Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Amongst my sorrows …

I was reading a chat by a USA TODAY personal finance reporter and she said she is "hearing lots of stories about ordinarily unemotional people bursting into tears" on Monday.

I admit the financial mess makes me feel the same way. I am not sure why. Maybe because greed is its root cause, and those greedy people aren't going to be hurt as much as normal people. They already got their billions, and it is now stashed in some comfy tax haven like Luxembourg.

It also might be because the future, which has never been exceeding bright for me, began looking dimmer when I glanced at my 401(k) and saw it was down 30% this year. Mom and Dad won't always be around to take care of me. My siblings will say they will but they'll be old, too. It seems unfair to rely on nephews and nieces to care for me – they'll have their parents. In fact, it took much cajoling and explaining just to get my 3-year-old nephew to agree to take care of me. He was more interested in flashing people.

It also might be because this nasty patch may be why my buyer backed out of the contract for my condo. Of course, I may never know because it seems like the other agent is too busy to pick up the dang phone and call mine.

Then there is the pain in my back, which is probably from sitting in my wheelchair at my desk working so hard. It went away over the weekend so I am fairly certain it is the wheelchair computing. It still hurts, though.

Work is painful in more ways than one, too. We have taken a few hits to our morale.

Finally, the worst thing about work is a friend is leaving. She is one of three work friends in my entire career that I have told about a fall. Granted, all three are from the past five years so one could argue that I will find others. I don't know. She was really my only nearby friend, someone who helps me and Claren with water when my boss isn't there.

As I was writing this, I was thinking of the Spanish Inquisition, really, and how Michael Palin's character kept coming up with more weapons. That is how it was when I was thinking why I felt bad.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Back on the market

I signed a contract to sell my condo less than a week ago. Today, it is back on the market.

The buyer wanted out is all I know. I don't know where it was the result of the stock market plunge today, the lack of a financial bailout or what.

It was such a relief to sign a contract and now I am back where I started.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Poor dog, poor lady, poor Matt

I decided to take Claren for a quick walk tonight because the house was a little too crowded for me.

Tonight was a party to remember Gram's death two years ago, and it wasn't at all bad -- I just wanted to be alone for a moment or two and relax.

Instead, I am now torn between empathy for a woman and empathy for her dog. And I am not sure which should be paramount: the woman because she is a human being or the dog because it is totally innocent.

As I was walking down the bike trail, I saw at the other end the local crazy woman and one of her dogs: a black Lab. Claren saw them, too, and started to pant as she does whenever she sees another dog.

I turned down into one of the exercise areas on the bike trail and let Claren go to the bathroom, planning to stay in the exercise area till the lady passed.

But when I turned to pick up after Claren, she started pulling on my leash. I looked over and the other dog had run up and was sniffing. That other dog was still leashed and had a choke chain, but the woman had let go for one reason or another. Luckily, the dog was only interested in sniffing.

The woman finally caught up to her dog, and mumbling to herself she dragged it off.

I resumed picking up after Claren when I heard god-awful screaming from where the woman went. It sounded like a little girl and it often wasn't words, just screaming. The woman was screaming at the dog to walk and the dog had dug in its paws, wanting, I guess, to play with Claren.

Do I call the Humane Society or something on her? She has had a hard life, I know, and I imagine her dogs are the only friends she has. But on another walk the same thing happened. She let go of the leash, allowing her dog run at me and Claren, either because she couldn't or didn't control it. That time after she dragged it off, I saw her kick the dog.

I hurt for her -- how alone she must feel -- but the dog is the real victim. All it is doing is being a dog, and for that it is punished cruelly.

I am honestly not sure what to do. Plus, I feel guilty because I realized that Claren has had no other dogs to play with in months. But, even though I get lonely a lot, I can just email a friend -- something I doubt this woman has.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Phantom fall

One of my co-workers asked me if I had hurt myself and he pointed to an area next to my right eye.

In fact I had hurt myself, and the killer is I don't know how.

I was in the shower yesterday morning when I realized the area outside my right eye was tender. There is also a little scratch.

I hate that I have been reduced to not remembering falls or injuries unless there ae blood or doctors involved.

