…But Who’s Counting Anyway?…

26 02 2010

Got 100 on a calculus test?  Good!

“How much farther to Grandma’s house?”  “100 miles.”  Bad!

Came in 100th place in the Marine Corps Marathon?  Good! (Actually, just finishing it is great!)

Returned home from summer camp with 100 mosquito bites?  Bad!

Snacked on 100 M&M’s?  Good!  (Well, it tastes good anyway.  One of those 100 calorie cracker packages would possibly be wiser.)

Own 100 pairs of shoes?  Bad!  (Clean out your closet, Imelda!)

Celebrating your 100th birthday?  Could go either way…..

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I suppose it’s standard kindergarten fare to have some activity honoring the 100th day of school.  One of my kids was tasked with bringing in an item with 100 “somethings” attached to it.  At that time, we had one of those oven-type-toys which requires you to pour colored goup into assorted bug molds, cook it, cool it, and pull out squishy, slimy bugs.  Once created, there’s not a whole lot you can do with them.  But I had the bright idea we could glue 100 of them to a painter’s cap and he could wear it to school.  Too bad I didn’t realize till the day before that the glue didn’t stick.  So that night I had to sew 100 bugs onto a painter’s cap.

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100 bottles of beer on the wall….

The Hundred Years’ War  – doesn’t bode well for Iraq and Afganistan

101 Dalmationssorry, one too many

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Why the fixation on the number 100?  The kind folks at WordPress inform me that this is my 100th post.  If I had pondered last July how I would come up with 100 ideas to write about I probably never would have gotten out of the starting gate.  And yes, some of the things I’ve expounded upon would have been better off left unsaid.

But the discipline of regularly putting pen to paper (figuratively speaking) has been challenging and amazing.  It’s forced me to pay a little more attention to the world around me.  And caused me to be a little more introspective.  I’ve learned a few things about the computer.  (I’ve also been cued in to the many things I don’t know.)  The effort hasn’t done much for my photography skills.  Maybe I should take a class.  Or participate in that 100 portraits activity mentioned before.

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And on an unrelated note….

  1. Some congestion in my right ear has it all clogged up, reducing my hearing in that ear to almost nothing.
  2. The latest winter storm is passing sufficiently north of us to spare us any additional snow, but the winds we are experiencing are FIERCE.  With a nod to Winnie-the-Pooh and his small friend Piglet, I’d like to report that it is a VERY BLUSTERY DAY.
  3. The glass of (calcium and Vitamin D fortified) orange juice I’m drinking really hits the spot.  I was parched.

With these three thoughts rolling around in my brain, is it any wonder I remembered this favorite joke from my childhood:

Three women meet on the street.  (I used to say they were old women.  But now they could be my age.  And I, of course, am not old.)

“Windy, isn’t it?” the first woman says.

“No, it’s Thursday,” says the second one.

The third one says, “So am I.  Let’s go have a drink.”

Cheers!





Lorenzo’s Legacy

24 02 2010

The opportunity to hear Nick Nolte attempt an Italian accent is not a good reason to see Lorenzo’s Oil.

But that’s not to say the movie is not worth watching.

The 1992 film, also starring Susan Sarandon, recounts the life of Lorenzo Odone, who was diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) at the age of five (or six, depending on your source.)  Doctors told his parents he would likely die within two years.  The movie explores the parents’ attempts to come up with a viable and effective treatment option for their son despite the fact that they had no medical background.

They hit upon a specially formulated oil that, when added to his diet, apparently halted the progression of the disease.  They had very limited success repairing the damage that had already been done.

Lorenzo died in 2008 one day after his thirtieth birthday.

Like multiple sclerosis, ALD does its damage by attacking myelin, the fatty tissue that surrounds and protects nerves, enabling them to conduct messages from the brain to other parts of the body.

So it stands to reason that, as an MS patient, I would be curious about the story.  Yet, I had never seen it, partly because I generally steer clear of sad movies, and I knew enough of this story to predict that it was a four-Kleenex-tale.

But also, regarding this research, there’s a part of me that want to bury my head in the sand and say “don’t bother me till you have the right answer.”  With MS, I’m tired of the journey, the dead ends, the wrong turns.  Go away till you can show me the destination.

But when my husband, knowing nothing about the story’s relation to MS, loaded it up to watch, I decided I might as well check it out.

