Saturday, December 31, 2016

Trying to make 2016 a little more EZ.

Saturday, December 31, 2016: The last day of the year. This morning I decided to review our iPhoto library for the past year. A lot happened in the world during 2016 for good and for ill. Joy and sadness were both to be part of the human condition. Nevertheless, we were blessed and enjoyed much. So, here in the modern version of the Christmas Newsletter, are a few of the events of 2016 as I was prompted by my iPhoto library (I've not uploaded the photos here as I'd have to export them from iPhoto first and I'm feeling lazy). 

I began the year with recuperation from prostate cancer surgery performed at Brooke Army Medical Center by Dr. Duffy and team on December 3, 2015. As of the end of the year, the recuperation continues (some side effects of treatment remain) and my last test showed cancer-free.

In January, we had some repair and renovation work done on our pool house. The work was done by John, a handyman who lives a few doors from us. We had a new frame baseplate installed, new siding, new doors, and new windows. Cost: About $2,000.

In mid-January, I contacted Mike Holloway in an attempt to learn the provenance of the ceramic tile artwork that is attached to the back wall of our home at 9315 Overton Road in San Antonio. This home was built by Mike Holloway's father in 1972 and Mike and his siblings grew up here. He is now a custom home builder in the San Antonio area. He told me that his parents bought the individual art tiles in Monterrey Mexico in the late '70s and had them assembled and fastened to the wall of the house. The art piece is signed but the signature is unreadable and Mike does not remember any more than that. Age and weather are beginning to damage the tiles, and they are not quite assembled in the right order. Viewing the tiled artwork closely you can see that a couple of the tiles are out of order. I contacted a couple of preservationists but no one had any good and simple advice for preserving the artwork.

On January 23rd, we celebrated Ian's 8th birthday at his families’ home.

On February 19th, we celebrated Derek's birthday early along with Glenda's birthday at Derek's home.

In March, son Joel visited Cuba and sent us some photos.

I attended Coffee and Cars in NW San Antonio a couple of times in 2016, the first time with Jennifer, on March 13th.

In late March, I bought a mini-quadcopter UAV and tried to learn to fly it. My skills were not top-of-the-line. On one event, I actually lost the drone in a tree in neighbor Martha Beard's yard. We were able to retrieve the lost toy.

On April 12th, a huge hailstorm swept across San Antonio, doing what was eventually estimated to be $5B in damage. Our home suffered a damaged roof, siding, screens and damage to garden and shrubs, but no broken glass or other serious damage. During the initial cleanup, we had over four tons of tree and shrub debris removed from our yard. It took the rest of 2016 working with insurance and contractors to get all of the repair work done, but by the end of the year we had a nice new roof on both the house and pool shed and new siding and solar screens on the house. Trees and shrubs have all recovered.

In May, Glenda and I drove from San Antonio to Idaho and back to visit friends and family. We spent two nights at the Faywood Hot Springs resort in southern New Mexico and while there visited the City of Rocks state park.

The next stop on the trip was in Tucson, AZ to visit Glenda's aunt Myrna Dillie, who passed away later in 2016. This was an amazing woman who was born and raised in Indian Country, supported a Navy officer husband over a noteworthy career, and spent time as a volunteer teacher and counselor later in life on Indian reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. After that short visit we proceeded to Gilbert, AZ, where we spent a couple of days with son Joel, his daughter Seville, and his beautiful wife, Orenda. We were there for Mother's Day and Orenda hosted a truly wonderful dinner and we got to meet her mother and other family members. Glenda and I attended Sacrament Meeting at an LDS church just a couple of blocks from Joel's home. There were over 500 from this one ward’s congregation in attendance and passing the Sacrament took over 30 minutes with a dozen deacons doing the duty. Four ward congregations meet in this building and, we were told, that not a single member of those four congregations live more than one mile from the building.

From Gilbert we drove to Flagstaff Arizona where we got to have lunch at an Olive Garden Restaurant with my cousin, Evelyn Patterson. Evelyn is a wonderful lady who was a good friend when I was just a child of 10 or so. We lost touch when her family moved from Idaho to Arizona so her father could work on the construction of the Glenn Canyon Dam. How we reconnected is a story unto itself. We now stay in touch via Facebook, and having lunch with her was a wonderful treat.

From Flagstaff we continued on to Utah where we were guests in the home of my Niece, Denine Smith, for a couple of days so we could visit my brother, Warren (her father), and other family members in the area. Warren is aging, having been born on November 15, 1934, and is unfortunately no longer able to live on his own but resides in a memory care facility in Bountiful, UT. He could go out with us to lunch and for visits. One of the events we enjoyed was a chalk-art street festival in Bountiful, Utah. On our last morning there, we had breakfast with Denine's youngest sibling, Peri Griffin at Winger's Diner in Kaysville, UT, where we enjoyed fried-bread scones just as the ones my Danish mother made when I was wee.

