Jun 01

I originally started writing this blog to capture my journey through turning 40 and the pain that journey entailed.  I wanted to, at least somewhat humorously, document how much turning 40 sucked.  Well, I turned 40, it did suck, and now here I am at 42 and things get no better.  People always say crap like, “Just give it time, things will get better,” or “At least things can’t get any worse.”  Well, I have come to a realization: people lie.  The only thing my future potentially holds is turning 50; I’m sure that will be a joy ride.

If you are down in the dumps or have a touch of the blues, people say ‘things will get better’ to prevent you from jumping off of a bridge or walking through the local Walmart with your hunting rifle a’blazing or something.  There is no real guarantee that anything is going to get any better.  In fact, things run a pretty substantial risk of getting worse.  Still, you should not jump off of a bridge or take out the entire population of a Walmart (believe it or not, there may actually a few good people in there).

When I start feeling down about the suckiness that life often dishes out, I blog.  It makes me feel better.  It might piss some people off, but then maybe they need to start their own blogs.  A small part of me has always thought that if I sit down and practice writing on a regular basis (i.e. blog), I might improve my writing skills to the level where I can actually making a living writing.

“Why would you want to make a living writing?” you may ask.

I don’t like dealing with people.  Any form of conflict stresses me out to a degree that I can barely function, and you cannot deal with people and avoid conflict.  What really amazes me are people who seem to thrive on conflict.  You know them, the people who can take a completely calm situation and turn it upside down by inserting a touch of drama… which always leads to conflict.  These people need to be locked away on their own island… hey, Total Drama Island!

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Good cartoon... I miss it :(

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I have not always been like this, but over the last several years, the degree of my anti-social thoughts and feelings has multiplied to the point that I really am pretty miserable a lot of the time.  This is mostly related to time when I am actually earning a living.  At home, and even in the occasional social setting, I am happy and pretty comfortable.  I have tried to think of a job where I would have very little personal contact with people in the realm of the method I use to earn an income, and writing seems to be an excellent choice.  There are additional choices, but none of them seem to fit quite right:

Methamphetamine Manufacturer

Oh sure, making the meth sounds like a great way to make a living.

*You can work at home.

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*You make a very high (no pun intended) return on investment.

*All of the simple instructions are easily accessible online.

*The only people you would have to deal with would be your dealers.

*I’ve seen some of the people who make this stuff… you don’t have to be a rocket scientist.

*You are making a product that is in demand and makes people feel better about their miserable lives.

However, if you really look at the consequences of making meth, you find that there may be some drawbacks.

*You can burn down your home.

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*Meth may make people feel better, but it has been discovered that it may not be good for them.

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*Apparently, making meth is illegal.

*The only people you would have to deal with would be your dealers.

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So… meth is out.

Pornography Actor

Okay, so you would have to deal with people, but I’m sure there wouldn’t be much conflict.  Even if there is conflict, who cares?.  Three words: female porn stars! This doesn’t sound like a bad choice…

And then reality sets in…

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CPAP

Yeah... no one is going to pay to see that...

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Crap!  I think the wife may have an issue with me being in porn… as would God.  Porn  is out.

Let’s see… what are some more jobs that would either be enjoyable or have limited conflict…

Bookstore Owner/Employee

I love books and used to think working in like a Barnes & Nobles would be a blast.  I mean, who in their right mind would be unhappy in a bookstore.  I used to think that way, until I saw some poor information booth employee at Barnes & Nobles get chewed up one side and down the other by some jerkwad who was bent out of shape because the store didn’t have a copy of some obscure philosophy book.  Jerkwad was upset that he would have to wait a couple of days for the store to get in a copy of Larry Fleitzerhinie’s Mans’ Walk on an Impartial Plain of Reason in the Twilight of the Mountains of Contradiction… or something like that.  “What kind of bookstore is this,” Jerkwad yelled.  Seriously… is there not a job on this planet where jerkwads are not present?  So the bookstore idea is out.

Working with Children

I used to work at Discovery Zone (a Chuck E. Cheese-like place with tubes and tunnels and ball pits and video games and birthday parties etc. etc. etc.).  One would think that a fun place like that would be reasonably stress free… but one would be wrong.  Parents become absolute imbeciles  when it comes to the happiness of their children… especially when they are paying for it.  And these imbeciles love to yell at whatever employee is closest to them when their child is for one second not having the ultimate in fun (like the kid just got reprimanded for biting another kid in the butt).

“You have no right to discipline my child, you minimum-wage piece of $@#&!”

Meanwhile, the parent of the child who was bitten is screaming, “You need to keep better control of the kids in here.  I should sue!”

Of course, neither of these parents say a word to each other… let’s just take it all out on the minimum-wage piece of $@#&!

So it is becoming relatively clear at this point that there is no such thing as an enjoyable job… or at least a job that is stress-free.  I understand that stress is supposed to be a good thing in small amounts because it helps us make decisions and whatnot… but I’m getting too old to deal with the stress crap anymore.  You know, if I had the money flowing in that I expected to be making in my “prime income-earning years”, the stress probably wouldn’t get to me as much.  Sounds silly, but it’s true.  If I was making six figures, I think my tolerance for all things stressful would be a little higher because I’d be able to put a sizable amount of that away for retirement and I’d have the knowledge that I would not have to deal with the crap forever.  However, given my current situation, I will be dealing with some sort of crap for every single workday for the rest of my natural life.

Go ahead, say it.  I know there is someone out there who is wanting to say it…

“Suck it up!  Quit your whining and do what you need to do!”

“Nobody ever said life was going to be fair, so shut your mouth and get busy working!”

“People who complain like you need to be thankful they aren’t a starving child in Africa!”

“If you worked as hard as you complained, you’d be making more money!”

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself!  We all gotta deal with it and you don’t hear us complaining, do you?”

Oh my… if I had a nickel for every time I was the recipient of one of these comments, I’d already be able to retire.  I have never stated that I am not thankful for what I have.  I just want more out of life than being a working stiff who begrudgingly works a job until the day he dies.  I think it is best stated by Drake in Nikki Minaj’s song Moment 4 Life:

I’m really tryna make it more than what it is, cuz everybody dies but not everybody lives!”

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Apparently, one needs to look like a pink blow-up doll to be living life right?!?

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Word!  … does anybody really say “word” anymore?  Yeah, probably not.  I’m kind of out of the loop.  I am 42, after all…

Good gravy – I’m quoting a Nikki Minaj song?!?   ‘Bout time to wrap this post up.

Anywho, writing is about the only job I can think of that would have the limited public contact necessary to eradicate a large portion of the work-related stress from my life.  Of course, I only enjoy writing as a way to bitch.  If I had to write how-to manuals or reviews of laundry soaps or something like that, writing would suck.

So, if anyone knows of a good writing gig that requires a whiny writer who loves to bitch, give me a shout out.  Word!

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Sep 13

So about six months ago, I go to our Quick Care clinic to get a referral for a sleep study.  I leave the appointment with the referral… and a brand-spanking new prescription for blood pressure medication.  Stinking people looking out for my health.  Anyway, so I had a six-month prescription, and that prescription was about to run out, so I figured that I better go see a real doctor about my blood pressure.

Now, when I went to Quick Care, my blood pressure was like 170/130.  I’ve been tracking it ever since, and although there are times when it spikes in the 160/110 range (which is pretty much any time I get pissed off… which, as you can imagine, is almost daily), it’s usually in the 140s/90s.  Still high, but better, no?

