Off My Meds

During our recent vacation/decade-late honeymoon to Puerto Rico, something I’ve always worried and wondered about happened: I forgot to bring my meds. To be fair, by “I forgot,” I mean they were packed but got lost in the shuffle of a repack.

I hate to be in the position of being able to apply the term “off my meds” to myself, but here I am. On top of the thyroid meds which I will be taking every day for the rest of my life, I take an anti-depressant and assorted “mood stabilizers,” which pretty much do what the name suggests, and all of which I will probably also be taking for the rest of my life. There’s a whole big back story to all of these, and if you don’t know them, well, count yourself fortunate.

The point is, these are all daily medications that work in congress to keep me on the beam with regards to everything from mood to sleep to appetite to overriding my constant urge to twerk while informing onlookers that I am all about that bass, but am fairly indifferent to – if not filled with abhorrence for – treble.

In the chaos of leaving for our trip, my week’s supply of medicine was overlooked, and I didn’t notice it until too late because I forgot to take them the night we left Herndon, the next morning when we left Maryland, and the first night in Puerto Rico.

No biggie. Missing a dose or two happens, and isn’t the end of the world. Our first morning in PR we discovered that we’d left my personal pharmacy at home, where I can only assume it spent its days fending off burglars with improvised booby-traps in a series of wacky shenanigans and catch phrases.

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“Keep the change, ya filthy animal.”

Okay, so this has to happen, right? People forget to take their meds, they lose them, they spill them on the ground. There has to be an emergency system to hook someone up with the pills they require daily to lead a normal life, right? Right?

Yes! Yes there is! Thank the patron saint of meds!

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St. Francis de Skeevy be praised!

We contacted our insurance provider, Kaiser Permanente – the Lloyd Christmas of health care systems – to see what could be done. To our relief, there are protocols for exactly this scenario. Granted, it took us a good chunk of the morning and several transfers and new phone calls before we got someone who knew this (including one person who thought PR was another country), but still, protocols are a good thing.

There was a Walgreen’s right down the road from where we were staying, and after wading through the quagmire of shit that is an insurance company’s patient service system, a nurse told us a few days of each prescription would be available for pickup there that very day. I would receive a phone call from Kaiser if there was any problem.

I got a phone call a short while later, but it was from the local Walgreen’s, and rather than letting me know that I could swing in whenever I wanted for my scripts, they informed me that they couldn’t honor the prescriptions because of reasons.

Another phone call to Kaiser (including another few transfers) got me to a nurse who said she would call Walgreen’s directly and get things squared. Awesome.

She called me back to tell me that I was completely and painfully screwed. The healthcare system in Puerto Rico requires prescriptions to be transferred through a specific database, and Kaiser wasn’t able to use it. The only way I could get my medications would be for me to find a doctor, schedule an appointment, go in, get a new script, take it to a pharmacy, pay up front for the appointment and meds, and file a claim to get compensated for the out-of-pocket expenditures.

A few things you should know: Due to the financial ruin that Puerto Rico is in, doctors are leaving at the rate of one a day. Getting an appointment with someone would be challenging. Have you ever tried to schedule a doctor’s appointment in the actual United States? Do they ever cheerfully invite you in the next day at a time when you’re available? Probably not.

We talked about getting the stuff express-shipped to us, but since I have trust issues with parcel delivery companies, I wasn’t willing to gamble on the things getting to us on time, not to mention how expensive it would be to try and overnight a package from Virginia to Puerto Rico.

On top of the logistical issues of getting an appointment, we had one day completely spoken for during which I wouldn’t be able to go to a doctor. Finally, would it be worth taking that much time out of our trip (assuming I could get an appointment anyway) to get one or two day’s worth of meds? Would it be worth dealing with the paperwork to get compensated for our out-of-pocket expenses? Should we trust two medical systems who couldn’t manage to get me a handful of some extremely benign pills to work out payments in a way that didn’t screw us? According to one Kaiser rep, Puerto Rico is a foreign nation, so who knows if their king would allow their minister of medical skullduggery to approve the tariffs on trans-national currency transfers? (Citation of all preceding terms needed.)

I figured, what’s the worst that could come from skipping meds for a couple more days, or about a week total? So, I decided the only logical thing was to roll the dice and go without any meds for a couple more days.

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Also known as “Quaiding.”

We did survive our vacation, free of medical or psychological issues. That said, it would all catch up to me when we got back. I went through a few days of misery while my body and brain readjusted to not being completely neglected.

