Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Refugee Thanksgiving

Next week, we're hosting Refugee Thanksgiving! What's that? Well, in case the name doesn't make it obvious, that's what we call the dinner we host for friends who... well, who have nowhere else to go, because their families are far away or for any other reason. While we invited lots of friends, many do have places to go. Still, a handful have accepted our invitation, and we know it's going to be lots of fun, as well as a great feast! (We do throw a pretty good party, you know.)

In related news, I just noticed that our guests are going to be such a rough looking group. (Okay, maybe not.) I swear, I didn't invite just hot friends, but here are the confirmed guests so far...





Rumen's partner, Neil


Five rugby players and a dancer. All of them handsome.

I have to endure such hardships in my life!  ;-)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How about some rugby photos?

I think I should add a little color to this blog. Color and some men to look at!

(Click them for larger versions)

I was going to add captions to these, but what's the point? But if anyone ever wonders why I head out so many Saturdays to photograph the boys on my rugby team, well... that's because they're my friends. Nothing more than that.  ;-)

If you want to see more, the full set of photos (101 photos of hot men) is here: http://www.brownhoundphotos.com/Sports/2014-Rugby/Gotham-vs-Montauk-Rugby/

Slowly turning into Dad

Marc was up very early to go supervise a 5k race his hospital was running, so he had Dodger out early. Once Dodger was up, he spent the next hour or two nagging me to get up and feed him. Despite my insisting that he go back to sleep (really, it is Sunday!), he kept at it until I surrendered. That canine persistence always prevails!

Since I was up early anyhow, I got an early start on chores, paying some bills, throwing out junk mail, etc.  One big accomplishment was scanning a bunch of documents and then shredding them.

All in all, it has been a very productive day so far. The house is a lot neater, and I feel inordinately satisfied. Being this satisfied with chores--as well as marching around in slippers--makes me feel way too adult! Granted, lots of the guys on the rugby team probably see me as an old man. Still, in my head I feel like a kid. But between the hair (not) on my head and a variety of other things, I think it may be true. Somewhere along the way I grew up, despite my best efforts to avoid it!

Friday, September 26, 2014

It's hard to see a loved one getting old

Dodger worries me. He's very old. I know that. We've gotten him through all kinds of things where other dogs' humans would have given up. But as long as we can give him a good quality of life, we'll get him whatever care he needs. Not living just to draw breath, but if truly have good days he can enjoy, that's worth it.

Lately, his back legs--long a source of trouble--have gotten very weak, a problem exacerbated by a balance issue called Vestibular Disorder. He also cries sometimes, particularly at night. Marc is worried that he's feeling pain, but Dodger is smart and has always been good at getting people to do what he wants (and he was the same with his sisters when they were still alive). So I think he's just complaining and demanding things. That often seems to be the case. Many nights when he cries, if you open the bedroom door and let him go to his water bowl to get a good drink, the crying is done. The other night, I thought he might want to hang out with us (he was acting that way), and sure enough, we put him on our bed, he cuddled up between us and was asleep in no time. The crying stopped the moment he was lifted onto the bed.

Even so, he takes a number of medications for arthritis, related pain, and dizziness (from the vestibular disorder), as well as vitamins and probiotics. He needs those to get by comfortably, and I do worry that somewhere along here we'll run out of things we can do for him. While I realize we all have to depart this earth eventually, and he's about 14 years old now, so I won't really be justified in claiming it was "too soon" when that day comes, he's my boy, and I'll be devastated whenever it happens.

There's an old line (Shakespeare?) that says a coward dies a thousand deaths, but a brave man dies but once. I'm not saying the idea of my own mortality doesn't give me pause, but the thought of losing a loved one troubles me more--and I am way too good at imagining that day. Earlier today, when Dodgie was really out of it, as he sometimes is, I found my eyes filling with tears. I'll cry when we lose him, but even seeing him this late in life can be tough.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The randomness of life and chance meetings

Today, we had our friend Andrew over for a visit. Actually, we have a few friends Andrew. This Andrew is a friend from Toronto, and now that he's headed back into NYC, we were just discussing what a sweetie he is and how glad we are that he's our friend. Then I was remembering how random our initial meeting was and how life--and friendships--can turn on moments that could easily never have happened.

