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.

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“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





A Swell(ing) Journey: Part VIII No Resolution

1 05 2008

I had hoped to be posting a “resolution” by now. Sorry for the delay: 1. I’ve been in a waiting game to see if medication changes would help or even solve the swelling situation. 2. Unfortunately, there is no resolution to post because it’s not better.

Some of the swollen skin is turning more reddish colors than the azaleas that are blooming around here. The local doctor today stated: “This is the most unusual thing I’ve seen. We can’t let it go on like this.” He suggested I head to Nashville and Vanderbilt University to see a specialist. I whole-heartedly agreed. I won’t know for a day or so when that will be. I’m starting to think I need a tour bus. Then again, I don’t think ghastly swollen guys traveling around to see doctors would draw groupies like rock bands do.

In the meantime, Doc took a skin biopsy today, and the results will hopefully come Monday. That may at least give a hint as to what might be going on, and was an interesting little process. It was sort of like when lawn care guys aerate your yard by taking little plugs out of the yard/soil, except this time, it was a small circle of flesh being removed from my leg! It really didn’t hurt much and was quick, but the sucker sure took its sweet time before it stopped bleeding! There is still some hope that it could simply be some sort of weird medication reaction, but he mentioned the possibility of a few scarier things today. No need to speculate or go into those at this point.

On a positive note, he again spent a great deal of time with me and seemed optimistic about the people at Vanderbilt. He said they’ve pretty much seen every odd sort of ailment there is and very well could identify the problem. For those of you out West or East, Vanderbilt is kind of the “Harvard of the Midwest.” Also, he was adamant that he would send all the required documentation to the insurance company that runs my short-term disability policy (they had gotten a bit pickier, shall we say, about extending my benefit a while longer, but his documentation should solve that little stressor.)

Anyway, I wish I had some funny, upbeat, silly things to write regarding this situation. Basically, it’s getting really old, and I’m sure it is for anyone who reads this as well, but I thought it was time to post an update. I truly appreciate your thoughts, prayers, chants, candlelight vigils, voodoo rituals, tarot card readings, potato chips that look like presidents’ heads, and any magical jumping beans that might be able to predict the future. Hmm, I may have jumped the shark there. One thing’s for sure; about half my body has.





A Swell(ing) Journey: Part VII

14 04 2008

Update: WC is a pharmacist who left a comment today on part 1 and ironically beat me to the punch before I could get an update on here! Hopefully you hit the nail on the head as to the possible cause of my swelling. After seeing several nephrologists, it was my internal medicine doctor who (over the weekend) decided that it’s “probably” a reaction to one of the anti-rejection meds I am taking. This came after many, many other things had been ruled out. I told my nephrology office what he thought, and they agreed to take me off Rapamune and put me on something else. (They’ve been in frequent contact with me and have been willing to try things.) So, I hope this is it! I should know in about 10 days or so if it’s working, they said. The medicine switch just happened today. I want to be clear that I’m not trying to scare anyone on that drug. My nephrologist says it’s working well for many patients, and it was great for me for about 4 years. There are some very good reasons to be on that if you’ve had a transplant, as opposed to being on some of the other drugs. Plus, I don’t KNOW yet if that’s the problem. Even if it is, everyone is different, and for some reason, I developed a reaction to it.
I’m very, very, very hopeful that this has finally been figured out. It actually seems possible this time that I may be able to post a final “resolution” blog about this in a week or two.





A Swell(ing) Journey Part VI

11 04 2008

Never has finding out parts of your body are functioning normally been so depressing. The latest labs are back, and, you guessed it, they are normal. Normal thyroid. Normal blood markers that could have otherwise pointed to vasculitis. Normal kidney. Normal liver. Normal heart. Normal lungs, blah, blah, blah.

If nothing else, I’m finding out that I’m very healthy. Oh yeah, except for this freakish swelling that is keeping me from being able to live normally.

Okay, enough with the whining. I’m not sure what’s next. I’m starting to hear my late mom’s voice in my head. “Phooey on the doctors. If it was me, I’d just ignore the swelling and go back to doing what I want to do.” She would have, too. I’m thinking I’m getting nearer and nearer that point. Of course, I’ll need some different-sized shoes, pants, etc. I need to surf the net. Maybe there is a hip store called Swellwear. I’m hoping they have stuff that will make you look cool, even when you have one leg and foot that is 3 times the size of the other and an abdomen that is puffed up like milk-soaked Corn Pops. Maybe if I can’t get back to work soon, I can design this type of clothing for a living. The motto for my website will be: Go to Swell. Paris Hilton might be interested in funding it.

I’m sure my wife is starting to get concerned about my inability to return to work. This is not the type of free-loading I had in mind when I married a soon-to-be a CPA. I pictured a lot of tennis rather than cool-water bath soaks and support hose on my leg. And who wants to stay home all day if you might not be able to afford cable, internet, and salsa-flavored Sun Chips? (It’s not really quite to that point yet…for those of you who might worry.) Maybe this not working thing is not all it’s cracked up to be.

In all seriousness, though, I have been blessed with some extra time with my two-year-old (who just tried to physically remove me from the computer because she would appreciate some “chocolate in the milk” she is holding). It is nice not to have to stress about getting her to daycare and then myself to work on time. I’ve been able to read books to her, wonder in the mystery that is the kids’ tv show called Yo Gabba Gabba, and play hide and seek. My only complaint about this? It’s very difficult to find a hiding place that will conceal my damn foot.

Yo Gabba Gabba. (My abdomen looks similar to the pink character’s.)





Quick Update

8 04 2008

The doctor I’m working with currently seems confident he can find the cause of the swelling/irritation.  After a long meeting with him today, he had blood drawn and is checking primarily for vasculitis or thyroid issues.  He thinks he’ll have results on Thursday and will call me.  Nothing else new to report.  Thanks for all the kind words.  Hopefully I’ll have something to write on Thursday about it!