Category Archives: Life in general

The hits just keep on comin’

I haven’t fallen off the face of this earth just yet.

The past couple of weeks have been interesting.

First, there’s this whole gallbladder thing. From the 18th to about the 27th, I was either wishing for death to get rid of the agony, or cursing the pain and nausea that this issue is causing. I switched back to an ultra-lowfat diet consisting mainly of formula, and the pain has backed off a bit. The low level nausea persists, but it isn’t incapacitating. This also allowed me to attend, with a small gathering of good folks, the 40th birthday of a dear friend.

Between those two things, I had yet another PET scan. The night of the dinner, the doctor called with the results: two spots lit up. One in the left mandible, which may be dental – which means the usual three month exams I get have to be pushed up a little in this case – and one at the base of the tongue – which means a trip back to the ENT for a look and most likely another biopsy. Oh, and I cracked a piece of filling out of one of my teeth on the right side, even though it isn’t as if I’m eating jawbreakers here.

I’ve been taking Prevacid to help with the reflux and heartburn I’ve been having. I have insurance now (that doesn’t cover anything related to the cancer, since it’s preexisting), and they refused to pay for the Prevacid when it was first prescribed for me, saying that Prilosec was available over the counter. The gastro doctor told me to take the Prevacid twice a day instead of once, and wrote me a huge prescription for it to last until we get things sorted. The insurance company balked. The doctor’s office sent the insurance company a fax, telling them it was indeed medically necessary – after all, I have to take it twice a day, every day, without stopping after 14 days, and since Prevacid is little pellets that don’t have to be crushed, it will go down the feeding tube, unlike Prilosec, which would have to be crushed up, going against the way you’re supposed to take it. The insurance company once again balked. I had to shell out $300 on Saturday for 60 capsules, because I was down to one in the last batch that I’d gotten (and paid for out of my pocket). I’m paying my premiums. I’d take something else if it worked and would go down the tube. The least they can do is help me take care of my HEALTH since it is HEALTH insurance that I’m buying from them.

Then my email crapped itself at the domain here, which is why your mail bounced, Cal. That, of everything, is naturally the simplest to repair.

The other day, we acquired a tiny company (relative to us), and we’re working on integrating those people into the main billing system, sending notices out, and doing all the other things that have to be done to merge them. That’s always an adventure.

And finally: today we found a lot and a builder in a development not far from here. I’m crossing my fingers that everything goes the way it should and I will, for the first time, become a homeowner. This qualifies as being just as scary as some of these other things, albeit in a different way.

There you have it: I’m as well as can be expected and still around. It certainly could be worse. I could have died in a horrible freak incident like Steve Irwin did.

Twenty years later

The details of my 20th year high school reunion are up. Mid-October, at a place I’ve never heard of, in the town where my high school is located.

It doesn’t really seem like it’s been that long. I don’t feel 20 years older. I don’t look 20 years older. I don’t have 20 years worth of emotional baggage. And I’m quite happy about all of that. I’m going to skip the reunion, as I’ve not really kept up with anyone from high school and I’ve not stepped foot in Maryland since 1988. Besides, I’m going to San Antonio in early October for a week, and I’ll be recovering from that trip.

I wouldn’t mind going up for a visit, though, perhaps to see the Inner Harbor again and take a trip to the Eastern Shore. It would have to be when the crabs are running, though, and when the silver queen corn is coming in. It’s great dumping out a bushel – or two – of steamed (not boiled!) blue crab on a long newspaper-covered table in the backyard, then dumping a pile of boiled silver queen corn down next to those crabs, then having several platters of Eastern Shore tomatoes next to that, and then chowing down while talking with friends and family and drinking some icy beer. And then after eating all that, cracking open an ice cold watermelon and eating it, letting the juices run down your chin, spitting seeds as far as you can as the sun sinks and the fireflies start appearing.

That would be quite a day, and well worth a visit.

Public service announcement: It’s damn hot

Once again, out looking at houses. This time, we went back to the top two on our list (thus far) and had a closer look, took some photos, talked over the pros and cons. After a brief stop back at the homestead, we decided to go drive around a bit and see what else was out there in the same neighborhoods.

The answer: a lot. There are an absolute ton of houses around here for sale, some that we wouldn’t touch, and one that I’d love to have but that is likely out of my price range even with the most creative of brokers.

And it’s hot out there. Nothing around here has burst into flames just yet, but the heat just sucks the life out of you. And with the way yours truly has been failing to take in a good amount of calories per day, the heat just makes me feel like I’m dragging my ass.

