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Monday, November 4, 2013

Charlotte. Tough Mudder. Feeling oh so alive.

We came. We saw. See Ghostbusters for the third line.

Yes, it happened again. Tough Mudder. This time in Charlotte. We had ten people who bonded after a few emails and a brief huddle to create a high performing team showing synergistic and systemic leadership. They started together. They approached each obstacle together. They worked together to defeat each obstacle. They gave their skills to fellow Mudders of other teams. They advanced together to the next obstacle. It was rare that the greatest distance between two members exceeded fifty feet. 

Directions never needed repeating, and often, directions were not required as the team took up its labors as though they did this work ever day. With two exceptions, discussion regarding what to do did not exist. The team just did it. In those two exceptions, the discussion was shut down quickly as one member or another stepped forward and exercised leadership.

Our team was not alone in that regard. Exemplary leadership and teamwork are the order of the day at Tough Mudder, and I challenged my company's management to find a way to bring those behaviors through the front door and disperse them throughout the building.

Our very own Dr. Carroll and Mr. Pedigo were the gluons (gauge bosons, if you will) that held our nucleus together. They each moved from one member to the next, assessing how the people were doing as we progressed from one obstacle to the next. This activity was never planned, and I'm not even sure they were aware of doing it, but it's an essential component with high performing teams, and I was delighted to see it happen all afternoon.

Mr. Nall, the ringer our IT hired to represent them, demonstrated a vertical leap that told me he's definitely Ninja. Our favorite TreeTop Flyer displayed decision making skills with absolute accuracy and resolve, and then imparted to Mr. Pedigo the one additional secret to clear the hundred feet of monkey bars. Our sight-impaired Running Robot left us all wondering just what kind of Cheerios he ate for breakfast as his ONLY challenge was to run slow enough for the rest of us, and yes, he nearly walked across the monkey bars. The fact is that Mr. Nall, Lt. Penny, and Mr. Adams could have run the event twice in the time we took. 

Finally, m'Lily, m'Jennifer, and m'Grace routinely demonstrated what unabashed determination and sheer force of will can accomplish, especially in the face of on-going suggestions of "You can't do that." (Of course, it didn't hurt that Lily's John was with us for the occasional hug.) They jumped into a shipping container of iced slush, faced down mammalian reflex, and dove under the barbed wire to reach the exit. They stepped off a 20-foot high platform to plunge into a pit of muddy water equally as deep. Their feet never touched the bottom. I encourage you to never stand between these women and their goal. It wouldn't be prudent.

Lastly, one running psychometrician kept the team's spirits high even in the face of cold wind and rain as he sang many a song of Elven lore and ancient tongue, especially while traversing the Electric Eel. 

We saw runners with one leg. We saw runners with no legs. We saw one paraplegic runner on a recumbent bike. We saw a runner with one arm. We saw a runner in a wheel chair. We saw skinny runners. We saw short, little runners. We saw fat runners. We saw runners wheezing with asthma. We saw runners cramping. We saw runners puking. They all found the inner strength to finish. What, then, would be your reason for not joining us next 14 June for our three-peat just north of Richmond?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I'm going back in

When last we met, I reported a somewhat less than satisfactory experience with Wake Med as they attempted to learn what dose of Tikosyn would control my atrial fibrillation under highly artificial conditions. None of it worked out very well, and the medication had serious side effects that were worse than the condition we sought to correct. Although I expected as much, it was still disheartening to experience the failure, mainly because it requires learning how to run all over again, not to mention the loss of an entire long weekend.

But I did relearn, and although I'm burning some over 200 calories to make it through a mile, I can make it through that mile, and now five and more of them. Saturday, it'll be twelve miles, more or less, at Tough Mudder. Yes, I'm wading in again with some peeps from work and All My Children. Talk about a bonding moment. I cannot put into words how much I'm looking forward to this one.

My biggest challenge, at least as I anticipate it now, will be managing the 1100 calorie per hour burn over those four-ish hours. (Remember the obstacles.) Now, you might think that'd be good for weight loss, and I suppose it is, but the truth is that after such a run, the feeling is much like being hit by a truck. A very large truck. It's be really nice for the 1000-calorie hour to become the exception, not the rule, as I believe this corner of the world would be a far happier place.

So my caregivers hooked me up, as the young people say, with the Duke Center for Atrial Fibrillation. My first encounter there was pretty much useless as some staff cardiologist interviewed me, discounted what I had to say, and suggested a sleep study. A freaking sleep study? Yes, I suspect I'd benefit from a sleep study, but at a later date, please, after we're through with all this other poking and prodding. Despite the public record, there are limits to my patience, and I'm damned close to running out.

Fortunately for the world at large, she referred me to an electrophysiologist. Two weeks later, I waited for him 45 minutes past the starting time, planned to fire him, and then promptly forgave him as he walked in the room in jeans and a t-shirt, introducing himself by his first name. Never have I met a physician who used his first name. (And I usually introduce myself at those times as Dr. Penny, which I am.)

An hour later with complete explanations of everything that will happen, and a few things that might or might not, we agreed to do business at his first convenience, which will be the Tuesday after Tough Mudder. I can't think of a better way to recover from all the soreness than with a large dose of Propofol.

So it's surgery. Heart surgery. And it's almost day surgery, though they'll keep me overnight, mainly to irritate me. I'll have two holes in my inner thighs healing and circular scar tissue forming in my pulmonary arteries to show for it. He said I could run in two weeks, and I counter-offered with one week. We both figure those holes in my legs will tell me when I can run. Until that point, I can walk, even the day after, which I'll likely do.

So there you go. Don't tell me I can rock an early November. (And we're returning to Tough Mudder next June. You should come along.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

It was good while it lasted

So I stopped the afib medication (Tikosyn) because the cure was worse than the problem, and I lived a glorious four more days without a triple digit heart rate while walking across the room. It was 45 bpm to be sorta precise, and even lower when asleep, which is all below the 50 bpm for which Tikosyn is contraindicated, but that's just an inconvenience when you're a cardiologist looking to fit one more patient in your decision tree.

Dumbass fucker.

I lost a holiday weekend to this nonsense, worked a couple of days, and then I blasted off to Del Rio, Texas, at 4 A.M. for #1 Son's graduation from the USAF's flight school. The flights there were bumpy, and I opened the barf bag on the last flight, though I never used it, which is a good thing because I needed two and I held only one. You see the impending eruption was going to be bidirectional.

Grabbed my bags, spent thirty minutes in the can being sure my belly was calm again, and then I took my rental car for a three-hour tour of southwest Texas. Though I cut the evenings early and started the mornings late, it was still an energy consuming time, and of course I'd do it again, right down to the flight simulator that I took into Mexican territory just because I could before I landed almost safely with a little help from Josh on the throttle. As you might expect, being occupied with the controls prevented further motion sickness, but not to worry as watching the others made up for it.

Let me add that it was a bone dry weekend for me because I didn't want to tempt my fate and have the atrial fibrillation return early. I think I was the only one there toasting with a glass of water.

