Saturday, May 14, 2016

Crooked Swollen Knuckle Sandwich

I've been in a lot of pain lately. It's been going on for a couple of years, but the worst of it has been in the last few months. I started a rather physical job in October and my joints have been killing me ever since. Some days I can't lift one of my arms above my shoulder. Other days, one of my hands will swell and I can't hold on to anything causing me to drop everything I touch at work. I've had some days when I've had to call in sick because I can't walk. Luckily, the job offers plenty of personal leave days.

Until this month, I had maintained my manhood and avoided any doctor. I would just pop some pain pills and try to power through it, but I was missing so many days of work, I was beginning to worry if I could realistically even keep my job. One day, while accompanying my wife to an appointment because I wanted to hear what her doctor said about a test result that had us a little concerned, he talked me into coming to see him the following week. So much for being a man.

At that appointment I told him about my concerns and he ordered a bunch of blood work and wanted me to keep a food diary until I returned to see him two weeks later.
When I returned for that appointment, he walked into the room looking at my food diary and asked, "Is this real?"

I replied, "Well, yeah. I tried to be completely honest and not deviate just because I was recording everything for you."

He shook his head and said, "You eat like a homeless teenager digging leftovers out of White Castle and Applebee's dumpsters. I don't know how your body is functioning. I mean, according to this, for six days in a row your breakfast was Mt Dew!"

"Yeah. It takes too long to make coffee."

With raised eyebrows, he said, "Two days ago for supper you had a rack of ribs on bread"

 "I took the bones out."

He pointed at the paper, "There are no vegetables on here. For two whole weeks! Not a single vegetable"

I retorted, "Not true. I had vegetables last night. Spinach, sweet potatoes and tomatoes."

He glanced back at the paper and shook his head, "Veggie Straws are NOT vegetables." He then pulled out his own paper and sympathetically said, "Okay, let's try this. You really need to eat more fruits and vegetables, so let's make a list of which ones you like. What vegetables do you like?"

I got excited, "I know this one. Macaroni and cheese!"

He looked at my wife and pleaded, "Can you make sure there's fruits and vegetables in the house and that he eats them?" She agreed.

He said, "Good. Let's move on to your test results."

For the next half hour we went over what was found in my x-rays and my blood work and there was plenty found, but the best part had to do with the results of a particular test. When he pulled this up on his computer, his eyes got wide and he said to his assistant, "Have you ever seen that number that high?" His assistant, whose eyes were even wider just shook his head.

I pretty sure >300 is more than 3

You only need to score over a three to test positive for rheumatoid arthritis and I scored over three hundred. In fact, we don't even know what my actual score is because the charts only go to three hundred. I can actually say that my numbers were literally 'off the charts'.

After taking a few minutes to look at the results of several other tests, which all confirmed the same thing, he turned to me and gently said, "I hate to tell you this, but you have rheumatoid arthritis."

I smiled and said, "Okay."

He seemed a little taken back that I was taking it so well, but I pretty much already knew this. It had never been confirmed by a doctor before that day, but I knew. So, his grave declaration didn't get the response he was expecting.

Because my numbers were so high and he was able to locate several nodules in my hands and did see some degenerative damage in the X-rays of my feet, he put me on some pretty powerful drugs immediately to try to get it under control before we start the actual treatment. I don't know what that treatment will be yet, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. If it works, I won't have to cross it in a wheelchair.

I have another appointment in two weeks. For that one, we will go over my food diary again to see if I took his advice and I will be asking what the implications are of having that incredibly high number that seemed to startle him so much. Cross your fingers. I would do it myself, but they just don't move that way any more.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A to Z Challenge (2016) Reflection

I survived the A to Z Challenge. I love this challenge, but am so happy to have it behind me. I've done this twice and each time it starts getting difficult once I hit about week 3. I just don't want to write any more.

I feel like I cheated a little bit, because three of my posts for the month were posts that I had previously posted. I just modified them a little for the day and threw them up again. Work got a little crazy and I got a lot tired.

My purpose for doing the challenge this year was to get back into the habit of writing daily. I was very active on my blog three years ago and loved all the connections I made with people, but it has really slacked of in the last few years (including one entire year when I did not post at all). Because of my purpose for participating this time, I approached it differently.

When I did this in 2013, I was interested in reaching a bigger audience and discovering other great blogs out there. My followers almost doubled over the course of that month. I visited over 700 blogs and left meaningful (note: meaningful) comments on each one. This year, I made sure to reconnect with the blogs of the people I used to connect with regularly and I visited a few new ones, but it was probably less than fifty. I just didn't have the time this year and I wasn't really looking for new ones anyway.

Here are some tips for future challengers:
  •  Do NOT leave a comment on someone's blog if you have not read the post. Almost every day, someone would leave a comment that said "Good post" or "Dropping by from the A to Z Challenge" followed by a link to their blog. It is insulting. If you are asking me to come read your content, then the least you could do is take a look at mine. If you actually did read my post and then left a generic comment, then you shouldn't be surprised when I didn't come visit. Say something that shows you read the posts. Ask a question, make an additional point, state your opinion, something relevant to what you just read. You will get more visits that way.
  • ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS include a link back to your blog in your comment. If I want to visit your blog, I shouldn't have to wade through your blogger profile clicking through the six inactive blogs you still have to find the one you are currently using. I also should not be directed to your Google+ account to then have to search. Learn the HTML code to include in your comment (copy and paste if you have to) to take the reader directly to your blog. You will get more visits that way.
  • Last, turn off your CAPTCHA. The A to Z website even asks people to do this, but I am amazed at how many people leave it on. I know it is your blog and you may have it on for a reason, but having to fight with an indecipherable CAPTCHA usually means you will never know I was there. I tried to comment, but got rejected. Turn it off, you will get more return visits that way.
Feel free to ignore any of these tips, but if people visiting your blog has any meaning to you then these will help.

