Friday, December 11, 2009
I have been so lax lately. I just haven't felt like writing, or doing anything at all for that matter.
I just haven't had anything I've wanted to say about anything.
I'm tired. I'm worn out. I'm going to be 40 in a little over a month.
I like to imagine that I'm immune to the internal kvetching that comes with turning 40. I like to imagine that age means nothing to me. "I don't feel old.", I tell myself and others. But like I said, I'm tired. I'm worn out. That feels like old.
So with the end of my 40th year on this planet fast approaching, I guess I need to surrender to the cliche of self-reflective personal evaluation. I apologize now to myself for doing this. Writing something like this goes against my non-conformist sensibilities. A mid-life crisis is also very cliche and over done. I'm having it anyway.
I've lived half my life. I've lived half my life in Wisconsin, I've lived 1/4 of that half of my life in the same city. I am feeling like I need change. Each winter gets worse and worse for me. I dread the cold and snow. I am truly at a point that I don't think I can take many more Wisconsin winters. I don't want to be miserable anymore. I'm not sure how my family feels about it. I'm sure the kids would be sad to leave their friends. I know my wife would be sad to leave her family.
I don't know. Can I find a way to cope with the cold? Can I do that for the sake of my family? Or is the question, "Should I?" Is it selfish to want to up root my family because I don't like winter?
Oh well. Just some thoughts. I'll leave more as the big four-oh approaches.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The other one just seemed lame.
So, now that the title thing is decided, I should work on actual content.
Day to day life can be very trying. There are always a lot of stresses and pressures to deal with.
Being the sole breadwinner in a family of six calls into sharp focus at times what a razor's edge I walk.
All it would take is just one accident, just one illness, a layoff, a random bullet (I drive through some rough parts of town back and forth to work) and we'd be without income or health insurance. There are five other people who depend on me.
It's not that I worry about it constantly. Just when I hear of someone losing thier job or becoming disabled, it makes me think.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
A couple days later, while I happened to be out running an errand, he showed up at the window by our computer room and asked my wife for a cigarette. This window faces our neighbor's house. There is a walkway in between and a gate into the neighbor's yard. It turns out this guy is an acquaintance of our neighbor's son.
I asked Joseph, the son, about the guy. I told him the guy was creeping us out. Joseph said he was feeling the same way. He said the guy is someone he used to know that was in a car wreck and had a brain injury.
Saturday morning, the guy showed up on my back porch again asking to borrow a smoke. My son actually answered the knock. I told the guy to stop coming around. I told him I can't have him showing up on my doorstep.
So far, he's complied.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I was getting ready for work just like any other Monday morning. It was about 6:20 a.m. The sky was just starting to brighten.
I had to go out and fill up the flat tire on my car. There is a slow leak so I have to do this every couple days.
After that I came back in the house to get my thermos of coffee. I left the back door open when I came in. I went into our computer room adjacent to the kitchen when I heard this tapping sound. I turned around to look at the storm door to see a guy standing there.
Startled, I yelled, "AH!" "What the...who...what are you doing on my porch!"
The guy says, "Calm down, calm down...I'm a neighbor, I saw your light on. I just wanted to see if I could get a cigarette."
So, calming down from the adrenaline rush, I step back and assess the guy. He seemed harmless enough. He was all shaky like he was in need of a drink or something. Maybe he was as freaked out as I was. Regardless, I decided it was all cool.
I apologized for freaking out. I'm not used to seeing random dudes on my back porch at 6:00 in the morning. I shook his hand and introduced myself. He told me his name, which I promptly forgot. I asked him where he lived, he said 72nd and Madison. That happens to be our old neighborhood. So, he's not exactly a neighbor, but at least if anything weird happens I know where to look to check things out.
I walked with him to the garage where we keep our smokes. My wife and I hide in there to smoke because we don't want the kids to see us smoking even though they know we smoke.
I gave the dude two cigarettes and sent him on his way. Then locked everything up and went to work.
Monday, September 7, 2009
We went up to my dad's in Mayville to spend the night Saturday night.
All afternoon and evening my son, Matt, was just lethargic. All he did was lay and watch T.V. We thought he was coming down with something. The only time he is quiet and still is when he is ill.
