The ocean never disappoints

Our yellow lab loves the water. And she gives her endorsement of this blog post.

Our yellow lab loves the water. And she gives her endorsement of this blog post.

I’m on a work-cation with my family this week. Ventura, 8 houses from the beach, with a clean view of the ocean from the upper deck.

And it’s great, as always. I would live here if I could solve the puzzle of how to make it happen. My lotto-ticket strategy has been a wash-out of an idea.

This was a supposed to be two weeks of vacation for me, but work killed the “cation” part, though I had most of Friday off. At least I’ve been able to work 8 or 9-hour days and get to the beach in the late afternoons. That is the best part because, as I said in the title of this post, the ocean never disappoints.

I’d make a mess trying to explain what that means, but it’s what I think every time I stand there and look at the water. And maybe it comes from my new way of living in the moment – treating it like my last – noticing more, and staying off my Blackberry, which fizzled out yesterday in a Ziploc bag that was supposed to keep the salt water out – but didn’t. Now the phone lives in white rice. Fingers crossed it comes back to life.

The dogs enjoy the beach like my daughter at age 5 enjoyed Disneyland, when Princess-chasing was a sport. The dogs chase the tennis ball until they can’t. I had to check to see if Cali was still alive the other night. I jabbed at her with my feet to move off the end of the bed and she didn’t respond. I put my hand on her chest to check her breathing. Out like a light, but alive.

That’s it for today. A simple post. No faux heart or panic attacks to write about. No stress. Just more good fortune of having everything I need today.

All work and no play, or blogging

This is fun with hypertonic saline at a hotel. The sun was coming in the window and I thought it was cool looking to blow into the light. Yes, I have problems, like having to get up early on business trips to do treatments.

This is fun with hypertonic saline at a hotel. The sun was coming in the window and I thought it was cool looking to blow into the light. Yes, I have problems, like having to get up early on business trips to do treatments.

I just finished two back-to-back work trips. Drove for both of them as I haven’t been on a plane in . . . a long time. So long I don’t remember.

Bad things happen to me on planes. But I do miss going places on business and with my family. We do, however, seem to find plenty of local places to drive to and still have a boatload of fun.

I do miss going to Hawaii. And I’d like to go to England to see a soccer game with a couple of friends, then get arrested and spend the night in an English jail. How cool would that be? Would I get “the rack”?

When I saw the date of my last post, I couldn’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve written anything. I know why blogs die off. It takes a lot of energy to keep them going. I’m in year four. Yay.

So, what’s new to report on. Looks like a good chunk of my lung function isn’t coming back. I’m hovering around 50%. It seems like I went from 70 to 50 overnight, but that’s not true. It took some years to do it. I fought every step of the way. However, whereas my PFT chart use to contain flowing, smooth hills and valleys, it now looks like an earthquake graph. Up and down, up and down, but mostly down.

I had to work during my daughter’s spring break. Not much choice, but I felt bad. It’s always a balance between keeping the job that pays well and gives great benefits and spending time with my wife and daughter.

I’ve also been building a linen closet door. It’s the door from hell and has schooled me, and beat me, and perplexed me throughout the process.  I almost gave up. But I’ve learned a lot of lessons, and that has value. I added my ninth coat of Tung oil tonight and will never use the stuff again. Back to shellac. I’ll post some pictures next week.

That’s it. I’m here, breathing. I woke up today, which is always a huge win. The rest is a bonus.

Unwanted house guests – Ben and Willard

Friday morning, with our daughter at school and yellow lab still at the animal hospital, my wife and I started noticing little 3/4-inch, rolled-up mud-like pieces around the house and on the furniture. Now though my wife is much smarter than I am (I only use 2% of my brain on my best days), I was the first to identify what we were seeing.

But it took a process of elimination and overcoming denial to get there.

Cali is a true care-free California Labrador. She is yours for free. Pick up only. Call 555-5555.

Cali is a true care-free California Labrador. She is yours for free. Pick up only. Call 555-5555.

Theory #1: Cali, our crazy black lab, dragged them in. She likes to eat poop. She must have spit them out, or kept them up in her cheeks or something.

