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Setting Up Playdates

I’m at a crossroads right now when it comes to playdates, especially with my older one. I don’t feel like I should be involved anymore, especially since 12-year-olds don’t call their social interactions “playdates” anymore. They say they are “hanging out” or “getting together.” And yet my oldest wants me to help her out. She wants me to be involved.

On the other hand, my little one is facing a world where 7- and 8-year-olds are texting each other on their iPods and phones (yes, phones!) and making their own plans. Until recently, I didn’t let the little one text and she was missing out on social connections. Yes, the moms are still involved, but the girls are the ones who initiate the plans on their social calendars.

Me? I’m just trying to keep up. Trying to do what’s right for both of them. Do I push the big one to pick up the phone — like I did this week — or just cave and make her plans for her? And what about the little one? How do I help her navigate a social media world while she’s still in single digits? It weighs heavy on my mind sometimes since, as my big girl has wailed at me, she “had to wait until she was 10 to start texting.” Indeed.

I don’t know what the answer is in either case, but I’d love to hear what your experience is. How do you deal with playdates, social media and kids? I’d like to know.

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I’ve seen a lot of doctors over the past 20 months. A lot. Recently, I went to an endocrinologist for some routine blood work. While I was there the doctor decided she wanted me to get a thyroid sonogram and a bone density test. I asked her why. She felt a nodule on the thyroid, she said. Okay, I told her I would let her do the sono. But why did she want me to get a bone density scan? I was so thin, she said. So thin?!? I was incredulous.

What are the reasons to give someone a bone density scan, which is x-rays of the hip and spine? The National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests that the following list of folks should consider a test:

  • women age 65 or older
  • men age 70 or older
  • someone who has broken a bone after age 50
  • women of menopausal age with risk factors
  • postmenopausal women under age 65 with risk factors
  • men age 50-69 with risk factors
  • someone who had an X-ray of the spine showing a break or bone loss
  • back pain with a possible break in the spine  
  • height loss of ½ inch or more within one year
  • total height loss of 1½ inches from your original height

So no, I don’t fall into any of those categories. I turned down the test. The doctor was not pleased. I figured I probably cost her a few hundred bucks not to mention the opportunity to use the new toy in her office.

This happens over and over every day. Doctors, who are seeing less reimbursement from insurance companies, are looking for a way to raise payment-per-patient numbers. One good way: Sending patients for tests in their own offices.

Of course, most doctors are smart, thoughtful professionals who want to help and follow the “first, do no harm” principle. But as a patient, you need to be aware that you are not just a patient but a CUSTOMER. You are the one who controls your own health. You MUST be an advocate for yourself and for your family.

As for my experience: I probably won’t be going back to that doctor. Yes, she was nice, but I don’t completely believe she had my best interests in mind. Have you had a similar experience? I’d like to know.

We all have issues and shortcomings. I have many. I have blogged about them in the past. One of the issues I have been focused on lately is actually weird, especially given what I do for a living. I am extremely sensitive and take criticism too personally. It took me a while to admit it, but now I say it freely:

“Hello, my name is Karen. I get sad, depressed and angry and feel rejected when someone criticizes me.”

This isn’t a problem that plagues me at work. Ever, actually. I am really good at what I do, but I love constructive criticism of my writing, editing and reporting. I strive to be the best I can be, and don’t even flinch if a story comes back with revision notes. It is what it is. It’s my job. I get it. I may grumble because I am feeling lazy, but I don’t take it personally for a nanosecond. My regular life? Not so much.

For example, I have a Girl Scout troop. Recently, a few of the girls decided they wanted to do their Silver award work with some friends who are Juliette Low scouts — girls who are not aligned with a troop. Instead of hearing the news and saying, “Whew! That means less work for me,” I heard, “You suck as a leader. If you were a better leader the girls would want to work on it with you.” Crazy. Insane. Especially since these girls have been with me for eight years and all the evidence I have says they like our troop and enjoy Girl Scouts.

Why does that happen? My therapist says it’s because I have core beliefs that are not real. Well, they are real in my mind, but they are not based on reality. Blame it on my childhood. Blame it on my upbringing. Blame it on my brain, which is wired for anxiety. Blame it on my own self-worth that — as the weird, smart shy girl who didn’t have a lot of friends growing up — isn’t where it should be. Whatever the reason, it’s stopping me from being successful as an adult. It’s impacting the way I approach social situations and life. It’s also pissing people off and keeping me from making stronger connections.

