Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This Wednesday is a wordy one...

But, first, a happy picture. There's a dog in my house!

My house has found a new purpose: Doggy Day Care. When it's going to be a long work day, we bring the little girlie to my house for the day. It's in the area in which we work, so she's not stuck in the house for 14 hours without a break. It's really nice to come home and find a dog happily wagging her entire back end simply because I've shown up.

In other news, we've joined LA Fitness. Yes, *the* LA Fitness. It is a beautiful facility. The new aerobics room is bright, with mirrors on all walls and a new wood floor that springs back when you step on it. I will be honest, I really can't be in that room without seeing, in my mind, spent bullets on the floor. I think it's because I've seen large amounts of blood, and I've seen people die in ways they shouldn't have, and I've dealt with mass chaos all before - but never have I seen handfuls of spent bullets on a shiny wood floor. To this day, that is the image that sticks with me. Weird.

I got the free workout-slash-sales pitch from the personal trainer Monday. I will admit, it was a shorter and more effective workout than what I have been doing. However, the cost of working out with a trainer 5 days a week equaled my mortgage payment, so I will continue to do things the uninformed rube way. I did decide to work on a body part per day so that I am doing something different Monday-Friday.

Something the trainer pointed out, that I kinda/sorta knew in the back of my mind, was that I wasn't getting enough protein every day. This wasn't news to me. I've been tired and bonking every day at 3pm. So, off to GNC I go. The whey protein shakes I got are pretty decent and can mix with water. I have noticed a difference in my hunger and energy levels when using them the past couple of days.

I am still out of sorts as far as my routine. Every time I leave to go somewhere, anywhere, I feel like I am packing for vacation. I always have a bag of clothes with me. Gym clothes. Change of clothes. Uniform. I have duplicates of things I really need at my house and Dan's. Hair spray. Kashi bars. Deodorant. Muir Glen organic soups. Hair Dryer. I have THREE FUCKING HAIR DRYERS. Nobody who's not a hair stylist should have to own three hair dryers. However, in order to cut down on the toting around and packing of bags, I have one at my house, I have one at Dan's house, and I have one that now lives in the gym bag.

The gym bag. Simple concept. Stuff you use at the gym and after. You think it's simple. Until you have to go from a place where most of your belongings don't live, to the gym, and then to work for 12 hours. You realize that yes, you may have a sample-size body wash, but nothing with which to dry off. Or to floof your hair. Or to deodorize your sweaty bod. Or to paint one's face. Oh, to be a guy and need so little. To pee outside and laugh at your farts. But, alas, my plumbing and pysche dictate that I smell good and feel clean and my hair is floofed when I face the world. I got up at 5am. My timeline in my mind had me at Wal-Mart buying necessities for a stocked gym bag until 5:40, then working out from 5:50-7am, then showering and heading to work. The gym bag stocking mission ran until almost 6:30 (I should have known the shampoo aisle alone takes me 20 minutes, what with all the opening and smelling of scents), and there was no gym trip that day.

However, now there is a fully-stocked and dedicated gym bag, in which resides everything I need to transition from gym to work, or even a week's trip if I have access to laundry facilities.

It's the little things.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

That beautiful woman in the right hand column of this blog...

... She would have turned 71 years old today.

There is an inexplicable ache that hits me, every year since I was 13 years old, on September 23rd, and on April 23rd. Then I see the calendar, and the understanding hits me. These are the day my mother was born in 1938, and the day she died in 1984.

I know she is still with me, but I miss her.

This house is not a home.

I'm in a transition period right now. Still in my house part of the time, but spending more and more time at his; it will be my home, too, when we can get it together to make room for me and my stuff. That will be weeks of work. Everything and everyone I love in my life now is there. The only piece missing from that puzzle right now is me.

Missing is a good word to describe my general demeanor now. There is a huge void that is evident every time I unlock the door to my house, tiptoe to the bedroom, and find an empty dog bed on the bedroom floor where there was once a snoring German Shepherd. Missing is the routine she and I had gotten into. Hanging out together in that bedroom in the mornings, her rolling and yapping and demanding food, me getting a workout in before the day started. Six days a week, mostly without fail. Missing is my brain for the past month. Distracted, scattered. I have lists. I misplace lists. Tasks are forgotten. I am in such a hurry every day to get out of this empty shell that used to be a home, that I can't remember what it is I wanted to accomplish when I do go. My focus is missing.

