Sunday, April 29, 2012

SNAKE!!! SNAKE!!! (or, Sweet Lord I'm Going to Pee My Pants!)

I've put off writing about this for a while because it's taken me some time to come to grips with what happened.

It was a beautiful Saturday.  The Spouse was toiling away in the house doing laundry, ironing and general Saturday afternoon activities.  At some point, she came in the living room and said, "I'm tired of this.  I'm going outside and I'm going to landscape that area out back."

I gave some form of guttural grunt in reply.  She gave me "the look" but it didn't work on me.  I've become immune. 

You see, I am not your regular manly man.  I've got all the bits and pieces but somewhere along the way, I lost that genetic inclination to work outside and tell people that I enjoyed it.  I really, really hate working outside.

Since I was born, I have secreted sweat from my pores with the slightest exertion.  I sweat taking a walk.  I sweat getting dressed.  I sweat carrying groceries in from the car.  I sweat taking a shower.  Really, I do.  I'm in there.  The water's coming out of the shower head and I'm sweating along with it. 

Lest you begin to talk about me, I'll have you know that I can sweat all day long but I do not emit an odor.  I'm an odor-free sweater.  Really!  Ask The Spouse...she's long marvelled at my ability to be a "sweaty man" and not stink as a result of it.  I'm pretty convinced that it has to do with my brilliance and magnificence. 

So, I'm avoiding sweating on this beautiful Saturday by sitting on the couch reading.  Actually, I'm pretty sure I was lying down on the couch reading.  That's the best position for me to prevent unnecessary sweating. 

After a bit of time had passed, my guilt began to gnaw at me.  That was after I awoke from my non-sweat-inducing activity of napping.  Napping is another activity that I can enjoy without having to sweat. 

I wandered downstairs and walked out the back door to find my beautiful wife on her hands and knees laboring away at planting a rosebush in her newly landscaped area.  She'd done a remarkable job.  I distinctly remember sitting on the bench swing that's suspended from the deck rafters, looking at the results of her toil and marveling at the fact that she didn't appear to be sweating.  I'd broken a sweat by simply walking downstairs and settling on the swing. 

I may have made some remarks about her handiness or something.  As soon as the first words fell from my mouth, I realized I'd made a critical error.  She grasped onto that comment and followed it up with, "Why don't you come help me finish this up?"  Gads!  She had me! 

My task was to pin the landscaping fabric to the ground.  I got on my hands and knees and was busily pinning away when I heard The Spouse emit a noise that was part shriek, part howl, part scream, and part cuss.  Since I know my wife is genetically predisposed to bump into things with her head or feet, I kept my head down and continued pinning. 

It was upon hearing her make a shuddering noise and begin to say unintelligible gibberish that I finally turned around and looked.  I looked up at her as she was wielding her broom like Luke Skywalker fighting Darth Vader in that brutal death scene.  She looked back at me and said, "SNAKE!!!!"

People, you can pull my man card, you can call me any name you want to, but I am absolutely terrified by snakes.  It is only within the last year that I can tolerate looking at them on the television.  I've heard it all from well-meaning snake lovers.  (Note:  Always, always, always be suspicious of anyone who claims to "love" snakes.  Something ain't right.)

"That poor little snake is more afraid of you than you are of it."  Okay, I'm calling B.S. on that one!  No one has a means to measure a snake's fear but I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was absolutely more afraid of that snake than it was of me. 

For instance, I didn't notice the snake crying uncontrollably.  I didn't hear the snake cussing.  I didn't see the snake dancing around like Muhammad Ali preparing to annihilate his next opponent.  I didn't hear the snake calling on The Almighty and Ever-Loving Lord Jesus to strike him dead on that spot.

I didn't see or hear anything from that snake but I promise you The Spouse and the neighbors heard it all from me!

I looked at The Spouse and she had ended her Jedi moves with the broom.  The snake, probably about 8-10" long, remained right were he was.  This bad dude wasn't afraid of ANTHING!  You can't watch The Spouse use a broom like a light saber and not come away wondering if she truly is a Jedi in training.  You can't stand there and watch me go full-tilt bozo without taking a few steps back and preparing to run.  This snake did.  He just laid there.  Looking. 

