Monday, May 19, 2014

Welcome To The Club

So, my Club of the Chronically Busy application got denied.
It's been a minute since I've blogged, hasn't it? Although I'm not a member of the Club of the Chronically Busy--you know, those who spend vast portions of the miniscule amount of free time they want us to think they have, regaling us with incessant updates on their importantly spent time and concurrent unavailability because spontaneity and laziness frighten them so--I actually have been kind of busy. In fact, I've been so busy that I've neglected to pay the annual dues for my highly coveted state and national society of anesthesiologists memberships. Shame on me! Why, with the American Society of Anesthesiologists being bargain-priced at only $665/year, and the Georgia Society of Anesthesiologists a mere $375 annually, how on earth could I pass up such a deal? I've been so enriched by these organizational memberships over the years (not!), how could I have been so careless?

More bitter pills of rejection. Boo hoo. 
Last week, I received this not-so-gently worded reminder from the GSA, admonishing me that since I didn't remit the required dues payment by April 20, 2014, "the delinquent member's membership shall automatically terminate and the Secretary shall notify the ASA of the same." Bunch of tattletales. Whatever. To add insult to injury, the last two lines of the letter read: "Together, the GSA and ASA are successful in representing the professional interests of anesthesiologists. Your support for the GSA is, therefore, appropriate and deserved." Talk about a guilt trip! The real reasons I didn't pay my dues are because a) I'm paying two mortgages and don't happen to have $1k in spare change lying around to pay these exorbitant fees, and 2) I'm aggravated that the ASA now mandates membership in one's state society for annual renewal. In other words, we no longer get to decide whether we want to join at the state level; Big Brother's making that decision for us. Pfffft. Sounds like a racket to me.

Wish I could dip my bruised toe into this cool snowball tree!
So, what exactly has been keeping me so busy lately? Well, for one thing, I've started running. The spring of 2014 here in Georgia has been absolutely amazing, with milder than normal temps and relatively low humidity. I've gotten to where I crave being outdoors as much as possible. I can't think of a better way to accomplish that than taking Simon and Lilly on daily three mile walks, followed by a solo run. With all this walking and running, there are bound to be a few injuries. I've only been running for a couple of weeks, but I'm already up to 4 miles, which I run at a pace of 10 minutes per mile. Even though I bought new running shoes, sized up a half-size to prevent toe-strike trauma, I ended up with a bruised big toenail last night. It doesn't hurt, and it's not bad enough to quit running, but I won't be getting a pedicure anytime soon.

Nobody puts Lilly in a corner, not even Horner's!
Coincidentally with the onset of these super long dog walks, Lilly developed a weird eye condition where her third eyelids suddenly popped up. The vet initially thought it was some sort of parasite-borne inflammatory process. She drew some labwork, but since Lilly wouldn't pee for her, Spartacus and I had to collect a urine sample later that day. A urine sample? From a dog???? I wasn't even sure exactly where her urethra was, much less how we'd obtain a sample. After visually inspecting her hindquarters, we devised a plan in which we'd shove a small shallow container under her junk as soon as she popped a squat. Worked like a charm. When two weeks of topical and oral steroids yielded no improvement, we were referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist. I had no idea that canine subspecialties even existed. After running a few tests, the diagnosis came back as Horner's syndrome. Horner's syndrome occurs when there's damage to the sympathetic nerves supplying the eye and eyelids, causing the eyeball to sink back slightly, reddening of the conjunctival sac, constriction of the pupil, droopiness of the upper eyelid, and in dogs, elevation of the third eyelids. It's usually benign, but can be associated with trauma, cancer, or other systemic disease. She explained that weird stuff like Horner's just happens in dogs sometimes and since Lilly's bloodwork and neurological exams were negative, we'd wait a few weeks to see if the problem resolved. What didn't make sense to me was that Lilly's Horner's was bilateral (occuring on both sides). There had to be an explanation.

