Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just That Kind of Day

The past few weeks have been pretty nuts. With 40 percent of our team gone, work has been trying to say the least. With the holiday season and a 10-day trip to visit family in the Midwest, home life has been a bit scattered. Thursday afternoon, it all seemed to culminate in one of those days that defies explanation, that is so utterly over-the-top you must laugh at the absurdity of it or be knocked cold off your feet and kept down for far longer than a 10 count.

To a degree, I expected it. I had an appointment to give blood at 3:30. Call it Murphy's Law, call it the universe's cruel joke, call it what you will, but I always know that if I have planned something that requires me to be out of the office, things will go wrong - usually very wrong. So I will often try to plan my day in such a way that I can avoid the obvious pitfalls. That tactic was working on Thursday and I was feeling pretty good about myself. And that was probably my big mistake...

I had a computer to deliver to our other building, so I planned to do it right before my appointment, as the bloodmobile was just across the street from there. My lunch was a little later than I'd hoped, but at least I was able to eat all of it. And a very nice person brought me chocolate-covered peanut brittle earlier in the day. I thought it would be a nice finish to my lunch right before I headed out the door, so I decided to eat a piece. I think that one piece turned out to be 7. I also think the person who made that stuff must have used crack as an ingredient. Anyway, stuffed full of yummy addictive candy goodness, I went to my car with the computer and headed out to the other building. I made my delivery, took care of a couple other issues, then headed across the street to give blood.

Despite the fact that my appointment was in the last time slot and things were obviously winding down at the bloodmobile, I was strangely energized when I entered the room. I read the donor info packet, sat down, and waited for my interview. When I was called, I headed over to the screened-off tables with a little extra spring in my step. The nurse took my pulse and my temperature. To my horror, she told me the pulse was 102 (usually 70-80) and my temp was 99 degrees (usually 97). OK, so I'd been running around in the other building while wearing my coat - that had to be it. She said we'd go through the rest of the interview and check again after we were done. Then my blood pressure was high - well, high for me. Not high enough to cause concern, though. Then it was time to prick my finger for the iron test. When she squeezed my finger after pricking it, blood came out like a little, tiny fountain - so fast that I think a drop or two fell on the floor. I joked that they could just milk my finger for the pint of blood instead of putting a needle in my arm.

So, at the end of the interview, she took my pulse again. It was 100. I was again horrified, but apparently 100 is the highest your pulse can be for the Red Cross to allow you to give blood. I expressed my concern and the nurse asked me if I was under stress. Well, yes, but I didn't think it was THAT bad. Then she asked if I'd eaten anything recently. Well, I had some... chocolate... covered... peanut brittle... DOH! How much? Oh, only 7 freakin' pieces of it. Um, yeah. Can you say sugar high?

So, I gave my blood - laying on the table next to my boss's boss, while I quipped that it was really his fault my pulse was so high and he told me about his computer woes. Good times. Next was my drink and snack, then I left. On the way back to my building, I stopped to check out another department's holiday party. I have friends who work there, I'm not just a sugar junkie. Nevertheless, I was presented with two of the most delectable cupcakes ever made before scurrying back to my office. And that was when things really started to go downhill...

It was about time to leave for the day, so I flitted around my office, turning off computers and equipment, made one last check of my e-mail before logging off of my computer, and started to pack my stuff up to go home. The phone rang. When I answered, it was a faculty member that I'm quite fond of. She's always busy and Thursday was no exception, as she was just getting around to resolving a problem we'd discussed the day before. But it wasn't working out the way it should. I had to run down to her office to take care of it, and when we were done I looked at my watch. 5:10, and I needed to go and pick up the kiddo. And now, having tanked up on fluids for the blood donation, I had to make a stop at the restroom. When I flew back in to my office, the phone rang. I figured it was Lovey, wondering what was going on and if she needed to pick up the little one, so I answered without first looking at the caller ID. Nope, it was the faculty member again. New problem. Network problem. And as I tried to figure it out, it magically resolved itself. So I hung up, maniacally grabbed my stuff and ran out of the building. I got in my car and headed toward the day care center. It was 5:20, and I was so late I was getting flustered.

