Long Story Short: Much ado about snoring

What you’re about to read isn’t exactly what many would consider public service journalism. Yet, the problem is more serious than many give it credit for being – and in many cases, there’s a simple solution.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that in the movies, snoring seems like ha-ha funny.

Try sleeping beside a serious snorer for a year or so. See how funny it is then.

Think about it. At its most extreme, a lack of sleep is a form of torture. In mild cases, a lack of sleep doesn’t bring out the best in us.

Serious snoring caused by sleep apnea causes a lack of sleep – for both the snorer and whoever is trying to sleep nearby.

Thankfully, my days of sleeping with a snorer are over.

When I hear friends talking about sleeping on the sofa or in another room because of a snoring partner, I think of the years I spent growing angrier by the sleepless night because my husband sounded like a bulldozer three feet away from me.

If you’re reading this and nodding your head because you know what I’m talking about, I feel your pain.

If you’re being forced to read this, you probably don’t want to deal with the problem. For your sake and the sake of the rest of your family, please get past whatever it is that is holding you back from breathing better in your sleep.

You’ll feel better.

Your family will feel better.

Life, in general, has the real possibility of greatly improving – and I’m not overstating the effects regular good sleep can have for you.

While it took a near-death experience to put an end to my husband’s snoring, the stay in the hospital and subsequent stay in the sleep clinic did wonders for our marriage.

Though he had not been officially diagnosed with sleep apnea, there was no question in anyone’s mind who was within a 50-foot radius while he was sleeping that he had it. A stay in a sleep clinic is required to get a person properly fitted for a breathing machine and the headgear that goes with it. He would not, under any circumstances, agree to go to and/or spend a night in a sleep clinic. He wasn’t budging. He wouldn’t even believe he snored. Even after video/audio evidence. As I mentioned earlier, a lack of sleep doesn’t bring out the best in us.

Finally (to get me to stop talking about it), he agreed that if I could get him a C Pap breathing machine to wear at night to alleviate the snoring and apnea, he would wear it. He knew these machines require a prescription – and he underestimated my dedication to the task.

Sarah Palin isn’t the only one who ever heard of eBay.

When eBay first started, its item list was wide open. I bought him a used breathing machine online. I ordered a new mask and tubing from a medical supplier. He had promised to wear it and did so begrudgingly on occasion. My wunderfind helped some. Because it wasn’t fitted right, he hated the whole apparatus and seldom kept his promise.

The snoring continued.

Three years ago, he had a blood clot due to a knee fracture. Unbeknownst to us, the clot broke lose and ended up straddling his lungs. Things weren’t looking good.

Even while he was hooked up to all sorts of breathing machines in the hospital, I asked the doctor if he thought our eBay-purchased breathing machine would help.

To my surprise, the doctor said, “Yes.”

So in the middle of a night I wasn’t sure my husband was going to make it through, I drove home and got the old gray machine. Back in the hospital, the respiratory therapist hooked it up amongst the rest of the tubes encouraging my husband’s life.

Against many odds, my husband ultimately made it. There were many factors in his recovery including a great team of doctors and lots of prayer from family and friends. Even so, I’m convinced the breathing machine – helping to push air through my husband’s respiratory system – made a positive difference.

After 29 days in the regular hospital, he was released with strict instructions and a bonafide prescription to a sleep clinic for a proper apnea diagnosis. I have no idea which one – and, if you’re curious, I know not a soul in or related to any of the area’s sleep clinics.

All I can say is the machine and breathing mask he got after a night in the sleep clinic work remarkably well. He willfully wears it every night – even when we go on trips. Good sleep has done wonders for our lives in general.

Long Story Short: Mendocino of my Mind

Truth be told, I’ve never been to Mendocino, Calif.

I’ve been close. I’ve been to Russian Gulch State Park just to the north. I’ve been to Point Arena about 30 miles south, but I’ve never been to Mendocino.

Even so, I love that place.

You may, too. For years, Jessica Fletcher was my Sunday night hero. Watching Angela Lansbury walk along the piers and sidewalks of Maine’s Cabot Cove, I thought “That little town is just about perfect – other, of course, than the weekly murders.”

In fact, Murder She Wrote wasn’t shot along the coast of Maine. The exterior shots were Mendocino – a place with everything I’m looking for. It has the weather I prefer, the charm I adore and easy access to San Francisco, my favorite American city.

I’ve never taken actual steps to move to or even visit Mendocino. Maybe there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to mess up the allure. Maintaining a “perfect place to move” is comforting. (Aside from the minor fact that the cost of living in Mendocino might surpass my meager pocketbook.) What’s reality got to do with a pie-in-the-sky dreamer?

Why not take the notion further? What if I could create my own little town (maybe on the outskirts of Mendocino) filled with all my favorite people? The problem with falling in love with different places around the world and the people who come with those places is simple. There’s no way to be in a community with all the people you love.

