Taxes and pizza

I’m up at the crack of dawn today because I am achy and don’t feel good – it’s kind of my new MO, waking up well before my alarm needing to take ibuprofen and feeling flu-ish. As soon as I’m up, it starts to fade, but it kind of sucks. I can’t decide if this is a second viral illness hot on the heels of the one I kicked last week or the same one. Really, it doesn’t matter. I just want to start feeling better soon.
taxes-412-274.jpgI’m also up early today because we’re having our taxes done at 9AM and honestly, I’m a little bit apprehensive. I really don’t have any reason to be, but ever since we had them done 2 years ago and owed more than $10,000 but less than $20,000, I will always approach the tax appointment with a little bit of anxiety. Now, I know how to handle anxiety and really, I’ve done everything I possibly can to guard against a surprise tax bill, but it still bugs me a little bit. And then there was last year, when we went to file, actually got a refund, but then got a call from H&R Block saying that my social security number had been compromised and someone had already filed using it. This started the whole process of reporting identity theft to the IRS and, while nothing untoward seemed to come from it, I guess you might see why taxes leave me a little bit uneasy.

No matter how they turn out, Heidi and I are going to lunch at Gusto’s Pizza in Des Moines afterward. If that’s not something to look forward to, I don’t know what is. I don’t even care how many calories are in it, but the Buffalo Springfield pizza is mine today.

(incidentally, today I am officially 10 pounds down from my highest weight ever. Not that the pizza will help me on that quest, but hey, I’m pretty proud of that.)

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Ctrl-“ALT”-Delete

hipster-liver (1).jpgSo I had my yearly physical last week, replete with all the labs that are required of men in their 40s. This included a fasting lipid panel, hemoglobin, fasting blood sugar and a liver enzyme known as alanine aminotransferase, ALT for short. The good news is that pretty much everything came back within normal limits. My fasting blood sugar is normal, but higher than I would like it to be, and all my cholesterol markers are well within the normal range. Statins really turned that around for me after years of false starts with diet and exercise.  ALT gets checked because in some cases, statins can cause liver damage as can Effexor, the med that I use to chronically manage my anxiety.  Sadly, my ALT came back mildly elevated. The reference range for ALT is 12-78 units/L.  Mine is 93 units/L.

The last time I had it checked was in January of 2014, prior to starting on Lipitor, is was 92 units/L.  The doctor ran a full hepatic panel at the time and it was the only liver enzyme even remotely out of whack.  Because it was still elevated two years later, he ran another hepatic panel and my AST (aspartate aminotransferase) is one point over the normal range.

Those of you that know me know that while I waited for the results of the hepatic panel yesterday, I was convinced that I had one of two things – hepatitis or liver cancer. Even though I joked about it being from too many jumbo margaritas, the little anxious voice in the back of my head wouldn’t shut off no matter how many logical conclusions I gave it. One of my strategies for dealing with those kinds of anxious thoughts is to say them out loud to other people, just so that I can hear myself say them and realize just how silly they sound. It worked for the most part.

So with the latest results, the doctor is going to run some hepatitis labs (unlikely to be that as I’ve been vaccinated against Hep B and I really don’t have any risk factors for hepatitis) as well as get an ultrasound of my liver. He is suspecting that what he’ll find is what’s known as fatty liver.  It’s not an uncommon diagnosis, and that’s something for which I definitely have some risk factors. I’m overweight (not by much, but my BMI is 30.7 which is technically obese.) I also think that my fasting blood glucose, while normal, is still concerning, which can also lead to fatty liver disease.  I do drink alcohol, but not to excess and alcoholic fatty liver disease would show up with an AST about double what my ALT is, so I’m pretty sure it’s not that.  Regardless, cutting back on alcohol never hurt anyone, so I’ll probably be doing that. Heidi said that we need to stop having Bota Boxes around because I can’t say no to the Bota Box, but I guess that’s just a good chance for me to try to practice my will power.