Then up at 4 again for the return trip. Fewer bumps, but not to worry as my fatigue contributed to the air discomfort as I nodded in and out of a dream state, although I didn't need to grab a bag. Home at 7, and on the couch with a giant smoothie made with assorted frozen fruit by 8 for a little TV. As the smoothie chilled my unsettled tummy, I felt it, that brief motor boat, the sinking feeling of unspecified and unspecific angst. The afib was back, not just as a brief visitor, but as an upclose and personal, and quite unwelcomed, friend.

As my dorm suite mates in 1971 would say: Fuck a duck.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Of all the things I didn't need

So yesterday, I went to the airport, and I did so not for work. Nope, it’s for me, that very rare event in which I step on a plane when I’m not working. I’m headed to Del Rio, the one in Texas, the one on the border with Mexico, the one you probably wouldn't want to visit without some compelling reason such as your #1 Son graduating from the USAF’s flight school and headed out to fly secret stuff on secret missions that if you knew about we’d have to kill you. That kind of compelling reason.

You are correct: I really don’t like being a passenger on a plane anymore.

I’m strolling down the concourse, my tummy full of Starbucks yogurt parfait and a banana, and I turn the corner at my gate. Standing there all buffed and stern is a Marine Honor Guard. Okay, cool, but I’m also confused. I’m also wrong. Again. It turns out that my flight is returning a fallen warrior to his home in Texas.

Now, I have no problem with this, and frankly it’s an honor. It’s also a stark reminder of that one thing this parent, this dad, keeps compartmentalized way off in that far corner with the concrete, uranium-enriched, chain-link, barbed wire, junkyard dog guarded wall. The one with the sign clearly stating to stay the fuck away from me or you’ll be an emotional wreck for days.

I boarded the plane early. It’s Southwest, and I always get EarlyBird boarding because I don’t need to be in the middle seat with my grip stacked under my feet. I walked to the rear of the plane as is my habit, stowed my stuff, and said absently to the attendant as I stepped to the head that I needed some tissues. Without a word or even a look, she handed me her box of tissues. I might have mumbled my thanks.

We departed over thirty minutes late. No one complained. We flew in silence. The Honor Guard and family sat at the front of the plane. We landed in Houston with the usual flight announcements. As we approached the gate fifteen minutes early, the attendant asked us to remain seated until the Honor Guard left the plane. She choked on her words. The plane stopped at the gate as silence hung thick on the plane.

Before the Honor Guard could unbuckle and stand, the fat ass slob of a damned fool four rows ahead of me popped up and started rifling through his crap in the overhead bin. My eyes widened as he continued. The attendant repeated her request to remain seated. His only reaction was the rolling of his overly-entitled multiple chins. Someone from the window seat of the last row on the left side suggested less than mildly “Sit the fuck DOWN!”

He remained standing, rattling through his crap. That someone in the window seat was boiling, and more than ready to assist the jackass with sitting down, likely with several bruises and, if luck held, some broken bones. It would have been so simple, so easy, so quick, though the floor might have been more involved than the seat. 

The flight attendant rose and walked down the aisle and stood by our clueless jackass, silently violating his space until he sat down. She returned to her post sharing a brief glance with me, offering an additional tissue as the large white shipping box was off-loaded from the plane under the watchful eyes of the Honor Guard. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I wonder what it's like to feel that way.

So I was late for a run, what with having tarried with a smoothie, and then I had to take the NCSU route to downtown because the traffic prevented my left turn on Blue Ridge. Fifteen minutes late. I parked in my usual spot. Paid quickly, and hoofed off into the last half mile.

Yes, I park a half mile away from the start so the fast walk can be my warm up. Feets Be old, you know.

I cut the corner and crossed in front of my fave bistro, The Burough, and there at my fave table at my fave bistro, sat a couple, two twenty-something men, corner to corner, hand in hand, eyes melting into eyes. A beautiful sight, but I couldn't pause to admire it. I had to get to Tir Na Nog to meet m'Grace for our downtown run.

About an hour and not quite five miles later, she and I are approaching The Burough looking for dinner. We took a seat inside because all the outdoor seats were taken, and my handsome couple was still at my fave table at my fave bistro. I chose a seat inside by the window that gave me a clear view of the scene.

Time had not passed for them. I doubt they could tell you how long they had been there. I doubt they remembered what they ate, what they drank, what rolled by them in the traffic. They were lost in one another, the vortex about them palpable, real, and not to be shared but surely to be envied.

I wonder what it's like to feel that way.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

And so that's how it ends

The doctors released me from the cardiac ward Wednesday morning, and I went directly home for my first real bath since Sunday morning. With all the crap they had stuck to me for cardiac telemetry, I could only splash around in the sink, much like a sparrow in a summer puddle, but with far less exhilaration. I followed the shower with a huge fruit smoothie. The hospital food was adequate, except at breakfast when it was loathsome, but someone should tell them that low sodium does not have to mean tasteless. 

There are these things called spices that I'd encourage the hospital chefs to investigate.

No longer stinking and tum no longer growling, I headed out, first to drop off my new prescriptions at Kerr Drug, and then to noodle on over to see the massage therapist. If I've ever needed some time under his watchful care, it was now.

Two hours later, I'm headed back home. My earlier resolve to let The Rocket cook my dinner had faded, and now all I want is some PB&J and my pillow. By 8, I'm dead to the world.

Thursday is a full day of meetings at work. You can imagine my joy, but DaMan often pays me to sit around and talk to people, and it certainly beats picking cotton, so that's what I did all day. That evening, I stepped out for a five mile run toward dusk. It was uneventful. The calorie burn was half the usual it was with the afib. I even felt good at the end, not the usual run over by a truck feeling.

Maybe the doc was right.

Friday is PTO. That's paid time off, not power take off. Still, I went to the office at noon to pull five miles with the crew. They run a little faster than my usual, but that's a good thing because it pushes me to do more, and I thought I'd croak coming up the last hill. Yet we all survived. I crashed the rest of the afternoon except for a brief while to go grocery shopping. My blood pressure was cruising at 90/50, and I was feeling excessively nappy. This feeling was unexpected, but I'd had a rough week, so maybe I'm in recovery. Sleep came easily that night.

I slept 12 hours, awaking at 9:30 Saturday morning. Knocked around the apartment eating and doing laundry until 2 when I stepped out for another run. I really wasn't feeling it, but I know that feeling well, and my intention was to push through it. It didn't work out that way. 100 yards into the run, downhill, I knew this would not end well, and I turned around to go back home.

At this point, I suspect I wasted a lot of time and money at Wake Med. Obviously, the procedure ended the atrial fibrillation. Just as obviously, there's a side effect that causes excessive exercise intolerance, and I don't see that I'm any better off, just different and with an expensive maintenance drug to go with it.

The hospital gave me seven days worth while the drug store ordered what I need. (I'm number two in their world with this prescription.) It won't be in until next week. At this rate, I'm not sure I'll continue with the drug. In fact, if I had to make the decision right now, the answer would be a big negatory.

So here's the score. We have multiple strikes against Wake Med. The only thing that place has going for it is the Marine night nurse. Cary Cardiology is at least four strikes down, but they're damned fine at applying decision trees without much consideration regarding the rest of the systems interacting with the one, albeit very important, cardio system. All the while, Jim is substantially worse for the wear, and a damned sight poorer.

My patience with medical systems is about exhausted, and I cut off the treacherous drug with the last dose Saturday morning.


