Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Curmudgeon vs. Wile E. Coyote, et al

When I sat down to write this, the word “curmudgeon” sprang to mind, but I don’t know why. Is it curmudgeonly to want a little cotton-pickin’ PEACE and QUIET?!! Well, you can be the judge. I submit to you the evidence:

One day after moving to this serene-looking small town situated in a valley with mountains just behind it (see picture above), there I was happily (well, maybe that’s not exactly the right word) unpacking. I had just been thinking to myself how quiet it is here when, out of the clear blue sky, there was an ear-shattering BOOM! It was of a decibel level that literally made the window panes vibrate, along with every bone in my body. At that exact moment, I was taking dishes out of a box, so I spent the next few seconds discovering my inner juggler with a couple of bowls.

Then, like any normal person, I ran outside to see what I could see, and there was - nothing. No smoke, no fire, no sirens going off, nothing. I looked around the neighborhood to see if anyone else had come outside, and all I saw was a pick-up down the street with the hood up and four men draped over the front-end peering into the inner workings. You know, the typical four-man repair job scenario. Not one of them so much as looked up.

After standing in the driveway for a couple of minutes, it dawned on me that I might not want to call attention to myself that way since, apparently, no one else had heard what I heard. Don’t want to appear crazy to my new neighbors. Especially in a small town. Word gets around. So, I took one last furtive look toward the sky, nonchalantly checked the mailbox (yeah, that’s what I came out here for), and went back in the house.

Not ten minutes later, there was another BOOM! Again, the window panes rattled, and dishes got tossed into the air. I congratulated myself for making yet another spectacular save, and then went to peek through the blinds and check the neighborhood. A second trip outside to stand in the driveway and do a rendition of "The Sky is Falling!" didn't seem like a good idea. But, again, there was nothing. The four-man crew had changed positions and their stylish ensembles were now accessorized with beer cans, but they were all still poking around in the guts of the pick-up as if nothing had happened.

I’m thinking, “This is nuts! I know I heard that, and they had to hear it too. Why am I the only one running in circles?!”

Since we had just moved in, I had no internet service or cable yet. So I didn’t have many options for trying to figure out what the heck was going on, after discarding the idea that I was well and truly losing my damn mind. Should I approach the pick-up guys and ask them? No. Again - small town!

Just as the opening strains of “The Twilight Zone” started to play in my head, I suddenly had a dim memory of a small article I had read online before we moved here. I searched my scrambled and battered brain cells and recalled something about some kind of explosives research and training facility here which trains first responders. For some reason, at the time I read this article, I failed to comprehend and fully appreciate the fact the training area is just right over there behind that mountain. But, whatcha gonna do? Exactly. Live with it. (Groan)

Now, after almost five years of living here, most days I don’t really even notice the occasional small boom. But there are days, like today, when I want to throttle every boy and girl out there playing Wile E. Coyote. eeeeeeeeeeeddddddddd Sorry about that. Just a little jumpy. They’ve been at it since 8:00 this morning, and the BOOMS have been coming fast and furious all day. About three times an hour, sometimes more. ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;geeeeeeeeeee Okay, that was only a couple of minutes, kids! Please report to recess for cookies and milk NOW!

Oh, yeah, we're havin' some fun now.

You wanna know what's really fun? When you’re painting a baseboard and BOOM!

Or stirring some tomato soup and BOOM!

Or pouring a cup of coffee and BOOM!

Or sewing a button back on a shirt and BOOM!

Or, my personal favorite, when you're putting on your eyeliner and BOOM!

You get the idea . . . Blood, sweat, and tears, a crazy (yet oddly artistic?) swath of paint across the wall, tomato soup-stained clothes, a scalded hand, a pierced finger, and a frog eye.

I’m tellin’ ya, if we ever come under attack here, we won’t even know it. Everyone in town will simply go about their normal business, and all the men will say, “Wow! That was a GOOD one!" Or words to that effect.

Curmudgeon? I think not. And today would not be a good day to argue with me. I’m just sayin’ . . .

P.S. Wish me luck – I’m off to the lab to get my blood drawn. *Shudder* Yeah, nice. Yuck it up. One word – karma.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's Up with Your Thyroid?

Not to be a total downer, but January is Thyroid Awareness Month. FREEZE! Back away from the mouse. This is important stuff. I wish, wish, wish someone had told me 20 years ago what I’m about to tell you. Just bear with me, and I’ll try not to make this as dry as last week’s meatloaf.

Full disclosure here: I’m not even an expert on my own thyroid, much less yours, but awareness is what we’re shooting for this month, because there are many people with undiagnosed thyroid conditions who are suffering needlessly.

So, what is it? The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower part of the front of the neck.