As with every other place on campus, parking at the day care center is in short supply and high demand. I saw one last spot open and headed for it. As I began to pull in to it, I was shocked to see a baby's car seat right there on the pavement in front of me. I stopped, peered at it, and realizing that there was no one in it, began to slowly pull ahead. *HONK* I stopped again, looked around, and seeing nothing, started to pull forward. *HONK HONK* WTF was that? *HONK HONK HONK HONK* Fine! I won't park here! So I backed out of the spot, pounced on another one, and got out of the car ready to yell at some chowderhead for thinking they could save a parking space with a goddamned car seat. But as I walked toward that space, I watched as a car smacked right into the car seat. Obviously, safety was not that person's goal, so I decided my policy of "choosing my battles carefully" dictated that this was one to forfeit and I headed for the door of the day care.

One of the things I really like about our day care center is that the door is locked from the outside. To get in, whoever is sitting at the reception desk must press a button to open the door. There's also a card swipe you can use if you're "on the list," but it's very rare that anyone has to use the card swipe, because there's always someone at the desk. When I got to the door on Thursday, the usual person wasn't sitting there, but I knew the person who was there would recognize me. She looked right at me, but didn't open the door. Then I noticed that there was a child's parent in the entryway - between the first and second doors. She was waving at the keeper of the button, who looked right at her but still didn't open the door. I did a little back-and-forth movement to try and get her attention, and she again looked straight at me then TOOK OFF HER FUCKING GLASSES AND BEGAN RUBBING HER TEMPLES. I yanked my billfold out of my pocket, jerked my ID out of its holder, slammed it through the cardswipe, then stomped my way in once the door had opened. The other parent thanked me with a tone of "what the hell just happened here?" as we both gave a questioning glare to the person at the desk. No "oops," no "sorry," not even a "kiss my ass" was uttered by her.

By now, it was nearly 5:30. I half walked-half ran down to my daughter's classroom, steaming over just how late I was. I walked in to the classroom, looked at my darling little munchkin, and said, "Hi! Let's go home and see Mama!" to which she responded, with a rather thoughtful look on her face, "No." She flat-out refused to put her sweater on, and getting the coat on her was like trying to dress an octopus with restless leg syndrome who repeatedly yells at you, "I just don't want to put my coat on!" with a few giggles thrown in for good measure. I finally got her bundled up and we made our way to the front door. Still not a peep from the keeper of the button, but I had to keep my expletives shoved way down inside to protect the children.

By the time I convinced my child to sit in her car seat, I had to pee again. Jeebus! My bladder's bigger than Rhode Island, how much fucking water did I drink? So I drove home as quickly as I safely could. Once there, I was informed upon trying to get the Monkey out of her car seat that "I just want Mama to do it." Somewhere in the back of my mind, I heard Roseanne Barr saying "This is why some animals eat their young," and that was when my better nature won out and I started to laugh at what I'd been through. All of those little things had nickled and dimed my patience to near bankruptcy, but I'm so glad that I could step back for just a moment and see the rather Abbot & Costello-esque humor in it all and have a good chuckle at my own misfortune. If that's the worst day I have this month, I should consider myself fortunate...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Six Squared

36 has always been one of my favorite numbers. Admit it, you have favorite numbers, too. I'm not that much of a freak. But I hadn't really given a good deal of thought to turning 36 years old until it was practically on top of me. And to be quite honest, it's more than a little difficult for me to believe that I'm really 36 today.

I'm not sure what 36 is supposed to feel like, but I don't think I'm feeling it. The realization that I'm twice as old as an 18-year-old got me started on this idea. 18 doesn't seem that far away. In fact, I remember it quite well. It took forever to get to 18, but the next 18 years went by in a flash. No, I'm not quite as agile as I was at 18. Yes, my waistline has expanded a bit from when I was 18. And yes, there are a few grey hairs appearing on my head now. But when I look in the mirror, the face I see doesn't look 18 years older than the one I saw back then. And I don't think I'm alone on that - I was actually carded when I entered a restaurant tonight. The rest of my party? Not so much. Maybe the guy was just being nice to the old fart and it's gone to my head.

Here's the thing that just kills me, though: I was 18 when I met my wife. I've known my wife for half of my life. She'll have no sympathy for me on this, since she was 17 (albeit a couple of days from 18) when we met and thus pondered this kind of thought more than a year ago. But I have to say, she doesn't look 18 years older than the day I met her. Sure, we've both matured. We've been married for over 13 years now. We have a kid. We've moved more times than I care to remember. But 18 years? No, I simply refuse to believe that it's been that long.

