Sunday, February 27, 2011

To All The Dogs I've Loved Before

I once had a dog named Buffy,
She's not what I would call fluffy
Instead she was ridiculously furry 
And never in too much of a hurry
But that didn't make me love her any less.

I once had a dog named Chewy
Whose puppy face made my heart go all gooey
She ate my glasses, the garbage and my books
But the Lord gave her such good looks 
And THAT'S what always led to her forgiveness.

I once had a dog named Champ
And with him I finally understood the term "scamp"
He would jump up and down 
Because he's so low to the ground
And if ignored would become completely distressed.

I once had a dog named Ashley
She taught me about true loyalty
Watching our family, whole,
Loving us heart and soul,
For that dog we all felt truly blessed.

I once had a dog named Rufus
His story really confused us
Mom told us he went to a farm 
And we knew that was a little charm 
Until we learned t'was the TRUTH when his new owner finally confessed!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Think IH on Rare Disease Day

Flowers for AlgernonI was in high school when I read Flowers for Algernon and the story absolutely broke my heart. I've seen the movie, but film seemed unable to capture what Charlie's broken down language could convey. Yesterday, I had a "Charlie moment." I've decided that's what I am going to call them now, since a "senior moment" doesn't quite fit a 34 year old, or the nature of the event. Nope, I gained a great knowledge, used it, flourished in it and now, sit back, helplessly as I watch it all slip away...

It began earlier this week when my husband and I were watching the movie 127 Hours in preparation for the Oscars this weekend. My husband asked, "127 hours - how many days is that?" This is a simple question. He may have even had an answer before I said anything, all you have to do is divide 127 by 24, or decide through multiplication (or even repeated addition) how many 24s it takes you to reach 127. I said, "It's more than five days, but maybe even more than six. I don't know. Let me think about it... Could it be seven? I don't think it is seven. I think it is more than six, though."

I honestly don't think my husband even cared anymore, but throughout the movie I was multiplying 24 by six, then by five, then by seven... all in my head and never able to get an answer. I gave up and watched the movie. A day passed. Then last night, while we were driving home I said, "127 hours is five days with seven hours left over. It is not even six days. What was I talking about?" I couldn't believe this was happening to me again. I continued, " I feel like Charlie, from Flowers for Algernon."

My husband is an English teacher, so he didn't need much further explanation. You see, by career, by passion, by life calling, I am a math teacher. I have been since I graduated undergrad with a BS in Mathematics and Education. I have taught pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and advanced placement statistics over the course of the last twelve years. On my desk here in my office is an article from a 2001 edition Congressus Numerantium a Canadian Mathematics journal, that I was a co-author on. It goes without saying then that I should be able to tell you how many days pass in 127 hours, and I should be able to tell you quickly. However, in the last year, simple calculations seem to elude me.

It should come as no surprise to you that I am on medical leave from my teaching job, or that yesterday I began the process of filing for disability benefits. I can no longer do my job, because like Charlie and Algernon before him, I am losing the great intellectual gift that was once bestowed upon me. Whether it is due to the medication I have to take to keep my Intracranial Hypertension in control, or it is as a result of any damages the pressure may have had on my brain before I was I diagnosed, I have difficulty with some of the most benign tasks related to my profession.

This is merely one of the personal obstacles that IIH has placed before me. There are numerous others and every patient with IH has their own story to tell you. There are a lot of us out there, not as many as some other diseases and, at times, that puts us in a precarious situation. For this, IIH is deemed a Rare Disease and, in turn, does not receive as much attention as other diseases. The type of "attention" we patients desire is not necessarily some sort of media-blitz or lots of people suddenly knowing what IH is - the most desperately sought after attention we seek is that of the researchers. We would like the men and women in medical research to take some time out for IH to find better treatments, preventions, or, we hope, someday, to find a cure.

This picture was created for IHRF Wall of Hope Project for Rare Disease Day 2011.
So while you may have never heard of Intracranial Hypertension (IH) before reading this, you can know at least this for now:
  • IHave it,
  • IHate it, and
  • IHope for a cure.
It's not great, it is life-altering and can sometimes, like all chronic conditions, be a bit lonely. You should also know that February 28th is Rare Disease Day, an annual, global event to raise awareness about all rare diseases. I kindly request that you take a moment to spread the word about some rare disease close to your heart this year, and if you have none, then tell someone about IH. If you want to learn more about it, check out the Intracranial Hypertension Research Foundation - the only non-profit dedicated to raising money and awareness about this disease.

Just think IH for Rare Disease Day!