Speaking of eating, it’s been ages since I had Popeye’s chicken – over a year, to be sure, and probably a bit longer than that. Always liked their spicy chicken with some faux mashed potatoes as a junk food treat. We stopped by on the way back from our tour of homes and picked up some chicken and potatoes. Alas, since I spent so long not eating and then eating only bland-type foods, the spicy chicken really puts a burn in my mouth although I had never thought of it as particularly spicy. Even the rehydrated potatoes with whatever that gravy is have a little kick to them. That’s really, really sad to me, a bonafide chilehead, and isn’t doing much to make the frustration level abate.

So here I sit, debating whether to continue my quest to try and eat an entire real meal (such as it is: a thigh and a blob of potatoes) or just give up and go back to some formula. I can confidently say that one of the pros about formula is that it’s fast. Down the tube, chase it with some water, and presto! The meal is over. Maybe I can convince one of the girls to run up and get me some Lactaid so I can have some ice cream later. In the meantime, I guess I’ll struggle a little further with the chicken until I can’t stand it any longer. Not haute cuisine by any means, I know, and not low fat. Cheap, though, I have to say that, and that’s a problem with fast food relative to the obesity issue: fast food is cheap and there’s plenty of it. Think about Taco Bell. You could feed a small country for about five bucks, and it’s not exactly the best thing for you. I watched SuperSize Me a couple of times, and I have Spurlock’s book in this pile of books that I’m reading. Quite interesting, I must say, and fits a theory I had developed quite some time ago about obesity and cost factors.

Now I’m rambling, though. It must be the drugs. We delivered a few things to Gabs (my sister with the migraine the other day), and her dog – a rottweiler that weighs as much as I do – managed not only to jump up on me but managed to put one big fat paw square on where my feeding tube enters the hole in my abdomen. That, my dear and faithful readers, is painful.

Another day, another round of houses

Yesterday afternoon, we went out and looked at half a dozen houses. This afternoon, we looked at half a dozen more. There are a couple that we really liked, a couple that were really, really odd either because of the layout or what the homeowners had done with the house. The rest just received a shrug as they didn’t really grab me.

There really was no cooking today, since the bulk of the day was spent working and the afternoon spent viewing houses and then picking up my sister’s car (as she had a migraine and my mom had picked her up earlier). Soup, ice cream, and cappuccino for me today, plus formula earlier. Still not enough calories, I do believe, but that’s the way it goes.

My other sister – the one sans migraine today – wanted me to plan a menu for her to cook for a group of her girlfriends. She wanted things that could be prepped as much as possible beforehand and then transported to her friend’s house out at the beach. I told her this would be a good catering puzzle. We decided on chicken breasts stuffed with asparagus spears and feta and roasted on a bed of sun-dried tomatoes, garlic-parsley potatoes, salad, rolls, and creme brulee for dessert. It sounds pretty good to me.

Someone asked me how we came up with the name of the company I own. A serendipitous misspelling, I say, courtesy of my mom. We haven’t stumbled across anything like that thus far for the food business. Not yet, anyway.

Time to head to the NOC in the dead of night to clean up the cage a bit, set up a new server, repair the power supply on another. This doesn’t do anything good for my schedule, but it will free up my morning to get the yard mowed (maybe) and get some bread going.

A do-nothing day

Last night, after our fabulous dinner party, I took a friend back to her place – her car-ma was apparently not good Monday, as she had both a flat and something preventing the car from actually starting, so we’d sent Gabrielle to fetch her for dinner (because people have to eat, and especially eat my cooking!), and we couldn’t very well make her walk home. When I returned to the homestead, my mom informed me that she’d made an executive decision: no mowing the lawn for me on Tuesday, and no cooking either. Tuesday was to be a rest day for me. I objected a bit, but I was plenty tired, and when Tuesday rolled up, even more tired. The exertion over the weekend and into Monday night caught up with me.

So I did a bunch of “real” work, some paperwork, and generally tried to relax. But I felt (and feel) antsy, for some reason that I can’t quite touch. I think that it’s probably because my brain is working away like a frenzied, overcaffeinated squirrel. This makes both my sleep and my waking hours restless, as it’s difficult to turn things off and veg out.

What’s on my mind? All sorts of things.

Italy. For some reason, Italy has moved into the first spot of places I want to visit. It has been in the back of my mind for years (I used to think my ex and I would be going), but recently moved into the forefront. Maybe it was the brush with mortality, maybe it was just the general thought of it, or maybe it’s something else, like leftovers from watching the World Cup finals, but I’ve set a tentative date of 2009. We’ll see how that works out.

Business(es). I have two more brands that I want to launch, in the same arena as my main business. One site is about ready to shove out the front door, and the other needs just a little tweaking and it’s done. Really, the only thing left to do is set up a merchant account for each and make the sites/ordering systems active, as I’m sure they’ll eventually reach the level of the flagship brand with a little pushing. I’m not sure why I just haven’t finished this yet, but I should probably set a firm date for those, to get them going. After all, diversifying is what I always preached to people when I was a stockbroker, and the same rules apply here, too.

