Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween-A Statistical Analysis

Three years ago, we gave away plenty of Halloween candy to close to 100 trick or treating kids, mostly those of the early teen persuasion. We didn't even live here yet, we lived in the neighborhood, but didn't get foot traffic on our cul de sac.

Two years ago, we had about 10 kids stop by. Last year, the same thing. Both years, we stocked up on candy, thinking we'd have a repeat of 2009. Heck, last year, I added Capri Suns to the mix.

This year, we had more kids ring the doorbell than the past two years combined. We alternated who answered the door, but I think we were closer to 50 this time around. Ed purchased the candy, and we seemed to hit our numbers right, with some left over.

Normally, I'd be on campus for a class tonight, but the professor took the requests of several students who wanted the night off (after he told us we were a week ahead on course materials.) Instead, at 8pm, I went into the bedroom and hopped online for a class session, and I heard the doorbell a few more times while I worked. It was nice to participate in handing out the goodies for a bit, though.

As it was a stats class I was in, though, I wondered what I can predict next year's trick or treater population will be, based on my data of the past four years. In any case, if I use my skills in this area, I know me-I'll predict high, buy more candy than needed, and the menfolk will be happy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Do Over

That surprise mid-term I had two weeks ago? I didn't do great on it, I didn't do horrible-but I didn't get a score that I would have if I had known the mid term had two portions.

Last week, we got them back. After class, I told the professor that I honestly had not looked at any schoolwork in three weeks and despite checking email and announcements, did not know there was the in class portion of the mid-term. A friend took the class in the spring and they only had the take home. The syllabus did not list the in class (but the online syllabus was updated to reflect this.

I was the first student he'd ever had who had major surgery during the course of a semester, so he gave me the option of taking it again, which I did this evening.

I definitely did better than last time...

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Tonight, I spent a few hours with a high school classmate and her husband over in Tampa. There were lots of laughs and quite a few stories from back then and now, catching up on the different things that have happened in our lives.

The funny thing is, back then, we weren't friends. We knew each other, but one would never call us friends. It wasn't until we happened to meet up again online (about 14 years ago), that we both probably were willing to look past the person we once knew and get to know the people we'd become.

I'm glad for that, because we have way more shared experiences and situations than we did back then, and that common ground in this case is typically hard to find. So, when she made an appointment for a doctor in my stomping grounds, she contacted me to see if we could meet.

Yes, I could have spent the time studying...but I'm glad I didn't.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Really worries me.

This hurricane is headed towards Maryland by one projection, Long Island by another. Either way, I'm worried about loved ones.

Now, if only we could figure out a way to slingshot that storm out into the North Atlantic, away from any land!

Stay safe, friends.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sure, You Probably Know...

Who you're voting for as president, but do you know about the district judges, state legislators or all those pesky amendments? Yeah, even with my attempts to be politically aware, I don't know about all those races on my ballot November 6th.

Thankfully, locally, the League of Women voters put out a guide to all the amendments and what voting yes means, as well as voting no. This can be printed out, which I plan to do, because Ed and I like to go over that ballot.

Here's the thing, they do this all across the United States. You don't have to be a woman to utilize this tool, just head to their website and put in your zip code, to get a guide tailored to your location.

I'm going to review mine tonight and will vote this weekend, thanks to the help of LWV's guide!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


My car is dead.

And dead in the it needs $5,000 in repairs that I don't have, won't have, and have no way of getting, either.

The worst part? VW had been told pretty much since day one that my car slammed from first to second gear. This apparently indicated a fatal flaw in the VW Tiptronic transmission. For many years, I'd complain, I'd leave my car overnight so that they could test drive my car and get the whiplash inducing snap of the neck when the car revved to 3000 rpms, then decided "oh wait, you wanted to go into SECOND gear", then slammed back down to about 1500 rpms.

Every single time, I'd get the car back and get the message that they were unable to duplicate problem. Three different dealers, 90-something thousand miles. Until that first visit for a service call, the one where I said 'replace my transmission fluid, it's slamming from first to second gear,' and they came back and told me there was a problem with my transmission. Of course.

The Florida lemon law is written that if you have numerous complaints about the same issue in 24 months, the manufacturer has to remedy it. Thing is, I thought it was a nuisance, not a greater issue with the transmission. If you Google "VW Tiptronic" (my transmission, there is a ton of information about people's issues.

What's worse is that there is also a ton of information about the thousands of consumer complaints and VW avoiding responsibility for this issue. They extended warranties on one component on the transmissions, rather than do the right thing and fix the actual issues.

I found a class action lawsuit online. After reading through it, I contacted the lawyer and asked if they were still accepting parties to the class. Unfortunately, it's probably too late for my car.

The end of the line for our family is number 12. Twelve VWs have been purchased by either me, Ed, or someone in our immediate family. We won't buy from them anymore, and that makes me sad.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Say What?

In amidst all the junk mail (yes, we still get a ton of it), today's batch had an advertisement addressed to Jane from the dealer that sold her the van.

