Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You Do See That...Don't You?

I know this is getting a little tedious but this is another post related to my health.  cough cough.  It's my hope and prayer that I can get back to very important issues soon.  I mean, who else is covering the ridiculous signs in Safeway?  Who, other than me, has the determination to make up dialogue for the animals in our house?  Who, besides me, has ideas that involve inanimate objects having conversations?  What do you mean "thankfully, no one else"?  That is below the belt...and the pencil cup in front of me agrees! (the bobble head troll doll thinks you bring up a valid point)

So, yes, once again I am writing about my health.  It is not my favorite subject but at least I have news!  I just told a friend of mine (whose health concerns make me feel like I am a whiny brat who won't go down for his nap in comparison...praying for you Jeanie) that I feel like I'm in a cartoon with an inept mechanic who keeps throwing car parts to the floor and claiming, "Dis is not de problem.  Dis is not de problem!"  Except the car is me and the mechanics are select doctors in our health care system. 

I am not generally one to complain.  I like to live and let live.  BUUUT...when I tell my symptoms to the doctor, explain what I am experiencing and what I am definitely NOT experiencing, and then they give me medicine to take care of the symptoms that they have imagined I have (because I am not an expert in my own skin...I only lease with an option to buy)...well then I get a little testy.  Case in point.  I have already explained in "Back in the ER r r" (1 and B) that my problem is directly related to my esophagus.  If you already knew that, know more than some of the doctors I have been dealing with.  If you knew that the esophagus is NOT the throat OR the stomach, congratulations!  I'm calling you the next time this flares up!  Sylvia and I have been trying to explain to the doctors that my esophagus hurts and I cannot eat anything for going on two and a half weeks now (32 pounds off so far...I wouldn't recommend it as a diet though) and they proceed to give me things to numb my throat. 

"This doesn't go far enough down.  It still hurts!"
"If I drink more will it work further down?"

"Doc.  I cannot handle it.  What can I do so I can eat?"
"Do you want to take this other medicine?  It coats."
"Coating sounds good!  YES!!"
At the pharmacy...after waiting (I kid you not) an hour and a half for a prescription that had been called in hours before.
"So this medicine will coat your stomach...Sir, please don't cry."

Those days were my lowest points.  Weight, emotion, and color wise.  One of my friends, who also happens to be a pastor at our church, came by to see how I was doing.  He actually said, "I would say you look about half as well as you did when I was here a few days ago." 
"Half as well?  I was planning on going to work tomorrow.  If I could just stay awake long enough to drive in by myself.  Also, if I could speak three words without a coughing fit, that would be nice too."  Apparently when you buy multi-cultural flesh tone colored crayons "gray" is not supposed to be one of the colors in the pack.  That, unfortunately, was my color this last weekend. 

And then a light at the end of a long and winding tunnel...Sylvia's mom made a secret family recipe of soup that night and I was able to eat the first thing, that almost required chewing, in two and a half weeks.  It helps that I love traditional German food, but I think it helped more that everything in this soup is designed to be slippery and it navigated my very swollen and very painful esophagus with relative ease.

Now speaking of the esophagus (I know, I know, I have spoken of nothing else for days...) I'm not sure I explained the results of the camera.  Normal is supposed to look like the inside of a pink garden hose.  Mine looked like a bright red collection of fingers all trying to touch each other in the center...and all of them with numerous pain receptors built in.  Presumably designed that way so if you ever leaned onto a hot stove with your esophagus you would feel the heat and move.  When the doctor went on his fantastic voyage to the center of Jeff, he decided to gather souvenirs!  He calls them "biopsies" but we all know that he has a collection of very odd looking snow globes on the shelves in his office! 

I finally heard from THE doctor yesterday afternoon.  I actually spoke to two doctors, my personal doc and the specialist who believes that there really is a part of the body named esophagus.  My doctor yelled at me for even thinking about going back to work (Sylvia was behind her in total agreement...but she restrained herself and didn't wag her finger at me).  The specialist finally gave me a diagnosis.  I nearly cried.  At this point in the process I told her that I wouldn't have cared if it was awful news, just tell me that I am not crazy.  I have a very painful inflammation due to a viral infection.  It's sort of like shingles, but on the inside.  It finally fit all of symptoms.  Better yet, there is a treatment.  It seems that it has been going on too long to attack it aggressively but the treatment may help.  The best news, I can stop taking EVERY OTHER medication that they have been prescribing over these two weeks.  I feel like tossing each one at the doctor's office shouting, "DIS IS NOT DE SOLUTION!!  DIS IS NOT DE SOLUTION!!"

The treatment is a long process of antiviral medications that need to be taken as evenly spaced as possible.  I have set the alarms on my phone!  I am going to do this right if it kills me!  (well maybe I should choose a different phrase there)  The thing is, when you have been through as many medications (and allergies) as I have in the past you start to actually read the information pages that come from the pharmacy.  You know, Take with plenty of water, Take with food, Do not take this on days that end in "Y"...the usual.  Well I had heard that antivirals were nothing to be trifled with so I went ahead and read the two pages of warnings that came with them.  Pretty standard stuff really.  I may be drowsy.  Check.  I shouldn't operate heavy machinery.  Checkeroo...(as an aside...does everyone realize just how heavy vacuums, dishwashers, and washers and dryers are?  I mean those are some heavy machines...just sayin)  I should take with food.  Well, I haven't eaten anything in about 3 weeks so...Oh wait, I can take it with milk.  OW, but check.  Oh what's this...May cause hallucinations.  Umm...  Seriously?  I have no experience with that.  Well I once saw a pair of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum characters walking hand in hand in the snow (complete with the propeller beanies) but that was after being awake for a very long time.  I just don't know what to do with this information.  Hallucinations?

