One Screwy Year Later

29 01 2010

I’m no blog expert, but I’m pretty sure it’s poor blog management when you “disappear” and pen nothing new in three months, six months, nine months, or (choking gasp) nearly one full year.  I have been charged with the following offenses:  Blog abandonment, neglect of a diary-like webspace, and being a blog-block.  I am here to readily admit to being guilty of these crimes, which are considered felonies in the justice system of the blogosphere.  Unsure of the punishment I deserve, I face you, the jury and give the following defense:

A conglomeration of events occurred, causing my creative energy to be squelched.  Some of you may remember that I was chronicling the mystery swelling that was wrecking my physical health.  (Unfortunately, it is still undiagnosed and is not improved, but I am dealing with it and currently trying some extreme dieting ideas to try to pinpoint the problem myself).  At some point, there simply were no more words to say about it and no good news to report.  I didn’t want the blog to be a wallowing pity party, and it was becoming clear that there was not a solution coming any time soon.  That was event number one.

Around a year ago, my then wife decided that she could not handle my illness any longer and informed me she had filed for a divorce.  There were some signs (big ones, actually), but it was still a shock.  I certainly felt betrayed.  That was event number two, which actually counts as about one million events rolled into one since I was worried about what this would do to my daughter, custody issues, quickly finding a new house, selling ours, figuring out how to afford health insurance, etc.

I’ve certainly thought about my blog since then, but I just didn’t know what to do with it.  I considered deleting it.  I considered moving some of the past entries into a brand new blog.  Most of all, I just couldn’t stomach coming to it.  Until now.  I am ready.  I love my new house.  My daughter is incredibly inspiring (I do have co-custody and have her half the time), and I am a happy person at peace (except for the health issue, of course).  My faith is strongly intact.  I decided to keep the blog the way it was, sans a couple of “couple” pictures and some obvious updates that were needed “about me” in light of the situation.  I could go back and delete any entries where I praised my wife or that sort of thing, but the reality is that whatever I wrote at that time was the truth in my world at that moment so I’m leaving it alone.

So I guess I’m back in case there are two or three people out there who give a crap whether this blog exists or not and are willing to forgive my neglect instead of tossing me in blog solitary confinement.  By the way, this will not be a blog to rip my ex.  She’s a good mother; that’s all that matters to me about her anymore.  We’re on friendly terms.  I’ve chosen for the sake of my daughter and my own peace of mind not to be bitter.  That will be the last said about that by me.

My daughter, nearing kindergarten age, seems to be taking everything in stride.  I am very thankful for this.  She is the light of my being, and I never want to see her hurt.  She is currently obsessed with the idea of me marrying Trish from the television show “Clean House.”  At least she seems to have good taste!  Oh, and my daughter just asked me to be her Valentine.  Life is beautiful.

It’s good to be here and to get reacquainted with you.  Hi, I’m Matt.





Swelling Update & Other Goofy Tidbits

9 02 2009
  • Swelling: It’s been a  couple of months (almost) since my trip to Mayo Clinic, and my local doctor is working with me on their recommendations.  Overall, I’ve lost about 15 of the 45 lbs of swelling that I had.  The progress has been slow and with a few ups and downs, but it’s heading in the right direction – giving me great hope.  I’m moving a little better and looking slightly less freakish, but I’m not yet at a point of being able to return to my “normal” life (which would probably still be a bit abnormal to most, but that’s a different story).   There is a very recent possibility as far as a potential cause that I discovered quite by accident.  It’s possible that another medicine that no doctor even remotely suspected could have something to do with the swelling.  This is something SO recent that I’m not going to bother going into detail here, but after a few days off of it, I’m seeing a little better progress each day.   Anyway, the news is good right now…slow, but good.
  • From Cool to Tool:  It’s funny how things can go from being “awesome” to “dorky” in a relatively short time.  Parachute pants, jeans jackets, the Men Without Hats’ tune Safety Dance and the use of “air quotes” are good examples.  To me, the Blue Tooth headset has joined this sad list.  I’m not bashing anyone who really needs to use one, and I understand they can be effective tools in some situations. However,  speaking of tools, that’s exactly what I think when I see a dude walking around outside and talking loudly with that dorky-looking thing stuck on his ear – what a tool.  I think they have gone from cutting edge, status symbol territory into something that losers THINK makes them look cool.  Who is with me on this?  I’m really curious.
  • Kid update: My three and a half year old girl, who seems to think she is about 12, continues to be the light of my life.  Sadly, she currently believes that she is the funniest person on earth whenever she inserts the word poop into a song.  Example:  Twinkle, Twinkle Little POOP! She may not have the most sophisticated style of humor yet, but she continues to amaze me in other ways.  She very much enjoyed watching Charlotte’s Web.  The ending, of course, lead to a discussion about death.  (Spoiler alert if you still do not know what happens at the end).  She asked questions about why Charlotte had to die.  We talked about living a long life and how people go to heaven.  First, she wanted to know if her dog would go to heaven.  Since everyone knows that they do, I answered in the affirmative.  She then asked if she could live with Mommy and Daddy when she goes to heaven after she gets old.  I’m not sure how her future husband might feel about this, but I answered with a firm yes once again.  She then got a sad look on her face and said, “I don’t want Mommy to die.”  I hugged her tightly and again assured her this would not happen for many, many, many years.  Before her mother could get a big head about this, my daughter quickly added that she didn’t want “Elizabeth” (a friend of hers) to die either.
  • On the “scary” front: I’m looking forward to attending a midnight premiere of the new Friday the 13th movie this week with a few other horror lovers.  I’m intrigued by the fact that it appears to be a re-imaging of certain elements from several of the first few Friday the 13th films as opposed to just the first one.  Anyone else love these old, dumb scary movies?  Also, who else has seen the reality, contest show called 13:  Fear Is Real?  It has some of the same cheesiness as other reality shows (most of which I detest), but I can’t help having a soft spot for this one.  The reason is that my nephews, friends and I made “scary tapes” as kids.  They were cassette tapes that instructed the “victims” (we took turns being victimized) what to do and where to go in the woods.  We did them at night, of course, and they actually were pretty scary some times.  Even so, it was always more fun making the tapes than doing them.  We enjoyed creating new characters and embellishing upon them in future tapes.  Some of our favorites included:  Slicer Dicer, Harry Maniac, Rickety Inflictor and Brat & Splat who were evil conjoined twins).  Well, someone with a MUCH higher budget has turned this type of idea into a reality show.  It’s fun if you like horror stuff.




