Monday, July 15, 2019

Alarming 650,000 lb of Antibiotic Streptomycin Approved for Use in Agriculture

I recently read an alarming article in the New York Times which stated that the antibiotic streptomycin is being used to fight an insect-transmitted bacteria in orange and grapefruit trees. The bacteria causes citrus greening disease, which eventually kills citrus trees. In humans, streptomycin is used to treat serious infections, such as TB and plague.

Against the strong warnings of the United States CDC and FDA, and contrary to norms that make such practices illegal in places like the European Union and Brazil, "The E.P.A. has proposed allowing as much as 650,000 pounds of streptomycin to be sprayed on citrus crops each year. By comparison, Americans annually use 14,000 pounds of aminoglycosides, the class of antibiotics that includes streptomycin."

We are already facing a health landscape in which drug-resistant infections are becoming increasingly common in humans. When bacteria encounter antibiotics, the weakest bacteria are killed off first, while the strongest bacteria that can quickly adapt to fight the medicine sometimes survive. This happens especially frequently when people only take 4 days of an antibiotic even though their doctor prescribed 7 days, for example. Those remaining stronger bacteria are the ones that reproduce, making bacteria babies that carry on their antibiotic-fighting traits and go on to infect the next person. If this happens frequently, due to adaptable bacteria having regular encounters with antibiotics, bacteria emerge that cannot be fought off even with our strongest existing antibiotics.

Spraying streptomycin in large quantities for agricultural purposes will speed up this process of creating stronger bacteria that human medicine can no longer fight.

I sympathize with farmers who are losing their entire crop and source of income. At the same time, I can confidently say that there is no single fruit or vegetable that I would save if it meant returning to a time when the plague and TB killed large numbers of people or when the most basic life-saving surgeries like C-sections were not safe due to the infections that followed. Before the discovery of antibiotics, average life expectancy was 47 years old. I am alarmed at the rate we are using antibiotics in humans and cannot fathom a world in which it makes sense to use nearly 50 times that amount to save a beloved fruit.

I am contacting my representatives in Congress to fight this decision, because I want to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for years to come. I hope you will do the same.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Unhelpful Thinking Style: Always Being Right

One of the greatest revelations in my personal understanding of mental health has been learning about "cognitive distortions." Also known as unhelpful thinking styles or misbeliefs, these are the lies we tell ourselves which skew our thinking and are frequently associated with depression, anxiety, unfettered anger, and a host of other issues. In good news, we can make positive strides in our mental health by noticing these lies and countering them with the facts. This is the basis for much of cognitive behavioral therapy, which is one of the few styles of therapy that scientific studies have shown to be effective across a wide spectrum of mental health issues.

A couple years ago, as I was reading a list of common cognitive distortions, I was surprised to find one mentioned that I hadn't noticed before: "Always Being Right."

This must be a mistake, I thought. Sure, argumentative know-it-alls can be jerks sometimes. But these psychologists can't possibly think such arguing has roots in the same categories of thought as depression and anxiety. I mean, I can see the falsehood in depressive thoughts, like, "I am a loser. Things will never get better," or common lies of anxiety, like, "It is terrible and unbearable if someone else is disappointed in me. If the worst case scenario happens I won't be able to handle it." But these ways of thinking are just totally different from being right about things!

However, as I was reflecting recently on the idea of "rightness" being a cognitive distortion, one of the most egregious scenarios from my own life came roaring back. Several years ago, I was having a nice pleasant back-and-forth email discussion about health policy with two friends. The exchange ended in me explaining the concept of adverse selection with a detailed mathematical example, thus proving why insurance companies cannot sell plans to individuals with preexisting health conditions. (Sounds smart, right?) I was vindicated!

On yeah, did I mention one of my two friends was battling a life-threatening illness at that time?

I wish I could say this story is made-up.

Surely a person with any common sense and human decency would know better, you say! Surely you should have seen that your response was valuing the argument over the friendship! Surely you should have thought before you hit "send!" Trust me, if I could take that whole thing back, I would in a second.