I’m going to be trying EMDR to try and eradicate the false core beliefs so that I can understand and see the difference between when someone is actually being mean or criticizing me in a negative way and when someone is just saying something benign. I plan on blogging about it as we go. In the meantime, I’d hyper-aware of what’s going on and pledge to try harder to think before I react — a work-in-progress, that’s me!

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Friendship and Illness

While I have lost a lot over the course of my concussion recovery — money, time with my kids, memories, a feeling of safety, 15 pounds — one of the things I mourn the most is friendship.

When you are ill with a chronic issue (and in my case that would be chronic, daily vestibular migraines) people start falling away. They don’t understand what you’re going through. It’s annoying. It’s not appealing. It’s frustrating to deal with. Pile on top of that depression and anxiety and it basically becomes a recipe for loss. People you once looked forward to seeing are no longer in your life. Especially if you made them mad early on in your recovery. That’s what happened to me.

For me, I think my lack of filter was the biggest problem. I remember clearly losing it on a few friends when they were questioning my decision to keep my kids off a water slide. I was at the beginning of this journey back then. I could barely stand up. I shouldn’t have been out of the house at all. And yet I went to a block party. When my friends started ribbing me and saying things that made me feel bad about my decision to keep the kids out of the water, I yelled at them. I don’t even remember what I said. So much of those first six months is lost to me. But I do know the outcome: They were highly offended and angry. Those two friendships never really recovered, especially when I added in the fact that they were tangentially connected to my personal problem. Sort of.

Another instance — right around the same time — happened at my beach club. It was at a members-only camp out. I noticed that there were non-members there. Instead of ignoring it I got upset. I have no idea why. I mentioned it to the president. He went and told the non-members they were not supposed to be there. No filter. I had no filter and no common sense as many people with a concussion, which is a traumatic brain injury after all. Lots of behavior issues, actually.

There’s a great article here that explains how and why this occurs. From the article, a list of the behavioral problems that can happen: verbal outbursts, physical outbursts, poor judgment and disinhibition, impulsive behavior, negativity, intolerance, apathy, egocentricity, rigidity and inflexibility, risky behavior, lack of empathy, lack of motivation or initiative, depression or anxiety.

People were really mad about the beach club thing. Really mad. And soon after there was another problem — a botched text chain where I basically told everyone on the text they should just take me out and flog me. LOL and OMG. Impulsive behavior and poor judgement. If I was able to hang out with those people and let them see my true self once I was feeling better I probably could have repaired those friendships, but I never truly got past the headaches and vestibular migraine. I became a shut-in. I spent most of my time in bed. I cried a lot. I was so angry at life for throwing all this crap at me. I had days where I asked God why. I had days where I thanked God I had children because if I didn’t I am not sure I would have had the strength to go on. I was lonely and yearned for my old life back. It never came back. Not completely.

Looking back, I can’t believe any of this happened. I never knew how far-reaching a concussion could be. I never realized that it means more than just being dizzy and getting daily headaches. It can strip away your personality, your judgement and your self. It robs you of friendship. It obliterates your self-confidence and hope. It makes you question everything. And when you look normal on the outside? People are not willing to forgive and forget so easily. It’s not like a broken leg or stitches. You look normal so your behavior is judged as a normal person’s judgement would be.

My therapist tells me that people who don’t understand or who can’t forgive were never really my friends to begin with. I don’t know, because they felt like friends to me.

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The New Dirty Dozen

The Environmental Working Group this week announced its 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. It’s something I have always read and followed. Basically, the list details the fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residue. This year, strawberries top the list. Considering the average American eats about eight pounds of strawberries every year, this is a big deal.

Why should you worry about pesticide residue? I’ll let the EWG explain:

Nearly all strawberry samples — 98 percent — tested by federal officials had detectable pesticide residues. Forty percent had residues of 10 or more pesticides and some had residues of 17 different pesticides. Some of the chemicals detected on strawberries are relatively benign, but others are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, hormone disruption and neurological problems.”

