Saturday, November 30, 2013

November Instagram Update

Yep. It's December. Well, tomorrow it will be.  Thanksgiving is over, so I can officially full on celebrate the Holiday season.  All you whiners no longer have any room to complain about me rushing the season.  We've got the inside and most of the outside of the house decorated and my countdown is on.  I'm ready to see snow, drink lots of hot chocolate, and other stereotypical winter things.

This past month has been a lot of animal pictures, like usual.  I also got dressed and put on make-up a record four times this month.  Considering I rarely even get out of my PJs, this is a big deal.  Mike is such a lucky guy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Heroes Behind the Badge

I've written about Law Enforcement a couple times on the blog, most notably here, about Scotty Richardson, and here, about my husband.  One of Mike's friends and coworkers created an event on Facebook for a documentary viewing in January here in Aiken.

Disclaimer: most of this information is stolen verbatim from their website.  The documentary is called Heroes Behind the Badge and was created to honor the men and women who have served and sacrificed as members of law enforcement.  It provides a powerful and emotional glimpse into the lives of those who have worn the badge in service to society.  It has been an effective tool to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community and strengthen relations between the two.  Heroes Behind the Badge donates fifty percent of its net proceeds to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 20% of the proceeds from this showing will go to the Richardson/Rogers endowment scholarship at USC-Aiken and 10% to the J.D. Paugh memorial fund. 

In October 2011, our area was shocked to learn Deputy J. D. Paugh of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office had been shot and killed as he stopped to check on a disabled vehicle on Bobby Jones Expressway in Augusta, GA.  Less than two months later the community relived the horror when Master Public Safety Officer Scott Richardson of the Aiken Department of Public Safety was killed after being shot while performing a traffic stop in December of that same year.  In January, 2012, just one month later, tragedy struck again when ADPS Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers was shot and killed responding to a suspicious vehicle call in Aiken.

On January 23, 2014, Heroes Behind the Badge will be coming to the Etherredge Center at the University of South Carolina-Aiken Campus.  It will be part of a continuing memorial to our local law enforcement heroes with a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales going to support the J.D. Paugh Memorial Fund and the Scotty Richardson/Sandy Rogers Scholarship which assists Criminal Justice majors attending USC Aiken.

I will be photographing the event as a sponsor and am excited to be involved.  I'm posting the information here in an attempt to spread awareness, not just for the Aiken showing, but for the documentary.  I hope you'll take a few minutes to learn more.

If you're unable to attend a screening, order your own copy on DVD or HD Blu-ray today and support a great cause.
Visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund website for more.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Our House: Vol 20

Well, the master bathroom overhaul is officially complete.  Aside from some re-organization and final decorative touches, we're all done with the house...for now.  The bathroom ended up taking about a full month to complete.  We started with a blank slate and the final product is more than I could have ever imagined.

Here's what we were working with before:

And here's what we're working with now!

I would sleep in there if I could.

When we combined the two back bedrooms to make one large master bedroom, Mike built the walk in closet and bathroom.  The "new" bathroom was a hybrid of the bedroom and original bathroom that was already there, so we had two spaces to transform.  The original plan was to keep the existing water closet as it was, and then just add a vanity and shower to the bigger space.  We were having some issues planning the layout for that configuration until Mike had the idea to tear out the old toilet and sink and make the smaller room into a giant shower.

So that's what we did.  We were also just going to tile over the hardwood floor, but discovered some pretty serious water damage that required total floor removal and replacement.

Here's what went down:
  • The boys pulled out the old dry wall and tile in the existing bathroom.  That's when we found the water damage.
  • We frosted the glass and then covered up the window so that we'd have more wall space to play with. 
  • We turned the original bathroom into a shower. 
  • The space by the toilet got a knee-wall for a little bit of privacy.
  • We put down wood grain tile in the big room.  I seriously love that stuff. 
  • We bought a 60 inch double vanity, matching mirrors and a storage cabinet for over the toilet.
  • Paint.  Paint was the hardest part of this whole thing for me.  We must have bought 45 samples before I finally decided.  We considered greys, reds, coppers, blues, pretty much everything.
  • We ordered a custom granite counter top and knee-wall topper.
  • We bought a small linen cabinet for the space by the door.
  • Behind the door we hung a huge full length mirror.
  • Mike also had to completely re-do all the plumbing under the house which was a huge project.
Plus a seemingly endless list of little mishaps and annoyances, but it's finally finished and now we get to enjoy it!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Sleep Study Conspiracy

This post was contributed by my fabulous mother, Pat Rice! 

