Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Buying is more fun than Selling

In his ongoing effort to show his love for me and trust in me, my ever-so-wonderful boyfriend "hired" me to help him with his house search. He had purchased a home in Belgium, but housing laws are a little different here in the US.

With the help of my mom and Canton friends, I found a mortgage lender, got the paperwork ready for our meeting, found a realtor, and scouted a few homes.

On Sunday, he joined the realtor and I to see my top two choices. One was really great, for a 20 year old house. The other was only a few years old, hardly lived in, but a little more expensive. Both homes had everything he wanted--long driveway for hosting friends, a little acreage, three bedrooms, 2 car garage, hardwood floors and a few other amenities.

We went to the older home first. Niels had seen pictures of both, and I knew when he walked in that he really was looking forward to seeing the other one. Though the older one was really nice, it also gave him a great appreciation for the newer one. One thing I appreciate about Niels is that by the time he's ready to make a decision, he's generally at peace about committing quickly. In this case, we looked at the newer house at about 8pm and made an offer around 10pm. The sellers countered yesterday, and last night we met them in the middle. Today, around noon, he got the good news!!!!

You can see more pictures of the inside here:

For those who are wondering...

Distance from:
...my new digs in Ohio: 7.27 miles (16 minutes)
...my old digs in Michigan: 326.26 miles (5 hours and 9 minutes)
...Minneapolis, MN: 784.35miles (12 hours and 34 minutes)
...Wickenburg, AZ: 2,065.35 miles (30 hours, 19 minutes)
...The Netherlands: 4,035 miles (a long flight)
...China: 6,799 miles (a really long flight)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Buckeye Bound Bash - January 27

This Saturday I'm saying goodbye to my life in Grand Rapids. My good friend Jen VV is hosting my Buckeye Bound Bon Voyage Bash. It's really more of an open house, starting at 7pm on Saturday the 27th.

If you've in the Grand Rapids area, I'd love the opportunity to catch up, show off my boyfriend, and say goodbye to all the people who have made my eight years in Michigan so wonderful.

If you'd like directions, drop me an email at jen@jenabbas.com.

p.s. No, my house hasn't sold yet, so please keep that it mind as you think of anyone who may be looking for a new home. http://www.johnpostma.com/3783oldelm.htm

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Another Milestone

This has been quite the week. It started with a milestone birthday, and ends with a milestone anniversary. Today is the 3rd anniversary of the day I sustained my Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI). In other words, the day my old life ended and my new life began. Slowly, I'm coming to embrace my new life. In the three years since my accident, most everything in my life has changed--from my home to my job (or lack of one, now) to my bank account (also, the lack of one now), to more subtle things, like my personality and goals. This certainly isn't where I would have expected to be three years ago, but today, I am grateful for the new life God has given me.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A China Update...Sort of

My dear friends in China are starting to emerge from the internet blackout and have posted a few comments and pictures from our trip. So far all those waiting with bated breath for details, head over here.

Meanwhile, I'm back to counting sheep....

MTBIs in the NFL

Between a new church that meets on Sunday afternoons, three weeks in China and a rather rotten season by my favorite team, this year's NFL season seems to have slipped by me. Now that I'm Stateside again, I'm looking forward to enjoying the football feast this weekend.

I found this rather disturbing article on ESPN.com. With mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) being a topic close to my heart (and head), it seemed fitting to post here:

See no evil? The NFL won't face concussion facts
By Peter Keating
ESPN The Magazine

Sad but true: You didn't have to actually read the comments by the NFL or the doctors on its concussions committee to know how they were going to respond to the Andre Waters case.

