Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hello Goodbye

This is probably the last blog I'll be posting. It's been over a month since the last one, so I think it's obvious I'm not that much into it anymore.

However, I'm still writing - more often now in fact. I've become the local Examiner for the Louisville theater scene, promoting performances, auditions and the like. Bookmark this link and read it daily -
(You'll have to copy and paste it, since the linking tool's not cooperating - or see the link in the Blogs Worth Reading column on the bottom right)

Anyone that's linked their blogs to mine, feel free to change it to this link instead. It's not a personal blog - I can always come back here for that!

Thanks to all that came along for the ride!


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Ray - Final Entry

As you can see, blogging about my weight loss has quickly become a rarity anymore. Not due to lack of trying – more like lack of anything interesting to talk about. For that reason, coupled with the fact that it’s now the end of the year, this will be the last official entry for “The Incredible Shrinking Ray”. Maybe an occaisional update when something noteworthy happens.

Two major things have impacted my efforts these last couple of weeks. If you read my previous long blog, you already know about the intestinal blockage that caused me to balloon up. My digestive tract still isn’t quite back to normal – any kind of bowel movement is a challenge. But at least it IS moving! I’ve started to add a few more fiber-related items to my diet to see if I can speed up the process more.

The other thing is just plain laziness, and my continued battle to care about losing more. A huge part of me is thrilled with all the weight lost this year, and I get into a mindset of “you’ve done enough, give yourself a break and have that Coke”. Once in a great while this is fine. But lately it’s been far more often than it should be. I’m looking forward to renewing that focus beginning January 5th – just like last year.

Why January 5th? It’s the day after my birthday, and the days before have become my own personal “Mardi Gras”. On Saturday the 3rd I plan of downing tequila and singing karaoke all night (empty calories), then on the 4th is my annual trip to the sushi bar for the all-you-can-eat special (good calories, but too many of them). The bad news is that when I weigh myself on the 5th I’m certain I’ll be way up over my current 215 lbs, but the good news is that it will drop off quickly by the time I weigh myself a week later – instant gratification!

I plan on making 2009 another weight loss year, along with renewed focus on paying off medical bills that have accumulated over the years. Frankly, I think losing weight will be the easier goal…

Quick overall review: I did not achieve my final goal – missed it by 15 lbs. However, I did come down to a weight I haven’t seen since I was 20 years old. I totally stunned my doctor at a checkup when he saw I’d lost 20 lbs since the prior visit, prompting him to say “I tell a lot of people to lose weight, but no one actually ever DOES it!” I added a few years onto my life, and I’m no longer a borderline diabetic. Finally, I just “feel” better, and look better. I still consider my efforts this year a success, and a good foundation from which to start anew.

Starting Weight: 237 lbs.
Current Weight: 215 lbs.
Total Weight Lost: 22 lbs.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm Down

(The following incredibly long blog entry is not to be read by those with weak constitutions, a general distaste of medical issues or bowel movements, or my mother due to all the dirty words. If you fall into any of those categories, I strongly suggest you stop reading now.)

I spent the days before Christmas in the hospital for an intestinal obstruction. Here is a day-by-day breakdown of the events leading up to and during the course of that stay.

Wednesday, December 17th – After work I headed to the mall to pick up a gift we’d been meaning to get, but never got around to getting. It was about as busy as I expected it to be, so I dodged between people with the nimbleness of a man half my age. Afterward, as I’m heading toward my car (intentionally setting off the alarm so I can find my grey Ford Taurus among the throng of vehicles after dark), I noticed that my stomach wasn’t too happy with me about something. I write it off to the nausea of rampant consumerism involving holidays that are supposed to be about family and not the latest Cabbage Patch kid.

I had a pretty big lunch, having filled my Fazoli’s card and getting my meal for free (a sampling of spaghetti, alfredo noodles and lasagna), so I opted for just a baked potato from Wendy’s while also getting a spicy chicken sandwich for RedFaery. Still, it didn’t sit too well on my tummy, and I turned in early hoping to sleep thru the worst of the growing discomfort.

Thursday, December 18th – I didn’t sleep very well, and I finally came to the realization at 3am that I needed to empty my stomach if I was going to even try to get some shuteye. So I wondered into the bathroom, prayed to the porcelain god, and shortly thereafter was rewarded for my efforts. For the record, when you have a tomato-based lunch, your vomit comes out a horrible shade of pink.

