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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ch-Ch-Changes

This morning I was reminded of David Bowie.
This in and of itself is somewhat disturbing. The (unusual) British rocker has never occupied a spot in my Top 10 (or even Top 50) list.
However, having written the preceding lines “Space Oddity” is now racing around in my head like a kitten with a ball of string. GRRRR!

No, another Bowie song came to mind. Actually, it is a small part of a Bowie song. Couple this with a kitten chasing a ball of string while singing “Space Oddity”...well, if my co-workers see me run from the building while screaming wildly, you will know why.
This morning, I went to one of my favorite websites. The one I always rely upon for world, national, state and local news; www.news-herald.com.

Not many truly local papers are left. Many have become outlets for the Mega-News groups. Believe it or not, some people enjoy reading about local events. Some folks look forward to reading about who earned what ribbons at the County Fair. Whose parents have left this world. Good grief, the reports from local council meetings are nearly as entertaining as the comics!
I suspected something was up when the familiar orange and brown banner was gone. It had been replaced by a stark white with “THE NEWS-HERALD” in bold black type. Ditching the colors is understandable; while this is Cleveland one (at times) prefers to distance themselves from the Browns.
 
I looked for the familiar little “slide show” on the left side for the top three stories. GONE!
I looked for the familiar little listing of 5 or 6 headlines. GONE!
I frantically sought the familiar little sidebar links. ALL GONE!
It was at this time, I heard the haunting refrain...”ch-ch-changes...”.
Changes...
Is nothing sacrosanct?
The News-Herald, that bastion of Lake and Geauga County news and information changed their web-page?
I understand web sites need to be “refreshed” periodically to prevent them from becoming “stale”, sort of like bread in a bakery. Does this foretell of diminished coverage of local high-school football? Will the local restaurant reviews become a thing of the past? Perish the thought!
McDonald's is going to offer wings??? Ray Kroc would be rolling over in his grave; until he realized he will probably make another fortune or two. Then, wings are cool.
Our local BP stations (which were once upon a time SOHIO stations) have now become 7-11 stations. Now, one can stop and get gas for their vehicle, grab something to drink, something to eat, something from the roller grill, and find themselves getting gas again about an hour later.
Starbucks, that pantheon of specialty coffee, now offers brewed teas, iced teas, lemonade, other “ades”,
There is just something not quite right about going to a coffeehouse and picking up an “iced peach green tea lemonade”. Come to think of it, me ordering an “iced peach green tea lemonade” wouldn't be quite right either. I enjoy flavored coffees; so long as it is coffee flavor. My exotic beverage limits end with an Arnold Palmer. You know, half tea, half lemonade. Don’t even think about putting a cherry or an umbrella in it, pilgrim.
Cleveland's once daily paper (one time regarded as The flagship paper in Ohio) is now relegated to 3 days a week home delivery. Of course, if one wants to wade through tons of electronic advertisements, one can read it on-line.
More ch-ch-changes in our lives.
However, some changes are very good.
I am glad someone determined an electric starter on a car beats the daylights out of  using a hand-crank.
I am glad turning a little knob on our stove enables my Lovely Bride to make a wonderful meal without requiring the chopping, splitting, and hauling of wood.
I am glad voters realize change in office is usually a good thing. When it doesn't have such great results; well, we can change again at the next election.
I am glad that I, too, have changed. While I am not absolutely enthralled with the notion of getting older, I know I am a better person than I was before.

OH! If you are reading this Cheryl, may I offer my humble suggestion to change the colors of the web-page to Scarlet and Gray??

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Caffiene


The other day I was musing while on my way to work. I do that with a modicum of regularity. Muse that is. I go to work with a modicum of regularity as well.
What sparked the cerebral wheels turning was a notable lack of caffeine prior to leaving the house.

This is dangerous; not unlike setting sail with no personal flotation devices, or “life jackets” as they were once referred to as. I suppose the term “jacket” implied one could be discretionary about using them; solely dependent upon the weather. “Hey, Marv, do you want a life jacket?” “Naw.. it is 85 degrees today. I don't need a jacket.” Also, lacking the word “personal”, may have led people to view the devices as being communal. A sense of sharing would ensue, as everyone got to enjoy the jacket.
However, with no survivors of the wreck to corroborate the story; this is pure speculation.

But, I digress.
The situation which resulted in the lack of caffeine was brought upon by our having recently released Mr. Coffee from his contract. We replaced him with Wolfgang Puck. Who wouldn't? Do you want a retired baseball player or a world renowned chef brewing up your morning cup of joe? There is just one little wrinkle....Mr. Coffee was so much more amenable to being told to wake up early to brew the coffee. Wolfie (we are on a first name basis now) is not quite as receptive to this pre-dawn task.

Oh sure, he claims he will do this, that, and the other thing. Claims are one thing, doing is quite the other.

