Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I Might Need Another Wife

A few days ago, Red and I returned from our vacation to Turkey. We spent ten days driving around ancient ruins and huge cities while struggling with the language barrier and trying not to get lost since none of the street signs made any sense to us. We ate exotic foods, drove through mountains, overlooked the Aegean Sea, walked the streets of the ancient city of Troy and got to tour many of the places from the part of the world that is considered to be the cradle of civilization. It was a great vacation despite the dozens of people who tried to talk us out of going to this "dangerous" part of the world.

Throughout this fascinating journey, I was repeatedly amazed at how friendly the people there were. They went above and beyond to make sure that we were happy and having a good time. One day, Red and I were trying to cross a busy intersection in downtown Izmir and were waiting on the median for several buses to cross. Before the last one crossed, a man approached to show us a better way. Where we were trying to cross would have left us in the street too long because of a pedestrian gate. He then walked with us for the next 15 blocks, telling us how much he appreciated seeing Americans in his city.

Due to the recent bombings (most of which are on the Syrian border) and the government-issued travel advisory for Americans, most will not venture into Turkey and it is really hurting their tourism money. We heard the same thing from a man selling tour books at the Temple of Artemis and from the proprietor of a rug store. They all wanted to know why Americans are so scared of Turkey.

For me personally, I probably wouldn't have traveled there with the recent warnings if we hadn't already been planning this trip for the last year, but there was no way I was going to cancel after all the effort we had put into this trip. And I am so glad we didn't. We met so many wonderful, smiling people. One today, two kids (about 15 and 12) were really excited to get to talk to Americans. It felt like they were practicing their English, but it was hard to talk because their smiles were so big.

Despite all this friendliness, we did meet one man who struggled to be nice. On our way into the Basilica of St. John in the city of Sel├žuk, a man approached me to sell me some ancient coins. He claimed to be part of the excavation team there and on Sundays he would sell small artifacts for extra money. He had an ancient Roman coin (w/ the face of Caesar), an Egyptian coin, and a few others. As he was showing me the coins, Red asked if I would display the coins or just end up throwing them in a box. This is a valid question and the man recognized it also. So, re-positioned himself to stand between Red and myself hoping to exclude her from the remainder of the conversation.

I wasn't really sure that I wanted the coins, but he was very aware of the fact that he had my interest. He held up one coin and told me what I could sell it for in the States. Red spoke up to ask if he had a Certificate of Authenticity.

"For what?"

"We can't sell it without one."

"Who told you that."

He shot her a dirty look and then started pulling out business cards of people who buy from him in the States. By now, I had decided that I wasn't interested and started to walk away. He yelled, "WAIT! STOP!"

He ran back to his bag and pulled out another coin. "With this coin right here, this one..." and he stuck it in my face. "You could buy a new, younger wife."

I started to laugh, but he persisted.

"When you only have one wife, she will kill you. You don't need her. Buy this coin and get a new one. More wives is easier."

We then excused ourselves from his persistence and tried to stop laughing. We spent the next few hours touring the Citadel and Basilica. However, he was waiting for us when we came back out.

"I waited for you like you asked."

Red snapped at him, "We didn't ask you to wait."

I just kept walking, but Red decided she still wanted to fight about the legitimacy of having a Certificate of Authenticity. Since I was no longer part of this conversation, I stood at the end of the walkway and yelled to her, "Just keep walking."

Once she successfully excused herself, he called out "Would you like to buy some rugs?"

Over her shoulder, she dismissed him by saying "We bought rugs yesterday."

He retorted, "Mine are better. They can fly."

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Three Days Until Turkey

Red and I are hopping on a plane to Turkey in three days and I am ready to run out the door right now. It feels like the day will never get here. For me, this is my first trip out of the country. I lived in Puerto Rico for a short period, but that is technically still in the United States. I did have to take an international flight to get there, but I don't think that counts. This will be my actual real authentic indisputable first time. Red has traveled the world and even lived in three countries outside of the U.S., but this is all new to me.

We are flying out of Chicago instead of Indianapolis (where we live) because it was almost $1,000 cheaper. We're driving to Chicago to leave our car at a friend's house and then are hopping a train and a subway to get us to the airport. So, if we don't die on the subway (first time on a subway also), we should arrive in Ankara, Turkey about 10 p.m. on June 1.

March 13, 2016 - Ankara, Turkey
The city we're initially traveling to
Second car bombing in two weeks
I really don't know what to expect from this trip. This part of the world is radically different from everything here in the States and our government even has issued a travel warning to Americans traveling to Turkey. There's a bit of turmoil happening there right now, but we have discovered that this drastically brings down costs. We're spending a few nights in a resort area right on the Aegean Sea for $50/night. Political turmoil has its advantages!

We plan to visit the sites of several of the churches mentioned in Revelation and visit Troy. We have a lot of driving to do, so we'll have to adjust to their driving laws. That part should be fun. I'm curious how many street signs we will actually be able to read.

On a side note, my doctor has been carefully monitoring my diet for the last month and has not been happy with the way I eat. I really can't say I blame him. He asked me what I will be eating while I'm in Turkey.


I mean, seriously? I'm on vacation.

He decided that was fair. I have to start my food diary again as soon as I get back. In the meantime, I will be sure to not only post about all the places we visit each day, but also about the new and exciting foods that we will be eating.

I really do plan to eat everything.

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.