Now everything I see will be suspect.  Is the TV telling me to buy stuff...even though it's not turned on?  hallucination.  Do I hear, "Be Our Guest" being sung quietly behind the kitchen cabinet doors?  hallucination.  Is the dog really reading the newspaper?  hallucination.  Did the kids really put their dishes into the dishwasher without being asked?  HALLUCINATION!!  I think the only way to be sure of anything is to go around poking people to see if they are really there.  It may get a little tedious but I have to be sure.  You may not want to come over to visit for a while.

So I am on the mend.  I am three doses into my newest, most promising (and troubling), medication.  I haven't taken my esophagus out for a test swallow yet, but I plan to eat something a little more substantial than soup or Ensure soon.  And I think that I have turned a corner for the better.  Sylvia thinks that I am a much better color and I may be able to go back to work as early as Monday.  I think things are looking up!  If you don't trust me, ask the six foot stalk of celery who has been helping me write this...ignore the sombrero (that's a hallucination!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BACK IN THE ER...r...r...!!! (yeah) Part dos

(insert old silent movie organ music here)
We last saw our hero (ahem) as he was strapped to a hospital bed with various types of electronic devices beep beeping and whirring and perhaps even a whoopie cushion (but that may have been the patient behind the next curtain) and no hope of escape.

Let us rejoin with the drama already in progress...

Now the doctor walks in, takes off his cape with a flourish and hands it to his assistant, and proceeds to hand out his resume to everyone in the room.  Just kidding...about the cape.  After looking at the 12 seconds of Beep beep paper from the machine he actually had the nerve to say, "Why are you in here anyway?"  He then ordered the nurses to take me off the oxygen (NO!!) and sit me straight up in bed (NOOOOO!!!!) because acid reflux like this is gets better when sitting up. 

"Well that's great doc except for two things.  If you take away the oxygen the hospital starts to sway back and forth and, if this was acid reflux I would have taken a Tums." (That was for free need to send me anything).  I then explained about my chronic condition, that has hospitalized me before, and showed him the treatment for the condition.  He thoroughly dismissed all of my obvious ramblings, said something similar to "I've never heard of that" and ordered me an antacid cocktail presumably to fix my reflux.  Now they say cocktail but there was no paper umbrella so I think it doesn't count.  This nasty concoction was stuck in my throat, tossing a coin trying to decide up or down, and the doc was gone...but not before I heard those two dreaded syllables...IIIIIIII VEEEEEEE. 

Sylvia lets me pretend that I am a big strong guy most of the time.  I have a truck, I own a motorcycle, I'm a pretty good shot at short ranges...but when you start talking about giving me a shot...back the truck up!  I once did a painful and, according to them, unbearable procedure without avoid a shot.  I like all of my red stuff to stay inside.  I struggle with this since I would like to help people by know...but I have a near phobia of needles.  Now a nurse was coming into my cave with a metal tray and a whole lot of tools that looked like they were from the interrogation scene from Marathon Man.  I tried to escape but they had used four of the beep beep stickers to paste me to the would have done it.  She bared her sharpened canine teeth and dug in.  The good news in all of this is that God knew I was going to be a wimp about all things pokie, so he made my veins the type that even beginners could hit...with their eyes closed...I know! 

Then it was a long boring sit around session of wait to see if the pain subsides.  This, in itself, is a frustrating process because what is going on is muscular and they are automatic muscles.  It's not like the doc can say, "Well Mr. Garrett, just stay off your esophagus for a few days and you should be up and about in no time."  That would be like telling you to give your heart or your lungs a break...not going to happen.  And as helpful as the doctors and nurses try to be while asking about pain on a scale of 1 to 10 it is inadequate when talking about an intermittent problem. 
"It is a 3 with intense periods of 9...squared!"

When it became obvious that I was stable (well medically anyway) they started making noises like they wanted to kick me out so they could take care of sick people.  And then the doc came back...on his white horse...and declared, "You have a chronic esophageal condition.  You should take that medicine that I was just discounting a while ago...forever!  I have spoken!"  Before you become an angry mob and start gathering your pitchforks and torches I should let you know that my sister, the nurse, has already volunteered to come down here and shake all of the quarters out of his pockets.  And no problem if there aren't any quarters to begin with.  She'll just keep shaking til some materialize.  The doctor then asked, "Is there any other medication you will need?" 
"Umm, Doc, didn't You go to some sort of class that would have told you the answer to that?  I missed that class."
"No, OK.  Bye."

After much eye rolling and prescription gathering they released me on my own recognizance.  I was still so out of it that I allowed them to roll me to the car in a wheelchair...something that is specifically prohibited in the pretend tough guys handbook.  I went home, walked up the two insurmountable stairs that would have kept me from walking myself to the car before, and fell down on the bed for the rest of the day/night. 

