Thursday, July 20, 2006

#143 - Heart Attacked (Sort of)

If you've ever read Dave Barry, you're probably familiar with the story he told (as published in his "Greatest Hits" collection) about undergoing a thallium stress test. I've laughed every time I read it, except for once. That one time was about two weeks before I was supposed to take my own stress test, and having read Dave's account I was understandably nervous. Not so much about getting radiation pumped into my body... that would have been nothing. Heck, I work in aerospace in buildings with mutant three-headed cockroaches that we probably created, so I'm not unfamiliar with hazardous materials. Also, since my mission to Guatemala, I no longer fear needles quite as badly as I used to.

No, my fear was the treadmill itself. Turns out that my stress test did not involve thallium. It involved an ultrasound, with loads of that goop I used to watch them smear all over Mrs. Woody's belly every time we visited the OB-GYN during her pregnancies. The fact that the nice ultrasound lady very nearly broke three or four ribs just made me appreciate what Mrs. Woody was willing to go through - twice - so we could have the benefit of refereeing our two Woodyettes for the rest of our natural lives.

The treadmill portion of the test was my real dread. As I have gotten older, my physique has taken on roughly the proportions of your average potato, but not as robust. I discovered this nearly nine years ago when starring in "The Magic Flute," Mozart's opus, and finding myself out of breath after every scene on stage. This was not good for a then nearly-40 guy, and things have not improved with time. These days I can be pretty seriously out of breath just climbing the four flights of stairs to my office in the morning. (Yes, Honey, I took the stairs this morning!) And since I knew that the whole purpose of getting on the treadmill was to elevate my heart rate, I was pretty sure this was going to more than four flights' worth of stair climbing.

Sure enough, after getting some preliminary baseline images with the ultrasound, I was instructed to climb onto the treadmill. The cardiologist came in to observe and probably laugh at me behind my back (he didn't dare show his face). Another fellow, likely an intern, came in to actually operate the treadmill and monitor my vitals. ("He's still breathing, doctor." "Okay, crank her up another twenty miles an hour.")

The treadmill goes in three speeds. "Brisk walk," "canter," and "run for your life." You get to spend three minutes at each speed. Since I was facing the monitor, I got to watch my heart rate as I ran through each level. At "run for your life" I was hitting about 185, as I recall. Apparently the doctor felt that I had lost enough oxygen, though, because I was ordered to immediately lie down on the table so the nice ultrasound lady could smear me with more goo and tell me to breathe out and hold it.

Beg pardon? Did you say hold it? Is this some sort of sophomoric prank designed to make me look like a dweeb? My body is ordering me, on pain of death, to get some oxygen going, and you're telling me NOT to?? Who am I supposed to listen to? You, or the circuits that actually run this haywire body of mine??

Silly question. I don't pay my nervous system. I pay co-payments to the medical center. So I attempted to obey the ultrasound tech, but I'm pretty sure I was failing miserably. I don't think I would have been any more successful if she had actually offered me $10,000 to breathe out and hold it. My willingness to obey was simply diametrically opposed to my body's ability to comply.

Fortunately, that torture was short-lived, and soon I was on my way into work, with legs feeling like jelly and a body smeared with the stuff.

The good news is, the test found nothing. Really. No abnormalities detected, according to my follow-up with the same coward who wouldn't show his face during the test. Ditto the Holter monitor that I'd had to wear several weeks ago. In fact, the only problem we've detected so far is my elevated cholesterol counts. These were high enough to earn me a lecture from the good doctor on my eating habits. I need a "lifestyle" change, according to the doctor, which probably means that I've just become a vegetarian whether I want to or not. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy most vegetables, except for beets. Beets are not true vegetables, anyway. Beets were obviously classified as "weeds" when Adam was kicked out of Eden, but one of his kids - Cain, I'll bet - ate one and now we're stuck with them. But I'll never knowingly eat one if I can help it.

The doctor also said he saw "no reason not to engage in regular exercise." Great. Thanks, Doc. I'll jump right on that. First, though, I need to sit down. Legs are feeling a bit shaky at the moment. Kinda short of breath, too. Maybe I'll just take a little nap...

Or maybe I'll just wait until after work.

Friday, July 14, 2006

#142 - Being a Dad Means...

...never knowing quite where you are at any given moment.

Example: I just went in for a late shower and to get dressed. (I'm working "virtual office" today, so I can get away with slovenly attire up to a point.) Now, I did take a leisurely shower. No doubt about it. But when I finally got dressed and exited my room, I stepped directly onto the set of a puppet show in progress.