In a moment that can only be defined as a "God Moment," I walked over to The Spouse, took the broom from her hands and attacked that snake!  My biggest fear was that it would somehow get into our house. 

I struck at the snake with the broom and IT STRUCK BACK!  Normally, I would have run in the opposite direction with a trail of pee following behind me.  But, because I was wrapped in the Shield of the Lord, I moved in a tad closer, brought the broom down behind the little bugger and swept him out toward the yard.

As I was doing that, I was yelling at The Spouse to get me a shovel!  I was going all out ninja on this snake and I was going to chop his little venomous head off!  Before she could head off to get the shovel, that little snake gathered his senses and took off like a shot.  It headed straight for the new landscaping!  I chased after it with broom poised for another attack.  I think I was emitting some form of primal scream as I ran after it. 

Like the spawn of Satan they are, that little devil slithered under a rock.  I hit the rock with the broom.  I stomped near it.  I did everything I could think of to get that dude to come out and fight like a snake. 


I waited for quite a while. Watching.  Waiting.  And, still, nothing.  It had somehow escaped. 

Once the adrenaline began to subside, The Spouse walked up to me and said, "What got into you?!"  She had that proud look of a woman whose man had just fought off an attacker.  There was a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face.  She was finally proud of me and, I think, she found me sexy.

I looked at her and said, "Hold on, I gotta go pee."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fun on the Road

So, my "new" job has me traveling quite a bit.  Sometimes I put between 1,100 and 1,500 miles a week on my truck.  I don't mind the travel because most of it can be done in day trips and, when I do have to spend the night somewhere, my company is okay with me staying in a nice place. 

My territory is rather large and I live in the southern-most end of it.  My days sometimes begin between 4:00a.m. and 5:00a.m.  I get up, have my coffee, read the news online, post a status on FB, read what others have posted while I've been snoozing, shower, dress and head out the door between 5:30a.m. and 6:00a.m.  If I have time, I jump online and login to the company servers to check out the schools I'm seeing and to scout out any new business. 

I'm a morning person.  Sometimes getting up at 4:00a.m. is difficult.  Most of the time, it's not so bad once I get my cup of coffee in me. 

Every now and then (most days), I run into people who I like to classify as "different" or, if you want to pronounce it like I do..."difrnt."  We have a saying in our house.  It goes like this:  "Well, that's difrnt.  And difrnt ain't always better." 

For instance, The Boy Child will say something like, "I think my left pinky toenail look like Bryant Gumble." 

To which we would reply, "Well, that's difrnt. And difrnt ain't always better." 

Or, The Girl Child will say something like, "I got bit by a hobo today.  I've got hobo rabies!" 

To which we reply, "Well, that's difrnt. And difrnt ain't always better."  (Brief explanation:  Since early childhood, both of these heathen have been intrigued by and interested in "hobos".  The hobo lifestyle has been studied and they've found the secret hobo language.  This has evolved into the belief that all homeless people are hobos.  The Spouse and I have decided not to correct this assumption because:  1. they wouldn't believe us and 2. it's not really worth arguing over.  Cupcakes are worth arguing over.  Hobos and homeless are not.)

Anyway, today I was on a major interstate and was on the lookout for a rest area.  (I have a real issue with the name "rest area."  There are no couches.  There are no beds.  There's nowhere to rest.  Before you say, "There's a place to stop and get out and use the restroom.  That's 'resting.'"  I'll say to you that it is impossible to "rest" while taking care of your toileting needs.  I defy you to tell me that's a restful experience.  It would be much better if they would simply call them P&P Areas (Pee and Picnic).

Anyway, I pulled in and parked, got out and began walking across the parking lot to the "P" area.  As I was walking a woman who had parked beside me got out of her car and began walking toward the building, too. 

Normally, I make it a point not to talk to people at rest areas.  It's a well known fact that serial killers, stalkers, creepers and hobos hang out at these places and will shank you in a heartbeat if you let your guard down.  I've imagined several different scenarios involving my untimely death, but getting shanked by some homicidal hobo-maniac at the rest area is NOT one of them.  I'm not going out like that. 

This lady looks at me and says, "I've never been to a rest area like this one before.  It just kind of snuck up on me."  I paused, turned and looked at her and replied, "Yeah...they have a tendency to do that."  And then, I sped up and made my way to the men's room. 

