He Is Staying



A cautionary tale of a flu shot gone awry

Ready to get your flu shot? I’m not so sure if I am.

Here’s a story about the flu shot I got last year.

First of all, I’ve gotten my annual flu shot for about the past 8 years after I got the flu one year and remembered how fun it wasn’t. A quick trip to the doctor or to Safeway for my shot and I was done for the year, no problem.

Last year was different. My daughter was getting her eyes checked and I thought I’d take that opportunity to pop downstairs and get the shot. No one was in line, I was taken in a little room and the flu shot nurse injected me. The injection site felt a little higher than I’d had before but there was absolutely no pain and I complimented her profusely on being a “flu shot star.” I went back to meet my daughter and headed home, no problem.

The trouble began the next morning. I woke up and my shoulder was extremely sore. I assumed it was a late reaction and would be better in a day or two. Two days later I woke up and couldn’t move my arm. Well, I could move it but not without excruciating pain and difficulty. I still assumed it would go away in another day or so.

It didn’t. My shoulder was extremely sore and I found it hard to sleep, get dressed, or do any or my normal activities. I’m not normally a big complainer (according to one “close” source) and I was so tired of being in pain and complaining to my family and friends about the pain. One very early morning when I couldn’t sleep I got online and typed in “shoulder pain after flu shot”. This took me to a blog that a woman had written with tons of comments below it from other people with painful shoulders after getting flu shots.

She had the exact same type of injection positioning (“a bit higher than normal”) and exact same symptoms that had started two days after her shot. I read on and found there were dozens of people with the same issue – and this had happened to many people, some whom never recovered. At this point I was starting to freak out.

I learned that the condition is referred to as SIRVA or Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration.

Basically what I learned is that all these flu shots had been injected improperly (high on the shoulder) and that the shot had been injected into a little sac of fluid called the bursa, which protects shoulder tendons. The caused the vaccine to provoke the immune system to attack the bursa which caused the shoulder pain. And, to add insult to injury, because of the containment of the anti-flu medication in the bursa, there was no protection from the flu.

It’s been close to a year now and my shoulder is pretty much the same. I’ve had cortisone shots, acupuncture, physical therapy, MRIs, pain medication and X-rays. The pain and ensuing lack of strength have affected my life in many ways. I used to pride myself on having few physical limitations, which is not the case now. I’ve been told from the doctors to either work through the pain or to stop when it hurts. It’s basically a judgement call on my part. I’m learning (grudgingly) to live with it, and still have hopes that it will gradually heal itself. (This is not complaining, according to that close source.)

Here’s the important part and why I wanted to share my experience. The main thing I learned about getting a flu shot in the right place in your arm is this: if the flu shot administrator is standing, you stand. If they are sitting, you sit. This puts them at the right angle to inject you. My flu shot nurse was standing and I was sitting so the flu shot was injected straight down through the shoulder. I have subsequently learned that everyone with the same problem had the same experience, the flu shot administrator was standing and they were sitting.

If I do get a flu shot this year, I’m not only standing but I’m drawing a circle around the part of my arm where I know the flu shot should go!

Stay informed and stay healthy!

Disco Ball

So I’m in my Zumba toning class Tuesday at 10:10am.  I’m lying on my mat on the floor doing crunches and oblique things (or things that are supposed to be good for your obliques) and I’m looking up at the ceiling, trying to find something to help me escape from my body and move into my brain.

I find it.  The disco ball.  It’s located directly above me, attached to the ceiling.  This disco ball has been here for as long as I remember.  We met a little over 40 years ago.

Yes, it’s true.  And while it could be a different ball after all this time (how long is the lifespan of a disco ball?), it has the look and sheen of the disco ball I met back then.

You always remember your first disco ball…

Disco Ball

Back in the day, I was invited to a dance by a boy.  I came close to saying no, because I didn’t know how to dance.

Truth be told, the only times I had danced were in a sixth grade “social dance” class where my name was on a blue (boy) tag instead of a pink (girl) tag because Jan was supposedly a Scandinavian boy’s name.  (Oh, please.)  Those were the awkward dance days where I had to dance with the tallest (and gawkiest) boys because I was one of the tallest girls in the class.  Oh, joy.  So my dancing days didn’t start off on what you would call a high note.

But now I was 16 and this boy that I liked had asked me to a dance.  Against my better judgment, I accepted.  I did, however, have a new pair of red-and-white cuffed hiphuggers that I had saved up for and was ready to present to the dancing set.