Friday, September 19, 2008

But I love my job

I really hope I do not subconsciously hate my company and have decided to drive it into bankruptcy (Chapter 7 type). I am wondering, though. There is, of course the five-figure elevator disaster, which has still not been fixed, and there's today.

I was actually thinking that maybe my luck was changing because I rolled over a bag or Claren poop, but the bag did not break and get on my wheels.

Then I went to the bathroom. On the way out, I clipped a wall and with a horrendous crack (which the guy in the stall must have heard), a corner tile came off, along with what appeared to be a pound of plaster. This is not even the bad part.

I bent over to pick up the tile to throw away, which was silly -- why didn't I leave it on the floor or put it on the sink so it could be re-set easily? Anyway, in bending over I was conscious of the sink in front of me. I put my hand on it to guide me down. Then I put my forehead on the same sink with such force that I was sure it was cut open and that side eye was squeezed shut for a while.

I like my job, the company, too. I mean my boss dressed up today for Talk like a Pirate Day. Now, I am worried: Will I have to walk the plank or get keel-hauled?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

btw: Wheelchair user

I'd really like to blame Facebook because it made it so easy to interact with people you have not seen since grade school. But truth be told I have had similar problems for years: How do I tell people who have not seen me in a while that I use a wheelchair?

I have tried to be cute. I told someone in an e-mail that I was walking my dog at work, and that I was not lying: Claren comes with me because she is a service dog and I use a chair. I never heard back from that person.

My boss once told a partner to e-mail me and the partner told me she got the impression I used only e-mail and wondered why. I told her and we remained friends. She had special-needs kids so it was probably nice to e-mail a special-needs adult.

Recently, someone on Facebook mentioned a planned get-together at a downstairs location. I just told her I couldn't use stairs, not why. For all she knows I am scared of stairs.

I looked up someone who has written a novel and started lots of programs. In short, someone who has done much more than I. I told him that he embarrasses me, and he replied thanks, what have you been up to.

What was I supposed to say? I am not my wheelchair, but at the same time it is responsible for a lot of turns in my life. Mainly, I wanted to mention it so I'd have a good excuse for not being as successful as he.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What if he gets a dog?

I was in the bathroom at work washing my hands when the automatic door started opening.

This is not that unusual because lots of people use it, not just me. But then no one came right in like normal. Finally, when it opened all the way, in rolled a co-worker.

Yes, that's right, rolled.

Another wheelchair user at work. I immediately no longer felt unique.

He works in another section so I am not too worried about being mistaken. Also, he looks like an aging member of the Lincoln Avenue crowd. For the legions of readers who aren't related to me, that means like an aging biker. (A brief aside: Mom and I were discussing whether biker was a good description. I said I didn't think many had bikes, and Mom quickly responded: Oh, they had bikes.)

Finally, I think he only has one leg. I say think because I did not want to stare ... Strike that, I very much wanted to stare but knew it would be freaking rude. Plus, then he might have said: "Take a picture; it lasts longer." And if I am involved in a conversation where that phrase is used, I want to be the one who says it.

I can no longer say on the phone to co-workers I haven't met: "I am the guy in the wheelchair."

I do not expect to find a wife/sweetie/whatever, a true love, so work may have been my only chance to be a one and only. Now, it is ruined.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My love-hate affair

It is amazing, that's one word, that I can hate with a passion an object that keeps me from being one of those 600 pound bedridden people. I am, of course, talking about my wheelchair. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! Every day.

Today I was looking in the mirror at work, but I could not get close enough to see what I needed. I got close to the wall-length floor-to-ceiling mirror and just got a glimpse of me in my stupid chair. It crushed me for some reason.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I have meaning to write this since Thursday, but have not really had time. Thursday I was lazy and last night I sat around listening to the Shrek album with my niece (she also likes the "Hong Kong Phooey" theme) until 9 and did not have the energy. Granted there were other people around, but she really likes "Bad Reputation."

Anyway ...

On Thursday, we went to see the architect again and he has done what will be a beautiful house, but I left feeling sad for, I think, three reasons.

I had originally envisioned a suite with a bathroom, bedroom and sitting room. I know I will spend a lot of time in the main house, but for those days were I need privacy or my sister's family wants to be alone, the sitting room idea seemed pretty key. Even a bedroom big enough to hide my bed and maybe have a fridge and sink would be fine. That way, if I invite a friend over, it would not have to be like: "Let''s go hang out in my bedroom." I am afraid that could lead to some uncomfortable situations.

