Category Archives: Positive Thinking

Repossessed

3 weeks later ….. and I have changed my mind!!

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 Friday, February 7, 2014Same Year …. New Model

I can’t quite believe it! It has only been three and a half weeks since Mike’s diagnosis of colon cancer; exactly three weeks today since his surgery and now, today, we have just returned from the first day of our running program! Here is my ‘Ode’ to the marvels of modern medicine, the mystery of the human body and the resilience of the human spirit. We are full of gratitude for how it has all turned out.

Mike stayed home from school for only a week and a day. By then, it was all systems go – from that day on, we started walking from 3 to 6 km. in Arad, every day after school. As we all know, walking promotes, among other things, talking….and so, we got to talking every

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day, about how much better Mike was feeling. Every day for him, has brought about small shifts in returning to normal …. food tasting better…..addiction to gum and salt crystal snacking lessening….energy increasing…..but BEST OF ALL….. a return to our previous zest for life…..feeling young again! From there, our talk turned to running and how it just might once again be possible, for both of us. Because, I too, became older and accepted my decrease of energy, putting it down to age……at the young age of 61!! How can that happen you ask? It happens so gradually that you don’t notice it and it affects every aspect of your life, from your relationship with each other and with friends, to the daily routines of life. Life becomes just a bit boring but, because it’s so gradual, you don’t notice. So now, today, I feel like it is the first day of the rest of our lives!!

For the first time, in a long time, I woke up this morning feeling positive and happy! It was 630 am, the sun was shining and the sky was brilliantly clear. It’s been cold and cloudy – unusual for Bahrain. I seem to have unconsciously…. mentally, brushed aside all the exasperations and frustrations of our retirement effort, the shock of Mike’s diagnosis, the added shock of his son Chris’s diagnosis of bone cancer and now it feels like a new beginning. And what is going through my mind is what my father tried to teach me but what I first really learned from Todd, the most outstanding model of this….that life is what you make it…..a lesson I keep learning over and over again!

So …. we headed out the door at around 730 am, new running shoes sparkling, sunglasses and baseball caps in place. We’d been planning all week long, on our daily walks, discussing our training focus, ‘slow and steady’. We decided to do 5 minute intervals; 1 minute of running followed by 4 minutes of fast walking and to do this for the next 2 weeks before increasing it to 2 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking. Today we did the first 6 intervals – 6 minutes of total running, 24 minutes of total walking plus a good long warmup and cool down, beginning and end. Rewarded ourselves with breakfast at our favorite restaurant, Le Bateau.

Anyways, that’s my update. We continue to live each day as it comes and try to make decisions only when we have to, trying not to think too far into the future.

Tilster

Healthy as a Horse… “Dear God…”

5  February 2014

Only 3 weeks ago my tumor was discovered and my journey as a colon cancer patient began.

Today I am as though I had never been ill. I still have a bandage covering the still slightly tender incisions required for surgery.  But, other than that I feel so much better… it is at times difficult for me to remember that I was sick, much less that I was life-threatening sick.

As I reflect on the last three weeks, I am filled with an intense gratitude … for the doctors… for the nurses… for the staff of the hospital…. for the “universe”.

I laugh to myself as I think of an atheist’s prayer … “Dear God, I don’t really believe in you BUT thanks anyway.”

My cancer was a Stage II Grade 2 Adenocarcinoma… technical jargon a T3 N0 M0 …. All that stuff means is that it was a slow growing cancer that had not spread beyond the colon… had no lymph nodes involved and no spread to other parts of the body … IN SHORT … the surgery appears to have successfully removed all of the tumor. There are no HIGH RISK factors for recurrence. But that does not mean I can relax … still have tests every 3 months and a yearly colonoscopy… small price to pay to prevent another emergency surgery.

So, what am I? A cancer survivor? Cured? A statistic? Or am I just one very lucky victim who escaped the onslaught of a monstrous giant seeking to devour all who come within its shadow?

