Attending Social Media Residency today

Learning more about blogging

I’m attending a sort of class on the use of social media, called the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Residency #MCCSM.  (See pics.) My blogs TheHutch and Monitor Duty have been quite neglected.  Now I’m learning about how to commit to putting out at least a little content and then reinforcing the content with more quickie things such as Tweets.  What I’m learning is going to be very helpful as we revise the website and rethink our social media plans at MayoMedicalLaboratories.com.  Beyond that, I’m hoping to put some of these skills to good use when it comes time to promote my Kickstarter campaign for the next 5 issues of my comic book, Metro Med, the Hospital for Superheroes (Facebook and Twitter, if you want to keep informed about the Kickstarter. Thanks!).

I just learned how so many blogs have tweets looking so nice.  Turns out it’s just a built-in function of WordPress.  Voila:

One assignment was to shoot an amateur video on our smart phones and put it on YouTube.  This is as amateur as I could make it, including the noise and getting cut off as I’m saying the word “amateur.”

Unfortunately, the assignment couldn’t wait until I lost 130 pounds.  Hard to follow the rule of thirds, when I fill up all the thirds.  Egad.  Look at me, gesturing with my fat fingers.

 

Cross-posted from http://socialmediaresidencyblog.mayoclinic.org/?p=3361

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Paint Sets, Cake Decorating and Forced Female Circumcision

Because Hobby Lobby is apparently like Iran now

Lots of hot-headed foofaraw about the Hobby Lobby case on my Facebook wall, all about how there’s a need to separate religion from business, etc., because it’s dictating what employees can do with their bodies.

And this is exactly why Obamacare is totally wrong.

Look: some religious people opened a business.  Are you saying religious people cannot open businesses?  Aren’t you, really?  Okay, then.  It’s okay for religious people to own and run businesses.

Their principals and ethics are part of the business…just as they are in ALL BUSINESSES. Do liberals object to Chipotle buying free-range chicken and locally sourced vegetables, or to Trader Joe’s which clearly has principals about the quality of their food?  If you don’t like the principals of any business, do you order the business how to operate, or do you go somewhere else?  (Okay, yes, if you’re a liberal, you do both. See Wal-Mart.)

Same for employees: if you don’t like a business, don’t work there. That’s the way it’s been throughout time.  In fact, ever since many businesses started offering medical insurance (BTW: because of government price controls), insurance compensation has been a factor in job choices.  (“Hmm. They offer more money, but I’d go from my gold standard insurance to a much higher deductible and co-pay.”)

As for birth control, it’s not terribly expensive, and until recently no one thought it needed to be covered by insurance.  Insurance is for emergencies.  Having sex is not an emergency; if you can’t afford at least a dollar for a condom, you’re too poor to be having sex.  Make better life choices, like keeping your knees together until you’ve found a dollar.  Quote Monty Python to your friends; that is the best form of free birth control.

Hobby Lobby has offered a good medical insurance, but it doesn’t cover abortions, abortifacents or other birth control [CORRECTION: Hobby Lobby actually offers lots of birth control!].  They don’t interfere in their employees’ personal lives, they don’t stop them from getting abortions, they don’t stop them from buying birth control.  Again, this is all the American way.  Everyone is making choices here.

If Hobby Lobby’s insurance provider suddenly said that they had decided, as a company, to cover abortions, Hobby Lobby could have had the options to select a different provider, or at worst drop medical insurance and instead raise wages to compensate .

Then the government came along and demanded that all businesses must offer insurance that violates the consciences of many people who run businesses.  While Hobby Lobby didn’t start their business because they wanted to get into medical insurance, now the government forces them to.  If they don’t, they have to pay a big fine…which goes towards providing abortions under Obamacare, so they’re no less out of the paying-for-abortions loop.

But, to judge by my Facebook wall, many Americans think it is wrong of Hobby Lobby to have ethics.  To hear them tell it, Hobby Lobby will be stoning women next.  That’s the next step, right after “refusing to pay for abortions.”

Welcome IMAO readers, and thanks for making me Link of the Day, Harvey!

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I Am Out Of The Hospital

Let’s back up a bit.  I haven’t updated the blog in a while, so you don’t know all that’s going on. (I’m so neglectful, you may not even know that we got a new poodle named Murphy last September.  Maybe I should do a post on that soon.)

