If Sh!# Were Red…

A lovely story about McDonald’s and fecal material circulated on my Facebook feed a week ago.  Apparently, a researcher with London Metropolitan University swabbed the ordering touchscreens of eight McDonald’s in London and Birmingham.  The research team grew a whole host of bacteria, including a boatload of normal gut flora.  In other words, bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tracts and help us maintain digestive and immune system functions, come out in our poop.  If we don’t wash our hands sufficiently, we transfer these organisms to objects.  Like McDonald’s touchscreens.

This isn’t news.  This isn’t specific to McDonald’s.  Although I’d like to say “never eat at McDonald’s,” my reasons have nothing to do with their living touchscreens.  If I swabbed your cellphone, I guarantee I’d be able to grow gut bacteria from it.

One of the finest quotes I acquired during my medical school training is: “If shit were red, the world would be pink.”

Let that one sink in.  And then go wash your hands.

For folks with functioning immune systems, the microbial smearage is, in general, no big deal.  Heaven forbid, if we forget to wash our hands before snarfing down our Big Mac and fries, at best our immune systems attack any bacteria they don’t like and we get the usual post-McD’s three days of nausea and diarrhea due to the excessive load of saturated fat.  (What?  That doesn’t happen to you?)  At worst, we contract norovirus (the researchers evidently weren’t interested in viral cultures) and miss a couple days of life/work/school due to the “stomach flu.”

For folks with non-intact immune systems (for example, people living with diabetes or HIV disease, and rheumatology patients on disease-modifying drugs), this “study” doesn’t add much except STRESS!  Wash your hands, people.  Wash after you go to the bathroom.  (and use a paper towel to turn off the water or open the door if you’re out in public)  Wash before you eat.  Wash before you touch your face.

The quotes in the article are terrible and misleading.  I don’t fault the researcher.  Missing information includes whether the cultured Staph aureus was antibiotic resistant or antibiotic sensitive.

The takeaway message is WASH YOUR HANDS not McDONALD’S IS A TEEMING CESSPOOL.  Although, it is.  But so is the grocery store and the bus and the bank and your kitchen sink.


Musical Moment

image = Shutterstock illustration ID 1042543318




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The Beauty of Unavailability or A Love Letter to My Flip Phone

Ace, the Big E, and I travelled Up North for Thanksgiving.  Between us, we schlepped along two flip phones with only one charger (oops), an iPad with charger, and my laptop.  The boys ran around in the woods, unearthing deer skeletons and chopping down buckthorn.  They might’ve taken Ace’s phone along, powered off b/c of the no-charger situation.  I drove into town, about fifteen minutes away, to check on the in-laws.

I managed to visit three thrift stores and Mills Fleet Farm (twice) on Black Friday.  Black Friday in a town of 14K looks very different from Black Friday in the Twin Cities.  It was AWESOME.  One of the thrift stores randomly decided in the middle of my visit to make all clothing $1.50 except winter coats.  Okay, I can roll with that.  Ace got a real nice pair of Dickies overalls.  The Big E got some athletic pants that will fit him in a few months.  I left my phone in the car while I shopped.  I don’t have caller ID.  Or texting capability.  And I haven’t set up the message box.

I didn’t hear from my boys for six hours.  I called from Mills Fleet Farm to ask clarifying questions around an item they had requested.  Oh, btw, the Big E said, we tried to call you a bunch of times.  The beavers undermined part of the driveway and it collapsed.  Pop tried to cut down a tree with his knife and he stabbed his hand so I blasted the treetrunk with a shotgun then we stuck the tree in the hole in the driveway.

If I had answered the phone when they called the first time, things would not have gone well.  Pop stabbed his hand?  Is he still bleeding?  Does he need stitches?  You used a shotgun to do WHAT???  Are your toes still on your feet?  ACK!

