31 December 2008

Infomercials -- I need to get in on these

Is it really that hard when you are cold to put on more clothes? Is it really that hard to sit under a blanket without getting your hands tangled when you need to answer the phone or grab the remote control to rewind the dvd you are watching?

Maybe it is. I guess that is why there is the Snuggie.

I understand not wanting to raise your heating bill -- my house is cold because I am not trying to pay more money on that crap. But I can put on more layers or cuddle up on the couch and be cool -- I mean warm.

I don't need a crazy looking robe to be warm when I have a my old school Mizzou hoodie and a nice blanket.

I really need to look into inventing some sort of unnecessary product and sell it on late night tv. Then I can yell throughout the commercials like ol' dude.

Get at me if you have some ideas for inventions.

30 December 2008

The little things

Sometimes things that seem really minuscule really make a big effect on me. There are times when this is good, there are times when this is really bad. But all in all, it is really interesting to me how some little events, actions, things people say can really make a difference in people's feelings. Here are a few from the past couple of weeks:
  • The whole funeral - Really emotional. It was really hard to get through, but at the same time I learned more about my uncle and his close friends. I learned about the ones that were really close to him and how some had known him since before he even arrived in this country. I learned about how much he really touched all of those guys. I saw my father get emotional. I have never in all my years seen him cry or even look really sad. That hurt, and at the same time it was a sort of relief to see him doing this. It had been more than a hard 5 weeks for him to see his brother in the hospital dying. Since he is a doctor, I can't imagine what it must have been like to understand all the machines and all the words the doctors were saying. At the same time, I know that it was hard for him to see his brother going through this after all that the two of the had been through in all their years. He is the man in the local community that everyone else comes to for advice, for support, for knowledge. It was really touching to see his friends comforting him, to see them provide support for him. And seeing the vast numbers of people out there was fabulous. I have never seen such a long processional of cars.
  • The outpouring of support from friends, family, blogging friends, and even some strangers through this site has been really uplifting. Like many have said, the memories will live on, and the events that I have since experienced have drawn me closer to those still alive around me. Thanks to everyone.
  • Who goes to a movie theatre and shoots someone? I have been to several theatres where people have been a bit loud and have wanted to ask them to quiet their commentary -- sometimes I have asked. But it has never gotten to the point where I would actually inflict bodily harm on them.
  • And I always thought that a woman had the right to say no to a man's advances -- even if that man is her husband. Going on to force yourself on a woman (or man) when they do not want to is called rape. But I guess Dennis Prager (and a lot of other men) feel that once a woman has said "I do" the husband can force her to have sex whenever. After all, how else would the man know that the woman loved her?
  • Another irksome thing is going to dinner with a large group of people. When this happens, there inevitably is one person who is a cheapo. The other night one chick had the nerve to only supply just the amount she owed for dinner without even taking into consideration that there were 10 of us, thus there was gratuity (and tax) included in the bill. She argued hard that she should not have to pay the alloted amount for gratuity and tax since her portion of the bill was not that large. Please. What was really crazy is that her friends were willing to let her do this and pull the slack for her. I did not know the woman prior to that night, so I didn't feel it was my place to step in and start asking questions. Fortunately she gave a little bit more, and was the first to leave. The others proceeded to explain that this is a regular occurrence with her -- which does not excuse her behavior, but it did explain it a bit more.
  • Despite the bill hoopla, the place was fabulous. The Chocolate Bar is pretty close to my house, but I had never been. But I will definitely hit it up again. I am not a big cheese person since I am severely lactose intolerant, but that cheese was awesome. Perhaps the French, Norwegian, and Swiss know how to do things with their cheese that helped it to not leave me cramping in pain. I don't know, but that stuff was great, as were the drinks.
  • Keeping it positive, although the winter solstice was just a few days ago, I am already noticing a significant improvement on the amount of light later into the evening. And I am loving it. Last night there was still a small hint of light after 5.
  • The day before Christmas I was finishing up some shopping for the family. I hate shopping malls and completely despise them when it is holiday time due to the super-crowding and the unruly people who act as though they have never been shopping before. I try to go just before close. This time it was actually a pleasant experience -- I was able to find things fast, the lines were not too long and I had two pleasant conversations.
    • The first was with a former student from my last school and her mother. She was saying how much she and others missed me and how the Replacement is just not cutting it. Even the mother said that my presence is missed. It was touching seeing the girl and hearing her mention people that missed me. They inquired about the new school. I told them that the admin is infinitely better suited for me but that I truly missed the camaraderie of the faculty and the more personable nature of the student body.
    • The second conversation was with the man who was ringing me out. He looked super tired. They had already announced that the store would be closing in five minutes and I was trying to make his time easier. I small talked. Told him what I do, told him I would not need any of the extra stuff many people ask for in their packaging, I was smiling and telling him how I wished him a good holiday. And when he handed me the bag he said a few little words that really touched me, "You have really made me feel good. Really. You have made me not upset with the day." The look on his face was truly genuine. And it wasn't some kind of perv thing. He just truly seemed to appreciate a nice, non-shopping-crazy person. That really touched me.
These are just a few of the little things in the past week and a half. There are more, there are always more, there will always be more.