I walked a 5K on my birthday, March 29th.  I was feeling really good.  But in the month since, I have been having dizzy spells; some light, some serious.  I’ve also been short of breath in meetings, or when I came back to my desk.  I attribute all of this to the weight I’ve put on which has made my clothes tight; if it would just STOP SNOWING ALREADY I could be working this off and drop 15 pretty quickl  These spells have been off and on, but in the last week I started to put 2+2 together and thought I’d maybe get an appointment with my doc to get it checked out.  I opted to see the nurse on Thursday, May 1st, rather than wait a week for the doctor.

Melinda tells me that they may want to run some labs, so I should not eat anything after midnight and have breakfast after my morning appointment.  I figure they’ll take an X-ray, draw some blood, maybe make me jog on a treadmill, then send me home with some pills and a note to lose 20 pounds.  I’m anxious, because I need to spend the next two evenings working furiously to finish lettering and prepping my next Metro Med comic book and get it off to the printers in time for the convention, and I already have to spend two hours Thursday night going to my last cake decorating class.

So…at the Northeast family clinic, they have trouble getting my blood pressure despite numerous attempts.  My heart is only beating 30 beats a minute.   I keep telling them I feel fine!  They put me in a wheelchair and wheel me down to X-ray!  I stand up from the ridiculous wheelchair, take a few steps, and stumble to the X-ray platform, but the dizziness passes. They then wheel me back. The nurse, Nicole, finally comes in and tells me, “You are in total heart block.  You’re going to go downtown and get a pacemaker.”  While I absorb this, she picks up the phone and asks which emergency room I should drive to so that she can give me directions.  She hangs up and tells me my car will have to sit in the lot while they’re taking me in an ambulance!

Next thing I know, I’m downtown and Melinda’s left work to join me in the emergency room.  (Fortunately, it’s right across the street from her building.)  They examine my heart and find that the upper ventricles want to go much faster than the lower ventricles, so I definitely have to have a pacemaker.  They think they can get me in to surgery that day, so I can’t eat anything until then.  I am in surgery at 3:30 and finished around 6.  Finally got to eat 24 hours after my previous meal!

My first room at St. Mary's hospital

My first room at St. Mary’s hospital

This actually is a very simple procedure, and I was discharged after lunch today.  My mom’s come down to help out for a few days, because I can’t really lift more than 5 pounds (or put my left arm over my head), nor can I drive.  My buddy Erik found me a speedy printer that has a quicker turnaround time, so I may still be able to get my comic to the convention, and Melinda’s going to go to SpringCon with me since I can’t lift anything.

I’m okay, folks.  This is actually a good thing, because I’ve been “off my game” for a while, but I never had any heart pain.  I had no clue this was going on.  For all I know, I could have been on the verge of something much worse, heart-wise.  I’ll be able to function better.  This new pacemaker will not let my heart go below 60 beats per minute, when before it was dipping to 30.

So, to sum up:  I have a small, circular power-source in my chest that runs wires to my heart to keep me alive.  I am Iron Man.

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Forget Team Edward and Team Jacob

Let's see the teenage girls divvy up sides now!

So in the Time Machine, the time traveler finds that humanity has diverged into two species.

One kind is made up of witless incompetents who have everything provided for them and never question it. All they do is have sex, presumably leading to a lot of babies … although the author never mentions pregnancies or children…just all the hot stupid young swinging singles.

The other half of humanity creates clothing, grows food for themselves and the worthless ones, builds equipment…basically does all the work and keeps civilization functioning.  If they have machines and skillsets that must be passed on, it means that they have a working educational system.  They use the first group as a food source, sure, but without them the other ones would either starve or overpopulate their ecosystem.

Purely on the basis of looks, the second group is considered a bunch of scary monsters.

I’m totally Team Morlock.

 

P.S. Am I crazy to think that their system makes more sense?  At least there is a downside to being on welfare in their world.

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R.I.P. Chewbacca “Chewie” Hutchison, 2009-2013

Chewie’s final weekend convinced me that we were doing the right thing.  It was a weekend where he slept when he wasn’t painfully coughing, and his only bright moments were when he got to eat snacks or chow down on some rotisserie chicken.  I tried taking him for a walk, and we could only go around the house on our corner and back.  It really drove home that he was suffering at this point, and his lurching attempts to roll himself out of bed and onto his feet made me regret that we had waited this long.

