Las Vegas : It is so Extra

There is something about this city. It draws millions every year. There is more to it than neon, gambling and (legal) prostitution. Those are usually the first things people think about when you mention you are planning a trip here.

For the introvert looking for a quiet relaxing vacation Las Vegas is prob’ly not going to be a first choice. There aren’t many places to “get away from it all” if you stay on The Strip. And yet I love coming here. Granted, it is always only a long weekend, and also every few years. The last time I was in Vegas was just over 2.5 years ago.

I was thinking about this current visit today while walking, well, everywhere. This contemplation began during a walk to a drug store this yesterday morning before breakfast. It included climbing and descending no fewer than 120 stair steps, one elevated pedestrian bridge, dodging hundreds of people walking, stopping, standing, panhandling or busking, taking pictures, taking selfies. There was a line of 30+ waiting to get a table at Denny’s, a dozen or so bodegas hawking everything: discount show tickets, alcohol, tobacco, cheap souvenirs, electronics accessories, hats, shoes, clothes. There were people trying to make their wages by handing out coupons for Uber or Lyft first ride bonuses, and several dressed in knock-off character costumes who will pose with you for pictures for a few bucks; Hari Krishna, or some other Eastern religious order wearing amber colored robes, passing out cards to help find your inner peace. The “Slappers” pushing cards for hookers and brothels don’t start coming out until late afternoon. There was one street evangelist encouraging us all to repent. I saw 3 ambulances, one fire rescue truck, 4 motorcycle cops, 2 patrol cars/SUVs. There were showgirls wearing next to nothing, and the destitute with next to nothing.

How far did I walk? About 0.8 mi (1.3km), making it 1.6 mi (2.6km) round trip. This city is stimulation overload. It gets busier, and worse, on the weekends.

I tried listening to my favorite Third Day worship album. I made it as far as the mezzanine above the casino floor before having to turn up the volume to the point my phone practically shouted DANGER! at me. I should clarify, that was out the room, down the elevator and a span of a few hundred yards through hotel ‘filler space’ (past open lobby areas to ball rooms, restrooms, coffee and souvenir kiosks, some public seating and two restaurants I can’t afford). My Vivofit tracker counted almost 1,600 steps from the room to the front doors. Huge is an understatement. And yet, this particular hotel is one of the smaller ones on The Strip.

This makes me sound like such a rube. I’ve been to Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco. I would go back to any of those, but I jump at the chance to come back here. The kicker is I don’t come to gamble. I mean, I’ll lose a few dollars on the slots. I could gamble at the tribal-run casino that’s about 40 miles from my house if I wanted. I’ve never been. And I won’t go. Addictive personalities and casinos don’t generally mix well, ya know?

But this city! The little bit of extrovert in me adores talking to all the people, engaging in conversation with absolute random strangers at the most random of places and times. Sweat Pea is here with me and more than once she’s said, “Calm down. You don’t have to talk everyone.” I wouldn’t say she’s mortified; it’s a side of me she rarely, if ever, has seen. After all, I did warn her she would see a side of me that doesn’t come out to play very often. Hmm, maybe that’s why I like coming back.

The day before yesterday I realized how empty and disconnected the atmosphere is here, and how much I’ve allowed to get pulled, sucked really, from me. With 100,000 people wandering, shopping, commuting up, down and across Las Vegas Blvd I felt a pervasive spiritual emptiness. There are churches growing and thriving here, I’m sure. I doubt any of them are planning to build the next Crystal Cathedral or Willow Creek on the vacant 22 acre parcel at the south end of The Strip though. This emptiness is what had me walking to the drug store with Third Day cranked up. I needed my heart fed; it got a little nibble. I needed a moment to recharge.

The drug store jaunt wasn’t enough to refill my introvert self, and that was the reason for the middle of the night soak. Headphones were at the ready. They became dampers to the white noise of a hotel: hvac fan, three others sleeping twenty feet away, the bathroom vent rattling the steam away, room doors closing loudly as all hotel room doors do. I got very little sleep, and don’t entirely care.

