I’m not a dad, but I make dad noises

Morning begins with curse words. I slide myself to the edge of the bed. I draw circles around both knees with prescription lidocaine gel. I rub it into both knees until the skin is warm.

Next, the girding begins.

I pull on compression socks up to the knees.

I strap on a brace on the left knee, still recovering from surgery to remove two bits of torn meniscus last month.

I pull on a compression sleeve on the right knee, which just the usual amount of arthritic pain.

Then I stand.

I am not a dad, but I make dad noises.

I’m uncertain at first, timid.

Sometimes the tendons in the left knee are so tight I can’t get full extension.

Sometimes I wobble and sit back down.

Eventually, I find enough support to walk to the bathroom.

I take small, mincing steps. There are no bold strides in these legs now.

I worry there never will be again.

I am in physical therapy.

I do exercises to loosen and strength the atrophied legs.

The cartilage tear in the left knee came in late June, but it only exacerbated the degenerative arthritis condition in both knees.

I can’t remember the last time I took a step with confidence.

I am obese.

That gives others cart blanche to judge me, to tell me what’s wrong, to offer their unsolicited solutions, or simply to scold.

I could explain that obesity is one of many symptoms of trauma. I work on it actively with my doctor and behavioral therapist.

But why bother?

Being fat is a sin in country where millions of people are fat. I have arthritis. I must deserve it.

It’s like going to the funeral of someone died of cancer and asking, “Did she smoke?” If so, is the grief any less?

I wrote about my downtrodden mood a while back. A reader wrote in to say she didn’t contribute to my surgery fund to hear me say “I can’t.” Or it was something to that affect. I deleted the comment.

I never promised anyone who donated to my surgery that I wouldn’t struggle, that I wouldn’t have bad days, and that I wouldn’t write about them.

I only promised I would get their surgery and do my very best to become a good teacher in whatever community hires me. If the expression of pain and sadness is a disappointment, I apologize for nothing.

These paragraphs are always raw emotion.

If the message was meant to be a “ha, ha” poke, a lame attempt at inspiration, or some other uplifting note encased in sardonic wool, it hit me exactly the wrong way at precisely the wrong time.

The fact is I hurt.

I hurt a lot.

And it’s not just the knees.

I’m humbled by using a walker. I shouldn’t be. There’s no shame in using tools you need to get where you need to go. Where I need to go is class so I can finish my degree and become a teacher.

I struggle with my obesity.

I hate it. I hate that I didn’t recognize the connection between my psychology and my eating habits years earlier when it would have been easier to build new schema to negotiate the world.

The thing that frustrates me most often about obesity is the idea that people think it’s tough love when they tell me how fat I am.

Do they think I did not notice? Or perhaps they thought I was proud of my body that barely works and hurts all the time.

I don’t know.

All I ask of people is that they respect each other’s dignity. If I want to talk about my health, I will. I’ll reach out. I’ll confide. It’s my call.

I’ve got a doctor. I’ve got a therapist. If I am not progressing at a rate that satisfies others, well, how do you think I feel?

There are not magic solutions.

I get it. Some people try a diet and, boom, they lose a bunch of weight and they feel great. They want to pass it on.

A couple of things: No solution is universal. If it was, pharmaceutical and other medical companies would have bought up the rights to these programs decades ago and they’d be prescribed by doctors.

I tried a program recommended by friends. I gained weight. I dumped it and went back to what I was doing: cutting calories, eating better foods.

Secondly, these programs are often expensive. I’m living off unemployment and that ends this week. After that, who knows what I’ll do. But I’m pretty sure it won’t be signing up for an expensive commercial diet plan.

If this reads a little angry, it should. I am angry.

I’m angry with myself.

When struggling, the tendency is to look back and see every mistake we made and blame ourselves for not recognizing the dangers, not planning better, not having a back-up plan, and so on.

I know that’s fruitless. I do it anyway. I’m good at beating up myself.

I’m angry with others, too.