From Utah, we proceeded to Blackfoot, Idaho to visit my Sister, Sarah Leane, who, born on August 28, 1931, is also living in a memory care facility. I think I see a glimpse of my own future. While there, we spent some time with her oldest son, Michael Jensen, who has recently retired from long-haul commercial driving.

After time with Sarah, we went to Twin Falls, where we stayed a few days with Glenda's sister Laurie and her partner, Deb Krause. While there, we were able to visit our grandsons, Michael  and Tyler Johnson, and their Mother, our daughter Glenda Anne Moyes. We took the boys to church on a Sunday and to Disney's live-action Jungle Book movie the next afternoon. While in Twin Falls, we also visited Glenda's step mother, Netta Baum, and took the two boys to see family grave sites in the Magic Valley. Both of my parents are in the Hazelton graveyard while most of Glenda's past family are laid to rest in Twin Falls. Glenda's father just passed away at Thanksgiving time in 2015, and she was able to fly to Idaho for the services.

Leaving Twin Falls, we drove to Nampa to visit with Glenda's other sister Carolyn Baum-Buttorff, and her husband Mark. While in Nampa, Glenda's sister, Janet Lambert, was also able to visit us from her home in Moscow, Idaho, so it was quite a satisfactory reunion.

While there, Carolyn entrusted me with a few hundred historical Baum family photos to digitize and return. As of the end of 2016, that work is about 95% complete, and one of my planned tasks for January of '17.

After our return to San Antonio, Glenda and I visited the San Antonio Zoo in late May, for the first time in many years.

On June 11th, we enjoyed Hot Rod night at Soda Pop's drive in in Boerne, TX, with the company of our eldest son, Derek, his wife Jillian, and their son, Ian.

I attended the drive-in hot rod meet up event again, by myself this time, on July 30th.
For most of the year, Glenda participated in the Eden Ward choir. They provided beautiful music for many of our Sunday worship services. I continued to perform some administrative duties for the Sunday School.

Through most of the summer, we attended grandson Ian's soccer games each Saturday morning. Sometimes, we'd go for brunch with his parents after the game.

In August, I travelled to Pittsburgh, PA for a week to provide training in the proper and safe management of hazardous waste materials to US Air Force members at the 911th Airlift Wing. This is work I've done annually for about 12 years. In 2015, Glenda went with me on this trip and we toured the museums of Pittsburgh and I got to check off one bucket list item by visiting Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, the Fallingwater home in Laurel Highlands, PA.

Glenda and I celebrated our 47th anniversary with our first-ever ocean cruise aboard the Carnival Liberty from Galveston, TX to Cozumel, Mexico in mid-August. This short trip was very relaxing and a lot of fun, too!

One month later, on September 18, 2016, I completed my first-ever 5K run. The Zero Prostate Cancer run in San Antonio. There were around 3,000 participants. I finished far, far from first in my age group, but I did finish!

To celebrate the accomplshment, I took Glenda to a musical review, Lady Sings the Blues, at the Harliquin Theater later in the month.

We hosted our neighborhood's National Night Out get together on October 4th. I grilled hot dogs and we had chips and chilled soda or water for all. We had a great turn out and were supported by visits from our local city police, fire department and city councilman's office. Our neighborhood association helped with the set up and clean up and reimbursed me for the food costs. Around 60 neighbors dropped by for a visit and a snack over the course of the evening. A good time was had by all!

On October 8th, it was back to Boerne. This time we visited their Market Days and annual old-time car show. Hundreds of restored and customized cars. Some real beauties.

On October 10th, Glenda was still swimming daily in the back yard pool, although the night-time lows were into the 50s. I told her she was dedicated to her exercise routine to do that. Later that day, we signed her up for a Gold's Gym membership so she could use their indoor heated pool.

Grandson Ian, with his parents help, has been building and launching model rockets. On the 15th of October, we went with them to a launch at a field in Schertz, TX.

On October 16th, I rode my V-Star 1100 in the international Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. Attended by several hundred motorcyclists, we rode a scenic route through San Antonio, accompanied by a city police motorcycle escort team, while dressed in our finery. This event is an annual fundraiser for prostate cancer research and male health. Some of the riders went all-out in their costumes, and many of the motorcycles were rare or vintage models.

In early November, we attended the Olmos Park Art Shuffle, and saw a wide variety of works of art by local artists. One of the artists on show was John Garland, an acquaintance from my days in the Air Force.

On the evening of the 12th of November, Glenda and I attended the Classic Theater's production of School for Scandal.

Our Thanksgiving Day Dinner was a family success. We fed about 20 people, with Jennifer and Bre, Derek's family, Vincent's family. We had the food catered by D'Lish Cafe and they provided an excellent repast. The family gathering was very satisfying.

