Archive for the 'Naming Experience' category

All Good Things...Eldercare Version

You’ve been traveling on the Enterprise E(ldercare), when one day you burst into your therapist’s office confused, upset, wanting to know what’s going on, what the hell you are supposed to be doing, and why she was on the holodeck with Worf. You feel at a loss, half-recalled pieces of the past and visions of your future mixing with your present. In short, you have become unstuck in time.

You were perfectly fine with your role in Engineering; serving drinks in Ten Forward; trying to corral tweens Jean-Luc, Ro Laren, and Guinan; or just being a red shirt. But now the Enterprise E(ldercare) has been ordered to investigate an anomaly in the Nursing Home System of the Senior Living Zone. Off you go. And there it is, a large anomaly threatening to consume you, your ship, and your elder. You go in for a closer look and…

Suddenly, you are back in your youth. The anomaly is bigger, but you are stronger, more confident, maybe even a bit arrogant. You take the Enterprise D(evilmaycare) out against explicit orders to see what's going on. You drive it around late at night, with too many of your friends in it, hepped up on synthahol. You ignore the jeering fools on the sidelines as best you can. You set off for Far Point University with barely a "make it so". On the way you run right over the trappings of your childhood once carefully hoarded by your elder.

Wait! That was a dream! Wasn't it? But it felt real. Who was that callous ass who paid so little regard to the feelings and concerns of others? And why was that anomaly so damn big?

Whoa! You’ve been put out to pasture; your joints are creaky, your hair is white, and you've got early onset Irumodic Syndrome. But you remember, you remember, you remember...there was an...an anomaly...your family is visiting, you desperately need to communicate to them the importance of going back there, because you were just there, it is real, it is not a dream, it is happening now. And they speak soothingly, and promise to take you there, and...

No, you are back in the present! That's just a vision of the future, some projected bad acid trip. You do remember the past. If only people would listen to you when you tell them it's bigger in the past...

And you're back there, and you are taking Enterprise D(evilmaycare) further and further out ...

Into the future, where your kids and ex-wife remind you that you that Irumodic Syndrome is causing your brain to deteriorate, and this is all in your head.  But they promise to take you for a ride anyway, and that goddamn son of your is driving the Enterprise E(ldercare) and after a spin around the block he insists it’s time to go home and you say "no, no, we have to go to the Devron System!" and you become increasingly agitated and they say we were already there and we're on our way back and here's some haldol and wait those aren't your kids and those aren’t Starfleet uniforms and a voice whispers to you that the only way to understand the anomaly is with a letter-call-visit (LCV) beam...

You are talking to the staff of the nursing home where your elder is now staying. You suggest a more aggressive LCV beam to deal with the health care bureaucracy and to fight depression in your elder, making physical therapy more effective. Your family needs professional support in this, and some sort of data organizer. And you think...

That you should use a LCV beam all the way out here at Far Point University And Beyond. Yes! Make it so!

And waking from the haldol you insist you do remember the Devron System, you must go there, the LCV beam is absolutely critical, and they wheel you to the holodeck and set up the Wii bowling...

And now in the present you realize that the LCV beams from all three time periods are together creating the anomaly, which is indeed a temporal anomaly. But the LCV beams must not be disengaged, they must be made stronger in each time period. (Your therapist tells you to ignore that little voice which says you are going to be responsible for the destruction of humanity, that’s just internalized homophobia.)  Together the LCV beams create a static warpshell and blammo!

You find yourself in the present, wishing that when you’d gone to Far Point University And Beyond you could have somehow brought the Enterprise D(evilmaycare) back to the spacestation a bit more often. The little voice in the future, the one that whispered about the LCV beam, was also going to tell you how to arrange things so that people can do useful work and keep their elders close by, and not have to worry about their own elder care years, but it stopped short. All you can do is share your time-travel story, finally join the poker game – and keep that LCV beam going.

One response so far

Letter to Santa

My mother kept a book for each of her children (at least, the younger ones) called "School Days. It had two pages and a pocket for each grade. It had room to record your child's teacher(s), friends, pets, hobbies, clubs & activities, awards & achievements, sports, school & location, height & weight, "additional information", a place to paste their photo, and a line for them to print or sign their name, as they gained prowess. We always thought the entry for school and location was hilarious because you could just put it in at the beginning of the book: Bobtown Elementary, Mapletown Jr-Sr High School. What else was there to know? We had no concept of kids moving from one school to another as their families moved. Nevertheless we dutifully filled it in.

