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Confidence or endorphins?

A little while ago I looked in the mirror and thought to myself, "I am a strong, healthy young woman. I am full of energy and vitality; ready to conquer the world!" I am not sure if my confidence levels are at an all time high or if the endorphins are creating an altered perception of reality. Either way, it is great feeling comfortable with myself, imperfections and all. (:

Fortune cookies say...

"Failure is not defeat until you stop trying." & "Dare to dream, hope, believe, seek, feel, find, and love."

Lake County Mentality

This evening I asked my neighbor how he distinguishes between companion hunting dogs and cage hunting dogs (I wondered if a dog's personality, appearance or breed made a difference). This was his response, "Well, you keep the cage dogs in the pin from February to October and the companion hunting dogs get to stay in the house." I guess I deserved that response, LOL.

10 Years: Past, Present, Future

I saw this on one of my favorite photography blogs and decided to do my own modified version (see: http://www.ashleymccormickphotography.com/blog/, I also love http://www.elizabethmedinaphotography.com/blog/).
I find it healthy to reflect on the past to better understand the present and also plan for a brighter future.

My life ten years ago:
1. I was seventeen, a junior in high school.
2. I played basketball (mostly warming the bench).
3. I had a new boyfriend (who ended up being quite the jerk).
4. I was crazy about JLo, DMB, Roxy clothing and The X-Files (I wanted to be like Scully).
5. I was dealing with my parents' divorce (mostly by spending all of my time with the new jerk boyfriend).
6. I had to take a break from Track because my knee was bothering me. This was a total bummer for this running aficionado.
7. I found Mrs. Fisher's and Sra. Kouns' classes to be very interesting.
8. I spent a lot of time with Leigh (her house, lunch), Sarah (sports: Cross Country, Bball and Track) and Lauren (after school, lunch).
9. I looked forward to Wednesdays when Lauren and I would go eat at the Chinese buffet. YUM. (:
10. I aspired to be the best student possible and was looking forward to moving to Gainesville for college.

The past ten years:
1. I had the pleasure of sharing a dorm room with a great friend, Sarah.
2. I learned (and continue to learn) Spanish.
3. I graduated from UF, twice (I eventually hope to make that thrice, i.e. PhD).
4. I had the opportunity to travel and study abroad (Mexico, South America, Europe, Central America).
5. I ran in three marathons, three half-marathons and numerous other races (5Ks, 10Ks, 15Ks, 10 milers).
6. I found my media naranja in Merida.
7. I worked as an ARA and a teacher (English/Anthropology in Mexico, Spanish/Substitute in the US).
8. I met many interesting people in both collegiate and international settings.
9. I went Skydiving.
10. I got SCUBA certified.

My aspirations for the next ten years:
1. Get established professionally (in a setting where I can be a catalyst for justice).
2. Continue academic/research pursuits (PhD/JD).
3. Get married in a way that accommodates both American and Mexican family members and traditions.
4. Live in a place where both Alex and I can grow professionally and academically.
5. Become financially sound.
6. Learn more languages (Brazilian Portuguese and French).
7. Travel to Africa (Egypt, South Africa), Asia (Thailand, Cambodia), and more of Central/South America (Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama).
8. Purchase a hybrid vehicle.
9. Challenge myself physically (more marathons, maybe some duathalons or ultramarathons?).
10. Have one, maximum two children.

I hope to look back at this list ten years from now and feel some sense of accomplishment. More importantly, I hope to have grown as a person and made this world a better place.

How to welcome the future suegros...

My uncle's response on how we should make Alejandro's parents feel welcome when they visit the U.S. for the first time: [Okay...I'm going to rent a colorful blanket and a small donkey to make them feel at home. I would recommend some games like: " Blindfolded Taco Toss", "Hot Sauce Eating Contest", " Musical Sombreros", "One-legged Pinata Smash"] Yeah, my family is pretty much hilarious!

nature's abundance

I'm not sure if the lovely fall-like weather has anything to do with it but recently wildlife has been on the move around our house. A few days ago I saw a hawk, a small bear, two small deer and a gray fox! We've also had a lot of frogs and insects hopping and flying around after the heavy rain. While I'm used to seeing critters around our residence, it is rare I see so many life forms in one day...

