Sunday, December 22, 2013

This season, let's remember to keep Christ in Christians!

I can imagine some awkward silences at the great judgement...

Jesus:  "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world!  You there... when I was hungry and thirsty, naked and in prison, did you feed and clothe me and visit me?"

Church goer:  "No, but I did vote 'NO' on the gay marriage amendment! Remember?  Bumper sticker and everything!"

Jesus:  "Um..."

There are some of my Christian friends who will laugh at this, because they have a sense of humor but especially because it also makes a point. I have others who will just be a little annoyed and then even others who worry that it fulfills Revelation's warning and of adding to his words and that I'll burn for that joke alone.

Angry Jesus is not amused...

Regularly I will point out that I consider my Christian faith the most important thing in my life and I'd like to think at least half of my Christian friends are standing firmly behind me waving their hands frantically and saying, "Psst! He's not with us!"

I am of course a terrible example of a traditional American Christian. I pray every day and regularly read the bible, but I do not go to church nearly enough and I smoke and drink, cuss like a longshoreman and frankly look like a smelly hobo with this ridiculous beard.

But over three decades ago, I went from boldly proclaiming myself an atheist and proudly "hating any God if He ever did exist" to suddenly having a series of events and experiences that gave me little choice but to change my mind.

I had what is typically described in secret Christian jargon as a "powerful encounter with the Lord" that forever changed my viewpoint.

The way I try to describe it is if you have ever met and shook hands with me, you would have an easier time telling yourself and others that "Pat does not exist" than I would have convincing myself I did not have that powerful encounter with Him.

One of the most persuading factors that His presence is real was my immediately going from being filled with anger and hatred to having overwhelming joy, peace and especially compassion and grace for those I would normally believe did not deserve it.  I had a very violent upbringing and I now had the ability to care about others besides myself.  For me, it was undeniably miraculous.

It might seem like I am touting my credentials, but in reality I simply share my testimony whenever the topic comes up.  It is something I try to never hamfistedly ram into every conversation, but also am never ashamed to share.

But in the last 30 years, one thing I have learned about us as Christians is that we are often a bunch of idiots. Yet that is only because all humans are consistently idiots and the vast majority of us Christians are arguably human.

So every foible and flaw that a human can have, we proudly drag like worn out suitcases into our Christian lives and often even into the very character and statements of our movements and churches.

That is one of the great things about Christianity - any religion really - if you shop around enough, you can always find a church that allows you to love or hate people exactly as much as you want to.

Do you hate gays? Do you want to see them burn? There is still a church just for you!  You may have to use some of your spare time to picket random funerals, but the Westboro Baptist church is still accepting membership applications.  (Yes, their website is literally, that is not a typo.)

 Seriously... screw these guys

But  if you find it extreme and wrong to carry signs saying God Hates Fags, and yet you still kinda find gays, well... to generally be creepy and gross and would just rather never see or talk to them... don't worry! There are plenty of other less televised churches still available!

Despite our proclamations of faith in the grace of God, one human trait we usually bring with us into the church is our assurance of being the most right while others are wrong. In fact the wisest Solomon told us that, "every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts."

The great lengths we go to insist we are more right than others can be seen in the bible's first recorded religious man, Cain.  Needless to say, when his church service was shut down, he had a bit of a poor reaction and decided to commit the first fratricide.

When you see such a great disparity of character and message in hundreds of denominations or movements even though they all say they "only believe in the bible", it can be a bit confusing.  But do not blame that on religion versus the fact we humans are dummies.  As "verse interpretation" goes, about 300 million of us humans still cannot even agree on the meaning of the 2nd amendment.

So the argument rages on within the church over many things and is not likely to end soon.

Recently, a famous duck caller named Phil Robertson who has sometimes compared himself to John the Baptist (his beard, definitely NOT his bank account) has stirred up some arguments within the Christian community by saying, "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

This piercing insight was just his analysis by the way.  Do not assume he meant us to take his poor grammar and sentence structure as advice and step by step instructions!

Not convinced he had charmed the magazine interviewer and future audience enough, he followed up by clarifying, "It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes!"

Like John the Baptist, probably also would eat locusts along with ducks and beavers

Whether we disagree or agree with the first statement comparing homosexuality to bestiality, the second part Pastor Phil shared about vaginas was clearly difficult for many of us to refute.   

So millions of Christian men were forced to admit they "completely agree with the second statement but OMG why the hell did you just say that out loud?"

