Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

My kids give me no end of crap about the fact that I'm always incapable of staying up until midnight to celebrate the new year. Last year I fell asleep in my recliner and Gene made the kids be quiet so that I could sleep.  They warned me that THIS year I better go to bed if I'm going to fall asleep early because they are NOT being quiet, thankyouverymuch!  I'm doing my best to stay awake until midnight.  I went to McDonalds at 6pm and got a coffee and an iced tea.  It's 10:20pm and I'm still going strong.  I'm going to make it this year!  Maybe...

I scheduled this week off work for vacation long before I scheduled my foot surgery.  We had planned to go away for a few days, but we didn't decide where to go and I didn't plan boarding for Scout. I waited too long and my boarding kennel was full.  We decided to leave him for one night and go to Gurnee to the KeyLime Cove waterpark resort.  We stopped in Schaumburg on the way to go to the Lego Store at Woodfield Mall and to eat at Fuddrucker's.  Logan used his Christmas money and bought a Lego police bank robbery set and a fire truck.  As we were leaving the store, I noticed one remaining Harry Potter Diagon Alley set.  This is probably the coolest Lego set I've ever seen and I've wanted it for well over a year since I first saw it in the catalog.  I didn't ever buy it because I'm a cheapskate.  Also, this set was exclusive to the Lego Store so I wasn't seeing it all the time. All of the Harry Potter Legos are now retired and I knew I'd never see this set again.  If I wanted it, it was now or never.  Gene and Kaylin convinced me to go ahead and buy it.  I was thrilled to find it was on sale for $30 off!  I spent most of my day today building that huge, huge set and it is AWESOME!  Logan also built his new sets today and is still playing with them.

KeyLime Cove was fun as always.  With the holiday weekend it was busier than usual, but that really only meant a long wait for the most popular waterslide.  The kids still got to ride it many times and went on the other slides countless times.  I still can't go barefoot, so I didn't swim.  Gene hates to swim, so I had company.  The arcade at this resort is our family's favorite.  Kaylin and I got addicted to this ridiculous Wizard of Oz game.  It was one of those "token pusher" games, but you didn't win tokens or tickets, just these stupid plastic coins that were worth one ticket apiece if you turned them in.  You could also potentially win Wizard of Oz trading cards, but when they fell off the edge, the machine just "ate" them and we never received one.  I don't know what it was about that stupid game, but we both wanted to play it over and over.  It made no sense!  Gene and Logan played good games and won lots of tickets.  Kaylin won an adorable Nerds candy nerd stuffed animal from a skill crane.  We had pizza and ice cream and lots of fun.

Sunday after we checked out of KeyLime Cove, we headed over to Gurnee Mills mall and ate lunch at Rainforest Cafe.  We shared entrees and then got a Sparkling Volcano for dessert.  It's a giant brownie sundae that is served with a sparkler on top and is dee-licious.  We went to Serpent Safari (a reptile zoo inside the mall) and saw a HUGE Burmese python and a huge anaconda.  We have large Burmese pythons at the zoo, but this one must have been 5 times bigger than ours.  They also had all kinds of lizards and snakes and the biggest alligator snapping turtle I've ever seen.  It was a pretty impressive collection in pathetically inadequate and filthy enclosures.  I did like that we got a guided tour and the tour guide told us about each animal.  We then went to the Disney Store and Kaylin bought some Lion King toys.  We hit a few other stores and headed home.  It was a really fun weekend.  The pets all did fine, but were happy for some human attention.

I had planned to go to Banner Marsh today to try to find one last year bird to make my goal of 180 birds in 2012.  When it started snowing, I decided to stay home.  Instead, Logan and I headed to Galena Marina late this afternoon for one last shot.  We saw lots of birds, but nothing new.  I ended my year at 179 birds.  My goal for 2013 is 200.  I think I will make it.  We did have some excitement for our final bird of the year.  As we were leaving the marina and driving past the golf course, a great horned owl flew in front of the car and landed on a light post.  It was still just light enough to get a good look.  We watched it swoop down and disappear into thin air, only to appear a second later on a power line where we watched it until it flew off again.

Overall, 2012 was a good year.  I had some great times birding and saw my first snowy owl and burrowing owls.  Logan got interested in birding and came with me on many adventures including two fun road trips to Minnesota and Michigan and many trips to Emiquon.  We had family vacations to South Dakota, St. Louis, Wisconsin Dells and Chicago.  I changed back to my old "string" at work and got to work with the tiger cubs.  We lost Duncan the dog and Willow the cat, but then got Scout and Princess.  We played with Legos and ate frozen yogurt at Sweet CeCe's.  We watched lots of SpongeBob and played lots of basketball and baseball.  We played fetch with Scout's toy pig 40 million times.  We laughed a lot.  I spent my 40th birthday using a walker to get around.  I had two months off of work following a surgery that hopefully fixed my foot and I didn't completely freak out.

My biggest goal for 2013 is to return to work and be pain-free.  I suppose that is more of a wish than a goal, but I'm going for it.  I also plan to lose some of the weight I gained during the past few years of being in constant foot pain and unable to exercise.  I want to become better at identifying birds and start to work on birding by ear.  I want to be better about cooking for my family.  I hope to figure out what to do with my life if I can no longer be a zoo keeper.  Here's to hoping that 2013 is the best year ever!

(It's 11:45pm and I'm still awake.  I think I'm going to make it!)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Writing Therapy

The number of books about changing careers available at Barnes and Noble is staggering.  If you go online to Amazon dot com, the number probably quadruples.  Googling for articles on switching careers brings up countless results.  There are tons of books aimed at young people for choosing a life path.  There are even more books about how to throw away the career you hate and find something that makes you happy.  You know what nobody writes about?  Leaving the career you love and finding something that makes you equally happy. 

I'm not ready to give up zoo keeping just yet.  I plan to return to work on January 6 and give it my all.  I've been stretching and working out my feet and legs.  I've even been doing upper body workouts to regain some of my strength after more than two months off.  I can't wait to get back to the animals!  However,  I have had a LOT of time to think during my break.  I have to force myself to be realistic.  Surgery was my last option.  One of the reasons I put it off so long was because I was so scared it wouldn't work.  And then what?  Then quit zoo keeping.  Sigh.  I would like to be a zoo keeper until I die.  However, I would prefer to live to be 85, not 42!  I can't spend another 3 years being in nonstop pain and having my feet control every aspect of my life so I can keep a dead-end job that doesn't even pay well.  Even if I do love that job...  And so I go, round and round, back and forth, what if this, what if that.  Nothing can just be easy!  Maybe my feet will heal completely and I will be fine, but I doubt it.

I'm going through a mourning process that it seems like only I can understand.  Am I being ridiculous?  Of course!  Do I know that many, many people have it worse than me?  I do.  Still, it makes me sad and angry that I'm being sidelined by a condition that a huge percentage of the population has experienced and then gotten over.  I'm not a wimp, but I can't handle the pain.  A while back I passed a billboard advertising a new pain clinic (or something similar; I can't remember exactly what it was called.)  The advertisement defined chronic pain and I was shocked to realize that I qualified.  I can't begin to count the hours of sleep I have lost, the activities I have stopped doing, the things I have skipped doing with my kids- all because of foot pain and giving everything I had to work, which perpetuated the pain and made it worse.  I know I have to end this crazy cycle, but I don't want to give up my job.

Yesterday I had lunch with an old friend.  She left the zoo a year ago to pursue a health career with better advancement and earning potential.  She had a tumultuous year adjusting to all the change, but yesterday she was the happiest I can remember seeing her.  She enjoys her new job and is excited about the potential for advancement.  She's still not positive what track she wants to take, but is exploring the possibilities and is excited to start taking classes.  I need to approach career change as an exciting adventure, but first I need to loosen my death grip on my zoo job.  How do I do that?  No idea.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Princess is settling in very nicely.  Unfortunately, she has an upper respiratory infection she brought home from the shelter.  She's stuffy and sneezing and not eating very well.  Otherwise, she's very affectionate with everyone including visitors. I can tell she's not feeling her best, but the illness and subsequent lethargy has probably been a bonus when it comes to her budding relationship with Scout the dachshund.  Scout no longer tries to dominate Princess, but he does like to sniff her and invade her space.  At first she would puff up and hiss and swat, but that took a lot of energy.  She seems to have accepted the unfortunate fact that she now has an annoying little brother and she allows him a small amount of sniffing.  Scout is being relatively respectful of his new big sis and I'm sure he understands that Princess will put him in his place if he steps too far out of line. 

We had our family Christmas celebration yesterday morning and declared the day a pajama day.  Only Kaylin literally spent the entire day in pajamas, but we all relaxed and played with new toys all day long.  Scout was hilarious.  He was far more excited and had at least as good of a time with his new toys as the kids.  His favorite new toy was a realistic-looking possum with latex head, feet and tail and furry plush body.  He played with that thing for hours.  Logan played most with his new basketball.  He was out in the cold shooting hoops a good part of the day.  He also got the new Mario game for his 3DS and a race track with tiny cars.  Princess was very interested in the cars zooming around the track.  Kaylin spent her day playing with new fairy dolls, toy cats and a gigantic bean bag that all of the pets also enjoyed.  We all played the silly family game of the year- Doggie Doo.  It involves feeding a large plastic dachshund slime treats and then taking turns pumping its leash until it poops out the slime.  Whoever collects three poops first wins.  The game is gross and stupid, but it's also hilarious and really fun.  We were all having a good time and laughing together.  I suppose that's the entire point of playing a game as a family!