The sun is up and a new day of crowds and sounds has begun. In 37+/- hours I’ll be home again. My usual introverted self will relish a good long sleep. Until then I have one last day to let the Extra that is Las Vegas take me in.



It’s opening the front door on a gorgeous day, knowing that being outside will do so much good and then not going because putting proper clothes on, like a bra and clean socks, let alone finding shoes, is just too much work.

It’s being hungry, knowing you should eat something mostly good for you, and grabbing the bag of chips or package of cookies because it’s just easier. Then feeling awful because you know you’re going to gain weight, which depresses you more.

It’s looking at the work at hand and being so overwhelmed with the size of the job that you become mentally paralyzed and don’t know where to start.

It’s not showering or brushing your teeth for a few days, because you just don’t have the energy.

It’s insomnia, full body fatigue, and apathy so deep it’s hard to explain.

It’s forcing yourself to smile because genuine ones have disappeared. It’s hiding in plain sight, hoping you’ll be noticed but not seen, and yet not forgotten.

It’s cancelling plans. Or you’re just a no-show because A) explaining why you don’t feel up to going out would take too much energy B) your friends may not understand C) you don’t want to lie, and you hate being lied to D) all of the above.

It’s having some really good days, even a few that string together, and you come out of your cocoon of Darkness and Wallow, and you go outside to enjoy the gorgeous day.

It’s feeling the warmth of life from the sun on your face, and you relish the moment, sitting quietly in your car observing the world, being in it and yet, not fully participating.

It’s the comfort of a genuine hug that pulls the stress out of your shoulders, and being able to relax.

It’s standing at the open front door, staring outside for a minute and closing it again.

Crying “Uncle!”, or You Know What, I’m Just Done.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

Such an innocuous set of words aren’t they?  We ask them casually to friends, family, acquaintances alike.  We expect the same answer, or variations thereof: “It’s going okay.”

Guess what.  It’s not okay. I’m not okay.  I am ‘stick a fork in me’ done. This is My Own Little Soapbox after all, so you’re just gonna have to listen to me vent, kvetch, or as my Dutch grandparents or in-laws would have said, “brommen”  (grumble, growl, drone, mutter).  My grandfather’s usual context was to tell us to “Quit your brommen.

A month ago our youngest nearly died.  She was dying, actually, and her body was shutting down.  She spent five days in the hospital, most of that in ICU.  In medical terms she was mildly hypothermic, hypovolemic, in septic shock, and suffering severe DKA. In terms we all can understand she was cold, like under 90 degrees cold, severely dehydrated, and had a rare strep infection in her blood.  The DKA is a complication of diabetes wherein your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose, and the fat-turned-energy leaves an acid called ketones in your blood. Too many ketones and your body pH drops and you become acidotic.  Her pH was 6.8.   A nurse said they have a little saying about low body pH: Under 7, they’re going to heaven.

She had lots of fluids, IV antibiotics, lots of electrolytes, insulin, sodium bicarbonate — at one point there were EIGHT IV infusion pumps running at once and she was intubated to keep her body from quitting completely.


That was April 5. She pulled through and came home.

Last week Sunday we went to the emergency room because she has a spot on her leg from an intraosseous needle inserted into her shin — yes, straight through the bone into the marrow — that wasn’t healing very well.  She had one in each leg, by the way.  I thought it may be a little infected.  I called an Urgent Care and they said if she needed IV antibiotics they would send us to  Emergency since they can’t administer those.  Okay, ER it was.

The PA-C and a doctor both looked at her leg.  Both determined it was ugly, slow to heal, but not infected.  Now can we address the severe belly pain she’s had for nearly 2 weeks?  A routine urinalysis showed she had a UTI and  bladder infection.  I am my daughter’s Patient Advocate.  She doesn’t like to make a big deal of things, even when it’s a big deal. She was downplaying the pain, and I knew it. She was in tears. I requested an ultrasound just to rule out any other problems.  (I was thinking appendix or ovarian cyst.)  My request was ignored.  We were sent home with 7 days’ of oral antibiotics for the UTI.

