Hi Folks! It’s Me Again

Hello, everyone. It’s me, again – P Shane McAfee aka Poppa Shane; author of BDGJM (Babbling, Drivel, Gibberish, Jibber-Jabber, and Mumbo-Jumbo).

It’s been a long time, I know. I have missed writing my posts. Currently, I am balanacing a fulltime job, part time study in an MBA program, Isshin-Ryu karate training, reviewing movies (Auditorium One), and just being a husband, father, and grandfather.

I am looking to do more writing again as I feel the outlet helps me just as much as the previously mentioned actvities benefit me. My posts about funny words are being taken offline and posted on their own site under its own name as it has kind of taken a life of its own.

BDGJM may also be rebranded just in an effort to freshen things up.

I’ll keep you posted with further updates.

Thanks for your support of my creative work over the years.

Momma, Did You See That?

As those of you who have read my previous writings are well aware, I have a grandson – Taelor-James. For those of you who are not aware, well, I have a grandson. He is 6 years old as of this writing. I usually only address him by his given name when I am either a) reprimanding him or b) letting him know that I want him to really pay attention to me (which occasionally involves the former reason). Most other times, I affectionately call him “Butter Bean”.

In Butter Bean’s short lifetime, he has exhibited a phenomenon that I can only describe as the Momma Factor. The Momma Factor is something that males of all ages demonstrate throughout their lives. The Momma Factor gets demonstrated whenever the male of the species does something, says something, or accomplishes something and then turns to look at their revered mater as if to say: “Did you see that, Momma?” In that moment, receiving acknowledgement, recognition, and encouragement (or any combination of the three) from dear old Mom is better than winning the lottery while being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. How do I know this? Let me explain. My mother passed away in 2006. In 2016, at the age of 50, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree (I’m a late bloomer). I still have video of when I crossed the stage. The first thing I did was look toward Heaven and say: “Hey, Momma!”. Connecting with my mother in that moment meant just as much as the fact that my kids were in the audience and my wife was graduating in the same ceremony. Like I said, the Momma Factor is inescapable.

I have seen my little Butter Bean succumb to the Momma Factor quite a few times. Having said that, I have seen it happen more times in the last 6 months than I have in the 5 1/2 years previously. What is the differing element? Well, last spring, my grandson’s parents enrolled him in karate classes.

Now I am not going to get into the minutiae of all the positive changes that have come about as a result of these karate classes. That would take another writing piece entirely. The important part is to consider that I typically attend these lessons with my daughter and her husband. Like most parents and grandparent’s, we use our mobile phones to capture precious moments in these lessons in either a photo or video format. The lessons are 3 days a week. On the fourth Saturday of the month, students are evaluated for possible promotion.

On one Saturday, when I was unable to attend. My daughter captured her son in a wonderful moment. I need to give some background information here. Whenever a student demonstrates a strike, they must give what is called a kiai. Simply put, a kiai (KEY-eye) is that scream that you hear in the stereotypical martial arts film.  The word that they scream is “OSU!” (colloquially pronounced as “AHHSSSS!”). Again, teaching the meaning behind these words is another writing.

This particular Saturday involved teaching the students how to break a board. It is a special demonstration board with a seam in the middle. It is designed to be broken and re-assembled. Taelor approached the board, screamed “OSU!”, and with a swift left elbow strike, broke the board. He then immediately turned and smiled at his mother. You could even hear my daughter cheer: “WHOO HOOO!” I watched that video over and over again to view the technique and the Momma Factor that immediately followed. That big mile wide grin that silently asked: “Did you see that, Momma?” I’d rewind, press play then; OSU!…CRACK! WHOO-HOOOO!

At the end of the following month came belt evaluation where students are tested for possible promotion. At that point, Taelor – James (or “T’ as he is called in karate class), had earned several stripes on his current belt and was testing to advance to the next belt. The sensei (teacher) announced that my grandson would be advancing to the next belt. Each time such an announcement is made, the sensei asks the audience to clap for the student. My grandson clapped and then turned to face his mother (Did you see that, Momma?)

This past weekend, Taelor – James participated in his first karate tournament. He performed the basic techniques the judges requested and received a score. At the end of the tournament, he received a trophy. He took the trophy from the sensei then turned to face his mother (Did you see that, Momma?)

I tell you all of this to speak to Momma’s and Daddy’s across the world. Momma’s, pay attention to your children. There will be many moments when they will get a good grade report from school, take out the garbage without being asked, or received a trophy they worked hard to acquire.  Cherish these moments. Someday, whether you are there or not, they will land that great job, publish a book, or hold their newborn child (or grandchild). I guarantee you, in those moments, they will turn and give a look that asks: “Did you see that, Momma?” How do I know that? Because, I still do it. Daddy’s don’t take such individual connections personally. You have your special place in the child’s heart too. Besides, when your kid does something really cool, you will probably be looking to see if your Momma saw it too.

