Prayer, Positivity & The Power Of Pooh

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my Mom being in the hospital and the problems she has been having. Today, I feel I can write that, despite not being out of the woods, she is on the long road to recovery. She’s still in the hospital and she still has pain. Apparently the pancreatitis isn’t completely gone yet but, after several surgeries, she does seem to be on the downside of this entire experience and is expected to make gains to getting better. I would like to thank all of those who prayed for Mom and who called, texted, emailed or simply asked how she is doing. With social media being what it is, I wasn’t sure what I thought about posting things about Mom. Sometimes things can be misconstrued. Maybe for the first time ever, I didn’t want attention for myself (the internet IS the most narcissistic form of communication in the history of our modern world after all). I simply wanted to let family, friends and anyone who may love or care about Mom how she is doing. At some point I posted the photo above to Facebook and some people thought she had passed. Miscommunication is probably the worst when trying to convey something in this situation. Needless to say, all of the prayers and positive energy has really paid off! Mom is working hard to recovery and my family & I are so thankful! We still have a lot of moments we want to share and we love her so much!

To Mom…thank you so much for working so hard. We all know it hasn’t been easy but you never gave up! Keep working hard and getting better! We all love you so much!!!

Your son

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Oh…and a HUGE thank you to my Pooh Bear. I knew his powers of love and healing would help. Seriously…after 47 years, he has never let me down! 🙂

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2 Concerts In A Week

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I love music but it has been a long time since I’ve been to 2 concerts in 1 week. This week, not only did I attend 2 concerts, but I can say that neither of them were concerts I would have expected to find myself at. On Wednesday, Stephanie & I joined our friends, Jennie & Robert, for my very first country concert at Riverbend Coliseum. The Dixie Chicks have taken their act out on the road after a hiatus and returned for the first leg of their DCX tour here in Cincinnati. Although I’m not a super fan like some of the people who were there, I definitely appreciate their style and all 3 of them were very entertaining! I would see them again someday, I think. Minus the rain that fell on us early on in the evening though…LOL! My favorite moment? When the Chicks sang “Ready To Run” with the video on the backdrop showing all of the Presidential candidates in various stages of buffoonery. It was hysterical and, despite not really throwing out the political barbs that they have been known to do in the past, it really showed that the Chicks aren’t so far gone that they won’t show their true colors!

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My second show of the week came about totally on a whim. I happened to be listening to the radio on Friday and overheard a commercial advertising that Selena Gomez was in town on Sunday. I haven’t been to a pop concert since seeing Madonna back in the late 90’s so I thought maybe Ava would want to go. As it turned out, so did Stephanie and Ava’s friend Megan. So…we went! There were 2 opening acts, one was an artist I had never heard of named Be a Miller. She did maybe 5 of her songs and I imagine she probably has some fans out there but honestly…her backing band was so loud I could barely hear her. Following her was DNCE, the band led by Joe Jonas, one of the Jonas Brothers. With their hit songs “Cake By The Ocean” and “Toothbrush” lighting up the airwaves, it was no surprise that the crowd really got into this pop/dance band. I personally think they would be a LOT better if they added some horns to their mix. A sweet sax would make their sound all that much better but they had high energy and I liked that they seemed very confident onstage. And their bassist, Cole Whittle, was INSANE as he did his best Flea act, wearing a goofy outfit and flailing all over the stage. Overall, I can’t say that I need to ever see them again, but for the hour that they played I was entertained…especially when Jonas decided to go running up into the audience to sing from the an empty section of U.S. Bank Arena.

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Soon…how about the main act? Well…first let me tell you…there ain’t nobody out there who has hair quite like Selena Gomez. Sponsored (wisely) by Pantene hair products, this girl has got it GOING ON when it comes down to a great mane! It was blowing all over the place and honestly? It was kind of distracting after a while. I mean…I couldn’t take my eyes off it!!! But that being what it is…overall I really enjoyed the show. I don’t really know how much singing she did (because there IS a backing track so when she was singing and when it was playing is hard to say), but with the excellent staging and the amazing backing dancers always on stage, it was a smorgasbord of visual activity!