I make an appointment with an actual real doctor (figure I’m about at the age where I need a family physician).  The appointment comes, I go to see the doctor, and my stupid blood pressure is still high.  It’s 148/98.  So, the doctor wants to double the dosage of the lisinopril that I’m on, and I’m fine with that.  Aside from a constant nagging cough, I don’t really suffer any side-effects.  Then the doctor tells me that he wants to check my cholesterol.  Crap.  I have no doubt that my cholesterol is high, and I’m sure that I’m going to have to fork out money for a prescription for that crap every month too.  The nurse sticks a needle in my arm and draws a couple of vials of blood.  I’m amazed at how dark the blood is… almost black… and I’m thinking to myself that may be part of my problem.  With all of the tons of fat that I have eaten in my 41-years of life (’cause, damn it, it tastes good), the crap has actually morphed into actual oil in my system.  Of course my blood pressure is going to be high with Pennzoil 10w30 running through my veins, and I’m way past the 3 month/3000 mile mark.  Can’t I just get a stinking oil change and a lube job?.

I heard from the doctor’s office today.  Low and behold, I have high cholesterol.  SURPRISE!  They called in a prescription for some statin-thingie to Walgreens, and as of tomorrow, I’ll be medicated for my condition.  Possible side effects are muscle cramps, drowsiness, and liver damage.  They recommend taking it before bed so that the side effects are less noticeable.  The drowsiness thing happening while I’m sleeping makes sense.  However, being awoken in the middle of the night with a charlie horse doesn’t sound very pleasant, and I’m sure my wife would agree with me on that.  As far as the liver damage part goes, I’m kind of hoping to avoid that.  I guess if I have liver failure or something, having that happen while I’m asleep might be a plus?!?

Why is everything that tastes good bad for you (and if someone tries to tell me that steamed broccoli or broiled fish “tastes good”… I may punch him or her in the lying, filthy little mouth)?  “Everything in moderation,” you may say, but I would reply that moderation sucks.  Stupid common sense.  If I’m stuck in the Craphandle of Nebraska with nothing to do and no real future worth caring about, I want to be able to eat what I want when I want.  Eating is one of the very few pleasures I have… and now it just happens to be killing me.

AARGH!

Apparently, high cholesterol makes one very pirate-like?

With the history of high blood pressure and heart disease that infests my family tree, I figured all of this was coming.  I just hoped that maybe I was going to be the branch that could remain healthy.  I’m telling you, optimism in all shapes, colors and sizes, leads to nothing but disappointment, which is why I usually do such a wonderful job of avoiding it.

Okay, so here’s the Catch-22.   The potential side effects of the statin-thingie don’t sound very pleasant.  So, I figure I need to lose about 20 to 30 pounds and start eating gross crap, which doesn’t sound very fun.  Then, when I’m all sickly skinny and eating leaves and twigs, there is still a chance that I will need to remain on cholesterol medication.  Stupid genetics.  So, do I just let the doctor medicate the hell out of me and potentially destroy my liver (a problem that may never come to be… look at me, the stinking optimist) while I continue to enjoy one of the few simple pleasures I have in life: eating good food?  Or, do I give up one of the few simple pleasures that I can experience in the Craphandle of Nebraska in an effort to extend my life so that I can potentially live out an extended life in the Craphandle of Nebraska with no simple pleasures?  And even if I give up the simple pleasure, there is still the chance that I will need to remain on the liver-destroying medication, so I may actually give up the simple pleasure and still die of liver failure.  Sounds pretty much like a lose-lose-lose situation to me.  There… now I’m sounding a little more like the pessimist that I know and dislike an awful lot of the time.

So, now I have a doctor.  He wants to see me again after about 30 days on the current medications to measure my progress.  I should be proud of myself for taking some responsibility for my health and trying to be there for my family’s future, right?  But all I can think about is how I’m 41… and it is just going to be a matter of time before Mr. Dr. is going to be thinking that he needs to be sticking his finger up my butt.  Seriously… if I’m falling apart this much in my 40s, what bright, shiny stars can I expect in my 50s… and beyond?  Well, with the Dr. seemingly intent on destroying my liver, I may not have to worry about it at all…

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Jun 10

Remember when you were a kid and you had all kinds of friends?  Well, unless you were the kid who accidentally pooped the pants in 3rd grade during math and everyone knew about it; then you maybe didn’t have so many friends.  Maybe you were the girl who had her first “Carrie” moment during 6th grade English, and none of the kids understood why you left school early,  upset and crying; until someone spotted the evidence of the early dismissal on the seat of your chair… your adolescence may have been a little rough.  Or you were the boy who got caught enjoying Baywatch just a little too much when you thought no one watching… you may have had a few rough years.  But aside from those few sad instances indicative of the cruelty of other children, many kids have lots of friends.  And as you grow from adolescence into high school and up through college, you make more and more friends.  By the time you get out of college, you probably have tons of friends… and I’m not just talking acquaintances, but real friends… you know, the kind of people you wouldn’t hesitate to call if you needed a good bailing out of jail.

At this point, we’re set!  We have a plethora of friends and a brand-spanking new education just waiting to be developed into a life-long career of happiness!  Guess what happens to many of us then.  We pack up our belongings and move half-way across the country and start completely fresh in a community where we don’t know a single soul!  Sounds exciting, right?  Sounds like a true adventure, doesn’t it?  Yeah… not really.  It sucks, and years later, you will find yourself pretty much friendless as you roll through mid-life.

When I first moved to the panhandle of Nebraska (almost 20 years ago), I figured I would fast make new friends.  And right out of the gate, I met a few people my age and we became buddies.  Considering that the people in this community are very cliquish (which is something I didn’t discover until later), I was lucky.  One of these buddies actually introduced me to the woman who is now my wife.  So, yeah, I thought I was on a roll.  Now see, where the problem comes into play in my example is the fact that I moved to a community where the young people are anxiously leaving in droves.  In the small town of Glasgow, MT where I grew up, all of the kids always talked about how they wanted to get the hell out of Glasgow and actually do something with their lives.  Scottsbluff and Gering Nebraska are much the same.  Kids see what their parents have accomplished living here, and the kids want nothing to do with it.  The kids want to actually find some measure of success in their lives, so they bail on the communities at pretty much the first available opportunity.  My problem: I moved in as everyone else my age was trying to get the hell out.  I escaped from one community where all the kids and young adults wanted to get away to another community where all the kids and young adults wanted to get away.  The destination of my escape was another destination from which to seek escape.  Most of those original friends that I made when I moved here have long since found more fruitful paths in other areas of the country.  There are still a couple in the area, and I really enjoy hanging out with them, but the second thing to come along and disrupt the friendship cycle is kids, and I’ve got them.

Having children is one of the most rewarding things that a person can do.  I don’t want to make it seem otherwise.  However, having kids puts a huge crimp in any sort of social life that you may desire.  You aren’t able to go out in public nearly as much once you have kids, especially while they are young.  You’re at home trying to catch some sort of rest and instill in your kids the basics of being a functioning member of society.

Then the kids hit school, and through school and other extra-curricular activities, you are forced to confront other parent of other kids who are pretty much in the same boat as you.  Once again, you start forming some relationships.  Maybe you find a church or other civic organization, and you begin attending regularly, and you form some relationships there as well.These relationships, however, are more along the lines of “strong acquaintanceships” than they are the true friendships you had  in your youth.  In other words, these are people who are fun to hang out with while the kids are off playing and whatnot, but these aren’t people you would feel comfortable calling to bail you out of the joint.

Even these strong acquaintanceships you have developed through the parents of your kids’ friends and through your civic activities (and maybe even co-workers from your job) soon seem to slightly dissipate as your kids grow even older and their activities seem to encapsulate more and more of your free-time.

