Category Archives: My Growth

It Wasn’t Until Last Night That I Knew

Ubi_Face

By now, if you have read my earlier postings, you have met Ubi, and you know that he is a Cavachon.  You also know that a Cavachon is the lucky offspring of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and a Bichon Frise.  I say lucky because, well, just look at him.  Look into his eyes.  My neighbor gets credit for this picture.  She dropped her keys and he started to eat them, but she got him to look up at her long enough to capture one of the best photos of him to date.  Every time I look at it, and look at those eyes, tears come to mine.

I am so blessed to have this guy in my life.  He is teaching me so much about patience, tolerance and understanding.  So far he has gone through several USB chargers for my phone, and two power supplies for my Microsoft Surface Pro 4 at $80 a piece.  He has destroyed several of his toys in an explosion of fluff.  He has peed and pooped all over the area rug and hardwood floor in my living room, but that’s ok.  I purchased the rug just for him.  It’s made of polypropylene.  And yes, I can’t find half of my socks.  I’m sure they will turn up somewhere one I find his hiding place.

I tried letting him sleep in bed with me, and at first that worked out just fine.  But then he decided it was more fun to kiss me than go to sleep.  I don’t mind him kissing me, but not when I’m trying to fall asleep.  So now I’m putting him in his crate by my bed until he is a little older and learns that when the lights go out it’s time for bed.

As you know, Ubi broke his leg.  He healed spectacularly.  To watch him run is a wonderful sight.  He is so fast.  We are in puppy class right now, and he is the smallest puppy in the room by far, but he doesn’t care.  During play time he plays with the bigger boys and girls and loves it when he can get them to chase him.

So what is it that I didn’t know until last night?  Well another neighbor was over with her dog, and Ubi was playing with her and the other dog, and me.  Ubi is so friendly to everyone.  He loves it when people visit.  He runs up to them with so much enthusiasm.  He is just so irresistible.  I’m very happy about this.  I want a dog that people don’t have to be afraid of when the come in to my home.  I really hope he stays this way.  But there’s also a part of me that wants him to be attached to me more so than others.  I want him to know that I am his caretaker, and that I am, well, his Daddy.  But I figured, if he is friendly with everyone, I guess that’s good enough.  At least I don’t have to worry about him biting anyone.

But last night something happened and I knew.  While we were playing, with my neighbor there, and the other dog there, and new bully sticks that the dogs were chewing on, I had to go upstairs to make sure the doors were closed, so the dogs didn’t get into anything up there.  So I go upstairs, and I’m closing the doors, and I turn around, and there was Ubi.  No bully stick, neighbor and other dog downstairs, but there he was, looking up at me, seemingly with relief that I didn’t leave the house through some hidden exit in my bedroom.  What did I know?  I think you know what I knew.

Ubi Has A Peg Leg

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It was 4:00 am this past Wednesday night.  Just like the past 3 nights, Ubi was sleeping with me on the couch.  I felt this was safe because my couch is so low to the ground.  The highest point is no more than 2 feet above the ground.  Unlike the past 3 nights, at 4:00 am I woke up to a thud, and then loud screeching.  “Oh no!  Ubi!”, I cried out loud.

I got up and turned on the light and picked him up.  He was shaking violently and yelping.  I comforted him as best I could, stroking him, as he looked up at me with those all too expressive eyes.  I knew he was in severe pain.

Eventually he stopped shaking and squealing though, and I put him on the ground to see if he was limping.  He wasn’t putting any weight on his right rear leg.  He limped over to his crate, stepped inside, and lied down and went to sleep.  I closed the door to his crate, and decided to wait until morning to take him to the vet since he wasn’t complaining anymore and he was resting.

The next morning I called the vet at 7:00 am, right when they opened, and they got me an appointment at 9:00 am.  An x-ray showed a broken tibia in his right rear leg.  I felt so bad.  I felt like I used very poor judgement and I could never forgive myself.

The picture above was from when I picked him up from the vet a little bit later.  You can tell he’s frowning.  My frown is fake, but inside it wasn’t.  I told the vet tech that I just felt horrible.  She reminded me that I’ve never had a puppy before, and sometimes lessons have to be learned the hard way.  She said that she had no hesitation sending him home with me because she and everyone else there knew that I would do right by him.

It turns out that Ubi doesn’t need his cone collar because he can get to the bandage anyway.  A friend at work had a good idea, which was to spray Bitter Apple on it.  Today I am having to slow Ubi down because he doesn’t appear to be in any pain, and he’s flying around my condo like nothing happened.  He has definitely learned how to use his peg leg, and it doesn’t deter him from playing.  It pains me to stop him and slow him down because I know he has a ton of energy and he just wants to play, but the more he puts weight on the peg leg, the longer it will take to heal.

So I’ve learned a big lesson, and as I finish this up with Ubi at my feet barking at me to play with him, all I can think about is that this could have been much worse.  Everyone tells me that he will heal quickly because he is a puppy.  I’m looking forward to the day when he gets the bandage off and is released from bondage.  In the meantime, I will consider this to be a character building exercise.  Not for Ubi, but for me.

