I’m a mess . . .

Once upon a time, I was so in tune with my body that I could continue to function while I had injuries that required stitches. One example of this was something that happened when I was about 10 years old, when I was asked to deliver something from my aunt and uncle’s home to my grandpa’s home, a distance of a few hundred yards at most. During the travel, I accidentally encountered the edge of a rusty shovel, and needed a dozen stitches to repair the injury, despite the fact that until my relatives pointed it out I had not been aware of the damage. I still have a scar on my left calf to remind me of the incident.

That is no longer true.

I just realized that I missed posting my usual “Saturday Posts” blog for this past week. I’ve been dropping a lot of “balls” lately, and that is only the most recent one. I’ve been having trouble keeping track of what day of the month it is, or even what day of the week it is. The closest thing I have to a schedule is by following a regimen of starting a laundry cycle each week based on when my wife’s last workday of the week is. That is the day I start my cycle by doing the white’s of our laundry, usually followed by her work slacks the next day, then the light weight colored clothes the next day, and concluding with the heavy colored clothes the next night (if there are enough of them to need it – in the Summer that isn’t always needed).

I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. It’s likely more due to what I’m doing for pain management than whatever else is going on, but it is still a concern to me. Admittedly, some of the pain I’m trying to cope with is emotional – I am still reeling from the pain of my dad’s betrayal when I asked for his support to end the religious feud between me and the rest of my family. It doesn’t help that my dad’s birthday is only a few days away.

Saturday Posts . . .

I have some updates to share, too. First, since I’m now more than halfway through the year in which I hoped to regain control of my abdominal muscles, I ‘m now forced to admit a partial defeat. I didn’t realize until after I stated my goal just exactly how badly my abs had lost their tone. Even now, 8 months later, I still can’t do a full set of 10 sit-ups. This does not mean I’m quitting, or resigned to look terrible forever. It just means that I’m now realizing that this will be a process that takes more than a year to resolve.

Second, I need to talk about our home improvements. Every year we try to use our tax refunds to do something to fix a problem in our home. One problem that has been on our minds for the 11 years we’ve lived here is water control in the basement. The sump pump has always managed to prevent any severe water build up, but whenever there is extreme weather outside (rain, thunder storms, etc.) it has to work around the clock for several days to accomplish that job. We’ve known about “French Drains” for a long time, and have been looking for someone to install one here, but none of the contractors we talked to would even come over to give us a quote. This past spring we found out about a company from Omaha, Nebraska, that does something similar to those drains – but it’s installed in the floor of the basement instead of putting it around the outside of the house. The company’s name is Thrasher. We called them for a quote, and got it very quickly. Then, thanks to Presidents Trump and Biden (financial stimulus checks), we were able to put together the funds to get the system installed THIS YEAR!. It’s done, and the big take-away is that since the installation, our basement floor has been completely dry!

Finally – last Monday (July 26th) was the 21st Anniversary of my wife and I getting married. Thanks for putting up with me all of these years, honey!

Saturday Posts . . .

First off, I want to apologize for missing the post last Saturday. My explanation is that my dad called me the day before, to tell me that his sister, my Aunt Judy, had passed into her next adventure the night before. While I still do not know of any final arrangements, the family has been scrambling to get them made and keep each other informed of what’s going on.

With that said, here is this week’s inspirational post:

Frustration . . .

I’m beginning to think that the physics is against me. When I last checked into a medical facility – for the unbillical hernia repair – I weighed 223 lbs. Okay, I fully acknowledge that muscle mass weighs more than body fat, so it stands to reason that as I build muscle tone in body areas that have seen long-term neglect, weight loss could be a challenge.

But, seriously – only 2 months after beginning my program to get my abs back in shape, I’m now at 239?

Hernia Repair . . .

I’ve already shared that I had the corrective surgery for the hernia in my abdomen, but this update is to share that I’ve had the follow-up visit with the surgeon. He was very pleased with my recovery, and while he asked me to wait another 2 weeks before I start resuming my previous activities he said there should be no limits to what I do with my abdominal muscles after that.