Fighting her disease was emotionally and physically draining. Had I stopped for a moment to consider the topic we were discussing from my friend's perspective, I would have realized that she would be justifiably angry and terrified by the idea that she could also one day be excluded from buying health insurance because of it. Math or no math.

And yet somehow in the moment, I told myself that if I had a factually correct and logically sound argument, that meant it was "right" to share my view. It took my friend directly pointing out how inconsiderate I was being in light of her situation, to remove the blinders and show just how wrong my "rightness" really was.

While that example is more extreme than most, I still do stupid things like this sometimes. Tell me an opinion, and I can rattle off ten reasons why someone would hold the opposite view. But I am slowly learning and growing, practicing reflective listening, being ok with leaving things open, being more aware about what others think and feel. And thankfully, I have some amazingly patient friends in my life.

I have also had friends who argued in futile circles with me when I wanted to drop a subject or belittled me over minor points of disagreement in conversations. So I feel confident saying from the other side of the experience that it doesn't feel good, breaks down trust, and is not likely to change someone's mind.

Based on my personal experiences with the art of debate and my observations of others, here are some of the common lies I have identified that are associated with always being right:

Misbeliefs Because of Our Personal Insecurities
  • If I am wrong about something, it proves that I am a phony, not intelligent, or not competent. To borrow a phrase from Backus and Chapian, "That would be terrible and unbearable."
  • If others think I am wrong about something, it follows that they will think I am a phony, unintelligent, or incompetent.
  • It is terrible and unbearable for others to have a low view of my intellect. I am responsible for forming and maintaining others' opinions of me.
  • If I do not conclusively prove I am right about something, others will incorrectly think I am wrong, and that would be terrible and unbearable. It is terrible and unbearable for someone else to continue thinking I am wrong after a conversation where I share my views.
  • The only way to combat the anxiety or rumination I experience when I do not correct someone else's wrong thinking is to express my opinions whenever I feel the urge.
  • If my loved ones think I am wrong about something, they will lose respect for me or will no longer value me.
  • My knowledge, opinions, and logical faculties define my personal identity.
Misbeliefs About Others
  • It is terrible and unbearable for someone else to live their life believing something that is not factually, logically, or ethically correct.
  • All incorrect thinking has major consequences.
  • It is my responsibility to correct people who are wrong; if I don't correct this person's opinion, they may never know they are wrong, and that would be terrible and unbearable.
Misbeliefs About Our Superiority and Importance
  • I often know more about certain issues than people who have personally experienced them. Personal experience only creates bias.
  • When someone remembers or interprets a situation differently than I do, my recollection or analysis of events, conversations, intentions, etc. is definitely the correct version.
  • If I provide the correct information and logical framework, people should change their minds to my view.
  • If someone does not agree with me, it must be because they do not fully understand my arguments and reasons. (I should probably explain them again.)
  • If someone does not agree with my well-thought-out opinion, it is an indication of their unwillingness to acknowledge facts, their low IQ, or their closed mindedness.
  • My opinions are almost always based on the facts, while those with differing opinions are using emotional or faulty logic / premises; I am objective, while others are biased.
  • My understanding and analysis lead to completely right living and purely motivated actions; others' misbeliefs lead to entirely wrong living and actions.
  • The conclusions I have drawn based on the facts are as good as facts.
Relational / Social Misbeliefs
  • Being right is more important than being kind.
  • Expressing my opinion is more important than understanding another person's thoughts and feelings.
  • It is always important to express my opinion, even if it...
    • hurts someone else's feelings.
    • interrupts the agenda of an event.
    • disrupts the overall purpose of a conversation.
    • involves strong language or tone.
    • insults a core part of someone else's identity.
    • embarrasses someone else.
    • makes spectators to the conversation feel uncomfortable.
    • etc.
  • Correcting factual inaccuracies can only benefit conversations and can never detract from them.
  • If I don't express my disagreement with someone, it is the same as saying I agree or allowing others to assume that I agree. Therefore, I have a responsibility to argue all issues.
  • Conversations should always continue until both sides agree on the answer.
  • I should always be the one to decide when a conversation is complete.
  • It is terrible and unbearable to be silent when I have a thought.
  • Wrong thinking needs to be dealt with immediately - there is no such thing as an inappropriate time to speak up when it comes to inaccuracies or false logic.