A Swell(ing) Journey Part XII: Nearing an Answer?

23 12 2008

First of all, I can’t say enough good things about the staff of Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.  My week there, which ended this past Friday, was a very pleasant experience (well, except for the whole needle/camera in my neck artery thing during a venogram).  Dr. Paul and Dr. Gonwa are awesome and continue to collaborate in an effort to alleviate the mystery swelling I have been experiencing for nearly a year.  The staff at the front desk of 3 North, which became my second home for four days, were patient (more on that in a minute), helpful and cheerful and frequently greeted me with a playful, “Are you back here bugging us again?” upon my many return visits.   The clinic is beautiful, and the weather was a balmy 78 degrees for most of the days during my stay.  That was a very welcome contrast to the ice and below-freezing temperatures my wife was enduring back home.  If you have to be in a clinic, you might as well be surrounded by palm trees and the sounds of tropical birds.

But the big question is:  Did they figure out the swelling?

The answer:  I don’t know yet.

Many more tests were done, and all (I do mean ALL) of the “normal” things that might usually cause this swelling were pretty much ruled out, yet again.  Even some of the less normal things were ruled out as well.  It does not appear that I have any sort of blockage in veins or arteries, including the vena cava.  There are no clots.  My heart, lungs, transplanted kidney, liver, pancreas, pinky fingers, etc. are all doing well.  They say it’s been way too long for this to be a continuing reaction to the drug Rapamune, which I discontinued many months ago.  The list of things that is NOT causing this goes on and on.  Other things which now appear unlikely are lymphedema, celiac’s disease, cancer, blah, blah, blah.

So what is it?  They believe I am dealing with one of two things.

1.  It’s possible there is something unusual going on in my lymphatic system, something that would not be very simple to pinpoint with any easy test.

2.  Dr. Gonwa has seen cases in which transplant patients have a weird sort of “reaction” to the transplanted organ.  It is weird in that, the organ is working fine, and it is not being rejected by my body, BUT my body is still not pleased with this intruder and starts to retain water in a sort of mini rebellion against the situation.  My body is saying, “Okay, foreign kidney…the anti-rejection drugs are protecting you, but we still don’t like you.  How about we fill up with fluid?  That should show you, you bastard.”  This is my best attempt to explain this theory.  I’m sure I’m botching it up a bit, and it’s far more eloquent when Dr. Gonwa explains it.

At this point, they think I am dealing with #2.  The best thing about this is that it should be very treatable once we figure out the correct dosage and combination of diuretic drugs.  This process has begun, and I’ve seen some slight improvement, enough to give me hope.  Just today, the dosage of one medication was doubled.  I think we might be on the right track.

As I take a wait and see approach, I think back on my trip and realize how many people I need to thank.  My sister (the kidney donor) and her husband graciously took me in for the week.  How lucky am I to have family living near a Mayo Clinic?  My other sister and her husband made the long trip with me, which made it much more enjoyable.  That “lucky” brother-in-law had the pleasure of chauffeuring me around, including early morning trips to the clinic each day.  I also have to thank my wife, who was suddenly thrust into a week of “single-parenting” a very rambunctious toddler.

And, as I mentioned already, the staff of Mayo deserve major kudos.  Most of the patients who were there seemed to realize they were in a special place and were thankful for that. There were quite a few retired doctors there as patients (I figured this was a good sign).  However, I witnessed two “interesting” patients who were major pains for the staff.  The first one thought she was better than anyone else who was waiting.  She was probably 50 or so, and she made a very loud fuss in her thick New York accent to anyone who would listen about how annoyed she was that she couldn’t have any coffee yet.  She, like most of us, was fasting in case any fasting labs were to be ordered by the doctor. She was desperately trying to make the staff understand that she needed to be seen by the doctor right away so she could have her precious coffee.  I’m guessing this was her first time dealing with some sort of serious health issue. In my mind, I was thinking, “Welcome to the club, lady – and you better get used to fasting in the morning.”

