Saturday, August 19, 2006

"Why Do You Hate America?"

I am getting so sick of this quote being used whenever you disagree with the current administration and its backers.
"Why do you hate America?"
"Do you want our troops to die?"
"Freedom isn't free."
The list goes on and on.
Look, I hate writing about politics. I REALLY hate it, but this trip has found me having to defend myself left and right.
As I mentioned before, my father-in-law watches Fox News for hours on end. I don't care that he does, but after a while, you get sick of hearing wild speculation about rapists, war, and more. During every segment, there was someone who disagreed with the host, and one of those questions was asked. "Why do you want America to be attacked again," was my favorite when the guest talked about how ridiculous flying regulations had become.
During my first clinical at the high school I now teach at, I met a kid who was from a poor family and struggled to graduate. He did graduate, but felt he had no other choice but to go into the Marines. Well, long story short, I recently heard from his mother that he lost his legs. It's devestating as he truly enjoyed playing basketball.
Now last night my in-laws invited their high school friends to come over and meet Poozer as well as see Mrs. Leab, who most of them haven't seen since our wedding.
Suffice to say, I was not allowed to hang out with the gals, because, well, I'm a guy. They horded my son as well, so I was supposed to spend my time with the guys.
As a side note, the gals really didn't like me, with one of them going on to tell my wife that maybe she, "could have married a nice guy from Missouri?" You can tell that she and I didn't really get along.
Off with the guys I went, but that didn't go so well either. Maybe it's because I'm a great deal more mature than these 50 year old guys. At one point the guys started discussing breasts. All of them married their high school sweethearts almost right out of high school. These were the first, and in some cases only, women they had snookered. That's not a bad thing, but my father-in-law, thanks to wife once telling him due to drunken idiocy, knew that I had been with other women, including my Ex.
"What's it like to be with gal with huge boobs?" he asked.
"Yeah," his buddy added," did you bury your head in them and have lunch?"
"It was fine. They were breasts," I replied. "I don't really think about it."
This led to me being viciously teased.
"Come on! What are you gay?" One of his friends asks me through his drunken slur.
I let the question sink in for a minute to see if he can figure out why it doesn't make sense.
Ten seconds later: "Well...are you?"
"Umm...I'm HIS daughter...and I'm here with my SON. Does that sound like someone who's gay?"
"You don't have to be so defensive."
At this point, my father-in-law makes it clear to me that "the guys" want to be alone to discuss a hunting trip they're planning. So, I can't hang with the guys, and I'm not allowed near the girls.
I went and read. The only interruption was when I was asked to change my son and discuss the classes I teach. My tactics had one of the women telling me that she would sue me for, "mental anguish."
"You can't baby the kids forever. The real world isn't as forgiving as high school," I explained.
"But YOU don't need to teach the kids that," she replies.
"Who will? You? Your husband? How will these kids learn that you WILL fail if you don't try?"
"When they get older...."
I gave up. I didn't want to argue, which my wife was thankful for.
Now to the point. Everyone came back together for the final part of the party. A friend of my F-I-L brought up the war and started talking about the "whiny liberals who are against it," and how they are, "destroying America."
I admit that this is my fault, but in the few days I have been here, I have been bombarded with uninformed right wing opinions. Regardless of whether or not you are a Democrat, a Republican, a Liberal, a Conservative, or something else (and there are major differences among all of them), you need to be informed. I'm so sick of people just taking the spoon fed bullshit from the news stations or any part of the media and just repeating it without thinking about it. I was tired, angry, and feeling upset about this student. I made the mistake and engaged.
"They aren't the only ones hurting America. Uninformed know-it-all pundits are also a problem."
"What did you say?" (we'll call him) Aaron replied.
"Look, Liberals, Conservatives, pundits...they all shoot the shit and attempt to say things to rally their side and anger the other side. It's a giant game. They couldn't care less about the troops, just making sure that THEIR side is right."
"Well...why do you hate our troops, son? Don't you know that this kind of thinking is dangerous for them?"
