Government Health Politics

More of Ourselves in the Time of Corona

Screen Shot 2020-04-17 at 7.44.13 AMWe are so disquieted, my fellow Americans and I. Even if we don’t realize it, we are uncomfortable. Some say, “I’m fine,” but they are baking like they’re a corner bakery, or they aren’t sleeping well, or they’re arguing with friends and family. One friend said to me, “I am not having any issues at all,” but she “for some reason” can no longer sleep through the night. Then there are others who have retreated further inside themselves, totally focused on how this all affects them and believing that it is a bigger hardship for them than for others. So, if you were self-focused before, you now think this is all about you. If you have always been more nurturing of others, you may now be consumed with making or distributing masks or calling people to make sure they are OK. Whatever you were before, you are more of that now.

As for me, I’m very happy at home — just me and my dog, Bayley. The other day, I was returning from a walk on the beach by myself and realized how excited I was to get home. Of course, I then worried that my desire to arrive back at my home wasn’t healthy. Why wasn’t I yearning to get dinner with friends? Or go to a movie theater by myself, which I love to do? Am I on my way to becoming a recluse like my aunt was, or my older sister, who, in the end, passed away from self-neglect? What is there in my DNA that makes this moment in time so comfortable for me?

I don’t really feel disconnected. I feel connected through social media and Zoom (Zoom has become a verb, just as Xerox did in the ’80s; how did that happen so fast?). I have weeded out some people who when their true natures became magnified allowed me to see how unhappy I felt when dealing with them. And others to whom I was less connected have become more day-to-day companions, whom I cherish so much more deeply. Is it possible this reboot has made my life better in the long run? I think it might be so.

Don’t get me wrong; there are some people I long to see — truly yearn to see — but I know that they will be there on the other side of this pandemic. I can’t wait for the moment when we can hug and just take in the sight of one another. Yes, I have those to whom I will run, not walk, toward when all this lifts. But for right now, at this moment in history, when I have to really focus on what is happening in my beloved country, I remind myself that every minute matters – and is a gift that might not keep giving – and I need to spend them on productive endeavors to help create a better future for all who are in my sphere of influence. Or at least that is my daily intention.

Photo by Lucia Buricelli

Fashion Health

Cutting My Own Hair

bad-haircutI woke up this morning and cut my own hair. I’m not really sure why I did it, but I wanted to have short hair right now, so I got my kitchen scissors, watched a You Tube video (Liar!!!!) and cut it.

I told my daughter last night on the phone that I was going to do it and she immediately went to one of my felonies from her childhood. “Remember when you cut my hair and I looked like Jeremy Thomas and was traumatized for years!?” Whatever. Where is Jeremy Thomas now, I ask, and you worked on the Impeachment hearings for the United States of America. Who cares about your hair?!

So, I looked at the haircut in the mirror just now, which I have to say is truly awful, and I realized that one side is not the same length as the other. I looked in the mirror and said, “Look, life is not fair. Get over it.”

So, my hair will grow back, and the real question of the morning is how will our country grow back?

Health Shopping

My Friend is Addicted to QVC Easy Pay.

Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 8.50.45 PMI have someone who I am very close to who sent me a video which went through five pages of her Easy Pay purchases on QVC. Here is our correspondence around it. Who said texting is a waste of time?

Christine: You need to seek professional help. Do you need my help getting it? I’m really worried about you. When I first listened I thought it was easy pass from you car. And I thought to myself, she doesn’t drive to the city? What the fuck is this? And, then I figured it out.

Jessica: I don’t drive to the city ………i have a serious QVC problem
i need professional help and that does not include the HSN addiction.

Christine: Yes you do. But I can’t see what it was that you bought?

Jessica: lots of things – jewelry, shoes, make up, cleanser.

Christine: Wait I just screenshot the stuff and enlarged it. It’s all make up? What’s that about?

Jessica: When I get a text that they have a four hour period where everything on their website  is on 5 easy payments for four hours – I literally have left parties and movies to make it home on time to do it no lots of jewelry

Christine: Do you wear jewelry?

Jessica: yes .. even fruit ! I am still paying off my January Honeywell oranges.  you can only get Honeywell in the month of January across the world and they are the best fruit in history …….so i got two orders this year however i was not pleased with the second order as it was very bruised fruit so they gave me a full credit !   Yeah!

Christine: How much were they?

Jessica: but they are expensive so i got five easy payments of like 15 bucks and had Honeywells for six weeks each order maybe 40 bucks … can’t remember

Christine: How many oranges are in an order?

Jessica: 12 maybe – if i am ever executed my last meal would be Honeywell’s so i would hope i was executed in January so it could be my last meal.