Through the years, I’ve kept a mental list of the many, many people I’ve met and grown to love and respect – people I would want to invite to live in my imaginary town on the coast of Northern California. Imagine living in a place where you knew and loved everyone you passed on the sidewalk.

My husband has long thought me ridiculous in taking snippets of time in lengthy car rides to plan my perfect community filled with people I love. In the last week, he’s challenged the concept further, using a question the Rev. Morgan Allen asked during his message in church last Sunday: “Are you a friendly church or a church of friends?”

There’s an important distinction. Anyone who’s ever tried to break into a church or other community of friends understands. As silly and/or theoretical as the Mendocino of my mind is, the paradox is clear.

My Mendocino would have to be a friendly town. A quick look at the basic history of modern times is all anyone needs to realize that exclusivity breeds trouble.

Whether it’s a group of first graders not playing with the new kid because the class bully says so or outright racial or cultural discrimination in a neighborhood, good never comes from leaving the odd man out. Granted, real trouble may not rear its ugly head for a while, but eventually it comes. The heroes out there are the ones who put a stop to the chain of actions that are set forth when others, either overtly or covertly, begin to leave someone or some people out.

Heroes come in many forms. She could be the first grade teacher who takes the problem seriously and fixes it. She could be the community organizer who works to change the culture of a neighborhood and school. He could be the young engineer who reads a quote on the office door of a stranger: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In reading that thought, his perspective on his role and responsibility in the world is forever changed.

I’ve been blessed enough to know a few heroes in my real world. They would certainly be welcome in the Mendocino of my mind, but I think it’s better for all of us that they continue doing the work that needs to be done right where they are.

on books…

I’ve had glitches with my home computer and Web site this week, but here is my book recommndation for the week. It’s one of my tried and true recommendations.

It’s Outlander by Diana Galbadon. It’s historical fiction — very well researched, but involves one minor element of science fiction that requires a leap of faith on the reader’s part. I gobbled up all five books in the series and can’t wait for the next. I’d love to have Jamie and Claire, the two main characters, to my house for Thanksgiving. Even though it’s been a year since I finished the last book, I still think of the storyline often — kind of like, “I wonder what Jamie and Claire are doing now.” I realize that train of thought could frighten some, but I love loving characters that much. It’s a fun read — and a great storyline.

Long Story Short: A Petunia a day

On my honor, I will try:

To serve God and my country,

To help people at all times,

And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

Girl Scouts have long held a special place in my heart.

Throughout elementary school, I knew where I was going when the bell rang on Thursday afternoons. I was going to Laura Ledford’s house for our Scout meeting. I knew there would be something fun to do – and that snacks would be available.

Mrs. Ledford did the best she could to keep our energetic gaggle of girls entertained. There were plenty of special occasions. Once she hosted a Scout sleepover on a Friday night when we were in the fourth grade. At some point early in the evening, we learned Jim Croce had died in a plane crash. Melissa Marveggio cried all night long because she loved Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

Such are the moments and memories every childhood needs.

Unlike Girl Scout meetings today, there was very little Scout-related paperwork back then. Mrs. Ledford did not have to file forms in triplicate for every occasion.

I understand the reasons the forms, rules and regulations have come into play, but they are a discouragement to today’s moms trying to do right by their daughters and volunteer as Scout leaders.

Even so, I decided to take the plunge last year for our youngest daughter, Piper. Other mothers had stepped up to the plate for our oldest daughter’s troop. They had gone to Herculean efforts to plan and coordinate activities and excursions. I didn’t want Piper to miss what I consider a vital piece of childhood.

I took the Scout troop idea one step further by specifically inviting other girls adopted from China. The Girl Scout meetings could be a chance for these children to bond.

The makings of our Daisy Scout troop started last fall. Daisy Scouts are the pre-cursors to Brownies, which are the pre-cursors to Girl Scouts. We needed five 5-year-olds to make a troop. We filled out all the paperwork. We wrote the checks. We held it in a manila envelope waiting for the day for our fifth and final member to join our group. Finally, she came. We were going to be an official Daisy Scout troop.

Unfortunately, our fifth Scout was only able to come to two meetings. Her mother was overrun with too many places to take too many children. The other mothers and I understood. However, what would we do with four wanna-be Daisy Scouts?

Then we had a revelation.

What if we went on meeting as planned, but decided to become Petunia Scouts instead? There would be less paperwork. We wouldn’t have to file what amounted to an act of Congress to take a field trip. We could keep our troop small and manageable and give our daughters the experience we hoped to give them from the onset.

I suggested the name Petunia Scouts in honor of my grandmother. For some reason when the movie Steel Magnolias came out, she would always say, “They may be steel magnolias, but we’re steel petunias.”

This was coming from a woman who took a painting class in 1977 and learned to paint a magnolia. She painted that magnolia on every available surface for the next 20 years. She loved and lauded magnolias. But for whatever reason, she didn’t want to be a steel one. Metaphorically, I’m not certain how she saw the difference between the steel versions of magnolias and petunias, but I figured, if petunias worked in her mind as an appropriate replacement for magnolias, they were suitable for our purposes, too.

