Monday, October 23, 2017

Twenty-Five Year Olds Don't Get Shingles

When the first rash appeared we thought it was poison ivy. We blamed my dog, who had run through poison ivy in our backyard. Then more rashes appeared. The pain increased. The rashes got worse. We applied calamine lotion. I had washed my skin with dish soap and warm water the first and second day of the rash. It just kept getting worse. New rashes popped up. The rashes blistered. It was more of a burning or a stinging, occasionally a stabbing pain, not the itching that poison ivy was supposed to cause. I washed my sheets and blankets and pillowcase and bath towel and dog. I avoided any clothes that I hadn't washed that I thought might have the oil on them.

Shingles came up at one point. But we discounted it because twenty-five year olds don't get shingles.

On about the 7th or 8th day (a Monday, if you're wondering), my mom called the doctor and told them about the rash and they said they would work me in.

I texted my sister telling her that I was going to the doctor for my rash - if it was shingles, I would have to miss my nephew's baptism.

The nurse did all the normal things (weight, blood pressure, pulse, dissolved oxygen in the blood, temperature - even though I had been in for a regular check up just over a week earlier - before the rashes) before asking why I was there. She asked questions: how long had I had it; where was it; had I been exposed to poison ivy; had I been around anyone with a similar rash; had I had a fever or headache; had I changed detergents or soaps lately; did it itch, burn or sting; had I had chicken pox as a child?

Yes, twice, minor outbreaks when I was two. She took notes on where the rash was - just on the right side? Yes.

She said the doctor would be in in a minute. I knew what the questions were pointing to.

Twent-five year olds don't get shingles.

Soon the P.A. came in. He had seen me the last time I was here and he said something about how it hadn't been long. Then "Ouch." Took a step into the room. "That's shingles."

I hadn't been surprised. I had already composed the facebook status in my head "somehow 25 year old me went out and got shingles." In fact, despite my mental protestations, I had been expecting this.

He asked me why I had taken so long to come in. I told him we were convinced it was poison ivy. He said, "Doubt is the best medicine."

He prescribed an anti-viral (2 pills 5x a day) and a steroid (4 pills for 3 days, 3 pills for 3 days, so on...). He told me the steroid was for my nerves to decrease the inflammation. He told me that if my rashes didn't start to dry up and were reappearing to refill the anti-viral.

He told me if the rash was gone, but I still had pain in the area in four weeks to come back and we would put me on something for nerve pain. Some people who get shingles get a complication called post-heretic neuropathy which means they still have nerve pain after the rash has subsided.

He told me we were more worried about my nerves than the rashes. He told me to avoid pregnant women and young children. The blisters contain the active phase of the virus. He told me to keep it covered in the sun, because the photons can cause scarring. He took careful notes of the rashes's locations. He found me a coupon for the anti-viral. My mom paid (I currently don't have insurance or a job). We went to the pharmacy to fill the prescription.

When I got home, I cried. I was disappointed to miss my nephew's baptism. And even though I was mentally prepared, I really deeply hoped that I had a bad case of poison ivy that could easily be knocked out. And maybe I was a little nervous about developing complications because I had waited seven days to go in when they want you to go in within three.

Twenty-five year olds can and do get shingles.

To be continued . . .

Stay healthy,

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


This is not a poem. I know, it's April. I know I haven't posted a poem in five days. But maybe I'll get back on track this weekend. Allow me this divergence.

Who ever would have thought that I would be defending the current president? Well buckle up, because I'm about to.

Actually, I'm not defending him. Today I am going to attempt to educate people about diverse learning styles.

I was reading an opinion piece from the washington post when I came across this. I like and respect the Washington Post, but this is not okay. This Comic Riff by Michael Cavna was published this morning at seven. It seems to poke fun at Trump because his team allegedly requested that intelligence briefings have more graphics and visuals because he claims to be an auditory and visual learner.

But my concern is that reading between the lines, it seems like Trump isn't the only one being made fun of here. To me, it seems like the author is implying that auditory and visual learners are dumb. And that is alarming.

When you scroll down and look at the comments (there are four at the time of this posting), two commenters have posted comments that are negative. They read as follows:

"There is nothing here that a third grade education couldn't fix."
"There is no such thing as a 'visual AND auditory learner.' What is being described is someone who can't read."

Both of these comments are making the conclusion that someone claiming to be an auditory and visual learner is actually under-educated or illiterate, but that is not the case.

In actuality there are diverse preferences of learning. The most recognized in the field of education are: Visual, Aural (auditory), Read-Write, and Kinesthetic. If you are curious where you fall, you can take a VARK assessment here. You can be any combination of learning styles, from only one mode to all four and any combination in between. Visual and Auditory learners DO exist.