My wife is from the panhandle.  Once she finished college, she really never had a strong desire to leave.  However, neither does she have a strong desire to stay.  She is constantly telling me that if I can find us a life somewhere outside of the panhandle that would make me less… uh, “grumpy” would be a polite way to put it, I guess… she would be more than happy to make a move.   She, however, actually has some of the friends from her past here.  Not many (most moved away), but she is occasionally able to have a “girls night out” or get together for coffee with a friend or two.  I still have a lot of really good friends, but, for the most part, they are spread out all over the nation.  If it weren’t for Facebook, I probably wouldn’t even know where most of them are.  They sure in the hell aren’t close enough to bail me out of jail, if the need were to arise.

So, what’s next?  You got me.  My kids actually have some true friendships, and they are doing well in the local schools (even though the schools tend to piss me off from time to time).  I’d hate to disrupt their potential growth in a selfish effort to find some sort of friendship or contentment in my life, so moving isn’t the most attractive option at this point.  Doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, just means it’s not the most attractive option.  I try to keep in touch with the friends of my youth… at least those on Facebook.

I’m guessing that once my kids have joined the mass exodus of young people who leave the panhandle of Nebraska to better themselves in different areas of the country, the options for the wife and I will increase.  We will be free to move wherever on God’s green earth we want to live.  We will be short two mouths to feed as our college-educated boys head out into the world to try to figure out how in the hell they are ever going to repay all of those student loans.  Of course, our bodies will have deteriorated even further, and God only knows what the status of our health will actually be in 10 or 15 years.  I’m guessing that will be the next point in the cycle where new friends are made.  We will probably find them at the clinics and doctor’s offices and pharmacies and, later, in the retirement communities.  We will all sit around and reminisce about our kids, about the friends of our youth, and about all of the opportunities we probably missed by living in the panhandle of Nebraska.

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Feb 14

My snore has been likened to the thunderous growl of a Tyrannosaurus rex. Now, I know that no living person is exactly sure what a T. Rex growl really sounds like, but I have been told that my snore has to be in the ballpark.

T-Rex

Of course, I have never heard my snore. My snoring has woke me up in the middle of the night on thousands of occasions, but by the time I’m actually awake, I’m done snoring. Funny how that works.

Anyway, my wife and I have been married for over 16 years.  My wife has complained about my snoring for, well, a little over 16 years.  I finally decided that maybe it was time to do something about it.  See what a great guy I am?

Why would I avoid going to the doctor to have something done about my snoring?  Well, the reasons are multiple:

1st:  I hate doctors.  I don’t hate them on a personal level, I just don’t like the fact that I have to rely on someone who makes a buttload of money for my physical well being.  I also don’t like the fact that I have to pay said person a buttload of money for services rendered.  Yeah… it’s all about the Benjamins.

Benjamins

I couldn’t be a doctor because I’m really not smart enough, and the thought of messing with someone’s other than my own bodily fluids makes me slightly light-headed.  Just another of the “life isn’t fair” deals that pisses me off.  Okay, so maybe I do hate them on a personal level…

2nd:  When you go to the doctor, he or she always ends up finding a bunch of crap wrong that has nothing to do with the reason for your visit.  It’s kind of like when you take your car in for an oil change, you know.  All of a sudden, you’re needing new brake pads and a front-end alignment and your head-gasket is leaking… you, at the doctor… your car, at the mechanic… it’s all the same.  Now that I am “in my forties”, I know that crap is going to start breaking down at an alarming rate.  I’d really rather just not know about it.  After all, maybe I can get another 2000 miles out of the car without fixing the problem, right?  Besides, it seems like when they start trying to fix one problem, everything else starts to go to hell.  You know, like the 35-year-old lady who goes in because she sprains her ankle, and they discover she has pancreatic cancer, so they cut her open to get to the cancer, and they find out that it is EVERYWHERE, and she is dead within a couple of weeks… because of a stinking sprained ankle.  If she hadn’t gone in for the stupid sprained ankle, she would probably be alive today!

3rd:  Uh… I don’t take exactly the best care of myself.  I know this.  I don’t need some yahoo driving a BMW to point this out and talk down to me while doing so, because when he or she does, my level of class-envy goes through the stinking roof!

Okay, so I don’t like going to the doctor.  In fact, I don’t even have a doctor.  I go to a local urgent care clinic (Quick Care) for all of my medical needs… which are few and far between.  You’d think that, seeing as how I’m getting to the point where annual visits are looming on the horizon, I should probably find a doctor.  I don’t like shopping for shoes… and I like shoes… so why would I spend time shopping for a doctor?

So, back to the snoring.  I call one of them “sleep centers” (Western Sleep Medicine, I believe it is called) to see how I go about getting fitted with one of those Darth Vader masks to make me stop snoring.

Darth Vader snores?

They say I have to be referred by a doctor.  I say I don’t have a doctor.  They say I can use Quick Care to refer me.   I call Quick Care and make sure that they can refer me, which they reassure me that they can.  I ask, “So, uh, I’m wanting a referral for a sleep study… and that’s it.  You aren’t going to test me for a bunch of other crap, are you?”  And I am reassured that I will only be tested for the condition that I am visiting about.  Great!  So I drive on over to Quick Care.  Never believe medical people.

I get to Quick Care and they make me fill out the stinking form that all medical places make you fill out when you first arrive.  I get done filling the stupid form out and I realize that right beside the line where I fill-out my date of birth, there is a line for me to fill-out my age.  I ask the receptionist, “So, why is there a line right beside my date of birth for my age.  Wouldn’t just my date of birth be sufficient?  Can’t you figure out my age?”  Of course, I’m being a little smart-assy, but in a good-natured way.  The receptionists at Quick Care are not exactly “good natured”.

“It’s there so we don’t have to figure it out,” the receptionist says, and I can tell by the look on her face that I’m pissing her off by breathing her air, so I let it drop.

So now I’m thinking to myself that I may be making a mistake by not actually having an actual doctor.  I’m thinking that using Quick Care for a referral may not have been the swiftest of my most recent decisions.  Did I have to list my age beside my date of birth so they didn’t have to figure it out… or because they couldn’t figure it out?  I know, I should assume that the receptionist (or anyone else who touches my chart) would be able to figure out my age from my date of birth.  However, before I entered Quick Care, I assumed that a receptionist in a place where people are going to have medical issues addressed and are looking for a little comfort would be able to smile… or at least be partially pleasant.  I have learned to never trust my assumptions.

After a short wait, I am led into an examination room.  The nurse tells me that the first thing she needs to do is check my blood pressure.  Crap!  This is exactly what I don’t want.  This is why I called before I came… to make sure unnecessary crap wasn’t going to be tested.  What does my blood pressure have to do with my snoring?  But I’m already thinking I need to keep my mouth shut because of the whole receptionist encounter, so I sit down and let her test it.

170 over 130.

She looks at me like I should already be dead.

“Uh, is your blood pressure always this high?” she asked.

“No, these places freak me out,” I said.  “It’s usually more like 150 over 100.” Of course my blood pressure is high.  Everyone and their dog stresses me out.  I hate any sort of confrontation and life is full of it… confrontation that is.  The older I get, the less I am able to deal with the basic BS that every person on the planet seems intent on dishing out.  If I could hole-up in a dark room and not have to ever deal with anyone or their problems, I bet my blood pressure would be just fine.  I pray to God to let me not get stressed out, but stress is still there around every single stinking corner in this road of life… and God just looks down from heaven and laughs.  I think jacking around with me is how God deals with His own stress.

Again… she looks at me like I should already be dead.

“I’m going to get the P.A.,” she said and disappeared out the door.

P.A. stands for “physician’s assistant”.  A P.A. is like a doctor, except they didn’t have to go to school as long as a doctor, and instead of BMWs, they usually drive Audis.  I don’t hate P.A.s quite as much as I hate doctors.