"This is the bullshit I'm talking about. If I said, 'I think Bush was wrong,' then I'll be asked why, 'I hate America,' by someone. I don't hate America, and I don't hate our troops. I think they've been given a shitty setup. America's deal in Iraq is like the guy who gets the girl pregnant on prom night: You shouldn't have been fucking in the first place, but now you have to do the right thing."
After a stunned silence, one of the gals asked me, "What's the right thing?"
"Either pay for the abortion or help the girl give birth."
This brought horror to the entire crowd.
"People like you are the reason our troops are getting killed in Iraq..." started Aaron.
"Why? Am I the one shooting at them? Look, I got an email today about a kid I taught and how he lost his legs over there. He shouldn't have been over there, but he was, and he got hurt. His life is probably over as his family doesn't have the money to go get prosthetics. It sucks."
I took a breath and then continued.
"And why is it if I question authority or thinking that I hate the country or hate the troops? This country was founded on someone questioning the way things were run."
"That was different," I am told
"The terrorists are WINNING! People are afraid of other people who aren't white. We can't take anythingn on planes, and we're afraid to fly. We're even tapping our own phones."
I argued for a few more minutes until my wife grabbed my arm and excused us.
"Stop," she says to me when we get to our room. "Just stop."
"No. I did nothing wrong. I'm tired of hearing this. My family has been ragged on, my thoughts have been shot down, and I have been ostracized from both groups tonight. I can play the game, but not when I have to talk about boobs or hold my tongue about how happy the troops are to be in Iraq.",
We "discussed" things for a few more minutes. I apologized to my wife, but there was no way I would to anyone else. When we returned, the party was breaking up. People were going home. No one shook my hand, no one saiad goodnight to me. My Mother-In-Law was obviously still mortified with me as she couldn't look me in the eye.
Again, I don't think I did anything really wrong, but I had to apologize to everyone today, per my wife's instructions.
This is a difficult trip. I don't have the energy to take care of my son, and keep myself in check.
Even worse? My wife and her mom have been talking about us moving down here.
The Universe hates me.
Then again, what do I know? I apparently hate America. I could be wrong.
I'm really hoping to write about something a little more uplifting soon.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I've just Landed...

in White Trash Heaven.
That might be a little harsh, but let me just convey a little story here, and you may be inclined to agree.
As you can see by reading this, my wife and I made it safely to KC. The drive was fine as Poozer slept almost the entire way (had to eat at some point). He was incredibly good and even got his parents a free candy bar at a gas station in northern Missouri, though why the woman thought an eight-week-old baby would eat a candy bar...I can't guess. Iowa...flat, boring...moving on.
My in-laws live in a small town just south of Kansas City called Raymore. This town is paired with Belton, and, not unlike Robbinsdale and Crystal, Belton has most of the businesses (a la Crystal), and Raymore is building houses and apartments like crazy (really not unlike Robbinsdale). Because of this, Raymore's property taxes are going through the roof, while Belton is having a nice little renaissance. Seeing the amount of empty houses as well as the poor quality of most of the establishments made me worry about Robbinsdale's future. If the time comes that I want to move, I hope that I won't have a problem selling "The Peach."
Incidentally, if you can stand living in Missouri, you can get a very large house cheap. My wife has a friend in Overland Park, Kansas (or as I call it Yuppie Town. Makes Maple Grove look like North Camden...make sense?) who bought a 2,500 square foot home with an attached two-car garage, two acres of land, and near a lake for...$220,000. My house is about 1,350 square feet with a new kitchen, and I'm just hoping to get around that much. Then's Kansas.
One of the things you notice right away in Raymore is Wal-Mart. It stands out against everything. It is the elephant in the room. Among the houses and super small businesses is this giant, all-encompassing building that all roads literally lead to out here. And what kind of automotive vehicle do we have predominantly out front? If you guessed large, American pickup trucks with stickers of Calvin peeing on Osama Bin Laden (or on his knees praying to a cross) get a cigar. It's a white town. This town is why White Flight was invented. While walking around with my son today, we saw one person who wasn't white. One! Even in Minnesota, I can see at least five....
