Sunday, April 29, 2012

Iceland - It's A Go

We all go about looking at life through different prisms at different times.  One of the prisms that I like to look at life through the most is the prism of what I would call "big events".  When there is nothing exciting to look forward to but the day-to-day life of work, sleep and the ordinary activities I can frequently slip into a state of depression.  When that happens I try to find something big and exciting for which to look forward.  Most frequently I find myself in the state of needing those "big activities" during the middle of winter when things are dark, gloomy and cold.  I don't find myself going there as much during the spring, summer and fall - when we have lots of light and the weather is such that it is conducive to doing a lot of things outdoors.

Regardless of the weather I now officially have one of those "big activities" to which to look forward.  All the plans are now in place, the reservations made and everything paid for our summer vacation to Iceland.  I had held off finalizing all of the reservations until I had a pretty good idea that my back would allow me to go and enjoy the trip.  Given what I am viewing as a successful surgery I feel confident that the trip is going to be wonderful!

Zack and I will leave Denver on June 25 at 5:15PM on Icelandic Air Flight FI670.  The flight is direct from Denver to Keflavík International Airport in the capital of Iceland - Reykjavík.  There are no stops or airplane changes - it doesn't get much better than that!  We'll be in Iceland until July 5.  We aren't taking any organized tours as we are renting a car and seeing the country on our own.  The funny thing is the car rental for those 10 days in country is only $400 less than the airfare for both of us!  Isn't that absolutely crazy!!!

There are so many wonderful places that I want us to see.  Given the extremely small size of the country - only 300,000 people most of the things that we will be seeing are of nature beauty as opposed to things of a cosmopolitan nature.  I just cannot tell you all how much I am looking forward to this trip.  We are going to pack light in terms of the amount of stuff that we take with us.  In particular, we will go only with a small amount of clothing.  Given that we are going to be spending so much time in the wilderness, I am not worried about what I look like.  However, I am very much concerned about being able to take really good pictures.  So I will be taking my best digital SLR and just about every lens and accessory that I have.  I'd much rather carry the weight in photographic gear than clothes. 

Iceland comes in at either number 2 or 3 on the countries in this world I want to see.  It is 2 or 3 because the number 1 country that I have dreamed about visiting since I was a kid really isn't a place you want to go unless you have a death wish.  The number one country I want to see is Afghanistan as I have read about it's natural beauty since I was a kid.  But realistically I am never going to go there as it is just too violent and has been for so long.  Given that I really don't count Afghanistan on my list.  The other country that is ahead of Iceland is Mongolia.  I feel relatively certain that I will eventually get there, but given the distances involved that trip is going to take me having a lot more vacation time!

On to another subject...  I really wanted to make sure that I close a bad chapter in my life and if you read my blog post from yesterday you know I am referring to the horrible relationship with Shelly.  What I wrote yesterday is really what I felt.  It was truly a pretty horrible picture of her and what happened between us.  I felt that I portrayed it accurately.  The reason for me even writing about it was to get all aspects of it out of my system - just like getting my tattoo and then not just moving on from it - but forgetting about it.  But then the little voice in my head - actually a friend pointed out to me how horrible it all was.  When I wrote it I did realize how nasty it was.  Long story short, my friend was of course right.  So I deleted it all.  It is better to take the high road and then go down into the dirt.  It still galls me though all the crap I got put through.  Nonetheless I have no one to blame but myself.  You can only be put in those positions if you let yourself be put in those positions.  So to the little bird who whispered in my ear - you're 100% right and I will thank you some day.  Now all of that is done and I won't ever spend any more brain cycles thinking about it.

Tomorrow morning the kitchen work is going to start.  Originally the work was scheduled to begin last Thursday but I pushed it out by several days because of my surgery.  I am glad I did as I just won't have been able to get things ready to go by Thursday morning.  It will cost me a little extra in terms of having to pay the general contractor to re-scheduled the workmen, but it was definitely worth it.  The experience of not having a kitchen or a family room for the next 2 months is going to be very weird, but it is going to be so, so wonderful to have a brand new, beautiful kitchen!  I'll post some pictures tomorrow of what it all looked like before the work started.  If I can, I'll do one of those time lapse slide shows so that you can see all the changes happen.

On a final note - my back feels so much better!  There is still a little bit of pain from the incision but even that is mostly gone.  The worst pain I am still feeling from this round of surgery is that the inside of my mouth is still all scraped up from the incubation tube.  It feels like I am swallowing a bowling ball every time I swallow.  All of that pain is because my uvula is swollen from the beating it took.  But even that is getting better each day.  My incision is a little bit open yet so that if I move too much it starts to ooze some blood and clear fluid.  Despite that I am supposed to keep it bandage free so that it is exposed to the air and will heal.  I think within the next 2 days the incision will be totally closed up and my uvula will stop hurting.  It is so good to be pain free!!!

That's it for this Sunday night.  I am going to grab a snack and then spend an hour or two reading before I am off to bed for the night.

Thanks for reading all that I put out there and to those who care enough to tell me I sound like an ass - thank you!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Day After

It's the day after surgery and things appear to be going well.  Doing this surgery outpatient has been so nice compared to the previous two times when I had to stay in the hospital over night.  I got a lot more rest last night than I would have had I been in the hospital, so that has made me feel much better.  Additionally, it allowed me to participate in work activities today instead of missing a second day.

Arranging this surgery with work was somewhat interesting.  I didn't get it 100% finalized that I would be doing this surgery until almost 5PM on Tuesday afternoon.  Besides just being scheduled, I had a lot of issues to take care of insurance wise that could have been deal breakers.  The facility in which I had the surgery is called the SurgCenter on Dry Creek.  It is a very small surgical center with only 6 pre-op/recovery bed and 2 operating rooms.  The majority of the cases that they do there are steroid injections into the spines of people with back problems.  The do a much smaller number of surgeries like mine.  The nurses told me on any given day they might do 5 or so surgeries and as many as 20 steroid injections. Yesterday they were only doing 3 surgeries and had something like 15 steroid injections.

Given the size of the facility and just the nature of it, I suspected that it was a physician own facility.  For all I know the surgeon who operated on me and his partners may own the place - I don't know.  But because of the small size and nature of the place it is out of network for many insurance companies - including mine.  The estimated cost to have the surgery there as an out of network facility was $1700.  On top of that many of the providers except for my surgeon would have also been out of network.  This could have resulted in a very substantial price tag for me.  I wouldn't have minded paying the money, but if I waited or went with Dr. Prall for the surgery, I would have had to pay nothing since my in-network deductible has already been met.  For example when I did the first back surgery at Littleton Hospital, I had to cough up $4500 on the day I went in for surgery.  The second surgery, which was also at Littleton Hospital I didn't have to pay one cent because my in-network deductible was met.

The bottom line is it took a lot of haggling, but the people at the surgical center realized what the situation was and decided to charge Aetna at the in-network price.  On top of that, if Aetna comes back and doesn't pay them $1700 because that was the portion of my out of network deductible to be paid to the facility, the surgical center agreed to write off that amount of money.  All this took a while so it was formally decided I was having the surgery until 5PM the day before.

Because of all of this I didn't get any prior notice to tell my manager that I would be out of the office on Wednesday.  I had a ton of work to do for her on Tuesday night so I was up pretty much the entire night.  When I sent here the completed presentation at 1:45AM, I included in there a description of the situation.  I do not like being seen as unreliable.  Sending that message with such short notice made me feel unreliable, but I really wanted to get this surgery done!

Getting up at 5:00AM so that I could be at the surgical center at 5:30AM kind of stunk.  I also got Zack up and made sure he made breakfast for himself and that he got a good combination of clothes to wear to school that day.  He gets he own clothes out every morning but I got to say, some of the combinations that he comes up with are unorthodox to say the least.  At that point, I tend to step in so he doesn't go to school with an orange shirt and a red pair of shorts.

My brother got to the house promptly at 5:25AM and once I finished relaying all the instructions to Zack we took off.  He just dropped me off and didn't stick around as there was no purpose to it.  Arriving at the center was some what odd as there were really no one there.  When I walked in ta receptionist was on duty and there were two nurses in the pre-op area and that was all that was there.  They had me do all the normal stuff like get undressed and put on one of those ever popular hospital gowns. The took my vitals - which despite not having taken my body pressure medication, my BP was excellent.  I guess I have grown use to the surgery as I don't even get worked up about it any more.  The worst pain of the day was encountered when they put the IV into the top of my hand - and that really doesn't hurt hardly at all by the way, but it really is the only pain I tend to feel with the surgeries I have had.

The anesthesiologist was quite unusual.  Instead of looking like he belonged in an operating room environment, he looked as though he would be more at home at a construction site or on a Harley Davidson.  He was a huge hulk of man with blond hair and a blond goatee on his chin.  To ensure the difference of his looks instead of the typical cap/hair net thing most nurses wear, he had on a "dew rag" that gave you the impression he was a member of a biker gang.

Another unorthodox thing that occurred was that before they did anything with the anesthesia they gave me an oxycotin 10 mg pill.  I had never seen that before where they would give you a pain pill by mouth before surgery.  After that it was all business as usual.  I only had to sign one consent this time as I had signed all the other consents late Tuesday afternoon at the doctors office.

