Bartimaeus shows me that I need to change the way I pray for myself and for others

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I spent a lot of time this past year with an old, blind beggar named Bartimaeus who was blind on the road out of Jericho and who had the temerity to shout out to Jesus to heal his blindness.  This past year I read and reread this story because of my rapidly declining vision.  

As I waited to be admitted to the University of Michigan Kresge Eye Center, Pastor David Maier and his wife Pat came off the elevator.  I was taken aback a little when he prayed for God to heal my vision.  I was a fallen away Lutheran and he was the head of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Michigan.  He prayed anyways with a great deal of passion.

He prayed for the transplant surgeon and all the people involved in this ever so delicate surgery when somebody died in order for me to have their cornea.

As I face more things going awry in my head and neck such as plugged carotid arteries, a large mass on my tongue and a goiter working on becoming a softball, I can see from this post that I need to pray like Bartimaeus, a plain old beggar on the side of the road in Israel.

I'm not a fancy church guy who can quote much of the Bible from memory.  I grew up on the poorest side of Bay City, right on the river.  I'm not a big contributor to the church, but I know that Jesus loves me.

Pastor Maier connects the dots with this post.  It's practical and real life and it's worth of sharing.

 


Here's how to tell if you're getting old

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When we sitting on the couch eating lunch this afternoon while watching Everybody Loves Raymond, my wife caught this on Facebook.  It got me to thinking about my age and how pay attention to the location of the john when I'm out and around.  

I also pee a couple times during the night.  I've started to use that time to pray for my kids and grandkids and, of course, for my wife.  

Should churches develop prayer lists for their senior members to use when they go to the bathroom during the middle of the night?  God doesn't have hours, right?  We can't wake him up.  He's always awake and has a free ear to listen.

 


Getting a "fine needle biopsy" of my thyroid on a Wednesday afternoon

Me in a hospital gown.
My wife Gladys got this shot while I was waiting for the MSU doctor to do the fine needle biopsy of my thyroid.

Before poking me more than 10 times in my thyroid which has a goiter the size of an orange, the Michigan State University doctor took some time to talk about thyroid cancer and how the odds were that I didn't have it.  However, he did say that if I tested positive, then it would be pretty treatable.

It was all part of my fine needle biopsy that was taken after tests showed a soft tissue mass on the back of my tongue.  It was found in the process of various tests that the goiter on my thyroid was the size of an orange and that my thyroid had dropped down into my chest from my neck.

I found that the biopsy was pretty easy, compared to the biopsy of my tongue more than two weeks ago where a sample was taken in the operating room with me under a general anesthetic.  The doctor used a variety of syringes to take samples directly from my thyroid.  The cells have been shipped to a pathologist in New York.  Results should be back by a week from this past Wednesday.

Any after effects from the biopsy?  My neck and throat are sore.  No pain, but some soreness.

For me, the threat of cancer has had a cleansing effect.  I quickly clarified my values and what I want to do with the rest of my life.  The list is short, but would center around my relationship with God, with my wife and with the rest of my family.   I could come up with a "bucket list" real quick.  

I pray a whole lot more.  I'm not sure if God had to put on extra staff to hear my prayers.  I'm praying for a wider group of people, including those who we deliver Meals on Wheels today.

I'm writing this for myself.  Doing that helps me to sort out my reaction to a whole bunch of health stuff that happened this past year.  I don't think I'll stop.  I don't think I can.

 


What I've learned so far in my tongue biopsy experience yesterday

  1. Me.
    Me yesterday at Sparrow Hospital's pre-op.

My doctor told my wife Gladys yesterday after the biopsy procedure on the back of my tongue that on first glance there appeared to be no malignancy.  But, of course, we are awaiting for the official pathology report on the tissue she obtained.  

