Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Which I Observe

Observations Upon Returning Home To My Apartment After Three Weeks:
  • My bed has never felt so comfortable,
  • The water pressure in the shower doesn't suck as much as I thought,
  • My ass much prefers a certain brand of toilet paper,
  • Not having to walk down a flight of stairs and then across the house to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night when my bladder is screaming is one of the best things ever,
  • Being able to swear whenever I want has brought much joy back into my life,
  • I will never take for granted the fact that my bedroom is heated,
  • Not waking up to a creepy painting of Jesus staring at me has reduced the amount of guilt I have over the sex dreams involving whipped cream and the busty weather lady and the blonde news anchor chick on the news,
  • Being responsible for cooking my own dinner kinda sucks,
  • I can tolerate my noisy neighbors more, probably because I'm just so thrilled to be home,
  • Burping and farting anywhere in the house is fair game,
  • I don't have to hide my morning wood.
For many more reasons than these, it is so good to be home. It's nice to be able to let myself fully relax and try to keep the ol' stress level down. The best part, though, as mushy as it sounds, is being able to see The Boss every day. What can I say? I'm a sap.

It's good to be home.

Monday, September 28, 2009

In Which I Should Just Keep My Mouth Closed

Earlier this year, my parents started a small business, a bakery, out of their home. They specialize in pies and sweet bread. My mother is the talent behind the recipes and the actual baking, while my dad does all the bookkeeping and the behind-the-scenes type work. They've done pretty well in their first couple of months, selling their products primarily at the local farmers market.

(As an aside, and I say this because it is the truth and not out of obligation because she is my mother, her pies are really, really good. Everyone that has told me they don't like apple pie, LOVES my mother's apple pie once they try it. The Boss doesn't like blueberries in anything, but she is in love with my mother's blueberry pie.)

Last Friday was the last farmers market of the season, and on Thursday I helped my mother with some of the prep work for the pies. She was making four different types of pies, (blueberry, apple, raspberry, and triple berry [strawberry, blueberry, raspberry]), and I was in charge of measuring out the dry ingredients for each type of pie.

While I was doing so, we talked about the relative success of the business so far, and how they planned on keeping the business going through the fall and winter, now that the farmers market was going to be over. We brainstormed for a little while, and my mother expressed a little bit of doubt in her products.

"Mom!" I chastised. "How many weeks have you sold out of your pies? How many people rave to you about how good they are? How can you doubt that your pies are any good?"

"I know," she said, reluctant to admit it. "I guess I just never thought I'd see this much success."

"This just goes to prove what everyone in the family has been telling you for years."

"Yeah? You really think so?"

"I really do," I said.

"Thanks, Mike," she said, sounding relieved.

I should have stopped there. I really should have. But, I wanted to further compliment her to assure that she knew I hadn't said anything out of obligation. I should have listened to my gut when it told me to Stop Right There, but no.

Me and my big, fat mouth.

Without thinking, I blurted out:

"You are a master baker."

Oh, God, I thought to myself. OH GOD. Did I just say what I think I said? Master baker?

I turned to face the mixing bowls on the counter and began stirring furiously, feeling my face turn hot and red with embarrassment. I really hope she doesn't pick up on the fact that "master baker" sounds an awful lot like "masturbator."

My mother chucked. "Thanks, Mike. I appreciate it."

"No problem," I said.

Heavy, awkward silence ensued.

"So, how about those Red Sox?"

Friday, September 25, 2009

In Which I Hide

I'm guest posting today over at Lana's place, Mother Hides The Pearls. I had yet another awesome experience at the laundromat recently, which I, of course, just had to share because these things seem to only happen to me. Head on over there to read all about it.


I finally got to see an allergist yesterday. I was looking forward to this appointment, in hopes that I'd finally get some idea as to what exactly is going on, so I can return to my apartment and try to get my life back to normal.

After taking some time to explain the whole ordeal to the doctor, and giving him the two calendar pages I had printed out that charted the onset and progression of everything, he agreed that I should be tested to see what I'm allergic to. In preparation for this appointment, on Tuesday this week I stopped taking all the antihistamines and the steroids, so I wouldn't get false-positive results at the allergists office.

And so came the prick test. I took my shirt off and sat still while the doctors assistant slathered my arms in alcohol. While she marked my arms with a pen, I eyed the tray of needles. There were six brackets of needles, each with four or five needles attached to them. When the time came, she rolled the needles up my arm in a rocking motion, which exposed the needle and jabbed a small dose of various allergens under my skin.

"Sit tight," she said, and left the room for 15 minutes.

As it would turn out, I would not react to any of the allergens on this test. The assistant carefully examined my arms before leaving the room again, and came back with another tray. This tray was full of tiny glass bottles, and next to the bottles was a large pile of syringes. She swabbed my arm with alcohol again, and got right down to business.

I watched as she pulled into each syringe a small amount of the liquid from each of the glass bottles, and deduced that this test was the same as the first test, just with a higher dose of the allergen. This test was considerably more painful than the first, if only for the number of times I had to get jabbed with a needle than for the actual pain each one caused.

