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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day Late, Dollar Short

Dear government,
Thanks for passing a healthcare bill now that I not only have health insurance (as opposed to the years when I was denied because of recent cancer history), but work in healthcare. I'm sure the massive paycuts that are planned will make my job miserable as we are forced to cut staffing, quality control, and extra services. And how, by the way, do you plan to mediate state medicaid drug reimbursement cuts? Because our state already reimburses us below cost. Yep, we lose money on every medicaid script we fill!
Dear congress,
We definitely needed to do something about the hooey that is student loans. Maybe you could have done that while I was, you know, a student? Because now I'm graduated, and my few measly student loans I did take out - all federal - have an unholy 6.8% rate. That's silly. My hubby has PRIVATE loans with rates less than a third of that! All my loan fees were gobbled up by the hungry banks, never to be seen again. I'm darn lucky that I work like an ox and only had to take out loans for two years out of my eight years of school.
Dear other congressmen:
Student loan repayment? Why? Are you saying you're going to REWARD people who carry around massive debt and don't pay it off? Why not just give the money up front to decrease the amount of interest the borrower must pay? In essence you are given student borrowers a second loan: Students are getting money after 20 years to cover the balance of their educational loan debt, but they had to pay interest that certainly exceeded that amount over the 20 year period. And yes, the reason I have beef about this is that I won't have any loans you can repay, because I plan on paying mine off by next Fall. Because I'm responsible, ya know? And I don't mind eating pinto beans for dinner so I can save some money and pay on my loans.
Moral of the story:
My life schedule is off. If I'd gone to school earlier I would have had low interest rates and low tuition. If I'd gone to school later I'd have had loan forgiveness and decent loan regulations. And if the world was sane, healthcare reform would have started by cutting the disgustingly expensive bureaucracy that is government health: I'm talking to you, FDA, CMS, DHH!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One more thing on my plate...

...and on my RESUME!
I am writing a continuing education course for pharmacists! I have the support of my company for research purposes (so I don't have to pay for primary literature that is not free), and I will be composing the course so that when it is finished any pharmacist can take it as a written course, and I can present it to pharmacists in my company at meetings, etc. This is important because pharmacists in many states have to take a certain number of live courses each year. Louisiana is one of them. Tomorrow I get started on the outline and research!
If you care, the topic is dyslipidemia from an MTM (medication therapy management) perspective. Woohoo.

Monday, March 29, 2010

This is why I don't run with the hubby...

Good morning, and happy Monday! Ha. As if Monday could possibly be happy!
This Sunday David and had planned a 10k run as our incredibly effective 1-day training plan for the upcoming Crescent City Classic.
Now a brief word on training. I run pretty casually, so I don't really train. I definitely trained for the Mardi Gras Marathon, and look where that got me! Flippin' nowhere! So training must be a waste of time, right? Just kidding. I'm just not really good about sticking to a training plan and I'm pretty comfortable tooling around at a mediocre pace. I'll build up mileage before a half marathon but I don't work much on speed. I should, I just don't. And for short races I don't do a thang. Shame on me...I do plan on getting better about this though, especially my speed!
So anyway - the "training run" was really for David, who doesn't usually run past 3.5 miles. I wanted him to get a feel for the distance. Now lucky for us, our house is so situated that we have a built-in 10k track: from our corner to Audubon park, around the park once, then a second loop, this time going up around the fly ("long loop"), and back home is exactly 6.2 miles (give or take a stroller/tourist detour or two)! I explained the route to hubby ... several times, because I had to explain the water stops since going up on the fly makes you miss one fountain and another fountain is out of order right now.
So off we went! My goal for this year, given my recent illness and lack of running, is to run under 48 minutes. Honestly I don't think I'll be able to pull this off. I can do it in Audubon park, but the Classic is a notoriously slow race if you aren't starting way up front with the fast people. It has a huge turn out and a lot of walkers, strollers, families, costumes (and there is nothing wrong with that!), beer wagons,and general goofiness. You spend most of the race trying to get to the start and the rest of it going around slow people in front of you. I think it will slow me way down.
I got back to the house in 47:22 (yay - for me that's good!) and was surprised to see the hubby standing on the porch! I called out, "What happened?" and he (rather proudly) cried back, "What do you mean? I'm done already! What happened to you?!" Instincts told me he had forgotten the route. Yep. Seriously, he forgot to do the loop around the park and only did the long loop! That put his total miles at 4.5 - crazy man didn't even realize that he hadn't run the full 6.2 (which I guess is understandable since he never runs that distance) but he also didn't catch on that his 45 minute time could not possibly be for a 10k. He knows he's not that fast! Silly man. After mocking him and his math skills all day I elicited a promise to try again on Wednesday, so we'll get one little run in before the race on Saturday!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Foody Friday: This is my last smoothie post, I swear.

