Sunday, December 3, 2017

Big, Good, Strong Hands


One of the main characters in the 1984 classic children's fantasy movie "Never Ending Story" is a granite giant who seems so sad... so depressed ...because he sensed that "the end" was near... and that there was nothing (...he thought) absolutely nothing that he could do about it.  This huge monster, composed completely of stone, was known as the "Rock Biter". So deep was his depression that the Rock Biter had simply sat down and was waiting for "the end" to envelop him. He had given up all hope. Whenever the formerly frightening monster was greeted, the now downtrodden Rock Biter responds to his visitor by first intensely examining his gigantic hands and then mournfully verbalizing, "They look like big, good, strong hands, don't they? ... I always thought that's what they were."  The Rock Biter had come to the realization that he had lost the strength that he once had... and, in fact, he could not even defend himself from the "Nothingness".  

It is no secret that the chemotherapy and radiation therapy that is called upon to help fight a deadly cancer has the tendency to drain the strength from the strongest of beings. Granted... not all cancer patients physically respond to treatment in the same way.   

It can be a most humbling realization to wake up one day to discover that one no longer has the same strength, the same energy or the same stamina that they had... just one day B.C. (i.e. Before Cancer).

Thankfully, this sense of helplessness and enfeeblement turned out to be only a temporary condition for this particular soul writing this to you. Though the full "vim and vigor" has not been completely restored at this time... the energy and strength levels have slowly (and inconsistently) improved.

It seems that the two main "keys" to overcoming fears of the impending "nothingness" lies with personal attitude and support of others.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Padrino Ahijada Dance at Quinceañera



The Padrino del Bautismo (baptism godfather) dancing with his ahijada (goddaughter) at her Quinceañera (15th birthday celebration). The song in the background is "Chiquitita" by ABBA.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Surprise Dance at Quinceañera



This is my goddaughter with a Surprise Dance for her Quinceañera (15th birthday celebration).

Traditional Mexican Dance at Quinceañera



Here is my goddaughter with her chambelanes dancing a traditional Mexican dance to Mariachi music at her Quinceañera (15th birthday celebration).

Father Daughter Dance at Quinceañera



This is my beautiful goddaughter dancing with her father at her Quinceañera (15th birthday celebration.)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Balancing Act with Cancer and a Cat

This cat of ours is going to be the death of me...

About three years post treatment (radiation and chemotherapy) of my Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma  (NPC) I found myself suddenly challenged with new issues including vertigo and a completely separate issue of balancing whenever I would walk more than a few steps. Although the vertigo issue of mine was successfully minimized in relatively short order through therapy, the balancing-act-while-walking issue has been a ever-present challenge since it's original onset.

Even after all that therapy with those talented balance gurus I still find it almost impossible to walk in a straight line for more than 20 yards. All too often I appear to be just some drunk old guy walking down the sidewalk or weaving down the aisles of the grocery store. You have probably seen me in your ventures and thought to yourself, "Kind of early to be drinking... don't you think ole buddy!" For that reason, I have been instructed to walk with a cane at all times. Lets be clear on this... instead of this cane of mine being used to take pressure off of a weak leg or hip, my cane ends-up serving as something equivalent to an outrigger on a Hawaiian canoe. Whenever I find myself veering-off to the right... my cane helps to keep me in somewhat of a straight line (...more or less). Even though it is extremely frustrating for me to have to rely upon this "crutch" ...I do so realizing that it is more important for me to protect these ole bones of mine (...which are becoming more brittle all of the time)... than worrying about the way I look when I walk.

Almost every doctor of mine starts each appointment with the same old question, "Have you fallen
lately?". Thankfully, so far I can honestly respond, "No... thank Heaven... not yet!". One of my doctors goes so far that he has developed a most annoying mantra that he continually recites when he cautions me, "Remember, whatever you do... don't fall drown!". This particular doctor must also think he missed his calling as a standup comedian because not only will he give that strong warning to me at least twice during each visit but at the close of every appointment when he leaves the room, he closes the door behind him and then he will wait ten seconds before re-opening the door, sticks just his head inside and once again firmly admonishes me, "Remember, whatever you do... don't fall down!I get it doctor... I get it! It is because of that strong, ever-present warning that I truly try to be extremely careful when standing and walking.