And there's more. Sunday I slept 20 hours, rising enough to eat and do one load of laundry. I have no idea where that amount of tired came from, but I did enjoy the dreams.

Monday, I wondered if I'd do anything, but I found myself sufficiently motivated to get out to the park and try a run. I chose my usual 5-mile circuit. The first two miles had me thinking I should have stayed home, but them something happened, and I suddenly started feeling alive again. I suppose the drug from the hospital finally worked it's way out of my system. I almost added a few additional miles to the run, but I knew I was headed downtown for the nOg run at 6, and so I stuck to the original plan.

That left me with 9.44 miles for the day, and hardly more than that for the long weekend, but at least, maybe, this chapter is over. I sure as hell hope so. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I told them so

When all this mess started, I pointed out that my sitting around pulse should be in the low 50s, not 70ish, and certainly not 100 as it initially was. The nurse practitioner at the regular doc's accepted that statement, and worked from it. She is smart. Every-freakin-where else, the docs went on to the next question, dismissing without comment my statement. How could a 60 year-old old fart have a sitting around heart rate in the low 50s? You could hear that question echo in the silence. 

So here we go with the condition in abeyance. 52. Fifty-fuckin-two, bitches. Just like I said. Well, guess what? This morning's conversation was about sleeping heart rates, mine in particular. It's normally about 35ish depending on the hot dude in my dreams. (I didn't mention the hot dude part this morning.) And so they had to recalibrate the dosage, what with wanting me to be more likely to wake up and all. 

You might think that'd teach the fuckers to listen once in a while. Don't count on it.

Note: When I finally checked out of the hell hole, my heart rate was 45. I don't know if that's conditioning or drugs, but I'll take it.

My Marine night nurse was good for his word

My Marine night nurse was good for his word. After they left at 11, nothing happened until 7. I arose at 5:30 so as to not be all groggy when the action started. Do know the guys were lined up ready to go at 7. I was very popular. Even the real doctor got the message about closing the door when he came in at 8.

The doc and I had a frank discussion regarding this situation. He was a bit taken aback when I told him that it’d be a very long time before I agreed to step into this Wake Med facility again, and that I would not be repeating this procedure ever. Never. Again. (And saying that leaves me expecting to be back here next week doing it again. Note: I also said that about my PhD qualifying examination.) 

The doc and I also discussed treatments and options for chronic conditions. His perspective is necessarily limited because he’s a specialist. That’s good in that he knows his stuff. That’s bad because he doesn’t much think of wholeness and the care thereof. That the drug he’s using interacts lots with other exotic drugs such as aspirin and Fleet enema doesn’t bother him much. It bothers me a great deal, and this is why I doubt any long term success will arise from this expensive encounter.

Now, back to the night nurse. As he was leaving, the night nurse came by to check on me. I stood to shake his hand. We discussed how organizations often have tight and complex rule structures, and these rules exist for many reasons, most of which are idiotic and positioned to reduce the effectiveness, if not efficiency, of the organization. However, the successful employee, or at least the smart one, will seek to both understand the rule structure and all the paths over, under, around, and through that let us accomplish our jobs and fill our roles without having to worry about going to jail.

He is a smart man. His attitude reminds me of my own #1 Son in many ways. Wake Med was lucky to get him and smart to hire him. I wonder if the organization will be smart enough to keep him.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Needs an alligator

Behold! A sign on my door. I love this night nurse. Almost. I'll decide that tomorrow toward 7. Wake Med finally sends me someone who might look out for me. Of course, I believe I said something like that earlier today, and it was all a big lie, but this guy's a Marine. Maybe he means it.

Finally! A bed!

I love my new night nurse. He brought me a better bed. Old school. No rumbling motors. No air bladders to roll me around until I puke. I told him I still would not forgive him for coming back at 11 to torture me, but that I would love him for bringing me something I can sleep in. Sometimes we get lucky.

So they lied. I knew they would.

And so much for believing what anyone says. The fuckers have lied. They just told me they’re coming in at 11 to do stuff. So much for going to sleep early.

I doubt I ever agree to enter the shit hole known as Wake Med as a patient again. Well, maybe if they drag me in unconscious. This place is the antithesis of health.

It's getting better

Since all the excitement of this morning, things have been much better. I suspect the nurse practitioner had a lot to do with that. So what has made it better? They bring me food. They bring me pills. They have done only one or two EKGs. They’ve taken my blood pressure only twice. They have not stabbed me once. The lead nurse knocks quietly on the door and asks if I need anything, which is probably her code for checking if I still exist. (She does not know about my plan to rappel down the building. I think.)

And they all CLOSE THE FREAKING DOOR WHEN THEY LEAVE. How fucking hard is that to do, and why did they feel the need to leave this old, highly strung, bitter, introverted queen out on public display anyway?  

I have long held that the nurse practitioners often define excellent caregiving, and the example I met this morning upheld my observation, even if she didn’t like my language. Her colleague, however, who rolled through here a bit later in the afternoon, could use some instruction. He knocked rapidly and sharply, flapped open the door, strode in like a ranger in Lord of the Rings, and proceeded to compliment me on my ability to sit up. I shit ye not. My ability to sit up. 

He also wanted me to walk the halls for exercise. Of course, he was too busy talking to hear that I’m resting a foot from running 27 miles the other day, and that I haven’t been in the same chair for more than an hour since I arrived.

Am I so old to these young eyes? Evidently, I am. When he left, he left the door open. He and I will not be doing much business together.

So we’ll see how the evening goes. The nurse practitioner said she left orders to leave me alone from 9 to 7. We’ll see if the ever efficient staff can meet those requirements. Of course, I’ll probably code tonight, and they’ll remember the orders then. 


Well, that’s not the conversion you might think, and I have no plans to reenter the Baptist church. Ever. I’m talking about normal sinus rhythm. Toward late morning, I felt a change, and the EKG confirmed it. I have returned to normal sinus rhythm.

Maybe I should blow up more often.

There should be much rejoicing, but I take this with a large grain of salt. The last time lasted all of eight days, just long enough to remind me of how I’m supposed to feel, and then wham! Back down again.

The doc is stepping in tomorrow, probably for a disciplinary visit. Be that as it may, we get a frank talk regarding expectations, and there is no literature for the question I have to ask, at least nothing that shows up in any form of online search, and I find that very hard to believe. Pharma research is often more about getting to market to make a buck, not so much about answering a question.

And so I’m feeling very calm, and I feel inclined to enjoy the moment even if I’m going to do so by pre-writing an even calmer report. There is no indication of how long this will go, and I’d like to take this dance for as long as the music lasts. 

Oh, what a goose I am

So I packed to leave, and they sent in reinforcements. Two nurses and one aide. The three left quickly. Apparently, Grandpa can still project anger. Moments later, the PA goes off. Yet. A. Freaking. Gain. They're summoning my regular doc. I like this doc a lot, and I'd really love to see him as he's generally a straight shooter with me, but I’m also pretty sure he has a full agenda already that does not include talking me off a ledge.

No Dr. Craig for me. Bummer. I wonder if they did that just to get my attention.

