#AtoZChallenge — Open

For my post covering the letter O, I chose the topic “Open” to write about.

The school district I work for decided to open for in person learning at the start of this school year. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but I was certain it didn’t matter because I assumed we would have an outbreak of COVID and be closed in 2 weeks. We are now half way through April, and we are still open.

In hindsight, I am thrilled we opened and have stayed open. Even with all the mitigations in place — masks, social distance, constant sanitizing, etc. — it has been good educationally and emotionally for students as well as teachers, I think. Even as weird as things were, there was something to be said for the little bit of normalcy we had being back in school. Yes, we had students and staff who came down with COVID, but we were also fortunate enough not to have any cases directly attributable to spread at school (some people find this hard to believe — and maybe it is — but in my opinion, it’s entirely possible. I have the advantage of being able to visit many classrooms all around the district, and what I can tell you is the teachers and students alike were very good at following the rules put in place, so I think it is entirely possible we didn’t have any transmission at school. Maybe I’m a fool.)

All that being said, I also don’t criticize any schools that stayed closed or teachers who work in other districts who didn’t feel comfortable coming back. The truth is the district I work in had enough physical space to be able to create smaller class sizes to allow for social distancing, and we had enough money to hire extra staff, subs, and custodians as well as to purchase PPE and more sanitizing products than you could imagine. Not all schools could afford to do this, so I refuse to criticize. We were able to make it work; not everyone was able to do that.

Next year looks like we might be able to be back to even a little more normalcy — we won’t have to spread out as much, we won’t have to self-certify our health, kids can do things like P.E. and art. I’m looking forward to it.

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#AtoZChallenge — New Orleans

I am behind on my posts — eek! I will be writing posts for N and O today to get caught up.

My post for N is about New Orleans. My husband and I took our first trip there over spring break. This was more his choice than mine. He mostly wanted to be able to overdose on gumbo. We only spent 2 nights and 2 1/2 days there, so we didn’t get to do everything we wanted.

Not gonna lie, the swam is actually quite beautiful!

For lodging, we decided to splurge since we were only going to be there a very short time. We stayed at a hotel right on Bourbon Street and got a room with a balcony that overlooked Bourbon Street. The hotel was nice and I loved having the balcony. Yes, it was loud because there’s plenty of street noise on Bourbon, even in the midst of a pandemic where the bars gave to close at 11:00 PM. The noise didn’t bother me, though.

We ate at Acme Oyster House and Oceana — both of which were fantastic! we even did dinner once night at Sazerac Fountain Lodge, which was also nice — and of course we had Sazerac to drink! We also grabbed a frozen Irish coffee at Erin Rose since this is the place that inspired the frozen Irish coffee at one of the places we enjoy going to in Key West — Maryellen’s! I can’t say anything bad about the food and drink we had. Jim had his fill of gumbo, so that was a success! I will say that it has been a while since I was in the South so I had forgotten how the service at restaurants can be sometimes — slow, no rush to get things done, long. For someone from the North, this can be frustrating!

We also did a swamp tour, which was really enjoyable! I am so glad we ended up not choosing an airboat tour of the swamp, as those things are so incredibly LOUD! We did get to see alligators and learned a lot. I have to say, the swamp tour was my favorite part of the trip.

Overall, though, I did NOT find New Orleans to be enjoyable, and if I never go back, I’m totally fine with that. I was warned that it was dirty and a bit seedy — and that was 100% accurate! And I couldn’t tell if the ickiness was from the locals or the tourists or a little bit of both. I didn’t mind it during the day so much, but once nighttime came, it really transformed into something unpleasant, in my opinion. And I’m no prude, folks (we did stop in a strip club for a drink — see, not a prude), but the experience on Bourbon Street at night was one that kept me constantly on my guard and trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. AND it wasn’t even that crowded (see aforementioned pandemic). I just felt unsafe, and I got the impression that Bourbon Street was just fine with everything going on.

Our hotel. We had a room on the 3rd floor.

If we do go back, we already decided we would NOT stay in the French Quarter. Instead, we would just Uber in for the places we wanted to go, and then skedaddle out of there once dark fell. All in all, NOLA was quite an experience!