It's always the little things that really mean a lot to people. This coming year, I want to be a person that provides those little moments to people -- in a positive way, of course. With laughter, a hug, a new thought, new knowledge, a shoulder, even just a smile -- whatever I can give that people I come across need.

17 December 2008

Me, I'd like to daze away

When I was a small girl I remember an occasion when my uncle's cop friend came over and checked on us while he was away at school and my parents were at work. I thought that was the coolest thing. Especially since the motorcycle cop was notorious in the neighborhood (and the rest of St. Louis) for pulling people over on Manchester Road if they went even 31 in the 30 MPH area. I went to school the next day and told all my friends. All the guys were so jealous of my dad's brother. I also told them how he let me touch his helmet and sit on his motorcycle.

I remember clearly the night he was in a car accident and was hit by a bus. I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep for fear, seeing the accident in my head as the street lights lit up the ceiling over my top bunk. My heart still races when I imagine that night and see the bandages on his head.

I remember thinking how cool my uncle was. He was fairly young when he lived with us. He was the ultimate cool. He was in college with these massive books full of math problems I couldn't even begin to wrap my elementary school head around, he lived in the basement suite, he had some super cool friends, he always seemed happy, and he had the greatest laugh I had ever heard.

When we moved to the new house, he did not move with us. But he still came around a lot. I remember him coming with new cars, various new business ventures that always netted us some cool new gifts or free food. I remember at one point he was helping a friend of his get her music group up and running. They even opened up for Lauryn Hill and Busta Rhymes when they were in town. I remember going over to his apartments and seeing how cool it must be to live on your own.

As I have grown up, I have seen that he is not the perfect person. I have seen him suffer. I have seen him cause my parents pain.

But I have all these memories of him. Some are more current. Him using his new camera phone to take pictures of his first grand-nephew. Seeing him at my local grocery store laughing with the people behind the counter. Always that laugh.

November 8th my uncle went into the hospital. He had pneumonia and kidney failure. The first week he was there he started swelling. Although I really like learning the science behind the body, it was hard to look at him. At one point for a few days his normally skinny face was so swollen that it was actually larger than the photos I have seen of Emmitt Till lying in his coffin. There were tubes and bags all over him. They had to use a screen-type of thing on his eyes to protect them because he was so swollen that his eyes were bulging and could not close all the way. His kidneys failed and they put him on dialysis. His lungs collapsed and they had to put him on the new-fangled breathing machine that shook his entire body as it tried to move more oxygen through his lungs. He would get better and then he would get worse and then he would get better. There were days when we prepared for the worse and days where there seemed to be some semblance of hope.

Monday, December 15, he passed away. The doctors had tried everything and they said that he was way worse than when he entered the hospital. It took four minutes.

When I was younger there was a year when we went back to Nigeria for winter break. I was young. Our first dog, who was absolutely awesome despite her penchant for locking herself in the bathroom during storms, was dying at the time. She had cancer, or something similar. They took her to the doctor. We left for Nigeria and she was put to sleep on December 19th of that year -- my birthday.

This year on the 19th of December I will attend a funeral. It is strange and difficult because we have never had a funeral in this country. We had to find a funeral home and figure out what this will be like. At the same time, we are going to do some things similar to what we would do at home. My parents have a good, super large circle of friends who are going to help us a bit, but it still mind blowing.

I've cried, I've laughed at the memories, I have cried some more, I have tried to be strong. I am now to the point where when I think of him I constantly am hearing his laugh in the background of each memory. I am trying to not focus on the images of the past five weeks that I have of him. It is hard. But his laugh seems to be winning out so far.

Hopefully that and other happy memories will reign on the 19th so I can at least have a little bit of a nice memory of this coming birthday.