It was a really good day.  That is, until I got the genius idea to bake cookies from scratch.  This is, of course, something I've probably never done in my life.  I got a huge set of animal cookie cutters earlier this year and wanted to make cut-out sugar cookies.  I found a highly rated recipe online and dug through my cupboards for ingredients.  I had everything I needed except almond extract and baking soda.  I was completely shocked that I had baking powder and not baking soda.  I had to leave the house and run to the store for 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.  Ugh.  (I was totally planning to replace the almond extract with vanilla, so I wasn't concerned about that.)  Well, we needed to buy batteries anyway, so I figured I'd zip over to Big Lots and get my batteries and baking soda.  Fail.  Big Lots had both regular AND blue agave nectar, but no baking soda.  I waited in an INCREDIBLY long line to pay for my batteries and headed over to Kroger.  I immediately found almond extract, but couldn't find baking soda.  I scanned the shelves again, and on the tippy-top shelf, so far back that I almost couldn't see, were three remaining boxes of baking soda.  There was no way I was getting to that baking soda without a ladder.  I waited for a tall person and even though the nice woman was probably at least 5' 10", she still struggled to reach the baking soda.  I thanked her profusely and paid for my "treasure".  Seriously, who ever would have thought a 75 cent box of baking soda would be so much trouble?  I suppose my unexpected hour of shopping gave my butter extra time to soften...

Okay.  I was home with all my ingredients.  If I made the cookie dough RIGHT NOW, I'd still have enough time for the dough to chill two hours and bake the cookies before bed.  Unexpected visitor, Gene made dinner, an hour and a half later...  Well, the butter's pretty soft.  Okay, I got a flour sifter as a wedding present almost 20 years ago.  I know I used it once in this house (so at some point in the past 13 years) but where is it?  It apparently no longer exists.  Online consult for what to use instead.  A strainer?  Cool.  Huh, it's now 8pm and we all know that's pretty close to my bed time.  These cookies are NOT getting baked tonight!  My dough is currently chilling in the fridge.  I have absolutely no clue if it looks like it's supposed to and if my cookies will even turn out.  I guess I'll give it a shot, but honestly?  I'm over it.  I don't wanna make cookies anymore.  (Whine, whine)  And I still have to make the frosting.  Guess what, Mom?  I'm bringing cookies tonight and you will eat them and like them!  Just kidding, you don't have to like them.  I take this as more proof that I am not meant to bake.  Amen.

Completely off topic, but if I don't cram it in it will never be included.  Meghan and I did the Audubon Christmas Bird Count a week ago Saturday.  It was rainy and windy most of the day and not at all a good day for birding.  However, we did see 34 species, which isn't bad for our designated area of Peoria.  We started our day at 5:30am, hoping to spend an hour owling- meaning trying to call in owls with a CD recording of owl calls.  The rain poured down from our start time until it started getting light.  We did get to try for a few minutes when it was just misting, but no owls came.  We had given up and were driving to Panera for breakfast when a great horned owl swooped over our car and into the woods.  Yay!  Otherwise, we spent the entire day driving around our designated area, identifying and recording every bird we saw.  The day warmed to the lower 50s, so despite the incessant rain it wasn't too uncomfortable.  Highlights included several bald eagles, 64 wild turkeys, 146 ruddy ducks and a flock of ~15 cardinals.  I've never seen that many cardinals all together before.  The absolute low light was a hike through Forest Park Nature Center where once we were past the feeder areas, we literally did not see one bird.  Wait, we saw two ring-billed gulls flying high over the woods, but not one woodpecker or nuthatch or chickadee.  I guess they were all at the feeders!  Our unexpected bird of the day was a gray catbird in the bushes in front of the visitor center building.  They're very common in the warm months, but have usually migrated by now.  We ended our long day around 4pm.  Overall, it was a better day than expected.  We spent the rainy times slowly crusising around cemeteries, neighborhoods and golf courses and the dryer times in parks and scoping birds along the river.  I remember thinking it was too bad the count wasn't scheduled for another week, but I was sure glad this past Saturday when I woke up to a sunny, clear morning and saw that the temperature was 13F!  Rain and 50F win!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I was completely devastated when I found out I wouldn't be going back to work as expected.  However, one thing that kept me from sinking into utter depression was teasing Gene that I guessed this unexpected time off was A Sign that I was supposed to get a puppy.  Of course I didn't believe the "sign" business at all, but it made me giggle, and really, what would be a better time to get a puppy?  I was searching Petfinder dot com when I found a listing for a "chi-weenie" puppy.  A chi-weenie is part dachshund and part Chihuahua.  The photos looked like a dachshund with slightly longer legs and ridiculously huge erect ears.  It was one of the cutest things I'd ever seen!  And it was only 30 minutes away at the TAPS shelter in Pekin!

The kids and I piled into the car and headed for Pekin.  I got Brady-dog from TAPS, but that was ages ago when they were in a different building on the opposite side of town.  The "new" building (I seriously don't know if they've been there a couple of years or more than 10) is really nice and based only on my two recent visits, they appear to have hoards of dedicated volunteers.  Anyway, Sunday viewing hours were listed online as noon-5pm.  We arrived just as the doors were being unlocked for the day and were surprised to find out that we came for the winter open house.  The meeting room was filled with several tables covered with all kinds of cookies and other goodies.  The kids were instantly sold on the greatness of this shelter.

We headed back to the dog areas.  They have many kennel runs for big dogs as well as a large room for small dogs and puppies.  TAPS is a no-kill privately run shelter.  That means they can (and need to be) somewhat selective of the dogs they allow into their system because they keep them until they get adopted.  In other words, their kennels are filled with cute, desirable dogs rather than the endless pit bulls and giant obnoxious mixed breeds of the publicly funded shelters where something like 2/3 of the dogs end up euthanized.  Both types of shelters are necessary and have their place.  I have huge amounts of respect for the "kill" shelters because they are doing a necessary and important service for our communities.  I volunteered at the PAWS shelter in Peoria for a while and love their work.  I will admit though, the no-kill shelters are fun instead of depressing.  The employees love their jobs and don't possess the bitterness acquired from complete disgust with the human race that the "kill" employees seem to own.

Anyway, we looked at all of the dogs.  We checked out the chi-weenie and it was indeed, the cutest puppy in the universe.  There were even a few back-up dogs/puppies we could meet if the puppy was already adopted.  We headed to the cat rooms so I could think it over.  The cat rooms are amazing!  They have 3 large rooms (one is huge) that the "tried and true" cats are allowed to freely mingle with each other and with the public.  Kaylin was in heaven.  We played and played and played with cats.  We were in the largest room and a volunteer was working, playing with the confined cats.  We were chatting with her off and on when Kaylin said "When I'm older and a Crazy Cat Lady, I'm going to have a room exactly like this!"  The volunteer, who happened to be a woman in her late 50s, proclaimed herself a Crazy Cat Lady and told Kaylin all about her 7 cats at home.  I'm pretty sure she's Kaylin's new hero.

Meanwhile, I was thinking long and hard about the reality of puppy ownership.  I mean, the puppy will be a total blast while I'm off work, but what about when I go back?  Do I really want to be kept up all night by a puppy and then come home to clean up mess after mess?  Gene's new job is too far from home to come home at lunch to let a puppy out.  That means I would have to spend every lunch (the ONLY time I get to sit and rest) driving home and back to work.  I had plenty of time to puppy proof the house before going back to work, but did I really WANT to?  Did I WANT to come home and take down the Christmas tree before Christmas?  Did I WANT to buy a new laptop or new winter coats for the kids because the puppy destroyed them?  I'm shocked to say it, but common sense kicked in.  I was the only person in the house who wanted a puppy, anyway.  The kids both wanted a kitten!  They both requested a kitten as a family Christmas present. They were both beyond thrilled to be playing in the cat rooms rather than meeting a puppy.  Logan kept his fingers in his ears the whole time we were in the dog/puppy area.  In the cat area he was happily playing.  I said I wanted to go back and look at the puppy one more time, but Kaylin INSISTED we go into the cat room we hadn't yet entered first.  Good call, Kaylin!  That's where we met Princess.

A giant orange tabby was waiting by the glass door.  We entered and she immediately started rubbing and purring on all three of us.  It was love at first sight!  We played and played and I finally went and got our volunteer friend to give us more information on this cat.  It was a 5-year-old spayed female named Princess.  I won't lie, my heart sunk a bit at the name "Princess" but I'm sure I'll get over it at some point :)  The volunteer brought me an adoption application and I filled it out in the meeting room while the kids stuffed their faces from the huge spread of cookies.  We were then ushered to a private room where we got to meet Princess without the distraction of other cats.  There were other cats in that room?  Anyway, we played for another 30 minutes and then filled out more paperwork to specifically "reserve" Princess.  We learned that TAPS requires a reference from your vet and since it was Sunday, the vet's office was closed.  TAPS is closed on Monday, so we had to wait until Tuesday to find out if we would get Princess.  Ugh.  We went back into the meeting room so I could have a couple of cookies and then left the shelter without ever visiting the dog area again.

Tuesday morning I kept both my cell phone and my cordless landline phone in the pouch of my hoodie.  Every minute felt like an hour.  Every hour felt like a day.  FINALLY, a little after noon I got the call that we had been accepted!  The only catch was that Gene needed to meet Princess before we could take her home.  They had never mentioned that, so it was a surprise.  I was pretty disappointed because I assumed they closed at 5pm and knew there was no way Gene would be able to go until Thursday.  Happiness!  They closed at 7pm!  Yes!  We will almost certainly be able to come tonight!  I immediately texted Gene and then left a message on his work phone.  I then waited and waited and waited for him to call.  FINALLY, at 4pm, he called.  He still had to return a work van from the proving grounds to the tech center and then drive home.  Ugh, okay.  Hurry!  We arrived at TAPS a little after 5:30 and they were busy.  We visited with Princess in the cat room and showed Gene around.  We looked at the dogs and the chi-weenie puppy was gone.  Logan was disappointed the meeting room was now just a meeting room instead of a cookie wonderland.  We completed our paperwork and instructions and headed home.  She wasn't a fan of the car ride, but she just meowed uncomfortably, she wasn't yowling or anything. 

