True love is proven in the most difficult of situations

I have the greatest wife in the world and a hernia in my ass.

A little salt, a pinch of sugar, and I'll be ready for Thanksgiving. (Sorry, I couldn't resist. I have problems.) © Olga Lyubkin - Fotolia.com

Those are the facts. And I’m happy about the first one and upset about the second.

The official term is Rectal Prolapse. And it’s as bad as it sounds. Perhaps, worse.

Saturday the cipro did a number on my stomach and digestion, and something tore loose back there. I thought it was a hemorrhoid that hurt really bad. But the pain woke me up around 5 a.m. Sunday morning and I was walking gingerly into the ER around 10 a.m. with an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale.

A little luck went my way with a short wait and a very nice doctor who worked the rupture back into place. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay and popped back out and a surgeon was called. No immediate surgery due to the fact it could be put back in place.

“Follow up with your doctor on Monday. Now run along little cow poke. You’ll get the hang of riding horses one day.”

For the past two days, I’ve had to drop trou and have my wife manipulate it back in place because it’s not as easy to do it yourself as the ER doc said, “just use two fingers and push it back in place.” That would be possible if I worked at Cirque du Soleil and could twist my lower body around 180 degrees. But I’m made of wood and might break if I tried.

There is also the steroidal magic bullet I insert, which I do in front of my wife, as asking for privacy at this point seems, well, pointless. After the final application of a salt and sugar paste to reduce swelling and season me properly, I place my ass in the 350-degree oven for a nice crusty glaze*.

Oh, I almost forgot one final step. Gauze is inserted between the two hemispheres and both are taped together, tight, for maximum style points in my cargo shorts.

I must say I’ve been pretty mellow about this new adventure. It has a “this isn’t really happening, is it?” quality about it.

“No, I really don’t have to stand and clench my cheeks before every cough.”

“It’s a good thing this is just a bad dream and I’ll wake soon.”

But it’s real. And yet, at the same time, it’s proof I am the luckiest man in the world because I married a woman with courage for the both of us and gentle hands.

When I’m laying on my side with my back toward her, I tell her that I would do the same for her if our roles were reversed. And I also tell her that I’m glad it’s me going through this and not her.

And I mean it.

***

[*The oven part is a joke. Do not attempt unless you want to be dinner or are a complete idiot.]

My daughter at nine

She eats with her mouth open at times and wipes her hands on her pants or skirt. A week ago, we found asparagus in the toilet after dinner, which she put there but forgot to flush. Career criminal seems unlikely as a future career choice.

She likes boots and confiscated an old pair of her mom’s, which just about fit because she will be taller than her mom and have bigger feet. This worries her.

She likes fashion and sometimes I have to hold my tongue as she experiments with certain clothes and make-up. When some of it got in her eyes a month ago, her fascination with it took a pause and we haven’t seen red cheeks and blue eye lids since.

There's always a reason to dance when you're nine

She is a moody little bear at times and is knocking at puberty’s door. I have no male allies in this house during female mood swings. I miss having a male dog, as the female dogs seem to side with their own sex even if you are the one who feeds them. They’d rather starve than take my side and I’m convinced both women and canines can speak to each other without moving their lips. It’s how they look at me at times that makes me think this.

She takes guitar lessons, but doesn’t like to practice. She takes singing lessons and loves to practice. My wife and I have to tell her not to strain her voice, which means she’s straining our ears with the volume level. But she belts it out anyway. Oh, and she loves to dance and is pretty good, but doesn’t want to take dance lessons. Some logic is not for me to question.

She is all about fairness right now. Like in: How come daddy doesn’t have to do the dishes? Good question. How come I don’t have to do the dishes? First, your mother doesn’t look good in a tool belt like I do and she doesn’t know how to use a hammer or a drill. How’s that for fairness? Now scrub those plates, Cinderella. 

She still consumes books as if addicted. It’s a sight to see and has cost us a lot of money over the years, but it’s her talent. She even reads the parenting magazines my wife reads. So, during dinner when we’re arguing about something, or she conveniently lets the broccoli drop from her fork to one of her furry partners-in-crime, I ask her: What do your parent magazines say I should do in a situation like this? That confuses her. I guess she didn’t read the article, “Kids who share their veggies with dogs.” I did.

She is wonderful, perfectly imperfect, and we’re so lucky to have her. The Universe took favor on us with its choice.