An Eyeful of Pain

This past Tuesday was my first visit to the hospital for personal ailments. I am very grateful to be in good health and hope any future returns to medical institutions will be either planned or preventative in nature (i.e. checkups). When I awoke Tuesday morning, I rubbed my left eye (a bad morning habit of mine) and while doing so rubbed debris from the corner of my eye into my eyeball. Unfortunately, a small yet solid and sharp foreign object got suck underneath my eyelid. I knew as soon as I felt it it was going to give me trouble. All day long I tried getting it out. I tried to blink it out, no luck. I tried to flip my eyelid inside out, no luck. I tried to slide my fingernail underneath my eyelid and dislodge it (which I know is the most anti-hygienic thing I could do, shame shame), NO LUCK. The only relief I got was by keeping my eye opened as long as possible because every time I blinked (I loathed this word by the end of the day, thinking about it makes my eye water) the particle would create microabrasions on my cornea. OUCH. Just when I felt it was getting better, I decided to go ahead and try to go the gym. Then my dad called and said he was broke down in New Symrna and needed me to retrieve him. I hadn’t told either of my parents by early afternoon and as my mom arrived home from work I left to go get my dad. She was surprised by how swollen and watery my eye was. The watering made things worse because copious amounts of mucus flowed constantly out of my left nostril. By the time I reached New Symrna the condition had worsened; my eye was beyond irritated and the red veins around my eye were enlarged and inflamed. Returning, I drove about thirty more minutes until we reached a gas station in DeLand and had to get dad to drive the rest of the way, it had become nearly torturous.

Realizing that I had to do something, soon, I called my Aunt Terry who is a nurse. We then drove to her house to see if she could help. She did not have the equipment to remove the object, but referred me to the In Quick ER service at Florida Hospital Waterman (see: http://www.inquickerwaterman.com/). By signing up on this web page patients are guaranteed to be attended within fifteen minutes of their assigned time. At that time (prior to 7pm) when Aunt Terry called, the ER was backed up until 1am. By the time I returned home, it was past 8pm. I took a shower immediately trying one last time to miraculously dislodge the culprit in my eye, to no surprise it stayed right in place. So I went to the In Quick ER web page and signed up soon as I could. Only a few minutes later we got a call saying they could attend me as soon as I arrived. So Mom and I got ready and headed to the hospital.

Upon arrival I managed to sign in with my blurry eye. I was surprised my signature was even legible. Less than five minutes later the nurse in triage questioned me about my height, weight and health, if I had any previous surgeries, had been in jail within the last two years and took my blood pressure and heart rate. My blood pressure is almost always low but on this occasion it was slightly elevated, the nurse implied it may be due to increased stress levels throughout the day. My heart rate was low as usual. Then I was whipped away into room 21 where the RNs began checking out my nearly swollen shut eye and I proceeded to explain to them what occurred. Then an attractive young woman from registration came in to note my physical address, emergency contacts and religious beliefs. The nurses also questioned me several times if I was sick, have had previous surgeries, had HIV or any other communicable diseases. A short while later, one of the RNs notified me that she would be anesthetizing my eye with what I believe was 4% lidocaine eye drops. I was informed that a strong stinging sensation would follow, however, I did not feel much. The nurse was surprised when I told her it felt like a 3 on a scale of 10. It did immediately numb the pain and provide a great sense of relief. Then the nurse practitioner came in to remove the foreign object. She was Latina and I was glad to see some diversity within the staff. She was confident in her work and had a friendly approach to me as a patient. After applying a few more lidocaine drops (which burned much more than the previous time, 7 on a scale of 10), she flipped my upper eyelid inside out and low and behold, she immediately found a hard black speck! THANK GOD! I was relieved that it was finally OUT of my eye! She proceeded to check for any damage done to the cornea. This was done by applying a fluorescent solution to the eye and viewing it under a black light. I could “see” my eye glow neon yellow-green under the light. I truly wished I had my camera with me in that moment; I wanted them to take a photo of my eye! I could tell young RN shadowing the ACNP was in amazement of the visualization of my corneal abrasions. With that, the nurse practitioner went to write a prescription for polymyxin B sulfate and print up some educational information on corneal abrasions.

I am so very thankful that my eye is back to its normal shape (it took a few days for the swelling to reduce and my eye lids to open fully) and have normal eye sight again (the blurriness also took a few days to reduce). I am also appreciative to the capable and friendly staff at Florida Hospital Waterman. While I hope to never have a need to return to the hospital under similar circumstances, I know I would be attended well at FHW should the necesity arise.

