Saturday, April 28, 2007

perfection's pitfalls

Oh, my - I think we hit a blog record on the last posts. Readers came out of the woodworks to comment - how blogospheric.

Thanks, by the way, to magid who not only offered a little butt-saving on a publication that I volunteer for, but also provided this: A nice shortcut to getting a human being to talk to at a number of companies, which is pretty damned crucial when trying to interpret ingredient lists.
Note: Hain Celestial, the quiet king of processed organic foods, does not have a number listed. Which, considering their track record vis a vis customer service is, well, to be expected. I hate it that Big Organic (to quote Michael Pollan) has such an uncaring ear on the other end of the phone. Or email. But maybe it's the Big in 'Big Organic' that does it.

Okay, moving on from Michael Pollan - more about him and his book some other time.
I used to watch reruns of Everyone Loves Raymond, a funny, funny show about a guy with rather insane parents who live right across the street. And have a key. The bit that's echoing in my head right now is from an exchange with a retirement community manager and Debra, Raymond's wife. The topic? Debra's mother-in-law, whose sense of perfectionism has had some, well, impact on her fellow community members.

Debra: But what about the show?
Manager: She is the show. Everyone else quit!

Sometimes, to echo my previous post, best is the enemy of good. Or even functional. Damn, but the universe does like to rub it in a little.

I've been working on a local bleeding disorder publication as a volunteer. I took over copyediting duties (temporarily, thanks to magid), and helped organize issues. I pushed for more original content, and organized a printing schedule. I was thorough, focussed, energetic, dedicated...and possibly a wee bit scary.

Finally, one mom gave it to me straight. I had sent her an edited draft of her article, and asked her to consider doing x, y and z (and possibly also c through q), and she threw up her hands. I'm exhausted and overworked, she said, and I just can't keep up with this. I'm sorry, but this is as good as it gets.

Not wanting to 'be the show,' I backed right off, thanked her for her efforts, and sat on myself. This is allowed to be as good as it gets. It is, it is, it is. Damnit.

Something cosmic has my number, that much is clear: like the rest of my hard-headed family, I tend to be tough to budge once I get an idea in my head. Polite, demure repetitions don't work - blunt honesty and a touch of rubbing my nose in it, however, is far more effective. And unpleasant, but that's the price we type AAAs pay for our tunnel vision. So, the lessons in the joys of imprecision (imperfection?) continued ruthlessly...

The Man wrote his first article for said publication. It was an analysis of trends in the growth of wages vs the growth of medical costs, specifically health insurance. Good topic, very much of interest, and it was going fine until he wrote...

If the current trend continues, the American family will have to choose between paying for health insurance or paying for other necessities for life.

Oh, jeez. I saw the numbers - he's right. Assuming the numbers are right, of course. But could we write that, without a. sending people into a panic and b. having done lots of research to be absolutely, positively sure and c. offering some positive option as to what folks can do (why create all that anxious energy, if you aren't going to focus it somehow?). Nope. Can't. See earlier quote from stressed out volunteer mum. So the article went off to the layout guy sans the sentence, but the numbers all still in there.

Both the imprecision and the realities the Man was turning up and in equal parts saddening and irksome. Where the hell are my rose colored glasses, anyhow? What about a little soft shoe? A little smoke and mirrors? Even the Spanish Inquisition - nobody ever expects them, you know.

Seriously, though, precision and perfection seem to just be setting us up for a fall right now, at Chez Imperfect. Quitting the spandex-clad gig didn't quite seem to do it, but maybe a conceptual shift will. Rain expected tomorrow? Family hike planned? Packing the slickers here, folks, but going even in the wet. Finding the Eldest hauling the Toddles around by the hood of his sweatshirt? Teaching focus on others by making the big one feed the little one dinner. Poor kid had to stay in his seat until his little brother was done (snigger). It's imperfect, it's wickedly amusing (to me), but what the hell, it is certainly functional.
Of course, now that I've given my wee speech, I should admit that there is one place I do not find myself willing to accept imperfection: my home care company (

The grumpy couriers continue. Friday night one turned up, rang the wrong buzzer, called and left a message on the machine (for which I am grateful) to say that we weren't home, and clearly this wasn't his fault. (I take it that we have a reputation which makes him so preemptively defensive?) I raced downstairs and caught him, and he told me all about how he's an electrician with 25 yrs experience who has been out of work for a while now, thanks to the boom in foreclosures. Um, good to know, dude. Thanks.

I stood there, awkwardly. I considered trying to show him that he was doing something of value, something important to us - we really needed the kid's meds, thanks for bringing them - but it was obvious that it would only highlight the non-electrician part of his life, and tick him off even more. Agh. So I exclaimed over his bad luck, looked appropriately shocked, and accepted the package of medication.

But why, oh why was I getting a delivery on Friday night? Ah. Well, I'd ordered a month's supply of clotting factor from the, told them I'd call the HTC nurse and negotiate the details with her as to how many vials of the stuff, and how big the doses should be. I called the HTC, told the nurse how many vials of 1000 units, 5000 units and 250 units we'd used over the past month, detailing any bleeds that had lead to extra dosing. I explained that we would probably need a similar quantity this month, I was putting in an order and could she call me to review specifics? They got ahold of her first (probably beeped her, the so-and-sos) and decided to send me 4 doses. Of, by the way, the smaller dosage size.


I counted very very high, and called the HTC. All a mistake, I was told. Sigh. I'm tired of mistakes, of getting 8 butterfly needles when I asked for 50, getting 4 vials when I need closer to 25. Yes, thanks to Mister Grumpy Courier-Electrician guy we have the rest, but bah, humbug. I do not wish to cut my slack, I instead wish them to have the precision that so appropriately eludes the other aspects/personages in my life. Unfair? Ah, what the hell. Maybe once my grumpiness level drops, my ability to accept the folks as human will return, but maybe not.

Maybe I need something like the Man's formula for calculating his stress level (no, apparently he can't just do an internal query, there needs to be a model, weighted elements, and probably a macro). Maybe something like this, to measure and analyze my grumpiness:

Hmm. Doesn't look so good, does it? Maybe it is time for that hike.

I never promised perfection, let alone consistency. But recipes, well, that I did promise! This one is a new favorite, courtesy of Spring and her ever patient husband.

The Artichokes of Springtime

4-6 artichokes, halves and the choke removed
3 lemons, sliced thinly
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 c. olive oil
small sprinkling peppercorns
mint (dried or otherwise) to taste
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
2-4 thinly sliced onions

Mix all ingredients but the artichokes and spread over the bottom of a roasting pan. Lay artichokes on top, cut sides down. Cover with foil.

bake at 400 until done - about an hour. Test an outer leaf for tenderness (discreetly). Serve, using the lemon-onion mixture as topping and sauce.
Got this in my email. The New England Hemophilia Association is raising funds for their summer camp, which is for families with bleeding disorders. Apparently, NEHA needs some new equipment (too true, I'm told - the camp's beyond barebones), and decided to hit the guys up, right before Mother's Day. Sneaky. And because I admire sneaky, I'm helping. Here it is:

Own a unique piece of jewelry designed especially for NEHA
and help us buy some new equipment for Family Camp

These beautiful bracelets are made with red garnet beads and silver accents. The center alphabet blocks, “BB – BS”, represent our community of Blood Brothers and Blood Sisters

Bracelets cost only $20, with $8 from every sale going to NEHA

Bracelets will be available for pick up at three upcoming NEHA programs
(SpringFest is May 12th, right before Mother’s Day – hint, hint)
or, if you prefer, we would be happy to mail it to you.
(Please note: Mail orders cannot be guaranteed before Mother’s Day)
NEHA Blood Brothers-Blood Sisters Bracelet Order Form

Name: _______________________________________________________________
Amount Enclosed (checks payable to NEHA): ___________________________________

Small (6½ “) Medium (7”) Large (7½”)
Quantity: _________ _________ _________
~ additional sizes available on request ~

SpringFest (5/12) Picnic (6/10) Family Camp (7/25)
I will pick up at: _________ _________ _________

Please mail to: _________________________________________________________
Order Forms should be sent to:
Sue Dowling @ NEHA / 347 Washington St. – Suite 402 / Dedham, MA 02026

If you are coming to SpringFest, please send your order via email to and you can pay when you pick up


Anonymous said...

Let me know when you're ready for that martini you mentioned a few months back. I can fly up to drink a few with ya. :-D)

dykewife said...

the more you write about the costs of medications and such, the more i'm glad i live in canada, in a province that doesn't charge at all for basic health care and that has a prescription drug plan that's quite good, though not as good as it used to be when we'd pay only $2 per script. even now, as low income people, we pay a basic $400/year whole cost of scripts covered by the provincial health plan ($200 split in two terms) and then only 35% of the final cost.

Anonymous said...

I hope Mama doesn't mind me posting this comment, but this is a passion of mine! She has my permission to remove it if she wants to for any reason.

Disclaimer: I am not speaking for mama and these opinions are not mama's. They are just mine... dear old Lois' point of view. I am recently retired from the business and am waiting for my favorite retail store to be built and to hire me. I've got nothing to do with my former employer other than having a lunch or two with old co-workers. :-D)

DW, drop me an email at the addy in my profile. :-D)

I can't begin tell the "real life" stuff like Mama can, she's the expert! I can point you to stats, educational, and clinical stuff hidden in this dusty cavern known as my brain!

Here in the US we have most brands and no pre-determined supply. So usually patients and physicians have the flexibility to choose their preferred brand and treatment regimen. There are also several home care companies (large and small-- these are the folks who purchase most of the factor) These home care companies can be very competitive in overall service,and price. Some providers have pre-arranged relationships with insurance plans, some do not.

Many other countries only purchase certain brands and have limited quantities available. For example, one (poorer) country's annual allotment is equal to a one month supply for a typical US patient. Canada is a very large purchaser, so it is not a dire situation like that. But with a government program you only have one provider... and no choice of service, etc. What you get is what you get.

It's a double edged sword. If given the opportunity, I'd take choice any day...

Luckily here in the US, some states offer specialized clotting factor and insurance programs where kids and parents don't have to make the "eat" or infuse decision. Thank you for that! I wish it were more widespread.


What I know of Mama, She's a primo advocate and is very savvy. I look forward to hearing more from her... personally, I think she kicks some other "more famous" advocates in the rear (but I'm biased!) -- she knows what I mean by that. [wink]

I hope some day to meet her in person, have a martini with her, and give her and Eldest big ole hug! Yep, Lois loves Mama and her eldest...a lot!

Eldest is one amazing guy!

Anonymous said...

For this past Shabbat I made the artichoke reipe with chicken and it works really well - just replace the artichokes with chicken pieces (I suggest skinning the chicken and reducing the amount of oil.)


mama o' the matrices said...

Spring - thanks for the recipe tweak! I must try that. Sounds fast and yummy.

DW, Lois, I just got my e-copy of the latest issue of PEN, Laurie Kelley's bleeding disorder magazine. Whether your focus is bleeding disorder specific or not, she had a really alarming description of what's going on in the expensive medicine business. (shudder)

And, Lois, if you are ever in New England...we should talk. I'm really a single malt scotch plus cab home kind of gal, but I'm sure we can work something out.

Oh, and Lois? This next post is for you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks...I don't get PEN anymore...Is the article as good as the coming storm series? May have to take a look.

Scotch? I can do that!