Going home

Cheryl is going home. Without going into too many details, the doctor had to cut more, the surgery took longer, and there’s more pain than expected. That said, this procedure was purely cosmetic (to cover the larger than expected hole in her head), so the prognosis is excellent, and she’ll have hair over all of the spots on her head where you’re supposed to have hair.

Best of all right now, we’re going home soon. She’ll be in pain the next couple of days, but hopefully it will start to subside sooner – and mostly, she’s managing it now.

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A secret no more

Here and there, now and then, I’ve been dropping frustrated tweets about a secret I wasn’t keen on keeping. It feels like it’s been months. I think it HAS been months. But starting today I don’t have to keep it secret anymore.

Cheryl got a BIG promotion a couple months ago, but couldn’t tell anyone. She’d been promoted to a pretty high position, but the telling was reserved for someone higher still: the Secretary of her department in State Government. That was when we began to plan our latest move: to Gainesville, FL – a college town in north Florida, and home to our alma mater: The University of Florida. I started working on a transfer within my department, which I got… with a start date a week and a half ago. That’s why you may have seen an increase in the number of pictures posted by me on Facebook. You see, I’m a wee bit excited.

So, that’s the big secret. Only half of it has been much of a secret, with all those pictures I’ve been posting. But to a couple humble civil servants, Cheryl’s promotion is a big deal, and thus a big secret to keep.

Yesterday, she finally got word the move was official. Cheryl is due to report to her new office in early July. It caps a series of moves, promotions, and relocations for Cheryl and our family, which started eighteen months ago when we left the only home our kids had known in Dunedin.

I’m extremely proud of her. She’ll be managing her agency’s operations in the six counties of Florida’s Eighth Judicial Circuit. She’s gone higher, faster, than I thought possible – rising to a position in state government where you don’t submit an application – you’re appointed. (Something not common in Florida.)

Around the time we left Gainesville after graduation – as chance would have it, for Orlando – the talk about returning one day started. I’m not going to say it was our “dream” to return. It wasn’t, exactly. We thought it would be a cool thing to do, but something which wouldn’t be realistic for many years – if ever.

Now we’re here. We’ve returned to a place with special meaning to us. It’s the place where our relationship really stared – and blossomed. It’s the only town I’ve lived in Florida with it’s own sense of place. We’re leaving the congestion of central Florida and the I–4 corridor behind, replacing it with a liberal college town, surrounded by miles of rural roads and great bicycling. Hell, there are even hills here. It’s the first time the altimeter on my bike has registered three digits. Yes, I have an altimeter on my bike. Laugh with my blessing.

Life is not perfect. It never is. We’ve left family and friends behind before, and we’re doing it again. We left almost everything we had behind when we left Dunedin, and it feels like we’re starting over from scratch in Gainesville. I’m pretty damn excited though. Many people fear change, and to be honest, change hasn’t always been my friend either. But this change feels different. This move feels like the moves of my youth… an adventure. People talk about their youth in the context of life’s prime. I don’t. I didn’t come to accept who I am until these last few years. I didn’t come to accept some parts of my past, or my health, until this year. I think our prime may be right now.

Now you know.

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Leaving my comfort zone?

I’ve been sitting on this post for a couple weeks. Cheryl and I have discussed this at length, but I’ve waited to put this up until after her big day. I didn’t want her dealing with this, any more than she already would have been, when she was already going to be stressed talking to the folks at the home office in Tallahassee.

– – –

It’s easy to see life altering events after they’ve passed. Sometimes we think we can see them coming, but find that foresight isn’t a reliable predictor of a happiness. Such an event may loom in my near future. As if you couldn’t already guess.

Cheryl had a job interview today. It was out of town, in Tallahassee, FL.

How many of you think moving to a new city sounds exciting? There was a time when I did. What’s not to like? New opportunities. New places to see and explore. Expanding horizons a bit further than the daily commute. All of these sound good, so why does it seem I’m wired differently than folks who see these things with an optimist’s eye? I hate myself for being a killjoy.