27 syringes later...

"Sit tight," she said again, and left the room for another 15 minutes.

As it would turn out, again, I would still not be allergic to anything in the test. Not even dogs.

What the fuck.

I got all cleaned up and put my shirt back on, and discussed the results with the allergist once he came back into the exam room. He told me that 1 in 5 people have reactions similar to mine at random points in their lives, and the symptoms disappear before anyone can figure out the cause. He does think I have an interesting case still, with there being no rhyme or reason for the onset and progression of my symptoms, and also that I have other symptoms like joint pain. He ordered some lab work, and I have a follow-up appointment with him in a little over two weeks.

To say I was unsatisfied with the appointment would be putting it mildly.

I'm not confident that the results from the allergen test were accurate. I had only been off of the antihistamines and steroids for a little over 2 days before the test, so I'm not sure if there would have been any residual traces of the medications in my system still or not. In my mind, knowing how my symptoms got worse while I was around the dog we had adopted, and improved when I was away from the dog... Well, that seems pretty cut and dry to me.

I'm scheduled to see another (more highly reputable) allergist early next month. This doctor has been called the Dr House of allergies, so I'm hoping he can shed some more light on the situation. I'm going to remain off of the medications until I can see him, and I've been cleared to return to my apartment by early next week.

I'm going to try to remain off work until I see the other allergist, but we'll see how that goes. As always, I'll do my best to keep you all updated on the situation.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In Which I Hold It

As I've written about here recently, living at my parents house while under quarantine from my apartment can be interesting at times. Excluding the time that I heard them bone while trying to go to sleep a few weeks ago, all of the other incidents that I can recall have been pretty tame. I'm probably jinxing myself by saying this, but how I've gone through the past two weeks without having a raging case of morning wood to hide is beyond me.

Really, though, living with my parents isn't all that bad. They give me my space and I try my best to give them theirs. I appreciate all that they are doing (and have done) for me during this time. I'm as flexible as I can be with anything that I have going on, especially now that I am sans transportation. Even with all of that and trying my best to stay out of their way, some things are just out of my control.

Take, for example, the powerful and angry urges of a full bladder.

I'll get to the story in a second; I need to work my way up to it.

As anyone who has been on steroids for any length of time will tell you, the medication, quite simply, fucks with your body. While it affects different people in different ways, I liken it to one's foot being mashed down heavily on your body's accelerator: It intensifies things. For me, the intensified urges have been of hunger and thirst. I can keep the desire to eat constantly in check easily enough (though not without any great struggle at first), but drinking? Let's just say that if water were alcohol, I would have needed a new liver 13 days ago.

I drink like a fish normally, so this really is nothing new. I was told when I started taking steroids about a month ago that I needed to increase my fluid intake, so... I did. Everywhere I am these days, I'm drinking something. It's not much of an effort on my part, because if I didn't do it on my own the constant thirst as caused by the 'roids would have made me drink more anyways.

With the increase of fluids, obviously, I'm making more frequent trips to the bathroom.

Here's where the story comes in.

Throughout the course of a normal, non-steroid-affected day, I'll piss maybe about five times. These days, I'm making about a dozen or more trips to the bathroom. I feel like I'm in one of those pharmaceutical commercials for guys with prostate problems. You know, the one's where some poor guy is always missing out on something monumental because he's always in the john? I haven't missed a spectacular play at some sporting event or missed reeling in a prize-winning fish because of it, but I can't read a chapter of a book or get through half a movie without having to get up to take a leak.

My bladder isn't doing such a good job of warning me when I need to go, either. Normally I'll go through a couple of stages (incidentally, I call it PISSCON, and there are five stages) where my bladder will tell me, with increasing urgency over a period of time, that I need to go. Short of user error, there haven't been any accidents since I started using the PISSCON system.

I'm not so lucky on the steroids, though. I'll be minding my own business and then WHAM! Suddenly we're on PISSCON Level Five, Yellow Alert, and if I don't get myself to a toilet immediately, I'd have no choice but to spray everyone and everything around me with urine like an errant fire hose on full strength.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

My parents house has one bathroom.

There have been some mornings recently, as I sit with my legs crossed, trying to think of something, anything else other than how badly I need to urinate until my dad finally emerges from the bathroom after spending almost two hours in there doing God-knows-what, where I've seriously considered dropping trou outside and watering the lawn alongside their dog.

If clenching my bladder shut was an Olympic sport, I'd be a gold medal winner.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In Which I Survive Another Year

I turn twenty-four years old today.

Considering the events of late, I consider that to be an accomplishment.

I purposefully didn't make any extravagant plans for today. It's going to be a pretty laid back day, consisting of watching the Patriot's game, grilling up some hamburgers and hot dogs, and just taking it all in. Both of my sisters and their spouses are coming up, too, so that should round out the day pretty nicely.

I'm not holding my breath for a new iPod to be among any of the presents I may receive, but I am hoping for the season one DVD set of "Fringe". I want to scour all of the scenes in every episode and every bonus feature to see if I can catch a glimpse of any of my pictures.