Training collar snafu :-(
As soon as I googled canine Horner's syndrome, I figured it out. When I take the dogs on walks, I clip the leashes to their training collars which have rounded prongs situated on either side of the trachea. Lilly's collar is a little too small and fits pretty snugly. Since the sympathetic nerve chains run on either side of the neck, exactly where those prongs would be applying pressure during a walk, I surmised that it was the probably the collar that caused her bilateral Horner's syndrome. Needless to say, we're not using the collars anymore. The only reason I use them is because I'm walking two very large, strong dogs by myself in a dog-centric neighborhood, and other people's dogs aren't as well behaved as Simon and Lilly. They're basically just there to nip potential canine altercations in the bud. Ugh. It could take weeks for her eyes to go back to normal, but I'm confident that they will. Fortunately for me and Lilly, our injuries haven't slowed us down a bit.

English country gardening is punishable by law in Atlanta
Even though I walk and run the same routes every day, the routes themselves are never the same. Here in the KWD (Kirkwood, our historic East Atlanta neighborhood), there are always people and other animals doing interesting things outside, from squirrels making booty calls to movies being filmed right across the street to the lady dressed like Santa's helper, who walks around with a clipboard inspecting telephone poles and preaching expletive-laden sermons to an audience of no one. Not long ago, there was a full-sized goat living inside a house just a few doors down from us. How agrarian is that?! More recently, one of my neighbors became a local celebrity when the City of Atlanta charged him with code violations regarding his yard. Ray McGrath has lived in Kirkwood for 32 years. He teaches botany at a local college and maintains his yard in the style of an English country garden. His colorful, unmanicured garden attracts all manner of birds, butterflies, and bees; it's a natural habitat. Ray's egregious offense prompted the city to fine him $1000, citing him for a "premises covered with high weeds and overgrowth." Ray went to his court hearing and actually pled guilty to having an English country garden, LOL. Luckily, the Kirkwood community got wind of Ray's hearing and bombarded the city solicitor with e-mails on his behalf. When he showed up in court a few weeks later, the judge quickly dismissed his case, and he's been back out tinkering around in his yard ever since.

Yep, that's real blood on that there iron
Last, but not least, I've been busy being a rock and roll mom. My sons' band, BearKnuckle, just released its second EP, "Blood on the Iron". You may be wondering, how did they come up with such a provocative title? Welp, let's just say there was a testosterone-fueled altercation at a party involving lots of booze, two jealous men, an iron, and leave it at that. BearKnuckle's EP release party was last Thursday night, kicking off their tour of the southeast. Boy, am I glad I requested Friday off! I didn't get home from that show till nearly 3 a.m., and though I was hung over from my lack of sleep, I spent the day uploading live videos from the show and grooving on BearKnuckle's awesome performance. I don't know how I managed to do the three mile dog walk and a four mile run that night, but I did it. As Spartacus and I were chilling out that evening, watching a rerun of "Dexter," it occurred to me that I'd promised to make Nick and Rory some homemade Clif energy bars to take on their tour, a tour which they were leaving for in two days. We'd talked about this a month ago, when the boys told me how difficult it is to eat healthy on the road. When they're on tour, Nick always brings trail mix, granola, and dried fruit that he ends up sharing with everyone. On the road, nutritious food is scarce and expensive. Having balanced healthy snacks to munch on in the car is a big help, but trail mix, granola, and dried fruit become a total yawnfest after a few hundred miles. During our conversation, Rory mentioned that he loves Clif bars. We were all like, "Yeah! Clif bars! That's the ticket!" Clif bars are expensive, so I told the boys I'd make some homemade ones. Clif bars are exciting, too. So many flavors! The downside is that they aren't exactly healthy...they're loaded with carbs and processed ingredients. As far as homemade Clif bars go, I got as far as researching recipes before Lilly's crazy eyes distracted me. Upon finding a recipe I liked, I ordered a big bag of puffed quinoa to substitute for the puffed rice cereal it called for, knowing that since quinoa's packed with protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium, it would result in a much better nutrition profile than rice. To sum it up, I was pretty confident I could make better Clif bars myself.

