call to serve, Feed My Starving Children, Haiti, health care, hunger, mission work, sorghum making, Uncategorized

Why Haiti? Part III

Len Demert founder

Schools4Haiti Founder, Len Demert

Day 2 of the mission trip with Schools4Haiti:

One of the very first things that was apparent upon arriving in Port au Prince (my first exposure to Haitian people) is how boorish or verbally aggressive they are.  It is classic id run amok–no filter.  If they think it, they tend to say it. “Hey pretty lady!” they call out to some of the ladies in our group.  Wow, put a sock in it, Ace! I think to myself. Yet somehow, they are also polite and quick to smile.  Their default expression is one forged out of lifelong hardship, however.

Haitian elder

She’s younger than you think…

Unless you are from Haiti or used to driving in Haiti, it’s best to hire a driver who can double as an interpreter–especially if you are not fluent in Creole.  One truck was not enough for our team and our luggage.  The trip organizer, Penny Demert-Neal of Schools4Haiti left our company to get another truck rented from Avis.  The standing joke of how many people can you fit on a Haitian truck (one more) did not hold for our team. We needed two trucks. Driving in PAP streets is harrowing, crowded, choked with traffic, and very minimal traffic laws are observed.  Our host would later tell us stories of drivers who have hit others in the street who were then pulled from the vehicle and stoned by villagers–judge, jury, and executioners all rolled into one frenzied group.

haitian streets

driving in Haitian streets

We began our northward ascent toward Mirebalais and the New Life International compound and our hosts, Brian and Jamie Rauschenberger. Soon we were climbing Mt. Cabrit (goat) and were seeing what appeared to be wild goats, donkeys, and horses.  Our driver soon corrected me on this issue and said that although each animal appeared to be wild, every Haitian knew exactly who this horse belonged to or that goat, even that stray chicken scampering about. I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the countryside that followed the despair, crowds, and litter so rampant in PAP. Cacti of varying types speckled the mountainside, while animals scurried about. On the way up Mt. Cabrit, those of us in the back of the truck got caught in our first monsoon, taking care to hold the blue tarp over us and at least limit the impact of the big drops of rain that were pelting us.


Our New Life Int’l hosts, the Rauschenburgers

After arriving at New Life International at meeting our hosts, we grabbed our bags and checked out our new dorm rooms.  Each of us men had a single bed, three in our room.  One of the docs roomed with his sister, a high school French teacher.  The rest of the ladies in our group shared a larger dorm room with two single beds and two bunk beds.  The dorms, recently completed, looked more like bunkers than dorms as the interior was unpainted cement that was not yet finished sweating–and would not be painted until time passed and the sweating had run its course.

inside NLI dorm

inside dorm room at New Life Int’l

Our host, Brian, explained that the air conditioning was freshly installed but the daylight hours had slipped away before the electrical connections could be completed.  Therefore, our first night we would have no AC but each subsequent night we would.  This was a huge bonus, as the nighttime air brought open windows, mosquitoes, and security risk.  Outside were two armed guards who kept patrol while we slept.  New Life International in Mirebalais sat on 40 acres of the prettiest jungle in Haiti.  Enormous cane stalks bordered the lane and the property and made me recall the memories of my grandfather Ever who grew cane and pressed sorghum for 47 years until he died in 1983.

Wanting to appease the curiosity of my foodie wife Sara (of, I took care to carefully catalog the different foods that we ate while in Haiti.  Brian’s wife Jamie served us spaghetti with fish, rice & beans, an iceberg salad, and ranch chicken drumsticks with lime-aid to wash it all down with.  Brian assured us that the lime-aid was made with purified water from his own system.

Haitian water purifying system at Pastor Paul’s orphanage

** Watch for Why Haiti, part IV soon! Please remember to like and follow the blog.

health care, HIPAA, patient privacy laws

Crying Wolf? Hippocratic or just hypocrite?


Dr. Milton Wolf, radiologist and candidate for U.S. Senate

A Kansas physician, Dr. Milton Wolf, has come under fire for posting “grisly images” on FB, images of patients he has served as a radiologist over the years—those of gunshot fatalities and medical injuries. The headlines draw us in at the very hint that a physician, America’s closest thing to royalty, may be guilty of impropriety or even poor judgment. Society likes to place physicians on a pedestal and too easily forgets that these folks are people first, physicians second. They are just as prone to making mistakes as the rest of us, except society seems held in delight and awe of their fall from grace, compared to regular folks.

