Monthly Archives: May 2010

Why not give it a shot?

I went to an acupuncturist for the first time last week. I’ll understand if you’re skeptical; I am too. Nonetheless, I plan on returning for three more visits to see if it will help the pain in my elbow. I have tendonitis, tennis elbow to use the vernacular, and two weeks of Ibuprofen, three times a day, did nothing to alleviate the pain. When I realized that this condition could be with me for months, I decided I had to try to find something to make it bearable.

The acupuncturist is a nice enough woman. A Caucasian, she reinvented herself after giving up a stressful career in high tech. Her bedside manner is a bit lacking, but if she’s successful I’ll happily forgive her. Apparently there isn’t a prescribed pattern of needles for tendonitis, so she opted to treat me for my auto-immune disease, anxiety, and arm pain. Based on the results, she’ll tweak the needle placement on subsequent visits.

I slept better that night than I had in a while. Was it the acupuncture or a coincidence?

This weekend I watched a Chinese film called Farewell My Concubine. Set in Beijing, the story follows two opera singers from1924 through 1977. We see their lives under the rule of warlords, during the Japanese occupation, and through the Cultural Revolution; each era more alien and unfathomable to my Western sensibilities than the one before. But I understand and accept that these things happened, even if I can draw no parallels to my own experience.

To put things in a lighter perspective, if, when I weigh myself, the scale shows that I’ve gained weight, I curse my lack of self-control, and immediately begin plotting how to lose the weight. If, however, the scale says I’ve lost weight, I weigh myself again in disbelief. Why is one accepted without question, and the other subject to scrutiny?

My very limited understanding of acupuncture is that it stimulates the body to release steroids and endorphins. A Western doctor might give me a shot of cortisone, a steroid. If my body can be coaxed to produce its own, why not let it? And if it’s widely accepted that exercise causes your body to produce endorphins, which “react with opiate receptors to reduce our perception of pain,” isn’t it good to be able to do that without half an hour on the elliptical?

There are many things we learn to accept as truth without experiencing them on our own. Here’s one I can try for myself. I’ll let you know how it works.


Everybody’s a critic

Last night my husband, Andrew, and I saw Prelude to a Kiss, at the Huntington Theater. The play debuted in the late ‘80s, and was subsequently made into a movie starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan, none of which I knew when we sat down in the theater. Andrew, it turned out, was familiar with the movie, but was kind enough to keep what he knew to himself so as not to spoil the experience for me.

The first act was wonderful. I was totally engaged and spent intermission happily speculating about what would happen next. The second act was a little bumpy, but I was riveted nonetheless. When it was over I was fully satisfied, satiated; the way I feel after a holiday meal of my mother’s brisket, and a good bottle of wine. As we made our way slowly up the aisle, a disembodied voice reminded the audience that we were welcome to stay for a post-show conversation with a staff member from the theater.

Andrew and I sat in the lobby and watched the rest of the audience file out while we toyed with the idea of staying. We decided to give it a shot and when the stream of people leaving petered out we went back in and claimed seats in the orchestra. Roughly fifty others joined us, the majority of them old enough to be our parents, if not grandparents.

What ensued was as entertaining as the play itself. The representative from the theater solicited feedback from his small audience and they pulled no punches. A pompous, bald man in the front row criticized the lead actress for having a voice that grated. Someone suggested that the playwright had missed the mark entirely. An elderly woman asked mournfully, “Can you give me a synopsis of the play? I don’t know what was going on.” And one elderly gentleman, who had chosen to sit several rows further back than everyone else, complained peevishly, and often, that he couldn’t hear the conversation.

I don’t want to spoil the play for you in case you decide to go see it, but I will tell you that it requires that you suspend disbelief in order to fully appreciate it. Similarly, it proved more entertaining to view the post-show conversation as a unique third act to our evening than a serious discussion of the play.

I highly recommend that you go see Prelude to a Kiss; however, I suggest you see the traditional two act version and skip the third.

