Back aches and Legends

About five years ago, Chuck slipped on an icy sidewalk and chipped his elbow. He sent me a picture. Cute, eh?

Two weekends ago, he put his back out while doing our taxes. Yes, taxes. He had to shred a few documents, but the shredder was full, so he pulled out the tray to empty it into the recycling bin. As he did that, he must have twisted awkwardly. Ow! He managed to finish the taxes with the help of a heating pad and ibuprofen.

Two weeks later, he is struggling to clear major amounts of snow from the driveway and sidewalks. He’s not in pain anymore, but he is stiff. I worry about him re-injuring his Tax Break, er Back, while he’s handling the heavy, wet snow.

Chuck’s Tax-related Backache is already legend. The Blizzard of April 2018 may become legend on its own.

Four Years Ago

I was disappointed in NBC’s Olympic coverage. I couldn’t find anything Olympics-related on Sunday morning – not even a compilation of the previous night’s action. Korea is halfway around the world, I thought, they could have some live events.

Four years ago, I watched the Sochi games all day long. I mean that I watched morning, afternoons, evenings – all Olympics, any time I wanted to see it. I was home, resting on the couch, recovering from major surgery (hysterectomy). It was fun having something interesting to watch; I’ve never really gotten into the daytime soaps.

Four years ago, I slowly recovered my strength and also my vision. The left retina had come loose. I’d had emergency surgery to reattach it in December. The hysterectomy and all it entailed was the second surgery within as many months. Learning about ice dancing and snowboarding was a nice distraction from all the crazy punishment my body had taken.

My boss had hired a sub for me, which was a relief. In my online teaching world, we don’t hire substitute teachers for day to day illnesses or short term events. A six week post-surgical leave of absence was a different story. I had a sub, which was a relief – at first. My substitute didn’t quite get the concept of building a rapport with the families, and they were not quiet about it. Our principal had enough complaints that she fired the sub two weeks early. I was tempted to go back early, but I didn’t. It took some will power to stay home and take care of myself.

Four years ago, I had no idea that I had yet another procedure ahead of me – a carotid catheter exam, followed by the insertion of a stent in my right interior carotid artery. That time, I didn’t have any Olympic games to distract me. A little baseball, maybe, because this happened in late April. Or was it early May? I just remember feeling overwhelmed with so many major health scares.

Fast forward four years to the current Olympic games in Korea. I’m healthy enough (knock on wood) to be at work full time, so I guess it doesn’t matter if there is daytime coverage or not. Go U.S.A! U.S.A!

Encore – the 2014 Winter Olympics, Daisy Style

Actual post from four years ago –

Actual conversation:

Daisy(musing): I don’t remember ever seeing so many crashes in ski events during any other Winter Olympics.

Daisy (to self): Then again, I haven’t really watched as much of any previous Winter Olympics.

It’s true. This year, I was home on medical leave, recovering from major surgery. I was resting on the couch, coffee cup by my side, laptop nearby and television on for most of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Amigo and I had a lot of fun watching and listening and discussing various events by day, and Chuck and I enjoyed evening shows.

Some Daisy style observations:

Snowboarders are fearless and amazing people. Add freestyle skiers to that definition, too. Shaun White, despite not medaling, was a classy guy who celebrated his opponents’ successes.

Figure skating judging will forever be questioned because of the combination of skill and style. Let’s not begrudge anyone the gold, even if she has home crowd advantage.

I enjoyed the Today Show each morning, too. They managed to interview all the recent medal winners and media darlings and have fun doing it, too. With the time difference, I would watch the day closing in the mountains above Sochi while I watched the sun come up here in Wisconsin. It was a pleasant way to start my day while recovering and healing from a major surgery.

I did have a few favorites. I liked seeing the back stories from the athletes, even those back stories presented through commercials. There was a short feature on figure skating costumes, especially the women’s costumes. Those little bitty pieces of fabric are expensive!

A friend on Facebook mulled over a question that seems to have no answer. How is it that USA bobsleds are designed by BMW, but figure skates look the same as the pair you would buy at Goodwill or Play it Again Sports? Input, anyone? Speed skating has gone through a few skate changes, but what about figure skating?