I took Monday the 26th off from work so that I could spend the last day with Chewie, and I was so glad I did.  He had a great last day! It started out with a car ride to drop off Melinda at work (she couldn’t get out of it, being the current team nurse).  Chewie loved it, as he has loved all car rides, and Melinda rode in the back seat with him so that she could soak up all of these last moments.  I did, however, have to lift him into the car.

When we got home, I took him for a walk in the cool morning air, and Chewie had so much energy that we went half a block!  I was certain that that would have wiped him out and he would need to doze, but Chewie kept hanging around me, wondering what we would do next!  I gave him a day filled with cuddles and treats on the sofa, a last nap on our sunny deck, and I even tossed his orange pumpkin squeak toy and watched him run for it!

After picking up Melinda from work, we spent our last hour with him and we pressed his paws into some homemade play-dough that she had made so that we would have impressions of his paw prints.  Then we headed off to Quarry Hill Vet to say good-bye.

Dr. Karen Lee and Gina were so kind.  They said that they had been sad all day, knowing that this was on the schedule.  Melinda and I took turns holding him one last time, while the doctor administered the drug.

I’ve had to do this before, for Melinda’s cat, Alley, and my cat, Natasha, when they had lived long happy lives and had fallen ill in their old age.  Those cats were so old, they predated our marriage.

Chewie had just turned four.

We bundled him in a beautiful old blanket, placed him in a plastic washtub that I had brought with, and we took him home.  I ran around packing the car as quick as I could, while Melinda brought a few of Chewie’s favorite things to be buried with him.  She lay down on the floor to stroke his head one last time.  Melinda couldn’t get off work, which meant I had a long lonely car ride north and Melinda wouldn’t have anyone with her that night.

Doris, our older cat, approached and investigated.  I believe she could tell that Chewie was dead.  We felt this was better than his sudden disappearance from her life.

I arrived at my parents’ farm three hours later, where I found that my dad had prepared a beautiful coffin and my mom had written on the lid.  I gave my doggie one last pet on his woolly head, and then I placed the items in his coffin: the orange pumpkin, a stuffing-free fox squeak toy, a ball, a chip twist, a chicken chew…and one of our business cards with the picture of the three of us.

(I am hiding these next pictures in a spoiler, for those of you who don’t want to see him in his casket.)

Show »

Chewie in the blanket

Chewie at peace

One last pat on the head

One last pat on the head

Chewie in his coffin with his memorial items

Chewie in his coffin with his memorial items

We buried him that night, and we finished seeding the grave the next morning. Chewie is buried under the limbs of a tree, and my parents are planting flowers nearby.

Chewie's coffin

Chewie’s coffin

Chewie's grave site

Chewie’s grave site

I don’t know what kind of afterlife awaits dogs, but it’s my hope that his spirit is chasing the rabbits around that farm at full speed, free of the pain that slowed him down.  Go, run.  Good boy!

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Chewie’s Farewell Tour

Chewie was doing so well that we didn’t pick up on the return of his cancer for a while.

On July 3rd, I took Chewie out to the car.  He planted his feet as we approached the car.  That was odd, since he had once again enjoyed going to Leashes and Leads for doggy day care.  When he wasn’t feeling well, he was unhappy spending the whole day running around with other dogs.  It had taken a long time, too long, for me to realize that his balking at doggy day care wasn’t because of something at Leashes and Leads that he had grown to dislike, but because he felt sick.  Once he recovered from surgery, we found that he was delighted to have doggy day care again.

Now, I’m trying to get him in the car, and he doesn’t want to go.

Melinda hopped in, and we headed off to work.  I told her how I had to lift Chewie in. “Maybe he’s not feeling well?” she offered.  “He hasn’t been eating a lot… and I’ve had to clean his ears almost every day…and he’s had goopy eyes the last few days…”

“And he’s having a lot of dificulty getting out of bed” I added.

With every additional bit of evidence mentioned, we realized what it added up to.  “Uh oh.”