The P.A. comes in and he talks about getting me a referral for the sleep test, he fills out the necessary paperwork, and then he starts talking about what we are going to do about my blood pressure.  He has the nurse run a ECG, and then she sticks me with a needle and red crap comes out my arm into a little vial.  I’m ready to pass out as he tells me about the blood pressure medication that I’m going to be put on.

Crap!

So, I leave, I go and get my blood pressure medication, and I go home.

The next day, I take the first of the pills.  It’s Lisinopril.  It’s supposed to have very few side-effects.  I notice nothing and think I’m golden.

I take my second pill the following morning.  All is well… until I get out of the shower, reach for the hair gel (it’s Sunday, and I gel my hair up on Sunday to keep from looking like such a hippie freak), and I fall to the floor with chest pain.  I can’t even stand up.  The wife and kids are already gone, because the wife takes the kids to Sunday school.

Crap!

Okay, so I figure I’m having a heart attack.  Figures, right?  I mean, if I hadn’t gone in for the stupid snoring issue, I would have been fine.  Anyway, I’m downstairs, and I need to find a way to get upstairs.  I figure out that if I bend over and do not stand straight up, I can walk without a ton of pain.   So I hunch it upstairs and sit down at the dining room table.  I start weighing my options.

I can call the wife and freak the crap out of her.  Yeah… not going to happen.

I can call 911 and get an ambulance coming.  That would, however, be expensive.  I’m all about the Benjamins.

Benjamins

Then, I start thinking that I really don’t feel like I’m going to die.  You know how people who have heart attacks claim that they get all freaked out because they can tell that they are dying?  Well, I’m not freaking out.  I’m just pissed because my chest hurts.  There is no pain shooting through my shoulder or up my arm, just a sharp pain under my left man-boob.  Feels more like something is pulled than I’m dying.  I think to myself, “If this cramp in my chest gets worse, do I feel like my heart is going to stop?”  I answer myself, “No.”  So, I sit there and wait for the pain to go away.

Western Sleep Medicine is supposed to call me to schedule a sleep study.  I haven’t heard from them yet.  I may not have to worry about it.  After all, I went to medical people for one problem and they discovered another.  I give myself two weeks, tops.  Damn it…  I swear, I could have got another 2000 miles out of this s.o.b.

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Dec 18

We had to replace our dryer.  Our old dryer just pooped-out.  She had been in a state of deteriorating health for quite some time, but we have put up with her “quirks” because… well… she was our dryer.  When the wife and I were married over 16 years ago, one of the first major purchases we made was a washer and dryer.

I can remember shopping for her (the dryer… not the wife… although I vaguely remember that as well).  We went to every place in town, trying to get a good deal.  We looked at all sorts of off-name brands, but we ended up going with Kenmore from Sears.  I don’t remember the exact reasoning behind why we purchased this particular brand, but I know I have felt confident that we made the right choice.  I have never looked at our washer and dryer and thought, ‘We made a mistake by going cheap.’  We considered buying our washer at one store and our dryer at another.  “Matching appliances” that were to end up in the basement or the laundry room or the spare bedroom were never a big concern for us.  However, the particular washer and dryer that we purchased in our first year of marriage just… well… they just seemed to go together, kind of like a newly-wed couple.
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Happy Washer

Happy Dryer
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Mr. Washer and Mrs. Dryer have been with the wife and me through thick and thin.  Whether they were cleaning the bedding and lingerie of a newly-wed couple, sitting in storage while the wife and I hopped apartments in Denver, cleaning the tiny clothes of our firstborn, cleaning dog hair off of everything after we received our family’s first dog, cleaning up the spit-up of our second-born, cleaning up the spit-up of our second-born, cleaning up the spit-up of our second-born (oh, the joys of a RSV-prone and mucous-filled child), or preparing the daily garb of a laundry-producing family of four people and one dog in present day; Mr. Washer and Mrs. Dryer have always tried to be good to us.  I have spent many a late night sitting downstairs watching T.V. or pecking on the computer, while Mr. Washer scrubs the whites and Mrs. Dryer fluffs the darks.

Listening to the two of them in harmony could be quite … err… interesting?!?  While Mr. Washer went into spin cycle and Mrs. Dryer tumbled her load round-and-round, there unison motions often caught my attention.  Mr. Washer would spin, slowly at first, and then faster and faster, shaking the stillness of the basement with his urgency.  Mrs. Dryer kept the same unison pace throughout, yet I sensed that they were working toward a common goal.  Finally, Mr. Washer, at a frenzied speed in search of some extraordinary outcome… stopped spinning.  I could tell he was spent.  Mrs. Dryer usually continued on, searching for her own “mission complete” banner.  Every once in awhile, the two of them would reach their goal at the same time: Mr. Washer’s final spin cycle quickly grinding to a halt as Mrs. Dryer’s buzzing high-pitched alarm screamed that her load was complete.  It was kind of exotic and erotic, in a very blue-collar and… uh…  pervy kind of way… probably like the erotic encounters of most married couples :)

Mr. Washer started having issues a little over a year ago.  He really wobbled when he went into the spin cycle, and we knew that something was wrong.  Finally, he just gave out.  Every time I tried to start a new load, he would just hum.  I tried my best to get him working on my own… which, with my mechanical expertise, resulted in several swift kicks to his nether-regions.
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Sick Washer
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Mrs. Washer did not seem to approve.
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Mad Dryer
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Nothing I did (i.e. no matter how hard I kicked) worked.  We finally called an appliance repairman.  Like $50 later, some doohickey was replaced and Mr. Washer has been working like a champ ever since!
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Happy Washer
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Mrs. Dryer has been in a state of decline ever since we moved into our new house over two years ago.  It seems her heating element has been going out… or something.  It used to be that we could throw a wet load into her and, within a multitude of mere minutes, she would have it dry.  Recently, it would take a second, and sometimes third, cycle to actually remove all moisture from a load of clothes.  Apparently, she had come down with something… something terminal.  Finally, a few nights ago, she wouldn’t work at all.  I threw a load of wet mass into her, closed her door, pushed the “start” button, and… nothing.
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Sick Dryer
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Crap!

I figured, initially, that this was something I could fix… given my exemplary track-record with fixing major appliances and all.  I gave her several swift kicks.  Although the kicks did nothing to spur her into action, I did seem to notice several sever looks-of-reproach from Mr. Washer.
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Mad Washer
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Ignoring the ire of her spouse, I decided to perform a little surgery.

I think I’ve already mentioned this, but my mechanical skills are a little lacking.  I blame my lack of ability on the fact that I don’t have the proper tools.  Convincing the wife that I needed to add to my haphazard tool collection, I headed to… Walmart… and bought a multimeter.  Armed with the necessary tool to assess Mrs. Washer’s condition, I started the procedure.

First, I tested the actual outlet she plugged into.  As the multimeter’s needle sprung to action with the insertion of the red thingie and the black thingie into  the slots that we are taught from early childhood not to stick anything into, my heart raced.  I realized that between my fingers raced enough electricity to kill the average mortal.  Feeling slightly immortal through my discovery, I proceeded to the removing-of-the-screws on the back of Mrs. Dryer.  Leaving the appliance plugged in, I proceeded to test this and that… not knowing exactly what I was testing, but feeling exilerated that I was playing with something with which I shouldn’t.  Not finding a clue as to the current condition plaguing Mrs. Washer, I unplugged her, turned the multimeter device to the “ohm” setting, and continued with my examination.