Fifth grade's additional information dutifully notes in my crabbed printing "My teeth are coming in; hair is shoulder length; am going to write". A very important year: the gap from my missing front teeth, which had inspired the great poetic work "Toothless and Teethless" (another time, Zuskateers) was finally getting patched; and I declared myself as a writer. Never mind there were detours through engineering and administration, and writing turned out to be blogging. I was right all along.

The pockets were for newspaper clippings, extraordinary art work, and things of that nature. I was going to say "I don't know how she had time to keep up with that" for all of us. Except that, you know, we were our mother's job - nay, her life's work. There was time because this is what she did. I was thinking the other day how badly we've all been hoodwinked with that "how can I combine career and family" question. The question implies that "family" a.k.a. mothering (and here I mean mothering, not parenting) is something that is not very difficult, creative, important, worthwhile, or time-consuming when done right. Therefore it can be "combined" with Career, which is all of those, by correct application. Think of Career as the shiny new glass tile of your kitchen backsplash that everyone looks at and wants, and Family as the grout which you paste in the thin little spaces inbetween (and nevermind that you need the grout to keep the whole business together).  Once the grout is properly in, you need not think of it much anymore, and can refocus all your attention on the pretty, shiny glass tile.

Mothering can be done by women or men, I think, but it truly is more than a full time job - it is a life's work.  Parenting is something different. It can be done by one or two parents, and parented children can thrive just as well as mothered children. Whether you are in a family where the children are being mothered or parented, life for everyone would be so much better if everyone's workplace was less greedy and demanding. And not just your fancy white collar jobs.  I remember my dad would trade shifts with someone in the coal mine, or go without sleep before the next shift, so he could see me or my sister or brother sing a silly song in a school play, or be crowned Queen of Hearts at Valentine's, or march with the band at our first football game. Mom would be glad he was there, and then worry about him at work.

Among the ephemera my mother saved in the pockets of my school years was a frantic 5th grade note:

Mom,

I need 50 cents, one self-addressed envelope, 3 buttons, my cotton balls, and a milk carton for Monday. Also, get me up at 7:00 and make sure I get up then.

Sue

p.s. I need an 8-cent stamp

I would dearly love to know what that was all about.

Another piece she saved leads us finally to the title of this post - a letter to Santa. Written when I was 9 years old and in the fourth grade, I was teetering on the edge of believing/non-believing. As a budding scientist, I was hoping to garner some proof one way or the other.

Letter to Santa Claus from 9-yr-old Zuska

Letter to Santa Claus from 9-yr-old Zuska

The text of the letter reads:

Dear Santa,

We left some cookies and milk for you, and some salt for your reindeer. (Be sure they all get equal amounts.) I hope you brought my Love doll, and Cindy's doll like mine. Are you real? (Write yes or no) [Arrow pointing to two blank lines]

I really do believe in you.

Suzy, Cindy, Paul, Andy, Eddie, Mom, Dad [unexplainable sibling deletion - sorry, Pat!]

In the morning, the cookies and milk, and the salt, were gone, and the letter was signed in elaborate script "Thank you Merry Christmas - Santa". Santa declined to answer the "are you real yes or no" portion of the letter. Obviously beneath his dignity, or maybe he just didn't see it - it was in the messiest part of the letter, and he was probably in a hurry.

So Santa, since I have written proof of your realness, I'm writing again to ask for just a few things this year. I believe I have been especially good this past year. I've whined only the usual amount about the migraines; I've done a lot of elder care and not begrudgingly either - time spent with elders can be difficult but is often a gift itself; I've done most of the litter box duty and all of the cat puke duty. So please, please Santa, this is what I am hoping for.

1. Let lots and lots and lots more people follow George Bush Sr.'s lead and resign from the NRA.

2. Let those who remain fight like hell to change the organization from within.

3. Let Wayne LaPierre vanish into a world where the only sound is is own howling.

4. Let the tide be turned back on the vicious onslaught against workers and unions.

5. Let the people realize that not just the children, but the teachers, too, are our future.

6. Let parenting and mothering both become more possible and pleasurable as real and unconstrained choices for all.

7. Let The Hobbit be a reasonably pleasurable and escapist viewing experience for me and not a total crushing disappointment when I compare it to my own mental images of the novel.