See, Joe.. I mean Mr. Coffee, had a face you could look at and trust immediately. Open, easy to discern his slightest moods, almost transparent. It was very easy to press this button, set the time, press another button and bid Mr. Coffee sweet dreams.
Not so with Wolfie. First of all, his countenance is very tight; pinched almost. With teeny tiny numerals, and teenier, tinier buttons to press. Toss in a manual which reads with the clarity of a Dead Sea Scroll, and the stage is set to stalk off to bed frustrated, annoyed, and fully knowing one must stumble down stairs to actually press the Start button in the morning.
It was just these circumstances which resulted in leaving home in an under caffeinated state. Did I neglect to add the fact that our replacement machine has an extremely lackadaisical attitude about reminding me to actually “set” the coffee maker? How utterly irresponsible! Joe, I mean Mr. Coffee would gently remind me as bedtime approached:” Jim... Hey, Jim! Don't forget to set me so I can do my job! Yeah.. that's it.. rinse that old gunky coffee out of the carafe! Woo Hoo! Away we go!”
Does this one remind me?

No. It simply glowers with it's pseudo-Euro-superiority as I stroll past on my way to bed. I have heard a slight, aloof chuckle as I head up the stairs. Here all along I was unjustly blaming the puppy. Come morning, it gives me a self-satisfied stare as I dejectedly grasp a cold carafe containing a quarter inch of yesterday's coffee.
Recently, however, my Lovely Bride found a product called “Irish Breakfast Tea” at one of our local stores. Being a good Irish descendant, I was elated; nearly to the point of tears! Genius!! Pure genius!! Thank you Mr. Put-Jameson's-in-a-tea-bag guy!! Oh happy, happy day!! Just as I was about to rip open the box to partake of the heady, mesmerizing aroma of good Irish whiskey... Lovely Bride informed me I was grossly mistaken.

It is black tea. In pillow case size tea-bags. With no tags.
I placed the box in the cabinet under the microwave with no fanfare; only a heavy heart.

Until....

One day I came down to find Wolfie did not contain a fresh pot of coffee, the carafe was devoid of any liquid what so ever. Glancing at the clock, I quickly deduced there was not sufficient time to clean out the pot, get fresh water, grounds, blah, blah, blah. I stuck my tongue out at Wolfie as I pondered what to do.
Then, like a flashing “Eat at Joe's” neon sign, the words “Irish Breakfast Tea” popped into my mind.
Somewhat skeptically, I took a bag, and immersed it in a cup of water. Ninety seconds later, I removed a hot, steamy cup of... well... I didn't know what to expect.
Tentatively taking a sip, I awoke immediately. Amazing how scalding hot water on your tongue will do that. Several minutes later, when the sensations of touch and taste returned to my tongue, I took another sip. Hey.... this stuff isn't bad! I felt my peepers becoming wider with each sip. This was a huge admission for an American to make. Of course, being Irish, it is much higher quality than the stuff from that island between Ireland and France.
And.. it was in this state I set off to the office. While Irish Breakfast Tea is great for getting one started and one's eyes awake enough to insert contact lenses; it doesn't have the long lasting punch of a cup of coffee.
There is just something about the acrid, oily, bitter liquid which exudes from a pile of ground, roasted beans. There is just something about the uniquely “wake up” aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Surely, coffee is more than just a means by which to get one's heart started. It is a ritual, a morning rite of passage for a new day.
I gotta figure this new contraption out, that is all there is to it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Recluse


The other day, while mindlessly watching our puppy mindlessly destroy a paper grocery bag, it occurred to me how difficult it has become to become a recluse today.
I remembered my childhood, and the notion of becoming a recluse (not to be confused with a hermit, which was a totally different matter. I don't know what the difference was; it just was) had a certain level of attractiveness.
For one, there would be no parents constantly sneaking around trying to see what you are doing. Do you have any idea just how unnerving it is, while in the midst of a complex pyrotechnic experiment , to have one's Mother begin screaming and jumping around? It completely destroys the entire scientific mood when a woman is dashing about as if being pursued by a swarm of wasps.
One would not worry about eating green yucky stuff, either. No self respecting recluse would be caught dead with a plate full of broccoli and Brussels sprouts. As far a split pea soup.... it would be no where in the vicinity of a recluse's cabin. I am not certain just what a recluse would partake of; all I knew was there was no yucky green vegetable stuff around. Probably, one would exist quite nicely on Cracker Jacks, Twinkies, and hot dogs. Toss in the occasional bowl of Frosted Flakes for extra vitamins and minerals, and all is good. Of course, copious amounts of sugar laden red Kool Aid would be required to wash it all down.
Of course, a recluse's cabin would be so far back in the woods one could see the edge of Nowhere from it. Access would be a fairly overgrown two wheel track, insurmountable to anything except a horse, old Army jeep, or a farm tractor. The snug, cozy structure would consist of a few rooms; one for cooking and eating, one for sleeping, one for goofing around in, and a bathroom. With the latest in plumbing and hot water. Even a recluse would stop shy of taking a cold shower; that is simply uncivilized. Naturally, the goofing around room would have a big Zenith black and white TV, with a big antenna mounted to a tree. On good days, one could watch the same programs from a Buffalo NY station as were being broadcast by the Cleveland, OH station. But, the novelty of watching TV from two states away was nearly intoxicating.
In Summer, I would sit on my porch, strumming my guitar, or cleaning my rifle, or both while watching the corn I had planted grow. Hey... corn is YELLOW, not green, therefore it is okay.
In Fall, I would sit on my porch, strumming my guitar, or cleaning my rifle, or both, while watching the leaves cascade down in a kaleidoscope of color. I would take note of the relative small size of the wood pile.
In Winter, I would gaze with a 3,000 yard stare at the frozen, white wilderness in which I had become imprisoned. I watch as blowing snow obscures anything more than five feet away from view. In a move toward self preservation, I had long ago locked up the rifle, hidden the key, and buried the ammunition under the far end of the wood pile. I contemplate burning the guitar, rather than go out in the storm for a few measly sticks of wood.
The TV does not receive anything, as the big antenna had come crashing down during an ice storm.
I begin to count the nail-heads in the walls, for the 14th time that day.
In Spring, I would sit inside, staring out the window watching the rains turn everything into an impassible sea of mud colored gumbo. I had broken a string on the guitar from strumming so much, and the rains have kept me from going to town. I feel just the slightest bit of irritability while contemplating another meal of Cracker Jacks and Twinkies.