MD on a pedestal

Society puts physicians on a pedestal

What those who do not work in health care fail to understand is that we need dark humor, behind closed doors, in order to cope with the burden of what we see and hear every day—human beings doing stupid things and then reacting with even greater stupidity. Worse, when stupidity is revealed, people don’t want to have any consequences from it or let the mistake be known.  Too often, the results are tragic and health care professionals use dark humor to cope, to survive. We wrap dark humor around us like a protective cloak, to keep the ugly off of us so we can live to treat others yet another day.


cloaked in dark humor

However, judicious care must be taken when making private images public, regardless of the intent. If Dr. Wolf simply posts an x-ray of a shotgun blast to the chest, with no identifying markers, then arguably the x-ray could be anyone who has ever suffered a shotgun blast to the chest. However, for argument’s sake, let’s say it is circa 1993 and a radiographic image of a severed penis is posted publicly to the internet. How many men suffered amputation of their penis that year? Any such image that might surface that year, even void of identifying markers, would be presumed to be that of John Wayne Bobbit—even if it was not. Could it be argued that patient John Wayne Bobbit’s rights have been violated, even if the image of the severed penis did not, in fact, belong to Mr. Bobbit, given the media frenzy that followed the event? In the end, Mr. Bobbit’s reattachment was successful, but if it had not been, would he have become so well known or go on to star in adult films?

Using another example, I once cared for a hemicorpectomy patient—yes, a patient who had been traumatically cleaved in half. If I were to post radiographic images of this, it might narrow down the possibilities to one of fifty people each year in the US. However, if any additional details of this case were shared, like which year this occurred in or what city, I would no doubt violate HIPAA laws and risk inciting perturbed family members to respond in litigious ways. HIPAA is an acronym for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  According to, the privacy component of the HIPAA law  states that the major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well-being.

My point of this post is that I am far from perfect, but I believe it is always best to behave in a way that will not necessitate an apology later. Dr. Wolf, U.S. Senate candidate, has publicly apologized for posting these images in question. At best, his actions were a lapse in judgment. At worst, they were a violation of the patients’ rights and possible courtroom fodder. As gaffes go for those who aspire to or are elected to public office, this is no blue dress or defining what “it” is, or inspiring second graders across the fruited plain to ask their parents what oral sex is.  But it also is something I would not have done under any circumstance. In a time of ever-increasing healthcare regulation, who really wants to thumb their nose at the HIPAA laws and risk being made an example of in the national spotlight?


Bubba fancied The Blue Dress!

circus, entertainment, parenting, Uncategorized

Circus Tiger Mauls Clowns!


10:05:34–gate is closed in right of photo

Call it the headline that almost was.  My oldest son, a second grader at a small Wisconsin school got to visit the Zor Shrine Circus at the Coliseum. Due to limited space on the bus that was going, his 4k brother, who had earned a ticket through exemplary behavior in his class, could also go but could not ride on the bus.  I had asked my uncle Sam if he wanted to go along, and before I knew it the endeavor turned into something even bigger.


10:07:34–notice the door is ajar on the right…

I had childhood memories of going to the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in Omaha, NE.  I was small, maybe 5 or 6 years old. It was by far the neatest thing that ever happened to me as a child. I wanted to share a similar experience with my boys, so I made a point of going along.  Little did I know, I would be selected from an audience of thousands and brought to the main ring to act out two skits with this clown:


Reddy the Clown engaged the audience with a whistle; up close, I heard a thick accent

Reddy grew exasperated when the woman he also chose from the crowd wasn’t acting out the skit to his liking and made a big production of putting me in her place.


My boys all ready think I am a Rock Star–this made them certain of it!

He wanted her to play slow-motion tennis with big sound effects.

I was amazed to see photos of this as I handed the camera to my 7 year-old son and he just kept shooting.  The circus assistants wore all black so they tended to disappear into the dark auditorium while the act was brightly illuminated with spotlights. I noticed the door was ajar with 3 Bengal tigers and 2 Siberian tigers when one of the assistants raced over to secure it.  Funny thing, ignorance: on the one hand we had an arena full of happy, happy, fun, fun, smile, smile, laugh; on the other hand, we had an unsecured gate with 5 tigers mere feet away from being loose among the crowd! Being an ER nurse, it is my job to notice things.  I noticed the inconsistencies when people lie to me every single day. I am used to this; so used to this I just brush it off as part of the human condition. An unlocked gate on the tiger arena is a whoop–a HUGE whoop! Snapping photos like paparazzi, the time stamps would reveal the gate closed at 10:05:34 and ajar by 10:07:34–which means it merely came open on its own and was never secure in the first place!


10:09:21–gate still ajar in right of photo, moments later this was secured by staff. Never mind the 5 tigers mere feet away!

I am not sure how many of the thousands at the circus noticed this teensy-weensy gaffe in security.  Good thing all five tigers considered the ringmaster with the long whip the alpha male in the group.  You can see in the photo above how well-fed the tigers appear to be; the Siberian on the end is too fat to be sassy. The time stamps on my photos reveal a 4 minute span during which that gate is ajar before staff noticed the mistake and ran over to secure it–4 minutes that could have made headlines if the tigers were more alert, less well fed, or less obedient.

Was a good time had by all?  You bet!

Would I go again?  Sure.  But I will have my eye on that tiger cage from the start!


How does the ringmaster NOT look like dinner?