My favorite moment was when she sang her yet-to-be released song, “Feel Me.” If I had MY way, that song would be available on iTunes right now! It’s gonna be a hot single once they get it out there and it was cool hearing something I hadn’t heard on the radio yet. Check it out HERE!

Up next…Ava and I have a trip to Cleveland and a date with Journey & The Doobie Brothers. Looking at the Riverbed schedule, I may find myself at some other shows this summer however 2 in one week? Yeah…that probably won’t happen again…LOL

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Braced For Impact

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On April 15th, Sturgill Simpson, released his third album titled “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth.” Simpson’s music, while often described as country, really defies categorization. On one hand, his voice is that of a country singer. Baritone with a southern twang, his vocal style is that of a classic country artist. But Simpson doesn’t fall so easily into the new pop/country style and on this release, he experiments with a soul sound that is exemplified by his use of a horn section, generous supplied by Amy Winehouse’s former backing band, The Dap-Kings. It’s a unique sound that makes his music next to impossible to place into a single category. All of the songs on “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth” were written and produced by Simpson and he has said that he wanted this album to be “a heartfelt manual to his young son about how to navigate life.” So obviously, when talking about life, he also talks about death. It is within those lyrics that I have found some solace over the last few weeks…

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“There will be nights that go on forever
Like you’re long-lost at sea
Never to be found
Just know in your heart
That we’re always together
And long after I’m gone
I’ll still be around
Cause our bond is eternal
And so is love

God is inside you
All around you
And up above
Cause time slips away
Skies fall apart
It ain’t too hard
A universal heart
Glowing, flowing, all around you”
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Alan Bangs Xmas Drum
On May 8th, my Mom was rushed to the hospital with gallstones and pancreatitis. First she went to our hometown hospital in Zanesville and then she was taken immediately to Riverside Hospital in Columbus. She has been in ICU there for 21 days tonight. She has been through various stages of “recovery.” One day, she is aware and vocal. The next, she is in terrible pain and unable to speak. Her breathing is labored, her kidneys have started to fail her. She has a been on a respirator, she’s been poked and prodded. Tomorrow she is having a dialysis done to clean her blood due to her kidney failure. She’s had multiple drugs and has fluid filling her body that is pressing on her lungs. It’s been a daily nightmare, watching as she slips & slides, not knowing whether she will be able to survive this particular dance with death.

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“Oh, how the breakers roar
They keep pulling me farther from shore
Thoughts turn to a love so kind
Just to keep me from losing my mind
So enticing, deep dark seas
It’s so easy to drown in the dream

Oh, and everything is not what it seems
This life is but a dream
Shatter illusions that hold your spirit down
Open up your heart and you’ll find love all around
Breathing and moving are healing
And soothing away
All the pain in life holding you down”

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It’s not easy watching a loved one go through this pain, especially when that person is the one person who loves me more than life itself. I know if it were me on that table she would be beside herself. I know she would do anything, say anything, move mountains to make me feel better. And here I am…feeling so helpless. There is nothing I can do. No medicine I can give, no one to blame. 20 years ago, my Mom suffered an aneurysm that nearly killed her. She recovered with only some long-term memory loss. And so here we are again, my Dad, my siblings and myself, sitting and waiting and praying that she can fight once again and return to us. What God has planned for her is unknown but every day I ask forgiveness in hopes that she will be spared. I don’t want to know life without her. I am praying for the absolute best and finding myself preparing for the absolute worst. It is not a situation I find myself comfortable with. I am an optimist. I want the best to happen. But I know that isn’t always the case. I know God has other plans. What those plans are aren’t for me to know.