Thank you, Santa. I know you are busy this time of year and I will appreciate anything you can do with this list. If #7 is too difficult you can leave it off.

One last question. Are you real?

(Write yes or no).  ___  ___

 

 

2 responses so far

"Side Effects": My Life With Cymbalta

According to the official site for Cymbalta, the most common side effects experienced when taking it are:

nausea, dry mouth, sleepiness, fatigue, constipation, dizziness, decreased appetite, and increased sweating

It doesn't sound any worse than any of the other stuff in my medicine cabinet. Reality was another adverse event list. In fact, I bestow upon Cymbalta the rank of Number 3 in the list of Worst Ever Drugs I Have Taken, behind No. 2 Topamax and No. 1 All-Time Winner Depakote.

The full package insert mentions that minor weight loss was seen in clinical trials. In two trials, minor weight gain, no more than a mean of 1.4 kg, was seen. I gained 13.6 kg in a matter of months. I might have been willing to live with the new-found weight if I hadn't also had to say goodbye to orgasms (but not, frustratingly, desire) at the same time. Ultimately, this was the "side" effect that pushed me to tell my doctor I wanted off Cymbalta.

I had a two-week ramp down period. By the time that was done, so many other things that I had not realized were also Cymbalta side effects had vanished or begun to dissipate. For example, excessive flatulence, which I had blamed on menopause. Mea culpa, menopause! I still hate your hot flashes but you're off the hook for this one! And while I did get Cymbalta's promised sleepiness and fatigue, I got something else no one had mentioned: insomnia. The insomnia worsened over the course of the year I took Cymbalta and it was blamed on all manner of other things: stress and grief, migraines messing up my sleep cycle, kittehs in the bed, Mr. Z's tendency to bodily transform into a windmill at night. A week after the last ramp-down dose, I was sleeping through the night like a baby. A baby without colic, one of those good ones that doesn't wake up or cry and makes you think having another wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Falling asleep was a breeze! I no longer had to get out of bed two, three, five times for a robust bout of micturition before finally falling into an exhausted semi-sleep at two, four, maybe six a.m. I had thought the excessive nighttime voiding was just another symptom of encroaching old age but no. It was my pal Cymbalta, partying with my bladder.

I'm used to meds that fog my brain - see Nos. 1 & 2 on the list of Worst Ever Drugs I Have Taken. When Depakote made my hair fall out in what should have been alarming amounts, I didn't mind, because I was taking Depakote! I didn't mind about anything! Topamax is nicknamed Dopamax for a good reason. I love Zonegran as its replacement because it has much less impact on word recall, spelling, and general short term memory and because, vainly, it made me lose weight. Until Cymbalta, the asshat of drugs, came along. Every pound Zonegran spirited away, Cymbalta ferried back, plus more. I have a dear friend whose sure to be a bestseller autobiography would be titled, she says, "I Hate You: An Explanation". A not entirely inappropriate title for use in discussing Cymbalta! The drug that makes you fat and stupid! A week off the drug and it was truly like a fog was cleared from my brain. I could think more clearly, focus a little better. I didn't feel quite so tired. (Well, maybe that had something to do with being able to fall asleep and stay asleep.)

What else? Constipation, of course. That was the least of my problems. Here's a good one. Although it is discussed on the package insert in some detail, neither my prescribing doctor nor my neurologist mentioned to me that Cymbalta in combination with blood thinners can lead to bleeding problems, in some cases potentially life-threatening. My PCP made this connection after I showed up in her office with softball-sized dark purple bruises on both hips. By the time I saw her, the swelling had at least gone down; they were still extremely painful. How did I get them? I was on an Amtrak train, and sat at a table in the cafe car for a few hours reading a magazine. The benchlike seats in the cafe cars are not padded. The gentle rocking of the train back and forth was enough to generate massive bruises where my hips bounced against the hard edge of the seat with each sway. Needless to say, this should not happen. This was a week before mine and Mr. Z's annual vacation to a warm beachy place and we both know my purple thighs attracted a few looks. We half-seriously joked that we should make a sign for my back: No, I'm not a battered woman, it's just the medications. Because my thighs looked like I was.