Christine: Maybe you could start an QVCA (QVC Anonymous) group and help others who are suffering the way you are? It’s always best to serve others to mend your own fall-abilities. Is that a word? Do they sell Xanax on EZPay? I have a flight the week after next and I’m out.

Jessica: i will send you honeybees next January – i am not a huge fruit person but i swear it is the best thing you will ever taste – nothing sweeter and juicer – cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit (and i hate grapefruit) ……..

Christine: I’m not as interested in the honeybees as I am the Xanax???

Our friend Debbie was on the text feed: i’m so concerned about both of you

Christine: You don’t have time to be concerned about us. You have to save the country. Keep your focus. She works for a not for profit.

Jessica: Saving the country is a tall order given what a shit show it is – but ok.

Christine: Jessica, you did not respond to my great idea about starting a QVC anonymous club. Maybe you can meet a man. Kindred spirit.

Jessica: somehow i don’t think i would want to date a man who had a qvc shopping problem

Christine: Oh it’s good enough for you but not him? That’s a new one.

Jessica: Honestly i would be happy to date anyway as long as they have a pulse so i take that back – pickings are slim

Christine: I could start a website for you and we could set up your social media. You could be the QVC person That helps people change their life. Or maybe you could become a QVC addiction counselor having cured it in yourself

Jessica: I don’t think i can ever stop ………seriously.

Christine: But I suppose that means you’d have to stop buying first. Can you commit to that?

i can’t

Christine: No?

Jessica: no i can’t stop

Christine: How about you say you will try. It doesn’t piss you off that you’re still paying for oranges that have long since hit the garbage.???

Jessica: no i can’t ……….maybe by the time i die they will have caskets – if they do you have to buy mine on easy pay

Christine: I am not buying a casket for you on QVC. Have you lost your mind?

Jessica: i just can’t explain the love affair i have with honeybees and easy pay QVC. It’s my life.

Jessica: they don’t sell them on QVC but they should i should suggest that next time i call in live to the show

Christine: Tell me you have not called into the live show.

Jessica: at-least once a week

Christine: To say what!? Jesus this is out of control!

Jessica: to give my opinion on a product

Christine: You cannot be serious. Have they ever put you on the air?!?

Jessica: I am on the air at least twice a month most recently for josie moran last week. i am a big josie maran fan

Christine: Who is Josie Moran? Margan?

Jessica: She was a supermodel who started the first argan oil line. her stuff is incredible –

Christine: What is Aegean Oil? And what pray tell can possibly be of interest for you to say about it?

Jessica: she makes lipsticks with argan  oil that make your lips so soft it’s amazing

Christine: I can’t do this anymore I’m going to sleep. But first I’m gonna pray for your fucking soul.

Jessica: omg argan oil is an oil that is in hair stuff, soaps, body creams

Christine: I am sorry for your pain. I am grateful that you shared it with me. Telling people is the first step to successfully beating it
Maybe you should cancel your cable.

Jessica: i will bring my cream next time so you can try it – it’s life altering your skin will be SO soft next time i am on air at qvc i will text you so you can listen

Christine: Please don’t bring it. I don’t want anything to do with any of this. And where did Debbie go? Did she drop out of this? There’s only two of us in here now.

Jessica: oh wait i forgot you don’t have tv

Christine: I have a TV but I am not watching you

Jessica: i am very charming on air

Christine: I’m sure you are. I’m going to sleep now I love you.

Jessica: love you too

I ask all my friends to pray for Jessica (I changed her name; she has a high-powered job, can you imagine?) Pray for her. I’ve very worried.

Health Women

Getting Old, or Should I Say Aging?

Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 10.14.57 AMA client, who is also a friend, was telling me about a trip he took with a few couples to Florida last weekend. By the time they arrived at the airport to embark on their vacation, one of the men wasn’t looking so good. He’d been in a fender bender, and said he was experiencing blurred vision among other ailments, but he insisted on boarding the plane. My friend said that as soon as they took their seats, they began calling their doctors to find out what his symptoms could mean, and texted each other throughout the flight. When they landed, he went to the emergency room and learned his symptoms were the result of a diabetic thing that he’d had no idea he had. He remained in the hospital, and that was the talk of the weekend. 
My client-friend said that when he arrived at dinner the first evening, he sat down and said, “This has taught me something: I need to get younger friends.” 
I laughed, but his declaration led to a conversation about how often health (and weather, but let’s save that for another day) permeates our conversations with those close to us these days. I’m sixty-six and have a posse of mostly women where we open our calls with what I like to call A&P’s. Aches & Pains. 
“How are you feeling?” 
“Oh no! I was hoping that was going to get better.”
“How could it get better; I need a hip replacement, but I have to get off the blood thinners first.”
“Don’t get snippy with me.”
“It’s a long walk from that restaurant to the theater. She can’t do that. We have to find something closer.”
“Let’s not do cold and warm in the same trip. I can’t handle such a large suitcase.” (Swear to GOD!)
“We have to eat early. I really can’t see to drive home after it’s dark.”
“I’ll pick you up and drop you off.”
“No, it makes me nervous when someone else drives.”
“Did you hear? Cancer. Shit. Another one.”
“Let me go to the ladies room before we leave the restaurant. It’s a 15-minute drive home; I don’t want to have to stop.” (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much!)
“Yes, I’m swimming but I am terrified about slipping when I get out. I think about it the entire time I’m doing my laps.”
“I went to the doctor. I have tinnitus.”
“What is it? Wait, don’t tell me because I’m sure I have it too and just can’t another thing to my life right now.”
“My shoulder really hurts, and now I get up twice a night to go to the bathroom and wake up another two or three times because of the shoulder. FML”
“That’s bad on so many levels. My friend had a pain in her shoulder and it was bone cancer. She’s gone. And, even if it’s not, interrupting your sleep that many times a night will take years off your life. Years I tell you.”
“I’m getting an operation on my eyes tomorrow. I have dry eye and am getting sharp pains in the back of my eyes.”
“What? Why haven’t you told me before you were having pain?”
“I sometimes forget because there are so many A&P’s to discuss. Let’s not get involved in my memory issues.”
Rarely do I have a conversation with a close friend that doesn’t include A&P’s. She vents. I vent. Then we move on to the important things we are doing in life. And we laugh a lot about the absurdity of the fact that we have become caricatures of our parents at their most irritating. We sometimes actually make decisions now based on body pains and shortcomings rather than opportunity and passion. I strive every day to remind myself to not go there. As long as we are laughing, and most of the time we are, we are safe from the demise of A&P overload. 

A Drug Addict’s Random Thoughts … as Told to Me.

Recovering Drug Addict & Pirate
As Told To

“The difference between a thief and a drug addict is a
thief will steal from you and deny it. A drug addict will
steal from you and help you look for what’s missing.”
Chris asked me why I keep calling myself a recovering
drug addict. She said that she felt I was more than that
and I should find myself another way to describe me. I
thought awhile and then decided I want to be a recovering

downloadIt’s been awhile since I dated. A long while. The last time I dated, she died of a drug overdose and I found her. It was the perfect excuse to go off the wagon and I did just that with grateful abandon.

“The hole that was filled with drugs needs to be filled with something else.”

Let me explain. The hole inside – the painful hole inside – that drugs fill is very safe. You foreigners think it’s dangerous to do drugs, but it’s not at all dangerous for the real drug addict like myself. For if you don’t care ifyou die – and I really didn’t care, so many friends had died and seem to be ok with it – then filling the painful, aching hole inside with drugs has no risk that is scary.

You know you will feel better. You know what you will feel better with, and the good part is the drugs will never let you down (bad pun!). They are what they are. They do what they do. You know what it is and the high is exactly what
you want it to be. But then you get clean and it changes. You have to fill the hole, which will always be there, with something else. A woman. A friend. Caring about someone else. Getting a job that you feel good about. Whatever. But each and every one
of those things is very dangerous indeed. They can change at any minute and disappoint – no devastate – you. The girl can fall out of love with you. (Imagine that?) Your friend could die. Your job could be over; you could get fired or it could just end.

One thing is for sure. All good things come to an end.

Everyone dies in the end. Every great job changes and ends too. Every friend dies. You die. Drugs never die and that’s a strong motivation for doing them. What others do to feel good is dangerous. Drugs, not so much. So, I was telling my cousin Chris that and she said that all bad things come to an end too. Everything comes to an end. So why not fill up that hole with good things rather than bad? If all things end, tipping the scale toward the good means you will have a better life. She has a point. So, I have a date this weekend. The danger centers around if the date doesn’t go well. But this time, maybe this time, I will deal. And, by deal, rather than dealing in drugs, I will deal with disappointment.

Disappointment. Drugs. Double D.

Christine’s note: We are no longer friends, this ‘recovering’ drug addict and me. I came across this today while deleting old files and thought the story had such power. I just wrote what he said…  CM

Health Personal Essays Science

My New Hip Henry

imagesI got a new hip.

It’s my left hip. I have named him Henry because he’s not really part of me and needs to have his own name. I’m not sure why he’s a guy when I am a girl, but it was the first name that came to me, and that’s the end of that. He’s Henry. No one can accuse me of being Lean In sensitive. I’m gender neutral as are all fake hips.

