Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Building a Salon in Pictures

Over the last six months I’ve been regularly taking pictures as we worked on the salon.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the frequent posts. Yea, I’m sorry about that…
Anyway, the place is small so there are only a few strategic places to take photos from, which means I have a folder filled with progression type pictures. So today, as we’re nearing our grand opening,  I was looking through the folder and decided to post some in a chronological format.  Now you can see for yourself just how drastic the change to the space has been.
All of these pictures were taken from the same basic spot in the salon, the southwest corner, even though some of the early ones are a little off because there was a wall blocking my view. Many are taken with my Blackberry camera, which is admittedly crappy, but I didn’t want to take my good camera over there with all of the dust and construction debris flying around.  So please excuse the quality of some shots.
With that being said… Here we go…
Just before we signed the lease:IMG_3664
The first day of construction:IMG00085-20110530-1534
The start of a new subfloor:IMG00104-20110618-1904
Ready for drywall:IMG00115-20110625-1713
Drywall being completed:IMG00133-20110714-1931
Finished painting:IMG00171-20110828-1637
A new floor:
We’re finally finished!IMG_3906
We just have a few things left to do in the suite before we open, and hopefully we’ll be able to check off everything left on our list while we wait for the construction on the building to be completed.
It’s been an amazing journey filled with tears, frustration, and anger, but also a lot of pride in what we’ve accomplished. My family has been a tremendous help, and it couldn’t have been done without them.  The kids sacrificed an entire summer to sit at the salon pitching in when they were able, and John did the bulk of the heavy duty construction by himself, on top of working his regular full-time job. When you add in the fact that he’s footing the bill for all of this, it’s safe to say I have an awesome husband.
I can’t wait to open, and if you’re ever in Racine, I hope you stop in for a cup of coffee and a manicure.  I’d love to see you!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9.11–John M. Moran


I signed up to participate in a program through the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, which allows them to use my facebook status to remember and honor a victim of 9.11.

The person I will be honoring is John M. Moran.

I didn’t want to honor a name though, I want to honor a person.  So I did some digging to see if I could find out who John Moran was…

John was a New York Fire Department Battalion Chief, Detailed to Special Operations Command, Battalion 49.  He was one of the first responders to the World Trade Center attacks, and is believed to have been killed in the collapse of the South Tower.  His body was never found.

He was 42 in 2001, and was possibly the youngest Battalion Chief in New York at the time.  He lived in Rockaway Beach, NY with his wife and two young sons, and also his mom, who lived in the apartment above him.

John’s younger brother Michael was, and still is, also a member of the NYFD, Ladder 3.  He was not on duty on 9.11, but like so many other brave men and women, showed up anyway.  In a recent interview, Mike gave his account of the day, and tells of his frustration of being made to wait at the firehouse for several hours, all the while not knowing if his brother was alive or dead.

Additionally, Michael gained a little bit of notoriety in October 2001, when he said what we were all thinking at Billy Joel’s televised benefit concert for New York, and invited Osama bin Laden to “kiss my royal Irish ass!”  In fact, Mike Moran seems to have a way with words that I can really respect.  In a eulogy for Capt. Patrick Brown (also killed on 9.11.01), he predicted that the terrorists would not get to meet Allah in the afterlife, there would be no seventy virgins, and instead they would meet one pissed off Fire Capt..

I can get behind that.

What is very clear about Mike, who has been a voice of remembrance for the fallen heroes of 9.11, is that he dearly misses his brother John.  He maintains a memorial for him in Rockaway, on Chief John Moran Way.

I find it’s hard to tell the story of a person without also including a little bit of the stories of the people who love them.  I often tell my kids that whether they like it or not, they are the sum of the people who surround them.  John seems to have a plethora of friends and family surrounding him who have also dedicated themselves to the protection and service of their fellow humans.  He came from a long line of firemen, and even his wife was a flight attendant.  John himself earned a law degree from Fordham University, but chose instead to work for the fire department, and put himself in danger in an effort to help others.

In fact, on Father’s Day in 2001, just a few short months before the WTC attacks, John was injured in an explosion at a hardware store fire that left three other firefighters dead.  So he was no stranger to the risks he took in his job, and was fully aware of them when he geared up that bright September morning.

While it would be easy to just say he was a firefighter, and leave it at that, it would be erroneous to sum up his life as his job, and maybe a little too easy.  John was much more than a fireman.  He was a father who smothered his boys with love, a son who made sure his mother was always taken care of, and a good friend to all who knew him.  It appears that all of his friends considered him so much more than a good friend, they considered him part of their family, and many say they were better people for having known him. 