Until then, I'll keep singing some Blind Melon in my head:
Hey I'd like to daze away to a
Place like no one has known
In a state of mind I could call mine
That only I could own

Where I could hum a tune anytime
I choose, and then there is no such thing as time
Where I can feel no pain just calm and sane
What a place for one to find
"I Wonder"
Blind Melon

14 December 2008

Political press conference turns violent and comical

Ummm... I guess this is to be expected to happen when you have a really low national approval rating (14% say they strongly approve of his job as president, only 35% somewhat approve) and people all over the world basically counting down the days until 01.20.09.

Click here to see video of a journalist in Iraq throwing not one, but two shoes at Mr. Bush's head.

07 December 2008

I can breathe again

I don't have to have back surgery. That is the thought that keeps going through my head, even as the pain continues. I had truly prepped my self so much for the prospect that it is really a relief that it will not have to happen. I had started to figure out what I would do with the substitute teacher who would take my class, I had figured out who would take care of me, how I would rearrange my finances to pay for whatever the insurance would not cover, etc.

The MRI was an experience. No one, even the nurses, warned me of what it would be like. I was impressed that I would get to listen to music from satellite while in the machine. But then I asked them how long I would be in there since I was being offered music. They said it would be between 30-50 minutes.

I got on the machine and was lifted into the contraption. It was weird, but I don't get claustrophobic, so no biggie. The lady came on and asked if the music was loud enough. I said it was fine. She said we were ready to start.

The percussive sound was crazy-loud. And seemed incessant. I could barely hear the radio in my ear. I lasted for a total of 35 minutes in any where from 2-6.5 minute intervals of loud craziness.

The doctor who looks at the stuff was not there that evening so I had to wait to get the results. No big deal since I already figured that surgery would be the only option. I slept better that night.

I went to the chiropractor again. (A really good one. If you need a guy, I will definitely recommend this one. He taught Pete, who I think is the most knowledgeable in the field of the body movement. And he was recommended by Pete since Pete is moving and didn't want to start treatment on me if he is not going to be able to see it all the way through.) This guy was able to explain the results.

Mild to moderate degenerative facet joint changes with ligamentous hypertrophy throughout the lumbar spine. (not so good news) The lumbar disc are unremarkable. (good news)

Basically I have arthritis in my back. (Yes I am still not yet 30 and have bad arthritis in my back.)

But hearing that the disc are unremarkable meant that there would need to be no surgery.

I basically have the stuff that cushions my spine bones deteriorating. That means that the bones are not able to move as well as they should and that they aren't cushioned as well as they should be. Added to this is the fact that although I look like I workout a lot, I have not done more than 20 days of exercising in the past 4-5+ years. This means that my body has not been very mobile and my spine has been made to be stuck in its position. Due to my job, I also have added stress that tightens my muscles in my upper back and neck, which add to the pain.

I decided three weeks ago that since my birthday was coming up, I would start to workout. I ran, I lifted, I did ab stuff, I did back stuff. All this felt good at the time, but the doctor said that it could have led to what turned out to be the worst pain of my life.

The sudden movement of a basically almost immobile spine was not good. It produced the feelings of someone stabbing me through my insides, the inability to bend to even spit toothpaste adequately into the sink, the inability to sit in a chair, the inability to lay on my side, etc.

To make it better, I will need to start exercising, I will need to make sure that I stretch my back to loosen the spine bones, I will need to get adjusted every so often to make sure the gaps are right in my spine, I will need to not get fat.

So far, the adjusting is working a bit. I can move easier. I have also started doing the exercises the doctor recommended. They help a bit. But my back is so tight that I can't even bring my leg to my chest when laying down without pain. I can't do the cobra stretch on the ground higher than about 10". But I am getting better.

And I don't have to have surgery.

Scream bloody murder

If you didn't watch Christiane Amanpour's CNN special "Scream Bloody Murder" yesterday, you have another chance tonight.

This excellent journalist goes in-depth as she covers the genocides that occurred in Cambodia, Iraq, Darfur, and Bosnia. She finds that "instead of using a U.N. treaty outlawing genocide as a springboard to action, political leaders have invoked reason after reason to make intervention seem unnecessary, pointless and even counter-productive." She interviews individuals who tried to get the various U.S. and international government leaders to act to stop the genocide in each nation even before the last straw that grabbed international attention in each case, to no avail.

Click these two links to see CNN's information on the show and a little bit more in-depth information on the events that occurred in each of the nations covered by Amanpour.

Watch the two-hour documentary tonight at 7 pm Central time 8 pm Eastern time.