Birthday, parenting, relationships, Uncategorized

A Birthday Tribute to My Bride

Sara in Snowville NH

My favorite picture of Sara, B & B in Snowville N.H. 2008

It is Sara’s birthday today, my beloved wife.  Before I ever laid eyes on Sara, we had talked on the phone about 4 times.  She was in Moline, IL and I was spending a long weekend in Des Moines, where I worked in the intensive care unit at Mercy Capitol Hospital–the former osteopathic hospital and red-headed stepchild of Mercy Main.  Sara and I had been set up by her sister, Amy, who was pinch-hitting for her big sister in the game of life.  After a mere 40 minutes of talking with me outside of the State Farm office in Maquoketa, IA, Amy was certain I was the life-mate for her sis–“I just met the father of your children.  Don’t eff this up!” came the edict.

DSM half marathon

Budding romance at 1 month, DSM marathon 2004

Before either of us knew it, Sara had quit a hateful job working for Cruella DeVille at a poisonous hospital in the Quad Cities and had become my personal groupie.  This was no easy task and has just grown more complex, more difficult, and more physically taxing since those early days.  I met Sara at the Border’s bookstore in Davenport on Tuesday, September 21st at 5:30 pm.  I was engrossed in the first pages of Ann Coulter’s Treason when a soft voice said “Erik?” A tall drink of water with brown hair and soulful brown eyes looked down at me as I sat there.  I had not imagined or dreamed about what Sara would look like–I was, however, in the mood for someone to be kind to me.  If she couldn’t muster that, our time together would be brief.


Newton IA with Baby Noah 2006

I was still reeling from the break up of my marriage to a woman who appeared to think of marriage like a complicated date–an exit strategy always in hand the moment things got hard.  Perhaps I even told Sara that I just wanted someone to be kind to me, and I wanted that more than anything else another human being could offer me. I had very fresh scars from my marriage, ones that if Sara was to win me over she would unfortunately have to tend…and nurture.  She got this.


Sara’s labor, our blessings

I remember our first argument.  I was perturbed with her and probably wanted my way.  I don’t even remember what the argument was over–I just remember the punch line.  I said “I sure hope you ski!”  As if this activity could save us, I might be willing to tolerate not getting my way if Sara could ski and would ski with me wherever I wished to go.  At that time, I had a matronly friend at the hospital who urged me to go on a vacation “just for yourself.”  I looked into skiing in South America, but the reviews on were horrible and echoed that the conditions were au natural and the accommodations poorly developed.  I had just recently met Sara and wasn’t crazy about going by myself.  Tuesday nights lessons at Chestnut Mountain in Galena, IL for six weeks with her future husband as instructor gave Sara the skills she needed to ski in Spain and Andorra.  KLM lost our luggage flying into Toulouse, France so we had to come up with a plan B that now excluded skiing in France.  We rented a BMW 525 xi and were left to tour the foothills of the Pyrenees for the day until our luggage caught up with us.  Poor us.  A couple of days later, a blizzard blew into the Pyrenees after the lifts had delivered us to Beret, Spain. Suddenly they closed the lifts for safety and we had no choice but to ski the 7 kilometers back to our resort in Baquiera. That evening we asked Spanish Sally, our hostess at the hotel, where there was a nice restaurant in the area.  She seemed to understand and replied “Ohh…romantica?!”

Sara and Erik skiing MT

My Snow Bunny!

Sara and I married about nine months after meeting, in July 2005.  Each of us was old hat at the marriage thing, and knew what we wanted and had to have.  Our wedding was held on my brother’s farm, in a barn built in 1902 by my great great grandfather Andrew.  The temperature that day was about 78 F with a gentle breeze blowing, the sun filtering through the slats in the barn walls, and some of our city friends asking if we had piped in the sound of birds chirping outside during the ceremony.  We had a patriotic theme wedding, Famous Dave’s catered in (a huge hit with our guests), and we honeymooned in Cozumel a short time later.

our wedding invite

Our Wedding Invitation

Sara is once (Noah), twice (Jonah), and three times (Eli) a lady to me, giving me 3 strapping sons who will one day dwarf their “regular” dad. There is not a cooler woman on the planet to me.  I can be an ogre, a real grizzly bear to live with…yet Sara endures.  Sara looks on with disdain while our boys look at me like I am a rock star and often regard her as chopped liver, unaware or unconvinced of just how the magic really happens in the Hanson household. Yet Sara endures…being well, Sara.