And many others. If you find yourself thinking any of the above with some regularity, you may be falling into a cognitive distortion trap.

Some signs you are experiencing this kind of thinking include getting irritable or anxious when someone disagrees with you, spending time researching information to prove others wrong, having multiple friends or loved ones who have expressed hurt feelings from your discussions, continuing conversations even when the other person would prefer to drop the matter, spending significant time arguing on internet forums, needing to have the last word in disagreements, and feeling most at peace when you are confident you and others have reached the right conclusion about a subject. (Source)

The cognitive distortion of "always being right" can be especially hard to recognize in ourselves, since those who experience it are confident their side is in the right in nearly all situations, thus limiting self-reflection. It may be useful to have a close trusted friend help you identify if you are exhibiting the behaviors common with this unhelpful thinking style. 

In truth, most people can live perfectly happy and functional lives believing many wrong things. It may be unpleasant when someone thinks you are wrong or disagrees with you, but it is not terrible and unbearable, and in fact, you can live a perfectly fulfilling and contented life being misunderstood by many people. Your identity and intellect are not inherently changed based on what others think about them. While you may prefer people to change their minds when confronted with your analysis of the facts, it is not actually terrible and unbearable if they don't. Even when someone fully understands your arguments, they may still disagree with you (and even be rational doing it). Many of the people we surround ourselves with have excellent logical capabilities and memories as accurate as our own. And we are all susceptible to bias - including you - that's just called being human. Sometimes pointing out errors or arguing over being right takes time and energy away from more crucial things at hand. Maintaining healthy relationships sometimes means holding back our opinions, regulating our tone of voice, or ending some types of disagreements before they feel fully resolved - and all of those choices may be unpleasant at times, but they are not terrible and unbearable and are usually signs of good character.

Above are the sorts of truths we can embrace to combat the cognitive distortion of always being right; things are not as terrible and unbearable as we tell ourselves they are. It may even be helpful to repeat these kinds of truths whenever we find our minds racing in the direction of misbeliefs.

Of course, some people fall to the opposite end of the spectrum, telling themselves they can never disagree or express their own opinions. They believe the effects of such discord, usually others' disappointment in them, would be terrible and unbearable. That, too, is its own type of cognitive distortion. As Backus and Chapian astutely point out in their book, "Telling Yourself the Truth," while we all prefer to have others like us, it is not necessary or even possible that we be liked by everyone, and while others' disappointment may be unpleasant, it is not actually terrible and unbearable. Sometimes wrong ideas do have genuine negative consequences that need to be addressed. It would be inaccurate to say that it is never ok to hurt someone else's feelings with our opinions. For example, when someone crosses an important boundary we have set, we may need to speak up.

So we must strike a balance.

We should feel free to have and share ideas and to express our genuine needs and wants without giving power to our basic insecurities, assuming our intellectual superiority, or disregarding relational consequences.

I suspect I will always love debate in some form, and anyone who knows me could probably never imagine a reserved version of my personality. But I can still choose to believe truths about my own identity and social responsibilities when it comes to personal speech.

I will end by noting that apparently, God is well aware of the human tendency to use our speech carelessly, rather than to love well. I am always challenged by just how many verses in scripture teach the wisdom of staying silent and carefully guarding our speech. That has never been my forte. In God's eyes, feeling the need to constantly prove I am right actually shows foolishness rather than the superior wisdom I may think it demonstrates.

"The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues." ~Proverbs 17:27-28

Thank you to all the friends, mentors, and loved ones who continue to support me on this journey called life! May we all let go of the lies that hold us back and keep growing in the wisdom of self-control and love.

Please note that I am not a mental health practitioner or a licensed counselor - just a public health professional interested in the subject. Want to know more about Cognitive Distortions and how they might be affecting your mental health? Check out some of the articles linked throughout the text above, as well as the secular book, "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy," by David Burns, and the Christian book, "Telling Yourself the Truth," by William Backus and Marie Chapian. In particular, I borrowed the phrase "terrible and unbearable" from Backus and Chapian, because it resonated when I read their work.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Companion Planting

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Stein.
The green onions are about twice as
tall as the photo shows and very thick.
A while ago, I wrote a post about our patio garden. In that post, I shared one of my biggest learnings: a successful small container garden is like an ecosystem. Many edible plants do best when they have flowers and other plants supporting them, acting as repellants for undesirable bugs and as attractions for good critters.