As a peer educator in a university writing center, I spend a lot of time pondering how to help visual and kinesthetic learners improve their writing. School systems tend to target read-write and aural learners. I can tell you from first hand experience that having a less common learning style does not make you less intelligent.

If you are interested, my most recent results are: Visual 9, Aural 7, Read/Write 13, Kinesthetic 10. What surprised me the most was that visual was higher than aural. In the past, visual had been my lowest learning style.

In general, visual learners are found to be more rare (see VARK stats); however, due to the rise of infographics, I would hazard a guess that visual learners are more common than indicated by the VARK assessment. Visuals are often more intuitive to process and more approachable. You might not even finish this blog post because it would only appeal to my fellow reader-writer learners.

We are diverse people, with diverse learning styles. No style of learning should be treated as less intelligent because they are not.

Our world is a highly visual place, from print ad campaigns to videos and photographs on the news. The more senses you use to experience something, the more it sticks with you. Before written language developed, we had cave paintings. Being visual is ingrained in who we are. In fact, I might argue that we are becoming more visual, just look at the rise of social media like instagram and snapchat which focus on the visual aspects of sharing and communication.

Even scientists put an emphasis in reporting their information visually. We create graphs, diagrams, pictures, and drawings to be used in reports and to convey our research to the public. You can tell me numbers and trends all day, but show me a graph illustrating your point, and I'll understand the concept much faster. Things won't stick if you don't understand. Personally, I will be more willing to take in more information in the form of an infographic. I will scroll through my feed on instagram endlessly. We are all about the visual. Take food porn, normally with food you are focused on the taste, but with food porn, you are focused on the appearance of the food. We are a highly visual society.

In actuality, the best way to learn and understand something is by encountering it in multiple ways: reading it, writing it, hearing it, seeing a picture of it.

There is nothing wrong with asking for graphics and pictures. If anything a person should be praised for asking for information delivery in the method that works best for them.


Friday, April 7, 2017

NaPoWriMo - Day 7

Another late poem. Sigh. Oh well. I looked at the prompt ("a fortuitous poem") and was completely uninspired. Here instead is an unlucky poem.

Some days it seems that a small black cloud is floating overhead
It pours and pours, and any interaction fills you with dread.
You are late to work
You find a moth eaten hole in your favorite shirt.
The contents of your purse spill before everyone on the train
The fact that this day is abysmal is quite plain.
Seeing a shiny copper penny on the sidewalk, you stoop to pick it up
But then you say it is tails and you exclaim "just my luck!"

Wishing you only heads-up pennies,

Thursday, April 6, 2017

NaPoWriMo - Day 6

Today's prompt is to write a poem looking at one thing from different perspectives.

A blank page
Is a daunting task
A page to be filled
With carefully constructed lines.

A blank page
Is the promise
Of a new beginning.
It is a new adventure
I touch my pen to the page
And know not where I will end.

A blank page
Is a waste
Torn from a spiral
And lost in haste.

A blank page
Is a canvas
For a work of art
A new masterpiece
You need only to start.

It's all about perspective,

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

NaPoWriMo - Day 5

Today's prompt was to write a poem inspired by Mary Oliver's work. The poem should focus on the natural world, incorporate specific details, and include why the landscape, plant, animal is meaningful.

Mulberry Trees

When I was a girl
Very young and small
On the church's plaground
Grew a mulberry tree
Gnarled, wide and tall.
We would stand on the picnic tables
Beneath the mighty tree
And pluck the fruits from its branches
And eat our fill of that sweet.
But one day they removed the tree
And built a large building where it once stood.

Just last year,
I discovered another mulberry tree
Though this one was far smaller
Than the tree of my memory
It had many branches coming from one trunk
And it had many fruits for me to eat.
Sadly, they were more sour than sweet.

Outside my current apartment,
I was pleased to find a mulberrry tree
That, in my opinion, is solely mine.
It grows beside the bayou
Where brackish waters flow
Where ducks swim
And fish jump with a splash
Across the way,
I see grass like a wetland
And from time to time
I see a snowy heron stalking along.
Just once I saw some turtles.
And often I see ducklings.
The bayou and that mulberry tree
are my daily respite.
For over the water,
I watch the golden sunrise.
And I wait for that fruit to ripen
And then it shall be mine.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

NaPoWriMo - Day 4

Oh dear. Today's prompt is to write a poem inspired by Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations. The poem should have an idea or word or line that isn't expressed directly. Actually an idea just came to me . . .

