Saturday, August 28, 2010

Appendectomy - 4 Days Later

My state of being, 4 days after having my laparoscopic appendectomy:
  • There is really no pain around any of my incisions.
  • The giant square they shaved on my belly to do the surgery now ITCHES like mad as the hair begins to grow back. My wife said it was this way at first for her when she started to shave her legs, but she's used to it now. I'm not going to start regularly shaving my belly, though, so I'm enduring it.
  • I finally had a bowel movement this morning ... 4 days later, which was a little disconcerting as I'm really quite regular. A little personal here, I know, but for all those scientifically inquiring minds out there, I figured I'd give a rather complete record.
  • Urinating is still preceded by a weird flash of pain, but otherwise goes normally now (no more fits and spurts).
  • My guts still seem to be reorienting themselves, as I hear some rather bizarre gurgly noises on occasion. Mid-day, after getting up from a nap, I could swear I felt something move two inches across my stomach.
  • My appetite isn't back all the way -- still about 60%.
  • I pass gas on occasion, which, apparently, is a very good thing as during laparoscopic surgery the doctors inflate you with air, and the doctors are somewhat nervous about where all that air goes in the days after surgery. Supposedly it eventually gets absorbed by the body, which is why the passing of gas is a rather important milestone. My frequency and, um, volume is down compared to pre-surgery, though, so things aren't quite normal, yet. (Again, this is for the record, people!)
  • My right and left shoulder joints hurt all the time right now. I think it's because of the aforementioned gas, some of which has migrated to my shoulder joints, and from all I've read on line, it'll go away in a day or two (I hope). This is the single most painful thing right now about my recovery, and is keeping me humble (and slightly grumpy).
  • I took a shower yesterday for the first time. It was a glorious event.
  • I still have issues, on occasion, getting enough air, and yawning deeply is a challenge for me.
  • My stomach is starting to look more like I had surgery, and the ugly green of the bruising is starting to spread out from the incisions.
  • I usually need a mid-morning nap, and some mid-afternoon solitude away from noisy kids. I feel so overwhelmed that I literally find myself fleeing to the quiet places in the house.
  • The painkiller does its job, and wears off on schedule. I'm extremely diligent about taking it, because I really notice it in my shoulders when I don't.
  • My weight is currently 2 pounds below where I was before the surgery, and I expect it to fall a little more, but with my appetite slowly recovering, we'll see.
  • My range of motion is pretty good. I'm being cautious about bending forward, and always lift with my knees, rather than with my back, but I was in the habit of doing that before. This whole thing is an excellent excuse to get the slaves -- er, the kids -- to lift everything for me.
  • Laying down is still a slight production. I always lay down by first getting on my knees, then sort of leaning to the left until I'm down. Then, depending on how I'm feeling, I'll sometimes roll to my back. If I'm feeling really well, I'll actually roll all the way to my right side. Never once have I rolled across my front. I'm not that adventurous, yet, and until the weird chest pains go away (let alone the shoulder ones, which hinder my breathing), I'm not going that far.
  • Did I mention my belly itches?!?
  • Seriously, did I mention the itching?

All in all, I feel pretty good, except for the miserable aches in my shoulders. I'll report again in another few days.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Appendicitis

Well, the title gives away the big surprise of this blog post to all my faithful readers (all 2 of you), but so be it.

It still came as a surprise to me. My wife this past weekend has been suffering from the flu, so it came as no surprise on Tuesday morning that I was feeling somewhat queasy in my stomach. Nevertheless, I wasn't "too bad" at that point, so I got up and went to work. As the day progressed, my stomach pains continued to increase in intensity. I left work slightly early (for other reasons) and went home. At that point, I was still queasy in the stomach, but I wouldn't say I was feeling nauseous in that I had no need to actually vomit.

Well, that night, I was feeling pretty bad, but went over to a scouting Court of Honor that I needed to attend. Before it even got started, though, I knew I was in bad enough shape that I should go home. So, I helped get things set up there, then left to come home.

Upon my arrival, I was still not feeling too hot, and my stomach pains continued to increase. I felt cold and clammy, and so I took the opportunity to go get in the hot bathtub. At about this same time, I asked my wife to go to the store to buy me some Pepto-Bismol, as I was feeling severe pains in my stomach area. She left, and the pains in my stomach continued to get worse.

I was so uncomfortable that even the hot bath was not helping, so I got out and headed to the computer. I remembered that my brother had had his appendix taken out and that it was a close call for him, so I've always been somewhat on the lookout for symptoms like what he had. I typed "appendicitis" into my search engine and found a list of symptoms, which seemed to match what I was experiencing pretty well.

