Jan 21 2014

A happy kind of pain

A few years ago while I was mourning over a recent death I went out to see my friend and mentor, The Bob. As we kicked around the farm doing random chores we took cover from the frigid January rain inside one of his many out-buildings.

Very seriously he said, “I wish I could hurt for ya, brother, but I can’t. But you will get over this.”

“Yeah,” I said non-commitally.

Then quite jovially he said, “But not as fast as I will!”

And then he burst out in big, booming laughter.

If you didn’t know The Bob, or if you didn’t know our sense of humor, you might think that to be rather cruel. In fact it was quite the opposite–it was really quite a relief.

Few things are as hurtful and angering to someone in pain as to minimize what they are experiencing. Instead of saying something like, “It’s not that bad,” The Bob’s statement was a brilliant (and morbidly hilarious) affirmation that yes, it really was that bad, yes, this was a really painful experience, and yes, it was going to be painful for a long time. Plus, he acknowledge a very simple truth: I really would eventually get past it, and he really would get over it before I would.

That kind of honesty and acknowledgement of pain was really refreshing.

Dec 13 2011

Worst. Vacation. Ever. pt. 2

Part 1 is here.

At St. Mary’s they put me on a different medicine, but my heart still wasn’t acting right, and they said they were going to have to put me under and hit me with the defibrillator to reset my heartbeat. CLEAR!

Since they had to put me under, that meant no food. It also meant no coffee. It was about lunch time now and I hadn’t had either all day. My vacation was ruined, I was starving, and I had a massive caffeine headache. I started to develop a bad attitude. On top of that the nurses came in periodically to stab me or rip some more of my arm hair or chest hair out.

Ba-bm, bum, …., BBBBM!

Later in the afternoon I had some visitors: The Bob and Bruce. Bruce had to be hospitalized for months due to a kidney tumor, a faulty heart valve, and a complication from surgery from which he literally almost died. Bob had had a heart transplant just four years before.

“Do you know how you know you have a lying heart?” The Bob asked seriously.

“Um, it’s in the Bible?” I couldn’t think of the verse. Jeremiah, maybe?

“No–it’s A-FIBBER!

Bruce and The Bob exploded with laughter. Not only was I spending my vacation in the hospital and being starved and coffee-deprived and depilated–but now I had to endure puns.

“You know,” The Bob said, “You really do have a lot to be thankful for; this could have been so much worse.”

“Yep,” I said flatly. I was trying to ignore the very audible rhythmic clockwork tick of Bruce’s mechanical heart valve.

“That sounds like mental assent instead of heart acceptance.”

“Yep,” I said again. I was in a bad mood and I didn’t want someone ruining it by counting my many blessings. And don’t get me started on Bruce. Sure, we had a lot of laughs when I visited him in the hospital, but this was entirely different.

A couple hours later the medicine finally worked its magic, and my heart started beating normally. I was finally allowed some food, but no coffee.

That night was the first–and only night so far–that I have spent in the hospital as a patient. I was awakened in the middle of the night by my roommate’s bladder, and the small circus that resulted as nurses and care assistants piled in to deal with the situation. Apparently the collective noun for nurses is a clown car.

An hour later I was awakened again so another nurse could stab me in the belly with a needle.

A couple hours later, more bladdericious fun.

The next day I had more tests–and finally–some flippin’ coffee.

Dec 10 2011

Worst. Vacation. Ever. pt. 1

“I hope you have a horrible vacation.”

Those were the last words my boss said to me two years ago before I went on what is now known as The Worst. Vacation. Ever. I posted a tiny summary of this here right after it happened. He was kidding (I think).

Now, two years later, I am finally over the bitterness so that I can tell the full story.

I spent the first day of my vacation trying to unclog the sewer and taking one of the kids to the doctor–during which the sewer backed up more than ever. After wasting my entire morning in an attempt to keep from spending my vacation fun money on a plumber, I still ended up calling the plumber. After another hour and a half he pulled some fist-sized rocks out. They appear to have been dumped down the drain by a small and terrible child.

I thought my chances at camping and floating were shot, but Heather said we still had some money, so the next day I went shopping for supplies. Sunday night I packed the car and made arrangements to pick up my brother Nube. I went to bed feeling great.

I woke up at 5 in the morning not feeling great. My heart was beating like a middle school drummer. Ba-bum. Baaaa-bm. Ba-BUM! Bbbbbbm! Besides that, it felt like my second-hand cat, Her Fat Highness (Fatty for short) was sitting on my chest.