I share here. This is public. People can comment. Almost everyone is positive. But every now and then you get a sock to the jaw from someone you know — and even someone you don’t know — and it really stings.

I try to avoid assuming bad intentions. I learned this from my friend Ross Peterson, the radio host and relator.

I choose to believe these things are said to be inspirational or out of love. They’re just expressed imperfectly. That I understand. I’ve worked with letters most of my life and I still struggle to express myself precisely the way I want.

Here is what I want people to know:

I’m dealing with a lot of shit right now.

I’m taking some classes that aren’t easy for me.

I’m recovering from knee surgery.

My arthritis hurts bad.

When unemployment runs out, if I don’t get approved for an extension through the federal government, I must appeal to an administrative law judge. That’s a lot of stress.

But despite all the stuff I’m dealing with, I am trying to be better.

I don’t want to just be an adequate or good teacher. I want to be a great one. I want to be the teacher that students look forward to seeing each day. More than that, I want to be the teacher students learn stuff they can use from.

I’m actively working on my physical and mental health. I’m in physical therapy. I’m in behavioral therapy.

I may complain. I may groan. I may cry out. I may make dad noises.

But I promise all of you I’m doing the best I can.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.

I finally understand why people talk about the weather

I believe writer’s block is an affectation suffered only by published authors obsessed with outdoing the positive notices from their successful novel.

So, I’m definitely not going to blame my lack of stacked paragraphs on this blog to writer’s block.

I’d say it’s more a case of topic block.

The worst sin a columnist can make, if one could call these missives columns, is to be boring.

My present mindset is everything that’s thinking about is boring.

Does anybody really want to read about me fumbling through a Shakespeare class at age 46?

Hell, I don’t want to read Shakespeare at any age let alone read about someone reading Shakespeare.

Maybe I could write my umpteenth update on my recovery from knee surgery.

Oh, what a tale. My arthritic knees hurt. All. The. Damn. Time.

I use a walker to go longer distances and a cane for shorter ones.

It feels like someone replaced my knees with two balloons filled with shards of glass and aluminum filings. I land just wrong and the things explode sending pain throughout my legs like grenade shrapnel.

My gait resembles a kid who got the off the merry-go-round after getting the rotation up to about 250 rpm — wobbly with a chance of falling.

That doesn’t make for fun reading.

Where’s the uplifting message about resilience there?

Oh, here’s a spot of uplift: I started physical therapy last week. That hurts like hell, too. I leave so tired and weak I think I’m going to have to call an Uber to drive me from the clinic door to my car.

That’s not page-turning stuff there.

I could write about how my unemployment expires this month. I should qualify for a federal extension that would keep me with some income coming in until I finish school.

But, of course, there is a hassle.

To get approved for this program you must deal with the federal government filtered through the state government, which is like saying to get to the cold beer at the back of the fridge, you must first punch through a wasp nest and then a bee nest with your face.

So, no, I don’t think I’ll write about that.

There’s always the topic of my morbid obesity.

People like to bring that up. I know that comes from a place of concern. They don’t want their friend/loved one to die — or suffer.

I get that.

I also understand my arthritis is exacerbated by my obesity.

But I don’t want to talk about it.

Know this: I’m trying. I tried a program recommended by one of my friends. I gained weight and lost money. I stopped. Now I’m just trying to cut calories.

And as many paragraphs I’ve stacked here on the topic of obesity and my diet, I really, truly, hand to higher power of your choice, don’t want to fucking talk about it.

I need no reminders of how fat I am.

I have the one mirror in the bathroom. I use the walker to get across campus.

I know.

We could talk about the weather. Wednesday was a nice day. It was the first day of fall.

I knew this because three different stories on my Google homepage alerted me to that Wednesday was the autumnal equinox.

Google rained virtual leaves across its homepage, which was almost as ridiculous as this CNN headline: “Fall: The season of cozy, delicious wisdom-inducing rediscovery.”

I’m not clicking on that link. I’m not linking to that story.

But I may change my home page to Bing. Or DuckDuckGo, which is a real thing.

