Thursday, December 27, 2007

Skidboot, the World's Smartest Dog

A friend sent me this link about Skidboot, the World's Smartest Dog, and I was so impressed that I visited his web site.

Rest in Peace, Skidboot. You really did have a wonderful life and continue to inspire others.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Today is the big day! Our family always celebrates on Christmas Eve at my brother's and we're all very glad the doc gave us the OK for my uncle to leave the rehab for a few hours so he can celebrate with us.

I checked NORAD Tracks Santa at 9:30 a.m. and Santa had reached Fuji, Japan. The site is updated every 5 minutes and lets you follow Santa's trip on the map. There's even a link to track Santa in Google Earth!

As you can see, our kitties are waiting for Santa. I think it's funny that Sophie really likes this pillow:

When she's not sleeping under the Christmas tree or playing in the empty Christmas tree box (aka the best toy in the world), Saffron likes to sleep in our Christmas village:

Have you ever wondered how Santa gets around the world with all those stops in just one night? Mark Leiknes tried to answer it yesterday in his Cow and Boy comic:

Actually, NORAD Tracks Santa has the best answer. They even have Santa's e-mail address!

One more link and I'll leave you to your Christmas celebration: I got this interactive eCard from Ashland University from a friend and it's so beautiful I just had to share. Enjoy!

I hope everyone has a peaceful, joyous Christmas and happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Charities to Avoid

Want to help veterans this holiday season? Be careful which organizations you donate to! I just read in the Dec. 13 Flint Journal that Eight veterans charities gave less than a third of the money raised to veterans! Refer to Where to Give As Veterans Get Shortchanged By Charities (by Fox News) before you donate.
Here is the American Institute of Philanthropy's report card for veteran and military charities. (This list was printed with the article in The Flint Journal on Dec. 13 but I have not found this convenient list online, not even on the American Institute of Philanthropy's web site!) The letter grades are based on the charities' fundraising cost and percentage of the money raised that was spent on charitable activities:

Air Force Aid Society = A+
American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation = F
American Veterans Coalition = F
American Veterans Relief Foundation = F
AMVETS National Service Foundation = F
Armed Services YMCA oif the USA = A-
Army Emergency Relief Fund = A+
Blinded Veterans Association = D
Disabled American Veterans = D
Disabled Veterans Association = F
Fisher House Foundation = A+
Freedom Alliance = F
Help Hospitalized Veterans/Coalition to Salute America's Heroes = F
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund = A+
Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation = F
National Military Family Association = A
National Veterans Service Fund = F
National Vietnam Veterans Committee = D
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society = A+
NCOA National Defense Foundation = F
Paralyzed Veterans of America = F
Soldiers' Angels = D
United Spinal Association's Wounded Warrior Project = D
USO United Service Organization = C+
Veterans of Foreign Wars and Foundation = C-
Veterans of the Vietnam War & The Veterans Coalition = D
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund = D
VietNow National Headquarters - F
World War II Veterans Committee = D
Shameful, eh? Especially during the holidays when everyone wants to help our soldiers!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Waiting for Santa

Need something to do while waiting for Santa? Here are some fun Christmas web sites that I enjoy.

The North Pole ( has lots of games, activities, and recipes. (Thank you to everyone who e-mailed me the link to the cookie recipes!) You can even have Santa write a letter to a special kid!

Norad Tracks Santa also has games and activities plus you can track Santa's progress around the world on Christmas Eve (now includes a gadget you can add to your iGoogle). Current Santa countdown: 2 days, 18 hours.

The White House Christmas theme this year is Holiday in the National Parks. The site includes photos, interesting info about decorating the White House for Christmas (I wonder how I can volunteer to help? That would be a blast!), pictures of previous Christmases at the White House, and, of course, the latest BarneyCam holiday movie. I love these little holiday movies featuring the First Pets and look forward to the new one every Christmas. (I wonder how I could get that job? Wouldn't it be fun to take pics/movies of the White House, Barney, Miss Beazley, and Kitty?)

Speaking of the White House, the History Channel's History of Christmas web site includes a video about Christmas in the US (did you know Thomas Jefferson was the first President to celebrate Christmas in our nation's capital?) -- and lots of other good info.

All Things Christmas explains Christmas traditions around the world, with stuff for kids and adults.

For pretty Christmas desktop photos got to the Webshots Christmas gallery. This is where many of my cool desktop pictures come from -- and it's free!

Enjoy theses web sites and have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas in Arlington

I got his e-mail from a colleague and just had to share. I checked it out on the Urban Legends Reference Page and it's true. Follow the link for more details and video.