You can trade in your 2006 Odyssey, lists how much is left on the loan (which there wasn't one) and other stuff, then, in very large text it says..

'For ONLY 618 a month (for 48 months!). Seriously, 30,000 is a DEAL on a trade in? Then I looked up the model they're selling-it retails for 34,000 around here!

So glad Jane isn't going to get suckered into that one for a vehicle that only has 50k miles...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


This food is totally addicting:
Once again, online friends mentioned this stuff. Or rather, six months ago, they mentioned Trader Joe's Cookie Butter. As the nearest TJ is two hours away, I was safe-until someone told me that it's a knock off of this stuff!
I bought the smooth last week and really liked it, Ed didn't. Then I found the crunchy in Winn Dixie, gave Ed an apple slice with this spread on it (and he hates apples) and a convert was made. Chef also loves it.

When I bought it, I grabbed a bag of apples, too. Now it-and the crunchy spread are almost gone!

You are warned!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Recipe, S'il Vous Plait: Bolognese Sauce

Back when I was doing Tasty Thursdays at Mom Dot, I put up the recipe for Bolognese sauce and it never made it over here. I don't think the recipe is still on Trisha's site after the revamp, but a blogger I follow (actually, on Twitter) mentioned getting spaghetti squash and needing a sauce for it.

To me, that needs a full bodied sauce, and I immediately offered up my recipe for Bolognese sauce, which is Ed's absolute favorite. She told me sure, and I messaged her with the recipe (Tweeting it would have taken forever!), and since sharing it, I've had a hankering for the rich, meaty sauce. I made some tonight, and figured I would share it here.

This is definitely a food of love thing, low and slow simmering gives you a better flavor. Once you've browned the meat and cooked the onions down, you can even do this in the crock pot while you're at work, the choice is yours. Depending on how long you cook down, this makes 5 or 6 quarts.

Bolognese sauce 1 pound ground beef, or if you aren't hard and fast about kosher food restrictions, 1/2 lb ground beef 1/2 ground pork (I do both).
**the current batch has two pounds of ground beef because it was a brick, and that turned out nicely.
1 large can crushed tomatoes (the kind from a warehouse club) OR 4 supermarket sized cans (around 28 oz)
2 medium onions, sliced or minced to the size you prefer
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (optional)
3 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon salt
3 ounces olive oil
I also add 2 tablespoons each of onion and garlic powder, because they have a different flavor profile from the fresh. **Note, this does look like a ton of spices, don't be fooled! You need a lot of seasoning in this.

If you have other spices you prefer in your sauce, have at it, there's no hard and fast rules here. I've been making this since I was a teen and I've seriously modified from what my mom taught me back then.

First, take your stockpot and brown the meat on medium heat, crumbling it up like taco meat. Remove from the pot and drain well and set aside.

Next, pour the olive oil in the bottom of the pan, add the onions and stir until they're coated well with the oil, then add the spices and cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the fresh garlic, cook for one minute.

Then, add the meat back in and the crushed tomatoes. Stir well and let sit at medium heat until it starts to bubble (not a full boil).

Now, let it simmer on the lowest setting you can for a minimum of four hours.

We served it over spaghetti, but this holds up to rotini and large pastas nicely.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cervical Spinal Fusion-Four Weeks Later

I think I can skip the pictures this time around, because there really isn't much change in physical appearance in the past two weeks, other than my hives finally being gone!

So, four weeks after fusing C5 and C6, where am I? I went back to work this past week. Surprisingly, I did 4 of 5 days, laid down for 15 minutes the first day and an hour yesterday, but I actually worked 29 of my 30 hours for the week, something I really didn't think would happen.

What I'd do different is bring my Omni Cervical Relief Pillow with me and spend time laying on the floor after I teach my kids each day. Ten minutes on that pillow does help somewhat in positioning things better and reducing some of the pain.

Yes, I still have pain. Any doctor that tells you that you will wake up from surgery and be miraculously healed is one I would not ask to do surgery. That said, the pain is different. If you used the Likert scale, my pre surgery pain hovered between 7 and 9 on most days. Now, I'm spending most of my days at a 4 or 5, some days I'm actually around a 3 (the level that most doctors tell you to take pain meds, ha!) The end of the day is particularly rough, though.

I had my first episode of numbness in my wrist and hand since the surgery yesterday morning. It lasted under a minute, and that's something I will need to keep an eye on. My MRI showed C3 through C7 being effected, but my neurosurgeon opted to be conservative. I agreed to just doing the fusion of C5-C6, mainly because the more vertabrae you fuse, the less range of motion you have afterwards. As a result, I know that some of the things I was experiencing before may not be gone.

Range of motion is actually pretty good, considering. Prior to surgery, turning my head left was the challenge, the right wasn't too bad (but the right is where all the neck and shoulder pain occurred). With effort, I can turn my head 90 degrees to the left. Don't ask me to move it fast-that hurts. Turning to the right without too much effort gets me to 90 degrees easily.

