Murphy James Gilhooly, 2006-2019

Murphy James Gilhooly was my puppy for almost thirteen years. As much as Ripley was supposed to be my dog, Murphy was my dog. It is very difficult to say “goodbye.” However, today we had to do so.

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We met Murphy after an East Lake Pet Orphanage Advisory Board meeting in early 2006. He was at least a year old at that point, but we’ll never really know, since he was adopted. The rest of the board said there was a gorgeous Cocker we just had to meet.

This should have set off warning bells.

The rest of the board assumed we would love a Cocker since we already had one, and they knew we had adopted an additional dog already. Most of them were pet fanatics, so what’s the difference between two and three dogs?

So, we went down to the adoption area to meet Java. As the staff opened his crate, a brown blur rushed out, straight into a glass window, and bounced off.

Then, he did it again.

This should have set off warning bells.

What really happened is that I thought, “This dog is so stupid, he deserves to live with us.”

I didn’t like “Java” as a name, since Java was a computer programming language I fought with every day t work, but I liked having a name that reflected his coloring. (The staff picked “Java” to mean “coffee”.) My first thought was “Guinness”, but he wouldn’t pass as an Irish Setter, so I had to find another Irish Stout. Murphy’s Stout, founded by James Murphy. So, reverse the name, and Murphy James was ready to come home.

Virginia still blames me for the adoption since I had him named before we left for home. However, this is not true because I had to get home first to look up Murphy’s Stout.

Murphy and Katie doing laps
Doing laps with Katie

Murphy actually accumulated names over the years. I’m not sure how it started, but by the end, he was Murphy James Elliott Macintosh McIlhenny Molanaphy Gilhooly, Esq. Elliott is my sister-in-law’s cat (with a slightly different spelling.) Macintosh is what I am typing this on. McIlHenny is the maker of Tabasco, which Virginia requires for her eggs. Molanaphy was a classmate of mine in grade school. I think. However, Murphy was pretty sure his first name was “Dammit.”

Before the adoption could go through, we took Bubba over to meet his potential new brother and they got along fine, so we signed the paperwork and Java became Murphy. I’m still not sure Murphy ever knew Bubba was a different dog. I have a feeling he always thought Bubba was his reflection, just a different color and doing different things. Murphy was not a Rhodes scholar.

The Graduate

Maybe he was a Rhodes Scholar

However, as much as Murphy’s intellegence has been questioned over the years, he is the only one of all of our dogs to graduate from puppy training. I’m still not sure how he did it, but he actually graduated. (They didn’t let him keep the hat.) He has a diploma (somewhere) to prove it.

Murphy drove my sister-in-law Mary crazy one visit while she was Mom and pet-sitting because he always wanted to be touching her. Most dogs want to be in proximity, but Murphy perferred direct contact. (He would sit pressed up to me on the couch.)

We had phone calls in France about “the brown one won’t stop touching me!”

That said, Murphy was the only one of our dogs Mary said she would take if something happened to us. So. maybe “annoying” eventually became “a certain charm.”

We’re not sure where Murphy actually came from – we know he began his rescue life abandoned and tied to a tree with his sister at the SPCA. He had chronic eye issues, so he was thought to be unadoptable. Luckily, East Lake Pet Orphanage took him and nursed him into shape, and then he met us – a couple who already had a dog with chronic eye issues. We knew how to do eye drops. Well, Virginia did.

Murphy had eye issues. He had allergies. He had bad skin. He blew out one of his ACLs before I blew out mine, then he blew out another one. He was basically the poster child for why breeders are often considered evil and why pure-breds are not always better. He had every issue Cockers were known to have. He had more specialists than I do, but he enjoyed car rides, and he loved his vets, no matter what they did to him.

His biggest problem was his food allergies, since it meant we couldn’t put his pills in bread or hot dogs or Pill Pockets, like normal dogs. His hunting instinct was pretty much useless on anything other than medications hidden in his food, and finding cookies in his eye doctor’s lab coat pockets. By the end, Virginia was making grilled chicken, grinding it up, and putting his pills in chicken. Maybe he wasn’t that dumb.

Peanut Butter

Somebody get this peanut butter off my tongue!

He also could not easily be distracted. One of the vets said that when we had to give him a allergy shot, we should just distract him with a spoonful of peanut butter. A normal dog would start licking the peanut butter off the spoon, and never notice the shot. Murphy would ignore the peanut butter until he had been given the shot, and then lick it off.

The one time I had to take him to visit one of his specialists alone, we were lead to an exam room and he immediately pooped on the floor. A lot. So, I asked, “Uh, did you guys need a stool sample today?” The vet tech said, “No”, so I said, “Then we need some paper towels. And a mop. And a gas mask.”

Murphy wrote our family Christmas newsletter before Rocky took over. It was vastly more popular than the ones I wrote. Murphy got a thank-you note from my Aunt. Hand-written. In the mail. The next year, Murphy wrote about how my sister-in-law was “cheap with the treats” and started a firestorm with my in-laws. Virginia had to remind them Murphy didn’t actually write the newsletter.

Murphy was a good dog, but they’re all good dogs. I’ve had some hesitations about adding dogs to our household with almost all of our dogs. My only hesitation with Murphy was I wasn’t going to call him “Java.”

Cocker Guards
Murphy and Bubba, guarding the yard

He was the happiest dog I have ever known.

Godspeed, Murph. We’ll see you on the other side. I hope Heaven doesn’t have a glass door.

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Uno, Dos, Tres, Catorce

So, I spent the night in the hospital last night, just so I could be reminded than Bono doesn’t know how to count to four in Spanish.

I’m in a place called Vertigo.