So why else is this White Trash Heaven? Well, dear reader, I will admit that it's not about my wife's parents. They haven't been bad, though how anyone can watch Fox News for six hours is beyond me.
No, this is about my wife's cousin and her family.
Her cousin, who we'll call Anna, is pregnant, which would be great...if she had finished high school. That's right: Unwed, teenage mother! Just what the world needs.
Back at Christmas time, My wife's family (extended and immediate) gathered at my wife's aunt's house. Now, I had already warned my wife's aunt that her daughter's declining grades and new attitude was probably due to the fact that she was smoking Pot and possibly doing more (Long story short on that one: I was dead on. I don't have a problem with the smoking part, but anything that's a white powder is BAD, so when Coke was apparently done, I was disappointed).
My wife's cousin had to work the day after Christmas at the Waffle Hut. She would be joining us, but late. When she arrived, I saw an incredibly sad sight: a fat, greasy guy smelling of grease and wearing Elmo slippers. This was John, but he wanted everyone to call him...Bravo.
At 25, John is a real winner to be dating a then 17 year old. Seems he was the chef at the Waffle Hut at the time. Anna was a waitress there. They met over a grill, and it was lust. She wanted her mom to meet him. From the moment I laid eyes on him, my "This Guy's a Schmuck" alarm was ringing.
Seeing the two of them together, I could tell they were sleeping together. You can look at two people and watch the way they act and know what's going on. For example, people who are married and having an affair will often try not to look at each other for fear of something spilling out or just plain getting caught. These two, however, were overly touchy for him having just met her mother.

I pulled Sandy (not her real name) aside and warned her: "They're sleeping together."
"How do you know?" she asks me.

"I've worked with high school kids long enough to know. Just trust me."
She didn't. I warned her, and she didn't listen.
The reason this is important is because John got Anna pregnant. Then we started learning more about the whole thing. Some fun details:
1. John, though only 25, has been married...and divorced. She killed his dog.
2. John left a 32 year old sugar momma to be with Anna.
3. John has no ambition. He got fired from Waffle Hut...and is now a cook at Ruby Tuesday's. He feels that's good enough to get by....
4. They were each sleeping with other people, but also sleeping with each other without saying anything. Think Bob, Carol, Ted, and Alice.
With her due date only a month away, my wife's cousin has done NOTHING to prepare for the birth.
So, before leaving Minnesota, Mrs. Leab and I made a plan: we would sit them down and explain everything. The birth, the breathing, breastfeeding....The Works!
Yesterday, she came over with her mother in a foul mood. The second she saw my son, however, she lightened up.
She sat down and started talking to us for few minutes. We learned she's still smoking (I grabbed the cigarette out of her mouth and went into teacher mode, explaining to her how that hurts the kid), that she drinks five Pepsi's a day (even my sister, who is a Coca-Cola fiend, limited herself to maybe one a day), and she still hadn't looked into any classes. She is supposed to give birth in three weeks and has no idea what to do, which hospital she's going to, and if she wants to breast or bottle feed.
After throwing out the cigarette, I was banned from being near her by my wife ("I'll handle it," she says.), so I get two choices:
1. Go and setup my in-laws webcam
2. Watch Fox News and listen to my father-in-law, his brother-in-law, and friend talk about how the failing Missouri education system is the fault of the liberals. Sigh.
I set up the camera.
Anna's sister, Catie, shows up (Do I even need to say not her real name?). Catie has a crush on me. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I've never talked down to her, maybe it's because I just actually paid attention to her. I really don't know, but now that she's 15 (soon to be 16), she's a little...grabby. I had to hug her almost constantly. I'm not family. That would be like me hugging my cousin's wife...which I would do if choking were a form of hugging, and we were near a lake.
So now I have 15 year old grafted on to my side. We talk about school, about getting ready for college, and such, and then Catie's boyfriend shows up.