Coincidentally, John met his wife Kim on September 11, 1990, while standing outside of his firehouse.  “I was stood up on a date,” she recalls. "Some guy just didn't show up. I gave up at about 10:30, changed into some jeans and tennis shoes, and went down to get some pizza for myself and my roommate.  He was standing on the apron of the firehouse, and I just fell in love with him instantly. He's the love of my life.”

John enjoyed kayaking, playing piano and guitar, and singing.  On Saturday, September 8, 2001, he and his cousin, Congressman Joseph Crowley, jumped on stage at a Rockaway block party, and performed “The Star of the County Down,” to the delight of the local audience.

Sunday, September 9th, he was at the beach with his wife and boys.  John had built a wheeled cart to transport his kayak, but on this day he pulled his sons in it instead.  I can imagine them laughing as it bumped across the rocks and sand.  His wife grabbed her camera and snapped a picture, capturing their smiles for eternity.  One last happy memory.

On Monday September 10th, John was back at work.  He pulled a 24 hour shift, and at 7am on September 11th when his shift was done, he decided to hang around his unit’s Roosevelt Island headquarters and shoot the breeze with his friends and co-workers.  When the call came in from the North Tower on that bright, sunny morning, John asked his chief if they needed some help, and suited up before jumping on the truck.

He spoke to his brother Mike while in route to the towers.  Mike told him to be careful, that we were under attack, and John responded by saying he had seen the second plane fly overhead before hitting the South Tower.

After the attacks, John’s wife and sons held out hope that he would return home.  After having survived the hardware store explosion, it was difficult for them to believe that a handful of terrorists could defeat this resilient man.  However, John was never heard from again.  On October 4, 2001, John’s memorial service was held at a church in Queens.  His brother Mike gave the eulogy, and Mayor Giuliani called for a standing ovation for the fire veteran of twenty years. The mayor said that while Moran's two young sons may not fully comprehend all that happened, "The thing I want them to understand for their entire life is that their father is a great man."

I, of course, never knew John Moran, but I wish I could have.  I wish I could shake his hand and thank him for his service, and for putting himself in harm’s way.  More importantly, I wish his sons could have grown up knowing him as well.

Thank you John, Kim, Ryan, and Dylan, for your sacrifice.  I wish it had never been asked of you.  Also, thank you Mike, for your continuing sacrifice.  We owe you all so much, and the debt will never be repaid.



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remembering 9.11.01


When John used to do the Tommy D’s show, they always had a 9.11 special where they would spend their air time remembering the events of that day, what they were doing when the planes hit, how they experienced the attacks, and most importantly remembering the people who lost their lives.  They encouraged people to call in and share their stories as well, so that we might all remember the day a little clearer, and experience it from many points of view.

Those shows were horrible and cathartic all at once.  Terrible, but also comforting as a tragedy shared.  In the spirit of Tommy D (which no longer airs), I’d like to continue the tradition.  I’ll share my story, with the hope that you will too.  Blog about it, post it on facebook, tag me, or email me the link, and I’ll add your story to mine. 

So that we may never forget…

My story actually starts in June of 2001.  I know that may sound like an odd starting place, but I can’t remember 9.11 without also thinking of a beautiful day in June just a few months before.  John and I were in New York, with the kids, to get married.  Our service was in Nyack, NY on the 23rd, but before the big day, we took the family sight seeing.

On June 20th, 2001 John, Alexi, CJ, Tiana, my parents, and I all took the ferry from Liberty State Park to Ellis Island and Liberty Island.  From there we had a spectacular view of Lower Manhattan.  I was mad because I had forgotten the card for my digital camera, but my dad let me snap a few with his, which he promised to send me.  The photo you see above is one I took from Liberty Island.

As we stood at the rail, in front of the Statue of Liberty, looking across the Hudson at the majestic Manhattan skyline, Alexi and CJ asked if we could go see the twin towers.  John and I said no, it was nearing rush hour, there would be plenty of visits to New York in the future to do the normal touristy things, and we needed to get back to Nyack to take care of so many last minute wedding arrangements that had yet to be dealt with.

I said the towers would still be there the next time we visited New York.  Words I wish so desperately I could take back.  If I could do it all over, we’d have gone into the city that day and taken the kids to the top of the towers.  If nothing else, so that they would have been able to grasp the scope of tragedy that happened just a few months later, and have a better understanding of the scale of devastation.

But I didn’t know… How could I have possibly known?

The morning of September 11th was as beautiful here in Wisconsin as it was in New York, and we were doing our usual morning routine of getting the kids ready for school.  I don’t remember exactly why John was home that morning.  He should have left for work earlier than he did, but I suspect it was to take the kids to school for me, and give me a break from the 25 mile (one way) commute I traveled three times a day.

We had satellite television at the time, which didn’t carry any of the Milwaukee local channels.  It did, however, carry network television from New York and Los Angeles.  So, that morning, at 7:46am CST, we were watching the local news out of New York when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower. 

