My own episode of ER

Recently, I experienced my first significant medical ailment. On November 6th, late in the afternoon, I started experiencing discomfort in my lower back. I didn’t think much of it as I have had back pain several times in the past. This was a little different however. In the past, pain had been more or less central on my lower back. This time, it was definitely on the right side only and it seemed deeper inside my body than I was used to. The discomfort began to get worse and after a short time, I decided I needed to leave work early.

On the way home, the discomfort/pain rapidly got worse. By the time I arrived at my home, it was hurting quite a bit. I took an Advil and tried to lie down to relax. Normally, with back pain, I can find a position to sit or recline in that will not cause pain. This was not the case here. No matter how I moved around, the pain remained and continued to worsen. After a short time, I took a second Advil and tried to go to sleep. This proved difficult and I managed only to doze for about 20 minutes. I took a third Advil, and I immediately threw up due to the pain I was experiencing. I decided I had to go to the hospital. I got ready and drove myself over to Doctor’s Hospital ER.

After a moderately lengthy check-in, I was taken back to a hallway bed. By this point, I was sort of thinking it was a kidney problem, and the only kidney problem I really know about is kidney stones. It wasn’t long before a doctor came around to see me. He did a brief examination and decided on a course of action. He said that he’d have the nurse administer three injections, an anti-nausea medication, a narcotic pain-killer, and a second pain medication that is used for kidney stones. After a bit, the nurse came and gave me the shots. My nausea went away immediately, and the pain disappeared after only a few more minutes. Maybe an hour later a technician came to collect me and take me to get a CT scan. It was about 1:00 AM when I’d finished up with that and the doctor came back to talk about what the x-ray showed. I did indeed have a kidney stone. It was small and low in my kidney so the doctor thought it would pass during the following 12 to 24 hours. He prescribed pain medication and Flomax to dilate my vessels.

I had to hang out in the hospital until 2:30 AM because I wasn’t allowed to drive for four hours after having received my injection of pain medication. So I slept for a bit and at the appointed hour, I was allowed to leave. I stopped at Walgreen’s on the way home to pick up my prescriptions and when I finally got home at 3:30 in the morning, I went to bed. I had already called in to work letting them know I wouldn’t be there on Friday so I slept as long as my dog let me. By combining the pain medication I’d been prescribed (acetaminophen) with ibuprofen and naproxen, I made it through the weekend ok. I did try to come to work on Monday, but after a couple of hours, I had to return home.

My stone finally passed on Tuesday, the 11th; Veteran’s Day. I had thought that the painful part would be the actual expelling from the body. That didn’t hurt at all. The painful part was the stone making its way from the kidney to the bladder.

Epilogue to the story. After a couple of weeks, I received an itemized bill for the trip to the ER. The total cost for all serviced was $17,260.46. I’d already paid $100 and I still owe $280 but insurance covered the rest. So all in all, this is the first time I’ve ever been glad to have insurance, because this is the first time I’ve ever needed it.

I didn’t mind my time in the hospital. In fact, I kind of liked it. That’s surprising to me. Everyone always says they hate hospitals. Not me. Sign me up.

Spending and planning

Hmm, well, it’s already been an expensive month. I paid an expensive traffic ticket and bought a new guitar. I needed the new guitar because, although my old one still worked fine, the crack that it had developed could get worse at any time. The last thing I wanted was to open my case one day and find out that the guitar was unplayable. So I bought a new one. I chose a rather inexpensive one, but the guitar and case cost over $400. I’m glad to have the new guitar but I am sad that I will have no money.

I should be used to having no money. I definitely spend more than I should. My next purchase will be at the end of the month, or first week of January. I plan to buy an iPhone. I think it’s going to cost about $300 and I have that in my budget for January’s paycheck. Technically, I do not need a new phone. But my current phone is a couple years old and I’ve been wanting an iPhone for a while now. So this month and January will be pretty lean months. I fully expect to run out of money at least once and maybe twice. Such is my life. But I am very much looking forward to having the new phone. All the cool stuff I’ll be able to do with it.