As for the challenge itself, I have no suggestions. It is set up very well. There is plenty of publicity, the rules are explained simply and the site is easy to use. I look forward to next year.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zoo Fun

As a participant in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I will be making my way through the alphabet all month.

When my children were younger, (by younger I mean young enough that they still appreciated their father and hadn't learned how to talk back yet) we would take weekly road trips. I had a job where I worked long hours and didn't see the family much during the week, but I always had weekends off and we liked to spend it on the road. Every Saturday, we would load up the car, head to Huck's to grab some gas station road trip food (mini tacos, egg rolls, sodas, etc.) and hit the road.

Some days, we ended up in a state park. A few times we stumbled onto a small town festival. Other times, we would drive into a big city. Often, we didn't even have a destination in mind when we left the house. We would just pick a direction and start driving. I loved these trips.

One particular Saturday, we decided to head to the zoo. When it comes to zoo trips, we were really lucky. We lived in southern Illinois at the time and the St. Louis Zoo was less than 90 minutes away. This is the zoo I grew up going to and it spoiled me for other zoos. It is ranked as one of the best zoos in the entire country, so I always end up disappointed when I am visiting someone in another part of the country and we end up at a lesser zoo. Our zoo was awesome. Suck it, Cleveland.

I was particularly excited for this trip because my kids were at that magical age. Kirsten was two and Christian was six. They would think the animals were the coolest things in the world to get to see. Plus, it was spring time and we had been looking forward to getting out of the house after the long winter.

Once we got there, we headed to the exhibit I always insist that we visit first. THE PENGUINS! I love penguins. I always have. This practice of seeing the penguins as soon as we get there first started when I was a child and I still do it when I go back to visit. After I see the penguins, I don't care where we go. I am happy.

I couldn't wait to share these magnificent birds with the kids and hurried them into the penguin house. As soon as we got inside, I unstrapped Kirsten from her stroller, put her up on my shoulders and turned around to see this:

"OK, let's see what's happening on the other side of the enclosure."

We moved further down to get away from the happy couple and were met with another public penguin porn performance. However, this time it was more like a penguin orgy. There were at least half a dozen penguin couples getting an early jump on the day…and each other. As much as I love penguins, I decided that maybe we should come back later. I don't allow guests in my bedroom to watch without paying admission and since the St. Louis Zoo is free, this just didn't feel right. Plus, I had my kids with me.

We worked our way up the hill to Big Cat Country to take in the jungle cats. My kids lost interest in the leopard pretty quickly because it just sat there.  The panther couldn't be seen, but the tigers were much more playful.

In the very next enclosure, the lions were up to the same thing. My wife commented that the animals seem to be enjoying the spring time weather as much as we were.

About 20 minutes later, we learned that the monkey house was not the place to be right now either. I will spare you the pictures. They are much more graphic.

We left the zoo after being there less than two hours, but in that time we got to see elephants, buffalo, three different species of bear, antelopes and even snakes getting it on. We decided that in future years, we would wait until later in the season to visit the zoo.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for Yoga

As a participant in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I will be making my way through the alphabet all month.

I don't do yoga. My wife does yoga. She does all the yoga. The doggy style pose, the missionary position, the sexy lotus. I don't really know the names very well, but she did talk me into doing yoga with her once. It didn't go well. I got bored pretty quickly and the instructor kept expecting me to move (like, over and over again). Not really my thing.

However, I am very happy that she does yoga. She really seems to enjoy it, which makes her happy and I like her to be happy. Plus, she wears tiny outfits to do it and she isn't self-conscious knowing that I am watching. This makes me happy. It's good for all the people involved. I just don't want to actually participate.

Here's a list of other activities I do NOT partake in:
  • Aerobics
  • Zumba
  • Speed walking
  • Resistance training 
  • Tae-Bo
  • P90X
  • Spin classes 
  • Any sports
  • Free weights 
  • Failing to SuperSize it
  • Crossfit
  • Adult coloring books
  • Jogging
  • Anything requiring a FitBit 
  • Sweat to the Oldies 
  • Logging out of Twitter
  • Eat things not covered in cheese
Now, I don't want to give the impression that I avoid all physical activity. I do get physical when the need arises. Here are some examples:
  • Answering the door when the pizza arrives
  • Searching for the TV remote
  • Charging my phone
  • Active listening when my wife speaks
  • Covering food in cheese
  • Digging to the back of the fridge 
  • Numerous daily instances of exaggerated eye rolls
Despite all this activity, I have been experiencing some recent health issues. I even have a doctor's appointment (first one in eight years) later today. It's the same doctor my wife sees and he told her to increase her cardio activity. I already hate him.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for Xenodochial

As a participant in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I will be making my way through the alphabet all month.

I had a difficult time coming up with a word for X, but a quick Google search found a suitable word for me. Xenodochial describes me pretty well. It means 'friendly to strangers'.

I love meeting new people. I can make a temporary friend anywhere. I talk to people while standing in line, sitting in a restaurant, walking down the sidewalk, stuck on a carnival ride, or being anywhere that other people are around. Not standing at a urinal, though. That is an understood No Talking Zone.

I have even been known to walk up to a person eating alone in a restaurant to ask if I can join them. I've met some very interesting people that way. I was even offered a job during one of these encounters. It's almost always worth it.

Very rarely do I make a permanent connection with these people. It is just for conversation and entertainment in the moment. I'm not trying to start a new friendship or actually get involved in someone's life. I know there are benefits to having more friends, but that is just not my interest. I enjoy being friendly to strangers and the more actual friends I make, the less strangers there are to choose from.