06 December 2008

There are still some really good people left in the world

Despite the fact that a lot of people are becoming more and more selfish and concerned mostly about themselves and how to get themselves ahead, there are still those that care about the needs of others.

Here in St. Louis on Friday, a Secret Santa went around and just gave people in need 100-dollar bills. The only stipulation was that the recipient do something nice for someone else.

One person who received money had just borrowed the same amount of money from her mother a few days prior to buy food. The Secret Santa went all around town including the Goodwill, a health clinic, and a thrift store.

All together $20,000 in $100-bills was given out in St. Louis -- and for those of you who are wondering, the money was not given out as a way to get a tax deduction - it will not be claimed for that purpose.

It is just people being nice.

You can read more about it here -- read how the tradition started almost 30 years ago by a man named Larry Stewart and how his friends are continuing his legacy in more cities as they try to spread it to more and more cities.

04 December 2008

Fear and anxiousness

So apparently I am meant to live in fear of my health.

The aching back -- may not just sore from doing back extensions. It has been really bad for three weeks. I have a really high tolerance for pain, and have been dealing with it daily. Sunday I had the sharpest pain I have ever endured. So bad that I sat down afterward and was literally teary-eyed. Couldn't move well at all. Sucked since I had a lot of work in the house I was planning on doing and needed to go in and get some ink for the printer.

I went to a better doctor this past Monday and he recommended I get an MRI since it may be something wrong with the discs. I go in today.

The doctor said that some girls when they are younger have slight fractures in their spines from doing activities like gymnastics or other exercises where they do a lot of bending and flexing and put pressure on their backs. Didn't do gymnastics, but I did wrestle freshman and sophomore years of high school -- yes I was that kind of girl. And yes I did beat some guys -- made one guy from Clayton cry after defeating him. I wasn't that good, though, definitely did not have a winning record, but I was all right. Also did high jump which is also all about back bending and falling all on the spine.

I couldn't sleep last night with fear of what this could all mean. There is a teacher in my department at work who had back surgery three years ago for a disc out of place. When my back was first hurting he was asking about numbness or tingling in the legs, which is what he felt and what made him go to the neurosurgeon to figure out what was going on with him. I didn't think much of it at the time since I thought my problem was muscular. But nothing has helped that usually helps muscle problems -- heat, massage, Biofreeze, etc. I can't lay down without pressure on my spine, and when I sit in the wrong position it is truly hell on my lower back. Sharp pains. A feeling as though my tail bone is trying to push against everything that should be in my pelvic region.

Now more waiting. But this time, I feel that the results will not be as good as the last time I had to wait for some results.

02 December 2008

Knock, knock on wood

I am really enjoying the new job. I know I've said this before. I know that a lot of my friends are probably tired of hearing me compare it to the old job when we talk and they ask me how work is going, but I can't help it.

One of the biggest changes is that I don't rush when the last bell rings to end the school day to my car. I don't need to have a drink at the end of the week. Now I may just imbibe because I want to have one.

I have kids that can pay attention and do their work without super prodding them -- don't get me wrong, there are still some that are difficult, but not as many. And not with the baggage that they had at the other place.

Though, I do at times miss that extra baggage. It is what helped me build some of the awesome relationships I had with the old kiddos.

I went to the doctor yesterday for my back (which might actually be a messed up disk in my spine -- MRI Thursday to find out) at the sports doctor close to the old school and saw two of my former students. One of which was my track athlete for three years. It was touching to see them. It really made me remember how much I love those relationships. How much I really miss all the girls who would come and try to get advice on their drama, how some of the guys would come to me for girl advice, how the guys would come and try to figure out if I really could out race them or do more push ups than them. How I had such cool adult people to chat and gossip with between classes or at lunch. Just the little things.

But... I am happy to be out of there. I am happy that I can leave in the winter after school and it is not yet dark outside.

I am glad to have competent higher-ups who respect me, acknowledge what I am doing, and remember little things about my life outside of school that I merely mentioned in passing during our last conversations.

Work is good.

01 December 2008

A quick shout out to my fam!

I haven't been able to do the really deep, thought provoking posts that I do in the summer time or when I have more free time.

So I invite you to read my cousin's blog. He is over in England, so he has a bit of a different perspective on stuff than those over here on this vast space that is North America. Without further hesitation, I bring you -- Denizen.

He is truly one of the best writers I know who is not yet published. And I'm not just saying that because we are related.


Read, educate, enjoy.

He also has another one: Popcorn and White Maltesers