The plan didn't have it and while he will add some space in, I hope it is enough. I know it will be, but when I saw the plan I guess I spent most of the time figuring out if I could survive without a sitting room or private area. And then how it would be.

The architect mentioned a hang-up he has about dead ends. He apparently doesn't like people going back the way they came so most rooms have two entries. It is a pretty awesome design.

But I only have one way to get in and out of the house. For me every way but one is a dead end. I didn't expect anything different and am fine with it. The problem at Mom and Dad's is there is only one way around the house to reach the exit for me because of a landing. I think it was just hearing about his dead end issue and realizing my dead ends.

The final problem is that as Charlie laid out all the other floors, I thought, "Damn, that is great. I want to see that." And I know I that I can hoist myself up the stairs at least once. But it's not the same.

My only real problem is being addressed so no longer feel sad. We'll see what he comes up with and if it isn't right, I'll tell him and he'll fix it.

I guess I should be like Hong Kong Phooey: "When the going gets tough, he's super-tough with a Hong Kong Phooey chop! Huh!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Almost 3

My little sister and her family went to a PTA ice cream social or something last night. They did not invite me, just yelled and whooped at me as they drove by me in my wheelchair. Later, she told us about it.

My 3-year-old nephew had to go to the bathroom. She got him there and he had to decide which position to assume because apparently he has different positions. Well, he decided on one, then the other. but he was too late with the second one, so there was mess in his pants and the stall. Yuck.

I had this calamity in mind this morning as I sat on my wheelchair footrest and the floor of the bathroom at work, still having to go to the bathroom.

I am not at all sure what happened, but the chair and the toilet form an L in the bathroom. Claren lies down in the L, and this morning I joined her.

Luckily, nothing came out of me, I wasn't hurt and did not crush Claren.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

All clear .. for now

The dentist was OK, no cavities, and they were able to clean my teeth despite my jaw. It has felt better all day. The dentist, who is great, suspects that it may have popped back in and now just hurts because it is healing.

Be sure to read my comment on the shooting spree.

Monday, September 8, 2008

From the town of Falls Church, Virginia ...

I am trying to decide what I will do when the straw that breaks my back falls. I know it is coming.

I dropped out of my horse show this month because my jaw makes it hard to talk to my horse and encourage her. Plus, I do clench my teeth when riding because I concentrate so hard. This morning the hot water did not work. After a plumber came, Dad now says that I was turning it the wrong way, but I have been doing it for months. Why would I suddenly go wrong? And I have been so hunrgy from not eating because of my jaw.

Obviously, when that final straw falls, the big desire will be to go on a multi-state shooting spree, maybe get a song written about me.

But I dislike guns and violence, and neither Claren nor I drive. My shooting spree would probably be me rolling down the bike trail with a supersoaker water gun shooting bikers who pass with no warning and other jerks. I picture Claren beside me pulling one of those Little Tikes wagons filled with extra ammo. Incidentally, this may be the coolest playset ever.

I could go on a drinking bender, but I dislike the taste of things alcoholic and I would probably just pass out or barf. Same goes for food, although I like it.

Perhaps the most attractive is spending all money on toys and comics, but let's be honest here: When do I hold back as it is?

Tomorrow I go to the dentist. Will headgear be the final straw?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Just jawing about the jaw

I had quite an educational day today. Actually, it started last night when I learned that a sneezing spell or just taking off your shirt can really hurt a tender jaw.

I had what seemed like an endless and very vicious sneezing bout starting at dinner and continuing for a while. At one point I asked joed to grab me a kleenex and he said sure, wandered out to where they were, looked right at them for a while, then brought back a magazine. Fortunately, his sister hooked me up with a tissue, and he did go get me one when we told him specifically what I wanted.

Like I said it could have been the sneezing that re-hurt my jaw or it could have been when I was taking off my shirt and it got stuck on my jaw. But it was popping like crazy when I went to work. I forced down one muffin, ignoring the pain, then tried the other one but had to give up.