The ohm setting apparently tests the connection through different electrical components of a system without the necessity of outside electricity… or something.  The multimeter’s AA battery provides everything one needs.  All of a sudden, I’m not a general surgeon… I’m a “specialist”, as I test this component and that.  I become increasingly disheartened as my search proves more and more futile.  The wife recommends that we just purchase a new dryer.  I remind the wife that Mr. Washer was fixed for next-to-nothing and recommend that we try the same with Mrs. Dryer.  The wife points out that the average appliance lasts about 15 years, Mrs. Dryer is over said 15 years, and that we could really use a dryer with a little more capacity to dry our increasing quantity of clothes and linen-type-stuff as our boys grow.  Feeling like I had let Mrs. Dryer (and Mr. Washer as well) down, I somberly agree.  Mrs. Washer has fulfilled her purpose and her time had past…
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Dryer... Done
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Mr. Dryer was devastated…
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Sad Washer
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After quick visits to all of the major local appliance places, we settle on a nice Maytag that Home Depot was offering at clearance prices.  We brought her home, plugged her in, and tried her out.  She works great.  She gets hotter than Mrs. Dryer ever did.  The new dryer is sleek, shiny, and has great capacity.  We like her a lot. She may have been “cheap”, but you could never tell that from her appearance!
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Hot, young Dryer
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Okay, maybe her appearance screams “cheap”… but only in the softest of screams.

At first, I was afraid that Mr. Washer would hold some contempt towards our newest appliance.  However, I think he’s coming around :)
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JOYOUS Washer
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In fact, this is the happiest I have seen Mr. Washer in a long time. His spin cycle seems to be a little faster and he cleans better than he has in years… and I can’t quite seem to figure out why…
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uh... unfit couple?
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Appliances… go figure?

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Aug 10

I haven’t flown in a lot of years. I hate lines, I hate large groups of people, I hate being searched, I hate being presumed guilty until proven innocent, and I think hurling to my death from 2000 ft knowing survival is not gonna happen would be the absolute worst way to die. So, on the flight to St Louis for the WISPA Regional Meeting, I entered a sweaty, heart-poundy, semi-zombie trance state for an hour and a half, clutching the armrest on one side with both hands and quietly chanting, “We’re all gonna die, we’re all gonna die, we’re all gonna die…”

Even stewardesses tend to avoid me on flights.

And then we landed. I was kind of hoping I’d see the Arch on the way in, but I didn’t. All I saw was the Missouri River flooding part of the city… and, let me tell you, it was kind of cool!

So, the boss and I get on a shuttle bus to the Renaissance Hotel, which we are staying at and where the conference is. Little do I realize at this point how close that hotel and I are about to become. I’m still under the illusion that I’m going to get to see the city… hahaha… foolish illusion.

Renaissance,airport,hotel,st louis

So, we get into the hotel, check in, put our crap in the room (which I am sharing with the boss… and sharing hotels rooms with dudes makes me uncomfortable… but I know that my ability to explode eardrums with my snore will prevent any future sleeping arrangement similar to this), and go check out the conference area. There are already WISPA dudes working on putting together welcome packets and I am quickly recruited to help.  Stuffing packets turns into checking in attendees as they arrive turns in to many hours sitting at a stinking table in front of a stinking computer looking out a stinking window at a stinking fountain.

Renaissance,airport,hotel,st louis,fountain

Oh, I know, “that’s a pretty cool fountain,” you may be saying to yourself. Yeah. it was… for about the first five hours staring at it.

So, we had arrived in St. Louis around noon and it was pretty much sitting at that table in the “prefunction area” (i.e. the hallway outside the concourses) until around 8 or 9 at night.

prefunction area

Around 7pm, a group of people talked one of the hotel shuttle drivers into a trip to go see the Gateway Arch (something they apparently don’t do, but for the right amount of tip…)… and I needed to man the WISPA table, so actually seeing the Arch wasn’t in the cards for this trip to St. Louis… maybe next time. It only took me 40 years to make it to St. Louis the first time… so maybe when I’m 80 (me, live to be eighty… hahaha) I may make it back to St. Louis to see that arch.

After a supper of what tasted very much like overcooked Freshetta pizzas at the meet-and-greet (which I enjoyed from the WISPA table while staring at the fountain)
Renaissance,airport,hotel,st louis,fountain
I was finally allowed to shut down the WISPA table for the day.

Next morning, back to the WISPA table, checking people in, selling tickets, registering new members, selling shirts (yeah… selling shirts), and once again I have a lovely view for the day.
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Renaissance,airport,hotel,st louis,fountain

Lunch rolls around, and all the WISPA dudes and attendees go to the 13th floor for lunch. Of course, I’m asked to man the WISPA table through lunch. I do, and lunch is brought to me… I think it was a bologna sandwich. So far, I’m loving St. Louis!

Lunch gets over and all of the WISPA members seem to be enjoying the meeting. Everyone is friendly and excited and, every once in awhile, someone goes all tech on me (apparently thinking that because I’m sitting at the WISPA table staring at the stinking fountain
I must be techie myself). I’m not very techie, so I smile and nod.

“You know, if the FCC would allow us access to portion of the white space spectrum, many of our current interference issues would fall by the way-side,” says the techie dude.

I smile.

“Just the thought of getting into that 3650 MHz spectrum makes my routing redirect, but in a positive way, if you know what I mean,” the techie laughs, nudging me with his elbow and winking.

I nod, having not the foggiest.

“Nice talking to ya, man,” says techie.  “Nice to find someone with a similar point of view.”

I smile and nod.

Evening rolls around, and one of the vendors at the meeting sponsors a supper for everyone.  Well, I, of course, am sitting at the WISPA table.  Everyone goes upstairs to the big feast.  I sit at the table looking at the fountain.
Renaissance,airport,hotel,st louis,fountain
Around 7pm, when I finally shut down the WISPA table, I decide I’m gonna go for a walk. My boss warned me, “Uh, I don’t think this is the best area to go walking around in.”

“How bad can it be?” I glance at the fountain one more time
Renaissance,airport,hotel,st louis,fountain
… and I start on my walk.

Within a couple of blocks of the hotel, I notice that the neighborhood may be a little questionable.
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neighborhood2

Still, I’m thinking, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

As I continue, I notice that the neighborhood really isn’t getting any better
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Neighborhood
“Well, if I can just find someplace to get something to eat, I’ll be fine.” I continue on my way when I notice these dudes strolling my way:
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gang1

Being completely homophobic, I quickly turn down a side street
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and I run into
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these guys:
gang2
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CRAP!
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Roofers! They are insisting that they “fix roof cheap, less than gringo, insurance will pay.” I tell them that I don’t even live in St. Louis, but it’s like they don’t understand English. So I run away and find myself down a dark alley. At the end of the alley I see:
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gang3
Killer clowns… seriously?!? St. Louis SUCKS!

Not wanting to mess with killer clowns in any way, shape or fashion, I quickly turn around and make my way back out of the alley. I’m not going to take on killer clowns. The odds of surviving a killer clown attack are like 1 in 900,000,000,000. A person has a much higher chance of winning the Lottery than he or she does of surviving a killer clown attack. I’m not that stupid.

As I’m leaving the killer clowns in my dust, I notice something in the shadows up ahead. It seems to be moving. As I get closer, it starts to emerge from the shadows. When I first see its face, I can’t believe what I am seeing. I freeze, a deer in the headlights, sure I am about to meet my ultimate doom. As It comes into full light, I scream the scream of a little girl being eaten alive by rats
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RUN AWAY!!!
I turn and run back at the killer clowns. They are about to pounce when they spy the monstrosity behind me. They, too, scream like little girls and fall in behind me as they retreat from certain doom.

I run and I run and I run until I find myself sitting at the base of the fountain outside the hotel.
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Renaissance,airport,hotel,st louis,fountain

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Okay, there may be a slight amount of exaggeration in my description of my escapade into St. Louis… slight… but it wasn’t very fun.  Stupid fountain never looked so good. I went in and up to my room. Ordered an Imo’s Pizza (a St. Louis classic, I’m told) and was very pleased with my supper choice. At least I got to try some real St. Louis style pizza while in St. Louis.

