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A Trip to the Home World, Tithing on the Speed Limit, a Tooth Joins the Ranks of the Undead and a Giant No Hitter

Yesterday we made a trip back to my family’s home world, also known as Huntington West Virginia. As far as home worlds go it is probably on no one’s top ten lists, probably ranking about as high as Qo’noS, the Klingon home world in terms of places that you would go to on holiday.  However it is my family’s ancestral home for the past 200 plus years since coming from Scotland, Ireland and France.  Now I was not born in West Virginia, though my parents were born there as were three of my four grandparents.  I was actually the first of my generation born outside of the state as my dad was still in the beginning stages of his Navy career and was stationed at Naval Air Station Alameda California and I was born at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in California.  Even so Huntington was a place that served as a touchstone for our lives as my dad was transferred from one place to another on the west coast.  We would return almost every summer, usually travelling by train in the days before Amtrack.  Back then three of four grandparents as well as one set of great grandparents we still alive along with a butt-load of aunts, uncles and cousins.  In 4th grade we lived there while my dad found us suitable housing in Long Beach California after being transferred from Washington State. That was the year of three schools and four teachers for me, but I digress.

It was during that year that my great grandfather died and my grandfather was diagnosed with a golf ball sized yet benign brain tumor.  It was also the adjustment form the kinder and gentler west coast schools to a much stricter standard in Huntington.  I was also as we had come in from Long Beach I was nicknamed “City Slicker” and had to fight for my life.  A couple of school yard brawls later which I cannot say that I won but in which I gave good account of myself I was accepted so far as a “City Slicker” could be.  The thing was though that I had lived in a town of only about 8,000 inhabitants for 4 years prior to moving to Long beach for just over a month.  The kids in Huntington were far more “City Slicker” than little old me.  I had poor penmanship because in Kindergarten my teacher took the pencil out of my left hand and stuck it in my right hand.  This was of no comfort when my teacher whacked my hand with a steel ruler since my penmanship was so bad.  What good this did I have no idea except to maybe set me back two more years.  I don’t think I ever left the dining room table due to the amount of homework that she assigned.  During my time in Huntington we lived across from the old Fairfield Stadium where the Marshall University football team played.  I saw the team work out in the spring practices of 1970, the same team killed in the plane crash on 14 November of that year.  We returned to Long Beach that summer where when I started 5th grade I was known as “Kentucky Fried.”  Despite that I was happy to get back out west.  After my Clinical Pastoral Care Education Residency in Dallas I got my first full time hospital chaplain job at Cabell-Huntington Hospital which I held as a full time contractor until I was mobilized for the Bosnia mission in 1996.  During this time and while I was deployed Judy got to know my relatives better than me.  I went into the Navy in West Virginia and due to this we remain West Virginia residents for Tax and Voting purposes.  We came back to get our driver’s licenses renewed and see our dear friend Patty.

The visit this time has been pretty miserable for me as last night the tooth which was recently excavated for the second time as discovered to be cracked beyond repair decided to come back from the dead.  I didn’t get to sleep until about 0230 and woke up again at 0415 before getting back to sleep at 0600. The alarm rank at 0700 and after getting Judy up, we talked and I went back to bed where I slept until 1230.  It took 2 Ultram, 1 800 mg Motrin and a couple of beers with lunch to get the pain under control.  Tonight I will probably do the same and go to bed early.  In the morning I will have to call the Dental Department at the hospital to see what they want me to do.  We don’t travel back until Wednesday and I don’t know if I can take much more of this.  It seems to me that my tooth has taken a page from Dracula and joined the ranks of the undead.  This really sucks like a Hoover.

The trip here was long, we had the usual snarl on I-64  from Newport News until past Williamsburg, and thankfully the HRBT was not congested.  We picked up more slow traffic between Staunton and Lexington.  Now I am bothered by people who drive slower than the posted speed limit in the fast lane.  I trained on the Los Angeles Freeways and the German Autobahn.  My view is that the speed limit is a suggestion for the less skilled drivers and those who have trained on high speed roads should be exempt from it.  Now I am not a total scofflaw. I do not drive unsafely, weave in and out of traffic or fail to signal.  Likewise I know about how fast I can go without drawing the attention of the State Police.  Since radar detectors are illegal in Virginia one has to become very adept at this cat and mouse game and I am amazed at the number of people who get pulled over because they don’t understand the simple art of nuance.  In most states you can safely drive about 10 percent over the speed limit on the Interstate without getting ticketed.  This is a little different on the major travel holidays in Virginia where there is about a 5 mph tolerance.  I do this routinely and refer to it as “tithing” on the speed limit.  Of course there are times that I need to give more than my tithe and go a bit faster.  Our GPS “Lilith” has a conscious about such things and would alarm when I did this forcing me to silence her.

