Friday, July 24, 2009

Taking the Training Wheels Off

From Vern

As a child and young adult, new emotions are hitting you left and right. Remember puberty? But once you reach a certain age, new emotions are few and far between. I may not be as elderly as say, my sister Nancy, but I have seen a couple of years and a lot of experiences that have guided me to where I am. It seems that all of my experiences have led to and prepared me for the last couple of days.

As most of you blogger types know, Nancy has very recently undergone surgery to remove an ovarian tumor. It came on very suddenly and forced all of us to emotionally deal with it quickly. In some ways, I felt my denial was still present when she went into surgery. The whole thing seemed more like a play, unfolding before my eyes. I never questioned that she would be around for a long time, even as they cut her open to find God knows what. So when the surgeon came to the waiting room with the good news that not only had the cancer not spread, but that it might not be cancer at all, you would think that all I would feel would be relief. There was relief, to say the least, but there was also something else. It was like the totality of it all came over me, and I had to hold back tears, tears that had been waiting to spill over when reality hit. This was one of the most intense emotions I had ever felt in my life. The realness of it all hit me like a ton of bricks, while the relief spread over me like a happy blanket. I was experiencing the fear of my sister dying while relief flooded my body. Weird, huh? I looked around at my family and wondered if they felt the same. It was hard to know, and I wondered what emotion was read on my face by my loved ones. I also asked myself, “Have I ever felt like this before? Like my heart was breaking and leaping out of my chest with joy, all at the same time?” I have been blissful, elated, heartbroken, scared and slaphappy before, but not all at once! Did I invent a new emotion, at least in the world of Vern? I think I did!

The next day, I was excited to see Nancy at the hospital. When I arrived at 7 am, she was happy, alert, talkative and pain-free. She took catnaps and we reviewed all of the information that she had heard the night before, but couldn’t really remember. Her surgeon came in and discussed how well she was doing and we were all happy. Unfortunately, by afternoon the tide had turned. Nancy was experiencing pain that, over a period of 3 hours, went from moderate to quite severe. She felt the epidural wasn’t working, and by 3 pm, she was feeling everything. For her privacy I won’t go into details, but I have never seen my sister, the strongest person I know, seem to be in so much agony. The nurses were doing everything they could, but the anesthesiologist just wasn’t responding. They were paging her every two minutes (I was listening to their phone conversations!), but they couldn’t administer anything without her. I felt such compassion for Nancy, anger at the anesthesiologist and frustration at the helplessness of the situation. On the advice of my twin, I finally told the nurse that if the anesthesiologist “didn’t get her shit together and help my sister” that we were leaving the hospital. That worked and within 10 minutes, her pain had subsided and she was comfortable.

I, unfortunately, was not. Sweat was pouring off of my body and I could feel my whole being shaking, like Starbucks had taken the place of blood in my veins. The drama was over, but I could’ve battled the entire American medical system if I had to. Less than 24 hours after Nancy’s surgery I was again feeling something I had never experienced before, emotions so strong that my entire body was physically reacting. It was massive adrenaline mixed with powerlessness and a dash of relief. What was I going to name this new emotion?

After I left the hospital a couple of hours later (Nancy was sleeping like a baby), I couldn’t shake those feelings. My hands shook for hours and my brain was clouded. I couldn’t believe all the emotions I had felt in the last day, especially since many of them were new to me. I felt like a child just taking the training wheels off; excited that I had conquered something, but also preoccupied by the sting of a skinned knee. Hearing the news out of surgery was one of the happiest days of my life, but the hours where I watched Nancy suffer were definitely my worst.

I am so thrilled that Nancy is recovering and doing better every hour, but also very sad that she has to go through this challenge. I know that my life is better, not only because I have my sister, but also because I have developed emotionally as a person. Nancy, as the intelligent sister, will rest assured that she continues to teach me things that I could never have learned without her. But look out (Nancy and everybody else), because you never know when new emotions will pop up in your life and change you forever. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, July 20, 2009

Life Update

Shit hit the fan. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer this morning after spending the past few days in the hospital. Surgery to remove well, everything, is tomorrow evening. I started up a Caringbridge site for my family to keep people up to date. This blog will take a small hiatus until I am feeling up to posting again.

See you again on the other side. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Oh, the Glamorous Life of a Blogger

aka Whoo! Free Tickets!

So last week I got an email from Cirque Du Soleil asking if I would like a pair of tickets to their Kooza show because I am a blogger. My initial response was “uh, have you seen my blog?” but I quickly realized I needed to take full of advantage of this mistake on their part, and returned their email with a highly excited “Yes, please!”

imageI have been to a couple of shows in the past and have really enjoyed them and this was no different. I expected to have seats in a back corner, behind a pole, but no. My friend Barb and I got there and the tickets were center stage, ten rows back. Sweet! Besides the tickets being perfect, the show was really good. All the standards you would expect from Cirque and nicely tied together with a little story. I did buy the CD while I was there (I love Circque music) to help support the show.

My favorite act? Of course, The Wheel of Death! (cue scary music)

I actually had my hand up to my mouth the entire time they were performing. I really, really want to try it. Just once.