I still can’t get over the fact that I have a new hip. I wonder what they did with my old hip? I forgot to ask. I’m sure they tossed it away without the proper burial that it deserved. Let’s just take a moment to reflect on all that left hip did for me over the years, and to say goodbye. To say nothing of the possibility of a hip fairy who might leave me some money if I’d put it under my pillow.

I love to drive. Love to drive. I drive and drive and drive. I’ve driven cross-country by myself three times. I put the groovy tunes on and sing away. Or I listen to a book on tape, which is no longer accurate because they are on CDs or iPhones, not tape anymore—like my hip, tapes were just shoved out of our lives without a second thought. Anyway, I always drove with my left foot on the dashboard. Yes, I know, I know, but it stretched my leg, and I liked it. My hip did not like it, but it never complained. Not until the last three years, when I could no longer lift it up on the dashboard.

I rode horses for the better part of twenty years. I put that left foot in the stirrup each and every time I mounted, and that hip lifted the rest of me up and over. Then I jumped things and landed bam bam bam on that left hip. But it never complained. Not until the last few years, when I stopped riding because of the pain.

I played tennis. A lot of tennis. Women’s tennis, men’s tennis, and singles. Lots of singles. I was a strong player and well trained, so people wanted my Chrissie Evert kind of play on the court, and I gave it to them. I’m not really sure I liked playing tennis. To be honest, I can’t remember. But I’m right-handed, and my serve had me landing on that left hip and again and again, pivoting on it and laterally stretching it for a shot on the way to the net. Okay, that last part is a lie. I hated going to the net and rarely went. I was a baseline player. And my fabulous left hip never complained. Not once.

When the doctor looked at my x-rays six months ago, he looked around the room and asked if I were using a wheelchair.

“Why would I be using a wheelchair?”

“Because this is bone on bone in a way I rarely see. You must have a high threshold for pain.”

“Not really,” I replied. I thought for a minute and then said, “To be honest, my body and I don’t chat much. We aren’t really all that close, so if something hurts, I don’t really notice.”

He looked sideways at me, and I smiled to show him I wasn’t someone who had to get a psych consult (I love Grey’s Anatomy, don’t you?) before having the surgery. He moved on and so did I.

My friend Paula went with me to the surgery. I was very calm on the way over that morning. She said she knew I was nervous because I was making jokes in the prep area, but really I was doing that because that’s just who I am. I think I’m very funny.

So it’s been six weeks, and I’m no longer limping painfully. Titanium Henry is well ensconced in my hip, with my muscles growing back around it like the un-tended shrubbery around my house. Wow. It really is something, isn’t it?

I was reading a Facebook posting by a friend who was making bone marrow for dinner. I should make that for my hip, I thought, and then realized that the old hip could have used some marrow perhaps. But Henry here is titanium, and who knows what to feed titanium? Oil? Olive oil? Actually, I don’t really know if Henry is titanium but it’s the lightest of the metals, so I’m assuming that’s what they load into women who care about what things weigh.

Henry and I have been together six weeks, and our marriage has had no arguments to date. That’s a good thing right? When he’s a pain, I figure he’s entitled. We are doing fine.

And I guess that’s that. But I wanted to say goodbye to my left hip. This is an Ode to My Old Hip, which wins my personal Academy Award for a lifetime of achievements. Thank you old friend, old part of me.

Government Health

Me & My Health Care

imagesSit down Freesia Laners. This one may take a while.

I moved to Cape Cod a few years ago from Los Angeles, where I had health care through an employer. Getting a primary care physician on Cape Cod isn’t easy; they just don’t seem to want to live here. So when my mom died I called her primary care physician, who said she wasn’t taking new patients. I pointed out that my mom’s passing had left an empty spot for me, and we shared similar DNA, so maybe she could take me in place of my mother without much bother (sorry Mom, but desperate times call for desperate measures). The doctor took pity on me.

I decided to stay on the Cape, and I had to move my health care to my marketing company, Blue Shoe Strategy. Alas, the new health care — for which I pay upwards of $850 a month, by the way — wasn’t accepted by my mother’s hand-me-down doctor, so I went back on the prowl for a new primary care physician.

Not much luck. I made call after call to all the doctors on my list who take my Neighborhood insurance, and one after another said they were sorry but they weren’t taking new patients. I suggested that they might want to update their status on the insurance company’s web site if weren’t taking new patients, and they thanked me for such amazing insight and hung up.

I finally found a doctor who was taking patients and who looked like a decent person when I Googled him (no recent felonies), and I called to make an appointment.

“I have a few things that need attention, so I would love to get in to see the doctor quickly. I can’t walk. My hip is not okay.” After riding horses and playing a lot of tennis and putting my left leg on the dashboard when I drive (don’t ask), my hip is bone on bone.

