Musings on Mail, Marketing, and Medicine

31 03 2010

So they’ve updated the way our dollars, our quarters, and our nickels look.  (Our change has changed!)  And now they’re doing away with Saturday mail delivery?  Is nothing sacred?

Speaking of the postal service….

I’m collecting the mail for my neighbors while they’re out-of-town.  I noticed that they get a lot more mail than I do.  And that the difference lies in the catalogs.  Yesterday the lady of the house got Ballard Designs, Pottery Barn, Linen Source and Casual Living.  Throw in an L.L. Bean and a Restoration Hardware and I could be entertained for quite a while.

I used to get catalogs.  I never “earned” them myself, but inherited them from the previous homeowners.  After a couple of years the companies started catching on that no one at this address was going to buy anything. No more catalogs.

Maybe I’ll take a peek at my neighbor’s and it will seem like old times.

Yesterday, in addition to the mailman’s delivery, I received my once-every-three-month delivery of  Copaxone, my MS drug, from the UPS guy.  These 90 pre-filled syringes come in three boxes which occupy a combined volume of 2.98 cubic feet.  But throw in the packing material and the delivery consisted of 24.65 cubic feet of volume.  The packers divided the injections between two shipping cartons, each had a styrofoam cooler inside and within these were 14 freezer packs.  If I could think of some practical use for all the coolers, freezer packs, and shipping cartons I would be in business.

When the UPS guy comes to my door with the medicine, I always consider that most what he delivers is either stuff people have ordered from catalogs (or now, the internet), or medicine.  And I wonder if he draws any conclusions, just by looking at me, about whether I’m a catalog person or an in-need-of-medicine person.


Mother Knows Best

29 03 2010

The arrival of spring has reminded me of three times my mother showed great insight into the world around her:

  1. Be careful where you plant mint or it will take over your yard. This announcement came when I moved into this house eleven years ago and  she brought me some mint sprigs in a bit of dirt.  I put it in a raised bed and sure enough, in a year or so it had spread to every corner of that bed.  I didn’t find many uses for the herb, so I eradicated it before it had a chance to spread further.
  2. Father may know best about some things, but regarding plants and politics, you can't beat my mom.

    A peony is very hard to transplant. We inherited one with the house, but it was in a spot we rarely see, so my husband has always talked about moving it.  Until last year, I was always able to dissuade him.  But as part of a big shake up last fall that involved a butterfly bush, an azalea, a hydrangea and the peony, he finally had his way.  And this spring we can’t find any sign that the pretty peony ever existed.

  3. John Edwards is not to be trusted. Actually, she made this pronouncement with considerably more vitriol when Edwards was John Kerry’s running mate. From a political standpoint, her attitude was not surprising, but as she’s been a North Carolinian for some fifty years I was a little taken aback that she would have such negative feelings about someone from her own state.  Six years later, it’s pretty obvious she was absolutely right.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, (Anybody!) Lend Me Your Ears

26 03 2010

For me, a cold is usually all about the nose.  I may start with a sort throat for a day, and I may briefly get a cough on the way out, but mostly I have nasal congestion, a very runny nose, and the need for LOTS of tissues.

This symptom has two things going for it.  The first is gravity.  Have you ever awakened in the morning with a cold, and when you got up your nose miraculously cleared?  It’s as if “going vertical” caused all the gunk to sink to some preferable lower level, and your day is looking better already!

And the gravity thing works well in conjunction with your second option: nose blowing.  You’ve pretty much got a direct line to the source of the problem, and thanks to the wonders of air pressure, you can work wonders to clear things up, though you may have to repeat the process over and over and over.

But last December I got an infection characterized not by nasal symptoms but by congestion in my lungs.  The only weapon in my arsenal was a good, hearty cough.  Not as effective as blowing your nose, because

  1. You’re working against gravity, not with it, and
  2. You’ve got a lot more distance to cover.

But it was something.

Now for over a month I’ve had an ear infection–no pain, just fluid in my ear that blocks my hearing and makes my tinnitus worse than usual.  Unfortunately, there’s no equivalent to nose blowing or coughing.  The only relief comes when I lay on my side and let gravity s-l-o-w-l-y drain the fluid to somewhere that provides some return to normalcy.  But you can’t spend your whole day lying down.

I’ve been through two rounds of antibiotics and one round of steroids and I have an appointment with the ear guy next week.  And in the meantime I alternate between feeling like I”m going to explode with aggravation,  feeling just depressed and defeated, and feeling hopeful that relief will come soon.