It's not that I think 36 is old. Even at 18, I didn't think 36 was particularly old. But people who were 36 were real adults back then. And despite all that I've been through in my life to indicate the contrary, it's still hard to think of myself as one of those real adults. And therein, I suppose, lies the key to my little age conundrum. My 18-year-old self's real adults are now 54.

So when does the perception change? I suppose I should be thankful that I still feel young, and I am, but this problem of perception cuts in both directions. I was certainly reminded of that during a conversation I had with my grandma not long before the election. We were comparing the merits of both McCain and Obama when she said, "but you know, Obama is so young." I couldn't help but laugh. Obama's age (48, I believe) had never crossed my mind. On the other hand, I had serious concerns about McCain's age (72). Suffice it to say that Grandma's age is closer to the latter candidate's. And when I try to put myself in her shoes, I suppose I can't find fault in her thought process.

And I guess what I should take from all of this is not only the old cliche of "you're only as old as you feel," but also that you're precisely as old as others see you. I imagine that an 18-year-old does think that I'm a real adult, but those 54-year-old folks still think I'm a bit green. So the onus is on me to work those perceptions to my advantage, managing to feel young while remembering that I am, indeed, a capable and responsible adult.

But it's still ok if you want to card me, restaurant guy...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sorry, Lovey - It's My Turn

Whenever we get a really cute picture of the monkey from day care, I dutifully extract it from the document it's in, re-size it, and send it to Lovey for posting on her blog. Not today.

Why?

BECAUSE THIS IS THE CUTEST FREAKIN' PHOTO EVER TAKEN!


Sorry, Lovey. I couldn't resist this one. Good lord, I love that child...

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Old Office is New Again

Last week was the first one back in my regular office after it underwent a much-needed and much-appreciated face-lift. I've yet to move everything back in, which meant it was the perfect time to take pictures. That way, I can remember how lovely it was before I junked it all up again. Seriously, though - it's so nice now that I will have to make sure to take the time and keep it orderly. If you never saw it prior to the remodeling, these pictures won't mean a whole lot to you (and I of course forgot to snap a set of "before" shots). But for those of you who remember what it looked like, you may not even recognize it as the same office.

From the Door

My Desk - Before it Gets Bad

Wide View - Left Wide View - Right

New Bench - Left Side New Bench - Right Side

The Beast's New Home

Looking Out

The entire set of photos is posted on Flickr, along with comments that will likely bore you to tears. I'm excited, though, and had to share. I also want to say that Charlie, the staff member who re-did the room, does fantastic work and I'm forever indebted to him for taking great care in making my office not only look great, but also for making it a much more functional space. If you're in the area, you should stop by and see it, along with the rather large smile on my face when I'm in it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ah, the Joys of Being Tall...

I'm 6 feet, 4 inches tall. Honestly, I don't think that's particularly tall, but then again, I can go for days without seeing someone else as tall as me. For the most part, it's a pretty good gig, and here's a far-from-comprehensive list of reasons why:
  • In a sea of people, it's easy to find me. (Sometimes, a down side...)
  • At movies, concerts, etc., my view is very rarely obscured by the person sitting in front of me.
  • There is something to people having to literally look up to you.
  • I can store things on the top shelf without a step stool.
  • Changing light bulbs - no problem.
  • Dana likes that she can wear heels and I'm still taller than her.
  • Pretending that I didn't see someone because I wasn't looking down has actually worked.
  • My reach is absolutely phenomenal. If, for some reason, you think you need to run away from me, it will take you longer than usual -- and our daughter hasn't quite figured that out, yet.
There are plenty of things about being tall that aren't so great, but the one that always stings worse than the rest is the absolute dearth of clothing out there made for people my size. Now, before you start in on the "Oh, nothing ever fits me, either. I'm right in-between sizes, so things are either too big or too small, too long or too short" comments, just stop. Because for me, it's all too short. That's right, all regular sizes are too short for me. So, if you're between sizes, you can bite me, because you can get something too big/long and have it taken in/hemmed. I, on the other hand, cannot break the laws of physics and magically make things longer. I just can't find clothing that will fit me in an everyday store. With one notable exception - jeans - for which I'm thankful, but I need more than jeans in my wardrobe. Regular sizes of mens pants almost always max out at a 34 inch inseam, and mine is 36 inches. Regularly sized tailored shirts max out on a sleeve length of 36 inches, and mine is 37. Yes, you're allowed to laugh at my ape arms, but remember the reach thing. In jackets and overcoats, I'm a 44 extra-long. And in the world of S, M, L, and XL, I'm a - wait for it... XLXT. That's extra-large, extra-tall.