I got dressed into some loose fitting clothes and started pacing, the intensity of the pain getting more severe. My youngest son was already asleep, my daughter was on her way, and my oldest was reading, so as soon as my wife returned to the store, I clambered into the van and told her we had to go to the hospital right now. She was a little unhappy about leaving the kids, but I knew things were not right with me, and that I had no little stomach flu.

Eventually, my wife called a wonderful neighbor of ours to go stay with our kids for the night. I knew it must have been terribly uncomfortable, but I am so very grateful for that kind woman's service.

As it was, we arrived at the E.R. at about 8:45. I was doubled over in pain, pale, sweaty, and clammy. Even so, they made us wait. And wait. And wait. For over 5 hours, we waited there before I was finally admitted. The entire time I spent rocking back and forth, trying to manage the pain. They wouldn't even consider giving me anything for the pain because I hadn't been seen by a doctor.

As it turns out, apparently on the night of the full moon everybody likes to get into auto accidents. From our perspective in the waiting room, which is separate from the ambulance entrance, we could not see all the traffic of people being wheeled in, bloodied, beaten, and bruised from other tragic events. From our perspective, looking around at the others in the waiting area, I was the only one in obvious severe pain, and even other people in the waiting area couldn't understand why they were waiting to admit me. One kind fellow, who eventually tired of the waiting and left, even offered to let me go in when they called his name. I hope he ultimately got the help he needed.

As it was, my wife and I went through multiple scenarios. I may have been admitted earlier had we called 911 arrived by ambulance. We may have been able to get in had we gone to a more-distant, but usually better managed, hospital. Several people around us joked that I needed to pass out, vomit all over the floor, or clutch my left arm and proclaim I was having heart problems. I wasn't very amused, but I appreciated the sentiment.

So it was that I pulled a chair over and placed it adjacent to another one. I crawled into it, curled into a ball, and tried to sleep. Several times I think my body just shut down, even with all the noise. There were kids crying, loud televisions (playing Animal Planet's "Monster Animals Unhooked"), and otherwise grumpy people (aggravated by their equally long -- and sometimes longer -- wait). Even with all this, I managed to sleep.

My wife, bless her, was a real trooper. She managed to keep her emotions in check. I know how she felt -- helpless. I always felt the same way when she had our babies. As it was, when the triage nurse asked me how I felt, I remembered my good wife's pains of childbirth, and told her it was an unfair question. Clearly it was not equivalent, but I ranked it as the most intense pain I had ever felt, which was a true assessment.

Well, after what felt like days, I finally managed to get admitted. They brought me in, put me on a bed, and very quickly gave me a morphine shot and something to manage nausea. All the medicines I was given, it seemed, started with the letter "z". Zoltron, Zeratul, ... something. Anyway, the morphine kicked in right away and I felt much better. The nurse was fantastic and was able to put the IV line in on the first attempt. She had a wonderful bedside manner, which was very refreshing after the stonewalling we had in the waiting room.

It wasn't too long until I was in having a C.T. scan. And not too much later that the doctor came in and indicated that yes, indeed, I did need to have my appendix removed. At this point, he could've said I was growing a third arm in my lower intestine. I didn't care, I just wanted whatever it was to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Well, I fell asleep several times for the next several hours, and my surgery was scheduled for 6 am. I was a little surprised they could do it that quickly, and at that early hour, but all the doctors and nurses seemed surprised by my surprise. It's the shift they were working, and it was all in a "days" work. They put a line in and I passed out quickly -- it wasn't really hard as I was exhausted anyway from the night of pain.

I woke up unaware of where I was and remember rubbing my head a lot trying to clear the fogginess in my mind. That didn't really work, but I eventually came to well enough to remember where I was and why I was there. I just stayed put, though, and they eventually took me to a room where I would stay for the balance of the day.

My wife had stayed long enough to talk to the doctor after the surgery, then ran home to relieve our good neighbor and friend. She stayed home the balance of the day, dealing with life with children. She later reported that the doctor told her that the surgery went very well, largely to the fact that I am fit (which made me feel really good -- losing all that weight has again helped me out in life). He was able to do the appendectomy laparoscopically, meaning that they made three tiny incisions, and used little cameras and knives to chop out the offending organ. Indeed, I have only three sets of bandaids on my belly right now, none of which are on the right side of my belly where the appendix is located, which surprised me.

All morning long, I pretty much slept. It was fitful sleep, though, as the doctors and nurses kept coming in to check on me and my room-mate, a teenager who had suffered from a major bicycle accident and was recovering from some internal injuries, had his monitors keep beeping. It seemed he was calling the nurse ever five minutes to ask for some painkillers. I was way better off than him.

