Saturday, March 31, 2012

Busy Days Never Seem To Go Away

Just because I haven't written a great deal on the blog this past month it doesn't mean that I haven't been busy. Quite the opposite actually. My wife's condition had been steadily deteriorating day by day which meant that I was forced to pick up the slack as much as I could. My last post on the day of her surgery detailed what my days had been like so I won't rehash any of that. Suffice to say they were busy. Since then my mother in law has helped out a great deal with everything, especially our son, so that has eased some of the stress. It does appear that somehow other stress seems to find a way to get to you though. On the positive side of things my wife is getting better little by little so we can expect that in a few weeks time she'll be able to drive by herself and move around a lot better. As it is she's already starting to abandon her walker for short distances.

I also have undertaken the task of learning how to build a website for my friend Tommy's band Alloy, which you can check out here. When I say learning I mean it in every sense of the word as I have never attempted anything like this before. I haven't had so much as a single class on how to do this so instead of trying to learn html coding we decided to just use one of templates available by the company that was selected to host the site. It's been an education and the site still isn't quite where we would like it but it's getting closer. Things are starting to pick up for them too as we have been looking around town for places that they can play. In the last few days three shows have been booked and there is the promise of more on the horizon. Everything seems to be coming together for them after many years of hard work.

Then there is also the last thing on my list which has been taking up a lot of my creative time but I believe it deserves it's own post (hopefully tomorrow?) to detail just what has been going on. For that you'll have to check back to see what it is although if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you may already know. Well, that is if you've been paying attention. If however you've been living as busy an existence as me then you might have missed it. Until the next time then.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is There Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

I'm sitting in the surgery waiting room at the moment waiting to hear what room my wife will be taken to. She's in recovery after undergoing knee replacement surgery on her right knee. You might ask yourself how old is she since most people undergoing this surgery tend to be older. She's only forty but her right knee was the knee of an eighty year old. Rheumatoid arthritis has attacked her and left her with no cartilage at all in her knee. It kept getting worse and worse until she was left with no choice but to get it replaced. Luckily the doctor said everything went well and she should be pleased once she recovers. Apparently the knee was in rather nasty condition.

After she gets out of the hospital in a few days we'll settle into her rehab routine and wait for the results. At the least she will finally have some mobility back and will be able to walk without her crutches. No more will she feel trapped by her pain. Of course this does not mean she'll be able to go out and run a marathon. She still has to deal with her arthritis as it affects her other joints but at least she won't have the pain she's been dealing with for so long in her right knee. Hopefully soon she'll be able to return to work. It's been an ordeal, a little over a year ago she had a cyst descend into her left calf and it had to be operated on to remove it as well as repair a partial tear of her meniscus. These situations have been a drain not only on our finances but our lives as well.

For the past few months my routine has been to get off of work at midnight, come home and do a few chores, relax and get into bed about 2am. Then I get up at 7am and get our son ready for school. After returning home I would attend to my wife and then try to lay down for about 2 more hours of sleep. Then I would get up, put dry dishes away, wash more dishes, cook or assist her with cooking, wash more dishes, perhaps do some more chores and then take a shower and get dressed for work. Then I would pick our son up from school, bring him home and go to work. Some days I didn't even get to return to the bed for more sleep, it was just go and take care of things that couldn't be put off anymore.

My mother in law flew into town yesterday to assist us with our son and my wife in her recovery and will be with us for the next month. I'm very grateful for her coming, we get along well and it gives her a chance to see her grandson, which she doesn't get to do often. Plus she's a good cook so I know I'll be eating well. However that also means I need to be careful that I don't gain back the weight that I've lost recently. My goal now is to try to pick up some extra shifts at work or to get a part time job so that we can pay off some of our debts and get caught up on a few things that are behind. Honestly I'll be happy with just returning to some kind of normalcy in our lives. And some sleep, definitely some sleep. Wish us luck as we hope to finally be moving forward.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Frat Life 101: The Pledge Class Sneak, Part 2

Frat Life 101 is an ongoing series of stories from the author's days as a pledge and member of an Animal House style fraternity, Zeta Chapter, Sigma Tau Gamma national fraternity in Tahlequah, Oklahoma in the early to mid 80s.

