Monday, January 29, 2007

January Blues? Blahs? Both?

It seems as if whenever January rolls around I get down in the dumps. The few times I've ever actively searched for another job were in January. I recently heard on the radio that the most depressing day of the year was last Monday. I was not in the least bit surprised since I had really gotten up on the wrong side of bed that day! Here is the link that explains this phenomenon:

Interestingly, two years ago when my father was rapidly declining in the nursing home, I heard on the radio that the most common day of the year for people to die was January 20. Kind of at the same time as the most depressing day of the year. It makes a certain kind of sense. And at the time I thought to myself that it would be weird if my father passed away on that day. And as a matter of fact, technically he did, as he died after midnight on the 19th of January, 2005, making it January 20.

Despite the fact that February is probably the dreariest month of all, it is in January I start getting so reluctant about going to work that I can barely drag myself in. By February I start to perk up.

It's getting really bad - and even I think 10:10 a.m. is a bit late to be getting into work at a Big Corporation! I sneak in the side entrance, take my coat off, and hang it up in a closet right near the entrance. So when I walk to my cube I don't have on a coat and I like to believe that I have fooled everyone and they don't know that I'm just getting there! I'm sure I am mistaken on that but so far no one has said anything to me.

Once I'm here I can't even get up the energy to leave. I worked until 8:30 two days last week. I get a lot done from 5 to 8:30 p.m. It's as if my whole mental clock gets turned around at this time of year and I just have a later schedule than the rest of the normal people.

This is the time of year that I start thinking about the Meaning Of It All, and why am I still working here, shouldn't I be doing something Important With My Life? Something that Matters? I don't know if it's a mid-life crisis or a mid-winter crisis. But if it's a mid-life crisis I think I've found an interesting website to nurture it with:

On a brighter note, I finally got a new computer at work. A nice new IBM Thinkpad with a wireless connection and much faster processing. I am very excited about this. I'm going to take it with me to Australia so I can watch movies on it when I'm on the plane. Along with reading 3 or 4 books!

As you can see I'm already starting to count the days to Australia. Made an appointment for our dog to be boarded, lined up my friend to watch the cat. And I'm already mentally packing what I'm going to take with me. I think after the two weeks in the sun I'll have a whole new attitude! Bear with me, January is nearly over and I regain my normal perspective the closer it gets to spring!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New post at Medicana

My latest post is up on Medicana ( -- this week's subject is brain tumors in adults. Sadly, I lost a friend to a brain tumor 7 years ago. I thought it would be helpful to anyone who either has been diagnosed with one, knows someone who has one, or is worried they have one, to find a source of information with links to further details on this terrible type of cancer.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Internet Home To The Amazing Skidboot’s Life & Legacy

Internet Home To The Amazing Skidboot’s Life & Legacy

I am reposting the website for Skidboot the dog, because I updated the blog format and the link to the YouTube video no longer seems to work. This is his website so you can read all about him and watch the video.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Calendar Girl

In case you didn't recognize her from a previous post, this is our American Pit Bull Terrier, Diva.

The Divine Miss D (one of the nicknames we call her) is featured as "Miss July" in the 2007 "Unexpected Pit Bull" calendar, sales of which benefit the Liberty Humane Society of Jersey City, New Jersey.
This picture was taken by their professional photographer, who actually came to our house this past summer and took a whole bunch of great pictures of her in our own back yard.

The pit bull rescue group, Animal Farm Foundation, that we had adopted Diva from in 2005, e-mailed us and asked if we'd be interested in having Diva be in the calendar, and of course we were very excited about the idea and said "Sure!" All these organizations know one another and another and work together to help the dogs. An AFF dog had been featured in the calendar in 2006 as well.

So the folks from the Unexpected Pit Bull contacted us and we made a date for the photographer to come to our house.

Diva was very excited to meet her and had a great time but was not very cooperative in posing. We had to wear her out by throwing the ball into her wading pool (yes, she has her own wading pool). She would then chase it, grab it, and come running right out before they could get a good picture of her! They did manage to get a couple of pictures of her in the pool eventually. One of them is at the bottom of the page on the calendar, along with another picture of her with us, and a good shot of her on top of the picnic table (one of her favorite places to sit and survey her domain). The main picture, of course, is the one on this page.