This is Anna’s mom and I snore. Loudly. As in roof rattling, clear the room, wake the dead loudly.  Or so I’ve been told.  I happened to mention this to my family practice doctor during my recent physical and the next thing I knew, I was scheduled for a sleep study.  Based on this experience, I am now convinced sleep studies are mostly a scam designed to put everyone on earth on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) ventilation machine, and thusly, line the pockets of the doctors who obviously receive kick-backs for prescribing them.  I shared this with Anna who asked me to write a “Guest Blog” about what happened.  Here goes.

I proceeded to the initial consult with an open mind.  Well, fairly open anyway.  I was pretty sure a CPAP would not be in my future regardless of the outcome of the study.  I can’t sleep with any noise or lights and I’m claustrophobic when it comes to having my movement (or escape route) restricted; so I am convinced I would never sleep another night if I had to wear an elephant mask.  People say you get used to them.  I honestly don’t see how.

I was given a questionnaire to answer about my health background and my sleep habits which I answered honestly.  One set of questions was to rate from 0 to 3, with 0 being never and 3 being probable, how likely I was to fall asleep in certain situations.
  • Watching TV = 1 (I admit I may fall asleep watching TV IF it is in the evening after getting up at 5:30 a.m. and working all day. I think most people would.)
  • Reading a book = 1 (Same reason and circumstance as watching TV.)
  • Laying down on the couch = 2 (If I lay down on the couch, I’m doing so with the express intent of taking a nap, so…)
  • In class or a meeting = 0 (Not saying I’ve never wished I was somewhere else, but I’ve never fallen asleep in class or during a meeting – though I may have put people to sleep.)
  • Stopped at a traffic light = 0 (Never!!!)
I was then interviewed by a Nurse Practitioner who went over my answers and who looked in my throat and declared I had a very narrow airway and it was probable I had sleep apnea as a result.  I explained my trepidation about coming in to do an overnight study and she responded I could do the “at home” test.  I was happy there was an alternative.  Turns out I was WRONG!

An appointment was made for me to return to pick up the home monitor and to be taught how to use it.  I dutifully returned on the appointed day and met with a Dr. Z (Ph.D) who then proceeded to explain how the home monitor would only check for four types of hypopnea and oximetric measurements, but that the sleep center tests would check for 20.  I was okay with this.  However, he went on to say if the home test showed I had any hypopnea and/or oximetric episodes, I would need to come in for the more involved (read “more expensive”) sleep center study.  I asked what would happen if it came back with none of these.  He replied that I would still have to come in for the sleep center study, because the home test only tested for four types.

Okay, so why am I paying $145 for this home test?  If I have to come in to the sleep center regardless of the results, isn’t this home test pretty pointless and a waste of time and money?

Obviously disappointed with this new bit of information (and starting to feel more skeptical), I asked that question and never got a satisfactory answer.  So I asked what percentage of patients who do the sleep study are not diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Response – less than 1%.  Why is the number so low? He said it is because patients wouldn’t have been referred for the study if they did not already have all the symptoms of sleep apnea.  What are all the symptoms? All I told my doctor is that I snore – that’s just one symptom.  This is where it gets interesting.

He pulls out my chart and says, "well you answered yes to this health question."

I looked and said, “no, I didn’t.”

Clearly my “no” had been scratched out and changed to a “yes.”   He goes on and says, "well you scored a 10 on the risk questions related to your likelihood of falling asleep in certain situations."

I looked at my chart and saw all of my “0s” had been changed to “3s.”  Who changed these answers and why?  Now I’m more than skeptical, I’m starting to believe there could be some fraud going on.  Dr. Z says, "well I think you need to discuss that with Dr. K when the results of the home test are provided."

Okay, I will.

Now to make this story a little shorter, I’m going to summarize the next evolution.  I took home the sleep monitor, set it all up according to instructions (checked it twice), went to sleep, returned the monitor to the office the next day.  Dr. Z downloads the data and says, “Wow – the oximeter wasn’t working and there is no data, but you had zero hypopneas and breathed regularly throughout the night.  The oximeter must be faulty.   I will talk to Dr. K about this and the issue with your records and get back to you on the next steps.”

One week later, still no word.  I finally call the office to follow-up and the next day I get a call from the elusive Dr. K asking to see me right away.

