Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Letter to My Grandmother

I can't believe it's been two years since you've been gone.  It feels different without you here.

I see glimpses of you everywhere I go.  I was just talking to my husband today about how you were a "different" grandmother, one that would take me to any movie I wanted to see, that would let me pick out whatever I wanted at the grocery store when I would come to stay with you as a kid, one that would listen intently as I talked to you about anything and everything.  You were so funny.  Your sense of humor never got old.  Your eccentric taste in style, clothing, and furniture was the best.  I still have that ceramic giraffe you gave me.  It puts a smile on my face every time I see it.

I remember looking up to you in a way I've never looked up to another person.  I looked forward to every visit with you.  When we were living in Iowa, we were so far away from you, but our visits were the best.  You would play with Brandon, Andrea, and I like you were one of the kids.  Your imagination was just like ours and I remember looking at you with a childlike wonder.  You were a woman I loved and loved to be around - my Gram.

When Tyler was born, it was a couple months before you were able to come out to Iowa to see him.  I remember the first time you saw him.  You cried and said how beautiful he was.  It was true - he was beautiful and still is.  He's grown into a wonderful young man.  You would be so proud of him.

I cherish those times when I was in college and lived so close to you.  After Gramp would go to bed, we'd stay up half the night talking.  I could tell you anything and you'd give me honest, real-world advice.  I learned so many things about you - how you went to nursing school but ultimately became a dental hygienist, a job you hated.  You showed me old pictures of my mother and my uncle.  My mother has some of your features.  Everyone says I look just like her.  That makes me happy.

You would always call me by my first and middle name, Kristin Lynne.  I think you were proud that I was named after my mother and your husband.  And Tyler Lee, he's named after you.

I'm sorry you couldn't be at my wedding, but I will forever remember that day in the nursing home as we went through my wedding photos together.  Remember that day?  Justin dropped his cell phone in the trash can.  We laughed so hard over that.

I was so happy to be there with you that night in the hospital.  Tyler was there, Justin was there, your two kids were there.  I held your hand.  We sat around telling the chaplain about you after you were gone.  How you loved the color pink.  How you loved jewelry and anything that sparkled.  How you could talk to anyone.  What a good wife, mother, and grandmother you had been.

You were more than my grandmother, you were a best friend I could confide in.  We had some of the best times together and I will cherish them for the rest of my life.  I'm so glad you got to know Justin.  We've been married for three years now.  He works at a church, just like he always said he would.  I'm going back to school.  You probably wouldn't be surprised by that!  Brandon has a great job and met a great girl.  Tyler just graduated from high school - Gramp was there.  He misses you more than anything.

I miss you.
I love you.

Don't forget, you were the best and knowing you made my life that much sweeter.

Love always,
Your granddaughter, Kristin

 Nancy Lee Landesman
January 16, 1939 - July 31, 2013

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


While this summer has been busy with random road trips, time with family and friends, and church events, I've still been writing and working on my artwork as usual.  I've had a pretty good summer so far with various publications and even had some of my original artwork accepted for the cover of a poetry magazine! 

Life is good.

Here are a few of my recent and/or forthcoming publications.

Pretty Owl Poetry accepted a piece of my artwork for their fall cover!  You can visit the journal's website here:

A poem I had accepted by Songs of Eretz Poetry Review a few months back was just recently posted on their website as the featured poem of the day.  The poem, which is called "Emphysema," was accompanied by my own commentary and a note from the editor.  You can read that poem here:

The newest edition of Poetry Quarterly was just released a couple weeks ago.  This issue features a poem I wrote called "Enamel."  While Poetry Quarterly is a print magazine and you can't read the issues online, consider supporting the literary community and writers and artists like me by purchasing a copy of the Spring 2015 edition here:

I have a poem called "Neoplasm" forthcoming in the Summer 2015 edition of Slipstream Press.  This edition is themed and all of the writing in the issue will surround the concept of "elements."  Keep an eye out for the upcoming summer edition; also a print journal, issues of this magazine can be purchased on Slipstream's website here:

My poem "Women" is being featured in an upcoming edition of Remarkable Doorways Literary Magazine.  This poem is a reflection on many of the women I've had the pleasure to know and who have made a difference in my life.  The issue containing my poem should be out soon and can be viewed on the journal's website here:

Tipton Poetry Journal, a publication that focuses on featuring the work of Midwestern writers and particularly writers from Indiana, picked up two of my poems for an upcoming issue of the magazine.  A publication from Brick Street Poetry, Inc., the website for the journal can be viewed here:

Finally, River Poets Journal accepted my poem "Roadmap" for an upcoming issue.  This is an important poem for me and talks about family relationships.  Check out the journal's website here:

I also got to visit my poem at the Toledo Museum of Art.  Earlier this year, I entered a poem I wrote into the TMA Ekphrastic Writing Poetry Contest.  Since my poem was a finalist, it's posted in the museum next to the painting I wrote it about:

My poem at the museum (with my named spelled wrong).
Mark Rothko's Untitled, the painting that inspired my poem.
Aside from writing and painting, I've also been getting ready to go back to school on August 24th (orientation is the week before) for my PhD.  I got my schedule, my textbooks, my parking pass, and I'm registered for the Graduate Student Orientation.  I'm excited for this next phase of life (even though my first class starts at 8:30am!). 

