Monday, September 29, 2008

Not Much Goin' On

I said I would try to post more often. I didn't promise it would be interested (ha ha).

I'm struggling with dry eye syndrome, much like I did last year at this time. The only difference is that after two weeks of using Systane drops, the condition cleared up and what fine until this summer.

Now I can't wear my contact lenses for longer than a couple of hours before my eyes (my left in particular) turns blood red. I tried the Systane again for over a month, but it didn't help. In fact, I'm experiencing an alarming decrease in vision in my left eye. Even with glasses, my vision in the left eye is still blurry.

I finally went to an ophthamologist, expected to hear the worst, but no, she says other than being very dry, my eyes look perfectly healthy. Right now I'm using prednisone (steroid) drops four times a day. Starting tomorrow, I taper down to three times a day. I don't like prednisone drops. Not long after taking them, I can taste them in the back of my throat. Ick.

Next Tuesday, I decrease to twice a day and start using Restasys drops (a prescription). No contact lenses until my follow up visit in November! Hopefully this will do the trick. If not, there's a procedure where they put little plugs into your lower eyelids to prevent moisture lost.

Apparently when you get to be a certain age, you start to shrivel up. :-(

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just a little update....

Things have been a little busy here. Sons #2 and #3 are fulling entrenched in their fall baseball season. Boy Scouts (Sons #1 and #2) and Cub Scouts (Son#3) have been keeping us busy, too. I teach religious education on Sunday nights to 8th graders - our first class was last night, after being delayed two weeks first by Hurricane Gustav, then by Hurricane Ike. It was nice to finally get started, but there was a lot of prep work involved. Finally, today I attended a training workshop for substitute teachers.

I'll try to be a better blogger in the future....

Monday, September 15, 2008

Graduation Day

Congratulations, Max! He graduated from PetSmart's Puppy Training class on Saturday. Max is our 6 month old lab/mastiff puppy that we adopted in July. You can read more about him by clicking here.

He still has come fear-submissive tendencies and will sometimes bark at another dog (not all dogs, just certain ones). He almost got into a tussle with Emma, his great dane classmate, at graduation. That was unusual because they've gotten along great for the past several weeks.

Mostly though, he's a very sweet, well-behaved pup. He picks up on tricks very easily. We just need to work to socialize him more. I hope to sign him up for intermediate classes, but the Sept. and Oct. classes aren't fitting in with my schedule at this time. In the meantime, I'll keep working with him on my own. He really has it in him to be a great dog.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What is it about Louisiana?

I read this quote the other day in the Times Picayune newspaper:

"I didn't truly get New Orleans until I heard this quote after Katrina," features editor James O'Byrne commented this week. "It's this: Once you stop thinking of New Orleans as one of the worst run cities in America, and start thinking of it as the best run city in the Caribbean, it all makes sense."

New Orleans has its own vibe - different from any other. Sure, it's basically built in a "bowl" between the Mississippi River and the Lake Ponchartrain. We have four seasons: Crawfish Season, Shrimp Season, Oyster Season and Hurricane Season, with a lot of overlapping there.

After Hurricane Katrina, some folks in other parts of the country would shake their heads wondering why we'd want to rebuild a sitting that's a hurricane magnet. But one might say the same for much of the state of Florida, the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coasts. There's also California with its earthquakes and wildfires, the midwest with its tornadoes, the northeast with its ice storms. Truth is, no matter where you live, it's always something, isn't it?

Make no mistake. New Orleans has not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina. I wonder whether it ever will, frankly. Parts are doing very well, other parts are getting by, and yet other areas are mere ghosts of their former selves.

Fortunately, Gustav didn't pack the punch originally predicted, although plenty of people are struggling now. Thankfully, Ike blew past us today toppling some trees, pushing our lakes past their boundaries but so far I haven't heard reports of major damage in Louisiana. Our neighbors in Texas are poised to bear the brunt of Ike's force. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Returning Home

By Wednesday, many businesses in our area had power restored and although our neighborhood did not, Dear Hubby thought we should head home on Thursday morning. He was confident that we'd have electricity by the time we arrived home Thursday evening. I went under protest.

