Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. Sorry that the newsletter is so late, but the sudden death on Friday, January 4th, of my brother-in-law, Richard Larson, caught everyone by surprise. His doctors, also, never saw this coming.
Three years ago he fought off an acute form of Leukemia that came on so fast it almost took his life in three days! Fortunately, at the time, the doctors went after it very aggressively and he was able to beat it into remission.
Then, about 3 months ago, he started getting dizzy and even blacked out. His doctor treated him for an ear infection for two months and then referred him to an Ear/Nose/Throat specialist. The E.N.T. examined him and prescribed a stronger anti-biotic for the "ear infection." When his symptoms didn't clear up, the E.N.T. ordered an MRI (magnetic resonance imagery) and discovered a mass in his head.
On Dec. 18th Rich had an operation to remove what the surgeon described as "congealed chicken fat." At the time he told my sister, Barb, that he'd never seen anything like this and that he'd call when the results came back from the lab. He did reassure her, though, that he had been able to remove it all. Rich, amazingly, never had any pain after the surgery and didn't need any pain medication.
That was a Monday and it wasn't until the following Sunday that they finally heard back from him. Locally, the lab had determined that it was some form of cancer, but they weren't sure what kind; so they sent it to Stanford University. Stanford identified it as a form of Leukemia, but didn't think it was serious enough to rush into treatment on. His Oncologist (cancer specialist) wanted to pull some bone marrow before starting treatment.
We called and visited several times over the following weeks and neither of them seemed to be very worried about the situation. The doctors were not alarmed and didn't rush right into chemo/radiation, so this put them at ease. Rich, was a quiet guy who drove truck and played golf, spoke with me at length about his condition, prognosis and future regiment. Something that I thought was unusual because, as I mentioned, he was usually very reserved. In fact there's a joke among their family and friends that my sister, who was working for Washoe County at one of their courses when she met Rich, "made him chase her" because of his introversion.
Last Thursday Anne called over to their house and left a message on the answering machine. Barb called back about 7pm and told her that they were checking Rich into the hospital for his bone marrow test. She mentioned that he had seen "stars" and that the doctor didn't think it was a big deal. He said that they should go get the bone marrow test and, while they were there, the doctor(s) could check this other thing out. Anne asked her to call back and let us know how it went.
Barb called back at after 8pm and she was hysterical. She told me that Rich had a seizure and was in a coma! I told her we were on our way, hung up the phone, bolted into the living room and told Anne and Dad to grab their coats. "Rich is in a coma and Barbie needs us!"
After we arrived at ICU (the Intensive Care Unit), Barb told us that while the doctors were examining Rich his left arm started shaking uncontrollably. Suddenly, he grabbed her and said "Honey, I can't see you!" because he'd lost the sight in his left eye. Then he grabbed the back of his head and told the doctors that his head hurt and asked "Someone do something about this pain!" Almost immediately he went into a grand-maul seizure and then was comatose.
The doctors did a "cat scan" and found that Rich had severe hemorrhaging and that it was pushing his brain down onto the brain stem. Blood work revealed that his red blood count was down and his white cells were up. An indication of the body fighting something; in this case, Leukemia. Interestingly, he'd had a blood panel done prior to the last operation and it was completely normal. But the neuro-surgeon said that because of this, and the bleeding that they'd seen while drawing blood, Rich was not a candidate for surgery.
When the doctor told Barb that the situation was EXTREMELY serious, she broke down again. After a while we decided that the family needed to be called and within a couple of hours the waiting room was full of family and friends. Everyone was in shock, including the doctors. Nobody saw this coming. Later they'd tell Barb that one of the things that Leukemia does is damage, or break down, cells and that in Rich's case the Leukemia had weakened the walls of several blood vessels in the back/right side of his head. Thus the shaking of his left hand and the loss of sight in his left eye.
As the night wore on, the crowd started to thin. Anne stayed the longest, but finally crumpled around 2am. I spent the night with Barb at Rich's bedside, watching them poke, prod, needle and pinch him through the night. I'd seen this before when a friend of mine went into a coma for several months after surgery. The things they do to see if you're still "in there" leave some very big bruises! They were also using a "horse" needle full of diuretic every hour or so to try and draw the fluid out to relieve the pressure in Rich's head. It seemed to be working because they had to empty his catheter bag twice an hour! Barb handled it all amazingly well, understanding that they were doing all that they could to help Rich.
Friday morning Rich received a "flow test" in which a contrast was injected into his I.V. and then another "cat scan" was done to see how much damage had been done. This showed that his blood was flowing into his head and back out again, but that none of it was going into the brain itself. Rich was brain dead. After everyone came and said their goodbyes, Barb asked them to turn off the ventilator. She stood at Rich's right side and Anne and I stood at his left while we waited for his heart to stop.
One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was to take Rich's wedding ring off and hand it to Barbie.