The news crew immediately switched to “Breaking News” mode, and began broadcasting a live feed of the smoking sky scraper.  They took phone calls from people who had seen the initial impact.  First reports were that it had been a commuter plane, or other small aircraft that had crashed; as more witness calls came in though, more reports of it being a jetliner were aired.  Someone said the T word, but the anchors quickly shut them down, saying it was much too soon to speculate that terrorists were behind the crash.  It was quite a bit more likely that some poor, inexperienced pilot lost control of his plane.

Until 8:03am CST, when on live network television we watched United Airlines Flight 175 strike the South Tower.

I might have let out a soft scream, I know I immediately clasped my hands to my mouth as I watched the explosion billow out of the South Tower on my television screen.  I turned to John who was sitting on the couch next to me, and asked him what had just happened.  My brain refused to process what my eyes knew they had just seen.

The news anchor answered my question, confirming that, what appeared to be, a commercial jetliner had just crashed into the South Tower of the Word Trade Center…

John started making phone calls.  We had friends and family that worked in the area, though we weren’t sure where in Manhattan their offices were. Phone services in New York were spotty at best though, with the cell tower on top of the WTC being disrupted, and circuits overloaded.  He couldn’t get through to anyone in New York, so we sat, and watched, and prayed. 

John told me about the emergency services that would be responding.  As a volunteer fire fighter in Nyack, he had trained with men who were probably currently working their way up the stairs of Tower One and Two.  They were the city’s best and bravest, going to rescue the trapped, and put the fire out.  I had the utmost confidence in them, and in the buildings ability to withstand the hit.

On the news, they took several calls from people who were trapped on the upper floors of the buildings, up above the impact sites where the air was filling with searing smoke.  They urged rescuers to hurry, afraid they would be overcome soon, and passed messages on to loved ones they had been unable to contact.  The anchors told them to remain calm, and said that help was on the way.  I cried silent tears, and prayed harder.

It wasn’t until the next day that I heard the reports of people jumping from the upper floors of the building.  I still often wonder what happened to those callers I heard on the news that morning.  Did any of them survive?  Did the panicked voices belong to someone who fell to their end trying to escape the hot, choking death on the top floors?  I wish I knew, and yet I’m glad I don’t.  Their voices will forever haunt me.  Part of me wants to believe one or two of them beat the odds, though I know it’s unlikely to be true.

John had to leave, as much as he wanted to stay and watch the reports on television.  He took the kids to school, and then planned to head to work.  We promised to keep in touch, if either of us learned anything new, or heard from any of our friends.

I don’t remember why I called John, I just remember that I was on the phone with him when the first tower fell.  I started to scream as I realized what was happening, trying to form words that refused to come out of my mouth.  As John’s frantic questions over the phone penetrated my brain, I fell to my knees in my living room and cried “The building collapsed, John; it’s gone, it’s just gone.”

I thought of the voices of the trapped people on the phone, the rescue crews making their way up the stairs, and I cried.  I thought of our friends in New York, their families, and the score of people who would never see someone they loved again, and I cried.

I was still kneeling on the floor twenty-nine minutes later when the second tower collapsed, numb from what I was witnessing, but still able to form cascades of tears for the beautiful lives that were ended that day.

I stayed that way for a long time, like Stan’s mom laying on the couch day after day, hoping for news of survivors and Osama bin Laden’s head on a pike.  I wanted to drive to New York, and dig up the rubble with my own bare hands, but all I could do was sit and watch.  When life, and television programing, started to return to normal a week or so later, I still didn’t feel right.  It didn’t feel right that life should go on for me, when for so many it hadn’t.

I still cry, whenever I see a documentary, read an article, or think too deeply about the events of 9.11.  I didn’t loose anyone I knew personally in the attacks, but I know many who did.  I cry for them, I cry for innocence lost and a country that has changed beyond recognition, and I cry for the huge waste of life sacrificed in the name of hate.  It’s likely I always will.

At least I hope I always do…


Now it’s your turn.  Share your recollections of the day, so that together we never forget.



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The bad thing about getting drunk…


I haven’t talked about anxiety in awhile, and when I first thought about writing this post, I nixed it as a dumb idea.  Then I decided that maybe I should put on my big girl panties and get over it.  You see, I used to say that if writing about my experiences helped someone cope with their own issues, or at least let them know they were not alone, then it was worth the discomfort I felt about publishing it.  I never actually believed anyone was reading those posts though, but as it turns out, they were. If it means something to one other person out there, then it’s worth it.  So…

Since I haven’t mentioned my anxiety in awhile, you may think it went away.  I wish!  I was on prescription medication for it for about three years, but one of the side effects was it made me fat and lethargic, so I decided it was time to try to exist without it.  That was about two years ago, and since then I’ve gotten by on herbal supplements, meditation, and pure German stubbornness.  It’s not the best scenario for someone who has to deal with anxiety, but it is what it is.  At least I don’t fall asleep while eating dinner anymore, and that’s a plus in my book.