Oh, and don't even mention "big and tall mens" stores. I've tried them. Apparently, they are quite literal on that, because you have to be both big and tall in those stores. Taking in an inch or two on clothing is one thing. Taking off enough for a second shirt or pair of pants is something else.

To show my age in true grumpy old man style, I will note that back in the 90s, when fashions fit rather loosely, I could get by with regular sizes most of the time. But now that closer-fitting, more tailored looks are fashionable, I'm screwed. And I was reminded of that in a very big way today.

We have a brand new department store in town, and today was our day to go and check it out. As a brief aside, I'll mention that we first went out to find a pair of shoes for me. Shoe sizes aren't a problem for me. With shoes, the problem is that I'm incredibly picky, so I have no one to blame but myself for coming home without new ones. But I will say there's always a small selection of ugly and/or poorly made mens shoes compared to a friggin' smorgasboard of womens shoes. Boooooo! But back to the clothes. I wandered through the mens section of our new store, finding shirt after lovely shirt, great sale prices on good pants, and a jacket or two that I would absolutely rock -- and not one of those items of clothing were long enough. I even tried a couple of things on in the desperate hope that maybe I'd shrunk or this store's clothing ran a little on the long side. No luck.

So... Tomorrow I will likely place an order on-line for some new clothes. I have an old stand-by for my clothing needs that I will not name here, because every time I look through their catalog of tall mens clothes, I really have to hunt for decent stuff. Most of what they have reminds me of a scene from the movie Sixteen Candles, where an exchange student has gone missing and when his clothes are described to the police over the phone, the next line you hear is "No, he's not retarded." Great stuff. So if you ever think that I seem to have one or two outfits, just in multiple color combos, you're probably right, and that's why.

I'll tell you what, though. Come hell or high water, I'm going to find a pair of shoes that I like...

Friday, October 3, 2008

It Never Fails...

Since becoming parents, our restaurant adventures have been drastically reduced in number -- particularly those of the "dine in" variety. Now that our little one is 2 years old, we're trying our luck at taking her out for dinner every once in a while. In doing so, we've discovered why chain restaurants serving bland fare are so popular: you always know what you're going to get, and young children will actually eat it. But I digress...

Tonight, we needed to run an errand immediately after work, destroying any hopes for a home-cooked meal that could be prepared and eaten within the little one's tight schedule. Trying to push that schedule back always ends in disaster. That would be the "so tired I'm going to cry about everything that even slightly varies from my usual routine" kind of disaster, which inevitably leads to the "what the hell were we thinking" moment of revelation once she's fallen asleep. We decided that our best bet was the local Ruby Tuesday, as we know the little one likes their grilled cheese sandwich and there's the bonus of edamame on the salad bar (she could eat her own weight in that stuff). And I have to admit, since they recently changed their look and menu (see the link), the place isn't half bad for a chain restaurant.

We arrived, were seated immediately, and things moved quickly enough that there was no down time for someone to get all fidgety. Edamame was consumed at an incredible rate, and our meals arrived at the table quickly. It was the model meal for a family with a toddler. And then it happened...

Some incredibly self-important prick with no internal filter to keep him from spouting endless story after boring story about himself, spoken at a volume loud enough for people to hear in the neighboring counties, began to drone on and on to his unsuspecting dinner companion about nothing of consequence, whatsoever. I looked over at their table at one point, and Mr. Wonderful wasn't even looking at his friend, who appeared to have slipped into a catatonic state, judging from the blank stare on his face. For a moment, I thought the poor guy was going to start drooling. His jaw had gone slack and the glaze over his eyes made me think of doughnuts. But Yappy McChowderhead just kept on going like an insurance salesman with a bullhorn.

And then it all came back to me. Since we first started dating, this same thing has happened to us pretty much every time we've gone out for dinner. Is this really a widespread problem, or do these assholes just lay in wait for us, then pounce and request the table next to ours?

