Saturday, January 29, 2005

Lost Prevention
This past Wednesday my wifes grandmother Tess passed away. It was a tremendous blow to my wife and her siblings. Tess was a dear grandmother who took very good care of "the kids" when their parents went through financial termoils.

She had caught a nasty case of pneumonia (it's really getting around this year) and after a week long battle in the hospital, her body just gave up. The timing could not have been worse (not that there is a 'good time' to pass away). My sister-in-law who has struggled for the past few years to have children was getting a hisdirectomy on the opposite side of the hospital. Strangely, they were both on the fourth floor, but in different wings. Although she was physically nearby, it was dificult for her to come see her grandmother (before and after surgery).

These events all fell on the one week in months that I actually had a class to teach. Just a week ago, my employer laid off one of my co-workers who came over from the merger with me. While the details are anyones guess, I suspect that one of the reasons he was laid off was due to taking so much time away. Here I was taking half days off to get home and get my wife to the hospital. While work is definitely my second priority, having me there teaching is my bosses first. It was a dificult tug of war all week to get the time away that I needed.

Tess's funeral fell on Friday morning, and there was no way in hell I could teach that day (before or after). Thankfully my boss agreed that the best thing to do was to relocate one day of class to the following week. My students agreed, and were fine with the decision. After she left the room, one commented "hell ... you can leave now if you need to. We understand!". They were a nice couple of guys.

It seems like ages ago instead of days that this all transpired. It's funny how time slows down when you encounter an unexpected death in the family. At some point, my daughter had lost her favorite toy. The day before the wake, I found myself driving into the North end of town to a thrift shop we had been at one week earlier. My daughter had picked out a "Bratz" key-chain with some wierd dog-like character. It was $0.99, and utterly pointless. But for whatever reason, she treasured it. She even told me, "when I get bigger, I can use this for my keys". For days she had carried it around hugging it, talking to it, and giving it a voice as she made it jump around. But then ... she lost it at school. She must have cried off and on for three days. I was putting her into bed one night last week and she was in her room with her TV turned down, in tears.

And so there I was, in a thrift shop, digging through junk bins. I kept checking my phone and holding it in the air to get a signal. I needed a sitter for the kids the following evening so we could attend the wake, and I was waiting for a call back. Who knew that the pile of worthless Bratz key-chains would fly off the shelves of this thrift shop. There were still plenty of other retarded merchandise which had been ripped from the shelves of a local Terget store and "dontated". Plates, napkins, party hats, etc. And then after what seemed like half an hour of digging, I found a keychain! Thank God.

When I got home and put it into my daughters hands, she was overyjoyed. I fixed it! I replaced what she was missing. I think it dawned on me at some point, that what I was really looking for was nothing I would find thrifting. My wife was devestated. There was nothing I could do to fill the missing void. I couldn't fix it. Maybe by replacing that toy I was finding some peace with myself. I needed that accomplishment, and I will never forget that day. Incidentally now that I had one of these damned key-chains out of the theft proof package I saw that the character was named "Bunny-Boo". Here I had thought my daughter made that name up.

Oh, and to explain the title of this post: "Lost Prevention" refers to an application we got once at Best Buy. The poor schmuck was applying for a position with "loss prevention" and just got it all wrong. Obviously you can't prevent the loss of something that has all ready been lost. And so you see, "lost prevention" seemed pretty damned funny at the time. It's not so funny any more. I think it took on a new meaning in my mind.

Tess's Reunion
My wife had often told me about her many cousins, whom I had never met, or met quickly in passing. Her very large family on her fathers side was all a blur to me. I knew of names, and some faces, but I had never sat down and conversated with anyone from that side of the family. The exception was her aunt Donna (sister to her father) and her husband Jack. We always saw them at Christmas time, when we would get together at her now late Grandmothers house. I think that adding to the pain for my wife was that she felt she would forever lose touch with that side of the family.

Following the short, muddled, and generally poor "sermon" by the church pastor, Tess was promptly driven to the cemetary and put to rest. Following a funeral, there is generally a strange after party at a relatives house. We were invited and encouraged to come and so we did. Between the funeral services and the house, I learned that Tess had 19 grandchildren. I had no idea. It seems that my wifes aunt Donna had three daughters, and a son. All of which have had children of their own. And so, my wife has several cousins in their 30's and 40's which is quite odd. I sat at a kitchen table with the aunts for hours and I had a good time getting to know them all. It was also the first time I had seen my wife smile in weeks, and it felt really good. Amidst the chaos and sad moments, there was a lot of celebrating to have everyone together.

Several times, my wife's unlce Jack popped over to give hugs, and tell everyone how glad he was to have us. I didn't really know much about Jack and Donna. I had always assumed that they were living up in the hills somewhere in a giant house, spending lots of money. It seemed quite the opposite. What I found was a very down to earth couple, who had raised a loving and charasmatic family in a middle class home which they still lived in after raising their kids (43 years)! After everyone was properly liquored up, my wife commented to her uncle Jack "we thought you all were rich and stuck up!". "Rich?!?!?" he laughed, "we're not rich!".