What the heck was I supposed to say to that comment?  Who makes comments like that at a rest area?  How did it sneak up on her?  I saw the signs from two miles back.  Evidently, she simply stopped there because she "wanted" to not because she "needed" to.  I stop because I have a NEED to stop.  This woman obviously took the "rest" part literally and was just stopping for a leisurely stroll through the picnic area. 

Those who know me know that I'm a germaphobe.  It has taken a LOT of courage and a lot of mental preparation for me to even be able to stop at these places and go in the building.  The germ factor is simply incalculable!  So, I always wash and dry my hands well, and, upon getting in my truck, pull out the antibacterial hand sanitizer and cleanse myself of the filth that has accumulated in my walk from the sink to the truck. 

As I told The Spouse about this she said, "Well, that's difrnt. And difrnt ain't always better."  That's why I love her.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Big Count Down (AKA: My Kid is Completely Stressed Out!)

It's a little known fact, but there's actually a countdown that's more famous and more popular than the one that happens every New Year's Eve.  Like its New Year's Eve counterpart, there's a huge amount of planning and organizing involved.  Some folks dread it, others can't wait for it. 

Have you figured it out?  It's The Big Count Down!  Also known as, the end of the school year!

Unless your kids attend a year-round school, they are probably already counting down the remaining days of school for the year.  In most cases, so are the teachers and support staff. 

I always marveled at how quickly the year passed.  I never tired of seeing the new school year begin and I was always ready when it was drawing to a close.  In my current position, I get to speak with principals and teachers and I have found that most of them are counting the days with the kids.  Like other cycles in our lives, there's a beginning, middle and end.

The end of the school year is often filled with some anxiety for students, teachers and parents.  Serious students are gravely concerned about their grades and want to end the year with the best grade possible in each class.  They buckle down and work a little harder.  The sense of ending the year may cause extra stress on them.  I've seen some students struggle with the feeling that everything is coming due at the same time and there's not enough time to get it all done.  While their desire to finish on top is admirable, it needs to be tempered with some stress relief.  Overloaded and over-stressed often define these students. 

So, what can be done about it?  I have just a few suggestions for these Type A, Overachiever, OCD-like individuals.

1. Ask your child if he/she feels stressed out.  Sounds simple and it is.  However, in my experience, many parents fail to ask this essential question.  This question can lead to some very insightful conversations.  It can also give you the opportunity to connect with your child about similar experiences you've had.  Once the sharing is done, work together and come up with a plan to address the stressors. 

2. Develop a plan.  We've all heard the adage that most people don't plan to fail, they fail to plan.  It's true.  Plans don't have to be convoluted or terribly involved.  They can be a prioritized list of things that need to be done and their deadlines for completion beside them.  Your tech-savvy child probably has an app on his/her smartphone or tablet that will help him/her stay on track.  A printed list tacked up in a highly visible place can work as well.  Decide on what's most effective and make the plan.

3. Implement the plan.  It sounds silly to state it this way, but most plans remain plans until they are implemented.  One task at a time.  Focus.  Complete it. Mark it off. 

4. Celebrate.  Decide on a way to celebrate each item you complete in your plan.  It might be something as simple as spending time at the park, on a bike ride, eating ice cream, chatting with a friend, whatever.  (If you are a teenager, maybe the reward is sending 25 bazillion text messages in 15 minutes.) Small accomplishments should be celebrated with small rewards.  Larger accomplishments should be celebrated with larger rewards.  When the whole plan is completed, celebrate in a manner that is appropriate for you and your student.  The key here is that the rewards must be meaningful to the recipient and must be of enough value to motivate the student to accomplish the task.

In my own life, I sometimes neglect to deal with items in my work email inbox.  I answer the message but I don't move it to a folder or I don't mark it for follow-up.  I just leave it sitting there.  So, when it's overwhelming me, I finally plan an attack on it.  I disengage from everything else and have only my email up.  I start at the bottom of the stack and work my way through it.  If it's ridiculously full, I'll give myself a small goal of filing, deleting or dealing with 25 messages.  When those are dealt with appropriately, I might take a break and walk outside for 15 minutes.  Then, I come back and deal with another 25.  Once they are all dealt with, my reward might be minimizing my email and moving on to something else.  The sense of accomplishment is awesome. 

