Thursday, October 30, 2008

Smart Pumpkin

We had the fun and excitement of pumpkin-carving this past weekend. Of our two pumpkins bought at the now traditional pumpkin spot about five miles south in Whiteland, one became a smiling ghost. The other takes on a civic duty and preaches a good message: "Vote Obama 08." Well said, smart pumpkin.

Originally, we were going to create a work that would have rivaled the magnificance of Michaelo's masterpiece - the Palin pumpkin. We'd stencil her face on the pumpkin, and then of course add an ever-so-fitting witch hat. Nearby, we'd have a button that says, "Lipstick and pitbull sold separately." Thought that was pretty clever, but it was later determined we non-Palin folk must be "anti-American" as we seemed to lack the skill to perfect the stencil-pumpkin work. Plus, it might very well scare the kids away from our porch come trick-or-treat time. So, the voting encouragement won the battle and became engraved on our pumpkin. It beats out the pesky yard signs, and spreads the good word.

Now all we can hope is that enough of the country is as smart as you, gets to the polls, and makes the correct choice. We shall see...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Concerns

We are in the final month of a presidential campaign season, and it's apparent we all have concerns about how it'll all turn out.

A common thread thought among reasonable people is that we need change - how we'll see that needed change is largely what's being debated. A frequent comment I hear is that the future is about tomorrow and our children's tomorrows. I'd concur. But would also note that without an adequate today and tomorrow, there won't be an adequate line of tomorrows for our future generations.

I worry that my children won't be able to attend any kind of protest in the future. If they happen to speak out in disagreement about a policy issue or war, they might be deemed "unpatriotic" and locked up. Or, if in sitting in a church where someone says something against the mainstream, if they don't leave, they might someday be questioned about their patriotism and judgement. That's not my view of what a free society, with free speech, religion, and press, is all about.

I worry that the housing market won't recover and we won't be able to ever get a return on value for the wonderful, lovely home we've shared for three years. I worry that my future retirement savings and those of my children will be wittled to nothing because we leave it in the control of greedy corporate lenders who have no accountability and continue receiving tax breaks all in the false sense of "keeping good jobs here."

I worry that my family's employer health care will become unviable because my plan will be taxed, and the same self-policing thoughts that have been allowed for coporate Wall Street will price me out of the affordable range and the insurance companies' long-desired caps to limit their payouts will thus limit my diabetes coverage and become a tool to bankrupt my family's future.

The candidates both have decent ideas about energy efficiency that would mean domestic oil drilling (hopefully limited in some areas and regulated to protect our natural beauties), biofuels, wind power, and other methods. That's a step in the right direction that will give our kids a chance to not rely on the Middle East for oil but also be able to enjoy their environment here. Global warming issues are a part of that and need attention.

While I would continuously educate, nurture, and advocate that any daughter of mine be mindful of sex and not engage in it until she's old enough and met the right person, I wouldn't want to foreclose the opportunity that she might someday get prematurely pregnant. And while I don't personally agree with abortion and would want to teach her that, I wouldn't ever take away her choice to decide for herself based on her beliefs.

I am learning to live with God in my life and am a student of the Bible. However, this country was founded by people who were fleeing from religious persecution. They may have had strong religious convictions, but they chose not to make those a part of government and should be separate, and personal. That's what I believe. My family's religion is my family's religion - not yours, and not my neighbors'. A line is there.

On foreign affairs - I want the war to end and our troops to come home, and my fear is that we're on a path to never getting out. It's a war we can't win, because that's a region that's seen conflicts going on for 1,000 years and hasn't been forced to step up adequately and make itself better. We need Iraq to support themselves, embrace what they want, or else it's a doomed warzone we'll never be able to escape. Leaving gradually and making it so that self-support is implemented, is logical and responsible. This is an enemy that can't be defeated by us alone - we need the world's help, and right now, thanks to the past years, we aren't well-liked. That needs to change for us to succeed overseas. That hope, rather than brunt military force that may never end, gives me more to smile about when thinking what the futures maybe for any boys in our family.