God only knows how this entire branch of the family disappeared from my wife and her siblings. The aunts (who are technically 'cousins') remembered chasing each other around the Christmas three at Grandma's house, and all the fun they had. But when they got older, and started families of their own, the ties were lost. We had gone home after an hour or so at the 'party' and picked up the kids as they got off the bus. We decided to drive back and let everyone see our kids, and continue to hang out with the family. Everyone was having a pretty good time considering the circumstances.

At some point, I wandered into the living room to check on the kids. They had found some other kids to be rowdy with and were behaving all right. But there, in the dark living room I found my wife's father. He looked upset, but he was smiling. It was a strange nervous smile. I smiled back and he nodded. He had put his mother to rest today, and I'm sure he was not doing well. But he sat alone in the dark, and didn't engage in the family discussions. Although I am sure he listened.

I will surely never understand my wife's father. I'm not sure any of us will. My wife and her siblings had a rough childhood. They were dirt poor and they moved around quite a bit because they were constantly getting evicted. At Christmas time, everyone would speak to nicely one another and never mention the tough up-bringing. It seemed they were only getting together to make Grandma happy. It will be interesting to see what happens next Christmas. I wonder if her father will make any attempt to see his siblings. When I look in his eyes, I see someone who is just detached from the world. He was at that party because he felt he needed to be. The various cousins, aunts, etc. don't seem to really understand him either. They passed around pictures later that evening after he had disappeared without a word. In photos he was laughing, rolling on the floor with my wife's cousins and having a good time. It looked like someone who was genuinely happy, and it wasn't the man I have known for the past 10+ years.

Overall, it was quite an experience. It was death that reuinted my wife with a part of the family she had felt forgotten her. When we got home, she immediately called her siblings to proclaim "we were wrong about them!". I can't imagine a more fitting departure for her grandmother. In death, she brought her family closer together. My wife will remember her for making waffles, buying her favorite cereals, and baking cookies. I will remember Tess for giving my wife her lost cousins back. Thank you Tess. We will miss you.

Current Mood: Inspired
Musical Inspiration: Handsome Boys Modeling School (thanks DM)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Airline Disaster
I invision an airplane getting ready to touch down into a forrest. The wings are clipping the trees. Everyone is putting on their oxygen masks. But not management. They are riding in first class, and somehow they don't think their side of the plane will explode into flames in the next few minutes. They are busy forecasting the market ahead.

"What can we do for the airline industry for disaster awareness training?". "I'll put together a flier", says marketing. "We can hold a meeting next friday and discuss it". Then there's HR, "it will probably be eight o' clock before I get off this plane and I live an hour from here *sigh*". Organizational growth reports, "The airline industry is finding more money to spend since the 911 disaster. We can put together a pie chart". An eager new executive shouts, "we could respond to starving countries in Asia with a food drive!".

Then one consultant approaches management as he straps on a parachute. He notes, "gentlemen we should probably put on parachutes. We have seen in the field that it hurts less when you hit the ground under one of these". But management detected a note of sarcasm. And after several e-mails around the company through their Blueberries, the task of distributing parachutes was never completed. It is decided that 'parachute distribution' will be covered at next Tuesday's meeting.

The consultants, one by one, depart out of the rear of the airplane pulling their chute cords as they jump. One consultant (experienced in parachuting) trains the others as they go.

A member of management stands up and declares "Jesus! We're in trouble!". Silence falls over the board of management. "We are damn near out of peanuts and Coke!". Over the course of the next few minutes, the management team pours over the airlines accounting records in an attempt to find how the peanuts and Coke could be better distributed. Bird-like shadows fall over the management team as parachuting workers pass the window on their decent into the sky. Management seems not to notice.

One member of management suddenly drops his bag of peanuts and chokes, spitting a coke and peanut mixture all over the nice leather seats. "Holy shit!", he declares, "this plane is going to crash!". Without warning, he is thrown from the plane and sent sailing to the ground. The consultant who is getting ready to leap notices the manager sailing toward the ground to his death. He asks, "what happened to that guy?". A new team manager steps forward and proclaims, "although we honor his years of service ... we feel he was a poor fit for our future plans ... we decided to seperate him from the team". The consultant shrugs, turns, and leaps off the plane ejecting his parachute.

As the nose of the plane touched down (ever so slightly) a loud explosion was heard, and flames began to rush through the cabin to seal the management teams doom. As flames engulfed them, one member could be heard saying to another, "what happened? We planned everything so well! We had meetings! We talked about how to react to this!". Another manager frowned and replied, "Don't blame yourself, it must have been the plane. It was the plane that took us down into the trees".

