Random thoughts on a cold December night

It’s only a guess, but losing lung function overnight must be what it’s like to lose most of your money all at once. It’s painful, depressing and takes every ounce of effort to keep going. And you wonder if you’ll ever make it back.

The funny thing about Labradors is they have the uncanny ability to seek out and discover the most comfortable place in the house - even if they're not allowed on the furniture.

The funny thing about Labradors is they have the uncanny ability to find the most comfortable place in the house – even if they’re not allowed on the furniture.

That’s where I am right now – missing my lung function and still in disbelief of how fast it happened. It’s clearly not fair, but confirms what I’ve been telling my daughter for years: life isn’t fair.

Regardless, I’m staying positive. I’m still in the game, baby. And who knows what 2014 will hold? Something good? I think so.

Work sucks. Not in the sense that I’m not happy to have a job in this economy, though by the articles lately it shows the pre-recession wealth has returned to the country, but in the sense the way we work seems . . . unproductive, counterproductive? In fact, I feel like writing a book on what not to do while working for a big company.

Here’s the title of the first chapter: “Put the fire out before asking how it happened.” Or, perhaps, “Yelling at a fire won’t put it out.”

I don’t know, work in progress.

That’s it. I’m a few days away from a long vacation, which means I’ll have more time for myself and family and doing what I enjoy, like writing blog posts instead of emails and PowerPoint slides.

Happy Holidays.

[Here’s a counterpoint on whether the wealth has really returned or not: http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-wealth-20131210,0,3027347.story#axzz2n7U8sVI7 ]

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One reason we need government: Foster Farms

We eat a ton of Foster Farms chicken. Then I read the following article tonight. 

Foster Farms? More like Salmonella Farms.

I know it’s easy to get on our government about how much they suck at times, which I do, as I can’t stand Congress, except for Senator Elizabeth Warren, but the government does provide some good services. As in policing the companies that provide our food.

Not looking so hot today, Foster.

Not looking so hot today, Foster.

On top of the Salmonella concern, once again the continued use of antibiotics in our food supply rears its head. How long is this going to continue? Does anyone still think it’s a good idea? Years from now, this is one of those actions people will look back at and shake their heads, wondering how we could have been so stupid.

Worst of all, the example above is just one of many stories each week of companies pushing the boundaries of what not to do. Without government, though far from perfect, we’d be hosed and puking chicken casserole into a toilet while the banks took crazy risks with our money.

Hold it? What the hell. That’s already happened. Our government sucks. Never mind.

Craigslist find: Two driftwood benches

My wife, daughter, and I search for driftwood when we go to the beach. So far, we’ve had little luck. We found a 1-foot piece but I left it on our back patio to dry off and our black lab chewed it to pieces. Then we found a nice, hefty 2-foot chunk when we stayed at the Marriott in Ventura. I hid it in the parking lot because it was wet and smelled. Then it rained overnight and soaked the wood, strengthening its odor and increasing its number of flies. So we abandoned it in the parking lot and drove home.

This piece was ginormous. Around 8 feet long. I would have needed a crane or team of vikings to lift it up and get it home.

This piece was ginormous. Around 10 feet long. I would have needed a crane or team of vikings to lift it up and get it home.

Then we discovered a giant piece of driftwood that looked like a dinosaur fossil, (pictured to the right), but I couldn’t figure out a way to get it home.

This makes us 0 for 3 when it comes to driftwood hunting.

Until today when I hit the mother lode of driftwood – on Craigslist.

My Craigslist app beeped and showed two driftwood benches in my city. $25 each or $40 for both.

40 bucks? Seriously? For giant pieces of driftwood? Bargain alert.

This bench is 7-feet wide and heavy. But oh what a piece of wood it is. Or pieces of wood.

This bench is 7-feet wide and heavy. But oh what a piece of wood it is. Or pieces of wood.

I believe in luck and making your own. No hesitation, I called the seller and told him I’d buy both benches. At lunchtime, my neighbor in tow, I was at his house with $40.

Lesson learned today about large pieces of driftwood: they weigh a friggin’ ton. It took all three of us to lift the large bench down a flight of outdoor steps – one step at a time. Then we had to lift it up and into the bed of my friend’s pick-up truck.

The seller was super nice. He said he received several calls after mine, and a couple of people offered him more. And he didn’t say this next part, but he still honored the deal and didn’t sell to the other caller. I respect that in this today’s world of “anything for a buck.”

This is the small bench. It's almost 5-feet long and takes two people to lift it.

This is the small bench. It’s almost 5-feet long and takes two people to lift it.