We need change, for today and tomorrow and future generations. Fear-mongering, repression, and policies that push others' views and beliefs onto the masses isn't the way I see that happening. Being forced to live without choice, without civil rights and freedoms that generations of troops have fought and died for, isn't what we must leave our children. We need to leave them a world with those things, as well as protected natural resources that can be balanced with society's needs. Our children deserve that.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ruth's Inspiration

The shortest Bible story so far is by far one I've found the most inspiration from: Book of Ruth. A stranger who somehow seemed to have stumbled into faith accidentally, doing what's asked of her and then telling someone what exactly she wants. That leads to her marriage and son, and her ultimately role turning out to be the great-grandmother of David and an ancestor of Jesus. Nice. No coincidences, we're all part of a grand scheme and there's a reason for everything. All of us matter, no matter how or when in life we embrace our destiny. That's an inspirational lesson in faith.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Great Flood of 2008

We survived, but much of our home county is under water.

Estimates are in: $126 million in damage from the Great Flood 2008, on June 7. History-making that puts into everyone's mind why there actually is a phrase known as "100-year flood." This was Indiana's.

As I reported before, we didn't get any serious flooding or damage from the four-part series of storms that hit Central Indiana starting May 30. First, it was the northside and eastside of Indy that got hit by tornadoes and high winds. Then the southern part of our county and a military base, Camp Atterbury. Then, that same area in southern Johnson County and the community where I used to work - hit very hard. I'd noted that our neighborhood escaped most flooding, whch is true. But I wasn't aware of some flooding that actually did happen and looked bad - (thanks to Trish for the photo updates on her blog!). Suzi took some pics also, and I'll add those later. Anyhow, we're now more thankful of our decision to build a home in Greenwood and not Franklin.... We might have lost everything.

Anyhow, now the recovery that "may take a lifetime" for many in our county goes on. This is not New Orleans. Or some far-off place where floods and mudslides seem more common. This is us. Our communities. People and places we've come to love since moving here in January 2004.

This disaster presents a new, cruel norm for our Hoosier hometown and county - new images, a new lexicon: Disaster chairman. FEMA. Looters. Flood buckets. Unlivable. Tetanus shots. Ground zero. Fish dead on streets. Toxic stew. Piles of people's lives stacked on sidewalks. A mayor desperately seeking emergency shelter for his community.

If you haven't yet, please check out the coverage from my old stomping ground at the Daily Journal. They've done a marvelous job in covering this, both stories and photos. The link is here.

Yesterday, as I was driving home, an came on the radio about the latest flood news. Then the station went to commercial - a Tim Allen "Pure Michigan" one entitled "Water," which describes the state's beautiful natural resources and how water is so wonderful. One part says "Sure, water can flood a basement... but it can also flood your mind with memories..." I love these commercials and this one, but it really hurt to hear this one so immediately after this flood.

As everyone can see, this is all incredibly heartbreaking. Words of people, our neighbors who are hurting, are so powerful. We must listen to them. Then we must act to help them.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mumbles Returns

It seems a sequel is in the works. While not an official version of Stephen King's great horror flick "Misery," that could be a subtitle for my now-in-production production of "Mumbles Returns." You may recall this first blog exclusive story in Summer 2006. Well, here it is two years later. Hoskins is just like Hollywood.

Now, understand: This is a story of my own making. Stupid, stupid, making. Pain hasn't yet begun, but I can tell it's on the way. Just like before, a little white abcess has formed on my inside gum near the bottom of my tooth. This time unlike last, I've already had a root canal on that tooth. But because of cost and dental coverage limitations, the final cap of that canal procedure never came to find its way into my mouth. So, over the course of the past 18 months, it's been left open. Bacteria has found its way in. Decay has come to be. Now, the abcess that was on the left side of my mouth two years ago is now on the right. It's started bulging, and I can notice it. An oral surgery called an apicoectomy is needed. Basically, the oral surgeon must put my mouth under an oral microscope and cut out the infection that's grown. During this surgery, the root tip (AKA apex) is removed along with the infected tissue and then a filling is then placed to seal the end of the root. Plus, I'll need to get the crown taken care of to seal if off at long last.

