Monday, December 31, 2007

Is that all there is?

Have you ever dreaded something that you just knew would end in disaster and then, when it was over, thought, “Is that all there is?” That pretty much is what happened to me today. I had been scheduled for a chemical stress test last month. A couple of days before the test, the company that provides the nuclear material shut down for repairs. That put a stress on medical providers throughout the country and my test was postponed. A couple weeks later, it was again put off until, I was told then, at least the end of January. A supply of testing material became available and my test was today.

I have lived totally scared since the cardiologist told me last Fall I needed the test.

All my fears were based on the last chemical stress test I had in November, 2001, when I had a series of life threatening events. It was a horrendous experience.

We had a rather nasty snowstorm here overnight and driving became difficult and hazardous, but my wife slipped and slid me to the testing site. That may been the worse part of the whole adventure, but she's a good driver and got me there safely. Because of the storm, the cardiology office had received numerous cancellations so I had virtually no wait. I got hooked up to the chem. dripper, an ECG machine, and an other machine that was watching a whole bunch of other things. My cardiologist (I didn’t know he was going to be there) came in and he administered the test rather than the technician. He had earlier explained to the techie of my fear and he wanted to help ease the situation.

Before the doc arrived, the techie had said because of a mobility problem, she understood I wasn’t going to use the treadmill but sit on the bed moving my legs around. She said that was perfectly acceptable, but the treadmill did a better job circulating the blood. She said it gives the doc a better picture of what’s going on. Doc arrived, chem. got injected, ECG started and I asked the doc if he would like me to try the treadmill. He looked at me almost in disbelief, and said he would. So, onto the treadmill. I was impressed with myself because I was doing something I didn't think possible. The techie had warned me that the chem. stuff would give me occasional shortness of breath and occasional flushing. I had one about 2 second flush and experienced shortness of breath for about 2 seconds. That was it; test over.

I had to lie quietly for another 15 minutes while some gamma ray pictures were being taken of my heart and the doc said when we meet again Wednesday, the pictures will have given the best idea of how the heart is performing. But today he said he saw NOTHING on the printouts that might indicate any concern.

I told the doc that my concerns about the test and my fears of having it were totally alleviated and it was nothing like what I had gone through in 2001. "Remember, you were just a little sicker and had gone through a few more events then."

As I was leaving, I noticed a sign on the entry door: "(Facility) will be closed on Tuesday, Jan. 2nd to celebrate the New Year. We will be open as usual on Wednesday, Jan. 3rd." I went back to the receptionist and said, "I sure do hope your medical practices are better than your sign maker." I explained what the sign said and left listening to a gale of laughter.

Heading back to my wife's car for the interesting ride home, I asked, "Is that all there is?"

May 2008 bring you the joy and successes you seek! Happy New Year!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

The season ended today

The Christmas season begins in our household on Nov. 11th every year and ends when it ends. This year's season ended today.

We have a huge collection of lighted Dickens and Victorian village pieces including structures, accessories, trees, etc., which we put on display in our home. Previous years' displays have used two rooms, but this year we downsized a little and built it along three of the four walls in our living room. The fourth wall houses our fireplace so it was left clear.

We design a series of villages rather than sticking a piece here and there. We have to build tables to hold Styrofoam bases for the pieces and then small levels to give the village depth. We start on Nov. 11 because it is a day off work for us, or at least it was before we retired. Our goal each year is to have the village presentable by Thanksgiving weekend. We believe we offer a wonderful seasonal presentation for our friends and neighbors to enjoy.

I think this is the first year we've disassembled the village before New Year's, but the decision was made to take down one section that was a dog's tail threatened. Our daughter came over, and before this day was over, the entire village had disappeared. All the pieces were carefully packed in their original packaging, complete with the support material that came with them and returned to their storage nooks to patiently await next season's oohs and aahs.


Saturday, December 29, 2007


I'm spending this weekend in a "scared" mode. I'll explain in a moment.

I love college football and have watched two games today. I must admit the only one I cared about was UCF vs. Mississippi State. Being a Gator I love it when a SEC team wins a bowl game. I'm happy tonight. Well, sort of.