Rediscovering Ramen Noodles and Macaroni and Cheese

Being unemployed is very humbling, but it’s teaching me a lot about budgeting, and keeping my expenses in check.  I’ve had to cut way back in a lot of areas.  No vacation to Africa this year.  No more delivery pizza or Chinese food.  No more steak dinners at Outback.  Regular gas for me, even though my car performs better on premium.  I can survive turning the thermostat up a couple of degrees, even though I might sweat a little bit more.  Maybe I don’t need the water to be so hot in the shower, and the shower doesn’t need to be so long.  Generic prescriptions at Walmart are cheaper than the Giant Food or Rite Aid which are far more convenient.  Water out of the tap is just fine.  Bottled water is a luxury I just can’t afford right now.  Do I really need to rent a movie on Vudu for $5.99 or should I just watch one on Netflix which only costs me $8.00 per month.  Oh, and I certainly can’t forget about the Ramen Noodles and Macaroni and Cheese.

88 cents for 6 packs of Ramen noodles.  Can’t beat that price.  I can mix that with some pre-sliced chicken breast, and some spinach and mushrooms, and maybe some canned pees of black beans.  I don’t use the nasty flavor packets.  Just the plain noodles mixed with just about anything.  Macaroni and cheese mixed with some of these things are good too.  It’s amazing what you can discover, or in this case rediscover in the grocery store that is so inexpensive, and yet still very tasty.

What hurts me though is having to cut back on pet food as well.  No more Blue Buffalo.  There are other good foods that are not as expensive.  I asked the vet for advice on that one and other ways I could save.  The vet is being very nice and allowing me to email her when there is a problem to see if the problem can be resolved with free advice.  She is also giving me free supplements which my dog needs in her old age when she has them available.

I have a job interview on Monday.  I’m not going to try to predict how that will turn out, but even if I get the job and I wind up keeping it for a while, I’m still actually going to be grateful for this time in my life.  I’m learning once again how to be thrifty.  After all, there once was a time when I was making far less than I was making when I got laid off and I figured out how to survive.  In fact, I was living on less when my mortgage was higher, and I had a car payment which I don’t have right now.  I must have just forgotten about this time in my life at some point, but somehow I figured out a way to pay all of my bills, and eat and take care of pets on much less that I was making.  To find my way back to that time, I had to ask for help and wound up speaking with a financial counselor.  She helped me get my priorities straight, and figure out how to pay all of my bills, and still keep some money aside for an emergency.  My Dad helped me find this free service.  It’s amazing what happens when you ask for help.

Yeah, I think I’m going to be eating Ramen noodles and Macaroni and Cheese even after I get a job.  I’m learning some valuable lessons here about the importance of saving as much as you can for a rainy day or week or month or year.  I was saving money, but I could have been saving more just by making a few simple changes.  Maybe that’s why this happened.  Maybe this happened to teach me some humility and gratitude.  Maybe this happened so that I don’t take a job for granted.  Maybe this happened to help me to realize just how much I can tolerate and still have a positive attitude.  Everything happens for a reason.  I’ll never forget this time in my life, that’s for sure.  I can only control so much of what happens in my life.  Eating Ramen noodes and Macaroni and Cheese is certainly something that is under my control.

The Road To Gratitude

So it’s almost 10:00 on a Tuesday evening, and I’m not tired yet.  I don’t want to watch TV.  I don’t really have anything to do, hmmm…  Oh!  I haven’t written in my blog in a while.

I haven’t really been doing much of anything lately to be honest with you.  When some stuff happened in my life, I crawled into a shell, and ultimately wound up extremely depressed.

Now first, I want to warn you, because I’m about to talk about God.  Not the traditional God that many people think of.  I’m not a Christian, and even though I’m Jewish I still don’t believe that Jewish parts of the Bible are meant to be taken literally.  I’m not even talking about an all powerful, omnicient being, that guides our every day lives.  In fact, I’m not talking about anything predefined.  The word God is what we use to describe something that means different things to different people.  I’m going to use that word for brevity sake, but really what I mean is, higher power, and by that I mean anything that is more powerful than me.  Myself and a friend.  Together we are more powerful than me alone.  Myself and a group of friends.  Even better.  Myself and a group of friends and loving family members.  Or maybe it’s not people for you.  Maybe it is the God of the Bible.  The point is it doesn’t matter.  What I’m talking about is anything that you feel can help you when you need help, better than you can help yourself, or, anything that can help you help someone else better than you can help them yourself.  For the rest of this reading, God = hire power.

God has helped me a lot lately.  When I found myself in my depression, just wanting to stay in my hole and not deal with the situation I was going through, some very loving, caring people in my life gave me some help that I needed.  First, it was my family, and I didn’t really need to ask too hard for that help.  All I needed to do was pick up the phone and say, this is what is happening, and the help was offered.  My father and step-mother love me so unconditionally.  Sometimes I can be the biggest baby about things, and sometimes there are things I’m going through which they can’t possibly understand from my perspective, but they don’t care.  They just love, and they show it by doing as much as they possibly can, whenever they are able.

The problem is, they aren’t as able right now.  My step-mother just had knee replacement surgery, and my father is going to have a heart valve transplant sometime very soon.  But they were still there for me when I needed them, as much as they could be.  However, this time, during a crisis I was going through and I’m still going through they couldn’t offer as much as they’d like to be able to, and that meant I needed to grow up just a little bit.