The second patient was a thirty-something woman who was loudly talking, ranting and complaining on her cell phone (in a waiting room full of patients) about some other female in her life who is apparently a “skank” and a “ho” and a “bit*h.”  She was oblivious to those around her, including the many elderly people who were trying to tune her out.  After this phone call, she then set her sites on the front desk staff.  She complained about how long she and her husband (he was in a wheel chair and had a long cast on his leg) had been waiting for his appointment.  The front desk staff person reminded her that it was actually only eight minutes past the appointment time and that they had arrived very early for their appointment.  The woman did not seem to grasp this concept and cussed out the staff person before telling her husband they were going to leave.  I guess he didn’t get to see the doctor that day, because she stormed out with him.   The ironic thing about the actions of these two patients is that the Mayo actually did a pretty good job of keeping the appointments moving without the waits being too excruciating.  This is despite the fact they see about 2,000 patients per day.

For now, it’s time to be patient and hope these medication combinations can fix the problem.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the joy on my daughter’s face when she realizes that Santa has left a few things under the tree.





111 Things for Which I Am Grateful

24 11 2008

(See my wife’s list here.)

1.   Good brain functioning

2.   My kidney-donating sister, and the other siblings who were also willing

3.   My daughter’s hugs

4.   My wife’s intelligence and wit

5.   Old Chicago pizza

6.   The actions of Jesus

7.   Scary movies

8.   Logan’s Roadhouse chili

9.   Pastors who are able to move me

10. My daughter’s joy while trick-or-treating

11. Jolly Rancher Pink Lemonade suckers from my daughter’s trick-or-treating

12. Mistletoe

13. My nephew’s sense of humor

14. Passing hidden radar guns while going the speed limit

15. Breaking Benjamin’s music

16. Great daycare centers

17. Good doctors

18. Gentle dentists

19. People who adopt

20. Movie popcorn

21. Exciting books

22. My wife in skirts

23. Comfortable shoes

24. Good in-laws

25. Antibiotics

26. ESPN radio

27. College basketball buzzer beaters

28. MP3 players

29. Christmas lights

30. Summer

31. The way my daughter likes to shut every door in the house

32. The men and women who fought WWII

33. 30 Rock

34. Peaceful, sleeping pug dog at home on a chair

35. Less news about Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan

36. Chuck and Shandi on Lingo, but especially Shandi

37. Good friends playing fun games

38. Free tennis courts

39. Hilton Head Island

40. Nice strangers

41. Living in a place that’s kind of like a small town and city all in one

42. Sinatra Christmas songs

43. Great writing pens

44. Wrinkle-resistant clothing

45. My wife’s smile

46. Naps

47. People who give good haircuts

48. Libraries

49. My daughter’s cherry-scented shampoo

50. The Opryland Hotel

51. Chicken and dumplings

52. My wife’s photographic eye

53. Open highways

54. Good, kind-hearted family

55. Guitar solos

56. Well-acted plays

57. Emails

58. Cool late night radio talk shows

59. Drive-in theaters

60. When you wake up feeling great after the flu bug has passed

61. Microwaves

62. Dishwashers

63. Packages in the mail

64. Health insurance

65. Soft, fat pillows

66. Warm blankets

67. Snow days

68. Kissing my wife on New Year’s Eve

69. Memories of childhood pets

70. Believing in heaven

71. People who stand up to bullies

72. Tears of joy

73. Eyesight

74. Starburst fruit chews

75. Grilled cheeseburgers

76. Tall trees

77. Orange juice

78. Granny Smith apples

79. July tomatoes

80. Bikinis

81. Hardwood floors

82. Good neighbors

83. Safe roads

84. Police officers

85. Being out of school

86. Volunteers

87. Going on dates with my wife

88. Windows

89. Cures

90. Being unique

91. My wife’s determination

92. My daughter’s assertiveness

93. Remote controls

94. Air conditioning

95. Heat

96. Educational t.v.

97. Mysteries of the world

98. Freedom

99. Starry skies

100. Forgiveness

101. Creativity

102. Penguins

103. Programmable thermostats

104. Hand-written love notes

105. Purring cats

106. Fireworks

107. Surprises

108. The sound of crickets

109. My daughter’s breathing when she sleeps

110. Smoke detectors

111. Being touched





Adult Film Rentals and the Perv-O-Meter

23 10 2008

Behold the Perv-O-Meter.  Every male in the world falls somewhere on this spectrum ranging from 1 (Sweet, innocent guy) to 10 (Total Perv).

As a guide to make the ratings clearer, let’s use the following celebrity examples:

Tom Hanks would be a 1.

Hugh Grant earns a 7.

Colin Farrell is an 8.

Michael Jackson is an 11.

Don’t get me wrong, number 1′s probably are not COMPLETE angels (what guy is?), but in the overall spectrum of the male species, they rate as sweet and innocent.  I’d like to think that I would be about a 3 or 4 on this meter, but I’ll leave that for others to decide.

There comes a time in a young man’s life when he takes a major step in forming his spot on this spectrum.  I’m speaking, of course, when he first goes to a video store to rent a porno an adult film.  This is probably an easy and non-embarrassing event for a guy who is an 8, 9 or 10.  It is a different matter for those of us who fall somewhere below the 5 marker.