It is November
And it's not too cold
But it kind of is, for a Texan.
I'm bundled up: coat, scarf, hat.
Eating a delicious pastry.
Supposedly French.
It has bacon and egg and potato and cheese.
The pastry crust was oh so delicious.
I threw a small piece to a nearby Sea Gull
The largest gull I've ever seen.
And a totem pole! There is a real totem pole!
I'm taking everything in
And loving every minute of it.
I walk around the area of town near my hotel.
Where I eat a slice of delicious pear.
I should have bought one
But instead I bought a pair of apples for my mom.
I wandered and wandered
And saw them throwing fish.
I didn't know it would be so loud.
And street performers like I never would have expected.
And shops on shops on shops.
Shops for anything you can imagine.
That evening I find myself
Closing down a bar
Standing outside with the bartender
He is smoking
He positions himself downwind.
My cheeks are warm
Am I blushing
Or was it that awful wine?
He notices I'm shivering
Sends me up to my room to get a coat
Teases me when I return
"Did you think I would go?"
We walk around and talk
About what, I couldn't say now.
But it was nice.
Familiar, even though we'd just met.
He explained the soap suds on the roads
And we walked past some other people
Walking the streets like us,
But not.
He points out some buildings.
We must make the block ten times.
I don't know, I didn't count.
The city felt like it was mine that night.
Like we were the only two there
And like we owned it all.
It was ours for that solitary moment in time.
He walks me up to my hotel room
"If I'm never going to see you again,
I think I should kiss you."
I let him,
On my cheek.
Then he is gone like a ghost or a memory.
Maybe it didn't even happen - not really.
Because that is not like me.
The next day I get breakfast
(Another delicious pastry)
A chai tea latte in a oversized cup
People watch
Ride the light rail to the airport.
Fly alone (for the first time)

Any guesses as to the place I'm describing? I think there is one line that really gives it away.

Good riddling!

NaPoWriMo - Day 3

I had a long day today so this post is actually coming to you at about 1AM my time on Day 4. I was trying to go to sleep, but I felt like I was forgetting something. Then suddenly it came to me: MY POEM. So I am putting off sleep in favor of not falling off the poetry bandwagon (at least not this early anyway).

Day 3's prompt is to write an elegy that focuses on an unusual fact about the subject of the elegy. At first I thought I might do school (I'm nearing graduation with my masters and I don't plan to return to school after that), but there wasn't anything odd about school. Then I thought I might write a poem around my English teacher, Mr. Fleming (a local legend) who was a great storyteller and always said "dang fried chicken," but despite that I miss him and his english class, he isn't deceased (thank goodness!). Sadly there are many pets that I could write an elegy, but that is not quite right. Interesting side note: apparently O Captain! My Captain is an elegy for Pres. Lincoln, I didn't realize it was an elegy at all, but then I only knew it from that scene in Dead Poet's Society (Robin Williams would be a good subject for an elegy), but I digress.

In December, just before Christmas break, my great aunt Vivian died. I learned that she was dying only days before it happened and I was unable to see her before it did. I held it together thinking that I could say goodbye at her funeral, but sadly, I wasn't able to go to her funeral either. I haven't been to visit her grave. I haven't gotten any closure at all. So tonight, I'm going to write an elegy for Vivian.

Elegy for Great Aunt Vivian

Not by blood were we related
But still my heart rips in two at the loss of you.
Dear sweet lady, almost a century old
How I wish just once more
In my hand, some skip-bo cards to hold.
I remember it like it was yesterday,
Sitting at the round table
The light hanging low overhead.
You would scold us when we didn't play wisely
Because even Skip-bo can have strategy.
I remember the bronzed baby shoes
On a shelf in your trailer
The tree out front
The time I tried chocolate covered orange peel
I didn't like it.
I remember most vividly
Sitting at that table, playing skip-bo
Even though you had to re-teach us
Almost every time we visited.
I wondered sometimes if it bored you
Would you rather be playing bridge?
You kept your independence.
You were vivacious,
Graceful, strong.
Kind, loving,
As long as you lived.
The matriarch of your family.
Even when your kidneys were failing
You were strong, beautiful, kind.
We aspire to be like you.
Sharp as a tack, witty, kind.
You had a skype and a facebook.
You didn't let technology leave you behind.
I remember when we visited you
You always invited my sisters and I
To return. To stay with you for a few days.
I wonder what we would have learned.
Great Aunt Vivian
I miss you so.
I yearn to go back to Kerrville,
To Tumbleweed Drive
To knock on your door
And find you inside
To play one last game of Skip-bo.
I wish you were still alive.