Thursday, January 31, 2008

Current literature tells us that the Baby Boomer age begins with those born after 1945 and lasts until 1964. Obviously there is some overlap, but I was born in 1944, and I am right on the cusp. Writers discussing the Millennial Generation say that those on the cusp exhibit the traits of both generations. For me I guess that means the generations of the Mature Worker and the Boomer. I am an old Boomer or a young Mature, what the hell! My parents did not plan for, nor did they get to enjoy retirement together. My Dad lost his business at age 64, moved to Milwaukee and started over pumping gas in a station on the Midnight shift. My Mother worked as a Salad Girl for a private tennis club in the Milwaukee area but passed away at age 66 from breast cancer. She was employed when she passed away. My Dad continued to work full time until age 85 when he did retire he lived another 9 years until he succumbed to prostrate cancer some 12 years ago.

My parents never saved much, they raised four children over a span of 40 years. Neither worked for employers that contributed to a pension. They never owned a home. Dad did not invest in the stock market although he talked about it. For part of his adult life he owned his own Real Estate and Insurance company that provided a living but not much.

I have a small pension from J I Case. I have saved money, I have an investment portfolio of mutual funds with one stock I purchased 23 years ago. We do own property, we live in a log cabin on five acres of land and own an additional five acres adjacent to our property with a home we rent out. Our home will be paid off within the next 14 months, we may pay off the rent property, or the note will be substantially reduced. We have no debt other than a home equity loan and the two notes on our property. We have over one years worth of expenses in a saving account. So we are substantially better off than my parents. Yet I worry, a life threatening illness could wipe out or savings, inflation could eat up our retirement. However, those things existed for my parents. While my Mother did not live to a ripe old age, my Dad did and enjoyed his years.

Social Security will comprise about 50% of our retirement income. The projected demise of Social Security will probably occur after we are gone. So, there may be some advantages to being an old Boomer. Time will tell. In the meantime, I continue to work. I have thoughts of working until I am 68, perhaps 72, who knows. There is some time in the future when I do want to change careers. I would like to write. I would like to spend some time fishing and hunting. I have a great desire to spend time near my childhood home. I want to spend time with my lovely wife and partner these past 16 years. So there is another career awaiting me, one of my own making and imagination.

I don't long for it. It simply means that I will be getting older and giving in to the aging of my body. However, it will be liberating because any commitments I feel tied to will fall away and days will be at my whim. So, I am an aging boomer with years to go before I sleep, and miles to go before my keep. Hope I make it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hard to believe

I have a friend I discuss politics and social issues with from time to time. Recently during a discussion he made the statement that he is a "states rights" person. In fact, believes in the dissolution of the Federal government keeping only a few departments to handle interaction with the rest of the world. Then government makeup would be local. If a small unit, say the size of a county, wanted to live in any manner they wanted, that would be their right. If this small unit wanted to exclude person because of race, exercise gender discrimination they should have the right to do that.

It is hard for me to understand that kind of a philosophy. This man has a Ph.D. and is an extremely intelligent person. I have thought about his statement and am really concerned with that philosophy. The man further wanted to make the point that the Civil War was about "states rights" not slavery. I have heard this argument before in the South. Bullshit! One might make the argument after the fact that the decision on slavery would be made at the state level, but the issue was not about "states rights." I've heard others advance that argument that the war was strictly an economic issue, that to some degree bears a bit of truth. The north had gotten accustomed to hired workers, the South felt slavery was necessary to maintain a competitive position. Competitive with who, cotton sure as hell wasn't grown north of the Mason/Dixon line. Slavery had become ingrained in the Southern society, even to this day it is not uncommon to hear "rednecks" referring to blacks as niggers.

Going back to the local rule my friend advocates would open up the issue of discrimination on all levels. We have not progressed to the point in this society that racial, religious, and gender discrimination are dead. They are very much alive, just held in check by the rule of law. Until such time as we are able to accept all persons as equals we cannot allow such myopic philosophies to take root.

This man shall remain my friend, for several reasons. One, he has always treated me with respect and has treated me well. Second, I find it hard to believe that the philosophy he touts will be viable, ever. So, let him make his points, I do not believe they will go any place. It would make for an interesting story line in a novel.

Monday, January 21, 2008

ProActive Health Care

I am fortunate in that I have gotten my weight under control, my blood chemistry, and glucose levels back into normal readings. However, is it too late? I do not think so. Perhaps if I had started when I was 45 I might have a greater chance of living to 90. However, how long we live is not within the realm of choice. What is within the realm of choice is how well we travel the road.