Home.  Time for the true test.  Princess has never lived with dogs.  How will she react?  I kept her in her crate and allowed Scout to come sniff her.  He got too excited and started barking uncontrollably so I banished him to the garage/outside.  I then opened the crate and Princess walked out immediately and began to explore the house.  She wasn't at all concerned with Tiger.  Tess is rarely in the house, but she was last night.  No issues at all between the cats.  I brought Scout back in the house but put him in the pet carrier.  He barked and whined to get out while Princess continued her explorations.  Princess was comfortable resting in Logan's room and Scout was driving me insane so I put him on leash and we walked around.  Princess was nervous, but not exactly scared.  Scout was showing respect for the kitty who is at least 5 or 6 pound larger than him, so I eventually took him off leash.  It was ~7:15 and we were eating dinner when we heard terrible yiping from the dog.  Gene and I both jumped up, but Scout was already tearing out from Kaylin's room.  I'm not sure what Princess did- there was no blood or anything- but Scout had definitely learned his place.  And his place was BELOW the giant kitty!

Overnight wasn't too awful.  Scout woke me a couple of times because he would either leap off the bed to chase Princess or he'd bark at her.  Otherwise, I can't believe how well things are going.  I think most cats would have found a place to hide and we wouldn't see them for a few days.  Princess isn't like that.  She came up on our bed knowing Scout was up there.  If Scout tries to sniff her she discourages him with a low growl.  So far, he's respected the growl.  I have little doubt that Princess will dominate any future confrontations.  Hopefully, Scout's peanut brain will accept his place without the necessity of bloodshed.  We shall see...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Desk Job

I found the giblets!  Fortunately they were in a bake-proof bag so that doofuses like me who bake them for three hours don't ruin their entire bird.  Of the 4 or 5 turkeys I've cooked in my life, I think I managed to remove the giblet bag exactly once.  This was my first turkey that came with the pop-up thermometer thingy, so that was pretty exciting!  I made the turkey in a bag that happened to come with the disposable pan, so it actually turned out pretty well without having to baste, etc.  The fact remains that I just don't really like turkey unless it's processed and cut into razor-thin lunch meat.  Last night I shredded some of the leftover meat and made turkey enchiladas that I definitely liked better than icky slabs of meat cut fresh from the bird.  Whatever, hopefully next year I'll be busy AT WORK and will donate the bird.

Speaking of work, I got some news about my foot that pretty much shattered my happy little existence.  Not necessarily bad news, but I was expecting and looking forward to going back to work on Sunday, December 16, and my doctor wants to keep me out until after the new year.  I am completely shocked at my unexpected reaction to this news.  Tuesday I kept myself so busy after my doctor appointment that I was able to pretty much suppress my feelings (though I did bombard my poor boss with a series of emails regarding sick time, vacation time, etc.)  Tuesday night I lost the rest of my mind and completely freaked out with the what-if's.  I REALLY expected my foot to be completely better by now and I have REALLY been good about not overdoing anything and doing my stretches and everything else.  WHY isn't it better?  What if it is never better?  What if I have to quit my job and find something else?  Wednesday morning I was whining to Gene and trying to figure out what else I could do.  Every. Single. Thing. I came up with involved being on my feet.  I realized that I have never even considered a desk job!  I mean seriously, to the point I don't even know what a desk job is!  The ONLY thing I could come up with was accountant.  What the heck?  I took the kids to school and then came home and slept most of the day and didn't get out of my chair until Gene got home from work.  That's probably enough feeling sorry for myself.  Today I will leave the house and keep myself busy (wondering what a desk job is...)  If you know, I'm open to suggestions.

My foot itself is not that bad.  If I walk around a big store with concrete floors it hurts.  I've been up and sitting in my chair for an hour and it aches a little bit, but probably only because I'm thinking about it.  I have a series of exercises I do daily- things like stretches and picking up towels and marbles with my toes.  The doctor casted me for new orthotics.  My doctor is acting like I'm being ridiculous- I'm not even two months out from surgery, I can't expect my foot to be perfect.  WHAT?  HE is the one who told me 8 weeks!  HE is the one who told me I possibly wouldn't have ANY pain after surgery!  HE was wrong!  HE also is a great guy and possibly the only doctor I've been to that I actually trust, like and respect.  He didn't spew lollipops and rainbows and I knew the risks and the iffy outcome.  I mean, duh, that's why I put the surgery off for two years!  Yeah, I'm depressed and beyond completely terrified.  I guess I need to be patient and wait it out before I continue to freak out, but all I can think of is desk job.  Desk job. Desk job. AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

On a happier note, I had a pretty awesome birding trip on Monday.  I did my usual loop of Banner Marsh, Emiquon, Chautauqua and Sand Ridge.  As is usually my luck, the west side of the river was teeming with birds and the east side was dead.  Banner and Emiquon were both full of ducks and other water birds.  I was scoping ducks at Emiquon and found a very unexpected pair of American avocets!  That was definitely the highlight of my trip.  They had been reported on the online bird boards I frequent, but that was a full week earlier and they aren't normally in the area in December.  Anyway, that was a year bird and I was pretty excited.  At Chautauqua I saw a few geese, a few mallards and a flicker.  Sand Ridge was full of juncos and blue jays, but I couldn't find the crossbills that someone had reported from the previous week.  I did notice that the bald eagles are back in force!  I lost count, but there were eagles just about everywhere I looked along the Spoon and Illinois rivers. 

Meghan and I are doing the Christmas Bird Count on Saturday.  I'm pretty excited because we have our own area (meaning we're in charge and not tagging along with others.)  The area is the same one I tagged along on last year and it's the area I live so I'm pretty familiar with everything.  I have my work Christmas party tonight.  I have some stuff to look forward to, so I guess I'll snap out of my pity party and do something.  Like researching desk jobs...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weekend Update

With any luck, I will return to work a week from today.  My foot is overall much better, but I still do have some pain in both my heel and below my pinkie toe on the top of my foot.  I've been trying to stretch and regularly change my shoes and inserts.  I'm still pretty nervous that the moment I go back to work my foot is going to flare like old times.  I really don't know what I'll do if the pain doesn't go away.  This week I stopped exercising after my foot flared badly following an exercise bike session.  I didn't use tension and didn't push myself, but I obviously overdid it and will have to put off the bike for a while longer.  I really believed I'd be completely better at this point so I'm pretty bummed. 

Gene was unexpectedly re-deployed at work this week.  It was a pretty big surprise because he just recently was moved to a new position and has been extremely busy.  However, his division was part of Research and Development and they had to make cuts.  Gene was very fortunate that he was picked up by another division rather than being laid off.  After the initial shock, he's very excited about the new job.  He'll be working at the proving grounds and it seems like his work hours will be more regular, the atmosphere will be more laid-back and he won't have to do much (if any) work at home.  One drawback is that he'll be working outside a lot more.  He's not crazy about any temperature extreme, but he won't have to work in rain or snow.

I was "re-elected" president of my zoo keeper group.  What that actually means is that nobody else wanted the job.  Our entire panel of officers ran unopposed.  I don't mind doing it, but it is hard to come up with fundraising ideas that don't negatively affect some other branch of the zoo.  We can't do anything that takes any real amount of money away from either the zoo or any other group affiliated with the zoo that is raising money.  We've come up with some GREAT ideas that could raise tons of money, but we aren't allowed to implement them.  I guess it forces us to be more creative, but creativity takes time. 

I get a free turkey from work every year.  I usually donate it because, blech, it's gross to cook, but this year I figured I have plenty of time.  The turkey is in the oven as I type.  I'm also planning on making mashed potatoes, stuffing and crescent rolls.  I made gravy once and the process was so disgusting that I probably won't ever make it again.  I bought a jar of turkey gravy at Walmart and will try not to think about how it was made :)  I dug and dug and dug, but couldn't find the stupid bag of giblets inside the turkey.  I found the neck, but I guess the giblets will be a surprise!  I seriously can't imagine where they are!?  I hope they weren't in there, but I don't think I can be that lucky. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.  Mystery giblets!

I was hoping for one last mini getaway during my time off, but this week is insane!  I have obligations every night except Monday.  I was thinking I could go somewhere overnight Monday, but I have a doctor appointment that I can't miss on Tuesday morning.  I guess maybe I'll just do my usual birding loop Monday.  I'm too scared to look at the weather forecast.  I hope it isn't snowing.  Welp, I best get peelin' potatoes.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy December!

As of yesterday, it's been 6 weeks since my surgery.  That means I have been off work for 6 weeks!  I should go back two weeks from tomorrow.  I can't believe how much I have and have not accomplished!  When I tore a tendon and had to miss 7 weeks of work two years ago, I spent my entire time off stressing about not being at work.  I accomplished next to nothing, felt completely sorry for myself and didn't enjoy one moment of my time off.  After I was safely back at work, I thought back on my experience and laughed at myself over and over.  I mean, could I possibly have been more stupid???  I would never have CHOSEN the injury, but what a ridiculous waste of time off!  Anyway, I decided that if I ever had to miss work again, I would ENJOY my time off and not worry about work.

I have to say, I've been pretty impressed with myself.  I mean, I needed this surgery, but the timing stunk.  I knew I was going to miss out on two months of tiger cubs.  I knew that the cubs would never remember me after I was gone that long.  That does make me a little sad, but at the same time, I'm okay with it.  They'll get to know me again when I return.  I took Kaylin to see the cubs the other day and they are HUGE!  We were just zoo visitors, watching the cubs play in the yard.  Mama tiger Kyra didn't take her eyes off of me the entire time we were there.  The cubs didn't give me a second glance.  I didn't feel hurt or sad, I was happy to show Kyra my cub.  (And my cub thought I was a complete dork, lol.) 