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#AtoZChallenge — Little Miss Magic

Apparently I don’t know my own alphabet. Yesterday I was supposed to do the letter L and today was supposed to be the letter M. But I did the letter M yesterday so I guess I have to do the letter L today!

“Little Miss Magic” is a song by Jimmy Buffett. This is not your typical parrot head song though. This one is sentimental and sweet. And it is going to be played exactly one month from today as the song for the daddy/daughter dance when my daughter gets married.

Some father/daughter dance songs are typical of what you would expect. Think “Butterfly Kisses.” That’s a great song, but it doesn’t fit my husband and my daughter. When I got married, the song my dad and I dance to was Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.” I’m sure that seems like a very odd song for a daddy/daughter dance. But when I was in high school, on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, there was always a father-daughter dance called Pops and Lollies. My dad always got such a kick out of spinning me all around the dance floor when “In the Mood” was played, So we made that our father/daughter dance song when I got married.

Little Miss Magic” is the perfect song for my husband and daughter. If you know them, then you will realize just how completely fitting this song is. I am really looking forward to seeing them dance to this song in a month. I’m hoping there’s not a dry eye in the house when it’s done.

My hubby and his “Little Miss Magic”
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#AtoZChallenge — Marriage

Marriage ain’t for the weak. I have been married to my husband for 30 years, and I often joke that we stood up in front of God and everyone and pledged, “Til death do us part,” and I had no idea how long it would take for death to come. Sometimes it feels like those 30 years have dragged; sometimes it feels like they just flew by. Regardless, marriage is hard work. It requires conscious effort and dedication to keep it going — by both people.

I loved my husband Jim when we got married, but when I look back, I realize we probably had no business getting married. All my friends were married, and I desperately wanted to get married, too. I think if Jim and I had waited much longer, we might not have ended up getting married. I never thought of him as my soulmate when we were initially together, nor did I think of him as my best friend. Those things came later, after we had toughed out some challenges and we realized how much our lives were intertwined that untangling them would be impossible and pretty damaging.

We have been through a lot. We’ve seen a marriage counselor — more than once. We’ve been through hard times financially. We’ve done and said terrible, horrible things to each other. We’ve threatened divorce. We’ve walked out on each other. We’ve made each other cry. We’ve had vicious fights. We’ve called each other terrible names. We’ve gone to bed angry and not speaking. We’ve hurt each other enough that this marriage should have been destroyed long ago.

But for some reason, we have stuck together. Maybe there were times where we stayed together out of laziness. Sometimes it was because it was comfortable and familiar. There were times it was out of trust. What was always there, though, like glue, was love.

Now, let me stop for a moment and say that love is not enough to sustain a marriage. It’s a foundation, but it’s not a house. Every time Jim and I tore down part of our relationship, we had to return to the foundation to rebuild what had been destroyed.

The turning point, we both believe, was when our daughter — our only child — went away to college. Suddenly, we found ourselves alone with only each other and a new definition of what we were. I think we both knew that there were 2 options in front of us as we dealt with living in a house without our daughter being a constant presence: we could turn away from each other in our loneliness and missing her, or we could turn toward each other and bond over the common sadness we felt having her away. Fortunately, we gravitated toward the latter. We had a chance to learn about each other and discover great things about each other — and we became more than husband and wife and lovers — we were truly best friends. We genuinely enjoyed each others’ company.

I have often said we got lucky, but I really don’t think it was luck. It was the constant rebuilding we had to do, the adversity we faced and overcame, that ended up making our relationship strong.

All of that was confirmed and firmly cemented with my stint in the hospital in 2019 and my ensuing (and still continuing) recovery. Jim has been my rock, truly. I had to surrender myself completely to him. I had to put absolute trust in him. I had to depend on him. I had to be incredibly vulnerable in front of him. And he has come through in every way.

Marriage is hard. You have to be willing to put up with a lot of crap in order to appreciate the good. You have to be willing to use the things that destroy to rebuild. You have to be willing to dedicate and surrender. You have to be willing to give more than just love. If you can do those things, then you will be rewarded with a rich marriage!

Me with my best friend. My soul mate. My husband.
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#AtoZChallenge — J/K: Texting Shorthand

I kind of cheated and decided to do J and K on the same day to do a post that is meant to be humorous!