These seeming privations were mere trifles when weighed against the total freedom, lack of responsibility and  worry the life of a recluse would provide. Just think... no junk mail, no annoying telemarketers, no spam e-mail. No one encroaching upon your time, no obligations other than eating and sleeping. If you wanted to saddle up and ride Ol' Paint to town for a visit, that would be fine. Finding a proper hitching spot in front of the Super Wal-Mart may be a challenge; but you could do it.
If you wanted to sleep outdoors on a balmy Summer night, no one would inquire as to your mental state.

If you wanted to spend the day fishing the cool, clear tumbling river flowing just within 100 yards of your door, well, why not?

And, if you heard the sound of a Jeep in four-wheel low grinding along the trail; you could decide whether to be hospitable, or just go hide back in the trees.
I was just peering through the green leaves of the fruit laden blackberry bush, watching the occupants of the Jeep head back down the trail when the raucous motorcycle sound from my phone (geez.. I wish I could figure out how to get rid of that!) brought me back to reality.
The puppy had reduced the grocery bag to scores of tiny pieces. A “news alert” was informing me that a highway 40 miles away was closed due to an accident. My computer was informing me that I have mail. I returned the phone to my pocket, knowing the GPS function within it's little plastic body can allow just about anyone with minimal hacking skills know I am sitting at my kitchen table.

At least one can still be a recluse in one's imagination.
For now.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Holes


A couple weeks ago, I needed a hole dug. Ordinarily, I am not the sort who decides willy-nilly “HEY, I think I am gonna dig a hole!” for no good reason. No sirree Bob. The event which caused the desire for a hole was the not-unexpected demise of our cat, Cera.
She was old, about18 as near as we could figure. Our Grandson was about 3 when our daughter got her as a kitten, and he just turned 21. Her health had been flagging, and one could see the mainspring unwinding. Still, she was our cat, and I miss her.
 
(PLEASE!!! Do not interpret the above as an impassioned plea for another cat! My Lovely Bride and I have run our course with kitties. We are perfectly content to pass our days with out the company of a cat. Besides, as my sister the school-teacher always said; it bugs her to have a pet with a more intelligent expression on it's face than she has.)
 
But, I digress.
 
As this was the weekend before my Big Adventure in Stent-land, my ability to dig a hole was greatly hampered. What I really needed was a couple of 9 year old boys with shovels.
See, when I was a kid, digging holes was not just a pastime; it was practically elevated to an art-form.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, it was nearly impossible for 2 or more boys to gaze upon a neatly manicured lawn, or well-tended flower garden and not be seized by the insatiable desire to see what lies underneath.
 
Kids today, from my observation, have some how lost this marker in their DNA. Rather than be outdoors, getting plenty of exercise excavating Mom's peony bed, practicing problem solving skills, and running like mad from Mom; they are content to spread out upon the sofa or recliner fixated with a glazed stare at some electronic device clutched in their trembling little hands as they save the galaxy Ommpah from total annihilation.
 
Having an insatiable desire to see what lies beneath the surface of Dad's creeping bent lawn can only be dealt with one way; rummage around the garage or tool shed locating every piece of equipment which can be employed to remove dirt.
The adventure was enhanced all the more as the contagious enthusiasm spread around the neighborhood and to nearby farms. Boys of all shapes and sizes would descend upon the excavation site in droves! Speculation as to what would be discovered ran wild!

Certainly, a pirate with poor map reading and geography skills tired of lugging his treasure chest around and decided to bury it in Ohio; fully intending on returning some day.

And, there was that bank robber who was on the lam back in the 30s! He probably hid the loot right here as the cops were closing in! It would not be at all surprising if there was 400 or 500 hundred dollars right beneath our feet!
 