I know I said it already, but I really can’t over emphasize the point that I hate – HATE – being in a position to say that I’m “off my meds” when I miss some doses. It carries a connotation that doesn’t sit well with society, regardless of how ignorant those stigmas might be.

I know this post ended abruptly, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say for a change, so here’s a picture of C from a year+ ago looking unimpressed.

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Puerto Rico

In case you missed it because you have a life and have better things to pay attention to than our family’s goings-on, Kat and I finally managed to take a “honeymoon” 10 years late, because having twin two-year-olds actually makes taking a vacation less challenging, apparently.

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“No, go; we got this.”

We decided to head for Puerto Rico, as it was far enough away and exotic enough to feel foreign, but since it’s a U.S. territory, we could let loose without looking like douchey American tourists. Well, more than we would otherwise.

I’m not one of those real bloggers who takes time each night to write about their adventures from the day (hell, I barely manage a post a month), and we packed a fair amount into our trip, so there’s a lot to go over. That said, I’m lazy and short on time, and, let’s face it, most people haven’t even read this far, so who wants to slog through details of someone else’s vacation? Nobody, that’s who.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I am going to post some of my favorite pictures here, so I can at least prove that we were there. All links are to reviews of the associated businesses I posted on Yelp, so if you feel like fleshing out those thousand words a little bit, check them out.

Now, thousands upon thousands of words, all in .JPG form! Enjoy!

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Pre-flight beverages in the airport: Coffee for her, because she needed to wake up, and liquor for me, because I was about to get into a metal tube of fuel and ride it 30,000 feet in the air over the ocean, and eff that noise.

El Yunque Rainforest Inn B&B

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Breakfast on day one at our B&B: Vegetarian burrito, fruit skewer, vegetarian sausage patties, and homemade hot sauce. Yum dialed up to 11.

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The sign before the waterfall/pool at the end of the private hike on property. We did!

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Check out those Pacific Northwest tans! #pasty

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Fairly deep natural pool on top of a freaking mountain. Pictured: A dip taking a dip.

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Some of the jungle on the Machete Trail, a private hike on the private property of El Yunque Rainforest Inn.

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View from the common patio.

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See “Dip…” above.

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Stuffed French toast and vegetarian sausage. This is breakfast on day three; on day two we left before breakfast, so they prepared a to-go breakfast for us the night before!

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The patio of our room, “The Villa.”

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Shared dining/lounge area.

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If you don’t like lizards, don’t stay…well, anywhere south of Georgia, really.

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Food Kiosks at Luqiollo

There’s a set of food “kiosks” at Luquillo Beach; think a strip mall of nothing but restaurants. The best we ate at was Wepa Arepa, but alas. I was so consumed with consuming the food that I failed to take any pictures. I did manage to snap some pics of the food at Coral Seafood, the most meh food we had on our trip.

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A plantain stuffed with beef and topped with American cheese. They were kind enough to microwave it before they handed it to me.

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A crab taco and a pork pastry thing. See “meh” above.

Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Filipe del Morro

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Puerto Rico used to be one of Spain’s most important territories, as it offered a nice spot in between Europe and South America for ships to do ship stuff. Naturally, they fortified the hell out of it. 

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The Spanish watchtowers are so iconic in the Caribbean that they grace everything from license plates to maps. In the right light, they appear to be big stone middle fingers to the rest of Colonial Europe. 

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“Eff you, Netherlands!”

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The men’s room has quite a view…

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…But if you think that means it’s legal to pee off the balcony, you’d be wrong. Very, very wrong.

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Even the view back into the restroom is vintage!

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During WWII, America added extensions on to both forts. I like how the new turrets actually blend in pretty well with the original structures.

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Old Town San Juan (in no particular order)

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The Carmelo Anthony charity basketball court, surrounded by the walls of fort El Morro.

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At the birthplace of the pina colada, we also tried tostones stuffed with chicken…

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…and some of the best fried grouper I’ve tried.

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At Cathedral of San Juan Bautista lie the remains of Ponce de Leon. [insert fountain of youth joke here]

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In the lobby of the CasaBlanca Hotel. I don’t know the name of the movie they were showing in the lobby, but it looked good…

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From the roof of the CasaBlanca Hotel.

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You know when you’re on the roof of your hotel and you’re like “Man, I wish there were some bathtubs up here so I can hang out in cool water and hang out?” Good news!

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Greengos, an eco-conscious Tex-Mex joint serving great food and margaritas made with house-infused tequila. 

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I got steak nachos. They were OMG phenomenal, and I brought great shame on my family by not being able to finish them.