I gave it a few minutes and then woke up Heather. Then I called the nurse hotline, who told me to go to the ER. I gave it another few minutes. Ba-ba-bum! Bum!

Heather loaded me in the car and we headed to the hospital. On the way there I prayed, and was totally at peace with what God wanted for me, whether he healed me or whether I died (though I preferred the former to the latter). Only later would I realize that God was not limited by my two polar options.

At the hospital they checked me in quickly, there not being a lot of business at 5:30 Monday morning. They ran me through the usual battery of needles and very personal questions.

They diagnosed me within maybe a half an hour–I had atrial fibrillation, also known as A-fib. A-fib is when the bottom chambers of the heart are like, “steady as she goes, easy does it,” and the top chambers are like, “LETSDOSPEEDANDSTAYUPALLNIGHTRACINGCARSANDGOINGWHEEEEEEEE!” They tried the most common medication to correct it, but it didn’t help. They didn’t have a cardiologist on staff so they were going to to have to send me to another hospital, so where did I want to go? I told them to send me to St. Mary’s since it was the closest.

They called me an ambulance, which was nice because I hadn’t gotten to ride in an ambulance since my anxiety attack four years before. The doors opened and these two kids got out. They wheeled me out on the gurney, shirtless into the cool November Missouri air. I was cold to be sure, but it’s hard to be mad at a couple of people who are still trying to go through puberty.

At St. Mary’s they put me in a room with some old man who, I would sadly find out, had the world’s most active bladder.

“Did they drive you or did you drive them?” the nurse asked me when she saw the paramedics.

“They asked me to buy ’em beer,” I replied. I don’t know where I summoned the humor.


Sep 12 2011

‘scuse me while I kiss this guy

I don’t know how long people have been mishearing lyrics to songs; I guess as long as there have been songs. Of course ‘Excuse me while I kiss this guy,’ from Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze is probably the most famous. For years a female I won’t mention thought that song in Austin Powers was Secret Asian Man, and one of my old bandmates thought that line from the Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was, ‘A girl with colitis goes by.’

My brother frequently misheard lyrics, though he tended to hear things that I won’t print on this blog. He even misheard bilingually. In Beck’s Loser, he thought for sure that soy un perdedor (I’m a loser) was soy un…something else.

A few years ago I was walking with The Bob and I mentioned the Casting Crowns song In Me.

ME: You know how it says, ‘I’d give my last breath for Your glory?’

THE BOB: Yeah.

ME: For a long time, I thought it said, ‘I’d kill my best friend for Your glory.’

THE BOB: Gulp.

Sep 5 2011

I sold my van to rock and roll

Several years ago our church purchased a new (to us) bus. We had finally outgrown our 15 passenger van, and due to the cost of insurance to even own the thing, let alone drive it, we decided to sell it. We parked it out in front of the church with a phone number and a dollar amount.

A couple of weeks passed. I was driving home from work and the pastor called me. It seems someone wanted to buy our van–sight unseen–for the full amount. All we had to do was drive it to the Ford dealership in Concordia, about 10 miles away. I called up Bruce, and we agreed to meet at the church, I’d drive the van, and he’d follow me to Concordia.

The trip there was uneventful. Concordia is a small, German town with quite a few places to eat for such a small population. I pulled into a space in front of the Ford dealership.

Walking down the street toward the dealership was an odd group of guys. Guys in skinny jeans, leather bracelets, mascara and hairspray. Then I realized they were walking toward the van. I used to hang with several bands, and none of them I knew wore their stage clothes when they weren’t on-stage.

It turns out they were members of two bands, who had been touring from the west coast in an old GMC Safari. Yes, a Safari is a minivan, and it would be uncomfortable for one band; I have no idea how they fit two bands in there. Anyway, the GMC had died and they needed a vehicle fast if they were going to continue their tour. We told them it had some problems (nothing major as far as we knew), and they told us that they needed a van, and needed one now. Bruce and I signed over the title and took a stack of hundred-dollar bills from them.

We couldn’t stop laughing on the drive home; we only wished we had thought to get a picture of our church van’s new owners.

A few months later I related this tale to The Bob, who used to attend our church.

“That’s funny,” he said, “We sold our old church bus to a rock and roll band, too.”

Jan 25 2010


A while back my friend The Bob texted me to let me know he had found the Hebrew version of my alias, MadMan, in the Bible:

Joshua 15:31 “And Ziklag, and Madmannah, and Sansannah,”

I thought that was exceedingly cool, and over the weekend I decided to look up the meaning.

It means ‘dunghill.’