My meeting with Dr. K went well, but did nothing to assuage my skepticisim.  Summary of what I was told:
  • Record change was an inadvertent charting error on the part of the Nurse and an accurate copy was sent to the insurance company.  (I accepted this, though I didn’t really believe it.)
  • He is sorry the home monitor did not work and will refund my $145 for the test. (Okay, thanks – I like getting money back.)
  • No need to do another home study, but I should do a sleep center study.  (Why if I showed no hypopnea on the home test?)
  • Studies show most people have sleep apnea and doctors are encouraged to diagnose it to the maximum extent possible much like advocating for getting flu shots because apnea leads to stroke, heart attack, diabetes, weight gain, and I think hang-nails.  (Yes, he really said that! – well I added in the hang-nail part.) Also, don’t get me wrong – I truly understand the seriousness of these conditions and don’t dispute that sleep apnea, along with a lot of other risk factors such as diet, obesity, smoking, etc., increases the chances of experiencing or developing these health issues.
  • If the first sleep study shows no sleep apnea, it will need to be repeated so that we can take measures to ensure you sleep on your back the whole night.  “Why is that important?”  “Because people are most likely to have sleep apnea when sleeping on their backs.”  Well of course they do! It’s gravity.  When your tongue relaxes when you fall asleep, in what position are you most likely to have it fall back and obstruct your breathing? On your back. “Well, what if I never sleep on my back?” “You usually don’t know when you are sleeping on your back.”  What I am translating this conversation to mean is - we are going to keep testing you until we prove you have sleep apnea and can force you into a CPAP, a mouth guard (which I am told doesn’t work for individuals who already have a narrow airway), or surgery.
I finally had enough and told Dr. K I would like to discuss it with my family practice doctor before proceeding with any further testing and I would like my refund now, thank you.

I’m not sure I’ll go back for the overnight study.  I’m just too skeptical at this point and knowing my records were changed (inadvertently or not) just makes me too suspicious.  Plus, I cannot think of one single individual I know who has had a sleep study and been told they do not have sleep apnea and do not need a CPAP.  (Well I do know one, but she is pretty much a nut-bucket anyway and probably didn’t need the sleep study in the first place!)

I know there are folks out there who swear they’ve never felt better since they have their CPAP to keep them company at night.  Good for you – I’m happy that works for you.  As for me, I’m still leaning towards SCAM.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Engagement Photos • Flat Rock, NC

On Friday I headed to North Carolina to take engagement photos for my cousin-in-law and her new fiance! They got engaged in August and I offered to take some pictures for them as an engagement present.  We met at April's office and then headed to the Carl Sandburg House and Farm in Flat Rock.  Western North Carolina is so scenic, especially this time of year.  The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, and everything feels more romantic.

It was a lot of fun.  April and Brian were a bit nervous about being in front of the camera, but their playful laughter made for some great photos.  You can see the more from the shoot on my Facebook page!

Friday, November 08, 2013


I know nobody else really cares about my puppy as much as I do.  The past few days I've been letting Boomer stay out of his crate for long periods of time. I moved his little bed into my office so he can snooze while I'm working.  He lays there like a good boy, periodically chewing on toys or shifting positions.  He hasn't had an accident in the house or his kennel in several days and he is starting to pick up on more of his training with Mike.

Boomer 100% knows his name now, but his hearing is fairly selective.  We haven't had a chance to work with him on his leash, so hopefully we can dedicate some time to that pretty soon.  I've taken him with me to Lowe's and Home Depot several times, and he has done well.  People fawn over him and he just sits there with a fairly apathetic attitude - strangers don't really excite him, which will be good in the future.

I wish I'd been better about taking pictures of Bella when she first came home with me.  I only have one or two pictures of her first two years and really didn't document her "life" as I do now - mainly because good quality camera phones were far more obsolete and Instagram didn't exist yet. Plus Bella has always been somewhat camera shy.  She knows what it means when I pull out the Nikon or aim the iPhone at her, and she immediately starts ignoring me or leaves the room.  Both of the cats, on the other hand, are complete hams.

I don't want to know what life will be like once Mike and I procreate.  I can't put my camera down as it is - imagine what will happen when there is spit-up, crawling, walking, talking, and other human adorableness to document.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Our House: Vol XIX (19)

So half of the renovation project is essentially finished.  We put a bow on the guest room last week and I was so excited to move the furniture back in and get everything put together.

During the construction process, we'd moved the bed (mattress, box spring, head board, foot board), desk, and some other miscellaneous things out into a tent we set up in the yard.  It's a camping tent, and we put a tarp over it, so theoretically it should have been waterproof.  But we were wrong.  And when we moved some of the furniture out of the tent last week, we realized 99% of it was water damaged.  The mattress and box spring were completely soaked.  The bottom of the desk to about 5 inches up was soggy.