Our reality

Halloween 2013–how it really is!

fashion, hunting, stilettos, Uncategorized

Stilettos & Whitetails

My sons are as fun-loving and goofy as I am. Mama had one of her stilettos lying around, probably dragged out by Monster Baby, providing a nice visual prop. So, tonight the subject of stiletto heels came up while talking with my 7 year-old son about walking on a new vinyl floor and the damage a stiletto could cause…and how it would cause it. I told him the story of how my college physics professor loved to illustrate the physics of stiletto heels.  Ed Kindermann was a jolly old soul; in fact, I would have believed him if he said he was Santa Claus when he wasn’t teaching college physics.  He looked like Saint Nick!  Kindermann walks with Jesus now, but I swear that man could have taught physics to a chimpanzee–he was a brilliant and gifted instructor.

learning chimp

A chimp learning physics

The story, as Kindermann told it, went like this:  My then-wife and I had some raucous young neighbors in an upstairs apartment who thought they were something pretty special in the 1970s. They were hip, had lots of friends, and tended to be show-offs.  We got word they were going to have a party after having some renovation done to their new pad, including brand new vinyl being placed in the kitchen.  The way the apartment was laid out, the entry opened to the kitchen so guests would have to walk right across the new vinyl to get into the living room. My wife had aged along with me, no longer the size 6 she was when we had met so many years before. I thought the upstairs neighbors were haughty but they really got under my wife’s skin. I don’t know why, but this secretly tickled me.  We soon got an invitation to attend the open house party they were going to throw, and my wife spared no expense, including a snazzy new pair of red stilettos.

sharp stiletto

The Stiletto Effect

The night of the big open house party came and my wife and I trudged up the stairs to be awestruck by the beauty that would surely envelope us in the neighbor’s newly renovated place.  I knocked on the door and the couple cordially greeted us, my wife and the misses upstairs trying hard to out-nice each other. My missus took six steps into the apartment only to have the neighbors wife suddenly shriek!  My wife’s stilettos had punched about a half-dozen little squares with rounded edges right through the vinyl of our haughty neighbors brand new floor!  We apologized profusely as we beat a hasty retreat, promising to pay for the damage.  I gulped at the impact this faux pas would have on our limited budget. Once we returned home, I took care to stifle my laughter as it was angering my wife who was obviously armed with quite a weapon. I secretly, quietly began to scratch down the physics of what had just occurred, rounding down my wife’s weight to an even 200 lbs. Yep, to this day it still amazes me!

Stilettos can be used as lethal weapons…it is more common than you think.  The following two hyperlinks are examples of how deadly stilettos can be in the right hands:

This is more on stilettos, including the sword, knives, and daggers that stiletto heels are named after:

The following video describes is by The Science Babe and describes the physics behind stilettos:

My oldest son’s question to me, with a wry smile on his face was “hey dad–do you think you could hunt white-tailed deer with a stiletto?” I chuckled at the creativity of his question and pondered.  “Yes, I think it could be done.  It would not be the most humane way or effective way to harvest a deer, but it could be done.” My mind lapsed back to the times in my hunting career when I was close enough to touch deer, wearing the right camouflage. I imagined myself, hunkered in the snow-covered brush while dressed in all white camo, holding an 8″ stiletto with my fingertips curled just inside the toe portion, ready to strike with my deadly fashionable footwear.

health care, hip resurfacing, orthopedic surgery, surgery, Uncategorized

Humbled by Mortality

Today…I bought a cane.  A cane!  I am 46 years old. I am only 46!  I have inherited some bad genes.  Genes for coronary artery disease (CAD), genes for diabetes (which I have dodged so far), and genes for osteoarthritis (OA).  About one year ago I stopped taking the statins, those wretched, wretched drugs that are supposed to be wonder drugs that will bring naughty lipid profiles up to toe the line.  I predict Hupy & Abraham 1-800-BAD-DRUG commercials in the near future, featuring statins. I had started aching–my legs, arms, even the spinal erector muscles ached.  An endocrinologist in Monroe, WI named Dr. Bekx tweaked my regimen with CoEnzyme Q10, Niaspan, the water-soluble Crestor that had been touted as “the best of the best of the best” in that class of drugs.  Dr. Bekx is a brilliant man, and even among physicians he stands out.  Tweak as he may, the myalgias (muscle aches) persisted to the point I could not stand taking even the tiniest dose.  I began to list them as an intolerance.

pill bottles

Mr. Polypharmacy!

By July I thought the statins should be long gone from my system and the pain should therefore also be gone…but it wasn’t.  My primary doc set a referral to a rheumatologist, Dr. Wilson.  A reputation of being difficult to work with preceded her, but I found her to be delightfully candid with a fast, dry wit.  Upon exam, she brought each of my legs up to my chest and I nearly came off the table in pain!  After reviewing the family history and getting an anterior-posterior x-ray of my hip joints, she told me I had osteoarthritis in both hips.  Mine was so bad that I had bone on bone, grinding, in each hip.  Worse, I had bone spurs that had been laid down as part of the body’s response after it received a chemical signal that something was bad in each hip.