That was very difficult for me at first.  I wanted more care than they were able to give, and I finally had to face that fact after a week of hell, and a trip to the emergency room because I thought something was horribly wrong with my stomach or abdomen, or I had some other major medical issue going on, only to be diagnosed with constipation.  That’s ok.  You can laugh. That shit really hurt man!

Then, quite frankly, I started to pray to my higher power.  Now, again, if I’m sitting in my living room saying, “God, please, I need your strength here!”, is anyone listening, or am I just affirming in my head, that I need help from something more than myself, and trying to work through how to get that help in my head.  The weirdness is not in the asking.  The weirdness is in the answers you get, and recognizing them.

At this point it was another family member who came through for me.  My aunt, who just lost her husband and my Uncle from cancer sent me an email one morning, asking me if I could help her with some computer problems.  I told her about my situation, and how debilitating it was for me, and that all I could offer was to keep in touch because I thought it would be good for the both of us.  I then asked her a question.  How is she coping?  Because she’s pretty depressed right now too.  She told me about how our grandmother used to make her make up her bed as soon as she got out of it, so she would at least have that to say she accomplished that day.  So for some reason, I got out of bed, I not only made my bed, but I finally changed the sheets, putting clean ones on, and then I put the dirty ones in the washing machine along with some other laundry I needed to do.  Then we chatted back and forth in email, and eventually she asked me a specific computer question, and it gave my mind something to do.

At first I just explained what it could be, and pushed it back on her.  But we kept chatting.  Then I decided to do some searching online, and I was able to at least partially find the answer to her problem and help her get it more under control.  I was still in a bad place, but my mindset had changed a bit.  Frankly, having something to do made me feel less depressed.  So we continued to chat, and I continued to pray.  I also had to make some very tough decisions about some things in my life which I will talk about in another post some time.

I started doing a few more, manageable tasks around the house.  More laundry, wash the dishes,  vacuum a little bit.  And then I allowed myself to take a break because I had accomplished some things that I needed to accomplish.

Another pretty much sleepless night went by, but I got up and took care of some things I needed do.  I went to a doctor’s appointment.  I had to take a cab there because of some other real (more than constipation) issues I’m dealing with right now, but I went.  I asked the doctor for help with some things and she went over and above to help me.  Certainly a higher power there.

Another sleepless night, still chatting with my aunt, still getting small, manageable tasks done, still praying.  By the way, my prayers were pretty simple.  “God, please help me to know what to do next.”

This time the answer came to make some phone calls, and I did.  I called very good friends.  That was today.  I had several phone conversations.  Then I got a ride to another doctor’s appointment from one of those friends.  Then I met my parents for lunch, and took care of some business that needed to be taken care of to make it easier for them to help me in ways that they could help me.  Then I met another person and took care of some more business that needed to get taken care of.  Then another friend picked me up, and we went to meet with some other friends.  I got home at about 8:30 after a very full day.  I made a few more phone calls.  And now I’m writing this.

Will I sleep tonight.  Who knows?  If my body needs sleep, I will sleep.  It will eventually come, but it sure will come a lot faster if I’m up and moving, and doing things and staying active.  By the way, I meantioned more phone calls.  Tomorrow is a very full day.  Thursday will have some activity in the evening, and I can always think about how to do more between now and then, and then make some more phone calls.  Oh, and I need to go grocery shopping.  Luckily the grocery store is in the same shopping center where my condo is.  I think I can manage a 3 block drive.  I was told so by one of my advocating friends..

So now it’s midnight.  I’m not really sleepy, but I’m tired, and that’s a good thing.  I have to deal with chronic pain, and managing that is tough because it adds to the depression causing the sleep issues which adds to the depression and yes I did mean to say depression three times.  But today was a good day.  I was up, and active, and tomorrow and the next day will be the same.

I’m certainly not out of the woods here.  I’ve got a lot more to do to get back into life.  Find a job for one, but I need to take care of myself first, and this one was a bit of a nose dive so I’ve still got some climbing to do, but I’m grateful, because I have help, from my higher power.  As long as I ask for it, and am able to recognize it when it is presented, it will always be there.  People, activity, things to think about.  They are keeping me sane, at least for now.

The Road to Gratitude

So it’s almost 10:00 on a Tuesday evening, and I’m not tired yet.  I don’t want to watch TV.  I don’t really have anything to do, hmmm…  Oh!  I haven’t written in my blog in a while.

I haven’t really been doing much of anything lately to be honest with you.  When some stuff happened in my life, I crawled into a shell, and ultimately wound up extremely depressed.

Now first, I want to warn you, because I’m about to talk about God.  Not the traditional God that many people think of.  I’m not a Christian, and even though I’m Jewish I still don’t believe that Jewish parts of the Bible are meant to be taken literally.  I’m not even talking about an all powerful, omnicient being, that guides our every day lives.  In fact, I’m not talking about anything predefined.  The word God is what we use to describe something that means different things to different people.  I’m going to use that word for brevity sake, but really what I mean is, higher power, and by that I mean anything that is more powerful than me.  Myself and a friend.  Together we are more powerful than me alone.  Myself and a group of friends.  Even better.  Myself and a group of friends and loving family members.  Or maybe it’s not people for you.  Maybe it is the God of the Bible.  The point is it doesn’t matter.  What I’m talking about is anything that you feel can help you when you need help, better than you can help yourself, or, anything that can help you help someone else better than you can help them yourself.  For the rest of this reading, God = hire power.

