Lasted Four Hours at Work Today

I don’t mean for this to be the second consecutive entry to sound like Fred Sanford and "I’m comin’, ‘Lizabeth," but I managed to stay at work for four hours today.  When I got home last night, I bummed a Darvocet from Steph (her heart doctor prescribed them in April, but they’ve sat untouched in her vanity drawer) and fell asleep.  I woke up in the morning, and I won’t say that I felt fine, but I definitely felt better, so I saddled up and went to work.

It may have been a good thing that the workload was light to non-existent today.  It turned out the Darvocet was only masking the symptoms, not curing them.  At 11, I took sick leave, went home, took another Darvocet, and slept until late afternoon.  Steph and Susie are at their respective choir practices at the Unitarian Church, so I’m at the Panera on the Ohio State campus (across from Barnes and Noble), complete with my bottomless cup of Diet Pepsi and the laptop.

Should this back pain persist much longer, I think I am going to see a doctor about it.  I’m reluctant to take any strong medications for it, because my experiences with alcohol and caffeine show that I’m hard-wired for substance misuse, but I don’t like walking around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame either.  When I lived in Cincinnati, in the days when I was single, un- or underemployed, and without health insurance, I took a pretty nasty spill on an icy sidewalk one night.  At first, I thought I had injured nothing more than my pride, but when I got up, I realized differently.  I walked with a rather noticeable limp for quite awhile after that, and I realize that I should have gone to a chiropractor or a masseur the next day.

Right now, I’m kicking myself for not bringing any of my breast-pocket notebooks with me.  I was asleep until about 4:30 or 5, while Steph and Susie were at the doctor’s office, and I had to hurry to get them their food "to go" (chicken pot pies) before they had to leave for choir practice.  As soon as they were gone, I caught the bus to downtown and from there to campus.  It wasn’t until I was on the bus that I realized that I hadn’t brought my notebooks.  I had a few lines of a poem already on paper, and was hoping that I could continue, if not finish, it tonight, but the furthering of early 21st-century American poetry will have to wait until tomorrow.  I’m sure I have some other notebooks or scrap paper in my knapsack right now, but I don’t feel sufficiently motivated to dig through all the flotsam and jetsam I carry around.  (I do have the staples–my journal, a few ballpoint pens, address book, etc.  Otherwise my knapsack is a portable junkyard.)

Post Whenever I Can

Now that I am Internet-deprived at home, I will post in here whenever the opportunity presents itself.  I picked up Susie from her geography class and we’re now at the Whetstone Library with brown-bagged sandwiches for the evening meal (Steph has Women’s Chorus tonight).  Normally, I would jump at the chance to be at the library–and to blog and check E-mail, etc.–but my lower back hurts like hell, and I’m not even sure how I did it.  At first, I thought it was my chair at work, but no matter how I adjusted it or changed my position, the pain never lessened.  Even going down to the nurse and bumming ibuprofen didn’t help, and now I’m walking like an invalid taking his first steps out of bed in weeks.  (The best way to describe it is to say it feels just like the lower back pain you get when your bladder is too full.  That is definitely not the case at the moment.)

A meeting I had during lunch did nothing to improve my back or mood, either.

The worst part of this was the bus trip up High Street.  They’re tearing up major portions of it in the stretch between Northwood and Dodridge.  High is the major north-south artery here in Columbus, so closing it completely is just out of the question.  The alternative is to have huge metal plates covering the open parts when workers aren’t there, and bouncing from one plate to another felt like a knife down my spinal cord.

The work day was a slow one.  I finished the specialist’s report I began Friday afternoon, and after that typed some lump-sum advancements and researched some IC-2 applications.  A co-worker loaned me a CD of the best of the group War (of “Spill the Wine” and “Low Rider” fame), and that made the afternoon a little more bearable.

I am dreading Steph’s return from Women’s Chorus tonight, because it will involve lifting her scooter, disassembling it, and bringing it into the house when her ride drops her off.  This is not a pleasant task when I am in (for me) tip-top shape, so tonight it’ll be hell.