It’s odd how he could have eye infections and ear infections and a lack of appetite, just as he had in January and February, and yet we didn’t put two and two together.  It’s not like he’s not eating anything…just that sometimes he eats sparingly, or doesn’t eat in the morning but does in the evening.  But once you start saying the things out loud…they add up so obviously.

I made an appointment for the end of the day at Quarry Hill Vet, and sure enough, his white blood cell count was high again.  48,000 when it should be around 16,000.  Back in February, it was 160,000…so we had some time, but the cancer was definitely back.

July 4th, he spent the day laying around the house.  I was pretty sure that we would be taking him to Quarry Hill to be put to sleep within a few days.  But when we came home Friday, he greeted us at the door, tail wagging happily!

Since then, Chewie has had good days and bad days, but even his good days aren’t great.  We took him up to my parents’ farm so that he could romp around, but he would only be good for three throws of the ball before he’d set it down and lay on it, indicating he was done.  We brought him along to the Rineharts, the family that adopted our Labradoodle Layla, when they had a birthday party.  Chewie had a good day, he walked with Layla, he got a lot of attention…but he didn’t have energy to do much more than walk.  (Chewie usually jumps up on people he recognizes.)

And he has his bad days.  Panting, growling, and displaying more affection than usual are all signs that a dog is in pain… and Chewie has been doing all three.  He has had moments where the lightest touch to his belly while he is sleeping will cause him to yelp with the most awful cry, and yet we cannot duplicate this for the doctor when he is awake.  We told ourselves that “quality of life” was the deciding factor of when we would put him down…but as I write this on August 25th, almost two months since we realized the cancer was back, I realize how many times he was in pain.  What has stopped us from the decision was that he can seemingly flip a switch and suddenly be having a good day.  It may be that his pain meds were kicking in, or he got to ride in a car and it cheered him up, or he simply had a better day.

This last Tuesday, we took him to PetSmart to say goodbye to his trainer and dog-sitter, Marcia.  Marcia was the one who told us that his goopy eye was an eye infection and we should take him to the vet…and the very next day was the start of his cancer journey.  That day, back in February, was the day that Chewie passed his Canine Good Citizenship, which was supposed to be the start of a great new phase of his life…and seeing the picture Marcia showed us, of Melinda and I beaming as we held a smiling Chewie, was very bittersweet.  Yet Chewie loved seeing Marcia again.  His little sausage tail wagged furiously as he buried his muzzle between her knees.  He even gave a weak attempt at jumping up at her.  We then spent an hour picking out some supplies for the new kittens that were added to our household this last week.  (Chewie adores them!)  The entire time, Chewie was happy to get petted by strangers, greet new dogs, and explore the store.  Getting home at 7pm, we marveled that he had been “up” for two whole hours, and figured he must be near collapse.  I opened the car door…and instead of heading for the back yard, Chewie dragged me to the street to go for a walk on top of all that other activity!  We walked south past four houses, and then Chewie and I headed home.  The walks are not very long these days.

Chewie has also been having some hip pain, perhaps brought on by the cancer, perhaps not. Perhaps the cancer is saving him from a painful decade of hip dysplasia that he would have had anyway because he’s a poodle and they’re prone to that.  Who can tell?

In the last two weeks, the lengths of his walks has been consistently dropping.  Chewie, who could once tear across the dog park and run full tilt for a half hour, or walk ahead of me wanting me to go faster as we walked the length of Silver Lake Park and back to home, suddenly can only go around two blocks and back home.  Then he could only go down the street two blocks, turn around and come back.  Then he could only go around one block.  Then it was just down the block and back. Then half the block. Tuesday, it was only four houses down the block.

On Thursday, Chewie planted his feet before we were past the third house.  It was a clear message.  That was as far as he could go.  I wanted to see the damage from that morning’s storm and flash flood as a guy was pulling out items from his house to dry on the lawn, so I tugged him forward. He relented, and slowly walked forward one more house.  Then we went home.

Melinda and I decided.