The very worst is something I can't absolutely prove, but of which I feel fairly certain. After ten years of taking this and that and the other medication and observing the intended and "side" effects on my body, I think I know when there is a connection between a med and a mess. In this case it is a bit more tricky as you will see, but I still feel strongly about it.

I started taking Cymbalta in November of 2011, and was told that as an added benefit I might expect it to help with my migraines, as it has a known effect on pain. In January of 2012 my migraines began to worsen, becoming more severe and more frequent. We blamed the odd weather patterns, we blamed my insomnia and resulting screwed up sleep cycles, we blamed a possible failed botox treatment and/or developing insensitivity to botox. Things went from bad to worse and eventually I was hospitalized for a week in May. I came out of the hospital headache-free and with a new preventative medication. Unfortunately, shortly after that began a series of family loss and illness that went on for months. The health I'd gained rapidly unraveled. The botox treatment I had in the middle of all this didn't do much good.

The last botox treatment was just a few weeks before I stopped Cymbalta. And then the migraines improved - less severe, a little less frequent. The family stress is only moderately better. So either the last botox rocked my brain's world, or taking Cymbalta for migraine pain is just like bashing your head against a brick wall - because it feels so good when you stop.

Despite all the bad experiences - and there have been many - I have had with medications over the years in the effort to control and prevent my migraines and prevent another stroke, I have remained a strong believer in medication to treat what ails you. To a point. I saw my mother's med list climb to nearly 25 different meds, until her PCP and a rehab doctor pared it down to 13 in a radical revision during a rehab stint. Afterwards she was more alert and lively, more engaged and cheerful, more full of affect in general. And she was less like a shambling zombie in her movements. I've read that one risk factor for falls in the elderly is taking more than 5 different medications. My own med list has been climbing in fits and starts over the past 10 years and it frightens me. I don't want to become an affect-less shambling zombie pill swallower, and I'm afraid I may already be one.  How many meds in my pillbox could I do without, are there others that are hurting more than helping me? It's a question I think about a lot more since my life with Cymbalta.

 

 

 

 

64 responses so far

What Keeps Women Apart From Other Women? Discuss!

Sep 27 2012 Published by under Daily Struggles, Isn't It Ironic?, Naming Experience

1) Have you ever been buttonholed by a woman recently ejected from her science career, anxious to tell you her tale?  You know it will be filled with sadness and anger.  You know you should listen and give some form of support, maybe point her to some resources if she’s asking and you know them.  But what you want is to disentangle yourself as quickly as seems decent.  You wonder whether if maybe she wasn’t that great in the lab and has jacked up a few disparate events to cover for her deficiencies.  You want to get away in case whatever she has – bad lab karma, a kick-me sign – is catching. You feel slightly ashamed. Still, you hand her off to someone else with a palpable sense of relief and head for the door.

 

2) Have you ever been approached by a woman scientist looking to start a support group for women at your level? Something informal, meets maybe once a month, just get together over some munchies and talk about how things are going, share career advice, provide moral support. You say it sounds like a great idea but you aren’t sure you can commit to another project at this time.  You really need to keep your head down and get this set of experiments/thesis/job search/grant proposal/tenure packet/promotion under your belt before you can even think about anything new.

 

3) Have you ever gone to a conference where you knew a Famous Woman would be present and you were excited to meet her, your hero? And you are finally introduced to her, and she’s in the company of Professor Eminent Graybeard, Dr. Big Swinging Dick, and Dr. New Hot Thing? And she gives you a brief nod and a cursory hello and goes straight back to her Important Discussion with the boys? And you get the hint and wander off, and never get another chance to speak to her, let alone meet the big boys?

 

4) Have you ever found yourself in the position of being the Famous Woman at a conference, and you just couldn’t find a single minute to introduce yourself to any n00bs, take a little time to mentor someone, or participate in the women’s caucus, if there is one? Did a n00b approach you with shining eyes and tell you she is such a fan, because you have done X! And you drily reply, “Well, yes, but I’ve also done Y and Z,” irritated that the n00b doesn’t even know this significant information about you. You! The very things that make you a Famous Woman! Who is this crazy person who thinks she is your fan? And you turn back to your conversation with your Important Friends, giving the n00b some of your back so she knows to go away?