Scary stuff. For example, one study found that teenagers exposed to pesticides may end up with abnormal sperm. Another meta study of 21 studies found that pesticide exposure is associated with an increase risk of developing diabetes. Yet another study found that pesticides boost the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Not to mention the fact that it’s been linked to endometriosis, pediatric cancers and decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems in kids and a host of other problems.

So what do you do? Try sticking with organic for anything that’s on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. It’s a good start, and — for the most part — organic purchased in season isn’t usually much more expensive. Another big thing: DON’T spray Round-Up or other pesticides in your home or garden. Kids play and can accidentally ingest the chemicals. Finally, make sure everyone takes their shoes off when they come in the house to minimize chemicals literally walking into your home.

Are pesticides something you worry about? How do you avoid contact with your family? I’d like to know.

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Contacts and Guilt

No AoSept means I am wasting more plastic every day.

No AoSept means I am wasting more plastic every day.

I have worn contacts since I was 12. Each new pair would come in a little glass vial. I wore them daily and would disinfect them in a heating unit that plugged into the wall. I wore each pair for months — until they were covered with protein deposits. Then I would start the process over. Very little waste. Very little muss.

Over the years, however, contacts and they way we store and disinfect them has changed. Until recently, I wore lenses that I tossed once a month. I used AoSept to disinfect them every night, and made sure I recycled the used bottles and the case the solution went into. Until, that is, the company that made my beloved solution pulled it from the market, replacing it with something completely different. Something, it seems, my sensitive eyes can’t handle. I figured I would try a few other solutions. Maybe they would work. Nope. I had the same problems: itchy, red eyes and contacts that I had to remove from my eyes after only a few hours. Sigh.

I found myself facing one of two possibilities: switch to glasses or daily lenses. My vanity won out. I went with the daily replaceable lenses, which means I no longer need any solutions or disinfection. I am very happy with them from an eye perspective, but from a green perspective I feel sort of guilty. As you can see from the photo above, the lenses come ensconced in a plastic tray covered with a foil wrapper. I open two lenses every day and will generate 730 of those lens packaging thingys each year. I plan on recycling them, but still…

I did try and find other options so I could stick with my monthly lenses. I researched heating disinfection units like the one I started with and even looked into an ultrasonic unit. They just wouldn’t work, I discovered. The ultrasonic device got mixed reviews on Amazon. Besides, my doctor said it didn’t get lenses clean or germ-free. And I couldn’t find a heating unit. Sigh. I’m stuck with my daily lenses.

As someone who avoids plastic whenever I can I feel really bad. This will be a case, I guess, of trying to make other changes to offset my plastic waste. Is it a perfect solution? No, but I have to see (I am fairly sightless without corrective lenses) and I’m not willing to try LASIK.

Do you wear lenses? Have you found a more natural disinfecting solution? I’d like to hear about it.

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Migraines and Nightmares

As I mentioned in my last post, I have both chronic daily migraines and — up until February — bad dreams every single night. What changed in February? I went to a new migraine specialist and he put me on preventative medicine. I was hoping for the vestibular migraines to go away. (They are not gone. They are, however, more manageable.) I was not expecting the nightmares to abate and yet they have.

I went from having one to two nightmares a night that woke me (and everyone else in the house) to having two or three in a six week period. Crazy. Amazing. Wonderful.

I called the doctor, a specialist in vestibular migraines, and asked him if the preventative medicine could be the reason the dreams are gone. His answer: “Anything is possible with migraine.” My theory is the migraines were activating a part of my brain that controls dreams. Now that the migraine pathways are calmed down a bit those connections to the dream circuitry in my brain are severed — or at least muddled a bit.

Migraine is a funny condition. It can cause so many crazy symptoms and bodily reactions. Not just pain, in case you didn’t know. Anyway, if you’re having migraines and also experiencing weird symptoms that doctors can’t identify or diagnose, go to a migraine specialist. If one doesn’t work — for example, I went to the supposedly “best” on Long Island and he didn’t offer me the drug that is giving me some relief — go to someone else. I got my new doctor, Dr. Newman in Manhattan, based on a referral from my vestibular therapist. My old doctor, someone who was very involved with Botox trials, just wanted to give me Botox.

Have you ever had a migraine? What kind of migraine do you suffer with? I’d like to know.