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Coffee. Somewhere.

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A la vodka pizza at Pirilo. Honestly, one of the better pizzas we’ve ever had, and it was in San Juan, no less!

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Snorkeling

A moment for mofongo: It seems that everywhere I go, there is a regional cuisine with a funny name. In Puerto Rico, it’s mofongo. Mofongo is simply a mashed plantain and garlic dish, but like “baked potato,” it can mean a lot of things. Load it up with whatever you want, and you still have mofongo. While nearly every restaurant has mofongo on the menu, we were lucky enough to try it at a joint called Desperado.Mounds of mofongo smothered in shrimp in rich gravy (her) and skirt steak in sauce (I). If you make it to PR, make sure to try mofongo, and you could do worse than Desperado.

You people: Hit up Puerto Rico. It’s a lovely island that only looks like it isn’t lovely.

 

Kid Junction

What’s your function?

Today I took the boys to Kid Junction, an indoor playground/arcade, and they had a pretty good time. I worry with places like these, because some are so big and/or elaborate that it’s hard to keep an eye on twins, but this place was laid out so that the boys were easier to track.

There were climbing…um…things, closed off areas for the smaller kids, an arcade, a dining area, a cafe, and rooms where kids can pretend to be postal workers or grocery store customers or other things they will hopefully never, ever get stuck doing when they grow up.

The cafe had a fairly wide selection as play zone cafes go, and the prices were mostly lower than I would have expected. No outside food is allowed inside and it’s a nut-free zone, so plan accordingly. In our case, we got two free drink tickets with our passes. I asked for milk, but the drink vouchers only work for soda, coffee, and juice. The boys don’t get soda or juice and they’d already had enough coffee in the morning. I understand that milk costs more, but it would have been nice if a healthy drink option existed for use with vouchers, free or not.

Our hands got marked when we came in to show we paid, which is fine, but we were checked again with a UV light on the way out. The boys were well behaved, thankfully, but if they’d been throwing a tantrum and fighting with me as I put their shoes on, I would have politely informed the attendant where s/he could store the light for safekeeping. I assume this was because they wanted to double check whether we had paid already? If that’s the case, and we had somehow snuck past the two-door, manned lobby, would they make us give back the fun?

The place was as clean as can be expected, although the tiny diaper trashcan (Diaper Champ, to be specific) was broken. The staff wasn’t surly or rude, but seemed absolutely joyless. Does that happen when you work in a building usually packed with screaming kids and whiney parents? Probably. I think that would make me dead inside, too.

There is free Wi-Fi and a dining area, so parents can be on their phones and computers and get a break from their kids and/or ignore them while somewhere “Cats In the Cradle” plays softly. Seriously, though, I was a little surprised that I was one of only two parents I saw the entire time we were there who was actually playing with our kids. I definitely get it if your kids are old enough to look after themselves a bit and you want some grown-up time, but I figured more parents would be making nom-nom sounds while trying to avoid eating the plastic pizza slice their tots are trying to force-feed them.

We’ll be back.

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When you haven’t driven a car for a long time and find out it got infested by mice.

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Pictured: Why we won’t have guns in the house.

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“Look, I like you, but not ‘hug you’ like you.”

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This might have been their favorite thing. I’m not even joking.

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His field goal percentage was only like .18.

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Running real errands: they want to go home. At awesome play zone: They want to run imaginary errands.

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Pfft, the Capri Suns would never get stocked next to the rice. F on authenticity, Kid Junction.

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“Yes, 911? My dad saw me working a toy cash register in a pretend grocery store, and I think he’s having some sort of PTSD episode.”

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“Fire station? Fix-it shop? Space ship? I’ve got it! A post office! What kid doesn’t want to grow up to be a surly, over-worked government employee?” – KJ designer, apparently

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Animal hospital! Now we’re talking!

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“Will my cow be okay, doctor?” “I’m afraid she’s got cudstipation.” “Oh no! Is it hopeless?” “Udderly hopeless.”

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So they can learn how to work the knobs on a stove.

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This isn’t edible, but that didn’t stop M from trying to take a bite, nor from trying to force feed it to me.

 

Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously.

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“The software is functioning as intended,” said Amber.
“Wait,” I asked, “so it’s supposed to delete my personal files from my internal hard drive without asking my permission?”
“Yes,” she replied.

Angry man crashing laptop Maybe I’m Not Pressing the Keys Hard Enough.

