Amidst packing madness, I didn’t get a chance to post about Lael’s birthday on Saturday. Let’s just say that it was a less-than optimal day for her.
Seth’s first birthday was a big blowout bash, but Lael just received a cupcake with a candle on it. Seth received a ton of presents, but we didn’t want many for Lael because we didn’t want to schlep them to Chicago. (We plan to have a bigger party for her after we move.)
The first thing Lael did with the cupcake was touch the flame. While the burn left no mark on her finger, Lael cried about as loudly as I ever heard her. I have a photo and video of it, but I can’t bring myself to post either.
So, I’m posting a happier moment of Lael playing with her new toy. And I decided to post a picture of Seth at his first birthday, which was before I started this blog.
Happy birthday Lael; I’m sure your second will be lots more fun.
Yup, you read correctly. I gave my two-week notice at the Los Angeles Times on Monday. I plan to drag my entire family to Chicago where I will work with my brother on one of his businesses. More on that in a minute.
Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I need to explain that I love the Los Angeles Times. I believe it is the finest and most important newspaper in the nation. I take great pride in its journalism, and I strongly believe in its mission.
I strongly dislike those who constantly attack the industry – at least when it’s unfair – because damaging print media is akin to tearing down the U.S. justice system. Despite what the detractors may think, America’s quality of life is directly dependent on the robustness of our print media.
Without newspapers, America would probably still be in Vietnam today, Nixon would never have resigned and someone like Joseph McCarthy would have become president. Our environment would be in worse shape today than it is and no one would be aware that there is an enormous and complex health crisis on the horizon.
Without the print media, the mistakes of the Iraq War would not have been reported, and the Israeli-Lebanese conflict would have been reduced to video bytes on TV and uninformed pontification online. We should remember that newspapers still fund most of the on-the-ground reporting in today’s world.
Without anyone ready to take print media’s place in original reporting, it is ever crucial that a more profitable online model be found. The day will come, but it is taking too long.
As much as I believe in journalism, though, my wife and I felt we needed to move forward in our lives. There were many factors that played into this decision: commuting 2+ hours a day was a big one. Freezing Times’ employee pensions was another. Repeated layoffs at the paper was a third. There are plenty of other reasons in the back of my mind.
But what it really came down to was an opportunity to be something more than a tech support person. If you notice in my second sentence I wrote that I would be working “with” my brother rather than “for.” My brother is offering me a chance to build an online start-up business with his guidance.
The business is called TradersQuest, which is a school for those wishing to learn how to trade commodities. The site is still in development, but will be ready to roll out in a few weeks or months.
What do I know about commodities? Not a lot, other than what my brother force-fed me over the years. (Now I wish I listened better.)
Fortunately, I do know a lot about technology, editing and getting folks to work together on projects. I think a few of my skills will transfer over, but my learning curve will be huge. This is good, because I do best under pressure.
There was one other major reason we decided to embark on this adventure: I want my kids to see me struggle to achieve. That may sound a bit strange, but I think there is an important distinction between being successful and struggling to get there.
If I stayed at the Times, my kids would have a small but comfortable house, in a nice but not spectacular suburb east of Los Angeles. In a word, “bland,” though my wife might use the word “dreary.” We would be okay financially, presuming I was never laid off, and have all the necessities of life. We would do some cool vacations when we could afford it. To be honest, that is not how I want my kids to perceive me or their own lives.
I want them to see me fight for something better, even if I make a lot of mistakes on the way. I would rather my kids see me working my brains out and loving it, rather than trying to explain my “job” to them. I want them to believe that hard work and dreams make things possible. And if I do fail, I want them to see me pick myself off the floor to try again.
So in some ways, I think this career change is another parenting tool that will benefit my kids. As long as we don’t starve along the way, of course.
I’m a strong believer in science. As far as I’m concerned, there is a rational explanation for everything, even if it seems unsolvable at first.
So growing up, I naturally identified with technology and medicine, which fit my logical and orderly ways of thinking. When my dad died at the hands of mistakes made by doctors, I rationalized it wasn’t the science that was bad, but incompetent, egotistical practitioners that explained failures in medicine.
