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Harsh, But Something to Think About

I am not asking my question rhetorically.  My sister-in-law is a nurse at a hospital. This was the topic of discussion recently.

A “code” is an emergency that sends a large team of doctors, nurses, technicians and others to a patient who is unresponsive, not breathing, or pulseless.  It is a frenzy of activity.  Unless a designated representative of the patient says otherwise, the team springs into action and determines whether to begin CPR.  The process involves much more than pounding on a chest for a minute, and that by itself can be violent.  Ribs are broken, and the patient rocks from side to side from the force required.  Orders are yelled across the room.  And if the patient does not begin breathing spontaneously soon, they may put a tube down his trachea and connect him to a machine that will breathe for him.

On television, the survival rate when something like this happens is close to 50%. In reality, a patient whose heart stops has about a 15% chance of surviving to leave the hospital.  Survival does not guarantee quality of life.  There may be brain damage or other problems.  This being said, an attempt at resuscitation is appropriate for many people–and for many others, it is not.

Your current state of health, age, and other factors affect your chances for a good recovery.  Depending on how things go, breathing machines, surgeries, loss of functional capacity, or rehabilitation may follow.  Think about this decision and discuss it with your family before you are hospitalized.  Ask your doctor if you need help. “Five Wishes” is a good place to start.

A little message about Meat

I find I have a few things I often admonish people about, and I’ll share one now.

On the weekends, run a small take-out BBQ. This particular job involves lots of prep work and any needed welding and fabrication to keep things in good shape. Now, as stated before, my intention is to lecture the world about something. This isn’t something terribly life changing, but if you eat meat, you should know this. Use a meat thermometer!

People regularly ask me questions about cooking, and when they do I usually ask them a few questions myself. One thing I find is that most people rely on some primal instinct to determine whether their meal is ready. The usual outcome is that otherwise delicious cuts of meat get overdone. There is an easier way. For about $10 you can have a tool that will tell you exactly when your food is done, every time. No more relying on some formula or a pop-out button to determine if that turkey is done, folks. Stick a thermometer in there! If the center is up to 170º, it’s done, otherwise, it’s not. No poking, prodding, test cuts, or other guesswork. A thermometer is certainly the cook’s best friend. (Tip: don’t cut that turkey right away. Cover and let cool for 10-15 minutes)

It was almost his last…

A close friend of mine this week had a heart attack.

He’s 21.

By a miracle, someone was close by who administered CPR, and he’s undergone cold therapy, and there appears to be no neurological damage. He’s awake and lucid, though he doesn’t remember that we had dinner together a few days before the event. He doesn’t remember what happened, he doesn’t remember feeling any pain. He just wasn’t, for a while.

This has been an intense reminder that everything that I am and anything I care about could evaporate at any time, with no warning.

Make every day the best day of your life.

Dream Bigger

Have the courage of doing what you really love even if you are afraid, just do it! After 4 years of studying Medicine, just because my family told me to do it, I quit and decided to study Industrial Design. It was the career I’ve always wanted to do but was too afraid of what might happen, even to give it a try. Now I’m full of excitement and happiness and have zero regrets of taking a chance to do what I really wanted and not doing what some others expected me to do. I guess what i’m trying to say is follow your dreams and whatever makes you happy. Dream big and live bigger.

Thanks to a Stranger

When I was a young boy my parents took my brother and I on a trip to Sydney.   We went to the Zoo, and the Powerhouse Museum (absolutely fantastic for a young kid into technology and science like I was and am), and many many other places.  Most importantly, we were spending time as a family.  I look back on the trip with the absolute fondness of memories.  And with a little regret.

Not about the trip, no, let me explain.  We were heading back to the hotel after a long days adventuring.  My brother and I could be a little bit (ok, a lotta bit) of a handful when we were young, and this particular day was no different; So you can understand why when the train arrived at the station, I just stepped on.  Or rather, into the gap between the platform and the train. (That’s not me in the picture, but that’s basically what happened)

I don’t remember much about it; what I do remember is falling, and in the same instant a fist grabbing my t-shirt from behind and pushing me up onto the train.  My ankle and knee was sore and my eyes were filling with tears as Mum snatched me up and took me to seat.  Dad was shaking the hand of the man who had saved, at the very least, my leg.