“Oh, well before you can get in for things like that you need to have your first appointment, which takes a while. The earliest first appointment I have is in June.”

It was January.

“Oh,” I said. “Well, if she is my primary physician, and I have to have a referral for my hip, and it’s January now, what do I do about the hip?”

“You can go to the walk-in clinic in Centerville.”

“Really? That doesn’t sound great to discuss something as important as my hip.”

I made the appointment for June and decided I could wait on the hip thing.

June came, and I headed to the office of said doctor. I went in and it was filthy. Filthy, I tell you. The bathroom looked as though it had never had toilet paper—ever—and from the waiting room I saw several doctors working without scrubs. I was called into a cubicle to go over paperwork.

“I just wanted to let you know there is no toilet paper in the bathroom, and it’s actually kind of a mess.”

“We are really busy here.” Curt would be a good word to describe her tone.

I knew I couldn’t stay. Her half-eaten lunch was on the desk, and she wouldn’t look at me. I was out of there. I told her I didn’t think it was a fit and left. It had now been eight months since the start of my new insurance.

Four months later, and intermittent calling I found someone. She looked fabulous. It would take another six months to get my first appointment, but I felt like I had it nailed.

Two months later, her office called.

“I’m sorry, Dr. So and So has stopped taking new patients. We have to cancel your upcoming appointment.” That sounded like a new meaning for the word upcoming. Four months in the future is now upcoming.

“Oh, I’m sure this is a mistake. She already accepted me. I changed the information in my insurance. I have an appointment just four short months from now. I am not a new patient; I’m an as yet unseen patient.”

Nope. Nada. She was done. I started to cry and asked the woman just what I should do now?

“Well, you could see her brother. He’s taking new patients.” Done. And guess what? He had an opening a month away. Off I was sent after my first appointment with him for blood work. (I am not going to say anything more about him other than that I have seen him twice, including once for my “complete” physical, and he has yet to actually examine me. But hey, hope springs eternal.) He did send me for a complete blood work up.

The blood work place opens at 6:30 a.m. Being the early-to-bed, early-to-rise person that I am, I went at 6:15 in order to be first in line. I was seventh. When we filed in, I sat in the lone chair near the desk in order to keep away from any germs that might be festering in the people on the other side of the room. This gave me a vantage point that allowed me to see and hear them checking in as they were called up.

One after another they checked in, and when asked about insurance, every single one of them—all six of them, I swear—said they didn’t have it. Each and every one. I was shocked. They were all on their smart phones and all well dressed; one woman was wearing leather boots and a fabulous jacket. None of them had insurance. Not one. And each time the woman behind the counter said, “That’s okay, we will do it.”

My turn. I got up and proudly handed over my insurance card. The one that says I’m an upstanding American citizen. The one that costs me $800 and change every month, which comes to $10,200 per year. The one that has not helped me to get a primary care physician in over a year. That one.

“Great. That will be a $20 copay today.”

I stopped cold in my tracks. I snapped, I tell you.

“I don’t have $20,” I said. I was sure she would say the same thing to me that she said to my fellow Americans in the room.

“Oh.” She looked at me strangely. “Then we can’t do the tests.”

“Oh, I’m sure you can. Those that went before me this morning didn’t have any insurance, and they didn’t have to pay.”

“Yes, but you have insurance so you have to do a copay.”

“Ok, well, let’s start again. Pretend that I didn’t give you my insurance card, and I’m now saying I don’t have insurance. So I assume I don’t have to pay.”

“But I know you do have insurance.”

“Well, I’m telling you I’m canceling it when I leave here.”

And so it went. I finally paid the co-pay, and with my inner rage I woke up any cancer cells that might have been sleeping in my body as I sat there waiting to be called. I started thinking about a relative, with whom I am very close, who pays nothing for his insurance – he does work – and he gets in right away and seems to have better care than I get. I tried to channel my inner Oprah about remembering that anger is only affecting you. The person to whom your anger is directed doesn’t even know you are angry. I looked around the room. Not one of them seemed to notice me, let alone recognize that I was furious with each and every one of them. Namaste.

I’m a liberal when it comes to human things. I am a conservative when it comes to financial things. So, I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I have voted for both sides of the aisle, and I’m proud of it. I’m not sitting on the right and bashing the left. I don’t think people never need help. I truly believe in helping my American neighbors rise up from the ashes when they need my help because of events beyond their control. I even believe in helping when their misfortunes happen because they did something wrong. I’m a giving girl. I am. But now I realize that there is something very, very wrong with the whole system. What to do? Who the hell knows? Compassion with accountability. How does one do this?

I’m considering my options. I’m not sure of my next step yet, but I can assure you there will be one. You haven’t heard the last from me about this. Feel free to go back to whatever you were doing before starting to read this long message.