Since I stopped taking anti-anxiety medication, it has been slowly increasing with each of life’s traumatic event’s that pass my way.  John’s dad’s passing, quickly followed by Tiana’s spinal fusion, got it rolling on the tracks like a freight train, and it’s just been gaining momentum since then.

Recently, after a ton of debate and discussion, John and I made the decision to open a nail salon, and with that decision my sanity went screaming out the door.  My anxiety is now nearly completely in control of my brain function, and it’s a speeding train charging downhill.  I just hope it runs into an incline to slow it down soon; hopefully before it hits a sharp curve and completely derails my life.

So, the other day I decided to imbibe in an adult beverage.  Alcohol is a great relaxant, and if you’re familiar with the pain caused by muscle tension that comes with anxiety, you probably also know that a couple of drinks relieves it almost immediately.  It’s probably why so many people with anxiety and depression end up with alcohol addictions.  Luckily that’s not a problem for me; I hate losing control way more than I hate feeling anxious all of the time.  So getting drunk on a regular basis is never going to be the cure for my crazy.

Anyway, as I felt the tension run out of my neck, I relaxed into the sofa, and thought how nice it was to have a reminder that the pain wasn’t real. I don’t have some weird neck cancer that’s preventing me from turning my head to the right.  It’s just muscle pain that would go away if I could ever find a way to relax enough to let it.

Then, after a couple of drinks I had effectively bound and gagged my anxiety.  It was now crouched in the corner, slobbering around the big red ball gag in its mouth, whimpering like the little bitch it was.  The problem with that is my anxiety takes up a lot of space in my consciousness, and when you remove it, it leaves a vacuum.  That space must be filled with something…

“Oh, hello self-loathing, haven’t seen you around these parts in awhile.  Can’t say I missed you very much, but hey, as long as you’re here you might as well settle in and destroy my self worth for a few hours.  It’s ok, I have the time.”

Apparently I only have two modes currently, anxious or depressed.  Yay me!

So, as it turns out, the great thing about getting drunk is that it eases the physical pain caused by anxiety.  The bad thing about getting drunk is that it ushers in the self loathing often caused by anxiety.  It’s a lose-lose kind of thing…

Now, these posts always come out sounding so depressing, and that’s really not my intent.  Don’t feel sorry for me, I’ll be ok. I still get up every day, get dressed, and do what I have to do. I know this won’t last forever, at least not at this level. I constantly remind myself that I am not the sum of my crazy, and I won’t let anxiety define me. So I keep moving, keep active, and keep reminding myself that this too shall pass.  I still feel joy, I laugh with the kids and John daily, and I’m really good at making fun of my own dysfunction. 

The point is that if you struggle with anxiety, or depression, alcohol is not a cure; it only makes it worse.  Neither will drugs, illicit or prescription, ease your pain.  Those are stop gap measures, to help you cope for a single moment in time, not a cure, and if you rely on them without addressing the root of your anxiety, they will only increase the problem.

So what’s a serotonin imbalanced person to do?  Look beyond the easy fix.  Get off your ass and get moving.  Exercise helps tremendously, it spurs your brain to release chemicals that counteract the serotonin, and within days of starting even a light exercise regime, you will feel miles better.  Don’t give into the urge to stay in bed, no matter how much it feels like you can’t face the day.  Inactivity only compounds anxiety and depression, get up, get dressed, I promise you’ll feel better.

Additionally, look into Mindfulness Meditation Therapy.  Standard therapy practices don’t work terribly well for people with general anxiety disorders because there is no way to confront a non-specific fear, especially if that fear changes from day to day.  So traditional cognitive therapy is a complete and total bust for people like myself.  Mindfulness Meditation Therapy can help you address your anxiety instead of trying to push it into the back of your mind.  Once you confront it, and stop trying to hide it, it looses its potency and becomes much easier to manage.

Life is a freight train, barreling down the tracks, and we’re just strapped in for the ride.  Some days it feels that there are more downhill, out of control stretches than ups, but be aware that it’s impossible to fall forever, and no, that doesn’t mean you’re going to crash at the bottom.  The track will turn, and you will level out.  Today may be a bad day for you, tomorrow may be worse, but the day after that you may see a glimmer of hope. 

It gets better; I promise.



Monday, May 30, 2011

Setbacks at the Salon

First, let me write a short summary for the one or possibly two people who read this blog and aren’t facebook friends with me.  As you may have surmised from previous posts, I am a licensed nail technician.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long in the beauty industry to realize that I’d rather force toothpicks under my toenails then work at about 98.53% of the salons out there.  So, the great journey to become an entrepreneur began.