On Friday, I called Quarry Hill Vet to see if we could get a 4 pm appointment for that day.  If we could, then we could take Chewie up to my parents’ farm to be buried.  Quarry Hill didn’t have any open times, so we have scheduled it for Monday the 26th at 4 pm.  This weekend, we’ve stopped all of his pills except for the two painkillers, and Chewie’s eating rotisserie chicken and hamburgers!  I wish I could say that Chewie is living the high life and getting one last hurrah.  Truth is, he’s mainly sleeping, when he isn’t indicating his growling and barking at his pain.

Friday, I barely made it through work.  I used up the box of tissues at my desk while I tried to focus on file comparisons and building new web pages.  But something my friend John Morgan Neil (the comic book writer who created Aym Geronimo) said really touched me.  Our pets rely on us for everything, including taking away their pain.

 

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Dealing with doggy renal cancer

Two months later, here is where things stand with Chewie. He is, to use my wife’s phrase after his checkup last week, “healthy as a horse.”  He has boundless energy, and he’s all atwitter that the long winter has finally ended.  Taking him on a walk is like trying to hold on to a kid with A.D.D. who just downed 20 pixie sticks. He is constantly getting his leash wound around his leg and pulling full-strength.  This is the Chewie we used to know.  The little stinker even snuck out of the house and ran away a day ago.

If there’s a down side, it’s this: The dog who calmly almost-passed his Canine Good Citizenship test three weeks before his cancer adventure started? Gone. No way he’d even come close to passing. We’ll have to work on him some more.

A week after my last Chewie post, we took him up to the University of Minnesota to discuss chemotherapy options.

We’re giving Chewie an oral chemotherapy drug this month, but we don’t think we’ll continue it.  There is no way to tell if he has cancer short of finding cancer; it’s not like they can test blood and pronounce the patient cancer-free.

So…we don’t know if he has it or not (although it’s a safe bet that some microscopic cancer is still floating around somewhere).

If he does have it, we don’t know if the IV treatment ($600 every 3 weeks for six sessions) or this oral chemotherapy drug (about $300 a month) will do anything to prevent it.

We could spend no money at all and he’ll develop cancer and die, or we could spend tons of money and he’ll get cancer and die.  We could do nothing and get lucky.  It’s a very big crap shoot.

Dog Cancer Survival Guide

So we’re probably going to just give him homeopathic recipes from the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, watch out for foods that cause cancer, give him foods that inhibit cancer, and enjoy what time we had left.

A co-worker of mine who has two standard poodles of her own helped me gain some perspective.  If we hadn’t done anything, Chewie would have died a month ago of natural causes (i.e. cancer).  All the time we have left with him is a bonus over his original lifespan, which would have been a little less than four years.  It isn’t really “fair” that he probably won’t make it to 14, but we could spend a fortune and he won’t make it to 14.

Right now, Chewie is active and happy and loving the spring (that’s FINALLY arrived).

[simpleviewer gallery_id=”1″]

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An Invidious Comparison

Last month, there arose a story that spread around the Internet like wildfire.

Wait…wildfires don’t actually traverse DSL wires.  Rats.  Nor do hotcakes.

Okay, I don’t have a good metaphor, but regardless…”The Bible” mini-series was a tremendous hit for the History channel.  However, viewers noticed that the Moroccan actor playing Satan looked not too dissimilar from Barack Obama.  Right-wing commentators had a field day with this.

the_bible_satan

Now The Bible is out on DVD and Blu-Ray, which means even more people are paying attention to it and writing about the Satan/Obama comparison.  I think this is absolutely ridiculous, and it makes our side of the aisle look loopy.

Cripes, I never thought I’d be defending this guy, but too many people in the chattering classes are taking this way too far!  They’re going overboard, and in the interest of cooling things down, I think we should set a few things straight in his defense:

  • Satan is actually effective at his job.
  • Satan works very hard to achieve his aims.
  • Satan doesn’t take lavish vacations.  Really, the guy’s a workaholic.
  • Satan supports his armed forces, having served in it at one time as the leader.  He believes in their mission and their goals.
  • Satan does not vote “Present” on anything.
  • Satan does not say “Uh” or “Um.”
  • Satan understands economics on at least a grade-school level, and may have cracked open a text about it at one point.  He understands supply and demand.  He understands taxes and incentives.  He recognizes Ponzi schemes for what they are.
  • Satan would never refer to a terrorist as just “a guy who lives in my neighborhood.” Satan recognizes a terrorist as a terrorist.
  • Satan, being the master of damnation, knows that if something is truly torture, people don’t volunteer to undergo it as a demonstration of how bad it is.
  • If Satan heard that grade school children were singing songs about him, he would find it a little unsettling.
  • If celebrities were lauding Satan in videos where they each say a couple words over and over in a rapidly spliced repetitive montage, he would not only be creeped out by it but he would loudly ask his minions, “Who, who could possibly enjoy watching that?”