Kooza is in Lowertown in St. Paul, MN until August 9th and you can follow this special link to get tickets for as low as $42.

image I want to have your babies.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

A Year Ago I was Tromping Around Europe and the Middle East

Hard to believe it’s been a year since I was on my last big trip, and I just realized I hadn’t ever went back and posted my favorites pictures from each country. So, now it’s finally time.

First up, Greece. You can re-read my posts from Mykonos, Rhodes and Athens if you would like. The following picture is of one of the windmills of Mykonos. The windmills were built starting sometime in the 16th century. While they are non-functional, there are a total of 16 windmills left standing today and they do make for a pretty skyline.

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And what do you think happens when you mix a relatively demure Aunt with a handful of birdseed and a million starving pigeons in the center of Athens?

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Next up is Turkey. This picture is from the Temple of Apollo at Didyma. There was a natural spring here where the beautiful Leto is supposed to have spent an hour of love with Zeus. She then gave birth to the twins Artemis and Apollo. I’m not sure what it is about this picture, but I love it.

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Cyprus was probably the biggest surprise of the entire trip. I had absolutely no expectations and ended up taking my favorite photo of the entire trip. This picture is from the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Omodos. It was a very pretty monastery way up in the mountains and I caught this in just the right light.

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Egypt was so incredible I needed to do two posts, here and here. Oddly, I didn’t get any shots that I *loved*, I think it was because there was just so much to take photos of.  This one is of the pyramids and that haze behind them is Cairo.

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This is a view of the Khan El Khalili market which has been around since 1382. I love this because it really starts to capture the controlled chaos that is Cairo.

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Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii. Well, you can’t get away without showing the absolutely stunning view from the island of Capri. Why can’t I just be independently wealthy so I can live there?

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Rome. I have a ton of photos I love of Rome, so you’d think I could come up with something less clich├ęd than the Coliseum, but no.

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So where should I go next?

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Yes, I’m on an Illusion Kick

Each year, the Neural Correlation Society selects its favorite visual illusions. I absolutely love the top three illusions that were selected for 2009.

#3  So, the first one consists of two of the the same picture, the only difference being the contrast level. One our brains decides one is female, the other male. The picture was created with a mix of male and female features, creating an androgynous face. Creepy, huh? (Russell)


 #2  Focus on the dot in the middle of the dove. Let it run a couple of cycles…..the background disappears, sort of. (Barkan & Spitzer)


#1  I love, love, love this last one. The break of the curveball….focus your eyes on the dropping ball and it drops straight down. Shift your focus to the blue dot on the right and the ball falls at a 20 degree angle. Shifting your focus back and forth changes the it in midair. (Shapiro, Lu, Knight, Ennis)

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Power of Place

I get very attached to places. It’s something I’ve always known, but didn’t understand fully until this past month. This goes way back. When I was eight, we were building a new house because my parents had just had the twins. I remember sitting in this tiny room, on my bed, with this horrible orange and green flowered comforter and being completely incapable of imagining a new bedroom, no matter how much bigger and better people kept telling me it would be. I was terribly depressed at just the thought of it. All I wanted was to keep my comfortable little nest. Oddly, I don’t remember the move itself, but that moment of realization at my impending loss of place is an extremely vivid memory.

IMG_0998 There is one place that has been consistent my entire life. And only one. My grandparent’s farm. It was this magical place with no rules and endless amounts of “stuff”. Want to use a tipped-on its side truck-body as a spaceship? Sure! Want to practice your sweet sling-shot skills busting out all the windows of the rusty old Dodge? No problem! Want to attach a parachute to a barn cat and toss it out of the hayloft window? Absolutely! (well, until Grandpa found out… and as a side-note, the cat was perfectly ok, and there was no way it was going to let me do that twice anyway). The picture in the upper-right hand corner of the blog is of me at about 3 “helping” in the barn. I used that here, long before I understood its relevance, because it is my favorite picture of me as a kid.

IMG_0986 It’s gone now. The barn, the milk shed, the house; even the giant trees that were all gnarly, yet iconic….all gone, taken down in the last month. I imagine I will hardly recognize it. I haven’t been able to make myself go back and look. Just the thought of that empty landscape brings tears to my eyes. Intellectually, yes, I understand that things change, but this isn’t about the head. It’s about how a place holds meaning. It’s about how the rope swing fit my butt just right. It’s about grandparents that understood that all kids really needed was freedom and their own imaginations. It’s about how the heart intermingles love and place when that time and those people can’t be there anymore.

Maybe it’s because I’m about to turn 40 and feeling all nostalgic. Maybe it’s just because it was really the last thing left from my childhood. I’m not sure, but I’m finding it very difficult to let it go.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

More Reasons to Not Believe What You See - Illusions

Ok, these three illusions freaked me out. Squares A and B are the exact same shade. I’m not kidding. The exact same shade. I sat and stared at it for a good five minutes and was all, “nah….” Until I printed it out, cut out each square and placed them right next to each other. And then my brain exploded. Go to the original site and try it. Oh, and they have the explanation there too.


This one is freaky too. Stare at the black cross in the center and very quickly you begin to see a green dot that goes around and around. Keep staring and eventually all of the purple dots disappear. Cool!


This last one actually gives me a bit of a headache. If you can’t see the motion here, go to the original site, pop a couple of Advil and wait for the magic to happen. They also have a ton more, but these were ones I loved.


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