 

5) Have you ever been at a talk about the advancement of women in science, and during the Q&A you opine that such talks bother you, because you (the only woman ever hired into your department) have worked very hard and been extremely successful as a result, and you didn’t get any help from anyone, or any special treatment or lowered standards to make it easier to get to where you are, and you resent the idea that spreading talk like this around is going to make other people question your credentials even though you don’t believe in this hogwash?  Women just need to work twice as hard as men to prove they can do the work, and the men will see they are capable and they will get the jobs!

 

6) Have you, a white woman, ever had an HR or department admin bring to you a talented person of color, because “you will know everything about being a minority in this field, and can help them out”?  Have you, a white woman, ever been tasked with orienting a woman of color to your lab, and begun (and sometimes ended) by saying “you probably want to know where the Multicultural/Diversity Office is. I’m not sure, but I’ll look it up for you.”  Or you assume the new woman likes to drink heavily, or is interested in scoping out dudes with you?

 

7) Have you ever wondered why we women have so many ways to keep ourselves from joining in solidarity? Why we believe so much the lie that individuals are responsible for all their success and all their failure, so we each need to get cracking in our lonely monk’s cells? That failure might be catching if you talk about it, but not success?  That other women are the real enemy?

 

Discuss.

26 responses so far

Telling the story of Woman, over and over

Sep 18 2012 Published by under Feminist Foremothers, Naming Experience, Role Models

[View the story "Telling the Story of Woman, Over and Over" on Storify]

8 responses so far

Are You A Mentor? Or A Dementor?

Contrary to popular belief, dementors are not just imaginary creatures who live in J. K. Rowling’s imagination and the Harry Potterverse.  Anyone can be a dementor, at any time, to anyone.  Most of us, given the choice, would likely rather be a mentor than a dementor, I think.  But can you recognize the signs – in yourself, or in another?  Herein I offer a wee guide.

Continue Reading »

13 responses so far

The Working Mom Issue: It Depends

I recently lost my mind completely and went on the twitters.  Due to my folly, I caught a link from @DoubleXSci to this article at the LA Times about the science of being a working mother: The MD: What Science Says About Working Moms, and What the Heart Says.  I have read a skajillion of these kinds of articles in my lifetime.  This one tells us no worries!  Go on and be a working mom!

Searching for more definitive answers, researchers at UC Irvine combined the results of 69 different studies on the topic. Their findings, published by the American Psychological Assn. in 2010, were reassuring. With few exceptions, children whose mothers returned to work when they were young fared just as well as those with stay-at-home moms.

"The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full-time employment early on," says Wendy Goldberg, a professor in the department of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. "We have to look at other factors that affect child achievement and behavior. Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means."

I firmly believe that if decent childcare is readily available, no one's going to be seriously damaged if mommy goes back to work whenever she wants.  Daddy goes back to work on day 1 and somehow kids survive.  We rarely think about the consequences of that separation at birth, do we?

But two lines in the above quote get me.  "The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full time employment early on" and "Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means."  I would think not.  I would guess that whether or not you call your work a "career" and whether or not your work pays enough to keep you and your kid(s) from starving are two big, related factors, that might also tie into that intensive, full-time employment early on biz.  You might call what I am picking at here "class issues".

Here are some stereotypes we know and love:

1.  Welfare queens who just keep having babies so they can get a bigger check and stay home and not have to work.

2.  Hardworking middle class people who do their part and don't want to see their taxes go to support someone else.

3.  Women in science who have babies don't work as hard and want special treatment and extra credit for lesser quality work.

Take note that in theory, women are also included in "hardworking middle class people" but in practice deployment of the statement invokes an ideal of a nuclear family with hardworking man supporting wife and kids at home.  So, we can now start putting together rules for being a woman with kids:

If you are poor, you should not have kids, because then you will need the government to support you, and that is unfair to hardworking middle class people who do their part.  If you are poor and work, you can have kids, but don't expect childcare because again, that would be unfair to the hardworking middle class.  If you are poor and work and your kids are endangered because your part-time WalMart wages won't pay for adequate childcare, they will be taken from you because you are a bad mother. Also, try not to get sick, because health insurance? Ha!

If you are middle class, congratulations!  You have a hardworking husband who will take care of you and the kids, and of course you will probably want to homeschool the kids.  If your husband's salary is inadequate to support this lifestyle, he is not hardworking enough.  You may have to get a job to help out, but don't expect childcare.  That would be unfair to other hardworking middle class people.  Keep your fingers crossed that hubby does not die or divorce you. You may have insurance, but it may be mostly useless so again, try not to get sick.