All right, that’s enough of that.  I think everyone would agree that none of these things describe President Barack Obama, so let’s hold off on this nonsensical and invidious comparison.

 

Update: Welcome IMAO readers!  You can sort through my tag cloud to see my other political and or/humorous musings.  Thanks for making me link of the day, Harvey!

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Chewie one week later

I  wanted to let you know that Chewie is finally getting some energy back.  He’s had a rough week of recovery, but we’ve had a lot of encouraging signs recently.  After so many days of hard sleeping, weakness and wooziness, he seems to have perked up.  Last night he actually pulled out some of his favorite squeak toys and went to town on them for hours.  His bruising is gone, his wound is healing, and last night the vet at the U of M called to say that his platelet count is high and his white blood cell count is low (both reversed from last week when his white cells were off the charts and his platelets so low that his surgery was risky).  He will have to have chemotherapy to make sure that all of the microscopic cancer cells left in him get wiped out… but it will be chemo aimed at giving him a full length life as opposed to just easing his passing, so even chemotherapy will be a good thing.

The U of M has actually asked if they could use him as a case study.  I gather that his cancer isn’t unique, but it’s rare enough and in his case he’s a very young dog to have acquired it.

I can’t say enough good things about the crew of doctors up at the U of M.  One thing I found remarkable is that at every stage of the game, the doctors were up front with the price list of what was being proposed and why it was recommended and whether we were willing to proceed.  If they didn’t do that, it would just have added to my stress level because it would make me the heartless monster to have to introduce the subject of what it cost.  I do wonder if things like that couldn’t help improve human healthcare, even though that’s a different situation.

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One week

It was last Sunday that Chewie threw up his food after finally eating a little, and I told Melinda that I thought he was sick.  The next day she took him to the vet and began the little adventure I’ve been chronicling.  It’s not even a week, really, though we’d been worrying a little over his appetite.  If not for the eye infection and our thinking that that was the cause of his overall discomfort, we might have taken him in sooner.  (And who knows whether taking him in too early would have sent up the proper warnings?)

We were warned he would have some serious bruising due to his low platelets, and they weren’t kidding.  This little photo I’m sharing doesn’t even show the worst bits, which are down by his bits.  However, the bruises which flared up on Friday are already looking better by Saturday.

IMG_20130223_180343

(And yes, we do realize Chewie has the body of an AT-AT walker.)

Today, I had a class in comic book writing with Bill “Fables” Willingham.  When I got home at 2:30, Chewie came running to the door woofing like old times (but the first time since his surgery).  Melinda told me he’d been mopey since I left, walking to the gate to watch for me. When she said, “Are you missing Michael?” he grumbled.  He finally has some energy for his old behaviors, for something else besides sleeping and slow movement, and as I kneeled down he snuggled up to me.

I thought for one last time about the decision to do the surgery, the impact on the finances, all the fear about whether such an expense would be worth it.  I won’t go into the details, but the total bill came to 1/2 of what the contractor just quoted to remodel our entire bathroom.  When the doctor mentions an average lifespan of 16 months after surgery, and the riskiness of the procedure due to his deathly-poor platelet count, it is such a gamble. We could spend all that money only to lose him post-op, or have the cancer spread, or pass on a few months later.  I couldn’t leave my dog in pain, but I can’t imagine putting him down for want of a few thousand dollars.  I know there are people in worse circumstances who don’t have the luxury of even taking the option we took.  Heck, if we hadn’t been aggressively paying off credit cards, there are times we wouldn’t have had this luxury!  I shudder to imagine that alternative, and how awful our lives could be right now.

Today, I grabbed my dog’s fluffy ears, snuggled his curly head with my nose, and realized the blessing we had this week.  “My puppy’s alive!  My puppy’s alive!” I kept repeating, as I hugged him.

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