My biggest challenge with this balance issue is in my own home. Not because my house is some sort of safety hazard... but the safety challenge in this house is what is lurking in the shadows. You see... we live in a very old two-story home and naturally my bedroom would have to be upstairs so whenever ascending or descending the stairs since my treatments I faithfully and firmly guide my hand along the length of the handrail and with head always bowed low I continually watch where it is that I am stepping... making sure to avoid any misplaced Lego or any chew toy belonging to our dog. None of those obstacles really concern me much because I can look ahead and anticipate... watching for them as my doctor's stern warning voice is constantly ringing in my head.  "Remember, whatever you do... don't fall down!"

Please understand that my biggest concern for my personal safety whenever I walk in my house is our cute but cunning calico cat who unfortunately (...for me) is going to be the death of me. Yes...I can foresee the coroner's report on me now, "Cause of death... DBC... (Death By Cat)".

Yes, this cat of ours is going to be the death of me.... 


This combat kitty is on a mission. Every chance she gets, this cagey cat tries to either get under an upraised foot of mine (...only mine, mind you) or manages to run directly in front of me whenever I am either ascending or descending the stairs. Hey, if running in front of me does not do the trick... she then tries to achieve the same goal by running through my legs ...thus attacking me from behind. "Oh dear Lord, please preserve me from such a catastrophe." One might conclude here that I must always have catnip or something tempting like either strapped to my leg or hidden within my socks for any cat to act like this. Nothing like that at all... this cat will do the same maneuvers to me even if I am walking barefoot in the house. Oh, I have concluded that this furry feline of mine is either a "cat that loves too much" or the Devil himself personified in the soul of a female calico cat. As you can guess... many so-called friends of mine being concerned for my safety will advise me that it is time for this kitty to find a new home.  Well... folks ...while that might seem the most appropriate course of action ...this ole guy has to continue to live with this family of mine and I think they might think the problem is really with me...not with their precious little kitty cat. (Hah! ...Innocent, not!)
By the grace of the Good Lord ...so far I have successfully met the challenges presented by this frightful feline but I fear that the day will surely come (...Heaven forbid!) ...when this cunning cat will succeed in it's dedicated quest ...and then she will be found, rolled-over on her back, laughing hysterically at the fact that I have finally fallen on my backside... or worse

Let the record show that it will not be the NPC that ultimately leads to my demise... but it will be DBC.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

I ought to be in pictures

Hollywood could easily produce a box-office-buster-of-a-movie... if they simply followed this old guy (...yours truly) around for a while ...even for a day. There is no doubt about it... any prospective movie maker would quickly decide that they only need to produce a low-budget movie out of this crazy life of mine then they would surely end up creating an almost guaranteed laugh-a-minute, money-making comedy. The following is just one pretty good example of this humorous life of mine and any movie producer worth his (or her) "salt" would surely deem this subject matter "fit-for-the-big-screen" since the following episode shows one of my many attempts to deal with yet another unusual drama that regularly comes my way.


By way of background for any reader not already familiar with the life and times of this movie-star-in-the-making ...let me start my story-telling of just this one brief episode of my comedic/dramatic life by stating that this gentle soul has been a Certified Senior Citizen as determined by AARP... for 16 years and counting now. You should also know that there have been a few (...let's say "substantial") life-challenges thrown my way ...especially during these last five years when I encountered some "real doozies" of these so called "life-challenges". As a direct result from one of the greatest life-challenges you can have ...I now have to rely upon a cane ...more than I care to mention. It is now tough...sometimes impossible... to move this old body like I used to do.


Just to set the record straight... you should understand that I never set out trying to make any part of my life to intentionally be funny or dramatic ...As they say, "It just is ...what it is!" and... "*It* just happens!". Life has taught me that I just have to learn to "deal with it".  With all of that in mind, let me now share with you just a simple snippet of one possible episode in this (hopefully) soon-to-be produced video classic.


