Home Sweet … OH C’MON!!

anger-management-1058x426Have I mentioned I don’t like to travel???

I enjoy the “being there” part and the “being back” part, although that depends on where the “being there” was.  Down the Shore is a good “being there”.  So are places like Punta Cana.  Certainly our latest “being there” in Southern California for two-plus glorious, temps-above-average weeks was way up on the Being There list!

 

My problem is the Coming and Going parts.  Let’s face it.  They are too stress-laden to be enjoyable.  I look at the comings and goings as akin to being forced to into temporary displacement with everything you own – minus all your normal creature comforts – strapped to your back.

The stress is magnified if you travel with a Type A spouse, where packing and the priority-laden questions resemble D-Day invasion planning, where the pace turns frenetic in the 4-5 days prior to H-Hour, and nerves are Type-A frayed.

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I warned you!

Add small children for Volcano Effect!

The “being back” part is almost always good …

Almost always …

Anyways … Our California trip was a blast.  Organized around the wedding of a West Coast nephew to a very lovely girl in the vineyard country of Temecula, California.  More on this in later posts …

Great time, incredible weather, quality family opportunities, plenty to see and do!  And then – inevitably – the Being There runs it course; and it’s time to be back.

More stress …

Our travel West went surprisingly well, including an LAX pickup one native described as, “The smoothest EVER!”  (Sorry about the “native” reference, Pat.  But I’m on a roll …)

No way the trip back East could go that well, right?

  • 0700  Airport commute in the Los Angeles area?  A little slow, but anticipated.
  • Check-in at LAX: Perfect (Southwest Airlines has excellent curbside check-in staff and get the TSA pre-check)
  • Gate Pushback:  On-time
  • Plane change at Midway Airport, Chicago:  Also on-time and smooth
  • Arrival at PHL:  Also on-time and COLD!
  • Parking Shuttle Pick-up:  Stunningly well-timed (like walking-out-of-the-terminal-and-here-we-are well-timed!)
  • Personal auto parked for two weeks outside a Sheraton?  Started like a champ!
  • Ride home:  Piece of cake
  • Walk into the House … IT’S FREEZING FREAKIN’ COLD!!  50° in-house temp!  Not a single burp out of the heater …

How is that possible?!?  Four-year old gas-heated, blown air unit with nary a problem.

Did I mention it was 80° when we left California??

Couple shivering with broken furnace

Ever get home from a Being There wanting to do nothing more than tossing your bags at the bottom of the steps and watching TV before going to bed??  Ever lived with a Type A personality, who was tired, stressed, AND COLD all at the same time?!?  Not fun …

Took me until 1600 hrs the next day to get professional help (the heater kind, not the mental kind) after spending the morning replacing the thermostat, which only partially worked.

And you wonder why I don’t like to travel.

 

Generation CPAP

cpap-benefitsI have finally given in.

After years of pain and discomfort (Carol’s pain and discomfort, not mine) I was finally convinced by my bed co-inhabitant to seek the help SHE needed!  The dreaded CPAP

OK … Sleep Apnea is not really a funny issue, unless you try to make it one.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious issue.  For most people it can manifest in a number of ways that most people might assume result from just a poor night’s sleep.  Sleepiness during the day, irritability, morning headaches, even frequent bedtime trips to the bathroom are some of the innocuous signs that something is messing with your sleep.

But it can be much, much more dangerous, as sleep apnea is also capable of triggering strokes and cardiac arrest.  In the worst cases, it can even cause death!

Interestingly enough, my symptoms included one not listed in most information on the condition.  I would constantly be jarred awake by sharp, stabbing pains in my ribs.

Carol has Gary Dornhoefer elbows!

Simmonds style best exemplifies Gary Dornhoefer

Flyers great Gary Dornhoefer

And those occurrences are perhaps the biggest reason to seek treatment.  No one looks forward to the constant … uh … verbal encouragements of one’s wife … Constant, persistent, never-ending encouragements to get something done.  Yet I was remarkably resilient in resisting those provocations!

I was NOT going to be wearing one of those obnoxious, intrusive facemasks and try to sleep while connected by tubes to a loud screeching machine!  Not me …

And so Life and wife have a way of “encouraging” compromises.

The Light came on for me when I noticed an increased difficulty in staying sufficiently alert during the day, despite my daily lunchtime catnap habit.  The Light became a glaring accusation once I found myself nodding off driving home from work.

