Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year's Resolution

Happy New Year's to all of you. My only resolution this year is to post more often!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Recommendation: "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman"

In 2002, I read Jon Krakauer's excellent book "Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster." It's a fascinating book: Krakauer originally set out to go to Everest to gather information for a magazine article about the commercialization of the mountain-- that people who had no business climbing a mountain, let alone the world's tallest mountain, were being led to the summit by profiteering mountain guides, and that this was causing the accomplishment to lose it's luster, let alone endangering people. Nature, as if to punctuate Krakauer's point, blew in an unexpected storm, resulting in the deaths of a bunch of climbers. It was one of a small handful of books I've read in the last ten years or so that I seriously could not put down until I finished.

With "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman," he's done it again. I'd wanted to read the book since I read the first reviews. This Christmas, my lovely wife got me a Kindle, and the first book I downloaded was this one.

Most of you are probably familiar with Pat Tillman. He was a player on the Arizona Cardinals who walked away from a multimillion dollar contract to join the elite Army Rangers after 9/11. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. At first it was reported that he'd died at the hands of the Taliban. Within a few months it was revealed that he had been, along with an Afghan soldier helping his platoon out, killed by fire from his own squad.

I think many people, like I, thought that Tillman was a patriotic jock-- well-intentioned, but not intellectually complex. As Krakauer makes clear, this was farthest from the case. Tillman was a bright, curious, well-read man. In fact, from boot camp on, he began to have doubts about his mission-- particularly when he was diverted from Afghanistan right out of boot camp to go to Iraq.

Krakauer had, fortunately, access to Tillman's journal and many letters to his wife and friends. They reveal a guy went into the war with noble motives, but feared that the Bush administration, which he held in contempt, would use him for propaganda purposes. Tillman is revealed as a highly principled guy-- to a fault. He rejected an opportunity to leave the service and return to football, even after he'd become disenchanted with both wars.

Krakauer charts Tillman's intellectual development-- he began reading Noam Chomsky, and in fact was trying to arrange to meet Chomsky, who was friends with a college friend of his. He believed the war in Iraq to be not only unnecessary, but illegal and working counter to United States interests.

In the course of the story, Krakauer points to two incidents that occurred at the beginning of the Iraq war-- the stage-managed rescue of Private Jessica Lynch and a bad fratricide ("friendly fire") in Nasiriyah, the same town Lynch had been captured in, in which 17 US soldiers were killed. Tillman was peripherally involved in the rescue, but Krakauer points to the real significance: a Bush White House functionary named Jim Wilkinson, who'd been the brainchild behind a lot of the dirty tricks Bush' team had pulled (including their hatchet job on Republican primary opponent John McCain in 2000 and promoting the myth that Al Gore had claimed to have invented the internet). Wilkinson was, as Krakauer pointed out, Bush' primary "perception manager." He was stationed in the U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar, and was responsible for the false stories that Lynch, who had not fired a single shot (or had been shot for that matter-- her injuries were from when her vehicle ran into the vehicle in front of her in the convoy) had fought doggedly until she was captured. The story was propagated in order to hide the fact that the war was already off to a bad start-- that the US troops were not, as the Bush administration flunkies had claimed would happen, being welcomed as liberators.

In the end, it's also clear that the Lynch story was created to draw attention from the diasasterous incident at Nasiriyah.

Later, these same people would try to hide the facts behind Tillman's death, and use him as a poster boy for the two wars.

The coverup of the true circumstances began immediately upon his death, and without a doubt included Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld and other higher-ups. It also began unravelling immediately. Tillman's clothes and body armor-- and a notebook diary he'd been keeping in Iraq and Afghanistan-- were taken away and destroyed. The pathologists at the Dover forensics facility were so suspicious at the missing evidence that they refused to sign off on his autopsy.

Krakauer makes no bones about what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan-- that Afghanistan was always a sideshow for the Bush administration from the beginning-- that the invasion of Iraq was being planned even before 9/11. He also points out that the United States wasted valuable time and resources in Iraq and allowed the Taliban to regroup and gain while they got bogged down in a pointless war that had nothing to do with our national interests. He points out that Tillman questioned everything in his life, including his participation in both wars. Krakauer quotes Nazi Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring:

Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter Germany. That is understood. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether its a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship... Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger. It works the same way in any country.