Then, there were the really wild theories, such as ancient Viking explores were searching for the Northwest Passage, before there was supposed to be a Northwest Passage, but they got wiped out by the local Indians. However, not wishing to have a bunch of dead Norsemen cluttering up the forest and whatnot, the Indians buried the entire lot. We were certain to recover their swords, and axes, and hats with horns on them
 
One misguided lad actually was excited about possibly finding old rocks he called “fossils” and bits of arrowheads and stuff he called “artifacts” Poor kid... last I heard he was some kind of big shot at a museum.
 
Thus began the Big Dig, as it would be known. With shovels flailing, dirt clods flying, and high pitched voices barking orders, giving suggestions, and the occasional exclamation; work progressed rapidly.
Frequently, Archeology Boy would order a halt to all work as his practiced eye examined odd shaped stones, bits and pieces of semi-decayed wood, and the odd old 7-Up or Coke bottle cap. The uninformed work crew always pondered how a bottle cap could be in the same location as a genuine Mayan stone chipping tool, but we were assured such anomalies were not uncommon in the archeological world.
 
Eventually, due to either having to go home and wash up for supper, or giving in to the strident unending complaints of the excavation site's owner, or finding something all together more interesting to do; work would end for the day. Sometimes work would become stalled for an indeterminate period of time.
 
The reasons for such stoppages were varied; such as summer vacation plans depleting the work force, inclement weather, and the most common; the property owner issuing a cease and desist order. These pesky little things were virtually impossible to overcome.
At some point, a skeleton work force would be called back for the purpose of “back filling” the hole; which is a construction term meaning “put the dirt back in the hole you dug”. Back filling was no where nearly as enjoyable and rewarding as excavating. In fact, it bore an eerie resemblance to actual work!
 
My Dad, however, was an exception to the No Work mindset of the era. In fact, is was not unusual for him to suggest likely areas where pirate loot, stolen money, or skeletons may be buried. With a renewed vitality, the usual suspects would gather to undertake the quest. We thought it was pretty neat how my Dad would arrive home and eagerly inspect our work. He would look at the hole,
 make some suggestions, such as a bit deeper here, or making it bigger around; all the while assuring us we were within mere inches of the Discovery of the Century. We envisioned our photo on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer under the headline: “Junior Archeologists Discover Ancient Viking Bones! Prove existence of dinosaurs in pre-Columbian times!”
No one said our headline writing skills were the greatest.
Then, the strangest thing would occur. At the close of work, there would be a perfectly round, deep hole in the ground with a nice pile of excavated dirt beside it. Shovels, pick-axes, hoes would be lain neatly aside awaiting our grubby little hands in the morning.

Come the sunrise, I would venture out to find our dig now occupied by a rose bush, or a tree, or some other such intrusive vegetative form! The hole would be filled in, the ground around damp from a recent application of copious amounts of water, and the tools put away neatly in the garage!!

Not once, not twice... SEVERAL times this occurred!
We would all confer about this most puzzling of events. We narrowed the options down to the most obvious. One, the Russians were messing with us, and the plants were some kind of spying device; or Two, little green men from Mars were messing with us, just because they had nothing better to do. Come to think of it, none of my old group ever went on to become a detective.... odd....
 
The voice of my Lovely Bride asking about proper disposal of Cera brought me back from my visit to the past. Yes... the need was pressing, and becoming more urgent with the passing of time. Knowing I would not be able to dig a hole, and lacking a group of 9 year old boys we opted for the next best thing. A friend of ours in his late 20s would be the equivalent of approximately three 9 year old kids. In theory at least.
 
It struck me as strange he was not taken with the idea of finding hidden bank robber's loot. Nor did the prospect of digging up pirate treasure along the Chagrin ignite any bonfires of enthusiasm. Viking artifacts? Forget it. I could only account for this unusual lack of adventurous optimism to the fact that lawyers just don't get too wound up about stuff like digging in dirt. Particularly ones who are also Professors of Tax Law.
I must admit, our friend, while not as entertaining as a group of 9 year old boys would be, did a much more efficient and satisfactory job. The hole was sufficient to contain the earthly remains of our kitty.
Had a bunch of 9 year old boys done the job, the hole would be about 4 inches deep, and 4 feet long. While sufficient if Cera had met her end beneath a steam roller; hardly adequate for her current state.

The job complete, the dirt tamped down firmly we walked away in silence.
I know I was saddened.
I was saddened over the loss of our cat, and saddened over the loss of romance which had once been part of digging a hole.




