no soup for you

It’s hard to be in a good mood today. This is one of those days that my “invisible illness” is pretty goddamn out there for the world to see. My transplanted kidney is going through another “nephrotic” episode. Loosely translated, it leaks. The end result is my legs are swollen. So badly that you can see it through my pants (insert your own bad innuendo here). It makes even walking difficult. But I’ll Foghorn my way through it.

My doctor told me that I don’t need to limit my fluids, that only 1% of my kidney function is dedicated to processing exceed fluid. I have to limit it anyways, at least until this passes. Instead of drinking a gallon of water I may as well just strap it to my leg.

Time to watch my diet even closer. Really limit my sodium intake and be selective. Bland, boring foods until further notice. Bottom line, if it’s scrumptious then I can’t eat it.

https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/30/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-30th-2018/

Advertisements

unforgettable night

I had the most amazing experience tonight.

I was having a burger and a beer at the local watering hole and I was approached by a very attractive woman, about my age. She initiated conversation and I gladly played along. Could my dry spell be coming to an end?

After a couple of drinks, she picked up her purse, smiled slyly at me and asked if I was up for a little fun. I played it cool on the outside but on the inside I’m thinking “does Kevin Spacey like little league games!? Yea I am! 

“Have you ever had a mother/daughter 3 way?” she asked me, finger playfully toying with her lower lip.

Of course, I said no, even if I had it wouldn’t have been the right answer. She motioned for me to follow her. I quickly paid the bill and followed her out. I found her in the parking lot, car running and that finger, oh that finger, beckoning me to follow her. I jumped in my car and after 5 minutes of winding roads, we pulled into the driveway.

We walked into the house, she kicked off her shoes and motioned for me to do the same. “Ready?”

“Let’s do this” I replied as convincingly as I could.

She walked over to the staircase and yelled up

“Maaaaa, come down. I’ve got one!”

Me and my shoes were out of there.

did I getcha?

smile

 

 

America’s team?

jjj-2018

I admit it, I’m a football fan. After all of the kneeling controversy earlier in the season, I was caught up in the moment and thought seriously about boycotting the sport. As a strong supporter of the military with 2 folded flags on my mantle, handed to my family graveside by a grateful nation I struggled with the anthem protests. But I reluctantly acknowledged that being American is to be supportive of peaceful protest even if I don’t agree with it. I hate that I was caught up in the jingoistic Nationalism that consumed us, loving your country means loving all of the people in it, not just those that you agree with. Open-mindedness prevailed.

I love football. The strategy, the athleticism, the fact that every game matters, that it is never over until the last minute. David can slay Goliath any given Sunday. It is a team sport, all must bring their best, one mistake, one play can decide a game. Coaching, play calling, cardio training and pure balls all play a role in a win. And no one does it better than the New England Patriots.

Are you groaning, about to hit the back tab? I know, everyone hates the Patriots. Perhaps everyone is sick of us winning. I didn’t feel that way about the Cowboys of the 90’s, “America’s team”. I rooted for them anyway. They were awesome. The Pats don’t have the same level of respect. It’s a shame, because the rest of the country needs to see what we see.

Our coach is constantly compared to the Landry, Shula and Lombardi era. Yet they never coached in a 16 game, salary-cap, 32-team free agency environment. It was a very different game. Despite injuries, constantly rotating personnel, a lack of major name talent and contract issues Bill Belichik continues to find people to fit his system. Players that were nothing on other teams become stars in New England. It is a business model, one that guarantees success. Bill is hard-nosed, demands excellence, favors no one and is the first one in and the last one out. Like a CEO, excellence is his product. And their manager of consistency…the GOAT (greatest of all time) Mr. Tom Brady.

Tom Brady may be the handsome face of success now, modeling expensive clothes and sporting 5 huge rings. But he wasn’t always. He was a very low draft choice, underestimated by everyone. The Patriots picked him as a backup. Little did they know the fire inside. In 2001, when our starter was knocked out for the season we saw the beginning of an era. The man is all about hard work, winning and constantly improving. Now 40, having shattered almost every record for a starting quarterback, he is on a plane on a quest for his 6th Superbowl victory.