God has helped me a lot lately.  When I found myself in my depression, just wanting to stay in my hole and not deal with the situation I was going through, some very loving, caring people in my life gave me some help that I needed.  First, it was my family, and I didn’t really need to ask too hard for that help.  All I needed to do was pick up the phone and say, this is what is happening, and the help was offered.  My father and step-mother love me so unconditionally.  Sometimes I can be the biggest baby about things, and sometimes there are things I’m going through which they can’t possibly understand from my perspective, but they don’t care.  They just love, and they show it by doing as much as they possibly can, whenever they are able.

The problem is, they aren’t as able right now.  My step-mother just had knee replacement surgery, and my father is going to have a heart valve transplant sometime very soon.  But they were still there for me when I needed them, as much as they could be.  However, this time, during a crisis I was going through and I’m still going through they couldn’t offer as much as they’d like to be able to, and that meant I needed to grow up just a little bit.

That was very difficult for me at first.  I wanted more care than they were able to give, and I finally had to face that fact after a week of hell, and a trip to the emergency room because I thought something was horribly wrong with my stomach or abdomen, or I had some other major medical issue going on, only to be diagnosed with constipation.  That’s ok.  You can laugh. That shit really hurt man!

Then, quite frankly, I started to pray to my higher power.  Now, again, if I’m sitting in my living room saying, “God, please, I need your strength here!”, is anyone listening, or am I just affirming in my head, that I need help from something more than myself, and trying to work through how to get that help in my head.  The weirdness is not in the asking.  The weirdness is in the answers you get, and recognizing them.

At this point it was another family member who came through for me.  My aunt, who just lost her husband and my Uncle from cancer sent me an email one morning, asking me if I could help her with some computer problems.  I told her about my situation, and how debilitating it was for me, and that all I could offer was to keep in touch because I thought it would be good for the both of us.  I then asked her a question.  How is she coping?  Because she’s pretty depressed right now too.  She told me about how our grandmother used to make her make up her bed as soon as she got out of it, so she would at least have that to say she accomplished that day.  So for some reason, I got out of bed, I not only made my bed, but I finally changed the sheets, putting clean ones on, and then I put the dirty ones in the washing machine along with some other laundry I needed to do.  Then we chatted back and forth in email, and eventually she asked me a specific computer question, and it gave my mind something to do.

At first I just explained what it could be, and pushed it back on her.  But we kept chatting.  Then I decided to do some searching online, and I was able to at least partially find the answer to her problem and help her get it more under control.  I was still in a bad place, but my mindset had changed a bit.  Frankly, having something to do made me feel less depressed.  So we continued to chat, and I continued to pray.  I also had to make some very tough decisions about some things in my life which I will talk about in another post some time.

I started doing a few more, manageable tasks around the house.  More laundry, wash the dishes,  vacuum a little bit.  And then I allowed myself to take a break because I had accomplished some things that I needed to accomplish.

Another pretty much sleepless night went by, but I got up and took care of some things I needed do.  I went to a doctor’s appointment.  I had to take a cab there because of some other real (more than constipation) issues I’m dealing with right now, but I went.  I asked the doctor for help with some things and she went over and above to help me.  Certainly a higher power there.

Another sleepless night, still chatting with my aunt, still getting small, manageable tasks done, still praying.  By the way, my prayers were pretty simple.  “God, please help me to know what to do next.”

This time the answer came to make some phone calls, and I did.  I called very good friends.  That was today.  I had several phone conversations.  Then I got a ride to another doctor’s appointment from one of those friends.  Then I met my parents for lunch, and took care of some business that needed to be taken care of to make it easier for them to help me in ways that they could help me.  Then I met another person and took care of some more business that needed to get taken care of.  Then another friend picked me up, and we went to meet with some other friends.  I got home at about 8:30 after a very full day.  I made a few more phone calls.  And now I’m writing this.

Will I sleep tonight.  Who knows?  If my body needs sleep, I will sleep.  It will eventually come, but it sure will come a lot faster if I’m up and moving, and doing things and staying active.  By the way, I meantioned more phone calls.  Tomorrow is a very full day.  Thursday will have some activity in the evening, and I can always think about how to do more between now and then, and then make some more phone calls.  Oh, and I need to go grocery shopping.  Luckily the grocery store is in the same shopping center where my condo is.  I think I can manage a 3 block drive.  I was told so by one of my advocating friends..

So now it’s midnight.  I’m not really sleepy, but I’m tired, and that’s a good thing.  I have to deal with chronic pain, and managing that is tough because it adds to the depression causing the sleep issues which adds to the depression and yes I did mean to say depression three times.  But today was a good day.  I was up, and active, and tomorrow and the next day will be the same.

I’m certainly not out of the woods here.  I’ve got a lot more to do to get back into life.  Find a job for one, but I need to take care of myself first, and this one was a bit of a nose dive so I’ve still got some climbing to do, but I’m grateful, because I have help, from my higher power.  As long as I ask for it, and am able to recognize it when it is presented, it will always be there.  People, activity, things to think about.  They are keeping me sane, at least for now.

