August 30, 2005

Picking up the pieces...again

Why don't the governors of states whose regions are subject to flooding where insurance companies have refused to write flood insurance coverage do what Hawaii has done in the case of fire coverage: Pull the plug on insurers who refuse to cover flood damage, just as Hawaii did to insurers refusing to cover fire.

City and county planners can also step up to the plate and stop allowing concentrated residential and business development in areas that are regularly slammed with mudslides, floods and hurricanes. [Please see National Geographic's October 2004 article, Louisiana Wetlands.]

In the meantime, we Americans will do what Americans keep doing: pay their taxes so state and federal agencies can pay for damages, and donate money to organizations such as the following that provide goods and services to those in need:

American Red Cross
1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) English
1-800-257-7575 Spanish

Second Harvest
The nation's largest foodbank

Noah's Wish
- Rescuing and Sheltering Animals in Disasters

LSU Vet Medical School of Vet Medicine Shelter for Katrina Pets

American Veterinary Medical Foundation

Animal Photos of Pets Lost/Missing/Found due to Katrina

Message Postings of Pets Lost/Missing/Found due to Katrina

August 16, 2005

A Pet for Paris

Given that "teacup" (puppy) chihuahua was too big for Paris, and any other chihuahua is also going to outgrow La Hilton's preference, I've come up with the ideal pet for Paris.

Meet Rocquie!

This little girl is already fully grown, so there is no chance she will ever weigh as much as poor dumped Tinkerbell.

As you can see, Rocquie is the pick of the litter, and keeps herself better groomed than her littermates.

The best thing is that, should Rocquie ever get "kidnapped" like poor Tink, Rocq won't die of starvation, dehydration, hypothermia or cardiac arrest before she is "rescued".

Update: Check out Phyllis DeGioia's take on dogs as fashion accessories at the The Bark.

August 15, 2005

Gene pool cleanup on Aisle 5, please.

Paris Hilton: An excellent example of indivduals who should not be allowed to have pets or children.

Chihuahua too big a bitch for Paris

Heads up for you smokers out there

Just a quickie heads up for you smokers out there:

You stink.

Your hair stinks.

Your clothing stinks.

Your returned library books stink.

Your papers and magazines and bills stink.

Your car stinks.

Your house stinks.

You cannot hide the smell with air fresheners (which, in addition to your smoke, are poisoning your lungs and those around you), or fragrances, or mouthwash.

I was raised to be a courteous smoker. My mother was just short of a chain-smoker. My dad had been a smoker in his younger days, but quit on a bet in his early 20s. So, we always had windows and doors open to air out the house and car, and so I did the same in my own home.

When I got married to a smoker, the door and window thing wasn't a problem for him, since we also had big dogs who were too large to have a dog door, so we just left a door open for them when we were home.

In the office, when I had a private office, I had an air cleaner running all the time, figuring that would keep my smoke from flowing out of my office and into the offices on either side of me which housed nonsmokers.

One of my swing shift supervisors was a complainer, always waving her hand in front of her face when she came to meetings in my office or department meeting it the conference room. When she told me she was allergic to tobacco smoke, I tried not smoking around her, while inwardly muttering "Allergic! She's just annoyed with it - no one's allergic to it!" or "It's just a control thing."

Ercille, if you're by some chance reading this: I am truly sorry for being such an ass. I really had no idea just how horrendous even a "courteous" smoker can be to those who really do get sick from exposure to tobacco smoke.

PS to those recreating with marijuana: you stink, too.

"Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of smokers are not concerned about developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), America’s fourth ranking cause of death even though more than half of them (55 percent) experience at least one of the symptoms of COPD a minimum of once a week." COPD: Hungry For Air. American Lung Association.

"Smoking marijuana is associated with increased risk of many of the same symptoms as smoking cigarettes -- chronic bronchitis, coughing on most days, phlegm production, shortness of breath, and wheezing, according to a Yale study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

"In addition, marijuana smoking may increase risk of respiratory exposure by infectious organisms, such as fungi and molds, since cannabis plants are contaminated with a range of fungal spores, said Brent Moore, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study." Marijuana Associated With Same Respiratory Symptoms as Tobacco

August 14, 2005

If can I quit smoking, so can you.

I did. Almost 18 years ago, after smoking nearly that long. At the time I quit, my ashtrays and I were putting away 2.5.-3 packs a day. This, mind you, after I got As in grammar and middle school on all my stop smoking projects, aimed at my mother, who had been smoking 1-2 packs a day since she was 16.

