Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

I loved the 4th of July as a kid. My dad would drive us to the firework stand on the south end of town and we'd stock up on small fireworks for the backyard. Even in the relatively small community of Lawton, OK, fireworks were illegal inside city limits so we stuck to mild explosives such as snakes, chickens, tanks and sparklers.

The Snake is the least amusing 'firework' ever conceived.

We felt confident that most of these tame fireworks would neither attract attention nor ignite the shrubbery, although we did have a scare one year when we branched out with a product labeled 'bees'. They advertised themselves as colorful spinning lights but said nothing about 'flight' so they were determined safe enough for purchase. When we lit the first one, however, we all watched in horror as it immediately whizzed 30 feet into the air into the branches of our large Oak. Luckily we'd had enough rain that year that the tree did not catch on fire, but the remaining 'bees' were tossed.

Apart from the fireworks, there was swimming (we had a pool), grilling of burgers and hot dogs (freedom meats), and an evening trek to Lake Lawtonka. The lake area being outside of city limits made it a minefield from folks setting off the largest fireworks they could find. We would sit on top of the car and observe the novice displays as well as the professional show from nearby Fort Sill. On the way home we would pass out in the backseat of the car, exhausted from the excitement and food. Good times.

About two years ago, Ryan and I returned to Austin from a four year stint in Chandler, AZ, about 40 minutes from Phoenix. While I don't have great memories of Arizona (it was just a rough time for us - no offense, Phoenicians), I did love being there on the 4th. Phoenix is extremely spread out with lots of suburbs, and the landscape is mostly flat. This meant that on the 4th we could climb onto the roof of our house and be able to view the firework displays of all the different surrounding communities: Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, Ahwatukee, and sometimes Phoenix. Fantastic.


From what I remember of the Austin show, the city does a great job with the fireworks on Town Lake. Navigating the crowd in the park is no easy feat, however. One year we came up with a brilliant plan of going to the Barton Creek mall parking lot for a better vantage point, but unfortunately half of south Austin had the same idea. Luckily this year the Admiral and KareBear (Ryan's mum and dad) will be staying at a hotel downtown, so we'll be going there to try and enjoy the festivities.

What are some of your favorite 4th of July memories?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hello, my friends, hello.

Hi peeps, McSteans here. I have decided, perhaps foolishly, to enter the blogosphere. Some of you may know me from my husband Ryan's blog, the League of Melbotis.

Ryan and I currently live in Austin, TX with our two big happy dogs, Mel and Lucy, and disgruntled feline, Jeff the Cat. Once upon a time I was employed as a software engineer, but have 'retired' to focus on my health. Since I was seventeen, I have been living with kidney disease and have had two transplants. I am currently on dialysis three times a week. During pre-testing for a third transplant, I was diagnosed with severe Coronary Artery Disease and deemed too much of a risk for surgery. Years of kidney disease, transplant drugs, and other stresses have seriously damaged my heart.

This all sounds overwhelming and I'm not detailing my medical history to beg for sympathy, but like it or not, it is a huge part of who I am. I'll try not to whine too much, so alert me if you hear tiny violins while reading.

Dialysis, while not fun, is actually easier than it was 10 years ago. Between my first and second transplants, I was on dialysis for about 2 years and treatments lasted 4 hours (3 times a week). These days, newer machines have allowed for some treatment times to be cut, although I know there are some in my clinic who still do 4 hours. I am personally down to 2.5 hours, making it easier to maintain somewhat of a normal life. Most people sleep or watch TV during treatment, but I usually spend about an hour writing in my journal and the rest of the time reading.

Switching gears now, I've been trying recently to focus more time away from dialysis on having fun, so yesterday Ryan and I went to Barton Springs for a couple of hours. Before this summer, I'd only been to Barton Springs once, about 10 years ago. Ignorant of the 68 degree water temperature, I jumped in the water seeking relief from the 100+ heat wave of the summer of 1998. I thought my heart was going to stop it was so cold, but I stayed in and eventually warmed up by treading water. This year I have put my traumatic experience behind me and am proud to say I've been swimming many times. I even went off the diving board yesterday, in what will have been my first and last time. I love the entire experience of the pool, from the beautiful blue-green color of the water, to the sounds of happy people chattering while you dry out in the sunshine after your swim. Hopefully I'll be able to return many times before summer comes to an end.