At his house, too, I am aimless. Still seems like I am just hanging out at someone else's place on my days off like I always did; like I should be somewhere else, or doing something else. There is always that pull - I need to go home to _________ . But the truth is, I only need to go there to grab a change of clothes occasionally. There is no one to take care of here now. I am trying to create a routine at his house, but it's difficult; I'm not used to accommodating other peoples' schedules and needs. In other words, it's not home yet. It definitely feels more that way than it ever did, and more than my empty, dogless, soulless house does - but it's just not going to happen until I am there 24/7.

I gave myself a good 7 days to be a slug. Now, I am obligating myself again to break a sweat for 6 of 7 days and to be moving in some fashion every day of the week. I haven't been able to run on the treadmill since she's been gone. Not the one in my bedroom, anyway. I just can't/don't spend that much time there. It's painful. I've taken to walking the Little Girlie on the 4-mile out and back loop in the park when at his place, and doing a 3.5 mile walk at a fast clip, on a route I call Hill Of Death when I'm at my place. I've got weights and a workout ball at both houses now, so I can do the Body Fat Solution weights workout every day, no matter where I am.

There's a gym membership in the works so that no matter where I am, I have that as an anchor. It's a start, anyway.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

She is gone.

She came into my life in November of 2001, by a twist of fate. I had just closed on my house and Gunner and I had moved in just weeks before. I happened to be on a call with one of our local cops who mentioned in passing he was trying to re-home his 6 year old German Shepherd, because he had to move from a house to an apartment. He was heartbroken.

What if I had not been on that call with that cop on that day? Would our paths have ever crossed? I don't even like to think about that possibility. I went to his place after work one day to meet her. I even dragged my best friend, a vet, with me. It gave the pretense of impartiality, but everyone knew when I got out of my car and 85lbs of black and tan charged at me barking, that we would belong to each other. I knelt on the brick road and she stopped mid-charge; all the wind went out of her sails.

"You're not scared, huh? Hmpf."

Thus began one of the most tumultuous yet most rewarding relationships of my life. First, there were the fights with Gunner. Not snapping at each other or barking. Fights that were frightening to watch and sickening to hear. Fights from which my arms and hands will always bear scars, because no matter how dumb it is to try and separate 175lbs of intertwined teeth, fur, claws, and spit, I intervened every time, occasionally sustaining the inevitable collateral damage. I learned a lot about dog behavior from those two. With careful management, the scary fights would dwindle down to once or twice a year.

Our first Christmas, I came home to find lamps overturned and a my cat, Molson, dead on the living room floor. Not mauled, but it appeared as if he couldn't play quite as hard as she thought he could. I remember asking her, "Just what the fuck am I going to do with you?" She just looked at me lovingly with those brown eyes.

After the first couple of rough transition days, she had decided that I was hers, and her eyes would follow me if I moved around the room. If I left the room, she'd be right behind me, most times actually running right into me if I should stop too quickly, she was so close. After a couple of weeks together, we met up with her old owner at the park where my dogs liked to run. He pointed out that no matter where I went, she kept an eye on me. He was both heartened and saddened that she had bonded so quickly and strongly to me.

As time went on and we learned each others' ways, I found that was a common theme: She kept an eye on us. Whomever she deemed hers, she watched over. At the park, Gunner would take off, oblivious, following his nose wherever it led. I didn't have to keep an eye on him because she did. "Where's Gunner? Go find Gunner!", and she was off. She'd charge up to him, stop just short, and touch him with her nose; she'd then look at me as if to say, "See? Found him. He's right here." Then she'd run back to me with her tail tall and proud. If I was the one who left the area, I would see her eyes following me. If I got too far away, she'd run to me, circling widely around me, finally approaching from the side with the trademark nose bump, "Found ya."

A year after she came into my life, I almost lost her. During a week of lots of tears and very little sleep, we finally arrived at a diagnosis: Addison's Disease. It nearly killed her before she was diagnosed; that's the way Addison's is. I remember telling her, as she lay on my bed with fluid slowly dripping into the IV on her foreleg, "I'm going to take care of you, and you're going to be ok." She stared blankly at me. I think I was saying it mostly to comfort myself. She did get better, slowly, and her condition became just another thing we managed.