I'd urge everyone to go out and buy a copy of the 2007 Unexpected Pit Bull Calendar, but it's too late - it's sold out! It was featured on the Rachel Ray cooking show since Rachel Ray loves pit bulls and wanted to give the calendar some publicity. As a result the calendar sold out in record time! Luckily I had bought 10 copies for ourselves and all our friends and relatives right away so I got mine!

If you are interested in helping homeless pit bulls, do go to the website of the Liberty Humane Society ( or the Animal Farm Foundation ( and make a donation to the cause! These dogs have such an unfairly negative reputation and they need so much help!

Animal Farm Foundation specializes in pit bull rescue, and they make a special effort to save the best, most adoptable examples of the breed from local pounds and shelters, often hours before they might be euthanized. The AFF personnel then temperament test these dogs and evaluate and train them, so as to be sure they will make great pets. Then they carefully assess prospective owners to make sure they're adopting these dogs for the right reasons, as pets, not to train them to fight or be guard dogs.

Every dog they adopt out must be an ambassador for the breed and show people how friendly, gentle and fun-loving these dogs are, to make sure their reputation does not get sullied. I must say Diva is a great example of this!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"All exits are final."

Maybe it's just me.

But doesn't it seem as if Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's parking garage should have a better way of expressing this sentiment? Like "No return once you leave parking lot" maybe?

"All exits are final." I can't help thinking of the book "Final Exit" when I see that phrase. Given that many patients coming and going to Sloan Kettering are probably deeply contemplating their final exits, wouldn't you think that the Powers That Be would realize that this is a particularly infelicitous turn of phrase?

Why was I at Sloan Kettering, you are probably wondering? Well, I am a cancer survivor. However, I always feel a little silly referring to myself that way, because my cancer was so bizarre and it was caught so early. You see, it was tongue cancer. Yes, tongue cancer. You probably never heard of tongue cancer; I sure hadn't until I got it. Only 12,000 people get it a year. I was so lucky as to be one of them.

To make a long story short, I had what I thought was a canker sore on the side of my tongue but it didn't go away after about 3 weeks so I had it biopsied and it turned out to be a very early cancer. Being a major hypochondriac (see my other blog, Medicana), I had done a lot of research on line and realized this was nothing to mess around with.

I went straight to Sloan Kettering, to a head and neck surgeon recommended to me by both the oral surgeon who did the biopsy and my husband's dentist (who have no connection, so I felt it was Fate that sent me to him). He did some further surgery to make sure the biopsy had removed all the cancer and found no further sign of cancer. So luckily I did not have to have radiation or chemotherapy and I just go for checkups every 3-4 months.

It was unusual for someone with my profile to have tongue cancer in the first place (as my regular doctor said, "Tongue cancer??? How can YOU have tongue cancer? You're not an elderly male smoker!")

Well, I had been a smoker. Until twenty-five years ago, anyway. I smoked over a pack a day for about 7 years and then quit cold turkey.

I had also been a drinker - not an alcoholic, but I liked my wine. Usually had a couple of glasses a day. Apparently that could've done it too.

But what I like to think is that I had a rough spot on my tooth (which I've since had filed down) and that was what really did it...because I quit drinking completely since the doctor said it would be a risk factor. But I entertain fond hopes that one day I'll start having an occasional glass of wine again -- once I'm fairly confident that I am not about to come down with five more oral cancers. So I prefer this explanation.

It's been a year and 10 months now so I continue to keep my fingers crossed!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Something new

Just wanted to let you know I've started another blog, called "Medicana." I have put the link to it over on the side on my links list.

I haven't talked about it yet here but I have always been a raging hypochondriac. Both of my parents were in medical writing and I was exposed to medical information early on. In addition, I had a baby sister who died at 4 months old when I was just under three myself. She had a congenital heart defect that, at that primitive time in the 1950's, was not able to be corrected surgically when she was still so small. Now she would have lived. Although I was so very young, I still remembered my sister being there and must have understood that when she was no longer there that something bad had happened to her. So perhaps that was the beginning of the hypochondria. I had the same heart defect she did (a hole in the ventricles of my heart) but it was much smaller and has now closed up.

I've always been fascinated by medical information and as I've mentioned previously, love all those shows like "Medical Mysteries," "Mystery Diagnosis," and of course, "House." I lust for the Tuesday New York Times that has the Science Section, and read the health-related part thoroughly each week.

It always amazes me when I talk to people about diseases or conditions and find out they know so little about them. This can be a danger if something does go wrong and they end up in the medical system without the necessary knowledge to deal with it. In these days of managed care, you really need to be your own advocate and not take "no" for an answer when you consult a doctor. Often they are too busy to really listen to you and you may get sent home with a pat on the head or a useless prescription when you have something seriously wrong.