 


 


 



 





 



 

 


























 














 




 










 






 

 















 











Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lookin' in the Valley

Another hill has been scaled. I am feeling great, better than in quite some time, in fact.  To parody James Brown; “I feel good, so good, ‘cause I got a stent!”
Yep, the blood is flowing again, my brain has emerged from the fog (which I had not even noticed creeping in), and I have a lot more energy. Just keep that on the down-low; if my Lovely Bride finds out….need I say more. ;)
Standing atop of hills and mountains can be an exhilarating experience. The views are panoramic, as great vistas stretch to the far horizon. Peering into the valleys can provide an array of streams, fields, villages, and winding highways.
However, sometimes looking into the valley can be a bit more somber. 
Late this past week, I received a call from my cousin Mike. Mike and I are close; we hardly ever talk or see one another, yet we are close. It is an unusual relationship; see my Dad and Mike’s Dad are brothers.  No real big deal there, until you toss in the fact my Mother and Mike’s Mother are sisters. No, we live in Northern Ohio. We are probably as close as two people can be and not be siblings.  Mike has 3 siblings.  We grew up with one another (a close Irish family that has subsequently drifted apart, the curse of suburban sprawl), although we have always been there for weddings, babies, picnics, and yes the funerals of parents. To bind our relation even closer, Mike’s family and my family are also brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, I was a bit surprised when I saw Mike’s name pop up on my caller ID. Of course, I grabbed the call. After some preliminary conversation (for an Irish family, this takes about half an hour), and he then got to the primary purpose of the call; One of his sister’s sons had decided life was not worth living any longer.
I was stunned. I could only recall a happy little baby boy blessing my cousin’s home. I recalled a baby growing into an active boy and adolescent only to sadly distance himself from his parents.  I remembered my cousin and my Lovely Bride were pregnant at the same time. I know our respective fathers were comparing baby development notes.  Now, a life has been snuffed out, 2 little children left to carry an undeserved burden and my cousin….I cannot even imagine the private anguish she is enduring.
Another glimpse into the valley occurred this morning upon arriving at church. Today was our Annual Summer Shindig, Bar-B-Q, picnic, fun and games day. Today was even more special, as a former Ohio State University stand-out running back was speaking. My task; help with grilling chicken, burgers and dogs for approximately 500 people.
I calmly puttered through the parking lot, only to have our Associate Pastor frantically waving me aside. Unbeknownst to me, an ambulance was expected momentarily. A gentleman who had been assisting with setting up tables and chairs outdoors had suffered a full cardiac arrest. Thankfully, our church leadership had planned well in advance for such an event. We have a AED de-fibrillater on hand, and several members are medical professionals. 
The ambulance arrived, accompanied by the Fire Shift commander, a police car, and a fire truck. I was a bit puzzled over the necessity of the fire truck, but I don’t write the response protocol. The man was eventually wheeled out and placed in the back of the ambulance, just as a second ambulance pulled in. I could only assume the city leaders figured this was as good a time as any to show the citizens what their tax-dollars have provided.
The gentleman’s wife was escorted to the front seat of the ambulance by the police officer. Then, I see my Lovely Bride speaking with the woman.  Again, I was across the parking lot, leaning upon Ol’ Bess my Jeep, as I didn’t need to be getting everyone’s way.  I was doing the best thing I knew; praying.
Quickly she informed me of her intention to accompany the woman to the hospital. I was touched by her compassion for this lady. I knew she had a day filled with campaign appearances; yet she would forsake this to help a person in need.
Later in the evening, when she did make it home after getting some campaigning in, LB affirmed how she could sympathize for this wife following my recent bit of adventure.  And, how grateful she is my discovery was fairly benign in comparison.
She is quite a lady, I am very blessed man.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

?????


Does anyone other than me get ridiculous information on their internet home-page?
I didn't think so.
I am convinced my “home page” is the Gigantic Magnet of the Cyberworld for useless information.

Somehow, the minions dispensing this endless stream of verbiage, videos, and sales pitches know we have dogs. 98.65% of the stuff is dog related. Of the remaining 1.35%; half is unevenly split between (ahem) male oriented products, lowering my interest rate on whatever, and getting state minimum auto insurance. The balance is actually worthwhile stuff.

Ain't the Internet a wonderful thing??
Thank you, Al Gore!
As an aside, did you know that 47% of statistics are made up on the spot?
But, I digress.
Recently, I have been the recipient of many interesting messages asking “Do you know what your dog is saying when they (fill in the blank)?”. “Why do dogs chase their tails?” and the topper: “Why do dogs sniff the ground before they poop?” Honest. I am not fabricating that one.
While somehow or another losing these fascinating links before I could access (Darn! Hate when that happens!), they did spur some thought.
For example, the other day, my Lovely Bride and I spotted a lady walking her dog. While this in and of itself is not terribly noteworthy, what we observed sparked my curiosity.
The dog had just completed takin' care of business. The lady, being a responsible pet owner, was endeavoring to recover any tangible proof of their passing. The dog, for its part, was wandering about; absorbed in whatever it is dogs become absorbed in. It was apparent the dog/handler combination in question had not progressed terribly far in obedience classes; as the dog was wandering further and further from the lady. The lady, for her part, was using a Flexie Lead (which are on a reel, and extend outward, giving the pooch freer rein), the dog was taking full advantage of this opportunity.

The lady was bending over, plastic bag in hand, attempting to reach the object of her quest when the lead attained the maximum length. Undeterred with this minor inconvenience, the dog continued on-ward. The lady was practically obsessed by the recovery efforts, and unaware of the present state.