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st louis style pizza,Imo's pizza
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Next day, another day at the WISPA table; another day staring at the fountain. This time, for lunch, there was no bologna sandwich. This time for lunch, there was nothing.

By the time the WISPA Regional Meeting started wrapping up in the late afternoon, I was starving. After we got everything cleaned up and everyone headed their separate ways, I snuck out of the hotel and went the opposite direction from which I had gone the night before. On the next block… Jack In The Box. I like trying places I’ve never eaten at when I travel, and I had never eaten at a Jack In The Box, so I did. Had me some Jack In The Box tacos… you know, the 2 for 99-cent kind.
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Jack In The Box taco,greasy,gross
Seriously, nastiest tacos ever. Deep-fried grossness with almost no filling. These are something I will never eat again.  What a disappointment.

Later that night, the boss told me a bunch of guys were meeting by the hotel pool and just kind of hanging out.  I decided to throw aside my loathing of St. Louis and try to hang out with these guys (and I don’t really like people, so I thought this would be a challenge).  I ended up having a pretty good time.  Before going to bed, I actually went outside and ran through that stinking fountain in front of the Renaissance Hotel (which is kind of supposed to be off limits).  I went to my room stinking like rancid pond water and feeling a bit of the sweet, sweet taste of revenge on that stinking fountain.

The next morning, the boss and I grabbed a ride to the airport, flew an excruciating flight back to Denver (my hands once again gripping the one armrest I had access to the entire flight), and came home.  I was glad to be back in the Craphole of Nebraska… ok, not really, but it was better than the killer clowns of St. Louis.

Overall, I am glad I went to St. Louis.  Did I see the Arch?  No.  Did I have a splendid time?  Did you see the picture of the anti-Christ Clinton?  Not really.  I did, however, gain a couple of insights.  First, I learned that the people (or really, person… Rick H :) ) who prepare for and  execute at these conferences are amazing individuals.  Everything at the 2010 WISPA Regional Meeting went pretty smoothly.  I wouldn’t say that it went off without a hitch, because there were a couple of hitches; but considering the amount of variables that could have worked against us… things went quite well.  Second, as technologically geeky as many of the participants at this conference were, it was utterly and completely cool to be surrounded by a bunch of men and women who are so passionate about what they do!  My biggest bitch on this blog is the fact that I can’t find and follow my passion.  Did I learn that wireless Internet is my passion?  Nope.  I did find, though, that there are really people out there who have a passion, follow that passion, and better the lives of those around them with their passion.  Most of these WISPs are not raking in bu-cu bucks.  They aren’t in it for the money.  They are in it because they believe all people have the right to access the wonderful world of the Internet at something faster than dial-up… and these people should not have to take out a second mortgage to be able to afford the service.  And there was serious passion.

My trip to St. Louis didn’t make me more passionate about anything.  My trip to St. Louis did, however, help me see that wireless Internet is something to be passionate about.  Seeing people with passion for something, whether it is a passion you can share or not, is good for the soul.  My trip to St. Louis enriched my soul.  Now, if only I could rid myself of the nightmares…

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RUN AWAY!!!

Tagged with:
Aug 08

I work for a wireless Internet service provider.  What exactly is a wireless Internet service provider, you may ask?  Well, a wireless Internet service provider (WISP for short… which I could have notated a couple of “wireless Internet service provider” mentions ago… but I’m a sucker for the want to hunt and peck out extremely long, tedious sentences… which is why, I figure, most people who visit my blog stay less than 53 seconds…  a person can’t read one of my posts in less than 5 minutes, ’cause I’m way to wordy and I take WAY to long to get to my point… as the current sentence proves… and if you are still reading this far into the sentence, you have my eternal debt:) )  is a person or company that provides Internet to people who cannot get (or are sick of dealing with) cable and DSL Internet.

Anyway, back to the whole wireless Internet provider (WISP) thingie.  Three years ago, I had very little idea what a WISP was.  I knew my wife did the finances for one, but I was still clueless.  And then, out of nowhere and thanks to the urging of my wife, the owner of this WISP approaches me and says, “How’d you like to work for me?”  Well, at the time, I was working for Alltel… which sucked… and I really liked the way the guy combined “how” and “would” into “how’d”… ’cause that shows a laid-back persona, as far as I’m concerned.  Now, I was making fairly good money at Allhell… er… Alltel, and I would be taking a pretty significant cut in pay to work for this “WISP”… but I figured with the approaching-forty thing and the high blood pressure and the inability to deal with stress and/or pissed-off customers, how could I say no.  So, I said yes and the rest is history.  Now, I deal with the stress of pissed-off customers every day and I get to make less money.  YEAH ME!  Of course, I’m kidding (i.e. my boss reads this blog).  In all seriousness, although not perfect, I don’t hate my current job.  It frustrates me at times and there is stress (I don’t think the stress-free job exists because there is not a job where you do not have to have any contact with another person… and people cause stress… period).  But, the lack of the corporate rules and rigidity and BS makes this job much preferable to the hack job I held at Alltel.

My boss is very active in an organization called WISPA.  WISPA is the Wireless Internet Providers’ Association.  WISPA is also Womens International Squash Players Association, but that may or may not be the topic of a future post.
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WISPA,Womens International Squash Players Association
WISPA, the one with sweaty chicks.

WISPA,Wireless Internet Service Providers Association,geeks,techies,nerds
Founding members of WISPA, the one without with less sweaty chicks… or maybe this is Microsoft… who knows.  All them tech people look the same to me.

WISPA,Cadbury
WISPA, a candy bar from Cadbury containing no known sweaty chicks.

WISPA is a non-profit organization that serves the interests of WISPs not only in the US but around the world.  So still, you’re saying, “I still don’t understand what a WISP is.”

A WISP provides an alternative to the crappy, government-subsidized telephone company DSL and dial-up Internet services provided around the country.  WISPs also compete against outrageously-priced cable and satellite Internet providers.  A WISP does not need telephone lines or fiber-optic cables  to bring the Internet to your home or business.  WISPs mount radio equipment on towers and broadcast the Internet through microwaves to a receiver on your property that gives you the Internet.  In other words, WISPs provide Internet in rural and hard-to-reach areas that cable providers and DSL providers are not willing to spend the money to service.  WISPs are the cowboys of the modern age; they go into uncharted territory and do whatever it takes to bring civilization (i.e. high speed Internet) to the wastelands.  I am, of course, stealing from my boss with the whole cowboy analogy.  If you are at all technically savy and want to learn more about this industry, check out the boss’s blog at Wireless Cowboys .

Long-story short (I know… too late), the boss is active in WISPA, so somehow I end up handling a large portion of the billing and member-support responsibilities for WISPA as part of my job responsibilities.  Normally, these responsibilities are a breeze and take little of my time.  Then, all of a sudden, the WISPA people decide they need to hold a regional meeting.  “Regional meeting” means that there are registrations and tickets and confirmations and whatnot and, somehow, a large portion of the dealing with this stuff gets thrown in my lap.  All of a sudden the easy and somewhat fun WISPA responsibilities become a several-hour-a-day monstrosity that consumes much of the time I am supposed to be spending on my real job.  This goes on for well over a month.  This would probably not have been that big of a deal… except for the facts that I took a week off for scout camp with my son, and the family and I took our week-long family vacation, all during this registration period for the WISPA Regional Conference.  It was kind of like ‘take some time off’ and then ‘really bust your ass’… then ‘take some more time off’ and then ‘really bust your ass’.  I’m feeling like I am not meant to come back from these vacations.  Then, the boss says, “I know you’ve been working hard, so I’d like to bring you to St. Louis to help with the conference.”  I’m thinking he’s kind of blowing smoke up my rear to keep me from freaking out.  Then, the president of WISPA calls me and says, “We know how much time you’ve put into this, and we are trying to talk the board into allowing you to help at the conference.”  Well, all of a sudden I feel appreciated.  All of a sudden, I’m potentially going to be rewarded for all of my hard work with a trip to St. Louis.  I’ve never been to St. Louis, and I’m getting kind of excited.