Steph is planning for next spring and summer, with some projects that are quite green and will be hands-on for Susie when it comes to science.  Susie wants to start a garden, and Steph has said okay, if it is half vegetables and half flowers.  We’re buying some chicken wire to set aside part of the parking space we don’t use for cars to make a compost pile, and Steph has been researching the logistics of beekeeping.  I have always been interested in it in a superficial sort of way, but now that I see that it can be practical in the city, I’ve begun to look at some of the Websites that advertise starter kits.  Also, honey would be a good commodity to offer when bartering for produce in the farmers’ markets that pop up on spring and summer Saturdays.

Not much more to write about, and even if there were, I doubt I’d have the stamina right now.  My style of typing is so aerobic that if I kept going, I’d be in even more pain in my back.

Unwinding Pre-Church

Steph is too tired, and the bug that made Susie feel crummy came back for an encore this morning, so I’m at Panera across from Our Lady of Peace Church, eating a bagel, drinking a small river of Diet Pepsi, and blogging before I head over to First UU for church.  I’m here alone today.

I barely left the house yesterday because Steph and I gave the living and dining rooms a long overdue cleaning and rehab.  One of the benefits was that we found Clara, the smallest of the nested wooden Russian dolls a friend of mine sent Susie from Moscow several years ago.  (Susie named the outermost one Mrs. Doll, and, in descending order, the smaller ones are Sarah, Mara, Cara, and Clara).  Clara had rolled under the couch while Susie and her friends were playing with the dolls, and she had been MIA ever since.  (I had been afraid she’d rolled down the furnace register, so I was relieved that she was safe and sound, albeit a little dusty.)

I left the house yesterday to go to the post office (I bought stamps and post cards) and to Family Dollar, and in the evening to take Susie to her friend Rosemary’s for a birthday party.  (It was at Skate America, and all the kids were meeting at Rosemary’s house beforehand.)  Steph and I ate some leftover spaghetti and watched Fay Grim, which I liked much better this second time around.  Steph had started to watch it under protest, mainly because she couldn’t stand its predecessor, Henry Fool, but she ended up thinking it was fantastic.  Susie came back, far overstimulated, from Skate America shortly before 10:30.  As soon as Fay Grim ended, I walked over to Rosemary’s house and got there just as the kids were returning.  (Seeing James Urbaniak, who played Simon in both films, on the season premiere of Without a Trace whetted my interest.)

My office is the next big cleaning project I want to tackle.  I’m sorry to report it no longer looks like the pictures I posted here last June.  I won’t post pictures of how it looks now, but I want to have it cleared before NaNoWriMo begins in November, so it won’t become a dawdling tactic.  ("I’ll get to work on the novel, but first I want to clean this shithole up!" has become a familiar stalling tactic.  "As soon as I get organized" is another one I use quite often–and waiting for me to get organized is as realistic as leaving the porch light on for Jimmy Hoffa.)

I was quite disappointed that McCain decided to debate Obama after all.  It would have been such a wonderful visual showing Obama, Jim Lehrer, and an empty podium.  As for the bailout, these bankers should be left to stew in their own juices–you made your bed, now sleep in it.  I feel like batching up all our bills and outstanding debts (and they are legion!) and mailing them to Congress and the White House to apply for a no-strings-attached bailout.

P.S.–I accidentally erased Without a Trace before I had watched half of it.  Any of you beloved readers still have a tape of it?

Functional This Sunday

We were out of bed by 7:30 a.m. today, although all of us were slow in moving.  (Steph has to do many things step by step, and this will be a factor for awhile, until she’s 100% recovered from the surgery.)  I actually sprang up out of bed just after 7:30, instead of gradually dragging myself out, like I would to kick off a work day.  We were all out the door a little after 9, and Steph led the way in the scooter to the bus stop on Sullivant Ave., since we were going downtown and then catching a northbound bus to the Unitarian church.