Let’s start at home. This is home. With a couple interruptions, it has been since 1979. I’ve loved this place with equal measure hate, so it shouldn’t hold me as strong as it does. But home has the capacity to comfort you like no other place when life doesn’t treat you well. I can’t imagine slogging through leukemia, chronic pain and illness, my mother’s mental collapse and long hospitalization, a couple surgeries, and my ongoing struggles with depression – in these last six years – if they happened somewhere else.

So why would we be considering a move to Tallahassee? For those of you not up on your Florida geography, it’s about halfway across the state (lengthwise), yet is far enough to easily get you to another state most other places in this country (outside of Alaska, Texas, California, and Hawaii). Although Tallahassee leans progressive due to two universities and the state capital, it’s in a region (not always) affectionately known as Lower Alabama (the panhandle). Florida is unique in that you have to drive north to go “South,” with the rest of the state made up of first and second generation, midwestern or northeastern transplants.

The short answer: Cheryl works two jobs to cover my medical bills, private school for a child in the autism spectrum, and more private school for another child who we fear would suffer similar problems in our beleaguered public schools. Please note: we don’t blame the schools themselves. They’ve been under siege by a hostile, crazy-conservative state legislature hell bent on removing “public” from any discussion. She has an interview for a job which pays more money, where she wouldn’t have to work two jobs.

“Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can rent it for a while.” I don’t know who said that, if it was a serious comment, or where I heard it, but I think I understand it. I don’t want Cheryl to feel she has to work two jobs, and this position with the central office in her department could solve this problem. Working night shifts in hospital security has taken a physical and emotional toll, and I feel responsible. Hurting someone you love, however indirectly, is a terrible feeling. So go ahead and add one more thing to my list of suffering a couple paragraphs back: self-pitying anchor.

No matter what I say going forward, no matter how much unsympathetic whining I do, I feel there’s no real choice. I can’t…. I won’t be responsible for my wife’s suffering.

The Problem: I don’t want to move. By this I don’t mean I’d prefer not to move. The idea fills me with anxiety on so many levels I could sit distracted for hours, thinking of nothing but worry. Still, I also can’t be the reason for Cheryl’s misery… resentment… fill in the blank with the help of your trusty thesaurus.

Anxiety’s Root: Well, there’s the obvious answer: brain chemistry/wiring. I can feel o.k. for months, working my way through pressures at work and home with aplomb. It’s almost like I’m a normal person. Then there’s a trigger. There’s no telling what it might be. I could be something as trivial as leaving my phone at home. Then I’m in free-fall and everything feels insurmountable. It can last hours or months, but for years it stayed away… until six years ago.

A few causes are easier to understand. They share elements experienced by many folks first or second hand. For example, I feel marginally employable due to health problems and my attendance record over the last six years. As someone who’s had a hand in hiring for the last fifteen, I know it’s an important consideration. Whether there’s a good reason for absenteeism or not, employers like to have employees who are capable AND who will be there regularly to show off their abilities. I feel lucky to be somewhere NOW, where I’m valued despite my history of health problems. Despite what you may think about working for the government, there’s no guarantee of a job for me in my department just because my wife gets a promotion and/or transfers. I have to be acceptable in the eyes of management where I’d be transferring. Over the last six years, I’m the potential candidate who’s used all of his own leave, used chunks of leave donated by others, and is on his third year under the protection of the Family Medical Leave Act. Tempting, aren’t I?

Plus I really like my job, right where I am. I’ve put the better part of twenty years towards learning most of the nuances of my job, and the somewhat unique version of it which exists in my office. To some this would mark the time to move on to other things. But to me, it creates another opportunity: to help not only our clients but my coworkers. People outside my team (sometimes calling long distance) trust me with an answer, and a sincere thank you often means more to me than money. Folks often complain recognition in government (at least in Florida) rarely involves financial reward, but I’m not one of those people.

Despite more recent health problems, I’ve put many years earning this respect, my friends, and a good reputation. I fear starting over someplace else and losing it all – the things I’ve come to like most about my job. I fear it will be many times harder the second time around – when the 1995 model Me is just words in a file, and the 2013 model is broken.

