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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cinco de' Tom - My Annual Celebration

Walt Whitman, without any dash of humility at all, named one of his better poems, "A Song of Myself". While I do not pretend to the poetic talents of Mr. Whitman, I do understand the sentiment behind his paean to himself. Years ago my kids began to notice that I tended to break up the celebration of my birthday over several days leading up to and following my birthday.  Birthday dinner at home one day.  Birthday dinner out on another.  Celebratory movie and popcorn.  Celebratory trip to the mall to buy my birthday present.  Anything to stretch things out.

I think it was my son, Micah, who dubbed it Cinco de' Tom and teased me unmercifully about stretching out my birthday fun.  I don't care.  The last couple of years since I've been in Washington and the economy has been in the dumper, the celebration has become a little skimpier.  I don't mind so much.

You see it was never about the size of the party or the number of presents.  Good old Mom always come through with a nice present and birthday card for her baby boy and favorite kid, but for the most part, I settle for e-mail greetings and Facebook entries from the kids and Sheila bakes me one of her amazing cakes.  I made a vege-Mexican Enchilada Pie in keeping with the fiesta theme this year. When we can afford it, we both treat ourselves to a nice birthday bash in my honor.  She has just as much fun as me and, frankly, it would be no fun without her.

I think we should all make a festival out of our birthdays.  This year we celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary and my 59th birthday two weeks apart.  I'm planning to save up for a mighty bash next year as it will be our 40th anniversary and I'll officially reach geezerdom when I hit 60 on my next birthday.

I plan to party for the full five days.................while wearing a sombrero!

I deserve it.  Mostly Sheila deserves it for putting up with me for this long. You deserve it to, so go ahead and celebrate this year.  Make a big deal out of it. It's your milestone. Give yourself a treat and who cares what anyone thinks.

I discovered something about being reticent about birthdays.  If you don't make a big deal about it, your loved ones don't know how much you enjoy the parties and then they stop giving you one on the grounds that you must not like it.  If you do make a big deal out of your birthday, they rouse themselves to extra effort and throw you a nice birthday bash.

And when they do everybody has fun and how nice is that?  Years ago, I learned to my surprise that those who love you actually want to know what makes you happy.  If they know, they can do something for you that also makes you happy.

So every year, it's Cinco de' Tom - me spreading happiness (and making out like a bandit on the birthday presents).

(c)  2013 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Calling Doctor Daisy, Calling Doctor Daisy!

(c) 2013 by Tom King

We've been training our dog, Daisy as a medical alert service dog.  My wife has suffered severe panic attacks for more than 30 years as a result of an accident in labor and delivery with our youngest child. Daisy is able to recognize their onset and comes immediately to Sheila's side when they start.  She helps Sheila know when a panic attack is coming on and it helps Sheila know to take her anti-anxiety meds quick.  That way, Sheila is not totally alone when I'm away from the house and so that we get an early warning that a panic attack is coming if we're out in public.

Sheila often experiences vivid nightmares and night terrors.  Many times these occur after I get up in the morning and leave her sleeping a little longer.  This morning I was taking a shower and thought I heard a noise.  I got out and threw on a robe.  By now I could hear a strange voice that sounded dry and small, but terrified.

"Dr. Daisy," the voice shouted. "Don't do the surgery yet. The anesthetic isn't working!"

I figured Sheila was having another nightmare, so I bolted for the bedroom.  When I arrived I found Daisy up on the bed with her paws on Sheila's chest, licking her face.  Sheila was spluttering and shouting, "No, no, Dr. Daisy. It's not working. Help me!"

I shook Sheila awake and asked her if she wanted a drink of water to help her wake up.

"Oh, please, yes....."

As she came to, I moved Daisy back.  Apparently the dog had heard Sheila trying to wake from a dream that Sheila was having about being stretched out upon a surgical table and being operated on.  The best we can piece together it went like this.

Sheila's nose got blocked somehow and she couldn't breathe. Sheila is NOT a mouth breather.  She was in deep REM sleep and couldn't wake and began gasping for breath which dried out her mouth and tongue making it difficult for her to speak clearly.  She began to groan because in the dream the surgical team was fixing to start cutting and Sheila thought she was going to be awake for the operation.

She began to shout for help which was when I heard her.

Meanwhile, our faithful, highly trained service dog, Super Daisy, sprang to the rescue, placed her paws on Sheila's chest and began to do CPR (chest compressions alternating with muzzle to face resuscitation).  Sheila's words meanwhile were slurred and thick because of the dry mouth.  Not having opposable thumbs or access to a water bottle, Daisy moistened Sheilas mouth and throat with the only wet thing she had available.

"Hey," Daisy says. "The manual says clear the airway, so I cleared the airway."

Later as I gave Sheila some water to help her speak clearly, she sputtered and choked and then sat up looking confused.  "I think I've been French kissed by a dog," she said.

Daisy looked up at me and grinned.  "My work here is done," she seemed to say and resumed her spot at the foot of the bed.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Psycho-Social Development Made Easy: Stages 3 & 4

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Photo used by permission - Amy Maples, 2013
Put your pants on!” says Mom.

“Okay!,” says Aidan and proceeds to follow mom’s instructions to the letter, with the results seen here.

They're very literal at that age, children are.  At ages 3 to 5, their big psycho-social issue is "Initiative vs. Guilt".  Renowned psychologist Erik Erickson says that children need to begin asserting control and power over their environment at this age. Success in this stage leads to a strong sense of purpose. There are generally natural controls in place that prevent megalomania, however.  Children who try to exert too much power experience disapproval from parents or other authority figures, resulting in a sense of guilt. Guilt counterbalances self-assurance and can be a healthy factor in determining one's personality.  

So the good news is that Aidan is likely asserting just enough control, but not too much. If he does not do learn to make choices and exert some measure of control over his environment, he will grow up riddled with guilt. 

So congratulations, Mom.  You are probably raising a relatively guilt-free kid.  As such, he is far more likely to move out of your basement before he is 30.

If, however, the kid has begun to cross over into the stage that happens at about six through 11, he becomes even more concrete in his obedience and outlook.  He will want to know "What happens if....." kinds of things.  Mostly he will want to know the rules and the consequences of breaking them in order to figure out ways around those rules without suffering the consequences.  Kids that age are literalists.  Erickson identified this stage's primary psycho-social issue as "Industry vs. Inferiority".  Children, says Erickson, need to cope with new social and academic demands. Success leads to a sense of competence, while failure results in feelings of inferiority.  

Putting his pants over his head then becomes, for Aidan, a way to successfully obey his mother while maintaining his sense of control over his environment by taking initiative. This obedient rebellion helps the boy not to feel inferior to those around him. If you as a parent or authority figure laugh at him over the joke rather than scolding, you reward the behavior and he is more likely to repeat it.

Congratulations, Mom.  You are probably raising a comedian with a healthy ego. Not an easy task in this modern world.

- Tom

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Getting Old is Actually Kind of Fun?

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Wheat gluten "steaks" simmering in broth.
As I've gotten older, I've decided to do some things differently.  For one thing, we've almost entirely stopped buying meat of any kind and gone almost entirely vegetarian. It means more cooking time, but I find I enjoy cooking.  Who knew meal prep could be this much fun?

People become vegetarians for a lot of reasons.  Some hope to lose weight of to improve their health or live longer.  Others do it because the whole idea of eating living creatures is repugnant to them.  Some do it in order to feel morally superior to others.  Some believe it will help save the planet.

I do it for several reasons, not the least of which is my religion.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve evidently lived on fruits and vegetables.  Later God pitched them out of the garden and said here's some grain (carbohydrates).  Try this.  Then, at the flood He designated clean and unclean beasts and told Noah he could barbecue the extra clean ones during the voyage.  The human lifespan dropped precipitously after that. So I figure it's healthier to eat the plants.

But probably an even bigger reason for it is that I like vegetarian food.  I grew up eating both vegetarian food and meat dishes. My Mom and my Grandmother made wonderful dishes like peanut butter loaf, cottage cheese loaf and vegetarian hot dogs and hamburgers. We mixed it up with the real thing too and for economic reasons, I did eat rather a lot of baloney sandwiches as a kid.

To this day, I'm not terribly fussy to cook for, though as a practicing Adventist, I leave pork and shrimp and stuff like that alone.  If we're visiting or away from home, we eat what we're offered and don't demand others cater to our weird dietary restrictions. We feel that would be rude, but we are up front about being semi-vegetarians.

I'm doing more of the cooking now that I'm semi-retired and only working 12 to 14 hour days and since, I'm cooking, I can exercise my preference for vegetarian food over meat. It's safer, healthier and I like it better. Adventists as a group tend to live longer than other Americans by about 6 to 10 years according to some studies.  I figure it's the lifestyle - a lifestyle that includes an emphasis on vegetarianism and eating a good diet.

Don't get me wrong, I do like pie, especially the fruity ones that aren't too sweet and homemade ice cream is a weakness of mine. And I have to take my Sweet Baboo down for a steak once in a while or she gets cranky, but all in all it wasn't a hard thing for us to do.  We've always eaten lots of vegetables and vegetarian foods, and there are all kinds of vegetarian substitutes for meat.  You can order stuff made from tofu, soybeans, wheat gluten and other plant proteins and many of them like vege-dogs, artificial scallops, bacon and buffalo wings aren't bad. You used to have to buy them from SDA suppliers like your state's Adventist Book Center, but now you can order vege-burger and vege-chicken at

Also, if you don't mind a bit of work, a largely lacto-ovo vegetarian diet can be less expensive than buying steaks, fryers and chops. This week I made some gluten steaks out of wheat and white flour, some chicken seasoning and ten minutes or so of kneading by hand (my KitchenAid Mixer does the lion's share of the initial kneading of the dough).  I'll be posting a recipe soon at my Hubpages site with photographs and directions for making your own wheat gluten.  I'll put up the link here when it's done.

This summer I plan to go to some of those little pick-it-yourself fruit and vegetable farms they have up here in Washington and get some bushels of fruit and veggies to can for the winter.  We have a pressure cooker and I'm going to buy a bunch of those great old-fashioned Mason Jars.  Not only will we have good food prepared by ourselves without a lot of chemical ingredients, but we are also going to have some lovely decorative jars of stuff in our pantry this year if all goes well.  And we should have some very pleasant meals this winter. 

I've discovered that getting old gives you an appreciation for hand-made things, whether food or decorations for your house or even well-made kitchen tools. I'm collecting stuff for my kitchen the way I've been collecting tools for my workshop.

They say that in your 50s and 60s your right brain - the creative half of your mind - begins to grow again for
the first time since you were a teenager.  It's kind of fun. Turns out the tools and telescope parts and all those unpainted toy soldiers I collected all those years may get turned into something after all.

Except for the arthritis, I'm enjoying getting to the age where I'm well-seasoned.  And even the arthritis yields itself to some creative solutions I've been trying out lately. I find I rather like ice packs and hot and cold fomentations to my joints.  And the exploration of herbal remedies has been like a treasure hunt.  That's how I found out that Aloe Vera juice and capsules help my knees work better.

How much fun is that?

- Tom