That was all that was ready.  I had gone out and played tennis all day with my friends.  I got home about 15 minutes before said boy was supposed to pick me up for the dance.  I had miscalculated.

Dirty and disheveled, I was ready to throw on my clothes and present myself unprepared for a date, much less dancing, when my mom intervened.  A boy, she thought, wouldn’t mind waiting a bit if I wanted to take a shower.  Careful wording, given to a 16-year-old who was already starting to sweat more about the prospect of dancing with a boy.

I flew into the shower, threw on the plaid pants, a top and some Famolares (who remembers those cool crepe-soled shoes?) and greeted my nattily dressed date about 15 minutes late.

We arrived at our dancing location: yes, the community center with the aforementioned disco ball.  Feeling somewhat overwhelmed after the tennis, the spit shower, and the awkwardly paced conversation on the car ride over, I was not quite feeling up to dancing.  But I really had no choice now, I was committed.

We moved to the dance floor and as my dance partner put his arms around my waist and I put mine around his neck, we swayed to the music of The Spinners’ “Mighty Love” while the lights of the disco ball made for a magical evening.

When my Zumba toning teacher tells me our time is up and it’s time to leave, I’m surprised.  I’ve been watching the ball instead of the clock.  I’m also surprised to realize that the only thing about the ball that’s changed is what its mirrored surface reflects.

And that will keep changing.  My relationship with the disco ball hasn’t ended yet.

Happy Mother’s Day, or How I Ended Up Having Fun Every Day of My Life

One of the big secrets about being a mom is that it’s fun.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s also tons of work.  There is the dreaded and the absolutely to be avoided every time if you can help it but you can’t, sleep deprivation (one of the worst things in life, just ask my daughter, on second thought, don’t!).  And this starts Day One, when you are still recovering from having given birth after hours and hours of work usually.  Not fair.  But, okay, they are so little and so cute that you can deal.  Most of the time.  There’s the occasional freak out (I won’t elaborate).  But let’s not scare the new moms.

There’s the feeding and caring of said baby/babies.  And the figuring out daycare and then getting them fed and dressed to go to daycare, and then the dealing with the other parents of all those perfect children.  Who don’t actually compare to your perfect child, let’s be real.  But that’s a different story and a totally different blog entry.  Those are the games you don’t want to play.

The work continues – I don’t need to tell you about it.  Most of you have had a mom so you know what they do or did for you.  Thank you, Mom.  Let’s all thank our moms in unison:  “Thank you, Mom.”  They deserve it.  And we moms deserve it too.

It’s work, the hardest work you will ever do in your life.  Labor of love, fortunately.

But it’s also play.  If you let yourself play.  Let’s take time to play!

I worked long hours when I was raising my daughter (don’t ask her now, she doesn’t really remember my toiling).  But in the course of my working, along with my sales and marketing trails, I’d be picking up a book or a figure (small animals usually) to take home.

Once home, I’d fly out of my work clothes (most nights, some nights I’d just stay in work clothes) and we’d lay on the floor on play.  There is nothing more stress relieving than setting up a zoo in your living room and having little plastic wild monkeys wreak havoc.   While you are eating pizza on the “pizza blanket” at the same time.  No rules, just right!

Well, some rules.  Like my daughter had to brush her teeth and get in her pajamas and get in bed.  But after that was accomplished  with some counting to 3 threats (“1…2…2-1/4…2-1/2…2-2/3….2-3/4 , 3!), the fun didn’t stop.  She had a hammock high on the wall in her room to hold her menagerie of stuffed animals.  Well, one of the naughty animals would always fall down and I’d throw it back up only to have it (strategically, I might add, quite a feat on my part) knock another three of four animals back down on the floor.  Hilarity would ensue.  For quite a while.  I can still see the expression on my daughter’s face at that age right now.  Fun fun fun.  Mommy was so funny!  And it didn’t take that much effort to be so appreciated.  What a gift.

I miss those days of lying on the floor and having conversations about animals and preschool and life while eating cheesy pizza.  My daughter is older and has a career and her own apartment (insert proud mom moment here),  but now when she comes over, we lay on the floor, or the couch, or wherever and have different conversations that are just as much fun and interesting.  There is no one who knows me better or who makes me laugh harder  more than my daughter.  She cracks me up.  And I can crack her up too.  The bonds that tie.  And we still love cheesy pizza too.