The circle is complete. None of this changes Cheryl’s problems. I haven’t lived them so I won’t do them the disservice of explaining them poorly, but I understand the toll they’ve taken all too well. The lack of time off, never stopping, and carrying more than her share is wearing her down. I read this post and my guilt leaves the linear track, exploding with exponents. I’m not just an anchor, resisting with equal and opposite force. Most of you remember high school physics, right? I fear I’m an anchor that can’t/won’t see past it’s own fear and pulls back harder.

I don’t think I’m deluding myself when I say I try. The privacy train left the station on this blog years ago, so it’s odd I can’t bring myself to name the ways now. Hell, what’s a little social stigma after this post? I’ll just say I’ve spoken to many people, in many disciplines, at times spending lots of money, over many years, to get a a grip on some of my problems. That should be enough to spark a bit of your imagination, eh?

God help me (yes, I’ve spoken to him too), I don’t want to be a terrible person.

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There’s something about nineteen

It’s not just today, but it is today in particular.

This is the point in this post where I start making a little sense.

I was nineteen years old when I started dating my wife. To be clear, we weren’t married at the time. Unless a third party arranges a marriage, folks don’t typically date their spouse. The husband and wife part came later for me and mine. Folks often hear this and say, “Awh! You guys were high school sweethearts! That is SOOOOO sweet!” Then I say to myself, not out loud “I don’t know how old you were in school, but I didn’t turn eighteen until after I graduated. I was month into my sophomore year at UF when I turned nineteen.”

Out loud, I reply, “well… not so much. We met in high school and I was sweet on her, but she was dating another guy behind my back, and turned me down when I got up the nerve to ask her out to prom. She didn’t see the light until after graduation.”

I believe I said I’d start making a little more sense. You’ll note I didn’t say anything about being interesting let alone entertaining.

You might ask yourself, “why do I bring this up now?” I might reply, “because I think it’s significant so hold your horses!”

I’m not too old, relative to just about every significant person in my life not named Adam, Beth, Conner, or Eric. We had a good thing going, alphabetically, until Eric came along. However, nineteen seems like something I read about a long time ago. And that’s how long Cheryl has been my person. I knew before we started dating that I wanted to spend a long time with her, and we’ve lived our lives that way since then – not long after I turned 19 years old.

Today is special to me for another reason, but they’re closely related. It’s our nineteenth wedding anniversary. I’m not sure many other folks think of 19 as a milestone, but I’m not most other folks. Every day is significant, but I’m a nostalgic fella. My memories are an interconnected web of thoughts, experiences, and emotions. My mind rarely stops at just one.

So there you have it: nineteen.

Happy anniversary Cheryl!

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Someone’s birthday

I’m hoping you’ll read this one, even If you ignore most of my posts.

Tomorrow is Cheryl’s birthday. She’s not going to get what she deserves because it’s impossible to quantify. She’s not going to get what she’s worth because everything is beyond my means.

Instead, she’s going to get up and do what she does every Friday: wake up, take the kids to school, go to work, come home for a short nap, wake up, go to job number two, and work security at the hospital until the sun rises on another day – when she’ll do much of it again. She’ll do it without complaint. She’ll do it for me and her other kids.

So do this for me.

I take that back.

Do this for her. Show Cheryl a little love tomorrow on her birthday. It’s not everything but it’s something and that isn’t nothing.

And if this post comes across as off the charts corny you’ll do it anyway, right?

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Success or failure?

It may seem I’ve been gone for a while, but it’s not true. I’ve been here and there. I’ve just been invisible for a while. You would think I was agonizing over a feature article for the newspaper. I have two or three posts in the queue (not counting countless, abandoned ones) that are “mostly done” but I can’t bring myself to finish/post. You’ve already heard me moan about one of them so I’ll move on.

It brings me to another subject I think about from time to time: what is success? I’m thinking in terms of a whole life lived rather than individual events, a single aspect of someone’s life, or a few blog posts sitting unfinished.

How much of success (so far as it can be defined, measured, or evaluated) is subjective? If we assume much of it is subjective – and I would posit it most assuredly is, how much can we attribute other people’s perceptions placed upon us and our own, independent conclusions? Like most things, I think it’s a combination. We have the capacity to think for ourselves, but our values and beliefs are inevitably shaped by those close to us, particularly when we’re young.

