Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Difficult Tasks

   My cancer is gone but my list of complaints is still pretty big.  The neuropathy in my hands could easily bring me to a screeching halt.  My lungs suffered more damage than I am willing to admit and I am thankful that long distance running was never on my list of things to accomplish.  It would be pretty easy to sit in a chair and feel sorry for myself.  Well easy except that this would bore me to tears.
   I was in the construction industry for over 35 years and a welder now for the past 15 years.  I learned habits during this time that I carry with me even now.  At the end of the day I always plan tomorrow. What projects need to be done, the tools I will need and the process in which to do them.  There are always things in construction that aren't any fun but there is an order to things, foundations before floors.
   I no longer have a crew but I keep these attitudes.  I want to rebuild a little six foot by twelve foot entry way to my shop and what was once so simple is proving to be a large task.  I am not in a hurry. I divided it up into segments and little by little I will get it done.  Digging first, then a footing for a stem wall, then the little garden wall and a new walkway.  The digging is mostly done and yesterday I got the load of gravel and now it is waiting for me. I can't use my truck until I unload it.
 Brand new wheel barrel with two wheels!
   I did that on purpose.  I didn't want the pain of today to provide an excuse not to continue this project.

My Other Blog is HERE

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Future?

One of the worst things about having cancer is you no longer look far into the future.  If you can get past next week or even through today that becomes pretty good.  I hated this part just because I am a goal setter by nature and some of what I want to do it way in the future.  I have always been that way, setting short term goals, midterm and down the way a bit, things I would like to do.
For this past year I have let my shop inventories dwindle down to the bare basics, not much extra steel and only one blank canvas encouraging me to paint.  I didn't think I would need them.
    The cancer is gone and I am back to my habits now, ordering a few extra pieces of this or that when I have a job to do. Two canvases calling for my attention!  My garden is screaming for the attention that I didn't give it last year.  Yesterday I spend the day in the greenhouse and that is a cause for celebration.  It is a continuation of life, without me these plants will die, left unattended to wither on the vine. I planted six seeds each of twelve varieties of tomatoes, some I have had for years, saving seeds from one year to the next.  I started four varieties of peppers, two of eggplants, some cucumbers and about 100 Zinnias.  I like flowers scattered throughout my garden.
    It was nice getting dirty again, my hands in the soil of the earth.  I removed the gloves I wear to protect them from this on-going neuropathy that I have.  They were almost comfortable in the familiar surrounding.
Today I will reconnect my well that I drove into the ground forty years ago, giving me faithful, consistent water.  It is nice to make plans for tomorrow, next week and next year.
 My Greenhouse, built almost 40 years ago!
My other Blog is HERE.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Alive and Well!!!

   Oh, I saw my nurses yesterday!  I just had to visit them.  I am back to 200 pounds, need a haircut and I can walk without faultering!  Oh, I gave them the biggest bearhug and they squeezed me back!  It must be nice, in that profession, to see the success stories, to have patients come visiting who don't need anything, just to say hello and, yes, thankyou!  It is a bit dangerous what they do.  They wear hazmat suits as they administer the voodoo chemicals and inspite of everything, they are so cheerful.  You would never know their pains or bad days or what troubles are after them.  They are always so cheerful, a mask of the job. A job where half your customers die off can't be pleasant!
   There was no fear this time in seeing the main voodoo doctor.  I knew I was fine. You get to know your body pretty well when you go through what I did.  We are friends now and the alien beings who invaded are gone.  I am cancerfree.  Next check up, sometime in July and maybe another six months after that.
   This blog will probably slow down a bit as I have lost the evil that it encompassed.  I read other cancer blogs and may respond here to something that sparks my interest, maybe to say how I did it or to offer some kind of encouragement in an otherwise dark and scarry place.  A blog I no longer use but keep for my own memories of this trainwreck can be found on my ArtWanted site, where it says "Blog".  It is a day to day account, an attempt to find laughter in the wreckage.  For the best reading of this scroll to the very bottom and read it backwards. It is HERE. I read it myself from time to time. I never want to forget where I have been.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cheating Death