My point is, the plan is important, implementation is essential and the reward is the motivation.  Once they are set in motion, the stress begins to fade on its own.  The plan makes the stress manageable.  The implementation makes the stress lessen.  The reward replaces the stress with a good feeling and a sense of accomplishment. 

Finally, if the stress is overwhelming, it may be necessary to make an appointment to visit with your school's guidance counselor or principal.  Letting them know that your child is stressed and feeling overwhelmed is a big help.  Generally, most counselors and principals would want to know this and would want to help.  They may be able to help your child develop a plan of attack at school.  At the very least, you will have attempted to communicate with the school about your child and his/her situation.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Thoughts

It's Easter at this house and that can only mean one thing...Celebration! We began the morning at 5:00a.m.  The Spouse woke up to her alarm so she could get ready for Mass at 8:00a.m.  The Boy Child shuffled out of his room at 5:30a.m. and The Girl Child followed shortly after. 

The Bunny left some gifts for them on the kitchen counter and then we headed out for our pre-dawn ritual of hunting eggs. 

We met The Spouse's mother at church and really enjoyed the service. The priest is from Kenya and he explained that in his home Easter Day is celebrated with loud shouts of joy, ululating, dancing and going to church. He demonstrated the act of ululating for us. I've seen it on television and never fully understood it. Today, I got it!  It's an expression of extreme joy.  I looked around our church and noticed that we would be be completely out of place in Kenya. We were dressed in Easter finery, but we weren't a particularly joyful or boisterous group. I contemplated imitating him just to see what happened. I wonder if anyone would have joined in. 

We took a picture outside of church just because.

The Spouse and I came home and furiously cleaned the house and got ready for 16 friends and family to come over. The Spouse and The Girl Child made an Easter Bunny bread thing. 

I'm not one for stating the obvious, but the levels of irony and cruelty here are just too many to pass up. For instance, isn't it wrong to have that bunny surrounded by celery and carrots that he can't eat?

We had lunch with some special friends. Kimberly Adelson (one of my heroes) and her Mother and Step-Father joined us.  Kimberly continues to battle her cancer. It's an insidious and hateful disease but we know she will defeat it again!

Eating with friends and family on occasions like this is a good reminder of they way things used to be. Gathering at the table to break some bread and share some wine are among the simplest of pleasures but they hold the most powerful of meanings. We gather to reminisce, to remember and to plan for the future. We gather together at a table because it is there that we share in the communion of our kindred spirit. We gather together at a table so that we remember the paschal feast. Jesus sat with his friends and family and broke the bread and shared the wine. He asked that we do this in remembrance of Him. It's hard to believe that over 2,000 years have passed and we continue to hold this most sacred ritual. 

Maybe we should stop for a bit and remember that sitting at the table and sharing food and drink are sacred events. Maybe they've become so commonplace that we've forgotten their sacredness. Maybe, we shouldn't forget this any more. 

I'm grateful for the time we had with our family and friends today. I will try to be more mindful of Christ's promise that where two or more are gathered in his name He will be among us. 
I saw Him today in the face of Kimberly.
I saw Him today in the face of her Mother and Step-Father.
I saw Him in the face of my in-laws. 
I saw Him in the face of my friends from our old neighborhood. 
I saw Him in the face of my Mother and sister. 
I saw Him in the face of my Father and Step-Mother. 
I saw Him in the face of my children. 
I saw Him in the beautiful face of my wife.

I am most gratified and humbled that I saw Him today!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Physical Therapy Should Not Resemble Torture

There's a common belief among those of us with frequent and infrequent neck and back pain that "physical therapy" does not have to resemble torture of the Middle Ages variety.  I think we all believe that a little pain is necessary for the gain, but less pain is more desirable.  The researcher/therapist/inventor dude or dudette who creates a pain free way to alleviate a painful back or neck or leg or arm injury, will be a gazillionaire and I will personally erect a shrine in his/her honor. (Hint, hint!)

