Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Men are Wimps

My mother-in-law and wife have stated on several occasions men should only have a baby the size of a pea. The closest a man can experience to childbirth is passing a kidney stone, which thankfully I haven’t had that unique experience. My wife has suffered from severe psoriatic arthritis for many years and continued to work with only minor expressions of complaints. I know she suffers greatly and it very disturbing to be powerless to relieve the pain.

Her hands are a mess and she is constantly dropping objects. In addition to her hand, her left knee has been a candidate for replacement for several years and it has only been very recently that she is considering replacement surgery.

Early Sunday evening our dog had an accident in the house and wet the living room carpet. I quickly got a wet towel, a special spray cleaner provided by our carpet cleaning company and dropped to the floor to begin cleanup. I am the go-to guy for cleanup duty when I am home.

I was rubbing the stain away and one of my fingers got jammed. Not much pain, just a bit of discomfort but the tip of my right ring finger was dangling. I could move it with my left hand and the tip would instantly drop.

My wife looked at me and asked, “What did you do?”

“I don’t know. It looks like I jammed it.”

My wife joined me on the floor to help finish the cleaning. She worked with two bad hands and I continued with my left hand.

In an instant we both started laughing. I think I need to go to the emergency clinic I told my wife. She laughed a bit more. A cloud formed over her head and it stated: men are wimps.

Mentally we both could hear the doctor saying, “How did you injure yourself?”

“Cleaning dog pee.”

Then the doctor and nurse would laugh. I would be standing there looking like… a wimp. But needless to say we did make a trip to the emergency clinic.  And laughed all the way to the clinic.

Could I justify being there by saying I was afraid that I might have broken it or tore a ligament and was concerned that I would wake up in the middle of the night with a swollen finger. The rest of the story is anti-climatic; the finger is not broken and it was not swollen in the morning.

The doctor and nurses did not laugh. The treated me professionally and with concern. A few X-rays were taken; the doctor examined me and gave me a reasonable diagnosis. Jammed finger, a splint was furnished and ice treatment suggested. A word of caution from the doctor was given, “If it doesn’t straighten out in a few days you may need to see a hand surgeon for repair of the ligament (perhaps he said tendons).”

At that point my mind went blank. A surgeon?

I can hear my wife and mother-in-law laughing. Two days later my finger is still dangling but not as drastically, but I still can’t move the tip voluntarily. I really can’t comprehend the possibility that I am considering a doctor's visit while my wife is looking at knee replacement.

Perhaps my finger jam was a much needed lesson in empathy.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Before and After

The week before my 69th Birthday I participated in the Texas Senior Games 5K Roadrace. I really hadn’t planned to write about my accomplishments in that race. Although the results would show that I improved from a 10th place finish last year to 7th this year, I was actually 2 minutes slower. The reason for my place showing improvement occured because there were less participants in my age group and also less overall participants.

A few days after the race I discovered the reason for the reduction of the number of runners. This year’s event was not a qualifying race for the National Senior Games and hence, less participants.  The serious athletics didn't come.

One possible reason for my slower pace was that my niece couldn’t come to run with me as a pacesetter. I ran alone with many runners ahead of me and a few behind me. Typical man, blame your own failings on others.  And I went too fast at the start, slowed down in the middle and lost my step near the end.  When I train on the threadmill I start slow and then increase speed gradually.

There are two more plausible reasons for my slower race speed. One reason is that I am carrying another 15 pounds of me, right there at my waistline. Although I lost a considerable amount of weight two years ago I have managed to gain part of it back. Blame it on cruises, holidays, parties and general loss of will power. A second factor is I am a year older. I had hoped that I would do better at this year’s Senior Games; perhaps that was a false hope. At least I thought I wouldn’t lose time. But I was smiling at the finish line; I was either happy to finish or pleased with seeing my wife at the finish line.

All this rambling leads to thoughts about before and after.

Before the Race

Before I was fast, now I am slow. Not true, I was never fast. Now I am just slower.

Before I was light and now I am heavy. False also, I haven’t been light since I left the army at 23. Now I am not as heavy as a few years ago, which is still a small positive.

Before I was athletic, now I am a sloth. False again, I never was athletic; I was merely active. Fortunately I remain active and my plans, hopes and aspiration are to remain active.  But my training in the few weeks prior to the race was inconsistent.

I think I will continue participating in 5K Roadraces where I find them. Either charity or just for fun walks will do. Perhaps I can lose some weight, find a pacesetter, buy better shoes, or join a training group to motivate me.