If you are a fellow IHer, well then, my friend, I know you will already be thinking IH for Rare Disease day, so I'll leave with something more: I wish you a pain free today and tomorrow!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book to Movie Review - I Am Number Four

Book Stack End TableI like to read books. A lot. In fact, when I first started losing my vision and getting the crazy headaches from my IIH, losing the ability to read print on paper was one of my biggest heartbreaks. However, in the Spring of 2010, I got an iPad and have been able to read again, at my leisure (in ginormous font) and, for that, I am forever in love with technology.

Now back to my point. Books rock! Stories that are creatively written and can convey drama, romance, action and emotion through configurations of letters strewn together in an organized manner separated by well placed punctuation are works of art. Sometimes stories are recognized for their entertainment value and gobbled up by Hollywood. Such was the case with the Young Adult novel called I Am Number Four. In fact, based on the timing of the release of the book and the film I would have to say that I think maybe Hollywood had their hands on this story even before it went to print, which makes the following thoughts even more pressing to me:

If one decides that a story is valuable enough to make a motion picture out of it, why doesn't that one stick to the plot as written in the original story?

I Am Number Four
This is a question that has plagued readers for generations, and tonight I have fallen victim to its curse once again. I read I Am Number Four earlier this month and found it very entertaining. When I realized it was going to be a movie I thought that was a really good move. The story had all of the angst and emotions of the "new kid in a new school" story mixed with "high school bully is the ex-boyfriend of the chick I dig" and, of course, "I can't tell anybody, but I am really an alien from another planet hiding in plain sight from an evil race of aliens that is hunting me down to try and kill me dead."

After I read the book, I read many reviews of the book that said the story and its characters were cliche, that this story has been told before. However, while a broad strokes look at the story may lead you to believe so, I think that many of the characters had a nice depth to them that was anything but cliche. The most intriguing character in the book for me was (well, besides Bernie Kosar, of course - I kind of have a thing for beagles) Mark, the "bully." His transforming moment, in a fire (oftentimes a signal of rebirth in literature) was much more believable than many bully transformations I have read in the past. In fact, the fire scene in the book was so important to many of the characters in the book -
  • Sam, the shy, outcast character kisses a girl which may actually be the catalyst for the fire. His passion ignites the rebirth.
  • Mark, the strong quarterback bully is left helpless unable to be strong for all those who have looked up to him for so long and, instead, must rely on a boy he has been diminishing in their society. He is forced to find strength in others and be grateful for it rather than threatened by it. 
  • John (Number Four), who has been hiding his true identity from everyone, even those he truly cares about must make a decision to keep his secret and let people die, or use his power to save others, therefore ending his life in Paradise, Ohio. He is finally able to tell Sarah the truth as they burst from the fire unscathed.
It was a pretty powerful scene, and, yes, I am probably reading it way too deeply, but that's what I do - I think, a lot, about everything... it's kind of like a hobby of mine. Anyway, my point is: THIS SCENE DID NOT MAKE IT INTO THE MOVIE. This is just one example of a scene that I can disect for its storytelling power and then end up telling you was not in the film. Here are some big elements that I sorely missed:
  • the first day of school/lost phone/impending fight
  • the Halloween parade 
  • Thanksgiving
  • the fire legacy
  • the significance of the Lorien trunk
  • Henri and John's training sessions
  • John and Bernie's runs
The worst part for me was that it was obvious that these scenes were not victims of an overly zealous editting staff. No, these elements, and others were simply written right out of the movie!

So, because my reader-moviegoer's wound has been reopened I am asking again:

If one decides that a story is valuable enough to make a motion picture out of it, why doesn't that one stick to the plot as written in the original story?

I am disappointed. I am, sadly, not surprised.  I just thought that with this book, because it was written for a younger audience, that they would do right by the kids. This stuff always bothers me ten times more when it is done to young readers (perhaps one day I will regale you with my fury about The Spiderwick Chronicles).

For this, I need a couple more rounds of non-fiction books where I learn something new before I am ready to get burned again. I really wish I could just love books and not love the movies so much. That would make my life SO much easier!

Friday, February 18, 2011

How Darren Rowse Has Forever Changed My Life in 10 Days

I am in my 10th Day of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog program by Problogger Darren Rowse along with a bunch of ladies over in the SITS community. I have been working on it through my food blog, Searching for Sustenance, but have aspirations of bringing everything I learn there to this blog as well. The hostess of our group, Shelley, of the I'm Still Standing blog has challenged us to put to use what we have learned in one little post. I know I can't capture it all, so I will limit myself to one lesson per day... !0 Days, 10 Lessons, 10 (Blogging) Life Changers...

1. I will never ride the elevator with a stranger the same way again. I will constantly be thinking of how I can pitch them my idea and whether or not I can sell them on coming to my blog. I think every time I am in the elevator for the rest of my life, I will be rewriting a pitch!

