Happy Not-Dead Day to Me


It is a good day to be alive. I suppose, as the mystical saying goes, it is a good day to die, but I am feeling happy to be in the former camp for now. Five years ago, on this very day of the calendar, I made a fast trip to the hospital. That worked out well, thankfully, in the end.

Home alone that day, I tried to put on some socks. I missed my foot. Twice. After countless times putting on socks in my life, I suddenly just couldn’t do it. My brain said go and my body just didn’t hear it right. My mind was a bit scrambled. My right side was the problem. I got those socks on with my left hand damn it. But I wasn’t right, so to speak.

My right arm rose without me meaning it to. And when I tried to raise it I couldn’t do it. I limped down the stairs. I thought I knew what was up, but no, it couldn’t be. That was for old people. I was a healthy dude. But just to check, I looked in the mirror. My face was sagging on the right side. Crap, that was one symptom hard to deny. I was having a stroke. I tried to utter some profanity to express my freakedoutedness. Turns out I couldn’t speak either.

I had enough medical training at that point to know I was having a stroke and to know that I needed to get to a hospital. Fast. I was intentional in using the land line because I knew they could find me that way. I called 911.

The woman who answered asked me questions but, as much as wanted to answer, I simply couldn’t speak. I could make a few noises, grunts and such, but that was it. She was patient with me, telling me to just stay on the phone until help arrived. I sat, with my wallet, cell phone and those warm socks, waiting for help. I texted my wife with my good but non-dominant hand. It was all I could offer her.

A fire truck pulled up. Of course, they had no idea what to expect from someone who calls for help but can’t speak. An ambulance followed. When the EMT walked in I had my driver’s license ready. I knew he would ask my name and age and I at least could answer that. I couldn’t say a word.

That was a sweet ride to the hospital. It wasn’t all fun. They had to pull over to insert an IV needle. But we flew. I have never gotten into Burlington so fast.  And, despite my condition, or maybe because of my condition, it all seemed so fascinating. The ambulance scene, the emergency room, the questions everyone asked, the posse of medical students waiting to see the 40-something guy who was having a stroke.

My voice did start to return. I could sort of make some words. After my wife arrived, however, and a CT scan, it left me again. So they gave me the big, bad clot-buster drug. Serious stuff. That meant I had to spend the night with constant care. That stuff can be dangerous. No ability to clot means bleeding in the brain can be fatal. That wasn’t exactly a comfort, but the nurses were gems.

I wanted to make light of the situation. I wanted to have good humor about it. But I couldn’t joke. All I could do was half-smile and turn things over in my head. There was a lot going on inside that head of mine. Come the next morning I was starting to speak again. It was surreal simply not having control over what I could do. For four decades I had been used to my brain making commands and my tongue or arms or legs responding. I didn’t think about it. It just happened.

I spent a couple of days under the tender care of hospital staff. I got hungry–no eating when your tongue doesn’t work well. When I got to have chocolate pudding I was pretty psyched. I mean, I love chocolate pudding anyway, but this chocolate pudding was amazing.  Then I got to go home, my amazing spouse taking over for those staff members.

Bottom line: I didn’t die. I could have. I could have been in really bad shape. But I healed up quickly, physically at least. It took me a lot longer to heal mentally. But hey, I’m not dead. So Happy Not-Dead Day to me. Over the past five years I have thought a bit about my mortality and about what matters in life. If you’ve had a brush with the other side you know what I’m talking about. If you have not, well, soon enough. Enjoy the days while you can. I plan on it.

Soup and Bread

That’s what’s for dinner. I had to be home to meet my daughter off the school bus. It isn’t always easy to work when she comes home, especially when it is just the two of us, and frankly, I want to spend time with her during that window. So we did that. She told me about her day, showed me what she brought home. The kid is a gem. She smiles and feels proud of herself. I feel lucky to witness that every day.

Once she started chilling by herself, I stuck some sweet pumpkin in the oven to bake. I started bread dough. I turned the pumpkin into soup and the bread into dinner rolls. It is the easiest dinner ever.  It took a little time but was not hard to do. So we ate bread with our hot soup together at the table. My son didn’t eat much. I think he is getting sick. It seems most kids are getting sick these days. It is only October and plenty of children are missing school. Too bad. Maybe the soup and bread will help.

