More Is Better

strength

Do you get pounding headaches?  Sure you do! Who doesn’t? That’s why you’ve got a bottle of pain-reliever in your medicine cabinet, right?

I get really, really bad headaches – migraines, in fact.  They’re nasty buggers, I tell you! No messing around with ‘Oh, I have a headache, but I’ll keep on hammering this nail in’ kind of pain.  Oh no, baby!

Migraines are all-consuming, whatever plans you had, well, they ain’t gonna happen kind of headaches.   I wouldn’t even call them ‘headaches’ – they’re more like a ‘I’m gonna put your brain in a blender and your world is gonna stop working for a while’, kind of thing.

Because I get migraines, when I feel a headache coming on I know that it’ll escalate into that crippling, soul-sucking, stop-the-train pain, so I take something right away…and it better be the ‘Extra Strength’ stuff.

HEADACHE

So I have to wonder why, if anyone feels the need to take a drug to help ease their pain, they’d ever take regular strength when ‘extra’ strength is right there on the shelf beside it?  Are they some sort of pain martyr?  Do they feel that they want to only relieve some of the pain, but not all of it?  Are they trying to prove something?

It’s like coffee – I never understood why anyone would drink decaf in the morning.  Isn’t the whole point of drinking coffee in the morning about waking you up?

“I’d love a coffee – make mine a decaf”  Huh?  I want the coffee but I don’t want it to do what coffee was carefully harvested, hauled down the mountain, roasted, shipped to my local coffee shop and sifted through boiling water to wake me up, was meant to do.

Batteries are the same – if you have a choice, wouldn’t you get the ‘Heavy Duty, long-lasting’ ones, and not the ones that’ll lose their juice after 10 minutes?  I hate buying batteries and I hate replacing them.  I’ll get the long-life ones, please!

I just renewed my passport – same thing;  I have a choice to stand in line, get a new horrible photo taken, stand in line again, then wait for 3 weeks for it every 5 years, or get a 10 year one that costs less than double the 5 year, and I only have to take a terrible photo every 10 years.  passport

Who would do 5?  Do people actually enjoy sitting in a Government queue all day?  Not this cowboy!  See you when I’m in my 60’s and I don’t care what I look like any more.

Marketers know this.  That’s why you see so many products with ‘Extra’ or ‘Plus’ all over them.  People want more, not less.

“Get 20% More for Free”

“Now With More Cleaning Power!”

Who doesn’t want more?  More is good.  Extra is good. Longer Lasting is good.  Regular strength is not.

…don’t get me started on de-alcoholized beer!

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Bone-head New Years Resolution

screw upBy now, all of you should know that my actions have pitched me a bit off course a few times.  Most of the time, these things happen out of my control, but occasionally I’ve deliberately and single-handedly been a total bone-head.

But hey!  Every new year allows us to clean the slate and start fresh.  An amnesty of the soul if you will. How refreshing.  How inspiring. How delusional.

Instead of setting myself up for failure with resolutions to lose weight, call my mother more often, and being more organized, I thought that this year maybe I’d just try not to do the same stupid stuff I’ve done in the past.  That seems more realistic.

With that in mind, and with a nod to the 12-step programs, I thought I’d share some of these less-than-stellar moments of my life so that you, dear reader, can help me to steer clear of the shoals, make amends for my past indiscretion’s,  and maybe avoid them yourself.

BUT, just for the sake of plausible deniability, one of these things did not involve me (unfortunately though, they are all very true).

WHAT’S THAT SMELL?:  I once conducted a business review with an owner, all the while standing there with a big pile of dog poop on my shoe.

TALES FROM THE DEEP: For a stunt, I once ‘borrowed’ a ceramic swordfish off a front lawn, threw it in the lake then nearly drowned myself trying to get it to swim to the surface….alcohol and peer pressure may have been factors.  And I brought the fish back.

OOPS!: While doing work at a grocery store, I completely tipped over a 40′ aisle of groceries by mistake.  The crashing merchandise missed a mother and child by a couple of feet. I never went back there again.

THE PURGE: After a night of celebrating for the completion of my job training, I arrived bright and early at my first customer sales call and threw up at their front door…while they were standing there to meet me.