This summer has been amazing so far.  I got to spend a week in Nashville, focus on my writing and my artwork, get ready for school, spend lots of time with family and friends, explore Ann Arbor, go paddleboarding, etc.  The list goes on.

I spent a day last week in Ann Arbor and Blissfield, MI, with my friend, Bobbie.  It was a beautiful day!
Hubby and I went paddleboarding last weekend.  We had a blast!
I also acquired some BEAUTIFUL antique typewriters this past weekend.  My friend, Tim, found them in his mom's basement and gave them to me along with a typewriter stand.  If you know me, you know how much I LOVE antiques and, as a writer, especially typewriters.  I am so grateful for these typewriters.  Thanks Tim and Bobbie!

After some research, we discovered that this one is a 1933 Royal typewriter.  After some cleaning and maintenance, my husband and I got it working again!
This one is probably from the 1940s or 50s and still works!
I've had lots of stuff to keep me busy lately.  I've got just under a month until school starts back up and I will be commuting to campus everyday, so I'm thankful for the time I've had to explore and have random adventures this summer!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What I Learned from Orthopedic Surgery

*Disclaimer:  If you are squeamish about medical stuff, this post probably isn't for you!

I've played softball my whole life.  It's in my blood.  My dad played baseball when he was growing up.  My brothers both played.  My older brother went on to play at Purdue.  My younger brother is about to begin his college career on the baseball team at Manchester University.  I played club ball at my university.  Many of our family trips when I was growing up were centered around travel teams.  It was what we did.

I was no stranger to sports injuries.  I had little injuries here and there all the time - it was the risk that came with playing the sport.  When I was a junior in high school, a softball injury resulted in a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in my right hand.  (If you know anything about me or have read my previous post on my interest in all things medical, then you can understand how interested I was in this injury from a medical/anatomical standpoint.  If you haven't read my medical post, you can read it here:

According to the Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine website, the following is a description of an ulnar collateral ligament injury/tear:

The joint that is affected is called the metacarpophalangeal joint, or MCP joint.  Any hard force on the thumb that pulls the thumb away from the hand (called a valgus force) can cause damage to the ulnar collateral ligaments.  When the thumb is straight, the collateral ligaments are tight and stabilize the joint against valgus force.  If the force is too strong, the ligaments can tear. They may even tear completely. A complete tear is also called a rupture.  When the collateral ligaments actually tear, the MCP joint becomes very unstable.  It is especially unstable when the thumb is bent back.  If one of the ligaments pulls away from the bone and folds backwards, it won't be able to heal in the correct position.  When this happens, surgery is needed to fix the ligament.

After seeing an orthopedic surgeon, the doctor said I needed surgery to fix the problem.  However, due to wanting to keep playing softball without any down time and other factors (including the fact that my dad was in a serious accident and was in the hospital for an extended period of time), I put the surgery off.  I eventually had the surgery to correct the tear in December of 2006 (I was 17 and a senior in high school).

Me with my two brothers around Christmas 2006, right after I had the first surgery.
Stitches out, but still covered in the purple ink the doctor used to mark the area.
Stitches out.
I wore this splint after the stitches were out and the cast was off.
It wasn't the smooth recovery I thought it would be.  Despite all the therapy, I was plagued by terrible pain and poor range of motion that I eventually found out was caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue.  I had to sit out my senior softball season. 

I went back in for my second surgery in June of 2007 (a couple months before I headed off to college) to have scar tissue removed so I could regain motion and have some relief from the constant pain. 
Going into the second surgery, the doctor wasn't sure if the ligament repair was successful from before, so those lines on my wrist were there in case the doctor had to remove a ligament from my wrist to replace the one in my hand.  Fortunately, they didn't have to!
Before the stitches came out.
No bulky cast for this surgery since they only removed scar tissue.
That strap contraption on my wrist was a therapy tool to keep my thumb in a position that would stretch it and keep scar tissue from growing.
Lots of bruising.
Things were better for awhile, but the pain persisted.  During Christmas break 2008 (my sophomore year of college), I went back to my doctor who determined that they scar tissue had returned and was causing pain and poor range of motion.  We tried the scar tissue removal again for the third surgery.