The only way to deal with this is to do your own research, understand what you might be dealing with, before even going to the doctor. Then you know the questions to ask.

So the purpose of my new blog is to inform readers in a lighthearted, easy to read way, about various diseases and conditions. I'll write about common ones, but also not so common, or just plain ghoulishly fascinating, medical conditions. Have you ever heard of the Guinea worm? It gets into your system as a larva and when it becomes a grown-up worm it has to come out. It does this by coming out through your skin, causing a nasty looking boil. The way to get it out is to grab it by the head and pull. Is that gross or what? I read about that in my 1982 Merck Manual, which was my only source of information back in those days, since there was no Internet to browse. Luckily the Guinea worm does not exist in New Jersey so I've never had a sore on my arm and thought it was the Guinea worm. If Guinea worms did exist in New Jersey undoubtedly I'd be convinced that I had it.

So, if you have any interest in medical conditions or diseases of any kind, please check out Medicana. My first entry is on Appendicitis! Enjoy!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Is it winter?

Here we are on the 11th of January and it's still hard to believe it's winter. The weather has been so unseasonably mild that even the hardest-core global warming deniers are starting to come around. Of course, don't tell that to some poor schmo in Denver, where they've been getting yards of snow.

When we visited Newfoundland last year, we heard everywhere we went that they have seen the effects of global warming much more obviously than we do in the more temperate New Jersey area. Places that were used to having scads of icebergs floating by, which were used as a very effective tourist attraction, hadn't seen a one in several years. And I have to admit seeing buds on cherry blossoms in the park in January is a bit of a shock.

Yesterday we actually had a tiny snow flurry that left a scattering of white flakes on the ground. It made it look cold. I have to admit that I am just as happy that New Jersey seems to have decided to skip winter this year. I also admit to having a recurrent and growing case of Seasonal Affective Disorder and that when fall starts to creep up on the late August days I start getting depressed even THINKING about winter. So for me, global warming has a lot of benefits, since part of my depression is caused by the thoughts of:

- leafeless trees
- dead flowers and plants in the garden
- being too cold to sit outside anymore
- winter clothes - hate the stupid bulky itchy woolen stuff, winter coats, heavy sweaters, shoes and socks.

It's not just the lack of light, people. It's the hopelessness of knowing that green leaves, bright flowers, light and airy clothes and bare toes are so many months away. In fact, the height of my SAD symptoms usually surface in late January/early February when the glow of Christmas (and Robbie Burns' birthday, another favorite holiday celebration) have worn off, and the joy of St. Patrick's Day is still too far away.

However, this winter has been almost a pleasure. Last Saturday was 73 degrees and we took our dog for a walk in the park wearing short-sleeved t-shirts! (Us, not the dog). It was amazing. And if the weather can just hold off another month I'll be on my way to Australia, where it will still be the end of summer, for two whole weeks. Then when I get back, March will have arrived and St. Patrick's Day is around the corner and then - spring.

Yes, I am going to Australia. DH has his next business trip scheduled, and will be renting an apartment for the three weeks he'll be there. We tried to get me some free business class tickets but nothing was available, so looks like I'll be paying $2 grand to fly down there on Qantas, but once I'm there the digs are free, so that's not so bad. Sadly I'll be in Coach, but hey, you can't have everything.

Next week is supposed to be colder here but no snow so far. I actually credit my husband for this whole phenomenon. At the beginning of the winter he got out the old but powerful snow blower our good friends had so kindly given us last winter, and he got it all ready for the upcoming winter. Changed the spark plugs, put in all new oil and gas, including a dry gas additive, and did various other repairs and tuneups to it so that it was running like a top. All ready for the snow! Naturally we haven't had any all winter. I told him either way, the snow blower is working for us!

I know not everyone likes having no snow in the winter, and to tell the truth, I always enjoy that first big snowstorm, when it's all exciting to get up in the morning and see how much is out there and marvel at the change that it has wrought on the world around me. But that wears off really quickly for me, and days and days of snow and ice just wear me down. But some people do get depressed without the change in the seasons, and for them, I'm very sorry. Maybe next year will be your year!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Skidboot the Dog

A friend sent me this story and I thought I'd share it with you. It is amazing what this dog can do. The dog even has his own website: