Arranging Deck Chairs?

I had a great idea and made coloring books for my grandkids, made up of pictures of them.  That led to similar coloring books for my two grown up sons, just for fun.  I wanted to make a book for my wife, but instead of a coloring book, I made the pictures look more like pen and colored pencil drawings.

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I hope she enjoys paging through it as much as I enjoyed creating it.  It features a few pictures she has never seen, surrounded by good memories; some not roused in a while.

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It was challenging to keep what I was doing a surprise for Valentine’s Day; working often while she slept or was not yet home.  I had it spiral bound and ready for Valentines Day with hours to spare.

I also had a Valentine’s Day date with an x-ray technician.  She gave me peaches, graham crackers, applesauce, bread, and a milky drink, all generously mixed with Barium.  These treats weren’t gifts for my nibbling pleasure like my wife gave me; these were so she could video x-ray me swallowing them.  After carefully explaining that she is not a doctor and can’t make a diagnosis, she told how the x-ray video showed the consumed food hesitated a notable moment in my lower esophagus before continuing into my stomach.  That’s not likely the cause of my constant throat clearing, but it could be a clue.  The Ear Nose Throat doctor’s office called the next day to repeat what the technician said (except the part about not being a doctor), and to add that my x-ray video audition bought me a ticket to see a Gastroenterologist, coming soon to a hospital near me.  I also went in for a “CT Scan of Face (CT Sinus WO Contrast).”  The results: There is no evidence of laryngeal penetration or aspiration identified.  Please see the detailed report rendered by speech pathology.  I haven’t seen the report yet.

It would be wonderful to finally solve this constant throat clearing mystery, but if the blood test in March shows my PSA numbers going up, all these other tests may end up being as productive as rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.

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Do You Experience Facial Pain?

The Allergists spreadsheet test on my arms revealed no allergies, so he sent me for a blood draw and another allergy test.  With needle in hand and me in the draw chair, the young nurse was considering (PUN WARNING!!) her best shot .  I told her to poke where she would, but – as I pointed to the back of my right hand, I told her they usually end up here.  She politely dismissed my suggestion and began tapping the front of my left elbow, almost as if choosing a ripe watermelon.  The thump felt right to her, so that’s where she put the needle.  Sometimes I don’t even feel it.  Sometimes it stings a little and I flinch just to keep in practice.  It hurts the worst when they lift up on the syringe as they pull the needle out of my vein.  Sometimes they back the needle out just a bit and make a right or left turn as they push it back in.  That’s what she was doing.  She was getting only a dribble of blood, and after what seemed like an extended wait (hoping to vindicate her poor target choice for the draw) there wasn’t enough in the tube to test.  She sighed, removed the needle, apologized for not listening to me, and stuck a new needle in the top of my right hand.  That test also pronounced me allergic to nothing.

So, I saw the Ear – Nose – and Throat doctor.  Maybe he can discover the cause for my chronic throat clearing.  I had seen him previously for a persistent cough and again for a plugged ear.  I told him I was tired of this constant growling, vocal grinding, and throat clearing.  I told him it’s been going on a long time, and that I couldn’t remember when it started.  He said I was doing that when he saw me five years ago.  I hadn’t finished the questionnaire before being escorted to the waiting room, so the doctor was reading the list of yes or no questions to me: Does it ever…..?  “I answered, No.”  Have you ever…….?  “No.”  Did you ever…..?  “No.”  Do you ever… experience sinus or facial pain?  “No.  Wait a minute!  Did you just ask me if my face hurts?”  He glanced sideways from the clip board barely turning his head, and in a timid voice, as if unsure his words should be audible, he answered with that old punch line, “It’s killing me.”  We both laughed.  I told him we said that all the time when I was a kid – and it was funny every time!  He said me too!  He explained that he probably read this questionnaire ten times a day, and each time he comes to this question, he’s tempted to say what we always said (but i suppose that could make him appear to be irresponsible).  We enjoyed that good laugh, and he actually said, “Thank you.”

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Mt Hood (PUN WARNING STILL IN EFFECT!) looking cool 

I do Love Spreadsheets

My prostate surgery was almost seven years ago.  We’ve continued regular PSA testing since then and the results have always been, “undetectable.”  In reality, undetectable is actually detectable, but if the number is less than 0.1 ng/ml, it is considered undetectable. The voicemail with my December test results relayed a 0.15 score and a, “please call to make an appointment.”

I made the appointment and saw my Urologist.  He seemed quite concerned and commented a couple times that this never happens this far out from the surgery (almost 7 years).  He’d reviewed my file and seemed pleased that I already had a radiologist, because if today’s blood test verifies the last one, radiation may be prescribed.  Where to radiate would be the question (since there is no cancerous prostate).  He told me about a new technique that has just arrived in Portland, and is promising for that very issue.

 

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I asked him; wouldn’t it be funny if the prostate cancer was positioning to play a big joke on the Multiple Myeloma cancer?  I wondered if they would ever fight it out to claim my demise.

 

IN THIS CORNER: Prostate cancer – off to a good start, but seemingly eradicated with surgery.  AND IN THE OTHER CORNER: THE INCURABLE Multiple Myeloma cancer – starting out determined, but then punched repeatedly with radiation, chemo, a stem cell transplant, and more chemo – it’s on the ropes, but still breathing.  Prostate cancer crawls by the fingernails, back to the center of the ring with just a spark of life and says to Myeloma, “Incurable?  I’ll show you incurable!”

A young lady who’s had two babies since she started taking my blood, took it once again.  It was tested and the results relayed by voicemail: 0.15 confirmed, please call and make an appointment for two months from now.

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A Beautiful Sunrise tempting me to be late for work recently

I can’t remember when I started daily, sometimes it seems constantly – clearing my throat.  It has to be a year, maybe two or three, but it is everyday.  I thought an allergist might identify the cause, so I made an appointment.  His assistant took a felt marker and produced a spreadsheet on both of my forearms, complete with columns and headers.  With a tray of pokers, she poked my skin in each cell with the corresponding poker and said she’d be back in 30 minutes.  I sat in that quiet place, with a pillow in my lap and my arms steady on the pillow, it was a perfect time to catch up on prayers.

The spreadsheet reported zero allergies, next stop – another blood test.

I really felt fortunate to catch this action shot – my immediate supervisor at work – going off the rock pile jump on his bicycle, sailing over the mote and fence (in his Grinch pajamas).  It’s a Public Works thing.

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TRADITION!

Sticks and Stones may Break My Bones – but Needles…….

The van is due for an oil change.  It’ll wait.  I should dehaze the headlight lenses, but that can wait.  I really need to organize the video’s I’ve been transferring from VHS, but there’s no time for that now.  There are leaves to rake, gutters to clean, and power steering to find and install in the Toyota (and that rattling rear window is really wearing on me); but those things and more will have to wait.  I am making Christmas presents for my grandchildren, and for my sons.  They must be finished and mailed in time and, HURRAY!  I made it.

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I made coloring books

 

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Coloring books with pictures of them

I suppose now that I’ve dusted and organized the surface of my desk, I can no longer complain about not having enough time.  I did reach the point early on Christmas Eve when I’d checked-off enough lines on my to-do list that the ascending graph line of “this desk is an utter mess!” crossed the descending graph line of “time sensitive Christmas things that must be done.”  It will be nice to end and start the year with a clean desk, like that feeling of slipping into a bed of fresh sheets.

I sit here now in the afterglow of Christmas day.  Christmas was most always at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We’ve only had one official family Christmas at our house, and that was the year Diane gave me a 57 Chevy; so when she announced we were having the family Christmas this year, I thought great!  Maybe I’m getting another car!  She shortly relieved that suspense explaining there would be no surprise car under the tree or in the driveway this year. But, among my gifts from her was a very nice office chair in which I am comfortably sitting now as I type, no longer needing a pillow to sit on to counter the seat cushion flattened by years of use (I’m passing on the opportunity to comment here on the weight or rigidity of any posterior frequenting the now previous chair).

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She even decorated the bird bath

Diane really enjoys decorating every room and every part of our house for Christmas.  And, she did a wonderful job this year of almost singlehandedly orchestrating Christmas day arrivals, snacks, seating, background music, cats banished, gifting order and balance, Christmas dinner (Breakfast), leftovers to go with goodbyes, and directing cleanup triage.

