A funny thing happened on the way to the coffee-maker

April 2, 2012

A funny thing happened on the way to the coffee-maker Saturday morning.  I was blurry-eyed as usual, anxious to sip my first cup of joe, when in my haste to select a coffee cup the fishbowl caught my eye.  It was still.  Colorless.  Something was missing.  And since it’s a relatively small fishbowl with just a few rocks and a “skull” to provide entertainment for “Spock,” the goldfish my daughter won a few weeks ago at a church fair, it didn’t take me long to see what was missing.  “Riley, what happened to Spock?”  I said, assuming he had gone to that big aquarium in the sky with the three other fish found floating at the top of the fishbowl 4 days after we got them.   “What do you mean?” she said, genuine surprise-bordering-on-panic spreading across her face.  We both stared at the bowl, as if we weren’t really seeing what we were seeing but there was no mistake:  Spock the goldfish was GONE.  

When we first got the fish, my girlfriend warned me they can jump right out of the bowl.  She said it happened to her more than once until she started keeping a lid on the bowl.  I couldn’t really picture it happening to us, especially because our fish rarely even SWAM around the bowl, opting instead to stay fairly still inside the skull head.  Turns out “Spock” was biding his time in there, plotting his escape, and he chose Saturday morning to make it.   Okay, we thought, if he jumped out of the bowl, he couldn’t get far.  Even if he flopped around a bit, it shouldn’t take us long to find him, right?  

WRONG.   For the better part of an hour, Riley, my mom and I looked all over the area.  We got on our hands and knees and looked under the table and other furniture, under the kitchen cabinets, and in the carpet.  No Spock.  It started to freak me out a little.  We expanded our search, thinking maybe someone kicked him, unknowingly, across the room.  Still no Spock.  I accused Riley of playing an early April Fool’s Day joke, and flushing the fish.  It took me just a moment to see the truth in her distraught face.  “Spock was right here in this bowl when I went to bed last night,” she almost cried.  “What happened to him?” 

And that’s the million dollar question.  The great “Unsolved Mystery” of our household.  What happened to Spock?  Was he abducted by aliens?  Was he sick of the fish food and went out looking for a better meal?  Did “Scotty” beam him back to Vulcan without our permission? We might find him one day.  And when we do, I imagine he’ll have a whale of a tale to tell.  I wonder if he’ll be wearing a couple of the mismatched socks that disappeared from my dryer?


Burned by Congress

March 23, 2010

I have nothing against a national health care bill, in fact, I think we definitely need one.   This particular health care bill happens to be 2,562 pages long and admittedly, I haven’t read the whole thing.  But I did see the part where there would be a 10% “vanity tax” imposed on consumers who use indoor tanning services beginning in July.   This is expected to raise  $2.7 billion by 2019 while discouraging a practice that can cause skin cancer.   

Okay, I get it.  One million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year.   One thousand people in the US die each year from it.  But compare that to the 1.25 million people who have heart attacks, and the 425,000 people who die from them.   Or to the 5.5 million Americans who have cirrhosis of the liver, 40% of whom have it because of alcohol abuse.    Or to the 219,000 new cases of lung cancer, and the 159,000 deaths each year, many of which were brought on by smoking.  So where’s the new tax on artery-hardening fast food or liver-demolishing liquor or lung-quashing cigarettes? 

There are more than 50,000 tanning salons in the United States, the majority of which are not chains, but independently owned.   They’re small business owners who may on the one hand benefit from the new health care reform legislation, but are shouldering an unfair burden of the cost through the nature of their business.    Most will have no choice but to pass along that increase to their customers, which could hurt their businesses.     Why isn’t there a tax on memberships to outdoor swimming pools or golf courses or other places that may expose you to the sun?    

Interestingly enough, the health care bill originally included a 5% “vanity tax” on cosmetic surgeries and procedures.  Some were calling it the “bo-tax” and it was expected to raise 5 billion dollars in the next 10 years.  Apparently, the lobby for cosmetic surgeons is more organized and powerful than the lobby for tanning salons, because the “bo-tax” was taken out of the health care plan before the vote.     

I still have hundreds of pages to read, so I may be back to discuss other issues regarding the new health care plan.  On this particular issue though, forget the UV rays;  tanning salon owners and their customers are getting burned by Congress!


Time for sacrifice

March 17, 2010

We’re living in tough times.  Many of us have had our salaries cut back; some of you have lost your jobs altogether.  This recession…economic downturn…financial disaster…whatever you want to call it, has many of us adjusting our budgets and making changes in our lifestyles.   We have to manage our personal finances this way–we have no choice–and I would bet that most of us know what it means to sacrifice during lean times.  When the amount of money coming in goes down, we put off making  unnecessary purchases or maybe even go without what we once considered necessities to make ends meet. 

Well ends aren’t meeting in Toledo and many other cities.  In some places, ends aren’t even catching a glimpse of each other.  We can complain.  We can demand local leaders find solutions.  The problem is, there is no magic fix; something’s gotta give.  So what is it?  Trash pickup?  Ticket tax? Police and Fire layoffs?  Keeping the pools closed for the summer?  You can’t say “no” to everything.  There are some tough choices that must be made.  I live outside the city of Toledo and I’ve always paid for my trash to be picked up; maybe that’s why that solution doesn’t seem so ridiculous to me.  I’ve always paid income tax to the city of Toledo…and I don’t mind doing it.  I work here and I like knowing I can call police to help me if someone threatens me or decides to panhandle in our parking lot or camp outside on our lawn.   To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t really mind paying a ticket tax to see the Mud Hens or go to a concert, and believe me, I attend MANY of those events with my family and friends, so that would definitely hit me in the wallet.  I understand why the Mud Hens, Symphony, and Ballet don’t want the tax, I’m just saying I wouldn’t mind paying it.  At least it’s a solution that doesn’t put the burden solely on Toledoans.  Maybe inmates could clean up and mow the lawns at the parks?  Maybe people who owe money to the city and can’t pay could work off some of their debt?   Heck, maybe we could hold a telethon and ask people to make contributions to the worthy cause of keeping our city afloat? I don’t have the answers, but I for one am not complaining about the solutions.   It’s a tough time.   A time for sacrifice.


Goodbye, Dear Gretchen

February 18, 2010


Gretchen with her husband Phil

Three weeks ago, I asked you to pray for my friend Gretchen Skeldon, a 4-time cancer survivor who was hospitalized with some serious health problems.   I received so many emails and comments about Gretchen that I wanted to let you know our prayers have been answered, although not the way we hoped they would be.

Gretchen died peacefully at Hospice Wednesday morning.  The fact that this was Ash Wednesday was not lost on the people who knew Gretchen as a devout and faithful Catholic.   Gretchen’s belief in God, and her unwavering faith that He has a plan for all of us helped her get through some very trying times and I hope it helped take some of the fear away in these final days.  But the selfless way Gretchen lived her life every day has always inspired me and so many others.  

She sang the national anthem at the 2009 Rockets for the Cure game

Because she was so young when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and because she battled it with such grace, I asked her many times to talk to other young women who were newly diagnosed.  She always made the time to offer her support and share her experiences with them.  She also volunteered countless hours to raise money and awareness for breast cancer through NW Ohio Komen.    She never shied away from an opportunity to help and truly believed a cure would be found in her lifetime. 

Something I find so amazing about my friend Gretchen is her ability to reach and teach people even in her last vulnerable days.  

This is the picture Gretchen wanted the doctors and nurses to see

As her health started to deteriorate, Gretchen shared with me that she was concerned her nurses and doctors would not know “the real me.  They only see a bald, sick-looking invalid lying in this bed.  They don’t know that two months ago I was a normal person!”     I promised her they would know the real Gretchen and in her last few days when groups of doctors and nurses would come into her room at UTMC and she couldn’t talk for herself, I would point to a beautiful picture of Gretchen on the wall and say “Before you start your exam, let me properly introduce you to my friend, Gretchen.  She is a vivacious, incredible person–beautiful inside and out.  She is a mom, and a wife and a friend and she wanted to make sure you knew she was a normal person before she ended up in that hospital bed.”   

They would all take a good long look at Gretchen’s beautiful face and and nearly every one of them thanked me for reminding them of that important lesson.  I kept thinking to myself “Gretchen can’t even talk and she’s still teaching people and inspiring people to be better.” 

Her last selfless act: to donate her body to the scientists at UTMC.   It was her hope that by studying her body, doctors will discover something that will help the next woman with breast cancer survive.   

Breast cancer brought Gretchen to me in 2003, the year the NW Ohio/Komen Race for the Cure was run “In Celebration of Gretchen Skeldon.”    Today, breast cancer took my dear friend away.   But Gretchen leaves behind a legacy of giving and love that most of us can only aspire to. Our world will forever be a better place because she was here.   Goodbye, dear Gretchen.


“V” is for Victory Center

February 8, 2010

I was the Master of Ceremonies, posing here with some of the models including my colleague, Melissa Voetsch!

Five hundred people gathered Friday to celebrate one important cause: victory over cancer.    The Victory Center is an amazing resource for our community and we are lucky to have it.  Friday was one of the Victory Center’s major fundraisers: the 3rd annual Luncheon and Fashion Show.    Local women’s boutiques joined forces for this one:  Sophie’s Sister, Lady C, the Sophia Lustig Shop, Lily Whitestone, Ragazza and Elegant Rags brought us a preview of Spring.  But what made this fashion show special was the models:  many were cancer survivors with amazing and inspirational stories to share.   These ladies were beautiful inside AND out!

If you are diagnosed with cancer, or if someone you love is diagnosed, the Victory Center should be one of the first phone calls you make.   It is a fabulous resource for information, support groups, and adjunctive services like massage, reflexology, and exercise classes.   While the doctors work to fix your body, the Victory Center works to fix your spirit.   No need is too big or too small for staff at the Victory Center.    Check them out online at www.thevictorycenter.org or 419-531-7600.     If you like what you see available, come to our next fundraiser or send a donation.    Toledo is blessed to have such a resource available but it is funded entirely by donations and corporate sponsorships.   Every dollar helps!


Girls Got Game!

February 2, 2010

The Blade/Andy Morrison

Thrilling.  Heart-stopping.  Stomach-churning.  You might think I’m talking about the newest ride at Cedar Point, but no–those are the words I use to describe the way I spent my afternoon on Saturday, watching the University of Toledo women’s basketball team take on the ladies from Bowling Green State University.  Both teams are terrific: each picked to win its division in the MAC.  Both coaches are outstanding:  Tricia Cullop and Curt Miller were MAC co-coaches of the year last year. 

But major credit also goes to the fans!  The atmosphere in Savage Arena was simply electric!  Fans from both teams filled the stands, setting a MAC on-campus attendance record of 5,825.    Nearly 6,000 people watching a women’s basketball game!  The support from the students was fantastic, including a huge contingent of UT football players there to cheer the women on.   And when the Rockets won the game–66 to 63–those fans stormed the court, hugging the players and celebrating the victory with excitement.    The UT-BG rivalry is a great one, and it had been six years since the Rockets had beaten BG. 

The Blade/Andy Morrison

How exciting to be at the game!  I felt so proud to be there with my 9 year old daughter, showing her that women’s sports do matter;  and that fans–at least around here–appreciate a girl who’s got game!

Join us Saturday, February 13th at Savage Arena for Rockets for the Cure!  The UT ladies take on Western Michigan at 2 PM in a special game to benefit NW Ohio Komen for the Cure!  For tickets, call 419-530-GOLD.


Praying for an Angel

January 26, 2010

Gretchen and her daughter Lily

For the past 6 years, I’ve been lucky to have an angel in my life.  Dictionary.com defines angel as “a person having qualities generally attributed to an angel, as beauty, purity, or kindliness.”   That describes my friend Gretchen to a tee. 

Gretchen’s tall and slender…obviously beautiful on the outside…but it only takes a minute to see she’s just as beautiful on the inside.  She’s smart and personable, traits that have taken her to a top position at Libbey Glass.  She’s a talented designer, a doting mother, devoted wife and unwavering friend.   Oh, and you should hear her sing.  She has the voice of–you guessed it–an angel. 

Gretchen's always up for fun!

When I met Gretchen she was a two-time breast cancer survivor.  I asked her once if she ever asked God “Why me?”  With a twinkle in her eye she said “I never ask ‘why me,’ I always say ‘I wonder why God gave me a cancer I can beat?'”   Her positive attitude has been an inspiration to  everyone who knows her.   

Now Gretchen needs our prayers.  Now a four-time cancer survivor, she’s in the hospital fighting off a terrible lung infection.  Her friends and family are taking shifts with her at the hospital and Friday was my turn.   It’s hard to see someone you love struggling to breathe.  But Gretchen continues to inspire people every day with her positive attitude, and amazing recovery. 

She’s a miracle…and we’re praying for her strength and recovery.  Praying for an angel.