Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Greetings from London (enroute to Kuwait)

31 May 2005

Greetings from London! Hard to believe that I'm on the way back already. I have absolutely no idea where six weeks went to. I suppose this is a relief to my supervisor, Phil. If he reads this, he'll know that I haven't jumped ship...and someone has lost a big bet!

I have this long-long layover in London of about 15 hours, so I got a room and will sleep and shower and be all refreshed for the Kuwait-Baghdad leg of the journey tonight and into tomorrow. I was scrambling yesterday looking for my hand receipt for the kevelar and flak vest as well as my new "script" for one-year of 90 day supply of BP meds. I tell you, when you're spazzing out looking for stuff, you never see it...even when it's right under your nose!

Well, after two scotches at the bar at 9am, I'm about ready for some shut-eye.

More later.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Post Script

12 May 2005

Having had the day to think about my previous entry, I remembered that I failed to explain one major point. That point being that when it comes to your health, never take anything for granted. My Dad, having died at the ripe young age of 58 never went to the doctor and never learned to take care of himself and his health. My Mom, on the other hand did go to the doctor regularly and had to in order to maintain and control her diabetes and subsequent infections. Still, she only made it past her 60th birthday. So now my sisters and I are left to ponder our own mortality and consider the lessons learned.

Don't ever be ashamed of your body and the questions you have of your doctor in the proper care and maintenance of that said body. Noone cares more about it than you do. You may have a better one awaiting you in your next reincarnation, however, Miss McClain, that is no excuse for not extending the warranty on the current model.

If your doctor is not approachable, then it is time to look for another one that is willing to work with you and listen to your questions and concerns. I am fortunate that I have been able to establish a good rapport with my doctors. Don't be afraid to blurt it out if you have specific questions. When my first doc put me on medication for my blood pressure, I researched it on the web and told them that I had concerns about the "side effects." His response was "Which side effects?" To which I responded the ones that may impact my love life.

He met me head-on and calmly responded that there are so many different medications out there now, if you have any negative reactions, there are other options. But how would I know that unless I asked him from the beginning point blank? Your doctor isn't your enemy. He wants to see you healthy and happy. He wants to feel like he has helped your condition and has helped to involve you in your own health care. But he can't ever do that without your input and without you taking the first step to address the possible problems.

Unfortunately for so many of us, we don't examine our mortality issues until we lose our parents. Because our parents and grandparents may still be living, we feel like that gives us some leeway to not expect plaque buildup in our heart valves or some reason why we can still smoke those two packs a day with no expected damage to the body. We tend to act like our parents health is something that is handed down after they go; like money in a will. Well, it ain't.

Go get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. So enough of my soapbox preaching.

No Cork in This Bat, Sammy Sosa!

12 May 2005

If you thought that my near-miss with the blue-hair was "it" on Sunday (which I did too), we all were really short-sighted! Sunday was one of those days. So I'm on my way to church (back where I grew up in Clarendon Hills about 35 miles east) on Sunday morning after my '79 Buick incident, just cruising along I-88 (and running late as usual) when traffic about 12 cars ahead comes to a screeching halt. From 75 to 10 mph in seconds flat. As I'm looking up in my rear-view mirror, all I'm seeing coming at me is a big-ass grill. Great, just what I needed this morning; an Expedition Enema! Fortunately, we were in the far left lane and he had the shoulder to pull over and properly decrease his speed (since it was too late to establish a proper following distance, idiot!)

But wait, that was only my second date with destiny. Just when I think I'm off the hook; I'm almost to church (ten minutes late) and I'm on 55th Street headed east. As I'm coming to Holmes Ave to make a left, I start to pull into the left turn lane and what should my wandering eyes see, but a car turning westbound on 55th from Holmes and using my left turn lane as an acceleration lane! All I'm seeing from where I'm at is tall blue hair over the steering wheel and beady eyes poking between the steering wheel and the dash! Maybe I should have stayed in bed this morning. Well, Granny finally acquiesces the lane in our short game of chicken and I get to church...in one piece.

The rest of the week has to be better, right? Well, it has been. Monday I had my date with the doctor. Three weeks ago, she put me on a new blood pressure med. She was going to leave me on Toprol, but as we started discussing "things", a change was needed. My Mom always taught us to be honest about sex and the doctor, so I don't blush too easily about that stuff. Doc Steph (as in Stephanie) says, "I want to double the Toprol dosage, but there may be some side effects." I says (that is the bohemian in me; drives Phil crazy when I say that too! :) ) "Well, what kind of side effects are we talking about?"