We kept asking if he's alright and he said he's just tired. He didn't really eat anything. We had a ham dinner Saturday night, he just laid on the couch.
Sunday morning. We were going to go to church. The kids got up, except Matt, and found their Easter baskets. Adam and Natalie were thrilled. They came up and told Matt what he got. He still didn't want to get out of bed. He was just lying there, didn't want to talk, didn't want to move. I could see his pulse in his neck. His whole body was moving with his heartbeat. It was weird. We knew something was wrong.
We decided to go home right away. My wife, Laura, was calling our clinic. They have an on call nurse thing. While I was loading up the car, they asked her to take his pulse. She got like 112. They didn't think that was too bad.
So we get home. Matt seemed to perk up a little, but then he just sat on the couch and kind of dozed off and on. He had no energy. I take his pulse and get around 185. Laura calls the nurse again. He says we should take him to Children's Hospital.
So we pack everyone up and head to Children's. We take him to Urgent Care. They check him out and send us down to Emergency. They get us in a room right away and hook him up to an EKG machine. I see on the screen that his heart is going in the 190's! Holy shit! (normal heart rate at rest is around 90 give or take for an 8 year old) Matt's either being a trooper through all this or he's just too exhausted to complain. Probably a little of both.
So now we wait. They put in a StarWars movie for us. We watch some of that. Finally, we talk to a doctor and they tell us he's dehydrated, they're going to start fluids and shit. I ask if he's going to be there for awhile, they say yes. So I make arrangements to have someone watch Adam and Natalie while we're at the hospital.
I drop the other two off at home with Auntie Jan and come back. Matt's got an I.V. in his arm. He's hooked up to another EKG or EEG, whatever, there's like 25 different wires coming off him. His heart is down to the 170's A slight improvement from the fluids. But it's still high. They are playing around with the EKG trying to get a printout to see something.
So they tell us they called the cardiologist to come in because he's not in a place where they can fax him the printout.
The cardiologist shows up. He's very nice and explains what he thinks is going on. I nod and say "Uh-huh", like I understand what the fuck he is saying. He says they want to try a "push" of some drug that will allow Matt's heart to "pause" and reset at a normal rate.
Wait a minute...pause?...what do you mean pause?
We say, "Okay, do what you gotta do." We explain to Matt that they don't have to stick him again, they'll push this stuff right into the I.V.
They do this push, the first time they don't get the desired result. They didn't see the pause. I saw his heart rate jump up over 200. They hit him a second time. This time the poor kid kind of groans. He freaks out a little. Later on he described it as feeling his shoulders getting really hot. Anyway, the second push did what they were hoping. They saw the "pause" and his heart rate went down to the 120's and below. The docs are saying, "I like that, that looks good.", "Very good". Things you want to hear when your son's lying on a gurney in the E.R.
They call in a technician to do an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart. That shows his heart is normal and working fine. That's a relief.
So, the bottom line is this. He's got a supraventricular tachycardia. Which is basically a short circuit in his heart. The electric signal just took a shortcut from its normal path and made his heart beat too fast. It is not life-threatening. He is being treated with medication to prevent it from happening again. Eventually, we will likely have a procedure done to block the short circuit so he doesn't have to be on the meds for the rest of his life.
My children are my beating heart. They are the rising and setting of my sun. This was an ordeal that brings me to appreciate even more deeply the blessings that these children are. This could have very well been a serious, life-threatening, heart condition. Thankfully, it turns out to be a treatable, correctable inconvenience, a nusience. Not to mention one hell of a medical bill.
Image by MIKE QUICK via FlickrThis is another re-post from my Myspace blog.
I lost my best friend, Mark Scneider, on June 1, 2006. I posted this after I visited his grave a year later. His death was the final link in a chain of events that led to the near destruction of my marriage as well as my own self-destruction.
Current mood: sad
So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.
I went up to Beaver Dam on Friday. I went to stand by my friend, Mark's, grave.
I never understood the point of visiting a grave. Even my own mother's. I drove an hour one way to look at a headstone?