But with little in between room, Christians quickly rallied to either calling him a ding dong or our next President.

And thus the argument rages on in the American church about either hating or loving gays. Typically the mainstream "compromise" is to say we technically love them, but while finding them repulsive and avoiding them.

(A common tactic to show people the importance of God's holiness and judgement is to kick people out of our circle and stop talking to them until they get their shit together.  This is a tried and true method that literally never works, but we think we almost have it down.)

I do not think Phil Robertson is the same as Westboro. I do not lump them together, but I do try to point out the degrees and shades of disgust and intolerance we are proud to call words and actions that are "like Jesus".

Personally, I do not think Phil Roberston hates gays at all. I think like most Christians he just finds them and/or what they do to be disgusting.  He probably has never met one!

It would seem difficult to do so wading through the swamps of Louisiana. Or if he has met one, that person has apparently learned to still keep their mouth shut and get back in their shack's closet.

I spent most of my first year married in ministry as the head counselor for a Christian men's rehabilitation home in Florida, modeled after and branched off of Teen Challenge. For many years, I spent hours every day reading and studying the bible.

It took a while before I cut through my own religious nonsense to realize we pay lip service to believing in grace and that the greatest pitfalls for every one of us Christians are religious self-righteousness, judgement and condemnation.

Despite those sins of the heart obviously being mentally and spiritually poisonous, they remain so deliciously satisfying.  For some, they are Christianity itself.

Like most "mainstream" believers, I believe I am only saved by grace through faith. I believe Christ's death on the cross did pay for my sins and there is nothing I can do to add or take away from his sacrifice.

But merely saying that and actually believing and living like I really mean that is the hard part.

Wading through the hundreds of "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" commands, I was fortunate to find focus and more than a small amount of freedom in a few of my favorite verses from the gospel of Matthew:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

The next time you give (or refuse) a dollar to a homeless person, ask yourself if you actually love them as you love yourself. Ask yourself the same thing the next time you refuse to even talk to someone because of their political party, religion or because they are gay.

Like the 2nd amendment, I have a feeling we will be arguing over what these few verses in Matthew really mean for a long time to come.

Friday, October 11, 2013

International Relations Strained Once Again

Whenever I travel, I usually like to write a blog post. This is mostly because I prefer to labor under the false impression that anyone gives a crap when I travel. Also, layovers, ADD and narcissism are a potent combination.

When I leave the country, I usually worry about forgetting to buy or pack something but this year those things no longer bothered me at all and I strangely have peace of mind about them.

That is because this year I am only worried about when I pulled out my passport this morning just hours before I leave America to see the beard I've nurtured for 3 months makes me look a lot like "not the guy in the picture" and a "bad guy".

I do not want to generalize or stereotype, but I fully expect in my very near future to run into several unpleasant experiences:

1) A quite vigorous "enhanced pat down" in a private room. Whether there are candles and Barry White playing remains an x-factor.

2) A large, burly TSA agent named "Hugo" present for the pat down. I may even be on the receiving end of it.

(Reminder: the last line sounded way worse than intended so don't forget to delete it.)

The last time I went to Jolly Old England™, I planned way ahead by doing the following:

 - I think I wore clothes
 - got onto (probably) the correct plane

But I did not plan ahead enough to somehow sleep on the plane and since I flew out at midnight, when I landed I was awake for well over 24 hours, possibly 100. 

(I am not a "plane scientist" be we have GOT to be 
wasting a lot of time by not just flying in a straight line!)

On my last visit to England, the girl behind the counter in London quickly determined I was sleep deprived AND a filthy foreigner, so she immediately jumped into action and handed me the keys to a stick shift.

Being the first time I had ever driven on the wrong freaking side of the road with the steering wheel on the wrong freaking side of the car and gear shift on the wrong (freaking) side and my occasionally being awake, I unintentionally terrorized everyone on the island roads from east to west, but only for two hours.

Two hours were spent employing the tried and true practices of fervent prayer, opening windows, blasting music and slapping cheeks. I am sure there are still several places, clearly unmarked, where I did not scrape my left tires on their curbs.

But this time I have planned even more ahead and expect to sleep on the somewhere between 6 or 73 hour flight with the modern day help of a little something we like to call "chemicals".

They come in handy pill (sometimes liquid) form and can be bought anywhere from over the counter to even from a guy named Philippe in the airport bathroom.

