Mission Control

December 27, 2009

This past week – the one bookended by the start of winter and the Christmas holiday – was chock full of fun. It’s a good thing I’m typing this instead of letting my MacSpeech Dictate app take it because my tongue is firmly in my cheek.

No, the journeys around the continent weren’t horrid, nor were the gifts received or the events attended beyond comprehension. On the whole, the past week was actually a B+ on a grading scale. What tossed me a bit was the lack of control I was able to exert over my downtime.

Instead of being able to choose my events, make my own schedule and pilot myself wherever I wanted to go, whenever I chose, this week was out of my control. I had – in order – a family party, a minor surgical procedure, and a journey to Syracuse that featured some lengthy parties and miscommunication.

Let’s look at the family party.

For 42 years my mother’s family has held a party on the Sunday before Christmas. Since 1977 – or thereabouts – that party has taken place at my parent’s house. All the siblings, cousins, outlaws and offspring are invited and the attendance usually reaches between 50-120 people.

This year there was a snowstorm and we feared that attendance would dwindle. While a storm is beyond anyone’s control, dialing a telephone is actually pretty easy these days. Unfortunately, of the 50-120 expected guests, only three called to say they weren’t coming. Talk about unkind, unthinking, stupid or just plain mean.

We’re still trying to reassure my mother that humans are inherently nice and that the precipitation in the atmosphere must have shorted out the common-sense synapses of a great many people that day.


Crohn’s Disease isn’t any fun and I’ve written about it precious little in the past because nobody – including me – wants to talk about intestinal illness. But I have it. I’ve had Crohn’s since the early 80s and haven’t let it stop me from starting a food television show, a successful journalism career and a profitable (mostly) freelance writing business. But the hallmark of this disease is the lack of control it foists upon you regularly.

I’m not talking about bodily lack of control, but of the need to be at certain doctors’ beck and call to undergo tests, treatments and general prodding. As I’ve had regularly for at least a dozen years, I have a scope procedure annually. In the past it used to fall right around my birthday in the spring but I was able to move it back a few months year after year and now it occurs in late November.

No big deal, right? Not really. In 1999, I wasn’t feeling well and while having a scope procedure my intestines exploded. Not like the little pop from the Nigerian on the Christmas Day Northwest Airlines flight but a non-healthy destruction of a section of intestine that put me into emergency surgery and in a hospital bed for more than a week.

Now, I am slightly nervous each time I go in for a scope and that’s another no-control situation. It’s been suggested that I take drugs for the anxiety, but that would also add to the loss of control in my mind.

Thankfully the recent procedure went fine and I’m sitting here typing with a cat on my lap.

Quasi In-Laws

Let’s look at the past five days where I was just a pawn in a fun, but sometimes strained and frequently miscommunicated sequence of events in upstate New York. My girlfriend, so we’re not married and therefore the quasi in-law subtitle is accurate, has family in Syracuse and every year they celebrate Christmas there.

They too have been doing this for years and one (ME) would think they’d get into a routine of time, place, etc. when it came to holiday planning. Not so. I’ve been out there for the holidays twice and both times were interesting.

This year, like last, the food, conversation, gifts and times were generally good. But they were laced with a frustrating game of telephone between all the family members. As an outsider I was unable to assist with the wringing of necks or proper shouting to set people straight.

Suffice it to say that the gift-unwrapping will never occur the way it did this year in shifts for kids and adults separated by three hours. Also, transportation issues will be ironed out in advance so some people (ME AGAIN) can nap in a hotel room instead of rushing across town to pick someone up at a location that was still populated by family with cars.

Nothing makes a person feel less in control than not understanding the dynamics underneath sibling and familial relations. But now that I’ve got multiple years under my belt I think I’ll be more vocal next year.

PHEW! Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I wish you all the control you need to stay sane, healthy and happy this New Year.

More to come…