I recall the day it happened for me.  I was 18.  A few buddies of mine were going to come over to play poker that evening, and several of us decided we should rent an adult movie from a local video store nearby.  We all wholeheartedly agreed this was a fantastic idea.  The part that was not so easy to decide was this:  Who was going to do it?

At this particular video store in the 80s, they did not have a little separate adult room for pervs men to go into and make their choices.  No, they instead had a big thick black binder with all the titles of the adult films they had to offer.  This binder was behind the counter.  So, not only did you have to get up the courage to ask for the dirty book, but you then had to peruse such titles as “Rambone” and “Star Whores” and verbally ask the clerk for the one that you wanted.  This was a double whammy of embarrassment for a 3 such as myself.

After a bit of arguing, arm-punching and wet willies, it was decided that I would be the lead guy (the asker of the dirty book) but that two of my friends would go with me to the counter and be my pervy sidekicks.  (Looking back, it seems like it should have seemed weirder to ask for a porno while flanked by two male friends than to do it by myself, but at the time I felt I needed back-up).

The evening came, and it was time to do the deed.  The three of us made our way to the store while giving high fives and doing chants to pump ourselves up.  Upon our arrival, it was time for step one.  Step one was to ensure that my female relative who worked in the store was not present that night.  A quick peek at the counter confirmed that she was not.  It was a go.  However, we did not go straight for the jugular but instead worked our way through the “normal” video sections such as Drama, Comedy and Horror.  I think we stayed away from the kids’ Disney section because it just would have seemed too sick to peruse that area and then ultimately ask for the dirty book.  As we feigned interest in VHS tapes of “Romancing the Stone” and “Footloose” while trying to work our courage into a fever pitch, I could feel a cold sweat forming on my forehead.

Finally, after we had looked at every single “normal” video in the store (except the kids’ section), the time had come.  We could not put it off any longer.  I gave the thumbs up signal and headed to the counter.  My two friends followed nervously behind.

I could feel my confidence slipping away with each slow step I took toward the guy and girl working the counter.  After what seemed like a 20-minute walk, I was finally there and the guy said, “Can I help you?”  This was good.  It would have been worse to ask the girl for the dirty book.  My confidence was regained as I asked for the book in a sort of grunt/point maneuver.  This is where it all went to hell.

First, I turned my head to find that my two friends had retreated and were heading out the door, laughing nervously.  I was on my own in this unknown land of porn.  The guy handed the book to me, and I knew I had to go through with it.  I slowly opened the book the way a treasure-hunter might unfold an ancient map.  The next step was to pick a title that wasn’t TOO embarrassing to request.  If you’ve ever seen adult film titles, then you are aware they vary greatly in the gratuitousness of their titles.  After much deliberation, I settled on “Fleshdance” which sort of just rolls off the tongue.  I requested it, and the guy looked at some magical area below the counter where the films were apparently kept.  He said things like, “Let’s see” as he looked for my request.  I started to realize after about 10 seconds that this was not working.  The guy looked perplexed and then did something horrific.  He called out loudly to the girl working at the other end of the counter.  “Hey, do you see ‘Fleshdance’ down there anywhere?”  Not only did the girl hear him, but so did anyone else shopping in the store, including those in the kid section.

At this point, I just wanted to leave, but I literally felt as though my feet were glued to the counter.  Sweat was pouring from me now.  After an eternity of looking for the tape, the girl finally located it and handed it to the guy.  I paid, and he gave the tape to me.

Things felt a little uncomfortable at the end of the transaction, to say the least.  What was the guy going to say?  Most of the things that a video clerk might normally verbalize at this point seem inappropriate to this particular situation.  For example, phrases like, “Have a good evening” or “Enjoy it” or “Thanks for coming” take on a different connotation when you’ve just rented some porn.  Luckily, I think the guy just nodded and simply said, “Thanks.”

I made my quick exit and got back to the car where I promptly chewed out my friends.  The anger did not last long as the feeling of euphoria hit me.  I was holding an adult video tape in my sweaty little hands.  I had made it out of the store with the treasure.

Whether that movie was any “good” or not, I don’t recall.  However, I knew I had moved from a 1 to about a 3 with that walk to the counter.





A Swell(ing) Journey Part XI: The Frustration Chronicles

11 10 2008

Eight months.  I’ve been lugging around an extra 30 to 35 pounds of seemingly unexplainable fluid in the lower half of my body for eight months.  It’s kind of like babysitting someone’s three-year-old for 8 months, 24 hours per day:  I’m ready for his parents to come home and relieve me of the weight.

So, here’s the update.  For the past 5 weeks, I’ve been attending daily physical therapy.  They were wrapping the swollen areas up like a mummy, and the wraps remained on until I returned the next day.  They would unwrap, let me go wash up and then re-wrap it a bit more tightly.  The negative side of this is that it’s a bit uncomfortable and makes something we generaly take for granted, showering, impossible except on Sundays when I got to be wrap-free.  Let me just say, giving yourself a sponge bath is not really all that easy or fun.  The positive side of this is that it means I have everything I need to dress as a mummy this Halloween.