Just one leetle last post about smoothies. I have to share this tip with you!
My smoothie making secret is...

Use banana ice cubes instead of plain ice. All you do is break your bananas up into ice-cube sized pieces and freeze them (this is a wonderful way to save nearly-brown bananas from certain death-by-banana-bread fate). Then when you use these cubes instead of ice as you make a smoothie you have accomplished several things:
1. You won't dilute your smoothie
2. These banana cubes don't freeze into solid blocks, so the blending time is greatly reduced and you don't get surprise chunks of uncrushed ice banging into your teeth as you try to surreptitiously drink a smoothie at work.
Of course you can also throw other frozen fruit in instead, like a handful of frozen berries, to the same effect...but I kind of buying the day-old banana bag for $0.99 at my grocery store and freezing most of them.
This tip assumes that you put bananas in your smoothie, so I guess I should ask - what goes in your smoothie? What's your favorite fruit blend, and are you one of those people who puts scoops of stuff in them? Like protein powder? Flax? Estrogen replacement? (ha, I made that up)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Giving yourself a haircut

My recent haircut reminded me to share my hair cutting tips. I always cut my own hair because, yeah, you guessed it. I'm cheap. I've actually never had my hair done professionally; I just can't plunk down cash for something I can sort of do myself :)
So in my years of practice, here is what I've learned:
1. To cut your own hair, it is best if it is damp or dry. Supposedly wet is ideal but this is too difficult when you are doing your own hair.
2. Start in the front, by your face, on very small pieces at a time - this way if you cut it too short initially (that fist cut often ends up shorter than you imagined!), you can let those short pieces act as layers around the face.
3. No blunt cuts ever. Ever! Even cuts described as "blunt cuts" at a salon are really layered lightly at the ends. To imitate this, you will have to cut several layers in graduating lengths (if your hair is thick), or cut in a downward slant (f your hair is thin). This technique is especially important on BANGS. Bangs never have a blunt edge: a blunt edge will always appear crooked.
4. Pitch the scissors. They are too hard to manipulate on your own head. Use a razor instead. Yep, just one of these.

They are much easier to use and automatically give you soft edges.
5. Cutting the back of your head is tough, but you can try two techniques: one is to part you hair at the center and pull each side to the front, turning the sections so the hair from the back of your head is closest to your face and the hair from the front of your head is on the outside of the section. Cut the part that will be in the back of your head; then comb your hair out and cut the front part that you can easily see, and add any layers. The second technique is to set up double mirrors and cut it by mirror. This is not hard at all and is very useful for adding layers of cutting with soft angled edges.
6. Before doing any cutting, explore your hair! Many people have several textures of hair and multiple cowlicks. For example, hair on the right side of my head curls more than the left, so I have to make sure that I don;t end up with the left side longer than the right. Cowlicks can affect how the hair lays on your head - if you cut your hair too short neat a cowlick it won't hang down but will curl back into your hair. Find these unique features out first!
7. Practice makes perfect - don't do a drastic short hair cut on your first try. Long hair hides mistakes better!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Haircut and F-I-L update

My father in law was discharged yesterday and is home with the only memory gap being the time during the actual episode (which he doesn't remember at all). We talked to him last night and he's 100% back to normal. He left with no diagnosis and a clean battery of tests: not a single test came back positive, although I think it's safe to assume that SOMETHING cut off oxygen to the brain! Frankly I think the neurology team is as baffled as we are: his discharge summary reads something like, "Man in his sixties presented with total global amnesia of at least the past year, no other physical signs, memory gradually returning, all tests negative, patient discharged home in good health."
My casual opinion is that this is either a TIA or heavy metal toxicity (can I blame that for my eyes swelling up, too???).
Now on to my haircut. Thanks to all the drama, I never did get my glamor shots by the hubby, so you'll have to settle for Blackberry pics taken by myself in my bathroom.

This is my hair wash-and-air dried. If I scrunch it with a little gel and water it gets kind of curly, and looks like my inspiration, this picture of Jessica Alba (minus the floppy bangs):

And if I let it go two days without a shampoo (which I usually do, since my hair tends to be dry), the next day it has less of a body wave that the first picture shows, and more of a piece-y, layered look. Kind of rocker. I like it.
This is the shortest my hair's ever been and it's a lot to get used to. I used to wear it in a neat bun most of the time and now it's too short for a ponytail, so that's been strange. Plus all the waves and body are new - it's only slightly wavy when long because it's thick and heavy and the weight pulls it straight.
So, now for a vote! Should I keep it kind of short, like my new haircut? Or pretty long, like it was over Christmas?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My crappy weekend

The hubby and I decided to spend this weekend in Bay St Louis, relaxing after a long week.
We get an F on relaxation.
The plan was to take a long bike ride, have a picnic on the beach, pick up some bargain books at a little thrift store, and then join the in-laws for a dinner of steamed crabs and corn on the cob (the in-laws were escaping a vampire party being held at their house by the dear little sister in law).