Ultimately, I think the culprit is sugar. Fructose is currently public enemy number one as far as diets go. I think the data is really there to support it. There’s lots of stuff online that you can read about the deleterious effects of fructose on the human body, but the bottom line is that your liver is the only organ in your body that can metabolize it.  Give it too much and it acts like alcohol and can damage your liver.  Could this be the problem?  Hard to say because I also found a meta-analysis that demonstrated that excessive calorie consumption and not fructose specifically, was more likely to cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. But meta-analyses are not how we make recommendations and I couldn’t read the entire study so your mileage may vary.

So I guess I’m not dead yet, like the some of the plague victims in Monty Python & The Holy Grail. But that’s not an excuse. I guess I get to try again at tracking calories and increasing activity.  It was something I was going to do here very soon anyway. I guess now I just have a good reason to do it.

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A lonely introvert?

As an introvert, I REALLY enjoy my quiet time. I get irritated when people sit down with me at lunch, ignoring the fact that I have headphones in my ears. I truly enjoy walking to work as it gives me the solitude that I crave and rarely get with a full family life and hectic job. But there are times that, even as an introvert, I really crave interaction. Now would be one of those times. And it never fails, that when I’m feeling this way, I can’t quite scratch that itch of interaction, no matter how hard I try.

Those are the times that I feel loneliness. I’ve always been a little bit of a weird amalgam of introvert and someone who wants and needs interaction with other people. Part of the problem is that I train people to give me my space, and then, when that space gets too big for my comfort, I reap what I sow and find myself alone.  It’s so weird, I can’t really articulate it. Maybe I am the introvert that people look at by himself and say “he must be lonely” and are actually right, even though I don’t want to admit it.

The message in this post is getting garbled, as I suspected it would.  This post is actually part of a bigger post that I’m working on and may or may not ever publish. That particular post hitting a little too close to home for me right now. Suffice to say that right now, I’m reaching out to people a lot more than I usually do which is not easy for me because it requires me putting myself out there for public evisceration.

All those posts on Facebook about introverts say that if an introvert lets you in, feel honored because they don’t let just anyone in. That’s the God’s honest truth. I spend most of my life keeping people at arm’s length because even at my advanced age, I am worried about rejection and people’s judgment of me. As Madonna says in Truth or Dare before performing in front of a hometown crowd in Detroit, “even though it’s not supposed to matter, it does matter what they think.”  I’d like to think that IDGAF most of the time, but the truth is, I do.

I guess the point of this post is to vocalize that I’m feeling lonely a lot these days, even though introverts are supposed to be energized by solitude.  The loneliness is not because I lack friends or interaction, but because I’m really not doing a very good job of taking care of myself.  My balance is off, I can feel it in just about every aspect of my life. Writing this post is kind of a way of making sure that I start taking better care of myself so that I can be a better version of myself.

It also probably means I need to go sing karaoke.

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Weather report

How often is it that you can remember what the weather was doing even a couple weeks ago, let alone a year ago or 20 years ago?  Honestly, it’s probably easier in the Internet age than it’s ever been, but I still think the weather is generally not something that most people will give a second thought once they’re through it.  There are exceptions to the rule, of course – most New Orleans residents will remember the weather in late August of 2005 and I think that most New Yorkers will remember the weekend of January 23rd/24th for quite a few years to come. But 99% of the time, I don’t remember those kinds of things. Too many song lyrics taking up valuable brain space, I guess.

So when I read this in the newsletter at work, I could only shake my head, because I remembered this very vividly, even 20 years later.

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Reading that, it sounds like a cold spell to remember, regardless, right?  But there’s another reason I remember this frigid cold so well.

January of 1996 was when Heidi and I truly began dating, however tentatively. This stretch of cold weather occurred right around the time she was introduced by a friend at my brother’s 21st birthday party as “Dan’s girlfriend.”  I still remember how we kind of looked at each other as if we were stunned by the revelation.  I also didn’t have a car then, and so Heidi drove on all of our dates. She had a yellow Buick that we affectionately referred to as “the banana” and let me tell you, I remember so well how often we sat in that car after a movie or a dinner out and shivered from head to toe because it was so cold.