Meet Mr. Discomfort

Mark down yesterday as the first time my daughter said “I hate you” to me. But both and wife and I were glad she did. True. And I kind of earned it. I’ll explain.

First, my wife is the better parent, as if that needs explaining to anyone reading this blog. She’s up on the parent mags and is loving and caring. I stumble through life and wing it, happy to wake up each morning, which is an instant win in my mind.

And then there is our talented and smart 9 year-old daughter going through a transitional stage and testing the borders of the soon to be teenage years. And though we think our daughter is special, as all parents do of their children, I worry that she lives too comfortable of an existence.

My wife and I are not rich. We both work. Our house is less than 1,900 sq ft, which gives me house envy here in Los Angeles. And as an only child, our daughter gets all of our attention and lives a good life. And though her hardship and defining moment may come at anytime when my lungs fail or I get hit by a moon rock, she leans toward not wanting to break out of her comfort zone, and is a little on the shy side, especially with adults.

That’s where I come in. I’m Mr. Discomfort and my picture should be on a bottle with a really long legal disclaimer, a number for the local poison-control hotline, and the warning: “May cause irritation.” 

It’s my job to shake things up when life stagnates.

I get bothered when my daughter holds her feelings in and doesn’t participate in discussions. So, rather than have the silent young lady at the table sitting it out while life goes by, I push and prod until we have a mild conflict going that leads to emotion and the flexing and testing of communication skills. And most importantly in the end: growth.

So, when the young firecracker’s fuse ran out and she asked us if it was okay to speak exactly what was on her mind, we gave her the green light. We had plenty of burn cream in the kitchen.

And when she said “I really, really hate you right now” I was okay with that. It was a breakthrough of her not holding in her emotions and expressing herself. And more importantly, it resulted in her gaining the confidence to take singing and karate lessons, which is what the conversation was about in the first place – her not trying new things in life and ending up sad about it later as an adult.

When opportunities present themselves, we said, take advantage. Or, the moment may be lost and you’ll regret it.

To my daughter’s credit, she got it. And soon she’ll be kicking the daylights out of a karate bag and singing Lady Gaga songs.

The most touching moment came later that night outside when she asked me if I loved her. Yes, I do love you, I said.

Even though I said I hated you?

Yes, I said. Always. No matter what.

And the night was magical and mile 9 of the marathon continued with me skirting the fine line of “near-disaster” parenting, proving once again, even numskulls get lucky once in awhile.

Letter to my daughter 06/13/11

[To my friends: I’ve been tinkering with this post for almost two weeks. It’s the most frustrating of my letters to my daughter and makes me wish I had told my wife about my blog so she could edit it. I’m posting it so I can move on to new posts. However, I’ll probably revise this one forever. ]

Dearest Daughter,

The mistakes I’ve made in my life haunt me. Probably more than they should. But I can’t help it and I can’t forget them.

I wish I could take what I’ve learned and transfer that knowledge directly to your mind, helping you avoid the same ones. But I know you need to make your own.

Perhaps, I can help you in an unusual way.

Creative commons: Photo by Chefranden

If a butterfly flaps its wings in Hawaii, will it affect the weather in California? This is my version, by the way. And, my answer is “no, it will not. Or, there is no way to prove it.” However, if a nuclear power plant melts down in Japan, will it affect California? Yes.

So, there are obvious, major events we can measure – radiation – and events we can’t – the influence of the butterfly’s wings.

But when it comes to your life, the butterfly flapping its wings, or the small event seemingly with little impact at the time, matters a great deal.

Think of the timeline of your life, past and future. Actions or a lack of action in your life, especially early on, will change your life when you’re older – for better and worse. In my case, worse.

I think of my life now and believe it should be easier than it is. I should know more than I do. I should know how to do more things – play the guitar, solve harder math questions, identify more plants and trees, make more money, have the perfect career. I should be in a better position to take care of you and your mother.

And when I look back on my life, my situation now is a creation from simple actions I took or didn’t take when I was younger – when opportunity presented itself. I hung out with the wrong people and made the wrong choices, and never factored in the future.

Here’s the simple equation: (here and now + anything goes) – an eye on the future = the hole you’ll have to dig yourself out of for the rest of your life.