Things like chewies and toys were not possible in our house. They just weren't worth the trouble and the fights they would cause. Once I actually had time to monitor them with rawhides, so they each got their own to chew. As usual, she couldn't mind her own business, and got reprimanded several times. Resigned, she sighed and went to her side of the room to work on her chewie. Moments later, her head popped up as if she heard something. She rushed upstairs in three bounds, barking as if she were singlehandedly holding off a home invasion. Gunner ran upstairs to join her, barking and growling - at what, he didn't know, but damned if he was going to be left out. Once he arrived at the door, she quietly slipped back downstairs, inhaled Gunner's chewie, then lay on the floor and finished her own. I swear, she was smirking.

The pet sitter told me she sat by the back door looking for Gunner for 3 days after he died in December of 2007. She always kept an eye on us.

She had both rear cruciates repaired, thanks to an angel of a vet who did the surgeries at cost. She slept as close to my bed as she could, on her egg-crate orthopedic doggy bed. No matter how many times I was up and down my steep stairs doing laundry, she'd follow. Sometimes I'd be up and down them again and see that halfway down, she'd stopped to sit and rest. Sadly, I recognized that though she still defied her age, she wasn't young any more.

We celebrated her 14th birthday with cake and candles. It was a day made for celebrating. The nation, with a little help from me, had just elected its first black President. She was a little slower, a little more bony. You could hear the snap-crackle-pop of her hips as she hauled herself up off of the floor. Yet, every morning, I was greeted with her rolling on the bedroom floor, kicking her legs up in the air, yapping joyfully. This was my cue that it was time for breakfast.

At the end of August, when she wouldn't eat, not even cooked eggs, not even chicken and rice - I knew something was wrong. It turned out to be an easily treated infection from which she appeared to recover very quickly. Then, suddenly, not even a week after making a great recovery, she was down again. She couldn't get up; wouldn't eat or drink. Later in the day, it became apparent she was suffering from vestibular disease. After a home visit and a pep-talk from the vet, I felt confident that this, too, we could ride out together.

It was supposed to last a few days, at most. Seven days passed and she had not eaten and had not even attempted to get up. I'd return from work and find her in the same position on her beloved orthopedic bed that I'd left her in over 12 hours prior. She would take a little water, but would turn her face away from anything else: chicken broth, chicken, rice, eggs, even hamburgers. She had no weight to spare, and she became skeletal over that last week.

I took her to the vet's office on Thursday. It was becoming painfully obvious that she wasn't happy. Even as we carried her to the car on a blanket, like a queen being carried through the village by her servants, she looked up only briefly, then put her head back down. She couldn't get comfortable. We ran bloodwork, though I didn't know what I would do with any questions raised by the results. I was becoming more and more certain that no procedure or medication or treatment would take her back to the way she was 7 days ago, when she was following the Dish installer around and giving him hell. That was the last time I saw the real Tara. The bloodwork came back totally normal. It confirmed what I already knew; there was no easy fix. She didn't flinch when they drew blood, or when they started the IV that would ultimately give her the peace she had earned.

I sat on the floor with her, her head cradled in my lap. I told her what a good girl she was, as if she didn't know that already. I told her how much I loved her and that Cecil was going to have some pretty big pawprints to fill. I told her that every dog I was ever going to have for the rest of my life would be compared to her. I told her for the second time in our lives together that I loved her, and that I was going to take care of her.

As she slipped away, I whispered to her, for the last time: "Go find Gunner! Good girl..."

Tara Jean II

November 4, 1994 - September 10, 2009

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What made me start running again? (and other burning questions)

  1. This song. I downloaded this for my workout playlist and I just couldn't keep myself at a walk with this blaring through my speakers. Seriously, try it. Perfect cadence.
  2. Laziness. "But, how can laziness make you start running again?", you ask. Simple. I am too lazy to block out/plan for an entire hour of exercise on most days. If I run and do a weights workout I can be done in 40 minutes and have sweated enough to feel like I pushed myself. (That's not to say that is what I do every day; I do crap out sometimes and just do a hill climb workout. I like to try and bargain with myself that if I don't run, that my cardio workout should burn as many calories, so I usually end up with a workout of longer duration.)
  3. I honestly don't know what the impetus was that pushed me in this direction, or how long it will last. Whatever it is, I'm thankful for it. I will say that if I can get my workout clothes on and get myself to the treadmill, chances are I will break out of a walk for at least a short time, but usually it lasts for about 20 minutes.