This wasn't painful post-surgery the last time, though it was combined with a root canal and that didn't make things any easier. The clotting was an issue, and it wasn't a tasteful or very appetizing post-procedure period.

Let's just say: the first Mumbles was bloody, hope the sequel is far less in blood and pain. And much, much quicker to resolve. While the character of this story obviously didn't learn a lesson the first time around, maybe he will be able to use the horror of the first time to make the second go around more bearable.

I now go off to finish drinking all the beer in my fridge, as it's likely I'll be a non-drinker soon as the antibiotics are recast in my sequel. Here's to avoiding a trilogy...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mutt Strutted Out

We took Riley out for the adventurous Mutt Strutt 2008, put on by the Indy Humane Society - a 2 1/2-mile walk around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Bright sunny day, nice breeze, thousands of dogs. Riley had a blast.

We were part of the IBJ work team, calld "Paper Trained" and had shirts and all. Dozens of booths and tents set up outside the track, where companies and businesses were displaying pet products and giving away free samples. Riley got a few snacks. She had a great time, but so often wanted to play with the many other pooches there but couldn't get us to loosen the leash grip much. Big and little pools of water along the way, and areas to dispose of droppings - which were everywhere, on the track, grass, as everyone strolled around the oval. Our energetic pup got her workout. There was a shorter 1-mile route, but we took the longer route! We got some fun photos - including on the track by the logo, and on the famous Yard of Bricks at the finishline.

By the time we finished, she just about fell over near the exit and then slept some of the way of the carride home. Hours later, her excited tail is wagging again as she munches on a rawhide bone. Worthwhile cause and a lot of fun! Looking forward to next year already!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Newspapering


My world revolves around newspapers. A newspaper is delivered to my home every day. Not a day passes where I'm not up on the news in my corner of Indiana. Then there's a fact that my job is at a newspaper, writing stories for a legal paper published every other week. My name appears multiple times in the finished product. And in writing stories, I'm always combing through local and national papers, scouring news and reading the works others have put together to see how that might apply to my world.
But here I sit at 4 a.m. realizing how I've forgotten what newspapers feel like.

In a digital age, every newspaper is online. Local, state, national. What's happening the former stomping grounds, from lake levels to a text-messaging mayoral scandal in Detroit and beloved sports teams I grew up rooting for. CNN. Blogs. Email. Can find court documents, watch video. All with the click of a mouse. Convienence. Sure. A rushed world where you can quickly filter what you want and don't want.
It's not the same. You lose out on the newspaper-reading experience, though arguably you may be reading and being more informed with online searches and tailored reading. But there's everything else, too...

That feeling of holding thin paper in your hands, seeing the black ink headlines and focusing your eyesight ever so slightly to adjust to the smaller font size. That crinkling sound as you flip the pages. Then there's that smell - some swear the smell of a newspaper makes them feel better, and I'm one of them. A fresh coffee smell is often nearby, so that's a great compliment, but it's more. The fresh paper smell, even just the wood-like aroma, brings back images of working in newsrooms actually producing the copy that would eventually go into the publication. Back in college, I worked writing, editing, designing and early on had the joy of fresh ink and hot wax as we glued down the pages for our creation. It became computer-oriented, but you still had the thrill of creating what would eventually turn into that gray paper everyone would be reading.

It's a whole experience. You can find what you're looking for, because you always know where to look. You can rely on it being in the same place. From the front doorstep or driveway spot at first to where you want to see the editorial, obituaries, or comics. It's all there. Not like the changing Web world, where everything is different within minutes or an hour.