God bless our soldiers and those who love and remember them!

I had no idea this was done. I thought you might want to see it.

Rest easy, sleep well my brothers.
Know the line has held, your job is done.
Rest easy, sleep well.
Others have taken up where you fell, the line has held.
Peace, peace, and farewell...

Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine. The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one the poorest parts of the state.

Please share this with everyone on your address list. You hear too much about the bad things people do. Everyone should hear about this.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Good Day

Everyone is having a good day today! When I saw my uncle Thursday he alternately thought he was at home, knew he was in rehab, or wasn't sure where he was. Today he was totally clear and understood everything, including the fact that he needs to get well enough to go home. He asked how many days until Christmas, wanted to get cash to put in everyone's Christmas cards, and wanted me to be sure to take all the supplies from his house so I could make Pecan Pies for Christmas. Wow! I hope he has many, many more such good days.

It's been a while since I posted an update about Saffron. After a rough day yesterday she, too, is doing well. Here she is in her Christmas village:

Yesterday we went to the vet to get her meds and quick check-up. She lost 3 oz. last week (which is a lot when you only weight about 5.5 lbs!) and has been scratching her ear for a couple of days. I tried wiping it out with baby oil and cottonball, but couldn't see anything.

At the vet's office Saffron decided she didn't want anyone to touch her, so they had to give her a whiff of gas to knock her out before her exam. (Poor baby!) It's a good thing they did: she has always had sensitive ears she won't let anyone touch and both were full of wax and infection (yeast and bacteria). They had to clean and medicate her ears, which they'd never be able to do if she were awake. While she was out the also did a blood test to see how her liver and other organs are doing, just in case the weight loss is due to her liver disease. She was only out for a few minutes, groggy for a few more, and wide awake and grooming by the time we went home. Her ears were immediately better and she was no longer scratching.

Good news: Dr. Joe called today with the blood test results. Some liver numbers are a little better, some are a little worse. Everything else is good, especially for a cat her age (11). Translation: she is holding her own. The weight loss was most likely due to the ear infections making her not feel well; we'll know for sure if/when she gains weight next week. We don't know how much time she has left, but for now her liver is OK, she's relaxed, happy, eating well, and enjoying life. That's all I want: for her to have the normal, happy life of a pampered indoor kitty.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dazzling Lights

This afternoon I finished my end-of-the-semester grading. To celebrate, my husband and I went to Rochester, MI to look at the beautiful Christmas light show downtown.

My photos came out a little blurry, so this one is from Big Bright Show: Rochester, MI from a web site called LEDgen Lighting. The site not only tells you everything you can possibly imagine about LED lights, it has a Featured LED Projects page with lots more displays like Rochester.

What's amazing is that every building in downtown Rochester looks like this! One of the merchants told me the city does all the lighting from installation to removal.

Here are a couple of close-up, one from the Big Bright Show:

...and one from me:

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this display, featuring Santa:

As I was admiring the Santa display a family walked by and a very small girl, eyes wide at all the Christmas lights, waved and said "Hi, Santa!" It was so sweet I almost cried. The moment was nearly spoiled when her older sibling told her, "Don't be stupid, that's not the REAL Santa!" -- until I realized he, too, still believed. What a joy to know that kids still believe in Santa and Christmas! I needed that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Good News!

I went to the Social Security Administration this morning and it only took 15 minutes to fix the problem with my uncle's birth date. Apparently they have always had the wrong day for his birthday and no one noticed until now. The nice man who helped me updated it in the computer system, so it will be all set tomorrow.

I've been so busy trying to finish my end-of-the semester grading that I haven't seen my uncle for two days. Everyone who has visited (and the nurses) tell me he is doing better physically and he is less confused.

I'm still having a few problems connecting the university network and e-mail from home (a problem that started late last week) but it's much better. I just finished grading my three freshman comp classes and am posting everything in Blackboard now. Three classes down, one to go. Things are definitely looking up!

Monday, December 10, 2007


A friend sent this to me in the midst of all our recent troubles. Timely, eh? My grandma's side of the family is part Cherokee, so the title is also appropriate.

Cherokee Seasons

There was an Indian Chief who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest.., in turn.., to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.

The first son went in the Winter, the second in the Spring, the third in Summer, and the youngest son in the Fall.

When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.

The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.

The second son said "no" it was covered with green buds and full of promise.

The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful. It was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.

The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life.

He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.

If you give up when it's Winter, you will miss the promise of your Spring, the beauty of your Summer, the fulfillment of your Fall.