I see playful moms all around me.  And I see moms who want to play but are too busy or stressed or distracted to play.  I remember feeling that way too when my daughter was little, and I still have to remind myself to take pleasure in the simple things.  Thank goodness we didn’t have computers (well, it wasn’t the Dark Ages so we did have one but I wasn’t into online shopping yet and Facebook hadn’t been created) or cell phones at the ready then.  I refused to even answer our landline when we were playing.  Let’s be honest here, my daughter frowned upon it.  Our time.  She figured I talked enough at work.

So I got – and get to – play.  I’ve been accused of being immature on occasion (let’s not talk about that now, okay?) or sometimes admired for it (at least I took it that way).  I do know that life is short and I want to spend as much of it as I can being happy.  I lost my mom when I was my daughter’s age now so I’m making up a lot of this mothering as I go along.  Luckily I had years of being around a mom who took pleasure in simple things.  A huge part of being happy is having the people around you, the ones you love especially, happy too.  And playing and laughing makes everybody happy.  It’s contagious.

So here’s to all the moms, my mom, your mom, all the amazing moms who helped shape us all into the people we are and who, more than anything, want/wanted us to be happy.  Where would we be without moms, with their unselfishness (most of the time, sometimes you need a little “me” time) and their unconditional love (always!).  Happy Mother’s Day, with love and a smile.

Who’s ready to play?










Christmas Past is Past

I love Christmas.  I love everything about it.  Admittedly, I’m known to kind of overdose on it, with my decorating, wrapping, baking, and gifting.  But it’s in my genes, the way I was raised, and I guess I’ve taken it to a new level.  When in doubt, hang another strand of colored lights!

When I was growing up, Christmas was the best time of the year too.  The tree was big, the lights were bright, the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, the presents were hidden in the closet (I never peeked, I wanted to be surprised), and the cookies were baked and frosted.  On Christmas morning, our presents from Santa were never wrapped, they were usually too big and bulky for that.  A bike, a dollhouse, a train set.  In the afternoon, after we had opened our presents from Santa and our parents and each other, our grandparents would come over.  They brought more presents than Santa and our parents combined!  Nana and Louis travelled the globe shopping – for their luggage stores and for themselves and for us.    I remember elaborate dolls with velvet outfits, guitars, leather vests with fringe, puppets, beautifully sewn clothes (for Nana was an expert seamstress), and countless other gifts.

I come by my love of Christmas honestly.  As a child I created lots of Christmas traditions that kept me busy.  Probably the biggest was hanging stockings (my socks) for each of my dolls.  Since my dad worked at a store that sold dolls and I was obsessed with them, I had probably over twenty, so finding enough socks and presents for each doll was quite the task.  My sister and I shared a room, and I remember her helping me hang up the cord that stretched across our room and  clothes pinning each stocking to it.   Then I went around the house and collected enough “gifts” to fill each stocking.

As much as I love getting Christmas presents, I like giving them even more.  It’s such a great feeling when you get an idea for a perfect gift for someone – and even better when you can find it and afford it!  I have so many traditions in my family that I started when I was little.  One is to always buy my brother a box of chocolate covered cherries.  It started when I was very small and you could buy a cheap box for 50 cents.  It’s advanced now to a box of See’s every year, with all milk for him and two dark for me.  I don’t think he really likes chocolate covered cherries any more but that does not deter me.  And for my sister, always a mouse ornament.  It’s a long story but it comes from her laughing so hard at a song about “mousies”.  Anything that could make her laugh like that had to be part of a yearly tradition.  My daughter gets life saver boxes and a Mr. Winkle calendar, my friend Denise a snowglobe, my friend Karen a gingerbread house, my three nephews get something hopefully funny.  One year it was Snuggies, last year it was light up pillows, this year it was three different poses of Nicolas Cage on pillowcases.

What I usually wanted for Christmas ended up being more dolls, which meant more stockings to hang every year. When I got too old for dolls (sob), there were other requests.  I do remember thirteen being the end of it being appropriate for asking for dolls.  Someone told me that was the cutoff.   My mom came into my room on my thirteenth birthday with a tiny box.  In it was a Little Kiddle doll, a very small, popular doll.  It was my last doll.

Most wanted – Chatty Cathy – she talked when you pulled a string.  My mom said when a commercial came on for Chatty Cathy, I got very excited and they had to scrimp and save to buy it for me.  (The only downside was when my neighbor Marta came over with Chatty’s brother AND sister.  The envy was palpable.  As it was another year when she got a life sized doll.  Green with envy at a very young age!).