The Pledge Class Sneak

The one thing we brought to the barn dance was some general mayhem. We all were wearing our fraternity pledge shirts and the other Greek organizations recognized the letters but not us or the design of our shirts. They also quickly realized that we were another type of creature altogether than what they were used to. You see, our mantra (held over from the old guard members) when going someplace out of our area was "It's okay, we're from out of town." Somehow that made our actions not only all right but completely acceptable in our eyes. We proceeded to get trashed in epic fashion and at one point I saw Gary and Keith crawling around on all fours barking like dogs and biting girls on their posteriors. They were almost daring the girls boyfriends to do something about it which they wisely declined to do.

Most attendees at the barn dance were understandably aghast at our behavior. I mean really, we were wild and unruly cavemen who cared not for rules and societal pleasantries. I can't blame them one bit for their revulsion. After a few hours had gone by we got bored and drifted outside to hang out with each other. In our estimation this party was far too tame. Two girls came out to leave but couldn't get to their car as it had been completely blocked in. They asked for our assistance with their problem and being the chivalrous gentlemen that we were we immediately agreed to help. Our help consisted of us crowding around the cars that were blocking them in and one by one be started bouncing them to the side. It's quite the sight if you've never seen anything like it.

All we had to do was rapidly push up and down in unison on the car until it stared bouncing and then start moving it to the side. It worked and the girls were amused and happy that they could leave. We also saw this as a perfect time for us to leave as well lest we overstay our welcome and suffer a mob attack of biblical proportions from the masses inside that we could possibly have offended. With those thoughts in mind we gathered everyone together, drove to the fraternity house and picked up our members. Then we made our way to our accommodations for the evening which we were assured had been prepared well in advance. That turned out to be what looked like an abandoned barn seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was fitting and par for the course but still, it offered a little bit of protection from the elements so it wasn't all bad.

The next morning we awoke and I'm sure we were a sight to see. Hungover, disheveled and unbathed we returned to town to prepare ourselves to make our way back home. In our less than perfect condition it seemed to be a longer drive than the one that had brought us here. Still, we soldiered on and piled back into the truck. When we reached the state line it was time for one last time honored tradition, a picture of the "moon." Whenever we could we would stop at the welcome or goodbye sign for any particular state and then as many as would wish would drop their trousers and flash the moon somebody else took a picture. I believe for our sneak it was termed the Six Moons Over Missouri photo. I still don't know what became of that picture or where it is today.

Eventually we pulled up to the fraternity house and staggered inside to have a few laughs with the members that didn't accompany us. Then one by one we started to disappear, most likely going to our dorm room, apartment or wherever we lived for some much needed sleep. The sneak was a success although given our condition that was a dubious distinction. This would prove to be the only sneak that I ever participated in. No pledge class after my own ever took me on their sneak. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

(Author's note: After writing this story I began to doubt if I remembered the correct university that we visited. Instead of waiting to verify it from one of my pledge class brothers I have decided to to post it and correct it later if necessary. In reality it takes nothing away form the story if I am wrong.)

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Frat Life 101: The Pledge Class Sneak

The Pledge Class Sneak

One of the requirements to complete pledgeship in Sigma Tau Gamma was the Pledge Class Sneak. Simply put the entire pledge class was to sneak out of town without being seen by a member and visit another chapter of the fraternity. Once there you called your chapter and informed them you were on your sneak and they had to guess where you had gone. You were required to take the pledge trainer and the fraternity president as well as any other members that you decided to invite. For my pledge class sneak it was decided that we would travel to Southwest Missouri State and visit the Sig Tau chapter there. In addition to the aforementioned trainer (Mark) and president (Chris) we also chose to bring along Gary and Spazz, two members that we enjoyed being around.

To make the journey Terry had put up sides and a canvas top on his flatbed pickup truck and we packed our entire class in the back. With four people sitting in the front seat that left about fourteen or so of us (my memory has faded over the years) to take up the space in the back. To put it nicely, we were packed in there like sardines along with sleeping bags, adult beverages and so forth. Mind you there was nothing extra taken that would prove to be useful, like food or a change of clothes, so you can see where our minds were. When you add in the fact that a lot of the people on this trip were consuming those adult beverages during the trip it made for an exciting ride.

I have two vivid memories of this drive. The first one was as we had just started out and were on a back road (comprised of dirt) literally sneaking out of Tahlequah. One of my pledge brothers suddenly had the urge to relieve himself and pulling over was not an option. To do so would risk delaying our departure and a remote chance of being seen thus rendering our sneak a failure. We were told that if the sneak failed we could not survive pledgeship. With a dilemma like this ingenuity is mans best friend so he leaned out the back of the truck and with two other pledge brothers holding onto his belt, he unzipped his fly and then proceeded to rid himself of his problem. Thankfully the notorious Oklahoma winds were not swirling at that time.