In the beginning, on Tuesday evening, we went to see Noel Gallagher (I’m pretty sure Noel couldn’t count in Spanish unless he learned the expletives first) down at the Majestic. Pretty good show, but as we were driving home, I felt a little dizzy. As I was driving, I decided mentioning this would not be a good idea.

Had this been a concert in my college days, I would have suspected various fumes in the concert hall, but you can’t smoke anymore and I didn’t have my usual drink, so that wasn’t it.

Had dinner, felt a bit better, made it home, everything seemed to have passed.

Murphy woke me up just before six to visit the yard, and I couldn’t walk straight. I was staggering around the bedroom, and I needed to find something to hold onto just to walk a straight line.

Here’s the definition of being old: my first thought was not, “I’m walking like a drunk.” My thought was, “This is like being on a cruise ship in rough seas.”

On the bright side, we learned on a ship in rough seas, the rule is, “One hand for you, one hand for the ship.” That helped getting around – even if we don’t have handrails all over the house. (Note to self: Handrails around the house.)

An hour later, Murphy woke me up again, and I was staggering again. Perhaps worse.

At this point, I was a bit freaked out. I didn’t have chest pains, so it probably wasn’t a heart attack. I could yell at Murphy without slurring my speech, so it probably wasn’t a stroke, unless yelling at the dogs is a learned reflex. What else is there?

After I woke up and explained to Virginia what was going on, she diagnosed the flu. This is because I religiously refuse to get a flu shot, so she is desperately hoping I will learn my lesson. Not by dying from flu (probably), but suffering a bit. OK, a lot. So, I could break a leg during flu season, and she would look at the protruding bone, and say, “See? Flu.”

Off to our family doctor. Of course, my doctor was out of town this week, so off to his Nurse Practitioner. We sat in the waiting room for a bit, while Virginia did my annual paperwork, which is six pages of crap without a “no changes” option. Rachael Ray was on the TV, making some eggplant dish, and it sounded like a compound butter or something. I was having trouble concentrating, actually. It’s just the third time she said “eggplant” in two minutes, I felt a twinge in the belly. I like eggplant, but the word has always disturbed me.

So, after another “eggplant”, she had a byproduct from the recipe you could “slather on toast.”

Slather.

That’s the evacuation word!

So, I puked into a handy trash can. Of course, I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before, so it wasn’t very productive, but apparently, some of my beer belly is actually phlegm.

Note for the future: if the service at the doctor’s office seems particularly slow, puke into a trash can. I was taken into an exam room almost immediately.

I like the Nurse Practitioner. She did a lot of checks in a very short time, was one of the first people to admit she couldn’t get test results as quickly as she would like, but she wanted tests to prove her non-diagnosis was correct.

She wanted tests, but knew she couldn’t get results as quickly as … the Emergency Room.

That’s where I had thought about going in the first place, so next time, I’ll eliminate the middle man.

I actually thought the Nurse Practitioner did a fab job, I just don’t like “probably nothing”, “just in case” and “life and death” in the same paragraph.

She wanted the tests to prove I wasn’t having the stroke she was pretty sure I wasn’t having.

Just working out the logic in that sentence will make some people start staggering.

Virginia asked if it could be the flu, with just a bit too much relish in her voice, and was told there was no possible way it was the flu. Ha!

Off to the ER. Luckily, it’s only one building over from my doctor’s office – but still the longest wheel-chair ride I’ve been pushed on.

I’m pretty sure I heard whimpering from behind me on the uphill parts of the ride.

The ER did some early checks just to make me think everything was progressing because this was an emergency, and then they sent me to the waiting room to remind me I’m not really that important. Or dying (hopefully.)

After the mandatory wait period (and a nap in the waiting room), I was taken back to a room. We had to wait for Virginia to come back from the vending machines before we went back. I wonder if she had gone for snacks earlier, the wait would have been shorter.

First, the mandatory question list, many of which were in the doctor’s list and the ER check-in list.

Then, an EKG – just like the one I’d had in the doctor’s office two hours before. Next, we wait for results.

At this point, I needed a potty break, so one of the nurses helped me stagger down the hall and back.

Then, off for a CAT scan. I would have mentioned I had three dog scans before I left the house, but I was too tired.

I always wonder about tests where the administrators all have to leave the room, and they’re pointing something at your head, or rolling your head in a tube.

Still, CAT scans are very pleasant compared to an MRI. Well, except for the contrast dye they put through an IV, so you feel like you wet your pants.

So, you wait for the CAT scan to get scheduled, then wait to get it done, and then you wait for the results.

After the results came back negative for a stroke, I figured I was ready to go home. The last time I was dizzy with a good CAT scan, I was freed.

Unfortunately, I needed another potty break. This time, the nurse just pointed me down the hall, but I knew where it was, so that was fine. Hands on the wall all the way down.

However, while staggering back to my room, I passed the nurses’ station where the doctor was talking to someone. She saw my graceful ballet steps, and decided she really wanted an MRI, after all.

Ugh.

So, time to sit and wait for scheduling again.

In the meantime, I learned an interesting side effect if I sat up too quickly.

I puked again.

This time, there were puke bags available, so I didn’t need to use the trash can. However, the official hospital puke bags have measurements on the side, so while you’re puking, the patient in you is thinking, “Please stop! This is gross!” and the competitor in you is thinking, “Come on! You can do 500ml easy!”

After that incident, I was given anti-nausea drugs. Afterwards? Really?

Off to the MRI, my least-favorite test of all, and that includes my eighth-grade Spanish final.

For those who have never had the pleasure, an MRI is a large tube that you are slid into so they can take photos or sound images or police sketches – I’m not really sure what comes out, except it always takes a half-hour and you’re strapped down, you can’t move and you have a panic button. Any time you’re given a panic button, it means it is so bad, somebody needed one, and it wasn’t installed yet. I assume that person died of fright. Lovely.