Insurance Disaster
As you have read, my family has not been at it's healthiest lately. My poor wife has been in an out of various doctor offices for the past few weeks in a fight against pneumonia. Imagine our surpise when we went to have her prescriptions filled and we were told, "you have not had insurance since December 31st". It seems our HR consultant left out a small detail as we all were switching Insurance companies. The insurance we used to have ... had been cancelled. This lead us to wonder, "who will pay all these medical bills?".

After a conversation with my wonderful HR department of one, I learned that we were not supposed to file any claims with the old carrier because they would be "mad about it". She added that she had sent out a memo telling us all to discontinue the use of our old insurance cards. I am still waiting for that memo. When I added a sense of urgency to the matter, I was given a printout with my insurance plan number and some other trivial information. "Good", I thought, "this is what I need!".

After an hour or so at the Kroger Pharmacy this morning, the very kind and patient clerk made a strange face to the person at the other end of the phone and hung up stating, "okay ... I'll tell him". She went on to tell me that not only had I married a man (my wife had been filed as an M and not an F), but my insurance would only cover mailed in prescriptions ... maybe. She had gotten so much of the run-around from this new carrier, that she told me I probably shouldn't believe much of anything that they told her.

And so I bought my wifes drugs without the insurance covering a dime. The cost was roughly 13 dollars more than I would have paid having had the insurance coverage and a co-pay. Yet, I have five more prescriptions to fill, and only four days to do it.

When I arrived to work today, I took a quick look around for my HR representative and found her in a conference room. She was meeting with a few management members about "who knows what". Most likely, they were discussing what to do about the lighting timers in the parking lot. It's a high priority issue aparently. I sent her an e-mail detailing the importance of filling my wife's prescriptions using words such as quick to immediate "organ failure" (which is no stretch to the thruth).

After her pow-wow she popped into the office I have vacated, and let me know that she had sent my information to Bill with the insurance company, who will be contacting me directly in the next hour or two. She also added, "you will still have to pay for those prescriptions" ... "it will just be after the discount". Well, thank you Captain Obvious, of Delta Airlines flight number #127!

Right now folks, I am putting on a parachute and working on my resume.

Current Mood: Pissed Off
Musical Inspiration: Mannie Fresh!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Pneumonia Is Gay
Being sick sucks. It seems my happy little household came down with a cold around Christmas time that never went away. For yours truely it turned into a sinus infection. After a week or so of fighting it with Tylenol Sinus pills, I started to get a strange taste of infection in my mouth, and I could hardly walk straight. When the fever started to set in, I promptly went to my doctor who got me a 10 day supply of antibiotics.

Two weeks later, my wife had only worsened from her cold. It attacked her lungs and gave her a horrible bronchial cough. When she started getting fevers, I suggested we get her to the doctor immediately. Sure enough, it was infection. Not just any infection, the mother of ALL infections, Pneumonia. Pneumonia (for those who do not know) is an infection within your lungs. Aside from making you physcially ill (vomiting, fever, etc) your chest aches like a motherfucker with every breath. On top of all this, my wife has a practically non-existent immune system due to her Lupas.

So the good news is, she hopped out of bed this morning and declared "I think the antibiotics are working!". Typically you start to feel better after 3 days, but for her it was more like 5. At any rate, she's on the road to recovery and I couldn't be happier about it.

What's New?
So what's new in Ray's world (other than the plague)? Not a whole lot. My poor, poor, Bug seems to have finally thawed. When I almost got stuck in the middle of an ice storm, I decided to "park it". Once the ice storm had subsided, my poor car was frozen solid to the driveway under 2 to 3 inches of ice. No problem, I thought, it will thaw in time. So a week later, the sun came out, the temperature rose, and the Bug indeed melted. Yet ... all that water did some bad things. Oddly enough, my dome light which had never worked before ... started working. That was nice. And my battery seems very strong (I thought it was dead). But alas, the car was wet inside and out. The dampness left it "non-operational". It would be another three days of letting it dry in the garage before it would start again.

Needless to say, I haven't been driving it. It has been raining here in Ohio for a solid week, causing all sorts of floods and car accidents. My Bug delines to be driven for the time being.

Gloop Is Back
Oh yeah, the server is back. I thought since I was reviving the server anyway, I might update the webpage a little bit. Those of you who have been dying to see "the book" will be pleased to know that I dropped a public BETA out for you all to gawk at. I'm not sure when (if ever) I will finish it. And I don't want to sit on it forever.

I also dropped a strange note on the main page about an idea for "a shop". More details will soon follow. As this idea develops, I would like to show you all what I have in mind. It's nothing more than a silly concept as of right now. But if I can find someone willing to fund it, it may become a reality. It seems our government is willing to drop several thousand dollars of loans and grants into new businesses (if you play your cards right). So ... who knows.

Stay cool people. I need to get busy and look like I am accomplishing something.

Check out!