I called Mom and asked her to call my dentist as it hurt to do anything that moved my mouth. When Mom called me back I learned the next fact: My dentist has a nice life, working four days a week. He probably works four 10-hour days, but nevertheless, he's got it good. Mom then got me an appointment with the physician's assistant at my doctor's office.

My dentist did have an emergency number, which Mom called and left a message, and when he called back I got some new mandible facts. He told Mom that there is a disc of cartridge between the two parts of the jaw and the popping of my jaw is the muscles trying to get it back in place. That made all kinds of sense. All morning it had felt like the jaw was misaligned and the pop would hurt like hell but then it would feel better for 30 seconds before it slipped out of place again.

He said to take Advil regularly and don't eat hard food and come in Tuesday like I was scheduled. Suck it up, basically.

I went to see the PA next. I told her what the dentist said and she agreed. I learned here that the doctor at the workplace clinic isn't the only one worried about my neck. She was feeling all over my neck, poking and squeezing. Finally, satisfied my neck was OK, she turned her attention to jaw. She asked me to open and close and when it popped said, Oh yeah.

She then told me that the jaw muscles are getting stretched by all this, so they are sore, too, and she said they are really powerful, more powerful than one's hamstrings. She said they tell you in med school never, ever to stick your finger in someone's mouth unless you don't want it anymore because the jaw muscles are powerful enough to bite a finger off.

That is about all I learned. As we were leaving the office, she said to a co-worker: Isn't that the cutest dog you have ever seen? But I already knew that about Claren.

Oh yeah, last one: Even if you are really hungry but can't eat anything because of pain, don't eat electric-blue Pez and a roll of Smarties right before you see a doctor. She is going to wonder why your tongue is blue.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

No choice of chairs

I got my power wheelchair back Saturday, but I was without it today at work and will be again tomorrow. The van's engine light is coming on, and while it is probably a glitch in a sensor, no one wants that car to break. So it at the shop. This means I use the manual, which can fit in any car.

It isn't the energy I use to propel myself or how much harder it is to use the manual than the power chair. What kills me is how slow I am. I have to leave for meetings five minutes early and I am still late. I don't go see my friends on the other side of the building, not because it is tiring but because it takes so long.

It seems like an opportune time to try the shuttle bus, but I am in charge in the mornings this week so it really is not a good time. New things for me too often translate into lateness.

It wasn't that long ago that I was using the manual regularly. I really got spoiled fast.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I am stupid

Well, I know what's wrong with me these days, or at least I have a pretty good idea: Out at lunch today, a dead lead made me teary-eyed. So I suspect it is the season thing.

When I feel sad or unhappy, it becomes harder to talk to friends who would surely cheer me up. I want people cheer me up, but it doesn't seem fair if they just cheer me up without seeing I am sad. I have never said, and will never say, that I make sense.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Where do I exaggerate?

Note: I just read an article from the New York Times in which David Sedaris says he exaggerates for effect, especially quotations, saying, "Memoir is the last place you'd expect to find the truth." I was a little disappointed, like someone telling a kid that Santa Claus does not exist or telling a certain wheelchair user that doctors would never cure Friedreich's ataxia. Was the rude American in "Picka Pocketoni" really the spectacularly rude American that made most of my family cry with laughter as we each read the story on vacation? But then I felt liberated and unconstrained by such silly concepts as truth. In fact, given that he is a successful writer and I am not, maybe I should be constrained to exaggerate.

I did not escape unscathed from my fall last Friday night. A few days after the fall, my jaw started to hurt and pop every time I opened my mouth, whether to eat, talk or yawn. With the help of Advil, I made it through those days, and now it only pops 10% of the time. It still hurts, though. And my teeth are not lining up properly. I thought I had a dental appointment tomorrow so I could get it checked out then, but it is not till next week.

I think Mom suspects it is more from clenching my teeth, which I admit I do a lot. I myself would be skeptical because of the delayed onset of the pain. But I ate nothing after the fall that would create the problem, and a fall is always a good cause.

I could go to the doctor at work, but he would only be interested in whether I broke my neck as he is whenever I visit after a fall.

Your cut eyebrow looks fine, but are you sure your neck doesn't hurt? Even a little? he asked last time I went.

When finally assured that my neck was not sore, he asked how old I was. I told him, and he said: Oh, it probably will be. Your body's not young anymore.

I wish I were exaggerating any of this.

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