The MRI guys all have the same soothing speech: “This is the panic button. Press it, and I’ll get you right out. Even if you’re just a couple of minutes from the end. Of course, if you come out early … we have to start from the beginning.” So, basically, your one way out is a really bad option. Fun.

They have headphones with music to drown out the noise of the machine. The headphones are the equivalent of your wife whispering to you as the Blue Angels fly over your head. Three feet over your head. And your wife is in the next county.

The good thing about the music is you spend so much time trying to figure out what bloody song is playing, that the time does pass rather quickly.

I assume they don’t turn the music up since loud noises can hurt your ears. Wait.

This was my third MRI. My first was on my knee, and I didn’t understand my wife’s fear and hatred of them – but then I realized I had gone in feet first. My second was the last time I was having dizzy spells, and that was quite different, as in worse, but is was an OpenMRI (code for “chubby or claustrophobic patients”), and it was delayed a while because the patient before me was having panic attacks. Maybe they didn’t explain about the panic button.

This was an old-school MRI – and when I was wheeled into the room, I noticed a couple of braces in the machine. Hmm.

Virginia had asked if they had an OpenMRI, and was told “No”, but was assured I would fit. She was talking about the claustrophobic group – the chubby group is just a bonus.

So, I lay back on the platform, and was asked if I wanted to listen to music. Sure. On go the headphones.

Warm blanket? Yes, please.

Pillow under my knees? Yes, please.

I have learned that if someone in a hospital offers you something, just accept it. There’s a reason it’s an option.

Why is he being so nice?

Ah, the braces.

So, the operator started putting the head cage in place. “Clarice?”

So, let me get this straight. You’re putting me in a tube for a half-hour where I can’t move, you’ve wrapped in a blanket like an Irish burrito and now you’re going to lock my head down. Where is this panic button of which you spoke?

Placing the cage was one thing. Screwing it down was just excessive. The OpenMRI people just took my word when I said I wouldn’t run. They didn’t screw my head down.

I survived by trying to calculate how far (and fast) Virginia would have run when she saw the cage coming down.

The music starts. “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Really? The first line is:

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Interesting way to start a half-hour sliding around in a loud tube.

Plus, in the middle of it, I had contrast dye pushed down my IV. Lovely. At least it was just a warm sensation, not like the CAT scan “wet your pants” dye.

I had asked for Classic Rock. This was a bad choice. Last time, I asked for Adele, not because I particularly love Adele, but because she has a lot of five minute songs, so it was easy to predict how far along I was.

Eventually, the rack slid me out. I didn’t believe it at first, since there were other times where it would back out slightly and then plunge me further into the tube. I could see out the other end (as promised), once I learned to squint around the cage.

Mainly, I kept my eyes shut. A non-metallic rosary would have been appreciated.

Still, I slid out, my head was freed, and I was told they had “gotten a lot of good pictures.” Well, that’s good, especially if that means I don’t have to start over.

Back to my room, where I realized I had forgotten my glasses and seasick patch. They took the patch off, since it has aluminum in it, and it could “heat up” in an MRI.

When they mentioned the tiny circular patch could “heat up”, I understood why they had asked if I had a penile implant. Ouch.

After the missing items were recovered, Virginia said I was being admitted.

So, family doctor to ER to hospital. A medical double-play.

Now, I’m waiting for results and a new room assignment.

The MRI results? No stroke.

In the hospital room, I had yet another questionnaire to complete. So, this time, when asked if I had any chronic pain, I just pointed at Virginia and asked, “Besides her?” The nurse laughed so hard, I got a three-minute break. (I can’t believe I’m the first husband to say that. It’s such a great setup line.)

It was a nice room, but I now had a PulseOx monitor on one hand, and an IV in the other arm. So, potty breaks require assistance just to unplug everything.

The nursing staff was great. They got my nighttime drugs, got me ice chips, got me pretty much anything I needed. It may have helped that I was in a staging room and at that point, I was the only patient in the area.

I even got a CPAP so Virginia didn’t have to retrieve one from home. A CPAP is great, not only because it keeps me alive, but because it is an obvious signal (the mask) that you’re trying to sleep. It doesn’t matter, because you’re going to get poked when you get poked, but still.

At this point, Virginia went home to tend to the dogs and get some sleep.

(Of course, when she stayed in the hospital overnight after her shoulder surgery, I went to walk the dogs, and went back to stay with her. She just stayed home. I’m a giver. It’s what I do.)

I woke up at one point, rolled over, and ten minutes later, alarms went off. Loud alarms. Why is it illegal to sleep on my left side? Apparently, I had slept on my IV and cut off the flow. Oops. Right side sleeping only.

I slept well, considering, until someone came in to draw blood.

Back to sleep, until someone else needed more blood.

Don’t they have blood in a hospital? Why do they need so much of mine?

I finally gave up on sleep about 7am, which was good, since the day nurse came in to check on me and introduce herself.

She showed me the menu for breakfast. The diabetic menu. I didn’t know I was diabetic, but I was starving. The omelet was very good. The sausage sucked. The toast was one whole slice, because, diabetes. The apple slices had more carbs than anything, because, tasty. The iced tea was in the same size cup my dentist uses when he asks me to rinse.

Still, very tasty, given it was my first food in 30-something hours.

Virginia arrived in time for physical therapy.

I changed clothes. This was the longest either of us had been in a hospital without wearing a gown.

I guess “Well, he’s just here for tests”, followed by “Well, he’s just being observed” means no gown required. Maybe they were selling all my blood to buy more gowns, and the new supplies hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe I have cooties, but it wasn’t on my chart.

