Saturday
Jan072012

A Little Less Pink, Please

The husband loves this video:

He says this little girl reminds him of me. I guess I have some, um, strong opinions about certain subjects, including sexism. Oh well. The world needs more little girls like this one to grow up into big girls like me. 

It really does irritate me, though, when businesses think that all they have to do to market stuff to women is to slap some pink on it and away we go. Carhartt is a prime example of a company which is guilty of this kind of marketing. Our fire department orders monogrammed clothing for its members every so often, so I have a really nice, very warm Carhartt coat which is cut very big in the shoulders and fairly narrow in the hips—exactly the way you would want it to fit a man. It fits me, mostly, but in order to get it to fit around my hips, I had to get a size that's a bit too big in the shoulders for me.

A year or two ago, Carhartt made a big deal out of how it was coming out with a new line of clothing for women. You know what they did? They took their existing clothing line and produced it in more colorful fabrics, but the cut is exactly the same. I bought DD#2 a Carharrt coat a few months ago and it fits exactly the same way the boys' coats do, except that it is pink (her choice). Come on, people. Do you think we're stupid? 

The husband and I have gone round and round on this subject for years. While I am delighted that he assumes that I am capable of doing the same things he does, I have had to do a lot of explaining about why sometimes certain things are more difficult for me physically. I am 5'7" tall and he is 6'4" tall. He has lots of muscles in his arms and upper body. I have different things on my upper body. We have lots of equipment around here that is tough for me to operate, because it's designed for men. The husband bought a huge Brush Hog lawnmower for cutting our 3 acres of grass in the summer. It really does barrel through the job in record time—if you can get the thing started. The pull rope on it is so hard that I have come close to dislocating my shoulder a couple of times. Once it's running, you have to engage two squeeze triggers—one on each handle—to get it to move forward and to lower the cutting bar. They are designed for someone who has hands larger than mine, so after about ten minutes of operation, my hands are cramped up in agony in an attempt to keep those triggers engaged. I have similar problems with the snowblower. When the husband runs the snowblower, the driveway looks like a groomed ski trail. When I run the snowblower, the driveway looks like it was cleaned by a drunken snowplow operator, because with less upper body strength, I have a harder time keeping the thing from bouncing up and down. It's a good thing I am not going for style points. 

Shooting is another area where he and I have had a lot of dicussions about the differences between men and women. My first attempts at target shooting did not go so well. The husband instructed me to stand the way he stands when he shoots, a stance which takes advantage of his superior upper body strength to control the recoil of the gun. Not only could I not control the recoil, the gun kept jamming. Frustrated, I did some research and lo and behold—I discovered that women need to position their bodies differently when they shoot in order to take advantage of their lower center of gravity. We went back to the range and I did it my way. No more jams. But do you know how shooting sports companies market their products? If they are marketing them to men, the advertising will have lots of scantily clad, big-busted women. If they are marketing to women, they make pink versions of their products. ::Bangs head on desk::

I really believe that the biggest disservice feminism did to women was to attempt to convince them that they needed to be more like men. I don't want to be a man. I like being a woman. Sometimes I want to do the same kinds of things my husband does. I like to cut the grass. I'd like to be able to cut the grass without dislocating my shoulder or waiting for him to get home to start the lawnmower for me (we now have a smaller push mower that I can operate easily). But I don't need a pink lawnmower. Nor do I need a pink gun to hit the same targets my husband does. What I need (Carhartt, are you listening?) are the same tools, but ones that are designed for my size and shape. 

The husband has had a taste of my frustration. One morning he was trying to do something on his cell phone, and he finally dropped the thing on the kitchen table and said, "These ^&%@ keys are too small." I looked at him and said, "How does it feel to try to use something that wasn't designed for your hands?" (I am still looking for a cell phone with big keys for him.) 

Maybe by the time Riley grows up, we all will have figured this out, and little girls (and big ones) won't need to rail against the way things are. 

Friday
Jan062012

Blowing Up Words

Some aspects of my job as a transcriptionist are something of a game I play with myself. I get paid by how much I produce, so I am always looking for ways to increase my productivity. My contract stipulates that I will produce a certain number of lines per day (1000) or per week (5000). When and how I get that done is up to me. When I first started working, I was thrilled to be able to get to 500 lines in about 8 hours. I was slow because I was unfamiliar with the doctors, unfamiliar with the software, and unfamiliar with the terminology. I also didn't have many entries in my text expander, which is the biggest factor in increasing my productivity.

I love my text expander. Rather than typing out full words or sentences, I can simply type a shortcut—like "tp" for "the patient"—and up pops the word or phrase. I have lots of shortcuts for simple words:

  • cld for could
  • shld for should
  • illy for initially
  • td for today

And I have lots of shortcuts for really long words and phrases:

  • ojaw for osteonecrosis of the jaw
  • shob for shortness of breath
  • pbsc for peripheral blood stem cell transplant
  • patq for All the patient's questions were answered to his/her satisfaction.