We have nine pie pumpkins left. Enough for some pumpkin muffins, maybe more soup, and a pie. Later in the week I will whip up one of those. I want to make this pumpkin pie I learned about several years ago and tried only once. It is light but rich. I want to experiment with it and maybe make it again for Thanksgiving. What’s not to like about pumpkin pie?

I may be getting a little something in the head myself. I have been wondering if I run every morning, will that help me stay healthy, meaning will it prevent sickness? I know I will be healthier in general if I run often, but can it ward off the viri?  Can it keep the bacteria at bay?  I guess I will see what I can find out with my R of one.  I had a short run this morning. Maybe I will go longer tomorrow. It was awfully hard to get out of bed in the dark this morning. I am hoping it won’t be so tough the next time I try it. I love running as it gets light, but it has been all dark these past days. It is dark when I leave the house and dark when I return. Easy there, Winter; it’s only October.

So I will try my running and pumpkin health plan for a while. That soup will last for a few days. When it runs out, that’s when I’ll bake up a pie, or at least some muffins. That ought to be good, no?

Dentist Notes

I had a basic cleaning at my dentist yesterday.  That is a common thing for many people, myself included.  Yesterday’s visit had several things of note, however.  I had to reschedule my original appointment from early May to a different day so I wasn’t even in the same room.  The usual pattern wasn’t happening.

I planned ahead this time.  I don’t usually have to wait all that long at my dentist’s office but occasionally it happens.  To keep myself free of things I might forget I usually plan to read whatever magazines happen to be there.  I can typically find your standard news magazines–Newsweek, Time and the like–and there is always something different to check out, but this time I brought some to share.  I am an Orion reader and it is simply one of the best magazines I have ever read.  It is interesting and engaging and just plain interesting.  I remembered to bring the last couple of issues to leave behind for others to read.  I also brought the latest issue of Mother Jones.

So I was ahead before I headed to the chair with the headrest.  I was ushered to a room that is not my usual room, the room where they usually perform the big jobs–fillings and drilling and shots to numb things up.  I was afraid they had made some kind of mistake.  But phew, it was just because of the appointment rescheduling and associated space issues.  Then the hygienist who usually gets things started was not there.  I’ll have to wait a while six months to find out how her children finished up the school year.  Too long, I tell you, too long.

My dentist did the whole dang thing for me.  He checked and cleaned and wrapped things up and off I went.  He didn’t offer a rinse and spit, although it wasn’t necessary, and he didn’t floss my teeth.  I kind of look forward to the flossing.  It is a unique experience, having someone else floss one’s teeth.  He did, at least, remember to give me a toothbrush.

It isn’t always easy, but my dentist and I usually have some curious conversations.  Here is a partial list of what we discussed:

  • The costs and benefits of solar panels
  • The depth of our home wells
  • When to get seeds started outside in the garden
  • How often people really do floss versus how often they say they floss
  • Taking evening classes at the local high school to learn something new and interesting, such as cooking
  • How much electricity we use at home, in kilowatt hours
  • How to build a rain barrel
  • Varieties of cherry tomatoes
  • The gender ratio of the members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Voting rights
  • Our shared love of blueberries

I had to confess to my dentist that I had come there directly from my son’s end of year school celebration.  They served cupcakes.  It seemed incongruous to be getting my teeth cleaned right after eating cupcakes.  He was concerned less with my eating sugary snacks before an appointment than with my neglect to bring any of those treats to his office to share.  Lesson learned:  Next time, bring cupcakes to the dentist.

I made another appointment before I left.  I recently gave my dentist a D on Angie’s List for availability.  Unless you have an appointment set up well in advance, forget it.  I can’t even set up an appointment for six months out.  I have to schedule it eight months out.  I had done that last time, so I’ll be back in November (six months from my original appointment).  I scheduled another one for May.   What day works best for you?  That was hard to answer.  I’m not sure what day will work best for me a year from now.  So I picked a week day for mid-morning.  Hopefully I can schedule around that.

I have extra clean teeth today.  As long as I stay on top of it I should make it to November.  Then I will get to find out how the new blueberry bushes fared, and if my dentist ended up taking that cooking class.  Plus, I will finally get to find out how the hygienist’s kids are doing, one grade later.  In the meantime I need to get through summer.  I’ll have to make sure I watch it with the creemees.