I can no longer touch my chin to my chest, my chin stops about a half inch before. This probably is permanent. I equate that to the fact that due to the herniations, my neck looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, with the vertabrae leaning forward because the material between the bones just couldn't do the job anymore. My doctor straightened things up for me, and the metal plate just anchors stuff.

Honestly, tipping my head forward and looking down at my belly button is probably the most comfortable position I can put myself right now-and it's comfy for about 15 minutes. I used to like cracking my neck, apparently a lot of people with my issues did the same, but I can't do that anymore. However, I am experiencing back spasms right between my shoulder blades when I sit in one position too long. If I bring my shoulders foward to try to stretch things out, I hear a mass of snap, crackle, and pops-so the spasms may be my body telling me to stretch more.

Sleeping is a challenge. I am a side sleeper, thanks to the Chiari making me cough as soon as I lay on my back. Before surgery, I could sleep on either side, now I'm finding I can only sleep on my left. Getting out of bed is a challenge. I have to remember to roll onto my belly, then ease myself up to avoid putting too much torque on my neck. Some nights, I end up sleeping in my chaise, because I tend to stay in one position and don't deal with the torque problem. For comfort, the bed is preferable, and I look forward to the day where I don't have to worry so much about torque when getting up!

Everyone on the doctor's staff and in the hospital told me I'd be eating soft foods for a long while. I bought a mini blender to make smoothies-and it's still in the box! I also bought some frozen sides that I love from the meal prep kitchen I used to manage and only used one of the four packages. Within a week of surgery, I was hungry for steak and ate it-which I was told would really hurt for while. If you have this surgery, your mileage may vary. The only physical aspects I have are a 2" long cylindrical bump in my neck and the feeling that something is stuck in my throat, especially if I hadn't had something to drink in a while. Point is, I have to keep myself hydrated a lot more nowadays.

When I left the hospital, there were many instructions, including leaving the neck brace on 24/7. My nurse practitioner told me otherwise, but I know I'm slacking off because of the back spasms. I do wear it at work pretty much constantly and when I'm out in public to protect myself from others (and the fact that I am the 8th dwarf, Clumsy). One I got was no lifting beyond 10 pounds. I already had that one from the neurologist for the Chiari, and I thought the restriction would be lifted eventually.

Now I realize that no, if I lift something heavy, I feel a pulling sensation in my neck, and I don't think that will go away. I may truly be limited in lifting forever. I also know that at my next follow up, I'll be asking for the (short) list of rides that are okay for me to ride at Disney. Hoping that Pirates of the Caribbean is still okay, but realizing that it probably is not!

Oh, and I got the letter from my insurance that said "Hey, we got your hospital bill and wanted to let you know we're reviewing it", in which they tell me how much the hospital asked for. Let's just say the hospital wants the same amount of money I paid for my first house! Yikes! Neurosurgery is decidedly more expensive than, say, a hysterectomy with a two night stay. Then again, most people don't get neurosurgery because they just feel like it, so I guess I'll be paying what's left over because I didn't like being in pain or having twitchy, numb fingers!

Ultimately, I'm not where I'd like to be a month post-op, because this recovery is going far slower than anything else I've ever dealt with. That said, I am better off than I was before. It's progress. Slow progress is better than none, so I'll take it.

In the interests of documenting for my doctor and others, I'll probably follow up each month to give a comparison and maybe see some dramatic changes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I made my Tex Mex chicken today, a recipe I kind of cobbled together when I was writing for Tasty Thursdays for Trisha over at MomDot. It's an easy crock pot meal and once done, the chicken is shredded and can be used in various ways.

GameTeen is kind of picky, so I offered up chicken soft tacos for him, which really was the same thing as the rest of us had (lazy enchiladas), just not baked. Ed and Chef devoured their helpings, then finished off the rest of the pan of enchiladas. If there had been more, I am sure both of them would have eaten. (Not to worry, there's probably about 2 pounds of chicken left, and I can make chicken tostadas with that.

With every bite, Ed was raving about the food. "These are amazing", "I think these are better than I've had in many mexican restaurants", and the corker, "I'd pay for these!", to which I put out my hand and said 'That will be ten bucks, please'.

Then he said he need to have refried beans and mexican rice on the plate, too! Darn it, I thought I was going to get paid for making dinner!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Food Plans

I bought some chicken to make a recipe I saw on Pinterest, but in the case, I also saw pork loin on sale-so I bought both. The week has gotten away from me, so this weekend will be spent cooking.

Normally, I do the pork on the grill with my dry rub, but Ed requestd my sweet chili marinade on it instead, so it will take a nice overnight soak. The chicken will have all day to cook in that crock pot recipe. And then, the plan is also to make some crock pot Cheddar cheese soup.

By the time I'm done, I suspect there will be so many leftovers to repurpose that the week won't seem to get away from me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Survived Ax Murderers!