So I pack my grip, and then it strikes me that I’m beyond hungry. I pull a Clif bar from the bottom of my bag, grab a glass of water, and settle in with my Kindle. After a few swallows, the bar is gone, the water is gone, and I’m putting away the Kindle.

Here comes a rapping, tapping on the door. One of the nurse practitioners from the cardio joint is here to speak with me. Mr. Penny? This title shit drives me crazy, and if it weren't for the fact that Mr. Jefferson found the title sufficient, I'd be correcting these peeps by the dozens.

She wants to talk to me. What she wants is to get me to stay. I didn't stand as she entered the room. She offered her hand to shake. I took it. Her active listening from an Agape class was apparent. I didn't point out that I took the same damned class. She also didn't appreciate some of my language, and I toned it down to a degree, but not completely. She didn't think swearing was necessary. I didn't remind her that swearing provides a relief known not even to prayer. She's not up on her Twain anyway.

The upshot is that if I leave, and yes I do know how to detach the electrodes and IV, I get to pay it all as the insurance company will dance over the non-compliance. If I stay, whether I stick with the drug or not, the insurance company pays. So here I sit, compounding a poor decision with an even poorer decision based on money, which I know is invariable a wrong decision, all the while being removed from any semblance of the support structure I've managed to cobble together for myself.

I was born to suffer. Much as the nurse practitioner did as she endured my toned-down language.

So here I'll sit, maybe, through Wednesday, while I take their god-forsaken chemical abuse and write on a report so dry that it's probably a Class II Incendiary, illegal in seven states.

My form fitting bed

I will give them credit for one thing. The bed molded to perfectly fit the shape of my ever-expansive derriere. That dip in which the TV remote is sliding would hold two of the larger watermelons Wilson McGee ever raised, and still have room for a few cantaloupes. 

I wonder what agent of the Spanish Inquisition designed all this mess.

Oh, what a night!

You might think that a place designed to restore, if not promote, health would set the stage for a reasonable night's sleep. If so, you'd be wrong. Very wrong.

Towards 10:30 last night, they brought me this little pill, a capsule actually, the thing that is supposed to make me well. The nurse turned out the lights, left on the night light, and wished me a good night. The bed continued to growl, bump, grind, inflate, and rotate. The chimes and beepers outside continued to chime and beep. The announcements rolled in. People walked by chatting. I turned the lights back on.

At 1 or so, the ECG dude appears, announces his chore, and then expresses surprise that I’m awake. When he left, the nurse came in and unplugged the bed, though she told me she would have to plug it back in later in the morning. Probably, they have rules about running the beds and precluding sleep to drum up business. I still don't get how I’m a bed sore risk, especially since I’m not much in the damned thing.

At 3 or so, it's time for blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and temperature. Surprise. Surprise. The tech expected to find me asleep. I’m awake. Imagine that. And guess what? My blood pressure is elevated. Now, what in the world is that about? Maybe it had something to do with the advertisements for the (straight) sex telephone lines that appeared on Comedy Central about that time.

Then 4 or so, it's time to bleed. Again. Three vials. Third poke. Same arm. Same vein. Slightly different hole. The tech is matter of fact. I’m not sure I spoke. She left, and I grabbed a bite from the food I brought.

As best I can tell, they'll expect to do this for the next two nights and three days. I wonder if these people ever get to be patients here? I can only wish.

PS: Another tech came in at 6 for BP, O2, and temp. I finally lost it as she left the room, feeling much like Mark Twain that Sunday morning when he couldn't find a shirt with all it's buttons.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I hate this bed

I will need a mental hospital if I have to sleep in this freaking cardiac hospital bed tonight. Apparently, someone is afraid I'll develop bed sores, and to assuage that fear, the bed inflates, tips, grinds, growls, and otherwise produces motion sickness the likes of which I've not known in a bed room since that evening ages ago when I dipped snuff thinking I'd be cool.

I keep looking for a damned switch to cut the thing off, and I might be reduced to pulling the power cord.

There are many reasons it's a good thing I never went to Vietnam, and I've long wondered why I never relocated to Canada at the time. Nonetheless, had I gone to that war, and the Viet Cong had captured me, I'd have been their bitch within minutes of entering a tiger cage.

Maybe Wake Med is an arm of the North Vietnamese. They did win that war, you know, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to win this one. 

My life in hell

Here we go again

This one is different. I’m substantially pissed while sitting in a hospital receiving treatment that I’m pretty sure is a waste of time. Oh well.

Yes, it's been a while, and that's for good cause. Atrial fibrillation. The persistent kind. Being out of breath while speaking. Or taking out the trash. Nothing to kill me directly, but enough to make the consortium of damned fools far harder to tolerate, and it's not like I had any patience for them in the first place.

Some four months ago. At Krav Maga. Kicking a bag a little too hard. Think the sound of burlap ripping, but coming from your left inner thigh. Ripped adductors and lots of language. Followed by Vicodin. Just days before Rugged Maniac.

So that hurt like 30 hell, probably much like the feelings of the nurse who was just now on the receiving end of my summary judgment. But that's a story for later down the page.

So I went to the doctor. Several times. And my company changed insurance carriers in mid-treatment. And then I fired a physical therapist, not because I didn't like her but because the office staff was a about the biggest assemblage of dumbasses I've ever met.

The only caregiver worth a shit was the crew in the family practice office, especially the nurse practitioners, and while I was there, I mentioned that my resting heart rate had advanced from it's usually low 50s to nearly 90. One ECG later, and I’m making an appointment with a cardiologist regarding the documented atrial fibrillation.

I picked a hell of a season to stop drinking.

So I let the cardio dude do his cardioversion even if his office staff and voice mail system conspire to make me hang up more often than leave a message. Think CLEAR! It worked for eight whole days during which I was actually able to run, and then BOOM! On the eighth day, the afib returned worse than ever, or it at least seemed that way. That could have been the result me me having forgotten what it's like to feel good. Who knows? So instead of running five miles as I had the day before, I limped back home and drove to DC to work.

Yummy stuff. Imagine sitting around with your heart rate at about 110 or higher constantly. When sleeping, you drop back to maybe 90. You're living in a vortex of virtual angst and despair, and you will fall in it. There's nothing you can do to stop it. It is, however, a sure fire way to loose weight. And friends. Rapidly. And to wake up starving in the middle of the night.

Another trip to the nurse practitioner, who is apparently smarter than a cardiologist. A few prescriptions later and a few more runs to figure out dosing, and life is tolerable mostly. Maybe I should become a couch potato. The new health insurance certainly acts like it'd prefer that.

Of course, running is the issue, and maybe I shouldn't complain that my pace is 12 minutes per mile, not the 9:30 it was the week before this mess all began. And my heart rate is still hitting 200 bpm when running the hill I refuse to walk up. And I’m certainly not doing the weekly 10-milers of last winter anymore.

Now, try telling this to a cardio dude. All you'll hear is that you must not be all that bad off. This led me to see another cardio dude, and I fired him directly after the visit, which resembled more a scene from Absolutely Fabulous than it did a doctor's office. Well, I did take one of his pills, but the ensuing rubber legs cured me of that.

These guys really need you to fit in their little decision trees.