Brownies. Special Brownies. Ok, Pot Brownies.

imgresYou might not believe this story, but I swear every word is true.

I had a ‘new’ friend I met at work (I owned a party rental company and she is one of the foremost event planners in the land) who called and suggested we go to the movies. I love movies. Where else can you stock up on bad things to eat, sit in the dark eating them while watching someone other than you fall apart on the screen? I love movies.

We met at the theatre and she sat down as the lights dimmed and said, “I brought brownies. Do you like brownies? I put something special in them.” I like brownies almost as much as I like movies. And, something special in them? I’m thinking chocolate chips. Please don’t judge me.

We sit back and she hands me a brownie as the movie starts to unfold. Fifteen minutes later, I remember thinking, “That is the most delicious brownie I’ve ever had, and this movie is going to win every academy award in the world. And, I really think my new friend is going to be a girlfriend for life. She is fabulous. What a great night.” Half way through, I thought to myself, “I gotta have me another one of those brownies.” I will say that I knew they had pot in them by then, but I swear I did not know it when she gave it to me. She would tell you if she were here that I would have to be one stupid chick not to have gotten her point about the brownies when she offered them to me, but I still contend I’m smart as a whip.

A little background here. I had gone to my step sister and brother in law’s house for Thanksgiving and met someone who was singing the praises of Concerta. He believed he had ADD and after spending some time with me at the holiday, he thought I should take the medication too. Thinking back now, I should have realized that maybe it was just the holidays that made me appear to need ADD medication, but then again, I am always all over the place. Anyway, I was on the medication and feeling very focused. It’s great stuff.

So, we finish the fabulous movie, lights go up, and I realize I am one stoned sista. We head for dinner at a restaurant nearby, and I order something or other and my diet coke. A little later, I feel my heart start to race. I’m 56 years old, very single, and my heart hasn’t raced in a long while. Lilly’s talking to me, and I am starting to panic. The food comes, she’s talking away, stoned out of her mind, and I start to try and figure out just how fast my heart is racing. Then my chest starts to hurt. I don’t know this person that well, it’s only our second ‘new friend date,’ but I look at her and think to myself, “I have to say something or I’m going to die here and my daughter will think I was a stoner and she never really knew who I was at all. She will never trust anyone in her life again. She will grow up alone without her beloved (exaggeration for sure, but you know what being stoned does to perspective) mother gone and no one to light her way.”

I look earnestly across the table and say in my most calm voice, “Lilly, you have to dial 911 right now. I’m having a heart attack.”

She stops dead in mid sentence. “Are you kidding me?”

“No, dial 911.”

She grabs the waiter walking by without a moment’s hesitation, looks him right in the eye and says, “Go call 911 right now, my friend is having a heart attack.” He looks at me, and she says, “Now!”

She comes over to my side of the table and starts talking calmly to me and my heart is racing faster and faster, and I know I’m going to die. The policeman arrives just as the ambulance driver is putting me on the gurney. My friend is telling the EMT guy what happened and the officer walks over. Lilly looks at the officer and says in her most, “I’m a planner and know how to organize all events” voice and says, “Officer, could you step over there for a moment? My friend here needs a minute alone with her EMT.” I’m watching this thinking, “She is one good planner.” He’s looking at her thinking, “She is one stoned chick.”

He says, “No.”

The EMT, who gets it for sure, looks at me and says, “Are you taking anything other than brownies?”

“Yes, Concerta for my quick and brilliant unfocused mind.”

They start to move me out and Lilly is still in planning mode, “Clear this aisle please,” she says clearly. “Bride is coming through.” I really think she said that. She says she didn’t.

We get into the ambulance and I can hear them talking to the mothership on the radio, “Heart rate 199 and rising. We can’t get a vein for the IV.” The dispatcher says, “Just go now. Don’t keep trying. Head to Southampton Hospital.” I realize this is no joke.

I look at the EMT lady and say, “Am I having a heart attack?”

She puts her hand on my arm and says, “You are going to be fine.”

I grab her shirt collar and say, “Listen, don’t f*^&k with me. Am I having a heart attack?”

“I think so.”

“Well please tell my daughter that I loved her and that I don’t use pot.” She just looks at me.

By the time we get to the hospital my heart beat per minute is no longer on the rise, and it’s clear the danger has passed. We go right in to the check in place and a lady is there to take my information. By now, Lilly and I are laughing. A lot.


“Christine Pot Head.” He he he.

“When was your last period?”


We crack up, really loud. The information taker is laughing too and a doctor sticks his head in to see why we are all laughing. My business partner who is waiting in the waiting room said later he could hear us laughing all the way out there. Lilly called him from the ambulance. She didn’t know who else to call and planners call people when they are stoned in an ambulance with a new friend they don’t know very well.