CAREER SUICIDE: Golfing at a company event, one of our executives would hit the ball into the woods and immediately run in after it while the rest of us waited to tee off.  Late in the game, when this happened for the 15th consecutive time, the others assured me it was okay to go ahead and hit while he was rooting around in the foliage.  Just as he stepped out of the woods,  I sliced the ball hard, directly at his head.  Only a small branch saved his life and my job.

FLAME-OUT: For Christmas one year, I accidentally caught the yard on fire after throwing a flaming turkey about 10 feet into a snowbank.

DID YOU GET THE LICENCE OF THAT JACUZZI?: I ran myself over with a bathtub on the lake.  We were entering it in a ‘bathtub’ race and while testing it, the front dipped in a wave and threw me over the front.  It kept going, right over me.

YES, DEAR: At a convention, I accidentally pocket-dialed my wife while a group of us were making ‘comments’ about a model search going on in the adjoining hall.

BYGONES: I took my best friend snow skiing once.  It was his first time, but because I was such a jerk, I took him down the double-diamond run.  He still talks to me.

9-11:  When I was training for a low-risk sales job, I was admitted to the hospital 3 times on 3 separate occasions – once for severing an artery.

WHAT AN ICE HOLE!: One winter when I was a kid after a freezing rain storm, my friend and I strapped on our hockey skates and raced around our block on the frozen sidewalk.  As we got to one stretch, I saw that one of the driveways had been cleared of ice.  I stopped but didn’t warn my friend, who raced past me.  You could see the sparks for miles.  He had to buy new skates.

EXPLETIVE EXCUSE: Coaching a kids soccer team, I had one troubled player who had a real potty mouth. At a tournament, I told the other coaches that he had Tourette Syndrome so we wouldn’t be disqualified for swearing.

INAPPROPRIATE GIFTING: Yes I did.  For either Valentines Day or Mother’s Day (I’ve blocked out much of it), I bought my beautiful bride a………wait for it………gym membership.

Whew!  That feels better already.  Achieving my New Years goals should be dead easy with that kind of history.  Can you guess which one if these true stories didn’t happen to me?  No fair for those of you who were victimized in one or more of them…I will block your responses.

Wish me luck!

PS:  The statutes of limitations has expired for most of these, so don’t call the cops.

The Miracle of Miracles

Miracle

This past weekend, the world watched an historical event take place in Rome, where 2 popes were canonized as saints, while being proceeded over by 2 living popes.  This has never happened before in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, and is unlikely to ever happen again.

I bet the souvenir shop at the Vatican made a killing!

Part of the ‘sainthood’ vetting process is the verification of the act of performing miracles.  I think that most people outside of faith belief systems see the concept of miracles as one that’s limited to ancient writings in the Bible.  Was it just that the people who lived thousands of years ago were more in-tune with the the manifestation of such supernatural events, or was it just a lack of modern knowledge that led them to believe that common things were considered ‘godly’ back then?

I have to admit, I get a bit squeamish when people throw the ‘miracle’ word around, especially when they’re talking about having a parking ticket lost in the government systems or their favourite sports team came back from certain defeat to win a series.  These are probably not the types of miracles that would get anyone designated as a saint (unless your team’s name happens to be the ‘Saints’).

Basically, in our modern and enlightened society, we have managed to relegate miracles to the same interest and legitimacy as fortune tellers and circus side shows.  Miracles to most of us are nothing more than facts that haven’t been explained yet.  I think that’s a mistake.

Miracles, big and small happen all the time.  I know people who have had miracles happen to them over the years.  Some were true medical mystery healings that have happened without explanation – an incurable condition, suffered for years is suddenly absent.  Gone forever.  Others were more practical – someone suddenly and permanently quitting smoking after praying about it.  No withdrawal, no nicotine fits.

Sometimes miracles are as simple as having prayers answered.

I still think though, that miracles get bad press – or worse, no press at all.  It’s because of this that the idea of miracles happening in our digital world isn’t given much credit.

I to get caught up in the cynical side of miracles at times.  I’m not likely to build a shrine in my living room if I found a dust-bunny in the shape of the Virgin Mary.  It’s more likely, my finding a dust-bunny in my living room at all would be a miracle, since I’m never the one to clean under the couch.