I looked up driftwood benches when I got home. I found one that was similar and sold for $600. Now I feel guilty about the great deal I got.

Should I?

I am thinking of sending the guy a thank you note and $20 in the mail he can put in his son’s college fund. I know. I’m nuts. But if I ever wanted to sell these, I could make a good chunk of change. 

What would you do?

The bionic dog

This summer was an expensive but fun one for us. Kitchen remodel. Month at the beach. New right knee for our yellow lab.

At the dog beach.

Adios, home equity. It was nice knowing you.

But as I said to my wife the other day, “Money, you can’t eat it when you’re dead.”

She said, “that doesn’t make sense.” And she was correct. It doesn’t. Sometimes, the stuff just comes out of my mouth.

Earlier this year, our yellow lab tore her ACL in one knee, and had a partial tear in the other. The vet told us it’s common for the second knee to tear 100 percent after the first surgery. And he was correct. It did. We had hoped it wouldn’t, but last week we noticed Luna limping and keeping it off the ground, a bad sign.

Off to the vet my wife went. Second tear confirmed.

It was less of a decision of whether to do the second surgery – another 5K burned – as it was of when to do the surgery. After a day of discussion, we decided to do it right away. We can’t stand to watch Luna limp around, not to mention that it must hurt. So, in she goes this week for the second bionic knee filled with screws (pretty much what holds my brain together). After that there is a three-month recovery period (the first month is the hardest, because we have to restrict her to the dog bed, except for going out to fertilize the lawn). In four months, she’ll be pulling a sled again. Or should be to earn back the cost of the two surgeries.

To pay for the operation, we’ll be cutting back in 2013. We placed a vase on the dining table and scraps of paper in the mouth of a nutcracker. Each time we save money, we write it down and drop it in. Last night, I lowered our DirecTV subscription. Goodbye, Laker’s games. Hello, $300 saved over the next 12 months.

Oh, that wet dog smell.

My daughter also gave up Little Pony episodes, which she wasn’t thrilled about. She almost got a late-night ass-chewing from my wife when she said: “you aren’t giving up anything, Mama,” not comprehending the money going out the door was also earned by her mother.

We’ll be thinking up other ways to cut out spending in 2013. I gave up Christmas presents from my wife and daughter. And the landline phone may be going – why do we have it and two cell phones?

And, as Luna’s picture made two 2013 dog calendars, we’re thinking of letting people take their pictures with her for 5 bucks a pop. I can tell you exactly how much this plan will make – $15. Five from my wife, my daughter and me.

All of this for the love of a dog we raised from a pup alongside our daughter. What choice did we have?

Speaking to my daughter’s future self

I hope there is a God so one day I can thank her for my daughter.

Kicking back at the beach with a yellow Labrador pillow.

How I got so lucky, I will never know. But I did. And it’s best not to question why.

I’ll also thank the Universe for my wife, too, because I won the marriage lotto. And, as a jackpot bonus, she contributed all the best genes and qualities to my daughter, especially the love, goodness, and kindness – because our 5th grader didn’t get any of those from me.

I’m the guy with the low opinion of humanity who thinks the world is going to collapse under the weight of billions of people with resources to support millions. No matter how much ketchup you use, you can’t eat an iPhone or iPad, or fish from a poisoned ocean.

But there in the middle of the madness is my daughter, bright, shiny, ready to join the ride I’ll be getting off of soon. And it’s everything we can do to keep her from harm, especially the self-inflicted kind. It’s almost as if the important talks we have with her now anticipate that she will become someone else, someone different from her 10-year-old self.  We speak to her future self, which feels a bit sci-fi like, and hope what we tell her sticks, and she remembers it when needed years from now.

We have conversations about alcohol and drugs: One day a friend will offer you drugs, someone you never expected (disbelief from daughter). What will you do?  If your friend drinks too much at a party and wants to drive you home, will you remember to call us? We’ll pick you up. No judgment. 

When she is a teenager, will she still love us? That’s a question my wife and I ask ourselves a lot. I’m not as concerned. I’m just not. I can only do so much.

But now that my daughter is almost 11, I’m feeling sentimental and a little bit . . . scared?

I read too many news stories about harm coming to women. I used to worry about our cabinet doors being secure and the bumper around the coffee table being in place, or wearing her helmet while biking. The stuff I worry about now feels more real, harder to see, like it’s waiting outside, lurking – a jungle filled with scummy people, losers, and criminals. We can prepare her, coach her, but in that moment when she in on her own one day, what can we do?

Our neighbor’s adult daughter has a drug problem and history with the police. We use her as the poster child of what not to do with your life. But I still wonder what happened to her. What signs did the parents miss? What mistakes did they make? How did she go from bright, bubbly toddler to living in her car and homeless? How did that happen? And what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen to our daughter?