OA hip

Arthritic hip; both of mine are bone-on-bone

Next was a referral to the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Wolff.  From Madison, WI, he has a stellar reputation and a great surgical history.  Better, he was well-liked.  I cared little about that part because I would rather have a sound, gifted surgeon than one who simply made me feel good about some gaffe that occurred intraoperatively.  Surgery was originally scheduled for early December, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the notion of a total hip replacement on each side–not at age 46!  Sure, just lop off the proximal end of each femur and shove some hardware down in the center of the remaining leg bone!  No way, not for me, not at 46.

total hip hardware

The more common “total hip” replacement

A salty mare of a charge nurse that we love and work with in the emergency department suggested I look into the program at Sauk Memorial Hospital.  So I did, and I realized they offered hip resurfacing–new titanium alloy surfaces covering the head of the femur and the corresponding cup that is attached to the hip bone in the acetabulum.  Touted as the ideal surgery option for a male in his 40s or 50s with OA who plans to return to a vigorous lifestyle of running and skiing, this sounded like my perfect solution.  I would not likely run marathons again, but I do plan to ski with my sons.  By choosing this option, I get to keep my bones but I just get new surfaces so my bones are no longer grinding together–the titanium parts are!  Now that sounded like a capital idea!  When I met and spoke with Dr. Arnold Rosenthal, I liked him immediately.  He confided that he had the hip resurfacing done years ago himself and has loved the outcome.  Suddenly the man had street cred with me…like a mom-to-be taking suggestions from her doc who had already had a baby herself.

hip resurfacing hardware

This is hip resurfacing hardware; generally titanium alloy

Having never been cut on and placed under a general anesthetic, I am scared witless about this surgery.  I have decided to have both hips resurfaced and the closest the surgeon will do them is 6 weeks apart.  So, six weeks it is.  I will be on FMLA from work for 12 weeks.  Since osteoarthritis is a degenerative process, my hips will never be better than they are today–they will only get worse.  I cannot continue to gobble up the tramadol, naproxen, acetaminophen, and motrin as I have been for months or my kidneys will begin to fail.  My physician even added hydrocodone recently to help manage the pain all the other times that I am not at work.  Ibuprofen causes my ANA or anti-nuclear antibodies to spike and then I begin to feel pretty cruddy, so I reserve that stuff for breakthrough pain while at work. I cannot imagine a day where I don’t have to take something to manage pain, but that is the ideal I strive for by committing to these two surgeries.  Living with chronic pain is pure hell.

chronic hip pain

Living with chronic pain

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divorce, fatherhood, parenting, Uncategorized

Grandpa? Nope, Late Fatherhood


Handsome baby Noah

I became a father when I was 39.  That’s old.  Simple math shows that I will be 57 when my oldest son graduates high school.  “Hey, grandpa–so nice you could be here to watch your grandson on his graduation day!”  Why so old, you ask?  I took a six-year detour with The Practice Wife–thankful that no children resulted from that union.  I remember being 12 and thinking that there was no way I would be ready to be a daddy at 25 and that I had better wait.  At that age, I was not entirely sure of the mechanism used to accomplish fatherhood anyhow; but I gave myself plenty of time to figure it out.  I thought I was wiser at 25 than I had ever been, but I still had some wisdom to acquire and maturity to grow.  Yep, 30 would be a better age to create mini-Eriks.  Shortly after that mark I met the first Mrs. Hanson.

ski lodge

I might have guessed how that would turn out when she stood giggling at our altar in a Ski Lodge in Frisco, CO–giggling because the fireplace was making popping sounds that sounded like someone breaking wind.  The emotional maturity of a first grader.  I would think most women would gush over a two-week honeymoon skiing in Europe, traveling by Eurail to six different countries, skiing over the mountain from Switzerland into Italy under the shadow of the Matterhorn. Or the standing-room-only Christmas Eve service in Zermatt, spoken in a German dialect with locals dressed to the nines and big snowflakes falling. Or ringing in the new year in Salzburg, Austria–birthplace of Mozart–at the Festung while serial cannon fire echoed across the nation from one Austrian border to the next.


But no!  She grew tired of me and I grew tired of her by the end of that two weeks.  I couldn’t wait to be home to have some alone time.  Surprise, surprise when this marriage didn’t work out.  It didn’t help that we decided to try med school living in different cities 2 1/2 hours apart.  I lost my ‘coolness’ factor when I got the boot from med school–suddenly the first Mrs. Hanson was not going to be married to a doctor after all.  She would have to change that. To make matters worse, we opted to gut an entire house and live in it during the repair.  This is also a great way to stress a marriage.

gutted home

home under renovation

When I met Sara, we talked about our future with little ones running about, refrigerator magnets in place, how we would (as older parents) likely spoil them rotten.  I am glad we made some time to travel, see France, Andorra, Spain, visit Cozumel twice, and make a run of the B & Bs in New England.  Having children in school dramatically slows a parent’s pace to travel and see new places. These days we get to Washington Island in Door Co., WI each summer and to visit family in Iowa.  My wife’s family visits on holidays and mine never visits, except Uncle Sam.


Uncle Sam (suspenders)

Our oldest son Noah is smart, handsome, and likeable.  He seems to make friends easily and always puts his best foot forward…when he is not at home.  When he is at home he lets his hair down and picks fights with his next younger brother, mixes like oil and water with his mama, and seldom misses a chance to show how lazy he can be–God’s challenge to me as a father. When his teachers have commented on how helpful and polite he is at school, we stop to verify that they are talking about our son.  A friend of ours pointed out that it is good that Noah can “let his hair down at home–and be who he really is.”  My fear is that he will require more of our help once he is of age than I can provide, due to my advancing years.


