Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Doctor! Doctor!

For the clinical trial that I participate in,. I am required to make a daily call into their phone banks "journaling" my symptoms for that day.  Not only do I not like making the call because the information they request is not detailed enough - IMHO - to really let them know if things are improving or not, but there is the added frustration that about one out of every three calls proves to be difficult to make.  The phone bank is located in Britain, 8 hours ahead of Los Angeles, and they are downloading data based on the noises I hear and Eric's input.  Eric would know.

I have advised my research nurse of this difficulty and her attitude to date has been just try for 1/2 hour, and if I don't get through by then, I shouldn't worry about it.  Her exact quote is "not to worry."

Then came the call from her two days ago, chastising me for not having made regular calls over the prior week, and threatening to kick me out of the program.  I was very upset; I told Eric about it and since he has been witness to how many times I try to get through and can't, he was upset too.  But the call I made that day sailed right through and I hoped - admittedly stupidly - that the trouble would be over.  It was not, as evidenced in the following series of e-mails:

Subject: call-in
Hi Laura,
I hope you are doing well!
As you probably know, we are regularly audited for completion of all study-related documents.  I want to remind you to call in regularly to the computer system. I know there are a lot of pressures, distractions, and demands on your time. However we really need you to regularly call in to the system or your continued participation may be jeopardized by FDA-mandated regulations beyond our control.  
I know it’s a pain, and seems repetitive, but it is required. If email reminders would be helpful we can do that.
I look forward to seeing you at your next visit.
Gil Melmed
Subject: Re: call-in
Dear Dr. Melmed,

I would like to say that this would not be a problem since Chisom and I spoke yesterday (and before that too on several occasions) about the frustrations I have been experiencing calling in.  As I explained to her, I have been going to bed around midnight due to a new lifestyle and at that time, when I call the number, it is more often than not that when the call picks up, it is only emitting fax-signal sounds which Eric (my fiancee) tells me is their computer transferring data.  Chisom and I agreed during yesterday's call that I could call in well prior to bedtime and I successfully did it last night.

Unfortunately, I started calling this evening at around 9pm, and I am experiencing the same phenomena.  It is now 9:40 and the phone line is not yet clear to receive me 40 minutes later.  I don't know if there is a change in protocol on the receiving end, but as irritating as the call is, it's far worse to make it and not get through after multiple attempts.  I used to have a good track record of calling even as I hated doing so, and even thinking that my position in the study might be jeopardized is extremely worrisome. 

I offered Chisom a printed record of my phone calls - Eric told me that all incoming and outgoing calls are recorded in our system - and if this would be helpful to you, I will ask him how to pull documentation proving that I have been trying to do what you request.  As it is, I did connect yesterday with no issue and will continue to try this evening up until midnight.  At that point, if I have not connected, I think I will have exercised due diligence and hope that I will not be kicked out.

Thank you for your interest.  Please let me know if you need me to provide proof of my attempts in the last few weeks.
Subject: Re: call-in
Dear Dr. Melmed,

Eric came home from his meeting at about 10pm and when I told him about your e-mail, he was very upset too.  He has been witness to me attempting to call in nightly and has been as frustrated as I.

At 10:04, 65 minutes after I started trying to make my connection today, Eric set up a recording of another of my many attempts to demonstrate to you what I am hearing each and every time I try to call in.  You can listen for yourself on the attachment.

I have tried twice to get through since then, and as I said, will continue to call until midnight when I really need to go to bed, but if I am kicked out of the trial for failing to get through when this is what I hear over and over and over again for lengthy periods of time, it really seems unfair.   Again, while I have never been happy about this particular requirement, I have been mostly compliant and the attachment to this e-mail should highlight why I am extra frustrated now at first hearing from Chisom and then you.  I will be happy to provide a complete record of all my calls over the past few weeks if you find it necessary.  No audio recordings exist going back as our system has to be set up specially to capture them, but if a full set of recordings is what it takes to prove to you that I am trying, at your request, we will start documenting every call attempt and connection with an audio recording and forward them to you daily. 