All of the above we actually did. In fact I snatched up 5 books for $2 and we did have a beer or two on the beach. But several things went terribly wrong!
1. The hubby had an excruciating toothache the whole time, thanks to a runaway filling
2. The most bizarre and random thing attacked my eye: all of a sudden my eyes swelled up and turned red and I could not open them. The muscles got all twitchy and I was in excruciating pain, especially in bright light. I took out my contacts and took a cetirazine in case this was an allergic reaction, but I spent all weekend totally blind and in pain.
3. Oh, and my father in law had a stroke.
This morning he seemed a little disoriented at breakfast, but we all wake up groggy sometimes, so no one panicked. But then my husband made a comment about his job, and my father in law, in genuine shock, asked when he'd started that job. He totally did not remember this at all. I immediately suspected stroke and started hustling everyone into the car. Oddly, F-I-L had no slurred speech and no physical signs at all. But I wasn't taking chances. We headed all the way back to New Orleans because the local hospital did not have a full-service ER.
***If you are with someone having a stroke, take them to the nearest ER. The only reason I opted to drive to New Orleans was that I knew we'd still be in the treatment window and I knew the closest hospital was not fully functional for all emergencies. Plus I recognized that F-I-L was not a prime candidate for treatment (a thrombolytic to break up a clot) anyway, so time was not AS important. But rule of thumb is that seconds count in a stroke!***
As we drove we asked F-I-L some questions to ascertain his cognizance. He had no memory of recent months - did not remember his grandbaby, didn't know he was retiring in a month, and could not recall the Saints superbowl! He actually called his boss to verify our claim that he was retiring soon. His memory was very random: he remembered me completely, yet did not remember a major political move that drastically affected his job that came about in 2006. He could pull out his iphone, call his boss, and talk about work with no problem, but when asked he couldn't name his secretary or law clerk.
Once we got to the ED, he was seen right away (I called on the way over to let them know a stroke was on the way). Oddly, while they were doing his CT, his memory began returning! He started mentioning details from dinner last night, then asked if this hospitalization would affect his retirement plans. Now he recalls the recent past up until last night. It was such a relief for him to start remembering again, but he's still forgetting conversations he's having now - so his short term is still damaged. Of course he's undergoing lots of tests to determine what deprived his brain of oxygen that would result in this bizarre symptoms. It may be a stroke, it may be cardiac, it may be vasoconstiction from plaque - we don't know yet and the doctors don't have a great grasp on his condition yet either.
He's doing better (he just texted me to ask for a slice of key lime pie, so he can't be that sick!), but we're just about stressed to the max! I think I need a vacation from my vacation!
Please keep my F-I-L in your prayers. Thanks guys!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Foody Friday: Bringing smoothies to lunch

Once in awhile I get into a smoothie kick. They're really good for meals at work because you don't have to use a utensil or actually touch your food (like a sandwich...germ city). Can you tell that eating at work is a real challenge? With a smoothie I can just stick my face down and slurp out of a straw as a take a prescription over the phone from a doctor or sit on hold with your insurance company (who is going to deny your claim anyway, sorry).
I've kind of conquered the bring-a-smoothie-to-work challenge. You see, you have to keep it cold, but not frozen solid. Nor totally melted. 'Tis a fine line! SO here's my fail-proof method for lunch time smoothies. The only caveat is that you have to have the same kind of smoothie everyday.
What you need: large plastic containers for your smoothies, such as these rubbermaid containers. I used to have several of these in a slightly larger size - 20 ounces isn't quite as large as I'd like. Now I use an odd assortment of free containers from drug companies and road races.
What to do: On Sunday (I'm a big fan of prepping work week food on Sunday!) make a single batch of your smoothie of choice. Then pour it into your containers, about 1/4 full in each. The thicker your smoothie, the more you need to put into each container (thinner smoothies will freeze more easily and need less). Here is a really bad photographic example:

Put your lids on and pop into the freezer.
During the work week, whip up a batch of smoothie (you may want to make a little less than usual), grab a container out of the freezer, and pour in your smoothie. Put the lid on and tote it off to work.* When lunch time comes, simply shake it up and drink! Voila!
*You might want to stick it in the fridge. I do sometimes and it slows the melting process.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How am I doing on my resolutions?

