Archive | July, 2013

Adventures in Acupunture

24 Jul

Image: Holosapiens

Yesterday was my last of an 8-session series of acupuncture treatments. Even in our increasingly granola-breath world, I realize that acupuncture is still one of the very alternative alternative medicines. So for your edification and enjoyment, I am interviewing myself, asking all the questions I would have asked me two months ago.

Why did you decide to get acupuncture?

My doctor wouldn’t prescribe me Aderol. Just kidding. Sort of. But seriously, there were four ongoing issues I thought acupuncture might be good for. The biggest was that I had a really hard time focusing and staying alert during the day. I was having trouble getting things done because my brain seemed to be fuzzy, yet raucous. It was racing through a thick fog and bumping into things! I was making a lot of careless mistakes at work. Some days I even had trouble mustering the energy to lean over and pick something up that I dropped (and I dropped a lot of stuff). My regular doctor told me it was part and parcel of being a new mom, but it’s been going on for way longer than T’s been around (my doctor also told me it was part and parcel of being a college student…and a high school student).

Somewhat related, I felt my metabolism was sluggish. The last two reasons were frequent upper respiratory bugs, and jaw pain from clenching my teeth at night.

I’ll tell you one thing–it had nothing to do with Her Goopness getting treatments. Now if Reese Witherspoon was a fan, on the other hand…















Does insurance pay for it?

Maybe if you have freakin’ stellar insurance, but for me, definitely not. However, my insurance did offer a discount program for some alternative therapies at certain practices, which is how I found Dr. K. Also, acupuncture is an eligible HSA or FSA expense in most cases.

Oh. So how much does it cost?

It’s dumbsmack expensive. However, not nearly as expensive as your Western doctor’s bill would be without insurance. I did use up my entire FSA plus a bit more on the eight session package.

Does it hurt?

Not usually. Often I felt nothing at all. Other times I felt it but it wasn’t painful. The only times it hurt a bit was on the places where bone was close to the skin–the same places getting a tattoo would be most painful I imagine. I also noticed more pins hurt if I was feeling tense, even for a non-needle-related reason. But even in those cases, it hurt less than plucking your eyebrows. After the pins were in, she would turn out the light, turn on a heat lamp, and leave for twenty minutes or so. I was supposed to meditate during that time but I’d usually fall asleep–a really nice, deep sleep. I actually thought the cupping was more unpleasant than the pins.

What was the coolest part of the process?

When she diagnosed me by looking at my tongue. That, along with my list of symptoms and feeling my pulse determined the “Meridians,” or pathways, that were blocked. My big problems, evidently were Dampness in the Spleen and Heat in the Heart. Sounds totally wacko, but when I researched them it made sense. Or at any rate, it was a single explanation for symptoms that Western medicine would see as totally unrelated.


What was the weirdest part of the process?

Definitely the cupping. I never actually figured out what was happening, because it all took place on my back. It involves glass or plastic cups and a lighter, and my biggest fear was usually that my hair was going to catch on fire because she did it so fast. It’s supposed to bring trapped junk to the surface so your body can get rid of it, and it feels like an octopus is suctioning its giant tentacle to your back and trying to lift you up. the glass ones, which I almost always got, were uncomfortably strong, but the plastic ones were like a massage (and, BONUS, didn’t involve flame).

No matter which cups I got, I had these giant, circular hickeys on my back for days afterward–which I didn’t even notice (again, they’re on my back) until P pointed it out. Chinese medicine swears they are not bruises, and it’s true that even the darkest ones didn’t hurt to the touch. Plus, the more often you get cupping, the lighter the marks and the quicker they fade, which would not be true of a bruise. This is one of the marks from my final session.


I wish I had a “before” shot. It was wild.

I never could tell if the cupping was making any difference at all (besides that time I forgot and wore a low-backed shirt and a bun the day after a treatment. Got some strange looks at the office).

Was that the only crazy thing about it?

Dr. K also prescribed me some Chinese herbs, whose exact purpose remained veiled in mystery. She only told me they were one of the necessary “modalities.” They tasted like the bitter bile that comes up when you’ve got food poisoning, and my dose was four teaspoons twice a day–plus they cost like $50. But when I discovered three days into the first bottle that my stomach was flatter and my appetite less ferocious, I sucked it up (or down, to be more precise). The positive effects may have been tempered by the massive quantities of OJ with which I chased each spoonful.

