Thursday, February 26, 2015

You are not a puzzle-solver, you never have been. You're a drama queen. Now, there is a man in there about to die, "the game is on," SOLVE IT!

Last July Drek created a start-up company. Since August, that company has been working on an a 3D puzzle game  for both kids and adults. Everyone in the company has been putting in long, long hours to get this app together. The release date has been pushed back several times, but it's finally all come together;


PuzzleHouse: Mystery rising is now available for download in itunes. 

We had hoped that once the game was live in the Apple Store  Drek would be able to stop working 60+ hour weeks, but he's been busy getting the social media side done (Twitter,  Facebook,  Google+,  Website/blog ) and now the company is focusing on releasing the game for Android, so there hasn't been any slowing down.

But that's life. And the game is really fun to play, both for me and for Ash.


Monday, February 23, 2015

You Just Don't Get to Put Those Images in My Mind. That's an Assault on My Imagination.

Ash came running in from playing in the backyard with an announcement: 

"So many bees! more bees than you've ever seen in your life!" 

I came out and found this: 

A swarm! How exciting! Having previously been a beekeeper for a short period of time, I knew that capturing swarms were one way Beekeepers start a new bee colony. I went inside and read a chapter from "Beekeeping for Dummies" on how to capture a swarm.

The guy writing the book says he loves to capture swarms in front of a crowd, because everyone thinks he is so brave: no gloves, short sleeves... but he says a swarm is when bees are the most docile, so really there is nothing to worry about.

Well, we still worried. We set up an empty beehive and Drek suited up. I held Sera and the camera, taking care to stand back, just in case. Mary was also watching, as was Ash.

The problem was that the bees were not swarmed on a tree branch like in the book, they were swarmed on a garbage can full of heavy chicken feed. there was no way to gently carry the whole swarm over to their new hive all at once, so Drek took the lid over first. I followed him with the camera, but Mary stayed back by the trashcan. She says that once Drek moved away, a swarm of bees flew up out of the trash can, and just like in cartoons, charged straight at her. She was stung around 24 times.

Meanwhile, Drek was successfully relocating these bees:


After a few more trips back and forth, the whole swarm was moved into their new hive:

Ash, Alexa and I, despite our proximity and short sleeves, were never stung. One bee made it through Drek's armor and stung his arm once. All in all, we thought we were quite successful, until we talked to Mary. it raised the question: Wait, the author of the book does this in front of crowds?! Sounds like they are the brave ones!


Sadly, the bees did not like their home. They stayed for a few days, then decided to move on to greener pastures. Ah well. Good luck, giant bee swarm. I hope you find a home.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Storrmageddon Dark Lord of All

In answer to my last question; Why aren't there any good female family doctors in Sunland? I say: There are! They just all work in the ER!

I'll start at the beginning: I am pregnant! I've had horrible morning sickness with all my pregnancies, but morning sickness plus pneumonia is the most miserable I have ever been: Cough cough, throw up, repeat, repeat, ad nauseam.

A week after recovering from pneumonia I woke up with some mild cold symptoms: A stuffy nose, a sore throat, and the usual morning sickness where I throw up first thing in the morning and still feel nauseous. An hour later, I felt a headache coming on. A few minutes after my nausea worsened, and I ran to the bathroom and threw up again and again. Afterward, I felt better, which was shocking:  With my morning sickness I DO NOT feel better after throwing up, This must be something else. I was exposed to the flu a few days before, so I figured this was it.

I settled into bed and tried nibbling toast and sipping water, but I would throw everything up within ten minutes. Afterward, I felt better, until I tried to eat or drink again. It was as if the Flu had kicked my usual morning sickness out the door.  Apparently pneumonia and morning sickness can live in harmony, but Influenza and morning sickness do not get along.

Around six that night I had excruciating back pain. I have had a kidney infection, and that back pain was nothing compared to this. This was awful! This was constant! This was so bad, I started cramping. I knew the flu came with muscle aches, but this couldn't possibly be muscle aches, could it? This was torture! Something had to be really, really wrong, I just had no idea what it was.