The Lake By My Home

It’s not like I forgot about the Lake.  I knew it was there.  I just hadn’t thought to visit it in a while.  I used to walk the dog by it several times a week.  I remember feeling better then.  Emotionally, physically, better.  It’s not a long walk.  In fact, if I walk to the path that is adjacent to the lake on two sides, and then walk this path, past the “Logan’s Road House”, past the Hampton Inn, it’s about a mile.  Not a really long walk by any stretch, unless you don’t have any legs, or they don’t function for you the way they used to.  Mine do.  I can walk.  There are a few people in my life who can’t say this.  Some of these people are rather close to me.  But I can walk, and so I did this morning.  Something to be grateful for today.

The dog was grateful too.  Although she was huffing and panting along the way, she turned to me, squinting in the sun, with her tongue hanging out and I could see that all too familiar smile on her face.  “Thanks Daddy!”, that smile was saying.  I smiled back and said, “You’re welcome!”  She’s an old dog, my Jamaica.  She’s in fairly good health for her age.  Sometimes she falls when we are walking, but she gets right back up and continues to walk like nothing happened.  I can learn a lesson from that.

When we get back to the house and walk inside, it’s nice to feel the cool, dry air hit my face.  It’s warm outside, and humid.  This is as it should be in late May in the Washington, DC area.  Not quite hot yet, but warm enough and moist enough to bring about a mild sweat, even with a mild  walk.  When we do these walks during the mid-summer months, I am dripping by the time we get back.  The dog walks over to the water fountain (Yes, I said fountain.  Just a little gift I gave to her and to the cats a while ago to keep the water fresh and clean for them).  She laps up 5 or 6 tongue fulls of water, as I reach into the refrigerator and pull out a can of sparkling, lemon-flavored water for myself.  Nice, and cold, with a little bit of a bite.  This would be a perfect start to a weekend day, except that it’s not the weekend.  It’s the Tuesday after Memorial Day, and at the moment I don’t have a job to go to. 

I should be grateful, and I am for the fact that for the time being I’m still receiving a pay check, and my company is searching for another position for me.  I am grateful, both for this, and for the ability just for now to appreciate the time I had this morning to take the dog for a walk near the lake.  We need to do this more often whether or not I’m working.  I need to make the time to do this with her, for both ours sakes.

We really only have today.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring.  I need to make the most of each moment that I have, and not waste the moments feeling sorry for myself, or wallowing in self-pity or fear.  But the only way to push the fear away is to fill my life with other things.  Good things, like a walk by the lake, and the gratitude that I’m able to take this walk with my old dog, and add some joy and contentment to her life if only for 1 mile at a time.  Maybe we’ll walk a little further tomorrow.  Or maybe tomorrow I will have a job to go to.  No matter what, I still need to make the time to take these walks with her, for both our sakes.

Do I Look Like I Have Boobs In This Shirt?

Just writing this blog posting and sharing it with the world proves how brave I am.  It proves that I’m not a woosy boy, or a girly man, or feminine in any sort of way.  Just remember that when you are reading this.  Just remember what kind of person would put themselves out there and admit to this before you make judgements, or poke fun, or reply with the inevitable, “This explains a lot Larry!”  Just remember that only a true man would put this story out there for the world to see.  Only a true manly, man.

A while ago as I was complaining about my back pain recommended that I go to see a holistic doctor that he took an old girlfriend to see.  He spoke very highly of the practice, and said that even though they may not be able to help me with my back pain directly, they may be able to help me with my overall health.  I figured, what the heck.  It couldn’t hurt.

So I’m speaking to this doctor, and she’s asking me all kinds of questions about this and that, and sends me away with a bunch of supplements, and an order for some blood work to check some things that a normal doctor doesn’t generally check for.  One of these things was my testosterone level.  Now, before I go any further, I want you to know that my actual testosterone level has nothing at all to do with the outcome of this story, and why I decided to publish it for all the world to see.  My testosterone level is normal, or as normal as it’s going to be given the pain I fight on a daily basis, and some other things going on in my body.  All in all though, it’s perfectly fine.

I got the test results back, and I’m going through them, and I get to testosterone.  What was odd was that I didn’t see it being in a normal range.  I saw it being several times the highest level that is considered normal.  A few of the other numbers were slightly off, but my testosterone was off the charts on the positive end.  “Oh my God!”, I thought.  “I’m really, really sick!  What the heck is wrong with me?”  I was going back and forth between thinking that my parents forgot to tell me that I’m actually from the planet Krypton, to feeling very proud to be a man, and feeling sorry for all of the women out there that were missing out on my obviously ultra human abilities.  But in all honesty, I was extremely worried.  It would be one thing if it was slightly high.  But it wasn’t.  It was about 7 times the highest level in the normal range.

Thankfully I read the rest of the chart very carefully, and discovered the clerical error.  Apparenly, (and this is just a guess as to how it happened), someone saw my first name, which is really Laurence, and only saw the Lauren part.  That’s right.  According to this chart I am a woman, and all of the ranges on the chart were for that of a woman.