Hanging out with my little brother post-surgery.  With each surgery, they gave me a nerve block in my shoulder to numb my arm (thus the bruising).

The third surgery was rough.  I had issues with pain and swelling and had to have my cast removed and replaced because it was so tight.  After being in therapy so many times, I did my own therapy when I went back to college after Christmas break was over.  It was hard getting back into school and even harder taking notes and exams (I write right handed), but it eventually felt better.

I was still having issues years later after Justin and I were married.  The pain was to the point where it would wake me up at night.  I was having nerve issues in my arm.  A doctor in the South Bend area wanted me on all these different medications to help control the pain and nerve damage, but I'm not one to jump into taking pills.  I ended up going back to see my original surgeon.  He suggested a joint fusion surgery.  He was trying to be more conservative in the past with the scar tissue removals, but he explained that a joint fusion was a last effort to control pain. 

So five years after the third surgery, I went in for the fourth and final surgery in July of 2013.  This surgery would fuse the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint in my thumb with hardware.

This is a description of an MCP joint according to Wikipedia:

The metacarpophalangeal joints (MCP) refer to the joints between the metacarpal bones and the phalanges of the fingers.  That means the MCP joint is the knuckle between the hand and the finger.

The splint they gave me after the cast came off.  This was two weeks post-surgery and I was still so bruised.
Yeah, the incision got infected at one point.  Not a good experience.

This is the x-ray they gave me in the hospital after my surgery.
This is the x-ray they took when I went back for my follow-up visit.
Despite the rod, plate, and screws, the surgery actually did make my symptoms better and my range of motion hasn't been affected as much as you'd think.  This surgery had a much more difficult recovery period (I actually stayed with my parents for a couple weeks since Justin was working full time and I needed help).  The incision got infected at one point.  But it worked and my pain is manageable now.  It still is a very tender area and I often feel like I have to walk around protecting my arm so people don't run into it, but it's 100 times better than it was five years ago.

So what did orthopedic surgery teach me?

I'm not invincible despite the common teenage belief.  God gives and God takes away, and while I'll never play softball again, I still love the sport and will enjoy watching my little brother play baseball for years to come.

You need to be able to ask for help and rely on other people when you need it.  The last surgery I had was rough, and I relied on my husband and my parents and my brother for quite a bit.  I couldn't drive for several months.  I couldn't even dress myself or do my hair without help.  It was a humbling experience.

God is good.  He's taught me to recognize my limits.  He's taught me to sympathize with others who are going through a difficult recovery.  He's taught me that there's more to life than sports.  He's taught me that I am constantly learning, growing, and changing for the better.      

Since I didn't play my senior softball season, I was able to focus on the healthcare program I was involved in and my internship at the hospital.  I was able to learn and engage with my full attention on my internship and got creative in the process while trying to perform my regular tasks with a cast.

Again, God is good.  He's gotten me through some rough times and has provided me with the best husband, family, and friends that are always there to love and support me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Upcycling: TV Stand/Cabinet

After refurbishing our dining set (see my blog post here:, Justin and I knew we would be working on more repurposing projects in the future.  We saved almost $500 by refurbishing our dining set and we were able to customize it with the color and design we wanted.

We've needed a new TV stand for awhile.  The old one we had was given to us by my parents when we first got married, but it was recently starting to become a bit unstable.  We found an old cabinet at Goodwill for $25 and thought it would be perfect as a TV stand, so we brought it home as our next upcycling project.  The exterior was in rough shape, but we knew it would look great once we sanded it down and gave it a few coats of paint.

We decided it looked better without the doors on it, so we took them off and Justin sanded the cabinet down in our driveway (he did the sanding on our porch last time and it made a huge mess!).

Our receiver for our TV and stereo was too big for the cabinet, so Justin cut a bigger hole in the back to accommodate it.

We love bright colors, so we made another trip to Home Depot to see what color we wanted for the cabinet.  We settled on a bright antique yellow.  I painted the cabinet, which turned out to be quite the project.  The light color didn't cover very well, so I had to use three coats of paint so the wood didn't show through.  Once the paint dried, Justin put two coats of polyurethane on the cabinet to protect it.

Here's what our setup looked like in the living room before the "new" TV stand/cabinet:

Here's the setup with the upcycled TV stand:

I love the cabinet and it brings a happy pop of color to our living room!

Total time to sand, paint, and apply polyurethane:  1 week

Cost of cabinet:  $25 at Goodwill
Cost of supplies:
     Orbital sander:  free (we borrowed it)
     Paint:  $8 at Home Depot
     Sanding block, paint brushes, and polyurethane:  $0 (we had everything left over)

Total cost of upcycled TV stand/cabinet with custom color:  $33
Cost of a TV stand from Art Van Furniture:  $499

Money saved:  $466

Justin and I love working together on these projects and saving money in the process.