When I saw that little blurb this week, I had to smile a little bit.  I’m rapidly approaching the point in my life at which I will have been with Heidi longer than I have not been with her (for those wondering, it’ll be 2018 when I turn 46.)  We were out to dinner tonight and saw an elderly couple come in to the restaurant and I said to her “that’ll be us some day, if we’re lucky.” And her response was that at this point in our lives, being old is real enough that we are very nice to old people, hoping that 40somethings will be nice to us when we’re in our 70s.

These are the kinds of details make a life, and I’m sure glad I can still remember them.

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Tamed & wild

The_Things_That_We_Are_Made_Of_DIGITAL_DOWNLOAD__32452.1454452910.1280.1280.jpgFound out today that Mary Chapin Carpenter has a new album coming out in May. This is good news, as long time readers and those that know me well know that Mary Chapin Carpenter had a profound and lasting effect on college Dan. Even though her last album of new material left me a little bit cold because it was ballad after ballad after ballad, I still was filled with the old feeling of anticipation, thinking that perhaps this time, she will not take herself too seriously.  Turns out that the opening track, “Something Tamed Something Wild” is streaming at Rolling Stone, and while it’s not the barn-burner that “On With The Song” was, it’s a plucky little song that is decidedly in second gear.  If I could embed it here, I totally would, but I guess Rolling Stone gets dibs.

This is a huge relief for me. It killed me to not really like Carpenter’s last album.  I saw her live last year and I have to say, it was the only concert I saw last year that left me a little bit disappointed.  When I initially saw the set list, I was super excited because it was filled with all of her best known songs, along with some great album tracks. The problem was, it was an acoustic set and pretty much every song was done in a slowed-down version. Even a great upbeat track like “Passionate Kisses” was turned into a dirge. I took my daughter to that show, and it was kind of her introduction to Carpenter. I’m so sad that she’ll always think of Carpenter as the woman who “put on that boring concert” than the talented singer-songwriter that she is.  While I was felt honored to be in the presence of a woman whose music has touched my life so deeply, it was hard to not want a little bit more pep in the performance.

I understand why she has been introspective and somber – her last album was written in the aftermath of surviving a pulmonary embolism and a divorce – but for the first time in my long relationship with her music, I just didn’t connect.  I’ve always loved her introspection, but she has this uncanny ability to marry that introspection with a killer hook. I’m not saying she makes it fun to feel sad, but she makes looking inward not the chore that it might otherwise be. That’s what drew me to her music in the first place, and thankfully, with “Something Tamed Something Wild” she’s managed to accomplish just that once again.

Carpenter soundtracked those lonely, depressed, and anxious years like no other artist – perhaps because she gave them a voice when I was unable to do so. No artist takes me back to that time in quite the same way that Carpenter does. You’d think someone so closely associated with feeling lousy would be someone I would never want to hear again, but you’d be wrong. Her songs were probably the only thing that kept me sane.

Which is why I took the plunge and preordered the album on vinyl. Of course, I would have done that anyway, but I splurged and ordered an autographed copy. The price is steep, but that’s not even close to the most I’ve spent on a record.

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It’ll ship on June 1, 2016 and should arrive just in time for my birthday. I’m calling it my birthday present to myself. It feels appropriate.

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Blossom’s arrival

I’ve managed to have some major vinyl scores in the last month or so. Not counting the amazing haul that Heidi bought me for Christmas, I’ve managed to finally add R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People and Annie Lennox’s Diva to my ever expanding vinyl collection. Today I received another, and this might be my favorite rare find yet.

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For those that don’t know, this is a 1981 reissue of jazz great Blossom Dearie’s debut album for Verve, which was originally released in 1956. The original pressing is rare as shit and when you do find it, it’s beyond pricey. So when I saw this reissue for $35, I didn’t even think twice.