And then the fun began...

When I woke up in the morning I did something that I have done, unaided, for weeks...stand up.  When I did that it felt like I was gulping down a half pot of scalding soup...problem was I hadn't even taken half a sip of tepid water!  (I love that's so mediocre)  I called the doctor to see what I could do about the pain.  And that's when it hit me...well Sylvia, but I'll say me...The doctor was asking if I wanted any medicines for pain!!  NOW I DO!!  Well now they think I tore something on the inside so I need to come in for a CT scan.  OH boy.  I love hospitals!  Since I have been a little woozy from not being well and not eating anything in about a week we arranged for a ride.  It is all very common, happens every day, CT scans are a routine procedure that once were the latest and greatest but now they don't even use any confetti when you walk in. 

The technician told me it would be about 10 minutes from start to finish...and without giving away the ending, let me say that he only missed his estimate by about... 4 hours!!  In order to get an accurate picture from the CT scan the doctor wanted to use something called contrast.  I quickly found out that this "contrast" they are talking about is something that they want inside of me.  No problem, give me a cup.  What do I drink? 

Then he got out his Joseph Mengele Vampire kit complete with a machine that pumps "contrast" into my veins.  I shouldn't worry, they do it all the time.  In goes the IV (my favorite part), I lay down and pass in and out of the machine a couple times, and then he says, "Now it is going to feel warm when the contrast goes in."  I actually felt cold.  In and out a time or two more, done.  Or so I thought.  When I came out and he took out the IV he asked how I felt.  Innocuous question I thought but he asked with that "everyone else can see what the problem is why can't you" sort of look on his face.  I told him I did feel a little itchy, and my jaw was extremely tight, and was my face always this size? 
"Mmmmm Hmmmm,  Well I'm gonna walk you over to the ER for observation!"
"You are allergic to iodine.  But the good news is, you're still here. Heh heh."

In the ER the doctor told me that he wanted me on an IV to set up medications!  IV!?!  I just had one and that guy yanked it out already!  Oh, well we can just give you a pill, but Nurse Ratchet is going to be disappointed!  She didn't get to poke somebody.  And that is when he explained that I needed to be observed, in the ER, for at least four hours!  I guess the problem is that when you have an allergic reaction like this, you could suddenly stop breathing any time from now until six hours from now...but they are willing to gamble on the last two hours. 

Luckily, as I mentioned at the beginning of yesterday, I had my Droid with me and so I was able to update my blog, check Facebook, and play Yahtzee with the myriad of visitors that came to see the human bad luck charm.  Nurses kept walking past saying, "Weren't you here just yesterday...?"  "Yeah, one more visit and I get a set of steak knives."

Well the ordeal of the iodine is over.  I am home but still in significant pain.  I have more doctors' appointments and scopes and even more days off of work.  I have already lost about 25 pounds from not being able to eat anything, and I am thinking about writing a diet book called, "Develop a Chronic Esophagus Problem Your Way To Thinner Thighs." but I don't think it will take off.  And I am taking it easy...and careful.  In fact, the way my luck has been going lately, if I were to move the family to the top of Mount Everest...I'd buy flood insurance!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BACK IN THE ER...r...r...!!! (yeah) Part one

Time was when I was told that I would have to sit for four hours, I would have been a little frustrated. Now that I have my Droid, by Verizon (are you paying attention endorsement people) I am able to work on the blog.  I am sitting in another hospital bed for the second day in a row.  The good news is that I came here under my own power today.  The bad news is that I wasn't quite so lucky the last time I was stuck in the ER...yesterday!

Let me start from the beginning.  Do, a deer, a female deer...  Wait, wrong beginning.  As I sit here writing this on Tuesday night getting ready for another day home from work tomorrow, I can't help but think, "Wasn't it last Tuesday night when I last ate something that required chewing?"  I've had a rough week, to say the least. 

It started out with me leaving work a little early on Tuesday because I just didn't feel wonderful.  No big deal.  Tough class.  Need a nap.  Right as rain!  Pip Pip Cheerio!  (Sorry when I am not feeling well I sometimes channel an English manservant)  Followed my plan, napped, even managed to go out to dinner to celebrate my uncle and cousin's arrival from Thailand.  A great time was had by all.  Then in the middle of the night "it" hit.  I felt lousy.  Call in for a sub, knew I had plans ready for just about anybody to take over, rest all day.  Then rest all the next day.  Then rest all the next day.  Then Sylvia said, "Get thee to a doctor!"  (Well it was something like that, I was hanging onto a 102 + fever for three days in a row with no food so things were getting a little fuzzy)  The doctor gave me some antibiotics that upset my stomach in more graphic ways than I wish to describe here...I will say that if anyone received a porcelain phone call, from me, collect, I know nothing about it.

With 3 days of being miserable and not eating anything added to two days of drug induced nausea I was pretty much a goner.  This is when I need to tell you that I have a chronic condition.  It's kind of wimpy as chronic conditions go.  Nothing glamorous like spontaneous combustion or anything like that.  Mine has to do with my esophagus.  The esophagus is the part of the body that makes people say, "That's the little punching bag thing in the back of your throat right?" or "Isn't that the Roman god of spaghetti?" 