I had just explained to Amber that 122 GB of music files were missing from my laptop. I’d already visited the online forum, I said, and they were no help. Although several people had described problems similar to mine, they were all dismissed by condescending “gurus” who simply said that we had mislocated our files (I had the free drive space to prove that wasn’t the case) or that we must have accidentally deleted the files ourselves (we hadn’t). Amber explained that I should blow off these dismissive “solutions” offered online because Apple employees don’t officially use the forums—evidently, that honor is reserved for lost, frustrated people like me, and (at…

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NIAW

It’s that time again: National Infertility Awareness Week is here. NIAW is a time when focus is brought to the issue of infertility, an all-to-often overlooked medical concern that afflicts roughly one in eight couples. It’s often considered so personal that it doesn’t get brought up as often as it should, with the exception of multi-millionaires rubbing their success in your face.

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Congratulations, ass-hat.

Honestly though, I can’t connect with this issue on the same level as my wife, so I’ll let her do the talking:

“This year, in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to let people know that infertility doesn’t just end if/when you add a child to your family. There can be a misconception that once someone is successful in pregnancy or adoption, all the stress and negative feelings that you experienced while going through infertility should just fade away. While I am eternally grateful that we were successful and have our twin boys, I am still and always will be infertile. It still stings to know that I will never have three children in my family (the number I always envisioned being the right size for us). Seeing a pregnant woman still makes me feel a twinge of jealousy. And it is stressful that I’m still paying back a loan to afford IVF, two years after my children were born. Infertility will always be a part of me; it doesn’t just end when children are welcomed into your family. Visit Resolve.org to learn more about infertility.”

Different couples have different means, goals, and timelines, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you to try everything, or hang in there, or you’ll get there, or God forbid “you just need to relax.” But like she said above, Resolve is a great resource, and can even connect you with support groups if you want to have a more personal, shared experience. I will say that you aren’t alone, and keeping this problem on the radar is the only way it will start to get the mainstream attention it needs.

 

 

Sickos

**READER ALERT: While no graphic descriptions are given, there are references to bodily functions that you might want to avoid even picturing. You’re picturing stuff right now, aren’t you? You know what kind of bodily functions I’m talking about, and you can’t help but imagine what could be so horrific that I have to warn you, even though I won’t be giving details.**

We’ve hit a major milestone in our life as a family with kids: the lot of us all got sick as hell at the same time.

Yes, a stomach bug (most likely rotavirus) came upon us like Donald Trump in the election: It came out of nowhere, and every time we thought it would pass into obscurity, it would immediately resurface, leading to vomiting and an overwhelming sense of despair.

Poor little M was the harbinger. He [bodily function deleted] on a Friday morning, and continued [bodily function deleted] all over me and the living room for most of the day. His spirit remained as high as possible, which is to say his spirits were pretty low, but he soldiered on.

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Pictured: Stoicism

That night was interrupted by more [bodily function deleted], and by morning, he was pretty wasted. That morning his brother started to display symptoms as well; it became a bit of sibling rivalry, really, with C seeing M’s [bodily function deleted] and raising him severe [bodily function deleted].

Not to be outdone, M became lethargic and weak, and we decided to take him in to urgent care. Kat took him, and in the six or so hours they were there, he received three IVs for dehydration and meds for nausea.After less than two days, he had lost four pounds. I remained home with C, who had largely stabilized.

When Kat got home with M, he was in fine spirits and went right to bed with no fuss, in spite of his terrible night.

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One tough mofo right there.

Sunday saw both boys suffering, and we spent more time than usual cuddling with them on the couch. It was also the beginning of my new hobby: Cleaning [digestive expulsion deleted] out of said couch.

It was Monday when the boys started to feel and act better. We gave them nausea medicine when we needed to, they ate more of their regular diet, and [bodily function deleted] and [bodily function deleted] were at a minimum. It was also Monday when those little [unkind personal expletives deleted] generously shared their germs with me. I’ll briefly sum up Monday night be saying it became practical for me to bring pillows and a blanket to the bathroom. It was a rough night. At some point during that night, I emailed Kat (who was in the next room, but I’d been keeping her up enough) and told her I would need her to stay home from work on Tuesday if it was at all possible.

It was possible, and she stayed home to tend to the three men in her home who were usually burly stalwarts of strength and power.

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Like this, but not funny. So just like this, I guess.

I was down and could hardly handle taking care of a pair of sick two-year-olds, who at this point were having a resurgence of symptoms.