Blowing The Dust Off Of The Dog

Well, once again, I wind up having an inexcusable gap in my blog writing. I could rationalize some of it away but, at the end of it all, I simply wasn’t making time for my writing. As I begin to think about it, there a few things that fell to the wayside. Along with my writing, several aspects of my fitness journey got put on the back burner. Maybe I should address some of these things that I have placed on the proverbial shelf. To quote the poet, Eugene Field, what “little toy dog” have allowed to be “covered with dust”, ever available and waiting to be engaged?

Since my fitness journey covers more than one activity, I suppose I should speak to that first. Why did I allow a growing regiment of exercise, which included regular bicycle riding and a daily routine of formal karate exercise, come to a grinding halt? Was it due to recovering from a fractured ankle? That’s part of it, yes. The physical therapy and recovery was painful and exhausting. The overwhelming part was getting too caught up in the fact that the fitness routine became noticeably harder to accomplish at the same than prior to my injury. For many people, when things get hard (or harder than one is accustomed), it becomes a strong temptation to simply avoid it. When a fitness routine gets avoided, you become more fatigued, less energetic, less enthused. This leads to a vicious circle of excuses versus results. I became very tired which lead me to avoid the exercise (which would have progressively allowed me to do more exercise over time). What was once a daily routine of doing several levels of fundamental karate exercise lead to being unable to recall or complete a SINGLE kata (formal exercise). It happened because I LET IT HAPPEN! The same can be said for the bicycle riding. I avoided the indoor bicycle training during the winter months for all of the aforementioned reasons. The eventual result was that, when I did an outdoor ride for the first time, a 3 mile ride took a lot out of me. That’s rough considering that I have logged more than 15 miles in a single ride previously.

Still, inspiration can sometimes come from the observation of those around you. For example, this past week, my wife rode that same three mile route on her bicycle alone. For that one day, she did not allow her daily aches or pains stop her. She did three miles knowing that it can lead to 10, 20, 30, or more some day. The other source of inspiration came from my 5 year old grandson, Taelor-James (aka The Mighty Warrior). Taelor-James recently began taking karate lessons at a local dojo. His  lessons involve some basic movements (kihon), some calisthenics, and applied concepts of obedience and respect. The issues of obedience and respect are crucial. Taelor-James is being held accountable for his behavior outside of the dojo. He was even once even denied advancement due to a behavioral issue that was occurring at home and at school. The sensei (teacher) kept in touch with Taelor in between training days to monitor his behavior. This all leads back to this morning when Taelor-James was being evaluated for advancement along with his fellow karate-ka (students).

After testing Taelor-James on some of the previously mentioned basics, the sensei addressed each student individually (in front of the other students and observing families). Taelor-James was among the last of the students to be addressed. I had begin to wonder if this was due to another potential denial in advancement. The sensei looked my grandson in the eyes and asked him: “Did you have a good day yesterday?” Taelor-James shook his head and said: “Yes, sensei.” The sensei then said that she was happy to advance Taelor-James to receive his first orange stripe and first yellow stripe for his belt. Taelor-James posed for pictures with the other karate-ka while making sure to show his newly striped belt for the cameras.

The inspiration behind my grandson’s belt advancement is simple to explain. Taelor-James is being taught that his lessons in karate-do (“the way of the empty hand”) extend beyond his visits to the dojo. He works on the principles of obedience and respect DAILY. Some days, he fails. He doesn’t let that stop him from starting with it fresh the next day. He does the best as he know how to correct and strengthen his behavior and skill. Why? Because, he knows that each day he works at it gets him closer to a reward. As Master Gichin Funakoshi said: “Each to his own ability”. Taelor-James has worked each day to improve upon the previous day.

As the evaluation ended and we all left the dojo, I hugged my grandson and told him I loved him. I, then, got into my car and drove home. The house was quiet and the weather was rainy. I took advantage of the solitude and retreated to the garage. I stood at an attention stance, bowed, and then began working on a first level kata. After several attempts, I was only able to do 8 steps of a 20 step kata. That’s OK. Tomorrow will be better. Some day, I may even be as good as my 5 year old grandson. I just have to remember, the exercise is always there for me to engage. The “little toy dog” is always there for me as “sturdy and staunch” as ever. I just have to blow off the dust. I’m glad I did and I have a young Mighty Warrior to thank for it.

Ring, Ring, Go Away!

First of all, I’d like to apologize for the gap in my writing and publishing. The last piece pertained to my daughter, Brianna, getting married. Right around that same time, just over three months ago, I regained employment. I work an evening shift at a call center. I have two days a week off but they are not consecutive. This makes it a lot harder to budget my free time. In addition, I am getting ready to start a new venture with a longtime friend. I’ll keep you posted on that as it develops.

It was pointed out to me today that at least one person in the blogosphere enjoys reading my posts almost as much as I enjoy writing them. What’s even better is that I didn’t have to pay for that kind of endorsement. The true point is that I have missed writing. It offers me a chance to exercise my warped sense of humor while also allowing me to get things off my chest (be it good or bad). It is with that in mind; that I share the following.

I’m not really sure when it started. I know it has been at least a year. Like many stubborn adults, I ignored it for quite a while. Over time, it would get worse and harder to ignore (especially at night).