I recently posted something on Facebook that was admittedly a bit off color and risque — it was a meme of President Biden saying something about the sing WAP. My mom (who will now be SO MAD at me for outing her) texted me wanting to know what WAP meant. After much squirming, I explained it to her (and if you don’t know, please Google it because I am trying to keep it clean here), and decided that maybe it might be nice to have a primer for all the folks out there who just can’t seem to grasp all the shorthand that’s used when we send text messages. So without further ado, here’s a list that is FAR from comprehensive, but hopefully helpful 🙂

  • JK (the title of this post) — just kidding
  • LOL — laugh out loud
  • LMAO — laugh my ass off (can alternatively be LMBO with the B for butt)
  • HBU — how ’bout you
  • FWIW — for what it’s worth
  • IMO — in my opinion (sometimes it’s IMHO where H stands for humble)
  • NSFW — not safe for work (used when someone sends something that has questionable language or content as a warning that what you’re about to see should not be opened at work, around kids, or around those who might be offended)
  • TTYL — talk to you later
  • BTW — by the way
  • FTW — for the win (sometimes used as eff the world, so you may have to use context clues to determine the meaning)
  • IDK — I don’t know
  • IDC — I don’t care
  • IDGAF — I don’t give a eff
  • ROFL — rolling on the floor laughing (sometimes combined to be ROFLMAO)
  • NVM — never mind
  • STFU — shut the eff up (sometimes less harsh as STHU where H stands for hell)
  • RN — right now
  • BRB — be right back
  • TIA — thanks in advance
  • TY — thank you
  • ILY — I love you

Any that I missed that people who are not text-savvy might need to know? Drop them in the comments!

A picture of me with my mom and daughter.

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#AtoZChallenge — Inpatient Therapy Memories

My husband and I had a bunch of errands to run today, and as we were driving all over the place, we had to drive past Silver Cross Hospital, which always sends us both into a weird mood as we go back to the month I spent there in August/September 2019 after the complications from my back surgery. What I think of varies as I pass the hospital. Here’s what I thought about tonight.

I thought about Jim telling me about how the employees at the little coffee shop at the entrance to the hospital would give him their employee discount because they all knew him because he was there so often. It’s nice but kind of sad, in a way.

I thought about my mornings there, how I would decide to get up and get started around 6 so I could be up and dressed when Jim would arrive in the morning before he would go to work. I would have to call a nurse to help me go to the bathroom, and then I would get help into my wheelchair so I could wash up, brush my teeth, and get dressed. I didn’t shower every day — which I absolutely hated. I used a dry, foaming shampoo on my hair to try to keep it clean and smelling okay. I actually have some of that dry shampoo still here at home, and every time I use it, I am immediately transported back to that hospital room bathroom, sitting in the wheelchair, using so much effort to go through my morning routine. Getting dressed was so hard, especially putting on my shoes and socks. I had an assistive tool to help me put on my socks, and I used an grabber kind of thing to help me put on my shoes. The first tome I had to do it on my own, it took me half an hour to put on my shoes and socks. I would cry regularly in the morning while working to get on my shoes and socks. It was very difficult.

I was always so tired in the morning because I couldn’t sleep at night, which is something else I thought about tonight as we passed the hospital. I would be so tired at night from lack of sleep and the effort of physical and occupational therapy I did every day. I would start the process of getting dressed for bed around 8:30 so I could be done by 9. Jim would always stay with me until I fell asleep, which was usually around 10 or so. Then he would go home. And pretty much every night I would be back up by 1 AM because I was so uncomfortable. I had to sleep on my back and I couldn’t turn at all in bed. I would be so uncomfortable and miserable. I would cry every night, and sometimes I was lucky enough to actually cry myself back to sleep. I would put the TV in my room on a classical music station to try to focus on that to help me fall back to sleep. I would count backwards from 100 with my breathing (a tip from my boxing instructor who said she often used this technique when she had a hard time falling asleep — it’s the equivalent of counting sheep).

I thought about the level of exhaustion I would feel after therapy each day. I had never felt that tired. It was like the exhaustion I felt after I did the marathon — only this was every single day. I understood what the phrase “bone tired” meant.

But I also thought about some really nice things that happened while I was there. I thought about all the people who came to visit me — people from work like people I work with, family, my boxing instructor and classmates from boxing. I remembered the dinners with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. Those visits and those dinners really lifted my spirits, and I can see now how they helped me, even thought I didn’t realize at the time just how very important they were.