I then get to proudly point to the midpoint between my chest and my belly and say, "Peek a boo!  In there!"  The esophagus is the unsung hero of the food delivery system.  We all know about the throat.  The stomach is the manufacturing plant.  Without the esophagus we would all have to talk a lot louder at the dinner table because of all the whistling bomb drop sound effects followed by the "splash" as the food landed in the tum tum.  The design is so great.  It is a tube that usually accepts food at the top and then through a complex muscular process called peristalsis the food is squeezed down to the bottom.  Let the digesting begin!

As I said, this is what USUALLY happens! My untrained esophagus (not for lack of me sending loads of food for practice) decides to occasionally clamp down on a piece of food so tight that it brings tears to my eyes, makes me double over in pain clutching my chest, and mimics (beautifully) all the symptoms of a heart attack!  When I called for advice to see how to deal with this much pain (I told them it was a 32 on a scale of 1 to 10) they said, "Come in NOW!"  To show how sick I was, I'll tell you that I said, "Ok."   The next problem was that I outweigh Sylvia by at least double and there was no way she was going to muscle me into the van.  This presented a problem since I was still lying on the floor trying to decide if being conscious was all it was cracked up to be and every time tried to sit up I went right back down.  She called my dad.  He came over in a hurry, mom in tow, and they collectively decided that I needed to go now and having me fall down our steps would be counterproductive to the healing process, so she dialed 911.

I have called 911 once.  To report that someone was being broken into.  They are quick, efficient, and professional.  They also do not do anything halfway!  We live 5 minutes from the hospital, 3 minutes from an ambulance depot, and on a good day I could hit our fire station with a rock.  When Sylvia called and said that she wasn't going to be able to get me to the van safely I am pretty sure someone, somewhere, shouted, "RELEASE THE HOUNDS!!!"  Literally as Sylvia was talking to the dispatcher I heard the sirens call.  I heard the sound of not an ambulance, but a battalion of paramedics that came screaming around the corner and slowed to a noisy electric light parade right here in front of the house.  These gentlemen came in and saw me laying on the floor (holding onto the carpet for dear life due to the fact that someone forgot to pay the anti-wobble-the-house insurance) and clutching my chest.  Shirt off!  Stickers on! 

Now I teach kindergarten.  I deal in stickers all day every day.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!  Barbie!  Unicorns!  Dirt Bikes!  Those are stickers.  With three of what the paramedics had, they could have saved the Titanic!  I got 6!  On each sticker is a metal button that hooks up to a machine called a beep beep beep machine (this is the educational portion of the blog) and they all looked relatively happy that my insides were telling the machine to beep beep at the right times.  Then they got out a sweet elixir of life.  A magic substance that I have now come to know as oxygen!  When they hooked me up to the little tube of oxygen,  the two paramedics left in the city who didn't come into our house each grabbed an edge of the house and stopped it from rocking.  Bless you!

Then the ambulance crew came in.  They brought the chips and dip.  We were going to have a party!  The paramedics transferred me to them, unhooked their beep beep machine and loaded me on a stretcher to go into the back of the ambulance.  The only way I could have been more embarrassed was if they made me wear a little beanie with a propeller on it as they wheeled my down the street.  Once (bump) I was (BUMP) into the ambulance they started on their own questions.  I explained about how I have this chronic condition that was 11 syllables long and when I spelled it for him, he decided that he didn't need to ask me if I knew what my birthday was.  We actually had a nice little chat as he wheeled me on the scenic route around the city, twice around the park if you don't mind.  And then he reached up and grabbed for HIS stickers!  Whoa there cowboy, I've already been stickered.  His response, "Yeah, it would be nice if they were compatible!" 

I do not want to be overly personal but I need to tell you at this time that I am not now, nor have I ever been, follically challenged.  I am convinced that somewhere in our lineage there was a werewolf, or an alpaca.  And while I have never been asked to take off my sweater (while wearing none) I can assure you that if you are going to try to find real estate to place a second set of stickers, you are just out of luck!  Nuts to you!  Right?  Wrong.  He pulled out a razor and started scraping away.  Now, I'm up to 12 stickers and I am glad to say that I am still beep beeping to the tune of "Guantanamera." 

As we pulled into the ER unloading bay/baked goods delivery/geriatric skateboard ramp, I realized that coming in on an ambulance has its advantages.  I went right to a room.  When I was ten I decided to see if the law of gravity applied to me, in all areas, including our roof, and I found out that there were no exceptions, the hard way.  I came into the house with what looked to be two elbow joints.  We drove to the ER and I sat for FOUR HOURS with my westward aiming arm pointing north.  It was unbearable.  Had my mom not been quite so calm cool and collected, and called the ambulance, I could have been home plotting revenge on my disappearing "friends" in four hours. 

So now I am in the hospital room and they start giving me the third degree about why I am there.  Ask Sticker boy!  He has a clipboard!  Well that was the wrong thing to think and clutching my chest was the wrong thing to do because, you guessed it, the hospital has its own beep beep machine and, once again, it does not like any stickers that did not come from the hospital.  But instead of adding to mounting numbers of stickers that are stacking up he says, "Let's get these off first." 
"Wait.  What?"
"Trust me you won't like me if I do this slowly." 
"That can't happen, I despise you now."