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GRINS & GIGGLES:
MAKES YOU WONDER, "HOW DO THESE PEOPLE SURVIVE?"

Recently, when I went to McDonald's I saw on the menu that you Could have an order of 6, 9 or 12 Chicken McNuggets. I asked for a half dozen nuggets. "We don't have half dozen nuggets," said the teenager at the counter. "You don't?" I replied. "We only have six, nine, or twelve," was the reply. "So I can't order a half-dozen nuggets, but I can order six?" "That's right." So I shook my head and ordered six McNuggets.

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The paragraph above doesn't amaze me because of what happened a couple of months ago. I was checking out at the local Foodland with just a few items and the lady behind me put her things on the belt close to mine. I picked up one of those "Dividers" that they keep by the cash register and placed it between our things so they wouldn't get mixed. After the girl had scanned all of my items, she picked up the "Divider" looking it all over for the bar code so she could scan it. Not finding the bar code she said to me "Do you know how much this is?" and I said to her "I've changed my mind, I don't think I'll buy that today." She said "OK" and I paid her for the things and left. She had no clue to what had just happened.

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A lady at work was seen putting a credit card into her floppy drive and pulling it out very quickly. When inquired as to what she was doing, he said she was shopping on the Internet and they kept asking for a credit card number, so she was using the ATM "thingy".

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I recently saw a distraught young lady weeping beside her car. Do you need some help?" I asked. She replied, "I knew I should have replaced the battery to this remote door unlocker. Now I can't get into my car. Do you think they (pointing to a distant convenience store) would have a battery to fit this?"

"Hmmm, I dunno. Do you have an alarm too?" I asked.

"No, just this remote thingy," she answered, handing it and the car keys to me.

As I took the key and manually unlocked the door, I replied, "Why don't you drive over there and check about the batteries. It's a long walk."

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Several years ago, we had an Intern who was none too swift. One day she was typing and turned to a secretary and said, "I'm almost out of typing paper. What do I do?" "Just use copier machine paper," the secretary told her. With that, the intern took her last remaining blank Piece of paper, put it on the photocopier and proceeded to make five "blank" copies.

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I was in a car dealership a while ago, when a large motor home was towed into the garage. The front of the vehicle was in dire need of repair and the whole thing generally looked like an extra in Twister." Asked the manager what had happened. He told me that the driver had set the "cruise control"
and then went in the back to make a sandwich.

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IDIOTS AT WORK... Sign in a gas station: Coke -- 49 cents. Two for a dollar.

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IDIOTS & COMPUTERS... My neighbor works in the operations department in the central office of a large bank. Employees in the field call him when they have problems with their computers. One night he got a call from a woman in one of the branch banks who had this question: "I've got smoke coming from the back of my terminal. Do you guys have a fire downtown?"

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IDIOTS ARE EASY TO PLEASE:
I was sitting in my science class, when the teacher commented that the next day would be the shortest day of the year.
My lab partner became visibly excited, cheering and clapping. I explained to her that the amount of daylight changes, not the actual amount of time. Needless to say, she was very disappointed.

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Police in Radnor, Pennsylvania, interrogated a suspect by placing a metal colander on his head and connecting it with wires to a photocopy machine. The message "He's lying" was placed in the copier, and police pressed the copy button each time they th! ought the suspect wasn't telling the truth. Believing the "lie detector" was working, the suspect confessed.

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"Life is tough. It's tougher if you're stupid."

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MEATSPACE ALERT:
New Year, New You: Give your brain a boost
Susan Skorupa

So you have your new bicycle and your new skis. Santa brought you all the clothes and techie toys, CDs and DVDs you can handle. Youíve made New Yearís resolutions to diet, work out, paint the house, pay more attention to grandma, save money and always tell the truth.

Those are great resolutions, but donít forget your brain. The New Year is the perfect time to pay attention to that gray matter in your head that serves you so well all year long.

New Year, new you, better brain. Here are 10 suggestions for meeting that goal.

∑ Adopt a cause
When you work on a cause instead of sitting around and complaining, I think youíre happier and healthier, said Nevada Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. In a community the size of the Reno-Sparks area, there are lots ways to get involved, said Leslie, who worked for the nonprofit Childrenís Cabinet and led the Mental Health Coalition of Northern Nevada before her election to the Assembly in 1998.