There’s a problem lurking in there, preying on the joy in our lives, and part of it is the concept of potential. You know the equation: if life minus potential is greater then zero then you’re a success! Congratulations! Potential is a quality we’re sure exists, in varying quantities, pertaining to multiple qualities, but is it really only a guess? I don’t mean to argue there’s no such thing, or it’s a creation of someone’s imagination or wishful thinking. Sometimes part of it is based on measurable attributes. Sometimes it’s an educated guess based on a great deal of experience. However, sometimes a guess is still just a guess. If the perception of our potential is propped up my such a guess, it’s a guess that has a profound impact on our perception of success, our feelings of self-worth, and often our mental health.

We live our lives, some of us meeting or exceeding these expectations created by the perception of potential, and some of us not. But either way, do we feel successful? If we merely meet our potential aren’t we just meeting expectations? We’re a culture of “more.” Enough never is. Excess is our culture’s idea of enough. If we merely meet, or heaven forbid – fall short of these expectations – is it possible we sometimes (perhaps even often) suffer disappointment at the hands of a guess that was wrong?

We can’t forget the 800 pound gorilla in the room – the one I left behind the closed door of potential a while back: what is success? Hell, what goes in the recipe? Money, marriage, fertility, social status, professional status… they all weigh heavily on the scale. But what of happiness? Where does happiness go on the shopping list? Can we use a substitute, as if we’re swapping margarine for butter?

Happiness is at the top of my list. I accept no substitutes. I was brought up that way and it stuck (damn nurture). For a long time potential was not part of the equation. I saw myself as an average student, if not a bit slow during my early years in school. I didn’t see potential in myself (which I’ll admit is a sorry state), and a couple fourth grade teachers agreed with me. Eventually standardized testing, my mother’s advocacy, a guidance counselor, other teachers, grades – and the grand-daddy of them all: other people’s perceptions and expectations, tried to cure me of my feelings of inferiority.

But an odd thing happened on the road to having potential: rather than feeling liberated, believing the world truly was my oyster, I felt burdened by a yoke. I tried to hang on to happiness but I put pressure on myself. How exactly was I going to use this potential? Where did I start, let alone end up? What would be my major in college? What would I do for a career? Would it earn me a living? I thought about all of the financial responsibilities my father had, about the day to day expenses: food, shelter, the various forms of insurance, auto loans, and on and on. I though about the huge responsibilities of being a parent, both social and financial. Potential brought possibilities, but those possibilities also brought responsibilities. I felt crushed by it all, and with the benefit of hindsight I see it was the impetus for one of my early bouts with major depression.

I was in seventh grade. I was a fucked up, lazy seventh grader. Some might even say I’m still a little lazy, if not fucked up.

My buddy potential drifted down with me into depression a few times before I graduated from college. However, it turned out potential wasn’t an imaginary friend, and instead of being a burden it was a blessing. I found a job after three months of looking in a bad economy and only two serious interviews (plus one follow-up interview with the director where I was hired). I didn’t look back. My boss told me I was the best counselor or case manager she’d ever hired when I left. She was the kind of boss who never praised anyone for anything the entire time I was there. Of course it could have been inconsequential BS as I was heading out the door, but she did give me a REALLY good reference.

Since then I’ve worked in government, where I’ve received several awards sponsored by a conservative, government watch-dog group (Florida Tax Watch), for things I’ve done which have increased productivity in my department statewide. I’ve been actively recruited to work in the state capital. I’ve been encouraged to go to law school by various folks (including some in the court system) because my knowledge, arguments, and attention to details were superior to some seasoned attorneys. I’ve been asked countless times to apply* for promotions to management. Several times I’ve given them serious consideration, but they didn’t pass my test. Will I be happy, and by extension, will it make my family happier?

(*Many promotions are not selected by management or human resources personnel in Florida government like other organizations. They’re applied for like a new hire off the street, in a process not unlike a standardized test, where the people doing the “picking” don’t always get who they want. However, I’ve gotten every promotion I’ve applied/competed for.)