This is what I like about high school boys: Most of them are posers, and most of them aren't smart enough to fight back verbally.
Catie's boyfriend is named (and this is too good to fake) Qyntrel (pronounced Quinn-trail). He's a white, skater-boy who wants to be black (calls himself...a Wigger), and says things like, "You best be steppin' off my girl, G." I should mention that he drove a Trans-Am, had a pencil thin mustasche, and wore his pants almost at his knees.
I don't think he was prepared for me to laugh in his face. His eyes got big.
Catie hugged him...and then returned to me. Q, as he likes to be known, got mad. After saying something about how I "best not be trying to (something I didn't hear) his girl," he literally stepped up to me and stared in my eyes. Again, I laughed at him.
"Umm....Am I supposed to be intimidated or something?" I asked. "Are you trying to make me feel threatened? If you are, you have to understand: I've been threatened by bigger."
"Whatever..." comes the response.
I decided I would go outside and get some air. I peeled Catie off and left. I couldn't get to my son because his grandmother, mother, and cousin once (or is it twice?) removed were all over him. I wasn't going to fight.
Though sometimes slightly uncouth, my in-laws are not hicks. They take pride in their home and work hard to make it look nice. The same cannot be said of some of their neighbors. At the end of their cul-de-sac is a house with a car on cement blocks. Beyond the car, that guy was blasting Toby Keith from his garage, had a barking Rottweiler, and his car on wheels had a Confederate Flag on the rear windshield. I went back inside instead of listening to how Toby Keith loved America so much he'd screw a terrorist with a guitar...or whatever the song was about.
The sight upon my return was not pleasant. My wife's cousin was holding my son, but she was doing it absent-mindedly...and he was tipping over off her shoulder.
"Grab his head! Grab his head," I repeated frantically. A vision of my son falling over the railing and down a flight of stairs was becoming real.
"Huh?" Anna responded.
"Support his head so he doesn't fall or hurt himself!"
"Ooooh...." she says and then leans back rather than grab him. My son's face bounces right off her shoulder, which was not pleasant. He gets fussy.
Thankfully they leave, which is when my wife clues me in on everything:
1. Anna is still smoking, won't quit...we can't make her.
2. She and John will move in together in an apartment, but his mother, who is dying of Cancer, will need to move in as well as a friend of Anna's who (and I'm not kidding here) was kicked out of her house for seducing and sleeping with her stepfather.
3. When my wife attempted to explain what to expect at the hospital, Anna tuned it out, then stopped Mrs. Leab so she could complain about how her sister was stealing her fan (which is actually Catie's fan). Needless to say, my wife was in shock.
4. Anna didn't finish high school. She gave up. The problem is that without the degree, she can't really find work, and without the school, she'll have no insurance. From what I'm told, you NEED insurance to have a kid.
5. John says that he's not sure if he'll stick around, but Anna's dad has said he has his shotgun ready. The sad part is that he isn't kidding. He shotgun is sitting on his gun rack in his truck.
Oh, and my father-in-law, while talking to John about marriage, made a comment about how he couldn't believe his daughter would marry into a Liberal family. The problem is that my parents...not Liberals...not even close.
I swear I could turn this is into a great movie or book.
Though it is nice that my mother-in-law is helping with the baby. She won't let my wife nap (just talks her ear off), but the help is appreciated.
Again, I like my in-laws, but their extended family is nuts.
Then again, what do I know? I'm just the schmuck who married for love, not for family. I could be wrong.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Off to See the In-Laws...Again

I'm about to drive to Kansas City with my wife and son.
Not really happy about it, but I understand why we're doing it.
I will attempt to post while down in KC, but I promise nothing!
Back on Monday.
Please don't rob me....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Doctor, That's My Foot in Your Ass

I finally have a few minutes to sit down and write about the last few days.
Ever since my wife gave birth, she has been having trouble with a "plugged duct."
Every doctor we have seen since day one has told her that it was a
plugged milk duct.
"Don't worry. You just have to keep feeding him."