I actually have a great way to deal with people like that, but I'm not quite brash enough to do it a lot. I have, on a handful of occasions like this, exclaimed in an equally loud and obnoxious voice, "OH, DON'T GET ME STARTED ON ANAL WARTS." It does the trick every time. But now, we have a small child and live in a small town. I don't need my daughter asking me what anal warts are, and I don't need to establish a reputation as "that guy who apparently has warts on his butt and was talking about it in a restaurant."

So I'm asking you, gentle readers, for suggestions about how to handle such a situation. I'm content to let them be as long as I can tune out the conversation, but tonight I couldn't even maintain my train of thought, the guy was so loud. What do you do when faced with such a conundrum, or what successful tactics have you observed? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and thank you ahead of time for what I'm sure will be an entertaining and helpful read.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Flip-Flop? I Somehow Doubt It

Am I the only one who remembers four years ago when flip-flopping was considered a bad thing?



Now, as then, I think the ability to re-evaluate one's position on an issue and determine that a change in stance is in order is a sign of thoughtful intelligence, not weakness. Unfortunately, I'm more than a bit skeptical that John McCain is really ready to hop on the regulation train. Such an alteration in one's fundamental ideology is rare, and often involves other noticeable changes, such as going from the name Saul to Paul.

Even if McCain were truly ready to embrace the kind of regulation he's eschewed throughout his career, it's probably too little, too late. 4 years too late, to be specific. 2004 is when the SEC decided that it was o.k. for 5 firms (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) to increase their debt-to-net-capital ratios from the legal limit of 12:1 up to as high as 40:1. While that isn't the only bad decision leading to the current descent of the U.S. economy to the level of a steaming pile of poo, you really have to consider that maybe it's the biggest one. How many of those firms are now defunct? And what will their demise cost us? It looks like about $2.300 per person if this bailout goes through.

I'm a pretty average middle-class kind of guy, and $2,300 sounds like a lot of coin to me. That's $6,900 for my little family of 3. Perhaps we need to find a job for the 2-year-old. Yet, our contribution to that $700 billion bailout is chump change to the very people who will benefit from it. What's wrong with this picture? And why, when my wife and I have made sure that we haven't taken on more debt than we can handle, are we as taxpayers expected to bail out lenders who couldn't use the same sound judgment?

Yes, more regulation is needed. We've needed it all along, not just at this critical time. Deregulation of financial markets breeds greed, and that greed leads to incredibly unsound decision-making. It's like getting a gambling addict drunk, handing him a couple of Benjamins, and walking him in to Harrah's. The chances of him striking it rich and sharing the wealth with you are pretty slim because the odds are stacked against him from the get-go, plus you'll likely never get your initial investment back, either.

Lastly, here's the biggest reason why I honestly can't buy John McCain's conversion to the Church of Regulation: The Keating Five scandal. The deregulation leading to the S&L failures of the 80s helped to get McCain in some very hot water. If that scandal didn't make him think twice about the importance of regulatory oversight, I don't think anything will.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Getting back to the blog after too long an absence

All right. I admit it. I'm bad blogger. A very bad blogger. But I want to be better. So, I really will try to post more often. No promises, though. Hey, I'm a busy guy. We have a two year old kiddo, which can be like living with a menopausal rhino -- watch out for those mood swings! There are days when the blog is (and obviously has been) a very low priority.

But for tonight, I'm back at it. And I'm thinking about two words that I've heard a lot over the past month: perception and appearances. Now, don't get me wrong. I do believe that the way one presents him or herself to the casual or first-time observer can greatly shape perception. However, I also believe that appearances can be deceiving, and I prefer to scratch below the surface before doling out a "yea" or "nay" decision on whether I choose to associate with someone. Situationally speaking, I tend to give people a great deal of leeway. There's a lot of grey area between worthless and exceptional, and I don't want to make a hasty judgment regarding someone's behavior that I have only observed in a relatively small window of time. And in my nearly 36 years, this philosophy has served me quite well. Have I been burned because of it? Yes. Often? No. If I had to assign a percentage to the number of times I've been burned, it would be less than 1. Consequently, I have the rather high expectation of others that they will base their opinions of me in a similar fashion. For those who rush to judge me I say, "that's too bad for you." Alright, it's typically a more colorful phrase, but I'm saving up the vulgarity for later.