I suppose I should explain what “it” is. It is a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is when one has a persistent ringing sound in one or both of their ears. In my case, it is my right ear. To be specific, it is known as subjective tinnitus. That means that I am the only one that can hear the persistent sound.

How do I describe the sound? Well, first of all, I should clarify that the type of sound can vary from one tinnitus sufferer to another. In my case, it is a very high pitched and high frequency tone. For the audiophiles, I would estimate that the pitch is somewhere around 3 KHz. Imagine the ringing sound you would get if you stood close to an exploding firecracker or attended a loud music show. The difference is, with most people, that ringing sound is temporary. It goes away after some time passes for the ears to adjust to normal volumes. For me (and many others), the sound never goes away, it’s ALWAYS there.

When the ringing started getting worse for me, I would start to obsess over what may have caused it. After all, in the past 15 years, I have listened to a lot of loud music, worked the runway at an airport, had a brief (but mild) stroke, and suffered a nasty fall which resulted in a badly fractured ankle. Anyone of those things could have lead to the tinnitus. Then again, it may be none of those things. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I HAVE IT! It’s there ALL…THE …TIME.

Speaking of the end of the day, that is usually when I have the greatest struggle. I come home from work. I go upstairs to my room and watch some TV. Eventually, I am in my room. My wife is asleep. The TV is off. The room is completely silent except for…IT. The tinnitus is there and the ambient silence makes the tinnitus seem (no pun intended) deafening. Covering my ear with my hand or my pillow does nothing to resolve it.

So having seen an audiologist today, the question ultimately became: How do I treat this from here? Well, first of all, presently I am not looking at a need for a hearing aid. The biggest tool at my disposal is a technique called masking. Masking is the use of ambient sound that can drown out the frequency of the ringing. A running fan can be great but it is also getting to that time of the year in Western New York when a fan is less welcome. The ambient sound can be anything from ocean waves to a rain storm to certain types of music. I use music and audio tracks nearly  every night. This is especially helpful if the audio track is very familiar to me as I can partially (again pardon the pun) tune it out while still effectively masking the tinnitus.

I will follow up with the audiologist in six months as well as keeping my primary care doctor up to date with the issue. I shared this all with you for three primary reasons (some of which I have already stated). First, I was inspired and reminded by a friend that I needed to write again as there are readers who get something out of it. Thank you, Dorothy. You know who you are. Secondly, it gets back to catharsis and mentally processing what is going on with me. Thirdly, I know I am not alone with this. It would be very easy for me to cite a musician who has been subjected to an “occupational hazard”. However, there are folks with everyday lives that deal with tinnitus every day. If this piece helps them to identify what they experience or helps them to explain it to others, I would be truly blessed.

Thank you for indulging me on this piece. I promise I will write more in the future on whatever subject leads me in the moment.

Warts and All

[Note: My younger daughter, Brianna, who is often identified as my LYE (Lovely Young Editor), was married on 5 August 2017. For those not aware, this means I now have two sons in-law named Michael.Below is the speech I delivered to Brianna and her husband Michael.]

First of all, I would like to thank EVERYONE who came today to celebrate this wonderful event; as well as those who are with us in spirit today. As you celebrate the event with us today, WE celebrate YOU!

It would be VERY cliché for me to say that it has taken me nearly 26 years to get to this point today. The truth is, this is not my first wedding rodeo. In 2004, I had the privilege of attending a wedding where my daughter, Shayna, was a bridesmaid. My heart was in my throat. It was not because the bride was so beautiful; Although, she certainly was (and still is). [By pure happenstance, I was facing said bride when I said that.] But more because, when I saw Shayna walking down the aisle with a bouquet of flowers, I realized I was getting a preview of my future. Talk about a smack in the face moment. BAM!

Fast forward 8 years later. There I was; walking Shayna down the aisle. I KNEW that this event would repeat with Brianna. I just didn’t know WHEN (or with WHOM).

It has been said that, for a woman to meet her prince, she must kiss a lot of frogs. To that end, over the years, Brianna introduced me to a frog or two (in various stages of amphibian  development).As a typical Dad, most were regarded as mere tadpoles encroaching upon my pond. So, when young Mr. Graney leapt into my pond and shook my hand, I am sure he said something to the extent of: “It’s nice to meet you”. I’ll be honest, all I heard was: “RIBBIT!”

I gave him the usual round of Dad interview questions: Do you have a job? Do you have any kids? Do you have an arrest record? With each question, he would look at Brianna as if to ask: “Is he joking?” Brianna would stare back at Michael as if to say: “NO! He isn’t!”