If you are one of those career women, you should not be having children at all, just to pay someone else to raise them.  If you really want to have children, then you can't devote yourself to your career anyway.  So why hurt both your children and yourself?  Besides, if you have children, no one will take your work seriously.  Even if you get married and don't have children, people will be wondering if you might not just pop out a kid at any moment, confirming their suspicions that you are not serious.  Probably best to stay single.  Then they will just gossip about how you are an ice queen and frigid and a bull dyke and lesbian and ball-breaker and not a normal woman and need a good fucking and who would want to fuck you anyway.  It's not too late to think about becoming a nurse, or teacher, or even an executive assistant.  Then you can look for a nice man, settle down into a middle class lifestyle, and have some kids.  Try not to be poor, and try not to get sick.

If you are one of those career women who runs a company, you can do pretty much whatever you want because you will have lots of money and you own a company.  Not that it will be easy or that you will be universally loved or respected for it.  Just sayin', money=choice.

If you are one of those career women who wants to go into politics, you had better have children, and be prepared at all times to talk about (1) how important being a good mother is to you and how you have always arranged your schedule to be there for your children when they need you and (2) how having children will in no way ever impact on your ability to function as [fill in public office here] in even the slightest manner.

I think that mostly covers it.  Good luck!  Anyone with additional advice on how to be a woman with children, please leave a note in the comments!

11 responses so far

Evaluating Eldermobiles

There are several pieces of paperwork I MUST get done today, there are a dozen blog posts I want to write spawned by sessions and conversations at SciO12, there are groceries to be bought if we're to eat tonight, and I have a migraine, so I really should be in bed with the lights off and an eye pillow draped over my forehead.  Yet this bit of a topic has been nagging at the back of my skull for days (maybe it's the source of the migraine!) and I just have to write it out.

I had always wanted a Beetle but never thought I'd get one.  I drove hand-me-down cars, or practical cheap things with good gas mileage, because cars are just transportation to get from point A to point B. And I can't tell them apart, aside from "this one's red and that one's black".  Except for the Beetle.  I loved the Beetle. I just didn't see myself buying one.  I would drive my Mazda 323 till it died, and then get some equivalent replacement.

But in October of 2001, the world as we all had known it had fallen apart. There was no point in being practical. Or waiting for my car (or myself) to die.  One day on a whim I walked into a dealership and there she was.  Sapphire, the Uppity Blues Beetle.  I fell in love, paid sticker price for my 2-year-old baby, and drove her off the lot.

Kids waved at me, other Beetle drivers honked their horns, perfect strangers asked me how I liked driving that Beetle.  It was a fun car.  It was also a pain in the ass.  The electrical system had a mind of its own, little plastic bits and buttons periodically fell off and had to be glued back on, the glove box door, for Pete's sake, had to be replaced.  Sapphire was high maintenance, that's for sure. But I loved her.  And my mom loved her, too - because she had leather seats that were easy to slide across, and because she had a bar across the glove box area that mom could grab onto when she was getting into the car.  With the back seats down, there was plenty of room to stash mom's wheelchair and her walker, too, plus any other stuff we needed to take along for the day.  You had to life the wheelchair over the rear lip when putting it in or taking it out, but all in all, Sapphire was a pretty darn good eldermobile.

Sometimes I flew to see mom rather than drive and then I had to rent a car.  Any car with cloth seats was a loser right from the start.  Elderly people just cannot easily scooch and slide across a cloth seat.  Leather or faux-leather is what they need.  Sometimes I would get a PT Cruiser and my mom would be ecstatic.  It had the handy grab bar like my Beetle (see here, scroll down).  It was just the right height - not too high, so easy to step into, and not too low, so easy to get out of.  Definitely plenty of room to stash the chair, walker, and other gear.

One sad day, Sapphire got creamed by an asshole in a big black SUV doing 50 mph on the shoulder of the road who literally ran right over top of my car to get back on the road.  Maybe you could have fixed her, for the price of 1.5 new cars or so.  The insurance company handed me a check and Sapphire got hauled away to be cut up for parts.