Again, thank you.
Subject: Re: call-in - E-mail # 3
Dear Dr. Melmed,

It's now approximately 11:10 pm; I have been unsuccessfully calling in every three to five minutes for the last 130 minutes.  According to Eric (a mathematician by trade), assuming I called only once every 5 minutes this evening alone, I have now made 26 attempts at completing my "journal."  He said that equates to three weeks worth of calls, and wants to know if this makes up for all the "missed" calls reported.  He points out that it would be better if I could get credit towards future calls to be made over the next three weeks.  Quite the sense of humor he has, doesn't he?
Dear Dr. Melmed,

At 11:15, the line finally picked up and I completed my journal for the day.  2 hours and 15 minutes before I connected.  I can only wonder what tomorrow holds.
Hi Laura,
I understand your frustration with the telephone system. I will make sure that the study is aware of all of your attempts to call in as well the difficulty that you are having with the system. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. I will continue to let the study personnel know of the difficulties that you are having.
Subject: RE: call-in - E-mail # 4

Laura, thank you for your attempts last night. I was unaware of these issues and we will report them to the sponsor this morning.  I don’t think we need further documentation of your efforts, but will let you know if we need anything further to demonstrate to them that you have indeed been trying and that the problem is that their system needs to be fixed asap. We will investigate and get right back to you. I am truly sorry that you are having these frustrating experiences.
Thank you Dr. Melmed.  Please be aware that I have been making Chisom aware of this issue for months and her instructions have always been to try for about 1/2 hour and if I didn't get through by then, I was not to worry.  I would have escalated the problem to you long before now had I known that I could be thrown out of the program over it. 

Not only have I spoken to Chisom, but I have also asked her if there was a way to check in via the internet or e-mail, simply bypassing the phone all together.  To date, the answer has been no, but it seems that a web contact system to record answers would be fast and easy to set up.  Even with my own rudimentary HTML coding experience, I have written similar programs and it's not hard.

Thank you for your understanding.  Again, last night was exceptional in that fear drove me to continue calling in for hours.  Prior to last night, as advised, I would simply stop trying after 1/2 an hour.


Share The Love: A Different Featured Artist Every Week!

This week's featured artist is a little different than the norm.  Need some graphic design done?  Need a banner for a shop or a website?  My Helping Hands may be the answer to your need.  I've checked out her web site and blog and it seems to me that "My Helping Hands" would be able to do pretty-much anything a small business needing some coding to create avatars or banners would want.

This weeks Featured Shop is My Helping Hands Graphic Design. Custom Avatars, Banners and Ads!
You can find My Helping Hands Graphic Design at:

Check "My Helping Hands" out. You know you want to.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's the Dog's Fault!

I took Miles to elementary school extra early this morning.  Without going into details, he got into a little bit of trouble last week with his Vice Principal (it really and truly wasn't his fault) so his only consequence was to write a four sentence apology note to be delivered this morning.  We should have had lots of time to make the delivery, but things didn't work out that way.

You see, Lucy, our Black Lab puppy, decided to go along for the ride.  I made a couple of mistakes.  1.)  I did not leash her since she was not to leave the car.  2.)  I did not bring marrow bones along for the trip.  And yes, you get the jist of where this story is going right now. 

Lucy escaped from the car as we were getting out to go into the office, and ran across the street and to the park conveniently located directly across.  She was not going to be caught under any circumstances!  I yelled to Miles to stay by the car, and tried to snag her.  She is not stupid though, and danced just outside of my reach for quite a while.

The school bell rang.  Miles yelling furiously "Laura, I'm going to be TARDY!"  I yelled back to stay by the car.

We could see all the kids filing into class.  It was too late now.  Miles WAS tardy.  And since the traffic on the street was now gone, I called out to him to come across the street to help me, and to bring his lunch pail with him.