I was disappointed.  More time and money - wasted.  So I headed to the mattress store.  My mom offered to pay for the new mattress and frame, so I found a found a set that was cheap and comfy enough for visitors to sleep on.  It was delivered the same day I ordered it, which means I didn't have to wait too long to get the room completed.

If you need a refresher, this is what we started with: (click here or here for more progress pics)

And that's what we ended with!  (The bed had been made all of 20 seconds before Moose jumped up and claimed it as her own...knocking over that pillow in the process)

So what all did we do? I say we, but I really mean my cousins, Mike, and my mom.  I was a useless spectator for most of it (though I did prime the walls and paint the ceiling in this room) because I had to work.  They really only called on me when they needed my opinion or permission to do something.   

1. Mike and I tore up the old, smelly, stinky, soggy, partially destroyed carpet before the hard work really began.  It was replaced with laminate flooring (from Lowe's) that looks like the most beautiful hardwood I've ever seen.  We chose laminate because it's durable, easy to clean, and will be able to stand up against our pets. 

2. We built the closet/entry way.

3. We got rid of the burnt orange paint and replaced it with a pale creamy green. 

4. We repainted the ceiling and the trim a bright white. 

5. We created the animal nook. 

6. I really wanted a fan because...well I love fans, so we replaced the light fixture. 

7. Mike and Tommy insulated the ceiling so now the room stays cool in summer and toasty warm in the winter!  This room used to be a garage (many years ago), and when it was initially converted to a room, it wasn't properly insulated.  Until now, the room would either be freezing cold or stifling - not the type of environment you want your guests to experience.  It's much better now.  My mom painted the AC vent cover, so it's no longer a dirty, scratched up white, it's now a dark brown that blends with the floor. 

8. We patched a hole in the ceiling after Mike fell through during the process of installing the insulation.  Yes.  My husband fell through the ceiling.  He didn't get hurt at all, and was mainly just frustrated about the time set back.  

9.  My mom and I picked out all new bedding, and I snagged that rug from Lowe's for less than $30 because it is a remnant piece and they just bound the ends. 

10. And because of the tent mishap, we purchased a new mattress, box springs, bed frame, and head board. 

I could not be happier - especially because now we have a CLOSET, plus that little entryway/hall, which means you don't have to go through the guest room to access the laundry room.  Another addition that I really like is the animal nook/pantry.  
That corner over by the window is now a dedicated pet space (complete with doggy doorknob) where we feed the cats, keep one of their litter boxes, and also store the food and other pet-related items (like flea meds, shampoo, toys, treats, etc.)  It's taking up less room in other places of the house now that we have a special spot for it all.  And since we don't have guests very frequently, it's not in the way of anything. 

I also moved Mike's dressing station and work things into this room.  Because of his weird hours, he would usually get up and get dressed and ready out in the dining room to avoid disturbing me, which meant this was also where he was getting undressed after work and storing all of his Sheriff related things.  I didn't want the dining table to be a permanent gun/bullets/radio/uniform landing station, so I relocated it to the guest room.  And now he has extra space to get ready. 

So there you have it! Stay tuned for the bathroom reveal!


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Loving Football

I feel I should preface this post with, no, I am not pregnant.

I'm not sure if there is some natural progression of hormonal overhaul that happens when you reach your mid-twenties, but even on days when my feelings ought to be in-check, I find myself fighting back tears over things that generally should not register on my emotional radar.

When I was a teenager and still living at home, I remember my mother crying at the drop of a hat.  She would sob over 60 second commercials for Cottonelle toilet tissue.  Talk shows made her weep.  Ordinary situations generated uncontrollable hysteria.  I might be exaggerating, but I remember countless occasions my dad and I would look over from our respective spots on the sofa and ask, heads cocked, "Are you crying right now?"  Then we would laugh at her.

Oh how the tables have turned.

And now I understand.  I watch YouTube videos with cute animals and tears automatically happen.  If I see a sentimental holiday commercial, anything related to the Armed Forces/Law Enforcement, or commemorative episodes on TV, wouldn't you know it...tears abound!  It is as if anything remotely heartfelt triggers some sort of inherent sob gene in my DNA (are some people predisposed to irrational emotions?), and I become this bawling shell of my former self, inconsolable and unable to contain my passion, all the while Mike sits beside me chuckling.  I guess heart strings are made to be tugged.