The first step in resolving a problem is recognizing you have one … or actually listening to the one constantly, persistently trying to convince you that you have one.

So what I learned was both interesting and frightening.  My at-home testing revealed that I was experiencing an apnea episode, where breathing is obstructed by the throat’s soft palate,  7-8 times an HOUR!  And that – I was assured – was not nearly as bad as the worst cases, which can occur up to 30 times or more an hour!

The really scary part is that you can actually stop breathing.  Carol would tell me of listening to me stop breathing for seemingly long stretches and then convulsing in fits of guttural hacking.  Of course I challenged her to show me.

25758101Sleep apnea tends to occur in adults who are overweight (check … but only slightly!).  But it can occur in anyone, at any age … even children can develop it.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form and the one for which I am being treated.  Central Sleep Apnea is neurological in nature, where the brain fails to send correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Although I have no data to back this up, I was also told that a high percentage of men with necks requiring shirt collars sized 17 and up are more susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea.  In addition, a large percentage of unwitting sufferers with partners possessing sharp pointy elbows are more likely to seek treatment, if – for no other reason – than ending that constant, persistent spousal “encouragement”.

Anatomy-of-Obstructive-Sleep-Apnea

What most surprised me was the effectiveness and relative unobtrusive nature of CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) treatments.  The machine I was provided (ResMed AirSense 10 … roughly $190. co-pay from my healthcare planMarried-Sleeping-Concept-300x300) is much quieter than I expected, having heard nightmare about noisy contraptions rivaling window air conditioners in ruling the nighttime environment.  The masks used to provide the CPAP benefit come in three styles ranging from full mouth and nose cover to simple nasal pillows (the ones I use) that nestle snuggly against the nostrils.  No need to be limited to full, intrusive face masks!

After three months of use, I have to admit I am sleeping better; maintaining wakefulness longer; and making fewer trips to the bathroom at night.

Now everyone is happier, and my bruised ribs are finally healing!

 

 

 

 

The Problem with Women in Medicine

B2GjpG6CQAATYc7Now before the Politically Correct legions on the internet break out the Tar & Feathers, I am not suggesting that women are necessarily bad for the American Health System.  On the other hand, recent experiences suggest that women seem to have a YUGE gap in one aspect of practicing medicine in a society where – last time I checked – males comprise roughly half the patient population.

Now this problem likely will not manifest should you be a male below the age of 10 or should you suffer from chronic or debilitative disease.  No, the problem is much more pronounced if you are a relatively healthy male simply in need of temporary care for any number of Life’s more manageable maladies.

The problem?  A significant deficit in Compassion!

Allow me to demonstrate with a few recent examples.

Over a recent stretch of 7-10 days I was afflicted with an annoying – but manageable – sinus infection.  No big deal, right?  But I just could not get rid of it.  So after missing a day of work due to lack of sleep from a nagging, hacking cough, I decided to seek the assistance of the American Health System.

After making an afternoon appointment, I announced to my wife of 31 … oops … 32 years of my desire to make a doctor’s appointment .  Carol – a Neonatal nurse for years and years – helpfully offered to accompany me.  Despite my selfless insistence that her presence was not necessary, I acquiesced to her rather persistent interest in my well-being.

That was Mistake #1 …

Nurse-PractitionersDue to the immediacy of my condition, I was unable to see my regular physician – a male, I might add – but was completely satisfied with being place in the care of a Nurse Practitioner.  When admitted to your typical patient treatment room, we were joined by the NP (whose name will be protected regardless of her crappy bedside manner) followed by her shadowing medical student … also female, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

As I launched into a brief synopsis of my symptoms and answering a few pertinent questions specific to the outbreak, my lovely wife felt compelled to add a rather over-dramatized version of my more audible coughing plus her preliminary diagnosis (“just a cold”), along with a completely unnecessary portrayal of my “needy behavior” during the peak of my critical debilitation.  That’s when the NP turned to Carol and said, “Oh … He has the Man flu!”

home-postThe room broke down into spasms of hilarity.  Well, most of it anyway …

I was hardly amused …  And though I will credit the med student for breaking a noticeable sweat trying to contain her female guffaws, the complete lack of medical decorum was alarming.  So once the laughter died down, I stared down the NP and mentioned that her remark lacked a certain sense of Compassion.  She was almost able to wipe the smile off her face.