I’m very happy with that. It is exactly what I’ve been hoping for, and waiting for, over the last 30 years. It is time to start getting rid of the watermelon I’ve been carrying on the lower part of my torso.

So, while I know I’m several weeks early, I’m announcing that my New Year resolution is that by the end of 2021, my abs will look more like what they did when I met my wife than they have for the last 10 years. I’ve known all along how to exercise to tone those muscles – now I have medical permission to start doing that. I’ve never had “six-pack” abs, but when I was a medic in the US Army my abs were flat, and that is the dream I have for where this will go. I just have to wait until the start of the new year before I can start. I’m excited!

Please forgive me . . .

I realized that I forgot to post a new “Saturday Posts” entry on Saturday, but I’m hopeful that you will all forgive me when you know the situation.

Last Wednesday, I reported to the local hospital outpatient surgery center at 0700 for the hernia repair surgery I’ve been waiting for since the mid 1980’s. While the surgery itself seems to have gone well, the first 3 days of the recovery were a trial in the extreme. I did not get any sleep at all after getting home for the first 36 hours. The pain medication they gave me (hydrocodone) did almost nothing for the discomfort unless I was also drinking coffee when I took it. It is a well known (within the medical community) truth that when you combine drugs that end in ” ine” the effects of the drugs are amplified. The active ingredient of hydrocodone is codine, while the active ingredient of coffee is caffeine. Together, in my recent experience, I felt a nice reduction of discomfort, while also not being able to get any sleep.

My solution to that was to quit taking the hydocodone, and after waiting 6 hours for the drug to vacate my system I started drinking vodka. That worked much better for helping me get any sleep, and since I made that decision I’ve experienced a slow but steady progress towards recovery.

Speaking as a patient, I must defer to the surgeon as to whether or not the surgery was a success. That being said, I think that when I see him later this week for the follow-up, he’ll agree. However much of a trial those first few days were, I do feel better. It’s my expectation that within the next week or two I’ll get what I’ve waited for all of these years – the authorization to begin light abdominal exercises with an eye towards full normal abdominal activity.

Updates . . .

Yes, yesterday was Veteran’s Day. I know that I have posted something about it every year for several years, but yesterday I did something more personal.

You see, I found a limited series on Netflix called “Medal of Honor” – which should be self-explanatory. I spent most of my waking hours yesterday watching that series, and saluting my brothers in uniform who rose to the occasion to deserve the highest military honor the USA ever awards. As one relative of a Medal of Honor recipient said in the show, “You want to think you’d do what they did, but you can never know for sure until you’re in that situation.” I was particularly impressed by the Medal of Honor recipients who have children or grandchildren who chose to enter the military service too.

I can only hope that Netflix will continue the series. All of those stories deserve to be told.

Additionally – I’m only about a week away from my first visit with the local General Surgery clinic where I’m supposed to get my abdominal hernia repaired. I do have one concern – that in the paperwork they sent me they wanted to know about alternative insurance. The Veteran’s Administration referred me to their clinic. I should need no additional insurance. If they are not willing to perform this procedure without some extra assurance of payment, I might have to decline. There is no way I’m going to sign anything that makes me, and by proxy my wife, obligated to pay for a procedure the VA sent me to them to receive.

Contractors . . .

I have no idea if what we have experienced lately is a part of a greater phenomena, but we’ve had a lot of trouble with local contractors in the last six months.

For example, the guy who installed, and has maintained, our house guttering for the last 6 years, was also the guy who was doing our mowing.  In the last 6 months, he’s been increasingly undependable, and has not cleaned our gutters since October, even though we paid in advance to have it done back that far.

We also just finished getting our house repainted, and even though we asked that the front door be painted to match the trim paint we selected, it did not happen.

I fully realize that Covid-19 has changed a lot of the rules of how contractors do jobs for private individuals, I am upset that we are having trouble getting contractors on the phone to discuss these problems.