I did it anyway. Friday was the one year anniversary of his death. It was a year ago that I started on this blog. This was my way of coping with the grief and the loss.
So. I'm standing there, looking at the grave. When I first walked up, the grief welled up and a had a few tears. Then nothing. I kept thinking I should have brought something...A flower, a card, whatever. Like I said, I don't see a point. There is a dead body there.
So I left and went to the Shopko and got a stuffed penguin...He liked penguins. And some beer.
I came back, put the Penguin and a bottle of Leinie's Red on the grave. Then I stood, looking, waiting for the tears. They weren't coming. Had I lost the feeling all together? So soon?
Uncomfortable, I looked around at the other headstones. Next to Mark is a soldier that died in 2004, I don't know if it was Iraq or Afghanistan. There was stuff on his grave. I noticed a little, flag...I guess. On it was, I supposed, some kind of religious poem. I looked a little closer and picked out the words, "Hot ashes for trees." Then I broke down. Just those words made it come. They are, of course, lyrics from "Wish You Were Here." by Pink Floyd. There is so much attached to that song in my past lives. I can hardly listen to it. "Fade to Black" is the same way.
Anyway. I got this urge to take that little flag and put it on Mark's grave. That's something he would have appreciated. I know he would have gotten a kick out of that. Understand that back in...um...1987 or so we went to see Pink Floyd at County Stadium. That night had Enormous significance for all that went. I won't go into it, but it was one of the memories that I keep from that life. One treasured piece of a past I've chosen to forsake.
The only thing stopping me from taking that little banner was the fact that it was a soldier's grave. I could not disrespect someone who died serving this country. Regardless of how I feel about this war.
Mark's memory represents something for me that I cannot have again. The time in our lives that we were the closest of friends is like a snow-globe. I can look in, shake it up, and see the scenes like snow falling around. But I can't reach in and touch it. It is fragile, and I keep it in a safe place. I pull it out once in awhile and remember.
I miss you my brother.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Frank McCourt was a true inspiration.
His book, "Angela's Ashes", inspired me to read again. It now inspires me to write.
Nothing more to say. Frank was a story teller. He was a good story teller. His life is a testament to perseverance.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Image via WikipediaMy wife and I gave our 2 year-old Noah a hair cut yesterday. As my post title implies, it was like trying to mow the lawn during an earthquake.
If you've ever tried to bathe a cat, or even worse, brush a cat's teeth, you know what I'm talking about.
We've affectionately dubbed Noah, "Hurricane Noah" and "Bamm Bamm". He is off the charts in size. He stands head to head with many three year-olds we know. He is strong and active. But he is two and he is head strong and willful.
So to cut his hair, mom had to sit him in her lap and hold him. Then I had to try and trim his hair without poking out an eye or cutting off an ear. The result...well...The result is a hair cut that looks like his dad gave him a hair cut.
I'll post pictures later when I get home and find a camera.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Image by freestylee via FlickrI pay $380.00 per month premium on my employer's plan. That's for what amounts to be catastrophic coverage. $1000 deductable for me. $1000 deductable for my wife. $1000 deductable collectively for the kiddies.
Momma becomes preggers in Oct. of 2006... All pre-natal care is deductable.
Easter Sunday 2007 Son Matthew is in Children's hospital emergency with a racing heart (something like 180-200 beats/min.) He is visited by the on-duty doctor who calls in 2 cardiologists. Matthew is attended by a host of nurses and technicians plus an echo cardiogram...cha-ching. (Fortunately, it turned out to be a non life-threatening condition). But, he does need medication.
Both oldest boys are in counseling for behavior/emotional issues. One is on meds for that as well. (They've inherited way too much daddy genes). Mom and dad are also in counseling both marriage and individual. Insurance pays for 15 visits per person per year. Plus meds for mom and dad as well.
2007 sees lots of pre-natal visits for impending birth. There are lab tests, ultrasounds, etc., etc. cha-ching, cha-ching.
Son Matthew gets whacked in the head with a golf club by the neighbor kid by accident. There's another visit to Children's emergency.
Baby Noah is born July 6, 2007. He continues to be jaundiced for several days. That means regular blood tests.