Then he puts his stickers on.  I think there were only five but I suspect I will find the sixth next time I am in advanced yoga class.    By now my insides are beeping out the rhythm of Darth Vader's marching theme so they tell me that I need an EKG.  "What?  Haven't all of these been EKG's?  Are you just toying with me?  Is there a pool to see how many stickers the human body can accept without going crazy?  What number did Sylvia buy?  I can hold out."

In comes a nurse that was wearing perfume.  I thought it was just so she wouldn't smell like hand sanitizer but turns out it has a narcotic effect and I didn't realize that she was placing 12 of the stickiest stickers ever to grace the human body.  I'm pretty sure they are the same ones that the guy stuck to his hard hat before he hung from the beam in the old commercial.  After all of this she hooked me up to her machine for a grand total of 12 seconds...presumably one for every sticker...and then she declared me alive and took everything but her stickers with her.

This seems to be a good place to stop for the night.  I have only just begun to tell my tales of woe.  (Though I hope not woefully)  For now, I am going to go get some sleep.  Looking very much like I have the chest hair equivalent of crop-circles on my person I need to relax.  Did anyone have "29" in the sticker pool?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Done for...

I'm dying.  Sorry to just blurt it out like that but, a) I am a guy and b) I believe that I am sicker than any other person in history.  I actually even stayed home from work today!  I mean really!  Stayed home?  Unheard of!

In reality I have an exceptionally sore throat and this is the first time I have sat up (well propped up by pillows) in about 18 hours.  I was tremendously grateful that the room stopped swaying like it was built on the deck of the Santa Maria (notice how close to Columbus Day I managed a reference like that?  As the high schoolers would say, "I got mad skills.")  I decided that instead of clutching the edge of the mattress and moaning I would try to tap out another entry.  The best part is that no one will be expecting too much because, as I mentioned before, I am really very sick.

As I sit here all hopped up on Zicam and orange juice it's no wonder that this will not be my best work.  I will do my best to produce the same mediocre ramblings that you have become accustomed to.  It will be much easier if someone would be kind enough to tell me why they placed a miniature rhino in my skull and instructed him to stomp and gore until he breaks free.  And I'll tell you one thing, I am NOT cleaning up after him.

I have a series of steps that I go through in the process of being sick.  (Of course this is the first time I have ever been this sick...pity me...and bring me stuff to make me feel better)  There are those who will say, "If you are well enough to write then you are not really sick."  I say Fie unto you.  Not sure what that means and I am really too incapacitated to look it up.  If I had to guess I would say that it means, I hope that the vacuum you buy for your 13 foot room comes with a 12 and a half foot cord.  That's right, I went there, and this time I brought a minor appliance!

Anyway, back to the steps of me being sick.  First, and this is weird.  I start to smell dust.  I don't go seeking it out, it is something that I smell no matter where I am.  Everything starts to smell like dust.  Second, I start craving orange juice.  Some people crave milk, others saltine crackers, still others anchovies and vanilla ice cream.  The latter is mostly craved by the pregnant of the species and contrary to the girth of my belly, I am not pregnant.  (Although my scientifically educated children have told me that I could be if I would just go through the process required to become an earthworm....I think I'll pass)  The next step in my being sick process is that I start to claim that I am dying.  This is an important step.  It is necessary to reveal to all around me of my discomfort and I would not want to disappoint.  The fourth step in my being sick process is that I will drift in and out of consciousness with the TV on.  It is difficult to determine when someone watching TV is actually conscious but the snoring usually gives it away.  This is when a peculiar thing happens.  I get weepy like a little school girl while watching these movies.  I have no idea why.  Today I drifted in and out of Sleepless in Seattle and my eyes actually moistened!  And not during the guy's part where they were discussing The Dirty Dozen.  I'm just going to say that when Meg Ryan handed Jonah the teddy bear at the end, on top of the Empire State's just too painful to recall.  The final part of my being sick process is that I start to crave a tuna fish sandwich.  This presents a problem since opening a can of tuna is the start of Sylvia's getting sick process.  If I am well enough to make it myself I am well enough to go to work the next day.

Unfortunately today I am not ready for the tuna stage.  I know what you are thinking...Tuna?  There is just something in it that my body wants whenever I am on the mend.  It reminds me of a story that my dad told me (do you sense a theme here?) about when he was in the army.  They went on a wilderness survival training exercise for a number of days.  When they came back to civilization (and plentiful food) the protocol was that the soldiers could request anything they wanted to eat.  I'm thinking steak, prime rib, twice baked potatoes, lobster...according to Dad, a vast majority of the men wanted a tuna fish sandwich.  This is about the only thing I have in common with our brave U.S. soldiers and let me take a moment to just say, from the bottom of my heart, "Thank you!"

OK, I think it is time to put a lid on this.  I started in the morning and now it is 6:30.  It is taking a lot out of me to type this out.  Many, many breaks later (including one to put out my pillow, it burst into flames when I lay my fevered head down)  and I think I am ready to end.  Good thing I am not feeling too feverish or I would have let it slip that I become an emotional mess when I get sick.  I would hate to let that slip out.

It's a Magic Number....