About a month ago I found a commercial space that had potential, and more importantly, was the right price.  You can see pictures of the place on my facebook page here:  Building a Salon


So, the big day arrived on Saturday.  The realtor finally had the approval on her end, and it was time to sign a pre-lease, and get a key to the shop. 

There have been plenty of setbacks since our original meeting with her.  The building, which sat unoccupied for over three years, had some water damage from a leak in the roof.  The roof had been replaced, and then it was ripped off in a storm about a week ago and repaired again.  There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in the back end of the building, but at least we could get started on the work we need to do in our suite at the front.

We met the agent, she let us into the building, and we were immediately assaulted by a pungent damp smell that hadn’t been there on our previous visits.  Not only that, but there was a huge puddle on the floor in the back hallway.  The realtor was dismayed to say the least; that roof has been a real thorn in her side it seems, but she called the roofing company while we were there with her, and assured us that someone would be out to see what was going on by the end of the day.

When we went into my suite, we saw that they had installed a sink, unfortunately not in the location where I had expected it to be installed, but whatever.  You live and adapt, right?  What was more concerning to me, was that there was mold where they had removed the wainscoting to put in the sink.

John and I discussed the implications a little bit, and I rubbed at a spot with the toe of my shoe.  It rubbed right off, and was clean underneath, so I decided I wasn’t too concerned.  It looked like it was all on the surface, probably brought on by the recent extended troubles with the roof.  I made plans to bring in some bleach to scrub the walls, and didn’t think too much more about it.

Let me just say here (because I know what you’re thinking), that I’m not a complete moron: I’m only about 78%…  My prelease has a condition that if I cannot get licensed by the State Cosmetology Board for any reason, I get to walk away with all of my money refunded, every penny of it; no penalties, no obligations.  Keep that in mind as you continue reading, because I’m not as screwed as I could be.  My leasing agent wants to keep me happy because she really doesn’t want to give back the hefty check I just wrote her. 

So, we went over the terms of the lease, and I made sure the agent understood and was OK with my plans to basically gut the place.  The lease was signed, and I got my key.

Yay, I’m now a commercial property lessee!

The next morning, we gave showering a pass, and went over to the salon for some demolition and cleaning, wearing our grubbiest clothing.  My super-awesome friend Lisa met us there, because she takes hallucinogens  is completely off her nut volunteered to help me scrub the moldy wall.

The first roadblock we hit was when we realized that the water hadn’t been turned on in the building yet.  It’s kind of hard to wash the walls without it.  So, John made a run home for a few gallons of hot water to fill our buckets with.

Then, as more pieces of wainscoting started coming down, I realized the enormity of the problem.  The mold spans the lower half of an entire wall, as well as other spots here and there throughout the suite.  Our efforts to scrub and bleach it off the walls, proved that it wasn’t just on the surface.  It penetrates the gypsum, and has been there for awhile, hidden under the wainscoting and pegboard that covered the walls of the suite.  The recent bout of flooding from the roof just infused it with a new lease on life.

We discussed the problem, after an hour of hard scrubbing and bleaching just left a nasty smear on the drywall, and decided it all needed to be torn out.  The problem with that plan of action is that the newly installed sink will need to be taken down so that the wall it’s mounted on can be removed.

As we were looking under the sink to see if we’d need to call in the pros for that job, it struck me…  The plumber had bolted the sink to a moldy wall!  He didn’t wipe it off, didn’t do anything to remove the mold.  He just slapped a shiny new sink against a smelly, wet, disgusting wall!  Who does that?  What the…  ?!?!?

Anyway, while I was still trying to wrap my brain around the logic of bolting a brand new sink against a moldy wall, John decided it was time to call the agent.  The skies had grown rather ominous while we were working, and he stepped out into the hallway to go out and take a look while he made the call.  As I was still staring at the sink sputtering about incompetent contractors, I heard John call to me…

“Hey Anne!”

“Why wouldn’t they at least wipe the mold off?  Make a teeny tiny bit of effort to do the job right?!?!?”



“It’s raining in the hallway.”

"It’s raining in the…  What?!?!”

I bolted out the door of the suite to see a waterfall in the back of the building.  The leaky, but supposedly just repaired, roof was putting out more water than my showerhead does. 

I picked my jaw up off the floor and thought that if I closed my eyes and laid down in the hall, perhaps I could wake up in my bed two days ago.  Please, let this just be an anxiety induced dream, spawned from my inherent fear of failure.

The puddle in the hall started to soak through my shoes and I knew that while this was a nightmare, it was not a dream.

Life, it appears, can never ever be easy.