Surgery was scheduled for 6:30AM and things ran pretty much according to schedule as I was getting into the operating room at 6:40AM.  Being rolled into an operating room is an extremely interesting experience.  The first thing I always notice is the table that they put you on.  Thankfully this table was not like the rig they hard at Littleton.  The table for back surgery at Littleton looked more like a torture device in which you were splayed out in all four directions so that your body essentially forms and X.  This table was a plain old fashioned operating table on which they had a riser so that my back would be elevated above the rest of my body.  A couple of other interesting observations was how stinking cold it was in there.  Seriously the temperature could not have been too much above sixty degrees.  Wearing only a hospital gown in that temperature you are quickly freezing.  Lastly, the other thing I noticed - and this is the same in every operating room are the lights!  They are so huge - they must be so bright when they are turned around.

Once I was rolled into the OR and the gurney situated next to the operating table, the fun with drugs began.  The anesthesiologist started putting lots of drugs into my IV.  The first one to hit me kept me awake but definitely relaxed me.  Then he put an oxygen mask on my face at the same time he was putting another injection into my IV line.  At that point I started to feel the overwhelming feeling that the world was starting to be cut off around me.  I always like to try and fight the feeling of going under, but it is useless - you go to lala land regardless of whether or not you want to.Shelly Dierking

Next thing I know I am lying back on the gurney in the pre-op/recovery area.  The surgery as far as I know went without a hitch.  I didn't get any feedback on what was found or what was done because Dr. Elliott had already left.  My surgery was the only one he was doing at that surgical center on Wednesday.  All the rest were being done at other places.  The one thing I do know is that the incision from this surgery seems to be much larger than the previous 2 surgeries.  This time the incision seems to be about 6 inches - half a foot long!  Yikes is all I can say to that.  The following unflattering picture of me shows the size of the bandage and hence the size of the incision.  It's darn big!

(Ugh - this is a really ugly picture of me that catches me in an unflattering light, but I wanted to post it so that you could see the size of the bandage and hence the size of the underlying incision that I have on my back!)

All told I was under general anesthesia for about 5 hours.  I came out of the OR at 11:30AM but I didn't really start having any kind of recollection as to what was going on until about 12:30PM.  I was still bleeding a good bit from the incision so they decided to keep me until 3:00PM.  During that 2 1/2 hour stretch, I ate a few crackers and other snacks, proved to the nurses that I could walk and get around and of course the one that they insist upon - I proved that I could pee.  (There is something in the general anesthesia that stops your ability to pee.  So you have to prove to them that the anesthesia has worn off enough that you can pee before they will release you.)  There didn't really seem to be any negative side effects from surgery other than the fact that my uvula (the thing that hang down from the back top of your mouth) is swollen from the beating it took when I was incubated.Shelly Dierking

My brother came back to the surgical center around 2:25PM and we hung out talking until it was 3:00PM.  The reason that they made me stay was to make sure that the amount of bleeding/oozing from my incision was minimal. They discharged me promptly at 3:00PM and we were off towards home.  Tim just dropped me off because he needed to run so that he could get to his class that he is taking at Metro state on time.  However, Nancy was there and she stayed around and chatted with me for a good hour or so before she headed back to Cranbook.

About 30 minutes or so after I arrived home there was a knock on the door.  At first I thought it was Zack coming home from the bus and so I yelled a couple of times "The door's open".  But the person didn't come in.  After I looked closer, I realized that it wasn't Zack, it was some one I didn't know.  Nancy got up to see who it was and it was a delivery person bring me flowers.  Boy was I surprised to get flowers!  That was real special for me to know that someone cared enough to go out of their way and send me flowers.  I really appreciated it a lot.  As for who sent me flowers...  I will leave that a mystery for now but you can be sure I will fill in the blanks at a little bit later of a time.  I'll leave it at this for now - the sender was a she and she is really beautiful.  Enough said on that subject for a little while.

After Nancy left it was just me, Zack and the pups.  Obviously the pups weren't going to be doing much to help me out so I relied upon Zack to do the things around the house that I would normally do.  He did is normal chores (feed the dogs, do the dishes, etc) and other things too.  My limitations after this surgery are pretty basic - no bending, lifting or twisting (BLT).  So I should be able to still do a lot of things around the house like cook, do the laundry etc.  Yesterday afternoon I didn't want to do anything since I was just out of surgery, so Zack did pretty much everything for us.

Around 6:30PM Celinde and Cole stopped by and brought us dinner.  They got me Tokyo Joes and Zack they got Burger King.  Since Tim wasn't around and Cole had all his homework done, they stayed and visited with us for about 1.5 hours.  It isn't too often that I get to sit around and just talk to Celinde - so it was kind of cool to have a long conversation with her.  Zack and Cole of course played video games - imagine that!Shelly Dierking

Celinde and Cole left around 8:30PM and then Zack and I watched a bit of TV before it was time for him to go up and get to bed.  Being the stupid fool that I am...  I ended up stay up until 1:00AM as I got to writing and I didn't want to stop.  For whatever reason I am always writing and there was a lot for me to write about yesterday.  I put another e-mail out to my boss explaining the whole situation.  The good thing is she understood and was really great about the whole situation.  Having a really good person who you work for makes a world of difference in your life!

Today - Thursday has been low-key as I have kept my activity levels to a minimum.  I really want this to be the last back surgery I have so I want to make sure I don't screw it up by doing too much.  I did a conference call early this morning and I have stayed on top of my e-mail, but other than that - I haven't done a huge amount.

And with that I will wrap up this post.  There's a lot of stuff floating around in my head that I want to write about so I think I will be a relatively prolific writer in the coming the days.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

So much to write about... But so little time tonight...

It's been a bit since I have posted and there is so much to write about, but there isn't enough time to write an extensive blog post tonight.  I have a ton of "work, work" to get done and on top of that the hard wood for the new floor arrived and I need to move a bunch of stuff to be ready for the demolition that starts on Thursday.  Therefore I am just going to touch on a few quick subjects and come back to much of this stuff when I have time to write a proper blog entry.

I am having another round of surgery tomorrow.  On Monday April 16th I met with a neurosurgeon by the name of Dr. Elliot.  I consulted him to seek out a "second" opinion of what I needed to do about the pain in my back.  His recommendation was surgery.  The surgical option that he recommend was very different than my previous 2 operations and very different from the surgical option offered by my original neurosurgeon.  The option that Dr. Elliot recommend was to go into my back and essentially roto-root the place where my nerves emerge from my spinal column.  The area that the nerves emerge from the vertebrae is called the foramen.  When I originally called to get my surgery scheduled they gave me a date of June 28th.  Of course that was way too far off for me and I told them that.  On Monday afternoon I got a call from the surgeon's office saying they had a cancellation and they could get me in on Wednesday at 6:30AM.  Despite how close that was to now, I decided I had to go with it as I want to be out of this pain as quickly as possible.

Having the surgery tomorrow morning has thrown my entire schedule into an uproar.  I am supposed to be on conference calls for work from 6AM until 9AM and now I have to cancel out of those - not particularly good for my career.  My manager has me functioning as her business operations manager which means I am responsible for managing many of the day-to-day activities that go into our p&l (profit loss) statement.  I really should be on these calls but my back is going to take priority!

That's going to be it for tonight.  I have so many different ideas swirling around in my head for blog entries but I just don't have the time tonight.  Provided my surgery goes well and there are no medical mistakes - I will have lots of time to write tomorrow

Thanks and peace to all!  Hopefully the next time I post my back will be in the state that it was before the stress fracture in my leg.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

24 Hours - Exhaustion - Crashing

Back in the early days of my career when I was programming DEC VAX computers using the programming language of the gods - Cobol (I am showing my age and my sense of humor by that statement) I would often find myself pulling all nighters.  When you have a system that is supporting the day-to-day operations of a company there aren't any excuses for down time.  So if there was a code problem with a program you had written, you had to worked until it was fixed.  The worst for me was when I was the system architect for a package software that my employer, Accenture sold to the Defense Industry.  The name of that software is still ingrained in my head, MAC-PAC/D.  It stood for something like Manufacturing and production requirements scheduling for the defense industry.  Basically I think some executive came up with the name MAC-PAC/D and then found words to line up the initials.

At that time I was the lead architect for all the system management functions of the software.  When we had to get a new software release out the door, it was always me and 3 of my teammates who had to see everything through.  Over time we developed our own little process of how we would handle things because we would frequently have to be in the office for 48 - 72 hours straight during final system testing.  The process we had made sure that we could all manage to get a little bit of sleep during our 3 days of hell.  We also tried to make it the work fun to allow us to better deal with the stress and utter chaos of the effort.  We brought all kinds of stuff into the office to help us keep our sanity.  And of course we cracked all kinds of very inappropriate jokes.  I am quite sure that me, Steve Norvid and Tom Doering made life utter hell for our one female office mate Lynne Yankowski.  In today's politically correct world I am quite sure we would be fired for some of the stuff that came out of our mouths at 3AM when we were totally and complete slack happy from lack of sleep.  But to her credit Lynne always had great smack downs that put us "men" in our places.  As much as it sucked to do those all-nighters we ended up having a lot of fun.

