a thrift shop and carried it to high school only to discover the nostalgia bus had left that station months earlier.
Time mutes our embarrassing memories and accentuates the positive ones. That's fortunate since we have to get our own kids out the door and onto the school bus. 
The expectations that come with new beginnings can be harder to hoist than a sixth-graders' backpack, which, according to a Consumer Reports' survey, weighs 18.4 pounds. Maybe those kids who came to school in frayed jeans and sun-bleached tee shirts were on to something. They stretched out summer and embraced fall when they were ready for it. 
Come September, we're programmed to start over, but we don't have to succumb. Let's finish the projects we toiled over during the summer. Let's keep what works and replace only what doesn't. Life isn't a timed test, and there are no pop quizzes coming when you least expect them. 
If you have no desire to start a new project, reinvent yourself, or buy number two pencils, cut yourself slack. Current events and the anniversary of 9/11 weigh us down. What's more, the coming autumn equinox and prospect of more darkness per day can squelch ambition in those of us most sensitive to atmospheric changes.
I like Alexander Theroux's quote at the top of the page because it nails September's mixed message. In my part of the world, September evokes dry-erase markers, crepe myrtles in defiant bloom, and, yes, regret.
What does September mean to you?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Cat's Eye-View of Road Trips

Smokey doesn't mind boxes but hates crates. And cars.

This blog post was dictated by Smokey the Cat. And why not? When Pat's away, the cats will play.

Pat had to drive to Austin a couple of days ago. “Field trip!” she said. I told her I might rouse myself for field mice but won’t go anywhere in a car with her. I have my reasons.

Pat puts me in a crate to ride in the car. Excuse me? Nobody puts Baby Smokey in the corner crate.

Those Buc-ee's billboards offend me. You know, the ones like “Eat here. Get gas” or “Your throne awaits.” Also, when did we start glorifying beavers? Pat says Buc-ee’s bathrooms are nice. I wouldn't know. She puts me in a crate, remember? 

Pat hisses when she sees bumper stickers that say, “Secede.” They annoy her. Me, I don't have a problem with the sentiment. What has the federal government done for me lately? No Cat Left Behind never made it out of committee.

Pat drives a subcompact. I like my space. (Put a cat in a crate inside a subcompact, and what do you get? One of those Russian nesting-doll thingamabobs. Wait! I'm Texan.) 

There are too many 18-wheelers on I-10. I lost my great-grandfather to one of them.

Pat worries about calories and cholesterol and won’t stop for kolaches at Weikel's or Hruska's on 71. Huh? Even a cat knows kolaches fuel Texas road trips. If I ask nicely, think she’ll bring one back for me? 

Do you know any cats that enjoy road trips? Know any dogs that don’t live to jump in a vehicle and ride into the sunset?

Have you been to a Buc-ee’s? What’s your favorite food item there?