Business(es), the food version. I’ve been trying to come up with a good name for a food business, and I’ve started researching the requirements for packaging food here in Florida. One of the first things I need to do is take the Food Manager Certification test, to get that out of the way. The certification is good for five years, and someone is required to hold that certification for just about any business that deals with producing food other people will be eating. All the other rules and regs I’ll have to research and then I’ll have to put together all the paperwork that goes along with starting a business, of course, but I don’t mind that sort of thing. I keep wondering just how some of these people who open restaurants get the money to do the renovations and keep themselves going while they build their business. I also wonder why so many restaurants tend to serve the same type of menu if they’re aimed toward the middle class market. I notice this here, but also in other cities I happen to visit, like Savannah.

Food, in general. Speaking of restaurants, and skipping over (for now) the wisp of desire I can feel deep down to open one, why is it that the serving portions are so damned huge these days at most restaurants? People are getting fatter, and at least part of that is because of the portion sizes when eating out and the fact that most people were lectured when they were growing up to clean their plates. There’s no reason to be part of the clean your plate club. Now, in my time BC (before cancer), I could have stood to lose about 10 pounds or so, but I can honestly say that even then I was usually unable to finish most of the dishes I was served when dining out because they were just so freaking large. What we really need is something between the plate-big-as-your-head restaurant and the look-we’re-so-stylish-and-classy-our-portions-are-the-size of-your-pinky restaurant. And if that sort of place could serve something that wasn’t the same as any other restaurant, so much the better.

Food, selling it. One of the issues I have at the moment is that I really don’t measure anything except when baking. this means that I’m going to have to experiment a bit and write down whatever is going into the mixing bowl or pot so we can find the best combination and so it can be recreated consistently for sale. For the pulled pork I made, I did actually write down the ratios, and that turned out pretty well. Of course, there will have to be successive tastings by my core group of tasters, and I imagine I’ll need to farm out some of that to other people to have as many opinions as possible while narrowing down the choices to whichever one winds up with the most fans. Then it will be time to find a commercial kitchen (since you can’t package food for sale in your home kitchen in Florida) or a copacker (a business that will take your recipes and pack them for you, in their own commercial grade facilities so you don’t have to have any), have a lab verify the ingredients and give the nutrional value, and so on.

Food, cooking it. I’d really like to get my schedule sot of back on track so I can consistently do the things I’d like to do in addition to working, like baking bread on a regular basis, experimenting with making pastas, making sausages, doing some canning, and so on. I also need to really work on making menus in advance so I can ensure I have things on hand for at least a couple of meals. After all, we don’t live in the days where a daily trip to the market is required, and with a little planning, this would save me some time, not wreck my schedule during the day, and would allow me to be more productive with all the things I’d like to be doing in addition to the day job. I have to admit all of this is probably going to be the most difficult for me, because of my incredibly odd sleeping habits and my tendency to decide at the last minute what the menu will be. Right now, for instance, I have no idea what’s going to be on the menu for Wednesday – today, as I type this – but I should. In fact, I should know what’s on the menu for Wednesday through Saturday. But I don’t. When I think of it, I’ll let you know.

There are some other things floating by, as well. I’ve another PET scan scheduled for the end of August. I’m almost able to open my mouth widely enough to get the Therabite in so I can start using that to help stretch my jaw muscles. I need to do some laundry. I feel a bit sick to my stomach right this instant. I need to increase my calorie intake in a serious way – I weighed in at 107 before the Savannah trip, weighed in at 106 this evening when I went to Publix for some heavy cream so I could make some ice cream, and won’t be able to make it through mowing the lawn if I don’t have enough in me. The problem is that most of the time when I eat, I feel sick. At least I don’t have that horrible reflux as long as I take the Prevacid. I need to find a house to buy, as I won’t be buying the one we’re in right now. I need to head to Costco to replenish the bulk items. I need to finish the remainder of the quarterly paperwork and get it out the door. I have a couple of servers coming in that need to be set up, and I need to order up some gear for our expansion at the NOC. And so on. A million things make their way through the rivers of my brain…

Savannah: An Interlude, Day Three

Sunday was our last day in Savannah. Saturday night, after a day of touring, walking, and eating, the girls went right to sleep when we reached the hotel. I stayed up a bit later, as I was too restless to sleep. Eventually, I managed to go to sleep myself, only to be awakened between 5 and 6 AM by a couple of servers needing attention. Those issues addressed, I debated staying up until the girls awoke, but I was freezing in the artic air my mom insisted should be the norm, and crawled back into bed and pulled the covers up over my ears.