The highlight of the day (you'd think seeing all my family on my birthday would be the highlight) surely will be the ice cream cake. It's homemade, and it's almost better than sex.



Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to postpone the New England area blogger meet-up that I had scheduled for next Sunday. When I had scheduled it originally, I thought that all of this allergy stuff was behind me. With it all flaring up again, I think it's best to put the meet-up on hold and get my health back on track. I still want to make it happen, and it will happen. Once I'm on the road to recovery, I'll take a look and see what is possible to do.

I hope you all had a good weekend, and thank you for all your well wishes on my previous post. It's encouraging to know that I've got such kick-ass people rooting for me, especially when things aren't looking so bright.

Friday, September 18, 2009

In Which I Throw In The Towel

Date: Friday, September 18th, 2009 at 9:01 AM
Subject: What The Fuck?

Hey, Karma,

You must have heard by now about all of the crap that has been going on with me lately. Just in case you've been living under a rock, let me run it down for you. You know, the whole dog-allergy thing that turned into mysterious-allergies-to-the-unknown, causing me to be exiled from my apartment twice in the past month. I've been dealing with recurring hives, severe joint pain, and oh yeah - throat and airway constriction that makes it hard to breathe sometimes.

Nothing too serious, right? I mean, who needs to worry about such a simple thing like breathing? I know that I've got a pretty large lung capacity, so I'm all set as long as I can take in a full breath at least once every couple of minutes. If that doesn't work, well, I've got a couple of inhalers that fix me right up. After a couple of hits, I feel like I'm on speed and my hands shake like I'm a Parkinson's patient, but that's the breaks, I guess.

Oh, and speaking of medication... I'm on pretty much every antihistamine on the market. I'm pretty much a living sponsor for the makers of Benadryl, Claritin, Singulair, and Pepcid. I've spent so much money on antihistamines in the past month that I haven't been able to support my raging Mountain Dew habit. It's not just the antihistamines, either. I've been on varying doses of steroids for so long now that I've started putting an asterisk next to everything I do. I don't want a random drug test to spoil my image late in my career like so many professional athletes out there these days.

With all the mysterious allergies wreaking havoc on my body, and all of the medications I've been pumping into my system, I've been trying to take it easy and just let myself recuperate. I've started a short-term disability claim with my employer because my doctor thinks I need to keep out of work, to keep my stress level down. Until the claim kicks in, I'm going to have to burn through my vacation time to cover me for the hours that I'll be missing. It's a good thing I had almost two weeks of time saved up, otherwise I'd be more screwed than Michelle Duggar.

In the midst of all the chaos that has been on going for the past couple of weeks, I thought I finally spotted a ray of sunshine. By some cosmic shift in fate, I was able to get an appointment with a highly-sought-after allergist in my area. Normally this doctor is so busy that he books appointments 45 days ahead, but I was able to get in within a week. It seemed to me like I was finally getting a well-deserved break.

But no.

While driving to that oh-so-vital appointment yesterday, the appointment where I may have finally figured out what has been making me so sick, the appointment that could have cleared me to return to work and back to my apartment... the exhaust manifold on my truck rusted out.

So, there I was, stranded in a Walmart parking lot, 20 miles from home and 30 miles from the allergist's office. I had no choice but to call the allergist and cancel my appointment. I was understandably upset, an emotion made worse by finding out that the next available appointment with the doctor was not until October 29th.

Having enough breathing problems already without driving a truck that would be dumping pure exhaust into the cab, I had no choice but to have it towed. I called AAA and got a lift to my mechanic's garage, which was fortunately only a few miles away. I hoofed it from there to my younger (and very pregnant) sister's apartment, where I waited until The Boss got out of work to pick me up.

Now that you're up to speed on the latest developments here, I've got only one question for you:

What the fuck did I do to deserve this?

If this is your idea of some sick, twisted joke, knock it off. Having life-threatening health problems is enough for one person to handle without having something like a $500 or more car repair to worry about, especially when I'm already in the middle of a work-related financial crunch.

I'm thinking you've got me confused with someone else. I've lived a good life thus far, and short of being an asshole every now and then to blow off a little steam, I can't think of anything I've done that would merit this kind of response. I know that there's a guy with the same name as me who lives in the next town over who is kind of a bad apple. Maybe he's the guy you're looking for? It wouldn't be the first time that has happened.

This e-mail is getting lengthier than I intended, so I'll try to wrap things up. If I did something to upset the balances of karma and I deserve all of what has been coming at me, fine. Personally, I think I've had enough retribution, but I'll leave that up to you. All I'm asking is that if I do deserve this, please just spread the shit out a bit so it's not all happening at the same time. If you've made a mistake and all the crap that's been flooding my life for the past month was meant for someone else, just make it all fucking stop.

Forgive me if I've been a little bitter, but you've got to understand where I'm coming from.


P.S. I'm sorry I called you a bitch earlier. It was uncalled for.

