Suzy & Spice

a pinch of this, a dash of that

Archive for February, 2008

Are you smarter than a 6-year-old?

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 28, 2008

Taking inspiration from Berit’s post, I want to ask you four of the questions she asked her son, plus one question of my own (I added #3). The answers below are mine. For Cole’s answers, you’ll have to read Berit’s post. Berit, care to share any more of Cole’s school questions?

1) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?
Australia, especially Ayers Rock and Sydney Harbor.

2) If you could be anybody else for a day, who would you be?
The person who gets to test flavors at an ice cream company.

3) What job would you least like to have?
Cleaning up road kill.

4) What else do you like to read besides books?
a) My friends’ blogs. No, seriously. I was going to say cereal boxes (to indicate that my love of reading is so intense that I will read just about anything), but blogs are more interesting, especially the ones written by my friends. It’s such a great new way of getting to know people you see maybe once a week. I have gotten to know Berit more through our blogs than anywhere else. b) News. c) Articles and essays on writing and editing, on words and how to use them well. d) Personal-finance stuff. I like to find ways to teach people how to make the most of their “treasures on earth.” e) The Bible. It’s the best source of inspiration, information, encouragement, training, correction and Truth you could ever ask for.

5) Do you think you’re smart?
I’m smart enough to know that’s a loaded question.

Now it’s your turn …

Posted in books, friends, frugal living, fun, humor, inspiration | 1 Comment »

CT scan results

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 26, 2008

The doc said nothing showed up on Bruce’s CT scan, so we have to assume there is no fistula. I tend to want to think there’s something wrong but that it’s just not showing up (using last year’s experience as my guide, and Bruce’s gut feeling last week), but Bruce chooses to think it’s good news. So I will think that, too.

Thank you for your prayers.

Posted in Crohn's disease, family, health, medical | Leave a Comment »

The seton is gone

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 23, 2008

If you haven’t talked to me lately (or you’re not a medical professional), you have no idea what that means.

While trying not to gross out all my readers, I haven’t said too much in blog posts about Bruce’s rear end, but this is what we’ve been dealing with for a year. I have been telling people one-on-one about the most recent manifestation of his Crohn’s disease – the fistula in his bottom, which sent us to the hospital for six days in December, or the third time in 2007.

On Dec. 19, he had surgery on a perianal fistula. The surgeon sliced it open, drained the pus (sorry) and inserted a seton. As if Bruce’s bottom hasn’t been sore enough, this seton (a knotted string) has caused even more pain and trouble during bathroom time – and, of course, during sitting, walking and even sleeping time.

The string was supposed to work its way out naturally as the fistula healed. We have returned for follow-up appointments with the surgeon every 10-14 days. On those visits, the surgeon has added rubber bands to tighten the seton and speed healing. After those visits, the pain is a lot worse for a few days. The last two or three times, the doc has said, “It’ll probably come out before your next visit.” But each time we returned, he kept having to add bands. A month ago, when he added the seventh and eighth rubber bands, he said that was a record. Then two weeks ago, he added two more – 10 rubber bands in all.

This week Bruce could tell he was really close to giving birth to the thing, but it just stubbornly hung on. It must have been like a pregnant woman in her 10th month!

And Friday was the visit at which the doctor was tired of waiting. So he sliced it out of there.

I had to leave the room.

Doc used a numbing agent, but it was very mild and the procedure was still painful. And the numbing agent wore off before we even got home. Bruce was in a lot of pain – and still is, but it is better now that he has rested for a few hours and taken some pain medication, something he would never do before last year. I mean, I couldn’t even get him to take ibuprofen for a sprained ankle. But he has taken his pain meds this year, many times without prompting.

He hurts, people.

But the string is gone, and we’re glad.

We had been joking about getting rid of the “string up his butt,” and for days I had my headline already written – “No strings attached” – but it didn’t seem so funny after I saw him nearly crying yesterday (okay, he actually cried for a few seconds, but I’m not sure he’d want me to tell you).