Personally, I would've preferred to wait until I was sure electricity was back on. "I'm not goin' until the A/C is blowin'" was my mantra. Let's face it. If the electricity wasn't back on, he could go to his air conditioned office with a working refrigerator, while I would be stuck at home with three smelling boys and two sweaty dogs. I won't even go into the hormonal changes often experienced by the plus 40 yr old woman. Oh, and did I mention 90+ degree temperatures.

Nevertheless, I put on my best "supportive" face and attempted to make the best of it. Just for the record, next time a hurricane passes by, I think I'll move here:

They seem to have the right idea. A house on a mountain. Sure they might be stuck during the winter, but hey, I'm 43 and am my own self-contained portable space heater. Global warming? Yeah, that's me.

This is a huge cross outside a church in Tennessee. It somehow seemed comforting to see it looming over the mountainside.

Alabama was experiencing unpleasant weather due to Hurricane Gustav. Tell me again why we left Tennessee.

Mississippi is looking better. Check out the sunset. We stopped at a Walmart in Hattiesburg, MS to load up on essentials because we weren't sure how the groceries in Louisiana would be. Electricity was still hit-or-miss there.

While in the Walmart parking lot in Hattiesburg, my neighbor called at 6:45 p.m. to let us know that power was restored to our street, saving my marriage (kidding). We were two hours from home so the air conditioning would have time to cool things down a bit for our arrival.

Other than missing a single shingle, below is our only real damage. This is the same fence that was blown over in the other direction following Hurricane Katrina. The entire length should be replaced - primarily because my neighbor's yard retains water and the posts are rotting. Our yard is properly graded so we have no standing water. Nevertheless, I cannot afford to have the fence replaced, but I was able to get someone out to re-set a few posts and nail up the existing panels. It'll have to do for now. The dogs (on both sides of the fence) are happier now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Evacu-cation* - Day 4

* Evacu-cation (ee-vak-yoo-kay-shun) - noun - a trip that starts off by evacuating from a natural disaster, but upon learning that family, home, neighbors are safe, morphs into a mini-vacation. (according to Son #1)

Son #3 especially enjoyed himself. He kept saying he was "living the dream!" No wonder. Here he's getting a poolside massage (courtesy of Dear Hubby).

Isn't this retro McDonald's cute?

Inside McDonald's:

The hotel has a tree-shaded courtyard area with tables so we ate lunch outside one afternoon. Below is our puppy, Max, who dined with us.

Here's Son #3 with our beagle, Scout.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

"Evacu-cation*" - Days 2-3

* Evacu-cation (ee-vak-yoo-kay-shun) - noun - a trip that starts off by evacuating from a natural disaster, but upon learning that family, home, neighbors are safe, morphs into a mini-vacation.

This word was coined by my 13-yr old son this past week. Hmmm....I wonder how long it will take before Webster's Dictionary recognizes it.

Once we received word that our house was okay, the neighbors were safe, etc., we were able to relax and enjoy out time in Knoxville, Tennessee. I wish we would've done more touristy stuff, but Dear Hubby was plugged into his laptop catching up on missed work, and the kids wanted to spend most of their time at the pool.

We did manage a little shopping and dining out. We learned that Ruby Tuesday's has something on the menu that makes everyone happy - that's rare. Knoxville on Kingston Pike has some really neat shopping. A lot of familiar stores, a nice mall, Dick's Sporting Goods (Dear Hubby loved it), and Lilly's Bead Box (where I picked up a few jewelry making supplies).

The following are a bunch of photos....
They sure are easily amused, aren't they?

Didn't see this coming, did you? (Sometimes a mother can only shake her head.)

Oh look, somebody is giving me bunny ears:

Blowing water through a "noodle" (subtitle: eeeewwwwww!)

They look pretty pleased with themselves, don't they? Kind of hard to tell which one is the 6-year old in this photo (hint: the one without chest hair!).