Creative Commons: Photo by shark001

This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, or must work yourself to the bone. Have fun. Enjoy life. Just remember little events and choices have potentially big consequences later on in life. You’ll have to live with the good and bad decisions. No matter what though, don’t beat yourself up like I have. Let the bad ones go.

I’ll leave you with this. Until you know exactly what you want with your life – what makes you the happiest – open as many doors as possible, try as many far-reaching experiences as possible. Play the guitar, the piano. Learn karate. Skeet shoot. Make a quilt. Study as much math as possible. Appreciate science and nature.

Better yet, ignore everything I’ve listed and go your own way, but always love your Mother no matter what.

It’s my hope one day when you’re in a tough situation, on your own, with someone leaning on you to do something you know is probably not the best choice for you to make, this post will remind you to imagine the butterfly and the air currents its flapping wings displace. And strength will come to you from the knowledge that those currents can only travel a long way into your future if you allow them to.

Love, Daddy

The dog days of summer start early for us

It’s not August, or summer yet, but our dog days (and nights) are here. We spend a lot of time playing with, talking about, watching, and walking the dogs. Our dogs consume our days. And it’s pretty darn nice and stress-reducing – most of the time.

Yellow Labrador on a hammock

We’re going to dog training classes. We have Nylabones in most rooms of our house, which, by the way, make for a heart-racing experience when you step on one on a wood floor. Like stepping on an ice cube. Surprise, you almost broke your backside because of a plastic dog bone.

We continually summon each other to see something new the pup is doing: “She’s yawning. Come look everybody. Bring the video camera.” 

And I’m tired everyday.

Cali has been doing great sleeping in her kennel through the night. But when the sun comes up, she comes up. I wake up on my dog couch with our yellow lab sleeping on my legs and two little brown eyes staring at me from the kennel. Out Cali goes to the backyard, sky barely awake itself. Then I try to go back to sleep for an hour. I try.

It’s amazing how important that last hour of sleep is to staying awake the rest of the day. No wonder I haven’t been blogging. I’m exhausted at night.

Cali is a bit of a conundrum. She’s shy with new people and dogs, but in the house her confidence grows each day and she’s become quite the playful pup. The trainer said she’ll become the dominant dog to our older dog. My wife and I were skeptical until this morning.

I walked into the kitchen while my wife was trying to explain a “neverbeforeseenact” of dog behavior – humping – to my daughter. But without using the word “humping.” As in, “Cali is humping the living daylights out of Luna.” Or, “humped,” as in, “Luna is being humped by Cali.” It was like watching a game of Password where you can’t say the word and have to dance around it.

Our unpredictable troublemaker

“So, you mean she’s riding her, Mommy?” Clever Mommy. Glad I missed the beginning of this conversation.

“Yes,” my wife said.

“She’s riding her like a cowgirl,” my daughter added.

Apply Parental Strategy #101-294-44B: Don’t say a word. Don’t laugh. Zip it. Yawn. Act like nothing important is happening. Continue with your daily tasks. 

And we did. And it worked.

My wife and I gave each other knowing looks of “that was close and awkward.”

I’m not looking forward to the day when my daughter comes home from school and tells us the more accurate word. It’s a shame kids and puppies have to grow up. They both peak at their maximum cuteness level when they’re young. At least dogs become less work when they get older. 9 year-old girls? Clearly, the opposite.

Three Days of the Dada

Thank some god for mall food courts. I cooked there with my wallet while my wife was away. Three nights of pizza, Brazilian BBQ and Sushi. Yeah, Baby, this is living large. But I don’t think I could do a fourth night. I’m “mall-fooded” out.

Palm trees in a California mall. Makes sense to me.

My wife is in the air. Her plane was delayed and she’s arriving late tonight. I can’t wait until she gets home. I’m going to stick out my hand like a tag-team wrestler, tag her, and head to the dog couch.

I’m tired. I’ve been getting up early to do treatments before my daughter wakes. Less than six hours of sleep each night.

If I were grading this week, I’d give my daughter an A-. She was great. If she could drive a car, I could have slept in. She put together her breakfast each morning, got dressed, and brushed her hair.

I should have worn a chauffeur’s outfit. I drove her to school and picked her up. And paid for her meals. Pretty simple, Simon.

I’d give myself a C+. Maybe B-. I realized today she hadn’t taken a shower since her mom left. Oops. My bad. That brought my grade down.