Continue reading Savannah: An Interlude, Day Three

Savannah: An Interlude, Day Two, Part Two

We had some time on our hands between the end of the Paula Deen tour and our reservations at The Lady and Sons. There were a couple of things we wanted to see: the Colonial Cemetery, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and the Mercer House (also known as the Mercer-Williams House). All of these places are at the southern end of the historic district, so, with our comfy shoes on, water in hand, we started walking.

As we walked, I snapped some photos of a few buildings along the route. The architecture of these buildings is amazing to me, as is the fact that many of them are relatively unchanged, structurally, from their original designs.

Continue reading Savannah: An Interlude, Day Two, Part Two

Savannah: An Interlude, Day Two, Part One

A note about Saturday’s Interlude: this entry deals specifically with the Paula Deen tour and our dinner that same night at The Lady and Sons restaurant. Part two deals with our activities between the end of the tour in the morning and dinner that evening.

Saturday dawned bright, clear, and hot, as summer mornings are wont to do in the South. While the girls went downstairs to grab some coffee and tea, I stayed upstairs and poured some formula down the tube. I had no idea when we would be eating, or if I would be able to eat any of it, and the heat takes its toll on you when you’re out and about. I finished that, redid the dressing around my tube, and went downstairs to join the girls and await the bus or trolley that was to pick us up for the tour.

Continue reading Savannah: An Interlude, Day Two, Part One

Savannah: An Interlude, Day One

We interrupt this Challenge to bring you a travel interlude. Warning: this entry and those that follow are image-intensive and long.

It has been three years since I’ve been to Savannah, GA. Coincidentally, it’s been three years since I had a real break of any sort from the day to day operations of the business. I don’t count the cancer diagnosis and treatment as a “real” break, as it was anything but relaxing and enjoyable. Unlike, for instance, my most recent trip to Savannah, in the company of my mom and one of my aunts.

Why Savannah? Well, there are several reasons, really. My aunt really, really wanted to go take “The Paula Deen Tour”. Yes, there really is such a thing. My mom agreed that it would be fun, and I just love Savannah. We decided awhile ago that we would take ourselves on up there, as we say here in the South.

And so we did.

Continue reading Savannah: An Interlude, Day One

Diary of a slacker

Yesterday I had planned to make bread. Naturally, one of the power taps at the NOC blew out, taking with it 20-odd servers, and then the switch blew its backplane when the tap was replaced, necessitating a swap of that, and then of course there was the cleanup, answering tickets from people and posting updates to our forums. Remarkable the way the timing works, isn’t it?

After returning from the NOC, I finally got my shower and then did a bit more work, fully intending to head to Publix to pick up a couple of things I needed for breadmaking. Instead, my stomach was rumbling, so I was casting about for something to eat. Problem: I didn’t really want anything that was readily available, and everything else was frozen. I whined about this to a friend, and then got so tired that I just leaned back and took a short nap. I think I am probably not getting enough sleep at night, but with the exception of the treatment months, that certainly is not a new problem. It’d probably help to have someone to curl up with, as I tend to sleep better that way, but there isn’t anyone at the moment (and feeding tubes are definitely not sexy, so that’s unlikely to change for awhile). I know I’m not eating enough, as my last weigh-in (Thursday) was disturbing. I’ve reluctantly – very, very reluctantly – decided that I’ll have to start using the tube again fairly regularly, something I don’t want to do and that I’m kicking myself about. This probably led to my next issue:

Anyhow, a too-brief nap and I was up again, once more thinking about food and feeling in general like a little company to listen to other peoples’ stories as I am wont to do, so I headed out for the evening. First to Biscotti’s for my old standby (soup) and then to the Brick to listen to a little music and have some coffee. One of my sisters and her boyfriend came up and joined me for awhile, and I had some quite good clam chowder and then split a creme brulee with my sister after making sure she had something to eat (parmesan crusted chicken, which she likes quite a bit). The boyfriend wasn’t very hungry and just snacked off her plate. Some more coffee, chatting with strangers, and then chatting with some people from Biscotti’s, who stopped in as they were making their way down the block to Monte’s, and it was not a bad evening at all for me. I’m still a bit bummed about the whole health thing, but I suppose that will pass.

Naturally, though, that means other things that I told myself I was going to do – like make some bread – did not get done, so that will be my early morning task so the bread will be ready by the evening meal. And I still haven’t decided what to make for dinner tonight. Perhaps some boneless pork loin chops with balsamic-caramelized shallots? The only problem with this is that I cannot recall how much the chops were, so doing a per-serving breakdown would be impossible. I’ll probably have to come up with something else to kick off The Challenge.

Every day can’t be a complete home run. I console myself with the fact that the day wasn’t a complete waste. Just most of one.