I called a nurse helpline to see if I could find some answers to alleviate my fear. The nurse asked me if I didn't have her number, what would I have done?

"Uh, um, I guess called my midwife to ask if this could possibly be a miscarriage?"   I really called the nurse helpline because I didn't know what else to do, so her question threw me. After asking questions about symptoms, medical history blah blah blah, her answer was:

"It's unlikely that you have the flu without a fever, so I don't know what you have. I suggest calling your midwife."

Wow, thanks. How very helpful. I'm so glad you are paid to waste time and tell people to call someone else .

So I called my midwife, who I haven't technically hired yet. My first actual appointment, where I sign the contract and make the first payment, still hasn't happened, so here I am, calling someone I've met just once, and asking for help with no guarantee they will ever get paid.  But she was amazing. She assured me right away it didn't sound at all like a miscarriage. After talking for a while she offered this:

"Sometimes muscle aches with the flu really are that serious. Take two Tylenol, wait thirty minutes, and see if that helps. If it's just the flu, the pain should go away with just a simple dose of Tylenol."

"And of it doesn't?"

"Well, it is unusual to have the flu without a fever. and if you minus the cold symptoms, your symptoms match an ectopic pregnancy, And since you haven't had an ultrasound, we can't rule it out, in which case you'll need to go to the ER right away. So I want you to think it over, and decide if you want to try Tylenol first, or just go straight to the ER."

I talked to Drek, but we don't have any Tylenol in the house, and I didn't want to wait anyway. We put the kids to bed, left them with a babysitter, and arrived at the ER around nine at night.

Everyone working at that ER is awesome. The check-in nurse, the triage nurse, the assistants...awesome. I waited an hour and half for a room (less time than I was on hold trying to get an appointment with my doctor) but that whole time they were doing tests and such: Labs, a urine sample, a flu swab... then they gave me a magical pill that helps with nausea. I wasn't nauseous, having not attempted to eat or drink anything for several hours, but they gave it to me to keep me from throwing up whatever else they decided to give me. Then I was sent in for an ultrasound.

The ultrasound was both magical and excruciating. I was supposed to lie flat on my back, not moving, which made the pain so much worse than the already unbearable state of pain i was in when I could bend my legs and move. I sobbed through most of the ultrasound, trying hard not to move. But for Drek, this was the first time he saw one of his children in utero. I've only had one ultrasound before, with Alexa, and he wasn't there, so this was a first for him. He saw the little tiny baby, and the little tiny fists waving back and forth. It was magical.

After the ultrasound I was given a room. Right away a nurse came in and gave me two Tylenol ("because you are pregnant, we have to start with this, but if it doesn't touch the pain, I promise we will do some problem solving."). That nurse was amazing. I loved that nurse.

Thirty minutes later, the pain was gone. I was dozing peacefully on the exam bed while Drek tried to watch Netflix on his phone. The doctor came in with all the results from the tests:

"It's the Flu. You just don't have a fever. You also have a UTI, but the back pain really is just the flu. The ultrasound showed you have a perfectly healthy baby in your uterus, growing how and where it should be. If the Tylenol has stopped the pain, just keep taking Tylenol. You'll be fine and so will your baby."

She gave me a choice of either an IV, or drinking a bunch of water, since I was dehydrated. But here is why she was so amazing: She gave me the choice! She was so nice in explaining everything, was patient and through in answering all our questions and even congratulated us on the baby! She was amazing. I wish she was my doctor always.

A few days later, I was fully recovered. I knew the exact day the flu was gone, because my morning sickness moved back in. I may never eat food again.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Patients Sometimes Get Better. You Have No Idea Why, But Unless You Give a Reason They Won't Pay You.

I love the pediatrician I have found here in Sunland. He is close to our house, is very polite and knowledgeable, and I can get a hold of him during emergencies.

Drek has also found a good doctor, but I have yet to find one I like...or can even stand.

The first week in October I switched doctors and made an appointment with my new one. The soonest they could get me in was...January 15. Three months away.