We watched American Pickers two of the nights, breaking our “no TV during the week” rule, though we have been watching American Idol this season. (We only watch shows with “American” in the title.) So, my grade goes down for the nights we were couch potatoes.

My daughter complained about a sore throat tonight and was tired. A cold coming on? I hope not. Stress from having to do all the work this week? Maybe.

My three days is about up. I’m pretty sure everyone’s good vibes kept the wet dynamite in my chest from exploding. It’s good to have friends you’ve never met. My humble thanks.

If, by chance, we ever do meet, the mall sushi is on me.

They know me at this place. "Norm, Irasshaimase."

Letter to my daughter, 03/22/11

Dearest Daughter,

We’ve spent two days together while Mommy is away on business. Thanks for making my life easy, so far. But there’s always tomorrow to change course and wake up in a foul mood and fuss about putting your shoes on. We’re not home free yet.

I do, my wonderful daughter, need to share an observation with you I noticed this week: You’re Fox’s child, not mine. Yes – you are.

This became very clear to me the first morning when I had an epiphany and saw your fox tail showing.

Here’s how I knew: How many years has Mommy brought you a heated blanket in the morning, carried you to breakfast, and sat you on her lap feeding you?

Hmm, I wonder?

Then, when she’s away for a few days, and I’m here, you manage to get up without an alarm clock, put together your own breakfast, eat it in record speed, and have 30 minutes to get dressed and ask if you can play Pokemon.

And no blanket or sleepy-head look? Very interesting indeed.

You see, I now know your secret – you bamboozled your mother! All these years and you kept the act up. Well done, my child. Well played, young lady. Well. Played.

I will keep your wicked little secret when Mommy gets back, and let you have your pack-mule moment of being carried to the table. It makes your mother happy, though she’s having a hard time carrying you now. How old will you be when you exceed the maximum weight limit for that ride? I’m sure it will be sad for all of us.

From this point forward, each time I see her lugging you like a heavy bag of groceries, I’m going to have a huge smile on my face watching you, Baby Fox. Yes, you.

Enjoy your trick, honey, because before you know it, you’ll be carrying your own daughter to breakfast wondering when she got so heavy, and wasn’t she just a baby a few days ago, and where did the time go?

Where did it go?

And you’ll remember, at that very moment, what I once told you in a blog post – you blinked.

With all my love,

Daddy

When life attacks

I spent yesterday afternoon in the ER – as a visitor. My wife went there because she had the panic attack of all panic attacks and her blood pressure skyrocketed. I wished I could have changed places with her.

I felt terrible that life had overflowed her bucket with lice, my hemoptysis, her crazy workload, and upcoming trip. I realized I was seeing a version of me when I go through anxiety attacks. It scared me because she’s been bulletproof up till now.

What’s kind of nutty is that I had to take a Xanax when she went to the ER because I had a panic attack. It was amusing when the doctor gave her a dose, too, as I was there to drive her home. I smiled because my little pill had kicked in for my pharmaceutical joy ride to the heavens. Sure, Doc, I’ll drive her home. My rocket ship is parked outside and ready to blast off. Maybe we’ll stop at a bar on Mars and knock down a couple of Xanax chasers.

It’s amazing how life and work become so overwhelming and hard to keep up with some days. My sincere thanks to the corporations for ratcheting up worker productivity the last few years. Companies may be right that high productivity is profitable, but they fail to factor in the cost of increased health care expenses. Even my healthy co-workers have problems dealing with the load. Some of them make secret ER visits and numerous doctor visits for their possible stress-related illnesses.

Tomorrow, my wife leaves on a business trip.  I want her to go because it will be good for her. But I don’t want her to go because if I cough up a lot of blood, it’s going to be one crazy time taking care of my daughter. She’ll have to stay with friends or hang out with me in the hospital. “Daddy, let’s go over your symptoms again. From what I can tell you’re experiencing what’s known as a panic attack. Now get over it so I can go back to playing Pokemon?” Okay, I will for you, bossy little princess.

The next three days are going to be like walking around with wet dynamite in my chest, hoping I don’t jostle it. Wish me luck.

Guilt, Secrets and Hiding Your Blog

It’s not easy to hide a blog from your wife.

I’ll be writing a post and there she is at the door. Thank you to the inventor of tabbed browsing. Click, I’m on Yahoo! or craigslist.org. However, after yesterday’s post that included her, I’m feeling guilty about keeping this blog a secret. Yes, it’s for my daughter, but my wife may find it more interesting, at least in the short-term. Or, maybe she won’t.