No I am just a guy in whose body some cells had their software go haywire and grow crazily. Luckily it was discovered in time and the mal-programmed cells were removed before they could spread their bad programming  elsewhere.

Til and I are now walking between 3 & 6km every day. We shopped for running shoes. I now hope to do some long distance running again. My first goal… 10k…. then maybe a half-marathon. Never thought I would run ANY distance again.

So I am on the mend… PHYSICALLY

Flashback to 28 January…

I just finished a call with Chris ( my son)… my world has been rocked with a 9.5 emotional earthquake. Chris has been fighting an infection in his jaw…. now after a biopsy the preliminary diagnosis is CANCER. The doctors are planning a second biopsy to confirm the result but his primary doctor is not holding out much hope. How I pray it will turn out negative.

“Dear God… I know what I said about believing in in you BUT can you do a repeat for Chris? Thanks in advance.” and I try to chuckle again…

how do I deal with this? It was easy when I was sick… but this is my son! My eyes keep watering up… i really feel… NO it is too early …have to wait for the 2nd biopsy results… there is always a chance… i am almost afraid to say “a mistake” because I might jinx it.  And my mind fills with images and memories… Chris at 3 wearing his bear claw slippers kicking a football around the living room… his best imitation of Rich Karlis… Bronco barefoot kicker (Chris heard BEARfoot) I smile and then the eyes water again…

Flash forward to yesterday… 4 February

This may be the worst day of my life so far… Chris called early. the 2nd biopsy confirms… Cancer. Surgical removal of part of his jaw will be required. Then, reconstruction of his jaw with bone taken from his leg bone(s)… then chemo and radiation therapy.

I am in a state of shock, astonished, gob-smacked, stunned, … my first thought turn skyward… “WHY?… WHY Chris? …. “ I want to rage, rail and scream…

Then the eyes water up again… I see the little boy running ….with his football, not a care… tossing a baseball to me and catching the return throw… I want to grab him up & run like hell to safety. ONLY the little boy is a grown man now AND  there is nothing I can do… I can’t even take on his burden and pain as every parent wishes they could for their suffering children.

My God, how the emotions flow… alternating between profound sadness and rage… I want to cry one minute and scream the next…

Two things occur to me simultaneously… One: none of my emotional drama has any effect on Chris or his condition… Two: this emotional drama is not conducive to my own health and well being … SO NOW that I am back to NORMAL (as normal as I can be),  it is time to focus all my thought and concern on Chris. And keep sending my positive vibes to him.

“Dear God …

Surgery – Healthy as a Horse… Sick as a Dog… Cancer P2

17 January 2014

been awake since 0415… lots on the mind. I called my son… he is in hospital also… with an infection of unknown origin.. he is waiting for results … hard to talk to him bc neither of us wants to burden the other with our woes… we keep it light and easy.

Today starts  the pre-operation preparation… more transfusion(s). My Hgb (hemoglobin count) has to be high enough for surgery…. at least 8 g/dL. I am feeling so much better that I forget I am still pretty ill and bleeding internally; which means I am still an ‘emergency’ case.

At 11 am my final transfusion (we hope) begins… two more hours and I should be topped up.

The Docs have had me on a liquid diet since I have been here… tea, fruit juices, chicken broth, and ENSURE (make sure I am getting all my nutrients). When I get tired of the vanilla flavored ENSURE… the nurses send it down to the cafeteria where they add strawberry flavor and make a “shake”. Wish they could make a Cinnamon roll flavor.

Dinner is my last meal… and then the clean out procedure begins anew… I don’t mind so much this time… and I will only have to drink two bottles of gunk (unlike the first time … took four bottles to get the job done. I guess that proves how full of “IT” I was!)

Oddly I find myself looking forward to the surgery. For a guy who always wants to be in control of things, it is strange that I am so ready to turn my fate over to a group of strangers. I guess when you have no other choice, THAT choice is easily embraced. With surgery over I can focus on recovery. Hopefully when all the post-operation results are in, chemo or radiation will not be necessary. Even though the CT scan indicated the tumor is localized, the only way to be sure is to section and examine the tumor and surrounding lymph nodes. I know it will be a number of days after surgery before we know for sure. I am resigned to letting things be. If chemo or radiation is needed then so be it.