What does it do? The thyroid’s main job is to produce thyroid hormone, which act as tiny little messengers telling different body parts what to do. Thyroid hormones assist in making energy, regulating your weight, temperature and emotions, among other things.

It is a sad fact that millions of people have undiagnosed thyroid conditions and diseases. So, if you have never had a thyroid work-up or it’s been a while, GET ONE! No need to panic, because this doesn’t involve tubes up the wa-hoo or any other invasion of your private tidbits. Basic screening for thyroid problems is nothing more than a clinical evaluation performed by your doctor or other healthcare professional and simple blood tests.

Also, screening for thyroid problems on a fairly regular basis is important whether you are having any of the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction or not. (See below) I had none of the typical symptoms when I was diagnosed, and my thyroid was sputtering worse than the ’62 VW bug I had in high school. If not for a super sharp nurse practitioner who had the sense to order a complete thyroid panel at an annual poke and gouge session, I have no doubt things would have gotten pretty ugly pretty fast.

And, I cannot stress this enough, thyroid issues do not discriminate. They can occur at any age and, while they seem to affect women more often than men, men can also have them.

I know some doctors routinely order basic thyroid testing at annual physicals, but most do not. It is your body and your health, so don’t be afraid to say you want this testing done. Women, in particular, tend to get told they are stressed or depressed and are not taken seriously. Given that the thyroid directly impacts emotions and weight, which women tend to struggle with more than men, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that doctors tend to dismiss our symptoms. Our best line of defense it to become armed and dangerous with knowledge and learn to stand up for ourselves.

Personally, I can’t count the number of times, even after I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, that my doctors did not listen to me and just wanted to give me a prescription for anti-anxiety or anti-depressant meds, when I knew darned good and well it was my whacked-out thyroid. If they try to blow you off, be polite but firm. I have found this usually works, although I have had to fire a couple of doctors for being stupid-heads. Bottom line, if your doctor will not listen to you, FIND ANOTHER ONE. Actually, when my former doctor asked if anything was stressing me out, I said, “Yes! YOU are!” What can I say? Some days I’m more Southern Belle and some days I’m more Steel Magnolia . . . Notice I say he is my “former” doctor.

Anyway, with all that in mind, I want to do my part to stamp out thyroid ignorance and give a very BASIC overview of the most common thyroid conditions and diseases, because there is a very good chance you or someone you know has a dysfunctional thyroid. And, since the thyroid is a command center for the body, it demands a lot more respect than most people, including some doctors, give it.

Thyroid conditions:

Hypothyroidism: When the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone, it is said to be underactive. List of risk factors and symptoms:

Hyperthyroidism: When the thyroid gland is producing too much thyroid hormone, it is said to be overactive. List of risk factors and symptoms:

Autoimmune thyroid diseases – NOT to be confused with immune deficiency diseases

Hashimoto’s: Antibodies form which attack and destroy the thyroid and disrupt and slow its function. Basically, your immune system has somehow (no one understands how) taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque and sees your thyroid as something bad, like an invading bacteria. It is possible to have Hashimoto’s and not be hypothyroid (underactive thyroid). In my case, I had a goiter (an enlarged thyroid) for 15 years before I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. I believe I had undiagnosed Hashimoto’s for years and eventually my thyroid was destroyed to the point where it was not producing enough thyroid hormones, and I developed hypothyroidism.

Some doctors believe treating Hashimoto’s with thyroid hormones, even when they test within the so-called normal range, can slow down or stop the progression of Hashimoto’s. If I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and treated early on, it is possible I would never have developed hypothyroidism and my thyroid would be in much better shape now. Too late for me, but maybe it’s not for you. Just sayin’ . . .

More info on Hashimoto’s:

Graves Disease: The immune system attacks the thyroid and overstimulates it, causing symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Symptoms and additional info:

So, on to testing:
Here is a list of what the clinical evaluation should include and a list of blood tests:

Now, don’t get overwhelmed here, because the list of thyroid blood tests is quite lengthy. Tests should be ordered based on the results of the clinical evaluation and any symptoms you may be having. Generally, the basics are ordered including: TSH, Free T4 and Free T3.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Currently, there is some controversy among doctors about the appropriate “normal” range of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone a/k/a TSH. Even though, as of 2003, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommended the normal range for TSH run from 0.3 to 3.0, some doctors and labs are still using the older range of 0.5 to 5.5. According to the new standards, levels above 3.0 are evidence of possible hypothyroidism, and levels below 0.3 are evidence of possible hyperthyroidism.

If you have an enlarged thyroid, known as a goiter, I would insist on the Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) Antibodies testing. Like I said before, if this test had been performed when my goiter was first discovered, it is possible I could have been treated and been spared a lot of grief later.