When my mother developed lung cancer at age 54, I switched from my Sherman's and Saratoga 120s to the low nicotine Carlton (the ones in the boxes have less than the soft packs), alternating my regular cigarette with a Carlton, gradually increasing the ratio of Carlton's to everything else until I was smoking them exclusively. That got me down to 2 mg of nicotine.

My mother smoked until the day before they wheeled her off to chop out half of her left lung. The docs thought they got it all, and she had a box of 4 mg Nicorette gum (then available by prescription only) waiting for her when she came out. She immediately began chewing a whole piece of the 4 mg pieces - thereby habituating her to a higher dose of nicotine again. When her docs suspected cervical cancer six months after the lung surgery, she kept chewing. She was still chewing 5 months after that, when she went to sleep one night and never woke up.

Not a complete idiot, I did stop smoking several months after my mother's lung surgery. I started with only 1/2 of a piece of the 4 mg gum. My mom and I both knew not to keep chewing it like regular gum, so we converted some of our pretty small, "for company" ashtrays to gum parks. Instead of being defiled by ashes and butts, there rested our chewed gum waiting the next chew time. My employees got used to it, shrugging my chewtray off as another one of my eccentricities.

Eventually, I began alternating the Nicorette with regular gum or hard candy. I decided that whatever weight I put on would be taken off later. It came on, it came off, and I haven't smoked since. My husband continued to smoke, however, joining a neighbor from up the street who also was not allowed to smoke inside the house; the two of them would take stroll every evening, puffing away.

One of the big things that helped me was not just replacing one source of nicotine with another, but working on the chemical addiction while also addressing the bigger behavioral issues. I had already done some "firsts" since I never again smoked when with my mother in the months between her lung surgery and death. So, I got through my first client dinner, cocktail party, restaurant meals, and car rides without a cigarette in hand. Instead of a cigarette, I clutched a glass of club soda or light wine spritzer, acknowledging a tendency to want to replace my cigarette crutch with an alcohol crutch during stressful times.

Speaking of stress, I, like lots of others I know, always muttered, "I'll stop when my life gets less crazy." Funny how our lives never became less crazy.

At the time I stopped in November 1987, here is what was going on in my life: My mother got hit by a car the first Wednesday of August 1987; her cancer was discovered on the 2nd Wednesday; my house was gutted by fire on the 3rd Wednesday, my mom's first day out of the intensive care unit; on the 4th Wednesday my husband's son called to say that he suspected his father in-law of molesting his son.

At work, after going through one sale of the large family business and all that entails, we were going through due diligence again. Since I was part of the package and had day-to-day responsibilities, I juggled work, hospital visits, and digging through the wreckage of my home, looking to find what could be salvaged and fighting with the insurance companies. My husband and I were living in a hotel, and were soon joined by our two dogs because of re-emerging health problems of one of them. (Our fish died in the fire, our cat died a couple of weeks after the fire, and we had had to euthanize our oldest dog shortly before the fire.)

For 11 months, my husband and I lived in the hotel and rebuilt the house. My mother died while we were still in the hotel.

I realized in the middle of that, about the time I quit, that I might be dead if I waited for a "good time" to quit smoking. Good times are never guaranteed. They cannot be predicted. I realized that if I could stop during one of the worst periods of my life, not smoking when times were good would be a nonissue.

When I was in the quitting stage, the first couple of months on Nicorette, I started paying attention to how often my hand darted out and started groping for my pack of cigarette. I realized how much of my smoking had been mindless, by force of behavioral habit, rather than of physical addiction. So the journey from smoker to nonsmoker is one of changing mindless habitual behaviors, adopting new benign ones if necessary. My first cigarette of the morning, normally smoked after I got out of the shower, became a time greeting the dogs and watering the plants before returning to the bathroom to do my hair and makeup.

And so, my biggest piece of advice for those trying to quit: Break your behavioral habits! Pick another chair to sit in. Find something else to do with your hands - doodle, knit, pick your teeth (politely, please), get up and walk around, do anything but just sit there and think about how much you'd like a cigarette, or how you always have a cigarette when the phone rings, you drink your first cup of coffee, when you sit down at the computer, open your newspaper or book, close the car door, and all the many times of day and night we smokers light up without thinking about it.

Does my husband still smoke? No. Terminal lung cancer took care of that; diagnosed the day after Christmas in 1990, he died three weeks later, a few months shy of his 58th birthday.

Cigarette, n.: A fire at one end, a fool at the other, and a bit of tobacco in between.

August 08, 2005

Good night, Peter.