While individual doctors may be to blame in my dad’s case, I’m only just beginning to grasp that Western medical science is seriously flawed. Let me rephrase that: the politics of money distort medical science to such an extent that the Western medical complex exists to serve its own interests rather than patients.
Can I prove this? Not easily. I would have to dedicate years of my life to show how the most revealing medical research gets buried by arcane publishing rules and how the industry becomes distorted by powerful interests such as the food industry.
A good example of this is Thomas Campbell’s book, The China Study. Campbell’s thesis is that the more artificial chemicals and meat we eat, the sicker we get. A second, more insidious argument goes like this: medical and nutritional experts have known what was wrong with food for decades, but allowed business interests to simply ignore the science.
Campbell is a Cornell expert on nutrition who is strongly linked to the vegan movement. Campbell’s research has led him to believe there is little to no safe amount of animal protein in our diets.
Campbell is part of a growing, yet disparate movement, that recognizes “accepted” medical science and nutrition are deeply flawed. While those on the vanguard of this movement range from journalists to doctors, the essential thesis is the same: eating organic whole foods, with a small or no amount of meat, is better medicine than waiting until illness steals away good health. While Western medicine may help us fight off cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it is far preferable to never get them in the first place. Some of these authors also believe that these diseases can be better treated through a change in diet rather than through Western medicine.
I don’t recall seeing any studies comparing efficacy of a whole foods diet against modern medicine in treating cancer in humans. (Though Campbell does present a study that shows cancer in rats can be stopped by cutting animal protein from their diet.) Probably such studies exist, but my access to medical research is limited because of time and money (these journals are expen$ive.)
If I was to develop cancer, I am not sure what my treatment course would be. After all, I already eat an organic, whole foods diet. I’m even less sure what I would do if my children developed one of these horrible diseases.
One Virginia family made their choice, preferring to not rely on Western medicine. Instead, they traveled to a Mexico clinic that relies on herbal supplements and an organic diet, reports Food Consumer.org. The 16-year-old boy, Abraham Cherrix, underwent painful treatment once before for Hodgkin’s disease, but he insisted on herbal treatment after the disease returned.
A judge did not like that one bit, and ordered the Accomack County Department of Social Services take partial custody of Abraham. The judge determined the parents were neglectful by allowing the teen to pursue alternative treatment.
That’s interesting, because I presume the cost of this treatment was completely out of pocket for the Cherrix family. Abraham has appeared on several TV news networks – which I have not seen – to make his case, reports Virginia Pilot.
The first round of chemo almost killed me. There were nights when I didn’t know if I’d make it. Another round at higher doses would kill me, no joke about it.
To be honest, I don’t know which route is the best for the boy. As several stories mentioned, Western treatment of this illness has been more successful than other treatments. Studies indicate that children suffering from cancer seem to fair better under Western treatment than adults. Doctors report Abraham’s cancer worsened while in Mexico.
But I wonder about forcing a 16-year-old to suffer incredibly painful treatments through court fiat. The courts have rarely hesitated to force life-saving antibiotics into children when parents balked, but forcing a severely painful regimen is another matter.
In the meantime, it seems incumbent on Western medicine to fully explore whether diet can be used to control some cancers. I’m not sure that can happen with the pharmaceutical and food industries throwing money at bureaucrats, politicians and scientists, but the research needs to be done, and right quick.
As you might have noticed, I haven’t been posting much. That’s because work and home life have exploded with activity, and I simply cannot keep up. Of course, the busier things get, the better the stories, which is one of the ironies of blogging. Lots of activity cuts into writing time; when there is time to write, pretty much nothing is happening.
But let me take a moment to tell two really quick Lael stories. As you can see from the picture, Lael is enjoying some cherries, which she smeared all over her face. The whole house was cracking up, which leads to the second story.
Lael managed to get into a cabinet and threw several glass measuring bowls onto the floor, apparently fascinated by how glass shatters. Mommy and grandma were not happy as one was in socks and the other was barefoot. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
When I went to summer day camp a long, long time ago, I vaguely remember sports, mean kids and lots of water. Despite my foggy memory, I recall that most of my peers were quite healthy.