In a New York Times story on Thursday, forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu of the University of Pittsburgh says that former NFLer Waters had the brain of an 85-year-old man with signs of Alzheimer's disease before he killed himself on Nov. 20, and that multiple concussions caused or severely worsened Waters' brain damage. And as usual, you could count on the league and the scientists conducting research for its committee on mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) to channel South Park's Officer Barbrady, who likes to say, "OK, people, move along -­ there's nothing to see here." For years, the NFL has maintained there is no scientific evidence connecting concussions to lasting injuries or brain damage while also asserting that its committee is about to look into the matter. In November 2003, Dr. Elliot Pellman, medical adviser to the NFL and chairman of its MTBI committee, appeared on HBO's "Inside the NFL" to discuss a report by the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes that linked multiple concussions and depression among former pro players with histories of concussions. "When I look at that study, I don't believe it," Pellman said flatly. Later, however, he announced the committee would begin to study the long-term effects of concussions.

Two years later, the same Dr. Omalu now involved in the Waters case concluded that former NFL player Terry Long had died from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a swelling of the lining of the brain, caused partly by "repeated mild traumatic injury while playing football." Pellman called that conclusion "speculative and unscientific." But he said the committee was planning its own look at the long-term impact of head injuries. "It will begin within the year and involve 160 active and retired NFL players, other athletes and those not involved in contact sports," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Sept. 16, 2005.

The Nov. 6, 2006, issue of ESPN The Magazine detailed the growing concerns that many top sports doctors have with the MTBI committee's methods and conclusions. Among other things, the Magazine's report showed that the committee didn't include hundreds of neuropsychological tests conducted on NFL players when studying the effects of concussions on the results of such tests. It also revealed that Pellman had fired William Barr, a neuropsychologist for the New York Jets who was concerned that Pellman might be picking and choosing what data to include in the committee's research to get results that would downplay the effects of concussions. After that article appeared, Pellman went silent. Instead, Dr. Mark Lovell, another member of the committee and a leader in the field of neuropsychological testing in sports, went on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" to reply. "It's a very important issue. It needs to be studied scientifically, though," he said about non-NFL research showing an association between concussions and mental impairment in former football players. "It's very important to do this work. It's just we're in the middle of doing it at this time." And now, Andre Waters. "Whatever its cause, Andre Waters' suicide is a tragic incident and our hearts go out to his family," the NFL said in a statement released to the media Thursday afternoon. That statement concluded: "The league has a traumatic brain injury committee that will begin studying retired players later this year regarding concussions and depression." After more than a dozen years of studying concussions, the NFL is -- still -- just getting around to examining the long-term effects of head trauma but still -- still -- refuses to acknowledge the validity of outside research on the subject. As Julian Bailes, chairman of neurosurgery at West Virginia University, told ESPN The Magazine, the MTBI committee "has repeatedly questioned and disagreed with the findings of researchers who didn't come from their own injury group." What gives? The explanation is straightforward, if depressing. The NFL has used the work done so far by its concussions committee to justify league practices. And if that research turns out to be flawed, and those practices turn out to be dangerous, the league could face massive liability, financially and legally.

In December 2004, Pellman, Lovell and their colleagues published the sixth of an ongoing series of papers in the journal Neurosurgery. In that report -­ and over the objections of several of the scientists who reviewed it -­ they stated: "The results of this present study support the authors' previous work, which indicated that there was no evidence of worsening injury or chronic cumulative effects of multiple MTBIs in NFL players." Their study found "no evidence" of "widespread permanent or cumulative effects of single or multiple MTBIs in professional football players."

No worsening injury, no cumulative effects, no widespread permanent damage from concussions.