My stay here has been as pleasant as it can be. The nursing staff (Raji, Anu, Ramya, Sibi, Jessica, Roby, Ragesh, Arnel, Bindu and Zahra) have all been phenomenal. I appreciate all the things they do. We (ordinary people) forget until we are sick in a hospital, that nurses do a heck of a lot more than just attend and give injections. I think they are as important to the healing process as the procedures and medicines are.

 

18 January 2014 06:49

Since 05:00 I have been poked, prodded, ecg’d, blood sucked, weight and measured… then more antibiotics and …. A BELLY SHAVE! At least I won’t have to worry about pulling of hairs as the dressings are changed.

The surgeon and specialist come in to explain (again) to us what will be happening. I am surprised that the hospital has flown in a Laparoscopic Surgery Specialist – Dr Latta from Muscat, Oman, just  for my surgery.

It is rainy and nasty looking out my window… can barely see across the bay. A really good day for surgery…. nothing better to do.

I suppose I should have some angst about this but, really? I am ready to get on with it… a treadmill stress test is scheduled immediately prior to surgery. What the heck for I do not know.

At first I suspect a bit of “nest feathering” but, the cardiologist explains that the anesthesia is hard on the heart so a test must be done to see if the heart can stand up to it. I pass the stress test with flying colors… something that I would not have had the strength for only two days prior.

10 minutes after the stress test I am loaded on a gurney and whisked off to the surgical theatre. Staring up at the ceiling moving by I thought of all the movies where this camera angle was used but it wasn’t as interesting this time.

The anesthesiologist introduced himself and explained what I could expect. He joked with me a bit then off to the operating theatre … strapped down, oxygenated, and the last thing I remember is the  anesthesiologist saying “good night”.

When I awake, it is his face I see first  … six inches from mine as he chants “deep breath, deep breath, deep breath”… the he makes me swear an oath to keep taking deep breaths… Hell I can barely keep my eyes open … and this guy wants me to focus on my breathing? My eyes roll up and back to lala land I go. A few minutes (?) later I wake put look across the aisle at he nurses and try to take a deep breath…. HURTS LIKE HELL! … and off to lala land I go again…

I don’t know how many times the process repeats itself but eventually I awake back in my room… in pain and unable to really take a deep breath without setting off waves of pain… in walks the anesthesiologist and tells Tilly that I made a promise to … looks at me expectantly and I mutter “breath deeply”… if I could have reached him I would have hurt him! 

the afternoon and evening a pass in an agonizing haze with Docs in & out inspecting their handiwork… i can barely make sense of what they are saying … not even sure I could reply. Finally bed-time and Tilly, thank God has decided to spend the night … her presence made the night tolerable…

The next morning I think, “AND What the HELL was I thinking? Looking forward to surgery? Damn!” The surgery has relieved me of 1/2 of my large intestine… and I chuckle to myself (OUCH) as I think “ I can only be  accused of being 1/2 full of “IT” from now on.”

But it is over and I am headed toward healing recovery… the prognosis is good (and depending on the lab rests chemo or radiation may not be needed – I can only hope). BUT there is one more battle to face… and that battle blind sides me and Tilly  totally.

Next: The Hospital and Insurance Company –  Battle Royale

Healthy as a Horse…Sick as a Dog…Cancer….

I have recently been discharged from the hospital  after cancer  surgery. The following few blogs detail the  two weeks of our saga based on my daily journal entries. It is my hope that anyone else diagnosed with cancer and reading this will be encouraged or at least comforted. It also my hope that anyone reading this will make sure they and their loved ones are screened on a regular basis. I am lucky, so far. Others are not!

16 January 2014

Please sir, could you come back to the hospital lab as soon as possible?” the voice on the phone said.