Now I needed a new car and I was in a pickle.  One, I don't like making decisions about big purchases like this.  Two, I needed to decide relatively quickly because I had no car. Three, I had very specific needs I wanted my new car to satisfy.  Four, I'd had Sapphire for almost ten years and had paid absolutely no attention to cars during that time.  I had no idea what was out there, how much cars cost, where to even start looking.

Naturally, I began to crowdsource a solution to my problem.  Everyone had great advice to offer.  All kinds of advice.  I had more options to consider than I could keep track of.  Mom was not offering "advice" - she knew what worked for her and told me to just go buy a PT Cruiser. During the car search time I twice rented a Chevy HHR to go see mom.  She liked it almost as much as the PT Cruiser except it had no handy grab bar.  It did get great gas mileage and I could get the wheelchair in the back without putting the seats down if I had to, which meant I could take both mom and Aunt Betty to the Ice Plant for lunch.  So that was a bonus.  Mom still favored the PT.

I went to dealerships, I looked at cars, I test drove cars.  I looked at the Toyota Matrix, RAV 4, and Prius, the Scion xB, the Kia Soul and Sportage, the Mazda 5 Minivan, the Chevy HHR, the PT Cruiser, the Subaru Impreza and Outback, and I don't remember what all else.  I looked at new and used cars.  I made lists and did comparisons.  I test drove, I did online research, I made up my mind, and then I started all over again.

I felt the openings on the Matrix and Impreza were too small - too hard for stiff bodies to get in and out.  Not enough storage space in a Prius, and the RAV 4 and Mazda 5 seemed too high of a step-in, as did the Sportage.  I liked the Kia Soul a lot, but ultimately felt its rear opening was a bit too small - didn't want to have to fight to put a wheelchair in the back.  I was really leaning toward the HHR because I had driven it and liked it, and the gas mileage was fantastic but Mr. Z was very set against it.  He felt the interior looked a little too cheesy, was concerned about plastic parts falling off a la the Beetle, and wondered how resale value would hold up. I couldn't find an HHR or a PT with leather heated seats, which I really wanted. In the end I bought a used Subaru Outback which had every feature I wanted save amazing gas mileage.  It has leather seats, and seat heaters - very comforting to mom's achy back in cold weather.  It has dual climate control so she can be toasty and I can be cool or vice versa. The back just swallows up her wheelchair with room to spare - I've put her transport chair and her walker in there with it as well - and there is no lip to lift it over.  Furthermore, the opening of the back is low, so one does not have to hoist the heavy equipment up high. The back is spacious enough to hold all the gear without putting seats down so I can take mom and Aunt Betty together to lunch.  (Or my mother- and father-in-law.) There are two great cup holders in between the driver and passenger seats, as well as a spacious storage box - roomy enough for mom's special sunglasses or her water bottle.  Alas, there is no handy grab bar across the front but because of the height of the passenger seat, mom can back up to the seat, sit down, grab the handle above the door, and swing her legs into the car.  The door opening is large enough for her to do this and for me to assist her.  The car warms up quickly in cool weather, cools down quickly in summer heat.  And it handles fantastically over the mountains between where I live and where mom is.

The AARP offers some advice to caregivers on choosing cars, but I did not find it particularly helpful.  It is very general, and some of the car models they mention I would consider to be difficult for elderly people  to enter and exit.  If you have narrowed you search for a car down to two or at most three vehicles, the best thing to do would be to take your elderly person along with you and let them try getting in and out of the car.  See for yourself how easy it is to put the wheelchair or transport chair or other gear into the car.  I was not able to do this because mom and I live so far apart so I had to measure and guess.

Another good thing to know is that if you have found a car that you think will work for you, but it doesn't come with leather seats, you can get leather covers made for them at a reasonable price.  A good site for used car information is TrueDelta.

For some years now, car makers have finally become aware that women drive cars and that kids are often in the cars whether women or men are driving.  It would be nice, as our population rapidly ages, if they began to pay some special attention to car design that works well for caregivers and the elderly people they transport.  Or caregivers and the not-so-elderly but people with disabilities that need transport.  Universal design, is what I'm asking for.  We're starting to get there in home and apartment design.  But cars are still things we are supposed to fall in love with, things that make a statement about us.  Not practical things that can help us help anyone get from point A to point B.