My point in all this is to illustrate why the health care thing is so important to me. Besides the $4563.00 premium paid annually, we paid $3000.00 in deductible plus co-pays on doctor visits, meds, counseling sessions, etc. $7563.00. I don't even know how much we paid on the co-pays. All told, it probably comes out to around $8500-$9000.
Now imagine a family of six with NO health insurance. Perhaps not even experiencing ½ what we went through in 2007. They would have to pay out-of-pocket for everything. But would not have the money to do so. So, the health care system absorbs that and passes it on to...wait for it...wait for it....You! and Me! And every sad chump that does have insurance and pays taxes.
We are all paying for the uninsured and under insured already anyway through cost-shifting. In the current system we're paying far more than we would in a well structured universal health care system. And we would not have to sacrifice quality of care for it.
Now imagine this: I don't pay a dime out-of-pocket for premiums, care, meds, co-pays, deductables, etc. There's $8500-$9000 in my pocket. That's approximately $7565 after taxes.
Thre's $7565 that I can use to buy materials to finish remodeling my house and put it up for sale. Or I can replace our 20 year old t.v. upstairs. Or I can put tires on my Geo Metro. Dingdingding! Economic stimulus! Imagine a whole nation with the same kind of “extra” money in their pocket. Instead of drowning-nay-going bankrupt from overwhelming medical expenses, people having disposable income to pump into the economy.
Even with higher taxes to pay for universal, single-payer health coverage, Americans would be better off in the long run.
Health providers could, over time, concentrate more on keeping people healthy rather than trying to fix what could have been prevented.
I am cautiously optimistic that congress and president Barack Obama will reform health care in some way. Unfortuately, they are not doing it right. But I'll take what I can get for starters.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Image via WikipediaI go into the bathroom at Perkins to pee. Above the urinal on the wall is an advertisement that says something like, "Zip carefully, over 100,000 clothing-related accidents happen annually." This is actually an ad selling ad space above the urinal at Perkins.
Then I look down and in the urinal is the rubber triangle thingy that says,"Say no to drugs."
I'm thinking, "Whoever thought of the "Zip carefully"ad HAD to be on drugs! So how can the urinal be telling me to say no. Come to think of it...Whoever thought of putting,"Say no to drugs", on the urinal pad was probably all drunk peeing in a Perkins urinal after bar time in the first place.
Why is the urinal telling me to say no to drugs? Does Nancy Reagan know about this?
In a way, am I not actually pissing on Nancy Reagan every time I piss on the "Just say no" urinal pad? Is Nancy even into water sports? Golden showers for Nancy Reagan?
Well...just remember...ZIP CAREFULLY!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I simply have no time. I get up in the morning with usually only 20 to 30 minutes to get ready for work. I drive 30 minutes to work. I work 8 hours, then drive 30 minutes home.
Once home I find myself...well...working. I've got yard work to do. There are always repairs to be done on something in the house. The kids need to be taken somewhere or need help with something.
Again, this is nothing new. Unfortunately, this means I have a very difficult time pursuing my personal interests. Like writing. I started this blog as a place to write. This is a place for me to explore writing. A place to explore different styles and try on different voices.
I bought a guitar that's been knocked over and stepped on more than it's been played. I have a violin that lies silent.
It just isn't happening they way I'd like it to. I wanted to write at least one or two blogs a week. But I am finding out that unless I am writing a personal journal entry like this, I just don't get pieces done. Some of the ideas for blogs that I've had require some research. I don't want to be publishing anything that has questionable or inaccurate facts.
They say that we "make time" for the things we really want to do. But there are only 24 hours in a day. I have a family of six, including myself. If you break that down, it comes to 4 hours per person. Obviously, someone is missing out on time with me. This isn't a question of time management. There just isn't any time.
I want to write. So if that means just complaining about my everyday life...so be it. The rest of my writing will just have to come in bits and pieces as I develop them.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Image via WikipediaYeah, I know I am becoming a positive, optimistic person. But that doesn't mean I never get annoyed. And this is on my mind. So here's the list in no particular order:
1. People walking around with their pants hanging below their butts. I know that one's been done to death, but c'mon...pull'em up.
