School Zone Antics

 

School Zone Pic
Photo from http://www.shutterstock.com

Before my daughter inherited my husband’s car, my husband or I would drive her to high school and drop her off. We hated doing it. The people who designed Herriman High School’s parking lot and loading zones are people who share the same ideology of those who came up with medieval torture devices.

A terrifying aspect of dropping Lorrin off was that we would have to turn left. We would have to turn left on a two-lane road that fifteen minutes before school started and fifteen minutes after it ended would swell like an angry river. To understand why it was harrowing, one must know the makeup of the loading zones.

At the front of Herriman High School is a one-way loading zone that starts on the main road and travels in a crescent shape moving east, then north, and ending up west. The cars are spit back onto the main road and have to turn right into a torrent of traffic.

A second loading zone follows a path running along the side of the school where the student parking lot is also located. Those who drop kids off on the side must use the same main road and try to turn left at the same time the front-of-school drop-offers, as well as students needing to get to their parking lot, are trying to turn right. Chaos!

My experience in turning left comprised of flinging my automobile into oncoming traffic; white-knuckling the steering wheel, eyes squeezed shut and breath held. I’d jam on the accelerator and hoped to make it through unscathed. When driving Lorrin, I don’t recall a single fender-bender. However, I do remember honking horns, cussing, and middle fingers flipping left and right.

Once my daughter got a car, relief spread through the family, at least between her father and I—we no longer had to navigate the maze of irrationality! We didn’t have to play dodge-car anymore!

That was a few years ago, and now we are back to driving my son to Herriman High School and dropping him off. I noticed right away a difference in the experience. There was a calmness that settled over the situation. No, the parking lot and loading zones haven’t been changed to make sense. No, the traffic hasn’t been reduced, in fact, I’m sure it has doubled or tripled. The most significant difference is the drivers.

Every morning as I sit in the suicide lane, I’m surprised at the level of manners demonstrated by teenaged drivers.   Traffic turning right off the main road to get to student parking will go into the never-used bike lane and then, one by one, every other car, will let someone turning left go in front of them. They take turns!

It’s evident that a great shift has happened in my morning routine and it has affected everyone else as well. The drop off zone is now a smooth experience. No more screaming obscenities at the driver in front of you—that guy you know is just trying to pick at your last nerve on purpose. No more breaking out in a sweat knowing that any minute an oversized SUV will pummel into the side of your vehicle. This is made possible all because some teenager had the state of mind to let someone butt in line.

Teenagers get a bad rap, a lot. They’re accused of being mobile device-deviants and gadget-junkies with zero attention span and yet, the only people who seem to aggressively cut the line, almost plowing into all surrounding cars, are adults talking on their cell phones. It’s not the kids. They are organized. They are patient. They are courteous. They make the morning commute tolerable. They are the ones who make me want to be a better person—at least behind the wheel.

So thanks to that over-classified generation (aka Gen Z’s, iGeneration, Founders, Plurals, etc.) following the Millennials! You guys might be the key to salvation after all—at least between 7:10-7:25 am and again at 2:10-2:25 pm. Your efforts are noticed and well appreciated!

 

 

 

 

 

DNA or DN-Nay: Why are so many so trusting and what’s wrong with me?


Maybe it’s the fictional writer inside me but every time I see a commercial about submitting DNA to discover your genetic origins I cringe. I understand why a pie chart with percentages of the genetics making up whom you are is compelling. However, what bothers me is what happens afterward. So, I did some research, which only added to my cringe-worthy concern.
AncestryDNA is the latest service for testing DNA in the world and is owned by ancestry.com a family history website. They’re responsible for the commercials where a man describes being raised practicing German traditions only to discover he was mostly Irish; “So, I traded my Lederhosen for a Kilt.” It’s funny. It’s human nature to think we’re one thing when we really aren’t. So for a sale price of $79, you too, can spit on a Q-tip and get your own genetic profile! What’s wrong with that? Well, for starters, what happens to the Q-tip?
According to http://www.thinkprogress.org, a lot of things are wrong with this. The writer of an article for the site, Joel Winston, contends that people who give up a DNA sample may be giving up a lot more than they thought. Winston urges the donor to read the fine print of its Terms and Conditions before you agree to them. When one clicks Agree, one is giving consent to AncestryDNA to own your DNA and doing whatever it wants to do with it forever. So what? Who cares? You should.
In 1951 an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer at the John Hopkins Hospital. Without her family’s permission, doctors and clinicians took her cancer cells, mixed them with plasma and grew them in a lab. These are called HeLa cells, and they have been instrumental in developing vaccines, progress towards in vitro fertilization, and medical treatments for hundreds of millions of people. Fantastic, right? Yes and no.
Although the Lacks family found out about HeLa cells twenty years after Henrietta’s death, they weren’t given any kind of restitution for them. While doctors and pharmaceutical companies grew rich, Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave because her family couldn’t ever afford a headstone for her.
Another issue is that the data gained isn’t for your eyes only. DNA testing looks at 700,000 genetic markers that give information about not only your genetic origins but also any of your genetic health conditions. With that little spit-swab, technicians can see if you carry a genetic abnormality, or disease that may be passed on to your offspring like cystic fibrosis or down syndrome or ones that haven’t even surfaced yet such as breast cancer or Alzheimer’s (can you imagine if Germany had this kind of information in the 1940’s?) Still, it’s good to be forewarned, right? Not always.
Today’s concern is that insurance companies armed with your genetic profile can refuse you coverage. Law enforcement can use it to identify you and your relatives for investigations or employers could use it to deny hiring you.
What happens if some unknown relative gets a genetic profile done and gets an alert for carrying a particular disease, he or she can be traced to you, giving the insurance company, law enforcement, and employers reason to panic about you.—and don’t go crying about your medical information being protected by HIPAA, either!
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 aka HIPAA can’t protect you. DNA testing through any place other than health providers or insurers etc. doesn’t fall under HIPAA. So, AncestryDNA can sell your DNA to whomever for whatever and there isn’t very much you can do about it. Even if you didn’t agree to the terms, but a relative of yours did, you still can’t do much about it.
There are a lot of uses for DNA other than discovering which side of the pond you are (mostly) from; there are many practical uses for it, too, such as cloning.
Cloning is the copying of a gene resulting in a slew of ingenious uses from developing pest resistant plants to medical treatments, which sounds like a worthy cause for your own DNA to be used for—but what if it isn’t?
The Sci-fi writer inside me worries about this. I think about the issue of carrying capacity, the idea that earth is overpopulated and a disaster is overdue, and if the conditions of the world get so bad that only those who can pay to have genetically altered food or can buy medicines will live, while everyone else will die. I’m not too far off! Remember the EpiPen price jump in 2016, where life-saving shots to stop anaphylactic shock had a price increase of between 400 and 600%? At the same time, opioid antidotes also shot up in price 600%.
Another concern I have with giving up DNA is Biometrics. Biometrics is a way for automated identification by a certain physical characteristic. Think, iris scans in an overly secured building in an action thriller. Think, fingerprints scan or even hand geometry. One iris, one print of a pointer finger, and only one per person allowed to go inside said overly secured building in an action thriller seems pretty safe. I mean aside from removing someone’s iris or pointer finger, no one would be able to penetrate the building, right? Wrong! Two words; Stem Cells.
As recently as last year, Japanese scientists grew an adult human ear on the back of a living rat. They took a specific type of stem cell and placed it into some ear cartilage. Those cells were then put into a tube molded in the shape of a human’s ear and then implanted the mold under the skin of a rat. It remained there, topside, for about two months and grew up to two inches long. If someone can grow a human ear on a rat’s backside, couldn’t someone grow an iris or the tip of a finger, too? Maybe even your iris or your fingertip?
I know I sound like a raving lunatic-conspiracy nut, but it’s only fiction if a fact hasn’t been discovered, yet. Here’s my conclusion, you must accept that you are probably a mixture of everyone and of everything, so why prove it? It’s okay to keep the Lederhosen and wear it under your kilt! Consider that it’s also okay to keep your spit in your mouth!

Football Foot-in-Mouth

Is there a Razzie (Golden Raspberry Award) equivalent to the Mother of The Year Award? If so, I’m your girl! Last Wednesday my husband and I went to my son Nate’s first sophomore Football game at Lone Peak High School in American Fork. When we got there, the other team hadn’t scheduled Herriman High School in their calendar and therefore wasn’t planning on a game. However, an hour later, Lone Peak had gathered a sophomore team to scrimmage against us.

Bry and I sat on the top of the bleachers, next to a Herriman football player out with a broken foot. He was asked to man the camera used to take footage of games and then as a tool to examine moves, procedures, etc. of the team and or individual players. I should have put the two together—me at a game rooting for my son plus a recording.

I did think to move down the bleachers when the camera was brought up to the kid, but then the kid told us that the coaches always mute the video when they show it to the team.

Tonight, Bry and I went to pick Nate up from Football practice. He got into the car smiling. I thought he was proud of how he performed during practice. He was. He was also smiling because of what happened during another part of practice.

The team sat, ready to view the recording of their scrimmage game. The video played. In the background, some woman is yelling and screaming for her kid. No one could see her, but everyone could certainly hear her.

One of the players turned around and smiled at Nate. Then another one did. Then Nate heard what the lunatic Mom was saying, ”Get ‘em, Nate! Get ‘em, Nate! Get ‘em, Nate!”

It was me!!! I’m the weirdo out of control Mom on the video! I asked Nate if anyone knew it was me.

“Not at first, but then Jaron and Wyatt told everyone it was you.”

Brian started laughing. Nate was still smiling. I was horrified. Thoughts of every possible thing I could have said ran in a loop through my mind. On any given day, subjects include how beautiful and talented my Natey is as well as his equally beautiful and talented older sister, Lorrin. I’m sure my crazy- probably has canine autism (would that be daugtism?)-dog Zoey came up.

I have no idea how to play football. I don’t know what the positions are called and mix up what their purpose is (when Nate played Flag Football I kept screaming for him to grab that other kid’s sash). I can picture a ninety minute long commentary between my husband and me about who’s doing what and why for the billionth time. But what if it was worse I mean a lot worse?

I’ve been known to swear (often, daily, and predictably—hey, we’ve all got hobbies, right?) and tell dirty jokes (a practiced craft of mine). I’m not a big fan of the big orange monster residing presently in the White House. I can see myself talking politics. How much did I talk about my frustration with the book I’m writing?

What if I said something really, really horrible? What if I said something about someone everyone knew? I don’t think I did because I’m very proud of those football players (they work so hard!) that, and I can’t tell anyone apart and don’t call them by name or number. But what if?

I asked Nate what I said. He said he didn’t know. I’m sure he’s lying, and I appreciate that. I heard Bry ask him what I said, while I was going upstairs. Again, Nate said he didn’t know. The sweet kid is covering for his dim-witted freak show of a Mom—this is why I root for him! This is why I root for each of my kids—they seem to accept me. If they were normal teenagers they’d roll their eyes and pretend not to know me, but then maybe I’m getting a head of myself. Maybe the eye roll and my implied non-existence is coming (especially after tonight’s display)?

I feel so bad about the whole thing! When I apologized to him for the nineteenth time Nate told me it was fine, that he thought it was funny, then he added,

“I would like it to never happen again, though.”  Me, too, buddy! Me, too!

For the rest of practice teammates walked up to Nate and ask, “Hey, Nate, did you get ‘em? Did ya get ‘em, Nate?”

When I started this blog, I didn’t set out to write about my constant burs and blisters. I didn’t set out to tell how often I make a fool out of myself, but I seem to do only that. So if there’s a Razzie award out there, I’d like to thank all the normal people out there for making me stand out among them! I accept that I’m your cautionary tale and I guess I’ll see you at the next game!

 

 

 

Scrambled Eggs and the Barbie Brigade

 

 

barbie-workout-720x720
“2. The Time Barbie Did Werk-out Gear”. Photo image from https://getleashedmag.com

Today Zoey and I got off to a late start on our walk to Daybreak Lake. It was around 8:00 in the morning and nice out, the 90-100 degree weather expected this week was a mild 71. The sun was up accompanying a light breeze.

As we moved along our regular route, we noticed more people than usual. Men ran by pushing toddlers in specialty jogging strollers. Women came in droves, two-by-two as if ticket holders to board an infamous Arc.

Two such women came down the street. I heard them before I saw them, chatting loudly and incessantly. Daybreak mothers are a peculiar breed; Perfection, perfection, perfection. They don uniforms of oversized sunglasses, skintight running gear, sports bras, and designer tank tops everywhere. They do so in full hair and makeup, too. They are toned, tight, and augmented, the crème of the crème of the Barbie set and I long to be one of them.

The two women, one a brunette, the other a blond, moved together side by side, ponytails synchronized, left, right, left, right with a single stroller between them, towards my little black dog and me.

I half smiled, and half nodded to them, suddenly feeling underdressed, and under accessorized and luckily went ignored. Zoey and I crossed the crosswalk, and the women and baby followed us to the lake.

Ducks lined the edges of the shoreline sunbathing. Zoey snubbed the birds, and the feeling was mutual. We stopped so Zoey could round up her pee-mail, and the two women maneuvered closer to the birds.

Brunette Barbie continued talking about someone apparently the two didn’t like. Blond Barbie stopped the stroller and produced a small Tupperware container and peeled back a baby blue lid.

“Duckies want eggs?” she called to the fowl. Several ducks craned their necks towards her.

Without holding the container low or bending down so the birds could investigate the offering, she turned to the blond toddler.

“See, even the ducks won’t eat your breakfast.” With that, she turned the contents upside down and dumped them out. She replaced the lid and slipped the container into a bag. Taking hold of the stroller, she backed out of the area, Brunette Barbie falling in step, never seeming to take a breath or notice what her counterpart had done. The two women continued to a playground a head.

The scene was both confusing and unsettling. Was Blond Barbie glad that neither the child nor the birds would eat the eggs? Would she have been unhappy if the ducks ate what the baby wouldn’t? Also, which is worse, taking a toddler to see the ducks only to reprimand him for skipping breakfast or feeding birds eggs? Maybe there’s something to be said for not being part of Barbie World after all.

Foreign Objects

IMG_4060Most of my subjects revolve around walks I take with my pet Chiweenie, Zoey, around Oquirrh Lake, aka Daybreak Lake, and this post is no different. I am always surprised when I go to the lake, and although my route is largely the same, the scenery often baffles me.

Two weeks ago, I came across a turtle. I believe it is a pet shop turtle, one of two I’ve seen residing at the lake, with yellow stripes across its dark green shell and measuring eight inches in diameter. I saw this turtle as well as its much larger companion, sitting on two semi-submerged rocks. Each one had its neck stretched out in front and mouths wide open soaking up the sun. The turtle was off the path in the tall grasses. It was moving its two front arms forwards and back, digging down into the mud and I wondered if it was laying eggs?

A week later I bumped into a friend who pointed out a man riding his bicycle with a bright green parrot on his back. I have seen the man several times before, with his long strands of silver hair slicked back and his bird perched on his shoulder blade. A birdcage is mounted on the man’s handlebars and is covered with a hand towel. The first notice of the man is his voice. He talks in low, soft tones, answering questions that haven’t been asked. I haven’t heard his Parrot speak, but have witnessed it bouncing its head in agreement. I’ve even talked to the man before, he is nice and seems to find having full conversations with his pet as natural as riding a bike with a bird on his shoulder. Someday I’ll have courage enough to ask him if I can take his picture!

The first notice of the man is his voice. He talks in low, soft tones, answering questions that haven’t been asked. I haven’t heard his Parrot speak, but have witnessed it bouncing its head in agreement. I’ve even talked to the man before, he is nice and seems to find having full conversations with his pet as natural as riding a bike with a bird on his shoulder. Someday I’ll have courage enough to ask him if I can take his picture!

Last week, I had almost finished my route, seeing nothing unusual when something caught my attention—something was moving outside of the sidewalk. I pulled my dog over to get a better look and saw a tiny brown Lobster. A Lobster! In Utah?

A passerby noticed me studying something and came over to see what it was. She said the Daybreakers call them Crawfish and apparently they are new to the area. Crawdads, Crayfish, and Crawfish are all names for these freshwater crustaceans, and they’re known as great bait for fish like Bass and Trout in which Daybreak stocks varieties of. However, I’m unsure if small brown lobsters have also been thrown into the stocking mix.

IMG_4078

Because I have seen turtles, as well as fancy looking ducks with bouffant feathery crowns (very unlike the wild ones that flock here), I’ve concluded that the Crawfish was also a pet store buy and now inhabits the lake. It bothers me that this beautiful area is the dumping ground for unwanted pets. I think the most bizarre thing about my experience is having to remind people that when going on a walk around Daybreak Lake be sure to take your pet home with you—even if it means it hitching a ride on your back as you bike home!

The Eyes Have It

 

IMG_5237When I was thirty-seven-years-old, I was told I could no longer wear contact lenses. Not since the eighth grade had I slipped on a pair of eyeglasses during regular work or school hours, and I found myself at nearly forty, staring in the mirror, with the fuzzy-haired, white-pocked pimple-faced adolescent I remembered staring right back. Although many, many people can wear glasses and look fantastic doing it, I am not one of them.

 

I tried changing my mindset. I bought a pair of bejeweled Versace’s, thinking, these aren’t regular eyeglasses, these are Versace’s! But still, across every reflecting surface looking back at me was the girl with bad skin, the one who wouldn’t grow into her front teeth until she was at least twenty.

With a mixture of desperation and conviction, I knew that something else could be done. I started looking into LASIK eye surgery. The price, in general, wasn’t too bad—though my husband had hoped I would want to keep the money and save for a breast augmentation instead. When I said, “Nope, I’m getting my eyes done,” after the initial let down, I swear I heard him humming Danny Boy somewhere in the basement, Brian was on board.

I visited every conceivable eye facility possible, even a sketchy one in the Holiday area that could have been the back of a Semi-truck, which convinced me to aim a bit higher—someplace without the guarantee of partial blindness and perpetual pink-eye afterward.

I went to Hoopes Vision in Draper. It was a beautiful place, all glass and lunar lighting, plush couches, and sparkling chandeliers. I was given an eye exam and had my eyes dilated for the third time in two days, and was led to a consolation room to wait. A man in a white lab coat and receding hairline strode into the room like he owned the place, which he actually did. He was Dr. Phillip C. Hoopes, Sr. the head honcho of Hoopes Vision.

He hadn’t even sat down when I asked him about a discount. He withdrew his outstretch hand, threw his pen across the room, and yelled, “You want a discount? You’ll get discounted surgery!” and then he stomped out. I sat for a while, scared, feeling very, very confused and guilty that I had even asked about a deal.

Soon, a second man entered, also in a lab coat, only he didn’t walk in like he owned the place, more like he simply worked there—which was the case. He asked me what happened. I gave him the play-by-play and apologized. He sighed then said, “Yeah, Dr. Hoopes Sr. does that.”

The man went over what all the others had told me, that because of thin corneas, I wasn’t a good candidate for LASIK and should consider PRK instead. PRK stands for Photorefractive Keratectomy in which the cornea is actually scrapped off completely, and a new one grows back in its place. It’s the preferred surgery for Fighter Pilots—who am I to argue with Top Gun?

When I was told that it would, in fact, be Dr. Hoopes Sr. who would do my procedure, I decided to take my cheap eyes someplace else. I went to the Eye Institute of Utah, who didn’t offer the same glittering pizzazz but did offer me a student discount first thing! Nice! By the way, I should note that Hoopes Vision does offer discounts, now.

Anyway, on the day of the surgery, I arrived early in the morning. I was given a green apple Jolly Rancher and washed it down with a Valium. In the middle of the surgical room, I laid back on a recliner. Each of my eyes was given eye drops, and both the top and bottom lids were taped wide open. While one eye was being worked on, the other was tucked under what looked to be the scoop part of a black plastic spoon.