If, for some mysterious reason, your doctor will not order a thyroid panel or, if you simply prefer to order your own, there are resources: (Please review your results with a healthcare professional.)

Personally, I hit the trifecta (or is that thyfecta?) of thyroid dysfunction - I have hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, and a multi-nodular goiter. A multi-nodular goiter is quite common with Hashimoto’s. The last ultrasound of my thyroid more closely resembled a lump of Play-Doh someone walked on with cleats, rather than the serene little butterfly it’s supposed to look like.

Finally, remember you are more than a lab number. Ideally, your doctor will be just as interested, if not more so, in whatever symptoms you are having than your test numbers. I have been extremely lucky to have found a doctor who not only listens to me, but gives me credit for having two brain cells that fire simultaneously. Whenever I see him, he always asks me first how I am feeling, and he looks directly at me and listens to what I say. Not once has he told me it was all in my head or I was just stressed out or “Well, you know, you ARE getting older.” Don’t you hate that one? We have worked together to determine the appropriate treatments and medications that work for me, and I trust him. As a result, I am feeling better now than I have in years. He has truly been an answer to a prayer. And, yes, I have told him that.

So, don’t be scared. Get tested! Please.

For more information on these and other thyroid issues, forums, and tremendous support (which has saved my sanity more than once), check out these sites:

Wishing you Happy Thyroid Trails!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gorillas and Beavers and Hares, Oh My!

My husband has a new hobby. Shopping. Yes, you heard me right. I said shopping. Seems he got a bee in his bonnet about a new hat. Not just any hat. A cowboy hat. He had a straw one but, apparently, straw is not appropriate after Labor Day. He wants one for winter, and the acceptable colors for winter are either black or gray.

I know all that. I grew up in these parts. Practically every adult man I was ever around as a kid wore a cowboy hat. What I didn't know was how complicated this whole hat thing can be. I also had no idea my husband would get hooked on eBay in the process. I have to take the blame for that part of it, because I'm the one who told him to go look around at eBay and even gave him my username and password. I know, I know.

Night after night after night, he comes in from work and goes straight to his computer. Sometimes he doesn't even change clothes first. I'm lucky if I get an air kiss thrown in my general direction as he zips by me towards the office. Occasionally, I'll go to the office and get on my computer too, and then he starts reading hat descriptions off the web pages. Our computers face different walls, but there is only about four feet between us, so there's no avoiding this running commentary. I will 'fess up to tuning him out, because a girl can just take so much yak about a hat. But, once in a while something will penetrate the fog, as I try desperately to pursue my own pursuits online. So one day, way off in the distance, I heard him saying something about cattleman's creases and a silver belly.

"Silverbelly? Isn't that a gorilla? Oh, wait, that would be a silverback. What did you say?"

He rolls his eyes at me and explains that silverbelly is a hat color. Okay, I guess that would be the gray ones then.

"Cattleman's creases? Is that anything like plumber's pants?"

This gets a tiny grin, or maybe it was a grimace, out of him, and he explains there are different ways to crease the crown of a hat. Okay, I knew that. I just didn't know they actually have names for the different crease styles. I turned my attention back to my computer. But not for long because, evidently, he has decided I need to be involved in the entire hat-buying process, and I hear him talking about a 20X. Huh?

"Are you talking about sizes? Because I think a 20X might be a bit big for your noggin."

"No, that's not the size, goofy. A 20X would be like a Grade A egg. There's 6X and 7X and so on. A 20X is a really nice hat, and they can be very expensive."


Mumble, mumble, mumble, and then I hear something about beavers and hair. Yeah, I actually heard the screeching brake sound in my head. WHAT?!

"Okay, you have my undivided attention now. What on God's green earth are you talking about? Are you telling me those hats are made out of beavers?"

Now he is scowling at me with a look of barely disguised impatience (you know the look I'm talking about) and he says, "Okay. Here's the deal. Cowboy hats are made of beaver or hair. The one I'm looking at now is made of Canadian beaver, but they have some made of European hair." At least that's what I THOUGHT he said.

By this time, I'm totally into playing the dippy blonde (while actually fearing I really am one) and I absolutely cannot resist poking the bear, so I look at him and say, "Okay, like that doesn't make any sense at all. Are you like telling me they like make hats out of like the hair of Europeans?"

This gets a full-fledged belly laugh out of him, and he is barely able to sputter, "I mean European H-A-R-E not H-A-I-R. You know, as in rabbit."

No, actually, this is all news to me. I don't know what I thought they made those hats out of. I'm pretty sure I've never thought about it at all. I mean the hats don't have hair sticking out all over them or little bushy tails, so who would think they were made out of cute little woodland creatures?