On the second of December, we were privileged to attend the Texas Children's Choir presentation at the 7th annual Windcrest Community Christmas Devotional, held at the Windcrest, TX LDS chapel. The choir is a non-denominational group and has leadership and participation from many congregations in the San Antonio area. They have performed for international heads of state, at Carnegie Hall, and with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

In early December, our son, Ben, and his wife, Samantha, gained full-time custody of our grandsons, Michael and Tyler Johnson. These are the two youngest sons of daughter, Glenda Anne, who has unfortunately had her parental rights terminated by the State of Idaho due to her inability (or refusal) to secure and maintain a suitable home for the boys. Ben and Sam traveled to Idaho on the 10th and 11th of December to take the boys to their home in Wisconsin. While Anne sees their actions as traitorous, everyone else sees a giving and loving act on their part.

2016 wound up with a Christmas celebration at our home, with family gathered from Arizona and Wisconsin as well as Texas. We got to play at a firing range, at a bowling alley, and a couple of cafes as well as having a great dinner at home on Christmas Sunday. Santa paid his annual visit, gifts were exchanged with love, and a warm feeling prevailed. The grandkids swam in the back yard pool (!! it was 80 F. Christmas afternoon) and we all sat around the fire pit pool side late into the night.

Through the year, there were a variety of birthday and anniversary celebrations too numerous to mention here.

At 5:00 PM on Friday, December 30, 2016, I officially ended my full time employment and became a retiree! I’ve filed for my Social Security stipend and we’ve been working on being prepared to live on a fixed income. I’ll still work with my company a little, hourly as needed, but no more punching a time clock for me.

So here we are, New Years Eve day. A lot happened in the world during 2016 for good and for ill. Joy and sadness were both to be part of the human condition. Nevertheless, we were blessed and enjoyed much. For all, we are grateful!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Good nursing care is not EZ to give.

Someone in the Prostate Cancer support group shared what he called his 'most embarrassing prostate cancer moment' where dignity was out of the question and asked if anyone else wished to share. This was my response from the day of my surgery, just over a year ago:

I feel like my worst moment goes beyond embarrassing--I'd just call it out and out humiliation. And it showed to me just how much nurses deserve to be called angels or even more. It was the evening after my DaVinci RP. I was in a hospital bed, thankfully in a private room, about 6 hours after surgery, catheterized and hooked to an IV and vital sign monitors. My family had just gone home after a loving visit when the nurse came in and reminded me that my surgeon wanted me to get up and walk some that same day if I could. Hell, why not? I felt pretty good. No pain, and I felt alert. So the nurse helped me deal with the various tubes and wires, got me out of the inflatable socks and into some slippers and holding my hand helped me to slowly stand beside the bed. As I stood, I suddenly felt a bit dizzy, so I sort of leaned back toward the bed. At the exact moment that the nurse asked if I felt OK a wave of nausea washed over me that shook me to the core and suddenly, with absolutely no chance to control it, everything that had been in my "core" was shooting violently out of me. At both ends. I'm told this sometimes happens when one comes out of anesthesia. The expelling must have only lasted a second or two and the dizziness passed just as quickly, but, oh, my! What an ungodly mess. With no exclamation, the nurse gently led me to the bathroom and asked me be seated on the toilet. Once I was seated, she asked if I would be OK to wait there a few moments. When I answered in the affirmative she fetched cleaning supplies, linens (and maybe help, I don't know). In what seemed no time, she had me cleaned and dressed in a clean gown, the room cleaned, my bed made with fresh linens, and me comfortably back in it. Never a word of complaint from her as she dealt with my mess that I found disgusting. With a smile she said, "Perhaps you should wait until morning to try to walk about." With that she left me to rest, and to my knowledge I have never seen her again. What a demonstration of human kindness. Yes, it was her job, but still...Did I mention she was truly a beautiful person? I inquired about her the next day and told that her shift rotation had taken her to another ward.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Some times it isn't EZ to give a helping hand.

My wife and I were this morning (at 5:30 AM) at the same hospital where I had my DaVinci RP on December 3, 2015. She was being prepped for an elective surgery (which is complete now, and went well) when I overhead a very loud-speaking doctor a few curtained-bed spaces away briefing a patient about his DaVinci RP to be done today. Shy about violating anyone's privacy, after the doc left, and finding the curtains open, I stuck my head into the man's area and addressed him as Mr. "name taped to end of bed." I told him that I was one year out from the same procedure (with a very similar diagnosis from what I heard the doctor say) and that I was doing well. I said, "Be strong and confident, brother. You will have hard times, but you'll be fine." He thanked me, we shook hands, and I left him and his wife alone. Later, I saw his wife in the cafeteria and thought I'd take a moment to make sure that she was aware of the support groups (including this one) that will be available to them. I mentioned that the emotional struggle is surprisingly real, that as strong as her man was, he is likely to struggle. She basically brushed me off, saying that her husband is a minister and they have a strong basis of faith and she's sure they won't need any outside support. Wow. Later I thought that what she doesn't know is that he could help others by participating in support groups and thus extend his ministry of good works. I have strong faith in a higher power. I have a strong and loving family. I've needed outside support and I believe he probably will, too. He will be in my prayers for sure, and I wish them both the best.