My response to my wife: I don’t think so.

Action: We rolled Cali over on her back, checked her paws and fur, and looked in her mouth. Nothing there but a confused dog wondering why were inspecting every inch of her.

Theory #2: They fell off of my wife’s running shoes. It has been raining here for days. She must have stepped in mud and it somehow found its way onto the floor and furniture during the night.

My response to my wife: I don’t think so.

Action: My wife inspected her shoes. No mud. Tread pattern different.

At this point, I knew what they were. Thousands of years of hunter/gatherer evolution led me to the answer. But now, unlike my cavemen brothers who only had fire, I had a greater tool – the Internet.

So, while my wife tested theories 3 – 50 – asteroid dust – check for a hole in the roof – to Google Images I went. And sure enough I had a perfect match on my first try. Now I just had to tell my wife. Being the communications expert that I am, I let her know in the kindest, gentlest way possible.

“Rat poop.” [See how I softened “shit” to “poop.” Genius, I say.”]

“What?” she said.

“Rat poop. They’re rat poop. And those little wet spots: rat pee.”

“You’re kidding me?”

I wish I were kidding her, like I dreamed up the grossest prank I could to get in her good graces and mom jeans, which she doesn’t actually wear, but they sound funny. But I wasn’t joking. Sometime during the night, while our fierce black lab was sleeping on the floor of our small house, rats entered through the dog door and had a party.

[Please check out Craigslist, Los Angeles today and take home a free 1 year-old black lab with zero rat-hunting skills.]

The exterminator was there by noon, and he set traps inside our house, and promised to return next week with a Rat Death-House: rats go in, but they don’t come out. Two cat paws up for that.

Luna, recovering and wasted on sedatives and pain pills. Black spots courtesy of my daughter using the camera and getting the lens dirty.

Luna, recovering and wasted on sedatives and pain pills. Black spots courtesy of my daughter using the camera and getting the lens dirty.

My favorite exterminator quote: “They usually don’t enter houses with dogs.”

[Craigslist, Los Angeles posting: Free black lab to rat-free home.]

My wife and daughter hung out all day in the bedroom/office. And my daughter wore her boots at all times, lest some human-hunting rat with a taste for a 10-year-old took a run at her.

Then I had another brilliant idea last night, hunter that I am. I slept in the leather chair in the middle of the war zone, Ping 7-iron at my side and black lab on dog bed at my feet.

If you’re a husband, then I’m pretty sure you’ll appreciate this next statement: No one can put a pin in your ego and deflate it quite like a wife can. Especially when we try to do heroic things, like sleep in the middle of rat-infested battleground to protect females sleeping like little princesses in the bedroom next door.

Me: “So, I made it through the night. No rats. All clear.”

Wife: “But you left all the lights on.”

Me: “Yeah. So. What difference does that make? They come out with the lights on. When it’s silent, quiet. They have to go to the bathroom at some point.”

Wife: “They can go where they are. They’re rats.”

Me: “They’d come out to go.”

Wife: “How would you have noticed them?”

Me: “Cali barks, I wake up.”

Wife: “Oh, like you woke up when I came out to feed her this morning and she ran all over the place, whining and barking? I turned off the alarm too, which is pretty loud. But there you were sleeping like a baby, with one slipper hanging off your foot” [acts out what I looked like sleeping on the chair].

Me: “You came out to feed her this morning? Really?”

Hmm, yes, I am a heavy sleeper. And, yes, I didn’t notice any of these events, which made me think how lucky I was that I didn’t wake up thinking my dog was snuggling with me during the night only to discover she was back in the bedroom with my wife and daughter.

Ah, heroic plans dashed, crushed, smashed by the love of my life.

The woolly mammoth I brought back to the cave was undersized and couldn’t feed the clan. And I got a beating for it.

It’s not the thought that counts when you’re a hunter. It’s showing off a blood-covered Ping golf club and a dozen rat carcasses to your wife when she wakes up that matters. It’s scrambled prehistoric vulture eggs with chunks of fresh rat meat that matters. Yep, it’s feeding the clan.

