Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thoughts on the Speed of Life 1963-2013

We often complain about how rapidly things seem to take place now and how we long for the good “old” days, when—it didn't seem—we rushed around as much as we do now. Many times I have said to myself, “Oh we were just as busy, it was just different things.”

Last week, as I watched the newscasts of the assassination of JFK “within” the newscasts of the current day, it was very apparent to me how much we, as a society, have sped up. First of all, let me say that I did not watch everything. Secondly, this didn't happen in one day. But as I listened, it stood out to me that the reporters of 1963 spoke very slowly and wanted to get this story RIGHT. There was no hint of “being first—your breaking news here!” It was just the (horrible!) facts, pure and simple. (A short clip of Walter Cronkite is here.) The newscasters reported with the gravity and importance of the matter. Then, it transitioned to the news reporter of the day, polished, reading from a teleprompter, but getting as much information into the moment as possible.

I was struck by the juxtaposition. Let me be perfectly clear. I love Brian Williams. I don’t love every newscaster and will always have favorites, but my evening is complete with Brian Williams. But even he, reported his story at about twice the speed as the story within the story.

During the reporting of the Kennedy funeral, it was OK to have “dead air” time. It was OK just to watch, without commentary. That is rare now. We have to be told everything, when we are intelligent enough to just watch. Sometimes I want to “just watch.” (Don’t even get me started on sports commentators).

This got me to thinking about “why” everything is so fast today. Obviously, news reporting is but one issue.

Commercials today are but sound bites. They move at twice the speed of the 60’s. I actually saw some of them as I watched “As the World Turns,” where the announcement of the JFK shooting cut into programming. You actually learned something about the product, not just a few bullet points. When my children were younger, I would ask them what the commercial was actually selling. Many times it was difficult to figure out. Oh, I get the exposure and even competition, if you will, of the Super Bowl commercials. They pay dearly for that competition time. I am talking about the everyday commercials. Watch them sometime, when you haven’t DVRed the show and fast forward through them.

I digress, but just the ABILITY to fast forward—think about it. We have the ability to fast forward our lives. Watching TV with my husband and son drives me nuts. Flipping all over the place (hubby) or backing up to “show” me something (son); how I long to just WATCH a show!

It’s hardly worth mentioning fast foods. My son worked his college years flipping at the arches. I know they have timers and speed is important. Fast is not just fast; it’s expected to be FAST! Lord help the individual who can’t keep up; but as consumers, we’re just as bad. What is taking so long? Why isn't that employee properly trained?

Cooking at home: I am personally spending more time preparing and eating fresh foods. It may be as a result of getting cancer, but this is NEW to me! For decades I have been cooking FAST! There was a practice or a game to get to; maybe a church meeting, we had to be someplace! This didn't happen overnight either, it commenced when my daughter entered the world of OHSAA sports in the 7th grade. Add another athlete a few years later, and by 7th and 12th grades, we were out every night of the week.

I was talking to someone recently about communications. We all have something that makes it easier to “connect,” but then we have to stop and remember, “How does Aunt Sue communicate best?” Not everyone does Facebook, not everyone checks email daily, not everyone texts, not everyone has a smart phone. We have to stop and think with each individual what the best way to get a hold of them is. This hasn't made it easier! Back in the “good old days” we had snail mail and a family telephone. Of course, it took longer to do business on the job. Now, we’re “more efficient.” That is, if no one makes a mistake.

“Retirement” hasn't made it easier, or so I am told. People are busier than ever. I am all about volunteering; but we choose how busy we’re going to be. The only time we don’t choose it is when we have to see doctors, or we have some emergency in our inner circle. Otherwise, we allow our “former” lives to invade our retirement lives.

Frankly, people, I am going to SLOW DOWN. That doesn't mean I won’t exercise, that’s a given, and we ALL need that regularly. However, the rest of my life doesn't need to be filled with activities.

After all, I still have to watch the news each evening and watch commercials at warp speed.

Does anyone else have an example of the speed of life?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where Were You When.....

It’s the question that everyone “of a certain age” asks each other. “Where were you when you learned that Kennedy was shot?” It’s something everyone knows the answer to, and it was a definitive time in all our lives. 

