A Glimpse Into My World

So I used to do this thing pretty regularly. I thought the prompts had ended, but I just found out they’re still going to I figured I’d post one up real quick while I’m waiting on a script I’m running to finish….

The premise is pretty simple, Melanie over at Sparks of a Combustable Mind posts four usually non-invasive questions, and I get to answer them. What a fun game!!

QUESTIONS

Do you ever feel more excited about getting the package in the mail, rather than the item that’s in it?

Depends on what I ordered on Amazon the day before. If it’s a present for myself, then I’ll get excited. However, if it’s just a couple more bottles of toothpaste, like it was yesterday, blah…

What is the difference between your ideal self and your real self?  (i.e. what attribute or physical feature would allow you feel the ideal ‘you’?)

Well, my ideal self is much skinnier than my real self. My ideal self also has a better handle on his emotions and knows how to cope with them, good or bad. But I guess my real self is okay most of the time.

If you found $2,000 on the ground and there were no witnesses, what would you do with it?

Pocket it. I mean, if it’s not in a wallet or anything, it’s free game, right? RIGHT???

Are you ever morally obliged to take action? Under what circumstances?

Not sure how to answer this one. If you’re asking if I feel morally obliged to take action, then yes, in certain situations, I feel a moral obligation. That’s the trick, though. Everyone’s morals are unique, so defining moral obligations is difficult. I could spend an entire day listing possible circumstances in which I’d feel morally obligated to take action on something, but to be purposefully vague and intentionally brief, I’ll just say that I generally feel morally obligated to act if I know I can do something to prevent another person from getting hurt.


GRATITUDE SECTION

Please feel free to share how last week went for you.   Bright or not-so-bright spots?

Oh, last week was an emotional rollercoaster for reasons I’d rather not delve into right now. It’s the beginning of the school year here in backasswards Indiana, so work has been crazy, and I’ve been working…a lot.

That being said, there was one thing that is equal parts bright and not so bright….Baby C started 6th grade today. I don’t know what I’m more upset about: that C’s now old enough to be in middle school or that I now have to get up an hour earlier to get him off to school. HOW IS HE IN 6TH GRADE ALREADY???

Pointless Inquisition

It’s been quite some time since I sat down and subjected myself to a dazzling array of pointless questions, but for some reason I love doing these. Maybe because it gives me a chance to flex my sarcasm muscles. Or maybe I’m just a masochist. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

1. Last beverage:

Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

2. Last phone call:
Was entertaining, to say the least.

3. Last song you listened to:
Red Cold River – Breaking Benjamin

4. Last time you cried:
A few weeks ago. I was going through old home videos and some videos with mom came on and…well, you know….

5. Have you dated someone twice:
Ugh, yes. C’s mom. Evidently, I’m an idiot. (a recurring theme from these answers for some reason)

6. Have you ever been cheated on:
I don’t know for certain, but I would not be shocked to find out it happened.

7. Kissed someone & regretted it:
Absolutely. Something about my kisses brings out the crazy in some people, apparently.

8. Have you lost someone special:
Aunts, Uncles, and grandparents, but the hardest was mommy.

9. What are your three favorite colors:
1. I
2. Don’t
3. Know
Seriously, I don’t have favorites of anything. Well, probably most things.

10. Met someone who changed you in the past month:
I haven’t worn diapers since I was like 2, so no….

11. Kissed anyone on your friends list:
Well, yeah…

12. How many kids do you want:
I love my children and the bonus children I’ve helped raise over the past 25 or so years, but no more, please. I can’t handle any more.

13. Do you want any pets:
Aside from my children? No. I like dogs, but not a fan of cleaning up their crap, so I’m good.

14. Do you want to change your name:
Why would I do that? I’ve gone 45 years with this one so I’m dug-in at this point. If I changed it I’d probably forget to answer to it, honestly

15. What did you do for your last birthday:
Tried to go to a hibachi place only to find out it was closed. There was a sports bar next to it I hadn’t tried, so went there instead. To my great surprise, there was a drag show planned that night to celebrate pride month. It was…interesting.

16. What time did you wake up today:
Right after my alarm went off. Twice.

17. Name something you CANNOT wait for:
Bed time. Sleeeeeeeeeeepyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy…

18. Last time you saw your mother:
A few days after she passed…

19. Most visited webpage:
Google, duh. All knowledge is held there.

20. Nicknames:
Dad, daddy, hey you, dumb ass. You know, it depends who’s addressing me.

21. Relationship status:
All alone…

22. Zodiac sign:
Gemini.

23. Male or female:
I refuse to be defined by my genitalia!

24. Height:
With or without my shoes on? This is important, ya know.

25. Do you have a crush on someone:
What is this, high school? Should I be passing notes in class? Is that even a thing anymore? I guess kids just message each other on Snapchat these days. Check yes or no…

26. Piercings:
Confuse me. I’ve never looked at any part of my body and thought, “You know, this skin here needs more holes in it.”

27. Tattoos:
Look great on other people…most of the time. Not for me, though. Permanent choices have yet to end up permanent for me, so if I did get a tattoo it’d probably divorce me.

28. Strong or Weak:
Me? My coffee? My will? My desire to throat-punch stupid people? Please be more specific.

FIRSTS

29. First surgery:
2nd grade to remove excess scar tissue from my half-recovered lost fingertip.

30. First best friend:
Southern Comfort, tbh.

31. First sport you joined:
Teeball, I think. I don’t know. I was a kid and that was a long time ago. I have trouble remembering what happened 40 minutes ago, let alone 40 years.

32. First vacation:
Erm, either Tawas City or Sunset Beach. Unless you count trips to Grandma’s house. If you count those then, you know, that, obviously.

33. First school:
Some preschool near Toledo whose name I probably couldn’t guess with 100 tries.

34. First pair of trainers:
Erm…wtf are we talking about here?

WHICH IS BETTER

35. Lips or eyes:
Depends on whose lips or eyes we’re referring to.

36. Hugs or kisses:
Why does one have to be better than the other? I like them both equally. Remember? No favorites.

37. Shorter or taller:
Like, are you asking if it’s better if I’m shorter or taller or if someone else is? Let’s just make everyone the same height so we don’t have to worry about this question.

