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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Let's Talk

So it has been three years since this blog has had a post.  I'm not sure that anyone really noticed except those spammers that try and get me to add their "comments" to allow them to advertise whatever nonsense they have to advertise.  They've been disappointed since I have always been ready with the "delete" button.

What shall we talk about, dear friends?  There's much to look at in the world of politics.  Raving lunatics on both the right (Trump?) and the left (Clinton?).  Somewhere there must be a candidate that can truly represent the majority of us still in the middle.  Jim Webb would've been nice.  John Kasich seems to be reasonable.  Why then are they drowned out by the loud fringes?

We can also talk about disease, as the last post on here deals with cancer.  Since then I lost my wife to that terrible disease and it seems that every day, the news is filled with another friend, colleague or celebrity that has succumbed to it.  There are those who claim that "they" have a cure and are merely withholding it to keep making money.  I can't believe that even for a minute.

There's a whole host of other things too.  Race, economics,  We will get to all of it and, as usual, you are all invited to chime in.....if you're out there.  More to come in the future.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life with cancer - anger 2

There is more to anger and cancer than just the initial shock. There is the anger felt by the patient's family. This anger, in some ways, is harder to deal with than the "I've been cheated" anger because it's that and more.

After years of searching, I found the perfect woman for my wife. We married, bought a house, and began to start our life together. Both of us were in our 40's so we had a lot of time to "make up" in getting us to where we wanted to be. We were looking forward to a long and happy life together until, a mere three years into our marriage, my wife was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. It's cancer that has spread so far and fast that you are not expected to "recover" merely to "last as long as you can".

This changed our whole outlook. She remained positive and we determined to life our lives as well as we could. There are a variety of feelings going on there. As a husband, I was angry in the "how could this happen" manner. I also get angry from time to time at the situation that has been created. I'm angry at the fact that I'm going to lose my "life" partner way too early. I'm angry that my financial future is in grave jeopardy and I may not only lose my wife but even my house. I'm angry at the physical demands of caring for her as she slowly requires more help. Most of all, I'm angry at myself for being angry about any of this because it's nothing she can control.

Cancer is a very angry disease. It's more consuming than anyone can imagine until and unless you've been there. I hope you never have to find out.

Thoughts anyone?

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Life with cancer - anger 1

Cancer is a very angry disease. It acts "angry", it generates anger, and holistic medicine would tell you that its exacerbated by anger. The most common form of anger in both those who recover and those who don't is the "why me" sort of anger. It's caused by a disease that, while some things are known to promote it's growth, is really just a random event.

My wife was a healthy, happy, non-smoking, non-drinking (and usually even non-swearing) woman in her early 40's with no family history of cancer. Despite that, she contracted a very aggressive form of breast cancer that had spread to her bones by the time they discovered the first lump. This is certainly a person who would experience an anger at how you could live your life "right" and still get the short end of the straw. She would clearly be entitled to anger and yet she felt that such a negative emotion would serve no purpose. That's ok, because I felt it for her.

It's not uncommon and perfectly understandable to feel anger at cancer. It's how you deal with it that makes a difference. My wife chose to face cancer as any other setback and not as a "personal attack" from God. She has continued to live and love and not waste time being mad. That has helped to continue to make our time together the best that it can be.

As I said, however, I'm not as good a person. I get angry but more about that next time.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Life with cancer - family and friends

Cancer has a profound effect on the relationship between the cancer patient and their family and friends. They experience the gamut of emotions from denial to those who feel the patient should get right into bed and wait to die as if lying still will help them live longer. My wife had even more to deal with since she decided from the outset that she was going to continue to work full-time as an assistant store manager of a large box retail chain.

She was a very independent and self-driven woman who was used to caring for those around her instead of having them care for her. It was very hard for her to accept help from others, especially when she was feeling good. What she had to learn (and it took a while) was that her family and friends NEEDED to help as much for themselves as for her. Since they couldn't cure her disease (which is what they really wanted to do), they needed to show how much they cared by doing other things. Running errands, dropping off food and other things like this were their way of saying "we love you and want you to get well".