Three is a magic number...according to Schoolhouse Rock.  (Don't even try to pretend that you didn't learn everything you ever knew about politics from the "I'm just a bill." guy.)  Back when cartoons were only on weekends, and they were more than 30 minute advertisements for action figures and playing cards, I used to love to sit and watch all of those catchy tunes and feel like I was being given an education.  I learned that if you had eleven fingers you were a weird kid.  I learned that conjunctions were best written on railroad cars.  And I further learned that 3 was a magic number.  I cannot, for the life of me, remember why it is magic but it is. 

I started thinking about numbers today when Kristiana, my favorite daughter, ( only daughter for those who like to quibble...The root of which is 'To Quib'  meaning to try to make a working pen out of feathers on a live ostrich, but let's not start quibbling over verbs) became my twenty fourth follower on my blog.  When I asked her why she decided to sign up today she said,, it's too great.  I get teary eyed whenever I think about it.  The raw emotion, the wonderful bond between a father and daughter, the selfless giving and common understanding of a father's needs...She said, and I quote, "It was either that or do math."  Stop!  Stop!  I know!  Forgive me while I take a moment.  Ok, I'm back.  It was either that or do math.  Do you think I should trademark the phrase?  I mean when Hallmark gets hold of this sentiment their stocks will soar!  It boggles the mind (the root of this is based in the Viking tongue 'to bog'.  meaning to put your hands in the air and shake it like you just don't care).

Sniff...back to the reason I am writing tonight.  I have been stuck at 23 followers for the longest time. This is not a problem (even though I visited a blog that had over 2000 followers...but I'm not bitter) Not to mention the fact that 23, in all of its glory, is a prime number!  It is the number of ingredients in a can of Dr Pepper (the finest drink known to human kind) but it is, by definition, divisible by nothing but one and itself.  For a numbers guy like me that is akin to torture.  Not fingernails on a chalkboard kind of torture...real, purposely missing the final note in a Verdi Opera torture!  (I'm pretty sure that is specifically prohibited in the Geneva Convention.)  Add to all this, that I am a bit OCD in behaviors and attitudes and I would say that we have been terribly lucky that I haven't needed to be sedated nightly.  I considered following my blog myself but that just smacked of desperation.  (and if you have ever been smacked with a desperation you'll try like the dickens to avoid a re-occurrence!)

Well, now I do not need to worry about that any more.  I mean think about it.  24?  It's divisible by 1 (of course) 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24!  talk about versatility!  If someone were to send me 24 cookies, for instance, I would be able to share with any number of friends equally and easily!  Of course people send me cookies all the time and I share them with nobody...but I could!  That's the point. 

So now I am resting comfortably at 24 and I don't have to worry about those pesky prime numbers again until 29!  At my current rate I will be safe for months.  At this point if I am somehow picked as a Blog of Note I am doomed!  It seems that whenever a blog is picked as blog of note the follower board lights up like a, well, like a board that lights up a lot!  That's what! 

All right it is late, I am tired, I am floating on an easily-divisible cloud, and I need to get some sleep.  For now I will just dream of people sending me sets of 24 cookies...I'm allergic to Macadamia nuts.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I have the finely tuned reflexes of a jungle jungle cat!  Of course that isn't true but I thought it would be a great way to start off today.  I have more the slow and depressed reflexes of a partially sedated sexagenarian.  (it's a real word...look it up)  Well that isn't quite true either but I always wanted to use the word sexagenarian in a blog post.    No seriously, even as a small child.  (now if I can just think of a way to sneak in the word icosidodecahedron, I will consider myself a success)  Actually, my reflex rating rests comfortably in the middle of those two extremes.  I am happy with that and it brings me to the topic of today's post.

Did you ever notice that you can predict what a moron driver is going to do by the dents on his car?  Maybe it is just the strangely observant mind that is -Jeff Garrett, Blogger- that can do this at this point, but you can learn.  The other day as I was driving to something very expensive and very tax deductible that I will think of later (in case the IRS is monitoring my blog) a sedan pulled alongside the driver's side of my truck.  As I glanced over (defensive driving is my life) I noticed that the rear fender of this nondescript car looked like it had been bumped at least two different times.  I decided to slow down to give him some room when WHOOSH!  He made a very hard right from the very soft left lane.  He made it to his corner and, since I had already started to slow down, I made it to my imaginary tax write off unscathed.  It never ceases to amaze me what some people are capable of.

In my travels as a driver I have had some experience.  From the time I was little I knew that I wanted to drive.  I remember watching all the old Disney movies about cars that had special gifts, Herbie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Christine (actually that last one may have been Pixar) but I especially remember one that was like a mock documentary of car fanatics.  It had Kurt Russell in it (what old Disney film didn't?) and it showed a baby being born.  Disney style of course.  Nothing National Geographic-like and the "baby" was probably 4 months old.  But what happened was they held up the baby to spank its bare bottom (cutting edge for Disney) and instead of crying, the baby went "beep beep."  While I am nowhere near that sort of enthusiast I do appreciate being behind the wheel of any kind of vehicle and I have been doing it for a while.  I have even had a few jobs where driving was the main part of the job. 
"Jeff!  Sorry, you have to get this to the other side of the bay and there isn't enough time.  You'll have to push the pedal to the metal a bit." 
"Okaaay.  If I gotta."  while inside I am jumping up and clicking my heels (what can I say...I was very affected by the early Dr Pepper commercials) that I am getting paid to drive!  Bring it on!