There was also cause for rejoicing as the first half of the baseball season came to an end.  The Norfolk Tides are tied for fist in the International League South, the San Francisco Giants have surprised everyone by playing great ball with solid pitching and now are in second place in the National League West and currently have the 3rd best record in the league behind the Evil Dodgers and one percentage point behind the East leading Phillies.  To really make things great Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres.  It was almost a perfect game save for a booted ground ball and error by Giants Third Baseman Juan Uribe with 1 out in the bottom of the 8th and Center Fielder Aaron Rowland saved the no-hitter with a leaping catch at the wall for the second out in the top of the ninth.  Both of these show that even when a pitcher pitches a no-hitter it is a team effort.  I had seen the next to last Giant no-hitter in person with my dad and brother back on August 24th 1975 when Ed Halicki shut down the New York Mets at Candlestick.  Not a bad way for the Giants to go into the All-Star break.

Anyway it is time to self medicate for the night and try to get some sleep.  Pray for me a sinner.

Peace, Steve

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Filed under Baseball, healthcare, Loose thoughts and musings, star trek, travel

Weekend in Washington-Reconnecting with Friends Family, Each Other and an Evening at the West Wing

1091At the Brady Press Room in the West Wing

Our anniversary weekend continues, tonight we have our behind the scenes tour of the White House.  Last night we had a wonderful reunion with my former Commanding Officer Colonel Mike Paulovich and his wife Janet.  Colonel Paulovich and I served together at Marine Security Force Battalion, when it was still called a battalion.  The unit was actually regimental size with subordinate units located in the United State, the Middle East, Guantanamo Bay Cuba and Europe with FAST (Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team) Platoons deployed in hot spots world-wide.  The Colonel was a great officer and should have been a Flag Officer.  He retired as the senior Marine Corps Officer and Professor of Ethics at the Naval Academy.  We have remained close over the years and have always had a special connection, to include that of our wives.  During our time together at Security Force Battalion we went through some incredibly difficult personal and professional times.  The battalion lost I think about 11 Marines while we were there due to all sorts of causes so we shared a lot of community grief as we saw our battalion through difficult times.

I never will forget the night that Colonel Paulovich called me on my cell phone saying he needed me.  I was at the ballpark and I knew things were bad for him to be calling me there, he too is a baseball fan and has great respect for the game.  When I got to the battalion I found that he had been involved in giving CPR to a Marine who had just checked into the unit that late that afternoon from an overseas command and had hanged himself within 30 minutes of checking in and getting his room.  That night I was with him and the other Marines who tried to save that young man’s life until about 0300 the next morning.  I was there when the Colonel’s father died and he was there when I found that my father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We shared many other difficult times together as well as good times.  We frequently travelled overseas together and I have never had a Commanding Officer any time or any where seek my advice on caring for people, support the ministry of his chaplain and ensure that I got to his Marines no matter where in the world they were.  Even more importantly he allowed me to be his Priest. Some of the places that we travelled together included Bahrain, Japan and Spain and a particularly memorable trip to England and Scotland where our Marines were doing exercises with the British Royal Marines.  We saw each other through good times and bad and it was such a pleasure to fellowship with both him and Janet over dinner and beer at the D.C. Chophouse.   I am so honored to have him as a friend and Judy to be a friend of his wife.

1094Outside the West Wing

This morning was a relaxing morning except for two things.  First, my tooth started acting up again and started hurting pretty bad.  I doubled up on one of my non-narcotic pain meds and slammed down some 800 mg. Motrin which made the pain bearable through most of the day.  It is starting up again right now so I will be hitting some more Motrin and Ultram this evening.  Then I read the details of our invitation to the White House and realized that we had not brought appropriate attire for Judy.  I looked up women’s clothing nearby and saw a Dress Barn. We started walking, unfortunately not being very familiar with the layout of the city I made a right turn rather than left coming out of the hotel.  After dragging Judy around having followed the advice of several residents and a store keeper we were nowhere near where we needed to be. I realized then that some people are clueless as to the layout of the city that they live in.  These people really had no clue; I’m surprised that they could find their way to their own toilet much less survive in the city.  Heck if I lived here I would know this place by heart within months because I have one of those phonographic memories you know. It was kind of like they were saying “go four blocks and if you pass Freddy the pan handler turn left and the street will be two blocks down” except that Freddy the pan-handler wasn’t on the corner and the street was the opposite direction from where the clueless person said that it was. Finally I knew that I was only torturing Judy by dragging her around.  I hailed a cab and said I need to go to Dress Barn on Connecticut Avenue Northwest.  The guy was great.  He knew where it was; he was friendly and dropped us off at the door.  An hour and $248 later we walked out of the store with a nice outfit and butt-load of other clothes.  Since I had not really gotten her much for the anniversary it was nice to do that for her, after all she tolerates all of my annoying habits and understands how to make sure that I don’t do anything to screw up my career. The ladies that helped us, Frieda and Mary were great.  If all people in retail were as friendly and helpful as these women there would be a lot more coming off the shelves even in the bad economy.