After I finished ruminating on the line-art man's posterior area and how I might attain such a bootylicious figure for myself, my PT had me get up on this table/bed thingy that looked like something I've seen when Ghost Hunters or Ghost Adventures visits a deserted insane asylum.
The one he put me on resembles this.
He then told me how he was going to "...stretch your neck a bit to help relieve the compression on the nerve bundle."  I gave him a "WhatchutalkinboutWillis?!" look.  He then told me that I would put my head between these two "head stabilizer thingy's," strap my head down, then turn on the machine that would apply 25-30 lbs of weight to pull my neck back and, thereby, remove the stress on the nerve bundle. 

I've wanted to do some crazy things in my life, and, truth be told, I have tried to do some of them.  However, stretching my neck has not been one of those things.  I watched a documentary on NatGeo about some tribal people who elongate their necks by putting rings around their necks and causing the neck to stretch and grow elongated.  I will admit that I was watching the show primarily to see if the tribal women still walk around with no top on, but the neck stretching thing interested me.  I have a desire to get a few tattoos and to have my ears pierced, but I have absolutely no desire to look like this...
She's pretty but I've never wanted to compete with giraffes for my food.
I did as I was instructed and he strapped me in.  He handed me a cord with a red button on the end.  He said, "Push this button if you start to feel dizzy, nauseated, pregnant or anything unusual."  I looked at the button for a minute.  It reminded me of the Nurse Call buttons they give you in the hospital.  If this thing worked as well as those do, I was in for a lot of disappointment if things started going wrong.

As he walked out, he said, "Now, just lay there and relax.  I'll turn the lights off and you can try to sleep." 

REALLY?  REALLY?  I think he was serious.  All I could think about was those slasher movies like SAW.  I've never seen those because the previews scare the crap out of me, but I have heard people say that there's a lot of torture and being tied down in those movies.  So, I lay there really still with my iPhone in my hand, waiting for some creepy slasher dude to come in and begin to try to experiment on me.  Sleeping in a dark room while strapped to a table with a machine pulling on your neck is just not an option for me.

The "treatment" went pretty well.  No slasher guy appeared.  I didn't end up looking like that lady above and I did experience some relief from my pain.

As I was getting ready to leave, he told me that he had a portable device that did the same thing.  He said he would let me take it home and use it so I could get relief from the pain when I needed it.  He gave me the micro-version of the neck elongation device with some instructions and then wished me well.  He told me to call him in a few days and let him know how I was.

Last night, I decided that the pain was returning and that I might try the portable neck stretcher device.  I had The Spouse help me get strapped in.  I lay there, on the bedroom floor, with my neck stretching and everyone leaving me alone.  Until the phone rang...
'Cause that's how I roll!"
More's Saturday morning and I haven't stretched my neck yet.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Pain in my Back Has Caused Envy in my Heart

Who knew you could jack your back up just from sleeping? 

Evidently, my doctor and my physical therapist new it could happen. 

It seems that on Wednesday evening, as I lay supine on my couch watching mindless television, I fell asleep in a poor position and somehow jacked my back up pretty bad. 

The doctor said something about brachial blah, blah, blah, then I heard, bulging disc, and some other words that made sense to him.  I looked at him, grimaced and nodded appropriately, then left with a prescription for some steroids and a referral for physical therapy. 

I called a friend who is a physical therapist and he told me to come on over and he would work me in. 

I filled out the necessary paperwork and went back to the treatment area.  The first level of treatment was to put some nice hot packs on my back and neck.  That felt really, really good.  Then, as he was telling about the upcoming treatment, he called me in to a little room with a table/bed thingy and a poster of the entire backside of some naked dude with all of his skin peeled away.  The naked dude was just a line drawing, not some real naked dude with his skin peeled off.

I know it's sad, but as he started explaining to me what I'd done to my back and neck, I couldn't help but look at that guy and think, "I wish my ass looked like that.  I wonder what I would have to do to have an ass like that."  My friend, the therapist, was talking about cervical and brachial thingys and discs and muscles.  I nodded, grimaced, shook my head (only a little) and pretended to understand everything he said.  In reality, I was growing envious of this line drawing's physique. 

Take a look at the picture below and tell me you aren't just a touch envious.

More on my back and the therapy that followed my envious ogling of the line-art man later.  For now, I'm going to start thinking about the gym and working with a trainer to get my backside looking like that.  (After my back heals, of course.)