Limp Tomatoes


Just Resting?

Just Resting?

I decided I needed to take some action and transplant our tomato plants.  I thought I might be able to get away with planting once and just popping them into the garden.  But they got too tall and leggy.  They were drooping over from their own height, so I had to move them to deeper soil.  I gave it a shot this afternoon.

I think they won’t all make it.  I have had trouble transplanting tomatoes in the past.  They grow so well in the foam cell jobbers and then hate it when I make them grow up and move out.  I think at least one will make it, probably two.  But two of the four I moved are questionable.  I left another three where they were.  I ran out of time.

They may wake up in the morning.  I tried to be gentle.  I tried to make sure they got just the right amount of water.  I used quality dirt.  But my thumb is, clearly, not as green as it might be.  It was pretty brown after I finished digging.

Here’s hoping that by morning the soggy stems will have perked up.  I would hate to lose future tomatoes.  I am afraid, however, that that may be the case.  Not to be pessimistic, but seriously, one of those puppies looks ill.  I hope it gets well.

Proof of a Higher Power?

So we have a couple kids and I basically stop running.  I go from at least a marathon every year to a 50-miler then pretty much doodly squat.  Partly because of this I had back problems.  If I had kept up the physical activity, I would probably have been fine, but it got bad enough I needed surgery.  That meant I was out of commission for a long time.

Needing surgery told me that I needed to start running again.  When I have been running, my back is good to go.  Slack off and things weaken and get sore.  I was really getting up there in the miles last summer when I pulled a muscle.  It took me a long time to get there, being slow and cautious, not overdoing it, taking it easy.  But I still got hurt.  That meant lots more time of rest and lots more time without running.

This winter and then into spring I started to really get out there again.  I again started to put on the miles and I felt that the 50-miler might be within reach this fall.  I was feeling good.  Then, on a trip to Disney World of all places, I smash my toe on a suitcase so badly that my whole foot turns purple and I start limping around.

I am sure I busted it.  I taped it for a while and it started to feel better.  It still hurts too much, however.  I should really ice it and take ibuprofen and put it up for a few days, then get back to walking around.  But I haven’t done that.  I have been joking with my spouse that maybe this is proof that there is a higher power who does not want me to run.

But maybe this is proof that there is a higher power who does not want me to go to Disney World.  Or who does not want me to work, since a desk job contributed to needing back surgery.  Or who wants me to where shoes more often, even in Florida.  Or who wants me to pack with a suitcase on a table or a bed instead of the floor.

I have had a few setbacks to getting in the training.  I guess I just need to keep the goal in mind and get back to it once more.  I can still run 50 miles, as long as I don’t turn into a frail old man before I get all the training in.  Even then, I might be able to do it.  Most people wouldn’t do that kind of thing, but that actually motivates me to do things.  No one else wants to do it?  Might just be worth doing.

Anyway, I don’t really think that all these obstacles to my running goals are proof of a higher power.  I have seen others use just this kind of thing to justify belief.  Many people do that, in fact.  Since many people do it, however, I am motivated to do what they do not do.  I am going to do my own thing, dangit, and when I stop hobbling around, I am going to get started on that right off.

Sausages and Tofu

We don’t eat meat in our house.  I guess that isn’t totally true but almost 100% true.  My daughter is pretty good at counting but she can count way higher than she needs to in order to count the number of times she has eaten meat.  I have cooked meat in our house exactly twice, and when I did so it had been many years since I had cooked meat at all.  Tonight for dinner we had cheese quesadillas and salad.  It was light fare but was just what we needed.

My daughter likes breakfast sausages.  She has eaten them only a few times.  The last time was at a community breakfast at her school.  There were many families there.  It was a fund raiser for the local pre-school.  We had tons of fun and my daughter wanted some sausage, like many of the other children there.  I hate to be the parent who says no all the time, especially when I don’t have the best of explanations.  I didn’t want to eat it, and this particular sausage wasn’t exactly of the highest quality, but why the heck not let her have it?  She’ll try to some time anyway.  And it won’t kill her.

I hear people talk about how they could never be a vegetarian.  As if they would have to jump right into eating tofu and beans and kale at every meal if they decided to stop eating meat.  I think most people eat plenty of meals that don’t contain meat without even thinking about it.  Peanut butter and jelly?  Macaroni and cheese?  Breakfast cereal?  Who eats meat at every meal?