Back to the point for today.  I cannot tell you how many times the person with the fender turned under has stopped short in front of me.  If I reach a four way stop with someone who has dents on the front fenders, I give the wave or the flash of lights to say "you go ahead and leave my paint where it is."  One time a car pulled up next to me that looked like it was made of alunimun, allumimum, albumin, (what do you know, that word is as hard to spell as it is to pronounce) so this car looked like a-l-u-m-i-n-u-m foil that had been crumpled into a ball and then partially smoothed out into the shape of a car.  I pulled to the curb and walked home.  Paranoid?  Perhaps.  Dented fenders?  Not this cowboy or his Kentucky Cadillac.  That's a pick up truck for those of you who are primarily from California.  Of course I am from San Francisco so I have no room to talk.  My family is in Kentucky though.  Great place Kentucky...5 million people, eight last names!

I need to log off now.  We are going on safari to the Rennaisance Faire after church today.  I am guessing I will have plenty to write about tomorrow!  Prithee, wouldst thou wisht me-eth to delivereth a turkeyth legth to thine personage...eth?

Friday, October 8, 2010

New NEW Strategy!

So I mentioned that I was going to start writing about my experiences in cooking to get noticed by publishers.  That lasted all of about half that post.  (Apparently I have the attention span of a hyperactive gnat who's got to pee)  Now I have decided to just go back to talking about randomly occurring thoughts that happen to scream across my consciousness.  (I know what you are thinking...Yes, I am conscious when I write these blogs and No, I am not under the influence of any mind-altering substance either - unless Dr Pepper counts.) 

I am going to stop courting publishers.  The way I figure it is that when I had finally decided to stop keeping my eye out for a wife, Sylvia tackled me from behind and dragged me home to meet her parents.  (Thank God...Seriously!!!)  That is actually not what happened but I am saving that story for around our anniversary...whenever that is.  Now before I lose all of my female readers let me assure you that I know exactly when our anniversary is, I know what she was wearing on our first date, and I even remember the number of the table we ate at when I proposed.  (December 17, that off-white European outfit with the buckles, and table the window)  I mention this not to alienate my male readers (either of you) or to cause women everywhere to print this out and put it on their refrigerators to show that some men remember stuff like that.  If you do that I will be forced to publish the series that I have in the works with Time/Life books titled, "Stupid Things That Jeff Does Around the House."  It's a 17 volume set.  Leather bound, very nice actually. 

So my point was, if I stop searching for someone to print my blog then I will get tackled from behind.  What can I say, I'm a glutton for tackling.

And lucky for you all, I have a nearly constant stream of random thoughts that cruise in and out of my brain (they have to go in an out because there is no more room to stay).  My brain is full to the brim with random pieces of individual trivia that like to spill out at the most unusual times.  I have worked hard to stop announcing things that make no sense in the context of what I am doing, but every once in a while they bubble up to the surface.  Did you know that an ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain?  Not news to those of you who follow politics but it does sound strange when in a staff meeting where the subject is student attendance.

I think I have figured out a simile for my brain but it is so obscure I have a hard time using it in polite conversation.  (the simile...not my brain...that rarely gets used)  I have determined that my brain is like one of those clear plastic pencils with multiple sharpened tips stacked together inside.  In the days before affordable mechanical pencils, kids had to use these other contraptions.  The idea was, when you used up the first part you would grab it by the plastic sleeve at the top of the pencil, yank it out, bring it to the bottom of the pencil, and shove it in!  (Sort of the clear plastic pencil version of a suppository)  Well this plastic encased lead suppository would so surprise the clear pencil that the next pre sharpened point would poke out the top and be ready to use to write, draw, or practice being a plastic pencil medical technician.  That is my brain, to a T!  (My brain to a "tea" is just adorable...with it's little white gloves and the hat with the ribbon...I'm kidding of brain would never wear white gloves after Labor Day)  You see, my brain is so full, if someone tries to shove more information in (keep those plastic encrusted lead suppositories away from me thank you very much!!) then some of the information that I wanted to keep is going to fall out.  The other day at a teachers' meeting we were learning about school climate and its effect on test scores.  I said, "Wow!  I didn't know that!"  and 'CLINK' there it was on the table.  A startled colleague asked, what is that!?  I just said, "Oh that?  That's my mom's phone number.  Must have just learned something new.  It happens."

You say you want proof!  (Really nobody asked, but for the sake of moving things along I need to imagine that there are actual people reading along with me...and you are all wearing paisly full body swimsuits from the 30s for some reason.  "You" should all have yourselves checked out...seriously!)  Well here is the proof that you asked for.  Some years ago I was shopping when I saw a friend of a friend in the aisle.  Our two minute conversation went something like this:
"Yeah?"  puzzled look.
"I'm Jeff.  Rachel's friend from (this portion has been deleted to protect the ages of all of the innocent victims of my blog.  I'm using real names, but I refuse to say that we hadn't seen each other in decades...that would be innapropriate)"
"Oh yeah, Jeff.  Wow!  You have some memory!"
"Well that's nothing.  Watch this.  You don't like croutons."
***stunned silence as she fumbles in her purse wishing she had spent the extra money and gotten chemical Mace instead of the more economical yet wimpier pepper spray***
"Uh, yeah? ...that's right...  How did you....?"
"Rachel mentioned it one time."
Actually we finished with a nice conversation about kids and working and how Rachel should keep her crouton knowledge to herself...and I walked away un-peppersprayed.