So what did we do?  John called the agent like he’d planned, made her aware of the new water feature the building was spawning, and told her about the mold issues, and what that meant on our end.  We continued the demo, but stopped bothering trying to clean the mold away.  It will come down with the drywall.

Meanwhile, John and I have discussed our plan of action.  I can’t get licensed if there’s even a hint of mold in the building.  I’m not selling trinkets in a shop, I’m doing things to the human body that can put them at risk if my shop isn’t spic and span.  Mold does not have a place anywhere near my salon.  We need to make sure our agent understands that, and is prepared to go to the expense of cleaning down the entire building, not just my suite, so that I’ll be able to run a safe and healthy salon.  If she’s not, then I take that escape clause I mentioned a page or so ago.

While we wait to see what she’s going to do, we’re still demoing, but not constructing at all.  We’ll tear down to the point where we’re ready to rebuild, and stop, if we need to, until she completes the repairs and decontamination.













A little bit of icky mold in the last picture.  The wall behind where I’m standing to take the picture it is the worst of the bunch and the one that needs to be completely ripped out.

So, while we’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of days, I’m not sure if we’re actually getting anywhere yet. That’s ok though, I’ve waited this long, I can wait a little longer.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s how to evolved and adapt, and not take this kind of thing too seriously.  It will all work out in the end, one way or another.



Monday, May 16, 2011

Choking PSA

128975904744579885No, this post isn’t a primer on how to choke someone who’s annoying you, though I know we all have someone we’d like to try that maneuver on.  It’s a reminder that life isn’t predictable, things happen fast, and if you’re not prepared, you’re screwed.

First and foremost, before you even read this post, if you don’t know basic First Aid and CPR, go read this:  Life Saving Basics

When you’re done, come back and read my post, then go enroll in the next class you’re able to attend.  You may never, ever need to use these skills, but if you’re called upon to save someone’s life and you don’t have them, you will always regret it.


I was twelve when I got my first Red Cross First Aid and CPR certifications.  I went to summer camp where I tested out of the swimming classes they offered.  So, instead, they put me into lifeguard training classes with some of the older kids. 

I’ve mostly kept my certifications up to date throughout the years. Between having young kids, and working in a few different nursing homes, I’ve either needed them to be current, or it just seemed like a really good idea.  Let’s face it, if you’re a parent, you know the importance of first aid. As a mom or dad you need to know when a kiss and a band-aid will do, or when to run to the ER for stitches. You should know how to preserve a tooth that’s been knocked out, or an arm that’s been lopped off.  Last but not least, you absolutely have to know how to save your child’s life with CPR or the Heimlich, while you pray to God you’ll never have to.

Not too long ago a friend of mine had a choking emergency with one of her kids.  Her child began to choke at the dinner table, panicked and ran from the room.  She was lucky enough that someone realized what was happening, and she survived the experience frightened but ok.  My friend used the opportunity to tell all of us to make sure our kids knew what to do in a choking emergency: to remain calm, and find an adult.

Never have I ever been so thankful for my training, and a little bit of friendly advice than I am today.

This morning I woke up Jenna and we went about our normal routine.  She got some cereal to eat for breakfast, and I stumbled into the office to check my email and other messages with a cup of coffee to keep me company.  Neither she nor I even resemble human in the morning, so to avoid any undue stress or confrontations, we have a non-verbal agreement to leave each other alone for about twenty minutes while we wake up. 

This morning was no different than any other, except that Jenna had started nursing a cold over the weekend, so I listened to her cough and snuffle, and wondered if she was going to be able to make it through a day at school without being sent home.  Then I heard her footsteps behind me…

I turned to find her clutching her chest, eyes wild, and NOT BREATHING!

“Are you choking?” I asked, and she nodded.

“Can you breathe at all?” I asked, while my heart started to pound.  She shook her head no.

I was already on my feet, though I don’t remember getting up.  I grabbed her, turned her around, and started to perform the Heimlich.

Time slowed, or my sluggish brain sped up, and I could almost see the first aid manual in front of me as I remembered what to do.  I felt along her ribcage to find the base of her sternum, placed two fingers from my right hand under it, and my left fist below them.  Please don’t let me break her ribs, I prayed silently. Then I grabbed the fist with with my other hand, and gave two sharp quick pulls in and up against her diaphragm, just as I’d been taught.

I paused a moment, listening to hear if she was moving any air, trying to remember where the cordless phone was, and at what point I was supposed to call 911 if I couldn’t get her to breathe.  She was still choking and I had a instant of despair thinking it wasn’t going to work, it had been too long since I’d taken a class, my technique was probably all wrong.

Another pull and a pause; still nothing.  One more; please breathe baby. Mommy will buy you a pony if you want, just as long as I don’t have to watch you die today.

One more quick pull, and the sweet sound of coughing and gagging filled my ears.  I’ve never been so happy to hear my child retch before.