People need to evaluate their time situation and interests and figure out how best they can get involved,she said. You can contribute on many levels; you donít have to run for office.Among the ways to get involved, Leslie suggested joining a nonprofit organization. There are nonprofits that deal with many interests, and members raise money, address policy issues, work in the community and perform other tasks.

Local churches and faith communities often seek volunteers, she said. They deal with issues from poverty and hunger to peace and the death penalty.

Being involved at any level gives a sense of belonging,Leslie said. Anything I read about it shows people are happiest when they feel like they belong and are doing something with their time. People whose children have grown up and left home need to exercise their minds, said former Nevada Lt. Gov. Sue Wagner, who also served in the Legislature.

I do think itís important for people to be involved in their community,she said. Wagner devotes time to United Way, the Committee to Aid Abused Women, the Nature Conservancy, the Nevada Land Conservancy, the Nevada Womenís Fund and other groups.

Iíve enjoyed living here, she said of her choice of causes. I was not born here, but I feel each of us should have the time to do something to give back. People are amazed when they come here and see the tremendous opportunity for outdoor activity and the beautiful area we live in. I think each of us should look at our community that way.

∑ Learn a language
Knowing one language is like seeing the world in black and white. Knowing more languages is like seeing the world in color, said Guy Wagener, associate professor of French at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Itís very hard,Wagener said. It entails certain skills: reading, writing, speech, listening, culture. If you learn geography, you do not have to know how to read, write and speak it. But with language you need those five skills.The first two years of studying a language puts a student at the survivor level, Wagener said. After two years, a student of French could get around Paris well enough to hail cabs, take trains, order food and get along day to day.

It takes someone at the cultural level, someone who has learned the language with all five skills, to really use the language with the most proficiency.

The younger you are when you learn a new language, the better, he said. But the more languages you know, the easier it is to learn another. Language families affect learning. Someone who speaks one Romance language, Spanish for example, will find it easier to learn another language in that family.

The earlier you learn the better,Wagener said. But there can be a knack for language. It really depends on how much youíre exposed to. Our students come in three times a week for 50 minutes. Proficiency has to do with how many hours you have. Speaking comes last. And itís almost the first to go if you donít practice it.

∑ Join a book group
One reason people join reading groups is to meet people and have discussions, said Julie Machado, programs manager for the Northwest Reno Library of the Washoe County library system.

Itís one thing you can do as an adult,she said. If you have little kids, itís a breath of fresh air to have a conversation with adults. Some people come to the library because they know theyíre going to have that.The library book group meets monthly. Members read all read the same book, then meet to talk about it. Sometimes guests, such as local professors or other experts, join the discussions. Some local book stores also sponsor book groups.

∑ Read on your own
Thereís a T-shirt at Second Hand Prose, the used book store at the Northwest Reno Library, that states,Read something beautiful and exquisite before you go to sleep. Reading helps you sleep better, Machado said. While youíre reading, you donít worry about things that happened during the day or what will happen tomorrow. And you learn something new, she said.

∑ Tell a story or sing a song
Healthy communities do three things together, said LuAnne Steininger, wellness coordinator at the Sanford Center for Aging at UNR. They tell stories, they sing and they laugh.

What I like to do is get people to tap into the creative sources inside themselves. One way is through music,said Steininger, who will teach a Games and Creativity Playshop for ElderCollege this spring semester.

I think music releases a lot of creativity,she said. Another way to do that is to laugh together. Itís one of the most important things we can do. How many times as an adult to you laugh as opposed to how many times you laughed as a child?

∑ Painting, movement, telling a story
It can be stand-up or improv, Steininger said. I do story-telling as improv. Itís funny and fun and people gather.

∑ Take a class
The University of Nevada, Reno, Truckee Meadows Community College, Western Nevada Community College, ElderCollege and city Parks and Recreation departments are some of the agencies in the Reno-Sparks area that offer classes on scores of topics. With some, you can earn a college degree. With others, you can follow an old interest or become involved in a new pastime or hobby or just meet new people with similar interests.

∑ Do the unexpected
If youíre left handed, try signing your name with your right hand. If youíre right handed, brush your teeth with your left. Try to identify an object by feel or touch rather than by sight.

Tap into the senses that challenge your brain, Steininger said. Get out of the old routine and try to do something new.Thatís as easy as driving home from work or school using a new route, she said. Donít do the same thing in the same way at the same time with the same people,she said.

Performing old actions in new ways rewires the brain, Steininger said. The brain starts to fire the neurons another way, another way of thinking. Something that simple; it allows you to see the world from another perspective.Carry the unexpected over into games and hobbies, she said. If you regularly play contract bridge, change to duplicate bridge. If you normally play chess, switch to checkers for a while.