Friday, December 07, 2007


My uncle was tired but OK when my husband and I stopped by to see him today. They let us interrupt his PT to say hello and saved his homemade lasagna for him to have with supper. He’s much less confused but exhausted from the PT. We all keep reminding him that he needs the PT to rebuild his strength.

We missed an eye doctor appointment after the TIA so yesterday I gave the nurse the info about his Rx eye drops (for an eye infection). Today my uncle asked if we could see the eye doc tomorrow and I assured him that he didn’t need a trip to the eye doc just for drops. The drops will probably arrive with his evening medicine and I hope they work quickly!

Bad news for me: Social Security says his birth date doesn’t match their records so Medicare won’t pay for rehab. He's 85, which means he signed up for Social Security over 20 years ago and has had no problems, and NOW suddenly there's a problem? HOLY CRAP! Now I have to deal with the Social Security Office. I tried calling them and their voice mail directed to the right form I needed to request but it will take two weeks to get here -- and God only knows how long to straighten out after I submit the form. I want to go to the Social Security Office and talk to a human being. Since I didn’t hear about this until Friday afternoon, guess where I’ll be going Monday? I don't need this on top of everything else that has happened, especially since I'm still trying to catch up from the last two weeks AND finish my end-of-the-semester-grading. It’s just one damn thing after another...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

From Hospital to Rehab

I had a very long day today; we moved my uncle from the hospital to rehab. He was very tired but everything went well. He is still somewhat confused but a little better than yesterday. They are giving him a new medicine for dementia and I hope it will help. He starts his physical & occupational therapy tomorrow.

I hadn’t planned on needing to choose a rehab this soon but everyone I talked to recommended this as one of their top 2 or 3 choices. My father-in-law went with me to visit it before I made my final choice. In addition to rehab, it provides extended in case we need it later. Right now the plan is to have him there for rehab and hope he can get strong enough to go home. If he doesn’t improve or if he regresses, we can have him evaluated for Hospice because of his critical heart valve problem.

It’s a nice, clean, cheerful facility. Everyone we saw today (and we were there ALL day) looked happy and well-cared for. No residents were yelling or wandering aimlessly. They have nice family/TV rooms, several dining rooms, activities, a beautiful aquarium, and on-site therapy dogs. (You know I liked that part!) Right now, he’s happy and doing OK. I, on the other hand, am exhausted and heading to bed!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Still Thinking

Today, as I was finally heading work for the first time in nearly two weeks, the social worker from Genesys called. He said my uncle was being released tomorrow and I had to decide in a rehab facility today. When I got to work I frantically called my buddy Anita (a social worker who specializes in senior care) and asked her which rehab facilities she recommends and which to avoid.

Then I went to see my uncle. He's still confused, but is improving as they get his sodium level and electrolytes under control. That's a relief! His nurse told me there is no way he can be released tomorrow because he still has a tube in his chest. Another relief.

When I got home I called my uncle's friend Carol (another social worker who specializes in senior care) and got her input. At her urging, I called the social worker and told him which facilities I was considering and I didn't want him moved until it was safe to do so and I had time to make an informed decision, including visiting the facilities. Then I called the attending physician told him the same thing. He said I was doing the right thing and he wouldn't let the social worker push me into making a decision. Whew!

Interestingly, Anita, Carol, and the doctor recommend the same three facilities. That makes my job of selecting one a little easier! Now I just need to find time to visit them and choose one. I want to choose one where he can go for rehab but that also has extended care in case doesn't get well enough to go home. That's a horrible possibility and I dread making the decision.

Monday, December 03, 2007

No News But Lots to Think About

Yesterday my uncle was moved from the Cardiac ICU to a normal room. Over the weekend he was a little confused but yesterday he made no sense at all. The nurses said his sodium level was low and that could be contributing to the dementia. They stopped the IV and gave him a medicine to help rebalance his sodium level. It was awful to see him so confused.

A Genesys Social Worker came by to talk to me yesterday. He didn't know when my uncle might be released but gave me lots of info and lots of think about. Apparently my uncle will go from the hospital to Rehab (where he can get physical and occupational therapy). After that we'll have to decide if he can go home or if he needs a Extended Care Facility (ECF). He's always said he never wanted to end up in a nursing home, so I'll do everything I can to make that a last resort.

This is the last week of class, so I'm struggling to finish grading my students' final writing assignments. Between grading, my uncle's condition, finding/paying his bills, and thinking about all the social worker told me, I feel extremely overwhelmed! I hope tomorrow will be a better day.