I have been recommended to Fr. Ramon to be on the New Church Dedication Core Team. Specifically to help with the planning of music. He hasn’t approached me yet, but I certainly hope he will. I am of two minds about how to go about doing the music for the dedication. One approach would be to bring in all the ‘ringers’ we need to do a service worthy of the building. This idea has the advantage of being inclusive of all the neighboring parish musicians and is more likely to produce a full, quality sound. The other approach would be to do only what we ourselves are capable of. This would be more authentic and pastorally appropriate. I think what I’d really like to do is put together a group from the parish musicians we have, and invite those from other parishes and folks that have been involved with music ministry at St. Stanislaus in the past to participate. I think it will be tricky to balance the desire for grandeur on the one hand, and the idealized version of what the parish already does on the other hand. But I am ahead of myself. I haven’t been asked (and may not be) and all of the decision making may be out of our hands anyway. It is going to be a diocesan Mass, after all.

Status update

Well, in the month and a half since I last posted I finally got a call to interview for a job I’d applied for back in July. I didn’t get the job. It’s actually the second time I applied for this position. The first time was back in 2002. Then, the person they hired turned out to have the surliest disposition I’ve ever run across. Regardless of his qualifications, his unfriendly attitude made him unsuitable for the job, imho. I don’t know who they hired this time but I can only hope that he/she is more approachable. One funny thing that happened after I failed to get the job was that Cherrie, a woman who was on the hiring committee the first time I’d applied told me that she was sorry I didn’t get the job (this time), that she wished she’d been on the hiring committee. Well, I happen to know that she didn’t vote for me the first time around so her expressions of regret sounded rather hollow to me.

So I am stuck at this job that I pretty much hate. I can’t seem to get ahead in my financial situation. I owe everybody something. What happens when I need to pay for car maintenance? I clearly wasn’t meant to be economically comfortable. I guess there are lots of people who have it worse than me. I should shut up and count my blessings, eh?

We still have a problem with lack of communication at St. Stanislaus. We are starved for information and the parish seems content to let us go hungry. I am responsible for two Masses each weekend and it looks like I will be providing music at a third Mass which in practical terms means I am there for four Masses. Who’d have thought I would turn out to have such an overdeveloped sense of responsibility?
And it looks like I need a new guitar. But, of course, I can’t afford one. My old one is about to break so soon enough, I will not have a choice. I will have to buy one. *sigh*

The latest

I haven’t posted in quite a while. Here’s what I’m up to these days.

I’ve been taking lots of photos. I post almost all of them to my flickr page so feel free to take a look. My cousin Danny came up to help shoot an event a couple of weeks ago. It was the Edible Extravaganza. We did a couple of model photo shoots while he was here too. He and I have also been playing LOTRO a little more than we had been for almost a year. Nice!

I applied for a new job recently. The due date to turn in my application materials was July 10th. So far, they’ve done nothing about trying to fill the position. 70 days and counting. The job is the lab aide over in the Music department. I’m still hopeful.

Stuff at church has kept me busy. I am back to doing Mass on Saturday evenings again so that makes four that I am at each weekend. I am trying to cut back to two by handing off the 11:30 Mass to A) the Philippino group, B) Carmelo, and/or C) Kyle. But once we start using the new church, who knows what the Mass schedule will be! Latest I hear on that is we are hoping for Thanksgiving. First Sunday of Advent would make more sense to me, but whatever. In some ways, I am the de facto music coordinator. I’m the one that gets calls about absences and I get notified when there is information to disperse to the other musicians. I don’t get paid to do this but someone has to do it.
I may also be stepping up to fill the Deputy Grand Knight position in my local council. I am willing but not necessarily eager. I should find out in the next week or so.

New tv season is starting. I’ll post soon about the shows I am watching this year.

I’d try to think of more to write but my lunch is almost over.