As the conference approaches, the board decided to allow me to help at the conference… and I’m thinking, “Hey, St. Louis, here I come!”  Bright lights, big city, right?  Fast living and good-ol’  St. Louis style pizza right?  Blues and a trip to the Arch, you know?  There is an airplane flight that will be involved… and I hate flying… but I’m excited!  This is going to be a great time.  St. Louis, HERE I COME!!!

Gateway Arch,St Louis

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Aug 05

It’s my youngest son’s 7th birthday today. He usually sleeps in at least a little bit during the summer, but he was up bright and early this morning. And I’m heading out the door for another day of incessantly ringing phones and dealing with the dreaded “people”. It’s funny how the older I get, the less I like dealing with people. Other people, whether they mean to or not, directly or indirectly cause over 99% of the stress in my life. I used to be able to deal with people and empathize with their problems and concerns.  These days, I have enough of my own problems, whether real or imagined, that I really don’t want to listen to yours.  So, another stress-filled day awaits me, while my boy is going to be enjoying his birthday.

“Happy birthday, buddy,” I tell him as I’m heading out the door, to which he gives me a big hug.

Man, I can remember being excited about birthdays like that.  Almost.  I do not, however, exactly remember when I realized that each passing year is not something to be celebrated; each passing year represents another year closer to death and another year where all of those goals I set for myself in youth go unrealized.  And  it’s a spiral, this death/unrealized-goals thing.  The closer you get to death, the less time you have to realize your goals, and the faster time seems to pass with each passing birthday.  Summers, which used to be a long season of leisure in my youth… a season where time actually seemed to slow down and a time filled with fun and frolic and development of the imagination and dreams of the future… summer, now, is the short season between all of the time-consuming activities that the kids have to be shuttled to and from (school, scouts, soccer, t-ball, youth group, AWANA… and this year the oldest starts confirmation and an after school program at the public library and the youngest wants to do Tae-kwon-doe).  All of these activities are right around the corner, which the wife and I could probably be prepared for if we, too, had our entire summers off, which we didn’t.  So time just goes faster and faster and those goals become more and more unrealistic and death looms closer and closer… and the spiral accelerates.

One of the main things I wish for my kids is the joy of birthdays.  I hope that my sons never reach a point where they see the tornado of life as an out-of-control, stress-filled monstrosity.  I hope my sons always find joy in their birthdays because their goals are being met and other people don’t tend to piss them off just by existing.  This is a lot to hope for, I know, but it is my hope.

Tonight, my family will go out to eat in celebration of the youngest’s 7th birthday.  We will eat Chinese, because sesame chicken is his favorite.  We will then go home, light candles on the birthday cupcakes, sing “Happy Birthday”, watch him make a wish and blow out the candles.  We will hope he wished for something important, something grand, and we will hope his wish comes true.  We will watch him open his presents with certain giddiness.  He will enjoy his birthday, and so will we.

Enjoy your birthdays, while you can.  If you already can’t… well… you are not alone.  I guess we can always try to enjoy the birthdays of someone else :)

Tagged with:
Jun 05

Last night, during the commencing of the bedtime rituals for my youngest son, we shared the nightly scratching of the backs.  This means my little guy said, “Dad, can you lie down with me for a little bit?”

And I said, “You know what would keep me here?” to which he giggles and starts scratching my back.

This ritual happens almost every night.  He will scratch my back for awhile, and I end having to scratch his back for at least twice as long as he scratched mine.   We do this like two or three times every week because… well… I love having my back scratched and so does he :)

Last night, after he finished scratching the same five square-inches of my back for about 30 seconds, I began scratching his back all over, as I always do.  As always, as I moved to the sides of his back, he wiggles around and giggles,  “Quit ticklin.”   Of course, I don’t stop.  I continually tease him with the occasional tickle for a good four or five minutes.  He loves it.  Tonight, however, the tickles raised a question.

“How come you aren’t ticklish?”

I don’t know quite how to answer this.  The youngest son, although he usually concentrates on a specific, limited portion of skin on my back for his scratching, has moved around the sides and underarm areas in an attempt to get a tickle-response out of his old man.  I can think of no time that he has actually evoked the tickle-response.  In fact, I can’t remember actually being ticklish since I was in high school.

“I guess I outgrew it,” I said to the boy.

He looks at me with those soft brown eyes that are always just wet enough to keep you guessing as to whether he is about to burst in to tears or burst into laughter, and he says, “That’s too bad.”

That’s too bad.

And it kind of hits me; that really is too bad.  Since when did I not want to be ticklish?  What part of growing up dictates that I can no longer be forced into uncontrollable bouts of laughter by someone brushing their fingers across my skin?  What part of the aging process forces the skin to be not so easily moved to silliness by another person’s touch?

A part of my youth is gone… has been gone for an extremely long period of time… and I will never get that back.  Neither of my sons nor my wife will be able to ever sink their fingers gently into my ribs to evoke a giggling response.  I think I miss that.

Being tickled too much can be, at the least, annoying, and ,at the most, downright painful.  Being tickled ‘just right’ is a fun way to connect with another human being.  Even when someone is completely down in the dumps, applying slight pressure to the side of the rib area and wiggling the fingers to and fro usually can, at the very least, generate a smile :)  The fact that I will never experience this again kind of hit me last night.

That’s too bad.

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Feb 15

My wife and I recently finished up Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  I am not going to dog on Dave’s system too much… ’cause I think it works and is pretty much worth the effort for anyone who wants to gain control of his or her finances.  Dave teaches a lot of common sense stuff (and makes a buttload of money teaching it… how much is a buttload… well, it’s more than most of us will ever see; an amount of money that verges on the border of being uncomfortable.)

Dave teaches “baby steps” that anyone can follow and everyone could benefit from implementing.  Dave’s little catch-phrase is that you should “live like no one else” (i.e. sacrifice having any sort of life-joy now,) “so later, you can live like no one else” (i.e. so if you find a way to avoid death and make it to 70, you can finally start realizing some of the fruit of your labor.)    Yeah, doesn’t sound real dreamie to me either, but it sounds a lot better than completely depending on the soon-to-be-extinct Social Security (damn democrats… instead of finding more ways to spend my flipping tax money, like health care, why don’t you guarantee that I’ll get back some of the stinking Social Security benefits that I have given those who went before me!)  Dave paints a much rosier picture than what I believe is truly possible for average folks out there.   I think Dave may be a little unrealistic and misleading in some of his assertions and examples.

Dave Ramsey: “If you start investing $2000 per year beginning at age 12 and can make a simple 20% interest, by the time you retire at age 90, you will be a millionaire!”

Ok, this example may be a little far fetched… a little.  Maybe Dave didn’t actually use any examples that were quite so retarded.  It is funny, however, that whenever he gives an example of the average guy, he picks some 30 year-old schmuck making an above average income(’cause I think you have to make above average to really “live like no one else” in the long run,) and Dave proceeds to tell us all of the sacrifices this guy is going to have to make to (which usually involves, for some strange reason, a night job delivering pizza?!?); this is the first part of the “live like no one else.”  Then, when we get to the second half of the “live like no one else,” Dave is throwing out examples of multimillionaires (like himself) who can drop cash for about anything because, well, they’re multimillionaires.  The thing is, that 30 year-old schmuck isn’t going to get Dave Ramsey-rich just because he delivered pizzas.  The only way to get Dave Ramsey-rich is to make a lot of money through your career (maybe by charging honest folks $100 to take your class where you can teach them how to find financial peace…,) which those of us living in the remote, rural areas of this country will never do.  So, although Dave never actually comes out and says that the 30 year-old schmuck will get Dave Ramsey-rich, the way the “live like no one else, so later, you can live like no one else” is presented could be interpreted as a little misleading by anyone who is actually paying attention.