I am standing at Starbucks awaiting my coffee and cinnamon roll, could I come after I finish my b-fast?” I answer.

Yes, but please do come back, OK? We need to draw some more blood and confirm a result.” The voice said with a mix of demand and pleading.

And so our dark adventure began. One hour later, after having more blood drawn, the results confirmed, I am sitting in the ER. It seems I had a very low hemoglobin count in other words severe anemia.

It may be long time before I am going to get another cinnamon roll “, I thought; still not  twigging on to the importance of my situation. Other than a nagging cough, a bit of tiredness, and a problem tolerating exercise (which is the reason for my blood tests ordered by the doctor), I feel OK, not great but OK.

“We need to admit you to the hospital and determine the cause of your low blood count… which is most likely internal bleeding… in the colon.”, says the doctor.

S**T, no cinnamon rolls” I am thinking as I say “But I am feeling OK.”

The fact that I am sick… really sick, begins to dawn on me a few  hours later as the second of two units of blood (to raise and stabilize my Hgb count) is transfused in preparation for a colonoscopy. My mind clears and the symptoms of fatigue, mental fogginess and exercise discomfort I have experience the last few months begin to make sense. My Grandmother died of colorectal cancer when I was 8 years old. Now, I AM paying attention. Cinnamon rolls drop of my radar screen.

5 AM the next morning the “clean-out” process for my colonoscopy begins. Anyone familiar with the process knows how “not-so” pleasant this is. Essentially you drink a mix of awful tasting salts and chemistry that causes the entire digestive tract to empty. And you keep drinking this gunk until … well IF you been through it YOU KNOW… IF NOT then YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW!

While the process might be unpleasant the real challenge is to make it to the toilet before (you can guess what) … the warning signs are brief and not to be ignored for a even a second! Even connected to an IV pole I somehow manage to make the scramble successfully every time.

After hours of waiting ; finally taken to the procedure room, I am sedated, scoped and examined… while I was not fully asleep (experienced a bit of pain and discomfort) I was not really awake either. I awoke to a slightly red-eyed Tilly (who has deserved mention long before this… as she has, had been and is so supportive… even to the point of taking the day off work to attend the procedure ) – the exam found a mass …. tumor… doughnut shaped growth… with a lesion (the source of my bleeding).

”A 99.9% probability that it is cancer.” said the Dr in response to Tilly’s first question.

Well there it was… probably the most scary scenario I had ever imagined, just  realized. I had often wondered how I would react… and feared considering the possibility of dying in the most horrible way possible… wasting away… in pain and no way to exit this world gracefully.

Surprising myself, I found that my first reaction was relief and  determination. Relief because I now had a definite cause for my distress and discomfort the last two or three months. Determination,  because knowing the source of my distress would allow me to focus all my energies to taking corrective measures. My second reaction was to ask myself as I looked into the tear reddened eyes of my wife, how I was going to emotionally support my family members (children and parents) from half the world away. That was going to be the hard part.

So, most likely I had the “BIG C” as these things usually turn out to be… Plus the family history is there… but we would have  t0 wait  for the “official” diagnosis until after surgery.

And yet, I was highly confident. Being severely anemic had brought me to the hospital and the very reason we had identified the problem. Anemia is a symptom of something more serious. Our diet has for the past few years has been so well balanced that food intake could not have been a cause. However, other causes of anemia are much more serious… bone marrow cancer (leukemia), kidney and/or liver disease.

So I count myself fortunate, so far. My tumor was in the best possible spot for surgery. A CT scan done later that evening  revealed no involvement with my liver (the closest major organ). My doctor is very positive and so am I.

Surgery will be on Saturday the 18th of January. With a good result and recovery I won’t have to figure out if I am more like Jack Nicholson or Morgan Freeman (a bad reference to the movie Bucket List)…

MIKAL

NEXT –   Pre Surgery, Post Surgery

New Years Reprise – Resolutions

It is THAT time of year again… we all made it through Christmas without too big a hole (hopefully) in our budgets… without too much added bulk from the Christmas goodies. And THEN … along comes the tradition of NEW YEARS Resolution-ing.