Remember when I so bravely resolved to drink more cocktails this year?
I'm not doing so well.
I've fallen into a cocktail rut: a delicious one! The sazerac! The sazerac is a lovely whiskey drink with a whiff of licorice, a touch of orange, and a lot of personality. If you haven't had one yet, you must. You can try it at home using this recipe, although I'd decrease the simple syrup.
And if you don't know how to make simple syrup, it's easy: Bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil; simmer for about 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved. If it darkens you can still use it but it will be sweeter (the sugar has inverted). By the way simple syrup may be stored at room temperature almost indefinitely because the water content is too low for bacteria to grow in the syrup.
Besides sazeracs and the occasional fancy-pants cocktail from Coquette, I've tried two cocktails you may be interested in:
1. The sake martini from La Thai.
I don't have an ingredient list, but here's my closest approximation:

3 slices cucumber, muddled well (pitch the seeds)
1 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 ounces gin
3 ounces sake

Shake it up!

2. As promised, an absinthe cocktail. My favorite was the simplest: a champagne cocktail. Use a light spumante and pour a glass; top with absinthe (about 3:1 ratio). It's light green and tasty but be warned - it's strong.

Wow, that's pretty lame. I'll work on some new drinks for the future!
Happy Friday tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some interesting health headlines

Well, ok, they're interesting to me anyway.

- Our bacterial "fingerprint" may identify us. it's not as exact as dna (like, not even close) but it could be used to rule suspects out perhaps.

- Men with erectile dysfunction are 1.6 times as likely to have serious cardiovascular problems compared to men who don't have ED. They're also twice as likely to die from all causes. Conclusion? Treat ED as a sign or symptom of a more serious condition, not a disease of its own.

- People at high risk for developing type II diabetes have the best chance of staving it off by altering their diet and exercise habits. This is the conclusion of a study that looked at use of two drugs to prevent development of the disease; once again, lifestyle changes had better results than the medication.

- The best way to protect our communities from flu outbreaks is by vaccinating the kids...because kids are gross and spread germs. I still stick with my argument that you should only get the thimersol-free vaccine.

There's something to ponder. I swear pictures of hair are coming, I just have to twist the hubby's arm a little harder. Hope you have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Of weight and running

Apparently I gave up running for lent. I don't want to shock anyone, so if you have a-fib please take a seat, but I have run exactly once in March. Yesterday. And it was not a good run.
And in February the only reason my monthly mileage total was even a pitiful 38 miles was because I ran the marathon that month.
I've just been SO SICK. In February I missed 12 days thanks to sickness and three for a pulled groin. In March I've so far missed 13 while sick! Actually one of those days was supposed to be a marathon recovery day, then I'd specifically planned 2 gym days, so those don't count. And I guess the day when I got dressed to run, stuck my head out the door, and decided it was too cold doesn't count either. So I missed ten days. I'm going to go run in a few minutes, but it's a bad plan. I'm still weak!
Now for the interesting part. I don't know if it's being sick, a jacked-up metabolism from running fevers over 103 for days on end, or if it's tied to not running, but I'm wasting away. I don't have a scale, or I'd give you some stats, but I can tell by how I look that I've lost weight. My face looks gaunt and my clothes are loose. It's not a pretty site. Now of all the theories I mentioned above, I'm blaming not running. My reasoning is that my appetite has significantly decreased. When I run a lot, I also eat A LOT. Now that I'm not running, I'm eating less, and disproportionately less. What I mean is, if I'm starving all food looks good to me and I'll go to great lengths to get some food. This means that if there's cheesecake in the house, I'll eat the cheesecake. If there's no food in the house at all, I will go out and buy pasta and scallops and fresh parsley and make dinner and eat it. All of it! So when I have a big appetite, I eat. But when I don't desire food I don't eat the cheesecake sitting on the counter. And I fall prey to the lazy man's diet: that is, if there isn't any food handy, I'm too lazy to make any. I'm still hungry, but I'm not starving, so I'm not willing to go to too much trouble to forage for food.
There's a slightly more scientific version of this argument here.
Of course, there's also the argument that I've been really, really, really sick recently so I suppose that could still be the culprit.

In other news:
I cut my hair. Drastically. About 12 inches came off. But I haven't had a chance to bribe the hubby into taking pictures for your viewing pleasure. Pictures will come soon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wedding Crashers

I just went on my first run after being sick. Actually I'm still sick and running was a bad idea. I felt wretched! But it reminded me of a Mardi Gras Marathon photo I forgot to share.