A crime victim almost made us late.  As we crossed Sullivant, there was a guy standing out in the middle of the street frantically waving at any car that passed by.  I couldn’t tell if he was bleeding or not, but Steph asked for my cell phone and called 911.  She was speaking to the operator when a police car arrived, so she ended the call.  Several more police cars arrived, and the officers got the man seated on the curb.  We’re not sure what happened, but we think that he’d been shot, and that whoever did it was still in the neighborhood, because several police cars seemed to be making the circuit around the neighborhood.  The squad soon came and took the guy away, probably to Mount Carmel West.

One of the police cars parked diagnonally in Sullivant Ave., effectively blocking it off.  Just as he did this, we looked west and saw the bus as it approached Central Avenue, which was 1-2 stops before ours.  We were afraid that the cop would make the bus driver go on some impromptu re-route, but he didn’t.

What did slow us down was the crowd around campus.  It must be move-in day at Ohio State, because High Street was wall to wall with new students, parents, and others.  Every few feet you saw card tables set up with applications for low- or no-interest Visa cards, OSU memorabilia and clothing, etc.  Chi Alpha, which is one of the Christian groups on campus, had two tables set up near two different intersections.  (Their nominal leader could only attract 12, so their constant striving for numbers doesn’t make sense.)

The credit card tables gave me the willies.  I remember the last quarter I was at O.U. and one of these tables was set up in front of Baker Center.  They were giving away free paperback thesauruses just for applying for a credit card.  I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance in hell of being approved, but I needed a new thesaurus, so I took a ballpoint pen from the cup on the table, filled in the form, signed my name, and took my free thesaurus.

Let’s just say that the thesaurus is, to date, the most expensive book I ever owned.  I moved to Cincinnati that summer for a job typesetting at an ad firm.  The job didn’t work, and temp work wasn’t easy to find that summer, so I lived off the credit card, which had arrived in the mail 7-10 days after I filled out the application.  I was another 1-2 years paying it off.

Hurrican Ike – Columbus, Ohio
I looked around several YouTube videos posted since the tail end of Hurricane Ike blasted through here last Sunday, and this seems to be the one most representative of what we experienced and saw. I’m not sure what neighborhoods these are, but it has only been since Thursday and yesterday that I haven’t been seeing tree limbs and trash lying around everywhere I turn.

Relying on the Internet of Strangers

Our lights are still on, although I can’t say the same for Pat and Tanya (the irony there is that he works for AEP!) or for some of the houses on the other side of our street.  Entries in this blog won’t be as frequent as they have been in the past, since there’s no more cable or Internet at home.  We’ve decided to sacrifice cable for the time being, and use what money we have instead for the co-pays for Steph’s medications.  There are quite a few we can get for $4 at Kroger, Target, Giant Eagle, etc., but there are quite a few that aren’t.  No Internet access means I have to get Wi-Fi service wherever I can, so many entries in the days and weeks to come will be datelined "Panera" or "library," etc.

Steph is going to her cardiologist (in Columbus) on Monday afternoon, so I’m ditching work at 11 and meeting her at Riverside Hospital.  Her first rehab session is Wednesday in Hilliard, and she also has her first appointment at the Coumadin lab at Doctors’ West that same day.  (She uses COTA’s paratransit service, Project Mainstream, to get around these days.)  She’s been sleeping a lot during the day these days, and she has never been one for taking naps.  She felt a little congested last night after eating a pint of ice cream I went out to UDF and got her.  Too much dairy tends to produce a lot of crud later on.  Also, she had to use the inhaler her doctor prescribed, and its quite foul taste can linger in your mouth for days and ruin the taste of anything else… even food you love.  I’m glad she was able to have a full dinner of Pizza Hut pasta before having to use the inhaler.

Susie is sick as well.  She woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat, and her cough sounded quite productive.  That meant she wasn’t able to play soccer early this afternoon, but I hope she’ll be recovered enough for church tomorrow, especially since she’s supposed to light the Chalice at the beginning of the 11 a.m. service.