Actually, I went over to Downtown Disney and had dinner with four ladies I've known online for anywhere from 5 to 10 years. You know, online friends are really ax murderers and convicts who are trying to do you harm.

The only harm they did was making me laugh so much that I was dealing with the tiniest bit of a headache when I departed. One of the ladies, Colleen, is here with her husband and we were regaling him of online stories. He was game to help us out with our shenanigans of posting pictures to our Facebook group. Good people all around-maybe they left the axes in their rooms?

Oh, and if you are curious, the food at Raglan Road was fantastic. I had a steak salad, which I felt I had to get because it featured a horseradish dressing. Now, I have to email the restaurant, because I NEED that dressing in my fridge. (Understanding that there are usually two or three jars of the stuff in there at any given time-we like the stuff!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I had every intention of returning to class last Wednesday, but I wasn't feeling so hot and was concerned about getting to Tampa, feeling worse, and being stuck trying to drive home. I emailed the professor, asked about the take home mid term he'd mentioned we would have and he told me that it was posted on the class blackboard.

Once I downloaded it, it seemed ridiculously easy. Yes, there were three questions that included things I needed to do some digging to figure out, but it was okay to use Excel and formulas, so I felt pretty good about it. I got to campus early, wrapped up some things, installed the printer drivers for the common Education printer onto my laptop and then printed out my completed spreadsheets.

Then I got to class early and a couple of people said they thought I dropped the class. (The professor and one other student were the only ones who knew about the surgery). The professor arrives, I walk up to him to turn in my mid term packet and he looked a little concerned "C'est que ce?" and I replied that it was my test.

See, the take home was supposed to be turned in last week, but he's not hard and fast on most deadlines, and considering the surgery, I was okay. BUT, then he handed out an in-class mid term, too-and said that students could either give him their take home now, or after the exam.

I had NO heads up on this exam! Everything we'd talked about prior to my departure for surgery was that the mid term was open book and take home. Nothing in the announcements pointed to this in-class version! He probably told them in class, and thought I knew about this one, since I do chat with another classmate (who wasn't there tonight-odd).

Thankfully, it was multiple choice, and about 80% of the questions were things I knew from taking Psych Stats almost three years ago. Heck, when I was doing the take home, I found it easier than the homework for that undergrad class.

So, I'm definitely not getting an A, but for a major exam I didn't study for, I do think I landed solidly in B territory. What a relief.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thinking of Unplugging from Facebook

At least until November 7th, that is.

I have friends with a broad spectrum of political views, very broad. I like sharing and discussing with them, hell, the 16 years in the DC 'burbs was fantastic for having in-depth conversations about what is happening in our nation's capital.

This election cycle, though, is my first on Facebook and it is grueling. I'm mostly immune to the mud slinging and name calling, because I don't watch a lot of television and my car radio is tuned to the local NPR station. Most of my news comes from me scanning several sources (Washington Post, Daily News (hey, it's free, unlike Newsday), and various television news sites), so I don't see many political ads.

I am not used to this quantity of hatred-on both sides. Most of the people I know can be respectful of opposing point of views, but the ten percent that aren't have really been so ugly that I probably will have to hide them or go away briefly. And that does include some people who share the same ideologies.

For those that don't agree with me, it's not going to make me think better of their candidate-or of them. For those who do want to vote for the same candidate, you aren't helping our choice.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Back to Work

You know what sucks when you're about to go back to work after three weeks off? Insomnia.

Yep, didn't get to sleep until almost 4am, by my estimate-the alarm went off at 7am to get our butts out the door for work at 8am. I made it-and made it through the day with just a 20 minute spell of laying on the couch in the office.

Three of my classes worked in the computer lab while I was gone, with varying amounts of success. I can monitor the classes in the program we use in real time, their teachers cannot-so some students used the time doing other things and others far exceeded what I expected them to do in three weeks. Generally, the ones who sit in the back and are quiet are my rock star performers!

The day started rough, then got better as it went on, but I hit a wall at about 1:30 that I worked through, then at about 2:30, decided if I was going to make it until the staff meeting, I needed to take the stress off the neck, which is when I laid down.

I had to resolve some connectivity issues, had some of my own, and basically spent some time in nearly every classroom. My students got to see me in the neck brace last week and the week before, because they do tend to get anxious with change-I gave them a chance to see what I'd be sporting until Christmas. The other classes, not so familiar with me, had a lot of curious kids with the neck contraption.

It's good to be back.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Three Weeks

Tomorrow marks three weeks since surgery. Tomorrow also marks my first day back to work. In the past, I would have rushed back to work and amazed my doctors and coworkers. Now, I know better-take all the time you can!

So, the progression through recovery, in pictures:
In the recovery room:
Ten days later, when the bandage fell off
I'm still tired and very sore, but the soreness is due to cutting out the pain meds as soon as the ER told me my liver enzymes were elevated. My thought was that I will do my best to tough it out, but it'd probably be better to do that and take as needed in this first week back to work.

