Monthly Archives: December 2011

House Of Cards

I’m living in a house of cards. I made a decision earlier this year that degraded my bare bones shelter to a house of cards. I have been stressed and nervous about any wind that could come along to blow away my fragile house of cards. It seems like ever since I made that decision, I have been plagued with drafts and breezes reminding me that I have no insurance for my house of cards.

Two times recently, two different people unknowingly gifted me with a small amount of glue to steady the bottom layer of cards. I’m thankful, but I am ashamed. I put myself in a situation where I had to rely on someone else to supply the glue.

It’s time that I grow up a little and start securing the cards of my house with my own glue. If I do it right, I could even build a house of sticks or even bricks. Mostly, I need to make sure I have a house where I can take refuge when the winds come. A place where I can stay and know that if a blizzard or tornado came, I might suffer some damage, I might need some repairs, but that I won’t be taken down in the ruins.

Thus, 2012 becomes the year when I change and grow up. 2012 will be the year when I learn from mistakes that could have been disastrous and take comfort in actions that provide security. 2012 is the year I sacrifice my irresponsible, scary youth for a strong, sustainable shelter.


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Insanity Is As Insanity Does

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
I’d like to give credit to the originator of this quote but it appears to be in question. It may be Narcotics Anonymous or Rita Mae Brown, or Ben Franklin or Albert Einstein. There is also some debate on the intelligence of using this quote. I think this post shows you that using my intellect is out of the question.

How many times have I started a “diet” and expected the pounds to just go away? How many times have I continued bad eating habits and expected the scale to say I’ve been doing the “right” thing? How many times have I thought that starting a diet on Monday will be the magic moment that will allow me to shed all this unwanted weight?

It’s insane and stupid to think that I can eat one more bowl of popcorn because I am for sure going to change my habits tomorrow and the melted butter on this popcorn will just melt off me.

You know what? Tomorrow never seems to come. It’s so close that I use ‘tomorrow’ as an excuse…a crutch for today. I repeatedly use this crutch every day. EVERY. DAY.

I think I’ve lost touch with reality.

Reality is that I eat crap regularly. Reality is that I gained weight. Reality is that I will very soon weigh the same as I did eight years ago before my big twenty pound loss. Reality is that I can not wait for tomorrow, no matter what day of the week it will be.

It’s time to do something different. To do something sane. To do it today.

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Need to know post-eye surgery

I was attending the International Coatings Exhibition in Charlotte, NC for work when I got the somethings-going-on phone call. We were four months post-eye ball saving/retina reattachment surgeries with one month remaining before cornea transplant. The school called my husband to say Mik was complaining about pain in his eye. My husband brought Mik home to take a nap and see how it would go over the next couple of hours. Mik woke up still in severe pain and his eye was red. Not pink like the standard infections most people get. His eye was red. The hubs took Mik to the retina doctor’s office but our usual doctor wasn’t there. The other doctor wanted to take Mik in for surgery right away because he couldn’t get him to open his eye. Finally, after a slim glance and an agreement from my husband to wait until I got there, they waited till the next morning. It was a mistake or maybe it was too late by then anyway.

I arrived late at night and climbed in bed with Mik to comfort him. All night, I listened with fear and heartbreak to his moans. His eye was causing so much pain. We thought it was just a loose stitch that needed to be removed.

It wasn’t just a loose stitch. It was Endophthalmitis (a serious intraocular bacterial infection requiring immediate medical attention) caused by streptococcus pneumoniae. The doctor removed the stitch and injected a cocktail of antibiotics into his eye. Two days later, he was admitted to the hospital with orbital cellulitis for IV antibiotics of vancomycin and another that I can’t remember the name of. He stayed in the hospital for five days, was treated at home for another week with injectable vancomycin then was treated for 6 weeks with vancomycin drops.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a common bacteria but it is an aggressive bacteria. Either Endophthalmitis or Orbital Cellulitis can cause vision loss. Mik had both, at once. Mik lost all his chances of reversing the damage his eye injury because he got these infections.

What you need to know and watch out for after eye surgery:

1. The eye is one of the slowest healing body part. Four months after the initial injury, Mik’s eye still wasn’t stable enough for cornea transplant. His eye was actually healing well and looking fantastic with some vision capability already. Plan on the healing to take six months or more depending upon the type and number of surgeries needed.