I took some notes for the writing project I plan to kick off in November.  I’m giving National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) another go, and I think it’ll be easier this time around, since I’ll be using a laptop and won’t have to be staying up at all hours of the night working at home, like I did when I was using a typewriter.  For you aspiring writers who hang on my every word, go to and get the details you need.  Also, supplement that with Chris Baty’s book No Plot? No Problem!.  The rules say that you can compile notes, etc., but you can’t start the manuscript itself until 12 midnight on November 1.

Some idiot just went by in his car down W. Town St. (I’m at the Franklinton library, at a desk that faces Dakota Ave.) with his bass speakers throbbing so loudly the windows rattled and he set off someone’s car alarm.  That is one element of this neighborhood I cannot stand.

I left Steph on the couch watching DVDs of Slings and Arrows when I came here.  I used WinWay here at the library to type a new resume (I mean reh-SOO-may; I don’t know how to type diacritical marks and special characters on LiveJournal), since I’m trying to pick up some part-time work.  It was a nightmare, but I managed to save it as a Word document on the laptop.

I slept fairly well last night, and wasn’t out of bed until around 9, but I’m yawning almost every time I hit the RETURN key.

A Night Off the Grid

I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t missed an entry in the newest volume of my holographic diary since I began it on Wednesday.  I have never claimed that type of streak with this blog, but I’m guilty with an explanation for last night: No electricity.  (But you have a laptop, I hear you protest.  Yes, I say, but it’s useless without a router.)

Just after 4 yesterday afternoon, the TV and air conditioner in the bedroom suddenly sputtered, coughed once, and then died.  No rain had fallen during the day, but there was plenty of wind.  Susie and I noticed it when we were in Clintonville, waiting for a bus to take us home from First UU.  By the time we were done eating lunch, the wind was strong enough to start blowing trash and tree limbs in the circle outside our house.  Then, at 4, everything quit.

This storm is coming on the tails of Hurricane Ike.  More than half of Franklin County was out of power, and we remained so throughout the night.  It was a night like the Great Power Blackout of 1965 in New York, "when the transistor radio, the candle, and the art of conversation enjoyed a one-day renaissance," according to Walter Cronkite.  (I love all things radio, but if I still own a transistor radio, I don’t know where the hell it is.  We didn’t have C-cell batteries to power our boomboxes’ receivers.)

Surreal is the only word I can use to describe how it looked when I stepped out onto the sidewalk to look at the neighborhood.  No lights anywhere–not even street lamps or traffic lights.  As I looked toward downtown, all I could see were the lights on the tower at Mount Carmel West.  Later in the evening, the neon lights on the top of the American Electric Power building were on; I guess it wouldn’t restore public trust if they were blacked out.  We stayed in the master bedroom, using light from the candelabra I brought up from the living room mantle.  The battery on the laptop still worked, so I played some of the albums I’ve ripped to Windows MediaPlayer.

We got to bed at a decent hour–unlike right now.  I used the alarm on my cell phone to wake up, although during my many mini-awakenings during the night, I didn’t have the slightest idea what time it was.  I’m used to glancing across the bedroom and looking at the LED display on the cable box.

There was some free entertainment.  The couple who moved next door to us had a high-decibel and -intensity fight, and the sound echoed all the way up and down the block.  Words like "son of a bitch" and "crack whore" and "skank" were bandied about quite a bit.  It made The Jerry Springer Show sound like Masterpiece Theatre by comparison.

I had no way of knowing whether or not State offices would be open, so when 5:30 came, I treated it like a normal day.  Good thing I did, because the offices were open, although there was quite a skeleton crew.  (Besides there being no electricity in over half of Columbus, schools were closed.)  Steph heard that electricity could possibly be out until Wednesday or Thursday, so she called me at work and read me a list of foodstuffs to buy, all of them not requiring immediate and constant refrigeration.  I went straight from work to Kroger and bought over $50 of produce, snacks, bread, etc.  I came home and found that we had power–at least our side of the street does.  I’ve seen some candles burning the windows of our across-the-street neighbors.