Driving by Silver Cross Hospital always dredges up memories, many negative, some positive. But I have come to accept those memories, even the unpleasant ones, as part of me and my life experience.

Part of the reason I was so miserable and couldn’t sleep was because I had to wear these bad boys to bed every night.
I would post my schedule on Facebook every day in case someone wanted to come visit. I loved the days where my OT was “shower and dress.” I will never, ever take a shower for granted again.

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#AtoZChallange — Howard Stern

I have been a fan of Howard Stern’s for many, many years. I can remember watching him on some second-rate late night TV show. He was crass, irreverent, offensive — and funny. I listen to him often on my satellite radio, and I enjoy some of his funny bits, and I enjoy the banter between him and his staff, mostly Robin. But what I really love about Howard Stern is his interviews.

He is one of the best interviewers I have ever listened to. I don’t care who he is interviewing, whether it is someone I am a fan of or not, I will listen to the interview. Stern seems to have a natural level of ease meeting with the people he interviews. He clearly does his research because he brings up all sorts of bits of trivia and history during the interview. He also gets to ask questions other people simply can’t ask — he is not afraid to ask people about their drug use, their sex lives, or their bathroom habits! These are all things that just can’t be discussed in any kind of detail on a mainstream channel! And what makes it even better is the the people he interviews get to be authentically themselves because they don’t have to worry about any kind of political correctness or check their language.

If you’re not a fan of Howard Stern, I understand. He’s certainly not everybody’s cup of tea. But you should really try to listen to some of his interviews to see if you enjoy them. Check out his website to see if you can find anything! Good luck!

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#AtoZChallenge — Gait

It’s pure luck I had to wait this long to sit down to write my blog post for today, and my dear friend Jennifer suggested the topic.

One night I was doing some random internet surfing about foot drop and peripheral neuropathy, and I stumbled upon the website for the Turbomed Xtern. And I was intrigued. This looked like a revolutionary AFO — one that could possibly give me some stability and flexion back in my left ankle and enable me to walk better — and maybe even run. I decided to talk with my surgeon at my upcoming appointment.

Since my spinal surgery in August 2019, I have been battling with peripheral neuropathy in both feet, with the left foot being worse, resulting in a noticeable foot drop. I have AFOs (ankle foot orthotics) for both feet, and I readily acknowledge they help me walk and keep steady. But they’re uncomfortable, unattractive, and prohibitive in some ways. Because they are rigid, I did not have any flexion in my ankles so I could not do certain activities. I couldn’t do things like planks — my feet would pop out of my shoes. I also couldn’t run because I couldn’t do the heel to toe motion. I have not been using the AFOs for about a year now, and I can get along pretty well. I’m still a little limpy because of the foot drop, and I do get tired because it’s a bit of an effort to walk, but I can walk and do some things I couldn’t do when wearing the AFOs. But I still couldn’t run. And I kind of miss running.

I showed him the Turbomed Xtern and he immediately wrote me an order for the AFO and referred me to Rinella Prosthetics and Orthotics. Dan Rinella ordered me a Turbomed Xtern and put it on my new Hoka running shoe. Quick round of applause to Emily at Naperville Running Company who took her time with me and really worked with me thoughtfully to help me get in the best possible shoe for my condition and to work with the orthotic.

Tonight, I brought my orthotic home and put it on. My life changed.

With this orthotic, I can walk almost completely normally and with almost normal balance. On a typical night, I need to use a cane to help me get up the stairs because my foot drop just makes it challenging to navigate stairs. But with the Turbomed Xtern, I was able to walk up and down the stairs almost completely normally, as you can see in this (not flattering but damn impressive) video.

Tomorrow, I am going to wear it to the gym and do some walking on the treadmill to see how it feels. I’m also going to add a clip to the shoes I wear to boxing in hopes it will allow me to do some more exercises there by giving me more stability.

And maybe, just maybe, this will allow me to run again someday.

Stay tuned.

