Stuff and Things: Year 1 or so

May 7, 2012 is a day that shall live in infamy.  That was the day I published my first blog post.  Here I am 201 days later, still writing.  I have posted 50 entries –that about 1 every 4 days.  Yes sometimes I go a week or two and sometimes post 4 days in a row, but I guess that’s not too bad.  My muse is fickle.

I started on this journey to try and unlock some hidden creativity.  I should have known that at 50, there was not much left to mine; that which wanted out, was already out.  I realized one night, after listening to David Sedaris (no, he is not Amy’s husband, he is her brother) I could so something similar.  I’d never make a living at it, but perhaps I could make a few people smile or change the world positively in some small manner.  Nevertheless, with Lambchop’s encouragement I wandered down this oh so crooked path.  It is indeed crooked and treacherous.

Sometimes I have some great material to write and I stuff it away, afraid of the feeling I might hurt or the actions others would rather not be written down.  I realize my world view is narrow.  More often than not I have to find ways to incorporate my love of music, rather than just simply writing about it and boring you all to tears.  (Did I move any of you to cue up Death of Clown or David Watts?  I thought not, and I’m not hurt. Much)

Employment has proven a great source of grist for the mill.  I work in nice place with some wonderful people.  I have also worked with some seriously unlikable folks.  They were very clearly related In a few dark posts this summer.  It got worse before it got better and I stayed away from certain events and reactions mostly for potential legal reasons.  Catch me in a bar, we’ll have drinks and stories.  We all know what goes on the internet stays on the internet right?  I still can’t believe that ugly motherfucker called me a layman, which was only the tip of the iceberg.  I still hide my complete disdain in the office.  More often than not, my role is to be the adult, to model correct behavior and mentor people.  Its harder than herding cats, believe it or not.

Lately, I’ve written about the health issues of my son and my reactions.  It has been hard to live with, yet helpful to let some of it out her, where I can tear up while write, rather than break down in private or in public (which I constantly fear.)  I often wonder if I give out too much information – either about my son or my inner fears and feelings.  I know most of you don’t see me as the bad ass mf that Lambchop tells me I am in jest.  It’s ok, I don’t see myself as one either.  But I play one in public.  Mostly.

In Risky Business, Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Morney made trains sexy to ride.  I think my expose of travels on BART have frightened a few of you.  It is actually quite nice, but writing, “I had a pleasant trip and cute lady sat next to me,” would be the death knell of my small home here on the web.  I believe more of you want to hear about the guy that looked and smelled like a Walrus or the Junkies and Ghouls I see.  It is far less frequent, but so much more interesting.  I posted a longer fiction piece about one such trip in November.   It was 95% true, with very little embellishment.

I’ve even learned to market this blog a tad.  You can find it on twitter or Facebook.  That generally gets me 20-40 views (so much for 1100 followers on twitter, right? Lol.)  But throw in a little Game of Thrones (or ASOIAF as the hardcore fans call it) and mention a prominent artist who will gladly give a shout and 40 becomes 400.  That’s ok, I don’t do this for the money or the acclaim.  I’ve no illusion that my blog will become the Julie and Julia.  It just gives me an outlet to be clever, perhaps move a few of you and to write.

Most of you know I have degrees in Math and Finance. I’ve always been a numbers guy.  But what if I hadn’t been? What if I had pursued something more related to writing.  It is not like I don’t like to read.  Of course I do; I have a page related to every book I read.  At my age I should know better, but I think part of my core is that I don’t.

Transitions are not my forte.  At least not today.  Did you know I was in the Japanese version of TV Guide in 1983?  I was.  It was an article on Couch Potatoes and the store I worked at staged and event with the Head Couch Potato Jack Mingo.  I’ve seen some syndicated things he’s done, so clearly he got of the couch.  I’m done name dropping.  That felt good, though.

2012 was the year I attempted NaNoWriMo.  In retrospect, I ‘m not really disciplined enough to write for 2 hours every night.  Some days, I could find my stride and fit in the time. Others, work kicked my ass and after feeding the family, it was time to crash.  Realizing that my sleep meter usually ends these days at 10:30 or sooner, didn’t help either.  But I managed to claw out 36,000 words or so of drivel and even conceived of an ending. 