P.P.S. I wasn't going to mention the fact that my beloved iPod died this week, but I figured I might as well throw it in there for good measure. Mess with my health, my employment, the time I can spend with The Boss, fine. But my iPod? The one thing that brings peace to my life at moments of peril? That's hitting a little too low below the belt there, Karma. If you'd like to make it up to me (my birthday is this weekend, after all), I'll take this one. The black 16 GB model, please.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Which I Abbreviate

Life, with all of its erratic twists and turns, often puts us in situations that force us to reach into the darkest, dustiest corners of one's vocabulary, in search of the best word to properly express how we feel. We save these words for moments of stress, elation, fear, surprise, or any other time where any other word just wouldn't suffice. We use these words to drive the point home, to ensure that the message gets received loud and clear.

If your Vocabulary Vault is anything like mine, though, the particular corner that houses profanity is less dustier than most, and sees more traffic than perhaps it should. To be honest, it's more than a corner. It's more like a Profanity Department, with multiple shelving units devoted to displaying the choicest of words, all of them shiny and ready for use. There are spotlights honoring the MVPs among them, the rest elegantly wreathed in a warm glow from track lighting.

Let's just say that if I tried to employ the Swear Jar system to encourage me to use less foul language by depositing a dollar each time I swore, I'd need to empty it weekly, if only to make room for the next week's deposits.

Being so prone to drop swear words in a normal conversation makes for some pretty awkward situations, especially during those tender moments involving family members and religious services. I've bitten my tongue more times than I can count just shy of unleashing a string of unsavory cuss words in front of someones grandmother/impressionable 10-year-old/my mother. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, so I've developed a system of profanity abbreviations to help combat Potty Mouth.

Feel free to take notes. These may come in handy.
CTFD: Calm The Fuck Down. Appropriate in situations where a companion is freaking out about something inconsequential, demanding that he/she calm down immediately.

CTFO: Chill The Fuck Out. An alternative to the above abbreviation.

PFH: Pretty Fucking Hungry. A response to the question of "How hungry are you?". Could also stand for Pretty Fucking Horny. No further explanation needed.

SFW: Stupid Fucking Whore. Not to be confused with the Internet abbreviation "Safe For Work". Useful in situations where someone cuts you off in traffic or slams into the back of your heels with a shopping cart.

TFB: Too Fucking Bad, or That Fucking Blows, depending upon context. Appropriate when expressing sentiments of "Oh, well," or "That sucks."
While this is a pretty short list, I find that these are the most commonly used abbreviations in my repertoire. Feel free to use them as you see fit, and be sure to report back with the results. Share these with friends, family, co-workers, youth pastors, anyone you know that has a dirty mouth in need of a PR make-over.

Can anyone else come up with a swear-word abbreviation that I may have missed?

Monday, September 14, 2009

In Which I Am Renewed

In a little under a week, my drivers license will expire. I remember thinking six years ago, when I first got my license in 2003, that 2009 seemed like such a long time away. While I haven't spent a lot of time at the Department of Motor Vehicles, waiting to get called for my driver's test, and later to have my picture taken for my license, was enough for me. I thank God that I have the ability to renew my license online, being done with the chore in just a few clicks instead of having to wait until I am at the age of knee replacement surgeries and dentures before they call my number at the DMV.

In thinking about having to renew my license, I started realizing how much has changed since 2003. Six years isn't a short period of time, but inside those years, life has changed dramatically.

Six years ago, I had just graduated high school. I was 18 years old, a freshman in college, a virgin. I drove a 1991 Buick LeSabre. I didn't know who Kurt Cobain was, I had never seen an episode of Saturday Night Live, and R-rated movies were entirely new to me.

Since then, I've gained weight and lost weight, sported a beard for a while, and decided that a goatee with a mustache was the better way to go. I've worked for seven different companies, one of them for only two days. I met and managed to convince the most beautiful woman I know to date me, live with me, and marry me. We'll be celebrating our 5th anniversary this year.

I've moved eleven times in the past six years. I've lost four deeply loved members of my family. I've seen one of my sisters become a mother, and my other sister is soon to follow. I've developed and struggled with a neurological condition that has already shaped and changed my foreseeable future.

I've never gotten a speeding ticket or been in an accident. I still pay more for my car insurance than my older sister does, who totaled two cars within six months of getting her license. As result, I always seem to forget to renew my car insurance policy almost every single time it expires. I miss my first car and my second car (a Saturn SL1), but only when I have to fill the swimming-pool-sized gas tank on my truck.

Six years from now, when it comes time to renew my license again, I wonder what else will have changed. I try not to envision myself too far in the future, but I know that I hope to be a father, maybe even a home owner, and owe less of my life to credit card companies and student loan lenders.

How has your life changed in the past six years?


In health-related news, I have started to show an improvement on the allergy front. I decided to split up the dose of steroids that I'm on, so that I have a more constant dose in my system instead of a blast of it all at once. That seemed to be the trick, and for the first time since Wednesday, I woke up yesterday morning completely hive-free. It was an unbelievably wonderful feeling.