Wednesday evening comes and the belly pain had not let up, and was actually worse than before, she said.  It was after 9:30 pm, so back to Emergency we go.  I was thinking they’d give her a prescription for some stronger pain meds and we’d be on our way.

Did you know that Emergency departments of larger hospitals have different rooms for different levels of “emergency”?  When our girl was brought in a month ago, she was in a Level 1 Trauma Room.  They are huge to make room for all the staff that needs to be on hand to save a patient’s life. There are Observation rooms.  These are decent sized spaces, and away from the noise of the rest of the ER.  Patients who need to be watched for a few hours come here. For example: sudden onset of pain after surgery or chemo, or other procedure, a runner needing hydration after race.  They need help, but won’t be admitted.

Then there are the “you’re not bleeding, dying, broken, shot, stabbed, and otherwise look pretty good, and we wonder why you’re here” rooms. The “Let’s read all of War and Peace while we wait” rooms.  That’s where we were taken Wednesday night.  O, I failed to mention they are not private in any way, shape, or form.  This room was semi-private so we could listen to the other fella in the bed next to hers have conversations with his friend who brought him, the staff, and hear the multiple episodes of Law & Order he watched.  Yes, multiple — remember, the theme of these rooms is “hurry up and wait,  and… wait.”

Around 12:30 am it was decided that she should have a CT scan.  FINALLY! Also by this point they decided she was going to be admitted for DKA — and we didn’t even come in for that! What seemed like ages pass and they take her down.  No, they don’t know how long it will take to get results.  At 2:24 am Thursday morning she is finally brought up to the ICU — again.

Neither of us was prepared for an inpatient stay.  We’ve learned to pack a hospital bag in 10 minutes at home before coming to the ER just in case she gets admitted. We didn’t have blankets, comfy pants, phone chargers, my tablet and headphones, eye mask, or earplugs — nothing!

Around 4 am all the staff finally leaves the room so we can get some rest.  It takes that long to get IVs started, meds ordered and brought up, vitals taken (again), EKG monitor pads affixed, the same questions asked with the same answers given, the IV infusion pumps attached to pole, set and running.  And my girl is still in pain because they haven’t given her much to control it.

Daylight comes bringing a shift change, more questions and the results from the CT scan.  It shows she has a kidney infection with a possible abscess on it.  She will be staying for a couple more days, at least 2, until they can scan the kidney again to check on the “spot.”

This news induces a wave of tears, anxiety, stress and fear.  I’m too exhausted to feel all the rage I want to knowing we could have been 3 days ahead on healing if they had just listened to her mother on Sunday!

What brought me to tell all y’all about this?  Thanks for asking.  I was supposed to join my friends for a group run Saturday (yesterday) morning.  I fell asleep in the recliner in the hospital and didn’t make it.  It turned out that wasn’t so bad after all.  She got discharged and we left the building around noon. If I had been running I would not have been able to take her home.  Sidenote: I slept all 3 nights in the hospital with her, if you can call what I did “sleeping.”

My plan was to run today.  I’m training for a 25K that is next weekend, and a marathon the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. My plan was 22 miles. My goal was to be out of the house around 2 pm.  That came and went.  I ate, drank water, started getting my gear together.  I wandered around because I can’t focus.  My head just wasn’t in it today, certainly not my heart.  The straw that broke the camel’s back?  I couldn’t find my headphones, and I couldn’t remember where I had put them.  I couldn’t find my new bottle of electrolyte capsules either. I would need both to survive 22 miles on my feet.  It was now 4:45 pm and I called it.  “Uncle!” I said to my husband.  I just can’t today.  And now you know why I am ‘stick a fork in me’ done.

Tomorrow is another day.