We met Andrew on a train from Manchester to Edinburgh when we were in the UK for the Bingham Cup rugby tournament in 2012. We'd finished the tournament and were heading to Edinburgh for some sightseeing. We found our car on the train, and the conductor took us to our seats. After we all were seated we found ourselves sitting with two nice looking young men (never a cause for complaint!), friends named Andrew and Tom, who were wearing what looked like rugby clothes. So we asked if they happened to be coming from a tournament. Sure enough, they'd been at the same tournament, playing with their teammates from Toronto.

We introduced ourselves and had a lovely conversation on our way to Edinburgh. Once we got there, we parted ways, wishing each other well and saying we'd keep in touch online. Later that day, we went to take a tour bus around Edinburgh (something we often do on the first day of a visit to a new city, so we can orient ourselves). When we got on the bus, who was there? Andrew and Tom. After that, we decided we all should enjoy Edinburgh together.

Since then, the NY welcome mat has been out for both of them. Tom hasn't visited us yet (n.b., they aren't a couple), but Andrew was in town with friends for a couple of days. He decided that today he'd head out our way, and we had a wonderful time!

What amazes me is that a chance encounter led to a friendship with a wonderful guy. How easily could we have been seated in the next set of seats? Or the next car? Or on a different train? Or we could have flown. Or they could have. Or any number of ways that things could have gone differently. But that didn't happen. We all sat together. And then to see them on the bus later that day?

It's even less likely than our unlikely connection with our dear friend Keir. If our teams hadn't been paired up... No, it's not even that big. If Keir hadn't run late to the joint dinner of their team and ours, he wouldn't have wound up sitting with us. But he did and he did, and now we have a close friend we otherwise wouldn't have gotten to know. Funny how those things work!

And hey, Tom, when are you coming to visit?  :-)

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Friday fun--and TMI, I'm sure

Blogs started as online diaries, and this may be more of that than anything you actually want to read. After all, this could be a useful reference for me down the road. (Sorry!)  :-)

Okay, so Friday wasn't really fun, but I was relieved to be done with it. "It" being a medical procedure. Tests, actually. A colonoscopy and an upper endoscopy. I started colonoscopies in my early 40s, because of family cancer history. The upper endoscopy was new. That was done because of recent issues that made my regular doctor think I could have had an ulcer or a hiatal hernia or any number of other possible issues related to some unsettling feelings after eating--including a feeling like an irregular heartbeat at one point. It's been a fun year so far!

And what made this day really fun? Well, a couple of things. For one, I am scared of anesthesia. I worked in hospitals a long time, and I heard too many nightmare stories of anesthesia gone wrong. Logically, I knew the odds were very much in my favor. Also, I was having these tests done in Marc's hospital, so he asked the Chief of Anesthesiology to watch out for me. The result was one of their top anesthesiologists taking care of me, with the Chief standing there, too, as I went under. Another fun thing? I've been having on-and-off diarrhea for a couple of months. (Glad you're reading this yet?)

Being the great worrier I am, I was thinking things like, "if it's cancer, I just hope it's stage 1." These thoughts kept popping up, despite negative occult blood tests and the fact that I had a colonoscopy 5 years that was fine (and you normally wouldn't go from nothing to cancer in 5 years). Still, I can torture myself with such thoughts. Logic is nothing when faced with neurotic worry!

And when it was done, what did we find? Nothing. Well, nothing bad. It all looked great. My esophagus and stomach are fine. My colon is fine. In fact, the doctor told Marc to tell me (I was still slightly groggy at that moment) to keep using fiber, because "the beginnings of minor diverticulosis" that he'd seen 5 years ago had disappeared. (What he saw 5 years ago was minor but, if allowed to keep going, could turn into diverticulitis eventually, and that's bad stuff.)

So what was causing the diarrhea? No idea. But it's been slowly (very slowly) improving, so maybe it was a virus or something. While doing the colonoscopy, he took a couple of biopsies. He said the tissue looked fine, but he'll check for "microscopic colitis." Apparently, that's unlikely, but he's being careful to rule out all possible concerns.