I remember laying on the hotel bed watching cartoons as Dad iced my leg.

My regret is never being able to thank that man for saving my life; or at the very least, saving my leg.

So, Thank You, Stranger!

Henrietta- The Surprise Dinner

As a kid, your pet is often your best friend. I remember my first best friend well. Her name was Henrietta, and yes- she was a chicken. But she wasn’t just any chicken, she was the oldest and largest chicken on our family farm. She had big black eyes and her feathers were always in a ruffle, literally and metaphorically.

Everyday when I would wonder out to the henhouse to feed the chickens I would pester her. Poking, prodding, and clucking at her were just a few examples of the way I would beckon at this chicken. Sometimes she would peck at me lightly, and other times she would rotate her head to stare at me with those big black eyes.

Eventually, I befriended Henrietta and even got her to play with me! Once I’d chased her into the yard she’d begin clucking loudly and making her way towards me. Just as I’d lean down to touch her she’d peck me and begin chasing me. As the weeks went on, we became inseparable (much to my mother’s dismay). I’d begun to take her everywhere with me, even to visit other animals down the road at our neighbor’s house.

When summer came, my mother decided to send my siblings and I off to summer camp. My brother were complacent about being sent off to summer camp but I was enthralled. I packed days beforehand and dreamt of the adventures we would all have at camp.

I was so excited that when the day came to pack into the car and head off to camp, I forgot to say goodbye to Henrietta! I begged my mother to visit her, play with her, and tell her that I missed her everyday I was gone. She smiled and assured me that she would make sure Henrietta was well taken care of.

When we returned, my family went to the neighbors house for dinner. We all piled around the table and graciously shared our stories of camp. When Mrs. Williams brought dinner to the table, we all were silent in anticipation. She was known as one of the best cooks in the city! She cut a large chicken and gave each of us a healthy portion along with cornbread and vegetables.

About half way through my meal my father began to laugh, almost uncontrollably. When I finally asked him why, he replied:
“Are you enjoying that chicken?”

Thinking nothing of it I answered confused, “Yeah, I am. Mrs. Williams sure is a good cook.”

My mother’s face immediately began to flush and before she could stop him, my father said: ‘Yeah, with how long we fed Henrietta she better be a good chicken!”

My heart was broken! Tears flooded my face and I ran from my neighbor’s house all the way back to our home. My mom followed me and explained to me how all the chickens on our farm would be eaten one day, and that Henrietta will live on forever inside of me! Quite literally!

I always think back to this and smile, of course I miss Henrietta from time to time but the memories of her will always be just as delicious as her presence was!

Winter Reminder

I would like to take the opportunity to discuss a time in my life where things were much simpler. As children we are expected to flourish and find our fingers fumbling against every thing we can fit inside of them.

Winter is nothing to a child, even amongst the cruelest winds children find wonder in anything they can fit within their fingers. We were no different and as young adults, we often found ourselves wondering anywhere but home. My siblings and I were to the stage in life where instead of fighting over toys, we were fighting over feelings One winter day sticks out in my mind. It’s a beautiful day in December I still think back to often.

The meeting point was the woods between our three-bedroom house and the middle school towards the center of town. My oldest brother Theodore carved a square into the front of the tree so that we would always be sure we were in the right place. This particular day was extremely cold and the winds were torrential against our young faces. After gathering around the tree, I remember Theodore falling into his normal formation: at the front of the line. Zach followed behind Theodore, and Tyler behind Zach, and I stood in the very back(always desperate to keep up). I remember all of them remaining so quiet that I found myself fixated on the sounds of the woods.

