Our Representatives Are Not Representing Us

Forget the environment. Forget our privacy. It’s all meaningless. What a week. I’m not party line supporter–and not interested in being described as conservative or liberal–and it is a very rare thing indeed for me to even broach politics, but this has been a very bad week. I can’t stand the level of irresponsibility I’ve seen in these past few months, I don’t care who what party it comes from. When legislation is repealed that would protect against climate change, albeit in a small but measurable way, and a climatologist is attacked–yes, attacked–by our legislators when he meets with them in committee, I have a hard time saying our representatives represent us. 90% of the scientific community, I’ve read, agree that humans are irreversibly altering our climate, but our GOP politicians refuse to believe it. Coal and oil pockets run very deep.

Then there’s the issue of congress selling out our online privacy. Earlier this week, both the Senate and House–strictly on party lines–votes to allow internet service providers (so that’s your AT&T, Comcast, etc) to collect and sell our personally identifiable information from their networks to companies who want it WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION. The sponsor of the bill lied about how it was unfair competitive advantage for companies like Facebook and Google to have and sell that data and ISPs can’t, but that’s apples and oranges. Those are about specific ad networks that are connected to those services. Which is why when you visit, say, walmart.com and browse for a cleaning product, you may see that very same product as an ad on Facebook. ISPs get EVERYTHING. And they have your personal information, such as contact info and maybe even your SSN. And instead of offering an opt out, now they can sell it all off unbeknownst to all of us.

Why is this an issue? Let’s play out a scenario. Let’s say the same said congress was successful in repealing the ACA and pre-existing conditions became a thing again. I just had a horrible illness. I’m also now paying for my own health insurance (at enormous expense). So Big Health Insurance Company A buys the data from my ISP, Comcast, and can see I’ve been researching “viral meningitis” for 3-4 weeks. Now they have information that can be used against me to deny me coverage.

That’s just a what-if. How many countless real situations will there be? Employers looking into potential hires. Some other kind of car, health, or life insurance able to see the kinds of things you look at and run their algorithims to say you are more likely to do this or that, and use it to raise your rates. The invasion of your PERSONAL, IDENTIFIABLE habits, locations, purchases.

I wrote all three of my representaties in the House and Senate, urging them to not vote for this. To not blindly follow their party into this terrible act.

Rep. French Hill has not replied, but he supported it. (Only two GOP representatives opposed it.)

Here is Sen. Tom Cotton’s reply (or his staffer/intern):

As you know, in December 2016, the FCC released a new set of rules which claimed to provide increased privacy protection, choice, and transparency in how internet service providers (ISPs) use consumers’ personal data. The rules provide broadband consumers an option to “opt out” if they no longer want ISPs to share their personal information with businesses for advertising purposes. Earlier this Congress, Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced a congressional resolution of disapproval of the FCC’s data privacy rules. I proudly supported this measure as it would nullify the flawed rules which allow the FCC to regulate ISPs, while keeping the most important consumer privacy protections in place. I share your concern for strengthening our laws to ensure American citizens’ privacy is protected. As technology evolves, it’s imperative that our laws are updated to protect constitutional rights and reflect the modes of communication most commonly used. 

So get rid of the rule that enforced opt-out but that’s somehow ensuring our privacy is protected. What? If his claims are true then the vote would not have been strictly by party line. What Sen. Cotton doesn’t mention is the $70,025 he received from telecom. That’s nearly twice the median household income in Arkansas.

Here is Sen. John Boozman’s (staffer’s) reply:

I believe in protecting an open, free and vibrant Internet. Congress has a duty to see that our laws are fair, not only to the companies involved, but also to citizens across the nation that use technology every day. I believe the FCC should focus on removing barriers to competition and allowing the private sector to more effectively allocate our broadband resources. While we may not see eye-to-eye on this issue, please know I appreciate your feedback, and will keep your thoughts in mind should S.J.Res. 34, or related legislation come before the U.S. Senate for a vote. 

Barriers to competition? Allocate resources? My personal information is not a resource for my representatives to allocate by allowing these companies to have my personal data without my permission. He clearly does not have have an understanding of this issue if he bought into the lie it is about competition. And the $56,450 he received from telecom I’m sure had no sway in his “opinion”.

There is no justification for selling out your constituents. There’s no argument that can be made in defense of this bill other than that the Republican party believes that increasing the profits of telecom companies is more important than protecting the privacy of people.

Our Representatives Are Not Representing Us

Bacon, Egg, and Biscuit Casserole

I was getting ready to make breakfast this morning with my typical fanfare when I remembered I had a can of biscuits and wondered if I could do a little “monkey bread” style breakfast casserole. This certainly isn’t something I made up, but I did put it together myself and it turned out pretty dang good!