When I and many others questioned the war in Iraq, we got shouted down as "unpatriotic." After reading "Where Men Win Glory," my guess is that Tillman, a guy given to reading things like Plato's "Republic" in his free time, would, were he still alive, be the first to point out that it's a patriot's duty to question his government and leaders. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas From the Casa De Yen!

Usually this time of year, a lot of the bloggers post one of my favorite dystopian Christmas songs, "Fairytale of New York," by the Pogues and the late Kirsty MacColl. I thought I'd post another of my favorite woeful Christmas tales, Cracker's "Merry Christmas, Emily." It's about a rocker who's reminiscing about a booze-soaked dysfunctional relationship with a "poor little rich girl." Though the song is set in Tuscon, Arizona, the video was shot in Germany. Those zany Cracker guys!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Remembering Joe

Almost exactly 30 years ago, I began hearing the Clash' "London Calling" album on WXRT, the local "prog rock" station. They rotated the title track, "Train In Vain," "Lost In the Supermarket," and a few other tracks into their mix. I was hooked for life.

Over time, different tracks would grow on me and become, for a while, my favorite-- "Hateful," their song about drug addiction, "Spanish Bombs," about the Spanish Civil War, "Death or Glory," "The Card Cheat," even their song about the ill-fated actor Montgomery Clift, "The Right Profile."

Eventually I started exploring their earlier stuff, just as they were branching out with the Sandinista! album-- the album was a crazy hodge-podge, where the group explored all kinds of genres-- I was checking out their earlier material. You could see the maturation in their political thinking. And then the impossible happened-- with Combat Rock, they had a top ten album and a couple of huge hits ("Rock The Casbah" and "Should I Stay Or Should I Go"). The fact that my favorite band had hit it big sank in to me the summer of 1983 when I took a cross country Greyhound bus trip to see my parents, who were living in San Jose, Calfornia at the time. We had a layover in San Antonio, Texas. I left the bus station to walk around downtown San Antonio and came across a group of teenagers hanging out near a car, the Combat Rock album blasting.

And then suddenly it was all over. Personality conflicts split the band up. Mick Jones had some big hits with Big Audio Dynamite, but Strummer lay low. Then, he formed the Mescaleroes and began touring. He and Jones reconciled and even did some work together.

In the 2000 documentary "The Clash: Westway To The World," Strummer expressed regrets that stupid personality conflicts wrecked the band. He realized, in retrospect, that something magical and important had gone on.

In the summer of 2002, my friend Viktor Zeitgeist was at a festival in Northern California, enjoying X, the Blasters-- and Joe Strummer and the Mescaleroes, among other bands. After the Mescaleroes' set, Viktor came across Strummer hanging out with some fans, drinking a beer and chatting with them. He bought Strummer a beer and joined him. Viktor told Strummer about this friend of his in Chicago who had "kept the faith--" that his friend taught kids in the ghetto and still fought the good fight. He bought a Mescaleroes poster and asked Strummer to sign it for him.

He was talking about me. When he gave me the poster a few weeks later and told me the circumstances, I was really moved that one of my heroes thought that what I had done was heroic.

Just a few months later, on December 22, 2002, I got the news that Strummer had died of an undiagnosed heart ailment. He was only 50 years old. I was grief-stricken, particularly since another of my heroes, Joey Ramone, had died only a year before.

I try to keep a little of Strummer alive in my heart. I try to keep fighting the good fight. I keep trying to help people. I remember a review of a Clash album in the early eighties. The review said something to the effect that while the album was not going to cause the revolution, it would be a damned good soundtrack to the revolution. I'm glad for what Strummer and the others did. When it seemed like a tide of cynicism, self-interest and apathy was sweeping the United States, it heartened me to know that others were seeing the state of things the way I was. Strummer's music gave my tribe a voice and still does. I miss Joe Strummer, and guess I always will.

My favorite Clash album is still "London Calling," but over the years my favorite Clash song has come to be one from their self-titled first album: "White Man In Hammersmith Palais." I've included a live clip of the Clash doing that song.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Reunion Friday Random Ten

My old friend Dobie has had quite the life's journey. He grew up on the South side of Chicago. We met in college in 1981, and lost touch for a while when he joined the Air Force Reserve. As luck would have it, we ended up in a class together when he came back to school, and we resumed our friendship. We roomed together on and off during and after college, and then about 13 years ago, we lost touch again when he moved to Arizona to take a job. About four years ago, I tracked him down. Turns out that he left that job and ended up in Singapore working as an English teacher. About a year ago, he moved to Indonesia, and yesterday came back to Chicago to visit family and friends.