Oh how the times have changed!  Now when I am called upon by my employer to work for 24 hours straight it is normally done from my house with my bed calling me to come and sleep but I can't!  I mention all of this because I got an e-mail at 8:40PM last night (Monday) from my boss who is in India this week.  She needed me to drive the development of a major presentation that she is presenting to her boss who is an executive that is only a couple levels down from the CEO of my company.  The problem was, she was reaching out to me at 8:40PM Monday evening which was 8:10AM India time Tuesday.  She needed a draft ready for Wednesday morning India time.  Which meant, I got to work for pretty much 24 hours straight to make sure that the presentation came together.  Though it seems like a major pain in the butt it was actually an OK activity because it kept me in the thick of things with my boss.  It was a great opportunity to prove to her my unique talents when it comes to developing communication material for the top leadership of the company.  It was a good feeling to be in the middle of it all.  Pulling an all nighter is a lot different than it was back in the days that I worked for Accenture.  Pulling an all nighter when you work from you own house seems weird as I never normally stay up all night at home.  Even if I can't sleep I usually still go to bed at some point.  Of course Zack heard me still up and about at 3:00AM and decided he needed to check out the situation.  And truth be told it wasn't a true all nighter as I did manage to get about 2 hours of sleep - so it wasn't absolutely horrendous.

But now my energy is starting to drain for the evening.  I turned my final version of the slide deck over to my boss about 1 hour ago and so far I haven't heard any feedback - that must mean my work is perfect  - hardly!!  I believe she is giving the presentation sometime in the afternoon India time.  India's time zone is almost 12 hours different from ours.  I say almost because India uses a time zone that is 30 minutes different than the surround time zones.  Whereas it is 9:30PM here in the Mountain Time Zone of the US.  In India it is 9:00AM.  Normally time zones are different by whole hour increments.  India is among a handful of countries that have time zones that are different by some increment other than a whole hour.  The other interesting thing is despite it's overall size, India only has one time zone.  I don't know if it is large enough to support multiple time zones or not, but every place in India is on the one time zone.

It is time for me to shut down my work computer and head to bed.  I need to round up the puppies and get them headed upstairs.  They would sleep downstairs all night but I like for them to be upstairs in the bedroom as opposed to being able to wander around all night and try and get into something.

Getting to plunk down on my bed will be a shear act of hedonistic sleeping pleasure.  My mind is starting to get to the point that I am starting to lose track of reality.   When I get this tired my brain really  starts to shut down on me and I can't think straight.

Despite my near complete exhaustion, I am feeling this melancholy urge to give Brenda a call.  It has been several weeks since we have spoken and I truly wonder how she and her kids are doing. I won't do that obviously as it is way too late.  I miss having daily interaction with her.  I don't think she really understands what she means to me.  Oh well - when I stumble into bed I will at least fall asleep with nice and warm thoughts of her.  She has always been so kind to me.  She is person who has such a kind, warm and loving personality.  It feels good just being around her.  Oh well - my bed is screaming my name!

Utter exhaustion!

Good night and sleep well!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Finding A Balance

Some days the desire for me to write is not particularly strong.  Today was one of those days and I had no plans to write this entry.   But then something struck me and I decided to go ahead and write.  This might not be my best written entry as I just feel my writing is off today, but there is something for me to convey.

I have come to notice that often my blog entries go back and forth between feeling positive/upbeat and feeling negative and downtrodden.  I had to ask myself - what's the deal Jerry?  What direction are you really moving?  Are things good or are they bad?  There is a lot here for me to ponder and figure out in this realm.  The bottom line is that I hope to find a better balance.  In an entry that I wrote last week (I think it was last week anyway) I talked about how I tend to pump up the positive feelings to put into my blog.  In general the feelings that are running through me are more negative than I am letting on by what I write.

 My blog entry from Saturday was honest in the upbeat and positive feeling that I was experiencing.  There was nothing I needed to do on Saturday to enhance the way I was feeling to put in the blog.  My emotions were definitely positive and I was in a good mood.  Even though it was a Saturday night and I was at home I was in a really good mood.  It is very interesting what I feel moving forward from this past Saturday.  Getting the tattoo was some form of giant release of pent up negative emotions.  I have been in a state of feeling down trodden, depressed and anxious for so long that moving away from those feelings without a pill, without alcohol or without having a girlfriend took me by surprise.  It was like the tattoo added something to my emotions that has been missing for so long.  I can't really explain it, but getting that tattoo filled in the hole in my soul that has been dragging me down for so long.

All of this must sound extremely strange I am sure.  But then again if you have been reading this blog for any period of time, I am quite sure you are used to me writing things that sound quite strange.  Even today the strength of the positive feelings that are emanating from me is unusual given the amount of bad news that I received today.

The bad news that I received today was concerning my back.  This morning I had an appointment with yet another neurosurgeon.  This is the third neurosurgeon I have seen since I started on this odyssey with my back injury in November.  He is part of a practice at Swedish Hospital and he came strongly recommended by my sister-in-law.  For those of you who don't live in the Denver area, Swedish Hospital is one of the larger hospitals in the area.  It is probably 2 - 3 times the size of Littleton Adventist Hospital where I had the first 2 surgeries on my back.  It is like I am moving up a chain and I am going to a bigger hospital that has more specialty doctors, better equipment and performs more procedures.  Hopefully I will not have to go to an even bigger hospital!

The news I received was that short of some kind of a miracle the only way I will get out of the pain I am experiencing is to undergo a third surgery.  As any one can imagine this is not the news I wanted to hear.  On top of that, I will have to undergo 10 more weeks of recovery and rehab - quite possibly losing yet another summer hiking/climbing season.  There are several choices that I have to make concerning all of this.  The first is how quickly I decide to move forward with this surgery.  I could potentially just hold off for a while and see what happens.  Maybe I won't have a miracle, but perhaps my pains will go down enough so I am not in such high levels of pain.  The next question is whether I have the surgeon who operated on me the previous two times do this surgery or whether I have the surgeon who I consulted with today do the surgery.

When I got the news this morning it clearly upset me.  As I drove home I kept asking myself why does this stuff continue to happen?  Why can't I get this issue resolved?  But instead of going into a complete pity party I decided to pull myself up by the boot straps and just say "oh well".  Things could certainly be a lot worse.  Why allow my mind and emotions to make the situation worse by having a giant pity party for myself?

Clearly I have some thinking to do about what choices I am going to make concerning my back.  I'll do that thinking over the next several days and get the show on the road in whichever direction I am going to go by the end of the week.

I really think the time has come in which I will find the balance of emotions in my life.  The key thing that this will mean for me is leaving the anxiety, depression and unhappiness behind me and living life on a much more even keel.  Getting my tattoo was at the least a catalyst to move my mental state in this different direction.  There might even be more to it than that in the fact that the tattoo represents closure on several difficult chapters in my life.  Whatever it truly is, I know my owl (the tattoo) that sits on my shoulder will be there for the rest of my life.  He is now my guardian and I will never be alone again.

 (I am not 100% sure I am going to do it, but I do have an idea of a tattoo for my left arm!)

Wow - I never expected to write this much when I started writing this after dinner.  (Especially since the keyboard on my laptop wasn't working correctly.  When the P key was hit, the letters, O, I, K, L, O would appear on the screen.  To resolve the issue I had to rip half the keyboard off letter by letter and get all the dust and grime out from under the keys.  I've had this laptop for over 2 years now and it is starting to show the wear and tear I put my computers through.)

I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Big Story

About two weeks ago I mentioned that there was something I was going to do that was pretty dramatic.  I actually even counted down the days until I did it.  I didn't want to mention what it was in case I chickened out at the last moment.

Today was the day of this big event.  Did I do it?  Yes, I did do it.  So what was this big thing I was going to do?  I got a tattoo today.  Not a small, tiny little tattoo that is easily hidden.  This tattoo covers my right arm from my shoulder to just and inch or two above my elbow.  It is a tattoo of a great snowy owl.  This is the type of owl that Harry Potter had as a pet.  I chose to get this tattoo as a way to memorialize Patty.  She was one of the biggest Harry Potter fans that you could imagine. She particularly liked Hedwig, Harry's pet great snowy owl.  I felt there was no better way to memorialize her on my body than a tattoo of Hedwig.

At the bottom of the tattoo two words are written - Three Forever.  There is a significance to these words of course.  My initial plan was to use the words that were on the last slide of the photo montage shown at Patty's memorial service - "Forever yours in eternity".  Then the phrase "Three Forever" came to me this morning when I was brushing my teeth.   What does Three Forever mean?  It has two meanings.  The first is the obvious meaning of the number of us in our little family.   That is - Patty, Zack and me.  The less obvious meaning is what the word three meant to Patty and me.  We used the word three to signify "I love you".  There are three words in "I love you" which is how we evolved "three" to signify that.  So if we were ever in a situation that we felt awkward blurting out "I love you" to each other we would just say "three" instead.  Or if we were in a place where it was difficult to talk, one of us would just put 3 finger on the other.  It was something that allowed us to show love at times it would have otherwise been difficult.  In Patty's final days of life when she was unconscious and on the ventilator, there were many times in which I would sit beside her and hold three of her fingers so hopefully she could feel that she was loved.  Three Forever just conveys that sense of who we were as a family and that I will love Patty forever.

This tattoo is for me to always remember Patty and the enormous impact that she had on my life.  Without Patty by my side I don't know that I would have amounted to much in this life and I feel I have her to thank for so many of the good things I have achieved in life.  Now I have a memory of her forever painted into my skin.

I am not going to take any pictures of the tattoo for a couple of days yet.  There is a lot of discoloration around it due to the stencil that the tattoo artist used to create the outline of the tattoo.  Additionally, my skin is pretty well inflamed from the beating it took from the tattoo needle (or whatever you call it).  I'll take some pictures in the middle of this coming week and post them here at that time.