I bring this up now partly because it's the season of ugly. Elections are synonymous with mud-slinging these days, and it's difficult to remain above the fray all the time. So yes, I'll likely go on the offensive in this space over the next month. There's your warning on that issue. More importantly, though, there's every other issue that might affect me in a multitude of ways at any given time. And I may choose to spout off about those issues here. And what I write may seem negative, but it could just as easily be positive. One thing that is likely to remain constant will be an attempt to inject humor into my topics whenever I can because that's just the way I am. But if you read something here one day that seems harsh or even mean (or vulgar -- yes, I promise it's coming), just remember that it's a glimpse of just a small portion of who I am. Come back to read another day and find that there's far more to me than a snarky comment here and there. If you don't, well then that's too bad for you.

OK. That's out of the way, then. I promised some vulgarity, and I'd hate for you to think that I don't live up to my promises, so here goes...

Have you seen Subway's latest advertising campaign? I'm unusually annoyed by it. I want to know what the hell everyone involved with these ads was thinking. Submarine sandwiches (sorry, I just can't call them hoagies) are phallic enough, but to produce a commercial full of people making hand gestures that, in the American vernacular, appear to be referencing five large dicks is JUST PLAIN WRONG. Will someone please make it stop? I can't decide if the Subway folks are naive or if they thought it would be funny. Either way, the commercials are idiotic, and have forever tainted my enjoyment of a nice veggie max sandwich from Subway.

Isn't it amazing how the smallest things can chip away at you until it's almost unbearable? And no, the first part of the post was not written in reference to the second. I have much larger things on my mind. It just so happened that one of those damned commercials played while I was writing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

WTF? No way!

134

As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!



Thanks to Nina for pointing out this test, although I'm now wondering if I either a) am living in the wrong time or b) have something seriously wrong with me...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Proud Geek Daddy

Of course I'm thrilled that the Monkey did her first "numero dos" in the potty on my watch this morning. However, she has also learned a new word today...

Podcast.

Yep, that's my kiddo. =)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Feeling Thankful

Shortly after Lovey and I moved to our current locale, we found ourselves at a rather large blood drive taking place where we work. On that particular day, the Red Cross was heavily recruiting people to sign up for the National Marrow Donor Program. I'd heard of the program previously, but it was the first chance I'd had to sign up for their registry. It didn't take me long to decide that I should go ahead and sign up. On that day, it only meant filling out a bit of extra paperwork and having an additional vial of blood drawn. And while I did consider the larger commitment I was making that day, the odds of being a match for someone in need of a marrow donation were quite small.

Over the next few years, I would occasionally receive communications from the NMDP - mainly checks to make sure they had my correct contact information, and reminders of the importance of my commitment. And every time I received something in the mail, I'd wonder about the possibility of being called upon to actually donate. Within a few days, something more pressing would come up, and I'd forget about the NMDP until the next check-in. Then came April of 2007...

The phone call truly came out of the blue. Lovey and I were reveling in our parental journey with Monkey, running on far too little sleep and more joy than we'd ever known. Every day was so full of new and wonderful experiences that it had become easy to forget that there are people who have to fight every day just to live. But when I learned that I was a potential match for someone in need of a marrow donation, it was not unlike the day I signed up for the registry -- in a very brief moment I knew what the right thing to do was, and I agreed to have blood work done to better determine my compatibility with the potential recipient.

I have to credit my dad with instilling in me that unflinching sense of responsibility. For as long as I can remember, he's been a volunteer blood donor, and although I can't recall asking him why, I've always known that he does it because he's able to and it's the right thing to do. So when I turned 17, I started giving blood, as well. And despite the snickering and mostly good-natured teasing of friends, I've been grateful for my downright squeaky-clean lifestyle (although somwhat less thankful for the lack of funds to allow me to spend large chunks of time in Europe or visit Africa) because every few months it seems that another of the "youthful indiscretions" I avoided winds up in a question asked during that screening. And no, the effect of that is not to make me look down upon those who are unable to donate, rather it makes me wonder how in the hell blood banks are able to keep an ample supply of blood.