So now I’m at it again. My third attempt to receive pharmalogic cardioversion. The previous two trys were aborted for technical reasons. Okay, the first because the doc had not prescribed a blood thinner. The second because the hospital expected me to pay for it all. Yes, it took the insurance company a few weeks to finish an expedited review for pre-authorization in which the final word was that pre-authorization was not required.

But now I’m in a room with a needle in a vein. Sitting. Waiting. Listening to Ding! Bing! Boing! Aperiodic overhead announcements. I see a sleepless night ahead, especially with all my regular chemicals off line for the duration lest there be some interaction. I should have run before I arrived so I'd be tired. And de-stressed. To compensate, the nurse suggested I walk the hall a few times.

Then there's the staff talking to me like a first grade teacher speaks to a class. This pisses me off more than I expected, and one nurse has already suffered an F-bomb as I reacted to the news the Pharm-D relayed through her. Well, come on! The fuckers should use more than short words in declarative sentences. And not freak when someone asks a probing question.

This all leaves me thinking I've made a mistake. They plan to titrate a drug that has substantial interactions with about everything else while I lie in a hospital for a few days. Then, I’m supposed to return to a normal world and expect everything to be all right? Well, maybe it will be, and I certainly hope so, but I’m not holding high hopes.

A big part of me wants to channel Hub from Second Hand Lions. That certainly makes for a nice fantasy, and an even better movie scene, but it's not likely to play well in Club Wake Med. I'll endure this bullshit, and try to keep security at arm's length. Maybe I won't be any worse off than when I started. Next week, is another week for another decision.

Do you suppose I could rappel down the building using this IV line?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Untimely suggestions regarding Rugged Maniac

So before all the ribaldry began Thursday evening, I sent the peeps headed to Rugged Maniac some tips gleaned from my experience there last year. Here's what they saw.

I ran Rugged Maniac last year. It was my first mud race. Here are a few things that might make your afternoon more enjoyable.
Parking. I will attempt to park at the event like I did last year. If that fails, I'll park in the designated lot. They'll have buses to shuttle between the event and the parking lot. Last year, the buses were a problem, and I expect they'll overcompensate for that this year.
Check-in. Our heat starts at 3. Plan to check-in at 1. You'll need the extra time to reconnoiter the site, where by reconnoiter, I mean find and use the porta-potties. Several times.
Porta-potties. If you're prone to nervous shits, bring some Immodium. You'll be glad you did. Think of it as a performance enhancing substance. Note: There are no crappers along the course.
Water stations. There will be a few water stations along the course. You will stop and drink a cup of water at each one. It's the law. If they offer you a piece of banana, take that too. It's the law. No, we're not fueling the race. We're avoiding cramps.
Duct tape. I'll have some duct tape for strapping on my shoes. You're welcome to use it too.
Cotton. With the possible exception of your t-shirt, do not wear cotton. This includes your socks. Cotton will absorb the water and mud, and soon a cotton garment will weigh 5,000 pounds. T-shirts are not so much a problem. Socks are a huge problem, especially when they make your feet weigh a ton each. Ditto for your draws.
Gloves. I'll be wearing fingerless leather biking gloves. Other gloves will work, such as those you describe, but I don't hold high hopes for cotton.
Knees and elbows. I'll wear long compression tights and a long sleeve compression top. If you behave, I'll wear shorts over the tights. You are warned. Anyway, you'll appreciate the light covering over your elbows and knees. Several times.
Hair. Cover your head and restrain your hair.
Glasses. Leave the glasses in the bag I'll mention anon.
Mud. It's a mud race. The mud formulation is proprietary. It's slick, thick, and sticky, probably formulated in the seventh level of Hell directly under Snellville, Georgia. You'll exit the race covered from head to toe. They'll have showers, which will be water hoses. There will be lines for the showers, though with our late start, we might have fewer people to contend with.
Car seats. Cover your car seats when you leave your car. Cover them well. You won't be able to after the race. You'll be very tired. And clumsy.
Analgesics. Have some Ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, or whatever you take for ouches waiting in the car for your return. Expect to be stiff by the time you get home. Also, take some as a preemptive strike, but don't overdose.
Food. There will be food for sale at the event. I doubt you want any before the race. Afterward, you probably will. I'll have Clif bars if you want some before we run.
Water. I doubt you'll drink enough water before the race. Prove me wrong. Most everyone I see in this world is dehydrated.
Bag. Bring a bag. I'll be using a reusable grocery bag. You'll put your stuff in it before you run, and leave it at the bag check. Here's where your glasses go. The bag check is generally safe, but I'd still leave important stuff in the car.
Stuff to bring. Bring some cash. Bring your government-issued ID. Bring your cell phone. Bring fresh clothes if you want. Leave the AmEx at home. They don't take credit cards, probably because of the poor cell coverage.
Finding one another. Text. Voice calls will be difficult to hear because (1) cell reception will be spotty, and (2) the bands will be loud. At the very worst, we'll meet up at the BACK of the line for our heat. We'll start at the back so (1) the land sharks won't eat us, and (2) we can pass all those people who foolishly sprinted.
Camera. You'll want pictures, but you'll likely rue bringing her expensive camera. Leave the expensive stuff at home.
Preparation. Maybe take Friday as a rest day.
Signs. Pay no attention to the signs. Well, with the exception of the “You could die here” signs. The mileage doesn't matter. The count of obstacles doesn't matter. All that matters is what's in front of you at the moment. Worry about what's coming will only get in your way. Do what's next.
Behaviors. Mud runs are known for ad hoc team forming. Go with that. In addition, plan to stick together. Just because you have the energy to rush out is no reason to do it. If you're running low on energy, reach down inside yourself and find it. Your teammates need you to do it. It's there. You just have to reach for it. We will drag your steaming corpse across the finish line before we leave you.
Some obstacles. If you're uncomfortable with an obstacle, go around it. Note: Being uncomfortable is different from being afraid. Much different. Do not confuse the two. You're suppose to feel fear. When you do, recognize it for the source of unexpected strength and energy it is.
Remember. There are many people quite willing to tell you what you can not do. Ignore them, and don't be one of them. Ain't nobody got time for sorry-assed fuckers like that.
Now, get yourself ready to kick some ass. Boom.

And then there was Thursday night during which I ripped a groin muscle to the point of near incapacitation. It'll heal one day. Meanwhile, I tape, I swallow pills, and I swear as I limp.

Here's the last thing I was planning to send the group last night. (I never did send it.)

At some point, some of you might start to feel that you can't go on. This is a normal and common feeling. The question is: What do you do when that happens? The answer is: You go on.

In this case, without me. Those are mighty brave words from a man who will be limping along the sideline now.

It sounded like coarse cloth ripping

About a month ago, I managed to strain my left hip adductor. No, I do not know how. I just woke up one day, and it ached. Later that day during a six mile run, I noticed it was tightening, not loosening. I taped it hard to participate in the Spartan Sprint, during which, the belly crawl in the mud under the barbed wire really got my attention because of the kicking motions required. Not to mention jumping over the burning logs to face the three Spartan warriors between me and the finish line.

That was the start of a three-week rest period. After a few days into that period, I became able to walk without much discomfort, and in fact, I found the walking to be therapeutic. So I walked. And walked. No, I have little talent for enforced rest and inactivity. That might be a problem.