I am completely confident that I may possibly wake up refreshed/alive when I hit London in 12 to 49 hours with my horseshoe shaped pillow covered in drool.

Uh oh... I gotta go. 

A scary, hairy guy in a uniform is walking this way that looks exactly like "Hurley" from LOST.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Truths About The Government Shutdown

A lot of my friends have emailed me, both imaginary and real, to ask "what is this 'government shutdown' about" and "how does it affect me"?

These among others are great questions, so I've pasted the most common ones here to clarify the truths that the mainstream media are hiding from you:


Q: "Is the government really shutdown?"

A: That's a great question. The truth is that the politicians and media keep referring to it as a "government shutdown" to get most of us excited and our hopes up. Sorry. Nope.


Q: "But I heard things are actually shut down."

A: That's a great statement. The fact is that while national monuments and parks now have crudely laminated "shutdown" signs in Comic Sans font in front of them, the most essential services will never be defunded.

And I really do think 'defunded' is a word, despite those red squigglies. Great, now the word 'squigglies' has red squigglies.

Look, things like arresting potheads and internet download pirates as well as the feds spying on your emails will continue on as always. For instance, the fact you were dumb enough to click and read this blog has been logged, but will only be made fun of by a few guys at the NSA.


Q: "I sent in more taxes this year than ever! It's stupid that they say they do they not have enough money to keep going!"

A: That's a great irrelevant outburst. In fact they still do have more than plenty for the truly needed job holders, like the President, tax collectors and bomb droppers.

The only ones "furloughed" (not "fur load" as some of you have spelled it) are what are called "non essential" governmental employees.

It is just like when you and I get overdrawn on our monthly budget or miss a paycheck, sometimes we are forced to temporarily cancel HBO or god forbid Netflix.

But we always still keep essential services like water, electricity, Facebook, Hot Pockets and high speed internet to download and pirate our missed shows on HBO.

Keep in mind that at the next election year, politicians will now be forced to slightly raise our taxes even more to pay for hiring just a few extra non essential employees to make up for this. Also, politicians do not know what is the definition of "non essential".


Q: "Who is really at fault for this?"

A: That's a great partisan angle and the easiest one to address. Pull out your voter registration card. Look next to your name for a letter in parentheses. It will either be an (R) or a (D).

These do not stand for (R)idiculous or (D)ummy like everybody from every other country is saying.

They actually stand for (R)epublican and (D)emocrat.

The best part is that whichever letter is NOT by your name is at fault.

Good job picking the right side!


Q: "Is it true this is the chance for China to scream 'checkmate' and call in our debts or Britain to invade again and just call it a victory in the 237 year Revolutionary War?"

A: Those are both great weird ways to look at it. While those scenarios are both possible, the truth is that all of this will either soon blow over or it is more likely just one more sign of the apocalypse.

Our world's greatest historical and scientific minds on some of the websites I go to say that at least some kind of apocalypse is inevitable at this point.

We just do not know how big it will be, what day it will land on or who will be fur load.


Q: "What about zombies? I was told there would be zombies?"

A: That's a great conspiracy theory. Zombies are a given in any decent apocalypse and their proliferation or some other big word is definitely going to happen very soon with the biggest TV show about them coming back on in a few weeks.

The upside to this is The Walking Dead posts on Facebook will soon take over most of these political Facebook posts. But then those too will be overpowered and gobbled up by Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas posts before you know it.



A: That's a great question. You misspelled 'you're' and left your caps lock on again.

Please keep in mind that the government has shutdown 18 times since 1976 and yet sadly all the "non essential" employees were not eaten by zombies.

Also keep in mind that my dad used to have a saying. I'll even tell you what it was. He said that Americans will never truly rise up and try to change their government or societal problems as long as most of us are kept fat, dumb and happy.

The main thing is that we still have this wonderful status quo and there is nothing to really worry about, including zombies, as long as all of us still have our Facebook and our internet conn

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What doesn't kill you makes you stranger

I have not written a blog post for over 5 months, since Amy's mom passed away. That should give you an idea of the year I've had.

I debated writing a blog post about this because I do not want to be perceived as complaining or looking for sympathy. I learned long ago that sympathy is nice, but doesn't pay the bills or unkill my dog you ran over.

But the more I talk to people, the more I realize how much lack of understanding or outright misunderstanding exists concerning chronic pain.

Also, when I am finally between bouts of being knocked on my ass, I am an incurable blab.