Ok, so now that I’m back to reality feeling a mix between disappointment and relief (I figured it would be something to brag about to both men and women), I needed to figure out what to do about it.  So what I did was to go to my coworker who referred me to this doctor and squeeze my “breasts” and ask him if I looked like I had boobs in this shirt.  I told him that apparently this wonderful doctor that he referred me to was somehow so confused that she read the results of my test, made comments on it, mailed it to me, and never once made any mention of the fact that my testosterone levels were way outside of the normal range, or that the results indicated that I was a woman which was why the testosterone levels were so outside of the normal range.  So when I saw her today, I had to play it up.  I asked each of the nurses and clerical people in the reception area (who all knew already what had happened), if they thought I looked like I had boobs in the shirt I was wearing, and had them all in tears as I explained to them that it was a relief to finally know what my problem was.  Walking around all of these years thinking I’m a man when I’m actually a woman can have severe psychological effects on a guy, ummm…  I mean….  ummm…  whatever I am. 

I also told the doctor that if I was going to accept the fact that I was a woman, I should probably start taking estrogen because I didn’t think my boobs were big enough, and I wanted to not have to shave anymore.  Then I had her in tears as I spurted out lines (no perverts I wasn’t spurting anything else because I can’t now that I’m a woman) from the old Saturday Night Live skit “Pat, the androgenous heterosexual”.  Remember that skit.  “Hey everyone, I have a date tonight!  Really Pat, what’s your date’s name?  Terry!  Hey everyone, it’s that time of the month again.  Really Pat, what time is that?  Bills!”

Yes today was fun.  Maybe a little bit too fun.  I do love to poke fun at myself and this was just too easy.  Luckily the lab that took my blood was able to correct the results, and I now have lab results with the correct ranges on them.  I’ve asked everyone with a copy of the bad lab results to please destroy them, but I think I’m going to keep my copy just because of the comical effect it will have when I show it to friends and relatives in the future.

So there you have it friends, family and complete strangers.  Go ahead, laugh at me, make your comments, and poke fun if you must.  Just please, don’t poke my breasts.  They are very tender right now and I’ll have to punch you if you try to touch them anyway.  Hands off!

Day by Day, Hour by Hour, Minute by Minute

Over the past 3 weeks or so I’ve been trying to write another blog entry about my struggle with pain.  I was going to write about how a second surgeon, this time from the premier spine center in the country told me that surgery would not be the best option for me right now because of my age, and the risk, and the likelyhood of little improvement.  Such a complicated back I have.  I just couldn’t find the motivation to write out the whole, drawn out story though, so that’s about all I’ll write about that.  Instead, I found some motivation to write today from an entirely different source.

I have a new job, and I’ve been struggling to overcome a hurdle where I feel comfortable with what I’m doing.  I’ve been doing pretty much the same thing for a number of years now, and this job, although somewhat related to the direction my career has been going, is really a whole new direction.  Finally, over the past couple of days I’ve been finding a comfort zone.  I’ve been starting to understand the process flow, where the work is coming from, and what to do with the work when I find it.  And then fate decided that it had different plans for me today.

A few days ago my team was told that we were absorbing some new responsibility from a different team, due to the downsizing of that team.  We were getting a new person on our team, and he was to crosstrain with us, as well as members of my team crosstraining with him.  Yesterday our new team member said he had something he wanted to show us, and asked us if we wanted to come over and take a look at what he was doing.  There were only two of us in the room at the time, and I was the only one who went over to take a look.  While over there I remarked about how nice the guy’s view was.  His cube was against the window, and outside the window was a lake where there were Geese and some other birds.  We discussed logistics, about how we were going to crosstrain when there really wasn’t any more room in our office, and there was only one open cube next to this guy, which was vacated by the person who was fired, which was why his team (or him because he was now on his own) was merging our team.  We couldn’t come up with a solution as to how the crosstraining would easily take place amongst all team members.

Well, today it became clear that what our manager really meant was that I was going to be crosstraining with this new team member and his responsibilities and this didn’t really include the rest of my team.  Not only that, but I was going to be moving into the cube next to this guy.  Now here’s something else I haven’t mentioned yet.  The office I’m in is closing shortly.  The other office is in downtown DC, which I am not excited about traveling to and from every day.  But our manager assured us that when this move happens, our team would be work exclusively from home.  So no worrying about having to travel downtown.  Well, now with these changes taking place, was that still going to be the case?

So how did I feel about all of this?  Well, I was at first a bit frustrated.  I had just started to get comfortable and suddenly the rug was pulled out from under me and I was now taking on completely different responsibilities.  I then started to worry that this happened because I wasn’t cutting it in my current position, and they saw that, and decided to move me to something else, maybe even to just give me busy work to do until I became the next downsizing victim.  The I started worrying about the working from home thing.  I’ve recently been looking for a new home, maybe a little further away from the city because I’ll have more space and it will be cheaper.  Would this sudden change mean that I’d have to be slogging it downtown every morning and I’d have to put my plans to move on hold?

I took everything off of my desk and stuffed it into a bag, and moved over to the cube next to my new teammate.  I looked at the cube, and noticed that I now had some privacy.  The walls of the cube were really high.  I then turned around, and remembered the window, which I was also right next to.  There were the geese, swimming in the lake.  Suddenly my fear just lifted.  Sometimes I try so hard to focus on the negative of a situation when that negative is completely imaginary because I had not bothered to substantiate one bit of my fear.  Maybe I’ll have the same deal with being able to work from home.  Maybe I’ll love this new job, and I’ll love the new responsibilities.  The thing is, I was living in the wreckage of the future, which many wise people in my life have cautioned me against, and I have in turned cautioned others against. 