Plus I spend a lot of time repositioning myself so I can hear people with my good ear.

Split Personality

24 03 2010

Last fall I visited the library in the aftermath of the semi-annual used book sale, when the remaining books were free for the taking.  I lost all sense of decorum and came home with 68 books and 19 record albums.  Never mind that I have no way to actually play any of the albums.

At the recent spring book sale, my husband and I went on the final day of the event when the books were $5 per grocery-sized paper bag.  Between the two of us, we filled one bag with 25 books which works out to $.20 per book.  I felt much more in control, unlike before when I wondered if I should look for a nearby chapter of  Book Hoarders Anonymous.

When I had free time later I chose a couple of the books to peruse. From the stack I selected  the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip collection and a book called Free Style that’s specifically about creating artsy scrapbook pages.

The reason I brought Calvin and Hobbes home wasn’t so much to read the comics, though I do think they’re kind of cute.  But I loved the drawings and when I looked at them, I thought to myself, “Gee, how great would it be to get out my colored pencils and fill these in?  A coloring book for me!  Hooray!”

The second book interests me not so much for whole scrapbooking thing (which I don’t do), but rather for the artsy way to make generic collages.  There seems to me to be a fine line between a layering of “stuff” that looks just wonderful and one that looks like crap.  And I’m trying to get a handle on what that distinction is.

As I sat there coloring neatly between the lines with my rainbow of colored pencils, thinking about the collage-style greeting cards I could make, I realized that my book choice revealed a right brain/left brain struggle.  The color inside the lines mentality is all about order, logic, facts, and details  (left brain.)  The glue a bunch of unrelated stuff on a piece of paper mentality is about imagination, symbolism, fantasy, and risk-taking (right brain).

Which took me to another of the books we had brought home, The Natural Superiority of the Left-Hander.  My husband and I both write and eat left-handed.  We use scissors, play the guitar, bat, and hold a tennis racket right-handed (to the extent that we do those things at all.)  Our kids are completely right-handed, except that one son bats left-handed. What a confusing jumble!  No wonder we’re so mixed up.

Erma, Meet Lisa

22 03 2010

When I was growing up, Erma Bombeck was a hero in my house.  She was a humor writer, and my mother loved her, and I loved her too.

I wouldn’t suggest that anybody should be up there on that pedestal with  Erma, but I read a book this weekend by Lisa Scottoline called Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog.

There are similarities…and differences.

Erma was a stay-at-home, suburban housewife, married, with three kids.  She wrote a syndicated column which ran in hundreds of newspapers.

Lisa is a successful fiction writer, a single mom, divorced twice.  She writes a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lisa is kind of an edgy Erma, updated for the twenty-first century.

Some quotes from the book:

  • Everybody has their pornography, and mine is the real estate ads. p. 13
  • Spanx…Girdles…my lower body had been transformed into a cylinder.  I no longer had hips where hips are supposed to be, or saddlebags where God intended.  I was the cardboard in the roll of toilet paper. p. 7
  • I work at home, and the UPS man doesn’t care if I wear the same T-shirt and shorts all week.  So does he.  p. 37
  • There is an inverse relationship between dieting and eating…The more people in your house on a diet, the more often they will eat.  p. 57
  • Franca would be my first phone call after I murdered someone.  She wouldn’t even ask why I did it.  She would know I had an excellent reason.  She’d just  drive over with a shovel and a Hefty bag.  p. 163

And finally:

It started harmlessly enough, back in the eighties.  If you went to a salad bar, you had to make your own salad.  And at the gas station, you had to pump your own gas.

Then it went crazy.

Nowadays, at the food store, you not only bag your own groceries and take them to the car, but you also check yourself out.  You can even bring your own bags.

You can go to a car wash, where you can wash you car yourself.  Or the train station, where you can buy your ticket ourself.  Or the airport, where you can get your own boarding pass.

They still fly the plane.

For now.

And at the fast food restaurants, they give you a paper cup and tell you to get your own soda. p. 157

Choice Is Good

19 03 2010

If you can believe everything you read on the internet, March is Women’s History Month, National Frozen Food Month, and National Umbrella Month.

For those groups that wanted some commemoration but couldn’t work up enough enthusiasm for a full month, there is National Procrastination Week, March 1-7 (whoops, I guess we missed it, though I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you celebrate it a few weeks late), American Chocolate Week, the third week of March, and Root Canal Awareness Week, March 28-April 3.