I discovered this website while searching for new workout playlists. So far, I haven't found anything else besides #1 that I like enough to buy/download, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Week In Review

Another rough week, schedule-wise and life-wise. Ol' Biddy, aka Tara, made a full recovery from Much Ado About A ButtThing; I knew she had recovered when I came home to a guilty-looking dog and a half-eaten butternut squash that had been pilfered from the pantry. I snapped a picture with my phone and sent it on to Dr. Kate, my best friend and her regular vet, and got the reply, "Yep! All better!"

Ol' Biddy has had a setback again and is dealing stoically with a bout of vestibular disease. It's so hard to tell when she can't get up and walk, or won't eat or drink for two days, whether her Addison's Disease is trying to kill her, or if it is - like today's bout - a pretty benign and self-resolving thing. She had a down day yesterday, refusing to eat even cooked eggs. I checked on her this morning, in the 15 minutes I had between work and my IPMBA class, and my breath caught in my throat. For a full 10 seconds I watched her; then, the shallowest of breath. She tried to get up, splaying her legs out to try and balance, and gave up. She had a dull, resigned look in her eyes that broke my heart.

Long story short, when I came home from 8 excruciating hours in class, worrying about her, she had the classic signs: a head-tilt and nystagmus. The kind and generous owner of the veterinary practice took the time out of his holiday weekend to make a house call and confirm the diagnosis, help administer subcutaneous fluids, and chart a course of treatment. You really just don't see doctors like that any more, and Tara is lucky to know two of them.

It's actually comical now to see her look at you, head tilted to one side, right eyebrow rhythmically jerking up and down; to me it looks like she is hanging on every word you're saying. Continually, "Hmmm, dear? Hmmm, dear? Hmmmm, dear?" repeating her movements like a dancing .gif image.

So, with yet another stressful week behind me, here's the tally:

Last Sunday - ended up walking the young pup in a leisurely fashion
Monday - I did nothing, because I worked a 20 hour shift and frankly, just didn't feel like doing any more.
Tuesday - I road-ran!!!! Holy shit!! C25K W5D1 on the road. It wasn't bad, but I do remember thinking "IhatethisIhatethisIhatethis" while I was in the thick of it. Probably not great for something I want to keep doing for exercise. Road running is still an option, just not my fave.
Wednesday - I decided I needed to get a full cardio/weights workout in, but in a minimal amount of time. This led to a 20 minute run on the treadmill at 5.5mph, then Body Fat Solution Workout A.
Thursday - I was extremely sore after Wednesday's ambitious leg-heavy orgy of running, squatting and lunging, and I got my ass handed to me at work overnight Wednesday. Just for fun, I was also getting my Dish installed any time between noon-5pm. I can't nap for an hour when the sleep I am missing can be counted in days and not hours, so I did what any reasonable person who is walking-into-walls tired would do: I cleaned. Up on chairs dusting ceiling fans and corners. Down on floors scrubbing. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. Vacuum the carpets. Steam clean the carpets. Cleaning for 8 hours when I could hardly walk straight? I'm callin' it exercise.
Friday - I liked the compact workout so much I did it again. Ran 20 on treadmill at 5.3mph (feeling lazy), and Body Fat Solution Workout B.
Saturday - biked half the day in IPMBA course. Slow-speed riding is difficult. Hanging at home with the Ol' Biddy after class, so I banged out a Body Fat Solution Workout A while half-watching the House marathon.
Today - more IPMBA! More riding! If I can knock out a Body Fat Solutions Workout B after class, that's plenty for me to call it a day.

Looking ahead:
I'd like to do the cardio/weight combo 6 days a week. I just need to back off on the running if I start to dread it and sub in a hill-climb workout like I did in the past. I am starting to feel weird if I don't get my workout in; nagging thoughts nip at the edges of my subconscious all day, until I make the time and get it done.