In this tradition we create personal goals for the next year – a GOOD thing.  Then  a year from now most of us  will get to beat ourselves up for not reaching them – a BAD thing.  I seem to do this every year for the resolutions I made the previous year…

I live an endless annual cycle of New Year’s Resolutions hope and disillusionment.

It is a cold, rainy, and dark a 29th of December here on the west coast of Canada. So, I decided to make a list of things I wanted to accomplish in 2013… my lovely wife had suggested we do so over a bottle of wine on New Years eve… but I cheated. Besides I could not think of anything exciting to write about in my daily journal which I scribble in every morning once the coffee is hot.

As I looked over my list, feeling quite proud of my 2013 resolutions and the belief that they were all quite achievable in the next year, I was struck with how familiar they seemed … (common, I think to the mostly  mundane resolutions on probably 99+% of the lists of all the other resolution makers of the world)….

  • Lose weight
  •  Get more exercise …kinda goes with losing weight thing – but got it’s own number on the list anyway to make the list more impressive,
  • Eat right …same as with the losing weight/exercise things,
  • Be more productive,
  • Learn a new skill (or in my case re-learn) ”

But my 2013 resolutions were more than just familiar – common… they were familiar – familiar.

Having completed my NEW 2013 resolutions it was time to reflect upon my 2012 resolutions and…most likely chastise myself ,once again.  I dug out my journal from last December. I could have saved a heck of a lot of time this year if I had just  copied the 2012 resolutions. The  were almost identical to my ‘new’  resolutions…  apart from the RETIRE one. Digging further back into my journal tub I retrieved all my January journals from 2004.  Every year the same: … shape up … lose the flab … stop eating junk food… learn something… work harder… I didn’t need to write these things out every December … I should have just used a photocopier. SHEESH! Almost an entire decade gone and here I am still making the same bloody resolutions.

I always managed (with great success) to convince myself that I didn’t fulfill my resolutions  due to being “too busy” & having “not enough time”. But, for the last 6 months I have been “retired”!  So, I got NO EXCUSE this year because I have had  MORE than enough time!

As I write I realize, the  real problem is not TIME rather it is distraction.  Days, weeks, and months have  come and gone without me even once thinking about what I REALLY wanted to do… that happened only once a year every December while writing… New Years resolutions. We all make time for those things we really want to do UNLESS we put our lives on ‘auto-pilot’. For decades I flipped my life every morning to ‘auto-pilot’ and just got busy with what ever came along: work…  TV… emails… surfing the web… movies… the odd (not really that odd) bottle of wine/beer … phone calls… and to the easily distracted (me) even more things come along….

The key then, to doing what I want (fulfilling my resolutions) is short circuiting my auto-pilot long enough to remind myself what I really want.  Last November my friend and French blogger, Semeunacte  ( http://semeunacte.com -If you decide check it out make sure to have google translate active on your browser, unless you can read French.) wrote a blog detailing his method of  “how to generate a healthy motivation when you jump out of bed” and delaying the auto-pilot start up.

Remembering his article; I have decided to try out his ideas.

First I have written out my NEW resolutions

  • Spend more time with my family. (having been overseas for 10 months of every year for the last 8 years has left little time for my children and aging parents)
  • Re-learn Tai Chi. ( l quit practicing in 2010. Time to re-learn)
  • Lower BP by weight loss (lots of lb.s – not quite so intimidating if I convert to kg),  regulation of diet and exercise daily. (HAH! Got them all on one item this year.)
  • Master (as much as that is possible) Adobe Photoshop CS6.
  • Master the capabilities of my Nikon Camera. 
  • Show up to my writing daily.
  • Show up to my photography daily.

Then I titled this list: READ ME FIRST! 

Second, and  the key,  according to Semeunacte,  is to read this before starting my daily routine… just to remind myself what I really want for 2013.  I could put the list on my night stand next to the bed so I would read it first thing in the morning (which he advises) but, I prefer to keep it in my morning journal to read before I start my writing.