Once she learned this, she had many wonderful times with a variety of friends and relatives. She would accept rides to stores, visits from friends, and other chances to spend time with people who just wanted to be there. It became a blessing for her and those around her. So while it was hard, in some ways this was a positive from the onset of cancer. To be clear, one of the few.

Thoughts anyone?


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Life with cancer - chemotherapy

So once you've been diagnosed with cancer, you usually being with chemotherapy. This involves the injection of poison into your system in controlled doses with the intention of hopefully killing the bad cells while not killing too many of the good ones. The result is that it lowers your red and white blood cell counts and reduces your body's ability to heal quickly.

Aside from the fact that you frequently lose your hair which is easily treatable by a wig, there are other considerations which you don't immediately realize. My wife quickly looked at getting a wig as an opportunity to try some new hairstyles. It was a chance to remake herself each morning and change her color and style to fit her mood and her clothing choice for the day. She ended up being fairly conservative and choosing long and short hair versions of close to what her natural hair looks like, but she reserved the right to go get a pink spiked hair wig at a later date.

The more daunting issue for her was that she had to be more careful around her nieces and nephews. In the previous days, a sniffle or a slight fever at our Sunday family brunch was no need for concern, but for the chemo patient, that was a big concern. It wasn't a huge change, just an issue of awareness. Something we never had to think of before. No big deal, but we knew it was a change.

Thoughts anyone?
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Life with cancer - a series

So my life changed forever when I got a phone call from my wife, 4 days before Christmas 2007, telling me that she had metasticised breast cancer. This was a woman who never smoked, kept her weight under control, ate relatively healthy food, and had no history of cancer in her family. There was no indication that she would not only develop cancer, but one that was so aggressive that it went from being in detectable to widespread in just 3 months.

Her oncologist told us not to worry, that there were plenty of treatments available and that she had many years to look forward to. My wife decided to keep working and living as she had, saying, "i'm not going to let this define me.". Life continued as it was although you knew that it would never be the same.

Cancer is a progressive disease. It spreads and mutates and keeps surprising you in places that you didn't expect. It has a similar effect on your life. While you try to continue to live a "normal" life, the disease changes and spreads and surprises you in places you never expect. More on that in the next few days.

Thoughts anyone?
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Why do we do that?

I'm currently vacationing in Gatlinburg, TN.  It was a small town in the Smokie Mountains with beautiful views of the National Park.  The town itself has grown from a quaint, quiet vacation spot to a total tourist trap filled with go-carts, miniature golf, and Ripley's museums.  None of which have anything to do with the natural beauty surrounding the town.  For those that stay in one of the "over 1000 motel rooms" in town, there are a variety of "authentic" country shows, fast food places, and gift shops of all types to visit.  It has become the Tennessee version of the Jersey shore.

So the question that I have is, why do we do this to places of natural beauty?  Why do we allow greed to overtake our good sense and stewardship of nature?  How does a beautiful shoreline or picturesque mountain translate into video arcade?  Why do we build hundreds of hotel/motel rooms and condo rentals in these locations so that people can supposedly come to enjoy what nature has to offer and then clutter it all up with mindless nonsense that takes us away from all of that offering?

Thoughts anyone?
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Can somebody please lead?!

After a grueling, and embarrassing, debate over the national debt limit, followed by a humiliating lowering of our credit score, now we enter the beginning of campaign season.  This is shaping up to be even more acrimonious and divisive than our debt limit debate was.  Not only that, there doesn't seem to be any good reason for it.

Every summer we travel the country for a week or two and meet all kinds of interesting people from different walks of life.  We all seem to be able to get along, transact business, and go about our daily lives without worrying about who's richer, what party they are a member of, or any other type of unimportant nonsense.  We are secure in the knowledge that we all belong to the same country and we can get together and get things done when we need to.