Some would say I turned them down because I fear change. I can’t deny it without reservation, but I do know my job has changed radically several times without causing any fear or anxiety. In fact, I’ve usually been the calm, reassuring member of the group.

In many ways, including the one most important to me, I’ve been a success on the career front. You rarely hear me complain about work. You may hear me complain about politics, and decisions made by politicians regarding government in general, and my department in particular at times, but almost never about my job or its effect on me. I like what I do. It gives me a sense of purpose, and I’m pretty good at it and all of its nuances. I have a drawer and an overhead cabinet full of awards and certificates that tell me so.

You know there HAS to be a but in here. I don’t usually discuss psychology without a little personal application, and I certainly don’t promote myself without reservation. One might even say all of this sounds a little like I’m compensating.

Here’s where it all boils down. Finally, you’re saying to yourself.

I feel like I made a deal with Cheryl when we were married. It wasn’t explicit like a marriage vow, or even something we discussed. She knew me as a senior in high school, coasting through my last year with an acceptance letter from UF. She dated me as a college student, the guy who she never saw studying, who always had time to ride his bike across north-central Florida… who always got straight As. If there was a measure for potential, some of my measurements looked pretty good. This was the guy she married.

I was by no means perfect. I was still spectacularly shy. I took all of those long bike rides alone. She nurtured me through one of those bouts of major depression. She also knew what gene pool I swam in: really sharp father (perhaps brilliant and at the top of his field), and really odd mother (to put it politely). Still, she married a guy with potential.

This is where my guilt resides. I feel like I didn’t hold up my end of the deal. If you compare potential with the current product, I’ve failed by many (if not most) tangible measures. She makes more money than me, but she deserves it – though I’d argue at least part of it’s because society values law enforcement more than social services. What does that say about us? We value punishment and retribution thinly veiled as “justice” over helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

But I digress.

So here I am. Success or failure? Is the distinction important? Is happiness enough? I’ve been depressed so often the last few years I’m not even especially happy, though it may not have anything to do with success or failure in life. It may be a heaping helping of nature dragging me down to depression’s door. You know what? It’s not fair. Things I do at work bring me genuine joy. (As if there’s another kind.) My kids and my family do the same. At times my heart overflows with the rewards of the life I’ve made for myself. At other times it feels like a heavy cloak masking everything that brings joy, more like something heavy inflicting blunt trauma. However, then it feels more generalized, without a specific cause. No, that’s not completely true. There is one common thread – one specific cause for turmoil. I feel like I’ve failed my wife. I feel like my wife deserves better, like I tricked her by dangling potential in front of her eyes, pulling a bait and switch.

If success is subjective and tailored to our own specific needs and wants, then maybe I’m asking the wrong question or concentrating on the wrong pattern of facts. Maybe all of this suggests the real problem lies in the fact that I feel the need to ask a question at all. No, that can’t be it. Shouldn’t there always be room for questions?

God, I wish I knew. If you’re listening, I don’t even really need to know. If I could just step off the merry-go-round of dumb questions I think I might be able to figure the rest out.

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I’ve got Santa on my mind

First of all I want to say, with all the humility and grace I can muster, we are WAY cooler than you are. We got a box filled with A TON of chocolate from Germany today.

Insert insane jealousy here

Sorry, I had to get that out of my system. I’ve got the mother of all sugar highs going. The kids are only sleeping because they rocketed right past sugar high to sugar coma.

The issue of Santa came up today, or this evening I should say. Today I was embroiled in the mother of all court days. Who woulda thunk EVERYONE would show for a docket on the eve of (government observed) Christmas? It was one of those days when you don’t see the sun. Maybe that’s not saying much if you live in close proximity to one of the poles, but in subtropical Florida it’s a 10+ hour ordeal, filled with people on both sides of the Petition unhappy with the Final Judgement.

But enough about the legal system, this was supposed to be a post about youth, wonder, and the Christmas way. No, I’m not talking about virgin births or babies on the run from the law. I’m talking about his Jolliness, St Nick. (He lets me call him Nick because we go way back.)

