Blog

Give a Little Respect: How Do you Address Your Elders?

As I rounded the corner of my parent’s house, I nearly ran into my neighbor, who also happened to be my godfather. He was walking on the cement sidewalk that ran along our house and next to the short fence surrounding their patio.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hi, Bill,” I said.

There wasn’t much more to say so we continued on our way. Nothing too remarkable in the day of a child.

Except later, my dad stopped me, “Did you see Dr. C before?”

I nodded.

“Did you call him Bill?”

I nodded.

“Don’t do that. You call him Dr. C.”

Lesson Learned

The fact was, I always had used the more formal name to address Dr. C. That morning, I don’t know why I thought I could call him Bill, as my parents and their friends did. It was something I just threw out to see if it would stick. I don’t really remember if my dad was very mad. What I do remember is feeling really dumb for thinking I could call my neighber, an adult, by his first name. The thought of him talking to my dad really made me feel bad.

I tried to call my neighbor by his first name more than 40 years ago. My godfather and father are no longer living, and I’m a Mrs., but I still call his widow, and all of my parents Mr. and Mrs. So and So.

I only recently learned that this might have gone out of fashion. A few months ago a Twitter user caused a stir when he posted an old video of Maya Angelou correcting a teenager who called her Maya when asking a question.

Angelou, who died in 2014, told the girl, “And first, I’m Ms. Angelou. I’m not Maya. I’m 62 years old. I’ve lived so long and tried so hard that a young woman like you, or any other, has no license to come up to me and call me by my first name.”

There were more than 1,400 responses to the tweet. Some people said Angelou was disrespectful to the girl, some thought she had no right to ask to be called Ms. Angelou, others thought she was spot on.

It sparked a bigger conversation about whether using titles was cultural, regional, generational, or if it had gone the way of the Model T. The discussion moved from the Internet to newspaper articles and even found its way to television as the women on The View discussed it.

Even Ms. Angelou tweeted from beyond the grave to respond.

Maya Angelou on Twitter

Only equals can become friends.” Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou addressed people by their last name that she worked with as Ms., Mrs., and Mr. and made sure people around her dinner… https://t.co/N8wlHwKNwf

Some did think Angelou was teaching the girl a lesson that she needed to learn, no matter how embarrassing. I can’t say how that girl took it, but for me, I would say the lesson I learned from Dr. C was the same lesson. I still respect my elders today even if the lesson stung a bit back then.

What do you think? Do you still address your elders with Mr./Mrs./Ms. even though you are an elder yourself? What do you tell your kids to do?

Migraines: Everyone Gets Them, No One Really Gets Them

This is my second post in honor of national Migraine and Headache awareness month. You can read the first here about finding relief from migraine here.

I have had migraines and headaches for more than 30 years, since I was about 14. It would seem after three decades of headaches and their wicked stepsister, the migraine, that I would know everything there is to know about them. But the truth is, I don’t. And judging from my fellow sufferers, I am not alone.

I am a member of a Facebook group from the American Migraine Foundation with more than 20,000 members. I can see from these posts that these migraineurs are just like me, searching for relief and answers about the ruthless pain of migraine.

Like any other group, there are pictures and memes. From cute ones of dogs and cats who offer a little comfort when someone is suffering with a migraine, to lists and complaints about what not to say to a person who has migraine.

Funny Things People Say About Migraine: It Can't Be That Bad. We wear special glasses and we don't get migraines. Have you taken an aspirin? What did you eat? Your head must be your stress organ. A lot of time people don't realize they are dehydrated. I never get headaches.

It’s Okay, We’re All Still Learning

I have learned more from this group than I have learned about my migraines from consulting doctors over the past 15 years. I say, 15 years even though I have had them for 30 years, because I did not know I had migraines for about half as long as I have had them. This is true even though I had a benign brain tumor and brain surgery in the middle of all that! If anyone would have found out she had migraines, you would have thought it would be me, but I guess with everything else going on, migraines cam in second.

Even so, I know it is not unusual for people to suffer with headaches and migraines for years before getting a diagnosis or treatment. Migraines are still a mystery. In fact, it is only through this group, that I finally confirmed that I wasn’t the only one who had pre-migraine itching as part of my prodrome, even though I couldn’t confirm it with doctors or Google searches.

Even Doctors Know Very Little About Migraine

But I was surprised to find out that even the doctors who are trained to know about migraines and headaches know very little about them. Sometimes neurologists, who study the body’s brain and nervous system, are discouraged from focusing on migraines and headaches in favor of more “worthy” diseases such as Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Multiple Sclerosis.

Worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, undergraduate doctors only receive four hours of training about headaches and migraine. As such, many people are not diagnosed or treated effectively. In the U.S. and U.K., only 50% percent of those identified with migraine had seen a doctor for headache-related reasons in the past 12 months and only two-thirds were correctly diagnosed.

Only half of those with migraine had seen a doctor for headache in the past year and only two-thirds were correctly diagnosed. Click To Tweet

So Here are a Few Facts About Migraine:

  • A migraine is a specific type of headache that can cause severe throbbing or pulsing pain. It can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smells. Migraines can last for a few hours or for many days.
  • Some people have auras before a migraine about 5 minutes to one hour before a migraine where they see things like flashing lights or have blind spots.
  • More people will have a prodrome phase which happens a few hours to a few days before a migraine and can include other symptoms like irritability, yawning, trouble speaking or concentrating, cravings for food, and many other symptoms.
  • Migraines are the most common disabling brain disorder with 13% of adults in the U.S. suffering from migraines. Globally, migraine is the sixth highest cause of years lost due to disability. Headache disorders collectively were third highest.
  • Many people do not get the help they need. Only half of people with migraine have seen a doctor for headache-related reasons in the past 12 months and only two-thirds were correctly diagnosed.
  • Women are more likely to experience the condition by about 2:1 likely due to hormonal causes.
  • Medications as well as other techniques such as relaxation, biofeedback, avoiding triggers, and massage may be used to control migraines and live with the pain.
  • The cause of migraines is still not known. There are likely hereditary factors as many as 80 to 90 percent of people with migraines have a family member with migraine. Environment may also play a role.

If you have migraines or think you have them, I hope you find the treatment, relief, and support that works for you. If you do have migraines, what are some of the funny things people have said to you about them?

Additional links and resources:

Discovering Migraines: An article I wrote on what a migraine feels like to me.
Discover What Your Migraine Neurologist is Learning this Year
Surprisingly, Headache Doctors Face Migraine Stigma Too
Headache Disorder Fact Sheet

When Insight Comes From Unexpected Places

June is National Migraine Awareness month. Here is a story about releasing some of the pain from migraine and how I keep learning more about my own migraines, no matter how long I have them.

I never realized how funny it sounded until someone else said it, “So you have pain in your head and your feet?”

I laughed. And since I did, she did too. She was only a student at the massage clinic, but was taking this intake process more seriously than most doctors took medical exams these days.  I had come to the clinic for a cheap $30 massage, only fifty cents a minute, not a complete medical exam.

“That’s sort of funny when you think about it,” I said. “I have pain on both ends.”

It reminded me of the way my mom talked about someone who was both vomiting and had diarrhea, or had it coming out “both ends.” 

The woman nodded her head and told me I might want to consider cutting peanuts and red wine out of my diet. She said it would it may help eliminate my migraines, but would do nothing for my feet. There was a fungus in both that some people reacted to. She was not only a massage student but an Ayurvedic practitioner.

I thanked her for the advice as my mouth began to water at the thought of a spoonful of peanut butter. I decided I would mix a tablespoon-full into some vanilla ice cream when I got home. I may try to give it up, but I might try to see if it gave me a migraine first.

The woman left the room and told me to disrobe to my “comfort level.” I always wondered about that phrase. My comfort level was wearing my underwear and nothing else under the sheet, but I wondered what other’s comfort levels were. Was I a prude compared to those who went completely naked? Or were there some who were so uncomfortable they left their shirts and pants on?

When she returned, I was waiting with my face down under the sheet as told. She touched my head softly. I wanted a little more pressure, but it seemed like a lot of work to talk. A few minutes later when she asked me if the pressure was too soft or too hard, I could only grunt, too relaxed to speak. Even when it felt like she was bruising my back, trying to work the tension out, I couldn’t say anything.

As she moved down my body, my feet waited for their turn. When she got there, she pressed hard on the undersides now exposed upward and were rewarded for their patience.

“Which part of your foot hurts?” she asked.

“My big toe.”

“I thought so, there are actual knots in here, can you feel them?”

“Yes, I feel them releasing,” I said.

“You know your big toe is a pressure point for your head.”

“That makes total sense,” I said.

It made sense that these points on my body carriend my pain. I had surgery a few years before to correct a bunion and previous damage from an incident where I dropped a desk on my big toe. It was a few years after I had the right side of my head opened to remove a benign tumor from my temporal lobe.

Though the tumor was gone, I still had migraines that pulsated on the right side of my head in the same spot, like a ghost of what had lived their previously. During an attack I would grab my head and hold it as if I could pull it off.

But now the hands of this caring student had teased out the muscles where they wrapped themselves tightly around past pain and trauma. I had expected relief, but not so much insight from a student.