So, is it working?  Unfortunately, no.  It was kind of squishing down my legs and making them look better, but the fluid wasn’t leaving my body, it was just moving to the unwrapped areas.  In fact, we decided this week to stop doing it.  The doctors are still perplexed.  The physical therapist is perplexed.  Even my own three-year-old is talking about “The Swelling.”

Next, we are trying a new drug to go along with the lasix and some massage therapy at the physical therapy shop.  The past two days have been a bit better, but nothing has happened that allows me to get on here and say, “We’ve found the answer!”  I’m waiting to hear back from the specialists in St. Louis as to what I am to try next.  My doctors continue to tell me this should NOT be permanent.  Basically, all of the unfixable conditions that might cause this have been ruled out through various tests.  I do not have lympedema or cancer or a heart condition or a liver condition or any problem on chest x-rays.  Numerous scans have shown no blockages or blood clots.  Whatever I do have remains a mystery.  It’s still possible this was a strange reaction to a medication, but I’ve now been off of Rapamune (see previous entries on this subject) for 6 full months.  The doctor I see who felt strongly about this being the cause is now beginning to doubt it.

I’ll keep you posted, and I appreciate all your kind words and prayers.

p.s. Would the rightful owners of a 30 pound fluid monster please claim it?  I don’t really want to take care of it any longer.





A Swell(ing) Journey Part X: Good Place, Bad Roommate, “Bad” Results

8 08 2008

I traveled to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis this week for an overnight stay and a test called a venogram. The hospital is renowned, and some doctors there thought it was possible that my mystery swelling could be explained like this: My old kidneys (I had a transplant and received a “new” one in 2003) may be constricting the flow in the vena cava. If so, my old kidneys could be removed to fix the problem).

The hospital is nice, and most of the staff was great! I’m very impressed with the doctors there.

Despite this, it wasn’t all good there. For one, I had to sign a consent the night before the test, of course. At that time (and I know they have to do this), they scared the %#&@ out of me by telling me everything that could possibly go wrong during the test, including massive internal bleeding, punctured lungs and emergency breathing tubes being put down my throat. I signed the consent, hoping that I wouldn’t be one of the unlucky few who actually have these things happen.

The first night, the person I shared the room with was great. He was to have a transplant the next morning, and despite his understandable nervousness, he and his family were pleasant. (Sure, they had to come in and check things on him all night, which meant very little sleep, but overall he was a good roommate).

The morning arrived, and I went down for the test. I had to wait quite a while in that department, but the people were cool. One staff member saw my book about one of my heroes and a second father figure, the late Jack Buck (long time St Louis Cardinal announcer and the type of human you want walking around on this earth). He talked about how much he loved Jack Buck as well and told a story about the time Mr. Buck had the exact same procedure done at exactly the same place I was to have it. That, along with the fact that he told me it was really a pretty safe procedure, made me feel much better. He also talked about the “entertaining” aspect of the busy department, which I experienced later when the older woman next to me kept arguing with staff, saying she wanted to talk to her son and doctor, and kept declaring she was NOT going to have anything done to her. (The staff was very good with her, by the way).

My turn finally arrived, and they gave me something to help me relax. Then they put a needle and catheter into the artery right by neck. Yes, this was a little scary and a little (though not too much) uncomfortable. The bad news arrived quickly: The test was normal, and this was “bad” news even though you usually would want tests to be “normal” because it meant that it did NOT explain the swelling I’ve had for 6 months. Back to the drawing board and the waiting game. The short story is that the next step is to wait a couple more months to see if being off of Rapamune ends up helping. It has not yet helped after 4 months of being off of it, but I understand that it could take longer. Some of the doctors still think this could be it, but others are starting to seriously doubt it based on my particular circumstances. They may start looking at problems with the lymphatic system (again, possibly caused by my old kidneys) if things don’t improve in the future. However, testing for this is apparently not as clear-cut.

So, I went back to my room feeling down that we still had not solved the mystery. I had to stay until the evening time so that I could get protective treatment due to the fact that they used dye and this can be bad for kidney transplant patients. As I returned to my room, I found out that I had a new roommate (the other was certainly moved to a private room following his transplant). The new roommate and his family had the appearance and behaviors of (and I hate to be this judgmental, but it’s true), pure white trash. The patient, who was unbelievably skinny and apparently had quite a few medical conditions, continually complained about wanting pain meds (even though he never SOUNDED as though he was in much pain, especially when no staff member was present). The doctors explained several times why he could not have them until some other things were fixed, but he basically didn’t listen to them. He also was instructed to eat nothing but ate several things, including fried chicken and candy bars provided by his extremely enabling mother, who complained frequently about doctors and nurses. The roommate also lied to staff a few times, saying he had urinated and forgotten to collect it in the provided urinal, when in fact he had not urinated at all unless he was peeing in his bed. This was significant because he refused doctor’s orders to be catheterized. The family also questioned whether or not men who wanted to be nurses are “fags” and watched annoying tv shows loudly. (Yes, I complained about this, and it was corrected. Yes, I considered telling someone about the guy lying and eating stuff he wasn’t supposed to be eating, but I decided that the staff was pretty sure what type of guy they were dealing with.)