"My father always used to say, 'What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger,' - 'til the accident." - Jimmy Carr

I am not superstitious, but I'll be glad to see 2013 behind me and will probably avoid any years with a 13 in it from now on.

Nietzsche is famous for coining the phrase, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."  I always found it odd when Christians and even preachers in the pulpit use this quote from the same man who also said "God is dead".

Maybe they think that infamous, cantankerous atheist 's famous line is still shorter and catchier than:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (James 1:2-3)

But does that mean trials or suffering themselves are inherently good things? Some would disagree.

Nietzsche's maxim may be true for bacteria that survive antibiotics, mutate and become more resistant. But humans are notoriously different than bacteria, the least of which being the increased difficulty of shoving a whole one of us under a microscope.

In fact, experts have said that "... the bulk of psychological research on the topic shows that, as a rule, if you are stronger after hardship, it is probably despite, not because of the hardship."

But myself being (an infamously terrible example of) a Christian, I do tend to think pain, suffering and trials usually just prove how strong you already are beforehand. And being forced to exercise that, your faith and God should help to make you stronger for future trials.

Trust me when I say I have read every single verse, inspirational quote and book. And I've cycled through faith, doubt, anger, cursing, depression, apathy, hunger, laziness, charley horses and several other emotions.

But that does not mean pain and suffering cannot be equally destructive to us in other ways beside "character".

On top of my chronic pain, my doctor diagnosed me this year with the neurological disorder Central Sensitization, a.k.a. Central Pain Syndrome or CPSS.  They first discovered the disorder with people who had strokes or spinal injuries. This is different than the previously diagnosed chronic nerve pain that I've had for over 15 years and complicates things quite a bit.

It is difficult to explain to people, but the short version is that my CNS ability to regulate pain is damaged from almost 20 years of chronic nerve pain, injuries, and surgeries. And the catalyst was likely my cervical disc surgery in 1996. I woke up from the 1996 surgery with a heart arrhythmia, hearing loss, migraines and other symptoms that already pointed to nerve damage.

The end result after dealing with those problems over 15 years is my peripheral and central nervous systems are continually malfunctioning and deteriorating. If I suddenly find myself in excruciating pain from a serious injury or surgery, my spine has undergone physiological changes and as a result, cannot turn that pain back off again by itself.


That's not a typo.

Long after any serious trauma has healed (potentially for the rest of my life), it will hurt as bad as the day of the trauma. Unless they give me the one thing I demanded they take me off of 5 years ago... massive doses of opiates. It is not imagined pain... it is the same chemical and electrical signals from the original trauma, unable to turn off. Others with CPSS and suffered trauma like a broken leg had to be put into a near coma to finally shut off the signals.

And that is on top of my nerves already malfunctioning and sending pain signals from either regular stimuli or none at all.

Imagine the UPS guy delivering a package full of horse crap to your house each day and it has another person's name and address on the label and he refuses to stop no matter what you tell him. And why is some weirdo ordering horse crap anyway?!

At the risk of sounding like I am competing with the poor s.o.b with the world record for surviving the most lightening strikes, the year 2013 worked overtime to kick my ass.

Poor Roy Sullivan survived 7 lightening bolts... typically 7 more than most survive... only to shoot himself at the age of 71 over unrequited love. So I can't swap war stories with Roy anymore. The Internet will have to do.