This post has a point, and as the title suggests, it is football related.  All of the aforementioned situations seem understandable, albeit somewhat silly (I mean, I once cried after watching an insurance commercial).  But when, if ever, is it okay to be emotional about Football?  And I'm not talking the fervent and devoted behavior typical of football fandom.  I'm referring to a sentimental connection to the players, the stadium, the atmosphere...a sensation that arouses pride and makes me want to cry happy, sad, and grief tears all at the same time.  Admitting this may get me admitted to Amanda Bynes' wing of the psych ward.

I just really love my school and my team.  Watching our pre-game ritual on TV, knowing how loud the stadium gets right before Osceola and Renegade appear, with 83,000 people on their feet as our mascot plants the spear mid field, and I am a mess before the game even starts.  Then there are the traditions - the Warchant, fight song, tomahawk chop, the ditty we sing on first down, the punt ritual, and fourth quarter customs.  I guess it's called team spirit, but I feel like I've been injected with an unsafe concentration of it.  And now that we are ranked #2 in the BCS standings, it's like I've got a sixth sense, some emotional extremity - I need my team to do well.

I can't even read articles on ESPN about our players without crying.  They all have such storied pasts - unique upbringings and strong personalities, most of which may be lost in hyperbole for the sake of the media monster, but still.  I want to know them, even the bad eggs, and I want them to do well, not only on the field, but in school and in life.  I want to bake them cookies and give them hugs.

In college, it was rare for me to be in the stadium for kick-off.  There were tailgates to attend.  But on the few times I was early, it was always an emotional experience.  I haven't been back to Tallahassee in two years, but I still carry some part of that place with me, and when I watch the Seminoles play football, when I read about a player who defied the odds and excels both athletically and academically, when I see other cars around town with FSU vanity plates, I feel it.  Deeply.

image via: flickr

Friday, November 01, 2013

Mean Girls

I see so much bullying on Facebook, and usually from people who try very hard to appear confident and mature.  It is disheartening.  What is the point of being mean to people?  I know sometimes everyone loses their temper or says things they regret, but 10 young adults ganging up on one person via Facebook status is appalling and I hope I teach my children to be better than that.  Actually, I hope Facebook dies before I have children.

I saw this on Facebook last night. One of my friends posted about her new job at Victoria's Secret, and the first comment was from a guy that said, "coming to see you then."  Essentially harmless and easily ignored if you didn't want to talk to the person.  My friend replied, "I really hope you don't," which I initially thought was just a sassy joke.  But then a bunch of people joined in - harassing him for "hitting on her."

I can think of 13513561 guys I know who would have made some similar remark had I posted about Victoria's Secret.  It's just the way men are.  But I guess because it was this particular guy, and he's probably an odd ball, and was maybe a little goofy or "unpopular" in high school, everyone started lashing out.  It made me sad.

Five people felt the need to comment on this status, simply to make one person feel bad about themselves.  What is the point?  If you don't like someone, don't be their friend on Facebook.  If someone says something stupid, why is it acceptable to belittle them or embarrass them, especially if it's not even happening on your profile?
Once I read this, I went to the guy's profile.  Most of his photos are not of himself, but the few that are follow a pattern.  There are rarely any friendly comments.  All of the comments are people insulting him and making fun of him.

I see this kind of thing a lot, and sadly, I usually see it more frequently on the pages of the adults I'm friends with.  Sometimes it's easily excusable as sarcasm or good natured teasing, but sometimes it really gets to me.

I know when I was in high school, I probably wasn't always an angel.  I may have laughed at someone when I should have instead offered a sympathetic shoulder, or maybe I should have been more aware and paid more attention to the people around me who may have been having a hard time.  I do know I was never downright mean, but I went to mostly small schools in military communities, and I just don't remember there being a bullying problem.  Of course, this was also right before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites really took off, so the platform for mean teenagers was significantly smaller.

Because I work in the pageant industry, 99% of my friends are pageant people.  They stand for things - breast cancer awareness, autism awareness, and most often, anti-bullying.  So when I see things like this from people who are such strong "advocates" for anti-bullying, it really grinds my gears.  I don't understand how people can see the news where so many teens have killed themselves or others because of plain and simple bullying at the hands of their peers.  And when I see adults behaving like children, I worry for their sons and daughters.

If I could change one thing about the world, I'd want everyone to be nice.  Now excuse me while I go brush my pet unicorn's tail.
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