My favorite interview and my favorite moment remains Ice Dancing. Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Midwestern young people from Michigan, skating together since they were young, brought home the gold medal. Suddenly, ice dancing is a Big Thing in the U.S. And then, during the interview, it came out that Charlie also plays violin. He’d casually promised the Today Show that if they won gold, he would play for them. I’m sure he never dreamed he’d be pushed to follow through, but when they presented him with a borrowed violin, he did.

Gold medal performance, it wasn’t, but his moment in the spotlight still spoke volumes for the arts, for music, and for well-rounded young athletes.

photo from Classical Lite dot com

photo from Classical Lite dot com

So there you have it, folks, Daisy’s summary of the 2014 Winter Olympics. I won’t talk about hockey (USA lost to Canada), or that Polar Vortex that’s coming from Canada to add insult to injury. If only they’d keep Justin Bieber, too.

Flu memories – let’s not create any new ones

Yesterday Chuck came home from work feeling ill. I was fairly certain it wasn’t influenza, but can I ever be 100% sure? Sometimes. Not always. It wasn’t so long ago that I posted this.

I was searching and sorting and purging a pile of papers and I found this, a predecessor to Monday’s post. It’s on a scrap of yellow legal pad, so it probably rose from the ashes of a school staff meeting or staff development. This piece wasn’t for the CDC. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wrote it pre-blog. To make it current, it would need almost no changes.

You know the flu has taken over when:

  • Chicken soup and cinnamon toast make a meal.
  • The phone rings and the teenager doesn’t move.
  • The blind family member identifies people by their coughs rather than their voices.
  • The dishwasher is full of glasses and bowls because no one is eating real meals.
  • Each sick person carries around his/her own box of tissue.
  • Suddenly the supply of Tylenol and ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet looks woefully under stocked.

The above list was written with a sense of – well, something close to gallows humor, if I remember correctly. Since that year, all of us have stayed up to date on flu shots. Get your own flu vaccine, people. It’s not too late.

The entire family has been vaccinated. This year’s vaccine may only be 10% – 30% effective, but at least it’s something. As for Chuck, he felt much better today and went back to work. That’s a relief to all of us!

Prepping for the Flu

Influenza always scares me at least a little. I trained as a public health volunteer when Avian Flu was the big fear, and I was more than a little shocked to realize how close we were to a pandemic. Then H1N1 strain came to my fair state, and my fourth graders were really hard hit. An average day would see anywhere from eight to ten kids absent (out of a class of 26), and those kids were sick for a week or more. The flu season that year lasted four or five weeks – or was it six? Eight, even? I remember slowing down the pace of instruction almost to a standstill. My kiddos needed to rest, to get better, and not worry about missing school. When the first group made it back, the second batch went out, followed by several more. That particular influenza strain hit kids a lot harder that it hit adults. I remember needing two flu shots that year, and I don’t remember missing school myself – not for influenza, anyway.

If that hadn’t been enough to make me nervous, Amigo had a long stretch of ill health that started with influenza when he was 16. A few years ago, Chuck fell victim to a nasty strain of Influenza A that landed him in the ER, barely breathing. If you haven’t yet guessed, each and every one of us at the O.K. Chorale makes a point of getting a flu shot every year. My flu shot was delayed this year due to other problems (hey, vertigo and Prednisone, I’m talking about you), but I finally got one in December.

This kind of worry activates my prepper-style paranoia. Any time we go grocery shopping, I make my list and check it twice for any over-the-counter medicines we might need. The chicken soup section of our pantry is well-stocked, too. Tissues? Check. Juices? Check. Crackers and white soda? Check, check.

I no longer have direct face to face contact with my students, so I’m not breathing their germs  and handling their papers daily. Computer viruses are more likely (Ha! Ha!) in an online school. Chuck works in a large plant, and the people there are conscientious about hand washing and the works. They all touch the same tools, so they’re not willing to spread illness through the line. Amigo doesn’t get out much, so if he brings home a virus, it’ll be one spread through his singing buddies in the barbershop chorus.

Now that the current influenza has reached epidemic status, I’m going to take every precaution I can to avoid bringing it home. At last count, I heard the virus had bloomed and spread its, er, pollen in 49 states. Hawaii is the only state with out an influenza epidemic, and Hawaii has its own issues.

But Hawaii’s troubles are a whole post in themselves.