Then she turned to female medical student and told her, “Yeah … Don’t do that. It’s not nice … or professional.”  At which point she looked at Carol, who was still doubled over in laughter, and broke out in tee-hees and titters all over again.  By this time said female medical student was losing her battle with Propriety and was turning six shades of red.

Aside from the ruthlessly snide anti-Man remarks and goofy sick voices (I know I don’t really sound like that!), I was half expecting them to drag out the contraction demonstration belt in which so many women seem to take perverse pleasure in!

I felt lonely and minimalized.

Flash back roughly 23 years ago … After siring three sons, it was time for me to do my part to belay Carol’s stress over future pregnancies by doing the only manly thing I could, sacrificing my own mechanism of fertility to the wonders of Modern Medicine!

As I walked into my urologist’s office, accompanied by the ever “sympathetic” Carol, I was met with so many smiling (female) faces that I immediately relaxed as my stress over the impending procedure melted away.

Then the jokes started.

imagesI will spare you the offensive images and suggestions that were rained upon my delicate mental state.  But the psychological impact was demoralizing … even if I managed a nervous laugh here and there.

I was so unsettled I decided to take the issue up with my urologist … pre-sterilization.  But when I mentioned that his female office staff could use a few reminders on Compassion and Empathy, Dr. HedgeClippers looked at me and said, “I can’t say anything.  They scare me!”

It’s tough being a Man in a Woman’s world …

 

 

 

 

The Summer of Orange Discontent

Description=ab23638.jpg AB23638 (RM) Traffic cones along side of road Taxi

Official Flora of Orange Summer

Many have heard the lame joke, made at times like these … “What’s the State flower of (fill in your favorite State/Commonwealth in dysfunction)?”  The punch line is pictured to the right.

It’s been one of those Summers in my little slice of Heaven on Earth.  Seems every week I am running into large rectangular announcements that “This road will be closed beginning on (month-date.)”  The amount of road work going on is enough to set commuters’ neck hairs a quivering!

My guess is that the Silver Lining in all this traffic disruption this Summer is a good sign for The Economy as a whole; but it truly wreaks havoc with the rate-of-productive-effort vs. travel time ratio.  And for some reason this Summer has seen much more infrastructure investment than any other Summer I can remember.

img_0036Summer’s tend to be most beneficial to blooming orange cones; but this one might set a record, not just for orange cones but also for orange detour signs (announced weeks in advance) and the deployment of the Flagger Forces of Evil.  I have joked recently that any hostile power, looking to pose damage and mayhem to American society would – as their first step in subversion – invest heavily in Flagger Force franchises.

Those guys are EVERYWHERE.  And even though they might seem innocuous, they control the smooth flow of American auto society.  Too perfect a cover for a nefarious force looking to nonchalantly position themselves at numerous strategic venues and choke points.  Reminds me of German efforts to sabatage the Allied response to the Nazis’ World War II offensive in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge).  They sent commandos to infiltrate behind Allied lines, disrupting communications and responses by – among other things – changing routing and destination signage!

img_0035It’s getting to the point where I am recognizing Flagger Force operatives moving from one choke point to another.  That cannot be a good thing!

My work commute is generally a non-invasive, relaxing commune with Nature along the secondary and back roads of eastern Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (Hatboro, Upper Moreland, Abington, Cheltenham).  No stress, relaxing scenery, manageable traffic …

Until this Summer anyway …

On any given morning, I can find two or three of my favored secondary roads impassable due to construction or repair work.  From the all too obviously needed bridge rework to road re-paving to power-line tree trimming to sewage and water line installations to God only knows what, it has been a particularly active Season of Infrastructure!

Terwood Road (closed since July 5) has been a real kick in the commute, a direct route slicing east-southeast through bucolic settings guaranteed to settle the most nervous commuter.  Worse yet, the popular route’s closure in an area not exactly brimming with non-invasive alternative routes, throws other east-west secondary routes in the area into complete disarray, forcing me to use primary routes (e.g. Route 611) where the driving is closer to Mad Max: Fury Road than psyche-settling leisure.