I moved out to the couch to not further disturb RedFaery and in hopes that the pain would ebb eventually. About 45 minutes later, I returned to the bathroom to involuntarily continue the barfing process. I honestly didn’t think there was anything left in me, and I was mostly right – nothing but clear liquids this time.

When morning comes, I let RedFaery and work know that I’m too feverish and weak to do anything but lay still and moan for the day. Meals consisted of chicken soup and Sierra Mist. I even slept a little, but not much, which was surprising since I didn’t get much the night before.

One major disappointment – despite all the barfing, my weight was up! Should have been a major clue…

Friday and Saturday – Things went back to normal for the most part. In retrospect, there were a few anomalies that I should have noticed, but didn’t.
1. I had a hell of a time sleeping. Spent both nights getting out of bed and watching TV or playing on the computer until the wee hours of the morning, and didn’t sleep extra to make up for it.
2. Didn’t eat much. I was thrilled that I was less hungry, hoping that I could shed a few more pounds.
3. I didn’t have a substantial bowel movement. I didn’t think much about it, as I often try and fail, but I’d lost track of my successes and realize (in retrospect again) that I had none.
4. Despite brushing my teeth and mouth (I brush everything), RedFaery complained about my horrible breath.

That Saturday night, my stomach started feeling “odd” – similar to Wednesday, but not similar enough for me to worry about it. We went out with friends to an Ethiopian restaurant that evening, and I happily put away a lot of tasty beef, lamb and chicken bites. The odd feeling never went away, but it didn’t hurt, so I was happy.

Sunday, December 21st – I awoke from deep slumber at 3am again, this time feeling bloated and with a sharp stomach pain. I stood up to go to the bathroom, and the sudden rush of air leaving my mouth was amazing! Think of the belching contest from “Revenge of the Nerds”, only quieter – it was as if I’d swallowed a tornado and it broke free.

And the stench was vile. I couldn’t place it at the time, but I eventually could – it was much like raw sewage.

On the crapper, nothing came out but liquid. Very acidic, and it burned.
And so I repeated the cycle every thirty minutes – stand up, belch, crap fluid, lay down. I again moved to the living room to not disturb RedFaery’s slumber more often than I had to.

By noon, the cycle was still going strong, and Red was hinting heavily that we should head to the emergency room. Being the tough guy that I am, I said something along the lines of “I’m going to gut it out”. It only took two more hours for my tough guy persona to wave the white flag and admit defeat.

Sunday, December 21st continued (Emergency Room) – RedFaery drove me to our favorite emergency room, Jewish Southside. We like it because it’s a brand-new facility and many folks don’t even know about it yet. We’ve rarely had to wait, the staff is friendly and attentive, and we get solutions instead of the runaround. This time was no different – I was taken back to triage within 15 minutes, all questions answered, and put in a bed. About 20 minutes later the doctor comes by and gives me a through exam (including the kind that involves gloves and lube, kids). Everything was so tender that I went through a wide variety of grimaces and yelps. The doctor ordered X-rays, as well as my new best friends, Phenagren for nausea and Morphine for the pain.

Apparently the Morphine dulled the pain enough so I could sleep, so this paragraph is taken from RedFaery’s observations. My snoring was so loud that it worried the nurses, and Red reminded them of my sleep apnea. To insure I didn’t stop breathing, they hooked me up to an oxygen tube. For the record, I LOVE pure oxygen! I want a canister for my birthday!

The doctor came back and broke the news – the X-ray showed a blockage in my small intestine. He wanted to admit me to the hospital for more tests to find out how serious it was. When he asked about St. Mary and Elizabeth, where RedFaery had horrible experiences, even I shook off the effects of Morphine enough to say “anywhere but there, please!” We agreed on the main Jewish branch in downtown – my mom had good treatment there herself once.

I sent Red home to wait for me to get settled into my overnight room, and gather a few things I’d need – such as my contact lens case and glasses. A short nap later, I was loaded into the ambulance and taken in. FYI – both Jewish branches have very clean ceilings!

Sunday, December 21st continued (Hospital)- Sometime after being sent up in my new home-away-from-home, my I-V was hooked up to a potassium-saline drop. This is the organic equivalent of Drano. I now had to pee in a container so they could measure everything going out as well as coming in. A little tip from your old pal Ray – never drink what appears to be lemonade while in the hospital.

After Red had dropped off all my stuff, kissed me goodnight and left (I didn’t want her to sit around and watch me do nothing – someone had to get real rest and go make money to pay for all this!), I was informed that they wanted to put a tube up my nose and into my stomach to pump out the vile bile. I halfway expected that as some point.