38. Older or younger:
Younger may be more physically fit, but older has more experience. That probably doesn’t really answer the question, but that’s what I’m going with

39. Romantic or spontaneous:
Spontaneous. Romance is a day-dream of the selfish.

40. Sensitive or loud:
Sensitive. Loud hurts my ears.

41. Hook-up or relationship:
Relationship. I don’t want anything as superficial as a temporary place to, erm, sheeth my sword.

42. Shy or outgoing:
I’m extremely shy and reserved and that makes it harder to form connections, so outgoing is definely better in most cases.

HAVE YOU EVER

43. Kissed a stranger:
Define stranger. I mean, I’ve kissed on a first date. Are they still a stranger at that point?

44. Gotten a speeding ticket:
I maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay have a bit of a lead foot. When I first got my license I got so many speeding tickets that I nearly had my license suspended. I’m not quite so aggressive a driver these days.

45. Lost glasses/contacts:
Not yet. Don’t jinx me!!

46. Sex on first date:
Uhhhh….does not compute….

47. Broken someone’s heart:
Unfortunately. It’s a shitty feeling, too. I don’t ever want to hurt someone, but when it’s not working it’s not working.

48. Been arrested:
Not yet. Does that mean I’m innocent or that I just haven’t been caught? I’ll let you decide.

49. Have you turned someone down:
Yeah, that’s not fun, either.

50. Fallen for a friend:
Not that I recall. Oh, wait. Yeah. A long time ago. When I finally got the courage to say something to her I was shot down. Oh, well. Probably for the best anyhow.

51. Moved out of town:
I’ve moved out of several towns. I’m sort of a pro at it.

BELIEVE IN

52. Miracles:
Not really. Things may seem miraculous sometimes, but really it’s either coincidence or fortune…or both.

53. Love at first sight:
Not in a romantic sense, no. However, I’ve loved each of my children since the moment I laid eyes on them.

54. Heaven:
I honestly have no clue what to believe in that regard. I was raised in church and as hard as it is for me to admit sometimes, I don’t feel like I live in a world created by a god I was raised to believe in. I’d like to think there is and that mom is watching me from among the clouds, but I just don’t know.

55. Santa Claus:
I’ll keep the facade going until C stops believing. Until then Santa is real.

56. Kiss on the first date:
I mean, I’ve done it before so….I guess so.

57. Angels:
See the answer to 54.

58. Yourself:
In some respects. I believe that, professionally, I can achieve anything I attempt. In my personal life I question everything. Am I a good person? A good father? A good son? A good friend? When I try to convince myself the answer is yes to those questions something deep inside me tells me I’m not. However, the opposite happens if ask myself if I’m an awful person. So I guess I’m just floating around in the middle of everything, unsure of anything.

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY

59. Had more than 1 girlfriend/boyfriend at a time:
Hell no. One woman is more than enough to deal with. Why would I stress myself out like that?

60. Been in love with someone you couldn’t be with?:
Yup. It sucks ass.

61. Ever cheated on somebody:
Nope.

62. If you could go back in time, how far would you go?:
I’d go back to last night and make myself go to bed on time. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

63. Are you afraid of falling in love:
Yes. The sudden stop at the end is excruciating.

64. Was your last relationship a mistake?
I wouldn’t say that. It didn’t work out in the end, but there were a lot of good times. Things just…changed.

65. Do you miss your last relationship?
Not really.

66. Who did you last say “i love you” to?
My little man.

67. Have you ever been depressed?
Damn near daily. Been a battle since I was a teenager. Like a horrifying roller coaster that doesn’t stop.

68. Are you insecure?
Absolutely. I am extremely insecure about my appearance and personality. I can’t see any of the good qualities others see me. Except for my sense of humor. I’m fucking hilarious.

69. How do you want to die?
I don’t, duh. Why would I want that?

70. Do you bite your nails?
Nope, only my food.

71. When was your last physical fight?
A few days ago. It was an epic battle, but in the end that fly never stood a chance.

72. Do you have an attitude?
Everyone has an attitude. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to interpretation, though. My attitude is sarcastic, perhaps even caustically so, and somewhere between positive and negative. I consider myself a realist.

73. Twirl or cut your spaghetti?
Yes.

74. Do you tan a lot?
I don’t go to tanning booths or anything stupid like that, but if I’m outside for a day or so I’ll brown.

75. Ever eaten food in a car while someone or you are driving?
Yes, I’ve been on a road trip before…

76. Ever made out in a bathroom?
Well, yeah. When there are kids in the house you sneak those moments whenever you can.

77. Would you take any of your exes back?
Uh…no.

78. Would you go back in time if you were given the chance?
Didn’t we already ask this question? I’d go back to the first time I answered this question so I can see what my answer is.

79. What are your plans for this weekend?
Hell if I know. That’s a long time from now.

80. Do you type fast?
Fast enough. Did you see how quickly I typed that answer up?

81. Can you spell well?
W-E-L-L. What do I win?

82: What are you craving right now?
Nothing in particular, but my tummy just grumbled at me so I suppose I should eat something.

83. Have you ever been on a horse?
Sure, but it just sat there. I didn’t have any quarters to put in it.

84. Would you live with someone without marrying them?
Why would I marry anyone I lived with?

85. What’s irritating you right now?
The fact that I have lived with someone without marrying them. Did I miss the memo on that?

86. Have you ever liked someone so much that it hurts?
I think if liking someone hurt I’d do whatever I could to, you know, not like them.

87. Does somebody love you?
My children do. I think…

88. Have you ever changed clothes in a car?
I don’t think so?

89. Milk chocolate or white chocolate?
Chocolate!! White chocolate is kinda gross…

90. Do you have trust issues?
Absolutely. Once you’ve gotten a hamburger from McDonald’s that’s actually just a condiment sandwich (no meat) you learn not to take things at face-value.

91. Longest relationship?
9 long years.

92: Do you believe your most recent ex thinks about you?
I hope not. She should move on and work on making herself happy.

93. Have you ever walked outside in your PJs?
Well, yeah. To pick up a delivery off the porch or something. I don’t go out places in my PJs because I’m classy.

94. Do you believe everything happens for a reason?
I used to, but not any more. There are just no good, logical reasons for some of the awful shit that happens to some of us.