Once, I pulled myself out of bed pre-dawn to saturate my news craving. Getting that first glimpse of the paper. Catching the early newscast at the same time. That cup of coffee. Mmm. It all paved my way for getting into the newspaper business, being a part of the creation of moments like that for others. Helped energize me to create my own paper as a marriage roposal, a way to tell the most important story of my life.

But the experience I once had with newspaper reading has been diminshed. Don't look at the local daily paper in print as much as I once did, glancing at it usually in the evenings since I'd already read it online earlier in the day. The ones that stack up on my desk at work are simply that - work. Sure, I thumb through a Sunday paper most weeks - though I have to go buy one as it's so inadequate we don't want to waste the money. Of course, that's also a time the dog and I go for a Sunday morning "Car Ride" by ourselves to grab a paper, crank the music, and just drive for a bit before coming home.

It's sad, really. For anyone. But especially a newsman. Here's to the hope some of that newspaper nostalgia can be reclaimed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

If the FDA makes a mistake....

It doesn't matter. Medical device users, such as insulin pumpers, can't sue the pump-maker. Why? The Supreme Court of the United States says so. A court ruling Wednesday sided with devicemaker Medtronic, holding that if federal regulators approved a device, a suit couldn't be filed under state laws.

This case stemmed from a New Yorker who was injured after a Medtronic-made catheter burst during an angioplasty procedure 12 years ago. He needed emergency bypass surgery. As a result, he sued the company and alleged design and manufacturing defects in the catheter, as well as inadequate labeling on the device's packaging. The patient later died, but his widow continued the lawsuit on his behalf.

The case probed whether manufacturers of sophisticated medical devices approved for sale by the FDA can be sued under consumer-friendly state laws, or whether they are preempted from such lawsuits.

Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia called the FDA's current "premarket" method for approving sophisticated devices "rigorous." The agency spends an average of 1,200 hours reviewing each company's application, which includes studies testing devices on real-world subjects to prove they are safe and effective.

One of the lawyer's involved said this ruling is "particularly scary after hearing recent reports that say the FDA isn't up to the job of protecting the public from dangerous drugs and medical devices. We know that people will be injured as a result, and some of them will have no remedy."

Hmm. Does this ruling do more harm than good? Some people sue these medical devicemakers for no adequate reason, making unreasonable claims that shouldn't be in court to begin with. Sure, they're frivolous. But that's why we have the court system - to weed out those frivolous cases and let those warrant court action to get that far. When the Supreme Court lays out a blanket rule disallowing any of these claims, they're also doing away with the ones that may be legimate and taking away state courts' power to judge the validity. This is a business-friendly ruling that flies in the face of a logical law. Bummer.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A price of freedom

News of the shooting at a Missouri city council meeting sent chills down the spine of journalists this week, and sparked memories of council meetings and court hearings I've attended that could have erupted into similar chaos - but fortunately didn't.

As I read the accounts of the rampage, which ended with six people dead and several others suffering gunshot wounds, including a reporter, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am to have never found myself living that nightmare.

I’ve sat through hundreds of public meetings myself in the decade I've been newspapering. Most are mundane, boring, to the point where my eyes suddenly slam shut enough to jerk me awake - even temporarily. They all run together in my memories, few standing out. But some do. Like the ones were people get escorted and dragged out by police, those people pointing fingers an screaming at the decision-making government officials. Or the court hearings where a loved one's attacker or murderer doesn't get a tough enough penalty. Many topics can spark these raw emotional scenes - crimes, property taxes, rivers or parkland being paved over for a new drugstore on the corner... The list goes on.

As a reporter, I've been on the receiving end a number of times. Officials pointing their fingers at me, silently threatening my livelihood because of something I'd written or somehow "allowed" to get into the paper. Regardless of the factual accuracy, I called them out on it. Or the family members who've shoved and lunged at me inside and outside a courtroom, after my news accounts covering their beloved daughter - a mother herself who stabbed her newborn in the head with a steakknife and then left her for dead in a bathroom closet. In those times, I've gone into court hearings and public meetings wondering if I was going to have to defend myself, verbally or physically.