This is a good thing.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The TV Drought at My House Has Ended...

And man, it's raining Dish! Hallelujah, it's raining Dish.

Honestly, I think my love affair with tv has ended. I knew last winter we were bad for each other. We'd sit there together, not even speaking or moving a muscle. I felt like I could outgrow the toxic relationship if I could only get away for a little while, but the draw, the attraction... oh, it was so strong.

In a moment of PMS-laden insanity, I broke up with tv. Much like a breakup, there was the sad picking-up-of-belongings scene, and the one last flailing attempt to resurrect a relationship that both parties know is dead: "Are you sure you don't want to just downgrade to basic so you don't have fees when you want to re-install?" The look on my face, however, confirms. It is over.

It was the best summer ever. I may have cheated a little, DVRing Hell's Kitchen at my fiance's and catching up every couple of weeks; but the relationship, it doesn't feel so ... dirty, for lack of a better word, now. I kayaked. I (holy shit!) cleaned. I folded laundry (as opposed to plucking it, piece by piece out of the dryer, until the dryer is empty and the cycle starts over). I walked the dog. I went to the farmer's market. I painted and constructed and ran. I caught up on movies, renting a Red Box when the occasional urge hit. I worked out. I. Worked. Out.

Before, tv, much like a lot of my eating habits, was something I liked to do alone. I just couldn't enjoy either with someone else around. It was like having a threesome pushed on you that you just didn't feel comfortable with in the first place. Now, sorry tv, you're the odd one out. When it's time to watch those DVR'ed shows, we're watching them together as a family, curled up on the couch, some night there is nothing better to do. Yep. You've become our Boredom Booty Call. We could take you or leave you, but we're sure as hell not going to introduce you to our friends or invite you to any of our parties.

Even with my new embarrassment of riches of channels and DVR options, I can't seem to muster the gumption to watch a single show in its entirety, unless it is providing background noise for a workout. This is stark contrast to last winter, during which I would aimlessly watch stuff I didn't even want to watch, just so that I could put off doing those annoying life tasks: You know - working out, seeing the sun, spending time with my loved ones.

Maybe it's too early to say for sure, but I think maybe now I have tv. Tv doesn't have me.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Paramedical Mythology

Every career out there has its myths. Stay-at-home moms eat bon-bons and watch Oprah reruns all day. Doctors are filthy rich and roll around naked in their millions at any given opportunity (sometimes if the light is right and you look real hard you can see the occasional $100 bill still sticking out of the Doc's scrub pants from the latest romp). Who hasn't heard of the hooker with a heart of gold or pictured a middle-aged and obese white guy with glasses, when conjuring up the image of a banker? Isn't it possible that the hooker, in reality, is kind of a bitch? Or, that the banker is a grandmotherly-looking lady who lives with her similarly grandmotherly-looking (but not legit in the eyes of some - tsk, tsk) wife of 25 years?

So many myths about my profession abound. Some of them are perpetuated by the unknowing public, and some of them we actually perpetuate, otherwise - let's face it - you'd think we're assholes.

The public thinks:
  • If you use an ambulance to go to the hospital, no matter how minor your illness or injury, you'll "get in faster".

What is really the case:

  • You and your toothache/finger laceration/ear infection may, indeed, proceed past the waiting room and back to the treatment area (where you will sit and wait until everything more serious than your toothache/finger laceration/ear infection is triaged, treated and discharged). What is more serious than a toothache/finger laceration/ear infection? Most everything. Oh, and we've been diverted to the waiting room before with patients on stretchers. Exit stretcher, sit in chair. Have a nice stay. Hope you brought a book.

The public thinks:

  • "I got to the ER two hours before the person in room ____. Why are they being seen first?"

What is really the case:

  • See #1. This is not Hell's Kitchen. Gordon Ramsay is not going to stomp into the ER and berate the overworked staff for treating the 6 chest pains, 2 asthma attacks, 3 seizures, countless hip fractures, and that one really bad head bleed - before treating you.

The public thinks:

  • At least 50% of people who need CPR wake up in the middle of it being performed, hug and thank their rescuers profusely, and then go whip up some tollhouse cookies and a pot of coffee to show their gratitude.