  • In February I had a routine shoulder surgery but it ended up being more extensive than they planned. The removed part of the bone by the clavicle joint, detached my bicep tendon and reattached it to the bone with screws and then discovered a rotator cuff tear and tied it up as well.
  • But within 10 days, the surgery site got infected, swelled up and was in excruciating pain, worse than the day after surgery. 
  • I was sent into the hospital and they aspirated deep into the shoulder joint with the longest needle allowed by law. They were trying to get a culture by scraping the bone with a needle for several minutes. Amy was in a far enough away waiting room, which is the only reason she did not hear me screaming. 
  • Within days I was scheduled for another surgery to wash out the site. But I woke up in far worse pain again.
  • The the head of the Infectious Disease came in and sat down. I told her they already cut me open and washed out the shoulder, but thanks for stopping by and could I offer her some jello. She told me to shut up and that I still had another surgical procedure to do.
  • After she explained everything, several technicians came in and installed an I.V. catheter inside my arm and running all the way to my heart. They started with a tape measure to guess the vein length and ended with an ultrasound to make sure it was within millimeters of the opening of the superior vena cava. And there was a lot of blood, which I now know you see far less of when you're unconscious for a procedure.
  • The reason for the I.V. was to carry with me an almost continual drip of one of the most powerful antibiotics ever, probably invented by Monsanto. The difference was that I had no metal stand to hook it on and wheel around and I had to give myself the doses 3 times a day, connected for several hours per dose.
  • I was thinking this sucks, but at least there is finally a light at the end of the... *whoopsy*! #$%^&!!!!! 
  • After the catheter was installed, one of the nurses incorrectly injected that world's most caustic medicine (hence internal I.V. direct into my heart) into the regular wrist I.V.  Again. And again. And again. They discovered it when disconnecting me for discharge. The Infectious Disease tech looked at her with big eyes and got really quiet.
  • When I woke up the next morning at home, the vein from my wrist to my elbow had swelled up and looked like someone put a foot long Twizzler under my skin. And it felt like someone smashed the arm with a crowbar and then tried to hide the evidence by setting it on fire. Even on enough narcotics to fell a rhino, it was still excruciating. But luckily it went away after only 5 short days.
  • All the while this was happening, I was rushing with Amy to the hospice as her mom died of cancer in April. Not being physically strong enough to give your spouse the kind of support you wish you could at such a time can make a person a bit... angry.

Let's take an intermission and just remind ourselves that which does not kill us only... *punches Nietzsche in the head*... *knocks all his books off the shelf*...

Back to our regularly scheduled lightening strike...

  • After a wonderfully short 4 weeks of an I.V. hanging out of my arm, things finally started to get bad. I mean worse. I mean terrible. Finally!
  • My surgeon said my pain levels were off the chart for two months post surgery and referred me back to the pain clinic I had been a patient of for 17 years. 
  • After describing how I won the turd jackpot of least requested diseases ever... one where "pain from trauma cannot ever, ever shut off by itself"... he recommended we try enough narcotics to kill a FAMILY of rhinos.
  • I said I made him take me off all pain Rx years ago so I would rather not. He said, quote, " have no choice. It is dangerous to not get these levels down asap. You went through sheer hell last time going off opiates. Are you ready to do it again?" 
  • I immediately removed him from my Christmas card list.
  • Because my liver is experienced and my nervous systems and pain systems are so damaged, the amount of opiates it takes to have any effect on me (equivalent of 200mg morphine a day and up) are dangerously high for most people at my age and weight. It would knock many out cold and even kill some. But it also means I have been able to luckily not get addicted, because I do not experience the common side effect of euphoria. I function "fine" and become physically dependent, but not addicted, which helped choosing to go off twice now. But although it is very hard for me to get high from pain Rx, at least I get all the horrible side effects going off them.
  • When the pain signals were finally forced low enough (they are still not "off", but are finally more closely tied to the injury continuing to heal... normal, acute, "useful" pain) we talked about slowly weaning off the Rx.
  • I was thinking this sucks, but at least there is finally a light at the end of the... *whoopsy*! #$%^&!!!!! 
  • From late July to the end of August I was sick from detoxing off the medicine. But after 4 weeks, things started to change and I finally got violently sick. Worse than the last time, 5 years ago. Amy had to sleep in another room because I was convulsing all night. For the last 4 days, I struggled to stand. I could walk across the room, but was immediately so exhausted that I would collapse in a chair. I tried to write something at one point and the pen was shaking too bad to do so. That was two weeks ago and I am still sick with multiple side effects of the Rx detox but improving a little bit every day.
  • But I also have a new warning on my health record that I will have to do this all over again for any serious injury or even minor surgery.
  • And also that I'm completely off the pain Rx again, the nerve damage in the right arm is returning to its regular levels of disabling pain. Off and on for over 10 years, I have been unable to rest my right palm on anything. I have to curl my fingers up so the skin does not touch, as it always feels like I've burned my hand on a stove.
Now that I have thoroughly convinced you to not stand next to me and that this really was a bid for sympathy, let me assure you it is not.

Chronic pain, whether it is neuropathy or fibromyalgia, is a serious battle for many people. Most others without chronic pain have a severe misunderstanding of it, but everyone also deals with their own issues and trials and do not feel pressed to become more informed about the problems of everyone else. I understand that and that's fine.

But since I cannot stop being a blab, maybe someone will have learned a little from this, even if it is the courage to blab about their own problems. Your real friends will take the time to listen.

