Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is OCD Creepy?

"Dad, that was creepy."

I've been hearing that sentence more frequently around the house lately, more than either "You're so weird" or "Why are you so weird?" And while it's uttered with more regularity than ever before, it will likely never reach the stratosphere where "Ughh"resides as the reigning champion teenage utterance. (It's not even a word, more of just a hacked out ball of indignation, carbon dioxide and Hot Cheetos.).

But then I reflected on the statement, "Dad, that was creepy." On one hand she didn't say, "Dad, you're creepy," which sounds worse, yet maybe it was time to face some hard truths; maybe I am creepy, at least partially.

Empirical evidence bears this out through my demographic alone. Take your pick. There's a slate of creepy white, middle-aged serial sexual predators and murderers bigger than ApplebeesCake Factory's "Meals That Arrive at Your Table on a Golf Cart " menu: Bundy, Dahmer, BTK (sorry, but it sounds like a delicious hamburger), the Green River Killer. 

For those of us who inhabit the land of middle-aged male whiteness, our obsessions and compulsions over the years aren't exactly dissolving away—in fact, they're flaring up that thing Rush Limbaugh picked up in the Dominican Republic that thrives in humid spaces. 

So yes, for the sociopaths and psychopaths among my tribe, OCD can be creepy. More likely, though, it's simply behavior(s) highly annoying to those around you. 

Here's a big surprise, and I'm sorry for being so cowardly in breaking it to my wife like this: I've got Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—in a big way. I know, I know. Hard to believe, isn't it, dear bride? Oh, hey, can you turn on the fan while you spray your hair? Yeah, thanks. Oh, and you left the closet door open just a little bit. Great, yeah.

Seriously, she probably had me pegged on our first date. Now, after twenty-seven years together, my wife has perfected a "What the hell is your deal?" face that requires no words to express her exasperation. And she claims she's not an artist.

My OCD is like an Everlasting Gobstopper. First I suck on the outer portion that has to make coffee for tomorrow, which then melts into a nice layer of getting my work and gym clothes ready and stacking them by the front door. When I get into the car in the morning, there's a still a little piece of Gobstopper wedged into my back molar. I pry it out and taste the need to pull up my socks before starting the car.

I'll bet I know what you're thinking right now—why has Tim, as odd as he is, written something that points out similarities between him and some of history's worst criminals? How dare he compare a killer with a burger. 

I have three responses to your reasonable curiosity:

1) It's a blog subject.

2) I get called creepy by my 13-year-old so much, it doesn't bother me anymore. She views the world through "Ohmygoggles."

3) My fragile ego finds gratification through any form of self-aggrandizement, however demented.

Feel free to mix and match.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thanksgiving With the Doctor.

Welcome to the third installment of "Relatives of mine and their dangerous, scary, disgusting, highly difficult and courageous careers."

I can't believe how many of these people are sprinkled throughout the family along with the rest of us losers. While the majority of us make up life's vanilla ice cream, these people are the chunky, chocolaty, cookie dough morsels of society.

I've previously written about my two brothers-in-law, each of whom served at least twenty years in the Air Force and Navy. This month's ROASP family member of the month is my cousin—actually my dad's sister's son's daughter—Hillary Goodwin. She's been an emergency room physician for the past fifteen years.

I actually remember when she was born, and the reason I know this is that when I was around five, we went to see my cousin Craig's new baby girl at my aunt's (her grandma's) house. I remember thinking, "Hmmm. Hillary. Never heard it before. That's a good name."

We attended many Thanksgivings together during the experimental 1970s, an era when I was torn between being ten pounds overweight and fifteen or sometimes eighteen. I was determined to detract attention from my beaver teeth and black rimmed glasses with the glare of my multi-striped slacks. I looked like Bobby Brady in a funhouse mirror.

Oh yeah, back to her. She was never a brat to her brother and parents like my sister and I were. She never ridiculed my sweater vests. And I'd have to think that Hillary observed a few of my well-placed kicks to my sister's shin. There's a certain thud it makes when you hit the sweet spot.

I don't remember seeing Hillary much during her teenage years. Her comments are italicized:

We moved around a lot growing up which was a little hard at the time but I am so appreciative of that experience now. I was born in Pullman, moved to Delaware, cross country again to Tacoma, spent Junior High and part of high school in the small southern town of New Bern, North Carolina and then back to Kent, Washington to finish high school at Kentwood.

Were you already thinking of going into medicine?