UPDATE:  Just days after posting this, Welsh Road (Route 63), another rather vital East-West commuter link, particularly for PA Turnpike access in eastern Montgomery County, had two sections narrowed to one lane (one for bridge work crossing over the Turnpike); had another stretch east of Washington Lane completely closed for God-only-knows-what, and is being resurfaced!!

It’s both maddening and reassuring in the “Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure” way of thinking.

  1. Roads – and the utilities running along and below them – are essential.
  2. Roads take a beating.
  3. Roads require maintenance and semi-regular investment to maintain long-term utility.
  4. Maintenance and Investment Time sucks when moving from Point A to Point B!

There’s NEVER a good time to do it.  And when it’s being done, it’s never a good time for anyone … other than the good people (so far as we know) of Flagger Force!

Just shoot me already … (That was sarcasm, FF!)

Peeves of Grass by W.Whitman*

(* Waldo Whitman, long distance third cousin of renown poet Walt Whitman, was a noted turf-ologist and local laureate to the Bronxville, NY organic lawn movement.) 

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Peeves of Grass

They gird their loins upon mechanical beasts.

Concern for your Lawn? Not in the least …

Their job is but the turf to mow,

On swaths of green in an endless row.

The call to them is “Mow it short!”

Should Weather their next visit abort.

 

Of consequence is the Heat of Summer

Working to render your backyard a bummer,

Baking grass roots to the color of Lumber.

 

Another lawn threat is an obscure little pest,

Whose potential for damage to grass – no jest.

Existing in stealth and snug as a bug,

Sheltered all Winter by your grass turf rug.

Spring brings cravings for roots to devour,

Leaving your Lawn unfit for a Schnauzer.

 

To know Milky Spore, you need not worry.

But if beetles you see, best move in a hurry.

For the future of dear lawn could become quite gory!

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Nothing brings a tear to the eye like a good Ode to Lawn!

And though Waldo’s words paint a moving portrait, his flowery expressions have more simple, straight-forward messages.  For one, the guys and gals riding those professional lawn mowing services prefer to leave your lawn short as a Masters Tournament fairway.  If they miss an appointment for weather, the lawn less cumbersome to mow quickly the next time out.

And a lot of homeowners like that close-cropped fairway look …

But that’s not good for strong, sustained grass growth as the following pictures illustrate.

 

img_1117

Tale of Two Lawns:  Can you tell the difference between the professional short-cut vs. Cranky Man’s pillowy mow?

Analysis (above):  Verdant greenery on the left, roughly at least 2-2.5 inches longer.  Note browning already occurring on the right despite rather moderate temps and plenty of rain!  What will it look like in August???

img_1113

Which side looks healthier, richer, more likely to survive the Summer?

Remember the words passed down to us from past generations …

A Lawn that looks like a country club fairway in June will resemble an airport runway in August!

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BEWARE THE BEETLE!

In southeast Pennsylvania we tend to see the mighty ugly grub beetles around the 4th of July.  I usually see my first ones (and lately the only ones) on a golf course … while conducting turf research of course!

images-13You can pre-treat in March (Too late now …) or wait until you see beetles.  But don’t lolligag once you do see them.  Grub treatments are intended to keep grubs from entering the lawn.  Once they get in there, it may be too late to keep them out!

If you want to live grub-worry-free, get to know the milky spore.  Yeah, it’s a pain in the hinterlands to apply; but it will give you up to 10 years of grub coverage!

Read more here:

Let’s play microbiological warfare!

Help your lawn beat the heat

 

 

Out, Damned Holes!

The holes! Those holes!

Rippling through my cloud-like lawn,

Leaving grass entrails

In bright greens and dark fawn.

Those holes, damn holes … Could be moles

Or voles or Middle Earth lawn trolls.

Had one not known better, they might just consider

This a violent protest by the Lawn Antifa!

Now just settle down, you bloody lawn neophyte!

Both knowledge and experience doth shine a bright light

Where the untrained Turf Brain might see disaster,

The wise, old Lawn Prophet sees good health for your pasture!

corer

How core aerator works

Not quite Shakespeare,
Not quite Milton …

In other words, it’s The Best Time of the Year to aerate your Lawn!

For focused discussions, see the following …

Poking Holes in the Patient – Lawn Year (LY) ’14

Getting a Spring-loaded Start – LY13

Everyone’s Lawn Looks Great in April – LY11

aeration

How Aeration benefits your Lawn