I guess one of the really cool things about this weekend is that we have not tried to fit too much into it.  It used to be that we would plan and schedule so much that although we were “together” there was no time for any kind of intimacy.  We would end up stressed out, tired and resentful of each other.  For once we decided just to be with each other and that has been way cool.  If there is any advice I can offer to couples be they young or old is to get to know each other again by not focusing on things which entertain and take up time but don’t bring you together.  Judy and I are wired differently, we have different interests, but we give each other the freedom to pursue those interests and encourage each other to fulfill our dreams.  At the same time we finally figured out that we have to take time with each other.  It took a quarter century to figure this out but we have finally been able to and the results have been amazing.

This evening we had our private staff guided tour of the West Wing of the White House.  My friend Mark, the Chief of Staff to the National Security Council had to be out doing a Navy Reserve Drill so his assistant Cindy took us around.  It was really cool seeing the Oval Office, the Roosevelt Room and a number of other historic places including the James Brady Press Room.  We were not able to see the Rose Garden on this trip as the President and his family was relaxing out there, but we did see the Presidential First Puppy “Bo” playing on the back lawn.  Hopefully we will get to meet the President on a future trip.  Since we have reason to come up here anyway it would be cool to get to meet him.  Everyone was great to us at the White House and we enjoyed our visit tremendously.

Tonight we went out with Judy’s cousin Becki to a Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant and will meet her again in the morning for breakfast before heading back home.  We stopped by her house which she bought when she moved her for her job with US Department of Fish and Game.  The house was a “fixer-upper” and Becki has been doing this with houses for a good amount of time.  She has already transformed much of the place which frankly looked like hell when she purchased it.  It was good to see her and Tucker her friendly little black cat.  It’s weird having a cat come when you call it, hell our first dog Frieda wouldn’t do that unless she thought it was in HER best interests.

Note: As I was getting ready to post I decided to load my SD card from my camera into my computer to retrieve my photos from the West Wing.  It looks like I have somehow got the damned thing jammed in and I can’t figure out either how to get the pictures off of it or how to get it back out. Since I want to save the card and not damage my computer I will try to figure this out when I am not tired and have some idea of what I might do to solve the problem.  So now the cool pictures inside the Press Room and at the entry reserved for official visitors will have to wait.  Be assured that they are cool and I will post them when I can. Gotta love technology sometimes….

So tomorrow we see Becki again for breakfast and head home.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, beer, Loose thoughts and musings, marriage and relationships

Monday Monday…a visit to the ER and the DMV

Well what can I say?  If you remember Garfield the Cat and how he hates Monday’s you can probably understand this post.  Maybe you have lived this yourself. Maybe not, but there is always tomorrow.

I really expected to have a nice day recovering and resting from my very draining trip to California to help out with my dad.  It started that way but didn’t end that way.  When I got home I found out that my license plates had been stolen off of my car.  Thus I knew that today I would need to go to the DMV to report them stolen and get them replaced.  I figured that this couldn’t be too bad, I called my boss yesterday afternoon and he graciously gave me the time to do so.  Of course I could not gotten through the front gate without them, but still it is good to have an understanding boss.

Late in the evening I started to get my things together for work.    After having watched the movie Fletch with Judy I was tired and expecting to go to bed.  Judy had told me earlier in the evening that she had a sore throat and had taken some throat stuff to make it feel better.  The throat stuff usually takes care of the problem.  This time it didn’t.  She started complaining of sharp pain of like 9 on the scale of 10 in her throat and that she was having a hard time swallowing.  This to me was odd.  Judy has a super high threshold for pain, that fact that she has been married to me for nearly 26 years testifies to this.  Once in Germany she had a cavity filled with no anesthetic when the Army dentist who had the shrine to Dr Mengele in his office refused to give a topical before sticking her with a needle.  She let a broken ankle go for a year before having something done about it.  Sorry I don’t like to suffer like that.  But she has a super high threshold for pain.  So at 0002 in this morning (for those not German or military both of Mickey’s hands are pointing straight up to the 12) yes Monday dark and early, we set out for Sentara Bayside ER.  I was not a happy camper.  I picked up one of my Andrew Greeley Bishop Blackie Ryan mystery novels and took Judy through the rain to the ER.