Jr. GQ, Noah

Our second oldest son Jonah was speaking in complete sentences when he was 18 months old.  In the words of Shrek “you have the right to remain silent; what you lack is the ability.”  He talks with the sweetest lisp and I know one day that will just be done talking that way.  He has deep chocolatey brown eyes like his mama and is a very sweet and thoughtful boy.  He also knows exactly how to best antagonize his older brother Noah.


Berry Pickin’ Jojo

Our youngest son, Eli, a.k.a. “Monster Baby” was originally nicknamed this because of his off-the-chart growth.



Not that any of the boys is a shrinking violet–all have been off the chart.  Eli is not yet two years old and is 52 pounds.  His size makes him a monster.  Lately, however…his behavior does too!  He is pure imp these days, having found his terrible two’s early.  He is a game player and one of my favorite pictures of him is when he was helping me put away clean clothes and he put my boxer briefs on his head with his face sticking out one of the leg holes.


Monster Baby, playing with my boxers on his head!

Trust me, there are times when Sara and I look at each other and second guess our choice to be parents.  We could have had another home in the south of France, but no…we chose parenthood instead!


I wouldn’t have it any other way! 

Black Magic, Uncategorized, Witchcraft

Son-of-a-Witch! Black Magic and Past-Life Regression


An altar like mom used, one black and one white candle

When I was 8 years old, I must have expressed an interest in what my mother was doing in the bedroom at her dresser.  Often, when we returned home from school, the house would reek of incense and candle smoke.  Mom was a witch and I don’t mean she was merely difficult to get along with.  She was a self-proclaimed black magic witch.  She used this fact to intimidate those she was angry with. Mom was known to be a screaming dish-thrower, so if at any moment she seemed civil and not emotionally labile, we would not question it for fear her mood might change on a dime.

black magic witch

Black Magic Witch

Mom welcomed me into her bedroom and sat me down in front of her dresser, aka her altar.  The lights were off in the room but lit candles glowed on each side of the altar while incense burned.  I sat there, too afraid to move without mom’s direction.  She guided me through the ritual, things I was supposed to say at specified times, and she narrated the entire event.  Then I was to close my eyes while quietly chanting a phrase from her black magic book and share with mom what it was I saw.  I remember feeling flushed, quite warm, and saying “I see an Indian…on horseback…drawing back on his bow…riding along side of thundering buffalo in a cloud of dust.”

indian brave on horseback

my past life!

“That’s it!” Mom shrieked.  I startled from my trance-like state and turned to her.  “You were an Indian brave in your past life!”  I got excited, but only because mom was so excited.  I didn’t know what any of it meant.  Some would say mom had no business subjecting an 8 year-old to an altar and past-life regression.  Some would say mom had no business being a mom.  Life wasn’t boring, that was certain.

past life regression

past-life regression

For all I know, my mind may have held some memory of a campy Western I had recently seen and mom just seized the moment to fill in the blanks.  Around that same time, there was a neighbor boy with anger issues who had painted a target on my pacifist older brother Hans. Hans was more like Ghandi than Mike Tyson, so others had to stand up for him.

I tried, but this move just transferred the target to me.  Mom, seeing this bully chase us through the apartment complex one day, came screaming out of the Sun Valley apartments one day to meet this bully as Hans and I tore in behind her.  “You little F*&%$@#!  You leave my boys alone or I will put a curse on your punk a*# such that you will fail ALL of your classes in school!”  Bully’s mother had come out from across the complex to catch the end of mom’s f-bomb laden tirade, mom and her exchanged words, mom restated her specific threat and both women retreated into their apartments with their sons.  About two months after this incident there was a knock at our door…

Samuel L Jackson

Omaha P.D. Officer, 1975

Two Omaha police officers had ridden in on their motorcycles to investigate a report of one woman putting a black magic spell on the other woman’s son so he would fail all of his classes–and she had his all F’s report card to prove it!  These two very large cops looked like Ponch and Jon of CHiPs, except Ponch was African-American, resembling a wild-eyed Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction with a ‘Fro that didn’t seem to end.  Smirking and snickering, they each tried to play the tough cop, alternating with serious tones at times, indicating they were there to investigate these “very serious allegations.”  Of course, Mom assumed her sickeningly sweet, flirtatious, innocent self and denied every word of the complaint.  The cops soon went on their way, still snickering.

Sly witch

Sly witch

Mom closed the door with a smug little smirk on her face.  We never saw that bully or his mother again! And yes, my mother made that happen!

Do-It-Yourself, health care, higher education, hunger, Uncategorized, Weight Loss

No Weigh! 6 Simple Ways to Trim Bad Habits & Your Waistline!