2. Insurance companies: High premiums, High deductables, crappy coverage all have me convinced that Dante would create a 10th circle of hell for them.
3. Pedestrians crossing against the light.
4. Politicians: Conservatives in particular, but they're all pretty annoying.
6. Hipocracy: Unfortunately, I am often guilty of this.
7. Clutter: In my house, in my car, in my head, clutter rules my life.
9. Money: I don't have nearly enough.
That's the list. Like I said, it's not nearly complete. I'll follow up with things I like at some point.
Looking at that scar led me to looking at some of the other scars I have. Having done mostly physical labor all my life, I have many scars from cuts and scrapes. The nastiest is on the middle finger of my right hand. I got this finger caught in a small printing press at my first job after tech. school. It was a bone-head accident that could have been prevented. It also could have been much worse. At least I still have the finger. But that scar, which runs the length of my finger from the cuticle to the second knuckle, reminds me to keep my hands away from moving machinery.
On the index finger of my right hand, there is a scar that I got from an underscore blade on a press. My finger got between the blade and the anvil roller I was trying to put in. I was upset that my supervisor insisted on taking me to the E.R. to get the cut stitched. It didn't need it and the company didn't need a reportable accident. Plus, I had to pee in a cup for a drug test because of the accident. That's not a big deal as I was clean, but it still sucks.
Then there's a scar on top of my right index finger between my first and second knuckle. That one was really stupid. I got it when I lit a wrapper from an American cheese slice on fire. The melting plastic dripped onto the finger and almost immediately hardened. So it kind of burned into the skin. That was pretty bone-headed too.
I see a couple scars on my left wrist. A girl on the school bus, for no apparent reason that I recall, dug her fingernails into my wrist. Obviously she drew blood. I'm pretty sure she liked me. I kind of liked her too, but nothing ever came of it. I was too shy.
When I say, “...for no apparent reason...”, I mean that I wasn't being mean to her or anything. She was just that way. We'd sit and talk on the bus ride. Sometimes we'd be bantering back and forth, trading jibes. Sometimes she'd slap me or something. So I probably said something and she dug into my wrist.
There's another scar on top of my left wrist. This one has a little grey/black colored dot just under the skin. That was from second or third grade. My friend, Rob, accidentally stuck me with a pencil. I'm sure we were horsing around like young boys will do. It was completely accidental and I was not angry. But I always gave him grief about it when I'd talk to him later when we were in high school.
I had lost touch with Rob for many years. Then I found out he had co-written a screenplay for a kid's movie. In fact, I found out when I saw his name in the closing credits. I looked him up and got in contact with him. He's doing very well in Los Angeles. He had a comic book series that ran for 10 years. He directs a T.V. show for Comedy Central. I'm very proud of him. I always knew he'd be successful. But I still, even after some 15 plus years, had to bring up the pencil incident. I told him that it has always been a fond reminder of our friendship.
On my right forearm there is a roundish scar. That one came from a game of chicken I played with my friend, Dick. In this form of the game, the two “players” put their arms together and drop a lit cigarette so it is burning into both players' arms. The one to pull away is the loser. It's funny to think of now. What does the “winner” of this game win? Both people have the same nasty burn on their arms. Add that one to the growing “Bonehead” list.
On my right eyebrow I have a scar from a sledding incident. I was sledding with my friends, Mark and Brian. I think I was around 12 or 13 years old. I don't remember exactly. We had built a snow ramp. Of course we were going for maximum air and distance. I went down on an old runner sled, the kind you could steer. I was laying on my belly on the sled. I hit the ramp perfectly. I flew for a good distance. It was probably the longest jump of the day. Then I landed. My head snapped forward and hit the metal cross bar on the sled. I got up, laughing and holding my hand to my forehead. I was saying, “Oh man that hurt”, and “Did you see that jump?” It really was a fantastic jump. When I brought my hand down, I saw the blood. So we went to the house to get a band-aid. Mark's mom looked at it and insisted I needed to get stitches. That was when I started crying. I did not want to get stitches. I had never had to before and it scared me. But, I had to go anyway. My mom happened to be the receptionist at the clinic so it was convenient for her to sign the paperwork and all.
