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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Snow Isn’t as Much Fun as It Used to Be

When I was growing up, a big snow was a lot of fun. On snow days, we would drag out the wooden sleds with the metal runners.

The Ozark hills provided perfect sledding terrain. The road formed a long sloping hill on the north side of our house and a short, steep hill on the south side. The problem with the north hill was the long walk to the top before the downhill ride. The other hill was a shorter walk and a faster ride.

It wasn’t long before we figured out we could fairly fly downhill if we kick started the sled and plopped belly down and head first. Well, there was the time my brother, Donnie, ran his sled off the road crashing headlong into the barn. His broken nose ended his sledding that day, but it didn't slow the rest of us down.

All this reminiscing began this morning when the forecast called for five inches of snow, and I needed to be in Fulton, MO, for our Lifelines for Women program. Earlier in the week we had seventy-degree weather, and I breathed a sigh of relief that Cate and I weren’t out of our minds when we selected the last day of February for the retreat.

Yesterday, I heard the forecast—snow, snow, and more snow for Sedalia. I woke up this morning relieved to see the predicted snow had not fallen. I showered and relaxed for a few minutes until I noticed the ground was white. By the time I left home, snow salted the earth and began to accumulate to fulfill the meteorologist’s prediction.

I expected the side roads to be slick, but was confident 65 Highway would be clear. Wrong. It was snow packed and traffic was running a smooth 30 miles per hour. OK. Surely, the Interstate would be plowed. Wrong again. The ditches were littered with cars, trucks, and trailers. I got caught behind a vehicle traveling so slow that a snow plow passed us. Have you ever been on the wrong side of a snow plow? I might as well have been in a blizzard. My wipers iced up and left blurry streaks all over my windshield. Eventually, I drove out of the storm and onto beautiful, dry pavement.

The drive home was normal until I turned off the highway. The gravel road was challenging with its two beaten paths and pile of snow in the middle. The closer I got to home, the deeper the snow.

Finally, I pulled into my detached garage, put on my snow boots and tromped through six inches of snow to my door. Is it my imagination or is walking in deep snow a lot like walking in quicksand?

Snow just isn't as much fun as it used to be. Or, are my memories a little deceptive? If I thought hard enough, would I recall numb fingers and toes from the bone-chilling cold? I have forgotten any spills, bumps and bruises, but recall the fun of outdoor wintertime activities. In my memories, I don't think about lugging the sled to the top of the hill, I only remember the thrill of the downhill ride.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Book soon to be released--Early Onset Blog: Essays from an Online Journal

A book of my 2008 blog essays will soon be available on Amazon.com. The proof copy was mailed to me today! I'll keep you posted and let you know when I approve "Early Onset Blog: Essays from an Online Journal" for sale to the public.

You might wonder why anyone would buy a book when the essays are free online, but we all have friends and relatives who do not have Internet access. Others are like me and prefer to curl up with a book instead of sitting in front of a screen reading. I refuse to take my laptop to bed with me!

The Internet attracts people who have a second, or nano-second, to view and read material. If you prefer taking time to relish what you read rather than speeding through online posts, this type of book is for you.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Health Fairs Make Me Sick!

This week we had our annual health fair at work to collect the necessary data for a discount on our insurance premium. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in discounts and feel fortunate to have good health insurance. When Jim developed dementia, our health insurance allowed us to choose the best treatment options available.

My first objection is calling this experience a “fair”. I remember the Stover Fair with its thrilling rides: Ferris Wheel, the Bullet, Teacups, Swings, carnies, hamburgers cooked by the American Legion, and marching with my classmates in the parade. At this health “fair” I didn’t see a single carnival ride.

Instead, I arrive at work well before 7:00 a.m., grumpy, because I haven’t had my morning coffee. The highlight of the health fair is to give up a vial of blood to get current numbers for the online health survey. Really, it isn’t the un-fun fair that gets us the discount—it’s filling out that darn survey.

All of us employees have been successfully bribed with Donna’s biscuits and Kathy’s sausage gravy. Man-oh-man, the building smells good. Is that the scent of coffee wafting through the air?

Soon, nurses line up, and with assembly line precision, shuffle employees to be weighed, get blood drawn, grab a blood pressure, and glaucoma screen. I give Nurse Lana a hug—she and I went to school together in Stover. We both know this isn’t a real fair, at least, not like the ones in our memories.

A long line snakes in front of the nurses, but there is no waiting at the glaucoma screening station. I look at the green light and blink as air puffs into my eyes. My reading is above the normal range. Not a good way to start the day.