Blossom is one of those artists that you would never expect me to like. I can remember the first time I heard a Blossom Dearie song – it was in the few months of my job and the hospital where I work had jazz music as the telephone hold music. One day, while on hold, I heard a clever little song from a baby-voiced singer about states in the USA, mostly talking about how Rhode Island was famous for you.

I wrote the lyrics down on my hand so I could look them up later – how 2004 of me! I eventually found my way to Blossom Dearie and bought the song on iTunes, probably with one of the winning Pepsi caps that people were giving me by the boatload because they didn’t know how to download music. Again, how 2004.

blossom.jpgI checked her debut album out from the library and was hooked immediately. I’m not a big jazz fan by any stretch, but this really appealed to me for some reason. I think it’s the voice, a voice that one critic described as “scarcely able to reach the second story of a doll house.” I eventually bought the CD of Blossom Dearie: The Diva Series and I spent most of the summer listening to her music – music that had been recorded 50 years prior.

Blossom died in 2009 at the age of 84. Amazingly, up until 2006, she was performing regularly at Danny’s Skylight Room in New York City, a venue that is now closed. Who wouldn’t want to go to a place called Danny’s Skylight Room? She never lost her girlish voice. I’m not sure when this was recorded, but it’s amazing.

 

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31 days in

31.jpgSo I’m 31 days in to the year, and I’m already ahead of last year’s blogging. January of 2015 saw only 5 posts, but counting this post, January of 2016 will have 10 posts, just north of 25% of the posts I need to beat last year’s total of 39 posts.  I haven’t blogged as much as I wanted to in January, but hey, I feel like I’m doing ok.  My goal with blogging this year is to try to take care of myself, giving myself the space to write more about the things I love, the things that scare me and, well, just the way that life is unfurling for me lately.

This morning I was looking at the “Facebook Memories” thing and apparently on this day in 2009, I did the “25 Random Things About Me” thing that was so popular back then. I read my contribution. But I thought I would, on this last day of January, revisit this list and see how much of it is still held true.  Most of it does, with the notable exception of having been to two more Madonna tours and I watch a  lot more hour long dramas now. Here’s the list, courtesy of 2009 Dan.


1) I hate Easter candy. Yes, I know it’s the same candy just colored in pastels or shaped into bunnies but I still hate it. I think it is probably related to too many years of too much Easter candy prior to the 6AM church service and then being very ill from all of it. That having been said, the Easter version of SweeTarts (Chicks, Ducks and Bunnies) are very cute and completely irresistible.

2) I played Santa Claus in the 6th grade music program. I was the skinniest Santa ever. There was also a scene in which I was supposed to be on the phone with someone and I put the microphone up to my ear. I couldn’t watch that part when we watched the videotape of it.

3) I have been to four of Madonna’s eight world tours. They have all been since 2001 and so far, my favorite is still The Confessions Tour. The next time she tours, I will hem and haw and say that I don’t need to go and end up going anyway. You heard it here first.

4) I didn’t drink my first beer until I was 20. It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend and I was with a couple friends of mine at Diamond Dave’s in the mall in Iowa City and I had green beer. Ever since then, it’s a bit of a tradition to have green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, although admittedly, it doesn’t happen every year.

5) While I enjoy my job and am very good at it, I refuse to have the majority of my personality defined by it. There is so much more to me than being a pharmacist. Also, pharmacists who have their identity all wrapped up in being a pharmacist annoy the living hell out of me.

6) I’m not much for hour-long TV dramas. They are too much of a time sink and I do not really have that much time to spend on them. That having been said, two of my all time favorite programs are hour-long dramas: The X-Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

7) The first time I watched The Exorcist it was on network television and edited all to hell. I was in 5th grade, but It still scared the shit out of me. I remember being under a blanket and having to close my ears because it was so scary. Even today, it’s one of the few movies that really scares me. I can’t watch it after dark and really would rather not watch it by myself. The scariest scene for me is still the scene in which Father Karras’ mother is sitting on the bed where the demon-possessed Regan had just been. I am, to this day, not able to watch that scene.