As you can imagine, I was extremely happy to finally get out of there when I was discharged around 7 p.m.

So, it was a good place, but the 2nd roommate and the test results were a bummer. More when I have new news.





Some Things Our Kids Don’t Need to Know About Us

30 07 2008

Ever wish you could answer something in a completely honest way? Maybe when you’ve filled out a job application or been asked questions by someone on a first date? There are certain situations when complete honesty is probably a mistake (unless you are a true saint and have nothing to cover up).

I’m in one of those situations currently. I was given a journal/book called A Father’s Legacy (J. Countryman Publishing) by a family member. The idea is a cool one: Answer the questions about your own life in the book and then give it to your child/children so they can have a lasting memoir to keep. It will require some work (thanks a million, Luke), but I acknowledge this is a good idea.

Another good idea would be to utilize a modicum of care in how I answer some of these questions. This book is meant for my child (or children if more come along in the future) and could very easily get passed down to their children and so on and so on. It will be important to be truthful, of course. BUT, it may be wise to keep some true things about my past to myself. How fun would it be, though, to answer some of the questions in any way that I wanted to answer them? Luckily, I have this blog space to do just that! I can save my more “fatherly” answers for the book.

From the CHILDHOOD section of the book:

“Did you enjoy reading as a boy?” My book answer will of course praise the merits of reading and refer to the joys of having The Monster at the End of this Book read to me by my mother and enjoying Charlotte’s Web on my own. This is all true, but let’s get to the nitty gritty. I will never forget reading the sex advice column in the Playboy magazine that I stole when I was about 12. (I was not the type to steal, and other than the magazine, I think I stole a piece of hard candy once, and that was about the extent of my pilfering. I stole the magazine because, at least back then, they didn’t allow 12-year-olds to buy Playboy, and Suzanne Somers was in that particular edition. I had seen Three’s Company, and I couldn’t resist.) Back to the sex advice. What red-blooded boy at that age would not be mesmerized, awed and possibly a bit overwhelmed reading advice about extra-marital affairs or understanding female orgasms? I had the feeling that I was partway in heaven and partway in hell hiding in the garage reading those pages. Plus Suzanne Somers was hot. So, I can honestly say, yes I enjoyed reading as a boy.

From the FAMILY LIFE section of the book:

“In what ways are you like your father?” The book answer will include that I am funny and determined and that I believe in God, which are all things that my dad role modeled. He was a good man. These things are true, but like any man, my late father had his own issues. Unfortunately, I may have inherited one or two or twenty of them. So what’s the real answer? I can be as stubborn as an ass, just like him. I don’t like to lose any argument and therefore can be an infuriating person. I tend to scoff at the stupid things people do which can make me a bit judgmental. I’m guessing that my kids, when old enough to understand the book, will know these things about their dad without me having to write them down! Speaking of similarities between myself and my dad, let me mention one way in which I am not similar. Why can’t I hit a golf ball the way my dad could? I don’t enjoy the game, but I probably would if I could master the course the way he did.

From the EDUCATION section:

“What did you learn in high school?” I’m sure my book answer will touch on many things regarding “responsibility” and “self-reliance” blah, blah, blah. But here, my honest answer is this: I quickly learned there was a perfect spot on the first floor of the gym where, at lunch time, one could stand and be positioned directly below the railing on the 2nd floor of the gym where cute girls often gathered to socialize and lean against said rail. Why was this significant? Keep in mind, I attended a Catholic high school where many of the girls wore those plaid, uniform skirts. That’s right, in just the right spot, a perverted young male could see up those skirts on the 2nd floor. In my defense (not that there really is one), I was certainly not the only male aware of this, and looking back, I’m pretty sure some of the girls knew too. This was vital information and made lunch time so much more fun. (Maybe actually going up to the girls and talking to them would have been fun as well, but this seemed preposterous and impossible for me during my first couple of years).

“Is there Something You Wish You Would Have Done in High School?” Yes. Keri and Christine…preferably at the same time.

From the LOVE AND MARRIAGE section:

“What qualities first attracted you to your wife?” This is the easiest question to answer both truthfully and in book-appropriate fashion. We worked together. I was impressed with my wife’s intelligence, motivation to succeed, class and humor right off the bat. It’s difficult not to be impressed with her, and if you’ve read her blog you already know what I mean. I may leave out two things from my book answer, though. I still remember those two things from our days working together as though they happened just yesterday. One is a particular time I came across her in a narrow hallway while she was making copies. She smiled and said “hi” (we weren’t dating yet). She was wearing a skirt, and as I passed closely by her (remember it was narrow), I was stunned by how beautiful her legs looked. The other time was when a discussion broke out amongst several co-workers about working out, playing sports, flexibility, etc. My future wife decided to demonstrate her flexibility by bending completely over and easily touching her toes. I believe this happened on a casual dress day when she was wearing jeans. The incident affected me in ways I really couldn’t describe here. (Really.)

“What do you think is most important in maintaining a healthy marriage?” The book answer will include important things like trust and commitment. My real answer here? Being willing to help her with blog wording and titles and recording sporting events to watch later when she’s gone to bed instead of trying to watch them when she’s awake.