With the physical therapist, I got to answer more questions and I got to walk with a belt around me, held by the therapist. Not awkward at all. She said I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was.

With the occupational therapist, I got to hang my head over the side of the bed so she could move my head around and see if she could determine where the issue was. (I think she was secretly disappointed I didn’t puke, since she had warned about it.)

The fun part of the occupational therapy session was the explanation of the condition I might have – BPPV (Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.)

Here’s the short version, and this is from memory, but I’m not making this up: there are three concentric circles in the inner ear which have hairs in them (probably cilia, but who’s counting?) On the hairs are crystals. The hairs move as you do, and the crystals help keep you in balance. I was thinking “cheap gyroscope.”

To hear someone with a beautiful Southern lilt say, “If the crystals fall off the hairs, due to injury or accident, you will have balance issues, and that’s vertigo.”

Crystals falling off hairs?

Is this like having your chakras out of alignment?

Is this just bullshit because I can’t handle the truth?

Existential thought, which meant I missed some of her lecture:

How drunk was our Creator?

“Let’s see. We could just have a small bone balancing on another one, or We could have a bunch of hairs in a circle of goo with crystals balancing on them in both ears, so you have to check two places.”

“Oh, and if one of the crystals falls, you can turn the patient’s head from side to side and see if his eyes start beading.”

Even Virginia could see my eyes whipping around.

After she left, we had lunch. The person on the phone has hearing problems because my turkey was tuna salad. She probably has bad crystals or something.

So, I’m in a place called Vertigo.

I’m home now. I never wore a gown. I’m learning to stop standing up quickly.

I’m trying to rebalance my crystals.

Next week, I see my doctor, and remind him the interesting stuff always happens when he’s out of town. Then, I will ask him for a crystal referral.

Kick ‘em when they’re down

A job search is a very painful process when you’re an old, white guy who has spent the last 19 years inside the same company (especially when the company is often an industry punching bag.) So, I should be used to rejection letters by now. I usually don’t mind rejection letters that much, since at least it’s closure, and it’s a chance to think, “I didn’t want to work there, anyway.” With today’s automated application systems, much of the time, your application and resume just go into the bit bucket and you never hear anything at all.

However, some rejection letters are really unnecessarily detailed. Like today’s.

I got an email from a corporate recruiter last week, thanking me for my application (I actually thought I was a reasonable fit for the job), and asking me for some times for us to discuss the position. (I was lucky I saw it, since it was in my spam folder, but I check my spam all the time because I can’t afford to lose a lead.)

It got my hopes up. I should know better by now, but hope spring eternal.

So, I replied, and heard nothing. It’s not a mega corporation, so I thought, “His mail went in my spam folder, maybe mine went in his.” So, I replied again.

This morning, I got a reply.

I reviewed your resume with the manager and compare to the job description and requirements we decided to not move forward.  This system email was sent in error.

Ouch.

So, rejected before the screening call. A new low.

I’m not really sure why this hurt more than the others. I’ve gone through three levels of interviews in before getting rejected twice, but this one really hurts.

I think it’s the implicit “we were wasting our time reviewing your resume.” After all, the erroneous system email was the bright, cheery note that asked me for available times to chat.

So, their applicant system failed twice. First, it told them they might give a shit about me, and then it told me they might actually give a shit about me.

They don’t give a shit about me.

For any other recruiters who may be reviewing my resume, I really don’t need two reasons why I was rejected for your company. Just one is plenty, and is one more than the apparent industry standard of zero. Also, if your system is sending emails in error, an apology would be nice. You’ve wasted my time now.

I sent a “thank you for letting me know” note, but I really wanted to say, “If you would like someone to come review your recruiting system to determine why it’s sending emails to obviously unqualified candidates, please just let me know.”

Also, I wanted to say, “If your system email is a bright, cheery, personalized email from your internal recruiter, but the core system can’t accurately match candidates to positions, you’re customizing the wrong part of the system.”

The search continues.

Has any Italian ever written a complete recipe?

There’s a story one of my nieces tells about her Grandmother (aka my late Mom-in-law who defeated the Instant Pot from the Great Beyond earlier this week.) She was making Grandma’s Baked Beans, and followed the recipe but they didn’t taste right. She called Grandma for advice, and they walked through the recipe over the phone. After the list of ingredients, Grandma asked, “What about the mustard?” My niece said, “What mustard?” It wasn’t in the recipe, it was “implied.” Actually, everyone else knew it was in there, because everyone else in the family that made baked beans had learned by watching, not reading.

Now, I’m sure people are tired of hearing about my magical Instant Pot, but I made pot roast tonight. There were actually some free Instant Pot cookbooks for my Nook, so I just took the first recipe that I found, because it was short.

First thing, I scanned through the recipe to make sure we had all the ingredients (we did, for once) and that I could execute successfully while recovering from a stressful day (seemed possible.)

So, I began.

First, assemble all the ingredients. (I’m probably not experienced enough to say mise en place yet.) Once everything was assembled, I started browning the roast. The recipe said two tablespoons of olive oil. I begin wondering about the author. That’s not enough to cover the bottom of the pot, and everybody knows you need at least that much. So, I eyeballed it. (If I ever write a cookbook, I’m going to use “Chuck Roast” as my nom de plume.) (Two French phrases in one paragraph? Really?)

After the meat was browned, the recipe said to take it out and sauté the onions. Then, add the tomato paste and mushrooms, and continue stirring. Done.

Add the broth, put the roast back in, seal it, bring it up to pressure, cook for an hour. Second existential crisis. You can’t pressure cook on sauté mode. When was I supposed to have turned it off?