Indeed, Pellman, Lovell et al found that, on average, NFL athletes didn't show a decline in brain function after suffering concussions, or after three or more concussions, or after taking blows to the head that kept them out a week or more. Despite blistering criticism over the study's small sample size and voluntary participation, these are the results that made it into print, and these are the results to which the league points when arguing that it doesn't put players at unnecessary risk. As independent research continues to paint a different picture, the NFL is finding itself pushed further and further out on a limb. It's getting harder to deny the assertions of outside doctors and former players that concussions are linked to lasting problems. "It's skating on dangerously thin ice to argue that there's no connection between multiple concussions and a decline in brain function, and it's amazing that the league continues to do so," says Chris Nowinski, author of "Head Games: Football's Concussions Crisis." (Nowinski is the man who obtained permission from Waters' family for Omalu to examine Waters' brain.) Yet it also would be difficult for the NFL to turn its back on its own research and admit it has a long-term concussions problem. The league is well-known in legal circles for tenaciously fighting even minor disability claims, and the last thing it wants to face is a flood of lawsuits by athletes who suffered head injuries and kept playing. "There is the potential for bankrupting the league pension and disability plan if the NFL had to honor claims of disability brought by players who have concussions," says Michael Kaplen, a New York lawyer who specializes in brain injuries. Some doctors and former players have long suspected that the NFL has always intended to use the MTBI committee's work as a bulwark against just such liability. One of the scientists who reviewed the committee's work for Neurosurgery told ESPN The Magazine: "They're basically trying to prepare a defense for when one of these players sues. ... They are trying to say that what's done in the NFL is OK because in their studies, it doesn't look like bad things are happening from concussions." But as the concussion committee's studies turn out to be flawed or incomplete and outsiders are linking concussions to serious illness and even death, the NFL is going to need a new strategy. Its same old dismiss-and-wait statement on Andre Waters shows it's still looking for one.

Peter Keating writes about sports business for ESPN The Magazine. His book, "Dingers: A Short History of the Long Ball," is available now on Amazon.com.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Joys of Jet Lag

What a week! In the last seven days, I have flown literally halfway around the world, moved from Michigan to Ohio, and celebrated (okay, maybe acknowledged) a milestone birthday. I'm tired.

In 1999, I took a ten day tour of Israel. I adjusted fine to the eight hour time change, but upon my return I crashed hard for about a day and a half. I had a few more days of weird waking hours, but then I was back to normal.

Maybe it's a combination of my head injury along with all the other things, but I'm really having a doozy of a time with jet lag. I got home around 2am last Friday. It took me until about 4am to fall asleep and I slept til 10am. The next night I didn't fall asleep til 7am and slept til 2pm. The next couple days were about moving to Ohio so I slept whenever I could, which wasn't much. Since being in my new diggs, I've vacillated between absolutely no sleep and sleeping between 14-18 hours. I'm trying sleeping pills to sleep and wake up calls to get up, but I feel like I have a lead weight on my head and a tornado on my brain.

I have high hopes for posting about my trip, but first I need to wake up!

btw...2007 is going to be my international year. In March, I'm off to The Netherlands to meet my boyfriend's family. We'll also be visiting Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Found on a piece of paper while packing up my home...

I miss who I was, not because I was perfect but because I was known.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Something Old for the New Year

I posted the few "Jen's Jottings" from my website--my attempts at blogging before I knew what blogging was. They were also written pre-head injury.

A Word on Trust
A Word on Fear
The End -- in memory of my grampa, who died three years ago this week
A Conversation with God About Desire

Back in the States

We arrived safely home early in the morning, Friday, January 12 with most of our luggage intact. One bag took the slow boat from China, and another has gone to the baggage carousel in the sky. My Ohio welcome team arrived on Saturday and yesterday I made the move to my new home. I'm still very sleep deprived and discombobulated, but thanks to the wonder of internet (how I've missed it!), you can expect to see some China-related posts very soon!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy New Year from China!

We welcomed the new year 13 hours ahead of my friends at home in Eastern time in the US. We ushered in the new year by playing Catan and a new game, Ticket to Ride.

Shortly before midnight, we paused our game to turn on the TV to tune into the countdown. We've picked up enough Chinese to understand the last few numbers. The real new year celebration of course, is Spring Festival--Chinese New Year. The Chinese are adopting more and more Western customs however, thus the January 1 celebration. We are entering the Year of the Pig so festive pigs are everywhere--postcards, signs, t-shirts, magazines, etc.

Happy New Year to all, and may 2007 be a year of good health and double happiness!