Last Saturday, I taped heavily, and ran the 5K Tata Trot with a good friend. (She wound up finishing her first 5K ever that morning. We gotta love that part!) There was a dull ache, but nothing bothersome, and my time was a personal record, not that I was going for speed, and certainly not that I was all that fast. It just worked out that way, probably because of the three-week hiatus. That evening some 12 hours later, I also ran the 5K Glow in the Park, though it was really only 2.5 miles. That was mostly a big nothing as these things go, and I'm glad I did it.

Earlier that afternoon, I considered not participating because of the continued ache, but I taped again, and it all seemed better. I also knew that if I didn't run that evening, there'd appear this huge wave of depression, my personal Dementor from Harry Potter's movies, and I've had a gracious plenty of that to last a lifetime.

And so I took it easy over the week knowing I have Rugged Maniac coming at me tomorrow (Saturday). I walked. I trotted. I back-filled with NSAIDS and other supposedly nutritional supplements. What's an old queen to do? Hell, I even tried stretching. A little.

So here come yesterday. Thursday. After work, I ran and walked a little. Three miles. Nothing to get excited about, but enough to get a good sweat going, and my intention was to be warm and loose for the Krav Maga knife defense class I'm registered for. Yes, Grandpa is trying out a Krav Maga school to see if he can stand the instructors, and yes, it's working out. All that Tae Kwon Do from all those years past seemed to quickly wake up, much as I hoped it would.

So tonight, we're kicking. That's fine. The first round of kicks told me I needed to take it easy, but it was doable. Besides, the instructor is not going to discipline a 60 year old man for not kicking as hard as the younger guys. Second round. Second kick. A modified front kick I learned ages ago. It's good for opening a locked door. It's also good for ripping a left hip adductor. Audibly With the sound of coarse cloth ripping. Think burlap in a farmer's hands during sprint planting.

I went down in a hail of profanity that was masked by the glorious death metal the instructor plays when he's not talking. Yes, I had quickly learned to love that school. It was like training on a movie set. Mind you, the fall was controlled, but it was a fall nonetheless, and there I remained a few minutes until the instructor came to check on me the second time and offered me ice which I rejected in favor of a hand up. I needed to stand.

And just hush it about the language, well, unless you want to hear my litany of observations regarding Intelligent Design. 

Although turns were quite hazardous, I realized I could walk forward easily enough, and I went over to the side of the class to gather my things and get on my shoes. Yes, I had parked a half mile away, thinking the distance would help with additional warm up, which it did, though now it was helping with warming up the injured spot. I believe I managed to get in the car without making for a YouTube moment, sitting down sideways and lifting my leg with my hand while slowly turning into a driving position, whereupon I started the car and checked mobile Internet to see if my clinic was open. It was.

I was the only guest in the Pleasant Valley Inn, though I doubt I was as pleasant as I could have been. At least, they didn't rag me this time about my blood pressure, mostly because it was sufficiently low for them, despite the elevation spurred by these recent events. I knew there was nothing medically to do at this point. Well, except rest, which is exactly the dreaded word the PA used, but I was hoping she would also prescribe a few tablets of hydrocodone to see me through the next few nights. As you know, it's hard to toss and turn one's way through the night if the turn is accompanied with screaming.

She did, and here I sit at 4 A.M. waiting for the second tablet to kick in so I can get another nap before starting the day, which, you might recall, is the day I'm to drive to Asheboro after work where we'll run Rugged Maniac tomorrow at 3. Yes, I'm pretty sure that's not going to work out like I intended, but then what does?  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nipples and the Spartan Sprint

So far, so good, this year. There have been several 5Ks, one 8K, and countless private runs. We've even started a Friday running and walking group at work. I had my doubts about running in a social group, because I usually run like I drink. Alone. Okay, so that's a joke if you didn't get it. Running is my opportunity for silence and solitude, my moving meditation, my opportunity to think things through or to not think at all. What can I say? It's an introverted thing. You might not understand. And don't worry because you really don't have to understand.

February's stress fracture, the one that apparently even showed up on an x-ray, healed a little faster than usual, and I was back in the saddle when Monday, I noticed a bit of tightness. Wednesday, the tightness was soreness. Of course, I'm always tight and sore somewhere, but this was different, and it didn't take long to determine that left Hip Adductor was strained. No, I have no idea. It just happened.

The problem was that in three days, the Spartan Sprint was scheduled in Charlotte. This motivated me to start an intense schedule of getting better. Yeah, like that's gonna work, but walking that Friday did seem to help, and it was with a wary mind that I set forth to Charlotte Friday afternoon.

Not to temp a deity or anything, but I was somehow going to run that course come hell or high water. Or in my case, Celebrex.

Following a quiet evening in a Hampton and a large bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, I'm dressed and off to the Spartan Sprint. Three miles or 5K with a bunch of obstacles. It might have been 45F degrees, but at least, the morning showers had passed. Yes, it was cold.

The check-in went like clockwork. It was obvious that the heats were leaving as scheduled in 15-minute intervals. Everything was running smoothly, and I strolled about to take in the sights without engaging too many people. That's me: The guy off to the side, maybe towards the back. In this case, the guy with five layers on top, two layers of tights, dry shoes, a skull cap, and leather fingerless gloves. Somewhere, there has to be an FBI profile for that. It's probably labeled as The Guy Who's Not Cold.

But not to worry, there were many hot-natured people there. Shirtless men in baggy shorts, though a few were in tights. The ubiquitous women from the magazine ads. You know the body type. Hard and skinny as a rail. Jog bra. Boy shorts. Running shoes. Now, let me be clear. If I could look like that, I'd be in boy shorts too, even if it meant that I'd next be on the medic's gurney receiving attention for hypothermia.

And so we ran exactly on schedule. I took it slow to favor my grumpy adductor, and the first mile was a pure delight as it passed through a pine forest. The soft and inviting silence of a piney wood punctuated by distant breathing. At the end of that first mile, we saw the first obstacle. Walls. Over, under, and through. Then we waded through the head of a pond where the muck was easily four feet deep. With hidden fallen trees. The fellow in front of me was running on a blade. He took it off, jumped one-legged into the mud, and howled in laughter as he sprawled and rolled from one point to the next, proceeding without hesitation to deny the fate that took his leg the opportunity to take his life.

I love that man.

And on it went. At the end of the fourth mile, we had to crawl a hundred yards in thick red mud under barbed wire. I used every technique to move except the belly crawl because I knew the lateral leg kicks would not sit well with Grumpy Hip Adductor, which so far had been only lightly vocal. Better living through chemistry, I suppose. One such technique is to roll, and that works well, at least until it's time to go uphill. Yes, they built this obstacle on motocross camel humps. Bastards. So I rolled over, flipped, and kicked into a belly crawl. It was instinctive. It was perfect technique. It was also a real attention getter as I heard the rip. Of course, that ripping sound was from the tape along my inner thigh, not the muscle directly under the tape, but at that moment and for the several that followed, it really didn't matter.

With that in mind, I stood to exit the mud, and did so concurrently with one of the hot chicks in jog bra and hot shorts. We were both coated in red mud, top to bottom. We appraised one another, both with complete sexual disinterest, agreed that we survived with honor, and then she trotted off down the path, leaving me to walk rapidly as I favored Grumpy Hip Adductor while wondering how she managed to be so completely coated in red mud with a single exception. Well, a pair of exceptions. Her nipples, cold under the thin fabric of the black jog bra, stood in stark relief, unmuddied relief, against her backdrop of thick red mud. Go figure.