Looking Back (2013) and Looking Ahead (2018)

Oh, Facebook. Those “memories” can be good, bad, humorous, and even painful. Five years ago today I posted this:

2013 is not a year for Resolutions, per se. It is a year for goals.
Recover from “stroke” that wasn’t really a stroke: gain enough strength to walk to work again.
Publish our (Chuck’s & my) book.
I said two, but a third: continue to learn and grow as a teacher in the online education world.

Where to start? The “stroke” turned to be a true stroke, visible in a later MRI with updated technology. Finding this led to another procedure that discovered a nearly completely blocked artery – a major one – and placed a stent in it. That stent is still operating well, and the aneurysm on the opposite side of my brain has remained stable. All things considered, life is precious.

Chuck and I set the book aside for a while. It’s time to pull together and get back on it. Now that he is settled into a new job with a lower stress level, he can take a deep breath and put in some time at the computer writing and editing.

Five years later, I am still teaching in the online world. I’ve stretched my learning and taken on leadership roles within my department and working on curriculum with the national (corporate) people as well. The best teachers are lifelong learners; I hope I fall into that category.

2018 will be a year to increase my activity in the political and societal realms. There’s too much negative in the world to sit back and let it happen. My word for the year is “Action” and the corresponding goal is to speak up. Postcards, emails, letters to the editors – every voice counts.

Happy New Year, friends and family. Let’s make it a good one.

Teaching Peace – The Elevator Pitch

Teach Peace

Mine is purple, a hooded sweatshirt, and also has a small peace sign below the words. It’s a soft and warm sweatshirt, perfect for a below-zero bitter cold day.

And so it was that I was seated in the alcove next to our pharmacy awaiting at long last my annual influenza vaccine, alongside an elderly gentleman apparently awaiting the same. He asked me about the message displayed on my comfortable hoodie.

“Tea? Peach? What does that say?”

“Teach Peace.”

“Oh.” short pause “What does it mean?”

“It means teach people to get along with one another.” Phew, that was quick thinking. 

“And so, um, what do you do?”

I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, so I answered the question I hoped he’d asked. 

“I teach middle school, so there are many opportunities to teach young people how to work together and be kind to each other.”

And before he could ask another question, the pharmacist arrived with her syringe and my paperwork. She slipped the needle into my upper arm with only the slightest of pokes – she knew what she was doing! – and away I went.

I came away with a feeling of relief that I’d finally been able to get the shot in the arm I needed to help me stay healthy. I’ll keep on washing my hands and taking other precautions to prevent these nasty viruses from entering my body. This visit was also a reminder that if I plan to wear my philosophies on my chest, I need to be ready to explain those philosophies. Wearing my “Teach Peace” sweatshirt today kept me physically warm and mentally sharp.

When school starts, I’ll be sure to follow through teaching kindness and peaceful behavior.

Flu, Flu, Flu. Flu shot? Not yet.

Due to an illness in October (vertigo, big time, scary, painful, the works) and the medication to treat it, I could not get my flu shot in the fall as I usually do. Last week I messaged my doctor and his staff and asked if I could consider myself in the clear enough to get the vaccine. He said yes. Yay! Yippee! As soon as I can make it into the pharmacy, I’ll get me a shot in the arm!

But now I have a cold. Ugh. Not a bad one (knock on wood), but still a factor that puts the influenza vaccine on the “not quite yet” list.

A coworker two cubicles away had a bad case of flu-like symptoms last week. He missed three days of school, and didn’t look good when he came back. I’ve been avoiding him, but given the proximity of our cubicles, I’m still breathing the same air he does.

There are others in the office coughing and sneezing. Despite the lack of kids with runny noses in the room with us (we’re an online school), we are still sharing more than our share of germs.

With that in mind, I’ve set up a humidifier in our bedroom, poured myself beverages all day long, and I plan a Neti pot reunion before bed. I have cough drops next to the bed, and I might just take a dose of Nighttime Cough Medicine before my head hits the pillow.

Stay tuned, readers. I hope this virus doesn’t morph into anything serious. Meanwhile, I’ll keep fighting.

Where I’ve Been

Oh, readers, friends, and family – It’s been a rough few weeks. Call it vertigo, BPPV, labyrinthitis, inner ear version of kidney stone, sea legs on land, crystals out of alignment, or whatever you wish, but I’ve spent the past few weeks so dizzy and lightheaded that walking was difficult.