While I DID pay attention to the way Michael behaved in my presence, what has stuck with me since I have met him was an incident I am not sure he knows I witnessed. He was visiting with Brianna at the house. My grandson,Taelor-James, was being a typical 2-year-old (at the time). By the time, Taelor-James went to bed it was clear by Brianna’s facial expressions that Taelor-James had challenged Brianna’s patience. My baby girl was WORN OUT by her baby boy. You could see it in her eyes and in her disheveled hair (that she was ready to tear out). As Brianna plopped onto the couch, Michael stared at her and said: “YOU look WONDERFUL!” With a simple, sincere compliment you could see Brianna’s stress simply melt away from her spirit. It became another hit you in the face moment. BAM! Those two young’uns are  IN LOVE. My daughter is in love… WITH A FROG.  And, the frog croaks his love in return. How deeply you ask? KNEE DEEP (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

It was clear as day that Brianna had found her prince. Not long after, the engagement ring came. Once again, I was hit in the face. BAM! My daughter is engaged to a man named MICHAEL. Déjà vu! As amusing as that coincidence, I know, beyond doubt that just like the Michael that came before him, he would move Heaven and Earth for my daughter. Even MORE important his bond with my grandson is nothing short of awesome.

Michael, forget that you have been blessed with a tremendous gift that comes in a bundle: Brianna and Taelor-James. That gift comes not from me but, from God Himself. I know that you won’t squander that gift (lest you get thrown back into the pond.

Brianna, when you were just about a year old, you were in the hospital at a time when you were just learning to walk. One day in the hospital, you walked right into my arms and hugged me tightly. Today, I walked you toward the arms of your prince. Since that day in the hospital, I knew that I was eventually going to have to let you go. It’s not as easy as I have made it look.

I’m not sure you two understand the magnitude of what has transpired today. Someday though, mark my words, it will hit you in the face. BAM!

Michael, welcome to the family pond. You are now part of a bigger circle – WARTS AND ALL!

Congratulations and blessings to the two of you.

 

Cube Farm Fever Part II: The Wild of the Call

Hi, folks! It’s great to be talking to you again (or typing to you…you know what I mean). It’s been a wild 12 months. I have faced the loss of several loved ones. I have endured the ordeal of fixing a fractured ankle. On top of all of that, I have also returned to the work force (as of about a month ago). That has been a very welcome change. It finally gave my wife the opportunity to try to reshape the large gluteal impression in our couch. Plus, if nothing else, it gets me out of the house for a few hours. To be honest, I think even the cats were getting sick of me. Apparently, those months I spent hobbling around the house with an orange cast and a walker was somehow upsetting their routine of sleeping, eating, and fighting one another.

The new job places me back into a familiar environment: the call center. This is an environment in which I have worked several times over the last 8 years or so. Once I worked as a “professional fundraiser” for a non-profit organization. It paid bills for a short while but I hated being that guy that called someone as they were having spaghetti with their kids. Fortunately, the bulk of my call center experience has been in customer support. I have supported a variety of customer types ranging from end users (your average Joe consumer) to corporate officers and system administrators. I have also have the privilege of getting to known who have done call center support for other product types than I have. I have come to discover that, no matter what the product is being supported and no matter what customer type is involved, you basically deal with the same thing – people.

Now, when you are dealing with customer support (especially in a call center), you have to develop somewhat of a thick skin. Why is that? Think about it for a moment. Remember that time you had to make a call to dispute a bill you got in the mail? What about the call you had to make to return an item you ordered over the Internet? You know what I am talking about, don’t you? That time when you made that call and you may have not been the biggest ray of sunshine to the support agent on the other end of the phone; how did you treat the agent (or his superior when you decided to take it up a notch)?

Now, imagine being on the other end of that conversation. When the customer is having a bad experience, you get labeled as anything from “YOU PEOPLE!” to things I won’t repeat here (after all, this is a family show). It’s the job of the support agent (such as myself) to turn that experience around for the caller. More often than not, my fellow call center agents and I are able to resolve the issue at hand. Still, you have to endure the beatdown to get to that point and, sometimes, even when you resolve the issue, the customer still hates you because you are the focal point of their stress. Getting a few of those over the course of a shift can be stressful especially when the calls come one right after the other (and they typically do).

The good news is that there IS another extreme. There is also a significant number of callers who think you are a hero. You have seemingly made their day. These customers not only thank you for your work. They praise you to the ceiling (and sometimes even to your superiors). Once I had a customer who called with an issue. After I helped to resolve the issue, he emphatically thanked me. He said that I made his life easier. He then explained this his girlfriend of 25 years passed away suddenly several months previously. The day he called me with his issue, he was having a harder than usual time dealing with the grief and my help made him feel better. That call made me feel like the king of the call support world. That’s an even higher position that what Leonardo Di-What’sHisName achieved in that movie where he overacted (I know. Which one?)

Now this range of experiences can induce a different strain of what I previous identified as Cube Farm Fever. I call this strain The Wild of The Call (WoTC). The different extremes tend to tug you in a variety of directions. When you clock out, you are exhausted and drained. How does one combat this malaise that sometimes comes on a nightly basis? Well, for me, my approach comes from several angles. One is the fact that I was unemployed for nearly 11 months. The most stressful job in the world is better than unemployment. Besides, it’s hardly my most stressful job in my adult life. Another part of it comes from the blessing of having raised children to adulthood. Just like customer support, sometimes you are “YOU PEOPLE”. Sometimes, you are the hero. Just like customer support, those extremes can happen in the same day. The other approach that I take comes from my friend (who is also my karate instructor). Many days, when he knows I am stressed about (insert subject here), he tells me: “STOP! BREATHE! ACCEPT! ADAPT AND MOVE FORWARD!” The other karate-related philosophy is that the goal of any given day is to improve upon the previous day.  That helps stave off the WoTC in most cases.