When we reached the center where a clearing presented itself we took a moment to sit. This clearing was where Theodore would smoke a cigarette so that he would not have to sneak out around our parents. The three of us would sit and stare at the ground waiting for him to finish, resentful of being forced to stop in the cold. I looked up several times and attempted to make amusing faces at all of them but no one seemed to be in the mood for lightening up. It was after a few more failed attempts that Theodore was finally done with his cigarette and after her buried it in the snow he turned to us and said:
“Would you all hurry up? Why do you want to stand around in the cold?”
Tyler was upset with this and immediately began badgering Theodore, “You are the reason we are standing out here! You’re the reason we are miserable!”
Theodore smiled and began leaning down and piling snow in his hands. “And you know what?”
Tyler sighed and let out a heavy, “What?”
“It’s about to get a lot more miserable!” That is when he cranked his arm backward and hurled the snow at Tyler. It smacked him right in the face. My eyes widened and I attentively awaited Tyler’s response, fearful that a much larger altercation was about to happen. I was pleasantly surprised when Zach came adjacent to Theodore and returned a similar chunk of snow at his face. I saw ‘chunk of snow’ because at this point, none of us were going to take the time to craft a snowball.
Throwing, diving down, and running… It felt as if it lasted forever! I was s0 excited that my siblings let go of their stresses and we all were playing together. The cold didn’t even seem so bad anymore. We were still children, but as we hit secondary school it seemed as if everyone was too excited to grow up and forgot how to play in the snow. This day continues to remind me every winter of the joy of playing outside and more so the precious memories of playing with your siblings on cold winter days. Don’t ever forget your brothers and sisters are your first friends!

My Cousin the Arsonist

The summer before I began my junior year of college, I spent many nights playing video games at my oldest cousin’s home. Most of my cousins were over there as well, and we would stay up until the break of dawn playing games, talking trash to one another, and having a good time.

One night we all had a craving for chicken strips, and before we knew it, that was all we could think about. Now, my cousin lives in the middle of nowhere. The nearest supermarket was 30 miles away, and to get there, you have to travel down curvy, dark roads around a mountain. It would have taken too long for a roundtrip just to buy chicken strips, so my younger cousin and I did the next best thing: we went to a nearby gas station and purchased five boxes of chicken strips.

Surprisingly, the chicken from this gas station has never been bad. I would go so far as to say it’s borderline delicious, so the few-mile trip we took to get it was certainly worth it. I was ready to jump into his vehicle and head back to my oldest cousin’s house to play some more videos games when my cousin came up with a ridiculous idea: shooting a glass bottle full of gasoline to see if it would ignite.

Full disclosure: the guy isn’t an idiot. Of course, he knew that shooting a glass bottle filled to the brim with gasoline would ignite – as did I. By inquiring the question, he was giving himself an excuse to blow something up. Fair enough, so I replied:

“I don’t know, maybe you should try it.”

Immediately, he walked back into the gas station, purchased a large glass bottle of lemonade while handing the cashier two extra dollars for gasoline, and walked out of the gas station, quickly chugging the bottle of lemonade so he could fill it back up with gasoline. Surprisingly, he finished the lemonade before he returned to his truck. Thinking back, he probably drank 20 ounces of lemonade in seven seconds – insane.

As you will see, the word ‘insane’ perfectly describes my cousin.

With the chicken firmly in my lap and intrigued by how he’s going to pull this off without blowing himself up, he filled up the bottle full of gasoline, made sure he had a box of shotgun shells behind the seat of his truck, and sped out of the parking lot of the gas station. Next stop? Some back road where we’re not going to get caught.

We drove to the perfect spot about 10 minutes away: no homes, no traffic, just the crickets and frogs chirping in the black of night. He exited the truck, grabbed his bottle, shotgun, and a shell from the box, loaded the gun, and found a nice, open space to sit the bottle down.

He aimed, waited a second, then stopped. Turning around, he said to me, “hey, you should record this on your phone.”

My phone already aimed directly at his face, I had been recording since he placed the bottle on the ground.