Post-slingin' Spring flinging in Bessie Branham Park
Saturday morning, before Spartacus and I walked across the street to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the annual Kirkwood Spring Fling, I grabbed that big ol' bag of puffed quinoa and started slinging away in the kitchen. The basic recipe called for simple ingredients: rolled oats, puffed rice or quinoa, raw honey, flax seed, dried fruit, nut butter, chopped nuts &/or seeds, vanilla, and cinnamon. Fortunately, I had everything I needed on hand. As usual, I improvised a lot. (I'm one of those people who can never follow a on my own terms, y'all!) The original recipe was similar to a no-bake cookie, meaning that the bars needed refrigeration to hold their shape. According to the recipe's author, baking them had resulted in crunchy bricks, not the moist chewy texture of a Clif bar. Since the boys wouldn't have access to a refrigerator on tour, I decided to dehydrate the bars instead, adding chia seeds as an egg substitute to help bind the mixture as well as supplying protein, fiber, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and minerals. The first batch I made was chocolate chip. I added bittersweet chocolate chips to the original recipe, used dried raisins and apples for the fruit, and sprouted pumpkin and sunflower seeds for the nuts. For the chocolate brownie version, I got really creative. I had a jar of organic Nutella (cocoa-hazelnut spread), so I used that along with some almond butter, cacao powder, cacao nibs, dried Montmorency cherries, and ground cardamom to produce a satisfyingly deep dark chocolate confection. Since I had lots of dried apple bits left over, I decided to try an apple pie version. I wasn't too pleased with that one until I added some unsweetened organic applesauce and lots of pie spice; the peanut butter was overpowering. Think I'll tweak it next time and use macadamia nut butter instead. It's rich and buttery, but much more neutral than peanut or almond butter. It'll really let the apples shine through.

BearKnuckle Bars!!!
I went all out, packaging the dehydrated bars individually in cellophane with laser-printed labels. As the labels were printing, it dawned on me that I couldn't call them Clif bars because that name's been trademarked. I thought about calling them Kris Bars, but then, it came to me. These were BearKnuckle Bars! Believe it or not, they're so darn good, I'm thinking about marketing them to some of the small businesses in the area. Wish me luck. On Friday, I'll be flying up to Columbus, Ohio for BearKnuckle's Saturday night show on the OSU campus. My younger sister lives there with her husband, and BearKnuckle will be performing in the same show as their son's band, Love Alive. Needless to say, I am super-stoked.

Why I refuse to feed the machine
Last week, I came across this Walt Whitman quote: "Do anything, but let it produce joy." I'd just scribbled it on the chalkboard backplash above my stove when I got that stupid downer of a letter from the GSA. Womp womp womp woooomp *sad trombone*. Sorry, but no, paying $1040 in annual dues to a couple of professional organizations whose services I don't utilize doesn't exactly produce much joy for me. Fuck that shit. I refuse to feed the bureaucracy machine any more than I have to. It's really kind of a no-brainer, especially after getting ass-raped by Uncle Sam....AGAIN! What little extra money I do have nowadays is better spent enjoying lattes on a sunny afternoon at Taproom Coffee, the hip new coffee and craft brew joint down the street, or buying comfy running shoes or helping fund a cool project, like "Just Breathe" by Ian Pettigrew, a Canadian artist afflicted with cystic fibrosis (CF) whose dream it is to photograph adults living with CF. My beautiful sons are on his list of subjects.

Welcome to the club, Kris Landt!!!
I saw some graffiti when I ran past the Big Nerd Ranch last night, the same run during which I injured my big toe. It served to reinforce this joy-producing theme of liberation from imposed obligation I've been grooving on lately. "Do what makes you happy," it read. It's ironic how members of The Club of the Chronically Busy tend to be the unhappiest and least-fulfilled people I know. Makes me wonder who and what they're doing it all for, and glad I'm not one of them. As for the ASA and GSA, they're basically political machines. I've never been interested in politics, and apparently, my unwillingness to shell out large amounts of dough to invest in bureaucracy makes me a delinquent, unappreciative loser in their book. They may represent my profession on a legislative and economic level, but they don't represent me personally as a practicing physician anesthesiologist. Here's the thing. Like Groucho Marx, who famously said he'd "refuse to join any club that would have me as a member," I don't want or need to belong to a club. I'm happiest doing my own thing. If there's a club for that, then sign me up.

BearKnuckle, "Blood on the Iron" EP
Ian Pettigrew, "Just Breathe" project

BearKnuckle, "Soma" from "Blood on the Iron"