2. Do not let any water into the eye, no matter how inviting and sanitary that pool might look. It was hard not to let an 8 year old have fun. I realize now just how dangerous hot tubs, swimming, even showers and other activities could be to someone in his situation.

3. Wash hand, sanitize hands, and never let them near the injured eye. We all know that our hands carry lots of bacteria. Mik was prone to rubbing his eye, probably because of the loose stitch. That stitch was also most likely the entry point for the bacteria. Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is a common bacteria found in schools and other public places.

4. If the eye appears RED (not pink) seek immediate medical care and press for surgery to investigate for infection. We are familiar with ‘Pink Eye’ or conjunctivitis. Endophthalmitis appears a deeper, darker red and is called ‘Red Eye’.

3. Seek immediate medical attention if there is any pain. Better to be safe than blind. Timing is critical.

4. Endophthalmitis and orbital cellulitis are sight threatening infections. Time matters. The longer it takes to get treatment, the more damage that is done. Keep in mind that Mik was on antibiotic drops when he got infected. The nearly completely healed retina detached again and suffered so much trauma that Mik could no longer detected light.

I can’t stress it enough. Time matters. Don’t wait.

This is a great reference website for eye injuries.
Eye Injury MD

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Christmas Eve

When I had just entered adulthood, my sister and I were cruising around town looking for the Christmas spirit.  The lights in the park were fine but it didn’t quite give us what we were looking for.  We stopped into our childhood church for midnight services where they performed a nativity play.  I walked out of that church with the strongest feeling of Christmas spirit since I had been a child.

The church changed their tradition in following years and I have been searching for a similar service ever since.  I am not what most would call religious.  I have my beliefs which I do not think are important on this Christmas Eve.  Since I have been unable to find a Christmas Eve service that would provide me with the Christmas spirit I search for, I decided several years ago to being creating my own navitity play.  It is very traditional.

I’m sharing the 2011 version with you today, and wish you Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth.

Narrator: And in the 6th month the Angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David. And the virgins name was Mary.  And the Angel came in unto her and said:
Enter Gabriel and Mary
Gabriel:  Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God.  And behold thou shalf conceive in they womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great and shall be called the son of the Highest and the Lord God shal give unto him the throne of his father David.  
Gabriel and Mary exit.  Joseph enters and lays down. 
Narrator: Joseph engaged to Mary was concerned when he discovered she was with child.  He was a just man and did not want to disgrace Mary publicly had decided to divorce her quietly.  An Angel came to Joseph in a dream.
Angel enters
Angel:  Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.  She shall bring forth a son and thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the lord by the prophet saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel which being interpreted is, God with us.
Angel exits. 
Narrator: Joseph awoke and did what the angel of the Lord had bidden him and took Mary to be his wife. 
Joseph exits.
Enter Jospeh and Mary, continue walking for a long way.
Narrator: And it came to pass in those days that ther went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.  And all went to be taxed everyone into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea unto the city of David which is called Bethlehem to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 
Sing:  O little town of Bethlehem
    O little town of Bethlehem
    how still we see thee lie
    Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
    the silent stars go by
    Yet in thy dark streets shineth
    the everlasting light
    the hopes and fears of all the years
    are met in thee tonight
Mary and Joseph sit.
Narrator: And so it was that while they were there the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
Mary places baby Jesus in a manger.
Sing:  Away in a manger
    Away in a manger
    no crib for his bed
    The little Lord Jesus
    laid down hi sweet head
    the stars in the sky
    looked dow where he lay
    the little lord Jesus
    asleep on the hay.
On the other side of the stage.  Shepards enter.
Narrator: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over thier flock by night.  And lo the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. And they were sore afraid.
Angel enters.
Angel:  Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you, Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. 
More angels enter. 
Narrator: And suddenly there were with the angles a multitude of Heavenly Hosts praising God and saying “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth Peace.
Sing:  Hark the Herald Angel Sings
    Hark the Herald Angel Sings
    Glory to the newborn king
    Peace on Earth and mery mild
    God and sinners reconciled
    Joyful, all ye hations rise
    Join the triumph of the skies
    with the angelic host proclaim
    Christ is born in Bethlehem
    Hark! the herald angels sing
    Glory to the newborn King.
Angels exit.
Narrator:  And it came to pass as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven.  The Shepards said one unto another.
Shephard:  Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass. which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Shephards walk over to Baby Jesus.
Narrator:  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger and when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they had heard it, wondered at those things which were told them by the shephards.
Sing:  O Come All Ye Faithful
    O come all ye faithful
    Joyful and triumphant
    O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
    Come and behold him
    Born the King of Angels
    O come let us adore him
    O come let us adore him
    O come let us adore him
    Christ the Lord
Shepards walk away.  Wise men enter other side of stage.
Narrator:  Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem saying
Wise men: Where is he that is born King of the Jews. For we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him. 
Sing: We three kings
    We three kings of Orient are
    Bearing gifts we traverse afar
    Field and fountain, moor and mountain
    Following yonder star
    O Star of Wonder, star of night
    Sat with royal beauty bright
    Westward leading, still proceeding
    Guide us to they perfect light.
Wise Men walk over to Baby Jesus.
Narrator: And when they were come into the house they saw the young child with Mary his mother and fell down worshipped him.  And when they had opened their treasures they presented unto him gifts – Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
Sing: Joy to the World
    Joy to the world, the Lord is come
    Let earth receive her King
    Let every heart prepare him room
    and Heaven and Nature sing
    and Heaven and Nature sing
    and heaven and heaven and nature sing