I gave him a call this morning, and it turned out that he was staying with his brother about a ten minute drive from my place. I drove by to pick him up so he could run some errands he needed while we caught up. For one, he needed a converter so he could use his Powerbook, which had a 220v converter. And he also needed gloves-- having been living in tropical countries for over a decade, he hadn't owned a pair of gloves in years.

It was great hanging out with him and catching up with him. Since I'd last seen him, I've been married three times. He nearly got married once. He made a lot of friends overseas, had a lot of great experiences, and I think both of us realized we'd both grown up a lot and both of us had certainly come to realize what a good friendship we had. It was a funny realization, though-- we're a couple of guys who have been friends since we were 18 and 20 years old, and now we're looking around the corner at 50. And looking forward to a lot more years of friendship.

The best news today, though, was when he revealed that he wasn't just here for a visit-- he's back here for good. It's the best Christmas present I could have gotten this year.

1. Tales of Brave Ulysses- Cream
2. Shake Your Money Maker- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
3. Get Over You- The Undertones
4. Black Dog- Led Zeppelin
5. Drug-Stabbing Time- The Clash
6. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (Reprise)- The Beatles
7. Let's Dance- Chris Montez
8. Do You Believe In Magic?- The Lovin' Spoonful
9. Rainy Night In Georgia- Brooke Benton
10. After the Gold Rush- Neil Young

1. Eric Clapton and the boys rocking the Odyssean legend.
2. From the incredible debut album-- an Elmore James cover.
3. Read recently that Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey works in the business end of the music business.
4. From Zeppelin's fabulous fourth album.
5. December 22 will be the seventh anniversary of Joe Strummer's untimely death. Still miss him greatly.
6. My kids both love the Beatles. Where did I go right?
7. This song is played not once but twice in Animal House.
8. Can't hear this song without singing along.
9. For years I thought this was a Ray Charles song.
10. Neil Young does science fiction.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The View

I pulled a bunch of pictures off of my phone yesterday and came across a picture I forgot I'd taken. It's the view from the conference room of the seventh floor of Illinois Masonic Hospital. It's the room where we would sit and go over both paper and electronic charts before seeing our patients during clinicals. It's also got a breathtaking view of downtown Chicago. I think the picture was taken in October of this year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Giving Thanks

If you're familiar with Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant," you might remember that Arlo and his garbage-hauling accomplice are treated to a second "Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat." This echoed the situation in our home; in the custody agreement with my ex-girlfriend, my son is always at her family's place for Thanksgiving. Therefore, I like to have a second Thanksgiving here at our home when he's here. We had one a couple of days after Thanksgiving.

Before we started eating, we went around the table and said what we were thankful for. One of the things that struck me was that my son expressed thanks for the fact that we still lived in this apartment. When he was younger, his mother lived in Humboldt Park, a drug and gang filled neighborhood. It was not out of economic necessity-- I don't know if she was trying to prove something. But she moved from apartment to apartment in that same bad neighborhood. All the while, I've stayed in this place, in North Center, a safe, stable neighborhood. I sacrificed a lot to stay here, and am glad to know that it was worth it.

This year was a rough one for us. Kim was unemployed for nearly six months. I got in what could have been a pretty bad car wreck, with my son in the car, in May. In the end, though, the safety nets held; my son and I walked away from the wreck, despite the fact that the car was totalled, and the other guy's insurance company issued me a check to buy another car with. Kim's unemployment benefits lasted long enough for her to get a job. A bonus is that she loves the job. And thanks to the COBRA insurance program the federal government had, which heavily subsidized the normallly very-expensive continuation of health insurance, we were able to keep our coverage. I have to have medical insurance to be in the nursing program.

With my semester ending this week, I was able to ponder the thanks I have to give. I'm thankful that my wife and 2 children are healthy and happy. I'm thankful that my kids are doing well in school. I'm thankful that after a financially-tough year, we'll still be able to have a nice Christmas for the kids.