This Christmas was very nice, but last Christmas may have been the best ever.  Diane and I met Robin and family at Brandon & Emily’s home in Michigan for Christmas week.   It was a grand experiment, and everyone survived – hopefully leaving the door open to a future Christmas with all of us together again.  On the way to that family Christmas, our flight from Chicago to Marquette was cancelled due to snow.  We decided to rent a car and drive the 370 miles.  Brandon called ahead and reserved a car for us, I hopped on the rental car shuttle bus, and Diane began the 90 minute wait for our luggage.  There she met an old couple (older than us!) who also would have been on our cancelled flight to Marquette.  In a moment, Diane phoned me and said, “Get a bigger car – I’ll explain later.  What a joy it was to meet, travel, and visit with these wonderful people.  Isn’t it funny how God works?  They said we were a blessing, but really, they were the blessing for us.

I had surgery in October to repair my incisional hernia, also referred to as an umbilical hernia (also referred to as a sticking-out-belly button).  It is so very nice to no longer have that little door knob on my stomach.  I’m glad I didn’t get the eyeball tattoo that was so tempting.  I also had the regularly scheduled quarterly cancer tests for my oncologist in December, along with a PSA test for my urologist, and a cholesterol test for my general doctor, and another test for my heart doctor.  I thought it would certainly be efficient to get enough blood for all this with one needle, but when the “draw” was finished that day, I had four little “badges of courage” on my arms and hands.

For more than six years, my PSA numbers have been rated as undetectable.  The urologist’s office called me the day after Christmas.  My latest test showed an increase in the PSA.  He wants to see me.  I suspect more needles.

I remain thankful to God for a life overflowing with blessings.

Slipping Away

Summer is slipping away, but it has been wonderful.

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Kellen driving my old RC-10T and keeping it mostly on the track

Both of our sons with their families visited us this summer.  We made good memories and I took pictures.  This is the second year my grandson, Kellen, has been driving radio control cars.  At age three, he’s improved quite a bit.  My two year old granddaughter, Sauvie, began her RC driving lessons during her visit this summer.

Click here to see Lincoln City with Robin & family (check out the sunsets).

At Brandon’s request, I sold both of his old Chevrolet’s this summer.  His ’62 Corvair was here for about 10 years, and his ’63 Nova for 15.

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The previous line up of collector cars in our shop

 

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He’s never cranked a car window?

The Corvair sold first, a father and son team bought it.  The son is 14, and hopes to be driving it when he gets his license.  He tried on the driver seat and steering wheel as he scanned the dashboard and interior.  Spotting the window crank on the open driver’s door, he pointed at it and asked, “What’s that?”

That sale created an empty space in the shop, but like digging a hole in wet sand; it began filling in right away.  The Nova sold about a month later, and with two empty bays, it may actually take a few weeks for the shop’s gravitational pull to fill those spaces.

2017 09 08_9884bMy brother, Loren, rode his new Street Glide to Newberg for our Dressel Family Reunion.  I put red lights on the garage floor – not so much as a guide to the landing/parking area, but as a Welcome.

He brought his new electric RC Truck.  We were running two lap races on my back yard dirt track Sunday morning before church; I had the home field advantage, but – he beat me five races in a row!

2017-09-09_9826bWe also got to run our cars on the indoor AstroTurf track in Salem, RC Plus.  That was fun, and while there I drove for the first time, my new Losi 3.0 buggy (thanks, Jason).  I have two bodies for it, and the one I like best features my granddaughter’s likeness.  When I told her dad how quick that car can get around the track, he indicated that was fitting – quick like Sauvie.  He asked if it also jumps a lot.  Actually the car does jump a lot, how did he know that?

I may have taken some of my best pictures this summer.  The years of pictures I have taken of my kids and the pictures I am taking of my grandkids will always be my most treasured.  Other than family, my favorite photo opportunity is an event called “I Dragged The Gut (in downtown McMinnville),” or sometimes called “Dragging The Gut Festival.”  I love taking pictures there, and I have developed a style I call Dream Shots (that’s easier to say than low light exposure with slow shutter blurring that makes a still picture indicate motion).  Click here to see more.

2017-IDTG_9249bAlso from this year, possibly my best car show pictures, and I was very happy with these fireworks pictures (some in this album taken earlier).

I saw the heart doctor to follow up on the EKG and stress test.  He found nothing serious, and suggested I improve my diet, lose weight, get into better shape, and come back later for another look.