"Put ice on it."
"Put heat on it."
"Make sure you really press down on it until it's bruised. That will help get it out."
Now my wife and I were very concerned as she was getting worse and worse. We decided to go to the doctor and wouldn't leave until we got a straight answer.
During her pregnancy, we decided the baby would be born at North Memorial Hospital, because it's only five minutes away. To make this easier, we decided to go with the doctors at the Oakdale Clinic, which is part of the same hospital. Now there are seven doctors that, depending what day you go, switch off.
Doctor H is the head of the clinic now, and she is the one we have seen the most often. This is a woman who may be totally brilliant, but has no beside manner. Now my mother always told me that the colder a doctor is, the more brilliant they are likely to be. This woman is an ice queen, so she must be the best doctor ever. Or I would have thought before this.
Back to the point, on the particular day we went, we saw Doctor L. In a total reverse from the normal thinking, the men at this clinic are very nice and competent, while the women at the clinic are stone cold bitches and don't necessarily know what's going on all the time. Doc L told my wife she would need a sonogram.
One trip to the hospital later, the doctors tell her, "We have no idea what's wrong, but it's not a plugged duct. Of that I'm 100% sure."
We return to the clinic. Doctor H looks over our stuff and says, "It's a plugged duct, pure and simple."
When my wife and I protested, she told us that we were, "overreacting." It's never good when a doctor tells you you're overreacting.
"My sister-in-law had an abscess. Could this be an abscess?" my wife asked.
After a giant sigh, we were told, "No. You don't have the symptoms. Please...quit overreacting."

It's NEVER a good idea to have someone, especially a doctor, tell someone not to overreact when they have a burning sensation and a lump.
Twenty-four hours later, my wife can barely move. The pain is too great. She goes to urgent care where the doctor there tells her, "Oh...hmm. That could be an abscess, but the top part is a boil. Take these antibiotics."
My wife asks the doctor, "Can't you lacerate?"
"No," she is told, "We don't do that."
Wait...doctors don't do urgent care? What's that sir? You cut your finger off? We don't fix that at urgent care.
That night my wife cannot do anything but cry. She's in way too much pain. I am already tired, and now I'm pissed off. I call the clinic and, in my not-so-nice voice, say, "Look, my wife is in so much pain she can't stop crying. She needs to see a doctor...NOW!"
I get her an apointment with Dr. K. He's the other guy on the staff. My wife comes in to the office, Dr. K takes one look at her breast and says, "Yup, that's an abscess. Why didn't you get this taken care of?"
She relates the story to this point to him, and he says, "Oh...ummm...yeah...See this doctor (Doc M)."
After another night of taking care of my wife and my son, we go to Doc M for "the procedure." Basically, he's going to lance my wife's breast and drain it.
Now, the first thing he says to her is, "Oh, you went to urgent care...why didn't they drain it?" This causes me to grumble.
He drains the surface and then his face forms a frown. "Wow, this is DEEP! We're going to have to cut this open and drain it."
Doc M goes on to explain that it will be a simple procedure. They will make an incision, drain the breast, and then she'll be on her way.
We trudge over to the hospital (we're parked over at the clinic), and my wife is checked in and given a room.
It's a closet with a bed.
We wait an hour. The doctor is doing another surgery and isn't sure when he'll be in. My wife is almost bawling. She's really hungry, engorged, and her breast is burning ("It's like a branding iron was broken off in there," she tell me).
When they wheel her out, I am kicked out of the room. "This will take twenty minutes," Doc M tells me. "Go get your wife's medication.
I walk all the way over to North Clinic Pharmacy.
Now, I
already wrote about this at MN Speak, but the pharmacy gave me the medication without even looking at my ID. Here's the deal:
Imagine a guy walking up to your counter carrying a child and two bags. He looks like absolute hell. In a bag that looks nothing like his, he pulls out a prescription and says, "I need this filled please." He then hands you an insurance and pharmacy card with a name that cannot possibly be his. Would you fill out that prescription no questions asked? Well, they did. No questions. They just handed it to me and told me to be on my way.