What surprises me is that years ago, I spent almost ten weeks at home, healing from a wrist reconstruction and in that time, I plowed through about fifteen books and two video courses (Management principles and Intro to Marketing), that led to me getting CLEP exam credit for two college courses.

I thought I was going to spend soooo much time working on schoolwork, and instead, I'm finding it's really hard to read for long periods of time. It takes time, and I'm thankful I only have two courses this semester!

We'll see what the week brings...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Food Reality TV Alert

Yeah, I don't watch a lot of television. If this isn't already obvious, I will prove it by saying I just found out that one of the few reality competitions I watch is launching season five in two weeks!

The Next Iron Chef battles have felled quite a few chefs I thought would be worthy of facing challengers in Kitchen Stadium, but it seems that Food Network agrees. Season Five is Redemption, and several of the challengers are people I was seriously rooting for their first time around, like Jehagir Mehta, Amanda Freitag, and Alex Guarnaschelli. (Though no Anne Burrell)

Here's the thing that gets me. Alex is now the sous chef for her rival, Geoffrey Zakarian in season four. I'm thinking all these battles can really make her a contender. Then again, Anne Burrell had a ton of stadium experience and didn't make it.

I have to admit, though, as much as I adore these two women chefs, I'm kind of rooting for Jehangir, same as I was rooting for Mahneet Choudry last year. As a cook, it would really be cool to see the Indian cuisine play a role in battles, helping me to add more than curry powder to foods for something different.

Yeah, my geek flag is flying here. November sweeps gets everyone else all psyched about the massive storylines in their favorite series, and I find out that there's an Iron Chef competition to keep me happy.

Friday, October 12, 2012

OPI Gelcolor and Gelish Layering!

If you hadn't gotten the idea how much I adore Katie, my nail tech, I really do. She's a sweetheart and she pampers me and my nails every couple of weeks. Today, she was excited about all the new colors she had to share.

This time, I gave her free reign to play, since she had been dabbling in trying to color match a shade for a client. She also told me that many of her regulars put the same color on every time they come to see her, which is boring. Meanwhile, I can't wait to try something new. And this week, that's exactly what I got!

This was a layer of a bottom coat of Gelish Sweet Chocolate, which on its own looked like a melted Hershey bar. Then she applied a layer of OPI Gelcolor Deutsch You Want Me to get a metallic, coppery shade. What do you think?

Last time I went to have my nails done, Ed commented that he expects manicures to be reds, pinks, and orange-y corals. Meanwhile, the reason I do my nails now is that there is so much more variety in shades. The backdrop is more my usual speed on colors, to the point that a coworker who was a friend before I started my job saw the color and commented that she never expected to see me in this kind of color.

I kind of like it. It screams fall to me, looking similar to a caramel apple shade. As we talked about that, the coworker told me she's doing up her nails like candy corn this weekend, which is totally her. That's probably the best thing about the palette OPI, Gelish and CND put out-you definitely can find something that's right up your alley, and sometimes, you can mix it up, too.

I'm going to enjoy a little bit of fall color in this 90 degree weather.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ready to Go Back?

I showed up at work today to check in and somehow, I ended up working for an hour and a half. Boy, did that tire me out! Now I'm a little concerned about heading back into the trenches on Monday.

At least I've only got students for four hours each day. I think at the very least, I can handle working the first week back for four hours a day, then maybe do more the following week. I'll play it by ear and see how things feel once I'm there.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gelish Magneto-Almost 2 Weeks Later

I'm getting a lot of raves for this manicure. I really love the color and the effect, and apparently, it catches other people's attention, too.

There's one area where it doesn't measure up: look what happened while I was cooking this past Saturday:
I wasn't using a knife, I was actually just filling a pot with water to make baked ziti. To be honest, I've done far more kitchen work with CND's Shellac not showing a single sign that I'd spent time in the kitchen. This was underwhelming. That, and the fact that two nails have ripped near the base of the nail leaves me with the impression that the layers are not nearly as durable as CND's Shellac.

I'll probably go with this when the nails are shorter, but I have an average length (for me nowadays, anyway) and I'm being a lot more ginger with what I do with this manicure-which defeats the purpose of getting a two week gel polish.

Your mileage may vary, but I'm recovering from surgery and not doing much and this does not bode well for when I resume normal activities.

**Edited to add: When I visited Katie the next day, she brought up a valid point, that my body is recovering from surgery, and as such, my nails may be undergoing some changes. It is possible that the chipping and rips near the nail bed is due to a weakened system. Sounds possible. I'm going to resume my daily biotin supplements for now to strengthen the nails and help knit those bones I'm trying to fuse together!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Video Camera number Three

While having two Macs is really good in most areas, there's one arena in which it can be frustrating, and that's synching with digital video cameras.

Let's see, the Kodak Playsport? Not a problem. The Sony Bloggie-the software only would allow me to download the video files, but I couldn't change the format from portrait to landscape, so I have four videos that are filmed in landscape that look like gravity didn't work when I was on Long Island!