Well, Lucy is a sucker for food every time.  Together we caught her, reinstated her in the car, and went to the office where they issued Miles a tardy slip.  So I countered by writing a note to Mrs. Williams in explaination.

"Dear Mrs. Williams,

Please excuse Miles for being tardy this morning.  We actually did arrive at school in plenty of time to deliver the promised note to Mr. Gerson as well as get him into class on time.  But when I opened my car door, the family Black Lab puppy, Lucy, burst out and ran across the street to the park. It took a tremendous amount of time to catch her, and the only way we finally did was for Miles to sacrifice one of the pieces of pizza in his lunch.  100% of the dogs surveyed like pizza and I suppose that this is an iteration of the old "The Dog Ate My Homework" excuse which, by the way, actually DID happen to me in High School.

Thank you for your consideration.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Tooth Fairy, Redux

The Tooth Fairy came back to our home tonight, but this time it's for a legitimate visit.

Gabby, full name Gabriella (age 12), lost a molar this evening.  She had a very amused look in her eye when she presented it to Eric and me.  After the visit to Miles, I'm sure she is speculating on what kind of visit the Fairy might be paying to her.  Aside from the obligatory money in exchange for body part, she will not be disappointed.  Here is a copy of the note that she received:

The Tooth Fairy comes in many forms..

Friday, September 24, 2010

Messing with the Tooth Fairy...

Meet Ralph.

Ralph is our family cat.  I never had a cat as a pet before, and him having been a part of Eric's family before we moved in together, I've adopted Ralph as my step-cat along with all the other children.

Ralph is a rescue, is actually very old, and he had not seen a vet since Eric adopted him out of an animal shelter.  My first order of business, as soon as the families merged, was to get Ralph to our vet for a "Well Cat" check-up.  In fact, mostly Ralph was very healthy, but his teeth and gums were in terrible condition, necessitating surgical intervention.  That actually happened this last Wednesday.

On the same Wednesday, Miles had an especially bad day at school.  He is a charming and intelligent boy, but very insecure and suddenly in a new school where he is having to make friends all over again.  Because of what happened that day, Eric & I decided to meet him after school and surprise him with a "picnic" in the park across the street including ladybug cookies.  We talked and laughed and talked some more.

At one point, Miles expressed concern about Ralph, and we assured him that he was out of surgery and just fine.  He had two teeth taken out and I would pick him up and bring him home later in the evening.  Once Miles learned about the tooth extraction, he was all smiles.  "Can I have one of his teeth to keep in my bedroom in a jar?" he asked.  I immediately called the vet's office on my cell phone; the front office girl was confused by my request, but when I retrieved Ralph later that evening, sure enough.  One back molar, bloody root stump attached, was awaiting me in a pill jar.  Mission accomplished.

Last night, Miles was feeling a little insecure again, so I accompanied him to bed and sat talking with him for a while.  I asked him where he put Ralph's tooth, and he pointed it out to me on his desk.  I asked him if he might like to put it somewhere for the Tooth Fairy to find, but he immediately announced that he did not believe in the Tooth Fairy.  Of course.  Miles has three older siblings who ruined that story line for him early.  But eventually he started smiling and admitted that it wouldn't hurt to sleep with it under his pillow, just to see if anything happened.

So this morning, I emerged from our bedroom, still feeling ill from the night (oy, don't ask), and Miles was up and about in his normal high spirits.  I asked him what had happened.  He looked confused.  I reminded him that we had put Ralph's tooth under his pillow then and he got very excited.  He went running into his room to see what he would find.  And when he came back, he was all laughs as was his big sister Gabby who had seen what the Tooth Fairy had left.

Tooth Fairy picture snagged from Garden of Whimsy on Etsy at .  I've purchased quite a bit from this site, and everything she makes is high quality and lovely.  If you need hair ornaments, go visit this shop.  You won't be disappointed.