Now... after you have finished reading this short factual tale of mine then you and Hollywood (...No, no, ...not "Planet Hollywood!") you can decide whether or not the sharing of this ole guy's adventures with all the world's movie-goers would end up becoming a solid investment for the studio. If my antics are not deemed to be worthy of the "big screen" at this particular time then maybe the wise decision would be made to make my adventurous, sometimes hilarious stories into a mini series or even a television sitcom... anything but a daytime soap opera. Now folks... get your popcorn ready! 
It's time for the show to begin!

In the process of opening my garage door that crazy mixed-up Sunday morning ...something strange happened which ended up partially opening the van's tailgate at the exact same time as the garage door was rising... which resulted in the troublesome tailgate getting perfectly "barred" by one of the horizontal bars located in the middle of that garage door ...thus holding my van hostage ...but I didn't find that out until later. All I saw was a garage door open just enough for critters (two-legged or four-legged) to have already entered the garage and created havoc. I had no way of knowing what still might be in garage but whatever may or may not be lurking in that dark interior I had to somehow get inside, get the van out of there and make my way to the hospital because my wife was waiting for me to relieve her long enough to come home to shower and change her clothes.  I also wanted to spend some time with my sick daughter who was a patient there.  I had already texted my wife that I was already on my way. 


There I was ... standing in the rain... getting soaked ...since of course, my umbrella was inside the van which as you already know was locked in the garage. Frantically, I made attempt-after-attempt to open that stubborn garage door using the van's own remote control (...up, down, ... up, down... up, down). At one point it got stuck on "up"... and it would no longer come down. No matter what I did with that button ...that door would not rise more than two feet off the ground until the point when it permanently got stuck in the "up" position.

Eventually, I decided that the only way to solve this problem was to somehow get into that garage and check out what the heck was preventing the door from rising more than two feet off the ground. Remember that the only way into the garage would be for me to crawl on my more than ample belly and crawl (or do an impressive "limbo rock") under the bottom of that door. I chose the crawl option. Imagine me ...crawling on my belly ...squeezing under that garage door ...subjecting myself to the dirt of the driveway and the crud on the garage floor trying to remember to keep "butt down" to get my sweet self inside that garage. My first challenge in doing this was to successfully kneel on the ground before I could lay the ole body flat to the deck. Oh, my! The pain of it all! My knees promptly protested but I pressed on nevertheless. What a sight to behold! Felt like I could have been in boot camp that day. Oh, feel the pain! Ugh!!!

Once I got inside the warm and humid, dimly-lit garage I slowly, painfully stood up and tried to brush the dirt and grime off of my clothes. It was at this point that I could see the problem was with the van's tailgate being somehow stuck halfway up the garage door. Using the van's key fob I gave the command to open (or close) the darn tailgate but it was not listening and was refusing to obey my direct orders. The van's tailgate function on the key fob was just as stubborn as the remote control for the garage door. Anyway... I then got the brilliant idea to use the built-in switch on the back of the van to try to open/close that van's tailgate.  All I would need to do (it appeared) was to lower the tailgate just one or two inches and then the tailgate could complete the rest of the task itself. With this mission firmly in mind, I started out first trying to work my way under the van' s partially open tailgate... which again required some gymnastic maneuvers on my part.  Again, the knees (and now the back) are starting to protest ...again and again. Failing at this task too... I then decided that I had to get into the van to try to slightly drive the vehicle forward ...even if only a foot ...heck, I would settle for a few inches. Problem here was that the partially opened tailgate was preventing me from getting to the driver's side of the car from the passenger side of the van. I then decided that a better course of action would be a simplistic workaround where I just had to make my way over to the passenger side door and then scoot my butt over to the driver's side to start the engine.  Easier said than done (...at least for me) ...but I finally managed to gain access to the Captain's seat and managed to start the engine only to discover that no matter what I tried to do... that van was so perfectly lodged in place that I could not move it forward or backward ...even for those precious few inches. There was a row of boxed books in front of the van now strongly pressing back against the front bumper...  and as you already realize the back of the van was securely lodged in there due to a half-open tailgate firmly stuck on the garage door. I couldn't move those boxes if I wanted to because those boxes were tightly pushing against the back wall and were pushing against the van's front bumper. What a challenge! A perfectly wedged vehicle in a garage that has now changed from warm to hot as I continued wrestle the vehicle. Nothing that I did would allow me to close that darn tailgate in order to extract myself and my vehicle. You might need to know that my garage has always been a tight fit for this particular vehicle of mine ...which happens be a pretty decent-sized minivan. One must be extremely careful every day when moving this van in and out of the garage  It is no surprise that when they built this garage sixty-some years ago they did not build it to accommodate vehicles as long and wide as mine.