The doctor tried first to get it up my right nostril, and Oh My God the Pain! I kept thinking “this was the first step to mummification!” I finally had to stop her from trying because I was in tears. We agreed to give the left nostril a shot (once my breath returned), and it wasn’t much better. But after a short struggle, I felt a pop of some kind, and the tube was finally making its way down my throat. I’m still wondering about that pop, and have since determined that my nose has lost its innocence. Light a candle.

Sleep came in small bursts throughout the night, but never for long since anytime I moved, the hose up my nose would shift and cause me pain. Plus I was constantly swallowing involuntarily due to the tube. Plus a nurse would come in every three hours to check my blood pressure and temperature, so I gave up.

Monday, December 22nd – More tests today. Blood was taken, CAT scan as well. And all I can think is “My nose hurts.”

My parents came to spend the afternoon with me, which was nice. Although I don’t feel like I was that great of company for anyone really. I knew Dad had gone thru a similar experience nearly two years ago, except what came out of his stomach was green instead of brown – so at least I was sure I didn’t have pancreatitis!

They were present for the joyous moment when the doctor decided I didn’t need the nose hose anymore. She promised to pull it on a three count, but yanked on two, the BITCH! It felt like my face exploded. Mom kept a cold paper towel on my eye socket which burned with the heat of a thousand suns. But nonetheless I was happy that I could finally move my head without pain. I celebrated by popping my neck loudly.

I had many visitors over the course of the day, since RedFaery posted on the various online forums about my condition. Yevla, Elgin Marbles and Ignite the Night (who works there) all stopped in at different times of the day to make sure I wasn’t going to shuffle off this mortal coil, and for that I was extremely grateful. When Red by later, she let me know about the various well-wishings we’d both gotten throughout the day online. Always nice to know friends are thinking of you.

The doctor did come by to tell me that further tests showed that the blockage wasn’t really there anymore. So the plan was to start feeding me again to see if I blew up again. Lovely. I was told that I’d be started on a liquid diet the next day, and my stomach celebrated. Although I was getting all the nutrition I needed thru the I-V, “Warrior needs food badly!”

I’ll take a moment to talk about my two roommates, as this was the only day I’d dealt with both of them.

When I was first wheeled into my room, it was empty. I thought I was going to be the sole resident of my room, but only ten minutes later another man was brought in. Jerry Ford (not the former president – at least I don’t think so) apparently had a small stroke, and had no feeling in his left arm and weakness throughout his legs. Despite all this, he was a pleasant gentleman, and though we couldn’t see each other thru the curtain, he’d occasionally ask about my comfort (such as “My television isn’t bothering you, is it?”).

In fact, the only complaining I can remember from Jerry was a procedure they did on his hand. He must have been very Christian, because at the worst pain he felt, the harshest curse words he could muster were “Cheese and crackers!” I felt bad for his agony, but I also had to suppress laughter at the ridiculousness of those words.

By Monday the feeling had returned to his arm and he was much stronger, so he was discharged. He wished me well and left with his son, and I was glad that at least he got to get out quickly. It also made me wonder if my condition was worse than a stroke victim’s, and it made me uneasy.

Later Monday night (around 10pm), a new patient was wheeled in. His name was Mr. Hamir, pronounced ha-MIR, not “hammer” (he had to correct everyone), a Muslim originally from Pakistan. He was a diabetic that had passed out and was brought in for observation and evaluation. Eventually the decision was made to move him up from pills to insulin, and I felt bad for him.

English was his second language, so he had a difficult time letting people know his concerns, especially when it came to his dietary restrictions. But he was patient and got thru, as evidenced by a lack of complaints when meals came around.

He was discharged on Tuesday afternoon. He’d had some family visiting, and he was moving a chair back over to my side, and took a moment to wish me well and bless me with his broken English. I was genuinely touched, and returned the favor.

Tuesday, December 23rd – I woke up to find that the breakfast fairy had come and gone without leaving me anything. When the nurse came by, I asked her about the clear liquids I was supposed to be started on, and it looks like word was never communicated to the Dietary department. So she found some apple juice.

I suppose this is better put in prospective when I tell you that I dreamt of being served hamburgers, rack of lamb and pork chops. Yeah, I was bummed.