Doc Steph: "Well, ED (think Bob Dole) is one of those, but you haven't been experiencing anything like that, right?"
Me: "Actually, I have been, but it hasn't impacted my sex life too much, with me in Iraq."
Doc Steph: (her thinking I'm BSing her and wanting a Viagra cocktail) "Well, what type of symptoms are you having?"
Me: "Things getting up, but not staying up, for one."
Doc Steph: "Okay, let's switch medications then. Diovan HCT is one of the better medications out there and has very few side effects."

I'm not going to BS about my symptoms. If you can't speak candidly to your doctor, you might just as well crawl in a hole. Believe me, they have pretty much heard it all and seen it all...including your interesting body piercings and tatoos (you know, that naked woman tatoo with one leg up the inside of your arm and the other leg running down your side where her legs close together when your arm is at your side? or did you get the two faucet tatoos over your chest that say "hot" and "cold"?) that you got in Thailand on that drunken night after meeting the love of your night..er, life.

So three weeks into Diovan, my BP is great and I can honestly say that there is no cork in my bat, Sammy Sosa! All 100% wood. Now the only problem is whether Cigna will send my medications to Iraq. The Army have been real shits about providing civilian contractors any meds. They have us send some form to San Antonio only to have it get sucked into the ionosphere and we never receive the meds we need.

Doesn't matter how important of a job you hold, as a civilian, the Army has been not-so-accomodating about the med situation for us. I'm waiting right now to hear back from Cigna after a call tomorrow. I have the prescription and I may just have to take it with me and try to get regular refills at Victory. It isn't a matter of patient wellness that they are concerned with so much as a matter of Army Doctor Ego. They didn't write the Rx, so they are going to make you beg to get the med from them.

Still running this week. It's been cool and rainy the past couple of days. Looking forward to having the old neighbors from Aurora over to the house on Saturday for lunch. I've been running around with my shopping list. Bought a nice spiral-cut ham from Honey Baked Ham for the lunch. It's easy and always good. Starting to pack boxes of toiletries and books to send back to Iraq for my next season. Only 2-1/2 weeks left. I'll be ready.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Happy Ma's Day

08 May 2005

Being back in the good ole U.S. of A., one would think that you're just about safe from everything. Not so! Of course the threat from mortars, rockets and snipers aren't present here, but you still have your old blue-haired grannies to worry about. Just when you thought that you knew your biggest states-side threats were drug dealers, skin-head punks with facial jewelry and pickpockets; granny rears her big ugly blue hair!

This morning I'm out on my run at 07:30 and having a nice leisurly run out on the open farm roads with no vehicles in site and the birds just churping away. Not a worry in the world. The sun is out, it's about 58 degrees and a slight wind at about 10 mph; what better running conditions can one ask for?

Little did I know that lerking down around the bend ahead of me on the rolling cornfields there is a car; the first one since I hit Mount Hunger Road this morning. As the car approaches closer, the driver is hugging the gravel on the roadside where I'm running and starting to bear down on me like Cruella DeVille. Finally, as the maroon '79 Buick gets within 20 feet of me, this hellbent, blue-haired, nearly senile, granny about 80 years old turns the wheel ever-so-slightly to just miss catching me with her rearview mirror! Not a car, truck or horse on the road and this roadhogging motherf (oops, sorry for the Freudian keystroke) damned near runs me down like she's trying to pick up the ten pin for a spare! Any closer to the end of the road and she'd of run off into the ditch with me as her hood ornament.

Don't know who peed in her cornflakes this morning, but I guess I should count my blessings that I'm sitting in front of my computer right now and not in the ditch on grannies '79 Buick as her hood ornament. Maybe she was preoccupied with getting to church to make coffee; who knows. It was only this last December that Phil witnessed a guy get run over at Mount Hunger Road and Rt 23. The woman claims that she didn't see the guy sprawled out in the middle of the street. But with the street lamp at that corner and a 40 mph speed limit, she'd of had to have been talking on the phone or asleep at the wheel to not see a human being in the roadway. I'd say that Mount Hunger is becoming a bit more dangerous as Sycamore experiences "ring around the collar counties sprawl" (as the growth out to DeKalb county has been quoted in this mornings Chicago Tribune story.)

Anyway, got things to do today. Hope all you mothers have a great day!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Happy Cinco de Mayo

05 May 2005

Or 05/05/05 for those of you that need a drinking number or reason to tip one back! I've already had enough Margarita's for all of you since I've been here visiting in Phoenix. Yesterday Deb and I took a ride out to Goodyear just to see the area and go for a ride. It used to be out in the middle of nowhere, but not any more. Located just south of Luke AFB, this quaint little town named after the Goodyear tire and rubber company is quite the boom-town now.