Now to me a real ER is where guts are hanging out, people a being coded in multiple rooms. In a real ER there are gunshot wounds, stab wounds, burns, strokes, heart attacks, people mangled in car or industrial accidents. Likewise there are always Police with knuckleheads who have been arrested, drug overdoses, suicide attempts and real live psychotic people who think that they are Jesus.  Death, crisis, mayhem that dear readers is my kind of ER.  Eating a cheeseburger with a trauma surgeon while looking at the track of a bullet in an open chest after some gang banger got whacked and we could save him.  That is an ER to me.  I did my residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas as the Trauma Department Chaplain and worked as an ER Department Chaplain in a Trauma Center in West Virginia.  I’m used to full waiting rooms, upset people and various forms of craziness.  I now work in a teaching hospital and have the adult and pediatric ICUs.   To put it mildly this was not what I experienced this morning.  We got there and there was no one in the waiting area, which unlike places I have worked before was nicely decorated and relatively comfortable.  They even had Lifetime set as the channel on the cable TV.  Judy went through triage quickly and was taken back.  After a while I was called back.  Judy was getting an IV placed and a full panel of labs and a CT Scan of her obviously swollen neck were ordered.  This was a bit scary for her, and a little unsettling for me as first she is my wife and I don’t want to lose her, but also because I know that if untreated whatever was going on could threaten her airway.  This is never a good thing.

The nursing staff and the ER physician were very nice.  I have no complaints.  For a while it looked like that Judy might be admitted until she responded to the three different IV meds and drips that she was on.  Now whatever was going on was potentially serious but seemed to have been nipped in the bud.  I did try to comfort Judy by telling her that it couldn’t be that bad because she wasn’t intubated, didn’t have a Foley catheter or NG tube, but she didn’t find that terribly comforting.  I young man how had cut his arm pretty bad after giving a dumpster an elbow was across the way and had a pretty cool cut, but still pretty mild by what I am used to.  Compared to the places that I have worked it was far too sedate.  It was really kind of boring.  I guess that is okay, I didn’t want Judy to be the one who got sporty and provide the entertainment for the evening.

We got out of the ER about 0330 and hit 24 hour Walgreens to pick up her medicine.  She even got good stuff for pain, Vicodin.  All I ever get is Motrin, no let me take that back, my Nurse Practitioner here put me on Ultram for my chronic pain in my shoulders.  But this isn’t like Vicodin.  The people in the pharmacy were all friendly, giving us a cheery “Good morning” every time that we turned around. We finally got home well after 0400.  Checking in with the boss I got permission to come in late.

This afternoon I still had to go to DMV to get the license plates.  I didn’t get much sleep and what I had was not very good.  Groggy and grouchy like a bear waking up from hibernation I put myself together.  I did not want to go to the DMV, but it had to be done.  Now the DMV sends chills up my spine.  I grew up in California, so my first experience of the DMV was in that fair state.  The DMV in California is like the major league of the DMV.  I’m sure that I stood in line behind Jimmy Hoffa one day well after he went missing never to be seen again.  He’s probably still in line.  The last time I went to the DMV here it was a long wait.  Today I expected the worst.  It started out where I thought that would be the case when the rent-a-cop at the door sent me outside and told me that I couldn’t have my Norfolk Tides travel mug filled with Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla coffee, Splenda and Coffee Mate Nonfat French Vanilla creamer in the building.  I thought, “well isn’t this just great….I’m tired as hell and have to wait in DMV for what could be forever without more coffee.”  I was even less happy than when I got there.  Thankfully the rest of the DMV time was not too bad.  The lady at the desk was friendly and had lived in California and even knew something about Mudville.  I left with my temporary tags and stopped by the Advance Auto Parts store on Princess Anne Blvd in Virgina Beach to pick up a new license plate frame and mounting devices.  Now Advanced usually gives military members a 10% discount on the purchase.  Showing my ID card I expected this.  However the young man refused to give it to me because “I had not specifically asked him for it.”  I thought this was kind of shitty as all the other guys there have went out of their way to honor this.  I decided to say the hell with arguing with him and just write a nasty comment on my blog with tags for Advance Auto Parts on Princess Anne Blvd in Virginia Beach.  Following this I got Judy some soft food to eat and went in to check in with the boss, drag all the stuff I would need for the week into work and to go through my hundred or so e-mails so I wouldn’t have to do that tomorrow.

In a few minutes I head over to the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish for a double header between the Tides and the Louisville Bats.  Tonight, though tired I need this.

Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement and kindness this past week.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: The double header against Louisville was great.  The Tides swept the twin bill winning 6-2 in the first game and 2-0 in the night cap.  Justin Christian homered and Matt Wieters  a triple with Chris Tillman picking up his 5th win with no losses. David Pauley getting the win, his third and Jim Miller his 10th save striking out the side to close the game. The Tides are now 25 and 12 and up by 2.5 games over the Bulls in the IL South. I really needed tonight, the weather was a tad bit cold but it was good to be back with my Church of Baseball Friends.  Barry my partner down in section 102 B had his daughter down and it was fun to be with both of them. My section usher Elliott was back as was Chip up in section 202.  Had my usual King Twist pretzel from Kenny up on the concourse.

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