Fortunately, I've never witnessed anything such as the Kirkwood City Hall shooting on Thursday night. When that double-edge sword of routine public meetings and open comment comes back with a bullet-packing punch. In a local city hall - a place as close to home as anyone can get, where they tackle issues for the people, and are charged with making decisions for the people. Handling issues such as whether people should have to get a gun permit at city hall or the polcie station, and then if people should have to go through the hassle of metal detectors or not to simply talk to their leaders. Talk to their leaders at a public meeting, where those very decisions are made. It all connects somehow.

We have this opportunity for greatness, simply by attending these meetings and being informed, responsible citizens. But so easily it can go bad. My heart goes out to those people who lost their lives, those who attended the meeting that night and witnessed this, those who'll never be the same. They were doing something everyone should - whether performing public service or being a citizen or j0urnalistic watchdog to keep officials accountable. And they paid dearly for it. They paid the price of freedom, in a land where everyone can do everything and anything they want. Until someone challenges that right, and public meetings and courtroom hearings are held. Routine and not-so-routine.

When does that price get too high? Is there a balance? Who decides? The elected official, or the gun-toting citizen who wants them to listen? (Does this ring a bell - Wasn't it just a couple months ago that someone tried a similiar stunt at a presidential candidates campaign office????!?) If not either of those, then do people just hit the streets and ghettos with their weapons, putting bullets into those that've crossed them?

What a world - what a web we've weaved.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

That 32-hour day

A little overwhelmed. So much going on, too little time. The 2 a.m. hour rolls around and, again - as so often it happens - I find myself awake. Body and mind are tired, but the wheels are still turning. Want to write, need to write. That story from the soul that gives you a shiver as good as the moment you see a sunrise or sunset. Want to read, everything I can - the Bible, a former journalism mentor's family memoir, history of Freemasons. Intrigued by my family history, and want to explore every depth and chronicle that genealogical story before it's lost. Gears are going on the emailed political debates with an old roommate and close friend. Another good bud brings up interesting notions in our joint-efforts to study religion. My mind goes, too, to my Michigan trip this weekend and all I need to accomplish at work before then. Work and legal issues playing out in my head, as I recap the high-profile trial I sat through today. Still have to work on the neighborhood newsletter that's due and going out soon. Neighborhood Watch issues to reflect on. Old frienships to nurture. Out-of-control health that needs immediate attention. Want to spend time at home with my wife, housekeeping and movie-watching and chatting about life in general. Figuring out how to devote and split time to both our attention-needing dog and cat. Want to have all the money to put in a fence, build a patio, plant a new tree, landscape the backyard, and paint the interior of our house. All at once. Too much debt, too many bills. Really want to catch some ZZZs, but the brain won't take a break. Meanwhile, my new contacts aren't in yet and I have to continue wearing these specs that make my eyes feel heavy, create a sensation that I'm being less productive than I could be if only wearing those contacts. It's all in the mind.

When did life become so overwhelming, so complicated, so convoluted that we push off sleep to handle every possible project that could actually wait until a later time? Even knowing that truth, the feeling remains: So much to do. Too little time.

About to brew a second cup of instant java. Swirl and dunk, dunk, then sip. Mmmm, so warm on a cold night. At least the trash and recyling's done, put out by the curb ready for Wednesday's pickup. There's one item off the list. Now, moving on to others before the sleep sets in.....

Monday, January 21, 2008

Is seeing believing?

A new year, new time to start stacking on the doctor visits. Better control and diabetes management is always a worthy goal, but for some reason new years tend to bring out that goal even more. Across the blogosphere, d-bloggers are chronicling their experiences at the endo, eye examiners, dental experts, nutrionists, and general physicians. I'm in need of pump supplies, and aside from the issue of whether I'm adequately pushing for better control, will nee to consult my endo just to get a script for life-enduring supplies.