The good news was that Kat was able to stay home to take care of us. The bad news was that that day she got hit too. It was the first time that all four of us were sick at the same time. It was kind of a low point. I had been looking forward (if you can call it that) to having her handle the boys while I recuperated, but with her trying to steal my sick-parent thunder, the two of us were on equal footing, both trying to balance feeling like death while trying to take care of twin toddlers who also felt like death. Of course, we didn’t refer to it as “feeling like death” in front of them; we told them we were all getting ready to go to a wonderful farm where we could play and chase rabbits and be happy forever.

While K and I felt better after a couple of days, the boys carried on with their illnesses as if they were trying to win a competition. A call to the doctor’s office was met with the comforting advice “give it seven to ten days” before we made another appointment. By this time, the boys were managing to keep down enough water to remain hydrated, but the overwhelming percentage of things they took into their bodies ended up [insert nightmare].

If you don’t have kids, it’s hard to get how bad it feels when your kids are sick and you can’t do anything about it. I’ve always hated the “if you’re not a parent you don’t know” crap (and still do, mostly), but dammit man, it’s tough to have someone who counts on you looking at you, wondering why you won’t make the suffering end. I imagine it’s like every meeting the Jackson Jaguars have with their owners.

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M, the poor lad who started it all, continued being sick into the next weekend. C wasn’t doing great either, but was clearly recovering. Finally, almost exactly 10 days later, all of us seemed to be mended. It was a relief in every way.

I have no idea if we were lucky to have had this nightmare take place two years after the boys’ birth. Were we ahead of schedule for the worst family adventure ever?

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Was this more or less the average point in time where entire family units are crippled by rampaging RNA strands?

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You capsid-wearing bastard.

Either way, it sucked. Some people say that when you have multiples, the best thing to do when one gets sick is to make sure the other one/s is/are exposed as much as possible, thus becoming sick as well. This way you have to deal with more than one sick kid at a time, but it’s over relatively quickly, rather than having kids be sick end-to-end, drawing out the time you’re dealing with it. That’s probably still good advice, but when the parents are sick too, you start wishing you only had one kid whose [bodily expulsion deleted] you have to worry about.

I’m ready to return to a simpler time when the boys only got sick because they ate Cheerios they picked out of a puddle in a parking lot.

Elmocation

Before the boys were born, I was the best dad ever. My kids were never going to eat anything but homemade, organic, mostly vegetarian food. They’d never know who Ronald McDonald was. I would take them to kid gyms and classes every day. They would never watch TV.

Turns out, constraints on time and finances relegated some of those to the “A guy can dream” file.  The last one, though, was something I thought I could pull off. I couldn’t, and it’s actually made me pretty bummed.

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I’m next month’s centerfold.

Granted, I knew the kids would watch some TV. We do watch TV in our house, and this is a world of screens, so winding up looking at moving pictures on a screen was, of course, inevitable. That said, I feel like we’re in dangerous territory.

When the boys were newborns, I could throw stuff on in the background because they could barely see, let alone realize I was watching campy ’80s slasher flicks in their presence. When they got older, we allowed some Caspar Babypants music videos (if you haven’t checked him out, do yourself a favor and do), but that was about it.

Somewhere along the line, a certain little red monster from Sesame Street made an appearance on our TV. Yes, Elmo was here, and we’re the ones who invited him in.

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“Ta-da, bitches!”

There are a lot of compelling reasons why Elmo appeals to toddlers while making parents want to throttle the Muppet until the puppeteer’s wrist snaps. From his bright red color to his child-like speech patterns to that piercing falsetto that is something akin to the Son of Sam talking to his neighbor’s dog.

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“Burn it all down, Mr. Robb.”

Suddenly, the kids demanded more and more Elmo. Elmo was one of C’s first words (well, okay, he says “Ello”), and sometimes the choice between watching Elmo or riding out the tantrum fell on the side of peace. Naturally, the kids went all Pavlovian on us and can throw some epic tantrums in order to see their favorite little red beast.

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The fact that he swallows kids whole like a python doesn’t seem to put them off at all.

So, is it so bad to have a couple of tots watching an “educational” program for, at most, a couple of hours a day, a few days a week? It depends who you ask. You can find plenty of opinions saying that it’s totally okay, like this, this, and this, but you can find at least as many opinions stating that any TV before your kids are old enough to write a college thesis on what they’re watching, like this, this, and this. Hell, even publications like Psychology Today can’t agree on whether or not TV will turn your kids’ brains into mousse, or into a flexed bicep of intelligence.