Call your dad

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Hallmark and its ilk made out like bandits; FTD is still recovering from the onslaught of last-minute, guilt-ridden orders for flowers; and even restaurants that don’t normally offer Sunday brunch are licking their chops over the land office business they did. But what of the mothers, I ask? Are the recipients as pleased with the attention as the businesses are with the cash infusions?

Mother’s Day too often functions like a maternal Yom Kippur. On that Jewish holiday you’re either deemed worthy of being sealed into the Book of Life for the following year, or not. Once you’re in, you can pretty much relax for another year until it’s time to take stock and atone for your sins just in time for the next round of the Days of Awe. Taking Mom out for brunch once a year, however, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for the next 364 days.

There’s a generally accepted rule in business that there should be nothing in an employee’s annual review that will come as a surprise to them. If you manage someone who does not perform to your expectations it behooves you to meet with them regularly to try to help them improve. If they’re not making the desired changes at least they’re not surprised when you tell them that something drastic may have to happen.

If you are in the habit of telling your mom you love her, and showing it in little ways throughout the year, I’ll bet she’d excuse you for not contributing to Hallmark’s coffers on Mother’s Day. Conversely, if you treat your mom badly all year, do you honestly think that one gesture is going to make up for it?

And what of the mother who is also a daughter, and a daughter-in-law? Which title takes precedence? As a daughter, are you obligated to spend time with your mother rather than taking your rightful place as Queen-for-a-day within your nuclear family? Is it acceptable to be the honoree at brunch while your own mother sits alone in the dark saying, “No, no, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine here all by myself.”

As a daughter, I could do without one more obligation on my calendar to worry about. I could probably ignore Mother’s Day and not lose my place in her affections; my mother knows I love her. I would, however, like my daughter to make at least one positive gesture in my general direction each year and if Mother’s Day facilitates that, count me in.

And just when we mothers have successfully navigated the emotional waters of Mother’s Day, it’s time to pass the baton to dad for Father’s Day. I think I’ll call mine today and tell him I love him, just to get a jump on the holiday.

Water, water, everywhere…

First a volcano in Iceland erupts and causes us to cancel our trip to Paris. Painful as that experience was, it served to remind us that there’s no place like home. Now a broken water main makes the simple act of brushing ones teeth onerous enough that home isn’t looking too attractive anymore either.

When the water main that serves our area broke, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), started feeding us water from alternate sources; bodies of water that are not normally purified. The MWRA began to treat that water right away but it wasn’t enough to guarantee that some nasty germs didn’t sneak in. To be sure that the water was safe to consume, the Department of Health issued a ‘boil water’ order.

At first I wasn’t all that concerned. I don’t drink much water and I figured if I was thirsty Fresca would do the trick. It didn’t take long, however, for the magnitude of the problem to become apparent. We use clean water for a whole lot more than drinking, and even I would balk at brushing my teeth with Fresca.

So boil water we did. We boiled big pots of water and when they cooled we transferred the water to pitchers and boiled some more. We put pitchers of boiled water in the bathrooms so we could fill and re-fill glasses to brush our teeth and rinse our toothbrushes. We finessed the hand-washing problem with liquid hand sanitizer. But we couldn’t reach a consensus on how to handle dishes.

Modern-day dishwashers have a ‘sanitize cycle’ that goes up to 150 degrees. But don’t let the word sanitize fool you. You have to hit 170 degrees to actually kill some of the bacteria we’re fretting about. To paraphrase The Princess Bride, at 150 degrees your dishes would be “mostly clean.” The public health folks suggest you avoid the issue altogether and use disposable dishes and cutlery. Sadly, that doesn’t square with our desire to minimize the amount of garbage we contribute to the landfill.

For now, we’re using our dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. We’re not running the dishwasher, mind you, we’re just staging the dishes there while we wait for the MWRA to pronounce the water good to go. If we don’t do any cooking, and we eat dinner out, I think we can hold out for another couple of days. After that, if the water’s not clean, we’ll just have to move.