Personally, I'm thankful that I'm in the nursing program at Truman College. I'm discovering, as I talk to people in the field, that it a well-respected program. I'm thankful that I'm doing well in it and actually enjoying it immensely. I enjoy every aspect of it-- great teachers and great friendships with fellow students.

Also, I'm thankful that in August, the animal who murdered my friend Mark Evans in 2006 was locked up for the rest of his life. He'll spend the rest of his life in fear, surrounded by predators who are as stupid and violent as he is. That is justice, in my eyes.

Last night, my kids, with two of their friends, continued a tradition we started a long time ago-- making a gingerbread house. After they finished it-- and devoured much of it-- my son and I watched the great 1993 D.A. Pennebaker documentary "The War Room," which was about Bill Clinton's 1992 Presidential campaign. Somehow, despite the fact that I'm a complete political animal, I'd never watched it. As I sat watching it with my son, who's as big a political junkie as I am, I realized that he was born the year after the movie came out.

It made me think to those days, around the time he was born, when I was in my early thirties. I was a profoundly unhappy person back then. I felt like I was spinning my wheels. The Replacements song "Hold My Life" could have summed up my life ("Hold my life/'Til I'm ready to use it...") As I sat there finally watching the movie, sipping a glass of malbec, talking to my son about the movie, with a house of kids, I realized that I'm a lot happier guy these days. I'm exactly where I should be. And for that I give thanks.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Better Late Than Never Friday/Saturday Random Ten

Friday got away from me-- was busy tying off the last of my Christmas shopping. I also switched shifts with a friend at work and so I worked last night. The good part of that is that I get a rare Saturday night home with my kids. We're going to continue an old tradition-- making a gingerbread house.

1. Heard It On the X- ZZ Top
2. Domino- The Uptown Rulers
3. Forgotten Years- Midnight Oil
4. The Leader- The Clash
5. Wicked Gravity- Jim Carroll Band
6. Something Stupid- Nancy and Frank Sinatra
7. We're Having A Party- Sam Cooke
8. The Model- Kraftwerk
9. Watermelon Man- Mongo Santamaria
10. Amelia- Joni Mitchell

1. ZZ Top's homage to a border radio station.
2. A ska version of the Van Morrison classic-- digitized from vinyl.
3. The always-political Midnight Oil
4. The Clash' take on a political sex scandal.
5. The late Jim Carroll, from "Catholic Boy," the same album his classic "People Who Died" was on.
6. Today is Frank Sinatra's birthday!
7. Sam Cooke has really grown on me over the years.
8. The hardcore band Big Black did a cover of this one.
9. A one-hit wonder from a the Cuban-born jazz great.
10. Ms. Mitchell's tribute to aviation pioneer Amelia Aerhart

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Coda, Act I

These days I frequently throw my little Canon digital camera in my pocket when I leave the house. I find that many days, I come across something that's beautiful, funny or memorable.

Yesterday morning, we got our first significant snow of the year here in Chicago, so I decided to drive to school. I usually take my bike, but I wasn't sure how icy the roads were. I keep in mind that while I may be an avid bicyclist, I'm also a middle-aged avid bicyclist, and that I need four unbroken limbs in order to complete nursing school.

When I drive, I am usually able to find parking on Montrose Avenue, right next to Graceland Cemetery, which is filled with many of Chicago's and Illinois' historic figures-- Governor John Peter Altgeld, architect and planner Daniel Burnham ("Make no small plans"), George Pullman, Marshall Field, Jack Johnson (the first black heavyweight champion), Mayors Carter Harrison and Carter Harrison, Jr., and even "Bauhaus" architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, with his mimimalist "less is more" tombstone.

Walking from my car to class, I had a moment of bliss and had to stop and take a picture-- there's a certain way the Chicago sky gets on a winter day. To see this sky over this beautiful old cemetery, with Chicago's skyline in the background just took my breath away.

I also had the realization that I was walking into a final exam completely confident; I knew I had a grasp on the material and was not in any way nervous.

I thought back to my first days in the nursing program-- how nervous and expectant I was. I realized that I've come to really enjoy this all. I look forward to class. I look forward to the clinicals. I love opening an electronic chart, poring over the data and putting together a big picture based on what I see and what I've learned.