I was in the middle of that step and the existential crisis when I noticed the potatoes, sitting lonely and abandoned on the counter. Hmm. Those must go in the pot eventually. Did I miss a step?

So, I re-read the recipe to that point. No potatoes, except in the ingredients. I read through the rest of the recipe. The last step was to “serve the gravy with the meat and potatoes.” Raw potatoes?

This was my “What mustard?” moment. (Jen, I now feel your pain.)

How was that step left out? Who wrote this? Why, look. The author is from Tuscany. This recipe is probably just copied from his Nana’s notebook.

I threw the potatoes in with the meat, after consulting with the wife, since we don’t like raw potatoes. Crisis averted, but I’m worried about the quality of the recipe and it’s almost ten dollars of meat, and the good delivery restaurants are closing. I hope the rest of this was right.

This was the longest pressure cook I’ve done to date. An hour at pressure, followed by a natural release (which took another 20+ minutes, then a fifteen minute rest with the lid off. (Natural release followed by a rest sounds kinda dirty, now that I think about it.)

Hmm. What was that about pressure cookers and time savings?

(Since I never made most of these things in a pressure-free environment, I’m really not sure if an hour and a half is good or bad.)

Come to think of it, I’ve often had the wife or dogs (or both) waiting on whatever I’m cooking, and they’re usually staring (or growling) at me, so I’ve always cooked under pressure. It’s just now I use a pressure cooker.

Gravy time. Add the water and flour (water? Wait. What water? How much water?) to the pot (Do you take the meat out first? What about the potatoes? Were they really supposed to be in there? Am I really mixing gravy around a three-pound roast?)

I asked the Spousal Unit for advice. She said “it must mean a slurry.” Shouldn’t it say a slurry, then? I’m assuming that’s what she learned from watching her Mom, not read.

Finally, I just pretended my Mom-in-law wrote the recipe and added some mustard.

Actually, I just fished the meat and potatoes out (fishing meat?), and made a basic gravy. It was decent, but it would have been better if I had cooked the flour first(or just used cornstarch.) I suppose that was implied, as well. Thanks, author’s Nana.

I need a new cookbook.

In the Hospital

So, I spent the night in the hospital last night. Not for me, for my wife.

She had shoulder surgery yesterday. The surgery went well, but she has a difficult time coming out of anesthesia. She told her doctor, she told her anesthesiologist, she told the nurses, she told the mailman (he was concerned), but it doesn’t matter. When she can’t wake up, people are amazed – because they are never the people she’s told.

In their defense, when a normal person, say me, has any day surgery that ends at 3:30pm, I will be coherent at 4:00pm, and out the door by 4:30pm – at the latest.

She will be out of surgery at 3:30pm, cranky by 4:30pm and barely awake at 7pm, assuming a good tailwind.

Here’s the issue: with more and more day surgery “hospitals”, they really want you out by six because they’re closing for the evening.

To get her out by six, surgery should have started last Tuesday.

So, her shoulder surgery started at 3pm, she was admitted to the hospital by 7pm and at 9pm, she was ordering Dominos because the cafeteria was closed. (Yes, they deliver to the hospital.)

I’m waiting to see the diagnosis for her admittance because I think it will be “couldn’t wake up.” Usually, “couldn’t wake up” in a hospital means people with paddles yelling “Clear!” and pressing on your chest and blowing in your mouth.

In this case, it was a nurse who had a bus to catch, and said, “If you can’t get up, we have to admit you.”

This is a stupid threat to make to someone who likes being waited on, and spends a lot of her spare time with various doctors.

It is a doubly stupid threat to make when the other person in the room is trying to postpone being the caregiver as long as possible.

So, she was admitted for “sleepiness”, and then she sent me off home to gather the four tons of supplies she doesn’t carry in her purse – which is probably what weakened her shoulder in the first place.

By the time I ate dinner, got home, walked the dogs, medicated the dogs, corralled the dogs, gathered up the four ton laundry list from the four corners of the house and got back to the hospital, it was after midnight, so I decided to just stay.

This gets many good husband points, and a crick in the neck.

I almost never sleep in a chair, except on Thanksgiving or in meetings, but the recliner was like a business class seat without the annoying person blocking the aisle.

I never use blankets on a plane, but when I woke up at four with my teeth chattering, I decided to make an exception.

(It turned out it was in the 60s in the room, so either the A/C works or the heat doesn’t.)

I slept like a baby, which is to say I woke up every couple of hours to pee and spent the rest of the time sobbing quietly, wrapped in my blankie.

So, it’s morning and we’re waiting for discharge papers. After that, we have to get the four tons of equipment I retrieved plus all of her new medical equipment home and unpacked.

Then, we set her up in a chair and teach the dogs, “No! Not on Mommy’s shoulder!”

Then, I’m taking a nap.

Hamlet at Quest Diagnostics 

So, the Rocky and the Rat (ex-rat) saga continues. Rocky has been diagnosed with leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection. It is possible he contracted it before he killed the rat, especially since it showed up so quickly. On the bright side, it’s a zoonotic disease, wnich means we can catch it from him. Joy.

Rocky had a blood test to see if he was infected. He was. This means we all need blood tests, as well. Well, the people do. If one dog has lepto, you just treat all the dogs. We may all end up on the same antibiotics.

Leptospirosis has two phases – the first is detected in blood, the second is detected in urine. This becomes important as we progress.

After calming down about Rocky testing positive, the Spousal Unit called our family doctor and said we needed a leptospirosis test. I have a feeling we may be the first people to request this specific test. We may be the first people to request any test. 

His nurse called this morning to tell us the tests were ordered, and we just had to go to Quest Diagnostics whenever we could.