In any case, it was a weird day. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Twice I woke up and had unexpected people in the room. My good friend and new bishop showed in the morning on his way to work, and my good friend and home teacher showed up in the afternoon on his way home from work. Both visited for while, and it was wonderful having them there. The latter actually left his iPad with me and I was able to watch Iron Man.

Later that morning, I spoke with the nurse, who told me that I could be released anytime I wanted to be. This surprised me, as I was sure they were going to insist on me staying a few days. When she told me this, though, I had a new mission in life, and that was to get home where I would be far more comfortable. After some consulting with my wife, we conspired to get me out at around 5 pm, and I ended up arriving at my house at 6 pm. So, 12 hours from surgery to home. Wow, you gotta love modern medicine. The nurse said she had never seen anybody go home that quickly after an appendectomy. I was honored, but just wanted to go home.

A few difficulties I still am suffering from:

* Breathing deeply still hurts.
* Eating and drinking causes me to have trouble breathing, and especially causes trouble for me when laying down.
* Laying down hurts when I lay on my right side. I can lay on my left, and sometimes on my back, but definitely NOT on my right side.
* Urinating comes in fits and spurts, and still slightly hurts.
* I still haven't had a bowel movement, and that prospect makes me a little nervous.

Once I got home, my good friend and home teachee and one of the counselors in the Elders Quorum presidency came over and gave me a very nice blessing. I was just glad to have them there. All of these good men I appreciate and respect, and I am grateful for them.

One of the sisters who visit teaches my wife brought us some dinner, too, which we all enjoyed. I can eat pretty much anything, but my appetite is still pretty small.

I was afraid to try to lay down last night, but with the pain killers that the doctor prescribed, which I am faithfully taking ever 4 hours, I was able to lay down (on my left) and slept through the night without too much difficulty. I'm pretty tired now, though, and think I'll go take a nap. With all my guts jostled around, apparently putting everything back into place is hard work.

I'm grateful for lots of things right now. Grateful to be "fit" enough that recovery looks to be fairly straightforward. Grateful for a wife and kids who are understanding and can take care of themselves while I'm working through this. Grateful that I have a good job that is not at risk because of this and where I have sick time available and patient co-workers who will make progress even in my absence. Grateful for my good friends and neighbors, especially those in my ward, who are kind and generous and have checked in to see if there's anything they could do for us. Grateful that my appendix didn't actually burst, and that this was largely a preventative measure. Grateful that we have modern medicine that makes this largely preventative measure possible, and drugs to make the recovery bearable. And that's just the short list.

Through all of this, I managed to escape the hospital without having to give a urine sample. Can't recall ever accompanying anybody to the hospital for an admissible illness or injury where that wasn't required ...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Things Are Funnier When You Don't Feel Well

Consider the following:

My oldest son was reading some jokes out of the comics and this interchange happened:

My son: "Who fixes an astronaut's car?"

Me: "I don't know."

My son: "A quantum mechanic."

Me: "Hah, that's funny. Do you know what a quantum mechanic is?"

My son: "Uh, don't they build the rockets?"

At this point, my wife, who has a really bad cold and isn't feeling well at all, starting laughing and insisted that I blog this hilarious interchange.

My son and I just looked at her, but I love my wife, so I obliged.

Hmmm ... so, yes, it's funny, but not that funny -- at least not to me. Or is it? Did I just not get it? Or is this a clear example that when one doesn't feel well, one appreciates even modestly humorous things much more?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Jury Duty Experience

In all the years I've been a registered voter (going on 18 years here ...), I had never been called for jury duty. This past May, however, I finally received the "dreaded" summons in the mail. I had seen them before when my wife received them, but she was always excused as she is the primary care provider for our children. My anxiety in opening the envelope was more about the timing of the service than the need to go. With work being somewhat chaotic, and my presence needful, jury service was likely to be not just inconvenient, but rather intrusive to my professional life.

When I opened the summons, I immediately took note of the dates: report the week of June 28th. It took me about 3 seconds to realize that serving at that time would likely impact our plans for the 4th of July, so I went ahead and called into delay my jury duty until mid-August (this week). No problems so far.

This past Sunday night, I made the call to determine if I was to report, and was surprised when I was. So many times people tell me that they end up calling in night after night, never being called in, until their week of service is finished. That was not to be my luck; I had to report on Monday.

This caused me to have to shuffle a lot of things at work. While I knew that I was supposed to do jury duty this week, I didn't actually expect to have to be present at the courthouse for the majority of the week. I had to re-schedule some things, ask others to present for me at some meetings, have others run other meetings I'm responsible for, etc. With email, I was at least able to keep a thumb on the technical interchanges, but not in a very timely fashion.