So what was it like for me, a 72-year-old guy to experience this?  After waking up from a full-night's sleep, several things hit me face to face, so to speak.  The list would have to include:

  1. My acknowledgment of the importance of prayer.  Lots of people were praying for me and I know they continue to do so.  I have to ask the question if God heard all those prayers and changed the nature of the growth on the back of my tongue.  I realize that God is not like a roulette wheel where the prayers of people make it land on a better spot.  But, I know that God hears those prayers and responds to them.
  2. The importance of family surrounding me as I was fraught with fear about having a malignancy on my tongue which I use for everything.  My wife, my son and daughter and my daughter-in-law with their two kids were there.  I know that my son-in-law would have been there too if it wasn't for having his kids in school and having to teach a class.  I got strength from knowing that my family was there showing love that really touched my heart in a major way.
  3. Having trust in my doctor, a newly-minted ear, nose and throat specialist, who has a background in treating diseases of the tongue.  Online, I looked at her academic and practice background.  I was seriously impressed and so was my wife.  I trusted her completely.
  4. Picking the right hospital:  Sparrow Hospital in Lansing was amazing.  I felt cared for as an individual.  This allowed me to have confidence in them and what they said.  Both my kids were born there and my elderly mother died there.  

As I recover from this in the next couple of days, I have lots to be thankful for.  I know that it's not over with yet.  I still have a carotid artery that's blocked 100 percent and a case of glaucoma that's been going up and down.

But, I feel today a new perseverance from God that will carry me through whatever lies ahead.  Have you listened to Matt Redmond's worship song 10,000 Reasons?  I feel that I've been given more than twice that amount of blessings to praise him for.  Seriously.  And, I've gotten some help from Him to not forget that.

More to come.

 

 


I'm not making this up about having a growth on my tongue that needs to be biopsied and a goiter the size of an apple

My tongue doctor
Meet my ear, nose and throat surgeon on the right  


My wife said it looked kinky when my ear, nose and throat doctor stuck about a twelve inch video cable up my nose and ran it down to my throat.  It was a follow-up on the findings from a CAT scan and angiogram of my brain that I had last week.

Those tests were ordered after it was found that I have a blockage in my two carotid arteries, one is 100 percent blocked and the other, it was found, was 20 percent.  As part of this, the imaging tests showed that I had a growth on the base of my tongue and in the neighborhood of that I had a goiter the size of an apple.  

After talking about any throat symptoms I had, she pulled out the cable with a small video monitor on the end.  It felt like a long worm crawling down the inside front of my face.  It wasn't painful, but it felt weird, even though it brought some tears to my eyes.

Next step is surgery and getting the okay for a biopsy of the troubled part of my tongue.  Because of my plugged carotids, I need to get my vascular doctor to okay my staying off blood thinners for a week and I have to get my primary care doctor to give his okay.

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I've got a bunch of stuff in my head.

 

In the past year, I was smiling that I was content with my vision problems brought on by glaucoma and by a cornea that had to be transplanted.

What does all this mean?  I'm not sure.  Some of it could be just a normal part of aging with all this happening on a compressed schedule.

My prayer life has stepped up in the past two weeks for sure.  I'm counting on God hearing those prayers for peace and for healing in all this.  I know that he's there and I'm constantly reminding myself that he will be my shield.

What do you do when you've been bombarded with a bucketful of curve balls.  When I wake up in the middle of the night, I talk to him and ask him for peace.  How's that working?  My Apple watch shows my Beats Per Minute right now being high as I write this.

My friend Ken and I recently read Philip Yancey's book Disappointment With God where he gets into Job and how he reacted to a whole bunch of really nasty stuff in his life.  I pray that I can learn from his reaction.

In the past two days, I've found myself looking at people's tongues more and more.  And I've looked at YouTube videos of surgeries where biopsies of the tongue are taken.

I am counting on being able to sense His presence as my ailment list gets longer.


Doctor says having a fully blocked carotid artery should not be problematic in my day-to-day living

Weighing myself on Monday
I'm watching my weight closely

Yesterday, we met with my vascular doctor who shared the results of my recent CAT scan and angiogram of my head and its attendant arteries.  I have one that's fully blocked and the official reading on the other is 20 percent.  

Because of the fully blocked carotid, I'm not a candidate for a surgical fix.  It was explained to me that I might end up with great blood flow but at the price of a stroke.  There, apparently, is overwhelming evidence that would be the outcome.

So, my future lies with keeping the 20 percent from growing.  Because of alternate pathways for the blood flow, I can live with the partially clogged carotid.  I have to take the blood thinner Plavix and stay healthy.