1 5-count can of biscuits

4 large eggs

4-5 slices of bacon

Milk

Shredded cheese

2 tbsp melted butter

Cook the bacon slices and as that is going, beat your eggs and milk together, along with some salt and pepper to taste, like you are making scrambled eggs. Tear apart the biscuits into quarters and add them in. Then add some cheese to taste. When the bacon is done chop it up and add that. Pour the mixture into a greased round baking dish and then drizzle the melted butter on top. Bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes, or until tops of biscuits are brown.

Bacon, Egg, and Biscuit Casserole

Health Update

I’ve been on my own since Tuesday morning. That’s when Mom headed back home, which was tough for us both. I saw my primary care physician the day before and he said it was time for me to start gaining back normal life. But let me tell you, it is not coming easy. I’m struggling physically and spiritually. But the support of all my family and friends has just made all the difference. I’ve been taken such good care of through prayer support, housework, meals, and more! There have been plenty of tears produced in the last few weeks for bad reasons but the ones that come when I think about how blessed I am are happy ones.

I returned to work on Wednesday but I’m only cleared for partial days. I made it about three hours that day and then four on Thursday and Friday. The problem is my head really starts to swim with any stimulation or activity. I have to go back home and lay down. I’m basically resigning myself to live with this “new normal” for the long term. My stepdad, a retired RN, rightly thinks I’m still recovering from the meningitis. Offers the hope that one day I’ll just wake up and, in going about my day, realize I haven’t been light headed any more. That day can’t come soon enough, even as well as I’ve been doing. I just can’t seem to shake that woozy medicine head feel.

I have been getting a little better every day. I can see improvements, however small. Going to go to church tomorrow and enjoy the Christmas musical, though I’ll not be taking on my usual duties in the sound booth. I’m not all that sure I can commit to full work days come Monday either. If not, I’ll have to contact my doctor again for a work excuse but he is already prepared for it. I’m the one who actually talked him into just putting partial days through yesterday. That was dumb. I have my final follow up with him on the 19th.

I’ve had a trip to Dallas next Saturday planned for a while now but as of today, I don’t know if I’m up to making it. I booked an AM flight to Dallas, going to see my first home Dallas Stars game at 1 pm, then taking the last flight back to Little Rock. Worked out a little more than driving and staying overnight, but it’s much more convenient. I can’t get a refund on the flight if I don’t feel up to it but I can change it. Can always go to a game next spring. I just don’t think I’ll know until it’s time, so we’ll just have to see.

I’m dealing with so much right now in just recovering, but also another issue of adversity that I’ll not go into here. It all threatens to overwhelm me. My heart rate really hasn’t settled down with this distraction. And I know the answer is to take each day at a time. God is my source of strength, peace, and wisdom. I pray for those three things every day. Multiple times a day. It’s just hard when it doesn’t feel like there’s any resolutions. But James 1 stays at the center of my mind, that trials are given to produce endurance of faith. And Psalm 73, that God is my portion when my flesh and heart fail. And so I trust, I wait, I take it a day at a time, and I set my eyes on the Father. It’s all I can do.

Health Update

Pneumonia, Meningitis, and Spinal Fluid Leak

I’m laying in bed as I write this, my head only slightly propped up, my laptop angled on my legs. I’ve pretty much been in a completely flat position since last Wednesday, so this is a little progress.

That little illness I posted about on 11/21? I thought I was getting better that day. Then Tuesday I took a nose dive. Wednesday morning, I decided to go back to the doctor because I woke up and threw up. Fortunately, he was able to see me early. They ran some blood work and I had a chest x-ray. He decided I needed to go to the ER. So I called up a close friend. Larry and Wanda came and got me and took me to St. Vincent’s. The longer I was sitting up, I remember the worse it felt. I was uncontrollably shaking. I got back and the medical staff ran the full gamut of tests. More extensive blood tests, blood cultures, flu swab, strep swab, pneumonia tests, another chest x-ray, and a head and chest CT scan. When they sat me up to take me, tears would just fill my eyes. Wanda stayed with me until my mom got there. I remember my pastor, Allan, coming at some point too. Preliminary tests weren’t causing anything to leap out as to my illness. I was miserable and confused. An internal medicine doctor was called in and she wanted a spinal tap to test for meningitis and they decided to keep me overnight for fluids and observation. So now for the first time in my life, I’ve been hospitalized.