Wasn’t This Supposed to be Fun? How to Keep the Passion in Your Pursuits 

What is the THING, or if you are lucky THINGS, you love to do.Is it something physical, like running or swimming? Or are you an artist? Someone who uses her hands or creativity to craft, build, create music, or follow some other artistic pursuit? Or is your thing more cerebral, like writing, blogging, or reading?

Whatever it is, consider yourself lucky if you have some pursuit that pulls you in and that makes you lose all sense of time when you’re doing it. But if you are passionate about your pursuit you also run the risk of taking it too seriously. By that I mean forgetting how good it feels to do what you love and focusing instead on what your passion can do for you.

Before you know it doing what you love isn’t enough. You want results! But along the way you may notice you’re not having As much fun as you used to.

As an example, I love writing, but realized I had decided that it only mattered when the activities I did “counted”. I was punishing myself when I didn’t think my writing was leading toward a bigger goal and doing things I didn’t like because I thought they would.

Though my story is specific to my passion, I think others who have a THING will identify with my story. If you have been losing interest in your passion you may just be focusing on the wrong things. You can read my whole story on Medium Math for Writers: How to Suck the Joy Out of Writing by Turning Passion into Point Values.

Stay passionate!

Math for Writers

I have never been good at math. Just ask my mom. My next oldest brother is the one who is the numbers whiz. I’m the youngest of nine kids and all the profitable skills were taken by the time I came…

Digging Into Cemetery Symbolism at Beautiful Bonaventure

After visiting Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking of another old cemetery: Bonaventure Cemetery outside Savannah, Georgia. Many heard of this cemetery after the enormous success of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I visited Bonaventure Cemetery on a trip to Savannah a few years ago and it taught me a lot about how Victorians saw  death. 

Bonaventure Cemetery was established in 1846 as a private cemetery and became a public one in 1907 when the city of Savannah purchased it. The bird girl statue pictured on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, is no longer located there, but there are many other statues that make the cemetery seem like an outdoor museum. It is a place of beauty both because of the man-made statues and natural large oak trees, tropical plants and Spanish moss.

Hanging Out at the Cemetery

In touring the cemetery, it is helpful to undertand how Victorians viewed the cemetery. In Victorian culture, the cemetery was more like a park and families would promenade in their finest on the way to their family plot where they would picnic. At the time, death was a routine occurrence, often even young children and mothers giving birth would pass away, so spending time at the cemetery was a way to spend time with both the living and the dead.

Flower Bed Around Grave Bonaventure Cemetery
The outline of a flower bed

As cemeteries became a place to hang out, the grave markers became more beautiful, replacing the symbols that had previously adorned gravestones that were meant to scare people into living a good life. The beautiful images and statues that reminded the living that their loved ones were in a better place. Families would plant flowers to enhance their own familial plot.

Bonaventure Cemetery near Savannah is an outside museum of sculptures of the departed, natural oak trees and Spanish moss, that showcasing Victorian beliefs of death. Click To Tweet

Statues That Resemble the Dead

Marble Statue of Gracie in Bonaventure Cemetery
Gracie Watkins

There were many statues in Bonaventure designed in the likeness of the individual buried beneath the ground. In Victorian culture it was a way to memorialize the loved one and feel close to them when you returned to the cemetery.

One of the most famous is that of Gracie Watkins, a 6-year-old girl whose death left her parents heartbroken. The monument includes a tree cut in half, which symbolizes a life cut short, and ivy climbing toward heaven. Her eyes look upward toward heaven, which reminds the mourner to forget the worries of the current world.

The grave of Corrinne Elliott Lawton is another beautiful and heartbreaking statue. She died while she was engaged after an illness and the likeness shows her sitting draped in a loose dress that hangs off her shoulders, a wreath of flowers has fallen out of her hands, and she is wearing shoes. Her eyes are sad and blank.

Corrinne Elliott Lawton
Corrinne Elliott Lawton

There are many stories about Lawton and the symbolism of the statue. Some say that she had fallen in love with a man her family didn’t approve of and that she threw herself into the river because she was forbidden to marry. Many say she is placed away from the rest of the family plot for that reason

Bare feet on statues mean that the person is walking with Jesus, so the shoes on Corrinne’s feet seem to say she is not walking with Jesus. A large Jesus statue stands behind her and she sits with her back to him, which also indicates that she is not on her way to him.

But no matter what the symbolism says, documents such as her mother’s journals have proven that the stories of her throwing herself to her death are a lie. You can read more about Corrine on Atlas Obscura.

There were many of these marble likenesses throughout the cemetery and it along with a slightly overcast day and the Spanish moss, made the atmosphere a little eerie. The statues were beautiful, but I wondered what it would be like to have my likeness living on without me in a place like this I’ve included some more pictures below from Bonaventure Cemetery.