I've kept up with what's going on.  I've sent and received countless texts and emails to/from coworkers.  However, I haven't been obsessive.  I haven't rushed into work in a panic or even considered it.  I haven't sat at home stressing over what I'm missing or what I'll go back to.  I love my job and want to keep it as long as possible, but my time off has been an excellent learning experience that if I do have to give up my job due to health concerns (hopefully that means my feet) I will still have a happy and fulfilling life.  This knowledge means more to me than I can express!  I hope when I do return to work I will take my job much less seriously, be much less of a control freak and be much less stressed-out.  I don't plan to change the quality or quantity of my work, I just want a much-needed attitude adjustment- though I think I've already had it.

What I've been doing instead of stressing about not being at work is enjoying time with my kids, my husband and my pets.  I've also spent a lot of time with family and friends.  I've gone car birding with Meghan, Logan and by myself.  I started working out again.  I've read at least 8 books and watched lots of movies.  I watched a Cooper's hawk hunt at my bird feeders.  I was pushed around Wisconsin Dells in a wheelchair.  I've cleaned and organized many areas of my house.  I did a jigsaw puzzle.  I threw a toy pig for my dog to fetch approximately 37 million times.  I had lunch with my grandma.  Logan and I drove along Lake Michigan for 3 days.  I've seen 76 different bird species.  I have been cooking for my family and the kids have eaten everything I made.  I have been enjoying pretty much every second of my time off and it is making me a better person.

My goal for the next two weeks is to somehow figure out how I can continue to make dinners for the kids after I go back to work.  I have fallen into a bad routine because I come home starving and just want to throw a frozen lasagna in the microwave or a pizza in the oven while I shower.  Also, my feet have been so bad for the past few years that when I get home from work I don't want to stand at the counter or in front of the stove, I want to SIT.  I need to figure out things I can make in the morning and pop in the oven when I get home.  Or else have everything ready for one of the kids to make or whatever.  I know this comes naturally to many people, but it's a major challenge for me!  :)  I also want to finish cleaning and decluttering the house, but I won't beat myself up if I don't complete that impossible task.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I finally sat down and tried to recall all of the birds I saw on our Lake Michigan trip.  I am not a born lister.  I do not like to take time away from "the moment" to record what I am seeing.  When I finish one place I like to move on to the next place rather than sit and record.  Even though I sat and watched Logan swim for two hours the second night of our trip AND I had my notebook and a pen, I still couldn't bring myself to write down the birds.  I have no doubt that I remembered everything "good".  I remembered the lifers and the birds that I love no matter how many I see (cranes, eagles, loons, swans...)  What I'm guessing I'm leaving out by not listing in the moment are some of the obvious birds- such as pigeons and starlings- that I saw hundreds of, but barely register in my mind.  Oh well, I saw at least 47 different species on my trip.  I'm pretty happy with that considering all of my inland birding was cancelled due to deer hunting.

My November list is now sitting at 70 species, which is my highest monthly total for the year.  I don't know if I'll list monthly sightings in 2013 or not, but I hope I do because I think it will be really interesting to have the recorded data of when I saw my first robin of the year in multiple years.  Oh, who am I fooling?  I may get lazy about it sometimes, but I'll keep listing.  I started birding "for real" in 2011.  In 2012, birding became my favorite hobby and I took my birding skills to a new level.  In 2013, I hope to take my skills to an even higher level.  I want to be able to identify the little brown blurs that eluded me this year.  I want to work on birding by ear.  I hope my feet will be better and I'll spend much more time in the woods, rather than just mostly birding from my car.  I want to develop the patience to break out my scope and scan the little black dots out on the lake for something different. 

My original goal for this year was to see 200 species of birds.  It's late November and my list is at 177.  Unless I go to Florida or Texas before the end of the year, there is no way I'm going to meet my goal.  I think I'll revise my goal to 180.  There were so many birds I never recorded this year because I wasn't 100% positive of their identification.  That's what I hope to improve in 2013.  I plan to be more confident in my abilities and to take the time RIGHT THEN to make a positive identification.  When I think of some of the common birds I supposedly never saw this year (red-eyed vireo and dickcissel???) I want to kick myself.  Oh well, I won't make that mistake next year :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lake Michigan

I finally looked at the calendar and realized that Logan had/has 5 days off from school this week.  I had been hoping to take him to Wisconsin/Michigan next week, but it made more sense to just go.  I knew I wouldn't be able to do much walking, but the vast majority of our trip was driving or stopping at beach areas where I could slowly hobble around and look at birds while Logan tore around and climbed dunes and threw rocks in the water.  I am SUPPOSED to be walking some- just not overdoing it- so the past 3 days turned out to be a perfect trip.  Logan was disappointed to not be missing any school, so I took him out on Tuesday.  That turned out to be a very good decision because the three days we were gone, temperatures were in the 50s and 60s.  Today's high dropped into the lower 30s.

Tuesday morning we dropped Kaylin off at school at 7:25am and headed up to Chicago.  We checked out Montrose beach and found lots of gulls, geese, horned and red-necked grebes and a few loons.  We saw a peregrine falcon and a Cooper's hawk, but pretty much the only other birds were American tree sparrows and ring-billed gulls.  We drove slowly up the lakeshore, stopping at different beaches.  Logan's favorite of the trip was Illinois Beach State Park, where he got to climb steep dunes and jump off the sand "cliffs" into soft sand.  We continued up to Kenosha, but it got dark so we found our way to the interstate and drove up to Manitowoc for the night. 

Wednesday morning we drove to the Manitowoc lakefront.  I was terribly impressed by a huge WWII submarine at a downtown museum. Logan didn't quite believe it was a sub and thought it was stupid.  We had a good time on the beach and then went to the zoo.  It was small and easy to walk, but had some interesting animals.  Our favorite part was when a small flock of sandhill cranes flew right over our heads and interacted with the zoo's two cranes.  We kept driving up the lake and stopped at a nature center, but found out that Wisconsin's firearm deer season is this week and apparently hunting is allowed just about everywhere.  Pffff.  We got back on the highway and drove up to the Michigan border town of Menominee and spent the afternoon checking out the parks and beaches.  Our best bird find of the day was several flocks of tundra swans and a huge flock of sandhill cranes.  I love driving up north and seeing bald eagles along the highway.  I also love the birch forests.  Beautiful.  We headed back down to Green Bay where we spent the night at a hotel with a basketball hoop in the pool.  Logan swam for two hours while I read.

Thursday morning we headed to another nature center in Green Bay and were completely shocked by what we found!  I was thrilled to find a nice lake area with a huge variety of ducks and geese.  We walked back on a path and found a small zoo!  It was really nice, with lots of native animals who were all very active and interacting with us.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the interpretive center open on Thanksgiving morning.  It was a huge building with all kinds of educational exhibits and two large viewing areas with bird feeders.  We stayed a long time.  We then checked out the bay, but found only steep rocky areas or dropoffs.  We got a great view of a northern goshawk in a tree.  We got back on the interstate and headed south to Racine, where we once again creeped down the lakefront, stopping at every interesting beach and having a good time.  We had originally planned to come home Friday, but it was supposed to rain late Thursday and then be cold and windy.  We'd already had tons of beach time with relatively warm wind and both agreed that after the beautiful 3 days we had, icy, whipping wind would be intolerable.  I had wanted to go to a huge, inland national wildlife refuge, but found out that deer hunting basically closed the place to non-hunters.  We decided to head home. 

One thing that is great about driving on major holidays is the absence of trucks!  We drove all the way from Green Bay to Racine (passing through Milwaukee) and I only passed 3 trucks.  There were more trucks in the Chicago stretch, but not too many.  It started pouring rain just as we exited the Tri-State onto I-55 and we were in and out of heavy rain for the rest of the drive home.  Otherwise, the weather was amazing.  The trip was really fun.  We both had a great time being outside, taking in the beautiful scenery and being together.  We saw lots of birds, collected dozens of rocks and shells and filled my car with more sand than I want to think about.  Everywhere we went was free, so the only money we spent was on gas, cheap food and two nights of hotels.  I'd like to do it again sometime in the spring.

Oh, I totally forgot...  When Logan packed his stuff he took a small suitcase and filled it with books.  He took at least a dozen books, ranging from reptile field guides and snake care manuals, to several of his favorite American Chillers novels.  He read during the highway parts of our drive.  He read in the hotel.  I couldn't be more pleased :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Feet in the morning, feet at night

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I've now ditched the cane and am slowly building walking tolerance.  I went from leaning on the cane and using it like a crutch, to using it mostly for balance, to carrying it around more than using it.  It was a natural progression and I got to the point where it just didn't make sense to use it anymore.  It was actually hurting my shoulder because I didn't need it.

This week my doctor was happy about my nerve pain progress.  The shooting pains are almost completely gone.  I still have a constant burning sensation in an area on the top of my foot under my pinkie toe, but it's not painful enough to take meds.  I can now do laundry and fill my bird feeders, where just a week ago any weird stretch or movement would cause shooting pain.  I wear my walking shoes with orthotics whenever I'm doing anything other than duffing around the house.  I still can't walk or shower barefoot (I wear Crocs) but I can stand with minimal discomfort while I'm dressing. My incision sites are still tender if I touch them, but don't usually bother me otherwise.  Gene and I went shopping last night and after our first stop at Old Navy I still felt great.  We then went to Gordman's and even though I only walked maybe a third of the store, I was DONE for the night.  Still, much better than last week. 

I asked if I could start using an elliptical, but the doc only gave permission for me to use an exercise bike with no tension.  That seems like a waste of time, but I guess it will get me back into the habit of going to the Riverplex and working out. I'm planning on starting this morning. I also asked about physical therapy, but the doc doesn't want anyone "cranking around on my foot" until my nerve pain is completely gone. For now, he's giving me exercises and stretches to do on my own.  I'm not sure if I'll end up in physical therapy at all!  Yep, I imagine this blog is boring as heck, but I want this info in case I ever have to have my right foot done.