While we were there, we peeked our heads into this beautiful gated adult community built by Fulton Builders. Thinking that I'd not quite be the proper age to consider a neighborhood without old non-running cars in the front yard, couches on the porch and people's snot-nosed kids around, I was pleasantly surprised that the age of acceptance here is the big 4-OH! How cool is that? Just no kids under the age of 19. But, this community might be a bit too snooty for me. With all their noses so high in the air looking down at you, it's a good thing it doesn't rain here often; you'd have more drowned over-40-year-olds than turkeys during a downpour on that turkey farm out off Route 47 back home in Illinois!

So we had a look around at the model ranch-style luxury townhomes. Prices started at $232K and went up to $475K. That is before you add air conditioning, ceramic tile, that extra garage for your golf cart, etc. Oh, did I forget to mention that this community when finished will have three (count them!) three 18 hole golf courses, one nine hole, two pools, two activity centers, a new gym complex,two softball fields, and a host of other amenities for those whose hair is still not all gray and bodies aren't completely broken down yet. I'm impressed!

Here it is Thursday morning and I'm up to my nomadic ways are once again. This time enroute back home from Phoenix to Chicago today. My visit was all too short, but I got to take care of business here with Deb and see my Gram again. I do worry about her less now that she has moved into this apartment in the retirement community. She seems more relaxed with much less stress than when I saw her the last time.

I also was nosing around a piercing place on Tuesday and Wednesday. No more tatoo's for now. Don't worry, I'm not into facial jewelry. All my piercings (except for the ear) I prefer to keep covered under my clothes. I never quite found the facial piercing thing to be for me. Although in London last summer I did see a guy who had spiked studs imbedded in his head like a rooster. It was "interesting", but I'm not going to run out and shave my head and install studs under my scalp this week. I prefer my statements to be a bit more understated and less "in your face" or my face as the case may be. Imagine me with a stud or ring through my nose? With the way my nose runs all the time, I'd have bits of kleenex hanging out off the posts all the time! Okay, sorry for that visual there... :)

And to answer your questions ahead of time...No, no problems with airport security. Body jewelry is more common (and mainstream, not exactly "vanilla", but mainstream) than you think and the professionals at the airport have probably pretty much seen it all at this point.

On the list of things to do before my commute back is; the post office to send back to me the rest of stuff sent to Deb to hold till now, visit with Gram, stop at the cemetary and visit with the "P's". At least the weather in Chicago has improved since I've left. More later. Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sweet Home Chicago

01 May 2005

Time is sure flying by so quickly. I can't hardly believe how much fun I'm having being home again. Yes, it's expensive...not so much so as London, but I'm having a great time at home. I ran a very relaxing four miles for the first time in a long time on Friday morning. I can't tell you how great it is for me. Just as I get out of the subdivision, I make a left and only two blocks later, I'm out in the middle of the corn fields of DeKalb County. Miles of rolling hills. No snipers, no mortars, no rockets whizzing overhead, no worries. Just the smell of rich black dirt and liquified cow manure! Mmmm, mmm. Can life get any better than this?

One of the things that I've found myself missing has been fresh cut flowers and live plants. Friday when I took Phil to Oak Park for his prolo treatments to his shoulders, I'd run across a florist just down the block in downtown Oak Park by the name of Kabloom. They had this beautiful dozen yellow roses in a vase with burgundy ribbon and accent flowers. Well, I couldn't resist and had a half-dozen yellow roses arranged. The thing about yellow roses is that they were always Mom's favorite color roses.

It's not the first time I've bought fresh flowers since my return and it won't be the last. I especially miss working in my plant beds here. It is still early spring and so few plants have started to bloom. I get to miss another summer season, so bringing in the cut flowers at least gives me a dose of what I'll soon be missing.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've realized a few other foods that I've missed dearly. Cottage cheese, my sugar-free yogurt, good ice cream (any brand of Dulce de Leche!), IBC Root Beer, Black Cherry and Cream Soda, a nice glass of Ruffino Reserva Ducale Chianti Classico, sugar tea ring cookies and ALMONDS! Is there any wonder here why my dog is so food-motivated. Takes after her owner.

Saturday, my buddy and his family stopped by for a visit. The nursery came and delivered and planted the eight white pines for the back yard. In ten years, we will have a virtual forrest. Then we had a dinner appointment for Saturday evening.