This is the beauty of unavailability.  By the time we talked, Ace’s hand was bandaged (he requested Coban “self-adherent wrap” from Mills – it’s super cheap in the veterinary section), the tree stuck jauntily in the sinkhole, and I could proceed with my errands with a minimum of stress or anxiety.

(I recall one occasion Up North when I’m glad I had a charged phone at hand.  Ace called to announce that there was smoke coming out of the hood of the truck and seemed entirely too cavalier about the whole thing, but that is a #SoThisHappened story for another time…)

Up North, there is no internet.  We have electricity with baseboard heaters but no running water this time of year.  There is an outhouse perched on the edge of the woods.  (Remind me to tell you the Murder in the Outhouse story sometime.)  Ace, the Big E, and I gather at the table over our microwaved venison chili and stare at each other, talking with our mouths full, arguing, laughing.  No one surreptitiously checks their phone under the table.  No one reaches for their back pocket, Pavlovian, in response to a subtle “ding.”

The Big E is lobbying hard for a smart phone.  He saved his money and bought himself an iPad a couple years ago.  When we’re at home, he texts.  If I confiscate the iPad as a consequence for nefarious deeds done, the Big E complains bitterly that I’ve thrust him into a state of complete social isolation.  Pick up the phone, I say.  Nobody does that anymore, he replies.

Pop and I need to do more research, I say.  I’m putting him off.  He thinks that I think that smartphones cause depression, promote a false sense of community, fuel disagreements, and prevent people from engaging in an authentic manner.

The location of my flip phone is currently unknown.  If you want to talk to me, call my landline.  I don’t text.  I don’t have caller ID on the landline either.  You can try to surprise me, but my voice recognition is pretty good.  Hope to talk to you soon.  Call me once the bleeding stops.


Musical Moment

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Llama Llama Raparama

In the spirit of the season, I’m going to share the love.  With you.

Anna Dewdney was an American author/illustrator.  She wrote the first Llama Llama book (Llama Llama Red Pajama) in 2005.  Her Llama books address a wide range of childhood joys and concerns, including getting-along-with-others, grumpiness-with-parents, and necessity-of-sharing.  Unfortunately, Ms. Dewdney passed away in 2016 from a brain tumor.  Her work lives on in the hearts of millions of children.  And adults.  LLRP has been stuck in my head for A LONG TIME (like worse than “Call Me Maybe” which I’m thinking really should’ve been “Call Me, Maybe”).  Hence, the sharing.

Llama is now available in book(s), stuffies, television, and clothing.

Here’s LLRP read by the author, read by an unidentified high-pitched voice person, and in sing-along form.

Monday confessions: the sing-along left me cold.

LLRP isn’t a foo-foo song, it’s a RAP.  J  Cruz of The Cruz Show (Power 106 LA) had the brilliant idea of inviting rappers to rap this book and the results are sheer perfection.

Please enjoy renditions by:

Kid Ink (killed it)

Warm Brew (wholesome and heartwarming)

Camila Cabello (perfect)

DJ Khaled (my least favorite)

Ludacris (#oldschool)

Lil Yachty (autotune fun over OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson”)

Ayo & Teo (nice interplay between A & T)

Desiigner (hard-hitting Llama)

Migos (Llama starts at 14:00, swear alert)

Remy Ma (swears, major swears)

Jeezy (he has kind of a hard time getting into it)

GoldLink (sweary and oedipal)

and here’s Miguel reading Llama Llama Holiday Drama (lovely and mellamdic)

D.R.A.M. performs my favorite version and I’ll include it as today’s Musical Moment.


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Open Enrollment

Every year.  Rigamarole.  Changes to all the plans.

Yes, of course I’m grateful to have insurance at all.  Yes, I am.

This year, I dutifully filled out the online “Alex” assistant thing that’s supposed to estimate costs and decide upon our most thrifty plan.  I fed it all sorts of scenarios involving inpatient surgeries, “specialty” prescriptions, and double-digit visits to primary care.  Alex suggests all three plans at various points.  Sooo not helpful.  No one expects their emergency appendectomy.