So, what does the future hold for our daughter? Will we prepare her properly to succeed in the world? I’m in no hurry to find out.

And we want to become adults because?

It would have been nice had someone explained to me when I was young how difficult it is to be an adult. It’s not a cakewalk. Nor is every day a day at the beach. I probably wouldn’t have listened, or cared, but it still would have been nice. All those milestones we dream of as children, 16, 18, and 21, blow by. Then we become adults and can do anything we want, including wishing we were 16 again, but smarter.

Okay, moaning over. It’s just one of those days. Let me explain.

So many questions, so little time. © kbuntu – Fotolia.com

I spent two days writing a post about what happened over Memorial Day weekend with a neighbor. I would love to publish it, but I don’t know if I can make it plain enough to avoid all legal scrutiny and not get in hot water. In a nutshell, a neighbor who has caused the neighborhood and my family great stress went to jail this weekend. I and another neighbor followed the instructions of the police the last time they were here: call if she shows up again. We just wanted her out of the neighborhood. The going to jail part was a surprise and not intended. Now I know why some people don’t get involved. It’s easier and requires less effort and stress.

And if you do get involved, it’s easy to muck it up and experience more stress (I know this firsthand).

I’ve been on the phone with a lawyer about my options to sue since then, and I’ve spoken to a police officer about everything happening in the neighborhood for the past year. My wife and I have had stressful conversations about the situation. Unfortunately, there’s no manual on how to protect your family from people with drug habits.

But there should be.

I went to clinic today and my PFTs haven’t gone back to baseline. Not looking good. So, maybe it’s time for IVs to see if we can nudge them back.

When the nurse was reviewing my records, the conversation went like this: Have you made an appointment with the sinus doctor? No. Have you scheduled a sleep study? No. Have you scheduled a bone scan? No. An oral glucose test? No. And so on.

Working 50 hours a week makes it difficult to spend my weeks enduring medical tests.

A new doctor untrained in the mysteries of CF walked in and surprised me. I’m picky about my doctors and my time. I knew in the initial 30 seconds based on the way she entered, spoke, her mannerisms, and plopping herself on the first chair she could find that I had nothing to say to her. And I told her that, then asked for the regular doc. Nothing personal, I said, as she left. One of the regular doctors I like entered the room and it rained happiness and Skittles. I only had to use a third of the words and effort with her compared to the doctor I booted.

A similar situation happened with a temporary member of the staff. I answered her questions as quickly as I could and got her out of the room as fast as possible. But the visit wore me out, as the longer I’m there, the more the work feels like it’s piling up.

So, all of this and more have added up to remind me why some must turn to drugs in life. The future overwhelms. How much of what we worry about will or won’t happen? I wish I knew.

Remembering the mistakes, forgetting the successes, and the evolution of one’s character

I can remember every failure or mistake I’ve ever made. I could write out a list right now. Give me some ink, a quill, and a monk’s desk, and I could create a scroll that when opened would roll out for miles and miles.

I often wonder if other people face this or have this negative habit.

Say hello to my little friend, Jingles. He’s a genius. © Amy Walters – Fotolia.com

Every day I’m reminded of a few choice errors. It’s hard to predict which ones, but some bad memory comes flooding back. And I beat myself up about it.

The ones that hurt the most are the ones that hurt our family and have kept us from having more in life. But there are relationship mistakes I’ve made too, and those smart sometimes. And then there are the mistakes that have damaged my health. Ouch, thinking about a few now.

This is like shaking a warm can of Coke and popping the top.

I don’t remember very many of the successes. It’s either because there haven’t been very many or I don’t feel deserving of them? I have no idea, but the ratio is skewed in favor of remembering the idiotic and stupid things I’ve done – most too embarrassing to mention.

I try not to think of my first 25 years at all. They’re a collage of mistakes and bad choices and feeling like the village idiot. I’m lucky I didn’t end up in jail or an urn.

I’ve never claimed to be bright. And if anything, I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten smarter over the years as much as I would say I’m just not as dumb as I once was. So, I guess it comes down to degrees of stupidity. I’m less stupid than I was. Barely.

If there is a bright spot, I feel like I’ve improved as a human being over the years. It just took me a long time to get to this point. And I did have to figure out a lot of it on my own and the evolution took a little bit longer than it does for most people. Not that I have everything figured out now. I don’t.

I tell my daughter that the worse part of lying or doing bad things is not always the action itself, it’s the memories of what you did. They last a lifetime and haunt like ghosts.