Why can't Washington do the same?  Why can't they remember that ultimately, they are sent there to get a job done?  Why can't they work in the national interest and not in the interest of a party or movement?  Why do they continue to spend time worrying about their allegiances to each other rather than the country they serve?

Thoughts anyone?

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Accountability II

The idea of personal accountability is something that needs to become an issue of public debate because it is the foundation of all that our government does.  Tony Blair spoke of welfare as becoming a "hand up and not a hand-out" an idea originally ascribed to FDR and the New Deal.  At the root of this statement is a firm belief that it is the individual's responsibility to make their own way in life.  It is the idea that one's success or failure is an individual responsibility and that the government's role is to offer a second chance and a level playing field.  It is the idea that it is not the government's responsibility to ensure everyone's success.

This is the major divide between the left and the right at this point.  When Tea Party members talk about "big government" they are really talking about the belief that the government's job is to protect all from any danger through regulation and legislation.  The belief that it is government's responsibility to make sure that everyone can afford to eat three meals a day and live in suitable housing without even having to work if they can't find a job that they like.  The belief that those who are more successful should share their financial success with those who are less successful by paying higher taxes, regardless of the effort put forth by those who are less successful.

Is this what we really believe?  Is it true that people are no longer responsible for their own actions?  Is everything controlled by our environment and everything bad that happens the result of actions beyond our control?  Is that a reason for the government to control all aspects of our lives in order to "keep us safe"?

Thoughts anyone? (Weyco Group, Inc.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I was involved in an interesting conversation about accountability yesterday.  A group of people were discussing the shooter from Tucson and how the media is looking for someone to blame for his shooting all those innocent people.  The press is asking why the police officer let him go after stopping him for running a red light.  Some Democrats are blaming Sarah Palin and other right-wing extremists for their "hate campaigns" against Democrats. (I would refer you to my previous post Intolerance of the Obama supporter).  Other articles asked why his parents didn't intervene.  Everyone is looking for a reason, someone to blame.

While I understand that we all want to understand why and how a human being could do this to people he didn't even know.  It is human nature to want to believe that there is some outside force that would make people suddenly do bad things.  If 9/11 and the ensuing terroristic acts taught us anything, it should have taught us about the ability of humans to just not care about others.  In this case, as in many others, there is no one to blame but the actor.  The shooter did what he wanted and in retrospect, there was little indication that should have led people to stop him.  He is and should be held fully accountable for his own actions.  Punishment should be dealt accordingly.

Thoughts anyone?


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Remember Tucson

It's hard for those of us who don't live in Tucson to understand the deep trauma that the residents of that city are experiencing right now.  Having lived through 9-11 and being able to see the towers belching smoke like two chimneys as I responded to Fort Lee, I can understand that no one feels the tragedy like those who live there.  I watched in horror as the events in Oklahoma City unfolded, but then went on about my day after turning the tv off.

The people of Tucson have been violated.  "One of their own" turned on them and killed 6 people including a 9 year-old child in front of a store that many of them shopped without thinking twice.  They are now made to wonder, where will it happen again.  They'll feel vulnerable and suspicious everywhere they go.  Although many will say they don't think twice, they to will look around at the car backfiring or check out the strange looking person on the corner like they hadn't before.

All I can tell you is, we do feel for you but can never feel the way you do.  I can also tell you, people of Tucson, it does get better.  The cautious feeling doesn't go away, but the constant fear does.  Be strong and ask for help when you need it.

Thoughts anyone?

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Rapture vs Milk

So there is a group traveling the country trying to make us all aware that the biblical Rapture is going to start on May 21st of this year.  Whether you believe that or not (which can be the subject of another post) it brings up an interesting idea.  What would you do if you knew the world were going to end in just three months?  Would you work to make amends with others?  Would you enjoy time with family and friends?  Would you quit your job and travel?  Would you spend all your money?  What would you do?