Exercise regularly to pump blood to your brain.
It doesnít matter if youíre creative if you donít get out of your chair,she said. Any hobby is good so long as you challenge yourself. Donít get in a rut. Free up from the routine and you can tap into sources of creativity that might surprise you.

∑ Get some rest
Lack of sleep can mess up your moods and emotions, memory, decision- making, concentration and other brain functions, the National Sleep Foundation has reported. If you lose sleep over many nights, the impact worsens, making you short-tempered, depressed or anxious.

To avoid those feelings, the foundation suggests:

o Keep a regular sleep schedule of going to bed and rising at the same time each day.

o Create a sleep-friendly environment by making the room where you sleep cool, quiet and dark.

o Engage in a relaxing activity at bed time such reading, listening to music or soaking in a warm bath or hot tub.

Foundation officials also recommend you limit your eating and drinking before bedtime, and avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.

∑ Eat right
Your moods, your appetites, health, weight and your general well-being depend on your body receiving the nutrients it needs in the proper amounts.

Macro nutrients provide a key here, said Bente Riley, a registered dietitian for Saint Maryís Health Network. At a conference at the Institute of Natural Resources, Riley learned the effects macro nutrients ó carbohydrates, fats and proteins ó exert on the food-mood connection.

Carbohydrates might increase the bodyís serotonin, a chemical released in the brain that is believed to enhance mood, relieve depression and promote a sense of calm, Riley said.

Protein, another macro nutrient, may increase the release in the brain of a non-amino acid that could increase alertness. Itís good to blend protein with carbohydrates, Riley said, because protein itself can decrease seratonin.

Thatís why a variety of foods is good,she said. Fats tend to increase the release of other chemicals called endorphins that relieve depression.

Too restrictive a diet may cause depressed states,Riley said. Chocolates increase endorphins, for example. Certain fats are very beneficial. Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids, for instance, are building blocks of the brain. Omega 6 is found in safflower and sunflower seed oils, tofu, soy, eggs and whole beans. Omega 3 comes from foods such as salmon and other fish, walnuts and soybeans.

Our brains need these nutrients and we get them by eating the right amounts of a variety of foods, Riley said.

Herbal supplements are like any other dietary additions, Riley added. Generally, itís best to take them under the guidance of a physician, especially if youíre also taking prescription or other medications, to avoid herbal-drug interactions.

∑ Exercise regularly
Physical exercise increases the flow of oxygen to your brain as well as to your muscles, said Sean Barry, physical director of the Caughlin Club. More oxygen to the brain means you have more energy.

Youíll accomplish daily activities without fatigue,he said. Along with that, when you get done, you feel more positive about yourself and have more self-esteem.Exercise also helps relieve stress.

To avoid a rut, Barry said, alter your routines. Working out in a club or gym or running daily arenít the only things you can do to enhance brain activity. A walk along the river or through one of the regional parks with a book to help you identify local plants or birds works your brain as well as your muscles.

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TRUE STORY:

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APOLOGIES:

The newsletter was made even more late because our Charter Pipeline cable modem service went down Sunday, Jan.13. This isn't unusual for the Pipeline network. It goes offline a couple of times a week, but it'll be back an hour later. This time it didn't come back at all. When I called the I.D. 10-T line (that's right, it spells i-d-i-o-t; just don't tell them that) they assured me that there were no outages and that everything was OK.
When he couldn't "see" my modem on the network he surmised that I needed a technician to come over and test my cable. What a genius. Unfortunately, it wasn't going to be until that Wednesday. OK, I can manage without my broadband for a couple of days.
Wednesday night Dad said that the tech found a good signal and that the modem had died. Damn. The last time I returned one of these things for a friend of mine it took four or five days to get the replacement! Since I couldn't fix it myself, I decided to skip the distributor and contact the manufacturer directly. This, I hoped, would speed up the process.
Tuesday I called Tech Support and was given an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization). I promptly boxed it up and shipped it out. Today, Jan.29, it finally arrived. So much for my "go around the middle man" theory!

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CLOSURE:

We're all human and because we're human we'll all experience love, loss and grief. Some call this loss death, "passing away", "cashing in"... I prefer to call it "transition." It brings a nicer mental picture; like crossing a threshold.
In fact, that's how I describe it to the kids: Life is like a room with two doors. And we are like small children in this room. When the parent comes into the room we're happy, but when they go out we cry. We don't understand that they're only in the next room. We only know that we can't see them anymore.
When this happens our family and friends are our greatest consolation. When our need is greatest we will not be alone because those who love us will be there. We can lean on them and draw from their strength while we grieve.
And so I'd like to thank all of you for being here but mostly for your love and support while we all cry with one voice for Richard, who has stepped out of our room.

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