Who knows what will happen tomorrow.  Today I have a nice cube with a view of a lake and geese.  So for this day, and this hour, and this minute, things are pretty good, and I’m going with that.

I don’t want to operate on your back – Pain Part 2

There’s a good possibility that when someone hears these words spoken by an orthopedic surgeon, this would bring a smile to their face.  After all, perhaps the surgeon is about to suggest another solution to pain they have been experiencing.  Don’t get me wrong.  He did.  But his suggestion was to go back to my pain specialist and try some different techniques.  “They have all sorts of procedures they can perform to help you with the pain!”, he exclaimed loudly as he told me a story of another patient of his who went to the same pain specialist that I’m seeing and had great success.

What I told the surgeon though was that I had already tried everything the pain specialist had to offer, which I thought he already knew given that I was being referred by a pain specialist who saw the MRI of my back and determined their wasn’t much else he could do for me.  He then went on to show me my messed up spine on both the MRI, and the X-Ray he took while I was in his office.  I’ve seen these pictures hundreds of times in my lifetime, and every time I look I feel deformed, and ugly, and things just look worse that they did before, and that’s because they are worse. 

“I can see why you are in pain.”, he said.  He pointed out the “inflamation”, the “degeneration”, the pinched nerves, the arthritis, and how the scoliosis was only complicating matters.  He pointed out that the top of my back was bent forward and that he was afraid if he operated on the bottom of my back I would be hunched over even more than I am now.  He lectured about how correcting the problems I had in my lower back would not fix the pain I’m experiencing because the pain I’m experiencing is in my lower back.  This caught me off guard, but he explained that fixing the lower back helps leg pain, not lower back pain.  I still don’t completely understand, but I’m not an orthopedic surgeon, so I guess I have to trust him.

I then said to him, “So you are confirming that I’m feeling pain.  I already know that.  Is their nothing you can do for me?”  He told me the odds of surgery fixing my problem were too small to risk causing more problems and just distributing the pain to another location.  I understood this.  I was just frustrated.  I told him about the pain medication I was on and explained that I didn’t want to have to take it for the rest of my life.  I had already asked the pain specialist about other things I could do, and I’ve already tried those other things.  Exercises, Chiropractic, physical therapy, massage.  About the only thing I haven’t tried is Accupuncture.  The pain specialist said none of this would help me.  Not with everything that is broken in my back.

The thing is though, this surgeon was just one man.  He gave me the phone number for another surgeon who works in my area, and also at John’s Hopkins hospital.  I’ve already contacted John’s Hopkins on my own and I’m waiting to hear back from them.  I’m not giving up on this until I’ve exhausted all possibilities. 

Today, disappointing news is not devastating news because today I am a much more balanced person emotionally than I used to be.  I am deformed, but I’m not a freak, and in fact I’m a pretty darn good looking guy.  My deformity is hardly noticable until you’ve been staring at me for a long time, and some people have told me they don’t notice it at all.  I’m just a person in pain.  Long term treatment with pain medication is not an option for me, and I’m not going to accept that as the solution.  I hate having to take it!  I hate the stigma associated with it!  I hate the side effects of it, and if you are wondering what I’m talking about, I hate having to take a ton of extra fiber supplements so that I can poop!  I hope that didn’t gross anyone out, but really I don’t care.

The ending to this chapter of the story goes like this.  This is not over until I say it’s over.  I don’t see any fat women around, just one slighly chubby man, so I’m going to keep trudging forward.

Lily Pads

On August 26, 2013, I left an employer for whom I’d been working for almost 7 years.  In the IT industry, that is almost unheard of.  In the IT industry working for a government contractor, that is even more unheard of.  In the IT industry, working for a government contractor, when you hold some sort of a clearance, it’s extremely rare.  And yet, many of my coworkers at Akamai technologies had been there for at least as long as I had been or longer.  There was a simple reason for this.  Akamai was, and still is one of the few companies out there that really takes care of their employees. 

The salary wasn’t so great, but the bonus, and ESPP, and RSU’s more than made up for it.  All employees are part of the ridiculous unlimited leave policy from the day they are hired.  Now, that is of course within reason.  The general rule was if you needed to take more than 3 weeks at a time, or more than 6 weeks in a year you needed approval from the VP of your division.  Plus, many managers restricted leave even further that this, and it was their discretion to do so.  Still, think about it.  That’s a lot of leave no matter how you look at it.  The medical and dental benefits were also great.  They paid for 100% of most of the things that ailed me.  Their reimbursement for education left a little to be desired, but still, it existed, and was about industry standard.  All in all, it was just a good company to work for, and that’s why they had such a high retention rate.

The work itself was getting a little stale for me though.  I worked on the only contract they had in Reston, Virginia.  They company was based in Cambridge, MA and so was most of their business.  I could have moved into a new career with Akamai, but it would have meant a physical move to Cambridge, and I was trying to avoid that if I could.