Looking at my main textbook from the program, Craven's "Fundamentals of Nursing"-- I'm astounded at how many pages of a 1000+ page textbook I put Post-It's on to refer back to later. I also remember how, when I previewed it at the beginning of the semester, it was a little terrifying; it was filled with terms and numbers that I was going to be expected to know. And yet, here I am at the end of the first semester not only knowing all this stuff, but able to have lively discussions about those things, what they mean and applying them to the nursing process.

As part of our exit from the first semester, we were assigned to make a list of 20 things we learned in Nursing 101. When I sat down to do my list, I was floored-- which 20? I had learned so much.

So what did I learn? Here's my list of 20. I could have listed 200 without batting an eye.

1. Before administering Digoxin (digitalis), check potassium level and check apical heart rate for 60 seconds.
2. Never give IV potassium as a bolus—give as a drip over at least an hour.
3. Due to changes in peristalsis, metabolism, muscle tone and other factors, older adults stool less often than younger adults. It is important to educate them on this.
4. Use at least three means of identification for a patient before administering meds.
5. Oxygenation is the highest priority.
6. In case of a fire, RACE: Rescue, Alarm, Contain, Extinguish.
7. Older adults are frequently at high risk for falls.
8. With contact precautions, one uses gloves and gown.
9. Older adults have lessened taste sensation, lessened thirst sensation and reduced respiratory capacity.
10. That listening is one of the best tools a nurse has at his or her service.
11. One of the first signs of hypoxia in an older adult is restlessness and confusion.
12. First level behavior is behavior that is observed directly by the nurse.
13. Patients with renal failure frequently have anemia because the hormone that triggers hemopoeisis is produced by the kidneys.
14. The five rights—Right Patient, Right Medication, Right Time, Right Dosage and Right Route. There is also a sixth right: right of a patient to refuse medication.
15. A normal, non-fasting glucose level is 80-110 mg/dL.
16. Albumin level should be approximately the same as K+, 3.5-5.0, and is an indicator of protein deficiency. Prealbumin is a better, more immediate indicator. That should be 16-35.
17. The dignity of a patient should always be a primary consideration.
18. About 1500 mL of water consumption a day are the minimum to maintain kidney function, 2500-3000 mL is the optimal consumption.
19. A patient with vomiting and/or diarrhea should be monitored for low electrolytes.
20. Monitoring daily weight is the best way to check for fluid build-up or loss.

Tonight, I'll sit down with a glass of red wine and I'll unwrap Lewis' "Medical-Surgical Nursing," which will be my main textbook next semester, and preview it. I have a feeling that I'll find it less intimidating than I found Craven's "Fundamentals of Nursing" at the beginning of the semester. And then tomorrow, I'll run over to my school, get my final grade for the semester, register for next semester's class, Nursing 102 and while doing so, I'll get to hang out for a while with the people I'm sharing this adventure with. I can't wait.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Johnny Yen's One Hit Wonders: "Deep Purple," by April Stevens and Nino Tempo

Steve Van Zandt once observed that it's harder to create "Louie, Louie" than "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band"-- it's harder to produce a memorable three-minute pop masterpiece than it is to write an entire classic album. One-hit wonders have always had a special place in my heart. They frequently have interesting stories-- for instance, the fact that the singer on "Louie, Louie" was not the singer toured with subsequent to "Louie, Louie" charting. More on that another time. I'll occasionally feature One-Hit Wonders and their stories.

My first One-Hit Wonder is April Stevens and Nino Tempo's "Deep Purple." April Stevens and Nino Tempo were actually brother and sister Carol and Antonio LoTempio, who hailed from Niagara Falls, New York. They took an old big band standard that had been popularized in the 1930's, and covered in a doo-wop style in the '50's, and added their lovely melodies. In the demo tape of the song, Stevens forgot the lyrics to the second verse and recited the lyrics as her brother sang. The producer thought that her spoken interludes were "cute" (I'd probably say "sexy" is a better description) and kept it in the song, over brother Nino's objections-- he didn't like the idea of someone talking over his singing. The harmonica was reportedly awful on the demo, and was kept in (rerecorded) over the producer's objections. Happily, both made the final cut, and are key parts of the song.

Though both Stevens and Tempo continued to work in the music business, "Deep Purple" was their only big hit, hitting #1 in the Billboard "Adult Contemporary" chart in late 1963, the week before John Kennedy's death, despite being tagged, amusingly, as "rock and roll." The song was awarded the 1963 "Best Rock and Roll Song" Grammy the next year.