What happens if the partially closed artery becomes more blocked.  His answer wasn't clear.  I don't have to worry about that today.

Tomorrow, a specialist looks at the soft tissue mass in my larynx that was discovered during the CAT scan.  What is it?  I have no idea.  Right now, I'm late for a walk through our back forty.


How should I react to the new finding of a soft tissue mass in my larynx?

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My son is now drinking the beer that I would drink. Now that I'm taking the blood thinner Plavix I can't drinking any kind of alcohol.

 

I had just entered a video call where four of us--my son-Justin Thorp; my son-in-law Adam Jones and close friend Ken Alexander spend a half hour or so talking about our daily lives and then praying together.

With the video camera on, my cellphone rang.  I noticed it was my primary care physician and I was hoping for news about a CT scan and angiogram of my carotid arteries that I had taken the day before.  It was partially.  

There was no news about my plugged carotids--one is a hundred percent and the other 50--but there was an early finding about a soft tissue mass found in my larynx.  I spent the next several hours trying to figure out what that means or could mean.

Consider it was a Friday afternoon.  I wanted more information, but I couldn't get through to a doctor.  I talked to a snippy nurse who said she couldn't give that information over the phone and that the doctor wasn't available and I talked to a medical assistant who said the doctor had left by that time.  So I was left to my own devices with the web.



I checked Google for information about cancer of the larynx.  I matched some of the symptoms, but my daughter told me to be careful about going down rabbit holes that web information creates.

So here I am with apparent carotid artery disease and a lump of unknown composition in my larynx that could leave me talking like the cop on Chicago PD who talks like he has rocks in his mouth.  

How am I taking all this?

It depends on the time you ask.  I'm anxious and I am frustrated and I'm praying all the time.  It's an ongoing conversation with God asking for his healing and for his leading and thanking him for everything that he's given me like my family.

I'm now more liable to write down the names of people who ask me to pray for them and more liable to pray for them in the middle of the night when I get up to pee.

I know God's there and he is listening to me and watching out for me.  Am I nervous about this?  You bet.



 


I'm still processing what the vascular surgeon told me about my clogged carotid arteries

Me sitting against a tree next to the Detroit River.
Sitting against a tree last Sunday on the Detroit River.

I felt like I was just tasered yesterday when the vascular surgeon told me there's nothing they could do for my clogged arteries in my neck, one is fully blocked and the other is less than 50 percent, he said.  My wife Gladys was sitting next to me in the exam room when he told me that my hope for getting blood to my brain and to my eyes would be centered around a blood thinner that could probably clean out our kitchen sink.

A CLARIFICATION: The doctor pointed out that with the right carotid being less than 50 percent blocked that the Plavix blood thinner that he prescribed can be effective.  There are apparently other sources of blood supply to the brain too.  It's serious, but not dire.

Since learning that I have clogged carotids, I had been researching surgeries to unclog them.  YouTube is filled with all kinds of video showing the amazing procedure where the carotid is cut open and the blockage is tweezed out.  But, the doctor said that experience has shown that when one of the arteries is blocked 100 percent that the risks are too high.  Strokes and death can easily be the result.

One last hope is an imaging test that can determine whether there's even a trickle of blood through the artery that's completely blocked.  He said, the odds are against that happening.

So, what are my thoughts about this as I celebrate one whole week of being 72 years old?  The words bucket list come to mind.  Going forward, I need to be extra picky about what I do and think.  At various points in my life, I felt more freedom to ignore doing certain things.  And, right now, I'm carefully going through my list of what's important to me and what's not.

Let me emphasize that no one has said I'm on the verge of needing to cut the grass of my cemetery plot and no one has said I'm in imminent danger of having a stroke or a heart attack.  But, I know the realities of what I'm dealing with as I move forward in my glaucoma and cornea journey.

As I'm moving ahead with all this and as I watch episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond for the umpteenth time, I'm trying to pay attention to what's important to me.

Christian songwriter and singer Matt Redmond has a song 10,000 Reasons.  It's about giving praise and thanks to God at all stages of life from birth to old age and to death.  I know that I've surpassed 10,000 reasons by many times.  My wife, my kids, their spouses and my grandkids.  My memory bank is filled with reasons.  