8) The first book that I was supposed to read for a class that I never finished was The Grapes of Wrath. I have still not read that book, nor do I intend to.

9) I don’t have very good memories of high school. I was not a social pariah and had plenty of friends, but it was just not a very pleasant time period in general. Being an adult is so much more fun!

10) There are only three movies that I can think of that I saw four times in the theater: Titanic, Evita, and Jurassic Park.

11) Sometimes I really wish that there would be a real zombie outbreak. While I know that the outcome would inevitably be zombie hordes swarming the planet, a part of me can’t help but be fascinated by that.

12) I am very VERY attached to my morning ritual of being on my computer for 30-40 minutes before work. During that time, I read the blogs, surf the news, read my e-mail and generally get my brain on. It is, as someone pointed out to me recently, the modern day equivalent of coffee and the paper. If I were not so attached to this, I could sleep a lot later.

13) One of my favorite things to read about is late 20th century history. It is my firm belief that we should spend more time teaching recent history to our high school students rather than spending so damn much time on stuff that happened 500 years ago. While that stuff is important, I think the knowledge gap that so many people have about the events of the last 50 years is horrible.

14) I’ve had stitches on three separate occasions. The first was when I was four and I walked into a display of address numbers at a local store, cutting my eye. The second was when my lung collapsed and they had to put a chest tube in me. The third was when a glass pipette broke in my hand when I was putting the bulb on it, gouging the broken end into my thumb. None of those instances were very much fun.

15) My lung collapse experience is still one of the more surreal experiences of my life. Most times a pneumothorax results from trauma like a stab wound or gunshot wound, but I woke up with mine. I walked around with vague chest pain all day and finally decided to go to student health to get checked out. They sent me to the hospital. I spent the weekend in the hospital. Three weeks later, I was sitting in class and felt the exact same pain, only fifty times worse. I tried to walk across campus to student health, but couldn’t make it. I had to flag down a total stranger to get me some help. The ambulance came to central campus and they put me on the gurney. I wanted them to put the sheet over me because I may as well have been dead at that point. I have stayed fully inflated ever since.

16) The only birthday party I had as a kid was when I was 7. I remember it was my 7th birthday because my mom was pregnant with my sister for it.

17) I tend to be fiercely loyal to those I consider friends.

18) I married what can pretty easily be considered my first “serious” girlfriend. That is not to say I didn’t date others, but when you know, you know.

19) My favorite book is Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. I read it on pretty much an annual basis. It is not great literature but the story is so compelling and the way it is told (second-person narrative) just sucks me in every single time.

20) I take great comfort in the doing of dishes. I jokingly refer to it as Zen and the Art of Dishwashing. When the meal is done, we gather up all the dishes and I pretty much do them on my own. This is not something that has been forced on me, but rather it is by my own design. Frequently, I’ll put my iPod on while doing the dishes and before I know it, they are all done and you have a spotless kitchen to enjoy. Inevitably though, someone comes and puts a dirty dish at the edge of the sink just as I finish up. That’s where the Zen part comes in.

21) I really do want to believe in all the paranormal things for which there is no hard evidence. A part of me does.

22) The first 45rpm single I bought was Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” That was 1981. 24 years later, in 2005, I finally saw ONJ in concert in Cedar Rapids. I went with my sister and we hit a deer on the way home. We were not hurt, but the car was totalled.

23) I have been offered chewing tobacco twice in my lifetime, once by my preceptor on a pharmacy rotation at Osco Drug in Iowa City (while at work!) and once while riding home from Tama in a tow truck pulling my sister’s totalled car after its collision with the deer. I declined both times. It’s a disgusting habit.

24) When I was in college, I thought I was going to leave Iowa immediately after graduation. It just goes to show that you can’t take the boy out of Iowa or the Iowa out of the boy.

25) I am not tagging Heidi for this – she is not interested in this meme!

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