Within the next couple days, I was officially diagnosed with a spot of pneumonia in my lower right lung lobe and viral meningitis. My own opinion, what had me sick since 11/15 was the pneumonia and that had just about cleared up, but then the meningitis took hold. The spinal tap was uncomfortable but not awful. But unfortunately a serious complication arose. It caused a leak of my spinal fluid, so when I was allowed to sit upright again (you have to lay flat for 4 hours after a spinal procedure) I was racked by the most excruciating pain in my head that is imaginable. Thursday morning–Thanksgiving–I threw up twice in my bed. That’s a very humbling experience. A neurologist was brought in and he determined I had the leak and ordered a blood patch. This is where a radiologist draws some of my own blood, goes into the epidural space around the spinal cord, and injects the blood back in. This essentially promotes a scab to seal the hole and is supposed to bring immediate relief.

Once again, after I was allowed to sit up after the blood patch, I was rocked with unbearable pain. My nurse pretty much had to sedate me with alternating injections of morphine and demerol, which really only dulled the pain. Friday night was easily the worst night of my life and I tear up just thinking about how much pain I was in. Saturday, the neurologist ordered another blood patch, but I didn’t end up getting in due to the lower weekend staff. Late Sunday afternoon, I was taken down. The radiologist took a pressure reading of my spinal fluid. He explained it like this: the fluid helps keep the brain buoyant in the skull and should have a pressure of 10 mmHg. Mine was <5. Because of this, my brain essentially comes to a rest on the base of my skull which results in the pain. He said it was “very unusual” to repeat the patch. He pumped in 15 cc of my blood into the space. It hurts like you wouldn’t believe to have that happen but honestly, it’s nothing compared to the headache itself. Fortunately it doesn’t last long, 10-15 min for the whole procedure.

After 4 hours, I incline just about 10 degrees but it’s as far as I can go. The next morning–Monday now–I work my way up to about 45 degrees. The neurologist came to see me. I described how the pain was gone but there was still a tremendously loud whooshing sound in my ears. It was completely disorienting. Plus the longer I was sitting up, the heavier my head would feel. He reiterated that it was unusual to not have gotten full immediate relief from now two patches and would consider a third but the leak would eventually heal itself. I asked him what it would take to go home. He said if I could get up and walk, I could finish recovery at home.

I waited for my stepdad (a retired RN) to arrive and around 1 pm, I got up. He said I walked about 100 ft. I’ve seen plenty of patients at that “first steps” moment after an illness, including family members, but I really had no idea what the experience was actually like. The best way I can describe is that I felt like I forgot how to use my legs. By 3pm, I was discharged, still extremely woozy from the low spinal fluid pressure, but determined to go home.

I haven’t been able to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time still, but here and there, I can make it to my kitchen table, eat, and then go back to bed. I tried to lounge back in my chair and watch a hockey game on TV last night, but that didn’t work out at all. At this point, it just a matter of time for the leak to finish sealing off and the fluid pressure to return. I’m told once the hole is sealed, the pressure should rise pretty quickly because the  fluid is generated rapidly, promoted by plenty of fluid intake and, of all things, caffeine (which they had been feeding me a steady diet of in pill form every 4 hours).

So this is where I get emotional and somehow thank all the people who have extended their prayer and practical support for me. First and foremost, my parents for coming and sitting with me every day. My mom has essentially moved in with me for as long as it takes. My goal is once I can stand to take a shower by myself (which I haven’t had a proper once since being admitted…ugh), I think I can be back on my own. My brothers, sister, and family for their encouragement and prayers. Larry and Wanda who got me to the ER, brought food, and regularly checked on me. They are family to me. My pastors who I count as close friends. The coworkers I also count as friends who sent texts of encouragement. And my social friends who did the same. I wasn’t always able to respond being in so much pain or sedated. Sometimes my parents replied with updates for me. I know a lot of people were worried and praying.

My church family is also amazing. The prayers and, now that I’m home, the meal support are so greatly appreciated more than words can express. This is truly a “when you do these for one of your brothers, you do them for Me (Jesus)” moment. My neighbor brought over food Monday night! How blessed I am to have this home and such a wonderful lady beside me.

Certainly not least, many of my medical staff were exactly the compassionate caretakers I needed. Foremost is Nico, my day nurse over the weekend. I remember her telling me during those two painful days how much it hurt her to see me hurt. That so many patients abuse pain meds when they don’t really need them but she could tell I was in great need of relief. A couple of night nurses, Shari and Cassie, were awesome too. The tech, David, who did my CT was actually a graduate of my x-ray tech program! Great guy. The neurologist–sadly I can’t remember his name–and the radiologist–Dr. Schultz–who persisted in figuring out how to repair the hole. My personal doctor, Dr. Ford, who sent me to the ER and personally called one day to see how I was doing.