God has blessed me greatly and I know it, even though I might not always show it.  The Bible is always in my pocket and I open it throughout the day.  Today, I'm asking for His help in giving my anxiety to him.  I want him to carry it and I know he will.  It's a promise that I'm betting my life on.

"May your will be done Lord."  

 


Why would Republicans want to cut $500 billion from the Medicare program?

 

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I got this news release in my email from the Michigan Democratic about how the Republicans in the U.S. Congress pushed through a budget bill that would cut $500 billion from Medicare and transform it into a voucher program.  

Upton Votes to Cut $500 Billion from Medicare, Convert to Voucher Program

House Republican Budget Also Includes Huge Giveaway to Big Oil

LANSING –– Today, Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) voted for the House Republican budget that cuts almost $500 billion from Medicare over a decade and turns it into a voucher program, which means older people will have to pay far more out of their own pockets for health care. 

How does this affect senior citizens with that insurance coverage?  Why aren't Republicans talking about it?  What about the voucher program?

It seems like Republicans are trying to slide one by people who need the healthcare the most.

Anybody got links to show the thinking.

 


How accurate are blood pressure readings taken at Sam's Club or a drug store?

My blood pressure reading.
This is my blood pressure reading taken at a neighborhood RiteAid from a few days ago.

I did a quick stop at the neighborhood Rite Aid a few days ago and spotted a machine where I could take my blood pressure.  Ordinarily, I would not take the time, but I couldn't resist.  This was my reading.  It seems to be pretty decent.

How accurate are these machines?  Is it like the difference between stepping on the scale at home and the one at the doctor's office where the numbers seem to be inflated?  Just curious.

 


I can barely understand what my wife is saying on the other end of the couch

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The couch in our living room isn't really that big, but when I'm sitting on one end and my wife on the other I have trouble understanding what she's saying.  It's been that way for awhile.  I experience the same thing with my grandkids.  

I was getting tired of saying "what was that?"  And they get frustrated in having to repeat themselves.  That's why I went to America's store--Amazon-- for a possible solution.

If sound amplifiers  are hearing aids, they have plenty.  The challenge is reading through all the information and familiarizing myself with the issues.  

Using the bonus from my Discover card, I paid for most of a teeny amplifier.  It came today.  It's in my right ear. So far, it seems to be working.

The test will be in the days ahead with everyday living, including some couch conversations and some television shows.

I will report back in the days ahead.


Do you pay attention to the side effects of medication that you take?

Side Effects
These are the side effects from one of my eyedrops. I have experienced everyone, but the last one listed

I've been taking prescription eyedrops for glaucoma for well over a decade.  I've never read the carefully folded paper inside the box holding the drops until this past week.

My wife was clearing off our kitchen counter when she came to an empty eyedrop box with the printed notes filled front-to-back with lines and lines of information about the drops.  The print is "small-small" and anybody with normal vision would have trouble reading it.  

She looked at it and noticed the "Side Effects" listed.  They almost matched perfectly what I've been experiencing for awhile.  I've told my eye doctors about these symptoms for the past few years.  They seem to shrug their shoulders indicating that they are stumped.

What about Side Effects of prescription medication.  When they're listed is it just to comply with Food and Drug Administration requirements?  Are they listed to be meaningful to the consumer?

A few years ago, I asked one of my ophthalmologists about side effects of the drops and he seemed to say they are nothing to worry about.

Should I ask again before my next eye surgery on the day after Easter?


I wonder if I can take an Instagram picture from the operating room before my eye surgery

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The lens in my right eye has dislocated for a fifth time. Surgery on Wednesday. Hopefully, it will stay this time.

The lens in my right eye has come loose for the fifth time.  On Wednesday, two ophthalmologists will replace it and put it in front of the iris in that eye.  One of the doctors will take it out and the other will put the new one in.

This problem with my right eye from what I've learned in my visits with more than a dozen eye doctors is from my life-long nearsightedness.  It changed the grippers that the handles of the artificial lens goes into.