From the PARENTING section:

“What has been the greatest challenge of being a father?” My three-year-old daughter is great and is a nearly constant source of smiles and happiness. That is very, very true. However, if I were to answer this question with nothing but the truth, I would have to say it’s a challenge to remember those smiling times and to keep my cool when she decides it’s time to climb something inappropriate in a store (say, a display of breakable items). It’s usually at this time when she is very good at calling bluffs. When you have a cart full of items that you really need to purchase (or at least think that you do) and you warn her that you’re going to take her immediately home and give her a time out if she doesn’t listen, she knows that you’re not really going to do that. That’s when she looks you straight in the eye and defiantly pronounces, “I want to go home. I want a time out.” This eventually leads to an all-out screaming, public fit in which she does the kid universal turn-her-whole-body-into-deadweight-jelly when you try to pick her up off the floor while you get disapproving glances from non-parents. I get a little angry just thinking about it. Probably time to move on to the next question.

From the CELEBRATIONS section:

“Do you remember particularly special birthday gifts you received?” Hey, I got some cool stuff as a kid, like the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots or the Miner 2049er game for my Atari system. I’ll probably put those down in the book. However, I can’t help but also remember some of the items of clothing that my mother, bless her heart, made for me. She was great at crafty things like that, and it helped out the family financially whenever she made clothes instead of buying them. The problem is; they weren’t always the coolest styles. You can see one of the outfits in a horrific picture buried deep in this post.

From the LIFE EVENTS section:

“Has there been a political event in your lifetime that made a strong impression on you?” Yes, the Watergate scandal. I could write in the book how I learned that politicians are not always looking out for us and how the media serves as a sort of watchdog for us. In reality, though, what I really remember about that time was how mad I was that it was the ONLY THING ON TV ALL DAY FOR WHAT SEEMED LIKE AN ETERNITY. There was no cable at that time. We had the three networks and PBS. I needed my cartoons, man! All of the shows I cared about were preempted for the Watergate hearings every time I turned on a tv. At least it made me get out and play more (I was already the type of kid who liked to play outside, but it was nice to have a little mindless tv time now and then.) What kid would rather see the face of John Dean instead of Bugs Bunny or Batman? Exactly.

From the INSPIRATION section:

“Who were your role models when you were young?” I’m going to have to write about teachers and my parents in the book, and they certainly were role models. However, the truth would also include Fonzie, rockers like the dudes from Night Ranger or the Scorpions, and maybe, since I loved scary movies, someone like Jason Voorhees. I think I’ll leave these out of the book so I don’t make my kids think that I’m a leather-jacket wearing druggie who sticks axes in people. Yeah, I’ll stick with the parents/teachers answer.

The more I think about my Playboy-stealing, scary-movie loving, skirt-looking-up, Batman-watching days, the more I wonder if I really should be parenting anyone. Then again, my daughter seems to be doing amazingly well in spite of my shortcomings. Have to give my wife credit there. Maybe this whole journal/book idea to give to your kids was someone’s idea of a sick joke.





“Let the Wind Carry You Home”

19 06 2008

Music critics. If you’re like me, you probably don’t care much about their opinions. I’m one of those guys who either likes a song or doesn’t, regardless of the genre, the “hipness” of the performer, or the time period in which it was recorded. There are songs that have survived the test of time to stay popular in the very small sample size that is me. Elton John’s Philadelphia Freedom still entertains me. There are tunes that have “worn out” their welcome, such as REO Speedwagon’s Can’t Fight This Feeling. There are sexually charged songs that perfectly fit the bill when love and romance have gotten the best of me (think Ain’t That Lovin’ You? performed by Lou Rawls). Some songs simply quench my continuing need to rock, like Breath by Breaking Benjamin. There are songs that I would rather be poked in the eyes by the ends of broken golf clubs than have to ever hear again (Bootylicious).

I don’t pretend the world is just waiting for me to write about music. However, I decided, against my better judgment, to post about a relatively new song that has touched me in a powerful way.

Blackbird, the title track from the most recent Alter Bridge album is that song. It is their masterpiece…their Stairway to Heaven or Free Bird. (Ironically, I’m not that big of a fan of those latter two songs, even though I think Blackbird is reminiscent, especially in the fact that it is basically an 8-minute song.)

Here are the lyrics:

Blackbird (Alter Bridge)

The willow it weeps today
A breeze from the distance is calling your name
Unfurl your black wings and wait
Across the horizon it’s coming to sweep you away
It’s coming to sweep you away

[Chorus:]
Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again

The fragile cannot endure
The wrecked and the jaded a place so impure
The static of this cruel world
Cause some birds to fly long before they’ve seen their day
Long before they’ve seen their day

[Chorus:]
Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again

Beyond the suffering you’ve known
I hope you find your way
May you never be broken again

Ascend may you find no resistance
Know that you made such a difference
All you leave behind will live to the end
The cycle of suffering goes on
But memories of you stay strong
Someday I too will fly and find you again

[Chorus:]
Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again

Beyond the suffering you’ve known
I hope you find your way
May you never be broken again
May you never be broken again

This song has the ability to both bring me to tears and put a smile on my face as it relays the pain of losing someone close but also the hope and faith of the better life they have gone to enjoy. Blackbird never fails to bring vivid visions of my late parents to mind. They suffered from diseases that crippled their bodies, but not their spirits during the final years of their lives. I can’t help but sigh an emotional sense of immense relief when I hear, May the wind carry you home, blackbird fly away, may you never be broken again and picture them both, healthy again and bursting with youthful vigor, living on in eternal happiness with no pains, no medication schedules, no worries about the price of gas on earth.