There is an "official" system for making up shortcuts called the ABCZ system whereby the shortcut is the first three letters and the last letter of the word. Sometimes that works for me, sometimes it doesn't (my shortcut for "osteonecrosis of the jaw" makes way more sense to me, for example). I've got some really creative shortcuts, like "hyfat" for hyperlipidemia and "hycol" for hypercholesterolemia. 

Normally, most people can't type as fast as someone speaks if they have to type everything out. (I can slow down the playback speed of the recordings, but that only helps to a point.) With the text expander, however, I can usually keep up with the dictator, and I should only have to stop the recording occasionally if I have to puzzle out a word or phrase. 

The other nice thing about the text expander is that I don't have to remember how to spell all those goofy drug names, or remember which ones are capitalized and which ones aren't. 

I've gotten so dependent on my text expander that when I move from working on the PC (where I do transcription) to working on my Mac, it takes me a few moments to remember that I have to type everything out again. 

So now I can do about 1000 lines in 6 hours or so. Some days that number goes up (when I get good dictators who can maintain a coherent train of thought) and some days it goes down (there are a few doctors with ADD who hem and haw and ask me to erase whole paragraphs I've just typed, for which I do not get paid). Interestingly, my favorite doctors are the ones for whom English is not their first language. I find that their speech has a certain cadence or rhythm to it that is easy for me to pick up. 

It's been kind of a slow week for the doctors, so I've had time to add entries to my text expander and refine some of the existing entries. I've gotten faster each month and I'd like to continue that trend into the new year. 

Wednesday
Jan042012

Going Gluten-Free

An interesting thing has happened at my house. Everyone currently living here has given up eating anything with gluten in it. I gave it up about 6 months ago and immediately felt better: fewer aches and pains, better skin, and no more trouble maintaining my weight. DD#2 said to me a few weeks ago that she wanted to try it to see what would happen, and then the other night she exclaimed, while surfing the Internet, that she had found a site about Chinese medicine that claimed that people who had acne on their foreheads (she does, and it's the only place) have a likely gluten intolerance. She now has to get up a few minutes earlier to make herself a gluten-free lunch instead of eating at the school cafeteria, but she has folded that into her schedule with no trouble. 

DD#1 also wants to try gluten-free, but it will have to wait until she gets back from Spain. 

The husband amazed me by saying that he wants to try it for a while, too, to see if the knee pain he's been having for the past couple of years goes away. In his case, the pain may very well be mechanical because of the work he does, but I am happy to experiment on him and see what happens. Ultimately, it makes meal prep much easier because we're all eating the same things.

I actually haven't found gluten-free to be much of a hardship except when eating out. I don't eat many gluten-free products, because they are often loaded with other things that aren't really great for you, like sugar. I just don't miss it. If I want something sweet, which isn't often, I have a piece of dark chocolate or some full-fat Greek yogurt with stevia. 

So I'll continue to report on progress as we go through 2012 without eating wheat or gluten. Stay tuned. 

************************************************

This is a picture for my mother:

This is a cow elk. My poor mother has been to Montana many times and always manages to miss seeing any inetresting wildlife. We, on the other hand, see wildlife all the time. The other morning, DD#2 and I were coming home from town when all of a sudden three cow elk emerged from the trees next to the road, and ran across the road in front of the truck which was traveling in front of us (for whose presence I was extremely grateful). I saw them and exclaimed, "Elk!" which was a very profound thing to say. DD#2's comment was, "Wow, those things are big." Yes, they are. 

I often think what a cool thing it would be to have a camera inside my head that could download the stuff I see every day to my blog so I could share it all with you. Alas, I can't, so stock photos of wildlife will have to do. 

Tuesday
Jan032012

The Fine Art of Being a Mother Hen

One Saturday morning at the beginning of October, I walked into the chicken coop and heard a strange cheeping sound. Unbeknownst to us, one of the hens had hidden an egg and sat on it and hatched a chick. A chick! A baby! We kept an eye on the mama and the baby—there are 20 other hens and a rooster in there—but mama hen was very attentive and now the baby chick is a teenager (how quickly they grow up!)

The husband and I talk about that mama hen/baby chick relationship a lot. Right from the start, the baby chick was fairly intrepid and wanted to get out and explore the world. Many times we would go out to the coop and mama hen would be sitting on top of the chick, who would stick its head out from underneath her wing and cheep plaintively. When she finally did allow it to wander outside, she followed it constantly. The chick, being a chick, figured out how to escape the chicken yard and was found a few times wandering next door in my garden (the husband fixed that problem with smaller chicken wire). 