My second memory occurred after it had become dark. The truck pulled over on another country dirt road and Spazz drunkenly stumbled to the back of the truck saying something about Gary who was sitting next to me close to the cab of the truck. Spazz decided it would be funny to throw a cup of whatever he was drinking at Gary however in his inebriated state he completely missed Gary and got me instead. Even though I wore giant glasses at that time a large quantity of the unknown liquid somehow still ended up in my eyes which started burning immediately. As I started thrashing around yelling I recall someone telling me to relax, calm down, it was only beer but I knew that he was incorrect. Beer doesn't burn like that. It turns out it was whiskey which will burn your eyes so my reaction was decidedly appropriate.

I never did find out exactly what motivated those actions from Spazz that night and never will. He died some years later in a military flight accident. More than likely it was just a poor excuse for a joke fueled by alcohol which seemed to be a common occurrence during those years. After some time the burning subsided and the journey continued. We finally arrived at our destination and as we piled out of the back of the truck in tsunami like fashion we discovered some bad news. It seems our pledge class president had done a bad job on setting up our sneak. The chapter designated for our sneak was in their final week of pledgeship, affectionately know as Hell Week and since we were still pledges we could not go into their house and see anything that was going on.

Our membership foursome met with their members to decide what should happen in order to make sure that we fulfilled our obligations for the sneak. It was quickly decided one of their members would take us to a Greek (fraternity and sorority organizations) barn dance for Southwest Missouri State. Our members were deciding if they were going to stay at the house and "help" out with Hell Week so in the meantime we pledges decided to make the decision for them by covertly loading back into the truck in an attempt to leave them all behind and go forth on our one. What can I say, we were headstrong.

Success was in our grasp when Gary realized what was going on and he made a sudden and surprisingly fast (given his size and shape) dash to the back of the truck as Terry stomped on the gas. He managed to dive and grab ahold of the back of the truck only to be dragged behind on his knees for about ten feet until we could get Terry to understand that he had to stop. Terrified of what would happen (to us of course) we jumped out of the truck and helped Gary to stand. His pants were torn and his knees were bloody. He was dirty and disheveled but thanks partly to his inebriation he was also okay, suffering only from some surface scratches and abrasions. Water appeared and we cleaned him up and off we went with Gary in tow to the barn dance.

(Author's note: After writing this story I began to doubt if I remembered the correct university that we visited. Instead of waiting to verify it from one of my pledge class brothers I have elected to post the story and correct it later if necessary. In reality it takes nothing away from the story if I am wrong.)

To be continued..................

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Health Saga Continues

Today should have been the day for my wife to have her knee surgery. As I have stated here before the doctor's office cancelled the surgery because of a problem with her thyroid. Then they sent her to have a thyroid scan by a specialist but the specialist decided that since she had an MRI two weeks (before while she was in the ER) that the dye used would interfere with the scan so they told her to come back in one month. Here's where it gets interesting. Yesterday she went back to the doctor and they were surprised about the delay for the scan. Amazingly they told my wife that they would contact the specialist and see about going ahead with the surgery. They also took some blood so that they could see what her thyroid level was at.

Today they called and told her that they were canceling the thyroid scan and gave her three possible dates for her surgery. We have to notify them tomorrow morning for which one we choose. I fail to understand how this has come about. It was such a serious thing that they cancelled her surgery outright yet now because of the delay they want to go ahead with the surgery as soon as possible. It makes no sense to me at all. Perhaps instead of jumping the gun they could have waited a few days and this all would have worked itself out and she could have had her surgery already earlier today.

No, that makes far too much sense. Better to make decisions without all of the facts than wait until you have it all. Unfortunately now an airline ticket for her mother has already risen in price drastically which may make it too difficult for her to come. This after we lost almost one hundred dollars on her last ticket because the doctor cancelled the surgery. You've got to love the American Medical system, ineptitude at it's finest. At least we can be consoled by the thought of her finally receiving some relief from her pain and suffering. After she recovers from the surgery we'll be able to start moving forward again which is an idea long past overdue.

This is all based on the premise that the doctor doesn't do something else silly like cancel it again. With everything that's gone on so far I wouldn't put it past them. I'll keep you posted.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.