So, if you read his blog and he writes nobly about how strings up your butt can make you philosophical, believe him.

But also believe me when I tell you that philosophical is not the only thing he has been feeling lately.

And, for those of you who have been asking, we are still waiting to hear whether Monday’s CT scan revealed another fistula. His GI doc is supposed to get the results “in 3-5 business days.”

Posted in Crohn's disease, family, health, inspiration, medical | 2 Comments »

Your money counts

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 19, 2008

The way you handle your day-to-day cash speaks volumes about your money personality. So says this article from bankrate.com. And I agree.

I watch our financial accounts pretty closely. Not in an insecure way (although I’m sure some would argue that point) but in a way that says, “I don’t want this to get out of hand like I’ve seen happen with other people.” I’m a volunteer budget coach with Crown Financial Ministries. I’ve seen all kinds of money behavior, rationalizations and states of denial.

And I read lots and lots of articles on personal finance, debt, the evils of credit cards, you name it.

Being in denial will not help your situation, no matter how bad it is. In my reading, in my conversations with people in debt, and sometimes even in my own situation, I have found that not knowing is worse than knowing – even when the bottom line is lower than you had imagined.

I used to update our Quicken accounts almost daily. But with the busyness of life, that has fallen to the bottom of the priority list lately. And it is uncomfortable knowing the backlog is getting out of hand. When I finally get back to it, the updating can seem overwhelming. So I do what any normal person would do: I procrastinate even more.

But it doesn’t go away just because I ignore it. So when I buckle down and get the records current, it is so freeing. I feel almost euphoric, even when our balances are close to zero! At least I know where we stand.

One of the first things we do in our Crown counseling is encourage the counselees to write down every penny they spend for the next 30 days. Every penny. That requires keeping a little notebook (or a piece of paper) with them at all times. It is a nuisance at first, but it can make a huge difference. One woman I counseled came to our second session with the news that this practice had been revolutionary. “I was skeptical when you told me to do it, but I was amazed at how much I was spending without even realizing it. The little things do add up.”

Yes, it is amazing. When you see it on paper – in black (or red or blue or green) and white, it can be sobering. When you write it down, you are less likely to spend it the next time. My guilty pleasure is a Route 44 diet Coke or a cherry limeade from Sonic – with tax, nearly two bucks. For a while, I was buying one nearly every day. When I started writing it in a notebook, even though I didn’t have to show the notebook to my husband (he wasn’t in the Crown small group with me), I started driving to Sonic less often. It can be embarrassing, but financially empowering, to open your eyes to the areas where you are simply wasting money. It’s not like a diet Coke is good for me, other than as a “comfort food” that lasts only as long as it takes to drink it. Not a lasting treasure.

One Crown seminar leader I know still tracks every penny every day. This is someone who is not in debt. I’ve never asked him whether he keeps this up because 1) he feels a responsibility to practice what he preaches, 2) he thinks he will slip up and fall into debt if he doesn’t or 3) he is anal-retentive. The answer may be some combination of the three. Nevertheless, Dave has demonstrated that keeping tabs on his spending is a big key to financial freedom.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, it’s not the amount of money you earn, it’s the amount you spend that determines whether you are in financial bondage or freedom. People who make tens – even hundreds – of thousands of dollars a year can be just as in-deep-doodoo as those of us with much lower salaries. And many “poor” people experience a freedom that some “rich” folks can only dream of.

Crown seminar instructors are not millionaires. In fact, I don’t know any Crownies who are. Crown co-founder Howard Dayton, who stepped down as CEO a few months ago, didn’t take a paycheck as the ministry’s leader. He isn’t “in it for the money,” as they say. His aim is to lead people to fullness in Christ through understanding the importance of putting their treasures in the right place.