There she was; bent at the waist, one arm stretched behind her, the other arm extended before her, within mere inches of the prize, when it happened. Fido gave a jerk, the lady lost her footing, and very nearly became one with the recently applied organic fertilizer. All of which begged the question:
HOW DO DOGS KNOW THE PRECISE MOMENT TO TUG ON THE LEAD??
This in turn, caused more ruminating on my behalf.

Have you ever wondered.....
Why is it a dog will ordinarily consume their food, water, snacks, etc. in total contentment. You can provide them a bowl of kibble, put left over gravy on it; and the canine will gladly partake. Upon completion, they wander off to pursue things of greater importance; such as napping, barely giving you a nod.

EXCEPT... when you are finely dressed to enjoy a night on the town. How do they discern between a worn out pair of jean, and a $700 suit?

Further, WHAT compels them to obsess about using your leg for a napkin only when you are wearing said suit?? Are they greatly entertained watching your gyrations, weaves, and dodges to (vainly) avoid having a smear of food, gravy, and dog drool down your leg? Is there a secret doggie club where they share stories of suits and gowns they have ruined?

“Hey, Ralph! Tell us about the time you totally trashed your owners Yves St. Lauren gown with Alpo! Listen up guys! This is a classic! Har har har!”
Which brought up another question: Have you ever wondered how a critter can posses the uncanny ability to IMMEDIATELY locate and devour every disgusting deceased animal or remnant thereof no matter where, when, or how?
BUT... try to hide a pill in a bowl of nutritious, delicious, absolutely irresistible dog food.... and the same dog will avoid the entire offering like the plague.
How in the world do they know there is something beneficial to them in there?
Which leads to another puzzler.....Seven years ago we lost a little dog at the young age of 4 due to pet food contamination. My Lovely Bride began to make our own food. She devised a couple healthy, wholesome, recipes incorporating proteins, appropriate carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and so forth.

She would use either green beans or green peas as part of the mix. It smells very good, and on more than one occasion, I have come home after a hard day's work, sniffed the aroma, and asked “Wow.. what is for dinner?” My hopes would be dashed upon hearing “That is dog food. We are having left overs. Take you pick from the Refrigerator of Chance.”

While I would be making my way through left over whatever it is, something very odd became apparent.

How can dogs, eating in hyper-speed mode, clean out their entire bowl in less than a minute.... and leave behind all the green beans? How is this even physically possible? One side of their mouth is sucking in and the other side is spitting back out???
I have realized such questions shall remain amongst the Great Unanswered of all time.

These rest  beside that conundrum which has had Mankind scratching it's collective head for decades:
Who did put the “bop” in the “bop shoo bop shoo bop”????