Overall, a very good result and a very smooth procedure. And one bonus: that top anesthesiologist I mentioned? Well, he also turned out to be HOT! Wow, that was a nice treat. Hey, I can be a scaredy-cat patient and still appreciate a handsome face in well-fitting scrubs!  ;-)

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Some things just matter more than a small chance of being hit by lightning. This post is being dictated into a little pocket recorder while standing on a Manhattan street corner in the middle of a thunderstorm. Someone else might take shelter somewhere.

However, Marc is making his way up here. We're going to see a show at Café Carlyle. Melissa Manchester. Should be fun!

Thing is, he may have trouble finding me if I don't stay in this one location. I've been standing out here quite a while, as he makes his way to join me. Yes, I could find a place to hide, and then I could send him a message. But he's coming up on the subway. He might not see the message until he came wandering out here. He might start walking around, looking for me. While the lightning isn't a huge risk, crazy drivers are. And crazy drivers in wet weather are not a good thing. So I will wait here where he can find me.

He'll get here soon enough, and then we'll walk to the show together. In the meantime, I am much happier knowing that he should have no problem finding me, rather than taking some risk with his safety. That's just the way I want it. I think it's a better way to live! At least, I'm happier this way!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I miss my Dad

You shouldn't take the wrong message from this video. There was nothing unsaid between me and my Dad. No disagreements we didn't solve. Still, this song's message is a good one--don't let disagreements drive a wedge between you and someone you love. If you can heal the rift, do it before it's too late.

The reason I'm posting this is because it's the song that broke through and let the pain from losing my Dad finally start to come out. When he died, I did virtually no crying. I did what he taught me--I was strong for the family.

I could go on and on about my theory of how, since that day, I have a well of pain in me that can be tapped easily and unexpectedly in certain emotional moments. The first time I felt that was some time after his death. Marc and I were driving on the NYS Thruway. I don't remember where we were going, but this song was playing on the radio. As I said, there was nothing left unsaid between us. I had a wonderful relationship with both my parents, and there were no quarrels to fix. But then the song got to the line (around 3:46 in this video) that was factually accurate for me: "I wasn't there that morning when my father passed away." And with that, I burst into tears.

I wasn't there that morning when my father passed away. He had just begun home hospice hours before. It was about 2:30 or so in the morning (we got the call around 2:45), and he was in the room where I'm typing this now. Again, no guilt for me. There was no reason I would have been here. We didn't even know he'd go so fast. But I don't think whether I was there or not was the point that hit me. It just took the right thing to poke a hole in the balloon of pain I'd built up. A sufficient reminder from a song full of emotion.

It seems that some of that pain will always be there, but as wonderful a Dad as he was, I suppose that's to be expected. And did I mention that today is his birthday? That's what made me think of this.

Happy Birthday, Dad! I miss you!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Clap for the Dodge dog!

Does that title make a song run in your head? If it does, you're both of a certain age and way too well versed in esoteric songs of a certain era. But let's talk about something more important--Dodger!

He's doing much better. From being so bad several days ago that I was literally in tears, thinking we were going to lose him, he's come back to pretty good health. Over the past several days, he stopped falling down, and he seemed to regain the use of his back legs, even if they still were a bit shaky (hey, he's an old guy!). It looks like it was something called Vestibular Disease. It's a balance disorder that's not uncommon in older dogs. It happens at other ages, too, but in an older dog, it's usually just a temporary condition that will right itself with time.

As I said, he's been making progress. Last night, he even took himself up to bed (with me right behind him the whole way to support him and make sure he didn't fall). But it still was lots of work for him.

Today, after I got home, we went out, he had some treats, and I left him to hang out on the first floor while I went upstairs to change out of my suit and put on comfortable clothes. The plan was that he'd wait for me to come back down. At least that was my plan. While I wasn't anxious for him to try the stairs unaided, I nearly jumped for joy when I turned around and saw this sight in the bedroom door...

Yay, Dodgie!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Where are things heading? No one knows.

Dodger is having quite a time. The vet has been of limited help, but that's how it is with human doctors, too, often enough.

He's having a hard time, but he's not suffering. Just a bit tired and weak. Also having diarrhea now. That's happened in the past, but we may have to take him in to address that. For now, we have left over Lomotil we're giving him, but he may need an anti-diarrheal shot. (We have way too much experience with this!)