This is not a political blog so I am not going there. It’s not a discourse on the 60’s. It’s just about me, my family, the events themselves and some observations “looking back.”

I was in the fifth grade at Medway Elementary School in the New Carlisle-Bethel school system. Whether it was the choice of my teacher, or more likely the school principal, we were not told at school. I can't imagine what it must have been like for the teachers to finish the day without saying anything.

My mother told me when I arrived home. I kind of shrugged my shoulders and went to play. A ten-year-old mind in a sheltered rural area just didn't get the significance. I can only imagine the conversation my parents had during the evening—like many families, their votes in 1960 cancelled each other out.

What I did know is that the TV was turned on, and it didn't turn off for four days. That is probably what most of us did—watched TV for days. I had a two-month-old brother in the house, I remember him in his “punkin seat” sitting on the floor with my 8-year-old brother and me. My family went over to my aunt and uncle’s in Columbus on Saturday and it was more of the same, all of us sitting in the living room watching the TV. 

My husband was a senior in high school in another school system and he was told at school, so that was different. However, his family, like my own, was glued to the television as we watched history.

As I look back, a couple of things strike me as a 60-year-old. The most amazing thing to me is the ability of Jackie Kennedy, in her early thirties, to take hold of the most horrible of situations, and manage it for posterity, history and honor of her husband. To be sure, she had advisers, but she made decisions far above her age. I have been 34, my daughter is pushing it with a long stick; and I can’t imagine handling something of this magnitude. And, what many people forget, is that she had buried a baby only three months previously. The amount of grief this woman must have felt is incredible, but she had to go on for her two other children. In addition, she created a wonderful tribute to her husband, of which everyone of a certain age remembers.

I have also thought that perhaps JFK may not have been as big in life as he became in death. It was a time of great uncertainty in our country, and his place in history might not have been so remarkable. We were on the verge of the unpopular Vietnam War, and how he would have handled the matter would have affected his legacy; perhaps for the better and perhaps for the worse. We can only speculate.

Regardless of how history would have treated JFK, assassination was a horrible attack on the president, his family, the government, and our culture. Many have said that the age of innocence died with him. The Kennedy years were definitely viewed in a unique way.

A way that ended on November 22, 1963.

Images we will never forget

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thank You

There are some subjects that I think, “It’s been covered completely somewhere else,” and that’s how I feel about Veteran’s Day. Who is NOT thankful for the sacrifices that our military members and their families have made over our history? My own family seems to look like that commercial on TV for insurance for the military—my Dad in the Korean War, his two brothers in WW II and their father, my grandfather, in WW I.

Grandfather in WW I
This morning we had a children’s sermon in church. The teacher was explaining to the children what we would be “celebrating” tomorrow. She got a variety of responses from the children and as we know, any children’s sermon can turn into the Art Linkletter Show within a few seconds. I don’t envy the people who teach the children.
Uncle Carl in WW II

As with most object lessons, the children’s sermon was for the adults, too. Teacher asked all active duty and retired or former veterans to stand. Quite a few stood. Then, she asked anyone who was an immediate family member of a veteran to stand. That includes quite a few more people, such as yours truly, who was born at Fort Knox, Kentucky during the Korean Conflict. THEN, she asked anyone who knew a veteran to stand, and as you would expect, everyone in the congregation stood. The idea was to show the children that we ALL know a veteran or their families, and we should tell them thank you for their service.

As I think of my own experience, most of the family history is just that, stuff that happened before I was born. My father was honorably discharged in January 1954 and went on to build his life and family. I saw pictures hanging at my grandmother and grandfather’s house, but that was the extent of it. No one talked about their experiences in the service. Maybe it was because I was “a child.”

Uncle Ray was blind in one
eye, so he was photographed
this way. WW II
Living in a military town, I was much more influenced by the military families that I grew up with, and later on in life, the military wives (mostly) and their husbands, who became my friends as adults. I observed my father and others help one wife (with three young teens) whose husband flew two tours in Vietnam. Much of my adult life was in peace-time, but I have been involved with military families for years. All but one of them are retired now. I have the utmost respect for the entire family, as well as the service-person. They move every couple of years and have to start over. I honestly don’t think I could have done this.
Who couldn't love this
guy? No "game face"
here. I LOVE this! I miss
you Daddy.