Seriously. There was an improvised stage, and one Woodyette (the Doodle variety) was kneeling behind it holding up various dolls that were obviously meant to be puppets in a gripping drama. Jelly was sitting on Mommy's ottoman playing the part of the rapt audience. I cast a despairing glance (the same one my father perfected when I was a kid) at my wife who said, calmly, "This is a compromise. I like it."

I understood her meaning immediately. The girls had been at each other's throats moments before, and finally settled on a puppet show rather than Knockdown Monday Night at World Wrestling. So Mommy was understandably pleased. And the puppet theater disappeared scant minutes later. Some few dolls remain, but I'm confident that they, too, will soon become invisible, either because they get physically moved to one or more Woodyettes' rooms, or because I simply stop noticing them.

That, too, can happen when I'm working virtually. (Or is it, "virtually working?" This gets pretty confusing.) Mrs. Woody, for instance, will suddenly, out of nowhere, say, "Honey? Did you hear me?" As if she'd actually said anything and was rather unreasonably requiring some level of response from me. My brain says, "There was no question. She raving." But more than ten years of wedded bliss have instructed me to say instead, "Sorry, Honey! I must have missed it! What did you say?" Which of course calls her bluff and forces her to invent a question so that I have something to answer. In reality, I think she's just toying with me. She knows that I, like all husbands, have a guilty conscience, so I'll admit that I didn't hear her question rather than accuse her point blank of playing a prank on me. It's just safer.

The kids also take advantage of Daddy's concentration when I'm working. "Daaaaaaaddy," they intone. "Mommy said you'd get us something to driiiiiiink." She did, did she? So I get up and get them something to drink, only to hear Mommy say, "No, Honey. I told them that you'd get them something the next time you got up." Curses! Gamed again!

So what with the house reconfiguring itself every few minutes, and people taking advantage of my fierce concentration, I'm not sure this telecommuting is all it's cracked up to be. Except that I love the commute.

And the company I keep.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

#141 - Special Family History Note

"Bilious Fever:
When a continual, remitting, or intermitting fever is accompanied with a frequent or copious evacuation of bile, either by vomit or stool, the fever is denominated bilious. [Buchan1785].

The common remittent fever of summer and autumn; generally supposed to be owing to, or connected with, derangement of the biliary system. [Dunglison1855]

Typhoid fever, Remittent fever or simple gastritis. [Appleton1904]

A term loosely applied to certain intestinal and malarial fevers. See typhus. [Thomas1907]."

Sounds like your average Spring Break phenomenon these days. That a respectable ancestor of ours actually died from it in 1860 just goes to show how pickled kids have gotten in the last 150 years.

Monday, July 10, 2006

#140 - Typical Sabbath

Since yesterday was the 2nd Sunday, Mrs. Woody (or, actually, Sister Woody) taught the Relief Society lesson. Since this is a Relief Society lesson, you can imagine that quite a lot of thought and preparation went into it for a few weeks before the actual event. In fact, if you were to break Mrs. Woody's lesson preparations down to a chronology, it would look something like this:
3 weeks before lesson: Read lesson every morning upon rising. Prayerfully consider how best to present material.

2 weeks before lesson: Continue reading lesson daily. Begin calling friends and relatives to have them relate personal stories regarding topic.

1 week before lession: Realize you haven't read lesson for three solid days now. Read it again with a slight panicked feeling. Begin wondering if you're ignoring the Spirit.

5 days before lesson: Begin compiling twelve hours' worth of material which needs to be compressed down to 35 minutes of actual lesson time.

4 days before lesson: Feel guilty because you're not doing everything the lesson says we should be doing. Hubby assures you that you've had ample reason to get distracted. Best friend tells you to use the reality of your situation in your lesson. Makes it more human.

3 days before lesson: Give it a rest for a day. Can't focus. Too much going on right now.

2 days before lesson: Finish compiling twenty (not twelve!) hours' worth of material. Begin the work of abridgement.

1 day before lesson: Crunch time. Many prayers today for strength and inspiration. Decide to record children reading cute poem to use as lesson opener. Hope Hubby can increase volume because, contrary to experience, daughters suddenly embrace silence when presented with microphone. Cheer when Hubby comes through with copy that will rival teenage male vehicle stereo systems. Continue abridgement. Format lesson outline. Print out copies of lesson and several backup items to use if called for.