We greatly prefer to give our business to local, even independent, contractors, for the specific reason of supporting local, self-employed businessmen.  Not only do they usually care more about doing a good job, but they also are people it is easy to develop a personal long-standing relationship with.

Except that the rules seem to have changed, since the genesis of Covid-19.  Since then, even the contractors we already had good relationships with have become difficult to get in touch with. They don’t answer their phones, and sometimes don’t even have voice-mail set up on their phones.  Several of the ones we’ve worked with for years are now distracted by jobs they took on that have nothing to do with the businesses they were building, but that they needed to keep their bills paid.

It breaks my heart to do so, but I feel that I have no choice but to replace the contractors that have become unreliable with other contractors who will respond when we call them.

As a foot-note, we had our house painted last week.  Our all-brick house is now a very light tan color with brick-red accents.  That cost us $2000 US plus the cost of the paint, but we’re already seeing a return on the investment.  Our HVAC system isn’t having to work as hard as before, in the job of keeping our home cool for the summer.

Updates . . .

Two things we’ve done this past week have been upgrades.  The first was a new toilet, and the second was upgrading the bed my wife sleeps on.  Both require more exposition to understand.

When we bought this house 9 years ago, it came with that ugly “early ’70’s Harvest Gold” colored toilet and bathtub.  Now, the bathtub can be recolored, but not a ceramic toilet.  In addition to that, the tank on the toilet held 3.3 gallons of water, and used all of it for every flush, making it a huge water waster.  After talking to our plumber, we realized that if we replaced it now, we could pay it off in a year or two with the savings on our water bill, AND have checked off one purchase we would need for the future total bathroom remodeling project.  So we did.  The toilet we got has a dual-flush system to increase how much water we save.  When we only pass fluids, we can push one button on the tank and it only uses 1 gallon of water to flush.  When there is more material to flush, we push the other button, and it uses 1.4 gallons of water.  It looks great, and works perfectly. We’re happy with the result.

Shortly before we decided to move forward with that project, my wife made a trip to the chiropractor complaining about waking in the morning, EVERY morning, with back pain.  The chiropractor looked her over, and told her she probably needed a mattress that provided better support.  My wife took that to mean a firmer mattress my wife sleeps on. But, when she priced mattresses locally, the prices she saw ran from $250 to over $3000.  So as a compromise, I suggested we trade beds until we’d saved the money to get her new mattress.

Enter act 2 of that saga.  She had planned to go shopping for the mattress this morning.  In the interval time, I’d been having trouble sleeping on the same bed she did – to me it felt like a brick already.  I couldn’t imagine how you’d make it more firm, short of removing the mattress and putting a 4″ thick steel slab on the box spring.  But Merlin (one of our cats) decided to NOT let me sleep at all last night, and I realized it wasn’t about how FIRM the mattress was, but the unnatural way that my body had to bend to try to sleep on it at all.  The only points of my body making contact with the mattress were my shoulders, hips, and ankles – none of the area between those spots.  So, I had an idea – a Memory Foam Mattress Topper, to provide full support to all contact points of the body whether she’s on her side, back, or front.

When she got up this morning, I’d already briefly searched eBay just to prove my theory was possible, and explained to her what I’d figured out – including that the mattress topper was, at worst, half the price of the very cheapest mattress she’d intended to look at.  Also, no delivery fee, because she’d be able to put it in the car to bring it home with her.  She liked that.

Ultimately, that is what she got.  It worked so well, when she tested it after we finished installing it, she loudly exclaimed, “WOW!  This feels like one of those luxury hotel beds I always want to get lost in forever!”  Of course, the FIRST member of the family to actually sleep on it is – MERLIN.  LOL!

Sliding Doors . . .

There was a movie a few years ago called “Sliding Doors” about a woman who experienced several different outcomes of a single event of her life, based on whether or not she reached a set of subway car doors before or after they closed when she was on her way home.

Whether you call it imagination, or alternate reality, or parallel universes, I have the ability to see some of the alternate realities I might have had available to me, and that is what this post is about.