An hour later, I’m in an examining room feeling foolishly fine, and the doctor comes in for his final review.

“We see this kind of reaction to pot and Concerta a lot, although never in someone as old as you.”

We burst into laughter again, and he is laughing too. I’m such an ass, and he has to point it out to me.

It’s a few years past this near death experience. I’m off Concerta and back to my old lovable ADD self. I haven’t had pot since then, and we have seen many a movie together and laugh a lot about our night at the hospital.

Usually I think my missives on this blog have a point. This one does not. Enjoy this fabulous Sunday.

This blog post was first published in 2009, and it’s the first one I’ve ever recycled, but a number of people asked me to republish it … with the new Pot laws emerging, it is relevant. If you read it already, my apologies. 

Food Health

Burying Aspartame

imagesMy first diet soda memory is of the vending machine in the basement of my sorority house in 1972. Diet Doctor Pepper, which I purchased one can at a time to consume while sitting on the floor of somebody’s room or other, playing Yahtzee or Bridge. The empty cans were used for cigarette butts. I would go to the basement before both lunch and dinner, and that was my drink of choice during most meals.

I am not sure when I switched to Tab, but I can confidently say that by the time I moved to New York City in 1976, Tab was my constant companion. One of my roommates hoarded her Tab under her bed, so I became a common thief, often going under the bed at odd times when my supply was empty. I’m not proud of that, but an addict will do what she needs to do when she needs a fix at 1:00 a.m. Sorry Gail.

I have no idea when I switched to Diet Coke, which I have now been drinking for more than thirty years. I took it on the Concorde with me when I traveled with H2 (Husband #2) to Europe, where they only served regular Coke in the early eighties. I took it in my purse to the finest restaurants, where I would ask for a glass of ice and embarrass H2 by flicking the tab on the top of a can and pouring it at the table while everyone else downed glasses of 1969 Burgundy.

I’ve never had a glass of alcohol. Never even had a beer. When you tell people you have never had a drink, they look at you kindly because they think it’s code for you being an alcoholic. But Diet Coke was my drink of choice, and aspartame my addiction. No water either. No coffee.

My name is Christine, and I’m an Aspartame Addict.

I recently ran the numbers. Forty years. Five to ten cans a day. 73,000 to 146,000 cans of diet soda consumed by the now sixty-year-old me. I may have spent a quarter of a million dollars over the years on Aspartame-loaded drinks. Wow. Gives a girl a moment to pause. Water is free.

My diet sodas have been with me through thick and thin. I drank diet soda the day Sarah was born. I drank it on my wedding day — both of my wedding days. I drank it at my dying mother’s bedside. I drank it at all of Sarah’s graduations. I drank it when others were drinking coffee, I drank it when others were drinking alcohol, and I drank it when I was happy, sad, scared, or enraged.

It’s odd, really, because I’m not a stick-to-things kind of girl. I’ve moved more than 100 times in my sixty years. Two husbands. Scores of jobs, or as I like to call them, professional projects (I figured out in my thirties that I was a short-distance runner, and have been a consultant type of professional ever since). I change cars every two years, and I give away handbags as if they were Halloween candy. Carrying the same handbag day after day makes me crazy. What I’ve written here may make it look as though I have trouble with commitment, but I’m forever committed to my child, my friends, and my country. That never wavers. (I write that because I’m feeling defensive, but it’s true. Promise.)

The daily commitment I have kept is my loyalty to diet soda and aspartame. For more than forty years. Every day. Every meal. Every important moment.

A year or so ago, I started to read things that made me anxious. Articles about aspartame and memory loss, which I know I have. Articles about aspartame’s formaldehyde effect on the liver over the years. They also say it causes joint pain, and I have that, too. The list goes on.

A friend and I had lunch a few months ago. She’s in amazing shape. You know, that yoga kind of in shape. She told me if I were to do only one thing to help myself, it should be giving up Diet Coke. Since then, people have started to say more and more things about it. Concerned friends and family have suggested I might like to regroup on the DC at every meal.

My beloved Cousin Alison (sister of the fabulous Cousin Pam, and fabulous in her own right) is a Physician’s Assistant. When I was in Colorado in March, she gently suggested I look at my aspartame consumption. “It’s really, really bad for you,” she said, looking at me intently.

A lot of voices out there sending me a message.

I’m not sure why an article on a friend’s Facebook Page hit me so hard. It was about a woman who had many of my symptoms and gave up aspartame, and voila, three weeks later she was cured, as if God’s hands had touched her. I knew it wasn’t true, but for some reason it hit home. When I read it I was finishing up the last of the Diet Coke in the house. I didn’t need to go out that day, and something — I have no idea what — made that moment the one that said it was time to stop. For good.