It’s more than football. It’s a life lesson. Let people underestimate you, there will be an opportunity to prove them wrong. Hard work equals success, always. Humility allows for continued growth. He never takes credit for the win, he knows it takes someone to catch the ball that he throws and a defense to keep them in the game. He never settles, the best ring is the next one. Team first, he has taken pay cuts to stay with the Patriots. It has been a pleasure watching him.

I know what it is like to be a long-suffering fan. We weren’t always like this. Previous to this remarkable 18-year era we were a consistently bad team. Now, I will admit that we are spoiled. We expect them to win. This will not last forever. We will lose Bill, Tom will retire and we will rebuild. I can take comfort in knowing that I have witnessed one of the most fantastic, https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/29/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-29th-2018/  surreal eras in sports history. One that I will speak of for decades. Being a fan is a good thing, being a loyal fan is great. Being a fan of this team is a joy.

Friday Knight at Grandpa’s

Oh my God, it’s like my father is here in this kitchen!” my mother half-laughed and half-yelled as she searched around to see what other mischiefs I had caused while she was out.

I’m a big kid, I love to mess with her OCD. When she goes out I move things around in her kitchen. Sometimes it’s subtle, like moving her snowman candles an inch or so. She notices it. Other times I will switch her containers around. If they were in ascending order shortest to tallest, left to right, I would reverse it. I do a little every day just to keep things interesting. Mom has come to expect something when she walks in. I outdid myself today, I messed with everything. Cookie jar turned around to face the wall. K cups, once color-coded by row on a rack with no empty spaces now rearranged hodge-podge with a pyramid of them on top and many empty slots. The Coffee-maker swapped with the food processor. My best work to date. And the reference to her father was not lost on me, it’s not the first time she’s said it. I act like him, I quote him frequently. I talk about him all the time. I am my Grandfather in so many ways.

My father and grandfather were dual role models in my life. I was very fortunate to have two honest, hard-working family-oriented men in my life. I idolized them both. But I had very different relationships with them. As could be expected, my father had to be the teacher, the establisher of rules and disciplinarian when required. My grandfather got to be the good guy. He always supported what my father told me and never went against him, but he put his own folksy and humorous spin on it. He made everything better. And funny.

I had a tough childhood in many ways. I was a bit mixed up, I lived too much in my own head. But one wonderful childhood memory is the Friday night sleepover at the Grandparents. My mom and dad had a nice social life and it was common to drop me off at the Grandparents house in lieu of a babysitter. I loved it. From as early as I can remember I would walk up the old brick steps. shopping bag of clothes and blanket in tow, where I would be greeted by my doting grandmother at the door. Behind her would be my grandfather smiling wickedly. His eyes, barely noticeable beneath his trademark bushy eyebrows suggesting we were in for some fun. The night would consist of TV and popcorn, playing with their little rat poodle, watching them playfully bicker, root beer floats in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter and going to bed just a little later than I did at home. The fun that my grandfather had in store would come the next morning at breakfast. He would put on a show, and he never disappointed.

Fun, as defined by my grandfather, was causing trouble. My mother had told me stories of the breakfast table when she was growing up. When I was there, my grandmother was the target and I was the eager audience. The game was to drive her crazy, the winning moment was when she yelled at him. It would start as soon as we got up. I woke up early for the show. Grandma would be making breakfast and grandpa and I would be in the small living room, a mere 2 rooms away. She would call him to breakfast and he would ignore her. He would make eye contact with me as if to say “be quiet and watch this.” Grandma would call again and he would yell “Whaaaaat?” Exasperated, my poor grandmother would come down the hall and literally yell “breakfast is ready!” He would calmly say something like “oh, why didn’t you say so.” That was only the beginning. Once seated, the real fun began. She would put eggs in front of him and if they were scrambled he would complain that he wanted over easy. If there was cream on the table he would reach to the refrigerator, sneakily put it away and then ask her where the cream was. He would stack cups on the table to see how high they would go, occasionally knocking something over. All the while he was doing this, smiling wickedly at me, he was watching her carefully to see just how far he could push her. Eventually, she would yell at him to “knock the crap off” and he would be so visibly proud of himself. Amazingly, antics like that happened for years and she never figured out that he was doing it on purpose.