On Christmas Day I came down with a fever. It stayed with me for the next 48 hours. I was coughing, I couldn't breathe, I was miserable. I looked up my symptoms on the internet and was fairly sure I had pneumonia. The internet also informed me that if I still had symptoms in a week, I needed to see a doctor.

So, one week later when I was still coughing non-stop and couldn't breathe, I called my doctor. After 20 minutes on hold I asked for a sick appointment. They didn't have any. They said to try again tomorrow morning, when they "hand out" sick appointments for the day.

So the next day, three seconds after they opened, I called again. After being on hold for 20 minutes I was informed they were out of sick appointments, and to try again on Monday.

So on Monday I called back, and history repeated itself. This time I was angry and told them I needed an appointment. They said I could come in as a walk-in, but there were only two doctors that day and they couldn't give me an estimated wait time.

I got in the car with Alexa and drove over to the office. I arrived 40 minutes after they opened. I knew right away which building was the doctor's office because, to my horror, there was a line stretching out the door, down the street, and around the corner. The people in line were lying on blankets, dressed in pajamas...it was like a scene out a Doctors without Borders commercial. I got in line, and waited 30 minutes before I could sign in. Once I did, I asked what the wait time was like. She answered there were seventeen walk-ins ahead of me. SEVENTEEN. With only two doctors, I knew  I would be there long after Ash needed to be picked up from school, long after Alexa needed a to go down for a nap, and far exceeding my lung capacity.

I asked if I could somehow schedule a sick appointment for later that week, and she said yes (you can't do it over the phone but you can do it in person) but I had to wait in another line. After waiting in that line for 10 minutes, I realized there was no one at the computer, making the appointments. So I left.

A week and a half later I went in for my previously scheduled appointment. The doctor was frazzled and hurried. When I explained my symptoms I could almost hear her saying "talk faster." She listened to my lungs, informed me I had viral pneumonia, was almost recovered, and therefore she wouldn't give me anything. She then left before I could ask any more questions.

The whole appointment, waiting room and all,  took less than 45 minutes. I was on hold for longer than that. Why aren't there any good female family doctors in Sunland?


Monday, December 22, 2014

Exactly. One Bomb Maker. We're Trying to Figure Out How An Entire Network of Terrorist Groups is Financed and You Give Us One Bomb Maker. Hardly the Big Picture, Wouldn't You Say?

I'm getting deeper and deeper into this puppy business.

Mary's group has been researching which pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills, and which stores get their puppies from breeders. This is a difficult task, because while the Hunte corporation is a huge puppy mill company, it's just as possible for that individual breeder to be running a puppy mill out of their backyard. It's hard to know which breeders take care of their dogs, and which ones are mass producing puppies for profit (Thus why you should never buy a dog, only adopt them!).

There is a local pet store that, unlike most of the pet stores around here, does not get their puppies from the Hunte cooperation. The group has tried to figure out where they get their puppies from, but of course the store is very secretive. They have tags next to each of their display cages, saying the name and city of the breeder, but no one official checks that information, so it could be made-up or falsified.

The number one problem is that since Mary's group has protested several times in front of the store, the store knows everyone in Mary's group and will not let them inside to see the tags.

By chance, the group got a name of a breeder on one of the tags. He has several violations going back several years for animal cruelty and neglect. he's one of those breeders who runs his own puppy mills. His licence for breeding has been revoked. He is also a registered child molester who broke parole last year and has a warrant out for his arrest.

Mary's group, with it's nationwide connections and know-how, figured out how to track this guy down and bring him to justice, BUT, they needed to make sure he was actually providing puppies to this store,

Mary asked if I could go undercover. The group needed photographs of the tag with the breeder's name on it, and to see if there were any other puppies from that same breeder. Mary asked if I would go in pretending to want to buy a puppy, and sneakily take pictures of the tags.

It was exciting! I took the girls with me, and gave Ash my camera phone so she could take the pictures (no one questions a kid playing on a smartphone!) and not only did we get the information the group needed, but the girls got to see a bunch of really, really adorable puppies. We didn't get caught and hopefully we did our part to rid the world of one animal abuser and child molester.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Only Have To Sign Your Name, Don't Even Have to Read It.