At the very least, I am getting this in before and in case an 8th lightening bolt is on the way to finish me.

Seriously though, having chronic pain for almost 20 years has multiple times broken me down and almost destroyed me. I have dark tales.  But in other ways, I am healthy and blessed. I may not have a great sense of humor, but at least I still have one of any kind.

And I have a wonderful wife and kids. And quite a few people I call good friends. So I still consider myself a very lucky man. I really do.

I can't say my pain has made me stronger, but it definitely has made me stranger.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Saint Gone Before Us

 Barbara Elizabeth Snyder
1946 - 2013

They say you don't know what you've got until it's gone.

I don't think that's true. I don't think we are that clueless.

But I think we do fail to assess just how much people mean to us and how valuable they are, until we finally realize they will no longer be there.

The simple understanding we will no longer hear their voice again or see their smile one more time brings a sudden clarity.

Today we lost one of the kindest, sweetest saints I've been fortunate enough to know and have in my life.

My wife's mother Barbara Snyder passed away this morning after more than a year and a half battle with cancer.

A gentler, more sincere and soft spoken person you could never meet.

Ray and Barb

After losing someone before their time, our first question inevitably is "why"... or if you are a believer, "why, God"...

It is one thing for someone to go before their time, but another when they genuinely made the world a brighter, happier, more hopeful place for the rest of us.

That's when you break out the pen and paper and start jotting down a long list of names as suggestions for God on who might be better suited to go!

Or you could be stopped in your tracks as everyone around the table is crying and speechless... except Barbara.

When she knew it was past the point of no return and it was just a matter of time, she gathered all of her family to talk about her will and wishes after she were gone.

And she alone had no tears.

She was as serene as ever and talked about being at peace and just worrying about us afterward, knowing she would go to be with the Lord.

Then the cancer went on to quickly be so devastating, taking away so much, week by week and month by month. But she never stopped smiling.

When she was no longer able to stay awake more than a few minutes a day... and there were only a few days left... I helped Amy to turn Barb over in her bed at the hospice care home... and Barb looked up at me with the biggest, warmest smile I had seen her give in months.

That was just Monday and that was the last time we saw her responsive.

She and we all were so incredibly fortunate that she was not in serious pain throughout her decline and final days.

I don't believe that I "don't know what we've got until it is gone". But I do pause to really take in an account of how much of an impact she had on the world, as well as me.

And I do think we forget how everything we do, big and small, has a powerful affect on so many others, for years, decades and even into eternity.

She played such an irreplaceable and enormous part in the forming of the character of one of the strongest and most amazing women I've ever known... her daughter Amy... the beautiful, wonderful girl that I have been married to for almost 25 years.

Barb with Jim (R), Amy (L) and holding Michael

And because of that, Barb unquestionably played an indirect but huge part in the forming of the strong character in my own adult son and daughter.

With 3 children, 4 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild, Barb's sweet spirit and influence are an undeniable legacy.

3 Generations 
(L to R) granddaughter, grandmother and mother
Brittany, Barb and Amy

And we love and will miss her so very much.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

Revelation 21:4 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hey buddy, is that an I.V. in your pocket... ?

I've lost 20 pounds in the last 20 days! Yay!

And all thanks to the new "I just had surgery a month ago and then a second surgery a week later since the first surgery got infected and now I have to spend 6 weeks on I.V. antibiotics"... diet ™!

Email me for the details if you're interested! Just $19.95!

Recently, a daughter who is obviously a terrible, terrible person but shall remain nameless, referred to me as "gaunt" and "sick looking". RUDE.

I know when it rains, it pours... I just wish some of this stuff coming down on my head was water.

I am sure some of you were hoping, "FINALLY! Something horrible enough has happened to him that he'll shut the hell up and not blog about it!" WRONG.

And a couple others of you have told me over the last month, "you NEED to blog about this!" in regards to all the recent medical mishaps.

I only have hesitated up until now for two major reasons:

        1) I am on enough narcotics to knock out Guns-N-Roses and Lindsay Lohan combined

        II) This hurts like a #$%^&*^!@*er... ("dickens")

        C) So far, this has been such an escalating comedy of errors (a full-on C.F., you might say), I am afraid to joke about it. I'm worried that will just further incur the wrath of Loki or whoever is his equivalent in charge of tormenting North Americans / Oregonians

Yes, I know I said only two major reasons, please refer back to letter A.