When we switched to toddler beds due to the boys’ penchant for going all Houdini in their cribs, they stopped taking naps, as to leave them alone in their room meant a total disassembling of the same. It was easier to simply handle them for 1-3 hours a day rather than invest time and money into converting our guest room into a second nursery or watching them turn their present room into a cinematic tornado cliché.

This means that I (SAHD, here) have 1-3 hours or so of extra time with the boys. Yep, 12-13 hours a day alone with just the lads. That’s a long time to spend with anyone, let alone two-year-olds.

I’m a human. I have responsibilities as a “homemaker” and a (minute) wage-earner. I also like to sit down by myself for a few minutes to relax or fire off some emails or eat without being spotted by my kids and having to hand over my food. Sometimes just having the boys nap for a half-hour bought me enough sanity to make up for whatever else I’d been put through during the day.

When naps went bye-bye, I looked for other ways to keep the boys occupied while I did the things that I needed to do outside of being 100% involved with them. What I needed was a nanny.

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“Mr. Robb is looking for talking plush toy with no concept of pronouns? Elmo is Mr. Robb’s monster!”

More and more, Elmo was tossed on in the background merely to keep the kids occupied while I washed dishes or made lunch or curled up in a ball and wept about my failure as a parent. Soon, as with most drugs, an hour’s worth of Elmo didn’t cut it any more. Suddenly, I was putting on the Little Baby Bum and Mother Goose Club videos of children’s public domain songs. When these grew old, Monsters, Inc. went into the DVD player and became a staple in the stable. I tried introducing various Disney movies and other kids’ fair as a sort of cinematic methadone, but to no avail. We always wind up back with Elmo.

So for now, we’re sharing parenting duties with an admitted monster and various other programs. I absolutely don’t begrudge people who have their kids watch more TV than I do, and I I know that TV is okay in moderation.I also know that Elmo is actually fairly educational, but dammit man, I feel like I’m doing the boys a disservice every time I turn on the TV in order to buy an hour or two of non-toddler time..

 

Wherein I Explain My New Jzzzzz…

Okay, so this won’t be the most exciting of posts, but if you’re wondering how the wide world of online transcription works, you’ve come to the right place.

ICYMI, I finally found a work-from-home (or wherever, really) job! I started working as a paid transcriptionist for a company called Rev, which does audio transcription and video captioning.

“How does this new job work?” I can hear you all asking from the edges of your seats. I’ll break it down for you:

Customers have recordings they want transcribed and send those to Rev. Rev posts these on their site, and transcriptionists pick and choose them on a first come, first serve basis. These recordings can be by anyone and about anything. Sadly, I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t go into details of specific jobs, but I’ve done everything from interviews with famous musicians and Hollywood insiders, to product test focus groups, to medical discussions, to a person who literally just had a mic on as s/he went through the day. Some things are more interesting (discussion about an as-yet-unaired season of a popular TV show) than others (somebody vacuuming during the recording), but overall, it’s a pretty fascinating gig.

When jobs are posted for one to choose from, they are categorized by length, number of speakers, the name of the customer, the duration, and the subject (sports, religion, medical, etc.). You can preview everything, even to the extent of listening to an entire project, but you then run the risk of somebody else snagging the job while you’re listening. To that end, you can claim a job, and if you decide you can’t do it or don’t want to do it after all, you can “unclaim” it within an hour without it counting against you. Actually, you can unclaim it any time, but after an hour, it affects your metrics.

Those metrics show how you’ve been doing with your jobs, and include scores on accuracy, formatting, on time submissions, and so on. The higher your scores over X period of time allows you to advance, which in turn allows you to have access to jobs sooner than people lower down the ladder, earn more money, and take on extra work like grading other transcriptionists and doing closed-captioning. I wanted to advance as quickly as possible, so I burned the midnight oil for two weeks to max out the numbers and get to the top, earning the title of “Revver+.”

I’ll admit, the job is more challenging than I thought, and takes a combination of skill, strategy, and, memorization. My typing has never been consistently great, and it goes down a peg when typing something I’m listening to, but it’s been improving since starting this job. I’ve learned a number of keyboard shortcuts built into the Rev editor, and got a foot pedal that I use to start, stop, and scroll through audio. These have all helped to increase my speed, and speed is money.