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Treadmill Smiley

It’s the first (now second) day of winter. As a runner in the northern hemisphere, I am happy for the first day of winter because it means it might actually snow soon. Plus, it means early morning daylight is on the horizon. Until either one if these magical events happen, I will carry on, plodding my way through winter on a treadmill.

Almost every runner hates their treadmill. I think hate is a strong word but wouldn’t bestow a BFF title on my treadmill either. I don’t hate the treadmill because I have learned there are ways to make a treadmill run smiley.

Treadmill Method #421
(I like choosing random three digit numbers to number my methods because it insinuates that I have more than a thousand different ideas, and I just pulled a random idea out of a hat for today’s post.) First off, when I want to run four or five miles, I am not obliged to run them consecutively. Second, being able to listen to music while running on the treadmill eases the agony of running into the oblivion. Although I list music as a runner-up, listening to music is really treadmill method #1. However, method #421 is a modification of method #1 so music gets secondary billing under this particular method.

How Method #421 Was Developed
The hotel had a “cardio” room instead of a fitness room. I asked where the fitness room was and was corrected with “cardio” room making me wonder who sued them over that terminology. Tomato tomahto as long as the room included a treadmill.

The hotel employee led me to the ‘restricted’ area of the hotel. The sign on the door stated “Employees Only”. My first glance was of a dimly lit room. It was narrower than a regular guest room but wider than a standard closet. There were no windows, clocks, or pictures. A treadmill, a stationary bicycle, a stair master, and an armchair were lined up one in front of the other. I suppose armchair quarterbacks come here for their super bowl preparations? The “cardio” room was a pinch creepy but functional.

As a rule, I spend the warm-up period gleaning a method to keep the treadmill from extracting my spirit. Acknowledging my dour surroundings, I opted for a less routine method, #287, referred to as non consecutive miles. It’s perfect for when I need mental breaks through that hour’s length of time. I would fill the gaps with push-ups.

Love Shack by B-52s was pounding in my earbuds at the leading break. I was into the tune enough that instead of pressing my nose into a sketchy carpet, I descended from the treadmill and started grooving. Sure, there wasn’t much room and my only partner was a armchair waiting for someone to turn on a TV, but the music was in my soul. If there were any security monitoring cameras in the”cardio” room, they would have witness Elaine inspired dance moves.

The following break time came before a good dance song had started playing. Hence, I continued running for another 1/4 mile as I skipped through songs until I located the right beat. Once more, I dismounted the treadmill and grooved like a funky cat.

I spent an hour in a run/dance combo. I fulfilled four miles with an impression of having executed only one mile. I ran and grinned. I had fun and was joyful that I’d found the dingy “cardio” room.

Official Method Descripition
Method #421 – Dance Interludes

Purpose: To Treadmill Smiley

Scope: To complete an enjoyable treadmill run while maintaining an elevated cardio rate for the duration of the time allotted.

Safety: Safe treadmill procedures are to be followed at all times using this method. This includes wearing the appropriate clothing. Shoes may not be necessary when running on a treadmill.

Terminology: Stint is the length of time spent running. Interlude is the time between stints when you dance.