I've also been much better mentally because I've been getting out of the house. Tuesday, I went to lunch and the mall with a zoo friend.  Thursday I went to lunch and a movie with my aunt. Friday I went car birding with Meghan and we saw some great birds at Emiquon. (OH, CRAP! I just now remembered what's in my trunk!!!)  We then stopped at Banner Marsh on the way home, hoping to see an owl in the fading daylight, when a beaver swam up to where we were parked and walked out onto the bank to snack on some weeds right outside our car window.  We got a great view of its flat tail.  I'm not sure what it is with my close-up views of beavers recently...  If I could only find otters!

This week Kaylin got a new desk for her room.  Gene's been busy at work and I'm still very uncomfortable sitting on the floor, so Gene told her to put it together herself.  She did.  And when it comes to projects, Kaylin is just like her daddy.  Late Thursday afternoon Sharon and I walked in from the movie and chatted with Logan and played with the pets.  Kaylin didn't make a peep so I asked if she was at Kira's?  Nope, she was in her room.  I called back to let her know Aunt Sharon was here.  Response, but no appearance.  We finally went back to see her and she was busy with the desk.  I made dinner and called her to get it.  She came out and took her bowl back to her room.  At 8pm, she called me to come see the completed desk.  She was just then eating her dinner and admiring her work. She did it completely by herself and she built it well. It totally cracked me up that she was exactly like Gene- ignoring visitors, not eating and working until she was done.

I'm going to get off the computer and make a list of the things I want to accomplish during the rest of the time I'm off work.  I plan to clean and declutter the entire house.  I want to develop a fitness and diet program that will help me lose weight while not negatively impacting Gene and the kids' schedules and meals.  I want to go car birding in other areas around Illinois and hopefully take Logan on a birding trip to either Michigan or Minnesota.  I need to research some stuff for my zoo keeper group at work.  I basically want to make the most of my time off while at the same time making sure my foot heals completely.  I tried hard to avoid this surgery, but I had to have it done and I want it to work.  I'm not going to overdo anything and mess up my recovery, but I'm also not going to sit on my butt and do nothing but watch TV for the next 4 weeks!  But first I'm going to remove something from my trunk! Right now!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Logan!

Last Tuesday, I returned the walker to the doctor for ever and ever, amen.  I'm now sporting a leopard-spotted cane and I am awesome.  The doctor sort of freaked me out at my appointment because he was so surprised by my nerve pain he wouldn't let me leave.  He was probably in the room with me for 40 minutes asking the same questions over and over.  I was really thinking maybe things were worse than I thought.  Well, I've improved a lot over the past several days.  I still have some nerve pain, but it's steadily improving.  I'm still using the cane, but I can walk around the house without it. 

I had a coupon for 25% off my entire purchase at Michaels and I wanted to get the kids some stocking stuffers.  I figured I knew where I was going and Michaels isn't a huge store. I could handle it. Not. Friday morning I took my first solo shopping trip since the surgery. Well, Michaels changed their entire store around and I had to walk more than expected. Ouch! At least I got my shopping done and won't have to go back on Black Friday. But- lesson learned; I'll stay away from the big stores for a while longer.

Thursday was Logan's 10th birthday AND his parent-teacher conference.  My baby is in double digits, sniff, sniff.  Logan was very excited and took cupcakes to school and got his favorite pizza for dinner and Sweet CeCe's for dessert.  He wasn't happy about going to school on his birthday, but he had a good day anyway.  I was a little nervous about the conference because I've dealt with this teacher before and she came off as not being very interested or caring. Ha! She's one of those teachers who values a good boy. She kept me there the entire 15 minutes, going on and on about how well-behaved and helpful Logan is compared to the typical boys. I was sort of torn between "Yeah! My kid's good!" and "Why do you teach if you can only stand the perfectly behaved children?" I know, I know...  I want all teachers to be fantastic and take the time to understand each individual child and actually care.  Teachers aren't paid enough, blah, blah.  Well, the good ones aren't in it for the money!

The kids are off school today (Monday) so we came to Wisconsin Dells for their long weekend.  I wanted to be cleared by my doctor to take this trip, so I didn't book a room at Great Wolf Lodge until after my appointment on Tuesday. Yikes! I almost blew it! Fortunately, I had a good coupon for the room.  Unfortunately, all of the cheap rooms were taken.  We have this ridiculously huge room with a king size bed and living area on the lower floor, and a loft with a queen sized bed upstairs.  We also have a fireplace and a balcony.  And three TVs.  And the biggest hotel bathroom I've ever seen!  We brought the wheelchair, but we're not terribly far from the pool or the restaurants so I've been able to walk most of the time.  I can't swim because I can't be barefoot on the concrete, but it's been wonderful to be out of the house, even if I'm mostly still reading and watching TV. 

We got Logan the birthday party package, and even though he's almost too old for it, he's really enjoyed the trip being all about him.  Our room door is decorated and he got a pizza and salad meal, a cake, a build-a-bear type stuffed animal, candy, arcade tokens, a birthday button, bag, disposable camera and strangely, a scrapbook.  Uhhh...  I guess they had to do something with the scrapbooks that didn't sell in the gift shop? Just what every 10-year-old boy wants!  Anyway, we've all been having a great time.  Yesterday we ate at a restaurant where a train delivered our food.  It was absolutely pouring rain all day so we then went to an indoor amusement park where Gene and the kids rode bumper cars, go carts and many other rides while I played some arcade games.  They had an amazing ropes course where the kids were harnessed and walked across tightropes and all kinds of stepping stones in the air and other obstacles.  They both loved it.  They've also spent countless hours swimming and in the arcade at our hotel.  Logan has probably ridden the glass elevator hundreds of times now.  He has to come check in with Gene or me every 15 minutes, but he goes up and down over and over and over.  I'm shocked they haven't kicked him off or come to talk to us about it.

This trip was also planned around my birthday and my big birthday adventure was going up to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge to bird.  It's about an hour drive, so I left a little before 6am so I'd arrive around sunrise.  It's an absolutely gigantic reserve, and as I drove in, flocks and flocks of sandhill cranes were flying out.  I went to the observation platform first (a short walk on a flat trail) and there were still hundreds and hundreds of cranes hanging around.  I then went to the visitor center and found hundreds more.  The refuge is supposed to be a major stopover for ducks and other migrating waterfowl, but I was either in the wrong place in the reserve (this place covers miles and miles) or else I was too late in the year, because I only saw a few Canada geese and mallards.  I drove 45 minutes back to the other pools known for waterfowl migration and both were nearly empty except for a pair of whooping cranes so close to my car I didn't even need binoculars!  The water in the lake they were in was drawn way down and they could wade "ankle deep" through the entire area.  It was neat to see them so close, but of course they quickly flew much farther away.  I also saw a few bald eagles, a harrier and lots more sandhill cranes, geese and mallards.  I had been hoping to find crossbills and redpolls, but the ONLY small birds I found were American tree sparrows.  On the long drive from the visitor center to the pools with the whooping cranes, I stopped for every small bird I saw.  I saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, and every single one was an American tree sparrow.  Whoop.  Around 10am, it started pouring rain, so I headed back to the resort.  It was a good trip with the thousands of sandhill cranes and the great look at the whoopers, but I was hoping to see 50 different species and I saw maybe 10.  Oh well, cranes are always wonderful :)

This morning the kids want to swim in the waterpark one last time.  I imagine we'll stop at the cheese store on the way out of town.  The goal is to get home in time to pick up Scout the wiener dog from his weekend of boarding before the vet's office closes.  I got two wonderful nights of sleeping without a dog, but I must miss him a lot because last night I dreamed about dogs all night long.  It's been a great weekend.  Hopefully we'll have a safe and uneventful drive home.

Monday, November 5, 2012


As I've made obvious, I have been very worried about the slow pace of my recovery.  At the appointment right before my surgery, the doctor was going on and on about how the last person he performed this surgery on felt no pain.  Then, at my 5 day post op bandage change, he said that I could stop using the walker when I could walk without pain.  At my appointment a full week later, I felt nowhere near ready to give up the walker.  However, I think that the vast majority of my pain has been nerve-related.  My usual doctor was on vacation last week so I had to see his associate.  Other Doc really put my mind at ease by telling me that since my nerve pain is slowly getting better, the nerve was probably just irritated by surgery and will hopefully heal completely.  I was pretty disappointed that Other Doc left my sutures in for another week, but I suppose it was for the best (and I probably scared him off when I told him how worried I was about suture removal because that was the area I could just barely touch and nerve pain would shoot to my big toe.)  Other Doc told me to be patient and to follow the signs my foot gives me as to how much activity I can do.

Thursday morning was the annual health screen for park district employees.  It's optional, but if you participate you get a free blood panel done, and more importantly, a free $25 gift card and possibly other cash prizes.  I wanted to get out and I wanted that gift card.  I hobbled into the Riverplex for my 7:10am appointment and was immediately met by two of my bosses who laughed and commented on the walker.  I don't hold this against them as I would have done the same, but I was feeling really self-conscious and uncomfortable.  Combined with a personality flaw of not liking to show weakness, using the walker in front of my zoo coworkers as well as many others I know throughout the park district was a humiliating experience.  I normally don't embarrass too easily, but this was embarrassing!  I couldn't just zip in and out because the mandatory annual insurance meeting was at 8am.  If I was well enough to show up for the gift card, I probably didn't have much of an excuse to miss the meeting during which I sign all of the insurance papers for the following year.  As I was sitting waiting for the meeting, the woman in charge of insurance stuff (she probably has a respectable title) showed up and took pity on my situation and allowed me to sign my papers right then and skip the meeting.  Hee hee, that made up for a whole lot of embarrassment.  I could go the rest of my life without listening to the marvels of the flexible spending plan!