But something happened last weekend that made me revisit my belief in miracles.  At the end of our church service, during the announcements, the minister asked if there were any updates from the congregation.   A little girl, about 10 years old, timidly put up her hand.

Her mom has been battling cancer for the past year, and has had a terrible time with it, as you can imagine.  Every time things would look up for her, more devastating news would follow, and she would be sent back to the hospital for more tests, chemotherapy, biopsy’s, and so on.  Mom was brave beyond belief.  Her Maritime strength kept her pushing for any help the medical establishment could offer, but in reality, the prognosis was not very good.

The church has a prayer chain – a group of people who dedicate enormous energy to praying for whatever is given to them, and this mom was at the top of the list. She was added to the prayers at every Sunday service as well, and others who know her said quiet prayers during their day or as they sat for meals.

She was an open book about her pain, suffering, strength, and even the unpleasant details of the extremes the doctors were taking to try to fight this terrible disease.

This Sunday, the little girl who put up her hand was invited to come to the front of the church to speak.  She was too short for the microphone, but it turns out she really didn’t need it.  She loudly and proudly announced to everyone in attendance that her Mom had cancer, but it now it was just gone.  Mom doesn’t have cancer any more.  The entire congregation was in tears.

The back story is that when ‘Mom’ was to have a biopsy on the 10cm tumor last week, the radiologist could find nothing to test.  Just scar tissue remained.  The tumor was completely gone.  A miracle.

And now here we are, you and me, faced with a decision to make.  Do we raise our hands to God and say ‘Thank you for answering our prayers’, or do we scramble for tangible reasons that this tumor could have disappeared naturally, in order to discredit the power of prayer, and any proof of this miracle happening.

It’s not unlike conspiracy theories, isn’t it?  Any doubt is proof.  Maybe she never really had cancer. Maybe the chemotherapy killed the tumor.  Maybe.  I have no doubt the skilled doctors played a role.

Maybe this Mom and her daughter have a little more time to spend together at home planning for the future, instead of sitting in hospitals wondering if there will even be a future.  Maybe, like the 2 popes, a real-life miracle happened, and we should thank God for it.

Maybe you’ll think a bit differently about miracles too, like I will.

 

The Long Goodbye

I’ve been told that I’m not very good at saying goodbye.  It’s true.

In my younger High School and College years, when I was ready to leave a party, I would tell people that I was going to the bathroom or something, then slip away for the night.  I found this easier than having to deal with the awkwardness of justifying why I was leaving so early, being pressured into staying a bit longer, or feeling like I had to set up the next get together before I left.

Even now, I don’t have the leaving thing figured out.  I tend to linger too long at the door, or talk  too long with people with my jacket in hand.  I can’t just shake hands, say thank-you and goodnight, then leave.

It seems there’s a sense of urgency to cover all the ground you didn’t get to during your visit, and let’s face it, it’s a point in the get together when you have the hosts undivided attention.

I wish I could do it like they do in the movies.  Grab my coat and hat, open the door with a wide wave, and announce to the entire party, “Goodnight everyone!  Until we meet again”.  Then I’d take a deep bow, turn and leave.  That would be a classy thing to do, but it’s not very realistic, and my hosts would probably take away the car keys and call me a cab.

I feel like I have to tie up all the loose ends before I go – to reconcile my relationship, ensuring our next encounter starts on a good footing.

There’s a direct correlation between the length of the exit and the closeness of the people I’m with.  When meeting strangers, a simple ‘nice to meet you’ and a handshake is just fine.

For most other farewells, I stumble over the words, and linger too long.

Saying goodbye to our son when he went off to school last year was excruciating for all of us.  We all went with him and got his new dorm room set up, picked up some last minute things at a store, took him out for lunch, then headed back to ‘tuck him in’.

Standing in the lobby of his residence building, we hugged, and choked down our goodbyes, barely able to speak.  Finally, standing with tears in our eyes, I looked at him one last time and weakly squeaked out ‘Go’, then gestured for him to head back to his room.

It was a very quiet and somber drive home.  I can’t imagine what it will be like next year as we send our daughter away to school – our baby.

I know I’ll be seeing them again, but it still breaks my heart.  How do you say ‘goodbye’ when it will be the last one?