No excuses now… but first I have to add two more resolutions: Read my resolutions every morning. & Don’t make any more New Years resolutions. … just in case.

Wish me luck … as I  wish you luck with your resolutions.

A Long Strange Trip

“Lately, it occurs to me…. what a long strange trip it’s been” – Grateful Dead

We thought it was all figured out… We would “retire” from teaching to live in Southern California, find another mode to make enough money to see us the 5 to 7 years until old age benefits began and live our life while still able to enjoy it. We would get catastrophic health coverage just in case, while we sought part-time employment that offered medical benefits (yes there are companies that do offer their part-timers benefits). In the mean time we would pursue and perfect our respective arts, photography and writing in the goal of selling them.

It sure seemed like a great plan… but, life always has a way of throwing things in our paths that can change everything …

We had considered the possibility of “snow-birding”  6 months in Canada and 6 months in the US.   The only problem was … we had no residence in Canada and could ill afford one. Little did we know… life has a way of throwing things…

Shortly after we applied for catastrophic health insurance and two weeks before that application was underwritten and we were covered (BUT the insurance company sure as heck accepted our $$$ immediately!) we discovered that both Til & I (as a spouse) could be covered under BC  health insurance within three months of Til returning to Canada as a permanent resident.  We could get 100% health coverage – including vision and dental for less than 1/2 the cost of our $8400 per year; $15,000 deductible ‘Catastrophic’ policy (catastrophic, alright… to our bank account if we got sick) in the US.

‘No-Brainer’ 

We could afford to rent a home for the time we were in Canada and NOT spend any more $’s than we would have living in the US full time (and over-paying for “worthless” health insurance). The only catch? We would be required to live in BC for 6 months of every year. Besides BC highways being a biker’s paradise and BC being a fisherman’s dream and a photographer’s heaven; we figured that we could endure that ‘burden’.

Snow Birds we would become! BUT, in the mean time we would return home to California and wait until April to head north as we needed to find a place to live in Canada and submit the application for my permanent residency.

OR so we thought!

One week after our return to California, we received a call from our best friends in Canada telling us of the opportunity for taking care of the fishing lodge they had been winter care-takers of (for 6 previous years). We had expressed interest in replacing them if they ever decided not to return. There is no pay, BUT there is no rent or utilities to pay either. And other than being on premises to insure nothing freezes up in the main lodge if power goes out ( a fairly frequent occurrence); we have no other responsibilities.

‘No-Brainer’ again…

Within 10 days we had packed up our belongings; made arrangements for temporarily renting out our California home (figured we might as well make a few $ while up north); traveled to spend a few days with my folks in WY (and pick up a few cold weather things like ski’s, snowshoes, hats, gloves, parkas, and Sorrels) and crossed the border into Canada.

Canadians we have become … Til once again… And me?  Once an expat, i guess always an expat. But at least now I can spend 6 months (instead of 2) every year back “home”.

So, we are “settled” now… But, you never know… “it occurs to me…. what a long strange trip” it might still be.

WHAT NOW?

Tilly & I have lived a blessed life for the last 8 years. Living and working overseas, traveling to and spending long forays in exotic lands. Every year we took at least two what for most would be trips of a lifetime. We trekked the Himalayas…. bicycled the Rhine in Germany and the tulip fields of Holland in April… wandered Paris, Barcelona and the south of France … spent a Christmas in a Medieval castle int the Pyrenees… went  scuba diving on the coast of Oman while living aboard a dhow for a week… and much more.

In each other we found the perfect partner in our respective romantic, spiritual, creative and wandering instincts. However, in the back of both our minds was the desire to really pursue our creative talents. We found that while working for a living, we were too exhausted, overwhelmed  and stressed to really put the efforts we wanted into our talents and our preliminary efforts while promising petered out under the pressures of work. Out of that desire was born the decision to retire from our teaching careers.