My three biggest challenges are:

  • Not typing what I hear. There are two kinds of projects: Verbatim and, um, not-verbatim, I guess. In the case of verbatim, you write everything, from coughs in the background to the “ums,” slang, and stutters people tend to sprinkle their speech with. In regular projects, you ignore all that and write the core of what the subject is saying. (“It’s, like, um, challenging.” = “It’s challenging.”) I tend to get in a zone and write what I’m hearing, at least as far as dialogue goes.
  • Typing what I didn’t hear. An issue I didn’t know I had until I’d done some proofreading of my own work is a tendency to fill in blanks and hear things backwards. I’m not sure if this stems from dyslexia, a lack of listening skills, or what, but if the speaker says “I thought about going to the mall downtown,” I might write “I thought about going down to the mall.”
  • The APS, CMS, and MWDEU can, apparently, kiss it. Transcription grammar rules seem to be a mix of stylebook standards and total nonsense. I’m sure the stuff that seems ridiculous actually makes sense in some transcription-specific way, but not in the way things are correctly written in any other setting. For example, numbers need to be either numerals or spelled, regardless of the quantity of digits. My biggest issue is that they are rigid in the notion that sentences should never, ever start with conjunctions, whether every style guide for the English language says it’s okay or not. Usually, sentences can be edited with punctuation or omission to avoid starting a sentence with conjunctions, but it can be slightly annoying.
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Slightly.

That said, my written grammar and spelling have been improving, as even knowing rules doesn’t do a lot of good if you don’t practice. (Because I just wrote that, I’m sure this post is riddled with errors.)

Overall, the toughest part of the job is also the best part: flexibility. I don’t have to show up anywhere and punch a time clock, so I can work when I’m free. If I’m ever free, which I’m not, at least not as much as I’d like. The benefit to working away from home is having to be there during certain times; no distractions, no other obligations, no temptations. You’re there for however many hours straight, earning money without needing to work around anything.

As it stands, I’ve had a harder time lately than when I started out, since I neglected other things to crank out as much work as possible during the first few weeks, but mostly because right after we decided to give this whole thing a shot, we started transitioning the boys from cribs to beds. For the last few weeks, naps have been non-existent (except for a few in the car), so I lose the possibility of that work time.

Even if the boys do nap, it can be tricky work that requires listening and focus will come to a screeching halt if there are toddlers to deal with. These jobs are all on a deadline, and getting interrupted can potentially wreck any productivity. In fact, I’m finishing this post instead of working because the boys are being more high maintenance than usual and I have appeased them with Elmo (more on that later).

Speaking of skipping naps, it has also taken its toll on me; I never realized how even a short nap on their part can be very rejuvenating for me. Being with awake two-year-olds for 12-13 solid hours with no break for at least five days a week can push me to  the point of physical and mental collapse. I’ve gone to bed (and actually fallen asleep) a few times over the last few weeks before ten, which is unheard of, and I’ve basically lost my infamous 10:00pm second wind, which has for years has been my most productive time. This loss of night work time completes the circle of not being able to keep up on jobs as much as I’d like.

There’s also more familial obligation than working away from home. Yes, I get to see the family more, but it’s hard to say to my wife, “Good luck, I’ll be in the basement, don’t bother me,” when the boys are being difficult and I’m right there. We’re trying to get in a groove, balancing this job with family time, but there’s a learning curve, especially since the boys aren’t napping now.

All in all, I’m glad we’re taking a shot at this. If nothing else, I’ll get to add something to my résumé and have a story to tell the kids about that time I tried something and failed, so they probably shouldn’t try new things because life is failure and pain and loss. But maybe this’ll be awesome and go smoothly. Either way, I’m having genuine fun at a job for the first time in a very long time, and that’s worth the challenge.

Let’s Do This Thing

…We’re going for it. If you’re falling behind on reading my posts (the same way I’m falling behind on writing them), you might have missed my last two, wherein I talked about the need for me to go from full-time stay-at-home-dad to full-time SAHD and part time wage-earner. As much as I love contributing financially to the family, my work experience before, during, and after college has consisted of various levels of food service and/or retail; noble professions to be sure, but I’m tired of them, my wife’s tired of being a restaurant widow, and the boys would probably like to keep our current arrangement of seeing each other over the weekends.

A couple of years ago, I began aspiring more than ever to earn enough money to keep things nice and stable without having to stand at a counter and feign interest in how someone’s day is going, like I do when my wife comes home from wherever it is that she goes.

While my education, ambition, and a handful of skills said that I could do something new to earn a little scratch, the reality of nearly two decades of work experience and the challenge of learning a new job while taking care of twin babies said something different:

I think they were being sarcastic.

Still, while researching work-from-home jobs, I came across Rev, an online transcription service that pays people to transcribe audio files it uploads onto its site. I took the entry test, got accepted*, and was able to start listening to recordings of people and typing them out for money. Only I didn’t.