To be fair, the beginning of fall is a quaint, mostly useless fact, one that I’ve noted many times before.

I wrote a lot of weather stories for the local newspaper.

Readers ate them up. I never understood it.

Sometimes it’s hot. Sometimes it’s cold. Sometimes it’s sunny. Sometimes it rains or snows.

Whatever it the forecast, you’re still going to have to live your life — especially in the age of Zoom meetings, work-from-home, and the virtual classroom.

I guess that’s my story of resilience.

Things aren’t going so hot right now.

So what?

The best any of us can do is get up tomorrow and try again.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.

May my indignities bring you amusement on a Monday

The new semester started roughly for the old newsman. Surgeons cut torn cartridge out of his left knee 10 days before the first day of school.

He thought that would be enough time for him to recover before traversing campus with his cane.

He was wrong.

After two days, his leg hurt so badly he could barely walk. He went to a post-surgery visit with his doctor. The doctor prescribed physical therapy and a walker.

The old newsman asked for the walker.

He resisted it for some time, but the reality set in. The cane worked fine for short trips. But to move on a schedule, he needed more help.

This bothered the old newsman more than he wanted to admit. His obesity had long been a problem, but now his body felt like it was breaking down.

He wasn’t out of it, yet. No, the old newsman still had more adventures in him.

But, still, he did not expect to be cutting tennis balls for the legs of his walker at age 46.

The old newsman didn’t get much of a chance to try out his walker before he got knocked on his bulbous butt by what our best scientists can only describe as “a stomach bug.”

There is probably a more ominous name for the affliction, but this is what is understood and spoken by layman, nurse, and doctor alike.

The old newsman thought “up down” would be an appropriate moniker.

The virus gets a person up and down out of bed with frequent trips to the bathroom to dispose of the sick in a variety of ways.

His fever hit 102.0 on the first day and slowly fell to 99.1 and eventually normal ranges. He eventually kept down five saltine crackers and a few sips of sugar-free sports drink.

The newsman recovered, though not before making several pledges to God about future swearing and church attendance.

The dehydration he endured, however, complicated a longstanding issue with his calf muscles. Without the proper electrolyte balance, his calves tend to pull and knot up like a string of last year’s Christmas lights.

This latest pull came in the shower and nearly sent his massive frame to the tile floor, which likely would have resulted in another visit from the fellows at Fire Station No. 4.

The old newsman already owes them money from their visit in late June, the day he tore the cartridge in his knee.

These calf knots need to be massaged with heat applied.

The old newsman does his best, but it’s the kind of job you need extra hands for.

His former physical therapist, Stefanie Mullins, used a series of metal tools to divide and straighten the jumbled muscle fibers.

The old newsman often told her that if the physical therapy thing didn’t work out, she had a future as demonstrator of Medieval torture at a living history museum.

Her method was preferrable to the one used at his former gym, where one of the trainers took a 45-pound bar and rolled it over the lump in the calf until, apparently, it collapsed like a can of pizza sauce under a steamroller.

Neither of these methods were available to the old newsman at the time of the most recent calf injury. So, he ordered up some compression socks.

He ordered black. Black is cool. Socks should only be black, gray, or white. The old newsman is conservative about socks.

Unfortunately, he received beige. Beige is the color of nursing home feet.

Nobody in the history of fashion has ever said, “You know, this outfit needs more beige.” No, what they say is, “That beige really highlights the blandness of your personality and overall social invisibility.”

So come Monday morning, when you, dear reader, are likely reading this over your Raisin Bran and cup of maple nut crunch from your Keurig, the old newsman will be gingerly preparing to return to campus.

The 6-4, too-big-to-weigh-at-home man will don a t-shirt with some comic book nonsense on it, wrinkled khakis, tightly laced New Balance shoes, his Yankees cap, and smartly accessorize with his new walker built especially for the big and tall man, yellow tennis balls replaced with sleek new skis, and tan compression socks.

Whatever happens in your day, keep that image in mind.

He hopes the amusement salves whatever indignities your workplace might savage upon you this Monday.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.