I expressed my disgruntled state to Ace and added that I planned to just sign up for the exact same thing we had last year.  He balked.  How can we sign up for a plan without thoroughly researching all our available options?

Ha ha ha ha ahahahahhahhahahahahaahah.

He picked up the phone and dialed “customer service.”  Ace spent the first ten minutes calmly requesting clarification of terminology including “in-network,” “out-of-network,” “tier one,” and “tier two.”  He then asked AT LEAST SEVEN TIMES for a comprehensive list of providers for the three plans assuming a 50-mile radius from our home.  Ace, quite logically, explained that we can’t possibly be expected to sign up for something without knowing exactly what we’re getting.

Customer Service Agent X (CSAX) repeatedly asked, “Well, what doctor do you want to see?”  We don’t know!!!!  We can’t predict the acute onset trigeminal neuralgia or the slipped capital femoral epiphysis or the laterally displaced humeral fracture or the ruptured ovarian cyst.  Ace wanted the whole @#$%^& list and CSAX didn’t have it.

Ace: What?  You mean we’re six weeks away from 2019 and you don’t know your contracted providers?  I don’t believe that for a second.

CSAX: What doctor do you want to see?


CSAX: I can email you the list from 2018.

Twenty-two minutes and sixteen seconds later (I checked), Ace hung up.  He looked at me and burst into laughter, the falsetto, high-pitched type of laughter bordering on hysteria.  ”Halfway through, [CSAX] just started to sound despondent.”  We laughed hard.

“You have to trust me,” I said, and jumped on the computer.  I signed us right up for the same garbage as last year.

The system is broken.  Seriously.


Musical Moment

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Who’s the Fairest?

I belong to a closed Facebook group of women physicians.  It’s a supportive lot, discussing family issues, doc/patient situations, empty-nesting, aging parents, teen angst etc.

Today, I got sucked into a thread all about anti-aging skin care.  I’m inclined to take any medical advice dished out by these women seriously, ‘cuz they’re all docs, y’know.  The thread went on FOREVER and I read every last bit of it.  I took notes.  Yes, I did.

GRASS is the takeaway message.  Growth Factors (peptides) Retinoids Antioxidants (vitamin C) Specialty stuff (hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid) from your favorite fancy brands and Sunscreen.  I might rearrange the mnemonic to be SGRAS.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and the  fountain of youth is filled with sunscreen, folks.

There was also talk of botox and fillers and chemical peels and dermabrasion and lightening cream for age spots.  One woman performs a six-step process morning and night.

At the end of it I was seriously bummed out.  Would a group of male doctors ever engage in this discussion?  Is our cultural aversion to “aging” so intense that this group of highly educated women will pour money and time into products, ablutions, and procedures designed to keep them looking young.  Fresh.  Relevant.

Last time I checked, the alternative to aging was death.  Can we re-define beauty to include not only gray silver hair, but some wrinkles as well?  (So says the woman who asked her photographer to airbrush out the prominent frowny lines between her eyebrows.  Note the smooth expanse of forehead on my blog photo.  That was in 2011.  Time has passed.)

I’ve ordered up some hyaluronic acid.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Musical Moment

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Go, Thief!

Dear Thief:

You waltzed into our fenced yard in the dead of night, tromped over and around the nice obstacle course of gardening materials that I left in your path, opened the back door of the garage, and made off with three bikes.  Two of them were vintage Bianchis.  I’m frankly astonished that you made it into the garage without falling into the three-foot pit The Big E dug.  Congratulations!

The day before you purloined our property, I was standing in the driveway, surveying the nightmare that is our garage, and a White man drove by in a White truck and looked me over with a scowl – like full-on assessment – looked me over and scanned the garage, too.  I thought it was weird at the time.  (I should pay more attention when I think things are weird.)  He, or should I say you, slowly drove on down the alley.  Did I get your license plate?  Nope.