I exchanged the Bloggie for a Samsung, which is a more conventional handheld DVR. I hadn't shot any video with mine, but I did use someone else's up in NY and realized that the SD card wasn't extracting the video onto the Mac. Then, this past weekend, a friend borrowed it to video tape an assignment for her class. That's when I realized that yep, there's a problem.

The answer is that I'm to use iMovie, which I hadn't used before. A little bit of work later, the videos were extracted, exported to MP4s, then burned to a DVD and handed off to be turned in. I just need to do the same with my other SD card.

I'm thinking that I need to explore what other video editing products are out there to do this, instead of using iMovie, because it's a PITA!

Next digital video camera, I'll be double checking that they're Mac compatible first!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Song Pop

I've been playing a lot of Song Pop on Facebook, on my phone and on my iPad. For the most part, I'm kicking butt.

But, there are always those categories that I'm going to bomb. Today's Hits, Modern Country, Gospel, Hair Bands and National Anthems are going to do me in every time. Suprisingly, I do a lot better on Rap than I ever expected.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

And More Steps Back the hospita1.

I had symptoms today that could indicate meningitis, I had recent surgery, and well, I felt like poop. I followed suggestions and went to the ER.

Thankfully, I am okay, but gosh, it sucks feeling that crappy!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Two Steps Forward...

Yesterday, I woke up and realized that I felt better than I had in a very long time. No pain, just felt good. Honestly, I think it's been a few years since I woke up with no neck and shoulder pain.

Alas, it was a brief honeymoon period. I got a flat on the way home from picking GameTeen up from school. The tire place was having their floor waxed, and I had a little space to sit-for two hours.

Between that and some online stuff (I seem to be Suzanne's free therapy service to a few people!) I am now really SORE.

I think I need to spend the next week holed up in the house, doing nothing. Because that feeling of no pain? It was really nice. I want it back!

Friday, October 05, 2012


We all hold things near and dear to our hearts. Sometimes, the things that cause us the greatest pain become a life's passion. For me, part of the motivation to work on educational interventions for kids with Autism stem from feeling like I'd failed GameTeen. I know I haven't (for the most part), but it's amazing what fuels our pursuits.

Now, a different person, they might take a different approach. They may want to raise money, have walkathons, bake sales, gala affairs, all with money going towards research on what causes Autism. That's a fine pursuit, too-it's just not my cup of tea. I am of the mind that the person with Autism is probably going to be a great innovator, based on those who have been identified as being on the spectrum. Hey, any research is good research, though, so the fact that people want answers is a good thing.

That's my personal crusade. I spoke of my friend Janie's personal passion right now, she's trying to find answers for her son, Jon. As a mom, I totally get Janie's passion for finding answers, and I know Janie-she brings people together with a warped sense of humor and her unrelenting faith. We talked about her starting an online support group, because I see that being Janie's passion.

Within each of us, there is something that fires us up, that we will pursue until we are exhausted because we think the answer is just around the corner. It's important to know that everyone else on the planet has a different cause that pushes them to get out and give everything they can in that pursuit of answers. It is admirable when others use that fire in their belly to further the cause.

However, at the same time, just because your passion is not the same as someone else's does not mean that they have lesser needs, that their raison d'etre is insignificant. Far from it! While it may seem that way to you, but also consider that they could be thinking exactly the same about what you're doing. Neither is right-because anything that gets us fired up for positive change is a good thing

Some causes have lots of money, others have celebrities speaking for them, others have amazing buy in from commercial entities. I'm thinking of Susan G. Komen for breast cancer, Michael J. Fox for Parkinsons Disease, and the St. Jude Foundation getting support from many retailers from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Others get out there and their workforce's goal is to raise money to fund their cause, like Salvation Army.

At one time or another, I've supported these entities and dozens more, respecting that passion to find answers, to help someone in need, to make a difference. Supporting these others never diminished my personal passion, nor will it ever. If I went around bashing other causes, because they've got more money behind them, or more people know about them, wouldn't it just turn people off to my cause?

What say you?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Klippel-Feil Syndrome

I know, you're wondering what the title is, what it means, and why I'm writing about it.  Klippel-Feil is a disorder I would never have learned about if not for one of my dear online friends, Janie's, son being diagnosed with it as a baby.  Jon is 13, a triplet and one very handsome boy.  He also has a tough life because of this rare disorder.

Klippel-Feil is rare, estimated to occur in 1 in about 45,000 births worldwide.  No accurate numbers are known, because there haven't been any studies to determine how often it occurs.  Janie found out one of her babies was in trouble before he was born, so she and her husband had a heads up that there might be medical interventions for Jon, but not exactly what he'd need.