The experience of getting the tattoo was interesting!  I went to Celebrity Tattoo's in Lakewood as they were the place that was recommended by my cleaning ladies as they both have a bunch of tattoos.  The place is very swanky inside, so I am guessing that they are making a fair amount of money.  I got there around 1:00PM but had to wait until 2:30PM for a tattoo artist to become available.  The guy who I was working with is named Puma.  Like most tattoo artists, he was pretty much covered with tattoos.  He was a really nice guy though and I think he did a pretty good job on the tattoo.

The level of pain I experienced during the process wasn't bad at all.  You hear people talking about tattoos hurting but it didn't bother me too much.  There were only a copy of times that I acutely felt pain and that was when Puma was reaching the back of my arm.  For whatever reason the back and inside of your arms are much more sensitive than the outside.  Who knew??  I think the worst thing was sitting there for 2 hours without my shirt on.  Puma's work station was directly in line with the main door of the shop and for the first 45 minutes or so, the door was propped open.  There was a good breeze blowing through that kind made me freeze.  Being cold was actually than the pain of the tattoo.

From start to finish it took about 2 hours to get the tattoo. I spent a good bit of the time talking to Puma but it seems like people are less likely to talk when getting tattoos than when they are getting their hair cut.  Part of the reason for this I think is because the tattoo machine makes a lot of noise.

I don't ever feel that I want to look like a walking art show, but I will actively consider getting another tattoo some time in the future.  This tattoo was strictly for me to memorialize Patty so at some point I might want to get a tattoo for myself.  Two will probably be the limit of what I will allow myself to get - just because I don't want to look out of control.

There isn't too much else for me to write about tonight.  I think the tattoo story kind of trumps just about anything else I could write.  Zack and I had some plans for this evening but we decided to stay home.  Zack was tired from spending the entire day with his cousin playing throughout the neighborhood and my back issue has been killing me since mid-afternoon.  So instead of going out we are staying home on this dreary, gray evening.  Given the severe weather that is happening throughout the country I do hope you all are safe and not having to face these monster thunderstorms.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

There was one thing I meant to write above and I forgot.  As the tattoo was being done one of the other tattoo artists walked by Puma's work area and said "Great Hooter there" meaning of course the owl as owls hoot.  This lead to a general discussion between everyone nearby that I have a great pick up line with the tattoo.  If I were in a bar and saw a woman I liked I could walk up to her and say "I show you my hooter if you show me yours".  hahahahahaha.  Like I am really every going to say that!  I don't think so, but it gave everyone around a good laugh.  Do people actually use stupid pick lines?  I never have and I would be so embarrassed to do so.  Just had to add that before I forgot about.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Only Me

I feel like my life has been stolen from me because of the issues with my back.  In the last several days my life has descended into a state of constant physical pain.  My entire rigght side from my hip to my toes has been enveloped in a mind-numbing pain.  It won't be so bad if it went away every so often, but this pain continues - eating through me and sending me into wave after wave of depression.

I had another MRI on Saturday and it showed a lot of scarring and wear and tear of my vertebrae, but there is no direct cause for the pain that is ripping through me.  There is no end to my frustration as everything I want to do is a pipe dream at this point.  If I stand up for more the 4 or 5 minutes the pain becomes so unbearable I have to sit down.  This is not the way I want to live.

Despite taking lots and lots of medication to stop the pain, it continues.  I am at the end of my rope in terms of what to do.  My neurosurgeon has ordered PT and has written a prescription for more pain medication.  I don't believe either of those is going to be the answer for me.  Regardless of that fact I will do both of them because I will try anything to make this all go away.

I feel relatively hopeless about this entire situation.  I wonder if there is something I did to bring all this pain and suffering upon myself.  I am just tired of it all.  This shit has gone on since I injured my leg in March of 2011.  I thought by June of 2011 it would be resolved.  But no - it is now April of 2012 and the pain continues.  What am absolute cluster.

The pain makes me feel like the life is being sucked out of me.  To some degree that is exactly what is happening.  My life consists of sitting at my kitchen table working, lying on my couch watching TV or sleeping.  My desire to go for a hike or a run is kept in check by the fact that once I stand on my feel the pain comes searing through me.

I do appreciate all the advice that my be offered to me.  But the hard core fact is that I have seen 2 neurosurgeons, 2 pain management doctors and my primary care doctor and no one has a really good plan to stop the pain.  So on Monday I will seek the opinion of yet another neurosurgeon.  I hope that he can bring some clarity to the situation.

Something that makes the situation worse is that I really have no one to talk to about all that is happening.  I think that is probably one of my biggest down falls in life.  What I mean by that is I have always kept my social circle small.  I relied heavily upon Patty to provide me the "social support" that I needed.  She was the same way as me.  She had a very small social circle and relied upon me.  Now that she is gone there is a huge gap in my life.  Yes - she has been gone for almost 4 years now so you would think that I would have developed a new social circle by now.  I had done that by having my relationship with Shelly.  But then that was destroyed.  I relied upon Shelly to give me the social and emotional validation that I needed and in the end run that burned me.

So here I sit - feeling like shit.  ((That rhymes if you caught it!  :-)  That made me chuckle to write that!)  What I mean is, so here I sit without much of chance of doing anything.  I can't really go out and hang out at the bars anymore because I can't stand for more than 4 or 5 minutes.  I can't really put myself into the dating pool for the same reason.  I can't even do my favorite activity of going for a hike or just a walk through my neighborhood. So I sit at home alone staring out our back window or at the TV.  Most of the time I just sit on the couch with the TV on mute and stare into the distance cursing whoever or whatever has put me on this path in life.

In times like this drastic change is often needed.  One of the reasons that I am spending huge amounts of money to have my kitchen re-done, is so that I could make that change happen.  Once the kitchen and family room are redone I could put this house on the market in a minute and just be gone from my current life.  I literally could pick up and move somewhere else and leave all the memories of the bad things that have happened in the rear view window of my life.  But....  As much as I wish that I know I really can't do it.  For the next 5 years I need to follow the basic direction that I am on because I need to make sure that I properly launch Zack into his own life.   I need to see him successfully through middle school and high school.  Once those activities are done he needs to take full ownership for his life and fly off on his own to his destiny. 

I hope no one takes my post as something it isn't.  This is just a statement of what my life is at this very second.  Basically my life sucks right now.  But I will soldier on.  I will deal with the physical pain I feel.  I will eventually put all the emotional baggage behind me.  Even if I have to do it with a social circle of 1 person I will push through this.  Yes - I am very weary and tired in spirit, but I haven't made it this far in life without fighting and battling like there is no tomorrow.  I will eventually succeed and put all this physical and emotional pain behind me.  I am strong and I can do anything - and I do mean anything.

When Patty was sick and in the hospital I definitely learned the lesson that I could anything.  Yes - I could raise Zack and look after Patty's well being at the same time.  I don't even want to think of all the things I did to help her when nurses weren't available.  You never think you will have to do those sort of things with your spouse but the reality is - unless you sudden drop dead of a heart attack or stroke, somebody is eventually going to have to wipe your butt as you fight through the final stages of life.  It's not pretty, it's not fun, but it is part of life.  And my participation in Patty's end of life taught me I am strong and I really can do anything.

And so I will suffer through my physical pain.  Eventually I will get it resolved - even if they have to cut off my leg to stop it from hurting - I will get it resolved.  As for the mental/emotional situation, all I can is "oh well".  I will at some point get back to dating and I will find the person who has it all.

And with that last thought I bid you all a good night!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Nose and the Rose

Wow!  What an interesting title for today’s blog entry!  It is a misleading title because the nose part has nothing to do with the rose part. 

I start today’s blog entry with “The Nose”.  Depending upon who their owners are dogs can have some pretty cushy lives.  They really don’t have any kind of major responsibilities other than to follow the rules that are set for them.  Most dogs know how to bend the rules to their advantage so that they can get what they want.  It all depends upon what they can do to play cute.  For some dogs they don’t have to do anything to be cute to us they just are.  We just look at them and we want to hold them the same way we held our stuff animals when we were kids.  Other dogs have their tricks down pat as to how to get their humans to do what they want them to do.  Some will do a little cute howl and get down on their haunches and wag their tails.  Pictures of puppies in those positions are just so cute.  For every dog, there is at least one special way that they have to make themselves so cute and lovable.

Finnegan has evolved one of these mechanisms that I call “the nose”.  To be 100 percent honest it can be both cute and annoying.  What Finn does is he uses his soft little black nose to poke when he wants your attention.  He loves to do when I am lying on the couch.  He will come up to me and use his nose to lift my arm or poke me in the ribs.  He has used his nose so much that the tip of it is changing color of pure black to this faded color.  I really have to a laugh how effective he is in using his darn nose to get exactly what he wants.  For the most part it is always cute except for in the early morning.  After he goes out of the first time he will come in and his nose is absolutely freezing cold!  Then he will take his nose and poke me in the back of my leg.  If I have just gotten out of bed I am still all nice and warm.  Brrrr…  is all I can say every time that cold nose of his touches my warm skin.

“The nose” is just one of those things about Finnegan that makes him so cute, adorable and lovable.  It’s wonderful to have the love and affection of this cute, wonderful puppy!