Phil's parents took us and his sister and brother-in-law out to a great restaurant. The name was Sal & Carvao. There are three of these Brazilian beef restaurants in the Chicago area; one downtown in Chicago, one in Schaumburg and the one we went to in Downers Grove (kiddy corner from Jimmy Buffett's Cheeseburger in Paradise). The unique thing about this place is that they have gaucho's walking around with differents meats on skewers.

You start off at the salad bar which has anything from veggies to smoked salmon to asparagus to you-name-it. Your server brings you a small plate of fresh mashed garlic potatoes and then to get meat, you have this coaster that is red on one side and green on the other. If you have the green side up, you want the meat they are bringing around. If you've had enough and need a break, you put the red side up. For as much meat as I shoved down my gullet last night, my poor stomach is going to be processing it for five days!

The key lime pie and cheese cakes are well worth saving room for. When it was all said and done, it probably ran about $60 a person with tip, but worth every cent. The service was perfect, the food was beyond comparison (except maybe a close second to Morton's Steak House).

Today, I finally caught up with an old MCI friend of mine who lives no-s0-far from me here in unincorporated Hampshire. We stopped by his house on the way home from shopping so that I could at least get his phone number. This new house of his is beautiful. It is a ranch house that sits up on top of a rolling hilly area. We have to get together for drinks after I get back from Phoenix.

Which brings me to my next adventure. Leaving for Phoenix tomorrow for a few days. Getting ready to see my little sister and Gram. She will be turning 90 this September and I need to go to see her again. While I'm there, I will make my daily visits to my parent's grave sites in Mesa, too. Graveyards are for the living and I will always find some solice in visiting them.

I still have to visit my Great Grandparent's gravesite at Bohemian National at Foster and Pulaski (formerly Crawford for you old, old Chicagoans) before I leave. G-Gram and Gramp Hadac would always take us to the cemetary every summer to pay respects, show us where our relatives are buried and tend to the sites. They would pick weeds, plant annuals and as necessary, repaint the letters on the big granite stone that marked Great Gramps parents and brother who died in the 1920's. It is nice to know where you're from; to know your history. It has always given me a sense of belonging, a sense of home here in Chicago. How can you be a fourth-generation Chicagoan and ever think about turning your back on your home?

Great Gramp told us all the stories of our history. He even told us stories from our Dad's side of the family. Like the ship the Eastland that rolled over in the Chicago River drowning over 900 people in 1915. It was a Western Electric sponsored picnic headed across Lake Michigan over to the Michigan beaches, but a failing balast system and an overloaded passenger deck allowed her to roll over on her side. Great Gram Stamm, one of her daughters (Cora) and Cora's two young children drown on the Eastland that day. They are buried at Forest Home on Des Plaines. So many of the dead from the Eastland were buried there and at Bohemian National.

Gram also told us about how Great-great Gram Ryba (nie Cessek) ran into the Chicago River during the Chicago Fire with only an apple in her hand in her efforts to escape the heat and fire. She was also the same Great Gram to die of infection in the 19-00's when she slipped on ice and injured her knee spreading coal ash on the icy sidewalk. That left Great Gram to be raised by a "wicked stepmother."

I still remember Great Gramp telling us about the tunnels under the river and the old downtown buildings used for delivering coal and stock before the "Great Chicago Flood" in 1992 when the tunnel was punctured by a company sinking new pylons in the river at Kinzie. Knowing that Great Gram should have been at the performance at the Iroquois Theater back when she was six in 1902 or 03, but fell ill the day of the ill fated theater fire when the curtains caught fire and so many women and children were trampled to death trying to get out. All because the doors opened in. Or the story of how Great Gramp met Great Gram at Bohemian school in Chicago after dipping her braided pig-tails in the ink well. Then them growing up, falling in love and being married for over 60 years.

"John, you're boring the kids. They've heard that story a million times now," Great Gram Hadac would scold Great Gramp when he would go on his journey down memory lane with Dee and me squeezed into the recliner chair next to him and on his lap. I'd pay any amount to turn back the clock and have that all back again; just for one hour with Gramp and Gram again. This is why Chicago is and always will be home.

Don't worry Mr. Lumly, I'll be back to Victory on time. Now that I've returned from out of the "way-back machine." I still have a job to do. I'll always carry Chicago in my heart, although it doesn't mean that I will always stay put here. You never hold anything as dear as when you have had the opportunity to miss it from the bottom of your heart.

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