    This time last year I was pretty sick from the chemo and voodoo chemicals I happily took in an effort to chase away the cancer.  My life then was centered around doctor's appointments, testing for everything, filling out forms and hospital visits.  There is nothing about this experience that I would wish upon anyone.
It was a train wreck in motion, on the very edge of Hell and just a horrible process that each day grew worse.  Last year it was my entire life, that and sleeping the only comfort I found.  Everything medical becomes important.  You never miss a pill.  You never miss an appointment.
   This year is different and it will be a great year.  I have lists of things to do, all fun and inspiring.  Doctor's appointments are not even in my thoughts.  I mention this because last week I had one and just plain forgot about it!  Oh, it was marked on the calendar all right but I never look at the calendar any more.  All days have equal significance, meaning and no meaning at all.
    It was to be and still is because I rescheduled it, a "three month check up".  Three months since I was declared "cancerfree", the name of this blog!  Funny that, I named the baby before it was born!  I knew what the outcome would be.  I am tough as nails and given a 50% survival rate, I knew I could do it.  No fun though!  and it does leave you with a feeling of cheating death!  A different time or a different place, a second twisted and it could have been me.
    My appointment is now for tomorrow and I wonder what that will mean?  At 2:10 pm. I wonder if there is any significance there?  An hour earlier than "The Train to Yuma."  Sometimes I think that "luck" has nothing to do with this and other times I think "luck" is everything.  It is a numbers game and my time wasn't up...
not yet anyway.  No bells for me, but I probably wouldn't listen anyway.
   It was a good appointment to miss.  It means that I am no longer thinking about cancer.  It has lost its control over me and I have better things to do.  Tomorrow will be an interruption, that is all, but it all makes me think about it again.
My other blog is here.

Friday, March 18, 2011


You have two choices when you get cancer:  you can get very fearful or lose fear entirely.  I have to admit I wasn't too please when told that I had "Hodgeskin's Lymphoma", stage three and a half, which means everywhere.  My entire lymph system and then into my spleen and spine.  It was growing, well, like cancer!
I had this alien being eating me from within!  I always thought that a cement truck might get me or that I might fall off a roof, something sudden, bloody, a tearing of the flesh and broken bones, a crushed skull and over.
Well, that may yet be, but first I had to deal with cancer.
     I did discover that no one dies of cancer.  I remember "cancer insurance" being sold in the 1960's, not insurance if you get cancer but insurance if you should die from it. What a cool scam that was!  You die from organ failure or pneumonia, that "old man's friend".  Or, as I discovered, you can die from "the cure".
     The "cure" is mean and that is all there is to that!  It is a voodoo concoction made from World War One Mustard Gas!  Yes, it really is.  It is designed to kill and it does so indiscriminately.  Surgery with a hand grenade.  It kills the cancer cells and a lot of good ones in the process.  I had 12 sessions of ABVD, horrible drugs that are mostly mentioned by initials only.  Every two weeks for six months!  It is all kind of crazy, you mark the dates on a calendar and get to look forward to the experience!  No, I can't go to lunch with you, I've got my chemo to do!
    I never got sick so you could put a name to it anyway.  I was never nauseous, never threw up, but I sure couldn't eat!  I began the process as a welder-construction worker, strong and able at 225 pounds and weighed 172 pounds when I got my final chemo shots!  It is not a diet I would recommend to anyone.
I never really thought much about the day after death but there were times when I didn't think I was going to make it.  You get pretty weak; I couldn't lift 20 pounds!  You get time to stand back and pretend it is all happening to someone else, like it is all a movie, or an unfinished book and you are not really sure how it will end.
    You sleep a lot.  You are always tired and I have never really found a good way to describe that, so someone not affected could really understand what you go through.  It is a tiredness where death would be welcomed.  My mind was always active even when my body couldn't cope.  I could still think!  I did lose a sense of "future", couldn't even think ahead to the next gardening season.
    What I chose to do or maybe did without choice is to relive my life.  I have done it all twice!  My earliest memories, all my school days, my first guitar, the poetry I used to write, old girl friends, my travels, adventures and disappointments and where I succeeded, all have been lived twice.  It is fascinating how in the deep recesses of your mind, you remember everything!  And I thought a lot about food.  I liked the idea of it even though I couldn't eat it.
    Death and taxes, right?  None of us are going to get out of this alive.  So you learn to cherish life, appreciate the now of it all, each breath, each flower and smell, each touch and every kind word.
I am left with pretty bad neuropathy in my hands but the cancer is gone!  I am not sure what "in recession" means?  That has the sound of still having it but it is getting smaller?  My doctor says he can't find any cancer in me and spent a few thousand dollars trying to do so.  It is gone.
     Some days my hands are so bad that I would just like to sit and hold them.  I don't allow this for two reasons.  The first is that in reliving my life I had no memory of pain.  Pain is not something we easily carry with us.  Too heavy, maybe, or just not important.  I remember getting the Pet and Cat scans and lots of x-rays and the doctor asking me when I broke my shoulder?  It was evidenced in the tests but not in my memory, certainly nothing I ever went to a doctor about. 
    The second reason I ignore my neuropathy is that there are things I want to do.  The will to do them is stronger than the fear of pain.  I do have a fear of atrophy.  I exercise my hands everyday, all the time, constantly.  My cancer doctor says nerves are slow to grow and it might take eight years for my hands to get better.  My regular doctor says that in eight years I will be used to it.  It is like stirring a five gallon bucket full of cut glass.  It is not pleasant but I can do it.
My Other Blog is HERE