It’s two weeks later. My name is Christine, and I’m a recovering aspartame addict. Fourteen days clean. Two days after the last can, my head hurt. Bad. Whenever I moved it in any direction. My eyes, too. My hands started shaking. I was disoriented. Confused. I didn’t leave the house except to drive through Dunkin’ Donuts’ drive-through window and get water and lemonade, which I mixed together. I was really, really sick. And I didn’t want to tell anyone, because I didn’t want to publicly commit to my commitment.

I’m feeling better now. My sugar cravings have all but disappeared. I crave protein. I feel better. I’m sleeping better. Actually, I should rephrase that. I’m actually sleeping for the first time in years. Last night, according to my Fit Bit, I slept almost eight hours.

I am not more focused however. I had to do a Google search to find two of the words in this blog post. I am confident that will change as time goes by.

I went to BJ’s this morning and didn’t buy Diet Coke, and I felt sad. Really sad. That DC can has been my companion through more of my life than almost anything else. I know this is a ridiculous way to feel about something that may actually have damaged me irreparably, but I want to say a fond farewell. It was a constant in a life spent struggling with consistency. It refreshed me after hundreds of tennis games, when I’d throw back my head and down half a can in one gulp. I held it while I read great books that took me to places my real life never has. It sat in coolers next to me during two cross-country trips that I took alone in my car. It has been part of many a phone conversation, sipped between laughs and tears. It was my friend. And, it was my enemy.

Like many toxic relationships you know must end for the betterment of your body and soul, the end doesn’t mean you won’t miss them. DC is one of those. I bid you a fond farewell DC. Thanks for the memories, at least the ones I can still remember.



Me and Thermometers

I’ve been sick this past week. Terrible cold, flu kind of thing. I haven’t been sick in years, and this has really set me back. Lots of friends and family called, and everyone—I mean everyone—keeps asking me what my temperature is. I have no idea what my temperature is. I do not own a thermometer, and to be honest, I’m not sure I owned one when Sarah was little, either. If I did, I rarely used it.

There is no point to a thermometer. It indicates nothing other than what you already know: you are hotter than normal and feel worse than usual. But when I point this out to people, they defend their stance. A few examples of my conversations this week:

“No, Rachel, I do not know what my temperature is. I can tell you that the first few days, it was high, and I was sweating.” (Rachel is not her real name, but I swear that at the end of our conversation, she specifically said, “If you blog about this, do not use my name.” A little harsh, I thought.)

“How could you not know your temperature? You need to find out what it is. I keep a thermometer right next to my bed.”

“Why? Let’s say it’s 100 degrees. Then what?”

“Then you know you are sick.”

“I already know I’m sick.”

“Yeah, but you don’t know how sick.”

“Okay Rachel, you have a thermometer by the bed. You are sixty-something years old. Has your temperature ever—I mean even once in all these years—caused you to do anything different? If you are hot, take aspirin. And so it goes.”

“Well, no I guess it hasn’t. But when I wake up in the morning and feel like I might be sick, I take my temperature, and if it’s normal, I assume I’m not sick.”

“That’s sick,” I commented. That’s when she said the thing about using her real name in my blog.

I appear to be the only one who feels this way about thermometers. Everyone has one but me. I suppose it is just one of many aspects of the way I run my life that says I do not take care of the details.

To be honest, I am not even sure I know what normal temperature is. I am pretty sure it’s either 98.7° or 97.8°. But seriously, does it matter?

My friend Lisa was the best mother that I ever knew in terms of details. Her ability to research everything always made me feel like my fabulous daughter Sarah should be have been turned over to her as soon as she was born. The following is a true story.

Sarah was sick. She was hot. She wasn’t burning my hand when I touched her or anything, but I was pumping her full of Tylenol, and the poor little thing was not feeling great. Lisa called.

“What’s her temperature?”

“She’s got a little fever,” I replied.

“W-H-A-T is her temperature, I asked you!”

I lied. I made it up. “It’s just around 100°.”

Lisa is one of the friends who called this week and asked about my temperature. I was too sick to get into the debate with her, but I’m sure we will at some point.

I don’t remember growing up with thermometers, and my sisters and I do not appear to have been brain damaged by runaway temperatures. We did okay. Sarah ended up okay. We just didn’t make a big deal about things when it came to health. And let’s face it, the thermometers we had back then were unreadable anyway. You had to measure the lines against each other, and then there was the thing about putting something with so much mercury in your mouth. Seriously? Why risk it?

Anyway, story over. I’m feeling better. Thanks for asking. I’m not getting a thermometer, and I’m hoping that others will take my lead. It’s nice to start new trends.