Monday came, and I arrived at the courthouse at 7:50 am, prior to the 8:15 reporting time. I went to the San Fernando Courthouse and walked up to the front doors. There, I had to go through security where they made me drop my keys, phone, and book in a bowl for being X-rayed. Everybody did it and nobody complained and the line moved swiftly. It was a downright pleasant experience compared to going through airport security.

Once inside, I made me way to the "ground" floor, which is the basement, where they had a very large room filled with chairs and people. There, I found a chair and sat. And read. And waited. For a LONG time. It wasn't until about 9:15 that somebody came and gave us our "orientation" for the day. Some of the highlights:

* We were to treat our parking tag as sacred -- a replacement would be difficult to come by.
* We were to report back to that room when we were excused by a judge to return.
* We were to no longer call the 800 number to determine if we needed to report -- now that we were there, we were to report back until instructed otherwise.
* We were not to discuss anything about the cases with anybody. Not with our friends, our kids, our spouses, our church leaders, our dogs, and most especially not with our goldfish. You never can tell about those fish -- they tend to be rather slippery.
* We were to wear our badges ALWAYS when we were in the building and the local vicinity so that the chatter-box lawyers wouldn't accidentally spill secrets they weren't to share. (Hey, it's not MY fault that lawyers have loose lips ... yet it was I who had to look like a dork wearing my badge all the time ...)
* There were plenty of places to eat in the local vicinity. The lady gave a big plug for a nearby place that, upon my later inspection, looked rather unsavory.
* We were to return any given paperwork back to them, because their budget had been cut for copies. She was clearly disgruntled about that, but, ironically, after reading the material I was no better informed, and found that I didn't need anything within it.
* We were to be paid $15 a day (wow!) plus mileage for our troubles -- except for the first day. I don't know why the first day isn't covered.
* We could be excused from jury duty for reasons X, Y, and Z; none of which applied to me.

After the lady finished talking, she invited anybody who thought they should be excused to come to the front of the room. Swarms of people went that way, and many of them eventually returned to their seats, rather than walking out the door. I drew an obvious conclusion from that, and continued reading my book.

Finally, at about 10:45, the lady announced that we could go to the 3rd floor to "Department G" where the bailiff would take charge of us. Everybody swarmed to the elevators and me and a bunch of other people headed for the stairs, only to discover that you can't get to the 3rd floor from an interior stairwell, and the exterior stairwells are emergency exits only. I sat and waited for an elevator and squished in when an otherwise full elevator of people from the ground floor arrived on the 1st floor where I was standing.

At the third floor, we all stood around looking uncomfortable waiting for something to happen. I found a chair and started reading again. Finally, at about 11:30, the bailiff came out and told us all to go in, and to take a questionnaire, which we would need later. Once inside, we were seated, he gave us some instructions, and the judge finally came in and gave some more instructions.

The judge pointed out the defendants there in the room, two young men who were charged with residential burglary and several counts of assault on one or more (couldn't really tell) police officers; it was a criminal trial. She was careful to remind us all that in the U.S., people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, so we were to think of them as innocent even as the charges were read to them, with wording that assumed guilt. An interesting dichotomy.

She read the names of the alleged victims, and asked if anybody knew any of those people or the defendants. Nobody did, surprisingly enough, particularly since I later found out that many in the room were from Santa Clarita (including myself) where the crimes supposedly took place. The two defendants did look familiar to me, but I still don't know why.

The defense lawyers, both of them, looked us all over carefully. One in particular looked at us like he was contemplating whether or not he wanted to squish us. The prosecutor, the District Attorney, was calm and collected, and later proved to have quite a sense of humor. The defense attorneys were an interesting duo -- the desire-to-squish-you one was older, dry, and tended to issue very obvious and leading questions. The other was younger, a little more quick witted, and seemed to really enjoy what he was doing.

At noon, after all these instructions, the judge finally had the court clerk call out 18 juror ID numbers. Those people came forward and were instructed to sit in one of the 12 jury seats, or one of the 6 seats in front of them.

Then ... the judge called a lunch recess and we were all to return at 1:30.

So, went off for lunch. I ate my lunch then walked around a bit, looking at the different restaurants in the area. There were quite a few, as the jury lady promised. It was boring, and I ended up going back to the hallway outside the jury room by about 12:45, where I sat and read my book some more.

1:30 came around, and I sat in the hallway and read my book. 1:45 came and went. Finally a few minutes before 2:00 the door opened and the bailiff ordered us all in. Taking a head count, the judge finally got things going.

The 18 "prospective jurors" were to read through the questions in the questionnaire, telling everybody in the room their profession, marital status, parental status, and the profession of any adults living in their household. They were also to indicate if they had prior jury experience.