I decide to work awhile and come back when the line is shorter. I take a cup of water to my desk and hunt for a printout that has mysteriously disappeared. I sip my water and try to ignore the headache behind my eyes.

Finally, I risk the line again and it is much shorter. By now, my head has progressed to a dull ache.

Lana motions me to weigh-in. It’s pretty humiliating to step on the scales in front of your co-workers. I didn’t need the scales and a handy-dandy chart to tell me my BMI is too high.

Next stop, blood draw. Wheee, now we’re talking thrill. The nurse drawing blood is falling behind so Lana offers to draw mine. Although I’ve been guzzling water for three hours, she can’t find a vein. They are all in hiding. She looks at the other arm. No vein, no luck.

Lana says, “I really don’t want to take it out of the back of your hand.”

“I really don’t want you to either,” I said. Been there, done that. It hurts a lot more than the arm.

Back to the left arm. Finally, she sees a faint glimpse of blue and sticks in her tiniest needle. No luck. After consulting with the other nurse, they decide I need to drink more water.

I go fill my cup and drink two cups of water. I go ahead and have my blood pressure checked. It is high, of course.

I drop back by the blood nurse. She looks at my arms and shakes her head. Then, she inspects the backs of my hands and now those veins are hiding too. She tells me to drink water and let her look again in ten minutes. My head pounds and I start to feel as nauseous as I did the last time I rode the teacups. Finally, I say, “Let’s go for it.” I’m hungry and caffeine deprived.

She slaps the blue band around one arm and then the other. I make serious fists, trying to get the veins to pop up. She sticks the needle in. Nothing happens. Lana watches as the nurse tries another spot and when she gets close to the vein, it rolls. She prods around with the needle. “You may need to come into the office,” she says.

“There it is!” Lana says. Thank goodness, blood is filling the vial.

Finally! I take my golden ticket and head for the biscuits and gravy. You’d think that with my cholesterol, blood sugar, weight issues, I would eat fruit instead. No way. I filled my plate and headed back to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.

By now, my head feels like a ticking time bomb. I take everything to my desk because I still have to find that darn printout and get a day-and-a-half worth of work done today. After I eat and drink coffee, my head still hurts. I’m not the only one with a sick headache. Brenda, Kathy, and Donna all say their heads hurt too.

After two ibuprofen tablets, lunch and a diet Pepsi, my headache finally abates. Now that I feel better, I begin to find humor in the whole situation. The health fair made us sick!

The bright point in the whole heath fair/discount experience is we don’t have to fast for the survey.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love is Never Out of Style

The movement to end Valentine’s Day seems more vocal this year. Has our society become so pragmatic that we think a day devoted to love is out of style?

Roland S. Martin’s commentary, “Don’t be my Valentine,” takes the view that since it is not a religious holiday, we shouldn’t celebrate it like we do Christmas or Easter. Isn’t celebrating love as religious as Santa Claus and Easter Bunnies?

Martin indicates that women have become greedy and needy for valentine’s gifts while men are “pawns” who empty “their wallets in order to satisfy their lovers or those around them.” Come on! Martin should get the “Grinch of Valentine’s Day Award.”

I cannot recall one Valentine’s Day in my life when I wanted more than a card. Expecting or even wanting a dozen roses was never on my heart-shaped radar. Jim often purchased a single red rose at the local convenience store and personally delivered it to me at work. Sweet! I could have cared less if a co-worker received a room full of roses. All that mattered to me was the man I loved still wanted me to be his valentine. I’m afraid that I, and millions of other women, do not fit Martin’s stereotype.

Some historians link the origin of Valentine’s Day to an ancient Roman pagan holiday to honor Juno, the Goddess of women and marriage. The Christian version is based on a different scenario. Emperor Claudius II devised a plan to build his army by prohibiting marriage. The idea was that soldiers were not volunteering to fight and die for the emperor because they were reluctant to leave their sweethearts behind. The legend is that Valentine was executed on February 14, 269 A.D. for performing marriage in opposition to Emperor Claudius orders. In 496, Pope Gelasius set aside the day of the priest’s death to honor St. Valentine for being a martyr for love.

Historians claim the dates of many Christian holidays, including Christmas, were chosen to coincide with Roman holidays. Of course, it’s possible that the Romans had so many holidays that it was hard to miss one of them. Is February 14, pagan or Christian? My question to Martin is—what does the Bible call the greatest of all?

Whatever the origins of the holiday, love is never out of style. It is a celebration of the heart and doesn’t inconvenience anyone. We don’t close the banks and post offices for it. Happy Valentine’s Day and may your world be filled with love.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Do You Think You Can, or Think You Can’t?