It is deathly hot here in Modesto. Yesterday had a high of 109 and today is forecast to get up to 112.

Every year during this open house to hell, I start thinking of moving out of the Central Valley. And so it is that I am looking at options for a cooler clime.

For years, I’ve dreamed of moving to Vancouver, BC. But as I was thinking about it today, I realized that this is too big a hurdle to jump. As I’ve mentioned before, I am entrenched in my inertia. The very idea of moving is contrary to my nature. The idea of moving to another country… well, unless I work up to that sort of thing, it will never be more than an idea.

So then I was thinking, Seattle. Lots going for it. A friend of mine lives in Portland and she suggested that I would enjoy living there. So now I am looking into the idea of Portland. It may be that this will never be more than an exercise in imagination. To be a reality, I would need to secure a job and housing before I went up there.

How to do that from here?

Friendships do sometimes end

A couple of years ago, a woman named Alyssa came to work at MJC in the Financial Aid Department. Alyssa and I became good friends. Our friendship grew at first through numerous daily phone calls and email messages; later through much time spent together. It was a platonic relationship but a uniquely special one. Alyssa had a boyfriend, John whom I got to know, and he and I got along well. I spent many hours at Alyssa’s house. I got to know her family and in particular her sister, Kaleena. I would flirt outrageously with Kaleena but just in fun. Neither of us had any interest in the other. Weekly dinners, time spent with each other running errands, shared work environments all contributed to my friendship with Alyssa.

Although we had this great friendship, one should not be misled into thinking that there were no points on which we disagreed. There are two points that are germane to this story. Early on in our friendship, Alyssa told me that she did not believe that friendships should be work. We argued gently about this a time or two but there it was. The second thing that bears on this story is that I have a pattern or tendency to not do a very good job with long distance friendships. I have had several good friends that have moved away at the height of our friendship. Though there was a bit of effort in the beginning to maintain the friendship, it has always faded as our lives go on, now on separate tracks. I do not like this reality but I accept it. Alyssa, Kaleena, and many other people claim to be able to pick right up where they left off when they have the opportunity to see their old/distant friends. I do not possess this ability. I have a finite capacity for relationships.

So, a year ago, Alyssa decides to quit her job at MJC and move to the Bay Area to live with John. This was a very sad thing for me to have to accept. At the same time, Kaleena had announced that she was moving to Los Angeles to live with her boyfriend. To me, this effectively signaled the end of our friendships, at least the active friendships. Alyssa was my connection to her sister and the rest of her family, and with her gone, I no longer had a connection. Kaleena was also moving away and truth be told, she had never been much for reciprocating the effort that I put in to be her friend.

So neither Alyssa, nor Kaleena, nor I have really put any effort into communicating with each other since then. I’ve emailed Alyssa a couple of times and received replies but they are essentially meaningless. Kaleena ended up not moving out of town and as it turns out, it wasn’t at all important to tell me that. I always felt with her like I was the one putting in all the effort. I’d actually decided to stop to see what would happen and very predictably, I never heard from her. A couple of times, Kaleena would include me in the distribution list for a mass email she was sending out. Not exactly the personal touch but it was something. Upon receiving one of these emails from her, I would immediately respond with an offer to get together. For whatever reason, we never did. Until this last week.

She sent out one of her mass emails and I responded with an inquiry about when we might get together. After a couple of false starts, we ended up meeting at the Queen Bean on Sunday evening. The first minute or two of conversation was awkward. So much for her alleged ability to pick up right where things left off. Then she launches into a “why haven’t I or Alyssa heard from you?” She accuses me of not putting in any effort.

Let me tell you, I was pissed. The fracking phone rings both ways! My entire history with Kaleena was a one-sided effort on my part to be her friend. The only time she’d ever call me was when she needed something. Here’s an example: on Sunday she asked if I would be willing to go with her to a club here in town that caters toward an older crowd. Was she asking because she wanted to do something with me? No, no. She wants to go there to pick up on older guys and didn’t want to go alone. She would be very happy to ditch me if some sugar daddy happened along.