I'm still physically exhausted from the whole ordeal, with the constant up and down from both the medications I'm on and the symptoms themselves. I've learned to listen to my body when it tells me I need to rest, and I've learned the warning signs that alert me to an oncoming attack of hives or the throat constriction. I guess it's good that I'm becoming used to it so I can better fight against it, but I just wish I didn't have to deal with this at all in the first place.

Thank you all for your support and suggestions throughout all of this. Trust me when I say that we are looking at any and all possibilities for the root of this problem, and I appreciate the insight you all offer. Whatever the cause, we're just hoping to find that proverbial needle in the haystack sooner than later. It'd be nice to be able to return home.

Happy Monday, folks.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

In Which I Never Learn

I've had enough of the doom and gloom this week, what with the allergy fiasco and all, so I thought long and hard about what I could write about that would give this blog a little change of pace. Something that would get me back to my roots, a story of self deprecation or flatulence, an embarrassing anecdote from high school, another awkward moment from staying at my parents house... anything.

And then it came to me.

How could I have possibly forgotten to share this with you?

Earlier this past week, The Boss and I went to a triple-feature showing at a drive-in movie theater. They were showing "Inglorious Basterds", "District 9", and "Halloween II". (As an aside, I rate these movies as follows: 1) Disappointing, 2) Good, but left me wanting more, 3) Left before it started). It took an hour to get there, and we arrived at the theater a good 45 minutes early. We staked out the best spot in the lot, and trekked to the concession stand to get some food.

I had downed an energy drink (of potentially lethal proportions) on the drive over, so I signaled to The Boss that I had to visit the bathroom. I wasn't surprised to find out that she, too, had to make a little water, so we swung around to the back of the building to where the restrooms were. We parted ways at the supposedly "cute" and "country whimsical" signs that said "Does" for the female bathroom and "Bucks" for the men.

The interior of the men's bathroom was about what you'd expect for this no-frills establishment. It was lit by a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. There was one stall, the door to it hanging askew on two rusted spring hinges. In the corner stood a sink with no mirror above it, and I was surprised to see a bottle of soap. A paper towel dispenser hung on the wall nearby, but there was no urinal to be found. Instead, there was a piss-trough.

For the ladies, just in case you don't know what I'm taking about, a urinal trough is like a horizontal urinal/wall-mounted bathtub that suits two or more men standing shoulder-to-shoulder at one time. They look something like this:

(As another aside, urinal troughs are very awkward to use if there is someone else using it at the same time. With a regular urinal, one can lean into it a bit, allowing the porcelain to sort of shield oneself from view if there are no partitions between the other urinals. With a trough, though, it's open season. You're standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the guy next to you, each of you holding your respective junk, staring intently at the wall in front of you, and pissing as fast as you can.)

The one inside the bathroom in question was much less... clean. And white.

A quick survey of the bathroom showed it was empty. I looked suspiciously at the one stall, but decided against it. In the shadows cast by the single light bulb, I saw there was dried up scraps of toilet paper on the toilet seat and on the floor. In the world of public men's bathrooms, finding previously-wet-and-then-dried toilet paper on any surface in a stall is as much of a sign that something terrible happened there not too long ago as crime scene tape is to a homicide. Having no other option, I sidled up to the trough and unbuckled.

My bladder was all but screaming at me at this point, so I was perhaps a little rushed. All 32 ounces of that energy drink wanted out more than thirty minutes ago, so I hastily unzipped and took aim. Once I was sure I wasn't going to piss on the open flaps of my shorts or my t-shirt, I widened my stance and released my bladder.

I was only allowed to experience the unique relief that is emptying a full bladder for but one second before I realized that my warm, guarana-laden urine was spraying back at me, heavily misting my clothing. In my haste to unzip, it appeared that I had forgotten to flip down the pull tab on the zipper of my fly. It acted much like a thumb placed over the open end of a garden hose, turning what should have been a simple stream of urine into a piss fountain.

I tried to stop pissing on myself, but as anyone knows, once you break the seal on a full bladder, getting it to stop mid-stream is like asking Carrot Top to not look so fucking scary: It's just not going to happen without a lot of fucking work.

By harnessing the power of the Force, I willed my bladder to stop pushing just long enough to flick the zipper pull out of the way. I released my bladder again and finished peeing, and as I shook off and zipped up, I began thinking about I would explain the dark, wet stain around my crotch. I washed my hands and emerged from the bathroom and faced The Boss.

"Damn sink faucets!" I said as I exited the bathroom. I shook excess water from my hands for dramatic effect. "Stupid thing came on a full blast."

The Boss laughed. "It looks like you pissed yourself!"

If only you knew.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Which The Saga Continues

Just when I thought it was all behind me, the next chapter in The Allergy Saga continues. It, again, has been a troubling and worrisome couple of days, but I think the worst is behind me now.

(If you'd like a refresher course on all that has happened previously, read this post, this post, and this post before continuing. I'm going to write this post as if you are all fully briefed on the situation, so keep that in mind if you choose not to read the previous entries.)