Day of lesson: Secretly enjoy ribbing Hubby is receiving for helping you place your displays on the table. Chuckle softly when Hubby vociferously claims to be "doily challenged." Lose 7 minutes because of announcement regarding new building clean-up rules. (Gotta tell the Relief Society because the Priesthood will never remember.) Give lesson. Enjoy accolades of sisters who just know you were talking directly to them. Have longish conversation with sister who only recently started coming back to church about how this is helping her testimony.

This, of course, differs greatly from the Priesthood method for lesson preparation:
3 weeks before lesson: Remember that lesson falls on day that you were supposed to be out of town. Forget to tell Presidency.

2 weeks before lesson: Remember that you need to tell Presidency. Forget to actually tell them.

1 week before lesson: Finally mention planned absence to Presidency, who promptly forgets.

Day of lesson: Quorum Secretary finds Bro. So-and-So and asks him to give the lesson. In two hours. Forget which lesson, could you look it up? Bro. So-and-So gives it a quick glance, decides which paragraphs to read aloud during the lesson, and how to incorporate the "Suggestions for Study and Teaching" questions. Figures Spirit will pick up the slack. Will use chalkboard if there's a need to impress someone. Shake hands with three or four brethren afterward who all mumble "goo'lesson" on their way to pick up kids from Primary.

Of course the Stripling Warriors learned from their mothers. Their Dads were probably asleep during Priesthood meeting.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

#139 - A Woodyette Fourth

I don't think they even appreciated why they should be excited. I just know that they were.

The Fourth of July has come and gone here at Hacienda Woody, and the Woodyettes gave the celebration their best effort. Daddy, unfortunately, was required to work for a goodly portion of the day in order to meet looming deadlines, but that didn't dampen the spirit of the occasion at all.

First, we rolled out our new flag. Our old one was looking noticeably worn and spotted when I put her up on Flag Day (which also happens to be Jelly's birthday... she's the only one who gets a flag flown in honor of her special day!), so I decided to buy another one on Monday. We posted our colors and stood back to admire the crisp red, white and blue as it waved in an honest-to-goodness breeze. Hot as it was, we were getting an on-shore flow from the beach areas and the flags in the neighborhood spent the day getting wrapped around their various poles. The sight of Old Glory attached to several homes in the immediate area is stirring enough, but to see it unfurled in a breeze is magnificent.

The girls made signs wishing everyone a Happy 4th, and we spent the better part of the day either relaxing or (in my case) computing. When I finally shut my laptop down at 7:00, though, the real celebrations began.

We started with your basic American picnic for dinner: hot dogs and corn on the cob. We watched the "Capitol 4th" celebration on PBS until it was time for our local fireworks to kick off. At that point I escorted the girls to our front porch where, if they perched on the railing, they could see the higher displays through the trees in our neighborhood.

We had worried that perhaps the girls would be unimpressed if they weren't able to go see the fireworks in person at the park where they were held. I needn't have been concerned.

Actual transcript of Woodyettes after the show:

Jelly [dancing on the balls of her feet and gesticulating wildly]: Momma! We saw millions of fireworks!

Doodle [not to be outdone]: We saw billions of fireworks!

Jelly: We saw bazillions!

Doodle: Germillions!

Jelly: Sicillians! (Or maybe she said, "sazillions." I thought "sicillians" was cuter.)

So the Fourth was a big hit with my kidlings.

Less impressive, on the other hand, were the televised celebrations. The Capitol 4th program was fine, as far as it went. I can handle Elmo in settings like this because I'm all for pandering to the kids, and also because Elmo represents what I consider to be the purer Muppet art. He can actually project personality and fun in his performance, even if his voice is enough to make me physically ill for a week. Stevie Wonder was in fine form, although he is beginning to show his age. Even his voice is not what it used to be.

We tried the Macy's celebration, but tuned it out until the actual fireworks began. Then it wasn't so bad.

Three observations on the Boston Pops celebration:

1. Keith Lockhart still looks (and acts) like a petulant infant.

2. Steve Tyler and Joe Perry? Aerosmith?? Are the Pops that desperate for market share? At least Tyler was coherent enough to wish everyone a Happy 4th at the end of the program. Perry just stood there waiting for the meth to wear off. Note to self: Tyler is a runt. Just sayin'.

3. Dr. Phil and his wife are many things. They are not emcees.

Bad television notwithstanding, we had a good 4th. For us it begins with our annual viewing of "1776!" which we watched on Saturday. I actually forgot that I'd meant to add "National Treasure" to the tradition, so perhaps I'll make up for that tonight.

As soon as I'm finished processing our traditional meal from last night, I'll finally admit that the holiday is over.

Independence, indeed.