While pest control is certainly one important aspect of the ecosystem, I have since learned that plants can be compatible for a host of reasons. A friend tipped me off that she planted her green onion and chili pepper plants together in the same pot, because she had read they support one another. The peppers had a good yield, and the onions got huge!

I started reading more about it and learned that this is called “companion planting.” Companion plants may help each other by producing higher yields, better flavor, disease resistance, and/or pest control.

Conversely, some plants may actually stunt growth when planted together. For example, while garlic and onions may work great with pepper plants, they are known to stunt the growth of beans and peas. Tomatoes and potatoes are also not a good match, as they can be negatively affected by the same blight and may spread this to each other. Corn, mature dill, and kohirabi are also poor companions for tomatoes.

Seasoned gardeners have compiled extensive lists of plants that make great companions and sorry enemies. To read more about the relationships between specific plants that interest you (and to find companion planting charts), see here and here.

As we start our next garden, I hope to put this companion planting knowledge to work, as well as learn new skills and information, in order to grow a successful, healthy, and delicious crop!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Encountering Jesus

My mother-in-law gave me a book called, "A Balm for Gilead: Meditations on Spirituality and the Healing Arts," by Daniel P. Sulmasy. As I have read this work, a handful of ideas and prayers have struck me as quite profound and have stayed with me.

One I wanted to share in particular is a new take on the passage Matthew 25:31-40. Here are the words of Jesus:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
I have always read this passage to mean that when we serve those who are on the outside, remember those who are forgotten, uplift those who are downtrodden, empower those who are oppressed, then we are caring for those who are close to Jesus' own heart. In this sense, when we love the "least of these," we are showing that our hearts are aligned with Jesus' heart, as well as serving those who are experiencing many of the trials Jesus himself experienced (poverty, rejection, etc.) And Jesus will remember these acts as evidence that the Holy Spirit was doing God's work of love and healing through us. 

In his book, however, Sulmasy takes this a step further by suggesting to those of us in the health care field that an encounter with a person suffering from illness or pain is an encounter with Jesus himself. There is some aspect of a sick patient that reflects the person of Jesus directly. It is not just metaphorical that we are helping someone like Jesus, but rather, we are encountering the Christ incarnate in some way. Sulmasy reminds us that Jesus said, "I was sick and you visited me." In Sulmasy's own words,
"To be a  healer is to find God in those in need of healing. For the Christian, healing is a direct encounter with the divine. And that encounter, if genuine, necessarily causes personal transformation. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), the priest and the Levite ignore God when they ignore the wounded man, and so their lives remain unchanged - they keep walking down the same path. The man the Good Samaritan finds bleeding on the side of the road is really the Lord. And in picking him up and binding his wounds, the Samaritan's life is changed.... 
"...So, although religious health care professionals may often want to understand themselves as 'channels' for God's healing power, Christianity teaches that they would perhaps be better served if they understood themselves first and foremost as persons privileged to serve God by serving the sick (p. 24)."
For me, what seemed at first to be a subtle shift in perspective, upon further prayer and meditation, turned out to be earth shaking. When I look into the eyes of a person in the midst of physical or spiritual pain, can I see Jesus Christ himself? And if so, how will I encounter him, and what will he show me? How will I respond? While I still believe that God may use health care professionals as a conduit for his work and love in the world, I am also moved to think that upon my next encounter with human illness, if I look for it, I may see the glimmer of Christ incarnate.

How that will change the way I look at a person!

To learn more about how Jesus has shaped my drive to serve through public health, check out my post, "Jesus as a Community Organizer?"

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Unhealthy Comparison Game

About a month ago, a friend posted the below meme on her social media page.

I chuckled a little to myself, recognizing that like many young moms, she has undoubtedly received more than her fair share of unsolicited opinions about her life choices. And she is looking on the bright side of things!