After that, pages 2 and 3 of the questionnaire asked questions about whether or not they'd been victims of crimes, had committed any crimes, knew police officers, understood that they could be excused from jury duty at any time for any reason (and not to take it personally), and if they had any religious or philosophical reason for why they couldn't be on the jury. If anybody had reason why they didn't want to share their information publicly, they could speak with the judge and lawyers "privately".

As things progressed, a few patterns became apparent:

* Very few people admitted to committing a crime until pressed by the judge, who specifically asked -- in every single case -- if they had ever received a traffic citation. By the third day, people started realizing that they should admit to it right away.
* Most people had been the victims of a crime, usually a home burglary or a car break-in.
* There were a surprising number of people who were students in the room (all of whom were released so they could get to school one to two weeks later).
* Most people had friends who were in law enforcement of one type or another.

The judge regularly asked people if they could be fair to both sides, and almost everybody said yes. Those who didn't were clearly just being belligerent and wanted out of jury duty (they were all obliged). She also grilled people when they mentioned they were in a medical profession about whether or not they knew anything about bone structure, particularly in the hand and lower arm.

By this time, it was 2:20 and the judge told us to take a break and to be back at 2:40. We left to the hallway where I, surprisingly, read my book. Eventually, at about 3:10, the bailiff came out and brought us back in. The judge then let each of the lawyers take 15 minutes each to address the prospective jurors. The first was the squish-the-bug lawyer for the defense who got up and ran circles around his own questions to the point where there was only one possible way to answer. He was particularly uninspiring, almost always starting his questions with "Do you think ...", which meant that he always got a yes or no answer, and the most obvious answer to the question.

The second lawyer for the defense got up and he was much more personable. He actually cracked a joke. At one point, he was talking about the police profession and was pushing on how people tend to believe what one in their position of authority has to say. He cited this as faulty, as law enforcement officers are just regular people and are therefore subject to making mistakes and, worse, often have an incentive to lie to cover those mistakes. He indicated that their training is strictly law enforcement, and not focused on more esoteric things such as ethics and honesty. As a supporting example, he began a statement by saying, "Take for example lawyers. We are not trained to be honest ..." He trailed off, the courtroom burst into laughter, and he flushed red with a smile and a laugh. It was a faux pas, clearly unintentional (or he's a really good actor), but it was quite funny.

Without having seen any evidence, we were beginning to draw a picture of what the case was about: these two dudes were accused of burglarizing somebody's house, wrecking it in the process. At some point, the policemen apparently attempted to arrest them and the two attacked the police (it was specifically highlighted that the charges were not that they had attacked the police with a gun), and managed to injure at least one of them in the hand and arm in the process.

Every step of the way, the defense lawyers were asking questions about whether or not the potential jurors could declare their clients as innocent when there was no concrete evidence. Even the question of race was brought up, which made the potential jurors squirm.

Around 4, the judge dismissed us all with instructions to return the next day at 10:30, but be early because the security lines to get in can get crowded and she wanted to start on time.

So, the next morning, I'm there by 9:50. I sat in the hallway reading, of course. About 10:50 the bailiff finally lets us in at which point the D.A. had the opportunity to question the first panel of 18 people. Contrary to the defense lawyers, the D.A. was asking questions about whether or not the potential jurors could make up their own minds about the truth based on witness testimony, even in the absence of "CSI-style" concrete evidence. I got the impression that the case would be settled as a competition of testimony.

At the end of this questioning, the judge asked each of those who had said they wanted to visit with the judge in person to come to the back hallway with the lawyers. One by one, they there spilled whatever embarrassing information they needed to, and then returned to their seats.

At this point, the judge dismissed several of those people to return to the jury room in the basement for further instruction. At that point, the judge allowed the defense lawyers and the D.A. to excuse, in turn, one juror at a time until there was only 11 people left. At that point, the judge asked the court clerk to read off 7 more names to add to the "panel". Once seated, the fun started again with the questions answered, the judge following up, and the lawyers each getting their 15 minutes.

We broke for lunch again at noon, with instructions to return at 2 pm. I ate my lunch, and, what else? sat in the hall and read my book. At 2:20 we were let back in. Throughout the day, the show continued with a second set of 7 selected, then a third set. Towards the end of the second day, another set of 7 was to be selected, and I was finally called forward. I sat down as prospective juror #14.

I answered my questions to the judge (Yes, I've had speeding tickets and, yes, I know some police officers. How well do you know them? Quite well. Do you ever talk with them about their work? Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I do; just like most people in their profession, they are rather fond of telling stories about dumb things people do. Thank you, Prospective Juror #14.).