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Time...

   always means to me, early.  Yesterday I set two big gate posts in concrete and because I am still a bit weak from the voodoo chemo that cured me, I found someone else to dig the holes for me.  We had agreed to meet at a nearby restaurant where I had offered to buy him breakfast. I didn't know this guy and wasn't buying him breakfast to be nice.  It was my idea of a bribe, an offer to get him to the job on time.
   Thirty five years in construction and the worst thing you can do to me is to interrupt my schedule, be late for work or not show up at all.  Everything has an order, in this case I had concrete arriving later and there would be nothing to do without the holes in place.  Had he not shown up I had a list of three others who might dig the holes for me.  I always have a plan "B".
    In the "old days" on time always meant early.  If a job started at 8 AM then you got there early, got the tools out and everything lined up and you actually began working at 8 AM!  This is no longer true.  People show up late as if that were normal, with their coffee in hand and then they want to go to the bathroom before even wondering what the day might offer.  I can't even imagine that!  I want my day to go easily and for that I have to know what is going on, what problems might occur, what unexpected might happen and what tools I might need.
    I originally met the owner to give a bid, discuss the job and see where the gates might go.  I called for a Utility Locate to make sure there were no underground utilities that might be in the way, then I went back to the job to see the markings on the road and determine the perfect location with the homeowner.  I wanted all these issues settled before I had any crew there.  There is a time to discuss and a time to work.
   I developed this notion of time because I once had several employees and any and all time lost always came out of my chech.  The employees always got their eight hours worth, the government for sure got theirs, no waiting there!  The insurance companies and other expences always got their, and what was left over was mine.  All wasted time was paid for by me.  As an employer you quickly learn a plan "B" or you can not stay in business.  It seems now that who ever is buying our services is paying for eight hours and getting only six!
I just couldn't do that and my crew soon learned to be on time, or they found other work.
    I was so happy!  I arrived to our 8:30 AM breakfast at eight o'clock and my new found hole digger was already there!  Wow, that is a good way to impress me and I will tell all my friends and others in this gate building business that I am in.  Word of mouth, the best advertizing ever.
More of What I Do HERE!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What is it all about?