As my father’s health is stolen away from him, we visit him in the hospital, sitting next to his bed.  We talk to him, hopeful that he can hear us and knows we’re there for him.   We hold his hand, and feel the strength in his grip, even though he can’t really open his eyes or talk to us.

Dad is not a huge man, but was every bit a ‘man’s man’ when we were growing up.  He ruled our household as most fathers did back in the ’60’s, with authority and control.

With four sons and no daughters, our home was testosterone soaked, and Mom would do her best to balance things emotionally.  Family hugs were not part of the landscape, but we didn’t lack in connectedness.

Dad was tough on us, but he was also the first one to do almost anything for us.  Any sport we wanted to try, he would do his best to scrape together enough money to buy us the equipment, then stand, often in the freezing cold to watch us play.

Our house was loud and busy.  I was in our old neighbourhood a couple of weeks ago, and drove by the house we grew up in.  It’s still standing proudly, and has weathered the storm of 50 years of life and of us – a testament to the builder.

So many memories, both good and bad, came flooding back to me.  Playing in the yard, or on the street with our friends or getting into trouble with them.  I wonder what became of all of them? We’ve long lost touch.

One of the things that stands out for me, was how Dad was able to instill in us a sense of loyalty, pride and duty to our family.  We tried our best to stand up for each other, and were the first to call each other out when one of us went off the rails.  Nothing was more important than taking care of each other and keeping our good name.  One bad deed reflected on all of us.

We still have that instinct, many years later.

We come together, the ‘Pulchinski Boys’, to check in on him when we can, hoping that Dad will be awake and talking.  Those hopes are fading, and we know it.  I think the reality is that we are now gathering at Dad’s bedside, not so much to visit him, but to be together for him.  To show him that what he instilled in us so many years ago, about the importance of family, has not been lost or forgotten.

When words often fail us, actions speak.  We all probably wish we had that elegant speech or comforting word that you see in the movies, but the reality is, our most admirable, loving thing is to simply be there for him.

The word ‘goodbye’ will have to come soon enough.  For now, simply being present, either in person or keeping in touch with each other is about as noble an act as can be expected.

Until that time comes, I will linger at the door, trying to cover all that ground that I could not say during the party, making it a very long goodbye, indeed.

What’s up, Doc?

When you reach a certain age, you spend more time getting prodded and poked and tested by the medical establishment. I hear that some people, especially when they are in their senior years, actually look forward to visiting their doctors, like it’s a lunch date or something.

I don’t. Like a lot of men, I don’t enjoy going to the doctor.   I don’t want bad news about my health, I don’t want them to ask for ‘samples’ to test, or to stand on the weigh scales in the open area of their offices.  And I don’t want to undress and lay on a cold examination table, especially when my clothes are out of reach and the door doesn’t lock from the inside.

It’s not that I’m unhealthy or anything, in fact, despite trying to prove Newton’s first law of motion of an object at rest tending to stay at rest, I’m actually in fairly good shape, against all odds.

But, when you hit that magical age, regardless of your perceived level of health, you really do need to suck it up and get on that cold, ugly table.  So, I did.

I’m starting to really understand why I find these things so unpleasant, and surprisingly, it’s not the reasons that you might think.  Things like giving a blood sample, while not a happy feeling, isn’t all that bad.  In fact, I even donate blood on occasion.

By the way, if you ever want to have a little fun when giving blood, there’s a question in the screening process about being close to or having contact with monkeys.  When you get to this questions, ask out loud, “Does anyone know if a lemur is considered a monkey?  I’ll just put down ‘no'”.  That usually gets their attention.

It’s not even the actual procedures that bother me, or giving ‘samples’ that I find difficult, although it’s totally gross.

It’s all the prep stuff.  I had to give some bodily fluids for testing, which seemed simple enough, since doing this is pretty normal, other than how it’s collected, but things get complicated to do that properly.  First, you have to starve yourself for 12 hours, then you have to deprive yourself of any fluids for 6 hours before going to give of yourself.

They tell me that this gives them a ‘normal’ reading.  Really? What’s normal about that?  If they wanted a normal reading, they should come by the house around 10 at night after I’ve finished a big meal, and I’m sitting on the couch with a bag of chips and a cold beer.  That’s normal!