95. Did you have dream last night?
If I did it’s been scrubbed from my memory. Perhaps my subconscious is trying to protect me from itself?

96. Have you ever been out of state?
I’ve been out of several states…

97. Do you play the Wii?
This must be an old list of questions….

98. Do you like Chinese food?
Absolutely. Who knew you could prepare chicken in so many different ways?

99. Are you afraid of the dark?
Not the dark itself, only what’s hiding in it.

100. Is cheating ever okay?
NO. If you wanna sleep around then don’t get in a fucking relationship.

101. What year has been your best?
Erm…idk. I guess a toss-up between 1999 and 2011. Duplicates of me were born in both years.

102. Do you believe in true love?
Yes, I’ve had pumpkin pie before.

103. Favorite weather?
Chilly fall weather so I can wear hoodies, drink coffee all day, and eat chilli for dinner. And watch FOOTBALL.

104. Do you like the snow?
Abso-frickin’-lutely. I will hit you with as many snowballs as I can make.

105. Do you like the outside?
Not in the summer when it’s sweltering hot and there are pesky bugs everywhere.

106. Is it cute when a boy/girl calls you baby?
Uhhhh….idk. I don’t think I’ve ever been called that.

107. Have you ever made out for more than a half hour straight?
Well, yeah. Why do you wanna know, you perv!

108. What makes you happy?
Seeing my children happy and laughing.

109. Ever been to Alaska?
I wish! I’d love to move to Alaska and get away from these stupid-hot summers.

110. Ever been to Hawaii?
Nope. Tell me what I’m missing.

111. Do you watch the news?
Nope. It has a negative impact on my mental health.

112. Do you love MTV?
I did when I was 12 and they actually played music videos. I haven’t really given a shit about it since 1994, though.

113. Do you like subway?
Spicy Italian, FTW!

114 Would it be hard to kiss the last person you kissed?
Not in the slightest.

115. Your best friend of the opposite sex likes you, what do you do?
Well, I get over my shock and ask this kind lady her name since I had no clue I had a best friend of the opposite sex.

116. Why did you decide to do this quiz?
Cause I’m waiting for updates to finish on this server and I’m bored…

117. Have you ever seen someone you knew and purposely avoided them?
All the time. I’m awkward in public and don’t know how to interact with people I randomly run into.

118. Do you have a friend of the opposite sex who you can act your complete self around?
Yeah, there’s a couple at work who get my irreverent sense of humor.

119. Who was the last person of the opposite sex you talked to?
A coworker.

120. Who was the last person you had a deep conversation with?
Uhhhhhhh….I haven’t the slightest clue. Probably my psychiatrist, I guess.

121. Ever bought condoms?
Nope. My ex-wife did that for me if/when I needed them.

122. Ever gotten pregnant?
Well, I’ve given birth to several food babies….

123. Have you ever slipped on ice?
Of course I have, I live in the midwest.

124 Have you ever missed the bus?
I’ve never even thrown anything at the bus.

125. Have you left the house without money?
Every day. I don’t keep cash on me.

126. Have you ever smoked cigarettes?
Nope. I’ve never understood the concept behind seeing something burn and thinking, “I need to inhale that.”

127. Have you ever smoked a cigar?
See the previous question, please. Stop repeating yourself.

128. Did you ever drink alcohol?
Oh, shit. Way too much over the past 10 years, off and on. I’ve used it as a coping mechanism far too frequently.

129. Did you ever watch “The Breakfast Club”?
Nope, but what about Second Breakfast Club?

130. Have you ever been overweight?
Since the 4th grade. I guess it’s partly genetic because I was an active child but still got chubby. Granted, as an adult I haven’t always eaten healthy or exercised properly, but yeah….

131. Ever been to a wedding?
Yes, I have watched people willingly give up their freedom.

132. Ever been in a wedding?
My own (twice – I’m an idiot), my brother’s, and a former friend’s.

133. Have you ever been on the computer for 5 hours straight?
I work in IT. It’s my job…

134. Did you ever watch TV for 5 hours straight?
When I’m sick I always, always put on the original Star Wars trilogy. It’s a silly tradition I’ve had since I was a kid. Also, occassionally on days off I’ll binge something on Netflix.

135. Ever kissed in the rain?
Probably, but I don’t recall a specific instance.

136. Did you ever shower with someone else?
Yessum. I mean, I can’t reach/wash every part of my back, ya know?

137. Did you ever fail a driver’s test?
Hahahaha, yeah. So, I took Driver’s Ed in Ohio where they do the maneuverability test instead of parallel parking, but took my road test after I had moved to Kentucky. I went in the wrong way….

138. Ever been outside your home country?
Nope. I’m boring, I guess.

139. Ever been on a road trip longer than 5 hours?
Oy, yeah. Did a 17 hour drive from Palm Beach a few years ago. That. Was. Awful.

140. Ever been to a professional sports game?
Oh, yeah. Pistons, Bengals, Falcons, Braves, Reds, Cyclones…

141. Have you ever broken a bone?
So, as impossible as it may sound, getting hit in the nose by a baseball can break a bone. Always wear protection, kids.

142. Did you ever win a trophy in your life?
Uh….I had several soccer trophies when I was a kid, but I don’t know if I won them or if they were participation trophies.

143. Ever get engaged?
For some idiotic reason, yeah.

144. Have you ever been on a diet?
Several. My weight has fluctuated wildly over the past 20 years…

145. Have you ever been on TV?
We were on some educational cable program when I was in 2nd grade, but I can’t remember what the hell it was all about.

146. Ever ridden in a taxi?
Hmmmmm….you know? I haven’t.

147. Ever been to prom?
Hell no. I don’t do dances.

148. Ever stayed up for 24 hours or more?
Yup. Sometimes I’m an insufferable insomniac.

149 Have you ever been to a concert?
Yup. Most recently I saw Seether, Starset, and Breaking Benjamin. Great show.

150. Have you ever had a crush on someone at work?
I once married a coworker. Learn from my fail, folks. Don’t do it.

151. Have you ever been in a car accident?
A handful, but luckily none resulting in serious injury.

152. Ever had braces?
Negative, ghostrider.

153. Did you ever learn another language?
I took 3 years of Spanish in high school and was fairly fluent at one point, but then I forgot it all…

154. Do you wear make-up?
Why would I do that?

155. Did you ever have your wisdom teeth taken out?
Nope. My wisdom is still intact.

156. Did you ever kiss someone a different race than yourself?
Nope. I’ve always been curious what it would be like to date outside my race, but just never lived in many areas where there are different races.