Are you going to keep going?

No. The reasons are quite simple. Dr. K wanted me to start another 8 session, once a week series at the same price, but if I had that much money to spare I’d rather use it for dance classes, which make me feel almost as good.

The second reason is time. Dr. K has Wednesday evening and Saturday hours, but she was the only practitioner, and most of the time the only person working there at all. And those times were always super busy of course. The result was that each session took almost two hours. One time she was so busy I actually got left on the table for an hour with the needles in me. It was the only time I got really anxious–I had to sing every Disney song I know. Also, I was supposed to come in twice a week, and I had to have someone to watch T every time. I’m dedicated to my health, but I just don’t spend that much time on activities that aren’t paying me.

The last was that she kept harassing me about the damn Green Smoothie. Diet is one of the other “modalities.” (Dr. K is a registered dietitian as well, and 45 minutes of my initial consultation was a review of carbs, proteins, vitamins, and the like. I kind of felt like I was in 8th grade health–she even quizzed me!). I eat pretty well–maybe not as good as the Asian or Mediterranean diet, but better than the average American, especially the average American mom-of-a-toddler. But she would not let up about the freakin’ smoothie. It was supposed to help me clear the heat in my heart, but I began to grow skeptical. Heart Heat is basically stress. If the acupuncture, cupping, the $50 herbs, AND a decent diet weren’t “clearing the heat,” then nothing would. I have trouble believing the whole thing hinged on my disinclination to eat pureed dandelion leaves and aloe.

I guess aloe is almost normal, compared to this assortment.

However, she did tell me the smoothie would help with my weight problem*, which I realize may pique one’s curiosity. So here is the recipe. 

Green Smoothie

Wait…so did it even work?

Sure! The fog in my head has cleared, and my difficulty concentrating is less debilitating, if not completely eradicated. The veil of tiredness has lifted, although I’m still not (and probably never will be) a high-energy person. I’m not as sluggish. I haven’t gotten sick at all since I started the treatment (although it is summer. Check back with me in four months). The one thing that hasn’t seemed to improve is the pain in my jaw–(maybe because it’s stress-aka-heart-heat related HEH). Even so I would definitely continue the treatments if I had the money, in spite of the Green Smoothie Nazi.

*Never did I ever mention that I wanted to address a weight problem. Pretty sure Dr. K went to the same School of Persuasion as those ladies at the nail salon that ask if you want to take care of your “mustache.” 

Mirror, Mirror….

17 Jul

I came across this advice column called Ask Polly through The Hairpin today entitled “I’m almost 30 and I’m terrified of losing my looks.” I had to read it, because I’ve been thinking along similar lines lately. Specifically, I came to the realization that my (very limited) free time usually involves some kind of primping.

Hey, I can’t help it if find doing at-home pedis and coloring my hair relaxing and fun! But fine, OK…I do take my looks a leeeetle too seriously.

I don’t think I’m quite as vain as this chick, however:

I love being gazed at. […] the way that people (of all genders) get these dreamy, enraptured looks on their faces when they see me. I think beauty has some magical quality to it, and it makes me feel alive. When I look at myself, too, I sometimes get the same sensation as when I behold an emotionally stirring work of art—shimmering, crackling, breathless.

(Haha whoa.)

But I do have a twinge of bummed-out-ness when I think about how I will eventually lose my looks. And although I do not have a sense of “disgust and pity” when I see older women, I do sometimes feel just a tiny, TINY, teensy moment of panic–as if I were trying to stop sand from flowing through an hourglass.

The girl’s mother’s advice (“you must have things pretty good if you can spend that much time fixated on your future face”) seems pretty sound. But Polly’s response is a great smack-in-the-face wake up call, the kind you have trouble giving yourself but that you’d easily give to someone else with the same problem. I know you’re not going to click on the link, so I straight-up plag’ed it for you here.

You may hate the old, ugly person you think you’ll become because you’re not sure what else you have to offer, besides your face. You should dedicate yourself to becoming someone whom you’ll feel proud of, without or without the shimmering and the crackling. Instead of gazing at your own heart-stopping face, you should throw out your mirror and dedicate yourself to something that feeds your soul and makes you feel even more alive than, I don’t know, admiring your own image? It’s a bad habit.