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“It’s the love that I feel in your arms
It’s the glow you wear around you like a charm
It’s the tender in your eyes
That keeps me safe and warm at night
From this life
Sometimes this life feels like a big old dream
I’m floating around on a cloud inside
When my cloud starts coming apart at the seams”

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There are many ways that writers have used to describe their mothers. There aren’t many new ways to do it. I could tell you that I have the greatest mother in the world! She’s my rock, the foundation of who I am as a man and a person. I could tell you that she is love personified. I could tell you that she has always been loving and nurturing and has never left me feeling lost. There are so many ways to describe a mother and over time, they just sound so contrived. We all know what a mother is supposed to be and so, when presented with the time to come up with a sentence, we find the most obvious terminology the English language can come up with. In accordance with my feelings about this, I can’t exactly relay to you how much my Mother means to me. It’s not me being anti-establishment about the whole thing it’s just that…well…it’s OVERWHELMING. There will never be anyone who will influence me as much as my Mom. There will never be anyone who speaks about me the way my Mom has. She raised me with pride. She taught me how to be who I am today. She held me up as a baby, carried me in her arms as an infant, taught me how to walk and then set me on this path, never interfering yet always there on the sidelines to cheer me on. She is my Mom…and I love her with all my heart. And that is all that really needs to be said.
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“One day you wake up
And this life will be over
Every party must break up
For burdens to shoulder
We’re dying to live
Living to die
No matter what you believe
And all of us cry
For the ones we must leave
So go and live a little
Bone turns brittle
And skin withers before your eyes
Make sure you give a little
Before you go to the great unknown in the sky”
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Praying for the absolute best, preparing for the absolute worst. It’s not the way I would have it. Nor would anyone else in my family. But it’s the cards we have been given. I don’t know what God’s plans are but I have to trust that my Mom’s heart is with us. I have looked in her eyes and I see spirit. I see fight. She is not giving up. I have seen the eyes of someone who has given up on life and my Mom has life left in hers. I have to believe she is in this and is willing to put up a fight. My Mom has done so much good in her life, she has influenced so many, her spirit and her zest for life has taken her far and this will be no different. I believe this with all my heart.
There are so many reasons for Mom to fight this fight. I know she’s lacing up the gloves and ready to step into the ring. It has been a rough 3 weeks. Tomorrow I drive back to Columbus and I will see her in yet another state of medical confusion. So far, modern medicine has not impressed me much (again). I’ve been told many times that it takes time and patience for her body to heal. 3 weeks into this and I have to wonder about the truth of that. Either way, I’m not a doctor. I can’t say one way or another what is good for someone her age when it comes to pancreatitis. But we are all here with you, Mom, and we all believe that God has more for you to do here on Earth. We are braced for impact and ready to fight. I can only pray that you are as well.
We all love you so much and we’re gonna be pulling around Normandy Circle again to see you again soon. I just know it.
Love you forever and I’m blowing you kisses…and I know you got them!
Your son.
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When Sitting (& Sh!%ting) Get To Be A Problem…

So for 3 years or so, I’ve been working out, watching what I’m eating, doing my best to keep my sciatic nerve and back issues in check. Years ago, I had a herniated disc and my sciatic nerve got tweaked, sending me into months of repair and dismay. It was easily the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced with even the slightest twitch sending waves of pain down my back, leg and foot. It was awful! Now, 3 years later, I find myself in a similar predicament, even if it’s not quite as painful as the previous episode…it still comes with its own personal set of problems.