2. I now think of the line, "The list is life," from Schindler's List in a completely different way. The list post is the life-line of my blog!

3. I am horribly and irrevocably addicted to StumbleUpon. I got on SU to help promote my own blog, but I really spend every day promoting the heck out of everyone and everything else. It keeps me up late at night stifling giggles like I am in Church in order to keep me from waking my husband. (My SU profile is NRivera9 if you would like to see how much stumbling I have done in such a short amount of time!).

4. I understand that I have a niche. Every blog has a niche. Whether we want to think so or not, the outside world is putting us into little categories, so pick one already and hope you see what the world does. Once you find your right niche, you will find your people.

5. I have come to the final conclusion that e-mail is still king. As wide as this web is and although it may seem that everyone loves the anonymity afforded them by mere screen to screen contact everyone seems to like the extra personal connection of an e-mail.

6. THERE IS NO WAY TO READ EVERYTHING ON DAY 6 ON DAY 6. If you are planning on someday doing 31DBBB, start reading now. Don't skip Day 6 (I did that my first go around), there is some incredibly invaluable information in there. (I am pretty sure I "stumbled" every post I read!)

7. I don't remember what Whitney Houston was singing about in the "Greatest Love of All" song, but I'll tell you one thing - I now know that linky-love is the greatest love of all of the Internet. If you write the right link post, aimed at the right audience, promoted the right way, you will see a traffic spike like NO OTHER. My link post Changing the Way We Eat: 1 Link At A Time written for day 7 was (and continues to be) INSANE.

8. I try to remember everything, because I understand my readers won't. It's not their fault - they might have only showed up last Tuesday, so I have to link back to the stuff I wrote last month, last week, last year. I am an interlinking fool now and it has been working!

9. I am Forum friendly and find myself commenting on articles in really big publications now leaving my name and website. I am pretty shy in real life, but out in the Internet I'm all up in everyone's business all of the time - offering advice, giving my opinions, and asking big questions. Whoa. Who am I?

10. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are no longer the only alerts in my life. I have tons of columns opened up on my TweetDeck, I get daily e-mails on all types of subjects and I just keep geting inundated with more and more information. How did I ever struggle for a topic to write on?

That's it... for now. I've got 21 more days of this! I think my brain might implode!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A New Tradition

I have been blogging a lot lately. Not here, of course, (this is only my second post), but on my other blogs, most notably Searching for Sustenance. Anyway, I try to accomplish most of that "work" during the day while my husband is at work, but, at times I still have some last minute things to wrap up in the evening. At first this was difficult - finding the time to sneak away to the office rather than spend time with my husband when I can, but in the last week or so a new tradition has emerged.

My husband is reading the book I Am Number Four. I gave him this assignment because I read it, liked it and the movie is coming out this Friday. I kind of have this obsession about reading the book before the movie comes out and I do everything in my power to impose this obsession upon my husband as well.

So here we are. I have to blog. He has to read. It is perfect. We come into the office, bring the dogs (we have two) with us and we all hang out in quiet togetherness each evening. The dogs love it because this room is small and they feel close to us. I love it because I am getting extra work done without neglecting anyone and we are only using a very little bit of electricity in one room. My husband likes it because he is sprawled out on a futon reading comfortably.

New traditions are nice.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Every single morning when I brush my teeth, this is the sign I have hanging over my shoulder in my bathroom. It didn't start there, but, for now, that is the perfect place to have it.

My mother used to have this sign hanging in our kitchen, so every person who walked in our house could see it. The message she hoped it would utter:
We have been left as an unexpectedly single-parent family. I am raising these two on my own while on disability and have NO IDEA how we are making it. But we love each other more than anything else in this world, so this might not be YOUR idea of "Home Sweet Home", but you should just ADJUST because this moment is just awesome!
I am still in the same house and after renovating the kitchen and going through so many things of what should stay and what should go over the last five years, I realized this sign still has a pretty important role. I moved it into the bathroom where it amuses me every day with its new message:
Good morning, Nicole. You were left this house, unexpectedly, five months after you got engaged. It was a blessing that you and your husband could live in such a beautiful and love-filled home, but let's face it: the two of you have NO IDEA what you are doing or how you are going to make it. This bathroom has been stripped bare, to its studs for over a year and a half now... This is not your idea of "Home Sweet Home", but life has thrown you guys some curves and you are ADJUSTING. Through it all, though, you love each other more than anything in the world and this is your moment (make it awesome!).
And, so, bizarrely, in my attempt to be transparent with the inadequacies of my home and homemaking for the guest who do dare to embark upon the "bathroom that once was", I have found a way to inspire myself each morning! I've embraced who I am - I'm someone who is adjusting, that doesn't mean I can't move on, it just means I'm learning on the job!