Every now and then my wife asks the tough questions… why don’t you shave more often, what’s that God awful smell, etc. Tonight she asked me if I believed in Santa Claus when I was a kid. Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t remember believing. I know my parents never made a big deal about Santa. My parents weren’t Big Deal kind of people. Some people would come up to us and ask, “Are you excited about Santa coming this week?!?” Even as a kid I remember thinking there was a thick layer of saccharine on that enthusiasm. Now, I admit I had no idea what saccharine was, but I had an acute sense for it (if that makes any sense). If there was an opposite for the saccharine afflicted, it was my parents. They made half-hearted attempts at gifts from Santa, but we caught on pretty early it was no coincidence Santa used the same wrapping paper as mom and dad, not to mention he had the exact same handwriting. If you’d seen my dad’s handwriting, a polite way of describing it would be “unique.”

This brought on a mini-debate between me and my wife. I won of course. I may be sleeping on the couch, but sometimes that’s the price for victory. Did we lose something essential to childhood? Does Santa worship foster a sense of wonder, magic, and creativity that’s unrivaled in child development? I can’t say, but I pose this counter argument: when a child does learn there is no Santa – and we all know where we were when we learned there was no Santa (well, I guess I don’t, but don’t let that ruin a perfectly good point) – does he or she feel betrayed by their parents? Think of the YEARS of deception and outright lying. How does this affect the child/parent relationship? Does it poison the well? Are kids who believe in Santa more likely to grow up to be rebellious, delinquents, or worse: Wall Street Bankers?

I have to say I’m undecided on this one. I don’t discourage others (including my wife) from perpetuating the lie. I’m ashamed to admit that once, on cross-examination by my relentless, then three year old daughter, I did not dispute the existence of Santa. She was concerned about the physics behind Santa and his achievements, growing more skeptical without quite crossing over to Santa denial, but I remained silent. However, at the time my silence was interpreted as acknowledgment – and I let it happen. My pants were stuck on the ideological fence, and it didn’t help the frakking thing was chain link.

The seeds of doubt sprouted early with Beth, but Adam’s still going strong at six. I can’t help but wonder what he’ll think of us when he knows the truth about society’s Santa Conspiracy Machine. Will he ever trust us again? Once again I’m feeling pretty awkward astride that chain link. It’s a vulnerable position for a father with a bad sense of balance.

Now for a few fuzzy birthday videos

Here’s a few quick videos from Beth’s real birthday (we’ll be doing a few late celebrations after Adam sheds his virus).

My apologies, the quality is exceptionally poor. I forgot to recharge the batteries in our camera, so I settled for my old iPhone 3G, which was never really meant to be a video camera. It’s a pretty lousy still camera when you get down to it.

The obligatory cake shot:

Beth turns the camera on us for a change:

What does it mean to be thirteen?

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The MRI

The background: Cheryl (known to many of you as my wife) had an MRI done recently due to chronic back pain.

– – –

It was one of those court days where several people needed to be escorted out of the building. A little conflict goes with the territory. Your agency sues someone, you expect a little hostility. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for both sides to leave with no love to spare for anyone in the room.

But this day was bad. One for the books bad.

Sometime past mid-day, my phone buzzed – vibrated really. I checked the number really quick, to make sure it wasn’t one of the kids’ schools. It wasn’t, but it was a local number, and I don’t get a lot of calls from local numbers. I handed off to my partner and stepped out of the room to answer.

Hello?

“Mr Kauffman?”

Yes.

“Is this John?”

Speaking.

“We have Mrs. Kauffman’s MRI results.”

Ah, ok. Why didn’t you call her?

“We have you down as her primary contact.”

That’s… odd.

“Well, we could call her if you like.”

That would probably be best.

“You should know we found something though. She’ll need to follow up with a specialist as soon as possible – in case I don’t get through to her.”

Somewhat alarmed, what kind of something?

“We found a solid mass.”

What does that mean?

“I don’t know, you’ll need to follow-up with the specialist.”

Can you give me a hint?

“You’ll need to follow-up with the specialist.”

Could it be cancer?

“You’ll need to follow-up with the specialist.”