I had wanted to be a doctor as long as I can remember but probably for all the wrong reasons. There are likely a few witch doctors in our family but I never had much exposure to the field of medicine. For me it was picking one of most challenging careers I could imagine and also proving that as a girl, I could do it. When I was in medical school, the majority of the students were still men and certainly when I went into my ER residency that was true.

One thing I do remember vividly as a child is the story of my grandma. She worked for a chiropractor for years. When she started developed edema, he increased the number of "adjustments" she got and after that didn't seem to work, he referred her to an "herbalist".

I remember.

When she finally got so swollen and short of breath that she could barely walk, she agreed to see a medical doctor. Within a week she was in the hospital getting emergent surgery for critical mitral valve stenosis. It made me appreciate forever the value of science based medicine.

Our paths crossed again at the University of Washington, but not until your freshman year and my second senior year (yes, you heard right), during the spring of 1986. She showed up at a fraternity dance with a guy from the house I actually liked a lot. Which helped.

Hillary, what was your take on sorority life ?

My feelings about the sorority experience have morphed over the years. I was the sorority president and the editor of the Greek System yearbook so at the time I was fairly entrenched. went from this relatively conservative experience (one boyfriend used to have a pic of Ronald Reagan on his wall) to medical school which was very liberal. In the end I am pretty thankful for my Greek sorority experience. 

It gave me leadership opportunities, a smaller social network at such a big school and social skills that benefit me tremendously to this day. I also made some life long friendships with many men and women who have gone on to be very successful, generous people.

And now it's time for med school. Where did you go?

I attended the UW School of Medicine and during that stint spent six months in Boise, Idaho as part of the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) program. It's such a great way to see medicine practiced in our small towns; it is very different then the tertiary medical centers.

It's also where you met your husband Dan.

Dan and I couples-matched to Cleveland, where he did his ER residency and I did my pediatric residency at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. I then did another residency at UC Davis in Sacramento in Emergency Medicine. (Interesting side note is that since I did that residency match independently, I found where I had matched in one of the daily editions of US World and News Report?! I guess they made a deal with the residency matching process.) I had the joy of doing two residencies before they had weekly hour limitations. Can you say six years of 80-100 hour work weeks?

Wow. One hundred hours? Since I turned fifty, I haven't gone for a good twenty minutes without nodding off. Sleep is what I do...and I do it well.

It is amazing what adrenaline will do, and I don't think my decision-making has ever been compromised by sleep deprivation. The rides home, however, after such long hours as a resident were always a little scary. I remember holding it together after one long shift, making it into my carport and falling asleep in the car. Dan woke me up an hour later with a cell phone call. 

We get pretty used to weird hours and pulling all nighters at work is par for the course for me. Ironically, the old-school docs among us worry a bit with the contracted work hours, that the new doctors coming out of residency aren't seeing enough cases because they are not logging the hours we did.

I'm sure you've been asked this a million times. You're a mom to a son and daughter. You work in the ER. How do you deal with seeing kids in such tragic situations, especially those that remind you of your own?

All ER staff develop a pretty good mental barrier between work and home life. I don't think we could function in either venue without that. A couple cases do stick however. I recall caring for a young girl who was critically wounded in a car accident during residency. She was so terribly injured it was difficult to identify her but she had tiny hair clips that made her death more personal somehow. She comes to mind on occasion when I worry about my own kids.

Oh, man, I can see how that could happen. Okay, switching gears. What's your take on Obamacare so far? Be honest, but remember my lefty leanings. I may have to edit your answer out or just make something up.

Obamacare? I don't know how this all is going to play out. In the ER since the rollout, we have seen a huge increase in census. Because it has been a major flu season, we in the Emergency Department worry that because the biggest increase in enrollees is in Medicaid, our ERs will be more and more overwhelmed. Unfortunately the reimbursement rate is so low with Medicaid that many primary care doctors won't take these patients so as a last resort they end up in the ER which is an expensive and inefficient way to deliver care.

Yeah, I thought the whole idea was to give people more choice and take some of the heat off the ERs. Let's hope that improves..quickly. Wrapping things up, what would you say are the best and worst parts of your job?

In the ER, we see the best and worst of humanity, which is a blessing and a curse. It can give you a distorted view of the world when you see unbelievable tragedy. I remember helping with a young woman who was dying from a pulmonary embolism (blood clot to the lungs) a few days after she had elective plastic surgery. It was a horrible case as she was a mother and her husband was sobbing in the hall as we were coding her.

She ended up dying and I finished my shift to run pick up the kids from school and go to a PTC meeting. I sat in one of the small kindergarten chairs listening to the parents talk about collecting box tops and looked down to see a dot of this poor woman's blood on my scrubs. The discussion seemed so inane with this perspective, I felt like telling the PTC where they could put their box tops.