This was a long, boring day. I was feeling tons better, but had absolutely nothing to do. I took myself for a walk around the floor a couple of times, towing my I-V stand with me. Another friend, Starwolfe, stopped by for a nice long visit, but I really didn’t have a whole lot to talk about. I tried reading, but got bored, and daytime TV really blows. I wish I had a laptop.

Lunch almost came and went, but I managed to talk to the right person to make sure the doctor’s orders were followed. When my chicken broth, jello and juice arrived, I was nearly in tears with joy. I’m reminded of the Eddie Murphy comedy routine where he talks about a starving man given a saltine and it’s SO GOOD that the cracker “is a Ritz cracker, right?” That was me.

That evening was another round of liquid diet, and though I wanted something more, I was grateful for it. Then, miracle of miracles, another tray of food was brought to me, this time solid foods! I double-checked with the nutritionist, and she insisted it was for me. RedFaery smiled on from the corner when I poured ranch dressing on my little salad and started munching away.

The nurse came in, and I explained what had happened. She too was skeptical that it was mine, so I asked her to take it away from me while she went to check – I had zero willpower, and would have probably shoved it all down my throat when she left the room. Fortunately, she was back quickly and confirmed that I was supposed to have it. I savored every bite of turkey and gravy, no matter how bland.

After RedFaery was off to home and bed, I felt an old familiar pressure and wheeled my I-V into the bathroom. Sure enough, I had a solid bowel movement. I’ve since reasoned that this particular piece of shit was the original blockage, but didn’t really know it at that moment. In retrospect, I felt like a 3 year old proudly explaining to my nurse that I’d “made a doody” and describing it’s texture and color, etc., but I just wanted to make sure that they knew to keep sending food!

Later that evening, the overnight nurse asked if I wanted anything and mentioned food. Despite having essentially two dinners, I asked what she had available. When she mentioned turkey sandwiches, I said, “Ooooooo, that sounds good!” So she snagged one for me, as well as a cup of raspberry jello. I enjoyed every bite while watching “Grindhouse: Planet Terror” on the Starz network. A little later, she came by to see how I was doing. I tried subtly sneaking into the conversation that I really liked that turkey sandwich and hinted at another one, and she came right out and asked me if I did want another one, and five minutes later she handed it to me!

Nurse Whitney is an angel.

Wednesday, December 24th – I wake up to sausage, eggs and biscuits – eating is still a blessed moment in time for me.

RedFaery shows up, since work’s closed for Christmas Eve, and she gets to sit around bored with me. Our favorite activity becomes “Watch the Door to See if the Doctor is Coming”. Eventually she does come by, exclaims that the blockage must have been due to something viral or bacterial in nature, and that the antibiotics in my I-V seem to have fixed me up, and that she’s authorized my discharge.

We’re both excited, but I caution Red that it typically takes them three hours for everything to be done, so be patient. I wish I could have taken my own advice, because after an hour I was back to playing “Watch the Door” again.

Eventually they unhook me from the I-V and have me sign papers that will probably cost me $4,000 or so throughout 2009, and I get my clothes on quickly and am ready to go. Red seems to think they’ll want to wheel me out in a wheelchair, but I wasn’t waiting around to see. And just like George Throughgood, “out the door I went!”

I wanted lunch at someplace where they’d serve me food that I wouldn’t get in the hospital, and settled on mini cheeseburgers at O’Charleys. Then I went home, shaved my beard-like facial growth into my normal goatee-moustache combo, showered to get rid of that “starch and plastic smell” all over my body, and caught up my e-mails.

Despite all the travelling we’ve done the rest of the week, I’ve not felt bad once. The worst thing I’ve still dealing with is bouts of fatigue, most likely due to getting used to morning, afternoon and evening naps. No problem for me – much easier to deal with than feeling like a float at the Macy’s parade!

My nose still hurts a little…

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Ray - Weeks 46 & 47

The holidays are here! And for a while, so was extra poundage. Two big Thanksgiving meals (which I refuse to eat less of - it's just not RIGHT!), and for a while I'd jumped to 221 lbs, and averaged about 216 lbs. However, going back to my old proven methods, this morning I was miraculously back to 211 lbs!

Starting Weight: 237 lbs.
Weeks 1-46 Loss: 26 lbs.
Week 47 Loss: 0 lbs.
Current Weight: 211 lbs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thank You Girl

With Thanksgiving coming up, I thought I’d list a few things I’ve been thankful for this year. In some cases, any year!