As for more tomorrows, our daughter is now a legal adult.  She has over $30,000 in existing medical debt.  These last two inpatient hospital stays have not been added to that total.  Please read her story, and consider a generous contribution to help save her future before it has a chance to really start.

Anxious, me? I didn’t think so

Start a sentence, reread, backspace to delete it. Start a thought, pause, backspace to delete it.  Start again, and again …and again.  The idea that getting the perfect first words to land the perfect first impression are tortuous for a perfectionist. (Reread and realize a word is missing and self-edit as you write.)

Does that sound familiar? If so, have you been hiding in my head?

To look at my house and my skills as a Donna Reed impersonator you would not think I was a perfectionist at all. Oh, but I am.  I so totally, completely am. Too bad it isn’t always about the things that matter, like personal appearance, laundry, decluttering and housekeeping.

I just finished reading a short list called 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder.  I didn’t go looking for me.  I was actually looking up natural anti-anxiety remedies with SugarBug in mind.  She’s flying to Seattle in a couple weeks to visit a friend she hasn’t seen in over 6 years. SugarBug deals with some anxiety, and she is on the tail end of recovery from a broken ankle and surgery, and after nearly 12 weeks is finally able to start walking again. She has been on a plane for only one other trip. This time she’s going alone,  and flying out of and into airports I’ve never been to so I have no experience to share on them. Anyhoo, I found a list; it was published by the same website. The “12 Signs …” article came up as the next one in the queue.  Clickbait.  I took it.

For several years I’ve known I am not a good full time employee.  After a while I start thinking my bosses are looking reasons (or excuses) to fire me. “What if they realize i have ____ and ____ flaws? What if I can’t keep this level of performance up?” Self doubt – check. 

The last job I did have I ended up quitting because I could not physically force myself to open my door to go inside one day.  I sat, frozen, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, in the parking lot for over 2 hours before I sheepishly restarted the motor and drove home. Panic – check.

I count the basement stairs every time I walk down them, and usually going back up. Strangely not the ones going upstairs though.  I find myself “air typing” the words of my thoughts as they run through my head. I don’t feel the need to wash my hands multiple times in a row, but I do several times a day because I hate the feeling of dirty hands. Compulsive behavior – check.

Then there are the bathroom/toilet needs: food in, not solid out.  Suffice to say IBS has not been officially diagnosed, but … Chronic-indigestion – check.

I’ve dealt with TMJ for years because of the way my upper jaw structure is.  But lately I’ve noticed my cheeks are sore. What’s up with that?  It seems I’ve been clenching my jaw and carrying all this tension in my face for no apparent reason.  Muscle tension – check.

Sleep problems – check. Perfectionism – check. Flashbacks ( focussing on past negative things, even minor ones) – check. Self-consciousness – oh man, check!  The other things on the list that I don’t really pertain to me: excessive worry, irrational fears, stage fright.

Geez, I do have an anxiety problem.


Our previous health insurance was a self-funded HMO.  It employed its own doctors, nurses, PACs, and had its own radiology, MSWs, dieticians.  Every six months I had to be reevaluated for a “med check” being on an anti-depressant. I would get a brief two-sided questionnaire.  One side was for the depression, suicidal thoughts and such.  The other side asked about anxiety.  It focused primarily on the level of worry one has, and on quality of sleep.  I never associated sleep quality with anxiety, and since I’m not a chronic worrier I ignored it. It seems their parameters and criteria were a bit lacking, and I should have paid more attention.

Now I need to find a mental health professional to help navigate my new self diagnosis (because self-diagnoses are always accurate, right?).   Except I don’t have a primary care doctor because I lost that when the hubs changed jobs what with him being exclusive to that HMO. And we don’t have new insurance coverage — yet. And SugarBug needs more insulin; without insurance it is hundreds of dollars — per refill.

But I’m not going to worry. I’m not. Really. God’s got this.  And that’s why I don’t worry.  But I might suffer from some mild insomnia whilst clenching my teeth tonight. Deep breath, 2, 3, 4. Hold, 2, 3, 4. Exhale, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8. Repeat.