157. Ever dyed your hair?
Nope. I just take the clippers to my skull now so I don’t even have to mess with it.

158. Did you ever wear someone else’s clothes?
I’m sure I have, but I can’t recall a specific occurrance.

159. Ever ridden in an ambulance?
Nope, I’ve never enjoyed that most expensive of taxi rides…

160. Ever ridden in a helicopter?
Does a helicopter in a carnival ride count? If so, then no.

161. Ever caught the stove on fire?
I haven’t, but it runs in the family… I have burnt/melted kitchenware because I turned on the wrong burner, though. Does that count?

162. Ever meet someone famous?
I’ve ran into a few Bengals players around the area.

163. Ever been on an airplane?
I’ve been in one, but I feel like getting on one is not going to end well.

164. Ever been on a boat?
Several times. Family in Michigan have boats and live on lakes and it’s awesome.

165. Ever broken something expensive?
My car? My nose?

166. Did you ever kiss someone before you were 14?
Yeah, but just little smooches. Nothing inappropriate.

167. Did you ever find something valuable on the ground?
I found a money clip with about 70 bucks in it once.

God Fearing

I was raised to believe God is a kind, loving, and compassionate being. Every Sunday my parents dragged me to church (literally – I did not want to go) where I had to listen to a monotone recitation of how powerful, forgiving, and full of love both God and Jesus are. Think Ben Stein in ridiculous robes.

According to the church (at least, the church I grew up in), we are all born sinners. Before any of us escape our mother’s womb, we are already sinners. We’ve yet to make a conscious decision. We’ve yet to take a breath. We’ve yet to behold the splendor of this world. Yet, somehow, we are already sinners. But God will forgive us if we ask. If we repent and ask for forgiveness we will still be accepted into Heaven when God calls us home.

Doesn’t that sound great? How generous God must be to forgive and welcome us into His kingdom despite somehow being a sinner before we were born. What a great guy. The very idea makes me feel all warm and tingly all over. Or perhaps that’s just a side-effect of all the coffee I just shotgunned. It feels good, either way.

Countless Christians refer to themselves as God-fearing, which is a term that has always struck me as odd. Why would anyone need to fear God? I have no reason to fear the God I learned of as a child. He loves us. He forgives us. He provides for us. What’s there to be afraid of other than being sent to Hell when you die? What else would God do that any sane person wouldn’t want? If you ask for forgiveness that won’t happen, though, so no biggie, right?

When I look out into the world I don’t see the God I was raised to believe in. His alleged kindness, love, and compassion are nowhere to be found when I examine the human condition. If I brave reading the news (which is a rare occurrence these days because my mental health simply can’t withstand the onslaught of negativity), finding news about forgiveness, love, and happiness are few and far between. I have to specifically search for “feel good” stories. Headlines are generally riddled with news of murder, rape, war, and hate. Is that why some folks are God-fearing? Is God not the generous being I’ve been led to believe? I mean, if God is all-powerful, benevolent, and controls everything why isn’t this world a reflection of his positive image?

For me, I don’t fear God. I find it hard to believe in Him at all. Frankly, there are so many gods and so many religions who is to say which one is the right one, if any of them? I’m not saying there’s no God. I’m not saying there is a God. I’m simply saying I don’t know. I’ll just keep living my life, being the best human I know how to be. I’ll be kind to strangers. I’ll help those I can. I’ll give if I can. I’ll personify (to the best of my ability) the ideal of God without religious hypocrisy.

Thyroid Cancer: My Journey Thus Far

Hey, cancer. You're terminated.

At this very moment last year, I was lying unconscious on an operating table, my neck opened wide as a surgeon evicted my thyroid and a few dozen lymph nodes from my body. They had violated the terms of my bodily lease, and so they simply had to go. There was no other way to set things right.

The procedure had been dubbed a neck dissection. That’s not frightening at all, right? I mean, I dissected animals in high school. No big deal. Except, those animals were dead. I had to do it, though, for I had discovered a few short days beforehand what I had suspected for weeks: that lump on my neck was cancer.

Emotionally, I was caught somewhere between numb and scared shitless leading up to surgery. I had been operated on only once in my life previously, and that was a simple procedure in 2nd grade I can scarcely recall. On multiple occasions after my diagnosis, I locked myself in a bathroom and cried. What would become of me? If the worst came to fruition, what would become of my children? Would they be okay?

My medical team all said the same reassuring things. “It’s very treatable!” “Thyroid cancer has the lowest mortality rate.” “If you were going to get any cancer, this is the one to get.”

I heard that last statement multiple times. I understand the purpose of that statement, but really? Like I won some kind of fucking cancer lottery because I developed the least deadly form of cancer? Yay me? It was still scary as fuck. I’ve known way too many amazing people who have died far too young due to this monstrous curse. Hell, in just the last year, cancer pulled two people I knew well into an early grave.

When I look back at words I’ve written regarding this entire ordeal, it still doesn’t feel real. I read those words, and it’s like I’m reading about some other guy’s struggles. Some strange internet dude who also masquerades online in stormtrooper armor. I mean, that can’t be me. I don’t have cancer. But it is, and I do. And I still haven’t wrapped my head around it. I still don’t believe myself when I tell, um, myself, that I have cancer. It feels like a lie. Or a breaking story on Fox News.

My mind has a tendency to be dramatic. In my warped view, every molehill is a mountain. As I was carted away one year ago, wearing naught but a hospital gown and an IV, I vaguely remember saying goodbye to my family members, wondering if I’d ever see them again. The drugs had kicked in by the time I was in the operating room, its haunting white walls having no effect on me at this point. All the what-ifs and what-could-go-wrongs evaporated as anesthesia and sedatives saturated my body.

Despite the conspiracy theories my mind had been peddling, the operation was a success. A month later, I had radiation therapy and a follow-up scan, which showed two very minuscule spots of thyroid tissue. If everything went according to plan, the radiation terminated them like Arnold.