It probably isn’t just a cyst, is it? They wouldn’t appear as a solid mass, would they?

“You’ll need to follow-up with the specialist.”

Can you tell me where it is?”

“You’ll need…”

I know, I know – follow up…

“… With the specialist, Mr Kauffman. It’s really important you do so as soon as possible.”

Ahh… alright… let me give you her number….
Listen, if you don’t get through to her, could you give me a call back. I’m in court today – I probably shouldn’t have been away this long – so I probably won’t answer; but could you leave the information about the specialist on my voicemail too, so I can make sure we follow-up?

“Sure Mr Kauffman. I’ll give Kathy a call right now.”

Did you say Kathy? Kathy is my mother not my wife.

“Yes, Kathryn Kauffman. It says here her primary contact is her son, John.”

Kathy! My mother?

Immediately I realized I said this with relief, and immediately I felt really guilty, followed by really worried… for my mother.

“You are her son, aren’t you?”

Yes, but I’m surprised you called me. I haven’t been the primary contact for any of my mother’s medical problems. I’m not sure I even have legal authority to handle her affairs. My father has been taking care of her. I have his number, but I’d be surprised if you don’t.

“Oh wait. Here it is. Sorry to bother you Mr Kauffman.”

Oh sure, no problem. You just made me pee my pants on possibly the worst day at work of my life. Just think of this as the gravy on the mashed potatoes my life has become.

I was talking to empty space though, the nurse making a hasty retreat.

From the frying pan to the fire then into a pre-heated oven for the rest of the day – yep, that was good eating.

– – –

On a related note, I get to have my first MRI next week – like, EVER!

How exciting is that?

Yep, it was just the other day (about four after the court day from the hot place) I was talking to my bran spankin’ new neurologist (new to me – he’s been practicing his craft on patients for 20 years now), when he mentioned my patern of gradually worse headaches, my history of leukemia, and how it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a few high tech images of the space between my ears.

I can’t wait – another opportunity to skip work!

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Is it paranoia if your appliances really are out to get you?

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our detergent.”
– Epictetus, Greek philosopher (AD 55 – 135) – disputed, alternate translation from the original text

Cheryl really wanted me to write this post.

“John, you’ve got to blog about this.”

See, I told you.

“Why don’t you write about it?” I replied.

“It’s not my blog.”

“So, I could set you up as another author. It could be our blog.”

“But I’m not funny.”

“Wait. You think my posts are funny?”

“Well, not all of them. Some of them are kinda depressing, but others are a little funny.”

“But they’re not supposed to be funny… any of them. These things are straight up.”

“Do you have a doctor’s appointment coming up?”

I do, as it happens, but enough of this banter. This post isn’t about me, my grand tour of medical specialties, or my beloved.

You see that. I lied. I’m really very sorry.

No I’m not.

This post is about Maytag and their sinister plot to drive Cheryl crazy.

When I think of time – specifically keeping it – I think of the Swiss. I don’t know why. I’m not an expert when it comes to clocks, watches, timers, or the Swiss. Somehow, at some point, the Swiss and reliable time keeping got stuck together in my brain.

It’s been stuck ever since.

When I think of Maytag I think of the man. Mind you, I’m not talking about The Man. I know Maytag isn’t keeping me down – not in the grand scheme of things anyway. No, I think of that lumpy sap from the commercials, waiting for the call that never comes. One thing that definitely doesn’t come to mind is keeping time, and our new(ish) washing machine only reinforces this disassociation.

In many ways I’m really pleased with our new(ish) washing machine. It’s one of those nifty front loaders that uses a lot less water, and it was reasonably priced. However, it has one feature that drives Cheryl nuts: it counts down the time remaining until it’s done. By itself this wouldn’t drive Cheryl crazy, or I don’t think it would. What’s maddening is it’s last minute that isn’t a minute. You see, it taunts you. The last minute is ALWAYS much more than a minute. I know. Cheryl’s timed it. What’s particularly insidious is it’s variable schedule. Sometimes the last minute is five. Other times ten. It might go ten cycles doing eight minutes just to suck you in – then go twenty.

There’s no other way to explain it.

It’s evil.