So, here goes:

About a year ago, I was diagnosed with a stage-4 piece of crap shoulder that hurt like hell and wouldn't get better. The MRI showed that it had arthritis, bursitis and tendonitis and other things (probably ending with "-itis") that the doctors wouldn't even know about until the surgeon got in there.

Finally a few months ago, after a year of the physical therapy and cortisone shots actually doing a miraculous job (at improving the careers of physical therapists and cortisone shooters), I was advised to have surgery on my shoulder by my Orthopedist (they specialize in feet or teeth, I can't remember).

Of course I immediately yelled "YES WAY!", knowing that nothing bad could ever come as a result of it.

Within a few short months, I was on the table with the anesthesiologist having me drift off on some really... just... really amazing stuff and with me wearing nothing more than a large bandana with peekaboo openings on all 4 points of the compass.

The last thing I remember were bright lights and the faint sound of faraway laughter and Tom Hiddleston speaking in Old Norse.

I need you to count backwards from 10...

When I first woke up, I was feeling surprisingly good (my medical chart says I had quickly been upgraded to "groovy" condition), despite missing one of my most important arms.

OK, technically it was still attached, but they had given me a nerve block in my neck to help with the post surgery pain. For the next 24 hours, that made the right arm almost completely paralyzed and me regretting I had not practiced becoming more ambidextrous with wiping. (Luckily the thunderous constipation made this less of an issue).

The doctor ended up removing the distal portion of the clavicle (type of old fashioned piano), as well as detaching the bicep tendon and reattaching it to the bone with several titanic screws and lastly, finding and repairing a rotator cuff tear that never appeared on the MRIs. Hahaha, surprise!

A thousand downsides to the unexpected rotator cuff repair is I can't even lift my right arm for 6 weeks. The only upside is when Amy asks me to put the dishes away, I can just rub my shoulder like Danny Kaye in White Christmas.

After the pain gradually lessened for the next 10 days and I ran out of days to take off at work, it was necessary to head back to the corporate world.

Driving 60 miles a day with one arm is challenging and a little frightening for those swerving out of my way, but fortunately the groovy pills tend to mostly drown out their screams and horns.

So I was able to get back to work... but only for a couple days before the ominous music started playing in the background (those #$%* cellos!).

The arm suddenly started swelling, broke out in a rash and the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 shot up to a full "Spinal Tap" level of 11.

They tried to draw some fluid for cultures by sticking a hundred-foot long needle into the shoulder joint (A.K.A. "aspiration... hurts like Satan"), but unable to do so, they still stood by the diagnosis of an infection to the original surgery site.

They recommended a second surgery to wash it out and then follow up with just a super quick 6 weeks of I.V. antibiotics.

Of course I immediately yelled "YES WAY!", knowing that nothing bad could ever come as a result of it.

The 2nd surgery and hospital time was a little more of a blur than the first one. Less pleasantries were exchanged with the orderlies and disorderlies than at the surgery just a week previous. The peekaboo bandana was purple this time.

One by one, all of the new nurses still asked me if anyone has ever told me I look like Nicholas Cage. Either too weary or medicated, I was now reduced to simply answering, "who?".

This time it was not "day surgery". I had to spend several days and nights in the hospital. When was the last time YOU got to wake up to the sound of a complete stranger throwing up on the other side of the room or peeing into a Tupperware pitcher? Most people have to go on a Carnival Cruise to enjoy that!

Getting dolled up to go over and meet my new roomie, Captain Pukes-A-Lot!

Part of the reason I had to stay a few nights is so they could install a PICC (a type of portable I.V. line) into my left arm that runs from there through my chest and just outside the superior vena cava of the heart. I paid poor attention in science class, but I think these are real anatomy terms.

This catheter location drops the antibiotic into a sort of "raging river" of one of the biggest blood flows and biggest veins in the body. This is necessary because the antibiotic needs to be immediately diluted, since it is as caustic as a mixture of bleach and battery acid and that stuff the Alien drools. Medicine! It's good for you!

I even got visit from the head of the hospital's Infectious Disease department. At least she did not say they were writing a screenplay about me or refer to me as "Patient Zero".

I need a central line put in! Stat!

I know I make it sound like a lot of fun and like nothing at all went wrong, but we did run into a little snag at this point.