Despite the good news thus far (well, the news has been good other than the diagnosis), I’m still struggling with some things. My Synthroid dosage is still being adjusted. I am forever fighting fatigue. In August, I had some issues with both sides of my face swelling up. After two weeks on antibiotics for suspected dual salivary gland infections, it was determined that this was a side effect of the radiation therapy, which I may or may not have to battle for the rest of my days. Essentially, the radiation therapy attacked my salivary glands. My cheeks are still very tender. If someone presses against my face during a hug, I have to pull away. I still have some trouble eating dry foods such as bread, cookies, or chips. My glands can no longer produce enough saliva to break food down, and dry foods stick to the walls of my mouth, making it difficult to swallow. This is not necessarily a bad thing since it keeps me from eating these types of food (most of the time), and none of those foods are really healthy anyhow. Nowadays, I look at chips and think, “Meh, not worth the trouble.”

Now that a year has passed since cancer’s eviction, it’s time for me to go through my follow-up scans to determine if surgery and radiation therapy successfully completed their tasks. That means I have to stop taking the Synthroid and go on a low iodine diet for several weeks. That means I’ll be even more fatigued than I already am. That means enduring an extremely slim cuisine selection. It’s shocking how many foods contain iodine. That also means another trip to the UC radiology department to swallow a radioactive pill so they can scan my body to see what, if any, thyroid/cancerous tissue remains. That means I can once again sing along with the Imagine Dragons’ song Radioactive and not be fibbing.

Frankly, until an appointment with my endocrinologist last week (when she totally threw off my groove by reminding me of these upcoming procedures), I had almost forgotten that I had been diagnosed with cancer and had not yet been declared cancer-free. Other than struggling with fatigue and Synthroid dosage adjustments, I haven’t had any treatment specifically targeted towards cancer since April. I have been living life as I normally would (COVID restrictions aside, of course) during that time. It had not occurred to me that there may still be cancer cells lurking somewhere in my body like tiny little assholes invading the capitol.

By March, I should have the results and a better grip on what the rest of my life will look like. In the meantime, I’ll try to stay positive. And sober.

Chinese Whispers

I love watching family videos. I can sit for hours sifting through videos of my children and never tire of watching them. I didn’t own my first camcorder until the twins were 6 years old. They were born in 1999, so smartphones weren’t yet a thing. My one lament (okay, it’s not my one lament, but it is my biggest) is that I have no videos of the twins before they were 6 but have hours of footage of Baby C’s entire life.

When I was a child, our family was lucky enough to have a camcorder. My dad filmed our soccer games, Christmas mornings, and family reunions. I’ve been feeling nostalgic since mom passed and decided to raid my dad’s old video cassettes and copy them to my computer. Not only so that I could watch them, but to preserve them. VHS is a dead medium. You can’t find VCRs anywhere anymore.

Left: Camcorder from the 80’s. Right: camcorder of today.

It was a good thing I did, too. Two of the cassettes came undone after I rewound them. With the magic of scotch tape, I was able to get them working well enough to copy to my desktop.

Watching these videos was awesome. I relived some fantastic childhood memories. I saw some wonderful folks who have since gone to heaven. I heard their voices once more. Saw their mannerisms. I got a small glimpse into my youth and what I was like as a child. I used to be cute…

One of my favorite childhood stories to tell is how my youngest brother tried to show me and my brother Revis up when we both were having difficulty flying one of those cheap styrofoam airplanes. In fact, I even posted the story to my old blog:

I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get it put together and play with it. I raced outside and removed it piece by piece from its packaging, and carefully assembled it. When I had finally completed it, I stood proudly holding my newly constructed styrofoam airplane high.   I headed out to the yard in between our house and the neighbor’s house, where there was ample room to fly the plane, and the ground was relatively flat.

I ensured my father had the video cassette recorder rolling before I attempted my first flight. I reared back and let her go. The plane flew! Straight into the ground. Undaunted, I picked up my plane and made another attempt, only for it to nose dive straight into the ground once it left my hand.

My younger brother, in an adolescent display of machismo, stepped over to me. "Here. Let me try."

I mentally shrugged, and I handed him the plane. I just wanted to see it fly. He cocked his arm back and let it rip. And the plane flew! Straight into the ground. He tried one more time but produced the same failure. Enter my youngest brother. "Let me try," he said pompously. He picked up the plane from the ground, took a couple of steps back, and let her fly. And the plane flew! It flew in a loop! And then hit him in the back of the head. All recorded on our trusty camcorder. I love modern technology.

As I was copying our old VHS tapes to my computer, I found the footage about which I wrote and was shocked at just how different my “memory” of that incident is.

First of all, I was not even there when this happened. It was just my two younger brothers. Just to reiterate, I was not present for an occurrence my mind tells me I was. I’m not sure what devilish sorcery this is, but I’m not amused.

Secondly, there was no contest. My brothers were just taking turns, trying to get it to fly. You know, like good, well-behaved children. I don’t recall any of us ever being so well-behaved.

Lastly, my youngest brother did not strike himself in the head with the plane. It was Revis who threw the plane. My youngest brother was actually standing a bit behind and to the side of him. The plane just looped back as soon as it left Revis’ hand.

The only thing in my “memory” that actually happened was my dad filming my youngest brother getting smacked in the back of the head with a styrofoam plane. It is still a hilarious childhood memory, even with the knowledge that my mind somehow butchered almost every detail of it.

We all played Chinese Whispers when we were in school. It was used to make a point. We’d gather in a circle, or maybe even form a line. One person would then whisper a sentence into the ear of the next. Then that person would do the same. And so on and so forth. Then, by the time the sentence was whispered into the last person’s ear, it was a completely different sentence.

Experts theorize our memories work in much the same way. I had never had an opinion on this one way or another until discovering how drastically my mind altered one insignificant memory. I’m suddenly suspect of my mind.

Obviously, my mind altered that memory, and I don’t have the slightest idea how or why that happened. How did I unconsciously decide to rewrite reality? At what point did my conscience decide I had been there despite my absence? It’s evident that I only knew of this occurrence because I watched the tape. 

The article I linked above theorizes, “Take storytelling for example. When we describe our memories to other people, we use artistic license to tell the story differently depending on who’s listening.” There’s a huge distinction between artistic license and complete fabrication. I’ve told that story the same way for as long as I can remember. I was completely shocked to find out I wasn’t even present for something I remembered.