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Boot & Brace

I saw the foot doctor.  I don’t know why it hurt, but I waited weeks for the tendon above my heel to get better, but it got worse, so – doctor – foot doctor – x-rays – MRI – Achilles Tendinitis – special boot and physical therapy.  It’s getting better.

I saw the belly doctor.  My sticking out belly button was getting worse.  It seemed I was constantly holding or pushing it back in, and sometimes it didn’t want to go back in, and one time after a reluctant push-in, there appeared red spots near it.  So – doctor – belly doctor – Ultrasound – bowel in the button – surgery (scheduled for October)!

The air boot helps if you don’t mind clunking around wearing one extra large ski boot, and the Lumbar lower back brace support belt frees up the hand that would be pressing the hernia.

I saw the Oncologist, three terrific months had passed since my last visit, so – visit friends with needles (who draw blood) – tests – and my favorite test results: no change.  I can live with that.  I remain daily thankful to God.

It took a long time to become an old man

I don’t remember crossing the line, I’m sure it was a slow accumulation of things beginning with reading glasses and hairs turning gray.  Now I am a grandfather, older and wiser; but the wisdom that comes with age seems to be discounted by occasional forgetfulness.  No one really cares about what I have seen, done, or learned, because now I am old.  As a young man, I remember hearing firsthand the observations of old men, observations that sounded like complaints about the growing disrespect and lack of morality displayed by my younger generation.  I thought, come on, it’s not all that!  But in my heart I suspected they could be right.  Now we all know they were.  Not wanting to sound like the crotchety old men I didn’t want to hear, I struggle to wait patiently for the day my son will ask for advice, advice I know he needs right now.  I don’t know the proper procedure (I had no dad to advise me), but I’m holding some real pearls of wisdom for him.  I don’t want to offer them up unsolicited because that guidance is never welcomed.  I hope when the day comes that he does ask, I can remember these pearls of wisdom, or at least remember where I wrote them down.

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Lincoln City last week, just before I turned 65

The Grudge Race

I took my Radio Controlled car, a Losi Short Course Buggy, when I visited my brother at the coast.  He has a Traxxas four wheel drive R/C gas truck.  I love the big fat tires on it.  At the beach, I was quickly putting parking lot dirt and debris in the air with the wheels of my little car while my brother was working at getting his gas motor started.  When he got it running, we had a lot of fun speeding and skidding out on the sand.  I challenged him to a straight line race from way over here to way over there.  It was a clean start, neck and neck as I slowly began pulling ahead, but by the ¾ mark, he caught and passed me.  I could feel it in my battery, I should have recharged between the parking lot and the beach.

I suggested a rematch, but he would savor his win for a year.  When I got home, I ordered another battery, one with extra punch.  Next year I would be ready…..   And there would be no burning up half the pack before the race!

With my next annual visit, the grudge race was on.  I had a C100 fully charged, and I resisted (most of) the temptation to speed up and down the sand until after my impending victory.  My brother had his truck making smoke in his garage before we headed out, and shortly it was running again at the beach.  Soon we were back on our imaginary starting line and he yelled Go!  With the kindness and humility of a loving big-brother, I won’t go on about how badly I beat him.  We’ll just say that it was my turn to savor the win.

RC Cars on the Beach

The race was over and I still had a couple battery packs to burn up, and that wide open sand was enticing.  We were Cat & Mouse chasing, drifting, fishtailing, and purely enjoying radio controlled fun.

Before long, I packed some sand against a baseball bat sized piece of driftwood for a jump.  My brother had to restart his truck several times, and ended up replacing three glow plugs that day.  Finally, it would not start, so I invited him to drive my SCB while I took pictures of it flying off the jump.  He liked it enough to consider going electric.  I can’t wait for the race next year!

 

This month I had my follow up appointment with my heart doctor’s associate.  Going in, my question and reason for seeing the doctor was, “Why do I get so easily out of breath?”  Does it have to do with the cancers, the treatments, or am I just getting old and out of shape?  The diagnosis and official answer: My stress test showed the possibility of a minor abnormality, but before further investigation, they suggest I lose weight, exercise more (get into better shape), and come back in three months for more tests.

I also had my three month appointment with my oncologist.  She used my favorite medical term (concerning the protein they test for because it’s a real good indicator of what the cancer is doing), “undetectable.”  I can live with that.