Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reflections

The new year is almost upon us. While I have never been a big resolution type guy, I do tend to be a bit reflective at the end of each year. Inherently, the end of certain time and the beginning of a new period provides opportunity for reflection on the past. It also provides those opportunities to start anew, which, while I like the idea, I never truly commit to resolutions of that sort.

Anyway, I feel like that when I look back, I am always searching for those big events in life. I always talk about how in 2005 Jackie and I married; in 2006, I graduated law school; 2007, we bought our first home; at the end of 2008, was made partner at work. I believe I do this because I want to attach something significant to each year, or part of me feels like the year was insignificant, which would be negative. This is a superficial way to reflect on the past, but it tends to be my first take on things.

Naturally, I failed to see that big, altering event this year. As I was contemplating what to write for this post, I figured I would look at my posts from last year around this time, to see if I wrote any big reflections. In this process, I came about posts about our dog, Ellie, who we got in January of this year. I read my posts about her first days in our house, along with Jackie's first couple blog posts discussing her activities. Its amazing how much changes in a year.

Does getting a dog count as a big event? I apparently didn't think about until I read these posts. It made me appreciate blogging in another respect...a time capsule. Reading old posts is rediscovering memories forgotten; rediscovering moments of love, of worry, of family and friends, of joy; for me, its rediscovering how significant these moments were, and why they still bring smiles to my face.

The joy and worry we experienced with Ellie throughout the year; the laughter we shared at Donkey basketball; the frustrations survived due to work and random projects around the house; taking our first walks around the neighborhood this past summer; the family camping trip, with the night we got washed out of our tent and slept in the Kia; all the random books I read, often great reminders of the fulfillment I receive from attending the library programs in town; to the multitude of trips taken to visit friends and family. It amazes me how much we experience in a year that we can forget when looking for those big things. We forget about the moments that truly make the year special, a year blessed.

Despite my recent long absent from blogging, I am grateful for the fact that I remained somewhat diligent to blogging throughout the year. On a night like tonight, I can read old posts and remember past events and feelings clearer. A new appreciation is gained for all that has happened. I think of how I could overlook the camping trip monsoon; how I could not place more significance on everything we went through with Ellie this year. Its a reminder not to look through a lens of expectation when reflecting, but rather to be completely open to all those past experiences, both little and small, because you never know what will stick with you the most.

I remember that monsoon of the camping trip...but I also remember watching a sunset over Lake Michigan the next night. I remember the feelings of shock when Ellie chewed her way through her condo; of pride when she finally was fully house trained; of worry when her hip required surgery; and of joy every time I came home from work and she was so excited to meet me; I remember that feeling of care and love over a dependent being.

Each year is blessed with great moments, and I'm glad I took the time to re-read old posts to help remember mine. If not, my ill-colored perspective would have led to a poor reflection on the past year, one not as uplifting and realistic as it has been tonight for me. To this end, Jackie and I will be going through our box of keepsakes tonight, reflecting on past moments of joy and happiness and love in our relationship, which started almost nine years ago. I hope others have a great New Year's, and that they are able to look back on 2009 with an appreciation for whatever the past year may have brought.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sleep Time

Earlier this month I was referred by my dentist to an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) Specialist. My dentist referred me because I tend to breath almost exclusively through my mouth, and that has some negative consequences for oral health. The impression I received from the dentist's office that something as simple as a nose spray could solve the issue. I remained somewhat skeptical, after all, I didn't understand how I would just magically start breathing through my nose when I have breathed so dominantly through my mouth for most of my life.

Anyway, follow the medical professional's advice, right. Once at the ENT doctor, the issue became more complicated. While they did give me a nose spray (although only after I asked specifically about and referencing what my dentist had said), they gave me a home sleep study to conduct. Had to wrap some cords around my chest, put some tubes halfway up my nose, clamp a pulse indicator on my finger, and supposedly sleep normal through the night. So I take this test, probably sleeping half of what I would normally. I didn't expect anything of it. I'm sure they were checking for sleep apnea. But I wasn't concerned. I told myself I didn't have any of the obvious signs. I didn't snore loudly, if at all. I didn't have trouble staying awake during the day, or while driving, or any other time out of the ordinary. I may be tired frequently, but I never have slept well, lacking the ability to fall asleep quickly and to stay asleep for more than 3-4 hours at a time, ever since I was a kid.

Well of course, the test demonstrated otherwise. According to the results, I stopped breathing 62 times during the night, and another 54 times I had inappropriately low oxygen levels. Somewhat unnerving, but I wasn't overly concerned with it. The ENT doctor suggested a CPAP sleep study at the hospital, which would help figure out what level of oxygen support I would need from a CPAP machine to have proper sleeping. Me, wanting to follow the advice of medical professionals, agreed. I was all set up to take a sleep study the first week of January to further determine these issues.