One would hope that if you could verify that the Rapture really were coming on a specific date, one would work to make themselves right with God and each other.  After sitting out in front of the supermarket the other day, the day of a predicted 3-6 inch snowfall (hardly the end of the earth) I became disheartened about the state of humanity.  I watched a people entered and exited the supermarket with an attitude that can best be described as controlled looting.  There was an air of frenzy as people "stocked up" before the storm.  It wasn't limited to a few people either as the parking lot had no extra spaces and, in fact, had cars waiting for others to pull out so they could zoom into the empty spot before someone else did.  Is that really our reaction to upcoming hardship?

If that's how we react to an upcoming minor snowstorm, how would we react to end of the world?  Thoughts anyone?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Being a good villager

It is important to be part of a village, but in order to do that, you must be part of a village.  A village doesn't have to be a geographical place of residence.  It is anywhere you "belong".  It can be your house of worship, your book club, your service organization, or your neighborhood.  It is a group of people who watch out for each other and protect each other's interests.  It is your circle of close friends.

What do you need to do to be a good villager?  You need to notice.  You need to be aware of when your fellow book club member is unusually hostile when discussing this month's comedy.  You need to notice the balloons out in front of the neighbor's house.  You need to make a note when you haven't seen someone in church for the past two weeks.  You need to notice.

Once you've noticed, you need to approach.  After book club, you approach the unusually hostile member and ask them if everything is ok.  You stop by the neighbor's house and ask what special event they're celebrating with the balloons.  You call your fellow worshipper and let them know that you've missed them.  You need to approach.

Lastly, you need to care.  You listen to the book club member with true empathy and a desire to help where you can.  Maybe it's just by listening or maybe it's something more, but you need to want to help.   You need to want to be happy for your neighbor.  You need to be happy for your neighbor and be willing to celebrate with them.  You need to be truly concerned that the fellow congregant is missing worship.  You need to want to help solve the issue that's preventing them from joining you.  You need to care.

It's important to be part of a village, but in order to do that, you need to be a good villager.  Thoughts anyone?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Are you part of a village?

Hilary Clinton told us years ago that it takes a village to raise a child.  I would expand that and say that it takes a village to be a human being.  Having just gone through the Christmas season where we were inundated with the stories of the modern day Scrooges and Grinches and that tried to ruin Christmas for everyone around them only to find out it was only because they were lonely, it is fresh on my mind exactly how important it is to be part of a "village".

We used to own our own small business and while there are many things that I don't miss about being a small business owner, the one thing I do miss is the feeling of being a member of my community.  I was able to walk into other businesses and there was an immediate feeling of kinship.  I would go around town and run into people who would say, "Hey, it's the video store guy" and we'd have a quick conversation about this and that.  It made me feel connected.

I now have a different job, in the same town, but not as exposed to the public and I don't have that same connection to others in town.  It really brings home the fact that we need to belong to some "village".  We need to be recognized by others, we need to recognize others, we need to be connected.  There needs to be a "Cheers" in our lives where we walk in and everyone yells, "NORM".  It is my New Years' wish that you find your village.

Thoughts anyone?

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Hybrid Water Heater

Recently we received an e-mail from GE touting a new "hybrid" water heater.  After reading the specifications, checking the online reviews, and emptying the bucket under my leaking gas-fed water heater, I decided to make the purchase.  It cost $1500 (including tax) and that's with me picking it up and installing it.  At this point, it seems that I'll get 30% back on my taxes and possibly at $250 rebate from the state of New Jersey.  That brought the cost down to comparable to a regular gas-fed water heater and it uses less energy.

It's estimated to save me up to $30 per month in energy bills (which I think will turn out to be a little high but we'll see) which would make it pay for itself in 2 years and it comes with an expected life of 10-15 years.  In addition, if we are able to put solar panels on the house, it'll save even more because we'll be using electric instead of natural gas.

Just another way to use new technology to "go green" and reduce both your carbon footprint and your energy costs.  Thoughts anyone?

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