Having said all that, the next time you have to call customer support for something: try to go a bit easy on them. You are talking to a human being. You’ll feel better for it (trust me). Also, fill out those surveys. If your experience was good or bad, your input has great potential to make an impact in the future. Thanks for reading this today. My name is Shane. Have a great day. (Whoa! The effects of WoTC must still be hanging on after my day off).

Butter Bean Grows In A New Garden

Those of you who have read my previous writings are quite aware of the fact that I am the happy grandfather of a young mighty warrior named Taelor-James. Those of you reading this as your first sample of my writing can find several previous pieces (such as The Arrival of a Mighty Warrior) to get further context into the apple of my eye that I simply address as “Butter Bean”.

I will also provide a little bit of context here so that the feelings I have about Butter Bean can be better understood and appreciated. First of all, I ask that you forgive me if I use the names Taelor, Taelor-James, Mighty Warrior, or Butter Bean rather freely and interchangeably as they are all one and the same. Taelor entered the world (and our hearts) on a Sunday morning in 2012. He came into the world pink, crying, and breathing. One eye blink later, he was suddenly doing none of those things and had to be resuscitated. It was a frightening and traumatic ordeal but the little mighty warrior recovered quickly.

Some brain damage was detected that resulted from the problematic birth. As a result, Taelor had some developmental delays. For example, He was late to start speaking compared to other kids in his age group (1-2 years at the time). In order to teach him to communicate, we taught him some simple gestures in ASL (American Sign Language). Like most boys, his communications typically revolved around food consumption. He learned to sign phrases like “more”, “please”, and “thank you”.  One day, as we were all sitting outside at my patio table. I had been working every day on teaching the word “Mommy” to Taelor in ASL. With your outstretched right hand, you touch your right thumb to your chin. For days on end, I would say Mommy and put my thumb on my chin. Butter Bean would not mimic the sign. We would all joke that he was not interested as it didn’t revolve around food. That afternoon on the back patio, I looked at Taelor while speaking and signing the word “Mommy”. Taelor pointed to his Mommy and placed his thumb on his chin. We all rejoiced and celebrated this accomplishment.

As Taelor began to speak more words (as opposed to signing them), we dispensed with the use of ASL in order to encourage speech development. At around the age of three, Butter Bean would display an interesting tendency. At the time, Taelor and his mother, Brianna, were living with us (along with her fiancée, Mike) as well as my younger son, Caleb. Taelor did very well with identifying his mother and grandparents. Mommy, Nay Nay, and Pop Pop came to him rather easily. One day, I was standing in the kitchen holding Taelor in my arms. My son went to the refrigerator to get a drink. Without provocation, Taelor pointed to him and said “Caleb” as clear as a bell. When I tried to get him to repeat it, he wouldn’t say it. This became a running theme of Taelor saying new words but would not repeat them when asked. He apparently didn’t like to be put on display. That’s OK, his Uncle Caleb was the same way (and still is).

In 2016, as Taelor was approaching four years old, the family faced a huge transition as Brianna, Taelor, and Mike moved into their own apartment. This was a huge adjustment for all of us. Taelor had lived with my wife and me since he was born and was now not going to be (quite as much) a part of our daily lives. Fortunately, they did not live far away at all. Additionally, we would converse frequently by phone or video chat.

There was another saving grace during this time period. Taelor was enrolled in pre-school. Around the same time of his enrollment, I was laid off from my job after 7 years.  As a result, I got the opportunity to drive Butter Bean back and forth to pre-school. Since it was only a 2.5 hour span, I would arrange any job interviews around it. The hardest part of this arrangement came when I suffered an ankle fracture in January 2017. This sidelined me from driving anywhere for about 3.5 months as I could not bear any weight on my right foot during that time. As soon as I was cleared and comfortable with driving again, Butter Bean and I were back at our morning routine.

These morning routines were something Taelor and I looked forward to immensely. I’d go to his apartment and have a cup of coffee with Brianna while Taelor finished breakfast.  After breakfast, Taelor would get his book bag and say: “It’s time to leave the BatCave and go on a mission.” He would make it clear that my Ford Focus was the Batmobile ONLY when he was in it. Otherwise, it was Pop Pop’s car. That made it pretty clear which one of us was Batman.

Yesterday was his final day at pre-school. Next year, he will start kindergarten and be bussed to school. I think it’s wonderful. Kindergarten basically translates as garden of children. What better place could there be for a healthy, developing Butter Bean?

Landing On Your Feet: Part III–The Journey of 1000 Hops

I had rested as decently as possible after getting settled in my hospital room. It certainly didn’t hurt to be getting pain medication every two hours. While the morphine did help me to be a bit more relaxed. I must be honest. It was (thankfully) not the experience I was expecting. I did not get visions of the Moody Blues playing Knights in White Satin at the edge of my hospital bed. Actually, if they had shown up, I would have requested Gemini Dreams. I really like that song.