Most loved – Linda – another doll, very small.  My sister got a larger version and I was very jealous (was this a pattern?).  I spanked Linda and threw her across the room.  Later my mom said I went over and picked her up and rocked her.  Linda turned out to be the most loved of all my dolls.

Baby First Step – another doll.  She walked, need I say more?  (Yes, I must).  Unfortunately Baby First Step turned out to be quite clumsy and fell more than she walked.  But when she did manage to take a few steps, it was a wonderful accomplishment.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory chocolate maker –  The ultimate for a candy lover like me.  The chocolate factory consisted of a small “burner” over a lightbulb, white chocolate bars, brown food coloring, and molds for the chocolate.  It was quite the operation, getting the white chocolate to melt over the lightbulb, mix in the food coloring to make it milk chocolate colored, and pouring it into the molds to dry.  It was agony waiting for the chocolate to harden before you could eat it.  But being a young chocolatier was wonderful, you could eat as much as you wanted.  After all, it was a present from Santa!

Puppets from Mexico – assorted.  My grandparents brought them home for us and, until the strings tangled up so hopelessly, they were great for putting on puppet shows.  My dad brought home an empty refrigerator box from Breuner’s, where he worked, and we turned that into a puppet show stage.  Boy was my mom  surprised when she came into my room only to find a few adult neighbors over watching me perform what was most certainly an original and very long puppet show.  I provided snacks pilfered from the kitchen.  Thank you neighbors!

Guitar – from my grandparents.  It was so cool and I had visions of writing songs and singing them for my long suffering friends, who had already been introduced to my stories and plays.  I even took guitar lessons at the El Cerrito Community Center (yes, it – and I – has/have, been around a long time!  Now I do Zumba there!)  and I learned a song or two.  Then the strings broke and it ended up at a garage sale, along with my guitar skills.

Christmas this year is past.  It’s already 2014.    But, as I sit in the living room with unopened presents for friends I haven’t seen yet under the brightly lit Christmas tree, surrounded by cookie jars filled with gingerbread and sugar cookies, tinsel on the floor around the tree, Christmas carols playing, wrapping paper and ribbon still strewn about, this year I’m keeping it going.

Won’t you join me?

P.S. I’m posting this late so you will be happy (or sad) to hear that the tree has been taken down and most of the tinsel has been vacuumed up.  The cookies are mostly eaten but the sweetness of the season remains.  Next up:  Valentine’s Day!




Seeing the smiles on your faces as you greet me

Watching the hair swirl on your cheekbone

Feeling the strength in my body move me

Hearing the pages turn as you read

Remembering you jumping up up up

Loving the song you are singing

Touching the red fox grass where you sleep

Learning how to age with grace and wisdom from you

Smiling when I see you all together

Talking with you about everything

Missing you when you’re not here

Laughing when I think about it all.


People vs. dogs

I used to think that people were the highest evolutionary beings, that if reincarnation existed then becoming a human being was the top of the chain.  After having Madison for over 13 years, I have now come to believe that dogs are superior.  It’s not just an emotional response to losing one of the great loves of my life, it’s also a logical review of the character of the species.  You want intelligence?  Think of a dog who can read your mind as well as remember the place where she once saw a squirrel about 10 years ago.  You are thinking loyalty?  Well, that’s a given with a dog.  A dog will always think you are the best thing since (Acme) sliced bread, even when you’re not at your best.   You want kindness?  A dog will instinctively know when you need a lick or when you just want to be close enough to be able to put your arm around her for comfort.  Strength, perhaps?  Always ready for a walk or a run.   And, as I found out the last year only too well, dogs endure what we do to them without knowing it’s supposed to make them feel better, i.e, shots, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, injections.  Without complaining.  Protective?  Madison was my guard dog whether I was in the front yard gardening or walking past strangers.  She wasn’t the biggest dog but she could be intimidating.  No one messed with either of us.  I feel a lot more vulnerable now.  Dogs are optimistic, always hoping for the best (treats, being petted, walks, runs, whipped cream beaters).  And they express emotions so much more freely than humans.  They don’t hide a smile or stifle a bark or hold back a howl.  They are just exactly who they are.  Loving?  I never felt more loved.  That’s still here, it is the kind that doesn’t go away.  When, and if, I come back, I want to be like Madison.DSC02293