Thursday, August 2, 2012

Office Drones

Summer is coming quickly to an end. Winter is knock knock knocking on our door ready to blow it over and fill our lives with frigid air and beautiful snow.

After last winter, I can't complain too much. We got off easy here in the Twin Cities. Did we have any accumulation? At any rate, I could not wait for summer to begin. I love the heat.

This summer has been rather different than previous summers. For the past two years I have been inspecting houses either for insurance purposes, or for hail damage. Not great paying jobs, but I was outside enjoying the heat everyday. This year I am in a call center. I will say right now how thankful I am for my job, so there are no misconceptions.

I do miss being outside, though. If I stand up in my cube, on my tip-toes, I can get a glance out of the window and see a great view of the Mississippi and the Hennepin Avenue Bridge located on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. I take every opportunity to go down to the bridge during the day. I get a morning break, afternoon break and a lunch break. Pretty typical, I guess.

These breaks are spent at the river talking to ducks, chiding Segway tours or just going for a leisurely stroll along the embankment. Rain or shine, I spend my time off the phone outside.

The trade off for working in an office has many more positives than negatives. I have not had coworkers for almost two years. My coworkers keep my days very interesting. I get weekends off. I get to ride my bike into work.

Now, someone once told me something about bikers and motorists. Drivers hate pedestrians. Pedestrians hate drivers. But bikers hate everyone. Including themselves.

I have learned the truth of this statement by becoming a regular biker. I wish everyone would just pay attention like I do! And then I will almost run into someone's car and feel like an ass. So it goes.

Now that my temporary position is winding to a close, I am having mixed emotions about it. I am ready for school to start back up again, but I am not ready to cut my income. I am ready to have a more relaxed schedule, but I don't want to lose touch with my new friends.

Someone said every good thing must come to an end, but he didn't say I have to like it. I guess I'll deal with it when September rolls around. For now I'm going to go throw bread crumbs at ducks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Man vs Food

It's hard to believe that it was 7 years ago when my health began to fail.

In February of 2005 I got the flu. It was the worst flu I have ever had. I stayed on the couch for the entire month and refused to eat. Whatever I consumed caused great bouts of pain and nausea that would last for days. One meal every other day, as you can imagine, produced much weight loss. I lost 30 pounds that month. For those of you who know me now, I don't have 30 pounds to lose, but I did at the time. I was a short, chubby boy.

The beginning of March pulled me out of the flu. I was able to go back to school for the last couple months of my junior year at high school, but I never got my appetite back. I was still dealing with sickness whenever I ate.

I started going to the doctor to try to figure it out. I was in for testing almost every other week. They shot me full of fluids to watch it go through my system. They drew blood constantly. My veins were shy, so one poke of the needle would never do. I remember coming home from a simple CT scan with seven new holes in my arms, feet and hands. All were patched up with puffs of cotton.

Moose Lake clinic reached its limit with me and sent me to the children's hospital in St. Paul. More testing. They fed me radioactive eggs one morning with a touch of salt for flavor. They weren't very good. They put me under for the procedure.

As I was laying on the operating table, I saw the anesthesiologist lift my IV and insert a needle. He asked me to count backwards from 10. Like an old movie, my peripheral vision began to fade to blackness. It quickly took over the rest of my sight and the next thing I knew, I had woken up in a dark room. My mom came in and I asked her if they were going to start the procedure yet. She told me I had been asleep for 4 hours and we were getting ready to go home.

Nothing came of it. No answers. Just more pain.

My friends and family were getting worried about me. Every time they saw me, I was looking more and more like a skeleton. Food was turning sour in my mouth and my energy was sapped. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't do anything. All I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch tv. Reading required more concentration than I could afford.

More testing. No new results.

In September, my doctor sent me to the Mayo Clinic. I can only attempt to describe the hell they put me through.

It began with more radioactive eggs. Then they strapped me to a table and electrocuted me. No joke. They were testing the rate at which my body sweat. They strapped a tube around my chest to rate my breathing. They tilted the table I was lying on to measure my blood circulation. Day in and day out. They did more tests than I thought possible, but by the end of the week, they had some answers.

"Your stomach doesn't expand when you eat."

Well that seems simple enough. People have stomachs that are approximately the size of their fist when empty. When we eat, that fist expands and digests the food. Then it shrinks down again. But not mine. It holds its form and when it's full, it's full. That's it. You can imagine what kind of problems that would create.

I started eating small snacks throughout the day. Slowly it started getting better.

Two months later I was in my living room doing homework. Something came over me rather suddenly and I couldn't figure out what it was. I felt empty. There was no other word that could describe the feeling other than emptiness. I tested the word "sad," but that didn't quite fit. There was something amiss. It was more of a physical emptiness rather than emotional. I wanted something. I wanted it immediately. But I had no idea what "it" was. Did I need to take a nap? No. Did I need to go outside and get some fresh air? Not quite. I was getting edgy. Cranky, even. What was it?!

Then it dawned on me. This was the first time in over ten months that I had felt hungry.

I laughed. Hunger?! I've missed you!

I went into the kitchen and for the first time in almost a year, the fridge was a welcome sight.

The stomach issues were supposed to be cleared up in 6 months to a year, but now, 7 years later, it is still a constant companion. I've learned a lot about my body and how to take care of it, but I wouldn't wish this on anyone. I have a deeper appreciation for the human body. It is so intricate that a minor problem in one system will totally mess up another system.

Food has been an enemy in the past, but the meals that Dana cooks up for me are phenomenal. She's really good at finding amazing meals that fit into my strict diet with a taste fit for a king. It used to be a challenge to eat my own cooking, but it's a challenge to stop eating hers.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Greatest of These

Working with the elderly is a very special job. I have worked in nursing homes and in-home care with people who need a pair of young hands to help them with tasks that they can no longer do by themselves. With patience and care, one can obtain a bond with his or her client in a way that no other job can offer. It can be very frustrating at times, painful even, but in the end it is very rewarding.

I was working at such a home in Rochester where the people in the memory ward were a joy to work with. These patients had Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

There was one lady who had severe dementia and couldn't communicate very well. She had such a happy spirit, though. Every time an aid came to help her eat, or bring her to activities, she would reach out and touch the girl's scrubs and say "So pretty!" She would do the same for the girl's hair.

When we would get Viv to her chair and sit her down, she would lean back and smile. She wanted to say thank-you, but she had forgotten how. Her face told the whole story. Of all the people I worked with, I felt most appreciated by this woman. She wanted so badly for her helpers to know what they meant to her.

A year later, Viv got very sick. She was on hospice care and we were doing everything to keep her comfortable. She had pain medication every 4 hours, though when I got into her room to administer it, I could tell that the last dose had completely worn off.

We got the meds in her, yet there wasn't a lot of relief. I was trying to talk to her, but she wasn't hearing me. She kept asking "What?" and screwing up her eyes to try and hear me. I knew our only option was to wait for the meds to take effect, but she was so uncomfortable.

Then I noticed a Bible on her bedstand. I prayed that if her ears couldn't hear me, perhaps her spirit would.

I opened to I Corinthians 13 and read it to her and my coworker who was with me. That was Grandpa George's favorite chapter. As I began reading, I could see relief seep into her face. She began to relax. Her grip on my hand loosened. While I was reading the description of love (it is patient, it is kind) a slight smile flashed on her lips and she began nodding. As I said the words, "Love never fails," Viv was fast asleep.

I finished the chapter and was reminded what life is all about.

"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."