I'm also a very scared Gator. Not because Florida meets Michigan Tuesday...that's a no-brainer...but because I have to face a medical test Monday. You see, I have a heart disease. My heart is pumping at just over 50% efficiency. I've known about this for six years, ever since a major medical event in 2001. But after this year's regular exam by my cardiologist, I was asked to have a medicinal stress test to see if I could be helped by another operation or medication. That test is scheduled for Monday.

I've had stress tests before, like all heart patients, but this will be my first one using a nuclear medication. I don't know what to expect and I don't know what is going to happen. So this weekend I'm spending in a scared mode. Tomorrow (Sunday) I'll have some breakfast, then it becomes complicated as to what I can eat. A mandatory fasting period which begins later in the day, will determine my intake. Monday morning will see my large bod getting zero nourishment.

You may have read earlier this month about the nationwide problem in getting the nuclear material for medical tests due to a shutdown of a Canadian plant that makes most of the material. Two of my previous appointments for this test have been postponed. But now the day is approaching, and I'm frankly scared.

But now on a more positive note, I'm watching the Patriots play the Giants. And New England is facing a "come back" if they want to complete an undefeated season. Might be an interesting night.


Friday, December 28, 2007


As everyone knows, there's something special about a real friendship. Having a friend gives you opportunities to vent, to "discuss," to share, to get help and advice, and to just plain solve the problems of the world. Today my friend went out of his way to help me solve a problem, and I hadn't even asked for his help.

I had wanted a year or so ago to begin this blogging business simply because I thought that in my senior years it would give me another way to keep what's left of my mind active. I tried blogging on my own website, but the host of that site used a blog host totally different from Google. It was difficult to set up, difficult to manage, and difficult to use. It wasn't long before I simply stopped using it and took my blog down.

In the past several weeks I discovered a blog written by a young woman whose writing just enthralled me. She had a way of telling stories that grabbed the reader and I found myself returning to her blog daily. I probably should mention she's the daughter of my friend, but it was her telling of life stories that kept me returning on a daily basis. "That is what I'd like to be able to do," I told myself, so the day after Christmas I took the plunge and set up A Gator in Maine.

***Coincidentally, I learned later the same day about her losing BFK, her cat of 17 years. That inspired me to begin my blogging with "A Loss ... ".***

Learning a new system, even one as unbelievably easy as blogging via Google, requires a learning curve, especially for some of us who have reached seniority. After I posted my comments yesterday, my friend sent me an email pointing out that he could not comment. No big deal, one might think, except it's partially through the comments we learn. I checked, and sure enough the comment section was turned off. I went through the control panel that comes with a blogging account and everything looked perfect. I tried leaving a comment and couldn't.

I attributed the problem to me and the way I had composed that post. My friend didn't accept that and simply called his daughter, who has been posting for a long time. She recognized the problem immediately and told my friend who called me with the solution.

I think on more than one occasion during that call I told him he didn't have a clue to what he was talking about. He insisted his daughter knew more than I and no matter how much I argued, he wouldn't accept defeat. I had tried everything he told me and it hadn't worked. But he also kept mentioning editing the blog itself which I calmly explained I had done. No matter what I did, the comment section did not appear.

Finally, I said very quietly to myself, "I'll humor this stupid creature and play the futility game and go through the motions once again." Darn! I probably had a slightly stronger word in mind, but right where he'd been telling me all along was a button. And sure enough, somehow, although right now I still don't know how, I had shut off allowing comments. I made the change and comments were once again opened.

Oh, how I hated to admit that arrogant donkey was right all along. He had the audacity to believe his daughter's solution over my insistance he was totally wrong!

I've got a sneaky suspicion, though, our friendship will last!

But the inspiration of his daughter remains. I recognize I have a long way to go, but I'll enjoy seeking to become the writer she is.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Life's Quality

A sign greets folk entering Maine. It proclaims Maine, the way life should be. Our government leaders are constantly telling us we are lucky to live in a state with such a great quality of life. Someday I'm going to learn what that means. I keep trying.

Does it mean that taxation presents that quality? The last report I saw earlier this year was that only one other state taxes its people more than Maine. Much which isn't specifically taxed is covered by fees. The government tells us fees aren't a tax.