And for groups that decided to put all their energy into a single day, there is National Open an Umbrella Indoors Day, March 13 (perfect, since it’s also National Umbrella Month),  International Goof Off Day, March 22 (I hear they don’t have a lot of activities planned), and Weed Appreciation Day, March 28 (this year’s theme, “Salute the Lowly Dandelion”).

Ah, but my internet search has diverted me from my original point.  March is also National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness and Education Month.  (I think they figured if they had the longest title they’d get more attention.)  As a function of my affiliation with the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, I have been tasked with providing informational brochures to doctors’ offices in the area who treat MS patients.

It’s been an interesting, eye-opening experience.

  1. The first office I visited was a large practice in a high rent medical building, lots of marble and wood in the halls. With any big practice I’m aware that it’s potentially the kind of place where I feel I’m being processed rather than treated.
  2. The second office I saw was in a much smaller, older building and had a single doctor on staff.  The sort of place where you can get to know the people, but you have to be careful that your doctor, who might be treating a zillion different neurological illnesses, is up to date on the latest in MS care.
  3. The third office wins the award for most amazing magazine collection in the waiting room. They must have had over a hundred magazines neatly arranged in a big ring around the edge of a circular coffee table.  Just like the men’s necktie display at Macy’s.  They were so closely overlapping that you couldn’t discern any of the titles, but I wouldn’t have dared pick a magazine up anyway, lest the OCD receptionist who set up the display have a cow.
  4. The fourth office was not a generic neurology practice, but focused solely on MS, and was clearly headed by a woman.  The waiting room was big, open, sunny.  Coffee, tea and cold drinks were available.  The receptionist was so friendly–I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her wearing a Miss Congeniality sash.  They had Gameboys for playing and movies for watching if you were there for the infusion center.   It was kind of like a place to hang out, to commune, to lounge, to share.  The whole thing said, “WELCOME.”  Take a load off.  Make yourself comfortable.  Have a chat with a compatriot.  I liked it.
  5. The fifth office was part of an HMO.  Like going to a mall for your health care, one stop shopping.  Visit your neurologist first thing in the morning, then down the hall for your mammogram,  up one flight to get that wart removed, and finish up with a root canal before you head home.  (Check with the dentist to see if you can get a discount on the root canal during Root Canal Awareness Week, March 28-April 3.)
  6. The sixth office…well I actually never found it.  I used the GPS and I used my own brain, the part that still works.  As best either of us could tell, the practice must have been located on the campus of large juvenile reform school.  And judging by the security patrolling the place, I wasn’t too keen on venturing forth.  So I gave that one a pass.

All this got me thinking about my own neurologist.  I’m crazy about him.  Even though he spends a lot of time on the road presenting at various symposiums, during my appointment, I feel like he is 100 percent focused on me and looking out for my best interest.  And I love the fact that there’s a nurse on staff dedicated to MS patients.  It’s a large practice, with some 13 doctors.  The downside is that the front office is about as friendly as a piece of toast.  And the parking at the facility ranges from bad to atrocious.  But as long as I’m happy with the medical care, I’ll tolerate a lot of the accompanying annoyances.

I read about people who hate their neurologist but are stuck because no others are available.  And about people who travel OUTRAGEOUS distances to their MS appointments.  Choice is good.  I consider myself lucky.

Trash Talk

17 03 2010

Today is trash day in my neighborhood, meaning everybody wheels their big old garbage cans down to the street for pickup.  I noticed one can had some cute mylar helium balloons floating up from it, a couple hearts, a star, an adorable frog.  How delightful, I thought.  A little garbage day decorating is just the punch this day needed!

The more I thought about it though, the more I soured on it.  Have we become such a throwaway society that we can’t even keep our helium balloons until they start to lose their lift?  Did the balloon owners at least bid farewell to the party guests before they ushered the floating inflatables out the door?

(I’ll admit, I’m just as bad in the other direction.  My 21-year-old had heart surgery before he turned one and I still have some balloons that were given to him, squirreled away in the linen closet.)

It got me to thinking about Jerry Seinfeld’s standup routine.  He mentions how his wife’s a saver and he’s a throw-it-outer.  His point of view is that essentially everything they own is garbage.  Some stuff is just further along in its life cycle than other stuff.  Interesting perspective.