Because I was trying to be funny I decided to name the second part of today’s blog entry – The Rose.  I decided to name it the rose because I was going to write about sharp prickly things with thorns.  Of course I am just pulling everyone’s leg by saying.  Instead I am going to write of something of beauty.

If you all haven’t been able to tell by now I am a hopeless romantic.  In my younger years I never would have thought of myself as that, but I have certainly come to realize that is what I am.  Throughout most of my adult life I have been occupied with the thoughts of women.  I just can’t help – it is who I am.  But let be clear about that I have been gone wily-nily from one woman to another constantly falling in love.  That has not been me.  I become very dedicated to one woman and then I stick with her.  Before I met Patty there was only one person with whom I was involved and really loved.  Patty was destined to be my partner and life companion pretty much from the first time we met.  Once I met her was with her continuously until she died.  No – I wasn’t perfect about it, but there was nothing that was going to pull us apart.  Had she continued to live we would have been together.

Since Patty has died I have dated a number of women.  I guess if you were to count it up it comes out to about 10 women – and most of those 10 were only a handful of dates.  But of those ten only 3 have made a significant impact upon me in terms of my thoughts and emotions.  Nor have I jumped from one partner to another in seemingly endless fashion.  My heart becomes attached and even if I am rejected my thoughts, dreams and hopes remain with that person to whom I have become attached.

It has now been 1365 days since Patty was lost to this world.  And despite the mistakes that I have made along the way, I have found someone to whom I feel very unique attached.  Granted I screwed it up last summer when I left her and went back to my old girlfriend, but I know the feelings that remain in my head and heart.  For at least a short time in the late winter I saw glimpses of those same kind of feelings being replicated back to me.  Now those feelings are either dead or very well hidden – I don’t know.  But I can’t spot thinking about her. 

So why has Brenda become so special to me?  There are so many reasons.  I really think the thing that attached Brenda to me in the first place was her willingness to listen and understand.  Compassion, understanding and the willingness to step out side of your own skin to understand what someone else is going through is a unique gift.  If you look through the recent history of the world some of the people who have been the most beloved of all time have been people who were able to show intense compassion.  People like Sister Theresa and Prince Diana illicited the reactions from people because the put themselves in other people’s shoes and never judged – they were compassionate.  I loved how I could tell Brenda anything – even the worst side of myself and she could understand without judging.  To often during the time since August of 2006 when Patty got sick I have been subject to a lot of judgment by others.  Brenda was able to accept where I had been and understand the level of pain in my soul.  In many ways she had been there before as she lost her husband years ago.

Another connection point is that though she doesn’t see it she is very laid back.  Like me she isn’t necessarily laid back when it comes to dealing with her children, but when it comes to maintaining relationships with other adults, she is easy, going, happy and stress free.  There were never any expectations that you had to do a specific thing when it came to going out.  Even this past St. Patrick’s Day we had talked about going out to a fancy restaurant in downtown.  Instead at the last moment I thought why not change it up and indulge in St. Patrick’s Day craziness.  So we went to a dive bar along the South Platte River and we both were just as happy.

I really could go on and on.  There are so many things that draw me to her.  And yet I know my chances to re-build a relationship with her are minimal.  But regardless I still can’t help but be drawn to her.  I can’t help but want her to be in my life in some way, form or fashion.

I think too I could add to her life.  Perhaps I am totally mistaken, but I understand where she was when she had her life companion in her life.  I get it.  I understand that he occupies a place in her life that no one will ever replace.  I respect her so much for know the depth of her what he meant to her and never wavering from that.

Brenda – If you ever read this you are a rose.  You are as close to perfect as a person can come – at least as close as perfect as some one can come for me.  I don’t need to tell you how beautiful you are.  You are amazingly beautiful but that is the absolutely least of your qualities.

Oh well I will dream on and you will occupy my dreams for a long time to come.  You have never so much as said a cross word to me – how can I do anything but want to be around you and share your life?  You offer the people in your world so much – I hope you can understand why I care about you so much.

And so you all hear of my romantic, idealistic heart.  I only wish I could provide the substance and strength in my soul that would make me special to some one like Brenda.

As for the rest of our day, it has been work, work and more work.  I need to stay on top of my work e-mail until late tonight as I have been preparing a major presentation for my manager for tomorrow morning.  She’s reviewed several times but I need to see what she has to say about the final version that I sent her.

This morning I also got some news about my MRI from Saturday.  There isn’t anything dramatic to report there is just extensive damage and scarring to all the tissue around my L4/L5 vertebrae.  I got this information from my sister-in-law who went into the computer system and read the radiologists report.  So far there hasn’t been any word from the neurosurgeon.  Perhaps I will hear something tomorrow.  I hope there is something that we can change because right now the pain levels continue to increase and my sense of loss over the whole scenario continues to grow.  Zack and I were talking this evening about how much we would like to get out to Cherry Creek State Park and do some hiking around and just hanging out.  Right now with the pain I keep experiencing in my hip that doesn’t seem possible.

Well I guess that is it for the night.  It’s time go get back to my work e-mail and see if I have any feedback from my manager.  I hope every has a great week ahead!!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter - Fat, Dumb and Happy!

Oh my - it is going on 9:30PM and I am still feeling somewhat fat, dumb and happy from today's gorging - oh I mean festivities!  We did Easter Brunch at my brother's house today.  There were somewhere around 15 or so people there - maybe a few more.  The amount of food that was available and that we consumed was somewhat astounding.  At least I feel that way as 9 hours after the meal I am still feeling a bit full.

It was kind of our normal Easter Brunch scenarios that played out with most of the "usual suspects" there.  Typically there is a group of roughly 20 - 30 people who attend our dinners, brunches, BBQ's and such.  Not all of them are always there but on average gatherings like this will bring 15 - 20 people together.  It's a perfect number of folks as you get varied conversations and there are usually enough kids there to keep all the child-like age groups happy.  It is pretty interesting these days as the youngest kids at these events are now pushing 10 or 11 years old, while the majority of the kids are now teenagers.  It certainly shows that both us and our friends are all getting older!

This morning I rose early to build and cook my Easter Brunch creations.  My signature dish for the Easter is a dish that Patty perfected years and years ago.  Everyone likes it so with Patty's passing I have taken over the preparation of it every year.  It is called an "Egg and Cheese Breakfast Strada".  It's basic a big huge souffle consisting of eggs, cheese, bread, milk and spices.  I hadn't realized when I went to the store yesterday that Zack had consumed our last gallon of milk.  (Yes - with Zack the eating machine around I have to buy milk multiple gallons at a time.  My normal shopping trip involves either the purchase of 2 or 3 gallons of milk that will be gone in a matter of 4 - 5 days.)  So the first thing I had to do once I got out of bed was run to Safeway and pick up a couple of fresh gallons of milk as that is a key ingredient in the dish.

Once I had the milk back home it took about an hour to get everything whipped up and in the casseroles.  I was making 2 casseroles today because the number of people who were coming.  The time consuming part of the preparation is to take the crust off the bread and then rip the bread into small pieces that then go in the casserole in layers.  Between each layer of bread you then put a layer of cheese.  Once it is all put together you whip the eggs, milk and spices together and then pour it over the casserole.  You let the eggs soak into the bread for an hour or two before baking.

I put the casseroles into the over to bake around 10:30 and then Zack and I went and picked up Nancy from Cranbrook and took her over to Tim and Celinde's.  I hung out there for a while and then I returned home and pulled the casseroles out of the oven and took them over just in time for brunch to be served.

It was a great meal and everyone seemed to enjoy all of it.  We certainly ate a good bit of food and everyone left pretty darn full.  We all hung out for 3 or 4 hours after brunch sitting around talking and just having a good time.  The TV was turned on to the Master Golf Tournament so it was interesting to watch that as we talked.

We left there around 3:30PM and got Nancy home to Cranbrook and then Zack and I came home and pretty much kicked back as we were too full to do much of anything else.  On top of that the amount of pain from my back that I am experiencing is becoming relatively unbearable again.  Not sure what is going on with that.

I am not going to write too much to night as I kind of wrote my fingers off last night!  But I hope that everyone has had a wonderful Easter and was able to celebrate it in the way that means the most to each of you.  Whether that be at Red Rocks for the sunrise service, having a wonderful meal with your family and friends or just sitting on your couch enjoying a day of rest - I hope you all had wonderful days!

Thanks and peace to all!  ~J

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Late Night Of Memories from the Past

It might seem weird but the show Criminal Minds has brought some interesting thoughts and memories to my mind.  I record this show on DVR and then watch it late at night after the local news is over.  It is frequently my end of the night ritual - watch Criminal Minds and then fall asleep.  About 2 months ago an episode of this show brought some really intense emotions to my mind when the lead character was talking with his child about the death of the child's mother.  The episode that I watching tonight "There's no Place Like Home" featured one of the agents struggling because she was on the road and her son was home sick.  At the end of the show her child had recovered and she was talking on the phone with him and telling him that she would be home tomorrow.  In the meantime it was the nightly ritual while she was on the road to tell him a good night story.  So her husband, the boy's father would hold the phone to his ear and she would tell him a good night story.

That reminded me of really special times when Zack was between the ages of 3 - 5.  During that time I spent most of the week in California working on a variety of projects for Silicon Valley technology companies.  Patty had stopped working by that point in time and was staying home with Zack full-time.  Since Patty always had the responsibility for Zack from Sunday night - Thursday, I would step in and take over once I got home late on Thursday night.  The big thing that I would do with him at night was do "story time".  Patty would hang out down stairs doing whatever she wanted - watching TV, talking on the phone to friends, meeting up with friends for dinner, etc. and I would take Zack up stairs and put him to bed.  By this time we had the bad habit that he would fall asleep in our bed and then I would move him to his bed once he was asleep.