Now let me alleviate some of your fears of my becoming unhinged (like that train hasn't left the station) and turning into a stalker.  I must tell you that Rachel did mention it once.  But she mentioned it by saying that Amy was actually a little afraid of croutons.  I had never heard anything so curious before, so it stuck.  Of course this was still in the time when there was some storage space in the ole noggin.  And I am guessing that you, my wonderful readers, will remember that there is a person out there who is known for not liking croutons.  (So there!  Now who needs therapy!....I'm not the only one!)

Oddness has a funny way of following me around and then sneaking up on me.  Amy and Sylvia have since become friends in a home school capacity, unbeknownst to me...but knownst to them...and we have run into each other from time to time.  The last time I saw Amy, she brought up that she remembered what I remembered of what Rachel remembered about the croutons.  Enough of that.  My brain hurts and now I can't remember the tune to "Happy Birthday."  (Amy must have a larger brain)   So I feel vindicated.  Someone else remembers strange stuff too. 

So there you go.  The story is done.  Proof positive that my brain is full of weird stuff.  Socially inept, yes, but don't try to challenge me to Trivial Pursuit.  (especially not the Crouton Edition)  My writing is not the sort of thing that publishers are looking for, so I am resolved to have my words here on the internet and not be paid to have them in newspapers or books.  Besides, who would want to read about "plastic encrusted lead suppositories" anyway!?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New Strategy?

It seems that I am not having too much luck in the "here's millions of dollars for your writing" arena when I write about random things like restaurant conversations and phony interviews. I am going to officially change tactics. I rewatched (not sure if that is a word...pretty sure it isn't) Julie and Julia last night and an idea hit me.

You see, in this movie the main character writes about her experience with cooking through Julia Child's cookbook and eventually gets it made into a book and even a movie. Perhaps people connect more with food and recipes. Therefore, I have decided. I will begin to write about my experience with cooking. Of course the movie, and the blog that it was about, was based on a year in her life. I cannot promise to maintain that sort of stamina...especially because I have a family.  I will do my best.

And I am not terribly interested in Julia Child's sort of cooking. Besides the fact that the French cooking subject has already been done. I would hate to be called a copycat.  I would also hate to split the copious royalties of my impending book deal with someone else...Well someone else besides Kristiana's choir teacher, Jake's art teacher, their orthodontist, the bank who owns the house, and the beachfront hotel in Carmel that Sylvia so deserves but we haven't seemed to make it to. Sorry Sylvia, I love you.

Another reason I do not want to try to go through the Julia Child cookbook is Aspic. Apparently there are many aspic recipes in her book.  I have some experience with aspic. If you've never had it you are really missing something. It is the sort of food by which you compare all other bad food. I feel like I should apologize to people who enjoy aspic but I can't believe that either of them is reading my modest little blog. Also, let me assure you that I speak from personal experience. You see my mom has a dear aunt. One day, decades ago, we visited her in her assisted living apartment and it was an occasion. She pulled out all the stops. Nice tablecloth, china, cloth napkins, the works. Even as a child I could see that this lunch was something she was looking forward to and had spent a lot of time preparing for. Imagine my childish delight when she went to the refrigerator and pulled out what looked to be individual jello molds for everyone. And then of course I took a bite. It was, so, not the sweet strawberry jello that I was used to. I found myself with a mouthful of something that I had never tasted before. I also found myself with a new expression for some new food that I don't appreciate, "It could be worse. It could be aspic." To ease your fears, I will let you know that I ate the entire plate of aspic and my dear sweet aunt was none the wiser. I was brought up with manners, thank you very much.

So back to the dilemma about which kind of food I can write about. Oh the pressure. I suppose it would not be too informative to blog a list of take out menus. Seriously, I am not the kind of guy who does things like that. Although if you are ever in town I can tell you that Round Table Pizza can be reached at 793-9393. (unfortunately for my ever expanding belly I didn't need to look that up).

I could write about recipes that I have successfully cooked for the family, but that could be written on a small pamphlet instead of a year-long blog. It would be a medium sized pamphlet if you allowed me to include various types of juices frozen into ice trays...complete with toothpicks I might add.

Actually I have a list of recipes that were my favorites growing up that my mom copied for me when I moved out. Seems like I can never make them taste just like the "real" thing but they get close. Not really a ringing endorsement right? "Here's something that I can do almost as good as my mom."  

No, the real cook in the house is Sylvia. She never met a recipe that she couldn't make better. One of her recipes for chicken pot pie is sought after all over our community. The funny thing is, she never made it the way they suggested it in the cookbook. She looked and said, "Are they kidding?  It needs ________!" and away she goes.  As she was making it the first time she changed it. Fame. Fortune. Food. Creativity. That's Sylvia. Phone. Frozen. Fast. That's me.

No, food is not for me.  I think I need to remain focused on what I really know. Random thoughts taken to outrageous and illogical extremes to try to elicit laughter. Which coincidentally is what usually happens when I try to cook.