[The husband also noted that this particular baby chick is an only child, and would probably have preferred to have a half a dozen other siblings who could distract mama hen.]

It was easy to feel bad for the chick. Baby chicks grow up eventually and have to make their own way in the world. They reach a point where they neither need nor want mama hen following them around and telling them what to do. But there were days when I could really identify with mama hen. It's a very fine line to walk, wanting to keep your babies safe while at the same time preparing them to go out on their own.

I think that one of the worst messages parents can send to their children—either consciously or subconsciously—is that the kid is not prepared to be an adult. I see it all the time at school with parents that one of my friends refers to as "hovercraft mothers." If the kid senses that his parents don't have any confidence in him or his ability to take care of himself, the kid will begin to believe that, too, and behave accordingly. I am very proud of the fact that the husband and I have raised two incredibly responsible, confident kids. They only need to be told something once (usually), and they will take care of it from there. In fact, they will happily let you know just how much they hate being micro-managed (their parents also hate being micro-managed, so I know where they got that). And it's actually a huge help to me, because some days I have enough trouble managing myself, let alone managing two other people. It's a relief to know they know what they need to do without being reminded. 

Of course, having preapared my children to make their way in the world does not eliminate all moments of mother hen-ness. The trick is in not letting my mother hen-ness get in the way, and this past week has been an exercise in being the right kind of mother hen. DD#1 left yesterday on the first leg of her trip to Spain for her semester abroad. She flew to Maryland (via Salt Lake City and Detroit) to spend two days with my in-laws before she gets on a plane for Madrid. She will be in Spain for the next five months, staying with a host family and studying all sorts of interesting things. It was hard to leave her at the airport, knowing she would have to make her way 6000 miles mostly by herself. The world is a dangerous, if exciting, place. But, as the husband reminded me, she is a smart cookie and can figure things out if she gets in a jam. Being the right kind of mother hen means that I need to sit on my anxieties instead of my chick. 

She started a blog to record her adventures, if you'd like to follow what she's doing. It should be exciting and we're planning to visit her over spring break. 

Our rooster is still strutting his stuff around the chicken yard. He is quite handsome and doesn't mind letting everyone know that he is handsome. The girls do not always appreciate his handsomeness, because he needs some work in the romance department. 

You will notice that we have snow, but not much. This has been a weird winter so far. Despite predictions that we were going to be inundated because of La Nina, we have only had a smattering of snow, and a lot of above-average temps. We've even had sunshine. We may get hammered in January and February, and we may not. We will have to wait and see. Just after Christmas, the husband and I took a hike in the woods to a little creek about 1-1/2 miles back. Usually we can't get to the creek this time of year without skis or snowshoes. It was fun to hike back there and see it in a different season. 

Monday
Jan022012

A No-Poo Update

Some of you may remember back in July or so that I decided to stop washing my hair with shampoo and join the "no-poo" movement. I have always had issues with frizzy hair (the flatiron is the best invention EVER), and I wanted to see what would happen if I stopped the shampoo. By all accounts, going no-poo was supposed to be a great way to combat the frizzies. Most people use baking soda and cider vinegar, so that's what I used, too.

After the initial yucky period of excess greasiness, which only lasted about two weeks, my hair settled into being soft and manageable and not frizzy. I could go a few days between washing and not feel like I had a dead animal on my head. All was wonderful for a few months. 

Around November, I noticed that my hair was getting dryer. It's very dry here anyway in Montana, but worse in the winter. I began to look like I was wearing a Brillo-Pad on my head. I tried stretching out the days between washings. Then my hair began to get greasier and greasier—except that the "grease" was actually like a waxy buildup that I could not get out no matter how often or how much I washed with the baking soda. And I noticed that the baking soda wasn't actually dissolving in the water anymore; it would form this really gritty paste instead.

We have really hard water here. It's great for my bones (my bone density readings were off the chart a few years ago), but wreaks havoc with stuff in our house. I refuse to get a water softener because we have the best-tasting water on the planet. (Everything is a trade-off.) The hardness of the water seems to fluctuate throughout the year, so I suspected we were having a spike in water hardness that was affecting my ability to wash my hair. 

A Google search yielded a blog post by someone who was having the exact same problem. Her solution was to boil the water before adding the baking soda. Apparently water hardness is caused by calcium ions and bicarbonate ions in the water, and boiling the water drives them off and leaves the water "softer" afterwards. Ta-da! I tried it and it worked. Now I keep a bottle of boiled water + baking soda in the shower, and that's what I use to "wash" my hair. I follow that with a rinse of diluted cider vinegar (if you don't rinse the baking soda out before you pour on the vinegar, you get a nice tingling foam that probably looks like a science experiment gone awry on your head but feels good). 

My hair is back to being soft and manageable (and mostly non-frizzy) again. I love it. And that is your public service announcement for today.