In my search for nostalgia, I found something completely unexpected: my brain is a liar. I’m left to wonder if my other childhood memories actually happened as I remember them or if my brain has been telling stories.

What say you, dearest reader? Have you ever discovered that you remembered an event incorrectly? How did that strike you?

2020 Vision

I remember the first time I watched Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland and wondering when, if ever, Alice would reach the bottom of the rabbit hole. The agony of the unknown and the fear which accompanied it are pretty much how I’ve felt for most of this year.

Recovering from Cancer

My body has slowly been healing over these past few months. I underwent radiation therapy in April, and subsequent tests have shown that the surgery removed all but a couple small specks of thyroid tissue. Those two tiny pieces which remain should be neutralized by the radiation.

I’m beginning to feel like myself again, while the world around me is falling apart. Well, at a seemingly more exponential rate. A pandemic rages across the globe like wildfire while, at least in my part of the world, many deny its existence, or at the very least, do not consider it a threat.

Reopening School

My girlfriend and I were faced with a tough decision at the beginning of this school year: to let our children go back to school or have them attend school virtually. 

Virtual is the no-brainer option because these last few years, I’ve watched the flu make its way through our schools twice a season.  Virtual is the no-brainer option because children stick their fingers into their noses and mouths and spread their germs (and bodily fluids) like peanut butter all over bread. Virtual is the no-brainer option because I’ve been in the nurse’s office when a student enters, sent up due to flush cheeks and a fever, and says mommy told me not to see the nurse today. My girlfriend was that nurse.

Was…

Virtual is the no-brainer option, except that means someone would need to be there to supervise them.

We made the difficult decision for her to quit her job for a multitude of reasons. Being the school nurse meant she would almost assuredly be exposed to the virus. She has RA. Her daughter and my twins have asthma. We didn’t feel comfortable taking the risk. We also needed someone to stay with our children during the day as they attended school virtually.

It hurts because she loved that job and working with children.

Why schools are opening at all, boggles my mind. If there’s one thing at which children excel, it’s spreading germs. I’ve been a father for over 20 years. When my children have gotten sick, 99% of the time, they caught that illness from school.

I’ve heard the arguments. I agree that our children must be educated (although hearing Republicans go on and on about how crucial education is while they cut funding to schools is a post for another time). However, I don’t agree that education is more important than health. There’s still so much we don’t know about this pandemic. New studies are showing that there could be life-long health issues associated with contracting COVID-19, even if you survive. 

Pandemic

While I was finding out in January that I had thyroid cancer, the world was finding out about COVID-19. As I write this, the latest stats from the CDC state that 5,340,232 US citizens have contracted the virus and that 168,696 have died from it.

The worst part of this pandemic, sadly, is not the fact that we’re in a pandemic. The worst part is that the pandemic has become a political device, another tool with which the left and right can turn to manipulate public opinion. Meanwhile, the recommendations of infectious disease experts at the CDC are being criticized by the right and “debunked” by YouTube jockeys who claim to have done their own research on the virus. 

I’ve had multiple back-and-forth’s with random morons on Facebook (I shouldn’t have engaged, but the sheer stupidy of these people wouldn’t let me ignore them) where people tell me wearing a mask should be a choice even though the mask is meant to keep the wearer from spreading the disease. I’ve been told when quoting statistics from the CDC that my numbers are incorrect (where else would I get the numbers?). I’ve seen so many people claim that they won’t be wearing a mask because a mask mandate violates their rights, and they are not sheep. I’m not sure what freedom is being infringed by being forced to wear a mask, but MY right to live healthily is being violated by any asshole who may unknowingly have COVID not wearing a mask while out in public. Also, the sheep analogy really confuses me. The sheep who don’t follow the shepherd end up eaten by the wolf…

Death

Though it happened in 2019, I’ve still felt the passing of my mother throughout 2020. I’ll break down at random times during a song or when I see her picture. I struggled mightily on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and on the anniversary of her death. As if losing her wasn’t enough loss, my girlfriend’s aunt, to whom she was extremely close, passed away in June – another victim of cancer. 

Other Health Issues

At my regular check-up in June, I found out that my cholesterol is slightly above the acceptable range, so I had to start taking medication to reduce that. In the last month, I had to have an abscessed tooth removed, and then, a week later, I developed an infection in my saliva gland as a result of the procedure. I’ve been on pain meds and antibiotics for the past three weeks. I’ve had more health issues in the last year than the previous 42 years of my life.

Politics

I’m scared of this election cycle. Trump is as unstable as a thunderstorm, lies blowing from his mouth like destructive gusts of wind and idiotic remarks and childish insults striking from his Twitter account like lightning. Despite how radical he is even to his own party, they still refuse to condemn him. Worse, my hopes that the DNC would put forth a viable candidate died when they stifled Bernie’s campaign (again) and somehow rigged it so that Joe Biden would get the nod. Maybe they felt he has a better chance since he’s more centrist than Bernie, but my problem with Joe is that he’s got some of the same red flags as Trump. He’s been accused of sexually assaulting women. He’s prone to childish outbursts. He’s got no filter. He’s ancient.

Lastly, if Biden wins, it is likely Trump will not relinquish his hold on the oval office. When asked if he would do so if/when the time comes, the most encouraging answer he’s given so far is, “I don’t know.” That is horrifying.

Police Brutality

Multiple black people have been murdered without cause this year by police officers in numerous parts of the country and most of those officers have not been charged with any sort of crime. People protesting police brutality have been countered by armed militia supporting police. The irony, however, was when armed militias harassed police when they felt their rights were being violated by being made to wear masks. The similarities are….nonexistent. Police in multiple cities have often instigated violence at otherwise peaceful protests, too. I don’t know what there is to argue about. Police who abuse their power should be held accountable. No excuses.

2020 Vision

Usually, having 2020 vision is something about which to be happy. It means your visual acuity is excellent, and you can see things clearly. But I must say…I see 2020 right now, and I’m not happy about it at all. This year sucked even before it dropped its gigantic LED ball in Times Square. I do not wish to see anything that happened this year with any sort of clarity and I most certainly understand how addicts start down the path of addiction. If there were something I could take to numb me to this pain without ruining my life, I’d almost certainly be gulping it.