Then all the paperwork for the study came in the mail yesterday, including information about insurance coverage (which the ENT office had never checked to see what my coverage was) and cost. While I did confirm with my insurance carrier that this study is partially covered, having to pay 20% of a several thousand dollar medical bill was not quite what I (or Jackie) expected. After some honest discussions last night, looking at the health side and the financial side, looking at what we could do without conducting the study, and looking at how soon in the future we could address it, we decided to postpone any study for the moment. My pay situation is very much in the air right now, and as we (I) didn't feel this was significantly impacting my quality of life, it could be placed on the back burner.

I may be putting too much stock into the quality of life analysis we did, but I feel that its accurate. I rarely feel the need to take naps. As stated before, I don't have problems staying awake at the office during the day or while driving home. I rarely get tired at home until after 9 or so, and I figure that's somewhat normal. Could I be sleeping better and would this help, sure. But Jackie and I both believed there were other things I could do that would better preserve our financial health at the moment, along with improve my quality of life.

Much of this feels weird to me. I've never had too many health issues (yet), and I've always just pretty much did whatever the doctor said - getting certain tests done, taking certain medications. Except now; now I decided I couldn't reasonably afford what the doctor was telling me to do. But it highlights to me the nature of what many people must do. During the latest round of health care debate in this country, one of my thoughts on the necessity of some reform was that, personally, Jackie and I, who are in that low-to mid middle class range for income, are essentially one illness away from bankruptcy. And we would not be the only ones. Many people, even those with insurance, are one illness, one injury, one condition away from bankruptcy. I always felt that needed to change. Jackie and I are lucky that this isn't a "serious" issue, an issue we couldn't not address for a few months due to finances. If this was something else, and we had no choice to incur the volume of medical expenses certain to incur, it would be tough to financially see it through. But millions of families are making those choices everyday right now. We are lucky.

Anyway, don't wish to digress into politics too much here. Suffice to say that I will be somewhat internally struggling with the idea that I am not following through with a test recommended by a doctor for the first time in my life. But I am upbeat; if nothing else these types of things tend to be great motivators for attempting to effectuate lifestyle changes. They can put things in authentic perspective. I mentioned above that I didn't feel like any sleep issues were affecting my quality of life. Well, there was one thing that does significantly impact my quality of life, and it also happens to be a major cause of sleep apnea - obesity. Thus, for me, finally addressing this issue could kill the ubiquitous two birds with one stone. But that's a post for another day.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The 100th

Its been 54 days since I last blogged, probably my longest hiatus in the some three years I've kept a blog between the various services (blogger, wordpress, blogspirit, blurty). I have no real good reason for that hiatus. Not that this is my 100th post on this blog and I just couldn't think of something worthwhile (and of course, the 100th post ends up being a casual, I'm still alive and have not forgotten that I have a blog, blog post). Not that I was so incredibly busy that I just never had the time (although since Thanksgiving things have been a bit hectic - more on that later). Wasn't sick, out of the country, or anything else that could reasonably explain a long absence.

Nope. None of those. Just was somewhat lazy in my approach to blogging, and thus, nothing ever got posted.

Anyway, the last month or so has involved many trips for Jackie and I. Down to her parents and then up to mine for Thanksgiving celebrations. Back to Fort Wayne the following weekend to do Christmas shopping and both of our first experiences with attending a ballet (The Nutcracker). The following weekend up to my Uncle Don's for an extended family get together. This past weekend (or the Thursday / Friday) was the trip down to Fort Wayne and then up to Lansing for our various Christmas celebrations with family. Each was of course fun...and the time with family we spend each year around this time is a solid reminder of the many blessings we have in our life. But it cumulatively takes it tolls and makes one (or at least me) worn down by the end of the season. We still have another trip this week...back down to Fort Wayne for a New Year's Eve party at a friend's house. But the end is finally in sight, and the normalcy of January is beckoning.

I know this is all tedious, if not boring, stuff. And while I do mean to blog more regularly, I've learned not to make that promise. But its a good outlet, if nothing else, and that's something we all need to have some manner. So, nothing fancy for the 100th blog post for DRS; no exciting news, no groundbreaking promises. Just hoping that its not another 54 days (or even 4 days) until my next blog post. Between some recent medical diagnosis (sleep related), all the holiday travels and the opportunities that creates for reflection, and the continuing quest to become that better version (more learned and more fit), I'm sure I could find something to write.