Then the squish-the-bug lawyer got up and had nothing to ask me. Then the other defense lawyer got up and he asked me what kind of engineer I was. He then asked me what I was reading ("In the Court of the Crimson King" by S.M. Stirling. Is it good? Quite good. Would you recommend it to me? I'd recommend it to anybody who has an interest in science fiction. Thank you.) Then he started going off on how it is in engineering that there is usually only solution to a problem, and I interrupted him and told him that I'm an engineer, not a mathematician, and that in most engineering problems there are many solutions and my job is to find an acceptable one. He moved on.

Eventually the D.A. got up. He had no questions at all for anybody. The judge excused a few more jurors and I moved to the seat of Prospective Juror #7. At that point the D.A. asserted he was happy with the jury as presently constituted, but the defense released one more juror which meant we'd have to call forward more prospective jurors the next morning.

The day ended at 4:30. On my way out, the recorder asked me the title of the book, as she hadn't caught it before. I told her and she entered it into the official record for the day. I found that amusing.

The first two days of jury selection, I had intentionally under-dressed. I hoped to not show my true nature, for whatever reason, so I wore shorts, my Star Wars T-shirt, and sandals on Monday; and jeans, a junky T-shirt, and sneakers on Tuesday. By Wednesday, since I was in seat #7 and the D.A. was happy with the jury, I was totally expecting to end up on the jury. To that end, I figured there was no sense being something I'm not, so I wore what I would normally wear to work -- business casual khaki slacks and a green and blue plaid button-down shirt. I was wearing my typical brown belt, brown work shoes, and my phone on my belt.

The next day (today), I arrived at 10:00. I sat in the hallway reading my book until 10:55 and then walked up to my seat #7, which I assumed I was going to be residing in for many days. That morning, however, when the squish-the-bug lawyer looked at me, I could tell he wasn't comfortable with me like he was the day before, but I figured there were bigger targets to remove from the jury before me. The morning progressed with the seven new prospective jurors called forth and the ensuing questioning. We broke for lunch at noon, as usual. I went to McDonalds and was hit up by two separate people for cash; being the credit card person that I am, I honestly couldn't help them.

Upon return at 1:30 (getting in at 1:45, only 15 minutes late that time ... improvement!), I took my place and the releases began with the judge releasing a few who were clearly not going to work. Then it was time for the squish-the-bug lawyer to release somebody. He hesitated only two seconds, then asked, "The defense would request that the judge thank and excuse Prospective Juror #7."

I was stunned. I stood, attempting to suppress a smirk, and strode out of the court room. I went down to the basement, picked up my release form and left.

So ended my time on jury duty.

Throughout the week, I had been vacillating on whether or not I wanted to be part of the jury. I had the feeling that I had seen these two young men before, even in the same setting, strangely enough, but couldn't place that memory. I also could easily envision them committing the crimes of which they were accused, so perhaps I was somewhat unfit for the job. Perhaps it was their demeanor -- they honestly looked and acted like guilty kids who got caught and were hoping they could weasel their way out of it. Even the demeanor of their defense lawyers spoke that they knew their clients were guilty, and their questions to the prospective jurors heavily leaned towards "well, if you can't prove they did it without any reasonable doubt, then you have to say they are innocent" rather than "these boys are innocent and it's up to you to say so".

Even so, now that I've been released, I'm somewhat relieved. I was very stressed trying to defer things at work, and was constantly checking my email and dealing with things day by day. If I had been put on the jury, that would have ultimately been fine, because I could have at least planned to be gone for a few weeks, but the intermediate state of not knowing was a burden.

It was an interesting process, and one I somewhat enjoyed, and someday I do think I'd like to serve on a jury just so I can have that experience. This time, however, it took 3 days to know it was not to be.

Ah, well. Despite the uncertainty, I really did like sleeping in ...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Two More Weeks of Summer!

I've written in this space before about my increasing disillusionment with the public school system. To that end, early this calendar year we pulled my oldest son to home school him, and we have now enrolled him in a charter school. We wanted to get the two younger children in the same place, if for no other reason than to synchronize their schedules. Having two sets of school calendars to keep was going to drive us crazy. Therefore, we put the two of them on the wait list to get in to the charter school, as well, with high hopes but a healthy cynicism that they would actually get in.

Well, yesterday I got a call from the school saying that both the younger kids also got into this school! The lady on the phone identified herself, told me that the kids had been accepted, and then proceed to start to ask me if I wanted to enroll them. I didn't even let her finish her question, and interrupted her to answer, "We'll do it!"

We are so excited. They were supposed to start school today over at the public elementary school. My youngest, in particular, was going to be in all-day kindergarten (something we did not want), so we were struggling with having them start.