Anyway, I am currently of the mind that we won’t have meat much in our house at all.  My wife and I are on the same page with that one.  But if the kids want it once in a while when it is offered, I will let them try it, as long as it isn’t too nasty.  I made them fried chicken a couple of times here at home, at my daughter’s request to have chicken.  She thought it was OK and my son just said no thanks.  I have cooked up chicken many a time and this was, and I’m not just saying this, really good fried chicken.  I ate it right up.  The second try provided the same results.  Salad is a bigger hit.

We do eat tofu occasionally.  It is good stuff if you prepare it right.  Kind of like cauliflower.  That stuff isn’t exactly great plain, if you ask me, but in a gratin, oh baby oh.  I can whip up some tofu into a tasty meal.  We even eat meat substitutes.  For me, it isn’t that I don’t like meat as a food.   It just seems irresponsible to eat it.  Eat it if you want but, knowing what I know about where it comes from, I don’t want to support such a destructive and unhealthy system.

We have talked about trying to eat meat that is locally and responsibly grown.  That is where the chicken I fried came from, a local farm.  At this point that is hard to do, more because we are in the habit of not eating meat than anything else, but meat still has a larger ecological footprint, even if it is raised in the best way possible, and that factors in as well.

For now we don’t buy it, don’t prepare it and don’t really eat it.  I won’t be a hindrance to my children experimenting with it if they want to do that. Maybe if they experiment with that they will be more careful experiementing with things like smoking banana peels.  And we will likely cook up something fleshy again at some point.  But for now I will toss that fake sausage on the pizza and bake the tofu pot pie.  That will do me more than just fine.

Home With the Kid

My daughter was up most of the night with a fever and a cough.  I stayed home with her today.  That wasn’t too big a deal, in regard to my other obligations.  I managed to reschedule some meetings and I got some of my tasks completed.  It wasn’t bad spending some time with the kid, however.

We watched Shrek the Third, which my wife had rented on a whim yesterday.  That timing worked out well.  We played out in the snow in the afternoon, when she felt better (my daughter, not my wife), we ate lunch together, I helped her with some word activities that she brought home from school.  It was some quality time.

She doesn’t have a cough anymore.  Her fever is gone.  She fell asleep fast.  She was tuckered after little sleep last night.  She considered taking a nap but just couldn’t fall asleep this afternoon.  Who could blame her?  Think of all the daylight she might miss.  She came with me to pick up her brother and was the helpful sister, carrying all his things for him and greeting him with a grin.  Those two love each other.  I am fortunate there.

Tomorrow she will be fine and I will be back to working a full day, rather than piecing together what I can while tending to a not quite healthy child.  Hopefully the cough will pass me by.  She won’t be taking care of me if I crash.  She’ll be off to school whatever happens to me.  If I get sick I will sit home and try to work but get little done and feel bad about that as well as feel bad physically.  That would pretty much suck.

So no sickness for me.  I’ve got my wolf bane and my vitamin C and my early to bed.  I’m off to work in the morning.

Running In Icy Wind

Earlier in the week I bagged going for a run, even a short one, because the time I had to do it was too cold. I don’t necessarily regret not going. It was ten below and breezy. I just wimped out. But I wasn’t going to do that again today.

It was much warmer than the last time I tried to make the decision to run, two days ago. It was 18 degrees warmer in fact. Of course, this meant it was only 8 degrees, and the wind was whipping. It was a frostbite kind of run I was looking toward.

I went despite the chill. I wore some layers and stretched and just went out there. I still am not going all that far. I went about five and a half today. I ran fairly quickly, to keep warm, and to just get on back to the house. But it was slippery. Road salt hasn’t done much of anything for several days now. Some sand had been spread on the road, but still, my traction could have been better.

My pace was average, even though I tried to go faster. I had the wind to slow me down, plus the slipperiness, plus some hills. A couple of times I had all these at once. Moreover, I was cold. My muscles were not exactly loose like they are on a summer day. I had to move quickly to keep limber.