Anyway, as I read over this whole thing, it just looks stupid. Maybe it is stupid to have put this much thought/time into it, but it’s how I have felt and I won’t apologize for it. The reason I wrote this out is that I had posted somewhere that I had a good weekend until I saw Kaleena and one of my friends asked me about it. It would have been too hard to explain via text messages so I told him I’d post an entry to my blog about it.

Hope you enjoyed the story. 🙂

$1000 and 4 months down the drain

Well, here it is at the end of the term and time to reflect on my first semester as a junior. I really am a terrible student. I have no discipline and next to no motivation. My history class was interesting but I procrastinated way too long on the term paper and ran out of time. My research methods class was boring as can be, but easy. I should have been able to get an A in that class with very little effort. But apparently more effort than I was able to muster. I will be lucky if I pass that class. But a C appears possible.

Why am I such a failure at school? I am so lazy and as I said, undisciplined and unmotivated. I keep hoping that things will change but they never do. And neither do I.

I can see what needs to change. Why can’t I do it?

I suck.

Avoiding extremes. Where?

Jody and I were talking about Catholic Blogs this weekend. As far as I can tell, they come in two flavors; the ultra-conservative, Latin is the only language Jesus would be happy with, Gregorian Chant to the exclusion of all other music adherents, and the full-time mother writing about NFP and home-schooling.

Where are the blogs/posts that are for those of us living in the real world?

I’ve always considered myself conservative but I think I am really orthodox without being very conservative or liberal. I mean, compared to those who want to roll back everything that’s happened since the Second Vatican Counsel, I must appear to be an extreme leftie. I just want us (the Church) to follow the guidelines and rubrics as they are. One example: in the Rite of Marriage published in 1969, it says, “If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and the bridegroom. According to local custom, they may be escorted by at least their parents and the two witnesses. Meanwhile, the entrance song is sung.” When have you ever seen the bride and groom process in together? I never have. Sure, sure. People will have all sorts of reasons why they think things should be done in a certain way. For me it comes down to, “How does the Church say to do it?”

So I think I’m going to try to make at least an occasional post about what I think the Church is saying and giving my slant on what’s best where there is room for creativity.

Adam’s punishment

I am really unhappy at my job right now. Maybe I’ll have the energy to go into all the details of my dissatisfaction at some point, but not today. One factor I will mention is that the college has recently undergone a reclassification study. This is necessary every five years or so to make sure that the jobs we are doing are accurately reflected in our titles and job descriptions. There are many people who’ve been told that the job they are doing is worth more than they are currently being paid. They are the winners in this reclass lottery. I, on the other hand, have been informed that I am being paid too much for the job I do. That’s a pick-me-up.

At the same time, I am ruled by inertia. When do I ever do anything until I have to? So I may just burrow deeper into the pile of excrement that is my job and ride it out. I highly value putting in one’s time and this seems to dovetail nicely with that attitude.

Letter to the Editor

Saw this today. Third letter.

Hope for an alternative

I agree with Kim Morrison that Barack Obama would be a great president. I have hope that he can provide free health insurance for everyone.

I have hope that he can bring our soldiers home and make the world a safer place. I have hope that he can protect Americans from poverty by printing more money at the mints.

And, I have hope that he can make me a taller, more attractive, wealthier person, immune to all illnesses. The best part is that all of these will be accomplished at absolutely no cost to me.

Some skeptics would say that he can’t do these things because he hasn’t had enough leadership experience, foreign policy experience, or government experience. Some would say that Obama can’t provide for all our needs without doubling taxes. And, some would say that he hasn’t provided one piece of a specific plan to reach these goals.

Well, to those people I ask, “Where is your hope?”

All these years I’ve been creating accomplishments and gathering experience to list on my resume. From now on, I’ll just list my hopes and plans. All that work was so unnecessary.

Angie Smucker



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