With their acceptance at the charter school, though, things have changed quite a bit. My wife immediately called the other school and told them we were pulling our kids. Apparently the school were not very happy about that, as they've been struggling with enrollment. She also whirled around the house collecting all the stuff that was needed to get them enrolled at the charter school, including:

* Filled out applications to attend the school (many LONG forms to fill out)
* The kids birth certificates
* Copies of their immunization records
* Proof of our residency in the area, namely her drivers license or a utility bill

She'll be taking all this stuff over today to make it all official.

Now we have two more weeks of summer to play with all three of the kids. This is wonderful, and I greatly look forward to it.

To top it all off, today is my birthday. Since I need to be at work, we're kind of stretching out the birthday celebrations all weekend. Yesterday we went out to eat for dinner, today we'll be having birthday cake, Friday we'll be going to the beach to use my birthday present, the kayak we bought a few months back. Saturday, my wife arranged for us to go to a Harry Connick, Jr. concert at the Hollywood Bowl (many thanks to our good friends in the ward, who made that possible!). And Sunday is stake conference at church, so I get to spend nearly the whole day with my family.

Awesome.

I think most normal parents can't wait for school to start so they can get the kids out from under foot. While we do have some of those feelings, we actually have felt unprepared about the whole thing, and weren't quite mentally ready to send them off. Having those extra few weeks will be much better!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Spaghettify

My oldest son made up a new word today:

Spaghettification: The act of being made into spaghetti, usually while being sucked into a black hole. Other forms: v. spaghettify, adv. spaghettified, n. spaghettifier.

Awesome.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Unhappy Day Today

Unhappy day today. Even with a majority of people agreeing with me, I've just learned that it is not okay for me to believe that an institution that has been around for millennia should remain as it is, because there is a small minority of people who want to redefine it to include relationships that are by their very nature characterized by behavior that I consider to be sinful (along with pretty much everybody that follows any world religion). Marriage has been hijacked and the collective will of the people flaunted. Unhappy day.

Judge overturns California's ban on same-sex marriage

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bucket List

I found this list on somebody's Facebook page, and as I started reading through it, I realized that I've actually done quite a few things on the list. Does this mean I'm near to "kicking the bucket"? I certainly hope not!

Anyway, so the list is as follows, with items I've done marked with an "X" and items I have not listed with a zero:

(0) Gone on a blind date (Somehow I've never done this. My wife'd be miffed if I tried to do that now, too ... so this will have to be left undone.)
(X) Skipped school (don't let my kids see this!)
(0) Watched someone die (I'm going to mark this "no", even though I've seen people die on video -- disturbing)
(X) Been to Canada
(X) Been to Mexico
(0) Been to Florida
(X) Been to Hawaii
(X) Flown in a plane
(0) Flown in a helicopter
(X) Been lost
(X) Gone to Washington, DC
(X) Swam in the ocean
(X) Cried yourself to sleep (oh, those teenage years ...)
(X) Played cops and robbers (oh, those pre-teen years ...)
(X) Recently colored with crayons (with my kids, okay?)
(X) Sang Karaoke (ditto, and I don't like it)
(X) Paid for a meal with coins only (once bought pizza with pennies)
(0) Been to the top of the St. Louis Arch
(X) Done something you told yourself you wouldn't
(X) Made prank phone calls
(0) Been down Bourbon Street in New Orleans
(X) Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose & elsewhere (the nose, yes, but elsewhere? no, not really)
(X) Been to the top of a 100+ story building (the Empire State Building)
(X) Caught a snowflake on your tongue
(0) Danced in the rain-naked (hmm ...)
(X) Been skinny-dipping (my parents owned a pool, okay?!)
(X) Written a letter to Santa Claus
(X) Been kissed under the mistletoe
(X) Watched the sunrise with someone
(X) Blown bubbles
(X) Gone ice-skating
(X) Gone to the movies
(0) Been deep sea fishing
(0) Driven across the United States
(0) Been in a hot air balloon
(0) Been sky diving (my wife forbids it ...)
(X) Gone snowmobiling
(0) Lived in more than one country
(X) Lay down outside at night and admired the stars while listening to the crickets
(X) Seen a falling star and made a wish
(X) Enjoyed the beauty of Old Faithful Geyser
(X) Seen the Statue of Liberty
(0) Gone to the top of Seattle Space Needle
(X) Been on a cruise
(X) Traveled by train (light rail counts, doesn't it?)
(0) Traveled by motorcycle
(X) Been horse back riding (as a kid ... it's been a LONG time)
(X) Ridden on a San Francisco CABLE CAR
(0) Been to Disney World
(X) Truly believe in the power of prayer
(0) Been in a rain forest
(0) Gone Scuba Diving
(X) Been to Niagara Falls (as a baby)
(0) Ridden on an elephant
(0) Swam with dolphins (technically, swimming in the ocean with dolphins nearby counts, I would think, but I'm marking this 0, as it wasn't deliberate)
(0) Been to the Olympics
(0) Walked on the Great Wall of China (REALLY want to do this one ...)
(0) Flown in a Glider (ditto)
(X) Been water-skiing (love it)
(X) Been snow-skiing (don't love it)
(X) Been to Westminster Abbey (awesome)
(0) Been to the Louvre
(0) Swam in the Mediterranean
(X) Been to a Major League Baseball game (go Dodgers!)
(0) Been to a National Football League game
(0) Been to the SuperBowl
(X) Been on television ("Go" for launch!)
(X) Stayed in a hotel by yourself (very restful)
(X) Had your name in the newspaper (helps to be from a small town ...)
(X) Have gone to a restaurant and eaten by yourself (very calming)
(X) Have gone to the movies by yourself (very peaceful)
(X) Kissed someone IN another country (love my wife!)
(X) Can speak another language, besides English (I'm marking this with an "X", as I can do minimal French)
(0) Have had knee surgery
(0) Have run a marathon

You know, some of these I actually intend to do someday. Some of the others I intend to skip. Knee surgery? Watch someone die?! Really? Don't think I want to. Even so, 47 out of 75 ain't bad, though (62.6%!). And I think I still have plenty of time!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Calling: Young Men's 1st Counselor

I was sustained and set apart today in my new calling. Officially, the calling is actually three callings: 1st Counselor to the Young Men's President, Assistant Varsity Scout Coach, and Teachers Quorum Advisor.

The first one means that I'm supposed to provide counsel to the president of the Young Men's, who is also new in his calling. He's been in the program for a while, though, having been moved from being the 2nd counselor to being the president. He also just happens to be an ex-stake president, and has had plenty of boys in the program -- he's well-qualified. In practice, though, it mostly means that I am to teach the boys, all of whom are between 14 and 16 years of age, during Sunday meetings. I am also supposed to encourage them in their Duty to God program, which is currently being revamped.

The second one means that I'm supposed to help the Varsity Scout Coach, the adult leader of the boys during the weekday activities that they have. This particular age group is in between as far as scouting is concerned: old enough that many of them are already Eagle Scouts, but young enough to still be interested. Even better, they're old enough to do a lot of the "high adventure" stuff. In fact, the boys just got back from hiking along the rim of Zion's Canyon, which was an amazing experience for all of them, apparently. (I'm not sad I couldn't go, but instead I'm totally excited to go on their next excursion with them! Probably snow camping ... yeah, call me crazy.)

The third one means that I'm responsible for ensuring that the boys "learn their duty" in their priesthood office of being a "teacher". This means I need to ensure they know how to properly prepare the sacrament, go home teaching, provide service to those in need, and perform their old responsibilities as deacons when called upon to do so. It also means I need to mentor the boys, particularly the leaders, to teach them how to run meetings, organize themselves, plan their activities, uplift each other within the quorum, and to prepare to become priests.

Hmmm, looking at these previous paragraphs, it looks rather daunting. But I'm not really nervous. My two assistants in the quorum have been in there for a while and they know the boys and have good relationships with them. While I'm technically in charge, they are both good men and I expect that we will work together to do whatever is needed to help these boys.

For me, though, I'm most excited about two things:

1) I get to teach the boys as often as I want. Totally fun.

2) I get to go on their "high adventure" excursions. Also totally fun.

In my old calling, I often would sit with these boys and visit with them while they waited to meet with the bishop or his counselors for their six-month interviews. I have had conversations with every one of them, and while I wouldn't say that I am close "friends" with any of them (okay, maybe a few on Facebook ...), I know them by name and know somewhat of their personalities.

I really do love the scouting program. Some of the things they do, I think, are rather silly, particularly at camps and all the stuff they do trying to amp up the boys with scouting "spirit". Even so, I earned my Eagle Scout when I was 15 (thanks, Mom!) and absolutely loved all the campouts and excursions we'd go on. I have great memories of being with the other boys and hiking and freezing to death at night and getting swamped in canoes and making fire -- lots of fire. My scoutmaster was a retired marine, so didn't suffer teenage belligerence -- he was tough as nails, but treated us with respect and, most of the time, like adults. At least, that's how I remember it. Fond memories.

So, now I'm on the other end. I always figured that I'd be a scout leader someday, but I never knew when or how. Now, I know. And now I'm going to be on the receiving end of youthful hyperactivity, inattention, and just plain stupidness. It should be fun!

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