You’re right.  We didn’t need those bikes.  And it’s nice that you didn’t try to take the bike hanging above Ace’s newish Subaru.  Downright considerate of you.  That could’ve been a royal mess.

We have a pretty big per-occurrence deductible on our insurance, so that’s the end of the bike story.

Here’s the deal: you forgot some stuff.

1) There’s a real sweet ping-pong table in the garage.  Don’t know how you missed it.  A couple sheets of plywood with handpainted lines.  It would look awesome in the back of your truck.

2) The pile of wooden skis.  Dude, they were right by the door.  I just don’t know how you could walk away.

3) Boxes of chairs.  Yes, boxes of chairs.  All broken down and ready for rehabilitation.  Seriously, how can you pass up this money-making venture?  Ace would never have to know – it could be our little secret…

4) Piles of debris waiting to go to the thrift store.  I recently helped a friend clean out his hoarding mother’s apartment.  We have plenty of office supplies, books, and umbrellas.  Maybe you need an umbrella for your nocturnal adventures?  Post-it notes?  Beanie Babies?

5) Shingles.  Are you planning any home improvement projects with the funds secured from the sale of our bikes?  We have a ton of shingles.  Probably a literal ton.

6) Oh, and rocks.  I always have rocks and I’m happy to share.

Let me know, man.  We can schedule a time for pickup in your pickup.


Anne, Homeowner


Musical Moment 

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In which I am interviewed…

Many months ago, my friend Christina said, “Hey – how about if I interview you for my podcast series.”  Christina is smart, blunt, steadfast, and pragmatic in her role as the Corporate Rebel Coach.  Of course I agreed.

Here is the interview.  In it, we discuss our cultural obsession with WORK.  I talk about my decision to leave clinical practice and how I navigate the “What do you do?” conversation.  The interview runs about 30 minutes.  Let me know what you think, eh?


Musical Moment




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What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Woodchuck

We’re expecting!

Several years ago, I witnessed the untimely demise of a lovely woodchuck in Northwestern MN.  Naturally, I pulled over to 1) make sure she was dead 2) scoop her up.  To read the story in its entirety, see http://annelippin.com/blog/2014/09/01/labor-day-weekend/.

I delivered the (frozen) specimen to my taxidermist, Royce, of Willow Taxidermy (https://www.willowtaxidermy.com).  And then I got mixed up in a remodeling project and the resurrection of a thrift store.  Long story short, a couple years passed.  I finally emailed Royce.  ”Hey, you still have that woodchuck in the freezer?”

Yes, he did.  I’m delighted to report that Charlotte will join our family just as soon as I can get up to Rock Creek.




Musical Moment


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The Unintended Guest Post

This exchange between my husband, Ace, and my college roommate, Jessicca, amused me.  They hash out logistics of an upcoming trip to the Bay of Fundy.  I post mostly to give you a peek into my marriage ; )


Ace writes:

“Jessica:  I don’t know how informed you are about the most recent version of our plans.  As currently conceived, we would rely upon you heavily.  Not sure how comfortable we all are with that idea.  I will paint a picture in which you carry a heavy burden for you to consider as you walk the hills of Scotland, such that we might alter them as you see fit.

In the days leading up to the trip, Anne and/or I contact you frequently with ‘ideas’(ie demands) for materials which we might find useful along the coast of NB, but which are inconvenient to carry on an airplane.  The ‘ideas’ will surely include pillows for Anne (unless I convince her that a place capable of sleeping 10 will have enough pillows…), coolers, foodstuffs, beach towels, etc, etc.

[Date redacted] sees Anne/[Ace/The Big E] enjoying restful flights to St. John, arriving at 8:08 pm.  Meanwhile, Jessica has stuffed her vehicle with pillows, etc, and has driven long, hot, difficult miles in summer vacation traffic, located an obscure house, and is still expected to pick Anne et al. up at the airport, providing taxi service to the pile of Maine pillows.