So he and I would curl up in our bed and the first thing that he would do was to ask for me to tell him a story.  Now back in those days Zack's favorites were Thomas the Tank Engine and the Island of Sodor stories and Clifford the Big Red Dog.  I can't tell you how many nights I would lay there next to him create new and different stories about Thomas the Tank Engine and how Clifford came to save the Island of Sodor.  I will admit I only vaguely remember the stories that I spun for him back in those days, but I know that were fun.  I know that despite my business schedule with work and being tired from being out of town all the time - I loved that 1 hour each night in which I could spin a story that would utterly captivate him and capture his imagination.  It was so much fun.  Though our tradition of telling stories like that only lasted for a couple of years, it built within my Zackie a sense of imagination and wonderment that stays within him today.

Patty did the same thing with him and I am sure to this day that he still connects to those stories and fantasy worlds that she created for him as a young child.  Yeah - it makes me happy to remember and think of these stories.  Until I saw that episode of Criminal Minds tonight, I am sure I haven't remember those stories that I used to tell Zack in years and years.  What a great, happy memory for me to think of as I prepare for sleep.  I am sure I will fall asleep with a smile on my face tonight.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J,

I hope you all rest well and can remember some fantastic memories the way I did!  And Happy Easter!!

PS - I have come back and edited this post as I first wrote it late last night as I lay on the couch falling asleep.  You could tell I was practically sleep writing with the number of grammatical mistakes I had in the original post.

Saturday - An MRI and Hunting Elk - Antlers that is!

Imagine the scene - there is a writer hunched over his keyboard typing and pounding away.  A bottle of alcohol and a shot glass sit close by and for every page he writes he reaches over and fills he shot glass and then drinks down the alcohol with gusto.  The air is thick with smoke from the small hand rolled cigarettes he drags upon like his life depended upon it.  You can't be sure what is in those cigarettes - is it simply tobacco or is something with slightly better mind altering characteristics.  Is it the 1950's and you have a brief glimpse into the life of Ernest Hemingway?  Or is it another day and age and it's Hunter Thompson pounding away at this key board?  I'd like to think of it as me as the passionate writer putting his greatest thoughts to paper.  And I suppose it could be me except for the fact that I don't smoke anything.  Actually with Colorado acceptance of medical marijuana, I have thought of finding the doctor who will write MMJ cards for anyone and seeing how it fine tunes my mind.  But I can never do that to my lungs.  So that is the picture of myself I would like to envision.  I sit here every day and I crank out page after page of prose.  You all only see a fraction of what I write and I am not sure the world will ever see anything else of my writings, but it is an illusion of that kind of writer I keep in my head.  It's actually kind of remarkable, as I never thought of myself as much of writer.  But now if a day goes past and I don't put finger to keyboard, I feel that there is something missing from me.  Just a short tangent by which to start today's post.  A tangent to feed my ego and my imagination of who I might be.  I am sure you put me in front of any publisher or editor and my ego will forever be destroyed.  And now on to the main act for the day....

Well it is Saturday - proverbially the best day of the week.  Normally you don't have to work, think of work or plan for what you are going to do at work tomorrow.  That was pretty much the philosophy of the day for us.

The day started pretty early for me as I needed to be at Littleton Hospital for yet another MRI on my back.  I spoke to my surgeon's PA on Thursday afternoon and she indicated that the scheduler would call me sometime within the next 24 hours to get another MRI scheduled for me.  The call from the scheduler didn't come in until we were getting ready to leave for the Nuggets game last night.  The scheduler offered me two different slots to get my MRI either this morning at 8:15AM or 6:45PM on Monday.  Ahh...  that was a no-brainer for me, get the MRI scheduled as quickly as possible so that I can get the results as soon as possible.  I was up at 7:00AM this morning to feed the dogs and get the day going before I had to head to my appointment.

I sometimes really like being up and about early on weekend mornings.  Usually early in the morning on Saturdays and Sundays everything is relatively quiet and there is no one up and about.  This morning was no exception!  I left the neighborhood at 7:45AM and there was literally no one out on Yosemite - the major road that runs on the outskirts of our neighborhood.  The temperature was pretty cool but the sun was up and shining brightly so it made for a very pleasant morning to drive to the hospital.

The hospital was pretty dead and I got checked in within 5 minutes and only had a couple of minutes to cool my heals in the waiting room.  The MRI technician was pretty cute so she kept my attention while she went through all the pre-MRI info for me.  Really - at this point I think I could give the whole introduction myself.  This is something like my 5th MRI since December 2nd.  Unfortunately I have the routine down pretty cold at this point.  No matter what I wear I always have to change into one of those god damn hospital gowns.  I don't seem to have any pairs of shorts that doesn't have metal zippers.

There was one difference this time after two surgeries on my spine.  There is now so much scar tissue built up around my spine that they now need to use contrast to help them see all that they need to see.  So after I got all changed into my gown and in the MRI room, the tech had me climb up on the MRI's gurney and then she got me hooked up to an IV for the contrast.  No problem with that as I feel that I am immune to the pain of just about any needle.

After that she left the room and the insertion process began.  I could go so absolutely rude on the whole process of "inserting" me into the MRI tube.  There are so many sexual innuendos that could be made about the whole MRI process it isn't funny.  But because I want to keep my blog at least PG-13 I'll refrain from going into it.  But because I was sitting there thinking of the cute technician who was running the test, my mind did tend to wander to all those sexual innuendos.

Despite the constant thumping and humming of the MRI gradients I did manage to catch a few minutes of sleep during the test.  (I ask the tech today how the MRI works and she told me in a very comprehensible way.  And now I know the elements of the MRI that make all the noise are magnets called gradients.  Who would have know?!)  Before going into the tube you are equipped with ear plugs that keep a good bit of the sound out.  Enough sound is kept out that I can relax and often fall asleep and fall asleep for some it.

In short enough time I was done and being pulled out of the MRI tube.  Getting off the gurney and into a standing position nearly cost me most of my dignity as the muscles in my right left screamed in agony.  No matter what I do, no matter what kind of pill, what kind of alcohol I consume, the pain when I go from lying down to standing is now always a constant presence.  It's not like one of those tiny little pains that you go "ouch" and just get on with things.  No, it is like one of those child-bearing pains, and this coming from someone who has never borne a child nor have the necessary equipment to bear a child.  It is pretty much a mind searing pain that can stop me in my tracks and make me wish I were dead kind of pain.

Then it was time to change out of that ridiculous gown and get out of that hospital.  Maybe it was my imagination but perhaps that MRI tech thought I was cute too as she walked me with the whole way out of the Radiology department.  Doesn't really matter as I won't be seeing her again - such is life.

Once I got home I sprung the question on Zack - "Do you want to go to Rocky Mountain National Park and hunt down some elk antlers?"  His response was a quick "Yes I do" and we were off to get ready.  I made a quick call over to my brother house to see if Cole was interested in going and he was.  Sounds like we got a good adventure planned for the day!

The drive to RMNP was totally and completely uneventful, except for Zack screaming at the top of his lungs that my driving was going to kill us all.  Zack is still suffering from fear of driving based upon our drives through Costa Rica.  Ruben is quite skilled at "Costa Rican" driving (i.e. driving without traffic laws) and Zack was terrified by it.  As for me, I enjoyed Ruben's driving as it was exciting but not too crazy as if we had been in India or Africa.  Regardless, Zack did not like my driving along highway 36 from Lyons to Estes Park.  He thought I was driving too fast and I was too willing to pass drivers who weren't going as fast as I wanted.

Despite Zack's protests we made it just fine to Estes Park.  We made a quick pit stop to fuel up on pizza at our favorite pizza spot in downtown Estes Park and then we headed off into the park.  The main entrance to RMNP is about 4 miles outside of Estes Park.  After clearing the entrance booth I took us straight to the area that seems to have the highest concentration of elk - Moraine Park.  During the rut in the fall I have on occasion seen upwards of 100+ elk grazing on this open meadow.

We drove around for awhile until we all agreed on spot that might provide us with access to elk antlers.  The area we parked at near the northwestern end of the Moraine Park meadow.  We chose and area that filled with isolated Douglas pines.  Our reasoning behind that was that the elk tend to scratch their antlers against the trees at various points.  The isolated trees are more frequently the ones against which the rub their antlers.

Parking in one of the picnic areas are the extremely large meadow, we made our way down the hill to a group of lone pine trees.  Setting out with huge hopes we expected to see elk antlers everywhere.  That was definitely not the case.  There were plenty of fallen pine branches that looked like elk antlers but they were just that - pine branches.  Meandering along the side of the meadow we decided perhaps our best area to search was the opposite side of the meadow where the pine forest came down from the hills and mountains.  The walk across the meadow proved that there were lots of elk there and recently.  There was lots of fresh elk dung and more elk hoof prints that we could count.  But as for now - there were no elk.  As the snow recedes to the higher elevations the elk are moving back into the mountains in search of fresh forage.

After about 45 minutes of some intense antler hunting we came to the realization that we were going to find any.  My guess is that we are about 4 - 5 weeks too later as the elk begin dropping their antlers in February.  I am relative certain that there are hundreds if not thousands of people who come to the park on the same quest as us.  Well next year we'll try much earlier in the season and see if we can come up with anything.