That incident happened shortly before school pictures. We were not a wealthy family. We tried to save money where we could. So my mother always cut my hair. And the only style she knew was the “bowl” cut. So school picture time was coming and I needed a haircut. Picture day came and went. A few weeks later, pictures arrive. And there it was. My bangs went straight across my forehead, and made a perfect little arch over my right eyebrow. The eyebrow had not fully grown back and you could see the scar. Thanks mom.
I have other scars. Most of them have a story to go with them. I don't have any tattoos so my scars tell my stories.
I hope this wasn't too boring. I hope the readers, if there are any, didn't expect to read any psychological or emotional scar stories. Although I do have plenty of those to tell. And I have and will. But these scars, these flaws in my skin guide me to some of my memories. And it's ironic that they are only skin deep. Sometimes the stories behind them are so much deeper...to me anyway.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
I am changing myself from a cynic and pessimist to an optimist. This is no mean task for me. I didn't come to my outlook on life over night. I developed my cynical, almost hateful views over the course of many years.
The cynicism and pessimism have not only been directed toward the world and life at large. Disappointment in my career choices, educational choices and other life choices have brought me to a state of near self-loathing. Negative feelings toward myself have slowly eroded my sense of self-worth and self confidence to a point where I have become stuck in quicksand. By that I mean I know I need career advancement. I need more money. I need to have a less physically demanding career. I need to move forward for myself and for my family.
I believe I've suffered from a condition known as Dysthymia, or, minor depression for years. The year 2000 began a string of deaths of loved ones that would continue through 2006. Over that period, I believe the Dysthymia slowly escalated to full clinical depression. I say, “I believe”, because I was not diagnosed with clinical depression until 2007 when I found I couldn't function anymore.
The above conditions have helped to develop in me a dark, nihilistic, bleak outlook and in-look. In fact, there is actually a symbiosis between my negative thinking and depression. They feed each other. The more negativity in my thinking, the tighter the hold depression has on me, driving my thoughts toward the negative.
So, to make the turn around from cynic to optimistic, positive thinker is like reversing a freight train. This is where, “acting as if”, comes in. I am so used to finding the bad and wrong and down side in everything that negativity shouts down any positive thoughts I try to form. So I act as though I am a positive, optimistic person. I act as if I believe that I am confident. I act as if I am happy. I act as if the world is a good place and people are good and life is good.
All this takes enormous conscious effort. I have to turn up the volume on the positive voice in my head. I have to make that voice drown out and shout down the negativity that has permeated my very being. It isn't easy, but I am doing it. And in time instead of acting as if I am happy and confident and optimistic with a bright future, I simply will be all that.
I will not become a Pollyanna. I won't become a Stuart Smalley. But I will be what I am: a strong, intelligent, talented, happy person.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
"Write about what you know", has been a recurring theme when I think about this. So, what I know about right now, is me. Conversely, I need to get to know myself better.
This is the first installment of an open-ended series on self-discovery. While it is specifically my own journey, I feel it could be a guide to others who want to advance their lives and raise their own self-awareness.
Here it is:
Thursday, May 21, 2009
This glass, modest as it was, happened to be about the only remaining possession of the man who had just emptied it. This man sat and stared at the glass. He contemplated and regarded this humble object that had proven so useful to him over time.
He recalled this glass being part of a set, the only surviving one. He reminisced about the wedding, his wedding, for which the set of glasses was given to his bride and him as a gift. He pictured his daughter drinking milk from the glass. She was so sweet and beautiful. He envisioned his son, gulping water from the glass after coming in from a run. He had such promise and potential.
Oh what times they had, all gone now. The man had lost it all. After the accident, all he could do was hide inside the bottle. He lost his job. He lost his house. He lost his soul. Eventually, all that remained were his memories and that one glass. And now they are all empty.
The man sits and stares at the empty glass on the table. He sees the emptiness. He knows the emptiness. He is the emptiness. And as the man passes out, he slumps forward, knocking the empty glass to the floor. The empty glass, like the man's life, shatters.