They were children of the Great Depression: frugal, careful, appreciative of what they had earned, fierce providers for their family. I miss my mom’s French toast, her sensible nature and her ability to kick everyone’s butt at ANY game of Boggle or crossword puzzle contest. She provided the type of home atmosphere that you could not help but feel comfortable in. The outside world could be in complete turmoil (as it often is), but you’d never know it inside the walls of that family home. I miss my Dad’s extreme good sense in money management, his strict moral rules for the family and the fact that he got up every night to let my beloved childhood cat out…the cat who jumped up on the piano keyboard and walked across the keys at 3 a.m. to belt out his desire to go outside…while I slept peacefully oblivious upstairs. They wanted nothing but good things for their kids. My mom, especially, would have gladly taken every bit of the suffering she endured rather than have any of her kids suffer from even a mild cold. When things were not going my way, I always knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my mom felt every bit of my pain.

At the end of their lives on this planet, my mother could no longer breathe on her own; my father could barely walk. Like most of the good people out there, they lived through an unfair amount of burdens and were struck down by the same problems we all secretly know wait for us some day and try not to think too much about. I want to stand and cheer as they now fly as free as any blackbird that ever graced a pure blue sky, and Alter Bridge’s song is the perfect conduit for those emotions to come pouring out. The guitar work is amazing, the singing packed full of meaning, and the song’s musical environment has the ability to leave one in a trance. Their lyrics on this song, poetic in the flow and meaning, yet hurtfully aware of the human condition we all share, will endure.

If you haven’t heard it (and can at least stand rock music), give it a listen. If you happen to ever pull up next to me at a stoplight and see a grown man alone in a Camry drying his eyes, you can pretty much guess that I’m listening to this song loudly and thinking of a man and a woman who did their best in an imperfect world to give their kids all they could.





Oops, Did We Forget to Mention…You’re Fired?

14 06 2008

There are several key ingredients for a perfect Friday the 13th. All of these were present here yesterday.

  • A severe thunderstorm with plenty of lightning – check
  • A few more medical bills arriving in the mail – check
  • Tons of major road construction combined with traffic jams near the house – check
  • Finding out from a random pharmacist that you were terminated from your job two weeks ago – check

I might have had a better day if I had been running through Camp Crystal Lake being chased by a hockey-masked guy named Jason (“It’s got a death curse!”). At least there would have been scantily-clad female camp counselors around, although they do not look quite as good when disemboweled.

The day started out pleasantly enough. I dropped the little kid off at her daycare and made my merry way to Walgreen’s for one of my routine, expensive trips through the pharmacy drive-through lane. I received the standard pharmaceutical greeting from the speaker and said something like, “I’m picking up yet another prescription for Licensed to Blog.” The drug-giver on the other side of the thick glass typed in some fun words/numbers on the keyboard, looked puzzled (never a good sign) and voiced through the crackly speaker, “Do you happen to have a new insurance card?” You can guess where it went from here. I no longer seemed to have valid insurance. The medicine would be something like four billion dollars without it.

I returned home an eternity later after encountering a sudden storm with lots of exciting lightning bolts landing nearby and crippling traffic problems on the first two routes that I tried. Eventually, I reached the vice president of my now former employer, who was absolutely mortified to find out that no one in the company had informed me that I had been terminated two weeks earlier. (I have been on FMLA due to the crazy swelling that I have boringly detailed in quite a few blogs on this site, and they decided they had waited long enough for me to get better.) I want to add here that I completely understand the termination. The doctors have not been able to pinpoint exactly when I would have been healthy enough to return to that job again. However, after almost 7 years in very good standing and a with a fine reputation in the schools and community agencies that I visited for my job, my bosses neglected to let me in on the secret firing. From what I was able to gather, neither of the primary bosses wanted to be the one to tell me, and each thought the other was doing it. Jason is more professional than that.

I am not shedding any tears over the loss of this job. There had been many recent changes far too boring to mention here, and the office had even been moved to a different town. Still, I had never been fired before in my life, and it leaves kind of a “pit in the stomach” feeling.

More importantly, I had no idea that I could have spent the last two weeks working on Cobra to keep my insurance as up-to-date as possible. (The notification is apparently “in the mail” but has not yet arrived.) So, there I was, needing one of my anti-kidney-rejection medications and scheduled to see a new specialist in St. Louis in three days without any valid insurance.

Back to the vice president. She worked her tail off yesterday afternoon to insure that I would, at least temporarily until the Cobra kicks in, be officially back on the insurance as of Monday morning so that the St. Louis appointment will not be affected and medication can be obtained without taking a 2nd mortgage. She also tried to purchase a few days’ worth of my medication for me on the company credit card. I believe there will be an angry meeting or two next week about the proper process of letting someone know they are fired.

Things would have been much clearer if I had been working for Donald Trump.

Or this guy








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