This cute couple was getting married in City Park the day of the marathon! I joked with them that at least they got lots of free live music, right? The looked at me blankly. They spoke no/little English. So of course I pulled out my camera and proceeded to confuse them further. They're smiling in the picture but really they're like, "Who is this nut job and why is she putting her stanky old self up by our nice wedding clothes and why would she want a picture anyway?"
Haha. They were good sports and just adorable, don't you think?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Foody Friday: Getting your veggies

Have you ever noticed that it's easy to get fruit in throughout the day, but vegetables can be a challenge? At least that's how it seems in my fast-paced, no-lunch-break work environment. Fruit is just so portable and easy! I can grab an apple as I walk out the door, stuff it in my pocket, and pull it out when my stomach starts growling. A quick rinse at the sink and I'm all set to snack. I regularly counsel patients with apple peel in my teeth or banana strings stuck to the front of my white coat.
It's tougher for me to eat my veggies, mostly because you have to do all the prep before you leave the house. I can't exactly bring a whole cucumber and a peeler in to work with me, although I will admit that once in college I was running late to class and threw a hunk of cheese and a kitchen knife into my book bag for lunch (I'm pretty sure that counts as a concealed weapon). Here's my trick for getting vegetables every day: Sunday night I pull out all my veggies, usually while dinner's cooking since I probably already have the cutting board and knives out. I prep this huge container of veggies, spritz it with water, and put it in the bottom of the fridge. Then every morning I just reach in, grab a handful, and shove it into a small container. Ta-da, snacks!

Now I can confidently tell the doctor at my pharmacy counter that his pregnant wife can indeed take loratidine, all while sporting broccoli florets in my canines. Nothing says "trust me" like evidence of a healthy lifestyle.
Notice how old and gross those baby carrots are? I actually heartily dislike carrots. I think vegetables should not be sweet. That's just inappropriate. But whenever bags of baby carrots go on sale for $1, I can't resist buying some. Then I have to force myself to eat them over the course of weeks.
The only drawback to the arrangement above is that veggies do lose some of their nutrients when cut and exposed to the air. Refrigerating reduces nutrient loss, but it's still there. I still think I'm doing better this way, though; mildly nutrient depleted veggies are better than none!
Any other tips for bringing vegetables to work? Do you rely on salads (If I had time to actually pick up a fork, take a bite,and replace the fork I'd be golden. I barely have time to cram a carrot in my cheek)? Or are you industrious enough to get up early and get your veggies prepped each day before work?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cheap date Wednesday: A review of the Abita Brewery

Last week, before I fell re-ill to some pesky malady that has cozied up in my tonsils, the hubby and I went to the Abita Brewery in Abita Springs for a tour. Or so we thought! We showed up on time for the last scheduled tour, 2 pm, and were confused to see the parking lot jammed with cars. I mean - are educational tours THAT popular? At first we thought we were in the wrong place, since our GPS was telling us to drive further. But I generally doubt GPS addresses in rural areas (once we got hopelessly lost in - I kid you not - Blood River thanks to reliance on GPS outside city limits). Then when we approached the building, I saw a sign that stated that the last tour was at 1 pm. We conferred in consternation and decided to ask an employee. Now the closest employee was within the building's patio, which was CRAMMED with people. We squeezed in and started to ask if this was the right place for the tours, if there still was a tour, etc but the man spoke very little English. Basically all he could say was "ID?!" We proffered our ID's and he slapped wrist bands on us. I repeated my questions and he barked "Stand here!" and pointed so...we stood there. The hubby and I decided that this must be some sort of beer tasting, since I could not imagine this crowd showing up for a brewery tour. We decided to just wait and see. After all, we were stranded on the Northshore with nothing else to do! Suddenly we were swept into a herd of humanity surging off the patio and into the building, with plastic cups being pressed into our hands. Grumpy workers shouted, "Pull the taps all the way, if you don't know what you like just pick one! Move along!" The next thing I knew I was standing in front of beer taps and helping myself to an Abita red ale. We were in a large room with a bar and some seating and a ton of people. We sat down to taste our beer as other chugged and got back in line for seconds. Then one of the grumpy employees told us all to shut up while he played an educational video and if we talked he'd throw us out and 10 minutes into the video they were shutting the taps down, so be forewarned! We dutifully shut up and the swarms of people again flocked to the beer line. When the video finished, lo and behold! Grumpy employee shouted that the tour was about to start, so if you didn't want to learn anything take your beer and go, otherwise follow him. About 75% of the people left! Meanwhile, the hubby and I were pleasantly surprised to hear that we were getting a tour after all. We lined up for a ten minute jaunt into the brewery during which time we stood under a steel vat while grumpy employee shouted into a megaphone that this is where they add the hops. That was it. Then it was a stampede back to the "tasting room" for one more run at those taps before they closed exactly 45 minutes from when they first opened the door!
So obviously the ABita Brewery Tour has been discovered by native Northshorians, and has thence degenerated into a beer free-for-all on Saturday afternoons. Or as my hubby put it, forced binge drinking. In fact, many of the attendees appeared to be on dates. Now that's a cheap date! If you're fast, you can down 4 beers for free!
It was a totally hilarious experience, especially the earnestness with which some people crowded into the line over and over. If you have a good sense of humor and don't really care that much about learning about beer making, go for it.
While you're at it, pick up some Abita Strawberry, quite possibly the best beer ever created.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to navigate the healthcare maze