Here’s the truth, and you’re just going to have to trust me on this: You’re not nearly as old or as beautiful as you think you are.

You pity the old ladies. What you don’t know is that they pity you even more. They know what a burden you’re carrying around, and they know how bad it makes you feel, to think of losing this thing that’s actually a crutch that keeps you from maturing and connecting with the real world.

In other words: get a life! Which is more or less what I told myself when I started designing invitations for a pity party at the beach last week, because of how much cuter all the college girls looked than me. I conveniently forgot that when I was in college myself, I would take covert pictures of little families–couples with kids like mine–because that’s what I wanted someday.

In addition to Polly’s advice, I would add that worrying about your future wrinkles isn’t going to help with the current ones.

There’s no need to obsess. As Polly says, “even when you start to have to make adjustments to the tired-looking woman in the mirror, you find ways to love that person, too.”

Family Portraits, aka Shopping Enabling

1 Jul

I wouldn’t say I’m very traditional, but when I was little, it used to annoy me how my mom didn’t take more pictures of us. And after a few early trips to Olan Mills, we never had formal pictures taken by a real photographer. I just didn’t understand it: didn’t she want to document these wonder years before they were just dust in the eye of an eagle flying over a distant mountain peak*?

*That sentence brought to you courtesy of my 12 year old self.

Which is why I’ve been weirdly and secretly obsessed with getting pictures taken of my own family, now that I have one of those. Nowadays the formal sitting with props had made way for magazine-esque, photojournalistic type photos, but some things never change. Things like the necessity for new clothes.

There are very few occasions in life that, to my mind, are not vastly improved by a new outfit. The cool thing about family photos, clothes-wise, is that you need everything to look good together, and probably be stain-free (in the case of children. And husband. Fine! And me. ). That requires outfit planning and shopping, i.e. my life’s purpose.

There are a couple blogs I referenced for choosing clothing for family pictures that can explain much better (and in WAY more detail) than I can how to do it.  I recommend you read them. But I did want to show you my [somewhat loose] interpretation of their [very detailed and well planned] advice. Because that’s useful too, right? Practical application.

Step 1: Think about what color combos you like and would look good on you (for example, I love magenta but it doesn’t look great with red hair). Go to this site, but try not to do it unless you have like four hours free. It’s addictive.

Step 2: Pick one patterned item and get the rest of the family’s colors of of that. I suppose some really advanced dressers (or those with larger families where it could be spread around) could go for multiple patterns and mixing, but I’m sticking with the KISS method on my first try. And since I rightly figured T would be central in most of the photos, I chose him to wear the patterned item from which all outfits spring.


Step 3: Try to not make everyone where the same color in the same place. So for instance, I tried not to use my base neutral color (navy) on everybody’s top half.

Step 4: This isn’t really a step, but I just want to say neutral bases are boring. It was a huge yawn fest buying P yet another pair of khakis when he COULD be getting this awesome pair.


(I just keep telling myself–if he was an adventurous dresser, where would that leave me as the fashion authority in this outfit? No pun intended, heh heh).

Step 5: Don’t worry about trends. By which I mean, don’t worry about your picture looking dated in terms of what colors you pick (hello, white and khaki galore from the ’00s). At first I was stressing myself out trying to determine how to keep my color scheme interesting, yet timeless. But let’s be real–you’re taking photos of very quickly growing children. They’re clearly going to be dated by this time next year.

I also discovered a few pertinent facts during this process.

Fact: Layering is hard hot in the summer

Fact: Considering the color of your walls (where the picture will hang) in choosing a color scheme strikes me as a little anal retentive unnecessary. But go for it if it rings your bell.

Fact: Most men will not wear pink or purple, even as a “pop.” (P.S. Can we please please PLEASE come up with a new phrase for pop of color? My brain is going to boil and drain out my nose if I have to read it much more).

Fact: There are very few ways to “accessorize” the modern male (ah, what would I give for the days of cravats and spats).

With these steps and facts in mind, I settled on a color scheme of blue and khaki with heavy notes of teal and a splash (how ’bout that??) of coral.

OK fine, it’s orange. But coral makes it sound so much less….crayola, ya know?

I bought every piece of all three outfits in about 30 minutes at Target for under$120. How to shop at this extremely advanced professional level is a whole n’other lesson. (I could teach you, but I’d have to charge).


Just kidding.