Anyway... I had the blood work done, then waited to hear back from the NMDP. I was visiting family in Kansas when the next call came. I was an excellent match, but even more tests were needed. After returning home, I made a trip to Christiana Hospital in Newark, DE, where I was poked, prodded, and asked an awful lot of personal questions -- all to make sure that my health was good enough that tissue from my body wouldn't do more harm than good for the recipient, but also to impress upon me the seriousness of the commitment I was about to make. What I'd never thought about was the process the recipient had to go through before receiving the transplant. S/he must have her/his own bone marrow completely killed off, meaning that if a donor were to back out of the commitment or be injured or otherwise incapacitated and unable to donate, s/he would die. That moment of realization was, for me, all at once humbling, horrifying, and the final galvinization of my resolve to see the process through. I very carefully drove home, discussed all that I'd learned with Lovey and made sure she was o.k. with my participation, then signed the paperwork stating that I was fully committed to making the donation.

My surgery was scheduled, and during the next few weeks I was careful to eat a very well-balanced diet, avoid anyone who was sick with anything at all, and drove as though my high school driver's ed teacher was in the passenger seat with his clipboard and pen. Three weeks before the surgery, I was innocently taking out the trash when I sprained and tore the skin off of my right ankle. I didn't think much of it, but when I showed up at the Red Cross for an autologous blood donation, there was panic. They couldn't take my blood because of the open wound, and phone calls ensued. The hospital in Delaware was contacted, as well as the NMDP. More questions were asked, and after lengthy discussion, the surgeon who would oversee the procedure decided that everything was all right. Trash duty was shifted to the far more graceful and coordinated Lovey for the duration, and I drove home feeling particularly humiliated. Damn my petite ankles!

Donation day arrived, and with it the realization that general anesthesia now causes me to experience extreme nausea. No big deal, because the donation was done and on the way to the recipient. An extra night in the hospital was nothing compared to what s/he would soon experience. Drugged up for the four-hour drive home, I left Christiana Hospital physically sore, but mentally buoyed by the hope I held for the recipient. That was July 25, 2007.

In the year that has passed since that day, I learned that the person who received my bone marrow is a 49 (now 50) year old woman with leukemia. It was, of course, in remission at the time of the transplant and remains so to this day. The NMDP strictly maintains the confidentiality of both donor and recipient information, but one year post-donation, allows both parties to release their personal data to the other. On the anniversary day, I called my donor advocate and requested the release forms. I have them now, and they will be in tomorrow's mail, signed and headed back to the NMDP. Within a few weeks, I may know the identity of the woman who received my donation and even be able to contact her. Whether she releases her information or not, I will forever be grateful to her for giving me the opportunity to participate in this process.

I'm not wealthy or famous, but this experience made me realize that I can do things that make a difference in the lives of real people. And that has helped me to remember that I am part of something much larger than the everyday world in which I live. The bravery that this woman has shown is a constant reminder to me that life is worth fighting for. Seeing and meeting so many people who work so hard to find donors for those in need gave my flagging faith in humanity a much-needed shot in the arm. And the love and support given to me by my incredible wife every step of the way during the process only reinforced for me the fact that, even when it's painful and scary, doing the right thing truly is the only choice. I am so very thankful for this experience, and I hope that one day soon I can personally thank the woman who changed my outlook on life by bravely reaching out into the unknown and asking for help.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Open Mouth, Insert Foot (Shin, Calf, Knee, Thigh, and So On)

I love Twitter because I can say all of those things that are on my mind for which I never before had an audience.

I hate Twitter because I say all of those things that pop into my head without much thought and now I have an audience.

*Sigh*

Sorry, tweetpeeps -- I should have known that your comments were made in jest. In hindsight, that's the only way it all makes any sense. The good news is: my lump of coal should be a diamond any day, now!

I'll remember today the next time a knee-jerk reaction compels me to tweet a response to someone. And then I'll slowly back away from the keyboard...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy Monkey Songs and Wonder

Yesterday, I really didn't want to get out of bed. It had been a rough week, and I'm still having trouble going to bed at a decent hour. So, I'd been up for a while with Monkey, we'd had breakfast, Lovey was awake, and I was grumpily making the coffee. That was when I heard it -- a sweet little voice singing, "Twinkle, twinkle, little star..." It drifted in from the living room as though it were a cloud, and suddenly all my grumpiness disappeared. The words were plain as day, and Monkey was carrying the tune amazingly well (she did just turn 2, after all). I was all at once surprised, impressed, and in awe of my daughter. I stood there and listened as Lovey joined in and they finished the song together, then Monkey followed up with the obligatory clapping and "Yea!" for her job well done.