You will then be expected to participate in a variety of activities, with a quarrelsome bunch of people who hate the sun, but also hate rain, and hate wind.  The adolescent may be the most agreeable of the bunch which says a lot, but all will claim they are carsick.   There will then be several days of excessive running about, at the expense of your vehicle, and patience.

Just when you can’t stand another moment, dreaming of your quiet ride home, you realize that the entire bunch now plans to accompany you back across the wasteland we midwesterners know to be Northern Maine.  When you should be unpacking, washing your clothes and freeing you mind, they will still all be there, right on top of you for another 36 hours—starting [date redacted]!  They will expect accommodations of all types.  Then, they will demand unreasonably early transportation to the Portland air transit facility, with hardly a thanks, the morning of [date redacted].

You have several options which could minimize difficulties.  Some of those options will alter the plans we need to make on our end.  So please let us know if you would rather opt out altogether (eg an oversees walking trip suddenly emerging offers an excellent escape route).  Let us know if you would rather meet us in NB at a time or place different from the proposed such that we could arrange alternate transport upon arrival.  Let us know if you think a second car would be useful in any event (I see some obvious advantages), such that you could avoid an airport run at a difficult time in unfamiliar environs.  Let us know if we should book motels/cars/etc for the brief Maine portion of the intrusion, including the Portland airport motel the night before our flight.  I will cease listing the options for the sake of brevity, trusting you to make your desires and demands known.

I know it sounds like more fun than you had considered possible, hope your wild anticipation will not blunt your hills of scotland experience.  [Ace]”

Jessicca’s response:

“Dear [formal name redacted],

Barring any unforeseen incidents (such as asteroids striking the earth) I would be delighted to join your expedition to the wilds of NB. Maine is not bad in summer to drive as long as I avoid route 1 from June until September so up 95 I shall go and the Expedition has Sirius XM radio so I have entertainment. Pillows I have in abundance and the aforementioned Expediton has tons of space so we are good there. I can also bring coolers, umbrellas, tents, ponchos, hats, books, games, or anything else you might like that will not fit in the overhead bin of the plane.

And the true reason for my agreeing to come (as you should already suspect) is to spend time with The Big E so happiness abounds in my world.  As for sun, rain and wind I will bring sunscreen, my new raincoat and my sturdy Maine build (very hard to blow me over).  I have managed to navigate across the US not once but 5 times without getting lost and have driving three times to the wilds of Northern Ontario so I should hopefully find the house in NB and the airport.  If not then you, my friend, are out of luck.

Friends are always welcome at the Farm or my house in Raymond even when they are tired, cranky and smelly after trekking the shores of the Bay of Fundy. I love to travel and see new places and my goal in life is to say yes to as many cool, interesting things as possible…..so YES count me in and hopefully I prove to be a not too annoying travel companion. Enjoy your week and I am sure we will talk soon!


Jessicca Grover

Globe Trekking former roommate of Anne Lippin”

Ace chimes in once again:

“Excellent, we will being forwarding an updated list of need weekly until departure, perhaps daily toward the end.

More importantly, what is the origin of the second “c”, or perhaps the first “c”, in Jessicca?  Surely one should pronounce your name Jes-sic-ca, not jess-i-ca?  If Anne hadn’t scolded me for misspelling your name, I would have forever gone on believing your typing skills were lacking, but not thought the less of you for it—knowing that poor typing skills are closely associated with genius.  [Ace]”

Jess says:

“The second c is all mom plus when you say Jessicca with a maine accent it sounds like 2 c’s.”


Musical Moment





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Lucky, Lost

I met two old friends (old as-in long-time friends, and old as-in can we talk about our aching joints? Srsly?) on Friday at the Como Conservatory.  We were supposed to see the spring show and instead discovered that the spring show was being dismantled.  We sat down on a couple benches after making a penny wish and discussed our kids and our parents and mostly our in-laws.  It’s a mess.