But then I stopped smiling. I have friends who have had children young, but also many who have had children later in life (or who are still waiting) for a whole host of reasons. I wondered what they would think. What the post was really saying was, "Stop judging my life choice. To prove my point, I will judge your life choice (or something that might not have even been your choice) even more. So there! Take that!"

It dawned on me that this was human nature on display. Why is it so much easier to look on the bright side when we can look down on someone else?

This is not just a phenomenon of parenting.

When I was in fifth grade, I remember walking out of the locker room for gym class on the first day that was warm enough to wear shorts. I heard laughter and felt certain it was directed at my chicken legs.  (I still had no calves in site when I ran cross country and lifted daily in high school, so I was doomed biologically.) I remember feeling hurt, but I brushed it off and cheered myself up by thinking, "Oh yeah, well at least I am smarter than all of you."

And so at the ripe old age of ten, I began a long career of making myself feel better by looking down on others, usually without even realizing it.

I think it can be healthy when we learn to appreciate our strengths or the positives of our circumstance when confronted with weaknesses and challenges. This is not to say we should be blind to our situation, but rather, we can rest assured that no one is good at everything or experiences every advantage, but everyone is good at something and has something to contribute; I have gifts that I bring to the table.

But it is all too easy to corrupt an awareness of our strengths or good fortune into a self righteous comparison with others. This is especially true when we are feeling insecure in some way.

At least I look more attractive, run faster, write better, work harder, earn more money, sing louder, eat healthier, keep my house cleaner, act more responsibly, have a more prestigious title, drive a faster car, volunteer more of my time, go on better vacations, pray more, keep better friends, get more attention from the opposite sex, parent better, have seen more of the world, paint more beautifully, invest wiser, went to a better college, cook tastier, you-name-your-favorite-point-of-pride than that other person or group.

But I am convinced that this way of thinking does not have nearly the positive effects we think it will.  It is ultimately born out of jealousy and the need to feel important. The problem is, no matter how many merits we accumulate, there is always going to be someone else who is smarter, faster, and better than we are. We can never be satisfied in this striving. In the end, we have made someone else feel lower, and we still do not come out on top.
God's word says, "But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don't cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind." (James 3:14-16) 
It also says, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you." (Romans 12:3) 
And finally, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9) 

It is hard to love others when we are looking down on them, and it is difficult to really care about someone else's needs when we are focusing so intently on our own advancement and image. Not to mention, it really doesn't help us a whole lot, either.

Strong relationships and communities are built on honesty about our faults and hardships, celebrating each other's strengths and good fortune, and spurring each other on to grow. If we trust what God says in these passages, then we can let go of jealousy to embrace both our strengths and our weaknesses, because they both present opportunities for God to put his own greatness on display. And we can embrace the mantra that we are better as a group because of the amazing gifts every person brings to the table.

It is my hope that as I mature as a person, I will grow more secure in who I am in God's eyes, so that I can also grow more thankful for who others are, as well. It is my hope that I will stop making myself feel better by bringing others down.

I encourage you to consider what areas of your life might be points of unhealthy pride or comparison? How is self righteousness sucking life out of yourself and your community? How can you choose health by exercising thankfulness for what you have while also celebrating what others bring to the table?

p.s. I also recently read this great article about the comparison game among women and in parenting. It takes on a surprising and refreshing twist mid-article. And I think the attitudes and lessons it mentions apply to folks in every life situation. Check it out!  "No Leprechauns, No Valentine's Boxes, No Elves, and Why That is Okay"

Monday, March 14, 2016

My Day Care Pet Peeve

When I was looking for a day care for my young son, I read reviews on Yelp and looked at the photos for each place. I was shocked by how many professional licensed facilities had pictures of blankets and toys in baby cribs!

As a new parent, one of my biggest fears is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a term used to describe the sudden unexplained death of a child under age one. The experience of SIDS is tragic and heartbreaking for any family that goes through it.

Although much is still unknown about SIDS, many important risk factors are known, and by following the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines, parents and caregivers can significantly decrease the risk that this tragedy happens in their own home.