Four Score (but really only two months) Ago…

I faced the most daunting challenge of my life.

A CT scan revealed that a 4cm mass of thyroid tissue had grown outside of my actual thyroid, and a biopsy determined it was cancerous, so on January 22nd, I went in for what my ENT described as a neck dissection.

I had only had surgery once in my life to that point, and that was in 2nd grade. It was a simple procedure to remove scar tissue from the malformed growth that emerged after having my fingertip sewn back on after a freak toy box accident. No, that is not a typo, sadly.

This was going to be vastly different. This operation would be much more invasive and would be centered around several vital parts of my anatomy. I was so filled with anxiety that my doctor put me on a beta-blocker a week before the procedure to reduce my heart rate and blood pressure.

The operation lasted 5 hours, and I was in recovery for another 2 hours. My thyroid was removed, along with 53 lymph nodes. I woke with 16 staples in my neck and looked like a reject from a Tim Burton movie.

I’m once again fighting constant fatigue. The effects of radiation therapy can last from 4 to 8 weeks. I can barely taste anything, and my neck and part of my right cheek have swelled back up.

BUT…everything is looking good. At least, that’s what they’re telling me. So, for that, I am thankful.

If all this suffering keeps me around to continue watching my children grow, I’ll gladly endure it. Okay, maybe not gladly.

As I slowly come back together, the world outside is falling apart. This pandemic has shutdown nearly everything, and C’s stepfather was diagnosed with COVID-19, despite not being tested due to a shortage of tests. So C’s stuck here with me while I’m hoping that 1) the diagnosis is wrong and 2) if it isn’t, he didn’t bring it here with him.

Aside: I’m not a medical professional, but I’m not sure why they wouldn’t at least do a flu test to rule that out first

To sum this rambling shitshow up, 2020 can go suck a big, dirty…toe. What a bunch of suck this year has been.How’s everyone fairing during these trying times? I hope everyone is healthy!

Cancerous Thoughts

I sat in an uncomfortable chair in the ENT’s office after a long day at work. Between the everyday stress of working and raising my youngest son, I had the added weight of a recent biopsy haunting me, the proverbial kick while I was already down. I suspected the results I would receive that evening would confirm what I somehow already knew to be true.

Thyroid cancer.

I have spent the last (almost) two months pushing thoughts of this from my mind. A mental shield. If I don’t, unhealthy thoughts run amuck like bumper cars in my head.

Would things have been so bad if I’d asked about that lump on my neck sooner?

Did all the alcohol I drank in the wake of my mother’s death fuel the spread of the cancer?

Mom always told me she felt like a burden to me. Did she somehow know that I would soon not be able to care for her? Is that why she gave up?

If the worst should happen, what would become of my children?

Pinch-hitting for Pedro Borbón, Manny Mota…Mota…..Mota……(sorry, a little Airplane humor there)

Those are the demons that try to intrude on my day to day life. Somehow, I’ve mostly kept them at bay. Whenever one of those thoughts creeps in, I kick it right back out. I’m not sure how. I’ve never been adept at clearing my mind of harmful thoughts, but it’s working for now.

It’s been five weeks since my surgery. I still have some swelling in my neck and under my chin. My incision, which runs from the left side of the base of my neck to just a couple of inches short of my right ear and required 16 staples to close, is still a little tender and puffy, but healing nicely. My strength is slowly returning, and my energy levels are gradually normalizing.

The hard part is over, but the journey is far from complete.

Next week I go on a low-iodine diet and stop taking my Synthroid in preparation for further treatment. After a week of that, I get two days of injections, some blood drawn, and then have to swallow a radioactive pill that should destroy any cancer which may still be in my body. I’ll have to isolate myself from physical contact for some time afterward, because I’ll literally be radioactive, and could poison anyone I have prolonged contact with.

I’m not looking forward to any of this, but it’s better than another five hours on an operating table.

The silver lining in all this suffering is that my long-term prognosis is still good. My endocrinologist believes my life expectancy will not be affected by any of this. So that’s something.

The next two weeks are going to be difficult, but hopefully, I can continue to keep the demons at bay.

Interview With a Trooper – Episode IX

Well hello there! It’s time again for me to answer questions from some strange person on the internet because evidently I have nothing better to do. Okay, nothing better I want to do. Do you feel better now that you’ve forced that confession out of me. DAMN YOU!!!

Ahem. Anyhow….so I answered stuff….

  1. What is the first movie you remember seeing? Probably one of the Star Wars movies. Dad used the VCR to tape them from TV somehow and I would watch them on repeat. Except for the last few minutes of Return of the Jedi, because he ran out of tape.
  2. What is the first thing you do when you get home? Shut the front door.
  3. What is the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning?  Close them again and try to go back to sleep.
  4. What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning? Why the hell am I up??
  5. What is the first time you were allowed to put on make-up? Idk, I still haven’t asked yet.
  6. What is the furthest you’ve ever been from home? Lost somewhere in my own head.
  7. What is the hardest part of your job? Walking out at the end of the day knowing I didn’t get everything done I wanted to.
  8. What is the last book you read? Exile by RA Salvatore
  9. What is the last compliment you got? Um…not sure. I don’t keep a log I can consult.
  10. What is the last film you saw? Spiderman Homecoming
  11. What is the last movie that you saw at the cinema? The Rise of Skywalker.
  12. What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer? Handbrake so I could convert a video for someone at work.
  13. What is the last thing you watched on TV? Um, Spiderman Homecoming. You already asked me that.
  14. What is the longest period you’ve spent in a hospital? A day and a half…which was only two weeks ago.
  15. What is the most boring movie you’ve watched? Jesus of Nazareth. Every. Freakin’. Easter.
  16. What is the most difficult thing you’ve done for love? Not leave.
  17. What is the most important thing in your life? My children.
  18. What is the name of your favorite restaurant? I don’t have favorites. Of anything.
  19. What is the name of your first pet? Bunky. I’m not quite sure how mom came up with that name, but when she was naming our dog that was the name she answered to, so it stuck.
  20. What is the one item you can’t leave home without? My body.
  21. What is the pettiest thing you’ve done to prove a point? I’m sure I’ve done plenty of petty things in my life, but I’m not able to think of anything right now.
  22. What is the scariest movie you’ve watched? In 7th grade I was shown a video of a live birth in sex ed. That was pretty brutal.
  23. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child? My uncle had an Atlanta Falcons helmet on his mantle at home. He had me convinced for years that he had been a kicker for the Falcons back in the 70’s.
  24. What is the thing you change the TV channel with? It’s called a remote control, you tool.
  25. What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen in your life? Trump supporters.
  26. What is the worst grade you got on a test? An F, obviously. You can’t get any lower than that.
  27. What is under your bed? The floor. Duh.
  28. What is your all-time favorite town or city? I don’t have favorites!!! Why? Because I just don’t!!
  29. What is your best childhood memory? Not a specific memory, but just having the freedom to go outside and play with friends or to play with my brothers in our basement full of toys without a worry in the world.
  30. What is your best physical feature? Idk. My smile?