It is Well, and yet Not

I held a sobbing child in my arms last night for the first time in a very long time.  I held her close and just let the tears go, with salty bitterness and nose running all down my shoulder.   There were no soothing words to comfort, no back patting to help calm.  Hold her.  That’s all I could do.  I held her until she loosed her grip and let go.  I held her hands in mine, and kissed them.  I took her face close to mine and kissed it.  I whispered “I love you” in her ear.

The beautiful, distraught child was mine.  She will be 18 exactly 13  days from now. She stands an inch-and-a-half taller than me, but in her Doc Martens it is near to 3 inches.  And last night she was my little girl who needed her Momma all over again.  I sat next to her as she, as we, her Dad and I too, attended a funeral.

This was an unexpected funeral, and a tragic one at that, as many tend to be. The service was for a 17 year-old high school Junior who died by her own hand.  Vivi was a friend of SugarBug’s from church.  Being close in age they went through many of the same church programs together starting in the nursery as infants. They have known each other their whole lives but didn’t develop a friendship until both were in high school youth group together.  It was there they bonded over similar music tastes, distaste for conventional trendy fashion and a love for Jesus.

I’ve known Vivi and her parents just as long.  I worked in the church nursery as a Supervisor in charge of one of the rooms when she was born.  Her dad was SonnyBoy’s guitar teacher for a short time.  Her mother and I connected through women’s ministry, and various other ways we had volunteered over the years.

Our girls had another connection: depression.

There are few things in this world I truly hate, and by “hate” I mean I wish it never existed anywhere, anytime in this world.   And I HATE depression.  It is a sinister quiet little devil of a thing.  People who suffer with it look like nothing is wrong with them, at least most of the time.  And those fighting it aren’t always immediately aware when it is getting worse.  Outsiders don’t always realize that something has changed with the person caught in its grip. Sometimes the depressed don’t see it right away either — and they are the ones living with it.  It moves slowly, so slowly that it can be weeks or months before it is recognized as having taken hold.

And sometimes it moves at lightning speed.

Maybe that’s what happened with Vivi, that lightning speed onslaught of darkness.  Only she knows, and she isn’t here to tell us.

I can’t blame her — at least I don’t want to blame her — for taking her own life.  The whispers of self-loathing telling me the world would be a better place, that I would be in a better place, that no one would really miss me all that much, to ‘go ahead, do it’ have been all too familiar. LIES!  Those are all lies.

I want to scream at the top of my lungs. Cursing won’t do any good, and it won’t change anything, and it won’t make me feel any better.  It never does.  Blaming her parents is the absolute wrong thing to do.  Vivi’s dad made sure to have Pastor tell the attendees of the service that no one loved his girl as much or as fiercely as her mother did.

I love my girl fiercely, too.  I am afraid that she has heard those terrible whispered lies in the quiet recesses of her mind.  I am afraid.  And I hate being afraid.  I don’t think she is in any real danger of self-harm. But …I know this age and stage in life makes her extremely vulnerable.  I am  certain she struggles to see beyond being 19 or 20 years old. Anything much past that is

I want her to not just grow up, but grow old.  At Vivi’s funeral our Youth Ministry director said she always thought Vivi would grow up to be one of the coolest adults: independent, artistic, poetic, unfettered by the norms that keep adults so ‘adult.’  I could see that.  And sadly we none of us will get a chance to actually see that.

The night before the funeral during the visitation time Vivi’s mom took my girl in her arms, remembered her by name, and held her tight.  They clung to each other — my daughter in grief, the grieving mother in relief that her child was remembered by a friend. She told my girl how much hers had loved her, how she looked forward to seeing her at youth group, how she loved and admired SugarBug for being SugarBug, and doing it so boldly.

So my sweet girl, continue to go boldly into adulthood.  No matter how old you get you will always have my shoulder to cry on. And make Vivi proud by being one of the coolest adults on the planet, and love Jesus the whole while.