Klippel-Feil causes a myriad of issues, one is 'blocking' of vertabrae, another is scoliosis.  Jon has both.  There are neurological, cardiac, ear/nose/throat and urogenital problems.  Like diseases like Cystic Fibrosis and Down Syndrome, those who have Klippel-Feil face a lifetime with a lot of medical interventions, mainly for the scoliosis and cardiac issues.  Also similar to the two disorders I named, a person diagnosed with Klippel-Feil is expected to have a shorter lifespan than others.

How about Janie tells you a little bit about Jon, and I'll come back, okay?
I was pregnant with triplets and had multiple problems during the pregnancy so I needed weekly ultrasound monitoring and check ups. At 22 weeks, the doctors noticed that there was something wrong with Baby A (now known as Jon) - his spine didn't look right, and they could not find his kidneys. They assumed that there was a genetic defect but didn't know what. They told me to expect that Baby A (Jon) wouldn't survive the birth for various reasons.

It was a very rough time. Lots of prayers and tears. We were very frightened about what was going to happen.

The triplets were delivered via c-section at 32 weeks. Jon was blue and not breathing. The babies were taken to ICU and Jon was intubated because they said that his throat wasn't letting him breathe for some reason, and his right ear looked like it was glued to his right shoulder. His body was different from a normal baby. It looked like someone cut a normal sized baby in half and glued one half to a smaller sized baby. He had facial asymmetry, hip dysplasia, and hypoplasia of the upper extremities.

They ran tons of tests to see what was going on. He had one kidney on the left side and nothing on the right. He had severe torticollis on the right side of his neck and had a shoulder blade deformity called Sprengle's deformity where a bone connects the shoulder blade to the spine, reducing the ability to move the arm and shoulder.

They later found out that he was missing several cervical vertebrae on the right side causing his head to tilt to the right. There were fused cervical segments, cracks in vertebrae down his spine, and he was diagnosed with congential scoliosis. He had his hearing tested and it came back normal.

They classified his disorder as Klippel-Feil Syndrome II. His case was transferred from Primary Children's Medical Center to Shriners' Hospital in Salt Lake City because Shriners' hospitals deal with bone deformities. I felt that Jon would have a better chance of getting the right care for this particular bone deformity.

They wanted to do surgery to correct the torticollis which I refused. I'm not a big fan of surgery and asked for physical and occupational therapy which they agreed to. From 6 months to 2 years, he went to therapy twice a week without fail.

At 2 years, he underwent surgery to remove the bone from the shoulder blade, the doctors fused two vertebrae together to add strength to his neck, cut his right collarbone, and brought his shoulder down. It was a rough surgery and he refused to let me hold him for a while because I think he blamed me for putting him in this situation. Six months after surgery, he went right back to therapy twice a week.

At home, I had to make him pick up things with his right hand, did "wheelbarrow" with him where one picks up the legs of a second person and make them walk on their hands, bought an indoor bar and installed it in a doorway so I could get him to do a couple of pull ups or swing to stretch out his shoulders. Oh, he hated doing them so I did a lot of bribery and pleading.

At school, Jon was always last in the line for his classes for fear that some child may shove him whether on purpose or accidentally, damaging his fragile neck, could not play dodge ball or other contact sports, and could not sit on the floor with his class.

A year ago, at the age of 13, his congential scoliosis got progressively worse and I felt that we should try another options and use surgery as the last resort. They fitted him with a brace and I was very hopeful that it would work by holding his spine together during his growth period but it wasn't to be.

His scoliosis is now over 50% of the curve and is putting pressure on his heart and lungs. His KF disorder makes it particularly worriesome because of the cracks and fused verberates in his spine. I've been doing tons of research and sadly there isn't very much information out there.

I have spoken with two parents with KF children online and their experiences is similar to mine: Lack of understanding the disorder and treating the symptoms hoping that the treatments doesn't make KF syndrome worse. There is no online support for KF patients which frustrates me to no end. I checked FB and it only had two pages with little or no information on it.

Jon is a straight A student and is on honor program. He plays the trombone in a jazz band at his school and loves playing video games which was a good thing in his case because it forced him to use his right hand and make his right eye focus better.


I think the worst part of Janie telling me and other friends about Jon's situation is that she couldn't find information about Klippel-Feil online.  What little she does find is either in Italian or Spanish and she muddles her way through it.  The other day, she tried having a conversation with another mom in Italy and it was hard, both women trying to understand each other, knowing that there is so little out there about this syndrome.

As for me, I have resources.  USF has a medical school, which means that not only do I have an excellent library available to me, I have access to many medical journals.  It has helped me in researching about GameTeen's Aspergers, and I went onto the library database the other night in an effort to find things for Janie, so she could become more informed when discussing treatment options for Jon with his doctors.

In total, I found about three dozen articles, about a dozen only mention KF peripherally, and most address the difficulties in anesthetizing these patients in surgery because of the neck and spine issues.  What articles I could find have been downloaded and sent to Janie, and I'll keep an eye out.

