Thursday, June 30, 2011

sarah says hi

It started out to be a book-signing by Bristol Palin at the Mall of America, and my sister Joan, being a celebrity hound, wanted to go see her.  Bristol, the 20-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin, has somehow written an autobiography, presumably about her sex life with Levi Johnston and shooting bears in Alaska.

At the last minute, the Mall added her mom, Sarah (uber-celebrity and right-wing cartoon-politician), and dad, Todd, to the agenda, which to me seemed like they were stealing Bristol's thunder, but oh well.  You had to buy one of Bristol's books to be able to meet the Palins, plus you could buy one of Sarah's recent books, and I was surprised when Joan, a good progressive Democrat, did exactly that.  My sister Mary and I stood at the railing on the second floor of the mall rotunda, watching from above as Joan stood in the surprisingly short line.

When she got to the Palins, she had Bristol, Sarah and Todd wave at Mary and me.  We, being friendly people, even waved back.  "Why aren't they down here?" Sarah asked Joan.  "They're shy," Joan answered, too shy herself to say that we just didn't want to buy their stupid books.  "Well, tell them Hi from me," Sarah said.

And I think that's as close as I ever want to get to Sarah Palin.  At least, on this particular night, she was nice.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

shutting down the state

Here on the local scene, the Minnesota Governor (Democrat) and the Minnesota Legislature (Republican) may be at an impasse on budget negotiations, and the state may "shut down" as of this Friday, July 1.  I wasn't sure what "shut down" meant, so I found this list of the state government agencies that would shut down, at least temporarily, if there is no agreement:

46 state boards and agencies, with minimal staffing at 29 others. Departments with the most staff kept on duty would include Human Services, Corrections, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs.
State funding for many nonprofits including some child care assistance programs. A court-appointed referee will decide whether some social service programs will continue.
Most highway and other state-funded construction projects. Private contracts may have to lay off workers. Emergency highway repairs will continue.
--State parks.
--State lottery.
--State tourism office.
--Many licensing boards for occupations from physical therapy to private detectives.
--Minnesota Zoo, though some staff would care for animals.
--Various state licensing offices, such as for driver's licenses and car registration."

Have some guts and just raise taxes on the wealthy, Legislators.  Stop only voting for your rich supporters and recognize the harm you are doing to the people you're supposed to be representing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

life ain't long

As I write this, I'm sitting in a two-day seminar as part of my annual continuing education.  A wide variety of business topics.  This particular one-hour session is mind-numbing in its irrelevance.  I need to stretch my brain and maybe my body in a different direction.

I miss exercising.  I miss the gym.  It's been a week and a half since my surgery, and I'm not supposed to be exercising for six weeks total.  As I gradually turn to flab physically, I get more concerned about my mental state.  When I have a good exercise routine going, my energy level is high and my attitude is positive.  Remind me of that in four and a half weeks -- if i don't shoot myself before this class ends, that is.
It's later now, and I'm in a different session:  a one-hour class called "Life is long: make the right decisions!"  It goes without saying that I know that life is definitely not long, but, let's face it, some hours are interminable.  This one is at least better than that first one.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

the flesh is even weaker than usual

The rain held off, the day was perfect for a parade.  A fun time was held by all, I think.

Not sure, though, if my body is quite ready for a day as busy as today turned out to be.  After walking through the park after the parade, I found myself winded and exhausted.  I headed straight for a power nap, which revived me long enough for a birthday dinner tonight for our good friend Diane.  Not sure if this is what my doctor meant by "taking it easy for a while."

... and now -- upcoming -- two days sitting in a class (continuing education)... That might be exactly the physical inexertion that I need.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

don't rain on our parade

Hey -- how about that?.. Gay marriage has been legalized  in New York, and it was done right before Pride weekend.  A great time to be celebrating.

James and Mary have arrived, and we're having fun.  It's been rainy all day after a week of good forecasts for this weekend, and we're just hoping that the weather will be good tomorrow morning for the Pride parade.  We have a contingent of about nine of us family members attending and want to get there early to stake a prime spot to watch the parade.  It will be the first Pride parade for James and Mary and Ruthie.  Nobody, gay or straight, ever forgets their first Pride parade.

Friday, June 24, 2011

north by southwest

My sister Mary and my grand-nephew James arrive here in Minneapolis/St. Paul late tomorrow morning, and I find myself a little nervous about their trip.  First of all, this will be James' (age 18) first time on an airplane.  Second, they are coming from southern New Jersey, which usually means that you fly out of Philadelphia on either Delta or U.S. Airways, but flights were expensive, so they're flying out of Newark instead -- a farther drive, a more unfamiliar territory -- and they are coming on Southwest Airlines, changing planes in Chicago.  AND their flight leaves Newark at 6 a.m., which means a mostly sleepless night for them.

I personally haven't ever flown Southwest before, have you?  I picture it being kind of a cattle-call kind of atmosphere since there are no seat assignments, but some people love that unique airline.  James is very excited.  I want it to be a good experience for him.

I've been easing back into the work world the past couple days, and that's going okay.  Ready for a fun, beautiful Pride weekend with our visitors and other family members. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

off they go to jethro tull

Last night, Jerry and I were driving down Hennepin Avenue, and there on the marquee at the Orpheum Theater was "Jethro Tull -- This Saturday 8 PM". You know Jethro Tull? -- that rock group from the '70s? I had a general awareness of them but could not name one of their songs.

Jerry, though, freaked out. Unbeknownedest to me, he loves Jethro Tull! His first rock concert ever was Jethro Tull -- in Evansville, Indiana -- way back when he was in high school, and it's been his favorite rock concert ever since. So, Jerry being Jerry, he immediately became on a mission to find tickets for Saturday's show. I didn't want to go (being non-Jethro Tull and also not quite used to being un-hospitalized), so he called my sister Mary, who arrives here on Saturday, if she likes Jethro Tull. "I love Jethro Tull!" she answered enthusiatically.

The concert is sold out, so Jerry went to Craig's List, found a couple of great seats, and the two of them head off to the Orpheum Saturday night. Mary is going to be here for three weeks, and her calendar is filling up fast -- This will just be her first event as she does the Twin Cities!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

you deserve a break today

I'm home now, and I never want to be admitted to a hospital ever again.  Shoot me before that happens.  I was doing mostly okay with it all until I had to stay again last night -- the 7th night.  Big-time overload, dude.

Jerry did a wise thing, though.  He could see that I was feeling down last night, and, since I wasn't hooked up to any machines anymore, he said, "Hey man, instead of you ordering off the hospital menu, let's go down to McDonald's."  I know it makes no sense from a health standpoint, but there is a McDonald's right there in the hospital, down on the first floor (Maybe right next to the cardiac care unit?).  I protested a bit, because I didn't want to go down there in my ugly hospital garb, but he insisted, "Hey -- patients do it all the time, and you won't see anybody you know anyway."

... and, man!  were they the best McDonald's hamburgers and french fries I ever had?   In the Top Ten, for sure!  Then we walked outdoors a bit, and it was all a reminder of freedom.

.. but I'm out now, and I'm free, and I'm done whining about the hospital and will heal much better here on the outside.  So tomorrow, back to normal topics -- work? (geez!) .. Mary and James arriving in three days?.. Fun summer activities?..  And I'll try to avoid mentions of pain -- which probably means I can hardly discuss Michele Bachmann at all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

the personality of a urologist

First, let me get this out of the way:  Never order hospital pizza.

Today is Day 7 in the hospital, and I have a hard time even looking at the menu anymore.  They say I will probably be released today, if things function as they are supposed to.  This is a very long hospital stay these days when insurance companies are so eager to push patients to the curb.  Oh lucky me.

... and I gotta ask this about urologists:  Do any of them have any bedside manner?  I've dealt with three or four of them over the past several years, and so far I find them all to be coldly efficient and distant.  I have faith in my current doctor, but he sure doesn't hang around very long to give reassurance or answer questions.

I'm sure it must take a certain kind of personality (or lack thereof) to want to enter into this medical specialty.

Monday, June 20, 2011

lunch is on the way

Couldn't think of a Monday video to post, so here I am with some of my usual drivvel... :-)

I'm not getting released today, as it turns out... Oh well, I'm getting too lazy to get dressed anyway.  I just ordered some pizza and a Coke for lunch (no Pepsi on the menu) and will blog something til it arrives.

It turned out to be cool to have Jon and Tom here on Father's Day, visiting their decrepid old dad.  Jon showed me a lot of his pics from his recent trip to Europe, until I reached the point where I was on vacation-photo overload (Jon, when he goes on vacations, takes thousands of pictures).  Tom brought me a Betty White autobiography.

Actually, I do need to shape up and get out of here.. My sister Mary and nephew James arrive on Saturday, Mary for three weeks, James indefinitely, and we have plenty of activities planned -- the Pride Parade next Sunday, the Guthrie, the Jungle, West Side Story, the Mall of America...

Pizza's here...  I'm trying to keep my expectations for hospital pizza as low as I can..

Sunday, June 19, 2011

a low-energy father's day

I might be getting out of the hospital tomorrow, and of course I'm wondering if I'm ready for that.  Mostly I feel like doing nothing except maybe sleep.  My hemoglobin level is apparently a little low (because I lost a fair amount of blood during the operation Friday), which I guess is why I have such low energy and why I get dizzy when I get out of bed.

Anyway -- on the bright side -- my sons Jon and Tom will be visiting me today for Father's Day.  They always make a big fuss over Father's Day, which makes me feel good.  Maybe they will wake me up a little.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

this is my brain on drugs

Weird nights. Sleep for a couple hours, get your blood pressure taken again, might get some more drugs.  But maybe I'm settling in and getting used to this.  It's kind of nice getting all this attention.

General observations:  I don't feel like reading.  Saturday afternoon TV us awful.  Hospital gown are too complicated, and still your butt hangs out.

Jerry is here, and I feel kinda sorry for him.  It's really no fun visiting somebody in the hospital, especially when the guy you're visiting dozes off every few minutes.  I feel some responsibility to entertain him, but I'm not sure what that would take.

Apparently, I'm doing as expected so far, more or less.  Not sure how much longer I'll be here.  I wonder what I should order for dinner.  Nothing sounds good.

Friday, June 17, 2011

time to go under the knife

Before they come to take me away and before these latest drugs kick in, let me get a quick blog post under my belt...

(No food or drink has been allowed since midnight, so of course I'm very thirsty...  Some apple juice would sure by nice...!)

... and my brain is surprisingly blank.  Maybe I've made peace with all this.  I just hope I start feeling normal again before too long. 

Jerry is coming before too long to pick up my laptop, my cell phone, my iPod... Things apparently disappear for hospital patients sometimes.  My brother, Ronnie, a few days before he died in that hospital in NJ, had his iPod stolen.  What kind of person would steal from such a patient as sick as he was?

... anyway, I must say that the service here in this hospital is great.  I'm falling in love with all of my nurses,  but it sure will be nice to leave them, too.

Uh-oh, time for another blood draw.  Then, who knows what.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

in between naps

OK.  Jerry brought me my laptop, and I'll see if my typing skills can overcome an IV in my left hand and multiple other devices that I'm plugged into.

Life in the hospital:  Lots of sleeping and worrying and nice nurses and watching the clock.  Yesterday's surgical procedures, for which I was, thankfully, knocked out, went okay, or so they tell me.  No cancer.  Tomorrow is the big surgery, in which they dig around in parts of my body that I'd rather not mention.  Then a couple more days here to recover.

I had some good company today (thanks, Lee!) and received some flowers from friends Diane and Tony.  John, one of the pastors at my church, was just here.

I'm waiting for my dinner.  In this hospital, we order off a menu depending on what we're in the mood for.  I've been eating a little, so maybe my appetite is coming back (I've lost 12 pounds in the past nine or ten days, and that obviously can't continue).

Now Jerry is here, and we're watching Two and a Half Men.  The blog gets overridden.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

this is when i become old, part 2

wow, am i thirsty!  but it is fasting time, so no food or drink since before midnight.  I get admitted in a couple hours.  It will be a day of unpleasantness, then lying around in the hospital in some unknown condition waiting for Friday's surgery.

I'll try to not be too whiny, but you know how I am... We'll see if I'm up for some blogging later on.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

how scott pelley is doing so far

OK, we still DVR the CBS Evening News and watch it later in the evening, but so far it just isn't the same.  We miss Katie Couric as anchorperson -- there was something comforting about Katie's delivery and pace.  Scott Pelley, her replacement, isn't terrible, but there is a difference.  The reason we watch the evening news is to see and hear a quick summary of what happened today.  Scott Pelley seems to not be into that:  he seems to be trying to make every story into a mini-60 Minutes segment -- over-reaching, over-stating, segments are too long...

... and who cares, you wonder?  Maybe I'm just looking for something to chat about other than going into the hospital tomorrow!

I hadn't planned on working late this evening, but toward the end of the work day, I developed a rush of adrenaline, took advantage of it and accomplished more in an additional three hours than I have accomplished in the whole past week.  Feeling better, maybe?... or a burst of desperate nervous energy?

Monday, June 13, 2011

it's some of that english blood flowing through my veins

Watching the Tony Awards last night -- I noticed that one of the nominated Best Plays was named Jerusalem, "a comic, contemporary vision of rural life in England's green and pleasant land." "Jerusalem", the song, is sort of an unofficial national anthem of England, and it's a song that I like, even though it's a little stuffy and I'm not sure what the words really mean.

So here is that song, from the April 29th royal wedding of Prince William and Kate.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

neil, work your magic

Hard to know where to go to escape sadness.  I still find tears suddenly filling my eyes when I least expect it:  it's going to take a while to accept Ronnie's death.  And now my good friend, Mary O., got word yesterday that her dad had died, so she is off to her home state of Ohio for her own mourning process.  How acquainted I am with her grief.  Love you, Mary.

Meanwhile, on a much smaller scale, I live in absolute dread of my surgery later this week.  I am a total wimp when it comes to anything medical, especially when I have to trust somebody invading sensitive parts of my body with cold instruments, followed by an unknown recovery period.

But how refreshing it was last night to have some family time, as my sons Jon and Tom, my sister Joan, and my niece Ruthie came over for the evening and for dinner.  It was good to hear about Jon's European trip, Ruthie's current pregnancy, everybody's excitement about James' arrival in two weeks...  Life does go on, as trite as that sounds...

... and finding those small distractions that can numb your brain while you adjust.  Tonight there is the Tony Awards program on TV, with Neil Patrick Harris hosting once again (yes!)... It's time to curl up and heal...  and, after a couple hours of escapism, I'll try to sleep again.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

one of those classic photos

OK, this pic is 17 years old now, but it's one of our family classics -- my siblings and myself at our 1994 re-union in Waxhaw, North Carolina. 

... at the base, left to right -- Ronnie, Davy, and myself.
... middle row, that's Joan on the left and Mary on the right.
... and the sister hesitant to climb onto the top of the pyramid, that's Nancy.

Our next reunion is in August, back in Jersey...  We're expecting a big turnout.. :-)

Friday, June 10, 2011

blank here too

I noticed that my niece Ruthie's post title on her blog yesterday was "Blank", and she was saying how blank she was feeling inside...

... which I can totally relate to.  It's just been sort of a bad news couple of weeks. 

... and now I find out that I need to have surgery next week.  Nothing life-threatening (I hope!), just icky and extremely annoying.  I'll be in the hospital about five days -- in what sort of shape or mental condition, I don't know.  Maybe I'll wish I were back feeling blank.  This will, at least, be a test of whether I can keep the blog streak going.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

a good year to be a meteorologist

The Wild Spring, weather-wise, of 2011 continues.

Two days ago, we, here in the Twin Cities, had a high, record-breaking temperature of 103 degrees.  Two days later, here in the middle of the day, the temperature is 60.

Believe me, the 60 feels way better than the 103. but it was kinda funny this morning.  Our office building had a fire drill, and everybody had to leave the building and go across the street for a few minutes... and everybody was freezing standing out there!

... who knows what tomorrow brings?  It would be nice to have some normal average spring days.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

it's a small world after all

It may be time to abandon any interest in American politics.

Can you imagine how ugly the 2012 campaigns will be?  And can the American news media be any more inept?

If, for instance, you relied on TV news this week for your knowledge of what's going on in the world, you would hardly know about the wars that we are mired down in, about the complexities of the bad economy, about anything going on anywhere in the world... You'd think that the world's problems are no big deal.

Instead you would know in detail about the sexting scandal of a New York congressman named Weiner.  You would re-learn, ad nauseum, how little Sarah Palin knows about U.S. history.  You would hear, 18 months before the next Presidential election, would-be Republican nominees trying to out-do each other in their insane anti-government rantings.

But how to ignore?... do we just leave the future of the country to the under-educated and the wackos?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

this is when i become old

I admit that I haven't felt well since May 8th.  I try not to complain about such things since I have felt great most of my life, and I know I'm lucky.  And I'm kinda like my mother, who hated to go to a doctor.  I stay in denial and just hope that it all goes away.

But a month of feeling crappy is enough, so I finally went to my doctor and spent most of the day getting poked and probed and scanned.  How I hate hanging around medical clinics!... especially when it all leads to unsatisfying answers.

... maybe this is just how it will be from now on.  Maybe I won't ever feel quite the same again.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Heading back home.  We used frequent-flyer miles for this trip, and beggars can't be choosers, so we have a layover in Cincinnati instead of our usual non-stop flights.  Whatever.

It's been a hard week, saying goodbye to a brother.  In a way, I'm anxious to get back into my normal routine.  In other ways, I never want to leave.  I want things the way they used to be. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

laptopping into the night

I just need to sleep well again....

but, in the meantime, there were some highlights of this last full day with family before we head home --

...Breakfast at the Millville Queen Diner with my four remaining siblings; with my sister-in-law Denise and her daughter Kami; with my nephew Michael and his wife Tiffany; with my niece Ling and her boyfriend Rex; and with my Jerry.  I love them all.

...An evening with my lovable cousin Bev and my wide-eyed, Gaga-loving grand-nephew James... and delicious cheesesteaks...

(James, who is graduating from high school in a couple weeks, is moving to Minneapolis right after that and will live with us until he is on his own.... He is very excited about the move, as only an 18-year-old can be...)

And now late in the evening, across the room from me here at the Country Inn, Jerry and my brother Davy are dual-laptopping, trying to find a cheap and not-scary hotel for Davy for Tuesday night in the Newark area, as he will be flying back to China Wednesday morning from Newark airport.  Trust me, this is not a quick and easy task.

... I wonder if they would notice if I dozed off....

Saturday, June 4, 2011

what you do after your little brother's funeral

A difficult day after days of mourning and heartbreak.  Tears can go on and on, but how does the recovery begin?

For my family, today, this is how we started.  We followed our first instinct, which was to head to the ocean, to the Jersey Shore.  Ocean City is the favorite of our family, so this evening we caravanned the 35 miles to the boardwalk, a boardwalk and an ocean that Ronnie had wanted to see at least one more time, even if he had to be pushed in a wheelchair.  That wasn't meant to be.

So we, as part of our healing, returned to the familiar, enjoying every minute we had with each other: all of my siblings, some of my nieces and nephews.  I felt so bad for the four of Ronnie's grandchildren that were with us, as well as for his two beautiful grandchildren in Minnesota, that they would never have any more time getting to know their grandfather.  Yet I was also thinking how his blood runs through them all, and I see the beauty, the gentleness, and the love in each of them.  Knowing this, and keeping our memories of Ronnie vivid in our minds, is how we recover.  He won't ever really leave us.

Friday, June 3, 2011

the strawberry shortcake story

Tomorrow, June 4th, would have been my mother's birthday.  The next day. June 5th, would have been my father's birthday.  Today, June 3rd, would have been my brother Ronnie's birthday.

I was only 3 1/2 years old when Ronnie was born, and I didn't know anything about "due dates" and things like that, but I do wonder if Mom and Dad were wondering late in that pregnancy whether their #4 child would have the same birthday as one of them.  He instead, fortunately, had his own distinct birthday.

The problem, though, with having three birthdays in a row in the same family was making sure that each was properly celebrated, that we didn't develop birthday-overload.  It's kind of like people who have a birthday on December 26:  how do you properly celebrate a birthday when everybody is worn out from Christmas?

My parents came up with an ingenious answer.  Instead of having birthday cake with the same traditions three days in a row, a tradition was started that we would have strawberry shortcake every year on Ronnie's birthday.  It came during strawberry season here in NJ, and everybody loved strawberry shortcake in our family, so Ronnie's birthday became one of our favorite dates of the year. The tradition continued through his whole life.

While I was visiting Ronnie in the hospital a couple weeks ago, he was told by the doctors that because he was so susceptible to bacteria, he couldn't have any more fresh fruit and vegetables.  The first thing he thought was, "How am I going to have strawberry shortcake on my birthday?"  He, unlike me, always looked forward to that next birthday.  And later he asked me sadly, "I'm still going to be here in the hospital on my birthday, aren't I?"

Well, he was wrong, he isn't still in the hospital today, his birthday.  He's out of that place. I just hope that somehow in the spirit world, they have access to Jersey strawberries and Bisquick.  For us that are left, we are all getting together this evening for a celebration of Ronnie, complete with strawberry shortcake.

Tomorrow, we bury this sweet man.  On June 4th, our mom's birthday.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

there are generations right behind us

It's late, and I'm waiting for Jerry.  He landed at Philly airport about an hour ago and is driving down here to Millville to join the mourners. 

Today was a lovely though uneventful day spent with my three sisters and my niece Becky.  We don't need to do much of anything:  we just need to be together to grieve for our lost brother.  Tonight, we spent time with Ronnie's son Michael, Michael's wife Tiffany, and their seven children, and it was refreshing.  James sang for us.  We ate Dunkin Donuts. Delanda was scratched by their dog and had to be bandaged up.  A couple of the kids frolicked in the pool.  Plans were made for a family reunion in August.  It was all about life.

Tomorrow probably would have been the date of Ronnie's funeral -- it was the logical choice -- but it would also have been his 61st birthday, and his wife Denise didn't want us to mourn his death on the date of his birth: the date of his birth should always be a celebration.  So the funeral is Saturday.  A good decision.

Tomorrow, on Ronnie's birthday, I'll tell you a story...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

those times when we need each other

The day started weird.  I was so tired and spacey this morning at the airport that I lost my card in the ATM machine.  I still have not been feeling well or sleeping well since my "off balance" day three weeks ago.  I bought a muffin to eat on the plane and ate part of it and didn't eat another thing until late this evening.  No appetite.  And after spending part of the day with my sisters, my sister-in-law Denise (Ronnie's wife), and my nephew Michael, I went back to the hotel and slept for four hours.  It helped tremendously.

It's late evening, back here in my hometown.  I usually like being here.  This time it's strange.  Memories of Ronnie are everywhere.  I am so lucky to have four siblings left, and I love them all so much.  And I'm doubly lucky to have such a great extended family -- nieces, nephews, cousins.  We've somehow all held together all these years.  I treasure them all.