My Next Job?

The kitchen was the first room we remodeled when we moved into this big old house over 40 years ago.  My wife, Diane, recently had a great idea, “Let’s do it again.”

I suggested that if we wait, wood grain Formica laminated cabinets and green Formica counter tops and back splashes will be in style again – and we will have the genuine article.  But, we decided we will remodel anyway.

We enjoyed our excitement and the anticipation of a new project.  We began listing great kitchen ideas.  We can’t afford to contract it out, but if I do almost everything myself, (when I worked for my dad, we remodeled kitchens and bathrooms for a living) what money we have budgeted will stretch quite a ways.  It wasn’t long, though, before I realized that I don’t have time to remodel a kitchen.  I work full time, every evening is short, and every weekend is full.  Every weekend has unfinished carry over (a life blessed is a life busy!).  We don’t have the money to pay someone to do it, and I don’t have time to do it, but…….

I’m reminded by the daily pile of junk mail that I’m “nearing my normal retirement age.”  It will arrive about a year from now and at the rate my clock is ticking, it will be here in no time.  I’m tempted to consider working past retirement age, but cancer may be the deciding factor in that decision.  If we could wait until I retire, I would have nothing but time.  The new kitchen could be my new job.  But, waiting does have a risk.  If the cancer makes a move before I retire, I won’t be much good at remodeling kitchens for a while; but if it comes back and kills me, Diane should get enough insurance money to pay someone to make a new kitchen.

In March, my three month Multiple Myeloma cancer tests said no change, and I can live with that.  At my 6 month visit with my Pulmonologist (my sleep apnea doctor) I mentioned how easily I get out of breath.  I asked if it could be a result of the Chemo treatments, or the radiation treatments, or the cancer, or the fact that I went to high school with Moses?  He recommended I see a heart doctor because of “my age and my condition.”  I did, and he listened quite intently with a stethoscope and said he could hear a leaky valve.  He asked if I’ve had radiation treatments.  It appears the cause of my breathlessness could be heart related, could be radiation related, or, I could just be out of shape.  He scheduled more tests.

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I love to see how our kids love their kids

Although our grandkids live far away, their parents generously include us in their lives through emails, pictures, videos, video chats, cards, finger paintings, and more. We get to peek into their activities and watch them grow. We get to celebrate achievements. I love to see the ways our kids love their kids.

I wondered out loud recently to my wife, if our kids, while enjoying a developmental milestone with their kids, ever realize that what they are feeling is the exact feeling we enjoyed again and again as we watched them grow from babies to children. “Will they realize through their kids, how much we loved and enjoyed them as our kids?” She answered, “No, why would they? Did you think about your parents when we were new parents?”

I grew up in a family that never said, never heard, never felt, “I love you.” I guess I shouldn’t say never. That day in 1962 when mom surrendered the five of us and transferred our custody to the Juvenile Detention Hall in Vancouver, Washington, she was crying when she said, “I love you,” and walked out the door. I’d heard of love, this is it? That was the beginning of another chapter in this life adventure. In a week, we were in a foster home, and in a couple more weeks we were in another where three of us served about a year. I would later brag that before graduating from high school, I lived in 27 houses including JDH and those two foster homes. That might be material for another posting.

I answered my wife, “Yes,” as a new parent in self training, “I actually thought about my parents once or twice.” I so loved our babies, I held, hugged and kissed, and told them so every day. It felt very natural to me, and caring for them became my highest priority. I would do anything to protect them. When I thought about my parents, I wondered why they didn’t feel the same.

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Three Months At A Time

Thursday, I had my 6 month visit with my Pulmonologist (my sleep doctor).  I repeated my complaint, “I’m so tired of being tired,” and answered yes when he asked if the pills were helping. He quickly instructed, “Up the dosage.”  I think he likes to practice a little psycho analysis with the Pulmonology.  We talked a bit about poor sleep quality, joining my mind in progress when I wake, work, retirement, stress, decisions…  I suppose its all sleep related.  I saw my Oncologist the next day for my three month tests.  After reporting to that office so often for the last two years, I feel like I’m visiting friends now, except for that one dangerous colleague who always sticks a needle in me.  The doctor said the tests indicate no change, and no change is good, especially considering I’m three years into the 3 ½ year average benefit enjoyed by stem cell transplant patients.

We haven’t had a garage sale in several years; that American tradition where you display on folding tables the remnants of your treasured memories, souvenirs of your children’s mileposts, and items that could be family heirlooms (if only someone would take a closer look).  You set them out on display to be judged by all, and the verdict after just a moment’s deliberation?  “Will you take a dollar?”

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Diane said it was time we had another garage sale.  I was determined to be brave and participate by putting some things out to sell instead of trying to keep everything forever.  I know that makes sense, but selling a favorite shirt that has to be pulled tight now to button is publicly admitting I will never lose enough weight to fit it again.  It means confessing that those odd items I have accumulated and held because certainly they must be rare and/or odd enough to be of some monetary value, aren’t worth $2 to anyone willing to walk up our driveway and have a look.  It means that after a week of preparations and a two day sale, we can probably go out to dinner on our financial gains.  But consider this, once you identify an item you might be willing to part with (especially with the hope of a handsome profit due to its appreciation since being in your custody), you take it out, dust it off, place it on the folding table and watch it for two days only to realize that its value is exclusively in your eyes .  You must then decide if you will put it back where you had it, or move to the next level and DISPOSE OF IT.  Maybe that’s been the hidden agenda behind these garage sales all along!

Since Jason and I built the dirt track for Radio Controlled cars in my back yard, I’ve been meaning to invite long time RC racing friends, Don and Diane, to come out from Portland and try it out.  With summer circling the drain, and after several, “we’ll have to get together sometimes,” we finally chose a day, ran the cars on the track, had a real nice

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visit, and wrapped it up by driving the ’57 Chevy to lunch.   During our visit, we reminisced about the good times we had racing in the “Yamhill County RC Car Club” in McMinnville, and marveled that it really was 20 years ago.  The thought of a car club reunion had previously been mentioned a time or two, but that day we committed to looking into it.  I suggested that if we found at least 10 of our fellow racers we haven’t seen in years, it would be a fun gathering, so we’ve started with a Face book Group Page.

A Riddle:

When is a crushed vertebra and severe arthritis good news?

Answer: When it’s not CANCER (Yea)!

We traveled to Florida at the end of July to meet our newest Grandchild, a sweet baby boy named Jory.  He’s our third grandchild, and what a joy to meet and hold him.  I’m not sure what a three week old can see, but I think he looked me right in the eyes.

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Here he is peaking over Diane’s shoulder, probably wondering if it’s almost time to eat again

Making our precious time there even better was exploring with Kellen (almost three now) in the jungle that is his yard.  I love seeing how our children love their children.

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Kellen in his Monster Hunting hat, ready to guide me through this tropical compound

Our son and daughter-in-law took us on a real nice Stern-wheeler cruise on the Barbara Lee, across Lake Monroe and up the St Johns River.

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We spent another day on New Smyrna Beach in Florida.  I was pulling Kellen across shallow wave water on a boogie board.  He was actually dragging on the sand, but we were both enjoying the experience.  I’m not in many pictures because I’m usually taking them, but today, my wife picked up the camera and took a few shots of Kellen and me.  I’m looking at one now.  I could paste it here, but I’d much rather draw a less shocking word picture.  Some things once seen – can’t be unseen.  There is Kellen, looking much like a Junior Surfer kid at his introduction to a boogie board, and at the high end of the board leash is an actual Snow Man, yes, right there in the shallow, warm, Atlantic salt water; an Oregon snow man, both in color and in build.  There’s more.  When I was a young man, I remember seeing an old man in a swimsuit.  I wondered how he could possibly be oblivious to the fact that he was wearing his suit inside out.  Now, here I am with my old, baggy suit twisted halfway around my waist and the pocket hanging inside out.  Note to self:  NEVER be seen publicly in a swim suit again.

Okay, I’ll post it:

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Before all that snow

It Grows On You

2016-06-19 002bMy life continues to overflow with God’s blessings through family, friends, and sometimes just out of the blue.  In May, Diane and I drove across the country to meet our granddaughter in Michigan. She’s a precious cutie, and much of the time seems to have something important she wants to say, but doesn’t yet know how to effectively articulate. It will be fascinating when she does. We saw friends and relatives on the way there and back. I wish we could have stayed longer for each visit.

Our son and daughter-in-law took us on a wonderful Lake Superior cruise to a place called Pictured Rocks. Amazing mineral colors can be seen oozing out of the sandstone cliffs there.  To see more pictures, click here.