Although several hours has passed since I had awakened for the day, the time seemed to just fly by as I briefly conversed with my wife, Renee. I even got to see our daughter, Brianna, and my grandson, Taelor. Finally, it came to the point where I was being transported to a pre-surgical area. This, of course, lead to a bunch of people addressing me by my first name: Patrick. I prefer to be address by my middle name (Shane). Just look for a piece called Sometimes The Middle Comes First. I won’t belabor the issue here other than to say I sometimes pause when people address me as Patrick as I assume they are addressing someone else.

Once I got to the pre-surgical room, I was met by a cadre of doctors and nurses. There was concern that my IV was not wide enough for surgical purposes. I understood this dilemma (having worked in a hospital previously). However, when it took at least FOUR attempts to make this happen with an 18 gauge needle, my understanding began to waver a bit. After this, came the anesthesiologist (or as I affectionately call him, the gas passer). He would ask me several questions about allergies and had me open my mouth very wide to size me up for the tube he would jam, I mean gently administer, down my throat for surgery once I was under anesthesia.

This is when more fun and discomfort began – the nerve block. In addition to general anesthesia, they were injecting a numbing agent to numb my right leg from the knee down. Given that these injections were in the crook of my right knee, I have to say the doctor did a great job of minimizing the discomfort of such an ordeal.

The surgeon who would be performing my ankle repair introduced herself. Actually, her title is traumatologist. She got 50 points of cool on her title alone. Several people told me I was very blessed to be coming in during her rotation. Such endorsements helped ease my mind a bit.

Next, I was brought into the operating room. From my supine perspective, the room seemed huge. It was the usual team of doctor’s and nurses in scrubs, hair covers and masks. At the opposite edge of the room was a HUGE screen that displayed my x-rays from when I was in the emergency room. This also eased my mind to see such a large frame of reference of my ankle anatomy. They put some anesthesia into my IV line. I knew it was just a matter of time before I was out for the count.

I should qualify something here. The last time I had undergo a surgery under general anesthesia. I was barely two years old. As a result, I have very little memory. My wife and kids have all had several surgeries over the years. I felt like a babe in the woods. Plus, I had to put aside my fascination with surgery and just let the folks do their jobs. So I lay there in silence and only spoke if a response was needed.

It was around this time that someone put an air mask over my nose and mouth. It was the only time through the ordeal that I felt apprehensive as it felt a bit claustrophobic. I could remember saying, mentally, to myself: It’s OK. The mask needs to be there. Trust them. God’s got them and you by the hand.

I can remember slowly opening my eyes some time after the mask was put on my face. I heard a woman’s voice: “Patrick? Patrick?” Oh, yeah! She’s talking to me. Hi, I said. “Hi, Patrick. You’re in post anesthesia. Your surgery went fine.” I asked her: Does my wife know I’m OK? “Yes. She’ll be waiting for you back on the patient floor. You just need to wake up a bit more.” Thank you, Ma’am. “You’re welcome, Patrick. How do you feel?” My throat’s a bit irritated by I assume that’s from the tube that was in my throat (I was correct).

Before you know it, I was back in my room and my wife was waiting for me. The other awesome part was that the nerve block in my right leg was still quite active. This meant my entire right leg was pain free for the first time since before my fall. SWEEEEEEET!

After Renee and Brianna had gone home for the night. I was starting to get hungry. Then came the snafu. The doctor on call for my patient forgot to put me back onto a regular diet. This meant the cafeteria was not bringing me anything. The nurse heated up some vegetable soup and brought me some crackers, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and some ginger ale. In that moment, it was the best meal in the world. I even told the nurse the soup was just like the soup my Mom used to reheat. She knew me well enough to know my sense of humor.

The next morning,  I was informed by the doctor’s that I may be ready to go home. I had to get a visit from physical therapy and occupational therapy and be cleared by both. Occupational therapy went well. Physical therapy on the other hand was less stellar on my first day. I had to practice with my walker which included doing an upward step onto a ledge (like the threshold of a doorway). I did somewhat well enough with that. Unfortunately, making my way back into my room and back into my bed was a bit too awkward for the technician’s (well intended)

satisfaction. She decided to delay my discharge by a day.

The following day, I passed my PT obstacle course and prepared for discharge. I would come to find out that my journey of 1000 steps was just beginning (on only good leg).

Landing On Your Feet: Part II–Food Is Just a Thought

I had been diligently placed into the back of an ambulance. My wife, Renee, and I advised them of our preferred hospital. Brianna was borrowing our car but would remain on call for Renee and me if transport was needed later. For a brief period of time, Brianna was driving directly behind the ambulance. Brianna’s fiancée, Michael, and her son, Taelor were riding in the car with her. As they rode behind us, Taelor made an observation with his brilliant 4 year old mind. “Mommy?” “What, Taelor?” “Pop Pop needs to get a bigger car.” “Why is that?” “Because I can’t see Pop Pop inside the ambulance. This car is TOO SMALL.” How can you NOT love such logic.

