Sunday, May 29, 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.

Sunday, May 15, 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.

Thursday, May 12, 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.