In most of his examples, Dave starts with a savings plan starting at or around age 30 and a retirement age of 70.  He gives several examples of how you can amass a ton of wealth (MILLIONS) by investing X amount of money at age 30, making 12% on that money, and retiring when you are 70.  First of all, I don’t know what the average age is of someone going through Financial Peace University… but I’m guessing it is well above 30.  Crap, I’m 40, so I guess I would have to retire at 80 to hit Dave’s projections.  Second, 12% earnings on a retirement fund may be slightly unrealistic in today’s market.  I’m going to cut Dave a little slack on this one because the video series I watched was made like 2 years ago (I think it was made in 2008), so things are a little less financially rosy at present time than they were 2 years ago, and who know, maybe the markets will completely rebound and no other major damage will be done to the markets again (but I think the radical Muslims may have a thing or two to say about that.)  Finally, even if I had started working toward financial peace 10 years ago, I have no intention of working until I’m 70!  Hell, I have no intention of living until I’m 70, so why would I base future plans on retiring at that age?

Dave Ramsey is, first and foremost, a salesman.  He tries to sell his ideas, and his books, and his program, and his swag (it kills me that Dave preaches that we shouldn’t spend money on unnecessary crap and there, right in the middle of his workbook which tells you not to buy crap, is an add for all kinds of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University CRAP that Dave would love for you to buy… ’cause God knows that coffee is going to taste a helluva lot better while you’re doing all this personal sacrifice stuff if you’re drinking it out of a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University coffee mug!)  Dave portrays himself as, you know, just this dude who is trying to help others.  He is so willing to help others that it only costs like $100 to take his course that will help you gain control over… uh… your money.  But seriously, no harm, no foul.  The dude needs to make money, and the course is well worth the money it costs to take… but the “I’m just here to help you” front doesn’t fly.  Dave, if you are going to be honest with us and yourself, let’s try, “I’m here to help you, but it’s gonna cost you about 100 bucks because that’s how I got Dave Ramsey-rich and I ain’t ever going back, you’re gonna have to sacrifice more than you are probably comfortable with and you are going to miss out on a lot of crap for now, and you will NEVER be as rich as me.  Want to buy a Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University fanny-pack?”

Dave works a biblical approach into his plan, which I like.  He actually seems sincere when it comes to his faith, so I’ll give him props for that.

One of the portions of the course I really enjoyed was Dave’s philosophy on insurance.  He starts out this section of the course talking about how insurance agents HATE this part of the course.  Dave then goes on to talk about why whole life insurance is for idiots and all kinds of other things that I’m sure most insurance agents would not like the average person thinking about.  Well, Dave gets done, the DVD player gets turned off, and the one insurance agent we have in our class goes off about how Dave Ramsey is not “all knowing”; about how Dave Ramsey is a salesman more than anything, after all we all paid for his class… he isn’t doing it for free… and about how each individual’s insurance needs are different and we can’t all base our needs for insurance off of what Dave Ramsey is trying to sell us on.  In other words, the insurance agent in our class HATED this part of the course.  The thing is, the “crappy” stuff that insurance agents try to do which Dave discussed are not things this agent does. I think Dave ended up pissing every person off in our class with one point or another… and it wasn’t that I really enjoyed Dave’s teaching so much as I enjoyed watching how right Dave was about insurance agents not liking this part of the course.  Our insurance agent (who is, by the way, a good, honest person… and I like the dude) made this section enjoyable just by how much he let it upset him.  It’s always fun to watch someone unnecessarily defend what they do for a living!  I know, I used to work for a cell phone company… and there are few jobs that require more defense than when you represent one of the cell phone monsters:

“Isn’t cell phone insurance a rip-off?”

“Well, it makes it easier to replace your phone if something happens to it.”

“But you don’t get a new phone, do you?”

“No, you don’t.  You get a refurbished phone.”

“How can you push cell phone insurance when it puts a customer in a refurbished phone?”

“Because I have had the people without insurance come up to me with the 2-day old phone that they dropped in the toilet and which now does not work, and I have had to explain to them that they are under a two-year contract and they have no insurance so their only option is to spend $200 or more full-retail price for a replacement phone.  These people almost always yell at me, like I make the rules or I have the power to just give them a brand new phone because they have, after all, been a customer for three years or something.  I don’t like being yelled at, I have no control over the policies and procedures of the company, you’re the retard that dropped a $300 cell phone in the toilet, I don’t make any more commission just because you have been a customer for three years… in fact, I don’t make any money unless you actually purchase something… and did I mention that I hate being yelled at… so buy the stupid insurance and quit wasting my time.”

Yeah, working at the cell phone company sucked… the money was good, but people are pretty stupid when it comes to their cell phones.  Anyway… long story short (too late), I understand the insurance dude trying to justify around Dave Ramsey’s observations.  No one likes to have what they do called into question by a “professional” like Dave Ramsey.  Thank goodness there were no credit card customer service reps in our class :)

Probably my favorite lesson in the Financial Peace University course was the one on careers.  Dave said some stuff that I thought really made sense.  He spoke of finding a job that utilizes your natural talents.  He said that those who tell you that you can “learn” to overcome personality traits that work against certain aspects of your career… well, those people are full of crap (ok, he didn’t say crap, but it was implied.)  If managing people, or outside sales, or whatever, is not something you are good at or comfortable with, you will not “learn” to be good at this stuff.  You need to find something you are naturally good at or enjoy and go full forward with that.  I love this advice… and I agree wholeheartedly!  Those people who tell you that you need to “work outside of your comfort zone” to be successful have no idea how extraordinarily craptastic the area outside of the comfort zone can be for many of us!

Dave refers to using personality tests to help you figure out what careers you can be successful in.   Upon completing the Gary Smalley test, I have determined that I am almost 100% pure golden retriever, which means I have no self-confidence and do almost anything to avoid conflict… wow, big surprise there.  There aren’t exactly a ton of high-dollar jobs available to golden retrievers.

Librarian was one that I think I would actually love… but that would mean, probably, another stinking bachelor’s degree  PLUS a MLS degree to actually be able to make ok money… so, at 40, sell the house, take out some student loans, go back to school, and hopefully by the time I’m 50 I can have a career I love… and a crapload more debt.  Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen.

I can’t really remember what other jobs a golden retriever could excel at, but I know they all paid CRAP!  For example, I would probably make an excellent file clerk.  I don’t care how long I work as a file clerk… or how GREAT I get a being a file clerk… or how indispensable I become to my employer as a file clerk… I ain’t ever topping about 12 bucks an hour as a file clerk, and I REALLY ain’t gonna get even close to Dave Ramsey-rich at $12 an hour.  Ok, so the “follow your personality trait” deal sounds golden… but in all reality, I think it’s really just a stinking pile of pyrite.

Dave Ramsey has some great ideas, and if you are having issues with your personal finances… or have no idea how you are ever going to be able to retire… you might want to check Dave out.  Dave’s system is not get rich quick (and he stresses that it is not get rich quick.)  Financial Peace University is touted as a get-rich-very-slowly-system, and if your earnings are above average, you can get there.  For those of us with a little less income coming in through the front door, Financial Peace University may offer us the hope of not having to reverse-mortgage our homes to survive when we retire!

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