     Do you know someone on unemployment who may not be deserving of it?  Maybe they are using it as a paid vacation and not even hunting for work?  They might even be doing side jobs and not declaring their income!  I think we all know people like that and it is sure irritating!  It seems as if they are our working in their garden while we work hard at our jobs to support them!  It seems as though we have designed a system to encourage us to be lazy.
    There is no unemployment fund.  It is long gone.  We spent that money years ago and today every dollar
paid to the unemployed is borrowed money.  It was never really designed to do what it is doing now, supporting millions of people.  When I was an employer and had fifteen people working for me this tax was negligible, probably the smallest tax I paid and certainly a lot less than to the local public transit.  Unemployment was designed to help people in transition, between jobs while hunting for work, for short periods of time.  Now it is a lifestyle.  One can collect unemployment payments for two years!  The money is borrowed, the employee never paid into this fund and as an employer I don't think I paid more than $15 a week into this insurance!  It was only designed to be used for one in 25 employees and for a very short time.
    It is not a good thing to put on your resume.  What have you been doing for the last two years?  "Collecting unemployment and working in my garden," would not impress any company.  Two years out of the workforce is forever, so much changes.
    I wonder what "unemployment" is really all about?  There are more Americans unemployed now than during The Great Depression.  I think it is somewhere near 25,000,000 people.  The official rate is almost 10% and these are the ones collecting unemployment!  This has all become a "part of the system" now, necessary to prop up a failed State.  It is not done out of kindness and certainly as no one has really paid into it, it has nothing to do with "deserving".  Remember, it is all borrowed money.  So there has to be another reason for it, huh?
    It is all part of the Monopoly Game to this whole thing, like "passing GO and collecting $200".  It is used to continue this game.  If you stop these payments the game is over.  What this country requires is a quick infusion of cash and unemployed people spend their money the fastest.  It doesn't sit around in a bank.
Unemployment and some kind of food assistance, maybe housing help, have become the workforce of America!  Think about it.  It would be disastrous to stop it.  It is how the rent is paid and groceries are bought, gasoline purchased.  It is a huge driving force in this economy.  In my heart I know it is abused but in my mind I know it has become so very necessary.  It is not done out of any kindness, the "system" requires it.
    It is difficult to stop this process.  The problem with Government "make work" projects is that historically when the government controls manufacturing and industry and employment that leads to fascism.  Giving it away with borrowed money leads to laziness and debt. 
   Encouraging American Industry is not so much a legislative thing as it is an educational matter.  If you removed all of your clothes that were not made in America (or the country where you are reading this),
would you be naked?  If you removed the items from your house that weren't made in America (or home country), would your house be empty?  My point is we have met the enemy and it is us!  We want good jobs that pay well and buy foreign import crap made from slave labor and we wonder what the problem is?
    I have offered this challenge before and I will offer it again.  Can you go one week without buying anything imported?  Consider this a game and it is not as easy as you might imagine.  You have to read the labels.
What would happen if your very favorite store, whatever it might be, removed all imported products from their shelves?  We have the power to do this.  It might be the only power we have left.
    So, are you frustrated or do you like it the way it is?
This is what I do.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Political Opinions