At this point, we're taking it a day at a time. His kidney measures are a little high but not too bad. To try to keep that in a good range, we're getting him off his anti-inflammatory, because it's hard on the kidneys. Instead, we're upping his pain meds. But that has him groggy and a bit spacey now. Not easy. We're also starting him on a biologic supplement called Azodyl that's supposed to help kidney function.

Anyhow, we're doing our best with him. We hope he gets past his current issues and powers on to lots more quality life. We shall see!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

That was scary

While we're at work these days, Dodger spends his days in the kitchen. He has his bed, and we have fabric runners on the floor, because he's not so stable on his back paws now, so tile floors aren't the best for him. He stays in the kitchen, because he sometimes can't hold his bladder for what can be 10 to 12 hours. After all, he's pushing 14, and that's up there for a doggy.

Well, a couple of the runners were in the wash today and weren't ready to go back out when we left for work. In hindsight, I see that we should have found something else to lay on the floor. When I got home, I found that he'd walked across the kitchen for a drink and fallen. From his condition when I found him, I think he'd been lying there, backs paws uncomfortably crossed, for hours.

I understood if he couldn't get himself up on that floor, but lying there had hurt, apparently. Even when I got him up, he couldn't stand. He couldn't even get his back legs in the correct positions. After a few tries, I carried him out to the yard. When I put him down out there, he staggered sideways. He tried to pee and then fell over sideways.

I was so upset, but I kept helping him and he kept trying. Slowly, he started to get function back. He managed to poop without falling over--and for that, I am very thankful! That could have been messy. Then I went and got his leash, and we walked the block, so he could try to work the kinks out of his paws. That seemed to help.

I know it's a one-way trip through life for all of us, but it's so hard to see someone you love having a hard time in old age. He's fine now, and I hope he surprises us with his resiliency!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Medical concern? Sometimes the simple answer is the right one

On three different occasions over the years, I have found myself with some breathing trouble. This is not the usual allergies and related issues that I’ve had all my life. Rather, it is a feeling that’s akin to asthma. In fact, one doctor once called it “extrinsic asthma.” By that, he meant that I didn’t actually have asthma but had similar symptoms. Either way, it is very distressing.

The symptoms started again a few months ago, but when I went to see my doctor, I made clear that I did not want batteries of tests like the other two times this happened over the past 12 to 15 years. In those cases, they did cardiac tests and pulmonary tests, but they never found anything wrong. In essence, the diagnosis was a well-educated shrug.

So this time, the doctor just did an EKG, bloodwork and a general exam. Again, nothing was discovered. No one ever really put a finger on what the issue was.

In each case in the past, the symptoms eventually went away. Still, it took a few months and was distressing whenever it was hard to get a full breath. It also was tiring and quite aggravating. Then, in the past couple of weeks, something occurred to me. Several months ago, I changed jobs. When that happened, I changed insurance. This wound up being a good thing. I will get to that in a moment.

Going back to several months ago, under my old insurance, the co-pay for a prescription medication called Nexium (which reduces stomach acid) went from $20 to $100. At that time, I asked the doctor to switch me to something else, since a $100 co-pay for a reflux medication seemed exorbitant. So she switched me to a generic medication called omeprazole. I didn’t start the omeprazole right away, because I still had some Nexium on hand. What occurred to me just recently is that I started the omeprazole a few months ago, right about the time the breathing problem started. Thinking back, I remembered that the last time this breathing issue happened, a few years back, I wasn’t on Nexium or any acid reducer, and the pulmonologist commented that reflux can cause breathing issues. Was the omeprazole not working well enough for me? Also, I took a look at a few weeks ago at the side effects of omeprazole. One of them was “bronchospasm.” So maybe that was the issue—or part of the issue.

So I e-mailed my doctor and asked if I could be switched back to Nexium. While the cost is higher, if it either is better at controlling acid or has less side effects (or both), at least for me, then it’s worth the extra money. She congratulated me on my analysis and “detective work” and wrote the new prescription right away. The extra bit of nice news with this is that I have found out that the new place’s health insurance has a co-pay of just $50 for Nexium. So it’s not quite as bad as the old one became.