One can hope to improve, but to improve one must implement a plan of action.

After the Race

Any thoughts? See you Sunday in the park for a walk/shuffle.  That's my plan for now.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Continuing Saga of Downsizing-in-Place

I can see my garage!

My garage sale last week achieved a level of success that even surprised me. Downsizing-in-Place (DIP) is progressing nicely for now. A modest amount stuff was sold. Bargains were had by the visitors. One man’s junk is another person’s treasure. Recycling of junk occurred; items that were taking up space and gathering dust in my house now have a new purpose and home.

A few items were sold for less than a dollar, yes I made change. A few items moved for a few dollars and several items were sold for a relatively high price (for a garage sale). An item or two that I thought would sell cheaply got no takers. There were several brand new hunting and fishing knives that I refused to sell cheap and as such only three were sold and three remain in my possession. I gave away one beat up old knife to the buyer of two expensive knives.

Near the end of afternoon I triaged the remaining junk and made decisions about the final resting place (sounds like a funeral term). My original plan guided me well: sell, trash, keep and give away.

Without regret we trashed some of the remaining items. I boxed them up and moved a modest amount of my garage sale merchandise into the garage and found new storage space for it, after that we filled my wife’s car with the useable merchandise and drove to the donation station at St. Matthew’s Church. Hopefully, the donated items will fill some use for a needy person or family. A few heavy items were left on the curb and by Monday morning they all disappeared, some people can’t pass up free junk.

Garage Before
Garage After (almost ready for auto)
Area for Work Bench

Space for Work Bench (almost ready)

Mission accomplished. I can see the garage floor now, get at my cabinets and have a home for my workbench for future projects. As a side benefit I gave my son and sister-in-law a small amount of the proceeds of the day and added some cash to my personal stash for gadgets. As I have said several times previously, “A guy needs his gadgets.”

Soon I will return the workbench to its preferred location and clean up the two remaining cabinets of my tools, parts, pieces of parts, and future project materials. That should be the last piece to the DIP of my garage. But next weekend I promised my wife we would spend some time together during the day (not on a photographic jaunt). A short out-of town trip for lunch to one of our favorite restaurants is in order, if the weather remains pleasant as forecast.

Then she reminded me she has a twelve thirty Sisterhood meeting on Sunday. Maybe Saturday we’ll have that day together. Sunday we will enjoy a late breakfast out together and I will take her to the meeting, go on a photo-jaunt and then pick her up. Final restoration of the garage in the DIP will have to wait (no tears shed about that procrastination).

The next task is to prevent the accumulation of more possessions that ultimately need to be sold, trashed or given away. Achieving that goal is a mystery that most homeowners face routinely.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Adventures in Downsizing

On February 10, 2013 I wrote about Downsizing in Place and promised to write about my upcoming first baby step. Last Sunday, my sons came over to help clean the garage and organize items for the garage sale.

To be honest my oldest son came over a few weeks ago to start work on his stack alone. He has about twenty boxes of comics and a few boxes of books stored in the garage for several years (all of came from his last move and not left when he moved out over 15 years ago). A few of the comic boxes needed to be replaced and some of the other books consolidated. This past weekend he arrived with four new comic boxes (especially designed to store comics, with each box holding approximately 500 comics).

Blocked garage door about to be reclaimed

We started the morning with a plan and managed to stick with it without too many changes. Having a plan permitted us to work efficiently and achieve our goals. The items that would be sold were moved out onto the driveway, lightweight items that we being retained were moved to backyard patio to be out of our way, large bulky items were pushed to the front of the garage, and then we began returning stuff to their new locations. As we cleared space we were able to use the ladder to remove items stored in the rafters that were for the garage sale or trash. Other items were moved to the rafters clearing more floor space. It was musical chairs with junk.

Both boys (they’ll always be boys to me – even at 36 and 40) suggested we work until we were 90% done before breaking for breakfast. After breakfast we moved the garage sale items to the front of the garage so they will be in a good position to set out next Saturday. The garage still looks a mess, but if we manage to sell or get rid of most of the items we set aside then the garage will look good. Some of the unsold items will be trashed or donated to Goodwill, or much to my chagrin returned to the garage.

It appears that I will have space for my workbench once again, the ultimate goal for my efforts. The sale may generate enough cash for a few new tools and dinner out, a wonderful extra bonus. Or maybe a gadget for my photography hobby.

Then we relaxed and sat around the family room and visited. That was the most rewarding time of the day. My plan worked: I had time with my sons.

Mission accomplished for step one.

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