I went to a protest. Despite all my talk, I've never actually participated in a physical protest. Probably because I'm very uncomfortable with confrontation. Can't we all just get along? Can't everyone just realize that my opinions are the right ones?

For me, the most surprising thing about the protest was what I was protesting. Was I  protesting the human slave trade? No. Unequal pay of women? No. The marketing of baby formula to disadvantaged mothers? No. Slaughter houses? Nope.

I was protesting a pet store.

A while back I met a women named Mary. Mary loves dogs. Mary is one of those people that loves dogs more than people. Mary is part of a group that is actively working to ban the practice of Puppy Mills.

Never heard of Puppy Mills? Google it. Right now. Educate yourself. "Google Puppy Mills" is the slogan plastered all over Mary's car. She's all about education, and I love that by telling people to Google it for themselves, she isn't trying to teach them biased hyperbole; she wants them to get the facts for themselves. I'm all about that!

The solution to Puppy Mills is simple: Don't buy pets, adopt them. Pets from your local animal shelters need homes and only cost adoption fees (for shots, spaying and so forth). If people stop paying money for dogs, they will no longer be a commodity. No demand, no mass-producing. There will be no more puppy mills, but everyone can still have a pet if they wish. Everyone wins.

Mary got me into all of this. Her group protests in front of different pet store. They have a protest every Saturday and Sunday. This last year they were a huge part of passing a law that bans the sale of puppy mill puppies in a neighboring city. It was a major victory for them, and they want all the cities in our area to pass a similar law.

Mary asked if Ash and I would come protest on a weekday with her. She thought that having a five-year-old with us would really get people's attention. Ash really wanted to go, so they finally convinced me. We headed down to the mall.

The pet store was conveniently located right across hall from the mall's playplace, so Alexa and I settled down there so I could watch Mary do her thing. She held up a sign (telling people to Goggle puppy mills) and asked people if they would sign her petition to pass a the aforementioned law in this city. After a few minutes, I felt I had gotten the gist of what she was doing, so I stepped in and took the petition from her so she could hold her sign.

My goal was not to make the pet store shut down. I wanted the people to know that, so I came up with my own approach. It was a weekday evening in December in a popular mall, so there was plenty of foot traffic. I would ask people if they wanted to sign a petition to help protect dogs. Well, this is Sunland. EVERYONE here has a dog. Everyone loves dog. Many cities have their own Halloween parties just for dogs. Dogs are a big thing here. Of course the people at the mall wanted to protect puppies. They would stop and say something along the lines of "How?"  or "What's the catch?" or "What are you trying to do?" And I would launch into my speech:

We are trying to get this store and others like in this city to do what big chain pet stores like PetsMart have already done: Stop selling puppies that have been bred to sell and instead partner with local shelters to adopt pets out. This would save the dogs and cats, but it would also make getting a dog from this store more affordable for you. Instead of paying upwards of $2,000, you'd just have to pay the adoption fees, which are usually under $100.  Will you sign our petition to ban the sale of puppy mill puppies in this city?

One of the first guys I talked to was very defensive. He demanded to know what i was doing, he made little sniping comments, he seemed very condescending of my ideas, but he kept asking questions and I kept answering them, explaining about animal shelters and puppy mills. In the end, not only did he sign the petition, but he went and got his brother so I could explain the whole thing to him to he could sign. I was amazed. Did I just win an argument? Does that even happen in real life? I swayed someone over to my side with an even tone and facts? AMAZING!

Of course, the vast majority of people I talked to not only knew all about puppy mills, but a bunch of them had rescued puppy mill mothers. They had horror stories about the condition of the dog when they were rescued. They had some astonishing stories.