We collapsed into a nearby chair, and I held her while we both cried.  My hands started to shake as I stroked her hair and told her how proud I was that she did exactly the right things, even though I knew how scared she must have been.

I calmed her down, bundled her up on the couch with a blanket, and went upstairs, under the pretense of getting dressed, to have a quiet nervous break down.

People tend to think that because of my anxiety disorder I’m prone to panic in an emergency. It’s actually just the opposite. I do quite well under pressure, I’m not afraid of blood, and I’m well trained. It’s not until afterwards that I start to feel sick and panicky.

Things could have easily turned out differently this morning.  If my friend hadn’t told me to talk to my kids about what to do in just that circumstance, Jenna could have choked to death in the other room, unable to call for help, with me sitting just a few feet away.  If I hadn’t taken several first aid classes over the years, I may not have known the proper way to apply the Heimlich Maneuver.  I could have done it incorrectly and crushed her ribcage or punctured a lung trying to save her life.

image00112We do a lot of things for our kids, little things, big things, silly things and annoying things.  Today do the most important thing for them that you may never actually need.  Learn how to save their life, and teach them how to safe themselves. 

Talk to your kids, tell them that if they should ever start to choke, to try and remain calm, find an adult, and signal them by placing their hands to their throats in the universal choking gesture.

As an adult, please sign up for a Red Cross life saving course; take one for the first time, or just take a refresher.  There is not a single more important thing you can do for the people you love.



Monday, March 28, 2011


About ten years ago I applied to a private college in an effort to become an adult student.  My high school grades were not good, and I had no previous college credits to speak of; so they asked me to write an essay telling them why they should accept me as a student.

The theme of the essay I wrote was determination.  I told them that as an adult student I had experienced failure and had learned to pick myself up and try again.  I wrote that I was determined to make something of myself, and that I would not fail in my task.

It turns out that my words back then weren’t quite true.

Sure, I had known failure, just ask my mom about my high school report cards, she’ll tell you exactly how much failure I had experienced. I’d never failed at something I worked for though.  My failure was consistently due to lack of trying, and when I actually wanted something, I always achieved it.

Apperantly I still had a lesson to learn.

In high school, I was accused of being a lazy slacker.  When my college application was accepted, I went back to school and received high honors each semester I attended.  Then the story changed, and I was told I was a perfectionist and an over-achiever.  The truth is, I’m none of the above.

I’m just insecure, and believe it or not, I’m afraid of being a failure. 

No, I’m not afraid of failing, God knows I’ve done enough of it in my life.  It’s easy to fail when I don’t try though; it doesn’t bother me one bit.  I can tell myself that if I had wanted to, I would have done an excellent job, but I just didn’t care enough to exert myself. 

Instead, I’m afraid of being a failure.  So when I do care, I have to work my ass off to make sure I excel.  Because to try and fail would mean that I’m not good enough, not smart enough, and therefore have no real worth as a person.

So when I went to beauty school to become a nail tech, it was assumed that I would not only do well, but that I would once again exceed all expectations.  I wanted it after all, and I worked my ass off studying for quizzes and procedures the same way I studied for finals when I was pulling a 4.0 in college.

School had some really great ups, and some really horrible downs.  All of which I’ll eventually explain in another post, on another day.  For now, suffice it to say that I graduated with a respectable grade, and everyone assumed I would pass the state board exam with nary a hiccup.

Not so much.

The Wisconsin state board exam for manicurists is divided into two portions: a written exam, and a practical exam where you actually perform three services on a living model.  I passed the written exam with a high score, but failed the practical portion miserably.

Now, it’s been argued that my failure may not have been entirely my fault.  However, that feels like a dodge, and even if it were true, it’s not really pertinent to the story.  I tried my hardest, and I failed.  It was a crushing blow to my ego, and my sense of self worth.

I felt like I’d wasted John’s hard earned money, and didn’t want to waste more in another attempt I would probably fail.  I felt like such an idiot, and I was so embarrassed and disappointed in myself.

It took me over six months to find my determination, that can-do spirit I wrote about all those years ago, the one that would allow me to dust myself off and give it another go.  It was hard battling the demons I’d managed to previously contain, the ones whispering in my subconscious how worthless and stupid I was.  After all, manicures aren’t rocket science, how dumb do you have to be to tank the test?

Even when a friend passed the exam and helped me with my procedure, I still didn’t want to re-take.  It felt so much easier to give up and say it wasn’t worth the effort, then it would be to fail again.

Until one day, when I was talking to my son about a problem he was having at school, and I told him how important it was to keep trying.  “Failure isn’t a mark on your worth as a person,” I told him. “You only truly fail if you don’t even try to succeed.”

As soon as the words left my mouth I knew what a gigantic hypocrite I was.