Regarding the other possible cause for my issues, I found reinforcement for what the pulmonologist said a few years ago in all my reading—that acid reflux can cause breathing problems. Even if you’re not feeling the burning, there can be a certain amount of acid being quietly brought up which gets into the lungs. This bit of acid can be enough of an irritant to cause problems in the bronchial tree.

Granted, this is somewhat theoretical for now, and I don’t even have the Nexium yet. However, I am off the omeprazole, just to be safe, and I’m taking over-the-counter Zantac 150 in the meantime. It’s possible that the results are coincidental, but I definitely seem to be doing better for now. I sure hope that I have found the answer. I guess the main lesson in this is to keep digging and not take “no” for an answer (or a diagnosis) from medical providers. I don’t doubt that the doctors did their best and made their best guesses when this happened in the past, but if the answer is this simple, then all of them, including cardiac specialists and pulmonary specialists, missed a simple explanation while they were doing all of their fancy tests.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Yes, distracted driving is dangerous

The driver just ahead of me and one lane over, as I drove to work this morning, was having trouble holding her lane. I couldn't see exactly what she was doing, but something (a smart phone is likely, but I can't say for sure) was distracting her. So she wandered from her lane.

When she realized she had, she over-corrected and briefly started to skid. She then over-corrected the other way and wound up smacking into the concrete divider. A number of us cut our wheels and braked hard to avoid her out-of-control car. Fortunately, it remained a one-car accident.

She smacked up the front left section of her car pretty well, but she appeared unhurt. By the time we all started moving again, she was getting out of her car. Still, that was yet another example of what constitutes dangerous driving--anything other than watching the road and keeping your hands on the wheel!

Stay safe, everyone!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

From the neighbor kids' point of view

Today, I took Dodger for a walk. We don't go far. He's not a kid, and the block is long (at least, at his age). But he loves getting out, sniffing things and seeing people.

At the start of our walk, and again at the end, we spent time talking to the kids who live next door. They're 6 and 10 years old. They always want to tell me about things they know, and that's a joy. They also like to ask about Dodger. The 10-year-old girl has known Dodger since her family moved in when she was 2. Her brother has known Dodger his (the brother's) entire life.

They also knew Bernice and Mandy. After the girls died, we skirted the truth when they asked, "where are the other dogs?" From their mom's reaction when it came up in her presence, it seemed that they didn't know about death yet. So we'd say something like, "they're not here now" and then quickly move on to a new subject.

Today, she asked again where they were. When I said they're not here, she asked what happened to them. I said, "they got old."

"Oh, they died?"

"Yes, they died."

And her brother said, "oh, they're dead."

Then--and this is where things got much better and even funny--they asked what happened to the big red dog. She added, "the one my brother used to call 'the wolf.'" (That always made us chuckle--"the wolf" is Dodger.) And she indicated how big the wolf was--quite large. Twice her size!

I said, "he's standing in front of you, but you used to be this big," holding my hand at a level about half her height.

It's all about perspective, isn't it?  :-)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A thought on being poor

Since starting this job, I have been spending many of my days in a building that is largely subsidized housing (our offices are in the lower level of the building). Because of where I work, something occurred to me about the many concerns and difficulties that poor people face. As I was coming into work today, I noticed a woman walking her dog out of the building.

It's then that it occurred to me that what would probably upset me most about not having a decent income would be the inability to fully care for the ones I love. I don't mean care for them in an emotional sense, as I don't think that type of caring knows any economic or social bounds. What I mean is "care for" in the sense of providing physical care for their well-being. Dodger recently needed surgery. Fortunately, we were able to afford surgery to make him better. But what if we couldn't? What if the only good solution for him was something that we simply didn't have the money to do?

I can't imagine anything that would hurt more than that. Not being able to care for him, or care for Marc, would be horrible. I don't know what the solution is, of course. After all, poverty has resisted a cure for a lot longer than I've been around. Still, that really struck me this morning. All the more reason to continue efforts to help those less fortunate, of course.

I guess it's just how that really smacked me in the face that prompted this post. I work for an organization dedicated to helping those in need, and Marc & I do what we can ourselves. Still, I hate to think what so many people face.