After the shenanigans of breakfast, I would dutifully follow him downstairs. He had a big sink with a mirror and he would shave with a straight razor. After he brushed his face with shaving cream he would catch me admiring him in the mirror and he would wink at me, make a crazy face and pretend he was about to slash his throat with the razor. It didn’t traumatize me, I loved it. I would recap all of his antics, and my poor grandmother’s suffering, to my mother when she picked me up Saturday afternoon. We would compare notes, she would tell me of similar breakfasts, lunches and dinners just like them.

My love for my grandparents would always be strong. They were supportive of me and I made as much time as I could to see them. My grandmother was a strong, willful and sweet woman but she was a tough, off the Mayflower Yankee and was often humorless. She would die at 104 of old age. Her only medical condition was Scottish Alzheimer’s. A condition where you forget everything except who you don’t like. My Grandfather would only see 92. Pneumonia would release some long dormant asbestos he inhaled in the Navy in WWII and take him from us.

He lived a good life. He was a hard-working kid who married his high school sweetheart. Enlisted in the Navy Seabees and fought in the Pacific. He returned home to build a house and start a family with the bride that waited for his return. He would help his wife through 2 miscarriages, the untimely death of his 4-year-old son Charles in the very kitchen that so many happy memories occurred. He carried his family through my mother being in a coma and nearly dying of spinal meningitis when she was 9. Through all of this he smiled, deflected life’s bullets, cracked wise with lines such as “don’t take any wooden nickels”, “see you in the funny papers”, and the classic “I see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a goddamn train.”

He’s always with me. My bed is a family heirloom, he was born in it. I carry his pocket watch. I have all of his watches on my nightstand, I also have all of the letters that he sent to my grandmother during WWII. Letters describing his daily life as a sailor, written nearly every day. If not, there was an apology and an explanation. In these letters he tells my grandmother what kind of life he wants to lead with her when, not if, he made it home. He affectionately called her “kid” and he would do so until his final goodbye. They were married 65 years. He was her Knight. http://lindaghill.com/2018/01/28/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-28th-2018/  Honest, strong, committed to keeping her safe. He would cross the world and slay dragons for her

His humor, his loyalty, his simple approach to life are things that I aspire to have always. I am happy that I still quote him, pull pranks, push people to the edge and do things like openly complain that the brownie pan is defective because it only generated 4 corner pieces. I made that joke last night as I stole the last corner, my mother slapped my wrist and said, “you’re just like your grandfather.” Yup, I’ll take it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#what if…we turned our thoughts upside down?

I sold cars for a long time. I was very successful, a top performer every month.  My customers appreciated my honest, straightforward and knowledgeable approach. I actually had a customer tell me that I changed the car-buying experience for them, that I was the “anti-salesman.” I have never done a job that came more naturally to me than selling cars. It was almost gratifying. Some people treated me like a schmuck, which is tough for the alpha male that I am, but I’m not a schmuck and I handled them like I did everyone else. With courtesy and professionalism. One of my fellow salesmen nicknamed me “the magic man” because I kept turning the impossible customers into the possible. It’s not a Vulcan mind trick, it’s a matter of reading people and controlling your body language.

Unfortunately, the negatives outweighed the positives. The income was very up and down, paying monthly bills could be challenging if you were living check to check. You have to be a strong saver. My wife hated the ups and downs, which eventually drove me to seek more “stable” employment. Loosely translated, she would rather have me make less money but know what the envelope contained as opposed to letting me earn more, which I was certainly capable of. I’ll never understand that mentality.

Another negative to car sales, and I won’t list them all, is controlling the green monster we all know as envy. Much of car sales is luck, sometimes you meet a guaranteed sale, sometimes you meet one that if you work hard enough it may happen, and sometimes you get a giant waste of your time. Having been one of the top dogs in the dealership I rarely had a bad month. I had the occasional dry spell and I would like to tell you that I weathered it well and remained positive. But I would be lying. There were times when I couldn’t catch a break. It almost always worked itself out but it feels like an eternity until it does.