However, later today, when I said to my wife, “I suck at rat-hunting,” she replied, “Were there any rat-poops this morning?”

“No.”

“Then you did your job.”

Ego restored. Just like that. Magic.

Yes, yes, I did my job. I could be a caveman after all.

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?

How I spent (and didn’t spend) my summer vacation

I didn’t spend summer in the hospital. [Fox applauds, then passes out.]

I feel like I won the lottery by not going in, though the pattern for me has long been one without summer hospital stays. With falling leaves, colds and other viruses on the way, you can bet that I’ll soon be returning to hell.

Ebony and Ivory, living in perfect harmony on the beach

I didn’t spend June, July or August coughing up blood, though summer hasn’t officially ended.

And if you’re a betting man or woman, I’d bet on the blood thanks to the blood thinning shots I’m stabbing into my McGriddle-fattened six-pack twice a day. And I’ve just tempted fate by mentioning it on the blog, which means I’ll probably be in the hospital coughing up blood within the next two or three days.

I did spend June working on what the Donald would call a “super-big, important, super-large” project at work. It was a success and once again I proved it’s better to be lucky than good, and assembling a talented team always makes one look better than they truly are. Go Team Unknown.

We did spend the summer with a new puppy – a goofy, mischievous, shower-squeegee stealing, whining, scared of her own shadow, mystery of a black lab that I wanted to give away, but was outvoted by my wife and daughter, who are both attached to the black shadow-thief. (That’s all I can write about the dog, otherwise my friend @onlyz tunes out at this point and starts to read the back of the vegan muffin package.)

I didn’t spend this summer blogging or watching TV, but I did spend it reading. I read over 8,000 pages and enjoyed every minute, staying up late and making the most of when time takes its mandated-by-law break.

Malibu coastline on a nice summer day.

I did spend the hot months milking every bit of fun I could. I filled every weekend with an activity and dragged my wife and daughter to all kinds of places. From the American Idol concert, to the beach, the circus, a dog agility trial and canyon roads we’d never driven. We didn’t take a summer trip this year thanks to the blood-thinner shots, but we still had a great time and spoiled ourselves by eating dinner at restaurants more often.

The end of a great concert at Theatricum in Topanga. Check out a play here if you're in Los Angeles.

Monday, Labor Day, we ended the “holiday to holiday” summer with the annual benefit concert at Theatricum in Topanga. What an amazing afternoon filled with talented singers singing Burt Bacharach songs. A great way to finish my favorite season of the year watching some of Los Angeles’s most talented musicians, like Inara George and Sara Melson, play music for two hours.

So, I’m happy with the job I did having fun this summer. I cannot guarantee I’ll see another one. I hope I do, but it’s not written in stone that I will.

Now it’s time to focus on autumn and the Denver Broncos winning and me staying out of hell and not catching colds or the flu or coughing up blood. I’m optimistic, but know sometimes there is nothing I can do but ride out ill-timed surprises.

Here’s to a healthy fall and winter to all.

Some weekends are different than others

Last weekend started with the American Idol concert and ended with a 1 a.m. Sunday night visit to the emergency vet. That’s the beginning to the end without a middle. Oh, and there were police and fire trucks, too. Not an average weekend.

The American Idol concert was my daughter’s first large-scale concert. It wasn’t The Who or Springsteen or anyone great, but it wasn’t bad for karaoke.  It did convince me that America doesn’t vote for the best singers. And the show manipulates the results and finds ways to push favored singers to the end.

Oh, and Pia was robbed. How did she get voted off so early? She sounded better, looked better, and was more poised than second-place Lauren Alaina, who danced like a Disney Animatronic bear.

Being in a large crowd at the Nokia Theater also reinforced my theory that people are getting angrier these days. Two knuckleheads sitting on the isle seats next to us got bent every time someone had to leave to get food or use the restroom. Then, they didn’t want to move to let my wife and daughter back to our seats. It’s an American Idol concert you twits, not a play where if you miss one word the meaning is lost. You’re at the end of the aisle, what did you expect when you bought the seats?