I'm such a pro at this! I've been in healthcare for over ten years (Yikes! I'm getting elderly!) and now I know all the tricks. Today I broke down and saw a prescriber for my miserable infection.
You may feel free to use my visit as an example for yourself.
First, I went to a nurse-practitioner clinic that my insurance covers for $5. Now I'll be up front with you. As a pharmacist, I see a LOT of errors from nurse practitioners. In fact, in the past I'd vowed not to ever see one for myself. I'm not trying to be too hard on the NPs, but there is something lacking in the training. So unless you are willing to take total control of the situation, I recommend an MD. There. I said it. Now people will probably send me hate mail. Sorry. I went to an NP because I figured I could sort of guide him along (and I'm cheap. My copay is five freakin' dollars).
Now there actually wasn't anyone ahead of me because I went right before school let out. All parents are currently driving to pick kids up. All kids are currently at school, unless they were sick, in which case they probably went to the clinic that morning and are safely home in bed eating ice cream and watching movies. If there had been a line, I would have used my fool-proof tactic to get seen first: gag or wretch a little in the waiting room, preferably while filling out paperwork for the triage nurse. Nobody likes to clean up vomit.
Next, and this is very important, you have to let the professional have their say first. It might be wrong or stupid, but you have to let it run its course or you'll irritate them. For example: "What are you here for today?" "Sore throat, malaise, aches." "Ah! Sounds like allergies! 95% of New Orleanians have allergies!" I didn't say peep because I knew when he took my temperature (which was 103, nicely cooperating) he'd change his tune.
Then you have to sort of lie in your medical history if you have gaps or problems. For example, he asked about my most recent pap and hey, none of my paps could even remotely be considered recent! But I told him last year. Yes I know. I'm a bad patient, and I'm lying to my health care professional. Now don't do that when you come into my pharmacy of course. But you can do it to your doctor to speed things up, if you know enough to differentiate between "this matters" and "he has to ask this so I won't sue him later". I just didn't want to distract from the situation on hand: the golf ball sized swelling on my throat.
If you are doing a follow up from a visit to another practitioner - ie, you called your friend for an rx last time, but you got sick again, like me - don't tell them that if you can't go back to that practitioner. Don't. They will send you back to the last person you saw, and probably charge you for the visit anyway. So I told Mr. NP that I took some doxycycline that I had "laying around".
Ok. So all that preliminary stuff is done. As far as the exam goes, be the model patients. Mention all your signs and symptoms, when you experienced them, how long they lasted. If he skips something, point it out ("Could you check my ear, too, please?"). When the initial allergy comment was thrown out I knew my fever would change his mind, but I also mentioned associated symptoms: that I had heart palpitations when the fever was high. Sure enough, my pulse was double my baseline.
Now comes one of the most important parts. HAVE YOUR DAM' FORMULARY WITH YOU. Your insurance only covers certain drugs. These drugs are listed on your formulary, usually along with your copy. So when MR.Np suggests an rx for Levaquin 750mg, you can politely tell him that it's not covered and costs about $200, how about a generic drug? Then he can switch it for you. Then you will not end up at the pharmacy and find out you can't afford your meds.
Then you have your prescriber call, fax, or email (E-scribe) your rx in to a pharmacy near your house - which already had all your insurance info and other data on file - and tell them you'll be there in about an hour. In about an hour, go pick it up. Easy. Convenient. Fast.
Eat something yummy, take your antibiotic, go to bed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Running tights...for a steal

As in, I stole them. Literally.
Here they are in all their illegal glory:

Inspired by Britt's comment about Target's running clothes, I stopped by on the way home from work last week and found that, sure enough, much of the winter work out clothes were on clearance or sale. However, I opted to get a more year-round capri style. I grabbed a pair and a few other clearance clothes items, like this nightie for $3.75 that I totally plan on wearing as a summer beach dress:

Can't you see that as a cover-up or just a dress for porch-sitting and lemonade drinking?
When I checked my purchases out, one of the items didn't ring up for the correct price and had to be voided and re-rung. Apparently the cashier also voided the running tights, and since I'd already slid my credit card I didn't even glance at the total before my cashier was handing me my receipt. I caught the error after I got home...and the Target I was shopping at is an HOUR from my house! I'm sorry, but I'm not driving an hour to pay for these. Just not. Instead I'm going solve this using my husband's good idea: buy a Target gift card for the appropriate amount and then cut it up!
Has a cashier ever skipped an item in your cart? Do you rush back and pay, or do something lazy like me? Is there a cost cut-off (I'm worried about the $14.99 I paid for these, but I probably would shrug off a $0.99 pack of gum)?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The husband's birthday weekend

We celebrated David's birthday this weekend...even though it was more than a month ago. I'd planned a "Northshore weekend" to explore the more rustic areas around New Orleans. The schedule included:
- The Madisonville Maritime Museum in the morning
- Lunch at Coffee's Boilin' Pot (don't try to make sense of the name at all)
- An Abita Brewery Tour
- Dinner at La Provence
- Overnight at the Woodridge Bed and Breakfast
Here we are at the B&B:

I think I'll revive "Cheap date Wednesdays" and cover the museum and brewery then, but today I'll focus on the rest of the weekend.
First of all - Coffee's. It's THE restaurant on the Northshore for boiled or fried seafood, and it did not disappoint. When we walked in I could smell the boil and I just had to have some boiled crayfish! They had a few pounds left (it goes fast!) and we split 2 lbs of these guys: My first crayfish of the season.

Then we split the seafood platter, a big fat plate of cholesterol with a side of sweet potato fries. I was not looking forward to this because I don't like fried food, so I ordered a side salad. But you know what? The fried oysters were incredible! I actually ate a few and tasted the catfish, which was also not at all bad. The batter was very light and the seafood did not come out all greasy. Yum. Madisonville is a harbor town on the Tchefuncte River and we walked out to the water after lunch. It was a beautiful day and I, who am obsessed with graveyards, took a turn in the old graveyard. This area is not as old as some of the graveyards you'll visit in New England ("Died 1689") but some stones dated to the mid-1800's. We saw something so touching while we were there: a loved one had hung up a Saint's champions flag on a grave. Look closely and read the date and you will see that this gentleman died in Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes I forget how violently the storm changed so many lives, and I need a reminder like this one.

Our Brewery tour is a whole 'nutha post of its own because it was a hilarious hot mess. But I did make friends with a girl who is in New Orleans for Teach for America, and she needs a running buddy! So we might meet up. I have been meeting a bunch of outgoing, energized young teachers lately (and to top it off these young teachers were the front page story in today's Times Picayune) and I will have to tell you later about Ruthanne. Haha. Remind me about that one!
We checked in to our pretty little Bed and Breakfast before heading out to dinner at La Provence. This restaurant is Jon Besh's most rustic affair. It was...meh. I mean, it was good, but the service was rushed, and my main course was something I could make at home. However, I tried the bacon pecan ice cream for dessert and that was interesting and delicious!
BUT! When I got up from my chair I suddenly felt dizzy and by the time I got to the car my throat was swollen and my lymph nodes bulging. I'm sick again!
I made it the bedroom and crashed on the bed - still dressed - and shivered/burned the night away. I obviously am re-infected with my prior bacteria, since I never quite shook it to begin with. To be honest, ever since the race last Sunday I been feeling like I'm on the brink of a cold. Despite my best efforts and vitamin C, I think I succumbed! Now I'm back home and about to roll back into bed. I'm so sick of sickness!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Yet another food recall

Yesterday the FDA began a series of food recalls thanks to salmonella contamination in a common ingredient. The ingredient? HVP (which stands for hydrolyzed vegetable protein, not to be confused with HPV, human papilloma virus).
HVP is used as a "flavor enhancer" in many of processed foods, but here's the kicker: since it's vegetarian, it's used in a lot of "health food" products. I put that in quotes because what I mean is packaged, processed foods that are either vegetarian or a little more health conscious - like salad dressings, canned soups, etc. made by Trader Joe's or T. Marzetti's (some of the brands affected). This might rock the healthy-eating world!
I don't know if you've noticed but it seems like food recalls have been skyrocketing in recent years. Congress has debated new laws to decrease contamination, but most of these laws would just increase plant monitoring and inspection. That might help in cases like this, where one processed ingredient affects many commercial foods, but it won't help in cases like the spinach scare of a few years ago. That recall was due to E coli present in fresh spinach. Yes, IN, not on: the bacteria came from the soil and was in the stems. What caused this? Plain and simple, bacterial resistance. We use way too many antibiotics in farming!
How should we address food contamination to reduce consumers' risks?
Is it all about the antibiotic use?
Do we need more FDA involvement?
Was one of your favorites recalled?
Read the recall list here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Now is the time!