Is vision overrated?  Not at all.  I want to hang onto my vision as long as I can.  I've been talking to God about that.  I've been taking a visual inventory of everything I've seen in my life, so I can have these images firmly in my brain.  I thank God for ophthalmologists.  I especially pray for the two who will be working on me next week.

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These are from my collection of eyedrops left over from my past eye surgeries. I've thrown away about an equal amount.

I have one month to wait for next step in my effort to keep vision in my right eye

 

A picture of my eyes
This was taken in 2013 when I had several surgeries on my right eye

 The lens in my right eye has run amuck for the fifth time.  I've had four different ophthalmologists examine it with one saying it has completely come loose and others saying it's partly attached, but flapping around.  What does this mean?

Right now, I have double vision most of the time.  I also have trouble reading, including the web on my new 27-inch monitor attached to my laptop.

Here's the fix:  on May 13, two surgeons will work on taking out the lens and replacing it with a new one that will be placed in front of my iris.  It's about a two hour surgery that has risks, but appears to be the only way to fix it.  

To be honest, it would be easy to let the condition of my present vision, the surgery and the uncertainty consume my thoughts.  With my wife's help and with the help of family, I am going to work hard to avoid that.

But most important is turning this over to God.  It easier said than done.  Even so, I just have to do it.  I pray fervently that he will give me that kind of faith.

Our pastor, Jeff Manion of Ada Bible Church, shared this prayer a few years ago.  He says he starts everyday by asking God to give him the grace to trust him everyday.  "Dear Lord, I am asking the same."

I will report on the next leg of my eye journey from time to time.  Today, I will teach myself how to use my cell phone to dictate posts right into this blog, just in case, I can't see well enough.

 

My daily prayer.
I have my pastor's prayer taped to the back of my desk.

 

 


What can you learn about dealing with cancer and death from young mom Kara Tippetts?

I stumbled onto Kara Tippetts' blog about her life as a young mom dealing with incurable cancer.  I was drawn by her spirit and her focus on God.  Her transparency makes her experience even more real.  I've read her book The Hardest Peace-expecting grace in life's hard.  

This video clip is a trailer that's part of a documentary being produced about her and her reaction to her disease.  

My heart is touched by this very real family dealing with some really tough stuff.  For me, I see it as a template for how to deal with circumstances that bring you to a wall that seems impossible to get through.

 


Mangoes in our house grow in the freezer and not on trees

 

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Here's what we eat for an after supper snack, mangoes.

What do you eat after supper while you're streaming something from Netflix or Hulu Plus?

We found that these times can be a real trap nutritionally.  Ice cream can be a real trap.  Lately, we've been trying frozen fruit, like mangoes and strawberries with a little Cool Whip on top.  It's healthy, sweet and satisfying.  We buy the fruit from Sam's Club.

What do you eat for an after supper snack?


Spending Christmas wrestling with our commode rather than our grandkids

 

Ninja Turtles light up his eyes.
It was Ninja Turtles for our all boy four-year-old grandson.

 

 

How many of you have had the stomach flu this year?

In November, my wife and I were counting down the days till we could wrestle and play with two of our grandchildren because they return to their home in the Balkans where my daughter and son-in-law work for an international development agency, World Hope.  We had  stored up some really great food, some great snacks and some craft beer and special wine.

Then it happened.  On Tuesday night, I felt my supper returning to my throat and mouth for a do-over.  I got the chills and then I got weak and my stomach felt like it took a punch.

So, we had to scale back on eating and on real active play with our grandkids.  Their parents were our surrogates for that while we are recovering.

We experienced the love of Jesus Christ in a new way this year.  It was the strength of family relationships.  I hope my parents, my mother and father in their eternal niches and Gladys' parents could see how much God has blessed us with our family.  All their efforts to pay it forward have seen fruit.  

Here are just a few pictures of a very special Christmas.  Next year, we hope to do it without the stomach flu.

 

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Our granddaughter has a special bond with Christmas cookies and her grandma.

 

 

 

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Our granddaughter gives us this bird house which she painted.

 

 

 

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We are really proud of these guys, our daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and grandson

 

 


Going to the next step in treating my chronic open angle glaucoma

 

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This resembles what they will insert into my eye. It will have drains to get rid of excess fluid in my eye. 