After nearly 50 years, the songs still stands as a great little piece of pop candy.

There are three bits of interesting trivia about the song. The song was originally the B-Side of the single. The original A-Side was "I've Been Carrying A Torch For You So Long That I Burned A Great Big Hole In My Heart," and is the longest-titled flip-side to a number 1 single ever. The group "Deep Purple" was later to get their name from the song because Ritchie Blackmore's grandmother, who loved the song, repeatedly asked if his band was going to perform the song. Also, the song would later become a hit for one more brother and sister duo-- Donny and Marie Osmond had a top twenty hit with their cover of it in 1976.

Friday, December 04, 2009

First Winter Day Friday Random Ten

I took out the recycling this morning-- in shorts, t-shirt and sandals-- and realized winter has arrived here in Chicago, though the official beginning is not until December 20th or so. There's a sprinkling of snow on the ground and it's 20 degrees.

I had my last class, other than the final on Monday, yesterday. It was basically a big study hall while the teacher took us one by one and gave us our exit conferences.

I heard some nice things in my conference. I think my teacher enjoyed having me as a student as much as I enjoyed having her as a teacher. I've really come to realize I'm doing the right thing.

This weekend, I'll do a little studying for my final. But today, I'll do a little cooking and a little reading and indulge myself a little.

1. Fire- The Ohio Players
2. Just The Two Of Us- Grover Washington, Jr. and Bill Withers
3. Carefree Highway- Gordon Lightfoot
4. Who'll Stop The Rain- Creedence Clearwater Revival
5. Singing Winds, Crying Beasts- Santana
6. Lorelei- Styx
7. Miracle Man- Elvis Costello
8. Machine Gun- Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsies
9. Avalon Hideaway- ZZ Top
10. Killing An Arab- The Cure

1. This song got lumped in with disco, but it's actually really a friggin' great R and B song.
2. One of the great seduction songs ever written
3. Lightfoot was part of the early sixties folk scene
4. CCR's commentary on the Vietnam War
5. A great instrumental on the terrific "Abraxas" album that seques into "Black Magic Woman."
6. Styx when they didn't suck.
7. I should list the artist "Elvis Costello and the News;" Costello's backup band on his angry first album was Clover, Huey Lewis' backup band.
8. Hendrix with his army buddy Billy Cox and R and B great Buddy Miles.
9. From their 1976 "Tejas" album, still one of my favorites.
10. The Cure's first hit, based on an Albert Camus "The Stranger," still sounds good 30 years later.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"It's A Beginning"

These last few months have been productive, but stressful. I've gotten the hang of nursing school-- my test grades have increased with the last three tests, and I'm feeling good heading into the final. On the other hand, our financial road has been rocky. We hadn't counted on Kim being unemployed for nearly six months.

There were definitely some breaks we got, with no small thanks to President Obama: were it not for the health insurance COBRA subsidy that the federal government provided, that expired today, we would not have been able to continue the insurance we got from Kim's last job. As the end of that loomed-- and the end of Kim's unemployment benefits-- we were getting nervous, and trying to figure out a way for me to stay in nursing school. Fortunately, Kim got a new job, with good salary and great medical benefits, a couple of weeks ago.

We're still not out of the woods. I'd hoped to keep working my waitering job for another year and a half while I was in school. The money is generally good and the hours work out so that I can work around my school schedule and still spend time with my kids. Last week, we discovered that the owners have put the business and building up for sale.

In this economy, it might be a while before they sell. Still, I'm going to begin looking for a new job immediately; I don't want to be in a position of having to find a new job with a week's notice. I'm barely holding my head over the financial water as it is.

Today, I realized that the stress was getting to me. And I decided to fall back on an old stress-reliever-- running. A couple of my favorite bloggers (Skyler's Dad and Churlita) and also one of my study partners, who are all in my general age demographic, have inspired me.

So tonight, after finishing some schoolwork, I put off my nightly couple of glasses of red wine and dug the sweats and pair of Reeboks that had been gathering dust in my closet, put on my Ipod shuffle and got out and ran nearly two miles. When I got back, my daughter mentioned that I hadn't been gone that long. I told her that I ran a little over a mile and a half. It wasn't much, I pointed out. But it's a beginning.

And now I'm enjoying that glass of red wine.