There’s another reason for my guilt tonight. My wife bottles up a lot of emotion about my health. Today, I was about to suggest she check out blogs written by spouses of those of us with the disease with no name because I’m mad at it tonight. Then, I had a flash forward to her walking into my office and saying “you wouldn’t believe this butthead called the Unknown Cystic.” “Well, Honey, I might.”

Or worse yet, and in a Lucy voice, “Ricky, you got some explaining to do before I smash your blogging hands and rip out your deceiving heart and feed it to the damn German Shepherd you made us get.”

I do feel I made the right decision charging ahead with this blog, alone. That’s my gut feeling. I’m not sure the posts would have been the same, as raw, as frank. (Remember, I didn’t say “as good,” as my wife is an excellent editor.) But up to now, I’ve felt guilt free. Not tonight. Tonight I’m feeling guilty about keeping a secret from the woman who has been through so much with me, and made me someone who can get invited back to a friend’s house after a dinner party.

It will be interesting to see what she thinks when she reads this one day. Hopefully, I won’t be around to get the ass-kicking of a lifetime. But she’ll track me down no matter where I am, eventually. I hope.

[Honey, Love, love, love you. With frosting on top and gummi bears. Remember, forgiveness of crazy people is always the right thing to do.]

Letter To My Daughter – 02/04/11

Dearest Munchkin,

One year ago today I started writing this blog – for you, I thought. But I’m not sure now. I’m just not sure at all.

I hope you read this post one day, and other posts, or some of them, the ones your mom allows you to read. I’ve pushed the limits a few times and have had second thoughts about some of the things I’ve written. It is what it is. I’ve done my best to be frank and present the truth as I see it. Though, as I hope you know, truth does not equal fact. (T≠F). There are a few sentences/posts I should probably take back, though Fox would disagree. [Fox here, I ain’t taking back anything, yellow Labrador. There are no do-overs.]

I’m not sure how interested you’ll be in what’s here. I haven’t spoken to my father in 30 years and don’t regret it, and I don’t really have much to say to my mother. So, I’m not the best judge of what would be interesting to read when it comes to parents. I don’t think I could get past the first paragraph of anything they wrote. So, no guilt if you’d rather be playing your guitar or enjoying life. My gut tells me your mother will be more interested and surprised, as she didn’t know I wrote this blog, or at least to this point. She’s also been more aware of the events I’ve written about, especially the hospital stays.

If there’s anything interesting to read, I say it’s the comments. And though I’ve written close to 200 posts in the last 365 days, nothing I’ve said is as interesting or as touching as the comments I’ve received. Perhaps, that’s the true and best story of this blog – the people behind those comments and their lives and the fact that during 2010 and 2011 I was lucky enough to connect with them through this blog. And somehow despite this awful disease, something special and hopeful can rise from the darkness of living with cystic fibrosis. It feels good to get something back from a disease with the sole purpose to destroy you piece by piece.

And if I look at blogging as a whole, I’d say it feels like white-water rafting, which I’ve done a couple of times. It’s thrilling, scary, tiring, and when I’ve wanted off the raft, my friends have motivated me to hunker down and keep rowing. Sometimes the raft just rows itself and sometimes it takes great effort. But always, it’s rewarding to know you got someplace, flexed your creativity, experienced something new and unexpected, and pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone.

I hope when and if you read this, you are happy – or working your way to becoming happy. I hope you’re not caught up in the material things in life and you understand cash is king and freedom. I hope you’re doing what you want to do and haven’t become chained down with things that don’t matter.

I hope you love your mother and are making sure she is happy and you’re saying things to her filled with love and happiness. Your mother is special and unique and has only love and kindness in her. I’ve never met anyone like her who was so pure of thought, though the world and a corporate job have done their best to try to change that. But they haven’t. I hope you don’t either with the parts of you that are more me than her.

Lastly, I hope your dreams come true. Be patient and work hard. They will. I hope you take risks when it comes to doing what you are most passionate about in life. I didn’t and have regretted it every day. I was so afraid of failure, which caused failure, or didn’t allow me to achieve the success I had hoped for. It’s my wish that you’ll have more courage.

Remember: I love you; your mother loves you; everything is temporary. It’s that simple. Sometimes.

Hugs and kisses,

Daddy