I loved my Beetle like a teenager - it was shiny, it looked cute - but I love my Subaru for its comfort and functionality. It annoys me when people ask why I got such a boring car or why I'm driving a mom-mobile. If my car is supposed to make a statement about me, then my car says I like old people and I care about their needs. My car is an eldermobile. I get the most compliments on my car when I am helping my mom in or out of it outside the assisted living home.  People there look at cars in a different way.  And my mom always says proudly in a way that makes me want to cry, "she bought this car just for me!"  I'm guessing I won't see Subaru advertize anytime soon how great its Outback is for transporting old people, because we live in a youth culture, and so the Outback must be about youthful adventurous types leaving it all behind and getting to the rugged outdoors.  It could be both, if our culture didn't look upon the elderly with so much fear and loathing.

Car makers are selling us youth and sex - that's why there are always so many hot babes draped over the vehicles in ads and at car shows - and they don't imagine anyone is going to want an eldermobile.  No, the car is supposed to help you stave off age and death, not transport it to the cardiologist.  I don't imagine we'll be seeing eldermobiles on the market anytime soon.

 

13 responses so far

Things I Found Ponderable: #scio12 Report the Second

Gather round, Zuskateers, and you shall hear the tale of Clang!2 - White Privilege.

If you will recall, in Report the First, Zuska looked deep inside her own brain and found a squirming pile of sexist maggots gnawing away at her will to transform the world.  Report the second is just as unlovely!  So grab your popcorn and let's get started!

Many of you Zuskateers know that some years back I had a stroke caused by a migraine, and that the stroke made my migraines much, much worse - so severe and frequent that I had to quit working.  You may not also know that I lost nearly all my vision at the time of the stroke.  It gradually returned over a period of several months, but I did not get it all back.  I was left with a blind spot in the upper right quadrant of my visual field. It's not a black spot in my vision.  If I really pay attention, I can see that the area of the blind spot seems to have been rubbed or erased out.  But most of the time I don't even see the blind spot.  It's as if my brain takes everything it sees around the hole that is the blind spot, knits it together to patch up the whole, and tells the rest of me, "Okay, no problem here.  What you are seeing is all there is to see."  Oliver Sacks has written about this phenomenon in an essay titled "Scotoma: Forgetting and Neglect in Science".  (It's in a hard to find book called Hidden Histories of Science that is worth seeking out.)

My blind spot is a case of my brain not letting me know what I don't know, and I have to actively work around this to get the information I need, properly interpret the world, and keep myself safe.  Signs are sometimes hard for me to read because I don't get all the information at once, my brain can't make sense of it, and is too stupid to imagine that there might be something I'm missing.  Same thing when I'm reading the paper - I get to the end of a column and think "that story ended oddly".  Then I move my head and see there's an upper right part of the page - oh look! more story!  Finding things on the computer screen can be a nightmare.  I work hard to pay attention because I know I'm missing stuff, but it is exhausting, and sometimes I just quit.  I watch tv knowing I'm seeing about 3/4 of the picture but so what.  It'll do.

I tell you all this because my scotoma is the perfect metaphor for Clang!2.

Continue Reading »

23 responses so far

When to Tell? Who to Tell?

The most awesome Hermitage asked in a recent post

Ignoring the fact that knowing who to even complain to, and to what purpose, is not always clear, how bad does something have to be before you are compelled to take a stand? Should the criteria be severity, or simply how easy something is to prove? Should you always do the right thing, or should your career come first?

I wrote a long comment that sort of turned into a mini-post.  I'll reproduce it here. My answer was written assuming that what was being complained about was harassment or discrimination.  One main point I wanted to get across is this:  DO NOT WAIT until you have been harassed or discriminated against to try to figure out what you should do when you have been harassed or discriminated against.  Read and educate yourself about your school or workplace's relevant policies and procedures, understand how things would officially be handled and what that would imply for you.  Go talk to someone at the office of diversity or the equal opportunity office (where a complaint might be likely to be handled).  If your university has a women's studies department, ask them for resources to help you understand the situation women in science face in academia and how to respond to harassment and discrimination (tell them you don't need to read high theory, you need practical stuff about dealing with douchebags).  An informed woman scientist is one who is less likely to be harassed, and more likely to be able to aid a colleague who is dealing with a problem.

Okay, here's the rest of what I wrote over at Hermitage's place.  I encourage you to go read her post and the comments there, too.  Continue Reading »

11 responses so far

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