Interview With a Trooper – Episode VIII

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted an interview segment (because reasons), so I figured I’d get another post on the wall. How’s everyone doing??

  1. What did you do for your last birthday? Idk, that was 7 months ago. I think the twins came over, we cooked out, and I had some celebratory drinks.
  2. What did you dress up as on Halloween when you were eight? Probably Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. Either way, I was winning.
  3. What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was very young, a baseball player. In high school, a teacher. In my 20’s, the best dad possible. In the 30’s…same. Now, in my 40’s, I want to go back to my childhood.
  4. What do you call carbonated drink called? Call 911! I think the interviewer just had a stroke!
  5. What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?  Weird.
  6. What do you call your grandparents? I never met either of my grandfathers. Well, technically, that’s not true. One died before I was born, the other when I was two months old. So I did meet one of them, but I don’t remember it. Both of my grandmother’s I called grandma. Unoriginal, yes, but still loving.
  7. What do you consider unforgivable? Cheating, or any other form of betrayal from someone in whom you’ve placed trust.
  8. What do you dislike about living in your neighborhood? Nothing, so far. I mean, being this close to train tracks is somewhat annoying, but it’s not the end of the world.
  9. What do you do for a living? I do IT support in a K-12 school corporation.
  10. What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep? Toss and Turn? Try to get up and do something productive? I’ll normally either read or put on a movie I’ve seen a million times (like Star Wars) and eventually I’ll pass out.
  11. What do you do most when you are bored? Um, find something to do that isn’t boring. Duh.
  12. What do you find yourself always procrastinating? Procrastination.
  13. What do you like about your home? The roof is nice. It keeps out the rain.
  14. What do you love about living in your neighborhood? Um…IDK. It’s a neighborhood. I just live here.
  15. What do you love about your favorite TV Show? I don’t really have a favorite TV show. I don’t really have favorites of anything.
  16. What do you think about more than anything else? I’m trying not to think about anything these days. It keeps me from despair.
  17. What do you think about the most? Well, right now I’m thinking…how is this question any different than the one before it, and how it’s not, and that this is a stupid question.
  18. What does your name mean? It means I answer when someone says it.
  19. What drains your energy? What doesn’t? I haven’t had much energy at all these past few months. Hopefully, that will change as I recover from surgery.
  20. What dreams have you given up on as unrealistic? Having a child who doesn’t talk back.
  21. What female celebrity do you wish was your sister? Uh….I don’t know. I’ve never wished for another sibling. My family is already big as it is.
  22. What flavor of tea do you enjoy? I don’t really like tea. I pity the fool.
  23. What has been the hardest thing for you to face or learn? Hell, I don’t know. Even if you narrowed that question down to the last six months I couldn’t pick just one thing so much shit has been happening.
  24. What has required the most courage of you in your life so far? Walking away from my first marriage, methinks.
  25. What inspires you? I don’t know if inspired is the right term, but my children keep me motivated. Without them I don’t know what would keep me going.
  26. What is a strange occurrence you’ve experienced but have never (or rarely) shared with anyone? That my first wife used suicide as a tool to keep me from leaving her. I’ve written about it at length here, but it’s not something I shared with many people in real life. For some reason, I still feel a bit of shame about the whole ordeal.
  27. What is an ideal first date for you? Not having one.
  28. What is at the top of your bucket list? Creating a bucket list.
  29. What is good about how you are living your life right now? So far I have not given into despair.
  30. What is hard about being a parent? EVERYTHING.
  31. What is hard about not being a parent? NOTHING. I mean, that’s probably not true, but I’ve been a parent so long I can’t remember what it was like to NOT be a parent.
  32. What is on the walls of the room you are in? Pictures. I am surrounded by family pictures. I love it.
  33. What is one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up? Coffee?
  34. What is one of the worse things that could happen to you? It already happened, I think.
  35. What is one thing that you’ve never revealed to your parents? See question 26…
  36. What is one thing you’d rather pay someone to do than do yourself? Why? Move. I hate moving and have moved way too many times in my life.
  37. What is something about yourself that you hope will change, but probably never will? How easily irritated I sometimes can be.
  38. What is something most people don’t know about you? Me and Vader hang out and play Texas Hold ‘Em every Saturday night.
  39. What is something that amazes you? How people keep defending Trump and the actions of the GOP somehow blocking witnesses to his impeachment trial.
  40. What is something that scares you that you would never ever try? Jumping out of a plane. Or even flying in one.
  41. What is something you are gifted at? Sarcasm.
  42. What is something you look for in a partner? A sense of humor.
  43. What is something you wish you were gifted at doing? Writing.
  44. What is something you’ve never done that you’d like to try? Winning the lottery.
  45. What is the best compliment you have ever received? You’re a good father.
  46. What is the best part of your job? There’s a lot of things I like about it. The camaraderie with those I work with. Interacting with the students (most of the time). The freedom I have to run the network as I deem best and the trust that’s been given to me to do so. The list goes on.
  47. What is the farthest-away place you’ve been? Bentonville, Arkansas. That was an interesting trip…
  48. What is the first amusement park you’ve been to? Six Flags over Georgia, I think.
  49. What is the first app you check when you wake up in the morning? Depends on which notification is at the top of the list.
  50. What is the first book you remember reading? One of the Hardy Boys novels. When I was in middle school I read a bunch of those books.