When I followed up for my surgery yesterday, I mentioned KF to my nurse practitioner.  The advantages to a teaching hospital (and doctors who teach at my University) is that you get researchers and cutting edge ideas.  It ends up the neurosurgeon I was originally directed to has actually done scoliosis surgery for KF patients.  The Shriner's here in Tampa has a doctor who has co-authored some of the research I've found online.

My nurse practitioner explained the reason why a lot of that research is in Spanish and Italian-the limitations of our medical system in the US sometimes prevent doctors from trying treatments outside the accepted protocols.  In Columbia, the doctor I mentioned did a residency on difficult neurological cases, then he came to the US and did a second residency.  As a result, he's seen a little bit more (and it may explain why he also does Chiari surgery, too.)  Outside this country, there is work being done-not a lot, but more than here.

The thing is, there are plenty of kids with this diagnosis here in the US.  Those kids have moms and dads who want answers, who want to fix things, to give their kids a chance at something resembling normal-but they don't know what to expect, what is good or what is bad.    These parents want to find each other, to communicate, to have support-but there isn't anything for them.

My hope is that by shedding light on this, someone will Google 'Klippel-Feil syndrome' after leaving a doctors office, or a doctor will search, hoping to find some more information and find this and contact me.  I can put them in touch with Janie and we can get that support network together-and maybe, we can get some answers that can help the kids with Klippel-Feil.

If you know something, please email me.  If you need to talk or be an understanding ear, please email me-and I will get you in touch with Janie. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


The nurse practitioner likes my progress. He agrees with the bosses' timetable for me to return (if I still need naps after going out, I am not ready to return yet, IMO) a week from Monday.

I can drive, but shouldn't wear the neck brace for that. However, if I'm a passenger, I need to wear it, as well as sitting at a desk, or while I'm out and about to keep me from doing 'stupid stuff'. Okay, I'll buy that.

The best part? I don't have to wear it while sleeping! After last night, that was very good news, because I apparently tried to burrow into the chair I'd been sleeping on to avoid sleeping on my side and might have tried to bend my neck at a 90 degree angle. That doesn't work, even without a plate in one's neck.

I got home after running errands (and seeing my students briefly), took the neck brace off, and promptly slept for three hours. It was glorious.

Maybe I'll be on the mend quicker, now that I can resume the preferred sleeping method!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Allergies Again

I hate sensitive skin.

I have a rash all over my neck, chest, cheeks, and upper back. At first, I thought I was allergic to the Norco I was given, but I realize that it is from the pads on the neck brace.

Since I got home, I've tried to have some fabric between my skin and the pads, but apparently, I'm moving around way too much in my sleep and the fabric isn't cutting it.

Hopefully, tomorrow, I might get early release from this neck brace. Otherwise, I'm going to need to find a bunch of Howard Wolowitz dickies to cover me!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Spinal Fusion, A Week Later

Or, 'What they don't tell you until you get to the hospital!'

When you have neurosurgery, the doctors are very careful. Seriously careful, because they don't want to render you paralyzed from a misstep. So, there are things you don't consider until the neurosurgeon assisting your doctor comes in to see you and has some hardware.

For instance, the doctor assisting came in with some electrical leads he attached to both of my arms. Since I'd had the numbness and most of the issues one has with a herniation at C5-C6 deals with the arms, these leads would be electrified and checked throughout surgery, to make sure my nerves were conducting the way they should be. He told me I would have contacts screwed into my skull, too. So, here I am, a week later, with a bunch of sore spots on my arms and head. (about 6 on my head and four on my arm).

The ones on my arm have bruised, similar to what you see with an EMG or IV insertion.
Yes, I bruise easily, but these look like they'll be sticking around for a few more days. Don't plan any modeling shoots right after surgery, okay?

I am a low-key patient in the pre-op suite, my BP was sticking close to my baseline 110/64, even after they'd inserted the IVs, but they told me that because they had to move my esophagus out of the way for the surgery, the intubation would be kept in after I woke up in recovery. I was not thrilled with being awake for an extubation, but honestly, I drifted in and out and didn't remember the extubation. Thankfully. What I do remember, and I'm still queasy at this is that this was the first major surgery where I was asked to gargle with lodocaine. Nasty stuff. Really nasty stuff, and the bitter receptors on the back of my tongue will tell you that they did not like the stuff. No way, no how. The anesthesiologist kept talking about how I needed to do this to get the lollipop.

I'm not a kid, don't tell me I'm getting a lollipop. Especially when this 'lollipop' was really a gauze pad soaked with some topical anesthetic that I had to put in the back of my mouth so that they could intubate while I was awake.

Yeah, so if I need more neurosurgery, I'm going to insist they knock me out first. I do not want to deal with that stuff again. I'm gagging at the memory.

The other thing is that the neck brace can be adjusted on the patient, on the table. However, mine was set for someone who has a longer neck! I found the manufacturer's website and found out how to change it from this:
to this:
The brace is supposed to have my chin seated in it comfortably, which it wasn't before that.

And now, I need to walk away, because I'm still queasy!