Those who are now being deployed are the next generation. I have friends now with children in the military, who are doing what they are assigned to do. My own grandniece is in the USMC.

We are all touched by those who serve. Just as the children saw everyone stand up in church, every one of us is affected. If you are a veteran reading this, thank you and God bless you.

The final resting place of all these men, as well as
 my brother of whom I don't have a military picture.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Time For a Real Break!

After four and one half months of dealing with a diagnosis, surgery, recovery from surgery, more tests, planning treatment, DOING treatment, and dealing with the side-effects of radiation; while working through all but the first three weeks after surgery, it was time to take a break and get well.

During this time I contracted an upper respiratory infection, and had two bouts of flu, and yes, I got my flu shot. I was just drop-dead exhausted.

First, I tried cutting back on hours. I had come back from surgery with the plan to work 25 hours a week, instead of my usual 30. Then, after radiation, I decided to work four five hour days a week, taking Wednesdays off. That would give me a day to rest up.

Finally, I decided that I needed two complete weeks off, just to get well. I made the decision quickly, as I wanted to return within a certain time-frame, to handle the seasonal needs of my job: helping with Medicare open enrollment (October 15-December 7), and helping with Thanksgiving assistance and the Christmas assistance. These three tasks, along with “drop-in” calls and situations, fill up my time throughout November and early December.

How many hours I will work when I return remains to be seen. I hope I can carry a full load until I feel that I am caught up, then I may cut back again.

So how does one handle all the “free time?” My “job” is to get better. The coughing didn’t stop and I made an appointment to see my primary care practitioner, and she ordered a chest x-ray. It is a comfort to know my chest is clear, but the only advice she gave me is to use a sinus spray and that the problem is post-nasal drip, after her examination. So I continued to wait this out and some days are better than others.

My “rest” part of the R & R definitely depends on how well I sleep on any given night. The difference between sleeping 8 or 9 hours and only sleeping 5 or 6 hours is remarkable. What I can do with the following day is quite different.

While my plan is to stay home, there are some things that just must be done. The doctor’s appointments, drug store and grocery runs, and taking my car in for an unplanned check-up. I CHOSE to attend an evening designed for breast cancer supporters, patients, survivors and cancer center employees, and this was a good choice. It was probably the situation most conducive to picking up a bug; but sometimes you need to do something for yourself anyway and take the chance.

We did go to two football games, on clear and cold evenings, which probably was good for my lungs. We didn’t sit close to anyone. But some things you just need to do.

I was never bored at home, and I rarely had the TV on. I usually did one “chore” a day and that was regular household maintenance. Then I read some books, did my Bible study, and called friends and relatives. I did rest. I could not talk for long periods of time, but I did have interaction with the outside world. I listened to music, so I had interaction to my inside world too.

By Sunday ending the first week, I thought I felt pretty good. I attended church (one hour) and my husband took me to lunch. Then we stayed home. By Monday, things were beginning to slip and by Tuesday I was a mess. I contacted my nurse practitioner and wanted to know if I could take the antibiotic script she wrote me but didn’t want me to take right away. It was time, I said. She said yes.

I didn’t sleep at all on Tuesday night, well, perhaps four hours of naps. I called my nurse practitioner and asked if I could return to the codeine cough syrup that I took during week two of the URI. She agreed to that and wrote me another script. Wednesday, I had an appointment set up with the orthopedic surgeon regarding the torn meniscus from April. We decided to try a cortisone shot. Although my immediate reaction was not good; because my appetite has been affected through all of this, I had a blood sugar drop, they found some pop for me and a bed to lay down. I called my husband to come get me and take me home.

On the other hand, the cortisone took away so much pain in my leg and along with cough syrup at night, I slept well and was much better the following day. Thursday, I had an appointment with the radiation oncologist to OK me to return to work the following day. Seems like a waste of time, but I saw the Social Worker also, and she was able to give me another gas card from the American Cancer Society, so it was time well spent!

I returned to work on Friday, November 1st, and hope to do as much as I am able. Getting rid of the URI will be key.

Am I “all better now?” Not totally, but we’ll face each week and month as it comes. I am a realist. I want to be able to do a good job at whatever I do, so we’ll do the best we can to make that happen.

As far as taking the break, I don’t regret a moment of it.