After getting rid of our dog and being exiled from my apartment for a week, I was symptom free. I returned home on August 31st, and didn't have any problems with any allergic reactions at all... Until Thursday. I woke up on Thursday with some minor hives on my wrists, hands, and arms, with some minor joint pain in my arms as well. I didn't think much of it, and treated it with Benadryl. The symptoms continued and worsened through Friday and Saturday, at which point I called my PCP's office to see what they thought I should do. I was advised to take Claritin to treat the hives and naproxen for the pain, both of which relieved the symptoms. By Sunday morning, I was hive-free and there was no pain.

I was symptom free through Monday afternoon, at which point my body pretty much exploded in hives. I had them on my chest, back, buttocks, thighs, groin... everywhere. After I didn't show any response to two doses on Benadryl, I called my PCP's office again. I was advised to take some of the Prenisone I had left over, and a dose of Claritin. It took until almost 3am for the hives to go away.

Tuesday morning, I woke up for the day feeling completely fine. I had no hives anywhere, no throat constrictions... nothing. I took some additional Prednisone as directed, along with the Claritin and Singulair that I had been prescribed previously. I started my shift from home at 8am.

By 9am, I started feeling like my throat was a little tight. I waited to see if it was going to get any better or worse, but by 10:15 it was getting to be more severe. I called my PCP's office yet again, and they advised me to go to the ER, and soon. I made some phone calls to The Boss and my parents to fill them in on the situation, and was being triaged at the ER shortly after.

My vitals were not good when I was being checked in. My blood pressure was high at 189/100, my heart rate was over 140 (normal rate is 80 or so), and my oxygen saturation levels were at 90%. I was quickly taken back to a room, where I was put on oxygen and given IV steroids and anithistimines.

I had some blood drawn, and pissed in a cup for a urine test. I had a few chest x-rays taken, which came back clear. The blood work showed nothing, short of a slightly elevated white blood cell count. I was given an albuterol nebulizer treatment shortly after that. I was discharged a couple hours later, once my blood pressure and pulse rate had stabilized a little bit. Before I left they gave me an albuterol inhaler, to use as-needed when I feel my throat tightening up again.

I followed up with my PCP yesterday. The long and short of it is that he feels I shouldn't return to my apartment until I get to see my allergist. Currently, I have an appointment scheduled for October 5th. I'm trying to get an appointment sooner, and I am on a cancellation list, but there is very little availability for the other allergists in my area. I'm trying to get a short-term disability claim started with my employer, so I can take some time to focus on staying calm and relaxed, and try to keep myself open for an appointment with an allergist, should one open up sooner than October.

I'm on Prednisone for the next three weeks, with a refill available if I need it. I'm also on pretty much every antihistimine there is on the market, and with all of those circulating in my system, I'm feeling okay. I've had to use the albuterol inhaler a few times, for those random moments when that throat constriction hits. At least I have what I need to keep me from having to return to the ER any time soon.

There are a lot of things up in the air right now, with me not knowing what is triggering these attacks, not knowing when I can return to my apartment, not knowing what is going to happen with my job and the short-term disability. I had hoped that all of this was behind me, but I guess there is more that I've got to put up with. It puts a lot of stress on The Boss and I, with us being forced to live in separate places for the time being. I know we'll get through it, and everything will be easier to process once we know a little more about the situation.

On a somewhat lighter note, I'm thinking of offering up my forehead as advertising space for HEPA air filter brands. You know, so I can get a few air purifiers for my apartment for free. They don't come cheap, and The Boss and I definitely don't have the financial means to purchase one. The best appliance with a HEPA filter we can afford is a vacuum cleaner. Not exactly the quietest model on the market, but it might have to do for now.

P.S. If you don't see me making the blog rounds as much as I normally do, please forgive me. I'm trying to stay caught up, but it is an uphill battle.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In Which I Remain Calm

Like most people, my job often tests the limits of my patience. I work for an answering service company that provides services for a wide variety of clients, and the caliber of intelligence of the people that I speak to on a daily basis is not very high. Sure, I get the occasional person who surprises me with a glimmer of intellect, but a majority of the people are dumber than rocks. Because of that, it amazes me that I've maintained a good standing within the company for so long.

Each day of work sends a shiver of excitement through me. Is today the day I freak out at someone on the phone and get myself fired? I wonder. I've made it three years with nary any disciplinary action, a feat that I feel should be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, as I am quite possibly the World's Most Patient Man.

I credit my success to my upbringing. If living in a house with two annoying sisters doesn't teach you patience, nothing will.

Last year, as I approached my two-year anniversary with my company, I did a by-the-numbers post, chronicling how I've spent my time working during the previous two years. I consider you all to be smart people, so I'm leaving it up to you to figure out how the numbers have changed over the past (almost) 365 days. I just don't have the brain power today to crunch those kinds of numbers.