“Already am,” I yelled back.

“Good,” he replied. “Alright, here it goes.”

Standing probably (and only) five feet away from the bottle, he fired the gun. Instantly, a huge fireball erupted out of the bottle high into the air – about 20, perhaps even 30 feet up! I couldn’t help but cheer: that was one of the dumbest yet simultaneously brilliant things I had ever seen! In the moment, I forgot to look over at my cousin to make sure he was okay, and luckily he was.

Only he wasn’t.

He walked back to the truck, laughing hysterically and saying things such as, “whoa did you see that,” and “we’ll have to get something bigger next time.” He opened the door and jumped into the truck, still high from the adrenaline rush. But something was different about him.

He didn’t have any eyebrows.

Furthermore, the front of his hair was burnt off in random places. It was as if someone had lit a lighter and burnt random spots along the front of his hair.

I told him to look in the mirror of his truck and expected him to be a little disturbed. He wasn’t. He only laughed hysterically, put the truck into reverse, and drove back to my oldest cousin’s house so we could enjoy now-cold chicken and video games for the rest of the evening.

Moral of the story? If you’re going to blow up a glass bottle full of gasoline by shooting it with a shotgun, stand further than five feet away.

Surviving in a Multi-Generational Household

When my husband and I retired early, we pictured long leisurely mornings reading the paper over breakfast. Maybe a nice stroll through the development across the street or walking the dogs in the woods behind the house, you know, a retired type of lifestyle. Then my daughter and her husband had a financial setback and they wanted to move in, along with Lexie, my then 2 year old granddaughter. It was supposed to be for a year until they got back on their feet.

Well, two years later and another granddaughter, Aubree, everyone is still here. Lexie is now 4 and Aubree is 6 months. So what happened, you ask? We got sideswiped by grandchildren. In our innocence, we didn’t realize how attached we would become to our grandchildren and the thought of them moving out really upset us. So here we are living in a multi-generational household.

There were definitely some adjustments on all sides. Luckily, we have a big home so we gave them the upstairs to spread out in. We moved our bedroom downstairs and my craft room to the basement rec room. I have my office where I work from. The kitchen and dining room is a common area and half the living room is my husband’s sanctuary. The other half is where my daughter and I sit, rock the baby and talk. We decided, after a trial and error period, to keep our food separate in the fridge and the cupboards. We eat differently than my daughter and her family so there’s less food waste this way. Our yard now has a sliding board, picnic table, and little playhouse in it among the flower gardens. Yes, there is the loss of privacy factor but, ahhhh, the pluses make up for it.

Do you know what it’s like to hear a little knock at your bedroom door and a “Mumum, it’s ME, Lex!”. She opens the door and pops into bed saying, “I’m sooo cold!” She squeezes in between me, her Poppa, two dogs and a cat or two and sticks her little ice cube feet on you. Or she drags in a book and says, “Mumum, I’m gonna weed you a warm bedtime story” and she reads her version of the books you have read to her. Or when you’re in the kitchen, your daughter peeks Aubree around the corner, you look up and Aubree gives you a smile which lights up her entire face. Or she laughs while you’re trying to feed her, it dribbles down her chin, she sneezes and you’re covered in smooshed bananas.

Everyday life but actually living and sharing life, THAT is what multi-generational living is all about.

‘We Were Like Ninjas in the Night’

It was the summer of my sixteenth year, and because most my friends and I had already earned our driver’s license, we decided to go camping down a backroad somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. One of my friend’s had a spot already set up that he guaranteed would be free of anyone else, so we packed our vehicles, bags and drove roughly an hour out to the spot. We did typical things that 16 year old boys do: threw items in the campfire just to see if they would burn, dared each other to jump over the campfire as the flames grew higher, played pranks on one another , etc. It was a fun time, but by the middle of the night, we were growing restless. We didn’t want to go to sleep – no, we weren’t even close to being ready to sleep. We all wanted to do something memorable, something mischievous even.