But the first exam goes to the eye experts. I've been in need of new contacts and specs for months now, but have pushed off the inevitable purchase until now. My latest visit means I'll be back to contact wearing, ending the temporary adventure of wearing my glasses that need to be bumped up a couple notches.

The visit wasn't a welcome one, not after the news last year from a specialist that beginning stages of diabetic retinopathy had started. Duh duh duh . News we all dread, and a tidbit that I expected but somehow thought might never arrive. Well, it had. So, here we are - a year later. The next visit to the regular eye doc.

After the dialation pressure tests on Friday, waiting in the chair as the vision blurs and the already-blurred rows of letters on the wall fade out even more. He came to the open door, though I couldn't see him behind the corner. Only the rustling of papers- his flipping through my charts. Then, he entered. Light intro talk, basic questions, then lights out. Time for the bright, waving light and moving of my eyes in each direction.

As he got ready to give me the latest update, I clutched a tissue that had been given to me earlier to dab at the dialiating drops. Here it comes, I thought..... How worse can it be? What can another year of less-than-adequate control have done?

"No signs of diabetic retinopathy."

Huh? Say that again? He did. I was somewhat confused, especially after the last news bit about beginning stages. Questioning the diagnosis, I pushed for more. His answer: just because you have beginning stages of d-retinopathy, doesn't mean it's going to stay. Might go away. Of course, I'm thinking how absurd that idea is since my control's been below par. Why would it just go away? Could it be that the "specialist" can see more than he can, do more detailed and explorative tests to reveal issues that might otherwise be hidden? This took him back a little, and he noted how he's usually pretty adept at spotting signs. It's possible, though.

So there I am. Now what? May want to get a second opinion, going back to that specialist to see what he says. It just strikes me as odd that retinopathy would just "go away" like that, especially with my control behavior. As of now, I'm glasses-wearing and awaiting the contacts. We'll see what happens from here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Never Forget

Today marks the six-year anniversary that my cousin, Eric William Keeter, died suddenly and unexpectedly from leukemia - AML, or Acute Mylgenious Leukemia. He was 15.

No one in the family ever knew before that day of this, it hit suddenly and he was gone that same day. I'd just begun a new job a few weeks earlier - the call came from my mom at work. I didn't understand what she was saying at first. The words "what" kept coming out of my mouth, as I sat at the desk of my first reporter's job. Car crash? School shooting? Some tragic accident? I fumbled the phone; tears formed; my mind raced. My father was driving to the hospital in Ann Arbor - I rushed to do the same. By the time I arrived there, the whole family was already at his bedside. It was mostly too late.

My aunt and uncle know the details - they witnessed this: Rushing him that morning to the ER with a headache in the very back of his head. A suprising and unbelievable diagnosis. He's being airlifted to U-M for platlets to stop the bleeding in his brain, due to AML. Gone by 6:00 PM that day. Doctors said if they hadn't taken him in, Eric would have died at home in his bed, in his sleep.

His story is important. It must be told. And told again. Over and over. My aunt and uncle carry on that mission. People must be aware that AML doesn't mean any big signs signalling this disease. Just the ones of a typical teenager - fatigue, sleepiness, headaches. The Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan is trying to help and doing what it can to help. Please help them.

On January 24, WCSX in Detroit (Classic Rock station 94.7) will be hosting a radiothon for the CLF. They've raised $2.9 million, and this is one of the major revenue-generators for the CLF. Morning hosts JJ & Lynne (favs of mine back in Michigan...) handle the radiothon. You can check them out here at WSCX Radiothon. Here's a link to the CLF. We can all help by donating. This is the optional, of course, and the donation period is open until Friday, Jan. 18.

Oh, and you might also be interested to know that Eric's story will be run on the air. And a certain someone (read: ME!) will be there in the studio to tell his story. I hope his story touches those who need to hear it, and it can help do some good. We can all help by remembering Eric, sharing his story, and contributing in whatever way possible to help make sure this type of thing doesn't turn other families upside down.