Feeling much happier, and of course a mug full of coffee later, I was ready to face the day. But I just kept thinking about Monkey and the song. Aside from being a happy thing to think about, it made me wonder about memory. Monkey has entered that time of her life when she's fascinated by pretty much everything, and you can see that she's just a little sponge soaking up every last drop of information she can. And while I know that this is not atypical (I did, after all, study cognitive development for my degree), I am still amazed to watch her, and it makes me wonder what sets it all off. What is the source of one's desire for learning? Specifically, what made Monkey want to learn that particular song so much that she managed to memorize the words and tune with enough precision that she was actually able to reproduce them without being prompted? Prior to this, I'd heard her join in and sing along with other songs, but never had I heard her break out into song entirely on her own. What purpose (for a 2-year-old) is there in singing solo? Does there even have to be a purpose?

I suppose that in the end, I should simply be happy that Monkey is so content in her learning process. She's already trying to write, and has even watched us closely enough that she knows there is a special way in which one should hold a pen for writing. Her level of observance has, at times, been both a blessing and a curse. I'm thankful for her desire for knowledge because I've also seen children who are not so driven to learn. I think I'd rather have to keep on my toes and mind what I'm doing in front of our little parrot than worry about delayed development. And I feel truly fortunate that I'm able to speak from that position of privilege. But I also know that I may forever wonder what motivates our kiddo, and I think that wonder will lead me on an incredible journey with her.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yowsa!

Early this evening, I was out digging in our front yard to prepare a spot for some plants Lovey and I rescued from Lowe's. For some reason, I needed to get at something from a very low angle, so I was somewhat spread out on the ground when a stabbing pain shot up from my leg. Immediately, I knew that something had stung me, even though I saw nothing fly away from the clover in which my leg was laying. I know, dumb move on my part, no need to comment about that.

The funny thing is, at the ripe old age of 35, I've only been the victim of stinging insects (not counting mosquitoes) once before, and that was last summer. I ran over the underground home of a family of small wasps with our riding lawnmower, and they weren't pleased with me. I was stung maybe three times near one of my knees, but since it was somewhat of a "drive-by" situation, the stings weren't bad, as I was shooing the little buggers off of me and they were, indeed, just tiny little wasps.

Prior to that, I'd always been overly cautious and afraid of wasps, bees, and hornets. I'm sure that it stemmed from an incident in my childhood when my mom was stung by a wasp in our yard. She's very sensitive to them, and this sting really got her good. I was the only other person home at the time, the neighbors weren't around, and she was in trouble, so she managed to gather up a few dollars from her purse, gave them to me, and then asked me to run to the grocery store that was two blocks away. I was all of 6 or 7 years old. She gave me very specific instructions as to what she needed (in-between moans of pain) and made me repeat what she'd told me. I could tell that she really didn't want to send me to the store alone, but I could also tell that she really needed the medication she was asking me to go and get. I trundled off to the grocery store, went to the pharmacy counter and told the pharmacist what I needed. About then, his phone rang and it was Mom calling to make sure I was ok. He gave me a package of something that had a picture of a very angry-looking hornet on it, money changed hands, and I scurried back home to my very thankful mother.

The net effect of that experience was a rather extreme reaction to stinging bugs. Whenever one flew near me, I would perform what I'm sure was an extremely funny run-dance-hop to try and get away from it, all the while saying something along the lines of "F**K! S**T! GETTHEHELLOUTOFMYWAYYYYYYYYY!" Soooo... When I was finally stung last year and it turned out to be little more than a slight annoyance, I felt really stupid. And I probably let my guard down a little too far, thus the laying my leg down in a patch of clover without first looking for the stinging insects that like to hang out there. Yeah...

Well, since I must have actually layed my leg on TOP of the wasp that stung me (I'm pretty sure it was a wasp - two stings right next to each other), it had plenty of time to get pissed off at me for being so rude, then could carefully sting me and make sure to inject lots of venom into my leg. Twice. Holy crap on a stick! It's been over three hours, now, and my leg still hurts. I know Lovey worried that perhaps I'd have a reaction to it, but I think more than anything, my pride was stung. There's about a six-inch long area on my lower leg that feels strangely tight and occaisionally sends a reminder shot of pain just so I don't forget about it.

Guess I'll have to dust off my dancing shoes...