It's at this point that the low point of my day starts (that's right, it got lower). As I walk out of the pharmacy, I am carrying:
My son in a car seat
A diaper bag
My wife's purse
My wife's meds

I figure I can shoot up to the car (it was on the fifth floor of the clinic), drop off her purse and meds, and then get back to my wife in time for her to be out of surgery.
After dropping the stuff off at the car, I get in the elevator and start down to the first floor to walk over to the hospital.
The elevator stops one floor above the tunnel.
"Going up?" a gentleman asks me.
"No, down. Sorry," I reply.
The door shuts, and the elevator takes off...up! Both my son and I are not prepared for this. He wakes up and puts his arms out, while I grab on to the railing as we are going up very fast. We hit the sixth floor and hear a clunk. Not a "the elevator is stopping" clunk, but more of a "and now you're going to drop and die" clunk. The elevator clunks again and stops. Suddenly the alarm button lights up...and the elevator drops. We go very quickly back all the way down.
My first thought is, "Oh hell. I'm going to die in an droll."
The next thought? "Ok, when I hear the fifth clunk, I'll have to jump and hope I time it right."
Luckily, the elevator slowed down at the bottom floor...but the doors wouldn't open. I put my son down, and forced the door open. We weren't all the way down. There was woman standing in front of the door, and she just stared at me. Never asked if she could help, just looked on slack-jawed trying to figure out what the hell I was doing getting out of an elevator that wasn't all the way down.
I ran back to the waiting room. As soon as got there, my son started crying. He wanted to eat.
What is it about a crying baby that brings out people's true personalities? I cannot help that my son started crying, and I did everything I could to keep him quiet as I warmed his bottle. How does telling someone, "I have enough annoying me at this point. I don't need YOUR crying baby," make the situation better.
I got lucky again. The guy sitting next to me was an older gentleman who told people to shut up. After the third person gave me a dirty look and made a comment, he said, "Look, we were all babies once. We ALL acted this way. Go back to your own business."
Half way through feeding my son, the doctor came out to take me back. I couldn't stop feeding Poozer, or he would start crying, so I finished feeding him first.
My wife looked terrible when I got back there. She was pale, and out of it due to the anesthetic they gave her.
"Mr. Leab?" a nurse asked.
"That would be me," I replied.
"Your wife can't drive and can barely walk. Here is a list of the things you need to do."
So, beyond just taking care of my son, I would now have to help my wife.
I walked all the way back (taking to stairs to get to the car after my elevator ride didn't go well) and picked her up. When we got home, she passed out. So did Will. I couldn't. I had to prepare bottles, my wife's meds, and her dinner.
That night I slept only about an hour, but I was functioning.
The situation, however, got worse the next morning. I had to help my wife shower and change her dressing. The gauze was IN her breast. We had to slowly peel it out. Then we discovered, much to my wife's horror, that Doc M had not made it clear what "an incision" meant. Her breast had (and, though healing, still has as of tonight) a quarter-sized hole in it. She freaked out. How could anyone not. It was a hole in her body that a finger could fit in. That's insane!
I managed to calm her down.
As of today, she's getting better. I'm just glad my parents were scheduled to visit this weekend anyway. It allowed me to nap, which I needed.
I'm pissed at the doctors right now. Let me run the laundry list:
Can't agree on the diagnosis
Horrible bedside manner
Vague or unclear on procedures
That pretty much covers what is angering me right now. I haven't slept much, but I have become a master bottle feeder to my son. That first night was horrible. Help my wife, help my son, help my wife, help my son, (take a breath) repeat.
This experience has just reinforced my feelings about doctors. There's a reason it's called "A PRACTICE." No one has all the answers. That's just how it is. I'm still shocked about picking up the prescriptions, I'm glad my wife is feeling better, and I'm hoping for a break here in the future.
Then again what do I know? I'm the guy who told a doctor to "rethink how you talk to people." I could be wrong.