Let’s start at the beginning because this will at least clear a few things up. 2 weeks ago, while tearing out our tv compound at Augusta National, I was pulling cable and felt a sharp pain in my LEFT side. Now remember…my sciatica and bulging disc issue were on my RIGHT side a few years ago. So this left me feeling a little worried because I’ve never had an issue with my left side before. Cut to a week later…I’ve still been feeling something but it hasn’t been slowing me down and I am kind of hoping that it will eventually sort itself out (because I’m a guy and that’s what guys do). Being the brilliant guy that I am, I decide that I should pick up our air conditioning unit and install it upstairs in our house so my kids don’t sweat to death in the now summer-like conditions that we’ve been having. As I go to lift this 85 pound piece of machinery (which, by all accounts, I should be able to do easily), I HEAR a loud “POP” IN MY BODY (and I leave that capitalized to emphasize the point…IN…MY…BODY) and a searing pain shoots down my left leg and leaves me breathless. Needless to say, I did what any grown man would do in such a situation…I crawled into the house, laid on the floor and called my wife, literally crying in pain.

Eventually I end up at the doctor’s office (avoiding ANOTHER high end visit to the emergency room) where the doctor gives me a week-long dose of Flexeril & Percocet. I don’t know anything about drugs so when the doc says take them, I take them and I will say this…that stuff worked! Of course, for a few days I couldn’t feel my leg, or my butt, or my lower lip or anything else, for that matter. I slept for 3 days straight, barely able to put together coherent sentences and scaring my family to death. Adding to the problem is the fact that I couldn’t SIT anywhere in the house. Sitting makes my leg go all numb & tingly and makes my foot hurt. So I was either laying down or standing all week. Also…the drugs apparently screwed up my system because I no longer had to poop. Despite eating 3 meals a day, I just didn’t have to go. This, in turn, has had me backed up for a week with my food apparently blocking up my digestive system with absolutely no interest in going anywhere.

After a weekend of sitting through 4 Reds baseball games for work, I am now resigned to the fact that I am once again going to have to probably get a steroid injection in my back for this issue. I still can’t sit for any length of time and sleeping has become somewhat of an issue (can’t sleep on my side, can’t sleep propped up, etc), so I have to get some kind of relief. It’s weird though because as long as I’m standing, I’m all good. Mowed the yard yesterday, went to the gym today. Squatting is an issue but as long as I’m straight, I’m ok. It’s frustrating but I figure with my physical therapy visits, my chiropractor twisting me around like a pretzel and an upcoming visit to the orthopedic, I’m hoping to get this worked out sometime very soon. Until then…wish me luck! My nervous & digestive systems need it!

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RIP Prince

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Prince Rogers Nelson will be forever remembered as one of the most charismatic and energetic showmen in musical history. He was brilliant in his performance, flamboyant in his personality and engaging in a way that, despite his need to remain anonymous at times, we all felt connected to him in some way. Prince’s musical life was jam-packed with controversial lyrics, funky beats and his amazing guitar work. Although his big hits seemed to stall out sometime in the mid-90’s, he still reached critical success today with some of his latest works and he never stopped writing and creating music.

I consider myself fortunate to have seen him perform twice. Once in 2004 in Cincinnati at U.S. Bank Arena and then once at a media gathering prior to the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami, FL. Being one of only maybe a couple hundred people to see Prince perform was a highlight in my career. He jammed for maybe 45 minutes and his fingers never seemed to stop moving! He was awe inspiring with his guitar work and some might even consider him to be one of the greatest guitar players ever.

2016 has been a rough year so far for musicians. In less than 5 months, we have lost David Bowie, Natalie Cole, Glenn Frey, Vanity and Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, not to mention so many other actors, actresses and public figures who I grew up watching and listening too. But of all of them, this one is the toughest. Prince played a HUGE part in my growing up. I remember hearing the taboo lyrics on his album “1999” in the 8th grade. Going to a Catholic school, I hadn’t really heard anything like him before. Then in 1984, with the release of “Purple Rain,” I pretty much wore that soundtrack out without my parents ever hearing “Darling Nikki.” I listened to that album, in its entirety, for over a year. Every song was strong and the highlight is the almost 9-minute long title track. I could listen to that song forever and never get tired of it. “Graffiti Bridge,” “Lovesexy,” “Around The World In A Day,” “Parade,” they ALL are classic Prince albums that can be put on at any time and make you wanna dance in your kitchen. I grew up with each of those releases and to think that now he’s gone makes me want to cry purple tears.