I have a brother-in-law twenty-one years older than I. Recently he encountered two small strokes that have left him with some weakness on the left side of his body and a little forgetfulness. He will be hospitalized to undergo some rehabilitation work and hopefully go home and live out his days among loved ones. I hope for everyone's sake, his included, that some day in the future when his time comes that he goes to sleep and simply goes on from there. Up until that time I hope he is able to do things that are meaningful to him and not just passing time waiting for the inevitable.

With that in mind, I think all of us need to do things that help the quality of our life. My brother-in-law had severe leg problems about three years ago that resulted from blockages of the femoral artery. A Dr. recommended surgery, however warned that if there were complications they could be rather severe. Finally a Dr. at Mayo's told him that before any other procedures were to be performed he needed to start a walking program. The Dr. wanted him to walk one hour a day. My brother-in-law worked his way up to the suggested time frame and literally walked himself back into a good state of health. He went from limited mobility to playing golf again after several years of inactivity. So we can do things that improve our quality of life. My brother-in-law had a very enjoyable summer, played golf once a week with some friends, walked daily, and enjoyed an active social life. Now, things aren't so good, but perhaps he will be able to resurrect his health to the degree that he can again walk some distance and feel good about himself. He may not play golf again, I hope he can, but I give him credit for making a stand and trying.

Our health is not the responsibility of the medical community. It is our responsibility. I hope all of us live up to that responsibility and do all that we can to insure the quality of the time we have left.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Something I became aware of

I was reading a Green Bay paper this morning online. There was a column about a young woman the columnist had been neighbors with back in the late 1980's. The young woman over came cancer and went on to become a research doctor. She was really quite an outstanding student. The woman was quoted as saying, "When I recovered from cancer I still had to face a period of time where I felt that I would get sick again." Apparently that is a feeling all cancer survivors have to work through. I have noticed that a veil has lifted since I passed the one year anniversary since surgery. The thought of impending doom seems to have lifted. While I know what the outcome will be some day in the future, but the outlook looks long and promising. My health is as good as it has been in the last 20 years. So I guess that mental progression is just something you have to work through. I feel grateful.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A year later

Well it has been just over a year since I had a bowel resection. Today, I feel very well. In November of 2006 my Family Dr. wanted me to start taking insulin to counteract the high glucose levels I seemed to be sustaining. I asked him to wait three months and let me try to diet and see what I could do. Little did I suspect!!!

Later in November 2006 a colonoscopy revealed a "suspicious mass" in my lower colon that required surgery, it had gotten too big to be removed during the colonoscopy. So on January 9, 2007 I underwent the bowel resection procedure.

Recovery was tough, I was ill prepared for what I would go through and did not have a lot of information on what to expect. I talked to my surgeon's nurse quite often and she helped me understand what was taking place. I have documented a lot of what I went through earlier on this blog for those who wish to look back. Thank God for my sister who had uterine cancer and could shed some light on what I was experiencing, also my step daughter who is a surgical nurse and helped me understand the procedure. A great big thanks to my oldest daughter for her support and help. She even came to Arkansas and stayed a week to help me and determined I was dehydrated which helped me over come a real physical problem of having an upset stomach much of the day. Thanks to my oder sister who is a retired RN and could lend support from her knowledge base. Finally, thank God for my wife who stayed with me in the hospital, who cared for me at home, who kept talking to me and reassuring me that all would be OK. Recovery was tough, it would've been a lot tougher if it hadn't been for my support group.

Today, I no longer take any diabetic medication. I exercise by walking vigorously one hour a day, I have lost 60 pounds. My blood pressure has dropped back to normal, I am off cholesterol medication with the exception of Zocor. All of my cholesterol readings from several blood tests are well within the normal range. I am in the best health and best physical condition I've been in for over 20 years.

I went through a lot. I had the bowel resection in January, in March I had an atrial fibrillation attack that hospitalized me until my heart converted to sinus rhythm two days later. My previous diagnosis of premature ventricular contractions escalated into a real irregular heartbeat problem that darn near drove me nuts. I ended up wearing a holter monitor and taking a drug, rythmole, for what was perceived as a heart arrhythmia. In Oct, after much exercise and walking I got off the diabetes meds, dropped one cholesterol med, and because my heart pulse got so slow, like low 40's, the rythmole dose was reduced. In November my gall bladder was removed and I had to deal with some diet issues. All in all it has been a tough year, yet at the same time it has been a most uplifting year. I've lost a lot of weight, I am cancer free, my blood pressure is normal, my cholesterol levels are low, my stamina and flexibility are excellent, and I'm looking forward to a long and healthy life. As of January 2008 I am off rythmole and while I still experience an irregular heartbeat, it is lessening and is not much of a problem now.

You can change your outlook and you do have options.