The pressure in my eyes has been creeping higher and higher.  Recent tests have shown that my optic nerve has thinned and that my peripheral vision has narrowed.  What does this mean?

I'm not totally sure, other than I might be nearing a hail Mary pass to reduce the pressure which threatens my vision.

Next is the surgical insertion of a drainage tube in my right eye called a Baerveldt glaucoma implant.  It's scheduled for the middle of next month.  It could work really well.  And there are chances that it may not.

I've got lots of questions and I'm trying to get answers.

How many more baby-boomers out there are struggling with the same issues?

 


I'd highly recommend Runkeeper for older baby-boomers like myself

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This is a selfie that I took just before we walked this morning. It's cold in Michigan, so we wore hats.

Because of a lack of meniscus in my left knee I stopped jogging more than a decade ago.  For a number of years I was a regular at our downtown YMCA where I'd run on a small track with the added benefit of socializing with many people who I worked with.

Stats
These are our stats for walking as of this morning.


I even ran in a number of races, including a couple that were 10 miles.  Then it all stopped because of daily life and a deteriorating knee.  Over the years, my wife and I have walked on a sometimes regular basis and other times more sporadically.  It was affected by the activities of a growing family, weather and a dog.

Then we retired.  We tried walking everyday, but motivation would come and go.  Now the doctor has told me to walk everyday.  He said to aim for an hour a day doing a 20 minute mile.

This is where our son Justin enters the picture.  He's part of the wired generation.  It touches all part of his life and the life of his family.  Earlier this year, he recommended my trying the app Runkeeper on my phone.

We did and it has been a godsend.  All we had to do was select walking on the app and we were unleashed.  We have walked just about every street in our neighborhood and we've walked when we visit our kids where one lives in a different state and the other overseas.

The app on my iPhone 5 reads out in an audible voice our average speed per mile, the distance we've walked, plus more statistics that are helpful.

My inner self reacts positively to maintainly stats on a mobile device.  And if we are late in walking, the app will send us a reminder.  It also save a map of the routes we take each day.

We are closing in on 300 miles since we started on May 1.  I will write more when we reach that milestone.

 


My day in iPhone pictures: Eye doctor, pumpkin spice, fluorescent lights, beet chips, raking leaves

My eyes were wide-open for most of the morning today and some of this afternoon.  Because of my chronic glaucoma and other eye problems, I'm a groupie at my ophthalmology practice.  It was a full exam today and that starts with getting my eyes dilated.

That meant that when my wife and I went grocery shopping after the appointment, my pupils were wide-open.  However, I was still able to give the camera on my iPhone some exercise.  It was an average day, but these still pictures make the ordinarrieness of the day pop with color.

 

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I'm waiting for my eyes to dilate while at the ophthalmologist's office. As a chronic glaucoma patient and one with other eye problems, I get my eyes checked real often.

 I'm a groupie at my ophthalmologist's office.  I get my eyes checked often  This comes after many surgeries and chronic glaucoma and cataracts.  Eyedrops are just part of my daily routine.

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My wife uses pumpkin pie spice to make lattes for us as a treat during the day. The price for a small container is memorable.

 While going down the spice aisle at Meijers on Lake Lansing Road in East Lansing, we found the pumpkin pie spice.  This small container was $4.79.  For our homemade pumpkin lattes at home, superwife makes her own spice. 

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When we go to the supermarket my vision seems off kilter and my left eye hurts. It's a sensitivity to the intensity of the fluorescent lights.

For the past several months, I've noticed that my eyesight  changes every time I walk in a store like Meijers or Sam's Club.  My eyes start to hurt like I have a low-grade headache.  Doctor says I probably have a sensitivity to that type of illumination.

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It was a first today at the supermarket when we bought beet chips. Have you ever had them?

 Red beet chips!  They just about jumped off the shelf when I saw them this morning.  I love red beets.  It's the first time we saw them.  Have you ever had them?  What did you think?

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After lunch at home, we raked and bagged the leaves in our front yard.

 When we got home, the leaves in the front yard shouted out to be raked.  We filled three bags.  This is an activity that will continue for the next next month or so.