It is one thing to have a desire and intent. It is quite another to actualize the intent. We had meticulously saved and invested for the “future” but, that future  “ retirement” seemed so far away as to be fantasy.  The events of the Arab Spring were to change that.

Having been advised by our respective embassies to leave Bahrain in March of 2011 and at the invitation from good friends S&B we flew to southern California for what turned out to be a three week stay. We liked the desert environment and as a lark we decide to “look” at houses that were for sale; not dreaming that we could afford to buy.  Life has a way of throwing things in our path that changes our entire plan(s); within a week we had found a house and made a purchase offer. Not only could we afford it but could do so mortgage free. Within the month we owned our own home back home in North America. Within two months the realization hit that we could work just one more year and then retire.

We spent the summer of 2011 setting up our new home, in between visits to family and friends with the gracious help of our good friends C&C. We finished setting up during the Christmas holiday of 2011 again with C&C at our sides. The stage was set and we began the process figuring out all the details of ending our expat life and returning “home”. We planned and schemed but, knew there were some things that we could not take care of until we were “home”.  We left Bahrain and the Middle East for good in June.

So it has been 2 months, 4 weeks and 1 day since we returned to North America to begin our “retirement”. BUT we have only been 7 days in our own home . We knew that just as every other summer we would need to spend at least 2 months visiting our far flung family and friends.

When you spend 10 months of every year 1/2 a world away once a year personal visits are really important. Keeping contact is difficult because  the 10-11 hour time difference makes phone calls hard to coordinate. You don’t want to call your friends and family in the middle of their night! And sure as heck you don’t want them doing the same to you. No better method to dissolve a relationship than to interrupt a good nights sleep.

My daughter’s wedding (which we would not have missed for the world) required a  three week time frame and the requisite visits to other family and friends took a full 2 months to complete.  We do not regret the time spent but, we had no time for ourselves to deal with the remaining questions of retirement.

Some how we thought that we could merrily slip into the retirement mode…having the freedom and time to follow our dreams where ever they lead. Who knew that  when we decided to stop the “working for a living” life style things were going to get a whole lot more complicated and stressful!

When we were working for a living, things were fairly simple. Got up early … made it to work on time… put in required time… took home that which we could not complete at the “school” …. finally falling into bed a few scant hours before we started the cycle over again… praying all the time for “FRIDAY” so we could break that cycle for two days. In return we got a steady income and a few benefits (medical insurance, vacation time and with luck a few other perks). We were able to live a fairly consistent and routine life … we knew what to expect… decisions were made by our school/work calendar.  Other than what to do on vacation or holidays our daily life was fairly well mapped out.

We keep busy morning to night with our art, writing, physical activities, and other interests; often wondering how we ever had the time to work. Our stress is in the choosing of another framework for our life not in having nothing to do. We have discovered more choices to make, decisions to reach and from those, more choices and decisions. Our plans are changing with each new choice.

It was all figured out or so we believed… We would “retire” from teaching to live in Southern California, find another mode to make enough money to see us the 5 to 7 years until old age benefits began and live our life while still able to enjoy it. We would get catastrophic health coverage just in case, while we sought part-time employment that offered medical benefits (yes there are companies that do offer their part-timers benefits). In the mean time we would pursue and perfect our respective arts, photography and writing in the goal of selling them.

It sure seemed like a great plan… but, life always has a way of throwing things in our path that can change the entire plan… luckily for us it is not a serious or life threatening illness.

When a person works for a company in the US that offers health insurance benefits … all is good. But if you need to find health coverage as an individual things go to hell in a hurry.

Of course we could have opted for Jesus Life & Casualty – where you pray you do not get sick or injured and if you do it is not more serious than a flu bug or a splinter and if it is serious you pray to pass on quickly enough not to drain your families resources. That might be a decent temporary solution for healthy young folks that have not much to lose and time to make up the loss. But for us older folks; we have everything we worked hard to gain to lose and NO time to ever make up for it.

Thus begins our saga … finding health insurance…  and we ask ourselves, “WHAT NOW?”

To be continued…