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is Well with My Soul, Horatio G Spafford, 1873

Just a Little Nudge

It’s quite late on evening of our Presidential Election and the polls in Michigan closed more than seven hours ago, and yet I find myself still seated, staring at a computer monitor and enjoying an unexpected conversation with a friend on Facebook.  This night has brought several events I wasn’t expecting.

Michigan had a state constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot concerning loosening state control over embryonic stem cell research. We spent some time discussing just what this amendment would actually mean– for science and for the sought-after-embryos. I’ll save my opinion on that issue for a later date, and I do have a strong opinion on it, by the way.

Our talk drifted into other things as well.  Artistic endeavors, Spiritual gifts, a little of this, a little of that.  It’s been delightful, and stimulating.  My friend has encouraged me to continue writing– he thinks I have a little talent for it! At least that’s the impression I got.  I don’t know how one gauges such things, but I’m a little biased about my own writings.

So I’ve gotten  a little nudge with some wonderful encouragement and an invitation to join  Creative Community, though no formal invitation was ever required.  With that little bit of sweet contentment I’ll be on my way to curl up under my covers, which we both said we needed to do about two hours ago– and save my commentary on politics, ballot proposals or any other potential hot button issue for another day.

Taking a Break to Make Decisions

I’ve just gotten off the phone with a friend who was asking if I’d be using or be interested in selling a science text book we have. She wanted to know if we’d be using it for Sugar Bug when she gets old enough.  I told I was still thinking about sending Sweet Pea to the co-op class that’s starting in a couple of weeks, which would use the book.  Problem: no money to sign her up, or pay the class fees.  She’s a good friend, and would probably let me make installments over the semester, all I’d have to do is prob’ly ask.

There’s a history/Lit/Bible class also offered.  It would be worth 3 high school credits, which Sweet Pea needs to have.  She wants to go to MSU and go through their Veterinary Medicine program and, well.. be a vet.  She loves animals, but thinks she wants to take care of large ones– horses, hippos, elephants, giraffe.  I think she’d cry just as much as any family to have to put a sick or injured animal down.

Sonny Boy has been tolerant of his parents of late.  He’s convinced we’ve screwed up his life, which isn’t entirely true.  We (read: I, me) have made some mistrakes with parenting and schooling decisions, and they can’t be undone.  I need to sit with him, have a long talk and ask for his forgiveness.

I was trying to work hard at getting caught up on a lot of housework that’s been pushed aside for a very long time when I got that call. I decided to take a break, grab some lunch and write. Only I haven’t eaten yet.  I think I’m actually making progress– with the housework, but I’m not nearly done.  I’ve decided to save laundry folding for later tonight, after sunset, so I can do it and listen/watch some TV. I’ve got stacks of books that need to be sorted and re-organized into subjects.  That may be a good job for tomorrow, after my walk.

Tomorrow is my next long (group) training day.  We have 14 miles on the agenda, but I may do 16.  Last week was supposed to be 16, but I didn’t see that until after I was home, showered and ready to devour a side of beef.  I wasn’t going to go back out to finish those last 2 miles.  I’ve realized the marathon is just 7 weeks away now! I have fundraising to do still– almost $1500. Any takers!?!  No? well, how about $30 or $50? As much as I’d love for an anonymous stranger to just 15 Benjamin’s into my lap, I know that’s not realistic– well, as realistic as winning tonight’s Mega Millions $134 Million jackpot.

So, to recap, I’ve decided: A) Sweet Pea should take the co-op classes.  I’ll have to find the money from somewhere. B) I need to talk to my son, really talk to him and apologize for not being the parent he needed. C)  Fold laundry during Numb3rs tonight D) Go eat some lunch, then scrub the kitchen floor.  E) Resist the urge to spend $1 on the voluntary tax that is the Michigan lottery.

Must dash off now, hunger beckons, and the cookies are screaming Eat me! so I better find something healthier than that.