I had an interesting exchange with my father the other day.  He was lamenting how his favorite TV shows were always getting cancelled.  I told him if he had asked me before he watched them, I could have predicted that.  He got mad and kept telling everyone I called him stupid.  He always blows things out of proportion. I wasn’t calling him stupid.  I never really got to my point during all his loud blustering.  It was that he doesn’t read TV reviewers to glean information.  If you don’t read Tim Goodman, Maureen Ryan or Alan Sepinwall you are missing out. 

More importantly, watching dramas on NBC is a losing proposition.  I had no heartbreak knowing that he was upset by the cancelation of Harry’s Law and The Event among others.  He was also stressing about missing Smash when it restarted. (Pause for laughter.) Let’s be honest, he had no interest in letting me get to my point.

Let me add 2 facts to my case.  He has 2 DVR  timers set to make sure he never misses and episode or rerun of the O’Reilly Factor. (Can you say propaganda?)  Second, the list of shows I’ve suggested he watch and he refused to consider includes:

  • The Wire
  • The Sopranos
  • Brotherhood
  • Homeland
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • The Shield
  • Justified
  • Sons of Anarchy

I think I’ve made my point.  He does watch Game of Thrones, but then calls me almost every week to explain things.  It’s kind of cute.  At least we talk a bit more.  He not stupid, just stubbornly hard headed.  On a brighter note, he didn’t know who Honey Boo-Boo was.

As the year ends, I realize my journey has barely started.  I’m pretty sure I can’t come up with something interesting 7 days a week, but perhaps I can on 3.  I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but perhaps I can commit to 2 posts a week.  Or 8 per calendar month.  Let’s give that a shot, shall we?  I  hope you’ll keep me company in 2013. And tell your friends.  Everyone knows I like a party.



Twas the week before Christmas

The week before Christmas doesn’t usually mean much to me.  Being Jewish, Christmas generally means holiday parties at work, gifts for coworkers and a quiet time in the office as many people mentally check out and still more physically check out.  This year was a bit different.  Many of you know my son had brain surgery early in December to remove a  meningioma resulting from cancer treatments 8 years ago.  That surgery took less than 20 minutes and he was in the hospital less than 36 hours.   Couldn’t be better news, right?

Last week I got the call that was eerily reminiscent of December 2004.  My ex could barely speak, telling me my son had a stroke or seizure; no one knew which.  The call had come in at 2:15 and I picked up the voice mail at 3:05 after a meeting.  Last time I was in San Mateo and by the time I got the call he was in a Sacramento Hospital.  This time, he was being transferred from his hometown to Sacramento; I timed it to meet him there at my best guess for arrival.  We arrived at his room about 3 minutes before he did.

Not knowing is the hardest thing in the world.  When you know, you can prepare mentally and emotionally.  But the unknown leaves you helpless.  That’s where I was.  We sat with him that night.  And the next day as his MRI was rescheduled.  My son’s hospital file (it’s a binder and 4 additional files) is so thick that most Doctorrs don’t read it and even when we tell them he only takes his MRI under anesthetic, they don’t pay attention.  Even at 23, between his claustrophobia and his ADHD, there is no way he can sit still for an MRI.

I drove to Sacramento each morning and drove back home each night after dinner.  Having done that drive daily previously, I was used to it.  Nevertheless, I was exhausted each night when I got around 11.

 Without the MRI, they could not rule out stroke.  One Dr. did nothing but backpedal and be non-committal.  When I asked for the probabilities, looking for something to understand beyond, “we don’t know,” I was treated to, “Oh.  You are one of those.”  You can be sure I was more than a bit put off.    I was trying to be reasonable; to understand and use my intellect.  I hated being told I was incapable of understanding the various aspects of what could be.  In today’s litigious society I understand being careful.  But I wasn’t trying to tie them down; I was looking for possibilities –the opposite of commitments.  I was very frustrated.

I did not see one of his episodes until Thursday, when I caught the tail end of one they Drs had induced.  It indeed looked like what I believe a stroke looks like.  It was every bit as scary as cancer.  Cancer is a yes/no problem.  Yes they cure it or no they can’t.  The no proposition is not one I care to think about, but it is understandable.  Sadly, even when “cured” there were repercussions.    They were able to kill the cancer in his brain and spinal fluid, but at the cost of his hearing.  The scar tissue grows so fast that he only hears 50% in his good ear.  And then that impacts so many other things.