First, a disclaimer – there are certain realities of my life, as I’ve lived it, that I do not think it is fair to consider variable.  I do not think that anything I might have done would have changed whether or not I got a bone tumor in my left leg, or the migraine headaches that resulted from taking the pain pills after the surgery that it caused. It also is not fair to assume that any of my personal decisions would have changed whether or not I got kidney stones.  Those things likely would have happened no matter what I did.

So, with that said, let’s look at my personal “Sliding Doors” choices.

The first choice I can remember making which would fit this category would be my joining the US military.  At that time, I had the option on the table of taking a scholarship to attend college.  Based on the laws of the time, if I had made the choice to enter college right after high school, I would not have had the medical insurance to cover the surgery on my bone tumor.  The best case scenario I can think of is that I would have lost my left leg entirely when the bone tumor manifested.  If I’d been in a math or music major, it is still possible I could have completed my studies and progressed to graduate school, but I would have been in serious debt and not sure of affording the expenses attached to completion.  Thus, I can’t find it in myself to regret the choice to join the Army.

The next major “Sliding Doors” moment I remember was after my discharge from the US Army, when I was on VA Vocational Rehabilitation, and studying Computer Science at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS.  After completing one assignment in the computer lab (this was in 1983, and ironically the computer lab was in the room that is currently my wife’s office) I had some time to kill and decided to explore the computer database to see what I could access.  Within minutes, I found myself face-to-face with the Computer Science Department’s Dean’s private files, and had access to ALL of the grades of every student in the program.  Looking back, I suppose that it was an option that I could have gone to the Dean and told him about this, but at that time I just freaked out (it hadn’t been so long since Matthew Broderick’s movie “Wargames” released) and quit the program to avoid becoming an actual hacker.  Going to the Dean might have saved my career, but I’m not sorry that I quit.  I can’t imagine that I’d have done well in a career where my whole job was sitting in a cubicle typing code for computer programs that I didn’t care anything about.  Choosing that major was probably a bad choice in the first place, but the Veteran’s Administration wasn’t willing to pay for me to go to college for anything where there wasn’t “documented need for trained workers” – or, to put it another way, they were only willing to feed corporate wage-slave demands.

After that, my next crossroads was spiritual.  For a while, I entertained the possibility that my interest in all things spiritual was leading me to a vocation as a Christian Minister, and I enrolled at a Bible college in the minister’s program, still in the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation program.  2 things of note happened there.  The first was that the faculty of the school didn’t like trying to answer questions that I kept asking, and I was asked to leave.  The second, while I was a student I took a course in Radio Broadcasting, and became a minor celebrity throughout the region because of my frequent air-time on the Bible College’s radio station.  When I told the director of the radio station that I would not be continuing as a student, he asked me to stay on as a DJ anyhow.

So, either of those could have turned out differently.  I could have accepted that the questions were “above my paygrade” and stayed in the program by choosing to stop asking those questions.  If I had, I’d likely be a church minister right now.  And, yes, it does not escape me that because of the rule “If it isn’t written, it isn’t true” I’m likely still an Ordained Minister of the Church of Scientology, for no other reason than that they never sent me a copy of any orders canceling my credentials. But, I don’t use them.  The other thing is, I could have stayed at the radio station, spinning discs and playing classical music, and made a fair,  but low, income until I had the experience to move up and embark on a full-time career.  However, the job I held there was SUPPOSED to be for current students (at least when I was hired) and since I chose to leave the student body at the school, my personal ethics wouldn’t let me keep the job.

Those decisions pretty much set the stage for how my life has gone.  Of course, along the way I’ve also been a waiter in a restaurant, a dish washer in a restaurant, a lawn mower, a security guard, a taxi driver, and even been offered a chance to be an independent business owner (gifted a business that was already making $250k/year in 1982).  But, in all of my exploration of those alternative paths my life may have taken, none of them led me to marriage with the wife I have now.

It’s just my humble opinion, but I think this is better.