Despite the lack of antlers we decided to make our stroll into a good hike and adventure.  We were moving off trail with only the landmarks of lone trees and solitary rocks to guide our way.  I don't really think there was much we could have done to get lost.  Cross from the meadow into the depths of the forest we spent a good bit of time just moving from one spot of interest to another.  The land is still asleep for the winter but there was still lots of beauty to be seen and heard.  After walking deep into the forest we stopped and just listened.  There was silence expect for the sound of the wind through pine needles.  How absolutely different than the sounds of the jungle we experienced in Costa Rica.  In the jungle there is never silence.  There is life growing and crawling and fighting existence at every turn in the jungle.  Each piece of life there seems to have it's unique noise that stands out from the rest.  Here in northern Colorado there is just dead silence with only the calling of a Clark's Nutcracker to awaken your sense of hearing.

(Looking across one of the meadows at Moraine Park)

(Zack and Cole on a big rock out cropping.  I should have been using a filter with these pictures as there are so washed out by the brightness of the sun.  I didn't realize it as I was wearing sunglasses.)

(Longs Peak in the distance.)

(Me smiling at the camera with Longs Peak in the background.)

(Zack and Cole trying to take 3-D pictures of Longs Peak with their Nintendo 3DSs)

(The beauty of Longs Peak across the distance)

We walked and explored for a good hour and a half before heading back to the car.  We spent another hour or so driving around and visiting some of the other large meadows in that end of the park.  Longs Peak loomed large over us through most of our trip and we had some fabulous vantage points to get a great view of the summit.  After spending a bunch of time staring at the summit of that renowned mountain I am relatively certain I will not be climbing it.  The path to the summit just looks too precarious and nasty.  I don't want to be one of the people who are killed upon that mountain every year.

On top of the difficult of the climb to the top of Longs Peak I had a realization today that will potentially change how I climb any mountain in the future.  As we bushwhacked through the meadows and forest I really began to notice that my legs are not responding to me the way they did before my broken leg and injured back.  Before these things I was at ease in almost any hiking or climbing environment.  Today as I jumped over streams and climbed over dead falls, I noticed that my right leg will just not do what I want it to do.  I have never experienced something like this before.  I wondered if this is what people feel like before they are diagnosed with ALS.  There is really not a thought in my head that I have ALS - seriously I am not thinking that.  But with all the nerve damage that I have suffered from my herniated discs and the surgeries my neurosurgeon has told me there is a level of feeling and hence control I will never recover in my legs.  Today was the first time I had felt it.  Today was the first time in all my years that my body hasn't done exactly what I have told it.  I am not great athlete by far, but my strength, power and ability to deal with any obstacle when hiking has never failed me.  Thankfully the terrain today wasn't exceedingly tough, but I will now question my ability to do some of the hardest things I have done before.  My ability to make it through the extremely tough terrain during the spring on the Mt. Evans Massif is definitely now in question.  Some of the hikes that I did during the summers of 2009 and 2010 will not be in my reach unless I can recover this ability to make my body do exactly what I want it to do.  Only time will tell if I can make that happen.

Zack and Cole seemed to really enjoy the day.  They weren't even too disappointed that we didn't find any elk antlers.  They just enjoyed getting out into the mountains and doing some fun bushwhacking.  For Zack this is the first time we have had a chance to do anything like this since the spring of 2011.  All-in-all it was a great day!

Of course these kinds of days spur all kinds of thoughts in my head.  In the past I could always find a sense of solace and peace in the silence of the wild.  Today that peace and solace were elusive.  No matter what I did, no matter how I looked at the beauty around me, my mind was still in a sense of turmoil.  There are way too many thoughts that run through my head to describe.  But what is the general direction of what I am thinking?  I am thinking of how badly I have been cheated.  It has only been in the last short time that I have fully come to appreciate what Patty's death means to me.  There is so much that I will never get back.  I also think of all the bad decisions that I have made since her death trying to recreate what I lost.  It is absolutely maddening.  And I have come to realize the worst part of it.  Now that I have finally reached a point of clarity on the situation, I have realized what was staring me in the face for a long time and then I threw away.  Whereas I was trying to recreate my past when I was with Shelly, I had the opportunity to create a new future and I totally flushed it down the drain.

When I dated Brenda last summer I really had a chance for something totally new and different.  There was no way in this world that anything I had with her was going to be like my past.  It wasn't possible as she had 3 kids who are an integral part of her life.  I could have set up a totally new life that was different and possible even better than my old life.  And I screwed the pooch!  You know I could sit here and write all kinds of stuff about how great Brenda is and it frankly doesn't matter.  I threw it away by my own actions and as hard as I try now I don't think there is any way in this world I can get it back.  I really thought after I saw her again back in February that I could do it.  But Brenda is too strong and so very convicted to her principles.  She is a good person and perhaps she deserves much better than me.  For now there is nothing I can do to get her back, but it takes this stubborn brute a long time to realize when his goose is cooked and too move on.  I should have realized months and months before I did that I needed to move on from Shelly.  Even despite her negative behaviors I still saw the good in her and hung on until I truly realized that nothing was possible with her.  So I have nothing going on.  One neighbor tried to set me up with one of her friends and I turned that down.  I am going to find a way to be OK being 100% on my own, because sometimes you have to set your sights on what is really right as opposed to an illusion.  And as I have told her countless times - Brenda is one really good egg.  And until some other guy has her, I won't move on.  I will be strong in my convictions for once and stand by something that is good.  These are the thoughts that occur my head. 

Yep - you all can say I am totally crazy when it comes to women and I probably am.  But if I am going to be crazy I would much rather it be for some one who is really special and has more compassion in her soul than any one I know!

I am done with my public ramblings for the day. Thanks for reading my slop.  Hopefully all practice will one day make me a better writer!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Make it Mobile

I am not sure exactly how this is going turn out. This evening I down loaded the iPhone version of Blogger and I am writing today's blog post from the light rail as Zack and I head down town. We are heading to the Nugget's game game against the Phoenix Suns.

I don't have a lot to say today as I am really using this as a test run for the App. The train is very crowded as there are a lot of people heading to the game and downtown to party. The general atmosphere on the train tonight is like one big party. We are looking forward to the game!

The other big news for the day is that I am headed back to the hospital tomorrow for yet another MRI. The neurosurgeon will have the results on Monday and I expecting not good news. We had always talked about the possibility of a third surgery and I can't imagine the outcome could be anything else given the massive pain levels of the last week. Given that I am going to advantage of this weekend and do as much stuff as I can! So tomorrow we are heading to Rocky Mountain National Park to hunt for elk antlers. It's the time of year when they start dropping their antlers - so maybe we will find some!

That's gonna be it for the night as we are about to walk into the Pepsi Center!

Tanks and peace to all! J.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

It's a Hard Decision

For the last several days I have been on a bit of rant with my blog posts.  Well – today will be no exception! 

One of the things that really sucks about being a single parent is having to make all the decisions by yourself.  You end up second guessing yourself to death at times.  When the decision is especially big and difficult to make it is even worse.  You really wonder what the hell you should do.

I am facing one of those major decision points today.  The decision involves whether I take a new position at my employer.  I could probably write 2 or 3 pages explaining my current position and what the new position will be.  What is the point of that?  Unless you work for my employer most of it won’t make sense.  The key points come down to this.  The new position would be part of a project team based out of Raleigh, North Carolina.  Though I could probably structure it the way I wanted there would probably be a moderate amount of travel required to Raleigh, the Philippines, China and some other countries.  Why would I want to do that given I now have a job in which I work pretty much 100% from home.  Well – the fact that I work pretty much 100% from home is the kicker.  Working from home probably seems like the greatest thing since sliced bread and to some degree it is.  However after working 100% from home for a number of years you start to see the drawbacks of it.  I am so tired of not having human contact. 

I need to figure out how to balance the needs of Zack and me being home all the time with my needs to maintain my sanity and not go crazy by being home all the time.  I have to decide all this with very little input from others.  I need to sit here and balance the good versus bad of this situation and figure out what to do.  Yes – I do have some friends and family who I can talk to about this, but it is not the same as having a partner who you sit down and evaluate all the pros and cons of the situation.

If I had a partner this won’t even probably be a question – as I would take the position in Raleigh, do my moderate amount of travel and then rely upon them to help take care of Zack when I was gone.  But that isn’t going to happen.  So what them hell do I do?  Oh and by the way I have worked with all the people involved on both sides of this situation for years.  So there is the grand possibility in the end run I am going to piss someone off – which I don’t like at all.  On top of that I need to consider everything and make a decision by Monday morning!  It is great to be wanted, but sometimes the choice is too hard to make by your self.

There is one last update for the day.  I had a discussion with the neurosurgeon today and I will be going back to the hospital to have another MRI because the pain in my back is not resolving.  Depending upon what they find it might mean yet a 3rd operation – this time it would involve the fusion of several of my vertebrae.  Hopefully I can get a break on at least this issue and not have to have another surgery.

It is time to go for the night.  Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Up and Down; Round and Round....