Steph Home from Hospital for Pneumonia She Didn’t Have

She rolled out of Mount Carmel’s main entrance just before 6 last night.  She finally had the TEE yesterday afternoon, and it showed there was no infection in or around the heart valve.

And she probably didn’t have pneumonia, either.  All of her tests came back negative for infection except one, and it was not in the valve and can easily be wiped out with antibiotics.  I’m sure it felt great when the PICC line was removed.  Tanya ran me to the Kroger pharmacy on Soldano Blvd. last night to fill the two prescriptions the cardiologist gave her as a going-away present.  (Naturally, neither of them were generic.)  Because of all the antibiotics for the (non-) pneumonia, after I came home from work today I went out to CVS to buy her a tube of Monistat-7, since it produces a nasty side effect.

Steph and I celebrated her release with dinner at The Florentine.  It was quite good and quite filling (I had veal parmesan and wedding soup).  It was so filling I had no room for dessert–and I love their banana-cream pie.

Susie’s first soccer game is tomorrow morning at Whetstone Park, and she’s looking forward to it.  The Weather Channel’s Website is predicting a wet weekend, but I know that won’t sidetrack the soccer game.  I think the game will be like some of the NFL and college football games I’ve seen on TV, where by halftime everyone is so muddy you can’t tell who’s on which team.

Today got off on a bad foot–I was almost out the door before I realized I didn’t have my glasses.  I had worn them in bed so I could watch TV (mostly DVR recordings of Criminal Minds and Lou Grant), but took them off before I fell asleep.  Once I realize I didn’t have them, it was too late.  Awakening Steph before she’s ready to get out of bed is a dangerous thing at best.  After being awakened at all hours of the night at the hospital for blown IVs, blood draws, breathing treatments, and medication, I knew Steph would have me shot at dawn for waking her up unnecessarily.

But, thanks to some out-of-character preparedness, I was okay once I got to work.  I keep my previous pair of glasses in a case on my desk at work for emergencies such as these.  My eyes have changed since I bought that pair, but they did the job.  Waiting for the bus minus the glasses was a pain.  As I looked up the street, I kept seeing the orange sodium lights in the underpass and thinking it was a bus with its orange destination sign above the windshield flashing.

The backlog of doctors’ reports seems to be down to two reports, but they’re both by my second-least favorite doctor.  I tried to forestall it by making corrections on other reports and typing a stack of lump sum advancements, but at day’s end, they were still there.  Hopefully it won’t get worse during the day Monday.

Governor Strickland announced an across-the-board 4.5% budget cut for all State agencies earlier this week.  I panicked when I was watching the 6 p.m. news in Steph’s hospital room and saw that.  Our union’s assembly president is trying to reassure people that our jobs are safe, because the Industrial Commission’s money doesn’t come from the General Fund, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall regarding my job.  I just celebrated four years at the Industrial Commission, and, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know this is the absolute worst time for me to be looking for work.  Strickland announced the agencies have until the 22nd to decide where to cut, and until the first week of October to put said cuts into effect.

Now I know what it feels like to see the jury retire for deliberations.

So What Should We Believe?

The TEE I mentioned in my last entry still has not happened. I worked a full day yesterday, typed two doctors’ reports and was well into a third one when the work day ended, and around 5:30 I went over to Mount Carmel West to be with Steph. (She had texted me late in the work day to say the TEE would be tomorrow–i.e., today. So, I told my supervisor I wouldn’t be in today, and I wasn’t.)

Steph blew another IV during the night, so her pulmonologist ordered that another one be installed. The TEE would be on hold until that was done. The new associate minister at First UU, Rev. Eric Meter, came by a little before 9, since that was when we told him the TEE would be happening. Because of the IV blowing, Steph was waiting for a team to come in and install a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line, since they were having such short-term success giving Steph regular IVs.  It took two hours and a team of nurses and aides, but by 11:30 or so, Steph had a PICC line in her right forearm.  It could stay there, if kept properly clean and sterile, for nearly two years, and would be a good place to deliver Coumadin.  (Our insurance carrier, Aetna, has a home-nurse program for situations such as this, and it authorizes 180 visits per year–almost one every other day.  We didn’t even know this–a nurse who works for Aetna called Steph on the phone, just out of the blue, and let her know.)