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I’ve been looking forward to summer, and June is already circling the drain. I started playing Volleyball again. I used to have a team, maybe you’ve heard of us, “Ricky Normal and the Jazz Head Cowboys”? That was actually the name of my band in a dream, but since the odds of me leading a music group while conscious are pretty slim, I decided to use the name for my Volleyball team. The league I play in now doesn’t have organized teams, in fact, it’s not even a league. It’s just a group of local people 55 or older having a good time (often) hitting the ball over the net. It is fun, but I’ve been plagued by sporadic shortening of my arms. That’s bad enough when you’re trying to make contact with the ball, but is especially embarrassing when you do hit the ball and your team mate wants to high five you – and you swish the air completely missing that contact!

My second 3 month appointment and tests weren’t due for two more weeks, but I’ve been revisited by some previous back and leg pain symptoms. Knowing that Multiple Myeloma attacks the bone, I decided to get in to see the Oncologist sooner. The test results that came back right away don’t indicate cancer activity, but because of what has previously happened in my back (click here for the December 14, 2011 post), and because of the returning symptoms with no known cause, MRI’s and an x-ray have been scheduled.

Cliff Hanger?

My last low dose chemo shot was New Years Eve 2015. My Oncologist said to come back in three months for testing. Three months have passed. I went for tests on April 4th and anxiously waited for the results. I also saw my Urologist that same day, my five year and final appointment with him. His office called later to say my PSA (Prostate cancer indicator) was undetectable. I love that word. My three month test results for Multiple Myeloma, although reported mostly in Medical Greek, were finally posted to a web site I access.

This message was included with the report: “The serum protein electrophoresis exhibits a possible monoclonal immunoglobulin band in the gamma region. Serum immunofixation (IFE) for further identification of this band has been reflex ordered.” And this: “A reflex test is a laboratory test performed (and charged for) subsequent to an initially ordered and resulted test. Reflex testing occurs when an initial test result meets pre-determined criteria (e.g., positive or outside normal parameters), and the primary test result is inconclusive without the reflex or follow-up test. It is performed automatically without the intervention of the ordering physician.” That alone does not mean bad news, but it seems a step in that direction. My Oncologist said she would call me if there was anything we need to discuss; so far, no call.

In the meantime, there’s much to do as I remain among the living.  I finally connected the computer to the stereo, I continue organizing photos, and I actually think I spotted retirement way out there on the horizon.

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This is my second new Radio Control car, a Losi 22T with one of my favorite racing bodies from the old days.  For now, this is an indoor turf track only car .

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It’s fun to run it with friends at the RC Plus track in Salem, Oregon.

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My two year old grandson, Kellen, is learning to drive RC cars with an old RC10T.  He’s got tight circles pretty well figured out, and is very familiar with the transmitter’s on/off switch (it’s just fascinating!).

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I recently had another great visit with my brother, Loren, in Brookings, Oregon.

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The winter project on the Chevy this year was replacing the rear main seal.  Check that off the list!

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I’m not sure how this will play out, but my scalp has become consumed with “Revenge Of Chemo Hair.”

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I meant to include this picture, “taking time to smell the flowers,” with Kellen.

 

No Shots – No Change

After a few missed shots, I thought I felt a kind of thawing out sensation in the neuropathy in my feet, but no symptoms or side effects have really changed.

I’m still sorting and organizing files in my picture archives.  Lately my push is assigning dates to my pre-digital camera pictures.  Those picture files report the date they were scanned as being the date they were taken, which is far from accurate.  I can fairly guesstimate dates for pictures with my kids in them, but without them, it’s tough.

Many years ago, Diane and I stepped out in faith and started a small business.  If you are or have ever been self employed, you know what I mean about stepping out in faith.  In the startup supplies we purchased for our in-home office was our first, large, 23×18” wall calendar.  It was great for scheduling and recording my jobs and other work related items.  I also began adding personal notes like birthday reminders and event dates.  Before long, the wall calendar became a sort of “Express Lane diary for five items or less.”  My favorite entries are from after our kids came along.  There are a lot of “first did” and “first said” notations.  On December 17, 1980, my 2 ½ year old son said he will shoot and kill the neighbors.  Where did he get that?  In November, three years later, the same son asked if your spirit was like a bubble with God in it.  Where did he get that?  Kids are funny.  Overall the calendars tell a story of busy people quite involved with family and friends.

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I have hundreds of pictures that need accurate dates.  I have about 372 monthly calendar pages from 1976 to 2007 that remember most of the events represented by pictures needing dates.  All I have to do is match them up!  The Blessings continue.