Rest In Peace Prince. We have lost another amazing talent and another piece of my childhood is gone as well. You will be missed forever.

Here are some photos from that media press conference in Miami, FL prior to Super Bowl XLI in 2007. Prince In Concert Super Bowl XLI (1)Prince In Concert Super Bowl XLI (3)Prince In Concert Super Bowl XLI (5)Prince In Concert Super Bowl XLI (7)Prince In Concert Super Bowl XLI (8)Prince In Concert Super Bowl XLI (12)

And here’s a great post from a college buddy of mine about Prince. He’s a lot more eloquent in his verbiage and I really enjoyed this article by Tommy. Go check it out! 

 

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Good Times In Chi-Town

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It’s been a few years since the last time my high school friends got together and went on a road trip. The last time, we found ourselves in New York City. THIS time…Chicago was our town of choice and we proceeded to tear it up for 3 nights, enjoying food, wine (or beer….or cocktails) and each other’s company! Here’s a few photos of our time together and some of the sights that the great city of Chicago offered us during our stay!

Thanks for the fun times Chicago! Until next time (which we’re thinking Nashville), I hope my friends continue to stay as young looking as they do. It makes ME feel younger seeing them as spry as they are! LOL! Much love to my Zanesville Mafia friends!

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Oh….and next time? We’re all gonna be wearing our….SPACE PANTS!!!

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The Healthcare & Insurance Industries Have Lost Their Everlovin’ Minds…

I’m not one to complain about much. At least I don’t feel like I do. Don’t get me wrong…I work in the television industry so there is PLENTY to whine about (just ask us), but for the most part? I’ve been fairly happy with the cards I’ve been dealt. But there are some things in this world that just aren’t ok and this little blog here is my place where I can do some venting so…it’s time to do so.

On February 9th, 2016, I suffered some major discomfort after spending the night at my parents’ home in Zanesville, OH. Having experienced kidney stones before, I knew what the problem was but in this case, unlike my other 2 cases, the pain that had ebbed & flowed before was not ebbing OR flowing. Instead it was a sharp pain that didn’t subside from 7am until I checked into the hospital at around 8:30am. Needless to say, when my parents walked me through the emergency room doors, I knew I was gonna be seeing a hefty bill. As we all know, being sick in America almost guarantees that you are gonna be leaving A) probably still sick but with the hope that maybe they can fix you and B) broke. So I went into the hospital knowing what my condition was and also knowing that it was gonna cost me a pretty penny.

Now…I don’t know what a pretty penny is to you but in my mind? A pretty penny for this particular visit was probably around a couple thousand dollars. I mean…I knew what the problem was and I knew what kind of medication I needed, so it seemed to reason that once I got into the hospital they could administer the pain relief I needed, give me a prescription for something that could ease the pain until I passed the stone and then we could all resume our lives. So I was admitted into the hospital where I was asked my name and social security number about 10 times (don’t they have technology that can transfer this information along through separate in-house applications?), brought to a room and given fluids and pain relief. But then a few other people started showing up and asking me questions. And then someone else showed up and wanted to get a CT scan…just to be certain that all it was was kidney stones. So…seeing as how I’m not a doctor…I allowed them to do it without really thinking about the financial ramifications of what they were doing. At no time did anyone say anything to me about the cost of having a Dr. Backus come into my room and ask me a couple questions nor did anyone mention the average cost of a CT scan. So…there I was, in pain in the hospital and next thing I know I’m being carted down the hallway (still in pain) and put on a CT scan table. A few minutes later, all done! Back to my room to wait to see if the pain relief they were giving me would ever take. Finally…maybe 20 minutes later, the pain subsided. It was a welcome relief to be able to breath again and not have pain shooting through my lower back and abdomen.