So along came my next employer.  The perfect deal, or so I thought.  Much of it was misrepresentation, and some of it was justification in my own head that somehow I could make it work.  This new job offered me the ability to work on cutting edge technology.  I’d be learning again, and learning relevant things.  This came with a price though, and it was a steep one.  I’d be taking about an 18% pay cut, plus I’d be back to 3 weeks paid time off until I hit the 5 year mark when it went up to 4 weeks.  The 401k match wasn’t as good.  The health insurance wasn’t as good.  But they told me I could work from home when needed, and the office was only 4 1/2 miles from my home, so I could cut way down on the dog daycare and save some money that way.  With the ability to work from home I wouldn’t have to call in sick as much, so the cut in leave wouldn’t be as difficult.

So I took a leap of faith, or shall I say a step into the unknown.  It was hard to leave Akamai, but a new career awaited.  I’ve said many times there are no wrong decisions, just different ones.  Each leads us down a different path.  If we find that we are heading in a direction we aren’t comfortable with, there are always other paths to take.  This step seemed to be in the right direction at first.  The work I was doing was great.  I was learning new things, I was working on cutting edge technology.  Everything that was promised as far as the type of work was concerned was being fulfilled.  But then reality set in. 

I was being asked to do unethical things which I’m not going to get into to the details of here, and it’s also why I’m not mentioning the company’s name here.  From this point forward I will call them Company X, just so I don’t have to keep saying, “The compay I worked for after Akamai.”  The whole “ability to work from home” thing was true, but on a very limited basis, and I never really got a chance to do that, until the very end when I was having difficulty with back pain, and I needed surgery (still pending by the way), and I was having problems with mobility, and started taking pain meds, which made it dangerous for me to drive, and even then, they fought me tooth and nail until finally I brought in a doctor’s note to work from home.  Even when I did that, they made me come in to the office to discuss the details.

There was so much of a battle just to do my job half the time.  I couldn’t log on to this or that because it was controlled by another company and there was a power play going on where they wouldn’t let me have an account, even though they didn’t know how to do what I needed the account to do, so it just didn’t get done.  They couldn’t even pay me correctly.  I took some time off for a pre-planned vacation about a month into my employment, and the payroll person didn’t calculate my time off correctly, and again I had to fight tooth and nail to prove that to her.

The methods for making changes or fixing problems were very dangerous.  Never any testing.  Never any planning.  Just, “oh that sounds like a good idea, so do it.”  At one point I was so fed up that I just up and quit.  I just told them I wasn’t coming back, and then realized that wasn’t very bright, and then begged them for my job back.  Needless to say, something needed to change, and it did.

I found another job.  I found several actually.  I received three offers, and turned two of them down because this time I asked a lot of very direct questions, and made sure I had the full story before I accepted the offer.  The thing was, when I was with Akamai, I thought I had ruined my career because I was on an island of proprietary technology, and everything I knew was useless on the mainland.  I was so depressed there.  It started to show in my interactions with others, and in my work performance.  I was becoming a difficult person to work with, and although I was still doing a good job and was told so by my superiors, I didn’t really care.  I thought it didn’t matter because who was going to care that I knew proprietary this or that when I started looking for another job.

There was one very important thing that I forgot about though.  I’m smart.  I’m not trying to brag, but I am.  People see that when they talk to me.  Whatever it is I don’t know, it’s only because I’m not currently working on it, but I’ll know it in very short order given the chance to learn it.  Company X gave me that chance, and I’m grateful to them for that.  They made me realize what everybody else was telling me.  I have strong troubleshooting skills.  I have the ability to absorb new information and apply it productively in a very rapid manner.  They made me realize these things and some other things.  I know what I’m worth now.  I’m worth as much as I can convince somone to pay me.  I know that I’m not willing to participate in unethical practices, and that if I’m asked to do something unethical I need to call the person on it who’s asking me to do it, or report them.  I also know that in the almost 6 months I’ve been with Company X, I’ve gained some real world skills that a ton of government contractors in the Washington DC area find very valuable.  I’ve learned I don’t need to work too hard to search for a job with these skills on my resume.  Employers are knocking on my door even when there is a sign on it that says, “Go away please!”  I’ve learned, “We really want you to come work for us.” is not an answer to the question, “what is the bonus plan that your company offers?”, and that if I’m asking straightforward questions, which are being answered with vague, misdirecting answers that it is time to move on to the next. 

I know what I’m worth, I know how smart I am, and I know the type of work I want to be doing, at least for now.  So after going through a bunch of interviews, with several employers, I found Company Y, where the benefits are almost as good as they were at Akamai (some are better actually), and they gave me straight answers to straight questions, and I can work from home if I need to (like now), no questions asked, and the work I will be doing will be extremely exciting and cutting edge.  Will this be the perfect job?  Not likely.  But it will be better than what I have now, and of that I am sure.

There are no wrong decisions, just different ones.  Each leads us down a different path.  If we find that we are heading in a direction that we aren’t comfortable with, there are always other paths to take.  Just remember though.  If you are standing on an island, and looking to leave that island, the next step could be to the mainland, or it could be to a lily pad.  The key is to figuring out which one before the lily pad can no longer support your weight, and you drown.  On March 10, 2014 I will take another step, hopefully this time to the mainland.