I got up and quietly left instead. . .

The huge number of people struggling with addiction is also a challenge. On the flip side, many of these experiences are also big blessings. Most of us have a huge appreciation of how fragile and finite life is. We also don't suffer fools well which is pretty helpful when you have teenagers.

Amen to that. Thanks, Hillary.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I'd like the racism hoagie please. Sure, let's do the twelve inch.

Snap back to reality.

I've always liked Safeway—the checkers are nice—some are funny, others almost jog to show you were the pickled pigs' feet stand(?). And since I've been doing the weekly shopping at the same store for two years now, I have become The Snakeman of Safeway.

Backtracking is for losers. If you realize you forgot organic free range low sodium turkey bacon, but not until you're cruising the canned, fat-free whipped creamish aisle, you in fact are a moob.

And no one likes moobs. You know what though? There's got to be some type of male boob website out there for the enthusiasts, somewhere out there in the peripheral prairies of pervdom.

Anyway, I'm avoiding the issue, because it's not funny and it flared up twice yesterday.

My wife and daughter stood at the Safeway deli counter, waiting to order a sandwich. They were second in line to a young African American guy, who was also waiting for a sandwich order.

"Oh, I'll be right back," he said, returning shortly with a shopping basket.

The woman in a hair net and black apron held his sandwiches. "You need to pay for these before you go shopping."

What? Those of you who know my wife can probably guess how she reacted to this racist assholery by the Safeway lady. That little, bushy-eyebrowed woman has handed us more unpaid-for stuff than Ike, the friendly grocer from Walton's Mountain.

While the guy purchased his sandwiches my wife approached him. "I'm really sorry that she is making you pay for those here. That is completely wrong."

"Yeah," he said. "It is completely wrong."

The deli woman, still only a couple of feet from the conversation, handed my wife her sandwich, turned and walked away. No payment necessary, apparently.

Pissed off as only a woman of Tuscan blood can be, my bride fought back her desire to rake the deli lady's head to and fro across the meat slicer—and slowly, silently burned.

She came home and told me about it. She regretted not having said something to the offensive employee.

"Why don't you just write to the management and tell them what happened?" I asked.

"It's just so much stronger to handle things face-to-face," she said. "But it's too late now, so emailing the store manager is better than nothing."

"Pshaw," I didn't say. "Why deal with things directly when you can comfortably blog about them?"

We have different styles.

Then, last night, a verdict was reached in the murder trial of Michael Dunn, a Florida man convicted of three counts of attempted second degree murder. The jury was deadlocked on the more serious charge of first degree murder.

Here's an excerpt from of what allegedly happened:

It was November 23, 2012, when Michael Dunn pulled into a gas station in Jacksonville, parking next to a red Dodge Durango full of teenagers. The teens had pulled in for gum and cigarettes; Dunn, meanwhile, had just left his son's wedding with his fiancee, who'd gone inside the convenience store for wine and chips. 

Dunn didn't like the loud music—"rap crap," as he called it—coming from the teens' SUV. So he asked them to turn it down. 

What followed next depends on whom you believe. Dunn claimed Davis threatened him, and he decided to take matter into his own hands upon seeing what he thought was the barrel of a gun sticking out of the Durango. 

But prosecutors asserted that it was Dunn who lost control, firing three volleys of shots—10 bullets total—at the SUV over music he didn't like, one of which killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

Prosecutors challenged what he did next: He left the gas station and drove 40 miles away to a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine. There, Dunn walked his dog, ordered a pizza, then drank rum and cola—"stunned and horrified, (shocked how) things escalated the way they did over a common courtesy."

This guy will probably spend the rest of his life in prison because of a few pre-conceived notions and theclose proximity of a firearm. I'm not saying the guy should be denied the right to protect himself, but why not just go in, get your girlfriend out of the store, and leave?

So yeah, yesterday was one of those days—a few household chores, some Winter Olympics—and a big ugly slice of bigotry on sale at Safeway.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Not Much Going On Today? Oh, Think Again.

Today is one of those Sundays—one of those rare times when all the chores are done—the meals for the week are planned and the groceries are stacked in the larder.

Larder? Gross. Anyway, it's not another manic Sunday, that's for sure. No football to watch, no soccer to coach, even the Olympics don't really seem interesting yet.

Would you mind if I rapped a smidge of inspirational haiku for this fifty shades of grey day? Thanks, brothers and sisters:

My prostate is huge
Bigger than an infant's head
Jealous? Don't be, man

When I'm challenged to find a subject for one of my always-important posts, I like to reflect on events which transpired on this day in history. And while February the Ninth may not seem all that significant to you, it is to a lot of folks throughout the annals of time.