Among the recommendations, for children under the age of one, the AAP says that babies should sleep on their backs with no soft objects or loose bedding in the crib. This means no blankets or stuffed animals.

This advice makes sense to me, given the way I have seen my own baby interact with blankets when we are together (putting them in his mouth or grabbing and pulling them over his head). Babies who are still learning motor skills are able to get themselves into situations that they cannot get out of, and objects in a bed can shift at night. These scenarios can lead to suffocation if a child gets stuck with their nose and mouth against a soft object.

Yet based on the photos I saw and the in-person visits I made to facilities, there are many child care professionals still ignoring this critical advice!

Even at the day care we ultimately selected, which has kind and caring staff and a nurturing environment, we were asked to provide a blanket for our son, who was just shy of four months old when he started attending. Instead, I wrote on all his forms that he wears a sleep sack (see examples here, here, and here) to stay warm during naps and should never be given a blanket or any other object in his crib. His caregivers respect our wishes, and we know our son is safer for it.

Although we took care to make sure our son was sleeping based on the AAP guidelines, I cannot help but continue to be bothered by the countless other children who are not benefitting from a safe sleep environment - both at home and when left with people who are supposed to be child care experts.

I sincerely hope that caregivers - especially employees of licensed day cares - receive more comprehensive training on the topic of safe sleep. Parents are trusting these facilities and professionals with their little ones.

Precious lives may be at stake.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thankful for the Common Cold

Perhaps a little too predictably, after his first week at day care, my baby has a cold. Which means I have a cold. We just got over another cold a couple weeks ago. Apparently, this is my new life.

Yesterday, I found myself sitting in a closet - I mean lactation room - at work, sniffling through my stuffy nose while pumping breast milk, feeling self-pity that God would have the nerve to let my baby get this cold. Hearing my baby wake himself up with coughing in the middle of the night, watching him struggle to breathe well through his dripping nose, and seeing his grumpy tired face on the days we are home together is really hard. No mom wants to watch her baby suffer, and with the common cold, there has been a serious limit to what I can do to make him more comfortable. To make matters worse, my brain seems to have rewired itself to make fretting over my son its own full-time job, something I scoffed at in others until the day he was born.

But then as that pump kept whirring, I had another thought.

I am privileged to be able to expend so much energy worrying about the common cold.

I was reminded of all the things I am not worrying about - of all the things I have to be thankful for. I am thankful that my child has plenty to eat. I am not worrying about malnutrition's effects on my baby's immune system, because I have money to buy food, a well stocked grocery store of safe foods within walking distance of my apartment, and even a private room to pump breast milk for my baby while I am at work.

I am thankful that just this morning I was able to drive five minutes from my home to a doctor's office to get vaccines for my son, so that I am not worrying about him being paralyzed by polio, suffering liver damage from Hepatitis B, or experiencing apnea or pneumonia as complications of whooping cough.

I am thankful to have clean water available from multiple taps in my home every day, so that I am not worrying about life-threatening diarrhea. I am thankful that I had a safe birth experience for my son and that my baby came home from the hospital with me a few short days later with a working heart, strong lungs, a cancer-free body, and an ever-growing curiosity about the world around him. I am thankful that my child has four living grandparents who love him to pieces. I am thankful that I have the financial situation and employer flexibility to work only three days per week, giving me two whole weekdays to play one-on-one with my son. I am thankful that the region where I live does not have malaria-carrying mosquitoes. I am thankful for access to life-saving antibiotics and medicines should my child ever need them. I am thankful to live without fear of daily bombings around my home. I am thankful that my son has a pack-and-play for sleeping, a car seat for safer travel, and an abundance of diapers, along with a huge network of generous friends and family.

The more I sat in that little room and thought about it, the longer the list grew. There are millions of parents throughout the world - and even in my own backyard - in the grip of deep suffering and fear for their children. I realized that in the big scheme of things, I really am one lucky mommy.

So while my ideal week would involve a little more sleep and a lot fewer boogers, today I feel thankful for all of the things I am not worrying about. And I am thankful for the freedom and privilege to worry about this little nuisance called the common cold.