Return to Religious Roots

Today I went to mass at my childhood church. I have been trying to get Mom to go with me for the longest time. She always declines, so I decided today to go alone after setting out for a morning run. The last time I went to this church was around the three years ago. Prior to that visit, about five years had gone by without a visit to St. Hubert’s. It soothed my soul to immerse myself in the familiarity of my faith. It is always a release to enter a house of worship where I can sit down and converse with God. I particularly enjoy this experience when alone and where I am not recognized as a parishioner. Before entering church I figured I would see several people from years past and would end up conversing with them afterward. Surprisingly, I did not and I am not even sure if the four women I knew (who have been apart of the congregation prior to and since its conception in 1994) even remembered or recognized me (perhaps their vision might be failing :P). The strange thing is that as I walked in some people sitting outside on a bench said, “There really are new people here!” I nearly laughed. If they only knew I attended mass since infancy, took catechism, received my first holy communion, served as an altar girl and prepared for confirmation as a member of this congregation. Thoughts of times gone by occasionally flashed through my mind and I began to think about how much this little church has changed and grown over the years.
I was surprised to see what I’m assuming was a deacon serving as the altar “boy” (this was the first time I saw a grown man perform this function at our church). It was also amusing for me to observe the change in demographics; there appeared to be growth in young families, teenagers and Hispanics and a decrease in elderly members of the population. Many people I grew up going to church with have either moved away, started going to other churches or have become lackadaisical about attending (I have done all three of the above). I also enjoyed listening to a choir radically different from the one I heard growing up. I remember hearing very heavy and stoic religious music over the years. The new group plays tunes with acoustic, tropical and Latin influences. It makes the word alegre come to mind.
Overall, it was a pleasant experience returning to my religious roots. I was glad to be able to get in and out of church without being bombarded with questions about my mother, life, relationships, future, etc. After all, that is what church is all about; it is a place to externalize troubles and concerns. It is also a house where one can give thanks to the Creator for life’s blessings. It is not and should not be a place to judge nor be judged.

Stuck in a Rut, literally.

I am glad to see the water level slowly return to a normal level around the house. The past couple of weeks of heavy rain left us with large mud puddles around the yard, comparable to Lake Drake North and South (I named them, hehe) from Tropical Storm Fay last year. It is nice to be able to actually run down the driveway (well, smush through the muck) rather than rub against trees to avoid the water. The dragonfly population has increased exponentially around here, which is great, they need to eat the millions of mosquitoes. I do, however, miss the amphibians and their nocturnal symphony.

We have since received more afternoon deluges. The county workers have come around the past week trying to control the flow of excess water around the community, which seems to place more water in our back yard. To no avail, mom went to complain with them several times about the conditions in our yard and near inability to drive out. The next day, my uncle came over and complained to the workers. It is a shame that it takes a man to get people to see the urgent nature of the matter. They finally came over to check out the yard and water level. Fortunately, the water level has gone back down again but now we are left with tons of mud the consistency of brownie mix. Mom seems to think that driving Uncle Pat's truck in and out the driveway is the best idea but its monstrously large tires only dig deeper ruts. The cars don't put that much pressure on the slippery soil. Anyway, she's stubborn so she keeps using the truck and the right rear tire is now three-fourths mud deep and she can't get out!

Now some neighbors just came by to help, one guy has a big powerful work truck. He tied rope to the front of the truck and tried to pull it out, the tension was too much. All of the sudden I hear *POP*, the rope broke. HAHAHA. I know I shouldn't laugh, mom is really frustrated and doesn't want to inconvenience others but this is funny. That's life in the redneck riviera!

OK, the neighbors finally got the truck out of rut. Many thanks to the Galloways!

What the driveway normally looks like:

The driveway under water:

Mom stuck in Uncle Pat's truck:

Getting pulled out by the Galloways:

The Kennedys

Just mentioning the last name Kennedy evokes thoughts of one of America's greatest political dynasties. Their family has endured countless tragic deaths as well as the recent "expected" departures. I was surprised to hear of Senator Edward Kennedy's passing on this morning, especially so soon after his sister's (Eunice) death. It is up to their biological and social progeny to carry on such great legacies...

One of the great quotes the Kennedys used:
"Some men see things as they are and say why - I dream things that never were and say why not." -George Bernard Shaw