Unless you’re a survivalist, or living in a 3rd world country, there’s nothing normal about not eating or drinking for half a day, and your body hates you for it!  I really feel sorry for women who are very pregnant then have to drink 4 gallons of water, wait for an hour, then drive to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound.  Then, just to test their constitution, they push on your bladder while sliding a cold, gooey devise all over your belly.

Years from now, the medical field will probably look at this like witchcraft or a weird voodoo ritual.

Hitting 50 means I had to deal with the ‘C’ word….yes, Colonoscopy. This word usually sends most men into the hills in fear, almost as quickly as the frightful ‘vasectomy’.  I probably just lost half of my male readers.

I will tell you that the procedure itself was a breeze (if you’ve had one, you’re probably laughing at the ‘breeze’ reference).  Really – it was not in the least way painful, uncomfortable, or in any way difficult.  I was given a nice dose of a drug that put me into a dreamy snooze.  I slept through the whole thing.  It was great!

That’s the good news.

The bad news is, again, the prep.  I won’t go into details, other than to say that they need ‘clean plumbing’ to do the procedure, so you’ll be spending a good 24 hours using a lot of bathroom supplies.  Oh, and you can’t eat for about a day and a half before hand.

Luckily, if you get the all-clear (hee, hee), you don’t have to repeat it for another 10 years. I even have pictures of my procedure.  I’ll share them if I don’t get enough responses to this blog…you’ve been warned!

I’d also like to know exactly when and how the medical profession, particularly dentists, figured they’d change the word ‘pain’ to ‘discomfort’.  With a small drill boring into my excited tooth nerves, the dentist will say something like, “this might be uncomfortable“. I don’t know what medieval school she went to, but my idea of uncomfortable is an itchy wool sweater, not a piercing pain shooting from my hairline to my toes.

There’s something else that you never expect when you get tests done.  Doctor’s who are surprised or don’t know what you’ve got.  I had a few instances where medical specialists had these reactions.  You don’t want your medical specialist to be surprised or baffled – ever!

A number of years ago, I was tested for allergies.  I had a pretty good idea of what I was allergic to, but they had to test me to see what could be done about it.  Apparently, they graph your back or arm, and do little ‘scratches’ with different types of allergens.  If something swells up, or gets itchy, presto – you have an allergy.

I was asked to lay face-down on one of those lovely exam beds, then the allergy doctor did his scratching.  He and his nurse left the room, and said they’d be back in about 5 minutes.  It only took enough time for them to leave the room and close the door, when it felt like someone had dropped a Molotov Cocktail on my back.

The nurse came back in to get something from the room, looked at my back and said ‘Oh, my GOD!‘, then ran out of the room, yelling for the doctor.  Trust me on this one.  It’s not something you ever want your healthcare professional to say.

Turns out, I was more allergic to cats than I thought.

Recently, I had a growth on my right foot.  Nothing serious, but the kids would tease me about the extra toe growing on the top of my foot.

Reluctantly, I went to the doctor, who sent me to a specialist to get it checked out.

While doing an ultrasound on the little growth, the doctor said, “Hmm.  I have no idea what that is, but I think we should remove it”.  No idea?  10 years of education, another decade of seeing people just like me every day, and she has no idea what’s growing on my foot?

I was referred to a surgeon to get my new little foot friend taken off. In the operating room, he introduced himself, examined my foot, then promptly told me what it was and what he was going to do about it.  Thank goodness!  Someone out there knows what they’re doing!

Like other procedures, the removal was easy…the freezing was another story all together.  It felt like he let loose a swarm of angry wasps on my foot, who kept stinging me over and over.  shortly, the freezing kicked in and I stopped crying.

The surgeon was performing his magic on my foot, then stopped and said “Hmm.  This isn’t what I thought it was”.  Super!  I was halfway waiting for him to ask me if I’d been in contact with a monkey recently.

In the end, the small lump was removed and I was sewn back up, almost as good as new, but a little wary of the medical profession.

I guess medicine is like any other business, really.  They’re just people who come across new things every day, and deal with them accordingly.  I only wish they had more classes on how to NOT react to something new.

I also wish more research went into how to get prepared for a test without putting your body through bizarre food and water deficiencies.  It doesn’t seem to make sense that preparing for a test is worse than the test itself…or the initial problem for that matter.

Anyone want to know what you need to do to prepare for a vasectomy?  Anyone?