I genuinely want people around me to succeed. I also feel bad for people, at least those that try but need help. I was always willing to share a sale or hand one off to someone who needed it more than I did. I was never greedy. I offered to help new or struggling employees to make them better. I genuinely was in tune with those around me. And some of them absolutely hated me, for no other reason than that I was good at what I did. To those that aren’t successful, a slump is frustrating and when someone around you is killing it, it’s easy to be jealous. Even wish for them to fail.

At my last job, before I became really ill, I took another position selling cars. I was not successful. The reasons aren’t important, there were people and forces that would make it impossible for me to succeed, but it had nothing to do with my personality or technique. I struggled badly, began to doubt myself and began to feel hostility towards those who were doing well. I didn’t want those around me to fail, but their success angered me. I was facing a side of me I didn’t want to and had to ask myself Am I a hypocrite? As the saying goes, I  needed to “check myself before I wrecked myself” and change my mindset. But I was alarmed.

Hence today’s “what if?”. What if we turned our thoughts around.?

If I had to decipher the energy I feel around me I would say it is overwhelmingly negative. Social media, the news, late-night talk shows, talk radio and Network news are flooded with hate, bias, and vitriol. We are hopelessly divided, all sides wishing for the others to fail. Each telling the other how wrong they are.

We wish failure on those who disagree with us. We treat them as enemies and engage them in a war. We are so very well versed in what we differ on. Yet we know little of what we share in common. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on what we agree on or have in common? Isn’t it better to stand in unity than to sit in protest? Isn’t the sharing of ideas the basis of growth, or has remaining silent and holding back because it is not “along party lines” the new protest?

We can want what we want without wishing bad things on others. Our success lies in the number of people we can unite, not alienate. Promotions should be awarded to the most qualified, games should be won by the team with the most heart, respect should be given to those worthy of it, and we should wish the best for each other. Things will inevitably go the way it should. If you can’t wish someone a nice day then wish them the day they deserve. And let Karma sort that shit out.

“Be kind to those that you meet, for each is fighting a hard battle.” I live by these words, I regret the times that I have waded into that pool of negativity. I will never again. I wish everyone well and I want everyone to succeed. The road to happiness is not paved with the broken dreams of my fellow man. As I try to live this way, I have an inner peace that is practically struggling to burst from my chest.

I wish you well, because you deserve it. This is who I am now, and this is what I do.

 

 

 

 

 

The elephant in the room

 

download (8)

It’s time to address https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/26/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-26th-2018/ the 800-pound elephant in my living room. This Superman shit is getting out of hand. It’s a real thing (obviously, it’s the name of my blog), and it’s getting in my way and clouding my judgment.

There is good Superman. Like the time I was driving my daughter’s friend home. She and my youngest were in the back seat, we were in traffic and when the light turned Green the horns started blaring. Cars started going around the lead car and I realized that the car was stalled. My youngest elbowed her friend and said “watch this’ as I opened my door, in traffic, ran over and helped push the disabled car to the side of the road. After I knew the driver was all set for a tow I got back in the car. I asked my daughter what she had meant by her comment and she said: “I knew you would help that car.” I pointed out to her that no one else did and she said, “Dad, it’s a good thing.”

There have been many of those. I won’t apologize for them. Then there is the “bad” Superman that takes on too much and sacrifices his own health in the process. I have been guilty of that as well. Would you believe me if I told you, and I can’t be more honest than I am at this moment, that I really don’t think about what is good for me? I’m not looking for a cookie like some deadbeat Dad on Springer. I really don’t care what happens to me. The only pleasure I get out of life is helping others.

When my health was deteriorating severely pre-transplant I managed to put up a serious fight. To not worry my kids, to keep my job and continue to support my family I pushed myself too far. My boss praised me, my wife chastised me. Bad Superman was born. I like how it worked out. Denial wasn’t just a river in Egypt, it was a great way to get to the end zone. I found mental strength in the absence of physical.