I sat, staring at the ceiling as a small gardening hoe-like tool the size of a toothpick then glided over the surface of my eye cutting hoe-like slices as it went.

The procedure was quick—I still had the sour apple as well as the Valium bitter aftertaste on my tongue when it was over. I was fitted with protective lenses to keep air from my exposed nerve endings, plus a set of light-blocking goggles and was sent home.

“It’ll feel like sand is in your eyes,” I was told before and after the surgery. I hadn’t realized what that meant at the time:

See, when sand blows into your eyes, it stings. Tears well up until that piece of broken-down granite is either dissolved or flooded out. But, what happens if tears aren’t produced, your eyes are glued open, and your face is then dragged side to side, forward and back across a sandy beach? Horrible, horrible, eyes-scooped-out-by-a-melon-baller-then-dosed-with-lemon-juice-knuckles-gouged-on-a-cheese-grater type of pain!

I didn’t sleep. Any hint of light was like a shard of glass carving into my ocular cavity and painkillers were as helpful as taking Tic-Tacs for a hysterectomy.

At two o’clock in the morning after going three days without sleep, Brian took me back to the Eye Institute where the on-call doctor, a Reese Whitherspoon doppelganger who was mad we woke her, met us. She checked each eye and discovered my protective lenses were too small and were acting like a vice on my eyeballs. She switched out the lenses. Immediately, the puncturing pain subsided, and I went home. I slept.

Overall, I don’t regret having PRK. Five years later I still have nearly 20/20 vision, and as an added bonus my husband Brian got a joke out of it. When asked why I had eye surgery he chimes in saying, “she wanted to make her eyes bigger” and laughs.

 

 

 

 

Doorbell Ditched

This morning, leaving with Zoey for her after breakfast walk, we went through the front door, which we haven’t done for over a month. Usually, after driving my son to football summer camp, I park at the lake and Zoey, and I walk it. Today, however, the camp was canceled, and we left through the front door.

The sun was out, the birds were flying, and lawn sprinklers had turned off and dropped back into their holding positions in the grass. As I turned toward the door lock, I noticed a smudge of red across my illuminated doorbell. I leaned in to examine it.

I could see the scarlet raised sections of a fingerprint and the middle that was thinned due to the pressure put on it as someone pressed down. What is that? Paint? Blood?!

A list of who could have left the print came to mind.

My daughter had gone—she was my first thought as she is an amazing painter. Perhaps it was her painted pointer finger impression? My husband rarely uses the front door and is meticulous and would know whether or not he had red smudges on his fingers—he would have used his elbow if he didn’t have his house keys on him.

That left my son, my son who leaves greasy prints on every surface of my house. My son who is tall enough that when he touches the stairwell with orange Cheetos-dusted digits, I have to pull out my stepladder to rub them out. My son, who at that moment, basking in the canceled practice, was sound asleep. So I left, deciding to deal with it when I got back.

As I strolled along the path leading to DayBreak, it occurred to me that our house hasn’t received its regular volume of carpet cleaning, solar paneling, and ant killing salespeople. We haven’t put out a No Soliciting sign. On most sales attempts I simply don’t answer the door during working hours. Besides, Zoey goes crazy at the chiming of a visitor, it’s enough to put off an unwanted sales pitch—but maybe we’ve inadvertently come up with another dissuasion; red paint or plasma.

Zoey and I finished our walk, and I remembered the crimson mark once more. As we entered the house, my son was awake, and I asked him about it.

“Oh yeah. Remember that fundraiser for Scout Camp?”

I did. The scout group went around the neighborhood trading cash for painting house numbers on street curbs.

“It’s from that,” he said. “I couldn’t get it off.”

I had to use an Exacto knife to chip the red paint off the doorbell—Zoey wailed each time I pushed too hard and sounded the alarm that someone had arrived. But now that I’ve restored the doorbell have I also restored the return of window washers and weed killer-killers? Have I opened up my porch to the endless pestering of passerby’s, now that there’s no mark that Jackson Pollock or Ted Bundy live at my home address? Yeah, probably. Hmm…maybe I should open up a can of paint or a vein?