As Renee and I rode toward the hospital,  the EMT was chatting us up. He mentioned that we were very fortunate that my injury did not happen the previous night. The reason why is that there was a nasty snowstorm. The weather conditions would not have allowed me to choose my hospital. They would have had no choice but to take me to the nearest one. Given that the nearest hospital to my house would have been very undesirable, I appreciated his perspective.

We soon arrived at the hospital. I was placed in a chair with my right foot propped up while I waited for a doctor to assess me. This gave me time to think about my fall more than I should have, perhaps. My mind could see my foot slip. I could even see my right foot as it was tucked underneath my body and was between my body and the stairs upon impact. I could envision the separation of the bones in my ankle. My mind was like an episode of CSI: Miami except there was no music by The Who and David Caruso was not putting on his sunglasses at the bottom of the stairs. I did, however, do a GREAT Roger Daltrey upon impact: YEOWWWWWWWWWW!!!!

A doctor came and assessed me. The next step was x-rays. I asked the doctor if I could have something to eat as I had not eaten in quite a few hours. They said they would find me something to eat after the X-rays. No sooner did the doctor say that and a transporter was there to take me to radiology.

I got in to the x-ray room and the x-ray technician helped me hobble onto the exam table. She was as gentle as she could possible be to get her job done.  She had to x-ray my injured foot from several angles which required some very uncomfortable positioning. In all of this, I could not help but be fascinated by the way that x-ray technology has advanced over the years. There was no waiting for the films to be developed. It was all digital. The doctor was even able to tell the x-ray technician that he needed an x-ray re-taken while I was still in the room. My fascination helped me take the focus off of my discomfort.

I was transported back into the emergency room where Renee was waiting. Not long after my return, the doctor came to talk to me. It was official. I had broken my tibia and fibula (my front and rear leg bones) on my right leg where it meets my ankle. I also had some bone separation around my ankle bones. I was a month away from turning 51 and this was my first fracture. Go big or go home, right? I was being transported to a bed in the emergency room and waiting to be seen by an orthopedic specialist. When I got to my bed, I, once again, asked for something to eat. The nurse told me she would reach out to dietary since my X-rays were done.

The orthopedic specialist arrived and introduced himself. He also explained the detail of how badly I had broken my ankle. He also told Renee and me that it would require surgery to correct. Furthermore, I was looking at approximately 10 weeks total of rehabilitation and recovery. THAT was a hard blow. I had a phone interview scheduled for the following morning and was planning to attend a job fair later in the week. I was suddenly becoming an emotional wreck. Renee held my hand, looked me in the eyes, and told me plainly: “It’s going to be okay”. I felt like I HAD to trust her faith. Besides, the matter was out of my control. I had little choice but to accept what was in front of me. Admittedly, this was a role reversal. It was usually Renee in the hospital bed and me trying to provide the reassurance. Still, holding Renee’s hand and looking in her eyes is always a good vantage point for me.

The orthopedic specialist told me he was going to apply a temporary cast and I would be scheduled for surgery the following day. He also told me that as he would be applying the cast, he would be resetting the fractured bone. This would require a local anesthetic to be injected into my ankle to block the pain while he was resetting the bones. I KNEW that injecting the local anesthetic was going to be painful and unpleasant. I just was not prepared for HOW painful and unpleasant.  I held Renee’s hand and closed my eyes. Then came the injection. II, once again, channeled Roger Daltrey: YEOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! I should stipulate that the orthopedic specialist was probably unaware of the fact that his poor dear mother was (allegedly) a victim of a rotting snakebite and was (allegedly) involved in the theft of horses. Nevertheless, when he injected that needle into my ankle, I let him know those (alleged) facts and a few other (alleged) things about his mother that he was likely unaware.

When the local anesthetic began to kick in, numbing my leg, the doctor began to apply the casting material to my right leg. The casting material was very warm and comforting. ON top of that, when the orthopedic specialist was manipulating my bones, my leg started to feel more…right. It felt almost like the sensation one gets from cracking knuckles. Don’t get me wrong. It still hurt…A LOT. But it also hurt A LOT less than when I first got there.

When the orthopedic specialist finished with my leg, I tried to relax for a moment and hope (once again) for some food. It was at this point that Brianna reached out to me. She had spoken to my younger son, Caleb, and he was VERY upset. In Caleb’s mind, I fell because I was in a rush to get outside to help him shovel the driveway. He felt responsible for my injury. I called Caleb right away to speak to him. You could feel his emotion through the phone line. I spoke to him and reassured him that my fall was nothing more and nothing less than an accident. It was not his fault. It was beyond his control and mine. I told him I would be OK and I would see him soon and we got off the phone.

My nurse came and I hoped it would be good news about some food. NOPE! Instead, she informed me that I was being transported to a patient room in the hospital to await my surgery the next day. This meant my food got delayed (AGAIN) until I was in my patient room. Since I was waking from a nap just before I fell, I was going on nearly 12 hours since I had last eaten. I was getting a bit irritable about the issue.