Even something as simple as transcription seemed too challenging to leap into, what with still working at the store and doing the parenting thing. It was also partially the fear factor of starting something new when real time and money were at stake.

When Kat accepted her new job in D.C., we decided to try things with me as a full-time SAHD. It’s a job I’m fairly good at, and, unlike my previous jobs, it allows me to exercise my own brand of dictatorial control without HR always getting involved.

hr

“For the last time, refer to them as ‘valued team members!’ No more of this ‘discontented rabble’ nonsense!”

It’s doable, but it doesn’t give us as much wiggle-room or ability to save as we’d like, so we decided it would be best for me to bring home something more useful to the family than anecdotes about the day’s trip to Target. (Spoiler: I forgot the one thing I went for.)

Which brings us back to the transcription thing. We did the math, and based on two trial weeks, it seemed like a viable option. By then, I had actually applied for a weekend job at a nearby grocery store, a job I subsequently interviewed for and was offered.

*deep breath*

I respectfully declined. I haven’t declined many job offers before, and to roll the dice on this new thing was pretty…well…dicey.

Yep, we decided to go for broke (insert uncomfortable laugh here) and give the “me doing a job I like” thing a whirl. I’ll get more into the five w’s of the job in my next post, and it will be a while before we see if this was a huge mistake or not, but we’re at that now-or-never point of trying something new. It’s something that might not be as lucrative as other prospects, but which can potentially pay off in other dividends, like work-life balance, mental health, and…well, that’s really about it.

For now, we’re 90% excited and optimistic, and only 10% WHAT THE HOLY [EXPLETIVE DELETED] WERE WE THINKING??? Given that this, right now, is the happiest I’ve been with my life in a  long while, I’m really hoping we can make it work out. Well, I know we can make it work out, I hope we do make it work out. The fact that we physically work out so rarely gives me cause for concern.

*I’ll discuss this in better detail later, but I want to emphasize the point that I am not an employee of Rev, but am classified as a “contractor,” self-employed and, unlike my last job, able to come to work in my boxers, if I want.

The Best $4.68 I Ever Made

…I might have another option. Maybe. We’ll see.

If you missed my last post re: us not being in the 1%, I’ll sum it up briefly: I need to pick up some extra work to add a little padding to our finances in case of those unforeseen expenses that tend to pop up exclusively when you don’t have padding.

computer hit

It’s called “Murphy’s Sucker-Punch.”

This would mean missing weekend time with the family – basically the only quality time all four of us spend together – but sometimes necessity trumps preferences.

That said, at some point in the past you might have read or heard me mention a transcription “job” I had been “hired” for. I took some tests for a transcription company and became a contractor. This allowed me to choose audio transcription jobs that they post, and work whenever and wherever I want, and earn a little walkin’ around money. It’s a much better way to earn extra cash than the last thing I tried.

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Now I’m married and a father, so I do this for free.

You also might have read or heard me lamenting the fact that I could never scrounge up the time, energy, or wherewithal to get rocking and/or rolling on this transcription job.

I took this test roughly two years ago, and almost immediately, my eyes had a faraway look, dreaming about busting out transcriptions throughout the day, filling in spare time by earning money for the fam by doing something I enjoy. The (then) forthcoming babies would be strapped to me as I worked, sound asleep through the day, soothed by the clickety-click of me typing hundreds of words per minute and the soft glow of the computer monitor.

But then…

computer hit

This guy again!

Getting started proved harder than I thought. I had new twin babies, I was still working at the store four days a week, my “free time” was actually spent cooking, cleaning, running, questioning my life choices, and trying to keep up on this blog.

When it became clear that we’d probably need to add a secondary income, the obvious choice was to have me get back into the grocery/food-service/retail game. Frankly, I’m a bit tired of that game, but you do what you gotta do.

I had a bit of a now-or-never moment and decided to at least be able to say I’d given the transcription thing a shot. I logged in to my two-year-old account, re-read some tutorials, and plunged in. I took the shortest job they had. I didn’t make a lot of money for that first job – just $4.68 – but it was the first job I’ve been paid for that wasn’t in some sort of customer service field. Other, than, well, the customers of the transcription service.

Who knows? Maybe I can turn this into at least something to add a few bucks here and there to the budget, and have a job I enjoy. In case you skimmed over the title of this post, it was the best $4.68 I’ve ever earned.

Of course, this whole post is basically just a footnote now, because…