As I came out of the fog of anesthesia post-transplant, my eyes strained to see a doctor hovering above me. He asked me when I had last worked. I asked what day it was. Tuesday night? I responded that I worked until noon the day before. He asked if I knew the criteria for dialysis (which I stubbornly refused to do). I did not. He informed me that I was ten times over the limit for dialysis and he was amazed that I didn’t have a heart attack. That explained a lot but I didn’t really care, I was alive now right? The doctor left the room shaking his head. He wasn’t impressed. He thought I was just an irresponsible jagoff. He was probably right, but again, it worked for me.

On recovery, I was consumed by the need to get back in shape and pay back the gift I had been given. In that order. I worked out like crazy, I even did P90X. My Transplant surgeon said, “Kidney transplant patients don’t do P90X”. I said, “they do now.” Once I felt good, I began to help other people. I volunteered, I led kid’s mountain bike expeditions. I joined the Freemasons to really put a stamp on my commitment to be a better person and help others. I was a better father, friend, coworker and overall person. I tried to be a better husband, but that ship had sailed already. In the midst of this quest for purity of the soul, I got lazy about my medications and I had a rejection episode. A hospital stay and enough prednisone to kill a stampeding Rosie O’Donnell later I was down about 15% kidney function. Bad Superman. Lesson possibly but not likely learned.

Here and now, in the present, I have found a day that I can’t save. I’ve finally found my true Lex Luthor. My wife. Since we agreed to divorce, she has been noticeably depressed. Her best friend, who my wife famously “picked” over me as her confidante and number one, is telling me that something is wrong with her. While highly tempted to tell her, as the anointed yin to her yang, to fix it herself I am instead terribly worried. Her living situation really does suck. She lives with the best friend, the household is a real disaster. Between the lack of privacy, the new and increasingly frequent arguments with each other (which my wife is completely unequipped to handle), and lack of money she really is slipping into a depression. I saw just how bad it was Wednesday night. At my daughter’s 16th birthday of all places.

Instead of a “sweet 16” party she deserves, with a hundred guests fawning over the wonderful, sweet, caring and amazing girl that I would actually die without, we had a small gathering at the aforementioned house of horrors. I hate it there but I gladly drove 2 hours there. I wouldn’t miss it. My 2 oldest were unable to make it and I walked into a true shit show. My wife was livid, she was fighting with her friend and for some reason barely talking to me. I managed to get her alone for a minute and stupidly asked her if she was ok.

“Fucking great, living the dream.”

I fumbled a bit and then told her that I am used to her not being happy, but I’d never seen her depressed. I told her I was worried about her. She told me that there is nothing that I can do.

We tabled it for the moment and went on to celebrate my daughter’s special day. God bless her, she managed to make the most of it. She’s used to being disappointed I suppose. I showed her the blog post I wrote for her the other night (in confidence). She cried, in a good way. In the absence of material things, I made the gesture of words and she appreciated it. When I left, I gave my wife half of the measly earnings I had made this week. She gave me a weak thank you, a half-assed smile and I left.

“There’s nothing you can do” echoed through my head the entire ride home, haunted me in my sleep and was waiting for me when I awoke. The fact is, there is something that I can do. I can go back to work. It is very likely that I will be offered a full-time position in April. If I get a good enough offer, it may be time to cancel the SSDI claim, take care of myself and hope for the best. I would be able to give my wife enough to get a place of her own, or at least make her situation better. I would be doing something, instead of resigning myself to accepting things the way they are. I just have to determine the cost. It could be up to or in excess of the limitations of my body.

I have known my wife for 29 years. Married for almost 23. She raised four amazing children. Despite some notable wrinkles, she has been a good wife for the entire time. I can’t leave her like this. I know I’m not well. but when has that ever stopped me? As a man of integrity, the right way is the only option and I can’t help but feel that I am not doing all that I can.

Is this the true test of my lack of concern for my own well-being? I know that at least one of you out there is going to agree with this…in order to save others, I have to put my own mask on first.

Dammit Superman, what are you going to do now?