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#AtoZChallenge — Fahrenheit 451

My favorite book is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I love how it doesn’t tell the story in a traditional format. Instead, it takes the reader through the story as an experience which means you have to do quite a bit of inferring. But in the year 2021, the story is also a bit unsettling as it seems like we are creeping closer and closer to the dystopian and dysfunctional world in that novel. Read on to see my perspective, but this post may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t read the novel but plan to and don’t want parts of it ruined for you, then maybe stop here 🙂

  • Wall TVs: our TVs keep getting bigger and bigger; soon they will literally be as big as an entire wall.
  • Seashells: ear buds are very close to the seashells people use in the novel. Just take a look around the next time you are in public. People everywhere are plugged in to the ear buds, just like people in Fahrenheit 451.
  • Banning books: while books are not anywhere close to illegal in our current society, we have started to remove books that people find offensive. This is a hot button issue for sure. Take the Dr. Seuss brouhaha. Yes, the books in question had racist material. But does that mean it should be completely removed and unavailable? I don’t know. To me, it seems enough to call the books out for what they are, and then they can sit on library shelves, maybe never to be checked out again. But what if I wanted to read them? What if I wanted to look at them through a new lens, trying to make sense of the racist depictions? Is it fair that I can’t access the books? Ultimately, the removal of some books because of offensive content starts a trek down a potentially very slippery slope.
  • Cult mentality: just as people in the society of the novel seem to have a cult mentality, sticking to their misguided tenets, eschewing and actually turning in people who don’t follow those tenets, even people they love and care about. Politics over the past decade or so have cultivated a similar mindset, with people losing relationships with friends and family because of differences of opinions about politics and political figures.
  • Death rituals being abridged, even eliminated: COVID has caused many families to have to skip the traditional goodbye rituals to loved ones who pass away. In the novel, when someone dies, there is no mourning or service to bring closure. The deceased is simply taken away and life goes on.
  • Dependence on medication: so many people today are reliant on medication for stress, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, etc. People use medication like its candy in Fahrenheit 451, and medication is so commonly used that even when the protagonist’s wife overdoses, the technicians who help her aren’t the least bit phased by it. Mildred herself thinks it’s impossible that she took too much medication, she takes so much that she can’t even fathom how it’s possible she took too much.
  • Desensitization to death: there is a scene in the book where a car full of teens try to hit and kill the main character, Montag, with their car. Montag’s wife Mildred talks about how she goes out at night and drives her car fast, sometimes hitting and killing animals and how it makes her feel good to do that. We may not be having fun with killing (yet), but we sure seem accepting of it. Mass killings and school shootings are common place and don’t seem to be terribly shocking news and nobody seems interested in finding ways to make them stop.

Are you a fan of Fahrenheit 451? If so, do you see things the way I do, and did I miss any parallels? Or am I way off base with a really crappy, pessimistic attitude? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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#AtoZChallenge — Empathy

My post for today is about empathy. I feel like empathy is one of my strongest personality traits. I think it’s one of the most important traits a person can have. I think it’s the trait people need most of all in this world, especially the way things are now. I also think it’s probably the hardest thing to teach people.

Empathy, simply put, is the ability to understand the way another person might feel. I didn’t realize empathy was a thing until I was an adult. I have always kind of been good at thinking about how other people feel. I just thought it was “romanticizing” or “dramatizing” the way other people might feel. Come to find out that the consideration I have for other people’s feelings is actually empathy.

If people would operate from a place of empathy, there would be so many different people in this world. There would be less bullying — both among kids and adults. There would be less name calling. There would be less selfishness. Social media would not be a cesspool. “Karens” and “Chads” would be few and far between. Crime would decrease.

Unfortunately, empathy is sorely lacking, and when people behave empathetically, they get made fun of. They get called snowflakes, triggered, soft, weak, and various other offensive names (many of which are misogynistic, but that’s a whole other post). Being empathetic is considered silly and laughable.

I have often said that part of the problem with the messaging about wearing masks is that we were told wearing a mask protects those around us. For a society that has a distinct lack of empathy, this message falls on deaf ears, so people get all pissy about “having their rights infringed” by having to wear a mask. What should have been said is that wearing a mask is 100% personal protection and will keep you safe from all the other germy folks out there. Appeal to peoples’ selfishness and they’ll do what needs to be done.

Ultimately, the people who lack empathy either don’t see it or simply don’t care, so trying to get people to be more empathetic is an exercise in futility. That won’t stop me from trying to continue being empathetic, no matter how much of a snowflake that makes me.

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