Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Stories like this just make me mad

As if it wasn't bad enough that they put her in jail on some stupid warrant, a jail worker then refused to give the woman the morning after pill because of religious beliefs! Hurumpf.

The cost of living "abroad"

Today I went to the local British Grocers, primarily to purchase the funny looking thing above. Cadbury's Highlights are just the best instant hot chocolate ever (seriously, instant but GOOD) AND - better still - they only have 40 calories in every pack. Is that like heaven in a baggie or what??? Usually my mum sends these out to me, but she's been sending a lot of packages out recently, which is very expensive, so I thought I would do the adult thing and purchase my own groceries for a change.

At Tesco (UK equivalent of Safeway but actually a lot better), the above product sells for two pounds and forty pence, or $3.60. At the "A Touch of Britain", this same canister costs $13.95!!!! That's not a touch, that's more like a full-on grope!!!!

I just couldn't do it, I just couldn't pay $14 for it. Yet, somehow I did manage to purchase a small brown bag of groceries costing a wopping $30. For this I got:
6 small tins of Heinz Baked Beans (which I just can't live without) at $1.75 each (39p or $0.58 from Tescos) - the pictured tin is actually 2x the size of what I bought!

One Cadbury's "Flake" bar for Joss, a bottle of salad cream and some Branston's pickle.

I wouldn't call this exactly gourmet - I could have had a serious sushi binge for $30 - but unfortunately this is the price of missing home. Needless to say, Mum will be shipping the Highlights.

It does bring up a good point, though... there's money to be made in this whole English food thing. An entrepreneurial thought for another day...

Adding insult to injury...

... my parents' electricity inexplicably went out yesterday afternoon, leaving them in a cold, dark house. When my mum called my dad at home to see how is doing this afternoon, he said he was still in bed because that was the warmest place in the house. :( So, the antibiotics are still not working, the painkillers aren't helping much and then he was in a house with no lights or heating in January. Thankfully the electricity has since come back on, but seriously, what a crappy week for my Dad.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The downfalls of socialized medicine

My dad had to go to the emergency room over the weekend, back home in England. He had developed an ear infection so bad that the pain had moved into his head, his neck, his arm and was affecting his speech. Having had inner-ear problems when I was a kid, I can tell you that ear infections are no joke. Like tooth-aches, there's just no escaping a sharp pain in your head.

My dad has had poor hearing ever since I can remember, as a result of a neglected childhood ear infection. We've pretty much always considered him functionally deaf in his left ear and with poor hearing in his right as a result of tinitis. In the last few years, however, it seems to have got progressively worse. There's pretty much no way to have a conversation with him that doesn't involve you repeating what you said at least twice. As a result, my mum finally nagged him enough to get him to try a hearing aid, with the hope that some kind of functional hearing could be restored.

He finally got his hearing aids about two weeks ago and the miraculous, unthinkable happened - the ear that we thought was completely deaf actually regained some hearing! The specialist even said that it would have been even better if it wasn't for a big ball of wax lodged in his inner ear. She suggested that he go to the doctor to get it syringed. Which is what he did, last Thursday. Of course, this was too menial a task for my parents' Iraqi (yes, oh the irony) doctor and so he met with the nurse.

Let's just establish here that this doctor's office doesn't have a very good track record:

  • This is the office that had my dad down as insulin dependent in his file when he wasn't and told him that he had liver damage and needed to stop drinking, when he doesn't.

  • This is the doctor who broke the news to my mother than she has arthritis in her hands and legs and when asked, what type, told her just "regular arthritis", then when questioned further (rheumatoid? osteo?) he told her that he knew she would be a "difficult patient".

  • Let's also not foget that he prescribed Vioxx for her and then continued to be willing to renew the prescription long after the FDA pulled the pills from the shelf (thankfully I listen to NPR and forwarded the radio broadcast the day the story broke). The doctor also continues to mis-prescribe my dad's diabetes and blood-thinning pills, writing the wrong dosage and/or quantities down.

  • This is also the office that forces you to make separate appointments for separate ailments. Got a sore thumb on your left hand and an ingrown nail on your right? Make two separate appointments, and don't even think of trying to slip your unrelated symptom into the first consultation.

I'm sure you can already see where this is going, but I'll continue...

So, the nurse tries to syringing-out the offending ball of wax, but it's a bit stubborn. Three painful tries later, she gives up and tells my dad to go home and put drops of olive-oil in his ear for a week, to try and soften up the wax.

The next day my dad wakes up with an earache... and the rest you know. Except, this is what the emergency nurse told him:

  1. The doctor's nurse should never have tried to syringe his ear without FIRST having him soften the wax with a week's worth of HOT (missing detail there) olive-oil treatment.

  2. In doing so, the nurse had certainly caused the inner-ear infection my dad now had AND had possibly damaged his ear-drum in the process - she would have been able to know for sure, but the swelling in his ear was so severe she couldn't see down his ear canal.

So, my dad is now home with anti-biotics, holding his head, unable to sleep and fearing that he had again lost any hope of hearing in his left ear. If that incompetent nurse has destroyed his chances of restoring hearing to that ear, my parents should definitely sue! But honestly, it probably won't happen. The sad thing about the NHS (National Health System) is that you get "assigned" a doctor based upon where you live, and if you make a complaint about him or her, you get blacklisted and no other doctor will take you on their books.