I’m not good in crowds anymore.

Saturday and Sunday were filled with me spending a lot of time reading the Game of Thrones books, dinner with friends, watching Team USA lose (heartbreaking), and a faux ABBA concert Sunday night. Nothing like Swedish pop to put a smile on your face and at the same time create the contradictory feeling of queasiness that you’re about to bring up your tri-tip sandwich to the opening bars of “Dancing Queen.”

But then there was late Sunday night.

At around 10:30 p.m., I noticed four police cars outside, which made me think that shredding my jury notices for the last 20 years wasn’t such a great idea. But they didn’t come for me – yet – instead they were after one of my neighbors.

So, of course I had to watch a bunch of police officers standing around – it takes 7 to arrest one person – throwing their gum wrappers on my lawn. Then, two fire trucks showed up and the fire department ambulance. That led to my neighbor being taken away screaming, handcuffed and strapped down to the gurney.

All of that took almost two hours.

Stick an electrode on her head and activists would be breaking her out of my house.

Then I went outside with the dogs and noticed our yellow lab had a lumpy head, gross, and a swollen muzzle. A dime of blood blossomed on her head. Executive decision: Trip to the emergency vet where they gave her a steroid and Benadryl cocktail for the mystery insect bite and me a $200 enema for owning the mutt who stuck her head in the wrong plant.

My dog also received the make-over bonus of a 4-inch square shaved on her head for the oh so 70’s look of a laboratory research animal. My daughter broke into tears when she saw her in the morning, having slept through the fun during the night.

So, that was the weekend. Thanks to Game of Thrones, it’s taken me three days to finish this post. I can’t wait to finish the last book and get back to my life and blogging.

Happy summer.

Work and more work

Work was a bear this week, eating me alive. I left late Sunday night and drove east to the lovely but highly polluted city of Ontario. Then I spent most of the week there getting up at 6 a.m to do treatments and work from the hotel. Then to the office by 8, on my feet all day and back to the hotel around 10 each night. A couple hours of treatments and to sleep at midnight.

The resting place for our black mutt

Before I left for the trip to the capital of polluting big rigs, we buried our black mutt on Father’s day. We sprinkled his ashes in the ground a few feet from our chocolate lab and planted a new plant on top of him. My daughter cried a lot. She loves dogs at age 9 more than I think I did as a kid, though we were not allowed to have them in the house, which made our relationship with them different. She’s grown up with a yellow lab for a pillow.

Knock on wood that I haven’t been spending much of my time at doctors lately. I have spent a lot of time at the vet with the dogs. It seems like I’m there with one of them each week. Yesterday, it was Luna. I welcomed the break from work, as I was moving slowly and not very productive early in the day. Luna has some “upset stomach/vomit on the rug” thing. Test results back today. Then, another trip this week or next to have Cali spayed.

The universe is happy when I’m speaking to someone with “Dr.” in their title, I guess. The only good part about the vet is not having to fill out 5 pages of medical paperwork and questions. The vet doesn’t care about who the parents of my dog are and what ailments her grandparents had. With real medical paperwork, I take the express train and line through those annoying questions.

Though I felt pretty good this week, it had its share of feel-bad moments. First was eating too much pizza for lunch on Tuesday and watching my digestion go south for the week, which is always a joy at group meetings and exceptional fun when standing in front of 50 people presenting.

Then my feet and lower legs swelled up thanks to the heat and Wednesday’s triple BBQ-meat lunch. I ate what could best be described as a small mountain of salty tri-tip, pork and chicken on Wednesday. I don’t know if it triggered a gout flare up, but I have to email the doctor and figure out what’s going on. By the end of each day, I was pretty creaky.

If I have any wish for my daughter today, it’s that she doesn’t work for a large corporation when she’s older – unless it makes her happy beyond belief to do so. And maybe I’m projecting my own wishes onto her, but there is something wrong with working for one. I can’t put my finger on it today with my tired brain, but I will in a future post. I just hope she does something really fun and is her own boss. Knowing her, she’ll be kind of bossy no matter what. Her poor future husband has no idea. 🙂

Stay rested.