Monday, September 08, 2008

"Evacu-cation*" - Day 1 (cont'd)

My previous post detailed the start of our journey from Louisiana to Knoxville, TN (to avoid Hurricane Gustav) on Sunday, Aug. 31. The kids and pets were very well behaved for the 9-hour car ride. Below are shots of some of the scenery. My part of Louisiana is flat, so I've always been fascinated by anything higher than an anthill.

I could get used to this view. We arrived at our hotel just in time to check in at 3:00 p.m. We booked a room at the Holiday Inn at Papermill (Kirby Rd.) in Knoxville. Kids eat free and pets are welcome. According to the Holiday Inn website, this was the nearest hotel that met both criteria that had vacancies when I called several days prior.

I called hotel's front desk to get specific directions from the interstate and spoke with Tiffany on the phone - very nice. Her directions were spot-on. The hotel is tucked among a couple of office buildings and a residential area, so it was off the beaten bath - but only a couple of miles from the main highway.

We checked in at the front desk, where we met Tiffany and Jason (I think Jason may have been a manager). Both were very nice, very welcoming, very cool about the dogs and guinea pig. I've heard that some 'pet-friendly' places are only friendly if your dog is as silent as a goldfish. Fortunately, this wasn't one of those places.

Our first room was on the bottom floor (room #189) - a "pet room" at the end of the hallway. It came equipped with a large dog crate (we had packed both dogs' crates, but this way we only had to reassemble Scout's). It also had a sliding glass door leading to a small fenced patio. The dogs weren't as impressed as I was. No neighbors at our end of the hall.

After unloading the car, we went back to the fr0nt desk to ask for directions to the restaurant/shopping area. I met another evacuee, Monica, who was just checking in. Jason explained to Monica and me that Holiday Inn just authorized a lower emergency rate because of the storm. (Cutting our nightly rate nearly in half.) I thought this was very generous of them, and a very pleasant surprise.

We splurged a bit on dinner that evening at Olive Garden. It turns out our waitress is originally from my sister's hometown in Michigan. After dinner, we stopped at a store to buy a small carrier for Kramer, our guinea pig. His cage is simply too big to bring with us so he was transported in a soft-sided pet carrier (pictured in yesterday's post). We wanted something sturdier that he couldn't eat his way out of while we slept.

We spent quite a bit of time watching the Weather Channel before turning in for the night.

* NOTE: "Evacu-cation" is a term coined by my 13-yr old Son #1. He explains that it's an evacution, but when you find out your house and neighbors are okay, it sort of turns into a little vacation.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Safe & Sound

Thankfully, Hurricane Gustav decreased in intensity and reached landfall as a Category 2 hurricane, rather than the Category 4 as originally forecast. As of late Saturday night, August 30, Gustav had not yet made the westwardly shift that was predicted, which put the southeast Louisiana area in a precarious position. For that reason, we decided to evacuate to Knoxville, TN. I had booked a room at the Holiday Inn at Papermill (Kirby Rd) a few days earlier, just in case. Pets welcome, Kids Eat Free.

We loaded up the minivan and hit the road at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31st. We wanted to avoid the interstate "contraflow" that would start at 4:00 a.m. We took the back way through some small towns in southeast La. and Mississippi before connecting with the interstate in Hattiesburg, MS. It was a good strategy. We avoided most of the traffic snarls, except one hour of bumper-to-bumper traffic in Meridian, MS (we think it was an accident that tied things up.)

We stopped at the Alabama Welcome Center for breakfast (Pop Tarts brought from home). Here's a photo of Sons #1 and #2 with Kramer, our guinea pig.

Here's Dear Hubby with Scout (beagle) and Max (our almost 6 month old lab/mastiff puppy). They're stretching their legs.

On the road again. Say what you want about video games. I love/hate them. But they sure made for a peaceful 9 hour car ride. Below are Son #2, Son #3 and Son #1.

I'll post more about our adventures soon.