My one friend wants a shih tzu.  Her husband doesn’t.  They wonder back and forth if their lifestyle is compatible with canine ownership.  She really wants a shih tzu.  Or a retired greyhound.  But really a shih tzu.

I left the Conservatory, heading for home along Lexington Parkway.  Lexington is a fantastic thoroughfare for roadkill, like one of the best.  One of my finest specimens, Matilda the Baby Raccoon, came from Lexington.  So you can imagine my distress when I saw what appeared to be a dustmop darting right across the four lanes of traffic.  I watched the little dog make a beeline for the Great Dane on the other side, the Great Dane attached to a leash being held by a woman with a baby in a stroller.

Well, that looks challenging, I thought.  I pulled onto a sidestreet.  The woman, the baby, and the Great Dane asked if the dustmop was my dog.  Nope, I said, I just thought you might need some help.

We used the Dane for bait, attempting to lure the dustmop away from Lexington.  I tried my best koochie-koochie voice and it worked.  The dog came over.  I reached for it, it feinted, I koochied, it came back.  I grabbed the mop’s scruff, realizing I might get bitten.

The dog didn’t bite.  I tucked her/him under my arm.  I’ll take care of her/him, I told the Great Dane.  And the lady.  And the baby.

We drove back up Lexington.  The stinky dustmop settled right in, gazing out the window for a time, then snuggling down on the passenger seat.

Can I tell you exactly how much I love my vet clinic?  We pulled in fifteen minutes after closing time and Erik, my favorite tech, scanned the mop for a chip.  No chip.  No collar, no tags, no chip.  We clucked over the matted fur, the curved nails, the intact testicles, the goobery eyes that made sight a real challenge.

I confessed that I was sorely tempted to clean him up and present him to my friend, the one who really wants a shih tzu.

We gave the doggie a one-year rabies shot and a nail trim.

Ace was not particularly surprised to see a stinky dustmop in the backyard, making friends with Chester and Fergus.  “I manifested a shih tzu,” I said.  I gently cut the hairs and goobers from around his eyes.

Life goes on and I had an appointment to keep.  I named the mop Max, Max the Mop, and he went on my errands, mostly content to sit in a kennel in the front seat.  Upon our return, we posted on the Humane Society Lost-n-Found page.  I scanned the Lost section and spotted “Lucky” who looked suspiciously like Max.

Heavy sigh.  I really wanted Max to have a happy ending with my friend.  I really did.  I called the number on Lucky’s listing.  Phone out-of-service.  Great.  I sent a message with my landline.

Max and I settled down on the stoop to give him a haircut.

A child called me, maybe 12 or 13.  He described how his sister had been crying for an hour at the loss of Lucky.  Lucky escaped exactly where I found Max.  I’m pretty sure I have your dog, I said.  Drat.  We agreed that I would drop off the doggie when I picked up The Big E from school.

My friend K called while I trimmed the mats from around Max’s paws.  K is a social worker.  I bemoaned the fact that I had to return Lucky to a family that didn’t trim his nails or brush his fur or clean his eyes.  K reminded me to have a bit of empathy.  Focus on the kids, she said.  When you return Lucky, make sure the kids look healthy and cared for.  Fine.  Harrumph.

I finished trimming all the matted fur from Max’s paws and back and face.  Then I gave him a nice bath.

When I walked up to the house on Lexington Parkway, the Roadkill Mecca of St. Paul, two kids burst from the door.  “Lucky!” they exclaimed.  And one plucked the little dog from my arms.  The kids looked well-fed.  They had clean clothes and made appropriate eye contact.  They smiled and thanked me.

I asked if Lucky ever goes to the vet.  Yes, they said.  We’re planning to get him a rabies shot this summer.  I gave them the rabies tag and certificate.

Does Lucky have a collar? I asked.  He did, but it got lost.  I show the kids my phone number, printed on the rabies certificate.  If you ever want help getting him a collar or tags, I said, just give me a call.

Have a nice life, Lucky.  I walked away.


Musical Moment

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