Instead, here are some of the things I got to bite my tongue through this past week at work:
  • I answered a call from an older gentleman, who wanted to register for a free prostate cancer screening event at a local hospital. The event had been advertised in the newspaper for two weeks, and all the spots that the hospital had made available for the event had been taken already. He said that he knew about the event a week prior to calling about it that day, but didn't think to call to register until now. When I told him it was full, he wouldn't take "no" for an answer. He requested that I schedule a completely new event for later in the month, just so he could attend. He couldn't believe that I refused to do it, clearly not understanding that no hospital would do that for just for one person.
  • "I need to register for a Lamaze class," the caller told me, going on to say that she was due to give birth to her first child in two weeks. I looked up the schedule for Lamaze classes, and told her the bad news: There were no available classes in the next two weeks. This, naturally, was my fault. I pulled my headset away from my ears while she aurally violated me with the worst collection of foul language I had heard in a long time. Sure, I felt bad for her, because not knowing what you're heading into with giving birth for the first time must be pretty effing scary. But, it's not like she didn't have NINE MONTHS to prepare for this.
  • Mid-day Saturday, Labor Day weekend. I answer a call on a family practice office, who has a notoriously strict no-prescription-refill-on-the-weekend policy. Strict as in I've seen two co-workers get fired for paging the on-call physician for an RX refill for patients. The patient was completely out of his maintenance medication, a blood thinner. I read him the script we had prepared for such a situation, advising him of the office's refill policy (which was nothing new): If it the medication is needed urgently, go to the local ER for a temporary refill to last the weekend. Again, I was assaulted with profanity. I know that going to the ER on a busy holiday weekend isn't exactly desirable, but considering the alternative (a stroke), you might as well just go along with it.
  • As I listened to the caller tell me the situation with her child's illness, I came to the realization that my hands were tied and that I couldn't help her. She was calling on an insurance company after hours service, and she needed to get her child's member ID number so she could fill a prescription. Member ID numbers are protected federal HIPPA (medical confidentiality) laws, thus I am forbidden to give them out over the phone. She was understandably upset about it, and didn't change her tone when I told her that I would lose my job if I gave her the ID number. It ended up getting escalated to my supervisor, who told her the same thing I did. Saying the word "supervisor" after your name apparently makes all the difference.
As much as I think I deserve a raise for my never-ending patience and good work performance over the past year, I won't be getting one. There have been enough cutbacks and layoffs in other departments already, so I'm content to keep my job, even if it means I stay at the same rate of pay.

Here's to a better, calmer year. And smarter customers.

Monday, September 7, 2009

In Which I Take It Easy

Today is Labor Day.

I'm taking it easy, with the only labor to be exerted by me aimed at grilling up some burgers and opening up a couple cans of beer.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the day. I'll be back with a regular post on Wednesday.

Friday, September 4, 2009

In Which I Make Plans

I've been writing in this blog for the past year and a half. I find it hard to believe that this blog is still going strong, and that I still have things to say after having written over three hundred posts. I've shared with you all everything I can think of to share (and perhaps sometimes I've shared too much), and it amazes me that I haven't scared everyone off yet.

Since I still manage to hold your attention after all this time, I figured that now would be just as good of a time as any to take things to the next level.

What is the next level, you ask?

I want to meet you.

You'll remember that I met up with a couple of Maine bloggers a few weeks ago. It was a blast getting to meet in person the people I had previously only talked to online, and I got to thinking that it would be fun to set up a large-scale meet up for bloggers in the New England area. (I can't take full credit for this idea, though, as Linda hosted a get-together for bloggers in the Chicago area recently. Seeing how much fun they had was what truly got the thought process rolling for me.)

So how about it, New England-area bloggers? Would any of you out there be interested in meeting The Boss and I? We want to meet you! We are making ourselves available to meet any and all of you on Sunday, September 27th.

This is an open invitation, so you don't have to live in the New England region to participate. If you're willing to travel up here to take part, the more the merrier! Of course, those who live in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut would probably be more likely to attend, but the important thing is that everyone is welcome.

If you're interested in taking part, just fill out the form below. I'll contact you with the specifics from there.

To ensure that I have enough time to find a mutually agreeable location for all of us to meet up, I request that you send me your information by September 25th. Once I know where all of you will be coming from, I'll try to find a place that would be centralized for everyone, to make the travel time as fair and equal as possible.

As an added perk (and a shameless way of me bribing you to attend), anyone who meets up with us on the 27th will get a little something special from The Boss and I.

So, how 'bout it, folks? Are you in?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In Which I Am An Asshole

Yes, you read that right.

I am an asshole.

Not very often, and not in the way that you'd expect.

Thanks to the fact that I was born a middle child, and thus by nature a peace keeper, I spend a good majority of my time wearing the proverbial Welcome mat. I subconsciously let everyone from close family to complete strangers walk all over me. I do have a breaking point, and when I've hit the limit of how much shit I can take from other people, it feels good to shove that push-over persona out of the way and just be a dick for a little while.

If you knew me in real life, this hidden part of my personality would be quite jarring. I can go from being mild-mannered and reasonably polite to a passive-aggressive little fucker in about 3.7 seconds.

Oddly enough, my mean streak tends to show itself most often in situations surrounding driving.