My how things have changed. About one-quarter of three million American Camp Association members need daily medication, reports The New York Times.
Here’s the picture:
The breakfast buffet at Camp Echo starts at a picnic table covered in gingham-patterned oil cloth. Here, children jostle for their morning medications: Zoloft for depression, Abilify for bipolar disorder, Guanfacine for twitchy eyes and a host of medications for attention deficit disorder. … The medication lines like the one at Camp Echo were unheard of a generation ago but have become fixtures at residential camps across the country.
How can this be? How can so many of America’s kids need heavy-duty medical treatment? Are drugs, many of which have nasty side effects or haven’t even been studied in children, the only option?
I’ve talked repeatedly about the obesity epidemic, but the number of kids on meds leads me to believe that our children are in even worse health than I previously imagined. Genetics simply cannot explain the number of kids falling victim to such a wide variety of ills.
While I’m sure there are other culprits out there, I most suspect nutrition and synthetic chemicals in our environment. There are enough books on the topic: What to Eat by Marion Nestle and The Hundred-Year Lie, by Randall Fitzgerald come to mind.
Nestle, who is perhaps the foremost nutritionist in the nation, has been telling Americans for years that our food essentially sucks.
Fitzgerald, who seems to be making an industry out of his book, takes a broader view. He believes that synthetic chemicals entering our bodies – processed food to drugs to contaminated drinking water – are teaming up to damage cells in our bodies.
Unfortunately, it’s darn near impossible to prove that chemicals in junk food and fire retardants are in part responsible for making everyone sick. It’s even tougher to create a public campaign to demand change. A photograph of a hyperactive kid doesn’t exactly wrench someone’s heart. Heck, the kid would look pretty much normal. That’s why obesity makes a much better poster child.
So how can this battle be fought, much less won? We all know how politics and money usually win the day. How do we stop the advance of science? How do we battle the food, drug and chemical industries at the same time? How do we, as parents, keep our children from becoming part of this 25 percent statistic?
I’m trying my best to navigate the obstacle course of good health in this whacky society of ours, but I worry it’s not good enough.
Every now and then, I take Seth to work to give him an idea of where I disappear to 60 hours a week. Last year we drove, but this time we took the train. Like many boys his age, Seth gets completely lost in the world of Thomas & Friends.
We arrived at the platform with a little extra time to explore. Montclair Transit Center is not the most interesting place, but fortunately a long freight train screamed past just a few feet from our noses. From this point on, Seth commented several times on how LOUD trains are. He is so my son.
Once on the train, Seth was completely absorbed by the window view. Metrolink passenger cars are clean, two-story deals with enormous windows – there is even a notice that they weigh 65 pounds each – that provide magnificent views of the passing scenery.
Seth continuously asked questions, like: “Dad, is this our stop?” or “Dad, are we going fast yet?” My answers failed to satisfy him.
The thing is, it’s difficult to tell you are moving fast on these trains because they slide so smoothly down the track. So I would explain yes, we’re moving fast, or no, we slowed down to let another train pass by. Seth jumped when a train going the opposite direction flew by at 60 mph just feet away from his window.
At Union Station, Seth enjoyed the down, down, down escalator ride to the subway. We only go one stop, but the ride back up on an even larger escalator serves as another adventure.
Work was boring, so I’ll jump to the return trip. On the way home, I left some time for us to explore Union Station, which is an architectural marvel. I bought a bagel to share and then we went up to the platform.
The train was 30 minutes late. At first, it was okay because we watched other trains come and go, but our platform was hot and crowded; we both were becoming tired. Both of us were relieved when the train arrived.
Other than Seth falling off the seat at one point – he wasn’t hurt – the rest of the ride was uneventful. Rather than ask a million questions this time, Seth stared out the window and began talking about various Thomas train cars and the scenery outside. I suspect he was merging the real world with is imaginative one.
I may be out on a limb here, but I’m guessing this trip was right on track.
Shortly after Seth’s first birthday, I was hospitalized for a week with a relatively rare condition called rhabdomyolysis. That’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it?
Probably brought on by flu and dehydration in my case, the illness is characterized by the breakdown of muscle fibers, which I injured after much heavy lifting.