Hence, four little girls and their mothers have been meeting every other week or so for more than a year now. We have become a part of each other’s lives. We never made the Daisy Scout status, but each of our little Petunia Scouts knows she’s a member of something bigger than her self. And the moms have realized we have someone to call when we need a second opinion, a baby sitter in a pinch or a shoulder to cry on.

Juliette Gordon Low would be proud.


“Certain death” is apparently uncertain. After many dire warnings about the rising waters of Ike, things here in Lafayette are much better than they could have been. The Vermilion River is ever-so-slightly in our backyard, barely out of its banks. During Rita, the water came within 10 feet of our house. So, we’re rather pleased that the reality was less than the prediction in our case.

For those out there who weren’t so fortunate, know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

I’ll post a photo of the river later today.

on books…

Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief tells a tale from the perspective of death during and post-World War II in Germany. Not exactly a bright and cheery subject matter, but one of my dearest friends in the world says this very well may be her favorite book — and that’s high praise coming from a reader the likes of Amy King. I’m just starting the book and am enjoying it thoroughly.

We’ll be discussing it at 4 p.m. Sept. 27 at Barnes and Noble. Anyone who reads the book is invited to attend the book discussion.


for those who know me well, you also know my dear husband, Julio. I hate for this to be so impersonal, but I thought avoiding mentioning it would make more of it than it is.

So many of you have heard and called or e-mailed, I wanted to confirm that Julio was one of the 100 or so Gannett executives who got a buy-out yesterday. After 35 years of working for the same company, he’s a free man. And life is good.

He’s fine. I’m fine. We’re fine. Who knows what we’ll do? But we’re excited about the possibilities.

Long Story Short: On Gustav

No one I know wants to say it out loud.

I’m not even sure how many of them think it.

But I’ll admit that there was more than one time in the past week when I thought about it a lot.

Even still, I was hesitant to say it to anyone, including my husband.

I’ve tried to explain the nature of a hurricane to people who don’t live here. They respond with, “That’s ridiculous, Jan. There are natural disasters everywhere. Blizzards. Floods. Tornadoes. The works. Hurricanes aren’t any worse than anything else.”

And I’m not saying they’re wrong. But about the time you’re loading your car up with what it will hold, including enough clothes for any occasion since you don’t know when or if you’ll come back and on the rare chance you have to find work somewhere else. If it comes down to it, you don’t want the lack of appropriate business attire to be your downfall.

You pack your kids’ school backpacks, flute and tennis shoes. You’re not sure how long they’ll be out of school and want to make sure they keep learning regardless of the situation.

You add the birth certificates. The passports. The Social Security cards.

You ask your daughter to walk around the house and take pictures of each room – each thing if possible. You know there’s a real chance you’ll need the photographic evidence to fight with the insurance people.

You add enough food to make it wherever you’re going since you don’t know how long it will take to get there. And then there’s the real possibility you could be stranded in a parking lot on the Interstate.

Add blankets. Pillows. The dog. In the small places in between all that, you cram in whatever items of sentiment you can fit.

Tell me you didn’t think it then.

What about that moment when you were making the last walk-through of your home and in your head you’re hearing all those stories of Katrina evacuees? You know, the ones who just grabbed some shorts and flip-flops and went away for the weekend never to see anything else from their home again. You’re wondering if this could be the last time your home is a home – versus one of those New Orleans/Pompeii-like archaeological relics.

And you tell me you didn’t think it then? Maybe you didn’t. Maybe I just listened to one too many of those stories.

But, what about Monday afternoon when you were sitting in your cousin’s living room and watching angry red circles of clouds bear down on Lafayette and the rest of Acadiana? You tried to call your husband, but the call wouldn’t go through.

Did you think it then?

Or when you sat there watching the weather, feeling like, “Well, at least the kids and I are safe.” Then the weatherman tells you to take cover because there’s a string of tornadoes headed straight for you – and you grab your kids and five pillows and run to a small bathroom and sit there and sing songs to distract your kids.

Or when you finally got the green light to head home and the trip that should take four hours takes nearly 10, and you know your house is OK and with electricity.

Or when your youngest was desperate to go to the bathroom on the way back into town and every place you stopped wouldn’t let you use the bathrooms because the region’s sewage system wasn’t working.

And you didn’t think it then?

Granted, Gustav provided my children what will probably turn out to be one of the great stories of a shared childhood.

But great stories often come with a price.

Without question, I have come to love this place and its people with my heart. My family and I are settled. We love our lives in Acadiana.

Like forgetting the details of childbirth, I know the extent of the pain and turmoil Gustav has caused will soon fade. However, there were moments in the past week when I wondered if I have what it takes to continue paying the price required to live where I live.