The team didn’t have the PICC installed until after 11:30, by which time there was no doctor or technician available to do the TEE, so it has been postponed until tomorrow.  Both Eric and I had been asked to leave the room, so we sat in the fifth-floor lounge, and Eric bought us lunch at the hospital’s Wendy’s.  He had to leave for a meeting at First UU soon after 12 noon, but he was still there when we found out that the procedure had been postponed.

What is truly puzzling was the visit from the pulmonologist.  He says that he is not 100% convinced that Steph had pneumonia.  Yes, she had fluid on her lung, but that could have been a result of the surgery, and it would drain away on its own.  Her blood draws and cultures have been coming up negative for Staph or other bacteria.  He was not happy about the PICC line.  Yes, they did call him during the night when Steph blew the IV, but he did not authorize a PICC per se, mainly because it can often be a doorway to more serious infection–especially one leading straight to the heart–if it is not maintained religiously.  (Radiology had X-rayed Steph after the line was finally in place, to make sure it was reaching the heart, and it was.)  He still wants a TEE, but Steph is questioning whether or not that’s necessary if the labs say there is no infection.  The TEE test is not fun, and Steph is also eager to be out of the hospital, since she has been there since Saturday.  She plans to try and pin down the cardiologist when he makes his rounds this evening.

I ate a wonderful meal last evening when I got home from the hospital.  Our friend Joanna had cooked it and left it in our refrigerator, so I had it later in the evening.  (Susie had gone to the first older kids’ choir rehearsal at First UU on Tuesday evening, and her godmother Cynthia had brought her to see Steph afterwards, while we were in the fifth-floor lounge watching Big Brother X.)  It was quite late in the evening before I ate, because I wanted to dry some clothes I had put in the washer after work.  The dryer and stove are both in the kitchen, and yet there’s only one heavy-duty outlet in the kitchen, so I cannot have both working at the same time.  I dried clothes first, then put the food in the oven for 45 minutes (per Joanna’s recommendation, when I E-mailed her from work yesterday to ask), and checked E-mail and read The Marietta Times‘ Website to see what was going on in the city where I lived until I was 19.  I had a somewhat productive evening, creativity-wise–I E-mailed a poem to The New Yorker and wrote 3.5 pages of a first-person men’s health article I plan to submit to Maxim or Penthouse.  The poem has been through more incarnations than most Hindus, and the prose has already been rejected by the first obvious choice for publication, Men’s Health.  There was an AutoReply from The New Yorker that said that a reply could take as long as three months.

And I can live with that.  I remember the severe beating my ego took when I mailed a short story to Esquire in 1987, still high from two classes with Jack Matthews at Ohio University.  Their entry in Writers’ Market said to allow three to six months.  The rejected manuscript came back in six weeks.  It felt like I was getting my story back on the tines of a pitchfork.

I’m going to wrap this up and then see if the letter carrier has brought anything interesting.  There have been thick stacks of envelopes from Aetna, and now the Cleveland Clinic, so I’m hoping that something different will arrive.  A personal letter or post card would be best, but the latest New Yorker (or even Catholic Worker) would be great as well.

I ripped the Wild at Heart soundtrack to this laptop the other night, and I’m listening to it while I type this.  Currently, it’s on Chris Isaak’s "Wicked Game."  He and I must have dated some of the same women.  (The song reminds me of something I overheard at a New Year’s Eve party in Cleveland when I was 19, a 1982-into-1983 party.  I overheard a guy in a hallway, about 16, saying to a girl his age, "I’m really starting to like you, and it kinda bothers me."  That was one of those lines that I had to jot in my breast-pocket notebook right there and then.)