· I’m thankful that, after all the cuts at work, I still have a job. I’m not especially pleased with many different aspects about it this year, but like George once said, “All things must pass.”
· I’m thankful that RedFaery now has a job that she enjoys, feels useful at, and has been helpful in bringing back some of her energy. Now she has plenty to talk about when we both get home, and virtually none of it has anything to do with the cats and whatever cute/annoying thing they did today.
· I’m grateful that no one close to me has died this year. No comedy spin needed here.
· I’m thankful to be in the right place at the right time to shift my creative focus from community theatre acting to producing/writing for something that may actually help pay some bills next year. Or at the least buy dinner out once in a while.
· I’m grateful for Cajun food. That will likely never, ever change.
· I’m thankful that bottled water is so cheap, considering I’m too lazy to get it out of the tap, or even a Britta water pitcher.
· I’m thankful that gas prices have gone from “unbelievably ridiculous” down to “reasonable”, and for the time being are residing at “I can’t believe I filled my tank for less than $20!” Even if it’s just for a few weeks.
· I’m thankful for Facebook, which has allowed me to get what I used to get out of LouisvilleMojo – communication with friends (some for the first time in 20 years) and a welcome diversion from bills. MySpace, however, can suck it.
· I’m thankful for online banking for saving me a few stamps and the cost of new checks. Without it, my creditors would still be wondering when they’d get paid.
· I’m thankful for hardwood floors and cats that forget about it when they get an urge to run.
· I’m thankful that after four long years, Princess has finally warmed up to me to voluntarily sit on my lap. I hope she remembers I said that when we try to trim her toenails again.
· I’m thankful that we got our new home in 2007, considering the financial crapfest that 2008 turned out to be.
· Finally, I’m thankful that I’m still alive. Whodathunkit?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Ray - Weeks 44 & 45

I have limited access to writing blogs now (smart folks can figure that one out), so I'm both about 5 days overdue AND a couple days early on recording my weight.

Went to the gym today for the first time in forever. Usually I do 30 minutes of the "fat burning" setting on the elliptical, but this time I decided to try the "cardio" setting instead. NEVER AGAIN! The first ten minutes made me regret ever having tried to exercise in my entire life! Besides, I still have fat to burn, so I'll go back to my old ways next time.

Not much loss for two weeks. Bummer.

Starting Weight: 237 lbs.
Weeks 1-44 Loss: 25 lbs.
Week 45 Loss: 1 lb.
Current Weight: 211 lbs.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mother Nature's Son

Went to rehearsal for the improv TV show - my first as writer and co-producer. Slowly the members of the various teams filtered in, including some I hadn't met as of yet. One made it a point to introduce himself to me (we'll call him "Billy" - mostly cause I can't remember his name and he looked like a young Bill Murray). Before we could launch into conversation, one of the other producers started the festivities of the evening.

Whole teams weren't there, so we had to combine people into teams of four to rehearse. Billy was assimilated into one of those teams. Over the next 2.5 hours, we ran the teams thru the new games and show format, giving our new host a real baptism of what to expect as well.

When we were done and people were clapping each other on the back and talking about their favorite moments, Billy wound up near me again. Making small talk, I ask him if he had fun, which he did. We eventually get to talking about him, and I get a little surprise.

It turns out he just kinda wandered in off the street, after blowing into town via Greyhound bus. Originally from Chicago, he decided to just start traveling around Jack Kerouac-style, peddling his tye-dye art and bedding down wherever he managed to find a couch. Immediately my alarm bells went off because I realized we was heavily hinting that he'd like me to offer my couch (something I wasn't comfortable with, and lord knows RedFaery wouldn't have been either!).

Fortunately, I was prepared to help anyway. Wayside Christian Mission was only a mere two blocks away, and they were perfect for his needs. Billy balked at the idea initially, but after the insistence of a few of us that it wasn't "too preachy", I think he realized he wasn't going to be camping at anyone's home tonight. He double-checked our directions, thanked us for the hospitality and the great time, and wandered off.

Carol was floored at the whole situation, but Scott and I took it in stride. She was saying that you can't really trust anyone to bring them off the streets into your home these days. While she's got a good point, I felt this guy was mostly harmless - other than being a tad bit of a mooch. If I were his age (I'm guessing 19), single and debt-free, I'd consider fulfilling that wanderlust too.

In other news about the show - three of the skits I planned worked well on stage, and we'll be including them. One I created - a combination of a couple of improv skits involving creating movie scenes - went over very well, and is becoming one of the "face-off" games. Really proud of that one!