Before I start writing the main theme of today’s post I wanted to follow up on yesterday’s post.  Sometimes I post things here that aren’t necessarily easy to understand.  Though I write this blog for public consumption, there are definitely portions of it that read more like a diary.  As such without having to write page after page of back story, it isn’t necessarily possible to understand the context for which I am writing.  Much of yesterday’s blog post concerned the interaction between me and one specific person.  Therefore there’s a good chance no one else really got it.  Lastly, the comments I made about something happening in 11 days is an activity in which I am going to take part.  I have only shared the details of this activity with 4 people and I don’t intend to say much more about it until then.  It is something that is going to be really special to me.  I can’t contain myself when it comes to talking about it in a general sense but for now it is something I want to keep private.  I know that seems like a contradiction, but in one way I am having a hard time keeping my mouth shut and in another way I want to keep it all very contained and private.  Sorry for that seemingly contradictory feeling!  I will share everything about once it is complete.  Sorry!
I often wonder what people think when they read my blog entries.  There are a few who are very direct and to the point and send me blunt, direct e-mails and pretty much tell me to go screw myself.  However, most of the comments sent directly to me in e-mail aren’t nasty.  Most of the comments sent directly to me express some form of compassion for what I am feeling.  A few have even expressed solitary with what I feel and have told me that my writings have helped clarify their own thinking and feelings.  Those e-mails are gratifying and give me a sense of peace for all that I put out there.

Recently there have been some definite swings in terms of the attitude I have displayed when writing.  Some days have been good and I have written in a positive, hopeful mood as I look towards the future.  Other days – like yesterday have been filled with less hopeful writing and a general tone of sadness, bitterness and anger. 

Before my life changed so drastically when Patty fell ill, my overall approach to life was typically upbeat, cheery, irreverent and happy.  One of my favorite expressions from back then was the simple saying “It is what is”.  I used that expression to shrug off the occasional disappointments and hardships of life.  Back then my life wasn’t particularly hard in my opinion.  Yeah – there had been some tragedy as both my parents died within a short time of each other and Patty and I had lost 5 babies – including one at six months to miscarriages.  I also had to work extremely hard at my job as I was normally on the road for 2/3 of the year or more.  But in general, life was pretty good, fun and happy.  Whenever bad stuff happened I tended to shrug it off and just say “it is what it is”. 

Even once Patty was sick I still managed to keep a pretty upbeat attitude.  There were some periods that were more trying than others.  But I generally kept things light, happy and somewhat fun.  When Patty was in the hospital for 14 months straight before she died I got to know all the nurses in the bone marrow transplant/oncology unit.  I came to find out that the nurses thought I was the most pleasant family member with whom they had to work.  I was pleased to hear that because I felt it reflected the true nature of who I was. 

After Patty died I still retained my light-hearted nature but I found more and more my feelings were subjected to swings of sadness, despair, bitterness and anger.  There was a lot of unfocused anger running through my psyche and it would frequently flair out as I had to deal with Zack’s anxiety issues.  Aside from the anger I found more and more that my moods were being driven by feelings of anxiety and desperation to which I could find no relief.  Using logic I could determine that my feelings were absolutely unreasonable, but yet my mental/emotional tools that I had to calm these feelings just weren’t working.

Ultimately the root cause of these feelings came down to the fact that I was still grief stricken at Patty’s death.  I understood that she was gone; I understood that she was never coming back, but yet the finality of her death and of the changes in my life left my soul filled with intense pain.  I was and still am for that matter, so angry about all that I have lost.  It wasn’t that I just lost my partner; it was that I had lost my whole future.  Prior to Patty’s death there was a plan, there were goals, there were dreams, there were ambitions together as a family and then they all evaporated.  I know for many people it may seem silly to the extent of what I feel I lost.  Many people go through the losses of their spouse, or they get divorced and it doesn’t affect them in the way it has affected me.  One of the reasons it had such an impact on me is that prior to this point my life had kind of run like clockwork.  I wasn’t anal retentive about planning things, but in my head I had this series of plans of how my life was going to run.  Patty and I had been together so long by the time she got sick that she was interwoven into every aspect of my day-to-day life and my future.  And then it was all gone!

For a long time I managed to keep the swings between the positive moods and the depression, anxiety, bitterness and anger in relatively good check.  Yes – I would have times when I would feel depressed but so does everybody.  Now it seems my feelings swing back and forth between depression and a positive outlook almost every day. 

When I stop and analyze what is actually happening I realize that my moods aren’t necessarily swinging as much as I think.  When I write my blog entries I am pumping up my attitudes and moods and making them more pleasant.  In general the light, easy-go-lucky, happy attitude that I used to have has been replaced with a much darker, introspective version of me.  On a good day my normal mood is quiet, pensive and taciturn.  On a bad day – you just don’t want to be around me as I am sullen, morose and filled with a very dark mood.   I am not trying to be mean or nasty to anyone and for the most part I don’t think I am mean or nasty, I am just much quieter than I ever used to be.

My silence is caused by the fact that my brain is usually ten thousand miles away from what I am doing.  The focus of my thoughts most frequently is wrapped up in a sense of loss and melancholy.  There have been occasions when I have been at a party or at bar talking to someone and I am thinking to myself “If only this person that I am talking to knew the thoughts that were going through my head.”   It’s not that there are bad or mean thoughts running through my head, it is just that my thoughts have nothing to do with the person I am talking to.

There have been times in which this sense of loss and melancholy goes away.  I will be honest and admit that when I was with Shelly there were times in which those feelings would recede and I could start imagining a new future with her.  However, in most cases the thoughts of a future with her would rapidly vanish because of the discord between us.  In that case the differences between Shelly and I would cause us to argue and then it would just enhance my sense that I had lost so much.  Though I was very much in love with her, Shelly’s ability to soothe my soul and diminish that overall sense of loss wasn’t the best.  There were times when we could be very happy and I could leave that sense of loss behind.  However, because of who she was and who I was, being together often created a greater sense of loss because we disagreed about so much.

The woman who I briefly dated after Shelly, Chris had no impact on these internal feelings.  Though we got along really well and had lots of fun together the chemistry between us didn’t allow for her presence to lift me out of that sense of loss.  The two of us being together didn’t make the sense of loss, bitterness and melancholy worse, it just left me unaffected.  In my mind that is one of the primary reasons we stopped dating.  There was no feeling on my part that gave me a sense of urgency that I needed to see her as her presence didn’t affect me and lift me up from the dark place my soul is in.

On the exact side of the equation from Shelly and Chris was Brenda.  Her ability to impact my soul and lift me from the places of sadness and loss was profound.  When we were together, it was like we were in a bubble in which the 2 of us and our immediate surroundings existed, but the sense of loss and hurt was left behind.  With Brenda it may have been our shared experience of loss of a spouse and the resulting anxiety that made her able to lift me out of that place.  Brenda had a saying whenever the melancholy or anxiety was building in me that would make it all go away.  All she had to do was say “I’m right here” and it was like I would be transported to a different galaxy.  Even if I wasn’t with her, those words would blow away my anxiety and pain.  It was so effective because I knew she had been exactly where I was at one point.  It was wonderful to have that sense of connection with someone.  She really had an intrinsic understanding of pain, loss, anger and anxiety that would flow through me almost every second of every day.  It sucks we aren’t part of each other lives.  I really wanted to be with her, but it was my own fault that we aren’t together.  I suppose at some point I should write a blog entry about her and what she meant to me.  But that is for a later time.

There are several other things that I feel are driving the swings in my feelings.  The first is the relatively constant physical pain in which I find myself.  Though I have had 2 operations to solve my herniated disc, the pain is still there and I am starting to think it will be a permanent part of my life.  The mornings are the absolute worst.  When I get out of bed my right hip, butt and leg just scream in pain.  By the time I reach the kitchen, I have to sit down as the pain is so intense I am on the verge of screaming.  The pain fills my consciousness for almost 24 hours straight each day.  Even when I sleep and turn over in the night, the pain will be so bad that it will wake me up.  The only relief comes when I have enough pain killers and (unfortunately) alcohol in me.  I believe this pain has come to influence how and what I think about.  Often I find myself in despair because so much of what I want to do is now unfathomable because of the pain.

A secondary impact of the pain is the fact that I continue to take steroids to help address the problem.  Over the last month I have taken some large doses of steroids.  This drug has a significant outlook on how I see the world.  As the drug enters my blood stream every day, I can feel its impact begin immediately.  It is as though my blood is being set on fire and begins to boil.  I know this drug can drag me from one side of the emotional scale to the other in a very short order and I hate it. 

So where does all this leave me.  I am left in a position that I am tested every day.  The simple answer to what I face is to belly up to the bar at LoDo's or some other place once the work day is done.  But it doesn't work like that.  I have the responsibility of raising a son.  That responsibility will never go away.  So I wake up every morning and I face what I face and I deal with it.  Some days I deal with it a lot worse than other days.  Other days I deal with it like a super hero.  Wednesday are normally super-hero days because I have to deal with others pain.  These are the days that I volunteer at hospice and I see the people who are really in pain.  It kind of bring a sense of reality to your system.  Yeah - I feel sad and down and out, but guess what - it doesn't compare to what Mrs. XYZ in room 4 is facing because she knows she is going to be dead in a couple of days.  It kind of puts things in perspective. 

Well for a Wednesday evening I think that is all she wrote.  Zack is in bed and the dogs are waiting for me to come upstairs and snuggle with them.  So it is time to cut the evening short and go to bed.  Tomorrow is another is another day and there will be other battles to be fought.  But for now there is quiet and there is peace. And so with that I say good night!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.