Bottom line, this makes me feel stupendously stupid today. For someone of my uh, advanced years, I cannot believe I did not know this. In my defense, I have never bought a hat or even been present when someone else was buying one. No, I've just been looking at them for the last (mumble, mumble) years. Makes me wonder what else I've been missing, and it makes me question a lot of things I've never thought about before. So, would someone please explain to me what "rose hips" are and what they're doing in my Vitamin C?

Oh, and the moral of the story? Once in a purple-polka-dotted Pluto, when you least expect it, your husband may actually know more about something than you do. But, let's keep that to ourselves, girls. Just say, "Yeah, I knew that!" And, faster than a jackrabbit, move on to something else. No need to give these guys any excuse to gloat or be more condescending than usual, because they will NEVER...EVER...EVER...LET...YOU...FOR...GET...IT!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Mommy Bloggers?! Phooey!

Nothing like starting a brand new year by stirring up a little trouble, huh? I’m thinking this might be my first installment of “Things That Bother Me More Than They Should.” And away we go . . .

Since I've been on Twitter, I've noticed that you can't swing a dead cat or a dirty diaper, not that I have either, without hitting a mommy blogger or a mommy blog. To which I say, "Mommy bloggers?! Phooey!” (Why do my fingers keep trying to type "booger" instead of "blogger?") What I want to know is where are the grandma bloggers, the granny gurus, the super-nana-logues?

I did a quick search for granny bloggers and discovered a few grandma-types blogging, but I have to say I was seriously disappointed. Oh, there are some very nice grandmas dispensing bits of wisdom, gardening tips, and recipes, but I was expecting some fire, some spunk, some pizzazz. After all, we grandmas were mommies long before mommies were cool. We were stay-at-home moms, working moms, and single working moms blazing trails, and juggling husbands, houses, jobs, kids, pets, cranky appliances, AWOL babysitters, and rattletrap cars eons before you could Google potty-training or order pizza online. Most of us didn’t even have microwave ovens. And just who do you think invented the 5-second rule and multi-tasking? Uh, huh, we cool.

We were cool even before our mommy days. Throughout junior high and high school, we protested for our God-given right to play sports. We checked the rule books and nowhere did it say you had to be a boy to play, so we started showing up for try-outs and having sit-ins (look it up), and we eventually got a brand new law and our own girls’ teams. In my high school, we even went after the FFA (Future Farmers of America). My best friend was the first girl they allowed into that particular boys’ club in high school. I would have joined, but I didn’t have a passionate desire to learn how to weld or about passionate farm critters.

Most of us grew up in homes with only one phone, which was usually in the kitchen. We were so cool we could come out of our rooms, slide down the hall sideways, execute a sharp turn, go around the wall at the end of the hall, slide into the kitchen, and still get it by the third ring. That’s cool. But I digress. Back to mommies.

As mommies we totally had it goin’ on. We didn’t have those fancy baby monitors and web cams to keep an ear and an eye on the little mon … uh, angels. No, we had to depend entirely on our spidey mommy senses to determine if that sound was our 2-year-old stuffing the entire Sunday paper into the toilet or if that smell was our 5-year-old lemon-oiling the dog. I got so good I could determine, over the sound of running water while in the shower, if that gnawing sound was the cat on the counter trying to open the package of defrosting ground beef or if the baby was teething on the crib rails.

There were no such things as DVD players and acres of kiddie DVD’s to keep the curtain-climbers from climbing the curtains. No, we had those precious wind-up toys that played the same song or animal sounds over and over and over until they “accidentally” fell into the bathtub. Woops! There were no blinged-out baby exercisers with 82 doo-dads attached to keep baby amused. We had regular baby walkers which had tiny plastic trays attached, to which we would tie an assortment of baby rattles and teething rings, which generally kept baby amused for about 3.4 minutes.

The best toy and colic calmer in our house was the cat. He would position himself under the baby swing, so that the baby’s feet would brush across his back as the baby swung back and forth. They both adored that swing. The cat finally accepted baby as a reasonably useful thing to have around, and the baby giggled uncontrollably. Peace reigned. Sometimes for as long as 15 minutes.

Oh, the blogs we could have written.

Grandmas are so cool, we already know all the words for the songs on Guitar Hero – Legends of Rock. We’ve been rockin’ out to those sounds for years. We’re so cool we never completely abandoned bell bottom jeans. We knew they’d be back.

It might be a little tougher to maintain our coolness now that power surges have us waking up at 3:00AM feeling like our hair is on fire, or when certain . . . uh, shifts in body composition make us wonder if we should carry a sign that says “Watch for Falling Body Parts,” but never doubt that coolness lies just below the surface. Beauty is skin-deep, but coolness goes all the way to the bone, baby. We grandmas are some cool beans. And our mommy blogs would have kicked your mommy blog’s bootay.