Fear-not, I have not lost my belief in socialized medicine completely but there are two ends of the spectrum - England is on one end and the U.S. is on the other. Neither work and the only people that suffer is the patient.

This is my wonderful Dad. I'll let you know how his eardrum is....

Sunday, January 28, 2007

All married off

Just got back from South Lake Tahoe, where's Joss' best friend, Eric, got married. Eric and Rachel (his new wife) had planned to marry atop a snowy hill after a romantic sleigh ride. However (as Joss and I were painfully aware on our big day too) the weather did not cooperate - not a flake of snow on the ground meant that the sleigh turned into a carriage ride, and the hill turned into a public beach down by the lake. That doesn't mean it wasn't FREEZING COLD, however. In my rush to get ready between hotel check-in at 2pm, and wedding at 3:45pm, I forgot to put socks on over my pantyhose and basically lost all feeling in both big toes for the duration of the event.

For anyone who knows anything about Joss and Eric's friendship, this was a pretty momentous occasion. Let's just say that Joss and Eric were partners in crime when it came to the ladies, for many years. There is many a cringe-worthy story to be told about their reign over the Sacramento night-club scene... and beyond... stories which I shall gladly spare you here. If you had asked me 5-6 years ago if I could imagine Eric Easter (or Double E, as we know him) as a married man, I probably would have died laughing. I'm guessing I'm not the only one. (Sorry E!) But, the lovely Rachel has captured his heart and now - even more scarily - he will be a daddy in July!!!

So, the end of an era. Joss and Eric, old married men.

Getting ready to head up to Tahoe on Saturday morning, shortly after posting my first blog entry, also made me a acutely aware of yet another thing that has hit me since age 30 came around. PIMPLES.

Yes, aparently, those rotten things are not just reserved for your awkward teenage years. Who knew, but it is actually quite common for your skin to start changing in your 30s and the dreaded red-spotty-ones to return. As if it's not bad enough that your metabolism is slowing down to a dead-halt and your eyes are developing creeping little lines, you have to be faced with zits. This in turn has resulted in the need for more make-up to cover up these unsightly things.

So, I'm getting ready to pack my bag for Tahoe and thinking Ok, just need to throw some make-up in a little zip-lock bag. First I pull out my war-paint-strength foundation, then I grab my special under-eye concealer (a shade or two lighter plus anti-wrinke agents and with SPF 15). But oh! Musn't forget the concealer-concealerfor the zits, the pressed-powder to "set" it all in place and avoid the dreaded shiny nose syndrome, the bronzer (so as not to appear like a porcelein doll) and the blush to put back in the color you just took away by pasting an inch or two of foundation on your skin. You'd think that would be it right? Well, it was for the ziplock bag - which caused me a moment of pause. Hold on, where were the days where I could throw blush, lip-gloss and mascara in a baggie and take off?

I looked down at the bag, bulging to the brim with creamy substances and I thought, with dismay - I need something bigger... much bigger.

A moisturizer, eye-repair cream, cleansing facial wipe, eye-liner, mascara, eye-shadow trio, brow wax, lip-liner and lipstick later... I had filled an entire toiletry bag which had, in a previous and more carefree life, been sufficient for everything I would need for an entire week away. For one night away I seemed to have accumulated the need for an ENTIRE ENTOURAGE of make-up and facial care items. Did I need all this, really? What had happed to me?

The answer, of course, is that my skin now needs more than a little artificial help and this made me feel incredibly vain... like some self-absorbed celebrity-type who couldn't get out of bed in the morning without a fresh coat of mascara. Of course, I'm not that bad (I let it all "hang out" whenever I don't have to go out in public) but still, it was a pretty big realization for me. Perhaps you've been carting around all these cosmetics all your life, you think I'm being dramatic, but for someone who used to have great skin and who felt over made-up with a coat of eyeliner, this was (is!) a big deal.

Anyway, here is the result of all that... stuff. Was it worth it? The only way to know would be to see me WITHOUT the make-up, and honestly I don't think I'm posting that picture any time soon.

You CAN comment...

Sorry folks, seems this whole blogging thing has a few things I need to figure out. Elena just let me know that she was unable to post a comment to my site because my profile only allowed "Team Members", whatever that means. Well, I've changed the settings so that anyone can post. But, here is what Elena has asked me to post on her behalf...

My dearest Michelle, welcome to the wonderful world of blogging! I'm so glad I inspired you to do this. And for anyone else who might be reading this, this is Elena, the first US friend. And yes, I'm all that, AND a bag of chips. Seriously, Michelle, what you said about me is really moving. I love having you in my life, even if we don't see each other often. You are beautiful, smart, powerful, fun, and real. When I saw you in November at your lovely wedding, it was like only a few days had passed since we hung out. You're absolutely right, I think, this is a way to keep friends and family closely connected with your life, any aspect of it you choose. What I'm also finding is that some of my friends tell me what I should blog, or call me with good stories to blog. It's awesome!

This is me and Elena at my wedding.

So, basically, let the commenting begin...
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