I like Quest. They’re fast, there’s no appointments and they always get my blood on the first stick. So, when the Spousal Unit asked if we should go to lunch or Quest first, I thought we should get the bloodwork done first. How long could it take?

We got to Quest and I got stuck. Two tubes of blood, since the phlebotomist had never heard of the test. Time for lunch!

Then, she handed me a little jar, and muttered something about a urine sample. Warning, Will Robinson!

I should explain. When the Spousal Unit runs errands, she will run two days to six weeks worth of errands in an afternoon. So, there’s no telling where we are going to end up, or how long we will be gone. Therefore, I always pee before we leave.

I really wish someone had mentioned we were going to have to pee and not just bleed. It’s an important detail.

Oh, well. How hard can it be?

Apparently, very difficult.

Into the restroom, prepare to fill jar.

Nothing.

Concentrate.

Nothing.

I told the phlebotomist I needed to come back later.

She said she needed both samples together. I wasn’t allowed to leave. I was a prisoner. 

I wish she would have told me this before she harvested my two tubes of blood.

She asked if I wanted some water, to help the cause. So, armed with my three ounces of H2O, back to the bathroom I go.

Nothing.

Maybe I just need more water. I turn on the sink and there is no cold water. I don’t mean the cold water isn’t really cold – I mean turning the handle makes nothing appear. On the bright side, the hot water works and it’s not hot, it’s lukewarm.

Lukewarm water is not very pleasant. 

I could ask for more water from the phlebotomist but she wasn’t very happy to see me the last time, so I think I’ll just stick with lukewarm. Ugh.

Three cups of lukewarm water. Yummy.

How much water could it possibly take before I have to pee?

More than 14 ounces of lukewarm water, it appears.

At this point, I had been concentrating so long, I was beginning to sweat. Hmm. Would sweat be an acceptable substitute? Spit? Lukewarm tap water?

Three more cups of lukewarm water.

Hysteria was about to set in. Luckily, that’s when the Spousal Unit texted me.

Ping! “Everything ok in there?”

Autocorrect does not like my answer.

Time to find a distraction.

I could read the soap bottles. There’s a small table, but nothing’s in it, not even the magazines guys need for that other sample.

Ping! “How’s it going in there?”

Stop bothering me! I’m busy not producing a sample!

Ping! “I have to pee again. Do you want me to do it for you?”

Hardy-freakin-hair-har. Do I mock you in times of crisis? (Hmm. Question withdrawn.)

When all else fails, try the classics. This is the one time a prep school education pays off.

I hold the little jar towards the sky. I take a breath, and in a deep voice (for me), I intone, “To pee or not to pee … that is the question.” 

Nothing.

I begin to giggle. Then, I begin to weep.

Hey, do tears count?

I’m now trying to push the sweat beads on my forehead back in, so they will find another way to escape.

The Spousal Unit finally asked the staff if I could go get a drink, and I guess if you block one of their two restrooms for an hour, they’ll let you out. Plus, some of them were beginning to wonder if I was still alive, and found it hilarious we were texting.
Stay alive. Don’t text and pee.

I had been trying to pee for so long, the hospital cafe was closed. Sure, it closes ridiculously early, but still.

Luckily, the Subway one building over was still open. Up one floor, across the sky bridge, and there it was. I went just for a drink, and realized I was starving. Oh, right, we came here before lunch.

It’s 4:30pm. Quest closes at five. Time to slam down a snack and drink as much Mr Pibb as humanly possible.

What a romantic lunch. Subway sandwiches in a hospital. Can I at least take four sips before the Spousal Unit asks if I need to pee yet? 

18 ounces of soda in eight minutes. Then, speed walking back to the other building.

My phlebotomist is gone. That removes some of the pressure. I don’t like being judged.

Retrieved my jar – the only one left on the shelf – and nobody had filled it for me while I was gone. So much for prayers being answered. It’s probably because I wasn’t sure who the patron Saint of pee is. 

I went into the other restroom. Maybe it was the restroom.

Drained the rest of the soda.

Wait.

I have to pee!

Hallelujah!

I have to pee!

Praise the Lord!

I have to pee!

Crap! Where’s the damn jar?

Found it. Filled it. Sealed it.

Well, that was a fun afternoon.

Washed my hands. Oh, look! The cold water works in this restroom.

Headed home at last.

Let all the dogs out. They all peed immediately. The bastards.

I’ve peed twice while writing this. I’m thinking I should be saving it for next time, just in case.

Holidazed

This is specifically written to make me feel better, because I’m about to have my annual panic attack. Read this, and you will probably understand why. This is all just self-reflection, and not designed to insult or offend anyone who may be mentioned or thinks they may be mentioned. So, apologies in advance, just in case.

I hate the holidays. I will admit that. I used to deny it, but even I realize I really dislike this time of year. This has been true for so long that my first wife warned my second wife about it while we were still dating, and I’ve been married to my second wife for fifteen years. I was never sure why, but I’m pretty sure I know now. I’m beginning to recognize some of the annual patterns, and they may have something to do with how I feel.

First of all, for anyone that is even tangentially connected to a sales organization, Christmas is really the end of  fourth quarter and the end of the year – when the sales guys are either going to make their quotas or not. Not making end of the year quota is bad, since reviews are coming up, and you’re about to get a number between 1 and 4 attached to you that is not a ranking (Really. No, it’s really not. It’s just everyone with low numbers is better than people with high numbers. But it’s not a ranking.) So, if you’re a technical resource like me in a sales organization, you can get called into anything that resembles a sales opportunity no matter how hopeless – and the hopelessness will be matched by the desperation of the salesperson. Unfortunately, their bonuses are riding on my performance, so they will expect me to work 80-hour weeks. I don’t get a sales bonus, and I know desperation when I smell it. Usually, once it is apparent that the sale is completely lost, someone will start suggesting that a visit on-site would save the day. The site will be in a remote area, prone to being snowed in, with crappy air service. The only customers available will have no purchasing authority.