Friday, Gene and the kids were off school/work for parent-teacher conferences.  Logan's conference had originally been scheduled for Monday the 29th, but I rescheduled for the following week because it involved a lot of walking and stairs.  Gene and I went to Kaylin's school and decided to divide and conquer.  I took the classes closest to the door, which included the language arts/literature teacher.  As usual, Kaylin is bright and creative and well-behaved, but she failed to turn in a major assignment and didn't take any AR tests despite the fact that she reads constantly.  I was pretty shocked that she had blown off a major project and went home pretty angry.  As it turns out, Kaylin DID do the assignment, she just didn't turn it in.  It's probably buried somewhere in her pigsty locker.  Gene also learned of incomplete assignments in other classes (though fortunately all minor worksheets.)  I blew my top.  Kaylin was supposed to have two friends over on Friday to work on hair clips (Flufferdoodles) for Saturday's craft show.  She called and cancelled.  We decided that she'd be grounded from friends until her room was completely cleaned and organized.  The craft show was scheduled months in advance so I allowed her to do that on Saturday, but the timing stunk that she got to spend most of the day with her friends.  However, Friday, Saturday afternoon and Sunday, Kaylin spent cleaning her room.  We filled two huge garbage bags, two large recycling bins and a large box of stuff for Goodwill.  I helped and/or observed most of the process and had to wear a dust mask the entire time or I had horrible allergic reactions to all the filth.  I don't know how many hours we put in on that room, but it's almost done.  She has to fix some of the art projects that are falling off one wall and dust a high shelf on another wall.  The carpet is completely destroyed and desperately needs to be cleaned, but Kaylin's not quite strong enough and my foot's not good enough yet.  Hopefully that will get done later this week.  I'm going to call the school today and see if it's okay for me to come after school and monitor a major locker cleaning.  I have no idea what the rules are for something like that.  We have a plan in place and hopefully Kaylin understands that there will be terrible consequences if this behavior continues.  At least her room is mostly clean.  That's sort of a miracle!

Saturday morning, Gene and Logan took me to my grandma's house in Morton to borrow great-great-aunt Ida's old wheelchair.  We had a nice visit with Grandma and then the guys pushed me around Farm and Fleet Toyland.  We then stopped at Kaylin's craft sale.  It was soooooooo great to get out like that!  I found that when I'm using the walker, people stare.  I don't like any extra attention so I was pretty self-conscious about the wheelchair.  However, I found that when I'm in the wheelchair, people look away.  Haha, perfect!  I'm now REALLY looking forward to our Wisconsin Dells trip next weekend where I will use the wheelchair for the long walks at the giant water park resort. 

I think all of the walking around Thursday at the Riverplex and Friday at Kaylin's school stretched out my foot and leg and did me a lot of good.  I took my first steps without the walker.  It seemed like BOOM! all of a sudden my foot improved greatly.
I'm still taking it very easy, but I'm no longer using the walker.  If I walk more than a few steps, I use a single crutch like a cane.  This is just around the house- I wouldn't go walk the zoo or the mall- but it's wonderful to not need the walker to walk 10 feet to the kitchen to get a drink.  I'm still having some nerve pain and numbness below my pinky toe, but it's much better than it was even a few days ago.  I'm finally feeling optimistic about my healing. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I. Am. Old.

Whoop-dee-doo I'm 40.  Yes, I am absolutely dwelling on the fact that as I enter "old age" I am confined to my recliner and using a walker.  I'm bored and impatient and feeling sorry for myself.  But, I'm feeling better overall.  I'm spending much more time reading and doing a jigsaw puzzle and organizing old photos than I am staring at the TV.  I really believed that my foot would be much better by now, but I have to keep reminding myself that it hasn't been that long.  I still have my sutures, I can't expect to be fully healed!

For my birthday I decided to get out of the house.  I've only been outside twice since surgery and both times were for doctor appointments.  I had to go to a place with wheel chairs or motorized carts so I chose Target.  There was one motorized cart left when we arrived and I climbed aboard while Gene pushed my walker around in a cart.  I have always thought the scooter carts looked really fun.  They are not!  I felt like a complete idiot, conspicuously puttering around the store.  I mean, the maximum speed on those things is snail, but people pretty much ran screaming out of my way.  It was a pretty humiliating experience.  I'm really glad I went on a Monday night when the store wasn't too busy because it was hard to get around.  I stuck to the wide aisles and doubt I could have maneuvered around the clothing areas.  Still, I am VERY glad that I got out for a little while and will do it again.  I reread that and it sounded kind of doom and gloom, but it was amazing to get out of the house and I had a great time.  I also had a great meal with Gene and the kids and the whole outing really lifted my spirits.

Moving on, I will be soooooooooo happy when the presidential election is over!  I've been spending way too much time on facebook and I can't believe the stuff people are posting.  The anti-Obama stuff some people are posting is terrifying.  I mean, I thought George W. Bush was a terrible president but I NEVER, EVER would have posted (or even thought) ANY of the stuff some of my facebook friends are posting multiple times daily.  Probably the worst offender is the wife of a pastor who believes herself to be a very good Christian.  The hate she spews is unbelievable!  Political cartoons and complaining about Obamacare and the economy are one thing, but it seems like a good deal of what some people are posting is ignorant hatred toward other religions and linking Obama with Islamic terrorists often based on nothing more than his middle name.  Get a grip, people!  I can't imagine being that full of hatred! 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Boo hoo hoo

If you can't take my whining, don't read this.  You have been warned. 

I am insanely bored. I have watched more TV in the past 6 days than I have probably watched cumulatively since my foot injury two years ago.  I have watched both seasons of Game of Thrones, the entire season of Honey Boo Boo, endless hours of Nat Geo Wild and Animal Planet and several movies.  I have spent more time on the phone than I can ever remember.  I had planned to read and write nonstop, but I've been so "fuzzy" from drugs and lack of sleep that I've only read a little and written next to nothing.  I haven't done anything productive such as balancing my checkbook.  I did knit my boss a potholder and let's just say I have no plans to knit anything else for anyone else. Ever.

As long as I am sitting upright in my chair with my foot on a pillow, I don't have much pain.  However, if I drift off to sleep and my foot rolls to one side or another, I jolt awake.  If I'm in bed, I have to lay flat on my back with my foot on a pillow.  Again, if I roll at all, I'm instantly awake from the jolt of pain.  I just don't sleep flat on my back. I think all or most of my pain comes from my incision sites and the pulling sutures on each side of my heel.  I still absolutely need my walker.  It hurts to walk, but if I don't have the support of the walker it's excruciating. 

I had my first post-surgical follow-up appointment yesterday.  The doctor was happy with my "progress" and how healing was going.  He told me to stay off my feet for another week.  I was completely disappointed, but honestly, at this point I would be incredibly uncomfortable driving around "car birding" and can't even imagine trying to walk around Walmart.  I can start to move around a little more to the point I can get up to get my own food and drinks.  I'm frustrated by what I still can't do, though.  I can use my walker and carry a plate at the same time, but moving my gallon-size pitcher of tea from the counter to the refrigerator is impossible.  I was able to gather supplies and make myself a bowl of microwave oatmeal, but I couldn't use the walker and carry the hot bowl to my chair.  It's just annoying.

I have been enjoying watching my feeder birds.  I have tons of chickadees and sparrows and cardinals.  I had my first ever red-breasted nuthatch and my first ever hairy woodpecker in the past few days.  I've seen plenty of both in the area, just never at my feeders.  My favorite feeder visitor has been a blue jay.  He has to be 6 times bigger than the chickadees he's sharing the feeder with. He just looks ridiculous :)  The birds (as usual) are saving my sanity.

The kids have been extremely helpful, fetching things and feeding pets and doing whatever needs to be done.  Scout the dog seems to be psychic in that EVERY time I struggle to stand up to go to the bathroom, he jumps on my lap.  Usually right when I'm moving my blanket to maximize tangling of said blanket, dog, surgical shoe and walker.  Tiger the cat likes to wait until I've just drifted off to sleep and then he steps his massive paws onto my abdomen and crushes my organs while kneading my flesh.  Then he gets comfortable and as soon as I fall back asleep he bites me (gently, but firmly) because I stopped petting him.  That tends to wake me up again.  LOL, I am not meant to sleep :)

Okay, I'll stop complaining.  The doctor replaced my massive bandage with a normal-sized one and then gave me a bandage cover so I can take a SHOWER.  I'm pretty excited about both of those things.  Today I plan to do something productive.  I will shower and balance my checkbook.  I have a doctor appointment at 11, so I plan to go through the McDonald's drive-thru and get a tea with lots of ice on the way home.  My big plan for once I can walk/sit in funny positions is to clean and declutter the entire house.  I will probably need the other 4-6 weeks I will have off work to accomplish this.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Finally Over

My surgery is finally over and done.  I fasted and survived.  My surgery time was pushed back from 8am to 10am to noon.  I arrived at the OSF Center for Health at 10:45am and was processed pretty quickly.  My nurse was excellent and placed my IV on the first try.  She talked and talked and talked and talked and did everything she needed to do.  I then sat and waited.  And waited some more.  And some more.  Gene left around 12:30 to get some lunch.  The doctor finally showed up right before 2pm.  I was fast asleep because the pre-op room isn't really meant for a 3 hour stay.  I had no tv or even a magazine.  What else was I supposed to do?

The first question out of his mouth was "Do you have a walker in your car?"  I was like "WHAT???"  I'm pretty positive I would have remembered if he had told me I needed a walker!  Seriously!  He sort of freaked out because his office closes early on Fridays and he had to track down one of his "girls" to meet Gene to get him a walker.  It was annoying and sort of typical of this doctor, but at least we didn't have to buy one.  I walked back to the OR and then got IV anesthesia that put me out immediately.  I woke up an hour later, still in the OR, but the surgery was over.  Whatever drugs they gave me were great!  I had a silly laughing fit while in recovery, but had no hangover whatsoever and was able to eat and drink almost immediately.  My foot had some kind of local anesthetic and didn't hurt at all.  I had to stay in recovery longer than I would have liked, but it was quitting time for the nurses and I had several people ahead of me and only one after me.  I finally left around 4:30pm.