Why am I so sure the photographer captured her image in abundance while leaving Grandpa to slog on down the road?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Well, I tried

So I tried, I really tried, the admonishment by Yoda to do or do not echoing in the recesses of my aging cortex. In this instance, I did not. I did not attend a Hot Yoga class at Open Door Yoga (here). I also did not pay for 12 classes to get me through the end of March, at which point I figured I'd have sufficient evidence to decide about continuing without breaking the bank and also without bouncing off and stopping too early for some fabricated dumbass reason.

Little did I know I'd bounce off a locked door.

The class started at 7:30, and I arrived shortly before 7, figuring I'd have time to enlist, pay the bill, and brace myself for what was to come. Mostly all I did was swear at the parking situation.

You might be wondering why I bothered. Well, I've been realizing for quite some time now that I needed to fold in some manner of social activity in my life. Yes, you heard me right. A social activity. I also wanted the activity to include physical conditioning to compliment the running. My reasoning was that (1) it wouldn't hurt me to speak to someone new now and again, and doing so in a highly structured and controlled environment would likely be less than painful, and (2) some activity besides running would help me lose a little more weight, like about 25 pounds, and that would make the running less punishing on my ever-aging feet, for which I'm not sure I can buy shoes fast enough.

I had two targets in mind. One was Hot Yoga. I liked the idea of a calm 90 minute routine in 105F. Heat makes me happy. I also though the yoga would facilitate loosening my old joints. It'd also do my head some good. That I might actually meet someone or sometwo and speak to them now and again would be the developmental opportunity. Bear in mind that I'm not looking for dating material, at least not just yet.

My second target was Krav Maga (here), an Israeli martial art if you didn't know. This one was second on my list for several reasons. First, martial arts are rough play, and it's easy to be injured, especially when you're an old fart like me. Second, I'm not all that thrilled by the thought of enduring a master trainer's ego. Third, I already have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and I'm without doubt I can go ballistic on some neer-do-well's ass already. It just wouldn't be pretty. It wouldn't be textbooky. It would, however, be effective. Nonetheless, it would be fun to mix it up in such a class, and there's just such a class downtown.

So what's a poor boy to do in the face of abject failure? Well, first he comes home and writes about it. Although that's a little bit fun, it really doesn't deal with the underlying issue. Does he make a return trip to the yoga studio on another day at another time hoping that maybe someone will be there to take his money? Does he try the other studio that's over near one of his favored restaurants? Does he wait until it's warmer so he can ride his bike and not have to swear at the parking? Or does he sail into the Krav Maga studio?

Who the fuck knows? Maybe I'll just run the updates for the Tom-Tom and call it quits for the evening.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Of things that could have been

The Vietnam War was well underway in the early 70s, and I flirted with the Navy as a place to go after I graduated from Chapel Hill with a degree in Physics. They offered me good money. Twice. And I even took the exam, AAFES, again twice, I think. I also think I have that acronym right. Who knows, though, as it's been some 40 years.

But it didn't work out. The Navy was all over me going into something called the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) training. In hindsight, that was probably a good opportunity and by now, I'd be a retired submarine commander. (Assuming I could pass the personal interview with Admiral Rickover.)

However, I wanted to fly, and the recruiter was truthful regarding how my vision would make that impossible. This was long before the days of corrective surgery. He did say I could be a navigator. Being somewhat of a smartass even then, I simply responded that if I can't be the catfish I'm not gonna swim. 

The thing was I wanted to fly a fighter off a carrier. That takeoff has to be the best kick in the ass short of riding the space shuttle. Yes, I wanted to fly the fucking F16, which came online a few months after I graduated. (We can thank Dos Gringos for the adjective.)

So instead, #1 Son is in line for that duty, and in his sharing some of his experiences as he passes through the stages of training, I find myself living vicariously through some of what might have been, right down to the very occasional sip of Jeremiah Weed. Unfortunately, we can't have the flaming shot as we salute today's cold sunset because North Carolina doesn't carry the 100 proof variation, but this is the South, and I believe we can make do JW's Sweet Tea.

I rarely have a taste anymore except after a race, but tonight I'm making an exception.

Fox 1 is for the inventors of the corrective surgeries that allow the nearsighted wannabes like I was to embrace their dreams as they choose. Besides, they get to wear some of the coolest shades on the planet.

And yes, I do know what Fox 1 really means, and I'm taking poetic license with the term, along with the other two, for the evening. 

Fox 2 is for the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell. My sexuality would have been a problem for me in the military during that time, but those days are mostly gone now, though I'm sure the culture has a bit more adjustment to make. 

Fox 3 is for me. I have managed 60 years on this planet, and while we don't have any promise of one day more, we do have what we have, which for me is substantially different from what I would have made it, not that many people get their druthers like that. However, don't see this as a regret. I don't carry many regrets. That's a substantially unhealthy thing to do. 

Now let me be clear. I have no intentions of running away and joining the circus. However, if the US military were to open up F16 opportunities for Old Farts, I'd be one of the first in line, and I could easily make do with the F15 and F18. No problem whatsoever. Yes, I have a propensity for air sickness, and I'm quite certain we can learn how to manage that. Until then, I'd keep my belt filled with barf bags. I'll say the same thing if NASA ever advertises for an Old Fart crew to send on a Mars exploration mission. 

But neither of those is going to happen, and I'll continue to occupy myself with the steady stream of paying work that keeps my refrigerator filled, not so much because it keeps me from being hungry, but because it keeps me in fresh running shoes and MP3 downloads of Dos Gringos, wherein I find my daily hour or so in which I get to be the catfish, if at least in my mind. 

Parched pecans

My dad used to parch pecans in the winter. He used my grandmother's recipe that called for pecans, butter, and salt on a bread pan. Grandmother sold these in the curb market on Friday afternoon's in Smithfield. It was one of the ways my grandparents made their living.

I've changed the recipe a little. You probably expected that. I start with the iron skillet.

I add pecans. It'd be better if I shelled the nuts myself, but that is so not going to happen anytime soon.  I also drizzle more than a little olive oil on the nuts in the pan, and then sprinkle on more salt than you'd think proper. 

C'mon! You know you need to give that potassium-sparing diuretic a workout.

I bake the nuts in the pan sitting on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees (F). Yes, this is an American recipe. The reason for the cookie sheet is that I really don't have anywhere else to put it. 

If you look online, you'll find a bazillion recipes that are all a variation on this theme, and they mostly call for temperatures between 250 and 300 degrees. They also call for baking times of 20 minutes. I back the nuts for about an hour and a half because I like them lightly burned. 

About every 20 minutes, I pull the pan from the oven and stir the nuts. I also add more salt. You have to remember that pecans burn quickly. I have to remember that I like them slightly burned, and that's why I bake them for 90 minutes. 

Keep baking. Keep stirring. Keep salting. At some point, the level of burn is about right.

Set out the pan to let the nuts cool. Stir a little more. At some point, put the nuts into a couple of containers. Add the lids later as the temperature cools more. 