I will begin crying at stupid things, especially commercials, starting at Thanksgiving. It may be that I’m really sentimental, it may be the crushing disappointment of never getting a pony for Christmas, it may be the realization that my extended family will probably never get together for an event again – no matter how much we talk about it, or it may just be I gave up drinking too soon in life. So, please just ignore me if I’m crying. It’s probably not you, and it will be over soon.

I will have my annual theological issues with the commercialization of Christmas. These feelings start at the Fourth of July when the first decorations go up. This then leads me to the realization that I’m quite possibly a really, really bad Catholic. However, I’m not especially welcome in the Church since I’m divorced and remarried. Or maybe I am welcome. It depends on whom you ask, and what you mean by “welcome”. Also, I have a fundamental issue with the Church hierarchy who lately seem much more interested in being popular with people and fixing global warming than actually saving souls, which I thought was their job. I understand politicians pandering to the masses, but the Church should be keeping people on the straight and narrow. So, trying to be religious this time of year is very difficult for me. The Catholic Church is a lot like most big corporations – there’s somebody in charge somewhere that has a vision of what should happen, but they keep hiring incompetents to implement the vision.

The Spousal Unit does not want to be home on Christmas. This has been true since her Mom passed away seven years ago. That’s fine, I can live with that. So, logically, we have to go somewhere. In 2009, for lack of better ideas, we went on a cruise, and survived – actually, it was fun. So, now, we take a cruise over Christmas. Interesting point – Christmas Week is the second most expensive week to cruise in the entire year (only New Year’s is worse, and one year, we had both holidays in one cruise.) So, as with anything you have been paying for since at least February, the expectations are high. Anything with high expectations is pretty much doomed, at least on some level, because the expectations amplify minimal imperfections – for some hilarious examples, just read the CruiseCritic website. Also, since the cruise and accouterments (airfare, hotels, excursions, drinks, souvenirs, pet sitters, new clothes, camera gear, insurance)  cost quite a bit of money, anything that can threaten it (work, injuries, pet issues, family issues, travel issues, possible divorce) is made that much worse.

Since we’re gone for Christmas, my family will want to have a Christmas gathering (much like the one the Spousal Unit is avoiding) some time before we leave, since nobody in my family wants to go on the cruise with us – the Parental Unit wants to stay home just as much as the Spousal Unit wants to leave. So, Christmas will be between the 12th and the 23rd and then again on the 25th. If the Spousal Unit’s family ever figures this out, I could end up with three Christmases a year, which is more than my son had as a child of divorce.

Now, ket’s look at what always seems to occur within a few days of Christmas, usually a week or so before – i. e. when I’m trying to close out work projects and get out of town for vacation. When most of this happened this week, I realized it was time to document it.

Some time during the week before we leave:

  • One of our dogs will have a minor to major medical issue. (This actually happens before most vacations in addition to Christmas.) This week, Ripley spent an $845 day at the veterinarian’s. So much for my bar tab on the ship. (On this day in 2011, Bubba crossed the bridge, so I am very glad Ripley is home in one piece, but I wish we didn’t have to spend almost a grand to find out he’s old and temperamental.)
  • The Spousal Unit or I (maybe both) will have a very painful, short-term medical issue that has the potential to derail the entire vacation. Last year, the Spousal Unit had stress-induced vertigo the night before we left that was so bad, I moved our flight eight hours later to give her time to recover (and pack). This year, I managed to slip on a pee puddle in a dark hallway and sprain my ankle. (Yes, pee puddle. The dogs don’t always wait until they’re outside.) I’ve almost finished limping.
  • Someone in the family will start a very distracting project that will then keep the Spousal Unit very distracted until the absolute last minute – to the point where I assume I will be sailing naked, and even though nobody said the project was actually her problem or that it had to be done before Christmas. My Parental Unit will have house repairs or insurance paperwork. Someone somewhere will be ill. Someone needs desperate pet advice, whether they know it or not. My sister-in-law will have some of the carpet in her house replaced. One of the dogs will have a new medication, which requires a sixteen-hour rewrite of the ten-page pet manual for the pet sitter. Something. (One year, it was an actual death, so carpets aren’t so bad.)
  • There will be a major crisis at work. I will be one of three candidates in the Universe that can solve this issue, even if it is not in my job description, my department or even my field of expertise. I will be the only one of the three available. It will blow over eventually, but it may be January before it’s fully resolved. Usually, because of the way annual budgets and finances are designed at work (“Fall Plan” starts in May and ends in February, if you’re lucky), there will be a wee question of whether I will have a job when I return. One year, I had a paper for a conference rejected and found out about it on the ship. So it goes. Then, they said, “No. You have to rewrite it. By Monday.” I redid the paper from my Spousal Unit’s aunt’s house via a T-Mobile hotspot we bought at Home Depot. (She didn’t have Internet access, but she did have a fax machine.)
  • The pet injury and family projects will be the number one, single most critical issues for the Spousal Unit, which make my work problems seem trivial in comparison to her, even if my work crisis is helping management figure out how best to phase out my own job. Having to hear about a Chihuahua’s possible ingrown toenail or how difficult it can be to choose tile while I’m trying to find an extra half million dollars somewhere or I’m patiently explaining for the third time why if a job is necessary in December, it’s probably still necessary in January tends to be slightly annoying. Possibly stressful. Just saying. Maybe it’s just me.
  • I will be told by at least one manager to “forget about work and enjoy your vacation.” I know this is a trap, because I just spent a week trying to figure out where to cut the budget. So, $250 for Internet access on the ship, and I need to watch my email.