My chief worry was frostbite on my face. I thought about wearing a neck gaitor to cover my face, but that would have meant that I was likely to get too warm. Getting too warm means sweating, and sweating can lead to hypothermia on day like today. If I had to slow down of stop (twisted ankle, knee pain, what have you) I would get too cold too fast. It turns out my own rising heat kept my face warm enough.

So I got out there and had a solid run today. I only got out two days this week, thanks to my fear of the cool weather (the temperature rose to 11 today, the highest and the first double digits since Tuesday). Maybe tomorrow I can squeeze in a few miles. It may get up to the teens again.

How can I wimp out then?

Avian Eats

I put up the bird feeders a little late this year.  Usually we get them up right around the time of the ground freezing solid.  Those little flittering creatures must have a harder time finding treats once things freeze up, right?  I know, of course, that this is not really true, but it provides a good reason to get the feeders out.

I managed to get them out last week, before the new year turned.  At least I can say I hung them in December.  I only hung two as the peanut feeder (a wire mesh tube made for nuts) seems to be missing.  Maybe the squirrels broke into the garage and carried it off, hoping to crack its secrets.  Of the two out there now, one contains sunflower seeds and the other contains thistle.

Today the birds finally discovered them.  They were some forlorn food offerings for a few days, but now the chickadees and finches and titmice can once again revel in the easy pickings.  Of course, once the blue jays move, those hogs, we will have to refill more often.  For now, however, we can watch the little dudes hop about in the cold without the bright blue bullies in the cafeteria.

I bought the sunflower seed at the hardware store.  We had the other seed left over from last year (it wasn’t and isn’t as popular, clearly).  I picked up a 25-pound bag and started walking to the counter but then realized that that was, to be kind to myself, stupid.  A 50-pound bag would save money, would last longer, and would mean one fewer trip to the hardware store.  Duh.  So I borrowed a cart and hauled it to the car.

Using the cart didn’t stop by back from aching a few days later.  Maybe it was moving the furniture.  That may have helped.  I think it was taking the foam pad off our bed.  Really, who cares?  The point is that I need to at least be careful when I haul around large bags of avian eats.  While I sit her with my sore back, I look out at the feeders, doing their job of supplying our feathered neighbors with vittles.

Here is to good health as well as to seeing all kinds of interesting antics from our dinosaur progeny in 2009.


That is the way I felt a couple of nights ago.  As I spent some time preparing details for my school trip the next morning, my gut started to speak to me.  It wasn’t providing a soliloquy on the merits of the meager dinner I had just consumed.  It wasn’t philosophizing on my eating habits.  It was poking me with a stick and shouting obscenities.

After I went to bed I did not stay in it long.  I rolled around and rolled around.  Eventually I was up and emptying my innards.  I got to know the plumbing fixtures, at least one of them, quite well.  We had some conversations, the toilet and I;  first I made some rather loud utterances, then it responded with a rather consistent flushing sound response.  It was civil, if not gentlemanly.

I spent yesterday in a weak and achy stupor.  Wasn’t that a good time.  It gave me time to reflect on how healthy it is to purge one’s system occasionally.  I was purged.  I was as empty as I could get.  My painful belly gave me pause.  Was I about to continue this process?  Or was I just hungry?  It turns out I was hungry.

I was not alone in my experience.  My wife and my son enjoyed the fine winter evening as well, out of bed often to check out the night’s wonders.  They, too, enjoyed the benefit of indoor plumbing.  My daughter did not have quite the same experience, but she was a witness, even crying in distress at one point, wondering if we would all be OK.

That next day we all stayed home, although my daughter never did get sick.  Lucky her.  She might as well have taken the bus, but neither of her parents would have been up for collecting her were her body to opt for the purging plan.  She was fine today as well, it turns out.  She is a healthy bugger, even without the cleansing.

Today I was home again.  As late as 2:00 I debated whether I should keep a meeting I had set for 5:00, but it wasn’t going to happen.  Too dizzy.  I still don’t feel 100%, after a day rest that included a two-hour nap, although I feel like I should fake it a little so my wife doesn’t think I am a total wuss.  Food has helped.  Lots of water has helped.  Hopefully another night’s sleep will do the trick.  I can’t miss another day of work.  It is way too much of a hassle to miss even one, and I’ve got three missed days under my belt this month with last week’s snow day.

No more circling the drain for me.  I am rising to the top now.  Soon I will swimming about, flush with health.  So to speak.