Early March is a great time to buy ...
There are three reasons for this:
1. All the new summer gear is about to - or already has - hit stores, so last year's items are going on clearance.
2. Exercise resolutions have pretty much crumbled by now, so companies are dropping prices since new purchases are down (can you imagine how many people buy their first or first in a while pair of running shoes in January?).
3. It's season-change, and all the winter clothes are on clearance. After this bitterly cold winter here in NOLA (last night there was a freeze on the Northshore), I'm going to buy some running tights and a jacket or other insulated top. I FROZE on my runs this winter. Luckily they were few and far between, hee hee. Next year I'll be prepared!

Want some inspiration? Check out these sales!

Sports Authority is offering $10 off orders of $50 and free shipping on footwear, plus they have a large 50% clearance section

Some colors of Brooks racing flats are on big sale.

Road Runner Sports' "endangered" sale sells off discontinued shoes.

Plus in store clearance sections are chock-full right now.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Marathon recovery....

I was wondering what it would be like to recover from a marathon. Well, guess what? If you're a slow-poke like me, it's nothing!
My knee hurts, but hey - my knee always hurts a little. Other than the knee pain and my cough (which I think kind of came back after Sunday's run: oops) I feel great! And keep in mind that I stand/walk for 8 hours a day at work, and I still felt fine Monday and today at work. My muscles aren't sore at all and they never did feel sore. I never got sick to my stomach and - shocking - all my toenails are intact.
Translation? I didn't run hard enough!
Haha. I'm going for at least 1 toenail loss next marathon!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mardi Gras Marathon: A Race Review

Today I'm reviewing the actual race we ran yesterday. In past years, the Mardi Gras Marathon was hosted by the New Orleans Track Club. Its course alternated each year between the city's 2 big parks: The race always started downtown by the Superdome; one year the half marathoners would run to City Park and back and the next year they'd run to Audubon park and back. The marathoners would continue the run through the other park before returning. This year, the Rock 'N Roll Marathon organization took over the race and changed the course. That was the biggest difference from past years.
So here's the good and the bad.
The good part was that the race was remarkably well organized and efficient, from the expo and packet pick-up to the post race party (I've never seen such a neat beer line in New Orleans; plus the family reunion section was conveniently placed in front of the stage instead of off in nowheresville like it was last year). The after-party line up of Sister Hazel and Cowboy Mouth was impressive, and the course was well-marked.
But there were some things I didn't like very much. My biggest beef is with the corral start. We started in 26 corrals over the course of AN HOUR. AN ENTIRE HOUR. The result was an extremely spread-out race - and it killed the adrenaline-filled camaraderie that makes racing fun. After the start runners spaced out even more, to the point that when the full and half marathon courses split there was only me and 2 other marathoners as far as my eye could see! Not at all fun. And when the half and full re-joined later we were separated on different sides of the street, so still - no mingling. This really affected the race atmosphere. Additionally, it discouraged spectating (especially as the course separated so much for the half and full), and there was a lower turn out than usual to watch the race.
I also had a major issue about the marathon course. I assume that miles 20 - 24 are toughest for most runners: they sure were for me! And the course was designed so that those key miles went on a straight, boring street in a flooded area of New Orleans. The scenery was blah, the houses abandoned, and there was not a single person watching the race for the whole loop. It was crushing! After the loop re-entered city park the spirit picked back up, but I think that course planning was not great.
And the last thing I disliked was the sports drink. They served Cytomax on the course and frankly the stuff is revolting. I knew I needed some electrolytes but I could barely choke the drink down. It is incredibly sweet, which is tough to stomach while you're running!
A word about the Rock 'n Roll format: The funniest thing about this race is how they try to get MONEY out of you. It's hilarious. I received a million emails trying to sell me the craziest things: For $9.99 they'll email you a link to a video of yourself running the race (why would you want that?!); for a similar charge they will text your friends and family your position throughout the race; you can pay a gigantic fee and have your medal engraved with your name and time; you can have your race number framed; you could earn a port-a-potty pass if you buy enough Brooks merchandise; there are about 20 different "finisher" doodads you can purchase for an exorbitant price. Most of it's aimed at the first-time runner who probably won't run another marathon and wants commemoration (my sister wants to know if I'm going to buy some vanity plate with 26.2 worked in somehow).
The idea behind the Rock n Roll marathons is that bands play throughout the course, but I could take it or leave it. They spend so much time tuning up and talking that only 1 or 2 bands were actually playing as I ran past. I ended up turning my ipod on. I think some people really enjoyed it though; it just didn't do much for me.
SO there you have it. I give this race a B-. It doesn't get an A because of the corral start problems, and then I stuck the minus on there for that ugly loop of misery at mile 20-ish. I'm a tough grader. Good thing I don't teach school.