Frass, Trauma, and Other Stuff


NaBloPoMo 2018:  What I’m Learning

Can’t think of anything useful to write today…  Or rather, I’m too tired to make any half useful thoughts into enough coherently connected sentences to be worth publishing.

So I’ll share some small things I have learned recently, which I find interesting.


Noun.  Fine powdery refuse or fragile perforated wood produced by the activity of boring insects.  The excrement of insect larvae.

I have a wonderfully smart and kind friend who conserves paper for a living.  Do you know any expert paper conservators up close and personal?  If so then you know the exquisite mind and temperament it takes to do this work.  She must possess the exacting scientific leanings that comprehend both biology and advanced chemistry (inorganic and organic).  She holds the vast sweep of art history, especially as it applies to paper and ink as media, at her fingertips.  And her appreciation for the uniqueness and intrinsic value of every piece drives her pursuit of the end product.  She must command all of this knowledge in an integrated fashion, bringing to each new project confidence, curiosity, and love.  And when she works on an old map in the library archives caked with dust and soot, and tells her friend about the project, she teaches her friend the word frass.

Getting out tree sap and other cool tips

You probably already know about using Coca-Cola to clean toilets, and salsa or ketchup to shine pennies and silver.  But did you know that olive oil and butter get out tree sap, and mayonnaise gets off glue residue?  Unbrewed coffee grounds absorb mildew if you leave them in an open container at the bottom of a closet for several days.  Vodka works well for getting smells out of clothes.  And rubbing your hands with salt can get out the smell of onion or garlic.

Toxic gaslighting

I only learned the word ‘gaslighting’ after the 2016 election.  *sigh*

The word was among the final contenders, apparently, for the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2018 Word of the Year.  But ‘toxic’ won.  Says the head of the company’s US dictionaries, “the word was chosen less for statistical reasons… than for the sheer variety of contexts in which it has proliferated, from conversations about environmental poisons to laments about today’s poisonous political discourse to the #MeToo movement, with its calling out of ‘toxic masculinity.’”  Last year’s WotY was ‘youthquake.’


Last weekend I spent time with a wonderful residency classmate and her amazing family.  She is the Chief Medical Officer of a large health system that serves a population with a high prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse.  I got to hear about her passionate and profoundly important work educating and advocating for trauma-informed care, which I am only starting to learn about.  Interestingly, NPR had just posted an article detailing findings of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing that childhood trauma is strongly associated with poor adult function outcomes, such as mental illness, failure to hold a job, and social isolation.  By age 16, 31% of children in the study had had one traumatic exposure, 22.5% had had two, and 14.8% had had three.  What does that look like at the doctor’s office?  Read the Harvard story of the two kids and their vaccines here.  What can we do about it, as physicians and society?  First, recognize the prevalence.  NPR asked, “Should childhood trauma be treated as a public health crisis?”  The answer, unequivocally, is yes.  Second and always, practice curiosity and empathy. Every day.  All the time.  Again and again.  If someone is acting out, before judging them for being difficult and ruining your day on purpose, ask what could lie behind the behavior.  Everybody deserves and benefits from a little concern and gentleness. And if you’re a healthcare professional, start with the Harvard article, and then read this one from the National Council for Behavioral Health.  We all need to treat each other better.  So much better.  Please.

So, what interesting thing(s) have you learned lately?

2 thoughts on “Frass, Trauma, and Other Stuff

  1. I often worry about how trauma is affecting young people and children when we seem to have a traumatic event in our country, so often in the form of a mass shooting, on such a regular basis. How is the fear and the lack of security and faith in society affecting them? How will it manifest in their adult lives? How do we raise healthy kids in such crazy times? How can we accept this as the new norm? So many questions. And we, the adults in the room, don’t seem to be addressing any of them. Thank you for sharing this information. It’s such important stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we are only beginning to find answers to the questions you pose. And in some ways we have also always known. Just ask the adults who have managed to live well despite their traumas. I bet they will tell you there was at least one loving adult to help them along the way, or some other net that caught them before they hit bottom, etc. We just need to learn, as society, how 1) to stop traumatizing kids in the first place and 2) to help them heal afterward. Complex, for sure, and we can do it. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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