What is really the case:

  • If you're to the point where you need CPR (do I have to say it?), over 90% of the time, you're screwed. CPR is not a magical thing that brings back the essence and soul and smile and sense of humor of that person you knew. That person no longer resides in that grayish, slack-mouthed and vacant body. If I could bring that person back to you, and they would be the same pervy old uncle, cheek-pinching grandma, or gossipy mother-in-law, don't you think I would?

The public thinks:

  • "I should pack a bag while I'm waiting for the ambulance."

What is really the case:

  • "Samsonite-Positive" sign is only appropriate if there is another human being inside the patient's body who is furiously and painfully trying to exit. Otherwise, if you have the time and energy to pack a suitcase, (say it with me, everyone!) you don't need the ambulance.

What I tell you:

  • "I've seen worse."

What is really the case:

  • If I am referring to your illness or injury, it's 99% true. The other 1% of the time I'm just reassuring you because you're scared and I'm confident. If I'm referring to the state of the inside of your house, I'm lying about 50% of the time. I'm not talking general clutter. I'm talking about having to avoid piles of dog shit inside a person's house. I'm talking about unidentifiable foul odors, clinging to my uniform, hair, and inexplicably, my skin. I'm no neat freak; however, I don't like to feel like I need a bleach sponge-bath when I've been in your house, either. If it's bad, yes, we will talk amongst ourselves about it. Chances are, the other crews have been there, too. "Yeah!!! The house with the 3 inch layer of cat hair on the carpets! I've been there!"

What I tell you:

  • "No, I don't have a band-aid."
  • "No, I don't have an ice-pack."
  • "No, I don't have an ace bandage."

What is really the case:

  • Yes, the state requires us to have band-aids on the units. No, I'm not giving you one. If you need a band-aid, you don't need an ambulance.
  • I don't have ice, per se. I have chemical cold packs. They're not cheap to replace, and if they leak, the chemical inside is a nasty skin irritant. I like to save those for the occasional hyperthermic patient, anyway. There are only 4 on the truck, and I'm not wasting one on the bump on your shin. Frozen peas work great. Go get a bag.
  • I really don't have an ace bandage. Go pilfer them from the hospital like I do.

What I tell you:

  • "Don't worry. You're smaller than our average patient.", when a patient frets over the medics having to maneuver, lift, carry, and otherwise convey them from point A to point B.

What is really the case:

  • I am being sincere here. The latest, greatest model of our stretchers has a 700lb weight limit. There is a reason for that; our patients are getting bigger every year. If I tell you you're smaller than the average patient, it's not a cue to quit working out and really get serious about that all-McDonalds diet. It just means that someone else is throwing off the curve for you.

What I tell you:

  • "Nahhhh. That's an old wives tale about wearing clean underwear in case you go to the hospital."
  • "Parts is parts."
  • "I hope you don't love this jacket/that sweater/those jeans too much..."

What I really mean:

  • If you're wearing something weird, like a banana hammock, we'll notice. If you are of an age where you're expected to be able to competently wipe your ass, we'll notice the skid marks on your undies too. We'll talk amongst ourselves, and the ER staff. There will be snickering. If you're intoxicated, we probably won't leave the room to snicker.
  • I tell you this when I am seeing you naked, or half-naked. But, yeah, I notice. Compare. I most often notice nice things, however. The patient that sticks out most in my mind is a woman in her 60s who wrecked her bicycle while riding downhill, careening into a tree and smashing her head so hard that her helmet cracked down the middle - she ended up with a concussion and some broken ribs. The thing I noticed when I had to expose her to check for injuries was that from the neck down, her body was that of an aerobics instructor in her 20s. Her face didn't betray her age either. She inspired me to get my ass out on my bike again.
  • "... 'cause I'm cutting it off."

What I tell you:

  • while nodding toward the patient, "I'm going to talk to him/her first, thanks."

What I mean:

  • "Shut up and stop talking over my patient every time I ask them a question."

What I tell you:

  • ... when you ask if I like my job: "Yes, I really do. I can't imagine doing anything else for a living."

What is really the case:

  • I mean it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Today's Theme - Exuberance

Photo by: Dan Miller Photography