Hansons are big people.  Not so much in height as in girth.  Grandma was always heavy, grandpa was built like a utility truck.  Dad was morbidly obese and mom was plump.  What a nice word, plump.  “Fat” sounds so judgmental.  Plump sounds cozy, like when I was a small boy and just wanted to snuggle into grandma’s soft, round, plump belly and fall asleep. Growing into men, grandma was concerned that we would go out in the world and settle for skinny Minnies who we “couldn’t find under the sheets.”  Instead, she suggested we find good eaters for our mates. God forbid, I once brought a girlfriend around who had the nerve to pick around at the dinner in front of her.  After grandma saw this, that woman had to go!


For many years I was a runner.  I ran because I liked it…and maybe because I knew where my genes would take me if I let them.  I ran my last marathon on my 38th birthday in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Just prior to the Med City Marathon I had met Sara, a 6′ 2″ German gal who I had decided would be a great partner to raise three boys with.  Although grandma would be pleased that I knew how to locate my mate, the trouble was that Sara is a mighty fine cook.  I stopped running and starting eating.  Before I knew what happened, I was packing 282 lbs. onto a 5’9″ frame and feeling pretty lousy about it.  As it turns out, I made a miserable fat guy.  I got winded walking up two flights of stairs.  I would feel sciatica shoot down my leg from my back.  I sweated on relatively cool days. I had to wear BIPAP when I slept so I did not stop breathing for long periods of time.

Erik Med City Marathon 38th BD001

Hamming it up at the Med City Marathon, my 38th birthday

To make matters worse, in July of 2013 I saw a rheumatologist who diagnosed me with osteoarthritis in both hips.  I began to pay attention to the hip x-rays put on the PACS screen at work in the emergency department.  There were 91 year old women with healthier hip joints than I had.  I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who popped up the AP film of my hips and said “Your hips are shot!  At 46–what in the hell did you do to your hips?”  I ran for many years, I have been in health care all my adult life, and I love to ski–all had taken a toll on my hip joints.  “Big guys like you aren’t suppose to run!” the ortho guy exclaimed.  “Save that for those wispy-chested Nigerians who are built for distance running.”



Now that I was grinding bone on bone in each hip, my choices to lose weight were suddenly quite limited.  Cutting out my tongue seemed too extreme so I took a long look at the habits I had formed to get me to 282 pounds.  I hate the word ‘diet’–implicit in that word is an ebb and flow I am not comfortable with.  Or maybe, that’s what the word has come to include in our society.  Inevitably the wane of dieting is followed by the wax of gaining all the weight back the moment behavior resorts back to what is was before. Options limited, I had to achieve weight loss in the most basic way possible:  fewer calories in, compared to calories burned throughout the day.  No longer could I just go out and increase my running to burn off weight gain.



1.  I stopped eating out of boredom.  If I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t eat.  I’m not sure when I started eating due to boredom, but I had somewhere along the line.

eating when bored

1) don’t eat when bored

2. I started cutting down on my portion size and asking my wife to do the same when she served my plate.  Although I grew up with a scarcity of food and leftovers were something we never had, it became okay to push my plate away when I had enough.  I had to reassure my wife there was nothing wrong with supper, it was just that I had enough.

push food away

2) No need to belong to the Clean Plate Club!

3. I stopped using social gatherings like birthdays, holidays, big games, deer hunting season, and other celebrations as an excuse to pig out.  Instead, I would try a single bite-size of something I really liked just for a taste, then quit.  This takes tremendous will power.

buffet line

3) No pigging out at social functions!

4.  I stopped eating a big meal right before bed.  I have been a night shift worker for 28 years so my bed time is variable, depending upon my work schedule.  No matter when I was going to bed, 10 p.m. or 10 a.m., I would have a simple sandwich or apple–just so my stomach didn’t growl while trying to fall asleep.

healthy snacks

4) Healthy snacks only before bed, if you must

5. I began to curb my intake of red wine.  I love a nice chianti or sangiovese on my night off, but at 7 kcals per gram, the weight gain from alcohol adds up fast.  Drinking my calories was no different than eating a big meal right before laying down.


5) In moderation only!

6. I started drinking a lot more water–the recommended eight 8 oz. glasses per day. In doing so, I replaced my usual diet Coke with water–the caffeine being an appetite stimulant and in its absence, I was not as hungry any more.

water bottles

6) Drink more water, less soda!

I had also moved from the float pool as an RN to the emergency room.  ER nurses run their butts off, as a rule.  By contrast, when I was in the float pool I often enjoyed a banker’s lunch.  In the ER, I was lucky to have two minutes to wolf down a PB & J.  This is a very unhealthy eating practice, but at least I was burning calories in my new role.  Say what you will, but a year and a half after moving to the ER, I am down from 282 lbs. to 232 lbs–A fifty pounds weight loss by using ONLY these 6 easy steps!

skinny in fat jeans

Happy losing!

health care, religion, spiritual journey, Uncategorized

Spiritual Darwinism

Yellowstone Church

Yellowstone Lutheran Church

I remember church being something foisted upon us by our parents at the behest of Grandma Hanson, mostly so we would not later “burn in a lake of fire.”  Wow.  That sounds like a hateful way to go.  If all I have to do is attend church once a week on Sundays, then yeah, I would happily opt to avoid such a tragic and preventable end.  Of course, Grandma was talking about my spiritual self, not just my here-and-now mortal self. Perhaps she was a believer, perhaps she knew that this mortal life is but a precursor to an eternity with Jesus.  Mostly, I think she just wanted us children to stop cursing so much.  Ah, the sequelae of a mother who could swear to make a sailor blush.  Maybe Grandma believed that if we got a little Jesus on us that she could use shame effectively whenever we let loose on an expletive tirade.  Her strategy worked.

burn in lake of fire

Burning in a Lake of Fire

In my teen years I would take confirmation classes and be confirmed in that church.