Near the end, out of the corner of my eye I saw the mall manager, assistant manager, and a few security guards heading toward us. I was talking to someone, so I just kept talking. They approached Mary, asked her what we were doing, then after she explained, they asked her if she was with the group that protested on the weekends. She said yes and they handed both her and me a stack of papers outlining the rules we needed to follow while protesting in their mall. They also told us we were supposed to fill out a form asking for a permit to protest and that the form needed to be turned in 24 hours prior to the protest. By this time, they were talking directly to me. I calmly answered that I was unaware, but thanked them for the information and I would be sure to follow all their procedures in the future. The manager then looked at Mary and said "Your group has never once filled out a permit request."

Mary opened her mouth, then closed it again, unsure how to answer.

"Because if they had, we can really do a lot." The manager continued. "We can have tables set up for you guys, chairs, even. We can have areas where you can hang your signs and banners. In another mall I own, a few years ago, I helped a group like yours organize an adoption day with the local shelter, so that instead of buying a puppy form the store, people could adopt one from the protesters."

At this point both Mary's and my mouth was open. "Uh...what?"

"I mean, I'm not here on weekends, so I've never seen your group, but I heard it was kind of provocative, but here you guys are and I see that you are just trying to help. You're being polite and not causing any trouble and you just really want to spread the word for these dogs. You are the kind of people I want to work with. I love dogs. I have two rescue dogs, myself. I'd really like to help you and your group."

And that was that. We exchanged phone numbers, told a few stories, shared a few laughs, and then they left. Mary and I stayed for a few more minutes fore heading home. We had over three pages names on our petition (Mary said that is more than they usually get over a weekend) and it was getting late. Mary called the group leader, who was thrilled, and they've already started planning an adoption day at the mall!

Not only was it my first protest, it was a hugely successful protest!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Let Us In, Let Us In! Let Us Out, Let Us Out!

Our front door broke today. It wouldn't open at all. After some inspection, it was deduced that it wasn't so much the door that was broken but the deadbolt. It's wouldn't un-bolt. We were locked in.

Drek got out his power tools and set about taking apart the hinges. He then went around to the out side and strategically hit the door until it came off its frame.

"Hey!" I said. "Remember that time, in our first apartment, where I came home from work and our front door was missing? Because our landlord just took off with it for a few hours?"

Drek frowned. "No."  He examined the deadbolt and declared it broken beyond repair."Remember that one time we had to break down a door to free my mom from the not-yet-opened Mexican hospital we were squatting in?"

"Oh yeah!" I laughed.  "Good times."

Drek went to the hardware store to get a new lock while I stood guard against coyotes or alligators or whatever else could just wander in to our house on account of our no-door policy. He came back and returned the front door to its hinges and frame.

Of the two stories, I've just told all there was to the first one, but the latter is way better:

When Drek and I were dating his family decided to do a service project down in Mexico over Christmas break because they are awesome like that. Realizing these were my kind of people, I volunteered to go along. The day after Christmas we drove across the border and found ourselves in a very poor area of a Mexican city. The Catholic Padre who was our contact in Mexico said we would be spending the night in an under-construction building that would eventually be a hospital.  The building was almost completed: The walls and floors and roof had all been finished, there was even tile in some parts of the building.

To this day, I don't know if we were "approved" to be there. I know the Padre said he was going to lock us in "for our protection" and he would be back to free us in the morning. There was nothing official about the situation. We were just locked in a building and told to stay there until morning, so Drek's family laid their sleeping bags out on the concrete floor and Drek's mom went into a room to change into her pajamas, closing the door behind her.

The door closed a little too well and, like our front door, then refused to open back up. Drek's mom for several minutes to open it before calling for help. The whole family then tried to open it. Drek's dad and brothers tried to break the door down by running up to it and throwing themselves against it, but the door was surprisingly solid. Drek's dad broke out the power tools we brought with us and removed the door handle, but that didn't open the door. It wasn't a broken lock, the door itself was broken.

I already gave away the ending so this story isn't very suspenseful. Needless to say we did not just leave her to rot in a foreign country.  The next suggestion was that we take the door off its hinges, but the hinges were on the other side of the door. We tied the power drill to an extension cord and swung it out the window to where Drek's mom could catch it. She then took the door off its hinges and the door FINALLY opened. Of course, we fixed the whole thing before leaving the next day.

And that is all the stories I have about doors.