I saw three doctors: the one in the ER, my primary care doctor, and another primary care doctor in the same clinic. They did blood work, an EKG, an MRI, and basic stroke protocol. Oh, they probably did more, but I don’t need to burden you with the works.

Highlights? Let’s see. The radiology tech asked if I was sure I had a stent in my brain. I replied by telling him which artery. He was satisfied then. The three docs ruled out stroke, tumor, or meningitis. I lost a coworker to meningitis – was it really ten years ago? Oh, my – but anyway, I was relieved when the stiff neck went away and I didn’t need a lumbar puncture. Shudder.

Saturday and Sunday (a weekend, for better or worse luck) were the worst ever. I spent most of the weekend reclining on the couch watching a Harry Potter marathon on Freeform. The dizziness and lightheaded feeling were as bad as they’ve ever been. Chuck found me clutching my head and asked “Does your head hurt?” Hurt? It was throbbing so badly that I wanted an ice pack. Or two. Or three. Or seven. I could only read for short periods of time without getting a headache. That, of course, made me worry about…let’s not go into all the worries I’ve had. The list is almost as long as – well, it’s long. Quite long.

When I woke up Monday morning I sat still for a moment – my new routine, to let my brain adjust to being upright. The floor didn’t tilt, and the room didn’t spin. I sat still for a moment longer, wondering if the cycle would begin again. It didn’t.

I brought my cane to school with me, just in case I needed the balance and support, but I didn’t use it.

I came home and celebrated with popcorn from my favorite local fast food drive-through. Evening symptoms included a mild headache, so I took things easy. I rested on the couch and watched television with Amigo.

There you have it, folks, the recent past in a nutshell. I still have a physical therapy appointment on the calendar; if I don’t need it, I will cancel. At this point, I’m still monitoring the craziness, er, dizziness and hoping maybe it’s done.

Maybe my crystals have realigned themselves. I hope they don’t go traveling again; I really don’t want to develop my sea legs again.

Why I Like “Outdaughtered” on TLC

Ah, reality shows. The Daisy reality show would never be reality; my life is actually rather dull, and I mean that in the best of ways. One of the shows in the Big Family category has caught my attention, and here’s why it did.

Outdaughtered features the Busby family, a couple with six daughters. One girl just turned six years old, and the other five little ones just turned two. You read that right, readers: quintuplets. The only all-girl set of quintuplets to be born in the U.S.

Many scenes feature Danielle, a.k.a. Mom Busby, sitting on the playroom floor surrounded by the toddlers. I remember working in child care, spending hours on the floor surrounded by preschoolers or toddlers. I handled that for six to eight hours, and I can only imagine the Busby family handling their little ones 24/7/365. Danielle earns my respect for being a stay-at-home mom to six little one, five in diapers.

Adam, a.k.a. Dad Busby, is dealing with a mental health problem; he has a major depression going on. I understand how that can feel; the worst depression of my life took place about seven years ago. I made some difficult decisions during that time such as blogging my progress, sharing (or not sharing) my diagnosis with coworkers, and much later, deciding to put my real name to a very public essay on depression. I admire Adam’s courage in allowing his depression to be seen on their television show. By publicly owning his illness, he risks criticism from people he doesn’t even know. By publicly admitting he needs help, he risks being seen as weak. But on the positive side, by publicly owning his depression, Adam Busby lets others, especially other men, know that they can seek help. They don’t need to suffer alone or tough it out. Adam earns my respect by facing his depression, and by doing it in a way that may – no, WILL – help others.

Now to the third reason I follow the Busby family’s adventures in reality television. Hazel, little Hazel Grace, is the reason. Hazel was the smallest quint at birth. She developed more slowly and reached milestones such as walking later than her sisters. Hazel also has a vision problem. Her diagnosis thus far is not the same as my Amigo’s blindness, Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), but we went through a journey much like Adam and Danielle’s when Amigo was a baby. Hazel is adorable and lovable, like many tots. Every time I see her squint and every time I watch an episode at the eye doctor’s office, it takes me back. 25 years ago feels like yesterday.

And that, dear readers, is why I record Outdaughtered on Tuesday nights.

And that, my friends, is also why I’m worried about a family in Houston that I don’t even know. I hope the Busbys and their extended family in Texas and Louisiana are safe and healthy in the midst of Hurricane Harvey.