1. Separate the target run length into short mentally manageable stints.

2. Run the stints at a speed to elevate your heart rate but reserves booty shaking energy.

4. Select a booty shaking or foot stomping song from your ipod in the interlude.

5. Select random play on your ipod.

6. Continue the interlude for as long as random play selects booty shaking or foot stomping songs.

7. Repeat steps 2 – 6 until run length or time allotted is culminated.

Have a Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Go Run Smiley!

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Bragging Rights For Christmas

“Robbie, it don’t matter if you beat Jack. I’m still going to slide the longest,” Harry said from snow-covered sidewalk nearby as he hopped from one foot to the other as if to stay warm but it was really from anxious excitement.

“Shh. Don’t bother me. Here comes my ride,” Robbie said, trying to ignore his younger brother. He pulled down his brown, wool cap, adjusted his threadbare mittens, and stretched his arms so that the sleeves of his coat bared two inches of his forearms. Here was an advantage to wearing a meager, hand-me-down coat. There would be no threat of his sleeves impeding his grip on the bumper of the Chevy coming toward him. Robbie blew on his mittens to soften the frozen threads as he watched Mr. Miller’s grey Chevy come closer. Robbie considered himself more of Buick man but he didn’t have time to be choosy. There were fewer and fewer cars driving down this street as this Christmas Eve afternoon progressed. He had to take Mr. Miller and his 1940 Chevy.

Robbie crouched down farther between the parked cars and smiled. Mr. Miller was the perfect driver if Robbie had any hopes of beating Jack before dinner. He knew Mr. Miller usually drove his Chevy a little too fast around corners. The whole neighborhood knew it from the constant clang of metal garbage cans belonging to unfortunate houses located right around a corner. Mrs. Jones had called Robbie’s ma three times complaining about having to pick her trash up out of the streets in this freezing weather when Mr. Miller should get his bony butt out there to pick up his own mess. Robbie wasn’t supposed to know what Mrs. Jones had said about Mr. Miller but his friend, Johnny, that lived down the street had eavesdropped over the party line and told him every word.

Robbie was certain Mr. Miller’s reckless driving habit would help him break Jack’s record if he let go of the bumper at just the right time. No one had been able to top Jack’s distance record for two days. Robbie was determined to get Christmas Eve bragging rights.

The game on the dead-end street had started the week before. After the last snow storm when the temperature dropped, cars plowed through 8 inches of snow packing it into a glacial cover. First, the boys of the neighborhood had competed to see who could slide the farthest past the intersection of Millo and Jackson getting speed first by running down Millo street toward the dead-ended street.

Two days ago, Jack got an idea as he waited for a car to pass for his turn. Instead, he didn’t wait; he grabbed ahold of the back bumper of the passing car then let go as it turned onto Jackson street sling-shotting him practically all the way to China. The neighborhood boys watching were in an uproar and couldn’t wait to do it themselves. They’d all been sneaking rides on the backs of cars ever since trying to go half as far as Jack had gone.

Robbie sprang out of his hiding spot just as Mr. Miller’s car passed him and caught the bumper. The day before, his first attempts resulted in some banged up bones from waiting too long to grab the bumper. He’d miss and end up losing his balance to fall on whatever body part was unfortunate to be underneath the rest of his body. This time, his timing was perfect.

Robbie kept crouched down behind the car so that he could keep his balance but more importantly so Mr. Miller wouldn’t notice him in the rear-view mirror. He watched the hard-packed snow under his feet whiz past and passed hand over hand to position himself on the far right side for when Mr. Miller made the turn. Robbie peered around the rear fender and estimated the distance to the corner. It was a hair longer than his Grandpa’s driveway at the farm. Just as he suspected, Mr. Miller was taking this corner as fast as those race horses they saw at the county fair last fall. When would this guy learn how to drive? Even though Robbie was thinking that, he was thankful that this wasn’t one of those times.

Just before the car tugged him to the right when it turned, Robbie let go of the bumper, staying low to keep his balance. He heard the clang of garbage cans in the background as he slid a long ways into the dead ended street, finally slowing to a stop. Robbie looked to his left to see he’d passed Jack’s record by at least the length of one of those long nails his pa had used to fix their front step last summer.

“Whoo-hoo!” Robbie shouted.

He scampered off the road onto the sidewalk where he was pummeled with several snowballs. Robbie took a dive behind a bush when he heard Jack yell, “Race you home for dinner!” Robbie jumped up from behind the bush but his brothers were already gone.