Erik at confirmation age 14001

Confirmation at Yellowstone Lutheran, age 14

But so what?  Who wants to belong to a group of so-called Christians who would bad-mouth my father right within the church walls and in front of me?  Although my kin had been buried in that cemetery since Ole Elgstuen got off the boat from Norway 140+ years ago, I dismissed the current Yellowstone Church congregation as a bunch of pseudo-Christian occupiers.


The pseudo-religious

During my college years I was too busy defining and discovering myself, drinking beer and chasing girls to be concerned with eternity. My only religious experience to date was dealing with those sanctimonious, opinionated Lutherans back in Argyle.  I dated a troubled young lady from the Latter Day Saints when I was working in Payson, AZ.  I witnessed a LDS baptism and saw the outside of the Mormon Temple in Mesa, AZ.  I learned enough and witnessed enough to not want to drink that Kool-Aid.  Growing up excluded, I had learned to reflexively back away from any group, religious or not, that valued exclusivity above nearly all else.

exclusive club

Exclusive Club

A vast amount of time passed before I was married and ready to start a family.  Sara grew up Baptist and I grew up Lutheran so we sought a nice happy medium for a church, which we found in Community Heights Alliance Church in Newton, IA.  I got into church league softball and got to know our pastor a bit more.  We felt strongly that children need structure, the more of it the better, and without it…they begin to unravel.  Soon Sara and I realized that this was the ONE hour of each week that we could sit and hold hands and be just Erik and Sara–not “mom! dad! mom! dad! MOM! DAD!”  Simultaneously, I was growing closer to God, coming home.  I began to listen to pastor Cory’s sermons and take in the message, take it to heart. I began to pray, silently, in my bedroom, in my car.  I didn’t want things, material things from God.  I had a physician’s income as a nurse–I had all the things I wanted and needed. I wanted God’s love and guidance.  I wanted to feel Him with me, in my heart and mind.

presence of God

In God’s presence

In late March of 2008 I started to have chest pain–nothing terrible but nagging pain at the left sternal border. I decided to be seen in the ER and my cardiac enzyme troponin was slightly bumped and there were non-specific changes on my 12 lead ekg.  As soon as I mentioned that my father had an out-of-hospital arrest at age 39 (I was 41 at the time), they whisked me right to the heart catheterization lab.  I prayed.  I had conversations with God and felt his presence.  Many hours later Dr. Ianone, the cardiologist, was sitting in my room, post-cath, and explaining that my coronary vessels were “pristine.”  What had caused this then, I asked?  Likely it was a bout of pleurisy, he said.  It was an $18,000 day just to learn that I need to take motrin every six hours until the bottle was gone.

heart cath

Heart catheterization

Pastor Cory visited me at home in the days that followed this scare.  I remember his line of questioning growing too personal, too invasive for my comfort–and I told him so.  I explained that my relationship with God was mine.  It was personal, not to be questioned or dissected by any mortal being, pastor or not.  Honestly, I resented his intrusion.  I explained that I think of faith and religion like I do a tooth-brush.  My tooth-brush is mine, not yours and just like I expected pastor Cory not to use my toothbrush, nor would I ask to use his.  My tooth-brush works for me–it will not work for him or vice versa.


In October of 2012 Sara and I began scoping out Hidden Valley Community Church in Dodgeville, WI.  We made a plan to get in, get out, and leave no trace or identifying marks–just in case the church smacked of kookiness or our cult alarms went berserk.  We had just moved to rural Hollandale and were thrilled to find a church akin to CHAC in Newton. Never before had I felt so at ease.  We both took to HVCC quickly and easily.  By August of 2013, I was baptized in Cox Hollow Lake at Governor Dodge as Jesus had been by John the Baptist in the River Jordan.  I felt honored to be baptized as Jesus had been, rather than simply the sprinkle of water upon my forehead as a baby.

Baptism of Jesus

Jesus being baptized

There are many in the scientific community who believe that science and religion are mutually exclusive, that the two cannot be reconciled.  A truly inspiring book by Dr. Eben Alexander called Proof of Heaven addresses how scientific minds can also be believers, and shares this physicians’ spiritual journey through e. Coli meningitis back to good health as a neurologist. In the words of Dr. Alexander, “my experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares for each one of us and about where the universe itself and all the beings within it are ultimately going” (Alexander, 2012).

Alexander, E. (2012). Proof of Heaven. New York: Simon and Schuster.