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Rest of the Story

And now, the rest of the story…
Yes Friday the 9th was a big day. I was at our local hospital early in the morning, sans coffee, sans food, yet with a good dose of optimism.  The check in procedure was typical, the wait until being called back to the prep-center seemed never-ending, and the early morning news shows reiterated the same inane stories.
Finally, my name was called. I crossed the threshold into the land of You No Longer Have Control. The perky nurse handed me a plastic bag imprinted Patient’s Belongings containing two See-More-Dupa gowns, and a pair of socks which would embarrass even the least self conscious resident in any nursing home.
I dutifully stripped from my real clothes, placing my things in the bag (shoes on the bottom, as instructed), donned one gown in the traditional manner, the second as a robe over the first, and the idiotic socks with the non-slip strips on the bottom.
 Then, I waited. The perky nurse returned, we completed the paperwork (she didn’t bite on the tap-dance joke) she was pretty sharp, I have to admit.
My Lovely Bride and one of our friends came back to cheer me on and have a word of prayer while waving their cups of coffee under my nose. Soon thereafter, I was wheeled into the “Cath Lab”, a fancy term for the vascular surgery suite. Being plopped rather unceremoniously onto the operating table I felt somewhat like a flounder being tossed into the hold of a fishing trawler, only not quite as graceful.
Soon, the happy twilight juice was flowing, and I wavered in and out. Then, it happened.
At one point, during a lucid period, I heard my surgeon say “Oh my!”  I immediately jumped to the conclusion this was not a good thing to overhear. I then asked what happened, but as I was again on the happy side of the meds, it must have come out un-intelligible.  Or he felt it more important to be giving instructions to the team at that time.
The blockages which had been seen on the ultrasound were actually a clot. A rather large clot. My doctor suctioned out what he could, closed up shop, and sent me up to ICU for further treatment with blood thinners prior to continuing.
My Easy-Peasey in and out procedure was now rather serious.
I found myself in a bed, tubes going in, nursing staff checking me every 45 minutes or so. If you have ever been in the hospital, urgent care, or even doctor’s office; a standard question is “How do you rate your pain, from Zero to Ten?”
The absurdity of this question struck me while evaluating my pain level. Did this hurt more than when our youngest daughter, while napping on Daddy’s lap, jumped in her sleep, landing a kick with those 15 pound, rock hard baby shoes, squarely on the brand new incision from my vasectomy?
Was this more painful than tearing the living daylights out of my rotator cuff?
How about the time I lost my footing on a slippery log, only to land on my side, cracking 3 ribs?
The broken toes, the broken nose, the kidney stones….
I could tell she was getting impatient, or was beginning to think I was daft, I told her I was comparing past pains with this pain. I finally offered a middle of the road, non-committal “4”.  Satisfied, she went back to her other duties.  While leaving she said something rather ominous.
“As the blood thinner begins to break up the clot, you may have some pain in your leg.” Okay whatever.
I should have known better. “Some pain” was being used by a medical professional. These are the people who refer to a blood donation shunt as “a little stick”, and a syringe full of antibiotic as “a slight pinch”
Soon enough, the clots began to loosen. My nurse was asking so often, I was beginning to wonder if they had a pool going on what time the guy in #6 would come off the bed.  At first, it was not bad, just some discomfort not unlike a mild muscle cramp. Suddenly, the Meter-o-pain shot from a 3.5 to a 12.85! This on a scale ending at 10! Take the kicks, the broken bones, the torn muscles, all of them; add them up and they would be similar to a hang-nail compared to this!
As blood began flowing in an artery long unused; it was indescribable! It was an intense burning, swelling, pumping sensation as the artery stretched again with the flow of oxygen rich blood. I didn’t even reach for the call button; I yelled “Sharon! It hurts!” She came in with a syringe injecting it via the IV port. Within minutes, the pain subsided to a dull ache. Even the tips of my toes hurt!
I commenced waiting. I am so grateful for the visitors I had. Our Pastor; one of my best friends and closest brothers in Christ; my manager (also a brother in Him); our daughter; my Lovely Bride…even some unexpected friends dropped in.
The time spent visiting, in prayer, and laughing is precious to me.  You all brought joy, peace, and comfort with you at a time when the above was in short supply.
This was Friday, and Saturday was coming.
I awoke fairly tired, not having rested terribly well the previous 2 nights. I was antsy to get this done. My Lovely Bride arrived about 7:30 in the morning. She is such a great lady; I am truly blessed to have her in my life.
Finally about 9:30, I was wheeled back to the Cath Lab. By 10:45, I had received two angioplasties, and a brand new shiny stent. Or so they say, I didn’t actually see it.  Unlike the previous day, I was fully conscious for this procedure. My surgeon used a local anesthesia, as the twilight one didn’t along all that well with me. What I did see were the “Before” and “After” digital photos of my artery. The former a barely discernible very faint static line; the latter a vital, large, motion filled channel. I was fixated with the two images as the team completed their post-operation tasks.
Late in the afternoon, I was homeward bound.  I made my way very slowly upstairs, and collapsed into our bed.
Approximately 15 hours later, I awoke. Sore, bruised, and moving slowly; I came downstairs, looking forward to my first cup of coffee since Thursday morning. 
Am I upset about how things turned out? Obviously, I would have preferred to have not gone through this. Yet, I am very grateful for the many blessings I do have. Family, friends near and far all concerned for me, all the support I continue to receive. I am very grateful to live in a time and place when a clot is a treatable situation. Not too many years ago “blood clot” was a contributing cause of death. And, as much as I rip on my health insurance, I am very grateful to have it as well. I can’t imagine what would happen had I not had any coverage.
In retrospect, this has been one of Life’s “Focus Adjustment” moments which we all have.
OH! A  word of advice; If you start getting inexplicable leg cramps….GET THEM CHECKED.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Big Day



Tomorrow is the big day.

Please note; it is not “The Big Day”.

Capitalized “Big Day” connotes a day of exceptional importance. Such “Day”s are Wedding Days, Birth of Children Days, Graduation Days. Lower case “big day”s are some what special, out of the ordinary days; such as...oh, let's say a 42nd birthday. While special, it is not quite as momentous as a Milestone Birthday. Other examples of lower case “big day”s are buying a new car, bagging a first deer, your child losing their first tooth, and landing your first real job.

So, I choose to classify tomorrow as a lower case “big day”. I have the procedure performed. No, not the brain transplant, as many of you may have hoped.

I get to enjoy an angio-gram in my leg. As you may know, I have several blockages in my right leg. The left leg is free of any blockages. I will let the reader draw any unintentional similarities between my current state and Congress. I do find it some what interesting, though.
I will be at our local hospital “In & Out Procedure, Lube, Oil and Rotation Center” by 7:00 in the morning. While the time may be bright and early, I will be not-so-bright, and rather surly; not having my morning cup of java.
Pity the staff; “Mr. Charm” I probably won't be. Pity my Lovely Bride, as she will have to haul my rear end up there, and schlep it back home. The doctor said I may be “a little loopy” from the twilight anesthesia. He clearly doesn't know me very well; as being “a little loopy” is condition normal for me.
Am I nervous? Am I concerned? Did Grizzly Adams have a beard??
Yes, yes, and yes.
It is one thing to hear the academic explanation of this procedure. It is quite interesting to read about the wonders of modern medicine. The little itty-bitty “minimally invasive” incision ,micro-fine wire leaders, pixie-dust infused dye, and how blockages can be opened. Oxygen rich blood flows, and there is great joy and happiness in the kingdom ever after.
Until.....one realizes it is their hide being minimally invaded, their arteries being reamed with micro-fine wire leaders, and so forth. Suddenly, academic interest is tossed out the window. This is serious stuff!
Since childhood, I have harbored a resistance to having my skin being invaded by any means. Be it needles, sharp blades, sharp sticks, mosquitoes, bees, and wasps; I am reluctant to be a participant.