I got up to my new (semi-private) room and even got to see and hug Brianna and Caleb for a couple of minutes as they had come to pick up Renee and take her home. I kissed my wife goodnight and got used to my new surroundings. I met with my new nurse and came short of begging for some food. The nurse said she would try but it was getting close to midnight and midnight was when my stomach turned into a proverbial pumpkin to prepare for my surgery.

For the first time since I had fallen, I had a moment to myself. I was able to just breathe in and breathe out and try to process everything. I was miserable. Fortunately, the misery was short lived. My nurse came with a tray of hot food. Even better, she had pain medicine for me. Life wasn’t great but it was better for the moment.

Landing On Your Feet: Part I – Hi Froggy!

Life is nothing without having the occasional monkey wrench thrown into the works that forces you to bring your routine to a grinding halt and completely restructure your daily routine as well as any plans you might have for the near future. My life has recently faced such a mighty monkey wrench (plumber’s crack and all). However, I feel that I must back track a couple of years with a story to provide a bit more background and context.

A couple of years ago, it was a Sunday morning pretty much like any other. My wife was out running errands. My younger daughter, Brianna, was meandering around in the front yard. My grandson, Taelor, was spending the weekend with his father. Brianna was spending some time to herself before Taelor came home later that day. Given all of these factors, the house was QUIET!

I did a few routine tasks on my laptop which is located upstairs and proceeded to make my way downstairs. I got about two steps down and one of my feet slipped. In an effort to break my fall, I wound up sliding down the stairs face down, all the way to the bottom. Imagine a baseball player sliding down a ski slope into home plate and you get the idea.

First of all, let me assure you (as I know you are nervously reaching for your popcorn). I was not injured at all in this fall. Still, I made this slipping, sliding, thumping fall and no one was inside the house to be aware of it. As a matter of fact, Brianna was just outside the dining room window in the front yard. She was completely oblivious to my fall (or anything else going on inside the house). Instead, she shouted: “HI, FROGGY!” She had just seen a little baby frog outside in the front yard. The frog brought a big smile to her face.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful that I wasn’t injured that day. Still, there was a small, vain part of me that couldn’t get past the idea that I had fallen and no one was aware. There was no slip…..sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide…thump…thump…THUMP to be immediately followed by ANYONE saying: OMIGOSH!!!! ARE YOU OK? Instead, what I got was a slip…..sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide…thump…thump…THUMP…HI FROGGY! Like I said, it’s a bit vain and it actually got to be a bit of a running joke between Brianna and me since that day.

Fast forward a couple of years later, I hadn’t been feeling well so I took a nap. I told my wife and my son, Caleb, that I would be up later to help shovel the driveway as there was some small accumulation in the driveway. Several hours later, I awoke to look at my clock. I had overslept about an hour past my intended time to get up and help Caleb shovel the driveway.

I made my way to my office to text back and forth with a former colleague. I had peeked out the window to see that Caleb was already outside and shoveling the driveway on his own. I told my online colleague that I needed to step away from the computer. The last thing I typed to her was “Snow shovel beckons”.

I started to make my way down the stairs. Around the second step down, one of my feet slipped (YES, I notice a pattern too). My right foot curled underneath as I was falling and wound up being between my 300-ish pound body and the stairs upon impact. The pain upon impact was excruciating. I yelled so loudly that several production workers at the local factory mistakenly clocked out for the day.

Since my right foot was curled underneath my body, I had less friction to slow or break my fall. In the brief few seconds before I got to the bottom of the stairs, I was really worried that my momentum was going to slingshot me head first into the front door. Fortunately, such a slapstick outcome did not occur.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I pulled my right leg out from underneath my body. I decided to try and put just a teensy weensy amount of weight onto my right foot. NOPE! The end result of that was another scream that sounded like James Brown portraying a Klingon. Workers at the local factory were frustrated and confused by the second alarm and were now threatening to strike.

My wife was in the living room and came running into the dining room when she heard all the thumping and screaming. OMIGOSH! ARE YOU OK? (Yes, she said it). When she asked me if I hurt. I could only get out: MY ANKLE!!!!!

My wife had me hop into a nearby chair and removed the shoe and sock on my right foot. The swelling had already begun. Renee called Brianna and explained that I had fallen and needed help getting me into the car. Since, I had a mild stroke in 2015. Brianna decided it would be wiser to call an ambulance (which she did). It seemed like it was no sooner that Renee got off the phone with Brianna that Brianna was coming through the front door. All while this was happening, Caleb was outside, still shoveling the driveway and unaware that I was hurt.

Brianna came into the house and explained that she had already called an ambulance. Renee and I weren’t exactly enthused about that at the time but Brianna made the right call. There was too much risk of further injury if we tried transporting me in our Ford Focus.

Brianna walked over and tried to comfort me. I simply could not stop myself. I looked my daughter in the eyes and said: “HI, FROGGY!” It was less than a minute later (or so it seemed) that the ambulance was pulling into my driveway. Next thing you know, I am making my way onto a gurney. For the second time in less than two years, my grandson is watching ambulance doors close with me in the back.

The (mis)adventure would continue as I got to the hospital.