Or perhaps its because of our wonderful health insurance situation. Maine has passed laws that make buying individual insurance all but prohibitive. I'm not sure my recollection is correct, but like taxes only one state has more restrictive insurance rates. If we were allowed to buy insurance in other states, we would only need to look to our neighbor, New Hampshire, where rates are a third to a half what the costs are in Maine. Maine has driven all but a very small handful of individual health insurance carriers from the state. The government tells us we need to switch to a single payer plan like Canadians have.

Maine has winner-take-all elections. Our governor was elected by 38% of the electorate in the last elections. A number of other candidates split the other 62%. A side note: Many people on a popular Internet forum in Maine refers to him as Gov38. End note. So, he says he has a mandate to make changes. Without the input of entities involved, the governor has mandated school reform and the formation of 80 school districts. He says the savings will be in the millions. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who has been told exactly where those savings will be. But the governor says there will be savings. He has also called for the consolidation of county jails into the state penal system. Again, without ever saying how, he says the savings will be in the millions.

One of our governmental departments has "lost" several millions of dollars. Another bought questionable stocks/bonds which have been frozen for a loss of another 20 million. We're told we'll eventually get it back. Sure! To balance the current budget, our government passed a law that unspent gift card purchases be returned to the state after two years. $26M was included in the budget for that. Companies that sold such cards have sort of told the state into which sunless spot it can put that law. Oh, you should know Maine has another law that says a time limit may not be placed of gift cards.

We now have a population growth to which taxes can be spread out. Our population grew in the last census by just under 3000 people. Of course just over 2 thousand of them were new births in the state.

As the purpose states, I'll rant and rave here. And I just might expand on these and many more issues facing the state of Maine down the road.

Some people will tell me that if I don't like here, move. I do like it here; it's our government that causes me concern. I was born here in the 1930s and, except for a brief time in Florida (including matriculation at the University of Florida, hence "Gator") have lived here all my life. My wife and I own our home. We have virtually zero, except monthly expenses, debts. Our families are here. Our roots are here. It's easy to say, "Leave." It's not easy to leave.

But I sure would like to learn just what that Quality of Life and "Life the way it should be" means.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A loss you have to experience to understand

I'm a dog lover. There's been a dog in my life for most of my years beginning with a little brown mutt that had so many breeds in him that I couldn't even begin to name them all. One great memory of little Muggsy was the day a neighbor who raised AKC spaniels visited us with words I cannot express here. Seems our little brown Muggsy had discovered the neighbor's prize female while she was in heat. So much for AKC registry. Muggsy was with us for more than 14 years before a long illness sent her to dog heaven.

When I met the young lady who would eventually become my wife, she had a little mongrel, Spooky, which I also grew to love. My future bride came home one night to those sorrowful words from her father explaining that Spooky was no more.

After we were married, we talked frequently about getting a pup of our own, but it was two children later before we took the plunge. The dog, Princess, we got was "defective," and stayed with us only a month or so before we had to put her down because of disease.

Then a line of Golden Retreivers entered out lives. We had the first for 12 years. Toward the end, Lady couldn't even climb the steps to come into the house. We knew the time was approaching that we didn't want. It came one day when she tried to go outside to do her normal business. She fell down the stairs, and while laying there relieved herself. And laid in the urine. I told her she would never again suffer such humiliation. That day, she looked at us and I swear said, "Thank You," as we handed her over to the vet.

Our daughter's only request when she graduated from college was that she be given a puppy, and so she received her first Golden, Misty, which stayed with her for another dozen or more years. Like our family dog, our daughter had to put her beloved Golden down.

As when we put down the family dog years earlier, our daughter knew she did the right thing. There are some who may be critical of ending a dog's life, but watching one suffer and really trying hard to love and be normal is more difficult. There are decisions that are made totally out of love, respect, and wonder. And they are correct decisions.

Why do I start out this blog this way? Simple. The daughter of my dearest friend had to make that decision on this day, except it was for her cat, not a dog. She loved that cat more than life itself as it had been her companion for 17 wonderful years. And although she is in pain tonight, she'll understand that it was her love for her companion that led to the decision she had to make. And she'll understand that sometimes pain is necessary when a correct decision is made. God be with her as she thinks of the wonder of the past 17 years.


Hi. I'm new at this sort of thing.

Today I enter the world of sharing my thoughts with the world. If you happen to wander into my rants and ravings, well, golly gee, Welcome!