He ran up Jackson street stopping first to pick up Mrs. Jones’ garbage cans because it was Christmas Eve.  He didn’t mind his brothers beating him home since he’d already achieved top Christmas Eve bragging rights. Besides, he felt he owed it to Mrs. Jones since he was happy Mr. Miller had been driving too fast again.  Mrs. Jones waved a thank you from the window as he left and Robbie headed home to his brothers.

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Goodbye, Andrej

My father-in-law died this week.  It was sudden and unexpected.  As anyone who has lost a parent knows, it’s tough.

I was a daughter-in-law to Andrej who had three sons and no daughters.  I have been his daughter-in-law for almost 14 years.

Early in my relationship with PK, he expressed a concern that his father and I didn’t interact or talk.  I easily dismissed his concerns knowing that it wasn’t that his father disliked me, it was just that he was a gruff man in his late 50’s and I was a shy-ish young woman in my late 20’s.  It wasn’t that we didn’t like each other, we just didn’t have much to share with each other.  As the years went by, I gathered experiences in life and in work in industrial settings similar to the type that Andrej worked in for 30 years.  Andrej and I found our way to bond and communicate.  I surprised him this past fall when I was able to talk “shop” with him.  I had learned something about foundry processes at my work. But, mostly when we talked, we didn’t talk, we teased each other.  He’d find a way to get me riled up and I’d call him “Old man.”  He’d snicker and smile and I knew that we were good.

PK and I have spent a large number of our weekends at his parent’s home whether in Bay City or in Three Rivers, Mezotne.  We’d arrive on Friday evening and return home early on Sunday morning.  Every good bye I gave went the same way.   I gave my niece and other children kisses first, then I moved on to hug brothers-in-law and sister-in-law.  I hugged and thanked Aija, my mother-in-law, and always last was Andrejs.

I am not a Latvian so I didn’t grow up where is was customary to hug and kiss others in greetings and good-byes.  Saying good-bye to Andrej was always an awkward moment for me as it probably was for him.  Like our bonding (teasing), we progressed over time.  The first years our good-byes consisted of a head nod and a verbal good-bye.  Eventually, we graduated to a hand-shake good-bye.  Sometimes, probably like when we toiled on digging holes for the fence posts for a split rail fence at Mezotne  (let me tell you the rocks we had to dig out weren’t even close to being as small as rocks), Andrej would pat my hand in his grasp with his other hand.  Over the last few years, we had evolved to a handshake accompanied by a half hug.  It was an awkward hug because we were never really sure if we should just shake or hug.

When PK and I learned that Andrej had passed, we put the kids in the car at 1 am and drove to Mezotne to be with his mother, Aija and his brothers, Arni and Rob.  Over the next couple of days, I watched as friends and family came to visit, to show respect, and to remember Andrejs.  Ending these visits was tough on the guests and us.  His sister related her last good-bye with Andrej on Thanksgiving day and marveled at how that was their last good-bye.  His friend broke down in sobs at the door as he went to open it, saying how he’d miss him.  I noted how hard the good-byes were on visitors but didn’t really grasp it.

Tonight was my turn to return back home with the kids.  I went through my routine kissing my niece, hugging my brothers-in-law, my sister-in-law, hugging and holding my mother-in-law and then the spot was empty.  One part of my mind was debating the awkward shake-hug scenario while the other part was shocking the rest of me by remembering that I would never get to awkwardly hug my father-in-law again.

I understood then why the visitors over the past few days had struggled with leaving Mezotne.  While we were in the house, we felt suspended in time.  We were only in the moment of remembering Andrej.  Leaving his home for the first time after his death was an acknowledgment that we were returning to a life that would continue on without Andrejs.  A way of life we didn’t want.  We hadn’t known that our previous good-bye was going to be the last good-bye.  His death had been sudden and completely unexpected.  We were wishing we had an opportunity to say good-bye with the knowledge of it being the final time so that we could adequately express our love and affection for him plus cherish the love he bestowed on us.

I wouldn’t change how I said good-bye to Andrej after Thanksgiving.  It was awkward but it was our way.  We weren’t the type to show outward affection toward each other but don’t mistake the awkwardness for a lack of affection.  Only affection could have broken the barrier on head nods and hand shakes to begin with.

Goodbye, Andrej.  Here’s my awkward hug.


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