In Lybia they can't express their political opinions and here we don't!  That is so strange.  More people vote for American Idol than in our elections.  What the heck is going on?  Life was easier when we had 10% at the bottom of the heap and 10% wealthy, something in our dreams we could aspire to.  In those day (1950's and early 1960's) the very rich paid a lot of taxes, the more they made, the more they paid, and it was only the very poor, that bottom 10% that received some kind of assistance from the government.  The Middle, that huge workhorse of our population, had jobs, worked hard and carried the "American Dream".
     How did all this get derailed?  Mostly what we like to do and find it easiest to do is to be critical of what we can closely see.  Now we are after the Unions and their pension funds.  The same arguments were applied to Women's Liberation.  If women were allowed into the workplace it would reduce money paid to the men.  They would work for less and destroy it for the men!  and the same argument for immigration, they will work for less and destroy it for everyone.  There is some merit to this argument and everything we do is not done necessarily for the reasons we claim to do them.  For instance, at the end of World War II there was a huge problem of what to do with all the returning servicemen.  What would happen with millions of people entering the workforce and competing in the job market?  What will we do with the thousands of servicemen in our current wars when they return?  That is why the GI Bill was created.  Keep them out of the workforce and send them to school.  At the same time we extended mandatory public education from 16 years old until 18 years old.  Manipulation of the work force!  There are lots of good things that came from this, it is just that we did not necessarily do them for good reasons.
     What is happening now is the bottom of the heap is getting huge and as hard as we might be working we are finding ourselves there.  The "bottom" is closer to forty percent!  These are people that need assistance, the "working poor" and those without work at all.  We see no way out but to lower the standards of those just above us, only one rung up this ladder, the union workers.  We quickly forget the benefits that have trickled down to us, the forty hour weeks, the paid breaks, the vacations, any health benefits and other's.
It seems that in losing our ability to climb we want to destroy those that have.
    This is only the beginning of a process, pulling down the rungs of a ladder of those just ahead of us. We will attempt other methods, easy things in response to what we see around us.  Their will be attempts to reduce minimum wage.  Instead of thinking maybe we should earn more we will think that "Hamburger flippers" deserve less!  And we will go after small businesses with a furry.  They are all around us, in every neighborhood and we never seen the 70 hour weeks and hard work they do and the risks they are willing to take.  They too are just "one rung up" from us and there will be attempts to bring them down.
    Personally I don't think any of this is necessary.  All the cuts that are being made by various governments amount to pennies and every one of them is from this lower end of the ladder.  The first thing local governments always do is close the parks!
    The math is all different now because there is no "top 10%".  The highest rungs of the ladder now belong to the top 2% and they control over 40% of everything.  The bottom 40% control nothing and the rest of us are scrambling, eating each other, destroying what is around us to keep our foothold.
    We are, for the first time in history, fighting two major wars without any increase in taxes!  The theory behind this is pretty simple math.  If we had to really pay for these wars we might rethink them, find a different way or just get out.  So our wars, costing Trillions of dollars.and taking care of those wounded costing even more Trillions of dollars, is all borrowed money.  You think our National Debt is serious?  Each of us owes over $45,000, man, women and child, each of us!
     Truly this is all pretty simple math and has nothing to do with what a person believes.  You may have any political persuasion that you want and the math remains the same.  You can chop at the bottom rungs of this ladder as much as you want and it may make you feel better but you are still going to owe $45,000.  It won't make a dent.  It is like making the minimum payment on a visa bill.
     If there were serious effort at getting our house in order, serious effort to reduce our National Debt, we would get out of these wars and then return to a fair taxing strategy.  In the meantime it seems we are piranha in a fish bowl eating each other. We have become this cancer!
My Other Blog is Here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Simple Solution

It is pretty incredible.  We are becoming cannibals in a fish bowl.  Little fish eating each other with no thought to the big fish about to eat us all.  We do this because we can only strike out at what we know.  We can only see a little distance, those just ahead of us on this ladder we are on.  It all becomes irrational.  We strike out at unions because they have benefits that we do not.  Unions which gave us the forty hour week.  Unions which gave us lunch breaks and paid rest periods.  Unions which encouraged benefits for those injured on the job, offered us sick pay and health benefits.  Unions which created our middle class and raised the bar for everyone.  We want to pull them down now, attempting to find some comfort in reducing them to our level.
The big fish will be happy, more food for them!  Here is a joke!
    Three guys are sitting at a table with a plate of cookies before them.  The rich guy leans forward and grabs almost all of them for himself, all but one in fact.  "Be careful," he says to the other guy, "that Union guy next to you will take most of this last cookie!"  That is what is happening.
   Greed itself has become a cancer! (You thought I couldn't get back on subject, huh?).  It is only because we allow it.  We reward it.  We admire it.  We would rather destroy our middle class than infringe on the rights of the wealthy!  I am talking the "ubber rich", wealth beyond counting, people you don't even know.
Their numbers are dwindling too.  The "rich" used to be the top 10% and now they are the top 2%, but they control even more money, almost 40% of the money available.
   This might be a fun game if we could all play it. That is not what is happening. Based on a percentage of income, these super wealthy pay far less taxes than the average fish in this bowl, and their wealth is taken out of circulation, invested, sent overseas.  It does not trickle down any more but floats away leaving us to feed on each other.
     It is not necessary to "balance the budget" through subtraction and to remove this money also from circulation makes for horrible math.  It would be so very simple.  Everyone pays the same taxes on everything.  Period.  Just that and we would have a surplus.  Why this is such a radical idea is beyond me.
My Other Blog is Here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Defining Society