“Let’s go knock on people’s houses and wake them up,” said one of my friends. Looking back, this wasn’t a good idea. We were close to the small, rural community that most of my friends grew up in, and every home had a rough, weathered, blue collar man that knew how to fire a shotgun. We weren’t thinking about this then, though. All we were thinking about was how hilarious it would be to wake people up that were trying to sleep, only to run away into the dark of night.

We all jumped into the back of one of my friend’s truck and began to drive out to a stretch of highway where there were plenty of houses to pick from. The plan was for all of us to jump out of the truck while the driver did a U-turn and drove about a quarter of a mile the other way. He would then turn around, drive up the road at a normal speed, and by that time we would have already ran up to the house, knock and scream at the door, then began to run away. It was a game of timing, and if we timed everything just right, we would have all jumped into the back of the truck and have been carted away by the driver before the homeowner had a chance to open his door, scream obscenities at us, and perhaps even fire off a few warning shells from his shotgun.

Surprisingly, the plan actually worked. We knocked on a few houses, and by the time we were ready to leave, the truck was passing by, allowing us to jump in, drive away, and be ghosts in the night before the homeowner had a chance to know what the heck was going on. That’s when we got cocky.
We came across a home with a yard that was so big it was literally half of a football field. Long and wide, this home had bushes we had to dodge, gardens we had to jump over – a yard full of challenges that we were ready to meet. We told the driver to drive about a mile then hurry back, he agreed, and we began our trek through this person’s yard.

We were like ninjas in the night: swiftly dodging everything in our path, jumping over obstacles with ease – I’m pretty sure someone even did a ‘tuck and roll’ over this person’s birdbath. We got to the house surprisingly early, so we decided to go around the house and bang on every door on the home.

We knocked our loudest, screaming and telling the person to wake up. We knocked for much longer than we should have, and then that’s when it happened:
A car began to pull into the long driveway.

Luckily, this was a fairly big yard, and the driveway was the same. Nevertheless, the driveway was positioned in such a way that you could see everything that was happening in the yard, so we only had a few seconds to hide ourselves. Thank goodness this person had a ton of bushes in their yard, because we all ran for the nearest bushes and hid in them. By this time, the driver had been waiting for us, worries out of his mind. I should also point out that this was before everyone had cell phones, so none of us could call or text the driver what was happening.

The person sat in the driveway for a few minutes. Their windows were tinted, so we had no idea what they were doing in there. I kept peeking out of the bush, looking for the driver as he turned around, drove back, then turned around again, and drove back, undoubtedly hoping every time he returned that we would be running toward his truck so we could all get the heck out of there. We were too close to the homeowner for comfort, and we wanted no part in it anymore.

The homeowner finally got out of the vehicle, stumbling around and fidgeting for the keys (I’m still unsure of the person’s gender, as it was dark). Looking back, the person was obviously drunk, but back then I wasn’t any the wiser. I assumed the person was just tired and wanted to go to bed. At any rate, the person finally unlocked the door and walked inside. I looked back again and saw the truck coming toward us at a perfect speed. If we wanted to meet him and get out of here now, we had to leave the yard now and hope the homeowner didn’t spot us.

“Go, now!” I said. In one motion, we all arose from the bush and ran out of there as quickly as we could. We stumbled through gardens, tripped over some yard ornaments, clearly frazzled that we were almost caught. We met the driver just in time, jumped in the back of the truck, and went back to the campsite.

Looking back, we were lucky we got out of the yard like we did. If the homeowner hadn’t been so incompetent at the moment, we may have actually been caught, so lady luck was definitely on our side that night. I would like to say that we never did anything like that again, but I’d be lying if I told you that. Later that summer, we did the same thing, only to stop whenever someone fired a shotgun shell into the air from their back porch. We didn’t see the person’s face and they didn’t see ours, but we sure didn’t like the sound of shotgun shells. All in all, an awesome summer full of fun and teenage mischief.

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