Jodi Stucker, Phi Beta Lambda advisor spoke at our Business and Professional Women's Meeting last night. I was impressed by the accomplishments of State Fair Community College students. Local PBL students competed at National Competition and two placed in the top ten. One young lady won first place in computer applications!

At the end of the presentation, Jodi showed a slide of a beautiful fountain in front of their hotel in Atlanta. Across the bottom of the slide was a quote: “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”—Henry Ford.

The “can do” attitude was instilled in me at an early age. My Mom and Dad had a hard time raising eight kids. My mom worked at a factory, and dad farmed, drove a school bus, and worked long hours as a builder. They never threw their hands in the air and said, “Lord, how are we going to feed all these hungry mouths?” No, they just thought they could and they did.

When our kids were small, I stayed home with them while Jim earned our living. For several years when we filed our income tax, we fell below the poverty level. Strangely, we didn’t really consider ourselves to be poor. We always paid our bills, and saved money when we had it to tide us through the times when we didn’t. We always knew we would make it. I’m not saying we never worried, but we never let setbacks destroy our lives.

In 1976, I began classes at State Fair Community College under a program called Manpower. I had to be persistent to quality for the program because I was not the primary breadwinner in our family. The second roadblock was the counselor’s insistence that with high unemployment, I should study nursing instead of secretarial. Let me tell you I was squeamish about nursing—shots, illness, all that blood… I knew nursing was not the program for me.

“You have to be top-notch to get a job in secretarial,” he said. “There just aren’t many jobs now. Nurses can always find work.” He totally didn’t understand why I wasn’t jumping at the opportunity to be a nurse.

“I will be top-notch,” I assured him. At State Fair, I doubled up on classes and managed to get a two-year degree in slightly more than a year. Even with high unemployment, I found a job before graduation. I was able to do it because I thought I could.

Later, the stakes became higher when Jim developed dementia. You can imagine that my squeamishness had not changed a lot over the years. Being a caregiver is much like being a nurse. You learn to deal with illness and occasionally blood. During the years of caregiving, I basically woke up each morning chanting the mantra: “I can make it through today.”

Money can't buy love or good health, but the lack of it can make life tougher. Either accept the challenge to make it through the tough times and still enjoy life, or decide you can’t and sink into despair. The choice is yours—can or can’t? Just remember, you will be right.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

It’s a Small World

“It’s a small world” isn’t just a slogan for Disneyland and doesn’t just apply to children wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Other lands and cultures are not the mysterious settings for fairy tales and novels they once were. Now, we know people from those places, we may have toured them, or features on the Travel Channel makes us feel like we’ve been there.

Other than rare trips to Sedalia or Kansas City, we shopped locally when I was a child. We bought clothes at Nolting’s Department Store and groceries at Cooper’s. My dad was a builder and he bought building supplies at Fagen’s Lumber Yard. Our choices were limited. The world was huge and Stover was just a minuscule blip on the surface.

Now, we have access to online stores and can buy merchandise in a worldwide marketplace. Our choices are unlimited. My co-worker, Brenda, found a rare 50th anniversary National Rural Electric Cooperative Association hurricane lamp on E-bay. A few days later, she got a call from one of her neighbors who said, “I’ll just bring it by and refund your postage.” What are the odds that you buy an item off E-Bay and the seller is your neighbor?

The Internet makes our world smaller whether transactions are with a neighbor or someone in another country. Millions of us reconnect with old acquaintances or make new friends on the Internet every day.

How many people do you know that fell in love with a “soulmate” they met online? I watched an NCIS episode where Tony posed as a female to play a trick on McGee who thought he had finally met the perfect “woman”. It sort of reminds you of a Brad Paisley song, doesn’t it? A lot of people need Brad’s disclaimer, “I’m so much cooler online.”

Through Internet searches, I tracked down two of Jim’s old army buddies. When Jim developed dementia, he couldn’t give the information we needed to file a PTSD claim. I turned to the Internet to contact two of the men he served with in Vietnam. One man had a fairly common name, but I found a piece of paper in Jim’s wallet with an address. Of course, it was unlikely he would be in the same hometown twenty-six years later. The other army buddy had an unusual name, but I had no idea where he lived. After some Internet detective work, I discovered one friend had died from alcoholism and the other lived in Maine.

When I began this blog about a year ago, I didn’t expect many people would read it. Last week, my blog was viewed 222 times. Of course, that isn’t much considering I potentially have a worldwide audience, but it’s a lot for someone who grew up in Stover, population 757.

I often receive emails that say, “I just found your blog today.” One of those emails came from my former sister-in-law. Which makes me think…it’s a small, small world after all.