I eat the nuts about a cup at the time. In doing so, it's 1960 all over again. A little too cold outside. School's in session with farm work at bay. We're sitting by the table making pigs of ourselves on the pecans we shelled a day earlier. I can work with that now and again. Well, more now and more again lately.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

And so I forgot one

My short-term memory has never been something I'd brag about, and when it comes to schedules and those activities I have to do, my memory is useless. I keep a calendar. I keep to-do lists. I have a variety of accommodations that, usually, keep me on schedule and on task.

And then there was today. My work permits flex time and telecommuting, and this means I can get a lot more done with far less grumpiness (and blood pressure medication) than would be possible by being in the office 9 to 5. (I also eat better.) Besides, the requirements of an office schedule are pretty much the kiss of death to my productivity. Fortunately, my current boss recognizes this, and he puts up with my schedule that I'm sure looks somewhat erratic on the surface. Not many bosses are so reasonable, and in my nigh on 60 years, I've had my share of bosses.

So I'm working at home today, and I'm seeing the end of one reporting project, which means the next can start soon. I also know I have a conference call at 4 to finish another project that's been hanging around for a few months now. Seeing this schedule before me, I realized I'd be working a bit into the evening, which is not a problem, and I knew this would permit me to get in a run during the daylight hours.

Yesterday, I stayed in the office too long, and it pushed my run into the evening. I don't mind running in the dark, but I do mind being a target for distracted drivers, and so yesterday while lit up like a Christmas tree, I ran three miles in the evening instead of the planned six miles in the light of day. No big loss, and I knew I'd have some time the next day, today, to get in the six miles.

No problems.

Boom! At 2, I'm off and running. I love it when a plan comes together. I also knew that I'd be back home by 3:15, and that'd be all the time in the world to prep for the conference call.

As I began the last mile, I noticed a penny on the road, and I paused to pick it up. In doing so, I also noticed the phone was ringing. Now, I usually ignore the phone when I'm running, but for some unknown reason, I pulled it from my back pocket and looked at the screen. I lost my collection of attaboys with the ensuing “ah shit!” as I gazed upon the list of missed calls from work and accompanying text messages.

So I called The Man.

Instead of screaming, he was calm and glad to hear I was all right as I apologized for being an idiot, and we rescheduled the call for 3:30, leaving me to double-time the remaining piece of a mile. (I even hit 10 mph for a brief period. Yeah me!) The call went off without another hitch, and all is well.

What led to this problem was that I'd gotten lazy, and I was depending on my memory instead of my calendar and lists. I'll make the necessary adjustments, but we all know I'll get lazy again in a few months, and we'll do it all over again, just in some other manner.

Of course, I'm me, and I need to over-analyze the situation. In particular, The Man had every right to be upset, but he wasn't. Instead, he was worried that something had happened to me, and he thought that because it was out of character for me to miss something on the schedule, at least without notice of compelling reason.

Yeah, I'll take that ego stroke, though I'm somewhat surprised to have earned it.

If you've dealt with me in my personal life, you know that planning and scheduling are not something I do much of. I do those things at work because it's unrealistic to expect my colleagues to have antennae that divine my intentions. The only instances of that mess in my personal life occur when other people are involved and it'd be good if we all arrived someplace at about the same time. Needless to say, we don't have many instances of that. I go at the going time; I arrive at the arriving time; and I leave at the leaving time. It's very simple.

Regardless, maybe all this telecommuting and flex-time are working out. I hope so because it's non-trivial keeping the many office people up-to-date, but if The Man was more worried about my situation than my missing an appointment, I'll take that as, mostly, getting it right. We'll see how long it continues.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 was a different kind of year

2012 was a different kind of year, and I'm not sure I'll ever put my finger directly on whatever was the fundamental difference. The thing is I'm not sure I really want to.

May brought the graduation of #1 Son from Embry-Riddle, whereupon he bought his 2nd Lieutenant car and moved to Del Rio, Texas, where he is now learning to fly fast planes. Apparently, he's on track to fly fighters, which is something I might have done back in the 70s except for this pesky business of excessive nearsightedness and no LASIK at the time.

Yes, I might be living a bit vicariously here, and I'm fine with that.

May also brought the opportunity to dine with extended family predominated by ex-in-laws, few of whom will speak to me now, as we celebrated graduation. Fortunately, we had two large tables, and this motivated the group to bifurcate. One table for the young people, the ones I like, and the second for the old folks, the ones I avoid. Needless to say, I sat with the young people. There'll be time enough later to moan ad nauseum about a world going to hell in a hand basket, and I certainly have no current need to participate in that most assured indicator of having lived too long and aged too poorly.

My only regret was that I didn't ask for popcorn shrimp, or hot dogs, to be on the menu so the son-in-law could dine on more than a baked potato, but I did get to buy drinks and victuals for a few warriors, and I was proud to do so.

More to the point, Josh and I had spent that morning running quarter-mile sprints on the beach with sandbags on our shoulders. Situps and pushups for rest stops. Timed 30-second spots to breathe. We called it Death on the Beach. His girlfriend sat in the dunes with her book, occasionally looked up, and shook her head.

Concurrently with all that, Lily decided her boss was a damned fool, and found other, more empowering, employment. Upon hearing her story, I could only smile and gladly sign the papers to put her back on my health insurance. Did I need a reason to love her more, and what do they say about apples not falling far from the tree?

And then there was this other thing.

January presented the unexpected death of a closer than I thought bud concurrently with yet another carbuncle, this one inflaming half my abdomen, causing the lucky physician at the Urgent Care to ask me why I waited so long to have it lanced. I'm not sure he believed that it was less than 36 hours old. One canceled birthday trip to the beach and two return trips to the clinic for follow-up treatment, and my tummy sports an asterisk-shaped scar beside the rectangular scar where I pulled off an adhesive strip.

I should have gotten signatures. Or a tattoo. Sadly for oh so many, the carbuncles were to end toward late summer.

Then #1 Son posts something on Facebook about Tough Mudder, and I go and get all hot and bothered. Bear in mind it's been some ten years since I did more than walk from the couch to the bed, but I've never been one to let reality get in my way. The following week, I mentioned this plan to the doc during the annual physical. He smiled, and said that my current walking schedule wouldn't be sufficient. I agreed, and the very next week by the bay in San Diego, I ran a long haul, nine miles, for the first time in a very long time, think a decade, leaving me in a position to report that running is indeed different from walking.

Yes, I fractured a metatarsal. Again.

And so this mess continued for the next several months. Recovery. Breakdown. Rinse and repeat. In the last cycle, the FNP gave me the look as I sat in her examination room with The Event only a few weeks out. She told me I needed to rest six weeks. That didn't happen, and she never thought it would. Nine months to the day from #1's post, we finished Tough Mudder, and I felt reborn. Enough so to do it again this coming summer. WITH MY LILY!!!

Of the many peeps from work who were equally all hot and bothered with the idea, only three of us faced the reality.

Something clicked on 27 October 2012. Maybe it was going without an abscess for a week. Maybe it was a dozen miles and two dozen military obstacles. Maybe it was just clearing the cob webs out of my aging cortex. We are built to move, you know.

Regardless, see this.