The movie poses more questions than it answers:

  1. How does one reconcile the competing motivations of doctors, who focus on the advancement of medical science, drug companies, who focus on the almighty dollar, and families, who focus on individual patients?
  2. How does one determine the wishes of patients who have lost the ability to communicate?
  3. What is the role of human guinea pigs in medicine?
  4. How does one balance “right to know” with “false hope?”
  5. Is there a point at which due diligence in caring for loved ones becomes an unhealthy obsession?

The movie suggests that in 1992 Lorenzo’s oil was well on its way to revolutionizing the treatment of ALD.  A current web search suggests that, eighteen years later, the reality is much more complicated.

Trivia: I’m not sure what the current status is, but during that last part of Lorenzo’s life, his family lived in MY NEIGHBORHOOD.  Their name is in the neighborhood directory.  His mom and dad could ride up to the local Blockbuster and rent the movie depicting their life.  Lorenzo outlived his mother, who died in 2000 of cancer.

After the family discovered the oil to counteract the imbalance in Lorenzo’s blood, they turned their attention to repairing the damaged myelin.  That effort continues today through The Myelin Project.





A Tale of Two Athletes

22 02 2010

I watched two televised remarks by American athletes in recent days.

Tiger Woods.  I’m not sold.  I didn’t sense sincerity and don’t think his remarks were heartfelt.  I think it was all about carefully scripted image repair.  His demeanor was so cold I’m surprised I didn’t see icicles dripping off the lectern.

Two thumbs down.

Evan Lysacek. Men’s figure skating gold medalist.  Evgeni Plushenko, 2006 Russian gold medalist, had to settle for silver, and he was vocal in charging that he was robbed.  In a later interview, Bob Costas baited Lysacek repeatedly, taunting him with comments by Pleshenko and even Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.  Lysacek was incredibly well-spoken and completely complementary of Pleshenko.  He refused to up the ante, insisting that Pleshenko was a valued asset to the ice skating community and a role model to him.  Even though he’d been up all night and his remarks were off the cuff, he was articulate, gracious, and thoughtful.  And it wasn’t mere rhetoric.  He had points to make and he made them.  Respectfully.

    1. He beat Pleshenko, not in the artistic score, but in the technical score.  (Pleshenko maintains that completing a quad trumps everything else.)
    2. Congrats to the people of Russia for supporting Pleshenko, and be proud of him.
    3. Things get said in the heat of the moment.

      Two thumbs up to a classy guy.

      (Perhaps I should say that before last week I’d never heard of Lysacek, so I’m basing my comments on one interview. I really hope he doesn’t turn out to be a scumbag.)





      A Peek at My Previous Peeps Project

      19 02 2010

      I still can’t get out my front door or my back door because of the snow (only escape is through the garage), but I know spring is on the way because:

      1. Store aisles are filled with plastic eggs and plastic grass.
      2. When I leave at 6:00 pm for my exercise class it’s not totally dark.
      3. It’s Peeps Diarama Contest time at the Washington Post. (Build a shoebox type display using marshmallow Peeps.)

      Last year I myself entered the Post Peeps Contest.  I’m not bitter but

      1. They could have at least acknowledged my entry.
      2. My Wheel of Fortune entry celebrating Peep Sajak and Vanna Pink, er, White was WAY better than the Price is Right entry that got honorable mention.

      So I AM NOT going to do another entry.  But I keep thinking about what might constitute winning entries.  Shaun White and the halfpipe?  Tai Shan the panda returns to China?  Ellen Degeneres on American Idol?  Washington buried in snow?  Balloon Boy?  Michael Jackson?  Avatar?  Tiger Woods?  John Edwards?  Jon and Kate?  Somali Pirates?  Sarah Palin?

      As I said, I AM NOT going to get sucked into doing another entry.

      Here are the pictures I submitted last year.

      You may note that I wasn’t even above kissing up to the Post in my depiction.

      Looking at the pictures reminds me that I really had fun working on it.  But, to reiterate, I will not be doing another one.

      I’m feeling hungry for some marshmallows.