I'm the guy who drives at exactly the speed limit and not a single MPH more, while hugging the center line to prevent you from passing him. I'm the guy who intentionally leaves his shopping cart in the only available parking space within 500 yards of the entrance to Wal*Mart when he sees you pulling up to it.

I'm the guy who doesn't pull forward enough at the busy gas station, hogging two pumps at the same time. I'm the guy who turns his high beams on a few seconds before he passes you if you forget to shut your high beams off as you approach.

I'm the guy who will slow down for a yellow light with you behind me, but gun through the intersection at the last second, forcing you to stop for the red light. I'm the guy who sees you waiting for me to drive through the intersection to turn, and slows down so you have to wait longer.

Do you hate me yet?

When I told The Boss last night that I was writing this post, she shook her head incredulously.

"You are such an asshole," she said.

"Oh, come on. You can't honestly tell me that you've never done something like that to intentionally piss someone off."

"Sure, I can. I've been an asshole to many people before, but they always have done something to deserve it. I don't do it just because I can."

She looked at me disapprovingly. "That's just mean."

Maybe she's right, but I'm not about to admit it.

"Well, at least I'm not an asshole towards you," I said. "Intentionally."

"Ha! Right. Intentionally," she fires back.

"Hey, the only time you say I'm being an asshole is if you don't want to hear something I'm saying, or if I'm making fun of you and you can't see it as a joke."

"Like when you make fun of me when I mess up on a word while talking."

"You do that to me all the time!" I object.

"It's different," she says with finality.

I know this argument well. I am fluent in the Double Standard clause of relationships, and I know better than to push this one any further. I pause for a few seconds before getting the last word.

"Whatever. I don't have to justify why I do it, and it's not like I do it all the time. Sometimes it feels good to be passive-aggressive. It is one of the best forms of therapy I know of, short of self-medicating with drugs and alcohol."

Anyone who is a push-over or a people-pleaser like me will know what I mean.

Now is the time to dish. Are you ever an asshole?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In Which I At Least Look Tough

If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that I am no stranger to pain. Whether it is accidentally self-inflicted or not, I seem to be a glutton for punishment. If you're new to this site, you'll find quite a few stories scattered throughout the archives, should you take the time to do so, but if you want to get caught up on a few of them, though, here are three good examples (the broken toilet seat incident, the paper-cut-on-the-balls incident, and the infamous blue-balls incident).

Pain and I? Yeah. We are old friends.

In fact, Pain and I are such good friends, I decided it would be a good idea to deal with Pain on a daily basis, in the form of plantars warts on the bottom of my left foot.

The warts developed on my foot about two months before the last time The Boss and I moved in June. It was fairly painful to begin with, but I was hesitant to see my doctor for it right away. With all the time I'd have to spend on my feet schlepping everything we owned from one apartment to the next, I wanted to keep the pain to a minimum. Unfortunately for me, that meant delaying treatment for the warts until after the move was complete.

We finished moving on June 8th, but it wasn't until earlier this week that I finally saw my doctor about it.

(This would probably be a good time to mention that Procrastination and I have had an on-again-off-again relationship for a while, too. We go way back.)

After five months of walking around in constant pain, I finally told my doctor about the problem. I removed my shoe and sock, and held out my foot for him to see.

"Oh, no problem. I can take care of that," he said.

He leaves the "Finding Nemo"-decorated exam room for a moment, and comes back holding a sinister-looking device:

I've done my research, so I know what to expect. Nothing too high-tech here: The evil-looking spray can contains liquid nitrogen, which is sprayed on the warts. Doing so produces a blister underneath the skin that will, in turn and over time, force the warts up and out from under the surface.

Simple. He cups the bottom of my foot with one hand, and begins spraying in short bursts.

It's a little cold, but not too bad. No pain at all.

15 seconds later, he's still spraying. The cold is setting in.

It's starting to sting a little.

30 seconds later, he lets up on the spray. Feeling pretty cold now.

The pain is considerable, but bearable.

After about 45 seconds of spraying, he stops and lets it sit. He sets down the spray can and starts talking about setting up an appointment for a follow-up and physical. I can hear him talking, but I'm not listening because it is all I can do to not scream my fucking head off from the pain.


The fun didn't stop there, though. There was another round of freeze-spray about a minute or two later. The burning heat (even though it was freezing cold) of the stuff as it blasted my skin at close range was almost too much.

I held my shit together until the doctor said his goodbyes and left the exam room, at which point I promptly lost my shit and scream-whispered many horrible and vulgar expletives, displaying my vast vocabulary that is not at all fit for an office where pediatric patients are often within earshot. Meanwhile, The Boss showed her sympathy and support by laughing and guffawing at my pain and misery.

I know this is one of those cases where it has to hurt worse before it can get better, and I was prepared for that. I guess I just didn't expect the actual freezing process to be as... excruciating.

As I grunted and grimaced through putting my sock and shoe back on, though, I spied something resting on the counter in the exam room that almost made the pain melt right away:

I think he's a stand-up guy, too.