Unfortunately, one of the nurses proceeded to put the battery acid... I mean, medicine... into the wrong, peripheral I.V. (smaller vein), instead of the proper PICC line they just put in. Three times over the next 24 hours.

I only noticed it after they began to unplug everything for me to be released to go home. When I pointed it out, she clarified and partly made up for this mistake by sharing, "oops, why the heck did I do that?"

So, that was nice. They were once again rivaling the concern, professionalism and misplaced body fluids that are usually reserved for a Carnival Cruise.

At home just 12 hours later, my left arm vein turned bright red and the whole arm swelled up. Then the vein turned hard as a piece of rope and felt like it had been smashed with a crowbar.

This is known as phlebitis. Yet another "-itis"! Coincidence?

And this was caused by the same medicine that I am still dripping directly into my heart for 90 minutes straight. Every 8 to 12 hours. For a brief 6 weeks.

Medical science doesn't need to only be expensive or disgusting. Now it can be scary too.

The antibiotic is so caustic and potentially toxic, I have had to go into the hospital every single day for the last week and almost every day for the last month. If I am not getting a dressing change or the I.V. line is not slipping and needing adjusting, they are doing one of their biweekly to triweekly blood draws to carefully monitor the antibiotic blood levels. If it goes higher than the exact range it needs to be in, the side effects are:

  • death
  • painful death
  • veins stop working, including important ones
  • organ failure (especially kidneys)
  • organist failure (if you play organ for your church and it kills you)
Just 4 more weeks of this nightma... medical wonder. More than anything, I just want no new developments. I really would love to have nothing new to blog about for the next month.

And I wish I could jump off a diving board into a bottle of 12 year single malt and forget about all this, but I have to wait until the pain level gets below the perception of my shoulder actually audibly screaming profanities. Then I can finally stop taking enough of these stupid groovy pills to stun a charging rhino. 

I honestly can't wait to go back to blogging and being a smartass about much more mundane things, like my Corgis. 

I might even get a 3rd one and name him Loki.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Layla Bug

Balloons for Layla

I really hesitated writing this post because as my first words to my friend Missy were, "there are just no words that could be enough..." and it is still true.

They say the loss of a child is the most painful thing a person can experience and as a parent, I simply cannot imagine what my friend is going through because like most parents, I can't even let myself imagine it.

But the reason I finally felt compelled to write this short post to honor little Layla Shea Stauss, is I realized it was impossible for me not to remark... when there were two things about her so remarkable:

What a beautiful little girl she was, full of so much joy and love, despite so much hardship in her relatively few years... and...what an amazing mom and dad she was blessed to have.

I was never lucky enough to meet Layla in person, but have seen her and her siblings (triplets!) grow up over the last 4 years on Facebook.

Back when Missy first knew me and Amy, I was younger than Missy is now and she was younger than my adult daughter is now... so basically a hundred and twelve years ago.

Yet even with it being over a full century, I still remember the missions trip on which we compared the length of our beautiful, long hair (mine won) and she borrowed my expensive, brand new Notre Dame sweatshirt that my brother in law gave me for Christmas (and still hasn't returned it).

But despite many years and miles between us, the Internet has let us (all thanks to Missy, really) still experience so much that she and Cody have gone through in the last four years with their babies.

That is because Missy is a full on, Pinterest-grade mom. I suppose faced with the daunting prospect of triplets, she had to choose between the nuthouse or being a super-mom and luckily she chose the latter.

The end result is we all literally saw the triplets' 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th birthdays in amongst the hundreds of thousands of pictures Missy takes each year. (She uses a full 10% of Facebook's servers).

But we're lucky she takes so many pictures and we know full well this is still only a tiny fraction of a glimpse into their lives.

Born with a congenital heart condition, Layla had many surgeries in her short years, starting with the day she was born. Her most recent one had complications too and was very touch and go, but you never saw a happier little girl.

Despite making it passed so many milestones, she passed away suddenly just after the new year. They had her service just yesterday and Amy and I, like so many others, are just heartbroken. Our hearts go out to you Missy and Cody.

I know some of these next things I say will sound like pat comments at a time like this, but maybe that is because such tragedies always force us to finally be honest and these truths never change...

Make the most each day of the time you have with those you love and love you. We do not know what tomorrow holds for any of us. Don't leave anything unsaid.

Missy, I am sure you think Layla was more of a blessing to others, but part of that is because she was incredibly blessed to have you guys, just like Olivia and Brayden. You're still a super-mom.