      Smorgasbord of Snow Shots

      17 02 2010

      It’s been seven days since the final snowfall of Washington’s big blizzard.  Last week at this time our front porch looked like:

      From the inside we saw:

      The view out the back on the deck:

      During the height of the blizzard, we found a poor squirrel cowering on the deck railing, looking very much in need of shelter:

      The deck has a pergola over it, and the snow made an intriguing design on it:

      It also made an amusing pattern on a couple of lone Black Eyed Susan stems:

      We weren’t sure if we’d ever get mail again:

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      Fast forward seven days.  Yesterday I hiked the woodland trail adjacent to our neighborhood:

      The creek that runs beside it was rather scenic:

      The trail mostly has two paths running through it.  One (on the left below) is used by cross country skiers—two very narrow very straight parallel lines.  And then there’s the foot path (right, below), up to two feet wide of packed snow:

      If you venture outside of that, you’re likely to sink up to your knee in snow:  (I found the limited width to be quite constraining, wonder if my stride is abnormally splayed.)

      There were lots of animal footprints:

      No rest for the weary on the benches:

      Or:

      We’re thinking about taking bets on when the last bit of snow will melt.  March?  April?  May?





      Taking a Chance on Me

      15 02 2010

      In honor of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month in March, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation is sponsoring a Ready Set Shine campaign, encouraging everyone to venture outside our comfort zones.  For some people that might just mean venturing out of the house.  For some, it may mean fulfilling a lifelong desire such as sky diving.

      It’s got me thinking about times in my life when I took on challenges that made me nervous….

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      My husband has always wanted to take the family on a European tour.  He wanted to share London and Paris with the boys, and he himself had never seen Italy.  Timing was tricky; the boys needed to be old enough to appreciate the sights but not so old that their summers had become scheduling nightmares with their own stuff.

      My multiple sclerosis diagnosis brought its own complications, as we worried we might be facing a countdown to immobility.

      We took the plunge and booked the trip, most of which was part of a tour.  We scheduled extra time at the beginning in Rome and at the end in London when we were on our own.  I’m generally nervous about slowing my family down when the MS fatigue sets in.  Having to ask for a 15 minute breather or encouraging them to proceed while I sit something out is bad enough.  But to be on a tour group seemed even more challenging.

      We went and I survived.  In some ways it was worse than I imagined.  I didn’t sleep terribly well at night due to the unfamiliar beds, unusual sounds and strange surroundings.  And the heat in Italy was worse than I anticipated, which contributes to my lethargy.

      But the truth of the matter is, when I think about that trip, the first thing I remember is not how exhausted I was.  Rather I recall the marvelous adventure we had and the wonderful sights we saw together.

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      Then there was the time I decided to volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity build site.  I didn’t know any fellow builders, and I’d never done any construction work.  But I was curious about home building so showed up for the adventure.  The “regulars” were eager to get me involved so set me to work.

      Before lunch I had ruined a perfectly good, very long piece of wood by cutting it too short.  Before the day was over it was clear that I could hammer in one nail to every four or five the girl next to me was doing.  And the next day when my body ached so badly I could barely get out of bed.

      In the end, I didn’t go back.  I decided I could learn about home construction in other ways.  But I did sign up for exercise class to whip this old body into slightly better shape.

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      The MSF is probably right.  Now would be a good time to stretch myself in some new way….Hmm….





      Wuthering Heights Meets Grey’s Anatomy

      12 02 2010

      In conjunction with the classic snowstorm we’ve been pummeled with, I decided to reread a classic novel—Wuthering Heights.

      It reminded me of the hit television show, Grey’s Anatomy.

      I haven’t watched the show since the first couple of seasons, but my lasting impression has been that the producers were too cheap to hire any extra actors, because the assorted romantic liaisons seemed to shift among the various characters on the show.  If I didn’t watch for a couple months, I’d tune in and have the sense that someone had hollered “ROTATE” and everybody found a new partner.

      In Wuthering Heights the cast of characters consists of our hero villain, Heathcliff, and two families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons.  Through multiple generations all the romantic relationships (marriage and otherwise) that occur happen between this small group of people.  Talk about keeping it in the family.

      My husband commented that he tried to read the book once, but didn’t finish it because nothing happened in it.  In a sense, that’s accurate.  Other than the periodic family rows, the biggest action scenes involve canine attacks.

      But as I pondered trying to describe the plot to him, the evolution of associations was so convoluted I gave up before I even started.  (Wikipedia has made a gallant effort to outline the narrative.)