It was weird and awkward to use the walker the first time, but the more I use it, the more I like it.  It is so, so much better than crutches!  I don't know if I'll only need it for the first week or if I'll have to use it longer.  My bandage looks like I have a mini basketball under my wrap.  It seems a bit extreme, but I guess it's necessary.  Until Wednesday, I'm only supposed to get up to use the bathroom.  Otherwise, I'm supposed to be either in bed or in my recliner with my foot elevated.  I'm also supposed to ice it regularly and I do, but the bandage is so huge I don't know how the cold is getting through.  The pain has been very manageable.  It only really hurts when I walk, and then it's mostly the incision sites and the pulling sutures.  I spent most of the day today watching movies and reading.  I'm sure I'll be bored half to death by Wednesday.  I have to keep it completely dry so I can't shower.  Otherwise, so far, so good.

Friday, October 19, 2012


This is just a post of whining because it's 4:30am, I'm awake for the day, I'm hungry and thirsty and I have to fast until after my surgery.  My surgery got moved from 10 to noon.  Ugh!  I'm terrible at not eating, but not DRINKING anything???  Gene should probably go hide somewhere this morning!  Not only will I be starving and thirsty AND nervous about surgery, the caffeine withdrawal will probably push me over the edge :)

I made the completely idiotic decision to watch youtube videos of my surgery.  That was quite possibly one of the most stupid things I've done in my entire life.  I'm not squeamish.  I watched and aided in hundreds of animal surgeries in my time at the vet's office.  I've sewn up dozens of dogs and cats following necropsy.  I've had the contents of cysts pop in my face.  I have never had any issue watching any surgery videos online or on television.  I was curious and didn't think it would be a big deal.  Until I saw the "pole" being roughly shoved through the entire width of the patient's heel...  And then later that day when my doctor was gently explaining the surgery and I was able to accurately visualize it? I wanted to throw up! So yeah, I don't care who you are or what you do for a living- wait until AFTER your surgery to watch the video! Seriously. (Not the pole, NOT THE POLE!!!!)

Whelp, I got nothin'.  My last few days of work were pretty good.  We did 16 week tiger cub vet physicals and the two biggest cubs each weighed 37 pounds!  They are growing so fast and are quite rambunctious.  I'm sad that I won't get to see them for at least 2 weeks.  They are still ridiculously adorable.  My cousin Patrick is on leave from the Navy and he came to the zoo yesterday!  That lucky dog just got stationed for 3 years at Pearl Harbor.  I may have to figure out a way to go visit.  And yeah, I'm completely ignorant of military terminology so I probably messed up something in those sentences.  Feel free to correct me.

Last night was Taste of Lindbergh at Kaylin's school.  The fundraiser dinners at the schools usually have terrible food, but this one is great!  We had McAllister's baked potato bar, orange chicken from Hy-Vee, meatballs from PV II, steak kabobs from Alexander's, ribs from Famous Dave's and frozen custard from Culver's.  We spent $20 on tickets, all 4 of us were stuffed and we even had three tickets left to grab some cookies to take home.  They also have a mini carnival and huge silent auction.  It was fun!

I suppose I should spend the next 6 hours doing something productive since I will have 5 days I can't move from this chair.  Good times, good times.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Still no carp, but a beaver!

Even though the temperatures this week were higher, the carp were no longer jumping and our carp shooting trip was cancelled until next summer.  Sadness.  Oh well, Saturday was rainy and dreary most of the day anyway.

My foot was hurting all week to the point I was barely sleeping at night because the pain kept waking me up.  Work was tough and I was really wishing I had just had the surgery on September 28th when the doctor originally offered.  Now I just have to hobble through this week and my surgery is supposedly on Friday.  I say "supposedly" because it seems like everything else has been postponed and cancelled so I'm terrified the surgery won't work out for some reason.  For the second week in a row, my "regular" doctor appointment for a pre-surgical physical was cancelled because my doctor was sick.  I now have to go on Monday during work.  Ugh.

Other than whining about my foot, it was actually a pretty good week.  I took Monday off to spend Columbus Day with the kids.  We have a tradition of going to Tanner's Orchard and then to the dink town of Bradford.  Two or three years ago, I was at the stop sign leaving Tanner's and turned right toward Bradford rather than left to go home to spend the rest of the day babysitting the neighbor kids.  We've gone back each year and this was at least our third or fourth year.  This year, both kids realized they are too old for most of what they used to love about Tanner's.  We had a good time tasting different spreads and dips and shopping for food, but they are too big to play in the pumpkins and on the little wooden train.  They enjoyed feeding the goats, but were completely fine with not paying to go on the playground that is really for smaller kids.  They are too big for pony rides and barrel train rides.  We got some good food and moved on to Bradford. 

After playing on the playground in the park for a while, we toured around the town to see what Bradford had to offer.  We found a pool and baseball field, the schools, several churches and the tornado siren.  Both kids were completely amazed by some old man burning leaves in the gutter in front of his house.  "He's starting a fire right on the street!"  They agreed that they'd like to live in Bradford, but wished it was a little closer to Peoria.  We took pictures with many of the Bradford attractions and I posted them in a facebook album.  It was a good day.

Tuesday night was the book fair at Logan's school.  They always have a chili supper, but the food is pretty awful and Logan wanted to skip it.  Gene took the kids and Logan actually found some chapter books.  I can't believe how much he's been reading!  He found a series of books called "American Chillers" that have a scary story about each state and he has been devouring them.  The kid who had us so worried two years ago is now a reader!

Friday morning Logan woke up coughing and sniffing nonstop.  He wasn't "that" sick, but he would have been annoying to have in class and since I was home anyway, I allowed him to stay home from school.  By about 11 we were both bored and itching to go outside.  We went down to Galena Marina to look for birds and other wildlife.  We scored!  We watched a pair of belted kingfishers, several great egrets, a family of mallards and a small flock of yellow-rumped warblers.  We hiked around the boat launch cove to the river when I looked back at the cove and saw a beaver swimming toward the boat launch area.  What in the world?  It was almost noon!  What was a beaver doing out?  We walked back around and the beaver was munching on a twig and half asleep and didn't care at all that we were watching from 10 feet away.  We got a good, close look at its flat tail and big teeth.  Well, that was unexpected!  Hopefully next time it will be an otter :)  We headed back home and set up all of our bird feeders.  It is time anyway, but I wanted them to be ready and the birds to be flocking to them before I spend a week down after my surgery.  I want to watch something other than just the tv.  We've already had at least 10 different types of birds at the feeders.  Logan wants to set up some kind of platform feeder so hawks can pick off the feeder birds.  I think that's the best idea ever- as long as the hawks are only picking off the house sparrows!

Saturday was rainy and dreary.  Kaylin went to a sheep shearing party with her friend Zoe and had a great time.  Gene spent the afternoon at work.  Logan and I ran a couple of errands and let a friend's dogs out while she was out of town for the day.  I then spent the entire afternoon sleeping.  I couldn't believe that I spent the final afternoon of my last day off before surgery sleeping, but I really needed it.  I even went to bed at my usual early hour.  Hopefully that will help me through the next 5 days of work.  I can do it!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No carp. Boo.

It's been a tough week filled with major and minor disappointments for the entire family.  Wednesday morning I thought it was really odd that Willow the cat didn't show up for breakfast.  Kaylin and I were rushing out the door when I fed the pets so I didn't have much time to think about it, but usually she shows up at feeding time.  I had a busy day at work, followed by a meeting and then putting away animals late following a special event.  I didn't get home until 7:30 and Gene and Logan walked right out to my car to let me know that Willow was dead.  I'm guessing maybe she was hit by a car, but she didn't have any obvious signs of being hit and she already smelled bad enough that I didn't want to mess with her too much.  Willow did have some health issues, so I'm not sure what happened.  I didn't have her necropsied.  She was a great little cat and we all miss her :(

I'm sort of freaking out about everything I need to accomplish before my foot surgery in less than two weeks.  I've got mental (and paper) checklists for everything I need and want to do at work, home, for the kids, for the pets, for the doctor, etc.  Friday was my appointment with my regular doctor for a pre-surgical physical and bloodwork.  I found his new office and found that after being on the phone for at least 15 minutes, my appointment was never entered into the computer.  There was no sign that my ridiculous scheduling call had ever been made.  The lady at the front desk was surprised I even would have been scheduled because my doctor likes to do these appointments a week or less before surgery.  She worked me in for next Friday...  I had been all gung-ho about accomplishing all kinds of things on Friday, but that kind of zapped my spirit.  My foot was really hurting so I just went home for a while.  I get a lot done on Friday, though.  I found a 6 week supply of food for Paul the snake, washed (and put away!) four loads of laundry, got groceries, paid bills and did lots of cleaning.

Saturday morning, everyone was REALLY looking forward to our crossbow carp fishing trip.  Logan and I were so excited we barely slept.  We went to run some errands to kill time before our trip.  We stopped at Big Hollow Animal Hospital to look at kittens.  All were incredibly cute, but none were "the one" we were looking for.  We went to Moser's where I bought the ugliest pair of comfortable $130 walking shoes ever.  We then got a phone call from Kaylin to let us know that the fishing trip had been canceled due to the cool temperatures.  BUMMER!!!  We went birding at Forest Park Nature Center to ease our sorrows.  We did a short hike because my foot was really bothering me, but we saw lots of birds and enjoyed the beautiful day.  I also found the perfect bird feeder I've been looking for at their store, so that was nice.

I had been planning to take Kaylin on the Spoon River Drive next Saturday.  She loves craft shows and I figure that's the ultimate craft show.  Well, now we'll be carp fishing.  I hope...  I could have taken her yesterday, but my foot was bothering me so much I just couldn't deal.  Well, looking back on the weekend, not much worked out as planned, but I actually got a whole lot of work done and even had some fun.  I have a long work day today because I signed up to work late for a special event, but I have tomorrow off for Columbus Day with the kids.  They want to continue our Columbus Day tradition of Tanner's Orchard followed by a trip to Bradford.  Sounds like an adventure!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Total Bust

I work with more than 200 budgies.  Budgies = parakeets.  The zoo got the budgies to fill the aviary in the new walk-through Australia exhibit.  The zoo visitors loved the budgies, but as the mid-September night temperatures dropped well below 50F, the birds needed to be moved to their warm winter area.  I spent more than a week catching and transporting birds.  It was my life and I had budgies on the brain.  It made me want to go see the wild parakeets living in Chicago.

The problem is, I hate Chicago.  I mean, I love everything Chicago has to offer.  I love the sports teams and the great zoos and aquarium and the museums.  I love the parks and the beaches and to some extent even the shopping.  I hate the crowds and crowds of people and the traffic.  I hate the crazy drivers who repeatedly cut me off.  I really don't like the guy who suddenly slows waaayyyyy down on the highway so his buddy can lean out of the window to puke.  (Are you drunk too, jerkwad?)  I don't like paying $25 every time I park my car or driving for a mile with not one parking place.  When I wanted to see snowy owls last winter and Chicago was a sure thing, I drove about 8 hours farther to Duluth instead.  Chicago.  Ugh.

Anyway, I talked Meghan into going with me.  We decided to go on a Saturday rather than a Friday to beat the traffic.  We researched where to find the parakeets and found a site that pretty much told us EXACTLY where to go.  We went exactly where we were told, walked all over the park and- no parakeets.  I drove all over the neighborhood but there were no signs of the birds.  Oh well.  There is a guy who posts an almost daily entry on the birding website I visit about everything he finds at Montrose beach.  I've been wanting to go there forever.  Maybe we'll at least find something cool there!  Uh...   Surprise!  There was a HUGE cross country meet that was taking up pretty much the entire park.  The areas that weren't affected by cross country were overrun with youth soccer.  Ugh!  Not only was there nowhere to park in that gigantic area, there were sooooooo many people the birds probably all fled.  Seriously?  (I was happy to later find out that my bird guy was also taken by surprise by the huge cross country crowds.)  Well, birding was a bust.  We decided to go to Lincoln Park Zoo instead.  It was a good time as always.  We got to see a month-old baby zebra :)  When we left the zoo, I missed my turn onto Lake Shore Drive and was instead filtered onto Michigan Avenue where I was reminded once again about why I hate Chicago.  We poked along before FINALLY hitting a place I felt was a sure thing to get back onto Lake Shore Drive and I-55.  I-55 was smooth sailing both into and out of town, so I guess our massive fail in the finding birds department was at least somewhat helped by the lack of traffic.  I suppose if we had gone on Friday we would at least have been able to enjoy Montrose Beach, but it probably would have taken us twice as long to get home.

At home, Logan has been talking nonstop about getting a snake for his birthday.  He's been talking about it for a long time and instead of his interest fading, he's just been getting more and more excited.  I have a bit of crazy going because my foot surgery is a couple of weeks before his birthday and I feel like I need to get everything done and accomplished right now just in case I'm unable to do anything then.  Logan picked up on this fear and has been harassing me daily about shopping for a snake.  I work pretty regularly with the zoo's education snakes and while I would never pretend to consider myself a snake expert, I feel like I know and understand enough to have one as a pet.  I finally figured, what's the big deal?  I'll take the kid to get a snake.  I'm not sure how I feel about getting a pet store snake, but I did want a young one that we can condition to be used to being held.  I also wanted a snake that is considered a good "beginner" snake.  I was afraid that if I inquired at the herp meeting, I'd end up with 100 offers of free snakes that were all large and bitey and we'd end up never getting the snake out of its enclosure. 

We went ahead and got a baby corn snake last night.  It is adorable!  It's probably around a foot long, but I've seen fatter nightcrawlers.  It has a nice pattern and cool colors.  Its mouth is so tiny I hope that if it bites Logan it won't hurt much and he'll get over it quickly.  We didn't hold the snake much last night because it was already stressed about being put in a cup for the drive home.  Plus, it pooped all over the cup and then had to crawl through it.  I rinsed the snake, but snake poop smells BAD.  The snake's name is Paul.  LOL, Paul the snake.  Logan named it after his favorite White Sox player, Paul Konerko.  :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Gene-Gene!

I've been birding pretty much every weekend and had decided to take this weekend off, but then Friday night Logan asked me to take him birding on Saturday morning.  And he was willing to leave early!  Seriously, people, how could I turn down my only son?!  We loaded up Logan's bike and headed to Banner Marsh.  It was 7am when we arrived and we stayed and stayed.  We hit the East entrance first and the little pond on the way to the boat ramp was full of teal and greater and lesser yellowlegs.  Herons and egrets were everywhere and Logan got his first really good look at a belted kingfisher.  We then hit the Bell's Landing area and found the usual mute swans along with hundreds and hundreds of migrating white pelicans.  It was very windy and cool (and still early) and we didn't see any small birds.

We moved on to Emiquon where we found a wider variety of ducks along with thousands of gulls and pelicans.  Logan rode his bike while I scoped the grass.  It was too windy and the only small birds I found were tree swallows.  We headed to the area back by Dickson Mounds and found Crabtree Creek absolutely covered with pelicans.  The water was really low and the fish were flopping around and thousands of pelicans were feasting.  It was really interesting to see so many gigantic birds on such a relatively small body of water.  I've seen the North Pool of Chautauqua covered in pelicans, but this was somehow even more impressive.  Logan took the steep path down to the creek where he "rescued" beached fish and picked up mussel shells.  I chose to protect my feet and walked along the levee and spotted several warblers in the surrounding trees.  I had to stop and use my guide book to identify them all, but it was really cool to unexpectedly pick up a few year birds in a place I never would have thought to stop if it hadn't been teeming with pelicans. 

We moved on to Chautauqua.  Lake Chautauqua is still drained, but the North Pool had a good number of (shocker!) pelicans.  We then headed home because although today (Sunday) is Gene's birthday, we were celebrating Saturday while we were all off work/school.  I can't even begin to describe how happy it makes me that my boy actually enjoys driving all over rural Illinois looking for birds!  We were gone 6 1/2 hours and he was excited about everything we'd seen and had a blast. 

We arrived home to find Gene fixing the dryer and Kaylin playing with the neighbor girls.  We had discussed many possibilities, but decided to go to the zoo to see the baby tigers.  They are most active between 3pm and 5pm, so we arrived around 3.  The tiger cubs put on a good show and we toured the rest of the zoo and the kids played on the climbing wall.  We hit the gift shop and then the kids collected a bunch of buckeyes in the park.  Why?  No idea.  I guess so they can get moldy in Kaylin's closet again.  We stopped at Sweet CeCe's for frozen yogurt and headed home to open Gene's birthday presents.

Fortunately, Gene bought himself a real birthday present a couple of weeks ago.  He got a new laptop he loves.  No one should feel sorry for what Kaylin and I found for him :)  Gene likes soup spoons.  He especially likes the plastic soup spoons found at the Qdoba restaurant, where he has been known to take more than perhaps his fair share.  I found a pack of 50 golden plastic soup spoons at Amazon.  I showed Kaylin and we got excited.  I mean, how can one pass up GOLDEN plastic soup spoons???  I then found an entire case of 1000 boring white plastic soup spoons.  We decided to order both.  Gene opened the golden spoons first and was amused.  He then opened a wiener dog cord wrangler and was amused.  He then opened the case of 1000 soup spoons and seemed completely overwhelmed.  The rest of us laughed and laughed.  Gene decided to take his case of soup spoons to work where he is moving to a new area and his new cubicle mates can talk behind his back about why on earth he has an entire case of soup spoons?  Yeah, I normally frown upon how wasteful plastic cutlery is.  In this case, I couldn't help myself.  I will have to work hard at saving energy and water and recycling and reusing more, etc., to make up for this abuse.  My bad.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I've been putting it off and putting it off, but I can't put it off any longer.  I'm finally going to have plantar fasciitis surgery on my left foot on October 19th.  The surgery isn't always successful so I tried anything and everything before making this decision.  I'm sick to death of pain ruling my life so I'm finally willing to give surgery a try.

The outpatient surgery itself apparently isn't a huge deal.  I'll have to spend 5 days doing absolutely nothing and then will slowly be able to start walking again.  I'll need to wear a surgical shoe to accommodate my bandages, but apparently will not have to wear the stupid boot cast.  I hate that boot!  I'll miss 6-8 weeks of work, but that's just because my job is so physical and I'm on my feet all day.  My goal is to walk without pain.  I want to sleep at least 6 or 7 hours straight without waking from pain.  I am sooooooo tired of pain ruling my life.  I want it gone!

I have often felt like this blog exists primarily to whine about my feet.  Over the past three years I have tried just about everything to beat this plantar fasciitis.  Supposedly, 95% of people get over it within a year with just using orthotics and stretches.  I am the 5%.  Yippee.  All of the crap I've purchased to try to "fix" my feet cracks me up.  I have a bubbling foot bath, a shiatsu foot massager (with heat), a foot log massager, a slant board, a Freezie Wrap for ice and an Inferno Wrap that plugs into the wall and is a heating pad for my foot.  I have blocked out what I spent on the home ultrasound device that I spent hours and hours using on my heel and ankle to no avail.  I've done weeks of physical therapy.  I've tried countless Icy-Hot type rubs and have been on countless painkillers and anti-inflammatory meds.  I wore that stupid walking cast at work for so many weeks (and three different times) I wanted to buy a gun and blow it to bits.  I have insanely expensive walking shoes that I wear to shovel poop at work.  I've got a drawer full of ankle braces and tape.  I have two different night splints and I hate them both :)  I even bought a jar of marbles so I could spill them on the floor and pick them up with my toes.  I can't remember what that was supposed to do...  Nothing has worked!

If surgery doesn't work I don't know what I'll do.  I guess I'll get a Hoveround wheelchair and go to the Grand Canyon.