Plus, it allows opportunities to practice my one-liners.

On February 9, 1861, the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America elected Jefferson Davis as its president.

When you really think about it, the end result wasn't much different than when Peyton Manning was elected captain of the Broncos.

In 1895, the first college basketball game was played as the Minnesota State School of Agriculture defeated the Porkers of Hamline College, 9-3.

Wow, they must have been porkers with a score like that. I did a little research, and wouldn't you know the starting power forward was a portly sophomore named Brigham Limbaugh.

On this date in 1932, America entered the two-man bobsled competition for the first time at the Olympic Winter Games held at Lake Placid, New York.

Speaking of the Olympics, didn't the mayor of Sochi deny the existence of two-man bobsledders?

U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, on February 9, 1950, charged that the State Department was riddled with Communists, ushering in the era of "McCarthyism."

At least we can thank the lord that Harry Truman occupied the oval office instead of some socialist who succeeded in jacking the top tax bracket to ninety percent. That was a Republican named Eisenhower.

On this day in 1971, the Apollo 14 spacecraft returned to Earth after America's third landing on the moon.

By the fourth excursion, even though still a technological marvel, we'd all grown a little weary of the whole moon thing, which came in third in the Nielsens behind McMillan and Wife and a really interesting tampon commercial.

And finally, on February 9, 1997, The Simpsons became the longest-running prime-time animated series, surpassing The Flintstones.

83-year-old Fred was pissed. He made a few calls, but changed his mind just before Bam Bam stopped by Moe's to offer Homer a little friendly persuasion. After discovering that Homer had nearly identical five o'clock shadow, Fred embraced their mutual Sicilian roots.

Plus, hey, it was February 9. He had to buy a birthday present for his good friend Joe Pesci, who turns 71 today.

Monday, February 3, 2014

It's Morning in Seattle.

43-8. Wow, didn't see that coming.

They did it. We did it. 

We are the champions, my friends. The Seattle Seahawks destroyed Peyton and his Broncs as if they were the semi-pro Algona Aardvarks. You know the team, right? The wide receiver works in the paint department at Home Depot and the quarterback played for Algona High back in the day, but now he's thirty pounds heavier and his helmet hurts his hair plugs? Yeah, those guys.

As I've mentioned a few times before, if you're not from Seattle, it might be hard to relate to our historical futility. The last team to win a major title was the 1979 NBA Supersonics, back when a Walkman cost 200 bucks and a gallon of gas was 89 cents. Jimmy Carter was president and I thought seriously about fathering Olivia Newton John's children, sometimes up to three times a day.

Who would have known that three and a half decades would pass before the Jet City would again kiss the cup?

Folks in other towns have toasted their franchises on countless occasions during the Emerald City's three-and-a-half-decade drought. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore…hell, even Tampa Bay won a world championship while Seattle warmed herself in a stuffy slicker of Prozac and Pearl Jam. Boston twice vanquished the Bambino's curse, while the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins accumulated hardware like Fred Sanford. Marcia's nose never would've been broken if it had been Tom Brady, rather than Greg, throwing that pass.

Meanwhile, things grew worse in Seattle. Thanks to a Starbucks cracker and an Okie fracker, the Sonics jumped ship in 2008. A perfect storm engulfed the Northwest, a convergence zone of greed and dishonesty rendering our citizens disillusioned and bitter. Fortunately our baseball team, the Mariners, contended for the pennant on a yearly basis, often well into the second week of the season. 

Until last night, Seattle resided with its own bambino, but this baby was 35, still living downstairs and only coming up to pee and stock up on pork rinds and Mountain Dew. 

Prior to Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos and Seahawks had squared off 53 times, and never in the history of the rivalry had either team won a game by more than 24 points. Not once in 37 years had one team dominated the other with the prowess of an Appalachian canoe-welcoming committee.

Until last night. At the conclusion of the bloodbath, as Peyton Manning waded through a blizzard of blue and green, congratulating his opponents and consoling himself with the bland promise of Papa John's pie for life, I drank in the dignified gait of a vanquished warrior. How noble he looked, how proud he stood in the Bronco uniform, its orange the color of smoked salmon and Cheeto vomit…and a tear came to my eye.

Damn allergies. 

Here's to Russell and Marshawn,  the Legion of Boom  Michael, Cliff, Percy and every Twelve who's spent the past 21 weeks sweating and bleeding blue, green and occasionally wolf grey. You deserve this.

We deserve this.