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The Case of Nightmare Spray

My sweet Little Girl had a bad nightmare on Friday night. Bad. Screaming and crying bad. She cried so much I let her come sleep in my bed. She was still upset about it on Saturday, but was so exhausted at bedtime she fell right to sleep. Still, it haunted her even on Sunday. So much so that last night she was begging to have someone sleep with her and said she was afraid to go to sleep — period. No amount of comforting or cajoling would calm her. Finally, I got desperate.

I took out some smudging spray I had and told her it was bad dream spray. I was on the phone with my brother so he also spoke to her and confirmed the stuff really worked. I enlisted Big Girl, too. She told her that SHE had used it when she was a little girl and it definitely worked. We followed the directions, spritzing it seven times under the bed.

This morning Little Girl woke up and confirmed the spray worked. No nightmare! I figured that was it, but instead she asked where I bought it (Amazon — truthfully) and why it worked. (“Infused with lavender and reiki-charged quartz…”) Anyway, that kid is so special she immediately followed up with another question: Why didn’t I use it on myself when I was having six months of daily screaming nightmares from the migraines? (Yes, I had daily nightmares where I woke up screaming for my mommy.) I explained that my nightmares were from brain chemistry gone haywire, and she accepted that.

It made me shed a little tear that I have such a special, empathetic child, but I also feel like Big Girl did last night as she made a tortured face and lamented, “I feel HORRIBLE about lying to her!”

Lying is a big offense in our home. It’s not allowed. One of the main things I tell the girls: People who love each other — or even like each other — don’t lie to each other. Ever. It’s something I have always felt very strongly about, even more so recently. In this instance I had to tell a white lie because the kid was just beyond consolation. She was so upset. I think it is because she attended one of my best friend’s mother’s shivas — a Jewish tradition of mourning.

I’m not sure what I am going to do going forward. However, tonight we plan on using the spray again. Any ideas? Do I tell her the truth or let her believe a lie — just for a little while longer?

I have chronic daily migraines. I have been treating them with various things — Sphenocath, Botox, beta blockers, and hypnotherapy. (I will post reviews of all of the above one of these days.) One of my other less invasive treatments has been drinking 8-ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily.

Why? Montmorency tart cherries in particular contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Sort of like ibuprofen but without the risks to your stomach and liver. I got the idea to drink the juice after reading a bunch of studies that looked at the effects of tart cherries on the human body — 21 studies in total.

The results are impressive. In one study, scientists looked at how people recovered after long distance running and cycling, for instance, found that those athletes had less pain and a faster recovery time than those who didn’t imbibe. T

From the cycling study: “Cyclists who drank Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate before a three-day simulated race experienced less inflammation and oxidative stress compared to those who drank another beverage, according to… [the] U.K. study published in the journal Nutrients.”

From a study about gout sufferers: “In the study, Montmorency tart cherry juice reduced blood levels of uric acid and C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation. High levels of uric acid are linked to gout, a form of arthritis that can cause severe attacks of intense pain and swelling (inflammation) in various joints, including the big toe and other joints in the legs and arms.”

Another study looked at the link between sleep and tart cherry juice since tart cherries are the only food in the world that contain melatonin. Again, tart cherry juice came out a winner, with insomniacs reporting longer sleep and better sleep when they drank the stuff.

After reading all these studies, I figured I’d give it a shot. Since migraines happen due to inflammation in the circulatory system, why wouldn’t tart cherries be beneficial for someone with migraines?

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Costume, Who Needs a Costume?

Little Girl is 7. She loves dressing up and costumes so when it came time to plan for Halloween I expected her to ask for a store-bought option. She did, but when I nixed her choice (No, baby, I refuse to dress my beautiful little girl up as a dead cheerleader) and *she* nixed all the options I had up in the attic, she came up with Plan B. She decided to go out on her own. She would make her costume, she told me. And she did.

She pulled it together from boxes and closets and her sister’s memory box. A pair of jeans I earmarked for charity. A cowboy hat and vest that were in the dress-up box before she was born. A handkerchief that was her sister’s. A white shirt from her closet. The tie from a yoga mat as a lasso. Her brown boots tucked under her jeans. Combined, they turn her into an adorable, homespun cowgirl.

I never cease to amaze at how self-sufficient and strong willed this child is. I hope she won’t feel bad about her homemade costume as she walks among the store-bought Disney Mals and Minnons, but I have a feeling she won’t.

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