The way to do that is to focus on what’s truly important in life, and it isn’t our money. Money is a tool for right living, not the key to happiness. Many people misquote the Bible, thinking it says money is the root of all evil. The verse actually says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. The love of it, not the money itself. 1 Timothy 6:10

How we handle it is the thing. How we abuse it, misuse it, misunderstand its purpose and deny our situation is how we get into trouble.

Proverbs 22:7 is my favorite memory verse from the Crown Life Group Study: “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” I have thought about getting it printed on my checks as a reminder.

Because we all need reminders.

Visit Crown.org to find:
Information about a Life Group Study.
A Money Map coach (budget coach) – online or in person.
Calculators for getting a handle on your finances.
Financial forms, pamphlets and articles.

By the way, can you guess my money personality? Tell me yours.

Posted in family, frugal living, inspiration, money, volunteering | 2 Comments »

CT scan

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 14, 2008

Bruce will have a CT scan Monday afternoon. We are to be at the hospital by 1:15. Please pray for him.

He has had a sore, swollen area on his hip for several weeks that he keeps mentioning to the doctors, and they simply say it “didn’t show up on the scan.”

But that was two months ago, and the area on his hip is troublesome. He is still trying to heal from the fistula they did surgery on in December, and this other problem could be another fistula. It also could be a pulled muscle. Without getting too graphic, I’ll just say that he has such a sore bottom that when he sits on the potty (which is fairly often), he tenses up to 1) make everything “come out ok” and 2) keep the pain to a minimum, so he possibly has strained a muscle in that area.

So he mentions it every time he has an appointment with the doctor-of-the-week, and they usually tell him nothing showed up on the CT scan. But it has been worrisome for far too long, so today the GI doc scheduled a scan.

Even if it turns up nothing, at least they can tell us it isn’t another fistula.

If you click through to the Crohn’s & Colitis site, you’ll have to scroll a bit to find the explanation of fistulae. They are found mostly in the intestinal tract, but one doc said he had seen them as far down as the thigh.

A fistula is evil and scary. Please pray that this is a muscle thing, not a waste-tunnel thing.

Posted in Crohn's disease, family, health, inspiration, medical | 1 Comment »

The high costs of eating meat

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 10, 2008

I’m not a vegetarian, and neither is the writer of this New York Times article, but it will make you think about what our nation’s out-of-control meat consumption is doing to our planet – and our bodies:

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler, Jan. 27, 2008

Coincidentally: One of the pictures on the page — I almost didn’t notice it! — is of cattle at Harris Ranch in tiny Coalinga, Calif. One of my relatives used to work in the restaurant or gift shop at Harris Ranch, and my brother and I were born in Coalinga. Just some trivia for you.

Posted in family, food, frugal living, inspiration, money, nature | 1 Comment »

Gotta blog

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 6, 2008

Sometimes you gotta blog because … well, just cuz.

Because it’s fun, and a way to express yourself, release tension, get some of those random thoughts out of your head … just cuz.

In WordPress, you can check your blog stats and see how many people have checked you out.

My “Best Day Ever” was Nov. 29 — the day after my birthday — with 66 views. Wow, my readership must have been touched by my homemade-flower picture and the heartwarming story of my loving husband’s selfless gift.

Imagine my disappointment the day I discovered that my blog had been accessed by something like 1,300 people in the few weeks I had been posting.

Yes, disappointment.

I know I don’t have that many friends, I told Bruce. They must have told their friends. People are Googling me and clicking on my blog! I’m well-known in the blogosphere!

And my ever-supportive husband was there for me once again. He reminded me that the world contains all sorts of people … spammers, hackers, geeks — all kinds of greedy entrepreneurs who trawl cyberspace for e-mail addresses, personal information, any tidbit they can use to make money.

And those spammers were probably responsible for most of the 1,300 hits.

Darn.

Of course I knew that. But before he brought me back to earth, I had been queen for a moment.

I’ve never been popular, and usually it doesn’t bother me.

But I do want to be liked. And I like knowing that my friends and loved ones read my blog, enjoy it and occasionally get a chuckle from it.

