Posts Tagged ‘ news ’

On vaccination

Here’s what I know. If you’re reading this you’re either going to agree or disagree with me. You already agree or disagree. Reading this will reinforce what you already think, or you will think that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t expect to change any minds. These are exactly the topics that I try to steer clear of online because I’ve never seen a productive conversation following a post like this. So I know I am opening my own can of worms.

But I know I have to say something. I am reading about an outbreak of measles in New York City, and this makes me nervous. I know that this is the first time I’ve thought about measles in my 33 years. I know that vaccination has become less routine, and that this has consequences.

Let me start by saying I sympathize with the desire to opt-out. I know the creeping feeling that our society is over-medicated, the suspicion that we swallow pills instead of solving problems. I know that I try to fix things the natural way. I won’t take aspirin for a headache until it’s lasted for hours. I ask doctors about the necessity of taking antibiotics before filling their prescriptions. I read every possible side effect of everything I ingest. I know what it feels like to give birth with breath as your only sedative.

I know what it feels like to become a mother. The awe. And then the terror. The realization that you are in charge of something – someone – so fragile. The certainty that he will experience pain you won’t be able to protect him from. The joy of trying to do so anyway. The agony of watching him suffer.

I know how much it hurts the first time you stand helpless as a a nurse sticks a needle into your son’s thigh. He looks at you for comfort. You cry. He screams. I know how it feels not to be able to explain. To watch for fevers at night. To rub the lump out of his leg. I know I hate it every time we get him vaccinated.

I know I am doing the right thing.

My son turned six months today. He is a strong, healthy baby, breastfed and big-cheeked. Just tonight, he rolled from his tummy onto his back for the first time. He laughs when you lower your finger to his nose. Tomorrow he will taste sweet potatoes – something new. He will go for his scheduled shots on Monday. He is still six months too young for MMR.

I know 19 out of 8 million is a tiny number. I know that we have to go on living our lives. I know when we were waiting in the doctor’s office last week, my son with his first bad cold, there was a boy with bright red cheeks who coughed in the waiting room. I know I wouldn’t have imagined they were spots if I hadn’t overheard the phone call, another worried mom on the other end of the line. I know the receptionist said that MMR is 99% effective after the first dose. That full immunity is usually conferred by age four. That there is no advantage to getting the second dose early, unless a student in your class is diagnosed. I know that other boy probably had a cold, just like my son. I know that won’t stop me from feeling his forehead for the next two weeks.

I know now why my mom always worried.

I am glad my son’s pediatrician insists all patients follow the schedule. Relieved his daycare requires proof of vaccination. I know the other adults in my son’s life are doing the best they can for him, but I know they can’t protect him either. I know that all vaccines carry a risk. I know that I’m willing to take it.

A friend is coming to visit later this month who is immunocompromised. I know that anyone dealing with serious immune system issues already has enough to worry about without adding preventable illnesses to the list. That the same is true in households with infants. I know that in both cases, they don’t have a choice in the matter: they depend on our health for their own. I know that isn’t convenient. But it must be acknowledged. No man is an island on the Island of Manhattan. We are all in this together.

I don’t know anyone who has had the measles. I do know the reason they haven’t.

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Ecce Homo

I am absolutely obsessed with this story. I love the image of the old woman, entering her beloved church with her carefully chosen palate on her paint board, approaching the face of her God. This was, my friends, a true act of love. She saw Christ suffering and went to fix him. I am sure the real Jesus would have appreciated her attempt. Still, it feels like there are a few deeper lessons. A true reflection on impermanence. Or maybe, even, Jesus is using this “crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic” to teach us a lesson: we came from the apes, folks, and to apes we shall return. If it’s good enough for him, it should be good enough for the rest of us.

Click here for  an amazing interview with Cecilia Gimenez, amateur art restorer.

On food, and how we talk about it

Today’s news brings us the new government guidelines for all eaters: eat less. On one hand, very simple advice. On the other hand, is it maybe too simple?  Is the act of the government coming out and saying what Weight Watchers has been telling the world since 1963 really going to provide anyone with new information on how to reduce their weight?

It’s math, people.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s quite that easy. For example, if people ate more, say, mushroom bourguignon with a side of kale (full disclosure: my dinner tonight), I don’t think they’d be getting quite so large. It isn’t only how much you eat, but also what you’re eating. Admittedly, the guidelines also call for half of your plate to be filled with fruits and vegetables, which is a helpful hint, but still doesn’t hit another issue that may be turning people away from healthy foods. Let me put forth another idea, as a person who has always preferred English to math. My hypothesis (science now) is that the language we use to talk about healthy food is a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.

For example, let’s start with your basic items on your basic fast food menu. What do you have? Hamburger. Cheeseburger. Chicken Nuggets.You can picture them all, can’t you? You have absolutely no questions about what they look like, and certainly no doubt about how to pronounce them. What about the signature fancy dishes: the Whopper; the Big Mac; and my favorite, the Baconator, which does not fuck around with things like “lettuce.” While these words may not mean anything on their own, they’re still friendly and easy to pronounce, which–by association–sound easy to eat. What’s in a Big Mac anyway? Special sauce. That in itself means nothing either, but gosh-darn does it sound fun. Really makes eating fast food seem, well, special, doesn’t it?

Let’s compare this with my aforementioned dinner. I’ll be the first to admit: even for a college-educated girl, bourguignon is way easier to cook than it is to spell. What about some other words I’ve come across reading foodie articles in the past week: radicchio, braised, au jus. Growing up in a Betty Crocker household, I can promise you that these are words we never used in the kitchen. Furthermore, when I first came across them–whether in a menu or in a cookbook–2 things immediately came to mind:

1) This shit is fancy; and

2) I can’t (eat/make) this–I don’t know (what it is) and/or (how to pronounce it)!

Some version of thought 2 ALWAYS followed thought 1.

I think I would have likely made the bourguignon sooner if we used the old fast food trick of calling it what it is: a dish cooked in alcohol. In fact, I may have made bourguignon about twice a week in college. I’ve never cooked raddichio, but knowing that it looks like cabbage makes me pretty confident I can tackle it with ease (it also helps that when I see it on the menu I now think “rhymes with ‘geek,’ not ‘radish.’) As for braising, I’m sure I’ve done it, but I wouldn’t know to call it that (a glance at the wikipedia page confirms my assumption). As for the “au jus?” Just juice baby. Sweet meat juice. (Why is this not an item on a fast food menu?)

In sum, (math again) healthy food needs a little modern marketing to be more accessible–mentally, not just in proximity. Think quick, easy dishes dishes described in USA Today instead of New York Times language. Don’t believe me? Call your friend who’s favorite meal is a Big Mac and tell him you’re making either beef in booze or chicken with meat juice for dinner. He’ll be right over–and may even try the radicchio while he’s at it.