So I re-took the test, because if nothing else ever comes out of my life, I at least want to be able to say I was a good example for my children. 

I was sure I’d failed again, but this time it wasn’t going to hold me back.  I had the paperwork prepped for the next test, waiting to be sent as soon as I got my failure notice.

It turns out I’m also a failure at predicting the future. 

When I received my exam results, I opened the envelope with a steady hand, and not a single hope in my heart.  It wasn’t until I saw the passing score that my hands started to shake, and I began to cry.  My kids thought I’d failed again, until I started jumping up and down.  It was over, I’d done it.  I managed to turn a failure into a success, even when I thought it was hopeless.

Now I want there to be some moral to the story here, but I don’t really have one.  Life sucks, get over it, maybe?  We can wallow in our own failures and insecurities, or we can get up and try a little harder.  Or, as in my case, we can do some of both; wallow for awhile, then get up and try again.

This experience hasn’t exorcised my personal demons.  No, I’m still a lazy, over-achieving, slacking, perfectionist.  Maybe next time it just won’t take me so long to quit acting like a baby.

I do know one thing for sure though, and it’s what I tell my kids all the time… 

Failure isn’t a grade on a piece of paper.  It’s the inability to learn from your mistakes, and the unwillingness to work to achieve your goals.

Success is just determination.



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jack Jack Bo Back…

It’s time for a fluff post, so I’m going to regale you with stories and pictures of my dumb dog.  Now when I say dumb, I mean it with the utmost love and respect, but how else can you describe a dog who sleeps like this:


and this:






and this:


And yes, he is sleeping in every single one of those pictures, even if his eyes are open.  You don’t know how many times I’ve checked his breathing to make sure he wasn’t dead…

After about six months of struggling with some medical problems, Jack is finally healthy, getting some energy (although he still lacks coordination), and is starting to do some of the things normal dogs do.  He still doesn’t bark, for which I’m pretty grateful, but the other day I almost fell over in shock when he jumped up on a visitor.  He’s never jumped on anyone before because a genetic back condition has prevented it.  So when I saw him do it I thought, “Oh wow, he feels good enough to jump!” and then immediately followed the thought with “Oh crap, I’m going to have to train him not to jump on people!”

Such is our life with Jack.  It’s mostly snuggles, love, and continuous training.  Now that he’s healthy enough for surgery, he’ll be getting neutered soon, and then as soon as he’s recovered he’ll start formal training to get his Canine Good Citizen’s Certificate.  After that, I’d like to start him in therapy training, but we’ll have to see how everything goes.

Now, despite my pretty vocal advocacy for Jack, and Pit Bulls in general, I still get asked a lot if I worry about having him in a house with a smallish child.  The truth is, I don’t worry about Jack hurting Jenna anymore than I would if we had any other breed of dog in the house.  I mostly worry that Jenna, with her craziness, might hurt or threaten Jack in some way that would make him lash out and bite her.

If an accident ever were to happen though, it wouldn’t be his fault; it would be mine, for not catching the cues he gives us to let us know he’s not comfortable with his surroundings, that he’s scared or hurt, and that he’s reaching his limits.  Dogs almost always tell us when they’re getting ready to snap, the problems happen when the humans in the room don’t understand the language.

IMG_3029 (Note: We don’t normally allow too much Jack hugging because dogs, in general, are not fans of having their heads held immobile.  So when you hug, you’re putting your face right next to a bunch of sharp teeth attached to a potentially stressed out dog.)

Pit Bulls used to be ‘Nanny Dogs’ though, trusted with looking after the smallest members of the house.  It’s really not a surprise that Jack is so good with our own pygmy house ape.  Babysitting is in his blood.

I often tell people who ask about our scary pit bull, all about Jenna’s undiagnosed stomach problem.  She’s seen a few doctors for it, has had a different diagnosis with each one, and so far nothing has helped.  Every few months though, Jenna gets sick for no reason, and for two to three days suffers with severe stomach cramps and vomiting.  We often have no warning when these episodes are coming on, except for the stomach cramps which start up about ten minutes before the vomiting does. 

Jack knows though, and will start following her around before the cramps even hit.  He becomes a bramble that’s impossibly stuck to her, and no amount of coaxing will convince him to leave her alone.

Then, when it hits, and she gets really sick, too sick to leave the couch without help, he curls up next to her and stays until she’s better.  He gets up only to eat and go potty, and even those activities decrease in frequency.


During these times when she’s miserable, and understandably grouchy, she can lay on him…



Kick him…


and he will not budge, whine, or make any protest whatsoever.  He stays, until his pygmy house ape is feeling better.


And then he stays a little longer just to be sure.


The best indicator that she’s on the road to recovery, is when Jack goes back to his regularly scheduled activities.


So no, I don’t really worry much at all.