In my dreams — some of them, at least — I’m hilarious, the life of the party, unself-conscious, witty, charismatic, beautiful. (In my other dreams I’m a world-class pianist who can tear up a keyboard like nobody’s business.)

In the blogging world, I tend to take on the tone and language of whomever I read last or have been thinking about (even those who go weeks without posting!). I have a couple of hilarious blogging friends. When I read their posts, I get hip, talk cool and know all the latest pop culture references. In those moments, I am queen of the blogosphere.

Dream on.

In the real world, I’m just a regular gal, and that works for me most of the time.

Gotta blog? Post your comments below.

Posted in family, fun, geekiness, humor, inspiration | 3 Comments »

Suzo Science (not to be confused with pseudoscience)

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on February 2, 2008

Many of you, if you’ve ever read a newsmagazine or watched TV — or perhaps read through the letter P in the dictionary — are familiar with the term pseudoscience. It’s stuff real scientists consider wacko, or at least unfounded.

But let me introduce you to Suzo Science — a science that is not at all wacko (at least in the mind of its founder).

The principles of Suzo Science lack endorsement in the mainstream scientific community, but let’s not let that stop us from benefiting from its sagacity.

Examples of Suzo Science:

The Grocery Lane Blues. The mainstream scientific community might discuss this phenomenon with references to the Laws of Probability or some such blather. But Suzo Scientists know that it is related more to karma than to mathematical theory. When a Suzo Scientist chooses which lane to stand in at the grocery store, much deliberation can take place in the space of a few seconds. Typically she chooses incorrectly. You might think she should choose the lane with the fewest people. For others, this might be the right choice; for a Suzo Scientist, it depends on how her attitude has been in the previous 24 hours. If she has been impatient with her co-workers, overindulgent at the dinner table and judgmental of someone different from her that day, it doesn’t matter what lane she chooses or how many (or few) people are in line ahead of her – that lane will always take the longest. Karmic payback.

The Dog Poop Game. If a Suzo Scientist had a small dog who relieved herself whenever and wherever she pleased, dog experts would say the dog needed further training. But a Suzo Scientist would know that the Law of Cute but Stubborn Little Dogs was at play here. The dog may have had extensive training – by three sets of parents – and was just too stubborn to do her business in the proper place. In this situation, the Suzo Scientist always chooses incorrectly. For instance, when the small dog fidgets, barks or otherwise seems to be giving “the potty signal,” the Suzo Scientist might haul herself out of bed (even if it is 4 a.m. and the temperature is 30 and it’s raining) on the off chance that the small dog is telling the truth. After all, if she didn’t let the dog out, the dog would think its signals – barking, dancing in circles and pawing at the sleeping Suzo Scientist – are worthless and stop giving said signals. Even if the signals usually mean, “Feed me, servant – I don’t care when my real mealtime is.”

Which Bluejeans to Wear Today. Before the Suzo Scientist starts a new job, her supervisor may tell her that the publisher says bluejeans are OK as long as they are “nice jeans.” So she may go out and purchase a pair of “nice jeans” because her favorite jeans – the ones she wore every single day (even to church) when she was a freelancer working from home – are a bit faded. And she really prefers jeans to dress slacks when she can get away with it. But then she starts her job and begins noticing that her co-workers’ bluejeans aren’t all that “nice.” But she’s new and wants to keep observing the situation for a while. So finally she wears the faded jeans, thinking something along the lines of, “The publisher works out of a different office in a different city, and I’ve never seen him in our office.” So she wears the comfortable, favorite, faded jeans. And guess who shows up that day. (Similar to the Law of Wash Your Car and it Will Rain.)

These are just a few examples of Suzo Science. More will be published when the Laws of Gotta Finish the Electronic Newsletter That’s Already a Day Late aren’t at play.

Stay tuned.

Posted in dogs, humor, inspiration, work | 1 Comment »