Never in my life have I gone through something like this. From start to today, it’s been 15 days since I felt normal and I don’t know how much longer it will take. When I think about the worst days of pain and despair, I start to tear up again. Or every afternoon when it set in that I would not be going home again and having to spend another dreadful night in the hospital room. So I don’t dwell on it. I know I have a lot of people rooting for me. I know God is for me, and even though I had extreme doubt and question of why in those moments I wasn’t finding relief despite my own desperate supplications and the hundreds of prayers on my behalf, I focused on His blessings, many of whom I just listed. The healing is coming. He gives and He takes away. But my heart will choose to say, “Lord, blessed be Your name.”

Pneumonia, Meningitis, and Spinal Fluid Leak

Sick and Tired

I’m sitting here eating a wonderfully warm and delicious bowl of chicken and dumplings that I was able to make yesterday. I prayed God would use this blessing He gave me to restore more energy. That’s because I got hit with the single-handed most severe illness I have ever gotten in my life. I’m not even talking hyperbolically. I can never recall a time in my life I was hit this hard.

It started last Tuesday with light headedness and congestion, which I attributed at first to my allergies because I had missed my shot the week prior. But by lunch I was done for and headed home. Wednesday and Thursday saw my condition just get worse. Full body aches, racked with coughing fits, and in and out fever. I’m pretty stubborn about doctors but I went on Thursday, partially because missing three days requires a physician note at work but also because I was continuing to get worse. They did a flu test, which I just knew if I had I’d get all sorts of heck about because I don’t typically get the flu shot. But flu test was negative and he simply told me it was viral and it had to run its course, which would take 7-10 days.

I was able to eat alright but standing for much longer than it takes to pee and that was it for me. That was pretty much my Friday and Saturday. I marathoned the Hunger Games along with all the hours and hours of extras on the discs. My new Macbook Pro came. So that was fun to set up. Sunday, I was able to be upright long enough to cook the aforementioned lunch and even do some house chores. (Wow was my house nasty.)

I want to thank my mom and stepdad for their constantly checking in on me. Means a lot! She kept asking if they should come but I declined them not wanting them to get sick off me. Coworkers who checked in and brought me textbooks so I could maintain my classes. Alex and Joel who brought me food and sick supplies. And of course the other folks who, through not hearing from me for so long, suspected something was up and checked in. I appreciate that more than you know! I have to laugh a little because everyone that brought something I asked to just leave it at the door. I didn’t want to expose them. So I never actually saw anyone. But I couldn’t have done it without y’all.

Still not 100% but Sunday marked the first day I started to feel better, weak as my body is now. Nice thing it is fall break this week so I don’t even have to fuss about work. Hopefully, I’m back to it by Thanksgiving.

Sick and Tired

Take Your Grilled Cheese to the Next Level

Admittedly, this is not my own. I saw it on Imgur, and I had it for lunch that day. A grilled cheese is pretty classic. I’m not one to pair it with tomato soup, but it’s still an easy lunch staple. Here’s a unique way to elevate it with an egg! 

3 slices of bread

1 egg

2 slices of American cheese

Butter

Grab your non-stick pan and melt some butter. Use a small glass or round cookie cutter to cut a hole out of one of the bread slices. Set that slice in the pan and crack the egg into the hole you made. Give it a little salt and pepper. Typically, I crack the yolk too, but to each his own here. Flip and finish cooking and toasting. Then set that slice aside. Here’s what you’re going for: Now just make a grilled cheese like you usually do. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Stick on in the pan, add a slice of cheese. Now add your slice with egg. Then another slice of cheese. And then your last slice of bread. Toast, flip, toast, enjoy!


It’s pretty awesome! And by the way, the egg-in-toast by itself is a pretty handy, quick breakfast too!

Take Your Grilled Cheese to the Next Level

Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs

Over the last few years I’ve purchased pre-made jarred and boxed groceries less and less, finding that it really isn’t all that much more to make it myself, PLUS I know what is exactly going into my food. Spaghetti sauce is one of those I’ve flat out not bought pre-made any more. This past weekend I decided to go all out and scratch made sauce, meatballs, and noodles. There are so so many recipe variations out there. I looked at some and found common ingredients and whipped up my own thing.

Spaghetti Sauce

  • 2 15oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp basil

Simmer all the ingredients in a saucepan for a good 30 min or more. Let the flavors really infuse. If you want even more tomato-y taste, add some more paste. If you like chunky sauce, then sub a can of the chopped tomatoes. Also, you can get the paste in a tube so you can re-seal and use later.

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 C Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper

Throw it all in a bowl and dig in with your hands! I then used a small cookie scoop to roll them out on a nonstick pan. Baked at 425 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. Freeze what you don’t eat! They are quick to pull out and defrost for your next pasta night.

IMG_0664

Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs