Things I Have: Bronchiectasis

I have a lung disorder ..and you-oooo, don’t. Yup …lucky me, I had a really, really bad cough back in 2007 and because I assumed I was still Superman, I just tried to cough my way through it and treat it with bottle after bottle of Robitussin. Turns out, it was a massive bacterial infection and, voila, two-week-long hospital stays later, here I am. Living with Bronchiectasis. For long periods of time between “incidences” I have no issues. I run. I bike. I yell and laugh heartily (can you really “yell heartily?”).

At times, I forget I even have Bronchiectasis. But then, out of the blue, at the most random of times, it hits me. I cough and it’s phlegmy. And sometimes I taste blood. And sometimes I see blood …like last night. There I am, minding my own business during Curriculum Night / Meet-the-Teacher Night at my kids’s school and I’m talking about Michigan State football and then I cough …and then my chest gurgles, and I cough some more (like, rather violently) and voila! … I’m coughing up blood. Just a tiny amount, mind you. I would say the equivalent of a 1/4 teaspoon.

This should not alarm me, according to my doctor. People with Bronchiectasis experience this from time to time. Or do they? I don’t know.

You might think this isn’t a very good blog entry for this blog (and my wife would agree with you), but I have an ulterior motive – I want people Google’ing “bronchiectasis” to find this and chat with me.

First, I’m not entirely convinced I have Bronchiectasis. But if I do, is this coughing-up-blood party trick common? Should I be taking a breathing treatment? Are their exercise enthusiasts who live with this condition and still run triathlons and marathons? Is Bronchiectasis, as my doctor says, simply an annoyance but not life-threatening? Or is my life expectancy diminished because when I hit my 60s I’m almost guaranteed to get pneumonia one day and then …curtains?

Or maybe I don’t have Bronchiectasis and some doctor online will give me a second opinion and questions to ask my Pulmonologist?

“But, Don,” you ask, “what is Bronchiectasis?” Here’s a pretty good explanation I found in a 2004 chat room. Most of the chat rooms/discussion threads I found were from 2008 or earlier. I want to start some new conversations.

Here is some information about bronchiectasis that I hope you find helpful.  Inflammation causes damage to the airways of the lungs.  When the airways become dilated this is called bronchiolectasis.  When the airways become distorted with areas where mucus can collect this is called bronchiectasis.  It can be difficult to clear this mucus because of damage to the normal methods that the lungs use to clear mucus.  This can lead to episodes of infection.  Traditionally an ongoing infection can lead to the inflammation.  So it is important that lung infections are treated.  Pulmonary hygiene is very important in preventing and controlling lung infections.  Using an inhaled bronchodilator may help to loosen the mucus.  Many people find the routine use of a mucus clearance device to be very helpful in clearing the mucus from their lungs.  This is a small device that you exhale into causing a vibration in your lungs that loosen mucus so that you can cough it up easier.  The names of 2 types of devices are Flutter Valve and Acapella.  Bronchiectasis can result from airway blockage along with infection, so it may effect only one area of your lung.  If your recurrent lung infections are always in the same area of the lung, surgery to remove that portion of your lung may provide a cure.

It seems to happen after I pig-out. Is that normal? I mean, when I have big, rich meals (like a big steak, or like a second helping of cake & ice cream) I get the cough. When I drink red wine it seems to flare up. Do any other Bronchiectasis sufferers notice a similar correlation? If eating fewer calories and never drinking eliminates most of my symptoms, I’m very cool with that. But if those aren’t triggers for anyone else, I’ll do some more asking.

Oh, and now that it’s turning to autumn in Michigan and temperatures are dropping and there’s cool/damp air, could that be something?

Thanks for reading. Chime in. Offer advice, opinions, encouragement, or simply point and laugh. My next blog entry will be silliness, I swear.

Oh, and here’s some links to some articles mainly because I want trackbacks and get Bronchiectasis hobbyists involved in this dialogue.

UPDATE (9/16/2011): Thanks to my sister and her superior web-search skills, she found a GREAT ARTICLE and a SUPPORT GROUP.

I might also have “Popcorn Lung.” Yes, that’s a real thing. I pop popcorn 2, 3, or 4+ times a week. I use an air-popper (could there be a better way to put popcorn seed particles and dust into the air?). All my flare ups recently have occurred when I drank red wine AND at popcorn. At Disney World, I ate popcorn almost every day (it smells sooooooo good) and what my kids didn’t finish, I’d eat theirs, too. In an August flair-up, I had multiple bowls of popcorn at a fance restaurant before having a glass (or three) of red wine. Yesterday, someone in my office horribly burnt a bag of popcorn in our breakroom (and it made me cough) and I then went out and had two glasses or red wine. 

Stay tuned for more breaking news!


Things I Make: Mix Tapes

Making a mix tape is a lost art.

I still make mix tapes.

Actually, I make “playlists” on my mp3 player nowadays, but same difference.

Recently I read a really good blog post by @ChristyTV where she discussed how music was way better back in the day. It’s worth reading.

It’s a topic I think about quite a bit. Music mattered to me for years and years and most songs and CDs are tied to some sort of memory or milestone. Then I graduated college and it seems like music stopped. Some of my college friends will tell you, indeed, music did stop right about the mid-90s and everything since is over-produced, commercialized crap.

That’s what old curmudgeons tend to say.

But I’m still makin’ mix tapes, and I have lots of music that’s tied to major milestones, and I suspect you do, too …you just might not realize it. No, I’m not makin’ mix tapes for girls I’m hoping to impress, carefully choosing a playlist that includes songs with lyrics that tell a story and simultaneously prove how cool and hip and intellectual I am. Instead, I’m makin’ mix tapes for girls who ride in car seats in the back of my SUV I can’t afford, and the mini-van I never dreamed I’d own (lease). I make mix tapes (playlists) for my kids and their friends whom I drive to school every morning. I carefully monitor Radio Disney, Top-40 stations, Disney Channel, and So Random! for the perfect blend of lyrically appropriate hits that keep my kids on the cutting edge of Top-40 shlock, but without crossing the line lyrically into a place where I’ll have to explain what certain things mean.

Like, as catchy as the song “Moves Like Jagger” is, I don’t want my 5, 7, and 8-year old singing these lyrics.

“Take me by the tongue
And I’ll know you;
Kiss me till you’re drunk
And I’ll show you.”

I’m just sayin’ …if you are in your 30s, chances are you think all music sucks. There’s a never-ending cycle of musical phases and the older generation is genetically coded to hate all music that didn’t happen during their own puberty. And chances are you romantically hold dear certain songs that are tied to certain eras and moments in your life, but don’t live in the past. Open your ears and listen to the music around you and realize this horrible modern music is the music that you’ll dance to at this year’s Daddy Daughter Dance, that your kids will ask you to turn up when it comes on the radio, and someday when we’re all empty-nesters in our 50s and 60s and we somehow hear a song from Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Hot Chale Rae, and the “High School Musical” soundtracks, we’re going to have to wipe some tears from our eyes and we’ll wish they still made music like that.

Listen to some bad, awful music today. Dance with your kids. Press ‘play’ below and turn it up …tonight (tonight).

Things I Did: Sold Salsa at a Farmers Market

I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday and I’m five days removed from my first ever salsa sales event at a farmers market in Michigan. Although just about everything was going against me having any sort of success, mostly the weather pretty much shutting down the farmers market, I still managed to sell salsa to just about everyone who tried it.

For me …wow. Random strangers trying some of my salsa and my salsa recipe and loving it. Loving …it!

Then, with almost a third of my salsa unsold, thanks to the power of Facebook (and a little big Twitter), I sold out the rest of my salsa by Tuesday and have some future orders waiting for my next batch.

What now? To follow the Donnie Jalapeno saga, make sure you bookmark Donnie Jalapeno Salsa, ‘Like’ Donnie Jalapeno on Facebook, and follow @DonnieJalapeno on Twitter.

So, I’m now a salsa magnate, and I’m also dropping my kids off at school again every morning. Seeing my little tikes in their crisp Catholic school uniforms dutifully heading into school after giving me a hug/kiss goodbye – that’s the best part of my day, every day.

I like fall and back-to-school. There’s something extremely comforting and soothing about strict routine. 7pm – wake the kids. 7:10 – make coffee, unload dishwasher, have breakfast. 7:30 – brush teeth, hair, pack backpacks/briefcase. 7:40 – leave for school.

Despite the routine, the routine always manages to be hectic and crazy, but still …it’s a routine and I function better with routine.

Time to make the salsa. Thanks for reading.

Things I’m Doing: Started Another Blog; Getting Ready to Launch My Salsa Company

I took the week off from blogging about me because I started another blog to support the worldwide debut of my salsa. So, for those counting at home, yes …I have this blog you’re reading, spunkybean, I blog as a ghost for two clients, and now I have Donnie Jalapeno.

As you know, I’ve blogged a few times about my salsa. I’ve been perfecting the recipe and making this for years. And for years, people have ranted and raved about it. I’ve always been extremely flattered, and that was about it. But people have been so supportive, they’ve almost been relentless about insisting that I sell it.

So, now I am.

The results of the “name Don’s salsa company” are in, and I’m going with my original idea for a name …”Donnie Jalapeno’s Salsa.” Lots of reasons, but you’ll have to follow the Donnie Jalapeno blog for the unfolding story of Donnie Jalapeno. I think I’m still going to give somebody free salsa for life by way of a random drawing.

Whatever you do, don’t stop reading and checking this blog, however. I’m still going to update it daily.

And if you find yourself in the Stanwood, Michigan area, make sure you stop by the Tullymore Farmers Market this Saturday, sometime between 8am and 1pm, and buy some Donnie Jalapeno Salsa. I’ll be the guy in the sombrero.

Things I Love: People Who Love Great Coffee as Much As I Do

If you put yourself out there, sometimes people notice. I made a video for my buddy Matt about making multiple cups of coffee via an AeroPress, and then some random guy on YouTube responded to my video with a video of his own. In it, he shows how, even while camping, he manages to prepare magnificent coffee for his family. I hope the guy puts as much care and thought into, oh I don’t know …food. But …I gotta respect his coffee passion.

Here’s @jcwalton‘s video response to my AeroPress video. Mad respect for the man.

I know what you’re thinking …“this! is a blog entry!?!?! This is bull crap!” And I agree. I have much, much to share about the run-up to my salsa’s debut at a farmer’s market, back-to-school stuff, book writing, my trip to a coffee roaster in Dearborn, and a new blogging/writing gig. You’ll just have to sit their on pins and needles. If you’re bored, watch that coffee video again.

Things I Make: Salsa and Big Decisions

It’s Sunday and that’s usually a day off here at the blog, but I thought I’d quick blog about my first ever Board of Directors meeting at my salsa world headquarters (salsa yet unnamed, world headquarters = my kitchen). My trusty assistant and I, if anything ever becomes of this li’l salsa experiment, are hard at work dividing up tasks, arguing over the spreadsheets and how to spend the seed money, and brainstorming the best ways to make this actually work.

But, before I begin, I’m mucho inspired by Jenny and Matt, co-owners of Jenny’s Wild Bean Dip which my wife and I agree is, by far the best bean dip we’ve ever tasted. “But, Don,” you ask, “really …it’s just a bean dip, aren’t you being a bit overdramatic?” And I answer with an emphatic, tear-filled, down-on-my-knees screaming to the heavens … “No, good sir! I am not. Prepare to duel!”.

Remember, I make everything dramatic.

Anyway, Jenny and Matt are basically living the dream and the plan that I plan and dream for my own salsa company. In fact, and it ain’t like the two of them are driving his & her Bentleys …they are actually succeeding far past any expectations I have for myself, and consider me impressed (and inspired). “Like” them on Facebook. Check out their site. And above all, find them at a farmer’s market near you and pick some up. You’ll be addicted. I promise you (I think they’re at the Birmingham Farmers Market every Sunday).

Quick update on the “Name My Salsa Company Contest”. The prize is free salsa for life.* Lots of chatter. I’m close to settling on a name. Last chance to submit yours and get in the contest. You don’t actually have to name my company, but anyone who offers any suggestion will be in the running and the drawing. Even if I go with one of my own name ideas, somebody’s still winning. At the end of the day, I want at least one person to have a good impression of my salsa company.

Here are the Top-7 current ideas.

  • Salsalogy (Salsaology)
  • Donnie Jalepeno
  • Don’s Delights
  • Assburners
  • Salscience
  • Salsamaniacs
  • Salsalewski
  • Donnie Pepper’s Salsa

That’s about it. I’m 6-days away from my first big event (if I haven’t waited too long to register and sign-up …oops). And unlike many crazy ideas I’ve had, nobody is really telling me I’m completely crazy on this one. Which is weird …most people love to tell me how crazy I am. But, I’ll go with it. Full of optimism and full of spice. I hope for many more awesome salsa-related entries soon. I’m just excited at how official this is all seeming. Ole!

* I’m not exactly sure why I’m including an asterisk, but I’m including it anyway because with every contest, there needs to be some sorta disclaimer and I just can’t think of anything I want to limit from this awesome prize. Like, maybe “free salsa for life” should be defined as “free salsa, up to 16 ounces per week, for life.” That seems fair. And only if I don’t fold the doors on my salsa company, then you get salsa for life. Oh, and I’m kinda leaning towards my own choice of a name …so in your face, greedy friends.

Things I Do: I Bowl on Thursdays

No blog about my life would be complete without a mention of bowling. OK …so I’ve mentioned “bowling” …now my blog is complete.

Phew. Oh, blogging …I can’t quit you.

I used to keep a blog devoted to bowling, or more specifically, to my bowling team. Yes, there was a time I thought, “hot damn …these conversations I have at bowling every week are so riveting, I need to document them for all time.” (I tend to get over-enthusiastic about almost anything in my life …just sayin’). My bowling mates and I even dreamed up a sitcom that would take place in a bowling alley and include a bunch of bowling humor. Turns out, however, in our league of 80 or so bowlers, exactly 7 people find our brand of bowling humor even remotely funny.

My kids started school today which can only mean one thing: bowling season can’t be far behind. On September 8th it begins again and I take a 183 “book average” with me into the season, we’re returning all four starters, 3 subs, and we’ve added a free agent from Chicago to the team. We’re optimistic this will be our year and we’ll find ourselves in the roll-off come early May of 2012. 33 weeks of bowling stretch out before us like an untouched, freshly oiled lane and we’re hoping the pins fall our way for a change.

Some say I take bowling way too seriously, but I want to tell my wife …I mean, “those people”, that bowling is no different than a golf league, Elks Club meeting, or any other activity that masks a serious drinking problem. And besides, if I lived with me, I’d want a night away from me at least once a week. You’re welcome “people.”

One of my non-bowling Uncles sent me this great Jim Gaffigan clip about bowling. I didn’t laugh even once (or maybe I needed a tissue to wipe the tears of laughter off my cheek).

Don’t forget to help me name my salsa. Lots of good suggestions and votes coming in. Thanks, always, for reading and limiting your personal attacks on me and your profanity laced comments.


Follow me on Twitter @donkowalewski and ‘Friend’ me on Facebook, and don’t forget to read other stuff I write at @spunkybean.

Things I Make: Everyone’s Favorite Salsa / Name My Salsa Company

Before I talk salsa, last night I had a dream that I let my car run out of gas and was stranded on a dark country road, and then one of my best friends from high-school drove by, he was dressed like Eminem from 8 Mile (and this particular friend would’ve never gone for the hip-hop look), and instead of helping he just wanted to tell me he always knew I’d end up this way. Anyone wanna analyze that?

I’ve spent some time talking coffee brewing but now I have to change gears quickly. I’m on the eve of launching my salsa company (technically I launched my salsa company in May and Chris D. was my first customer – picture above) and my salsa company doesn’t have a name. I was going to call it “Donnie Jalepeno” but nobody but me thinks that’s “awesome” or “neat-o.” So I’m opening it up to you …my salsa loving public. And if I go with the name you give me, well, there might be a price (like free salsa for life).

Here’s why I make salsa and why I think my salsa is the best. I like snacking. I think salsa should be more than a simple side dish at a party. I think salsa, on its own, should be a meal. In designing my salsa recipe, I wanted it to taste as fresh as possible, be spicey, and I wanted people to eat it and then not be able to stop. So I wanted something that tastes like salsa, and works like meth. I guess. Bad analogy.

This quest began probably 5 years ago and I took the stuff I liked from various good salsas I like, tried my own, experimented, traveled, meditated, burnt some taste buds, confused some local grocers with my odd requests and I’m proud to say I’ve done it. When I take my salsa to a party, it rarely makes it out of the first hour. In fact, at my sisters house, the guests won’t let me in the door if I don’t bring salsa, and then they all hover around the appetizers and devour my salsa. I’m proud of this. And because of this, I’m taking my salsa show on the road and to a farmer’s market next weekend.

Let’s Name My Salsa Together

Here are the leading choices that I’ve gotten as suggestions or that I made up myself. I’ve created a Poll that should work, but it it doesn’t, Leave a comment, cast your vote, or add your own idea. Thanks. Did I mention “free salsa for life?”


Things I Love: More Coffee and Good Friends

By the power of my blog, I convinced my friend Matt to order himself an AeroPress. I hope he ordered it via a link on spunkybean so I get, like, 13-cents …but either way, I convinced him. Matt is like me …a curious sort of chap who loves coffee and loves interesting things. If I had one friend who would see my whacky coffee making contraption and want one, I would’ve guessed it would’ve been Matt. (he has two grills – one charcoal and one gas that he uses depending on the cuisine needing grilling, and he and his wife cook elaborate meals for their company and house guests, and food prep typically takes hours while everyone enjoys wine, good conversation, and gets perfectly hungry to enjoy his amazing meals …I tell you all this because an AeroPress is right up his alley).

He was so intrigued, it turns out, he ordered one and paid the extra/rush shipping so that it would arrive while he was on vacation. That’s dedication to good coffee. Be impressed.

Anyway, upon his return from vacation he agreed a single-cup of AeroPress coffee is about the best he’s ever had, but he said he had some challenges when brewing a full AeroPress and trying to figure out how to make coffee for more than one person and more than one cup.  I’m going to show him how. What follows is a quick video tutorial on how I make 8 ounces of strong espresso and cut with water to make 2 8 oz cups of perfect coffee. I employ the upside-down AeroPress technique when making multiple cups.

And, yes …in the background you’ll hear my 4-year-old waiting for her cup of coffee and asking for milk. I’d laugh in your face if you were an adult looking to defile a cup of perfect coffee with “milk” …but she’s 4 …so I let it slide. When she’s six …she’ll only be allowed to drink her coffee black.

Why does an AeroPress cup of coffee taste so good? CoffeeGeek .com explains it this way:

  •  Total immersion of the grounds in the water results in rapid yet robust extraction of flavor.
  •  Total immersion permits extraction at a moderate temperature, resulting in a smoother brew.
  •  Air pressure shortens filtering time to 20 seconds. This avoids the bitterness of long
    processes such as drip brewing.
  •  The air pressure also gently squeezes the last goodness from the grounds, further enriching the flavor.
  •  Because of the lower temperature and short brew time, the acid level of the brew is much lower than conventional brewers. Laboratory pH testing measured AEROPRESS brew’s acid as less than one fifth that of regular drip brew. The low acid is confirmed by coffee lovers who report that AEROPRESS brew is
    friendlier to their stomachs.

For more analysis and quotes from coffee experts, visit this article at CoffeeGeek.

Am I blogging for one person? Perhaps I am. Or maybe you’re getting closer and closer to buying your own AeroPress and living the high life. I hope you do. See you tomorrow.

Things I Did: Vacation Videos as DVD (Home Movie Tips)

My trusty Handycam

In the brief history of Kaleidoscopic Raygun, I’ve dedicated the majority of entries to discussing coffee and shooting home movies. I know how to make a great cup of coffee. Conversely, I am less than pleased at my ability to make good home movies. I suck at narration and I never seem to remember to HOLD THE CAMERA STILL. I shake and pan wildly back and forth …I give myself sea-sickness watching my own movies back.

However, one thing I’m getting better at is taking lots and lots of video. My approach is this – shoot enough video and by golly, something will turn out. With the annual Torch Lake vacation, I tried to roll video just about every single day. In the process I shot almost 2 hours of video (which is quite a bit). Some of it …well, I’ll be embarrassed I shot it at all. But some other stuff really captured some good memories.

Last night I successfully created a DVD from the video footage. It has a cool opening page with cool background music and 43 Chapters worth of video, and each Chapter on the DVD is labelled. This is the first time I’ve made a DVD from my home video files.

I’m kicking myself, however, because the other vacation I took this year was Disney, and I woke up this morning all geeked to put footage from that trip onto a DVD and it turns out I have less than 20-minutes worth of stuff video taped from that trip. Drat …drat …drat. Blast you, mad cat!

So the lesson here on shooting home movies is the same lesson as I hope to pass along to my kids and that I hope to live out during the rest of my time on this earth.  You will regret the things you DON’T DO far more than you’ll regret the things you do. Similarly, you will regret the things you DON’T VIDEO TAPE far more than you’ll regret the things you do video tape.

Below is a little more classic footage from our annual Torch Lake tradition of driving into Elk Rapids and visiting the Elk Rapids Bakery for their famed Cherry Pockets. Prepare to feel dizzy as you watch some very poorly shot video. I promise …I’m going to get better. There’s gotta be a book on this topic, right?

Any ideas for better home movies? I Google’d the topic a little and found these…

1. Shoot shorter clips, but shoot more shorter clips v. long 10- or 15- minute segments.

2. Move the camera alot to capture different angles

3. Shoot often and bring your camera around family often so they act more natural around you and your pesky camera

4. When narrating, describe the who, where, and what of the scene you are shooting.

5. Stay on your subject for a minimum of 7-seconds

6. Think of each shot as if it were a still-shot

Leave some comments on what you do and how you made the home movies you’re most proud of. Thanks. Here’s to good shooting.