First things first BEFORE I begin this rant…the nurses and caregivers at Genesis Healthcare in Zanesville were all very nice and seemed qualified to do their jobs. There is no doubt in my mind that they all want to take care of whatever issue you have and they are professional about it. I am not upset with the care or the way they went about it at all (well…except for the asking of the general information WAY too many times).

Here’s what I’m upset about and the purpose of this post…

In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). This, in essence, declared that we ALL, as Americans, had to have healthcare insurance. Which is fine by me. Honestly…I agree that we SHOULD have insurance and I would like to think that everyone in the insurance industry and the healthcare industry has our health in mind. But let’s be honest. That’s not the case. Healthcare insurance is big business! It generates billions of dollar a year. And in doing so, has basically put a stranglehold on those who can’t pay for a decent plan that can help in situations like the one I had on February 9th. So…let’s cut to the chase.

The total bill for my 2 hour maximum visit to Genesis Healthcare Center came to $4,993.11. The visit by Dr. Backus cost me $356. And some other bill came in that was $352 and I don’t even know what it is for. It says it’s for a ER department visit level 4…whatever that is. So I’m out $5,701.11. My insurance, which is admittedly a high deductible Humana policy, runs me around $800 a month. This, in effect, got me $998.60 towards the payment of this visit. So…now I’m down to $4,602.51. For a 2 hour visit. For a kidney stone.

When I get the bill, I damn near fainted (which would have probably sent me to the hospital with a concussion and ANOTHER CT scan which would have possibly pushed me past my deductible so…THAT might have worked out actually). Funny thing was…the first bill only came as a lump sum. No itemized list of services, no explanation of the bill, nothing. So I called and had them send me an itemized bill. According to the Healthcare Bluebook, a CT abdominal-pelvis scan without contrast SHOULD cost $625. In MY particular case, Genesis has decided that it should cost $3,646.67. This is a vast difference of $3,021.67.

So what I’m saying here is this…what the healthcare and insurance industries are effectively doing is making it so expensive to use their services, that the middle class won’t go to the hospital. I KNEW what my problem was and they ripped me off for over $5,000. Imagine if I didn’t know? What if I had gone in there with a pain in my leg or neck or whatever? They would have done scans and images and multiple doctors would have walked in and out of my room, all charging me for their brief time. And then there would be more visits and more doctors and eventually…I would meet my deductible and then the insurance company would be forced to pay for whatever ailment I have and once it was cleared? My premiums will go up even more and more until finally it gets to the point where it’s hopeless. I am an independent contractor. I don’t have the ability to pay for a healthcare plan that large corporations pay for individual or family healthcare plans.

In wrapping up this diatribe, I called Genesis and was ready to pay off my entire bill provided they charge me the Bluebook cost of the CT scan. In total, that bill would be $1,971.44 without the other bills of $356 and $352. So…a couple thousand bucks. They said no. If I paid off my bill, in its entirety, right then & there over the phone, they would cut 20% off the total. I said no. If they aren’t willing to see how they are gouging me, then they will get their payments in $50 increments over the next 6 years. It’s unbelievable how greedy this whole exchange is. I left there feeling better…sure. But $6,000 better? Somehow I don’t think so. And the kicker is? I passed the stone the very next day.

So…my lesson is learned. NEVER simply accept whatever the doctors and nurses at a hospital tell you. Always question and ask what the cost will be. Unless I am unconscious and unable to speak, I will be very aware that the people in the room with me aren’t there to help me or make me feel better. They are basically there to make money. I know that’s not WHY they got into the healthcare business, however that is the place we are in today. Make the money and take the money any way you can. It’s unfortunate but that is just the way it is. And now I’m off to the post office to mail in my monthly $50…

Here is a great article posted by Consumer Reports about the rising cost of healthcare. I wish I had read it BEFORE I went to the hospital…

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