The real problem, however, was not my unusable arms and hands. When the muscles break down, a chemical is released that can overwhelm the kidneys. For five days I was under threat of needing dialysis.
Fortunately, I had refused to use cholesterol-fighting drugs, such as Lipitor, just a year earlier. Had I been using a statin drug, the condition could would have killed me, according to my doctor. As it was, I missed about 2.5 weeks of work and grew a goatee simply because my hands and arms were unusable. (I still experience strange sensations in my arms and hands now and then.)
But this story isn’t about statin drugs, it’s about acetaminophen, which is the main ingredient in Tylenol. Before going to the hospital and knowing what was wrong, I took one of the pills. It made the pain in my arms far worse.
Once in the hospital, I was stuck in the arm with an IV that was dumping gallons of fluid into my body to over-hydrate it. That evening, I was offered a pain reliever that unbeknownst to me at that time contained acetaminophen to help me sleep through the night. Instead, the pain in my arms and hands became far worse.
I told the doctors about my reaction and they said this simply could not be. One blew me off completely. Another later said, “well, you do react differently than everyone else to virtually every drug.” I spent the rest of my week at the hospital skipping all pain relievers.
When I got home, I looked up everything I could find about rhabdomyolysis and side effects from acetaminophen. There was tons on the first, virtually nothing on the latter.
Until now. In the last few months, there have been some disturbing findings about acetaminophen, reports the Los Angeles Times. An earlier study found that large doses can cause serious liver damage.
But a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that even moderate doses can cause harm. “This study shows that even taking the amount on the package can be a problem for some people,” Dr. William M. Lee of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, tells the Times. He was not involved in the research.
Even prior to my hospitalization, I would take the lowest dose possible. I always complained that the dosages were too strong for me. The recommended maximum dose is too high, according to Lee.
It should be noted that the study’s author says the maximum dose is okay, but the margin of safety is small. I also should point out that the study’s findings do not explain my experience with acetaminophen. The rhabdomyolysis was wreaking havoc with my kidneys, not liver.
I suspect the problem for me was this: whenever I take pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, I quickly dehydrate. I have to drink tons of water or else. Rhabdomyolysis is worsened by dehydration, so maybe the problem I faced was isolated to my strange biochemistry.
The take-home point, though is unchanged; innocuous-seeming drugs can be quite dangerous for some of us. Consider that many parents think nothing of giving Tylenol or Motrin to sick children. But I always hesitate before giving our kids any drug. With the exception of antibiotics – which require full dosage to be effective – I always give our kids LESS than the recommended amount.
As for me? I haven’t taken a Tylenol or Advil in over two years. I take no chances with repeating that horrible experience. And I found I can live with pain after all.
“Dad, you make the best food,” Seth told me while we were waiting for the fireworks to begin Tuesday night.
As I mentioned in this post, my boy had never been to a fireworks display. Like his dad, he’s not too fond of loud noises.
My original plan was to take Seth to the park to watch the show, but as soon as I got there, I realized it was a mistake. The elevation and trees were too high to view the fireworks.
Having plenty of time, we drove down toward the high school without much of a plan. Seth was bummed because he wanted to play at the park.
Going with the flow, I found a place to park across the street from the high school. Most of the city seemed gathered for the event.
We walked around until we found a small rise on the pavement to sit down. I spread out a blanket and read Seth’s two bedtime books. One was about shooting stars.
That’s when Seth mentioned I made the best foods. It was funny to me, because all I brought was a bag of organic popcorn I popped right before leaving the house. Small pleasures work, I guess.
The fireworks were good – they were very low to the ground right over world-famous Route 66. (I find this ironic because just a few days earlier we had gone to the movie Cars, which takes place on a more desolate portion of the highway.) And I have to admit we had a fantastic view even though we were sitting on asphalt.
Seth was a bit annoyed that the local stores and streetlights didn’t allow for a dark sky. Man, such opinions coming from a 4-year-old. No idea where he gets it from. (cough, cough.)
Still, I could see Seth was fascinated by the brightly-colored displays. We especially liked the back-to-back smiley-face starbursts.
After the finale, I asked Seth what he thought. “I liked the first part, but the ending was too… too…”
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