On Christmas Day itself, I will not realize it’s Christmas, because we’ve already had the celebrations, I’m still stressed from work, and I will probably be snorkeling. On the bright side, there will probably be rum.

Some years, the calendar is particularly cruel, and I will have work days between the end of the cruise and the end of the year. That’s the case this year.

I don’t really know why I hate the holidays.

One thing after another

There is a cliche – the cure is worse than the disease. I’m getting that a lot lately.

I went to see my doctor because my ankles looked swollen and my feet were getting sore. So, he told me to lose weight (again) and gave me a diuretic. I really didn’t have to pee that much, but I guessed it was doing something.

However, as the days passed, my feet started to hurt. A lot. All over. I thought it was just putting weight on them, but I don’t walk that much, and there should be less weight with the diuretics, anyway.

So, back to the doctor. Poke, poke, poke. Nothing. So, the old Columbo stare off into space and then … “Have you ever had gout?”

I had gout years ago, probably directly linked to the amount of beer I was drinking at the time. So, yes, I’ve had gout.

Down for bloodwork. Apparently, the diuretic can raise uric acid levels in some people (“very few”), and I’m in the lucky number. So, I was drying out and re-aggravating my gout at the same time.

Also, this was “all joints on deck” gout – everything in both feet hurt. The beer gout was just in my left big toe, and it hurt like hell, but nothing like this.

The great thing about today’s medicine is that there are pain killers for everything. So, I got a really good pain killer for my gout. I missed the “take with food” instruction the first two days, so I also got magical journeys in my mind. And naps. Naps with dreams of ants crawling on me – but just one ant. (It’s possible it was Rocky the Chihuahua, come to think of it.)

On the bright side, when I went in for the follow-up that found the gout, I had lost 14 pounds in six days. So, the diuretic worked before it crippled me.

My doctor had also looked at my bloodwork and decided my good cholesterol was too low, so he put me on Niacin. Just like in cereal and Pop Tarts, but a huge dose. It’s an easy pill to take, and there are very few side effects. However, there is one – the Niacin flush. This is not flush, like a toilet, where everything comes out at once (thank God), this is flush like Southern ladies blushing (“Oh, my!”)

In fact, it’s a lot like blushing. As your blood vessels dilate from the drug, you feel flush. Actually, you feel like your head and arms are on fire. I woke up at 3am this morning, and my upper torso was on fire. Plus, I had to use the bathroom.

So, now, I’m limping (gout) to the bathroom (no problems yet), with my upper body on fire (Niacin.) It wasn’t until after the episode that I discovered the Niacin flush or I would have blamed it on hallucinations (pain killer.)

Modern medicine.

Christmas Anonymous

I really don’t like the holidays. Actually, I dread the holidays. I spend the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s in a deep depression. I’m constantly on the edge of tears. I don’t know why. (I have my suspicions, but publishing them would probably offend a lot of people.) So, I thought what is really needed is an organization to help those of us who dread the holidays. We need Christmas Anonymous.

Now, Christmas Anonymous would be built on the basic principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is the foundation for many successful recovery programs. Even people who have never had a drink have probably heard of the Twelve Steps. (In fact, somebody may have already done this work, in which case, I apologize. Doing it has been rather cathartic for me.)

I’ve only been to one AA meeting in my life (on a date – which can tell you how well the relationship worked), and it was an amazing experience. It was a religious experience, as well – only people who share the same dark secret can relate to your true issues and from that relation can come salvation.

So, I’ve taken the original Twelve-Step program (quoted from Alcoholics Anonymous – thank you, Bill W.), and translated it for those of us who can’t seem to cope with the holidays. You’re out there. You’re hurting. You’re not alone.

I read the Twelve Steps just before I went to the AA meeting. Until then, I had no idea what the steps were (although since then I’ve received apologies from alcoholic friends over the years, so I recognized that was one of them.) Some people think AA’s Twelve Steps are very close to a religion – God is mentioned everywhere throughout them. While this may offend some non-alcoholics who think “it’s only a drinking problem”, in the case of Christmas Anonymous, I believe it is absolutely a core part of the solution. (As the sarcastic would say: What? God in Christmas? Surely not.)

Here are the Twelve Steps, for members of Christmas Anonymous.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over Christmas. No matter how hard we wished or bitched, it would still arrive every year on December 25th. Ads begin just after the Fourth of July.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. In this case, perhaps trying to restore the true meaning of Christmas as a religious holiday rather than a reason to spend ourselves into debt will help us through the season.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Wouldn’t Christmas be an excellent time to rededicate yourself to your beliefs? You don’t have to be Christian, but if you’re pummeled by Christmas music and commercials anyway, take a moment to connect with your God. 
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Why do we hate Christmas? Is it religious? Financial? Fear? Relationships?
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our hatred of Christmas. Tell your significant other, friend or family member why you’re so cranky during the holidays. Find someone who will actually listen. If nothing else, blog about it. 
  6. We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. This should always be true whether you hate Christmas or love drugs.  
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Perhaps this would be a good private prayer during Christmas services. If you avoid services, take a moment on Christmas to ask your God for this. 
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Who avoids you during the holidays? They’re on this list.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. In most cases, this is probably a sincere apology to friends and family for being such an asshole during the holidays.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. You’re not going to get through every Christmas unscathed. Remember this. Keep trying.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. If you can find God, you can celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. It was one at one time. 
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others in pain during the holidays, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Find others who hate Christmas, and give them this message. Think what else you hate as much as the holidays, and apply the steps. 

Merry Christmas!