Geez.  For somebody who doesn't exist (per Miles), the Tooth Fairy sure can get cross!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

These Boots Were Made for Walking!

Moving in with Eric has been culture shock for me. Where I have been, for the past 7 years, living on a disability income, which is to say that I was living hand-to-mouth, not sure whether or not I would make ends meet at the end of each month, he himself was thoroughly middle class. He was an expert at playing money-savings games by buying in bulk. He counseled me to do the same, but you have to start with expendable cash in order to get the system started, and I just didn't have it. Now that we're living together, I am able to be just a tad freer with my $, not that I live other than economically (except for the cheese... I do love a good wedge of cheese occasionally), and I am learning his mode of thinking and making purchases. It's not that easy to adjust my mindset, but the rules of the game are simple enough to follow. I put them into action yesterday.

About 10 days ago, I bought these shoes for our upcoming nuptials:
 I was fine with them, but in all honesty, I would have preferred gold to silver.   Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I bought the silver, I ran across the perfect pair of gold shoes at Macy's.  They were significantly more money than the silver, but under what I had originally allocated for this part of my ensemble, and I intended to buy them.  I'd have to go back to do so, though, as I had another appointment which I was almost late for.

Fast forward one week.  I went to Macy's yesterday, found the shoes, and discovered to my amazement that in the week that separated my visits, they had been marked down $50!  I tried them on, they fit well (well enough, and I'm pretty sure they'll break in to be very comfortable), and while walking around the department in them just to be sure, I spied it.  The sign that Eric is teaching me to look out for.  If I bought a 2nd pair of shoes, I would get 25% off of my entire purchase!

Now I have perfectly good shoes in my closet, but with my changing feet (oy vey, don't ask), I need more support than most of them provide, so it wasn't a bad idea to find some closed toe shoes to add to my assortment.  I quickly found a pair of ankle boots which were marked down 60%, made sure that the 25% off price applied to sale items (it did), and made my decision.  I was buying those boots!
Claudia, Note the Peace Sign on the heel!

The entire purchase was only $11 over my original budget, and for that I have a cool pair of gold slippers AND a REALLY COOL pair of boots. 

I like Eric's way of thinking.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And today's Featured Artisan is...

Dean's Designs!

Isn't it amazing that we can all make jewelry using the same components, but what each individual makes is entirely different than the next?

This weeks Featured Artisan is Deans Designs.

Beautiful creations by a very talented artisan! You can find Deans Designs at:




Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Conversation between Eric & Garrett (age 16)

Garrett: Dad, did you know that if you eat marijuana, it's good for you?

Eric: Really?

Garrett: Yeah, if you eat it raw, it prevents cancer.

Eric: It doesn't sound like it would taste very good.

Garrett: Maybe not, but it would still be good for you.

Eric: I know.

Garrett: You know?

Eric: Yeah, I know.

Garrett: DAD!!!!!! Were you a hippie? (Utter shock on Garrett's behalf that Eric would know anything about marijuana.)

Eric: Just smiles in response.

Eric relayed this story to me last night right before we went to bed. We laughed our asses off.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This Week's Featured Artisan: Gab's Bags


This weeks Featured Artisan on Share the Love.. Blogger's Unite is

Gabs Bags! Beautiful One of a Kind bags to Jazz up your wardrobe with!

You can find Gabs Bags at


Shop URL

2nd Shop URL

Website URL

Twitter Page




The Gift Shop Handmade

Share the love, bloggers unite!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Scenes from Universal City Walk Last Night

Gabby &  Rhiana build houses of sugar substitute at Buca d Beppo's at Universal City Walk.

Miles thoughtfully contemplates the construction going on to his left.

Rhiana is the first to complete her project.

Gabby Successfully builds her house.

IT'SUGAR, the candy store at City Walk which is a MUST stop every visit for the kids.  If dieting was really only this easy.

Gabby, Rhiana, and their new best friend.

Miles:  Ah, parting is such sweet sorrow.


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