I get accused of being a "liberal", as if that were a cuss word but the truth is I am pretty conservative. I am pretty consistent and tend to keep things I am familiar with.  I have lived in the same house for over 40 years. the very same wife for almost 45 years, the same telephone number, yes I have a land-line! for over 45 years!  I don't make changes easily.  I have been self employed and in business for over 35 years, sometimes having more than 15 employees.
     It seems to me that when it comes to voting there are only two choices.  I vote to draw the circle closer, keep what I have and maybe get more, vote for benefits for me, tax advantages for me, me, me, me.
Or I vote to enlarge my circle, vote because I have a concept of what a society should be.  I love great wealth and rich people.  Although not one myself, I make my living from people with excess money, wealth for the nicer things in life. I do not believe that wealthy people work harder than I do nor harder than most people do.  They "do it differently" and that is one of the best things about our society.  We are allowed to and given opportunities to do it differently.  Somehow our society allows for people like Michael Jordan to endorse shoes, and although he may only get 50 cents for each shoe sold, it totals millions of dollars. It is a wonderful society in a lot of aspects but it is "the system" which allows for this kind of wealth, not really hard work on Michael Jordan's part.  He is skilled and clever and maybe should be rewarded, but I think he should pay his taxes just like we do, the same rate we do.  Why this makes me a "flaming liberal" I have no idea?
    I am in favor of things that cost money.  I am in favor of things that make a society and a culture.  I like a good road system, bridges and trains to cross this wonderful country.  I am in favor of a good educational system and willing to define this.  A good educational system would expand our concept of Democracy, encourage debate and discussion and our willingness to vote.  A good educational system would, if not make us better human beings, at least more literate humans, better read with an understanding on how we got to where we are and a sense of where this will lead us.  Yes, it might even get us jobs and help compete in this new world economy.
   I believe that a society will be judged, if not by God then by other's, by how it treats its elderly, infirm and children, the weakest amongst us.  These things cost money.  There are 40,000,000 Americans without health insurance and another 40,000,000 with less than adequate insurance.  We are the only industrialized country in the world without some kind of national health care.  I have good insurance, the best even.  My fun little bout with cancer cost over $130,000 and my insurance paid for all of it except the first $1,000.  I am not in this battle for me.  I don't need it.  I am in favor of National Coverage for everyone because I am conservative.  Yes, you read that right.  I am a businessman and this makes for good business.  It is fair, it is less expensive.  That simple.  It has good math.  Instead of fighting and keeping to myself what I have, I want to enlarge this circle and bring others into it.  Everyone.
    There is more money available now than there ever has been on the history of the Earth.  It is just being distributed differently.  There were more "middle class" people in the United States in the 1950's than there are now.  We are dwindling.  As a percentage there are fewer wealthy people too. They just have more money.  When the middle class was biggest and controlled more wealth and paid their taxes, life was more optimistic.  Now this wealth has shifted to the top 2% who control over 40% of this wealth.  Frankly this is so much money we can't even imagine it.  We couldn't count it in a lifetime and we couldn't begin to spend it.
They don't spend it either.  There is no "trickle down" anymore.  This is wealth that has been invested and taken out of circulation.  No one is paying taxes on it.  It is like playing the game, "Monopoly" and taking the money off the board.
     To me, equal taxes for everyone makes me a conservative.  Wanting to take care of children, the elderly,
the weak amongst us and the sick makes me a reasonable, decent human being.  To do this because ultimately it would save money and give better service makes me a good businessman.
My Other Blog is HERE.