Now don't get me wrong. I bear up well for the odd injection, and I do donate blood on a regular basis. I don't exhibit a behavior referred to by psychologists as “going bonkers” at the sight of needles. I assume a steely stare, grit my teeth, and look the other way as the gigantic, humongous, enormous needle is stuck with super-hero force into my poor unsuspecting vein. One would think my vein would notice that big rubber band around my arm getting tighter and say “Uh, oh... look out, here comes that gigantic, humongous, enormous needle again!” But, no. I suppose veins are not high on the “innate intelligence” list. Afterward, I can sit there and watch with absolute fascination as my blood rushes through the tubing into the collection bag.
Being a knife aficionado (or “hoarding fanatic", according to my Lovely Bride), I have sustained more than my share of cuts, nicks, slices, and gouges while tinkering with, sharpening, cleaning, and in general acting the fool with pocket knives, sheath knives, kitchen knives, even an ancient Native American flint knife. So... the idea of having someone standing over me with a super-sharp blade in hand waiting to cut away, is a bit disconcerting. Even if their title is “Doctor”

I have also been researching stents on the internet.

This is not such a good idea.

Why is it that nearly every authoritative article states “the use of a stent does not ensure a positive, long-term result.”??
I think “What the heck is this all about?” This is not unlike telling a home-owner 'digging up your entire yard, replacing your 6 inch drains with 8 inch drains will not ensure your toilet does not back up'.

It raises a definite question: What is the point of all this? Is this little mesh wonder going to be nothing more than a funnel cake trap? Is that chuck of Italian sausage from the pizza going to become entangled in this thing?
Yet, it seems as if nearly everyone I encounter knows of someone who under went this procedure. They all (well, nearly all) recount the ease and relative simplicity of the process. And yes, the recovery rate has been astounding.
I realize I am being a wimp. I will get through this with no problem. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, pilgrim.
One of my greatest hopes is that I will be able to tap-dance when this is done with.
Lord knows, I sure can't now!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Life with Ike



I know had they been sent, my e-mail box would be bursting it's digital seams.

Wherever I go; be it work, church, the store, even to take out the trash, the single most important question people ask of me is this:


How is Ike??

I am happy to inform you Ike is doing very well.

He is over 27 pounds, more than doubling his Welcome Home weight of 11 pounds.
He is within 2 inches of Mimi at the rear-end. Admittedly, she is a short dog; still he is
growing like there is no tomorrow.
His appetite is commensurate with his stature; it seems to be limitless.
His favorite play toy is Mimi, who still takes a great deal of delight (or annoyance) with his continual
nipping her butt in order to get her to chase him.

She will set off, grumbling and shuffling along like an old man chasing kids off the lawn, while he blissfully bounces about the house, staying just out of her reach. It reminds me of being a young-boy, walking home from grade-school and encounters with the quintessential little old cranky Italian man who would guard his lawn with a zealousness not seen since the last Templar guarded the Holy Grail.


Ike made a personal appearance at a local church festival; garnering as much attention as any of the musical acts, and making scores of new friends.
He joyously discovered Summer time festivals offer a cornucopia of toes protruding from sandal clad feet. Little toes, medium sized toes... all the way up to big gnarled grown-up toes. For a dog who fixates upon tasting exposed toes, it was Toe Nibblers Paradise. Fortunately, being a little guy, people (for the most part) thought he was adorable.

 
He is also developing a liking for classic and antique cars, having attended a local car cruise.
While he appreciates the restored Model T's and early Chevrolets, his true interest is in the hot rods and muscle cars from the 50s and 60s. Who can blame him? There is nothing like the sound of a big-block V-8 with trips (3- two-barrel carburetors) opening up! As far as the tuners and rice-burners are concerned, his thoughts are “Whatever....”
Regarding his ongoing education; he is learning many new things. The canine trainers refer to these as “behaviors”, I still call them “tricks”. He has “sit” nailed, as well as “down”. He will “turn right” and “turn left”. His piece de resistance, however, is while sitting, “speaking” on command, using only a hand signal. Also, he will wave “Hi” while sitting, again, solely with hand signal.

Not too bad for a four month old pup. Mimi watches with the bored expression of a journeyman plumber observing an apprentice repair his first faucet. “Great, kid! Now let me sleep.”
Ike is coming along very well. He has adjusted to our home (or we have adjusted to him) quite well.
He is constantly exploring, looking, watching. One can see the wheels and gears turning in his little brain all the time.

While in doggie development, he is approaching mid childhood, we know there is a beautiful, dignified adult dog waiting to emerge.
In good time.
Meanwhile, he found another Nyla-bone in the toy bowl Life is GOOD!!