So it turned out it was a seizure, perhaps related to his brain swelling after the original surgery in early December.  That meningioma that was removed was above his speech center.  Seeing him with life in his eyes and only able to “yeah” and “mom” was heart breaking.  Even as he regained his abilities, there are still moments when he can’t find the right word or uses the wrong one, without realizing.

When I was 6 or 7 my grandmother went for a surgical procedure.  She had a series of strokes on the table and was never the same.  Her vocabulary was yes, no and Jesus Christ!  She didn’t always use them the way she wanted to, but she was vocal.  As a child and then a teenager, I had very hard time relating to her and communicating with her.  We visited regularly, but sadly I just remember her “being in the room.”  What could we say to her?  I was very scared that my son might end up similarly.  At 23 with his life ahead of him, that’s not fair.  But we learn early on, life isn’t fair.

I was terrified during my son’s stay in the hospital.  On Thursday night they ruled out stroke and were finally willing to shoot straight with us.  He was released on Saturday, with an increased medication level designed to stave off further seizures.  It is not like we know how well it is working.  Either he has a seizure or he doesn’t.  Should the medication need to be changed, we won’t know until he has another seizure.  Let’s hope he doesn’t have one.   He seems to be slowly getting better, but it is too soon to tell if there has been any permanent damage to his speech.

So much for a slow week at the office.  But once again, I give thanks that my son is relatively healthy and has a future.  That much I know.


A few days in a life – uncertainty comes calling

You may or may not know, but I spent a chunk of last week in the hospital.  I’m fine, but my son was having surgery.  There may not be anything more gut wrenching that the health of your children.  Their health, when it is anything but healthy, becomes your primary focus.

In December 2004, almost exactly 8 years ago, I got a call about 5 pm.  I was near the end of a major systems migration/upgrade project and I was explaining to a key user that while, yes a few things still needed to be done, this had gone smoothly and they had 98% functionality restored by 3pm on day 1, when I got a call.  My son had a brain tumor and I needed to get to Sacramento immediately.  I was in San Mateo.  That was a 2.5 hour drive in the best of circumstances; it was closer to 4 or 5 at that time of day.  Thus began our cancer year.

Since October 2005, my son had been cancer free.  First semi-annual and then annual scans showed that to be the case.  Until October.  There was a growth above his ear.  It might be a benign growth – though nothing in the brain is benign – or it could be a different cancer, both could be brought on by the radiation used to eradicate the previous cancer.  I do a pretty good job of compartmentalizing my feeling and fears, but I was a wreck internally. 

One positive sign was that his blood work came back negative.  We were all pretty hopeful that this would not be cancer.  Hopeful does not equal sure.  At various times reality would set in and I would have to work hard to keep my façade up.  It generally surfaced when I was alone, but not always.  The fact that this son does not live with me did not change anything, your children are your priority.  Feeling helpless, after all there was nothing I could do to change this, is not something I am used to or like.

We sat in the waiting room on Wednesday.  The same surgeon was performing the surgery.  Last time there was a 2cm tumor at the base of his skull, preventing the brain fluid from leaving the brain via the spinal column.  There were growths that had metastasized to his pituitary gland and his spinal column.  This time it was (as related to me) 2cm growth behind his left ear.  If it was cancer, it could be boring into his brain, with possibly horrific results.  Or it could be an encapsulated growth sitting in his meninges adding pressure (Meningiomas).   Surgery was scheduled for 2 hours. 

Because we did not have enough stress, the surgery started 30 minutes late.  30 minutes in we got a call in the waiting room.  The tumor was removed and everything went well.  What did this mean?  Then we got a call he was sleeping in recovery.  Again, was this good news or bad news?  The waiting was ridiculous, but we were hopeful.  After a bit, the surgeon came to tell us what we hoped for, it was the best possible news – it was not cancer.

My son’s 3 day hospital stay was cut to 2.  It is inconceivable to me that after brain surgery on Wednesday morning, my son was walking Wednesday afternoon and released on Thursday afternoon.  Other than wanting foods he was not allowed to have immediately, my son was his normal self.  I am still a bit in disbelief.

It was a comfort to have the thoughts, prayers and wishes of all our friends during this period.  There will still be some follow ups and treatments, but the worst is behind us and this not being cancer is the best possible result.

If you and your family have your health, you already have the holiday gift you may not recognize you received.  If you know someone who did not find this gift in their home, give them a word, a note or a hug.  It helps more than you realize.