The next possible funny scene at least for most movie-goers (...not counting myself) would have been the sight of me frantically trying to bend that heavy metal garage door so that it would release the tailgate. I tried various tools usually found in any well-stocked (but completely unorganized) pretty dark modern garage.  At one point, I even resorted to using an axe in my quest! Desperate times call for desperate measures. That stubborn door was designed specifically not to bend for any man (or woman). All that I wanted was to do was to be able to bend that metal just a little to release the tailgate... but that garage door was hearing none of that!

By this time I have worked up quite a sweat. Probably more sweat than that produced in the steam room at the local YMCA. Sweat caused by heat... sweat caused by over-exertion... and sweat caused by fear and panic. Keep in mind that I need to get to the hospital.  On top of it all... I have no cell phone inside with me for me to call my wife or call for help (that is ...to call a repairman or the fire department). Also, by this time, the air in the garage was getting pretty toxic from all the gasoline fumes produced since I had the van's engine running all this time and quite a bit of time has past since that first moment when I started the engine. I am not saying that the fumes were preventing me from clear-thinking ( Ha ! ) but I must admit that at this point I started to get a bit frantic.  I now realized that I was trapped in "Smog City" ...with no fresh air expected anytime soon. The fact is ...I did not want my family to find my lifeless body in this garage with the van's engine still running (...I had just filled it's gasoline tank). I would never hear the end of it ...for all eternity (not from my wife necessarily but from my "faithful" friends who would rib me without mercy for entering into this situation in the first place.

So, in another attempt to try to fix the problem I turned off the engine, scooted across the seat to the passenger side and the closed the van's door behind me but as soon as I did closed the door the van's headlights and tail lights predictably were extinguished. Suddenly the garage seems to be even darker than before since I used to have at least a little light from the van's red taillights but now nothing. It's now truly darker and damper than it was previously.

New problem now was that I did not have with me the remote control to open the other garage door in this two-car garage ...the door where the other van is usually parked. Of course, that door was tightly clutching the ground. Try as I might... I could not force that door to lift ...even with my brute strength and ignoring my recovering hernia. Panic for me starts to settle in. Would any of the neighbors hear me if I pounded real hard on the garage door and screamed to high Heaven? Well, it took me a while but I eventually remembered that this other garage door had an emergency release rope on it which once it is released it allows someone on the inside to manually open the door. If I can only find the rope of that release in this poorly-lit garage. Oh my! How embarrassing! But after some frantically clawing the air ...searching for where I thought the rope would be I finally found it and managed to release the latch on that garage door. At last...fresh air ...but my problem is not yet resolved since the van is still stuck in the garage ...and there are people waiting patiently for me at the hospital.

Well, folks... that was just the beginning of this story which was just the beginning of my day. I am sure that anyone watching my frantic moments on the screen as I repeatedly stumble in my attempts to gain freedom for my van and myself would surely agree that snippets such as this one from such a life could easily make into a laugh-a-minute comedy (...for everyone ...except maybe *ME*).
I will save for the script writers of this laugh-a-minute movie the dramatic details as to how my van and I were eventually able to escape from that prison-like garage. Like I stated previously ...this particular episode of the beginning of one day in my life is just one example of the comedic/dramatic life that I live. This is just one example of my unique dealing with life's more difficult challenges. Not just one example but... in the words of the late great Jimmy Durante after sharing one of his jokes, "I got a million of 'em!" 

Now... please don't get me wrong... I truly believe that despite the countless windmills that I seem to be continually fighting (and winning)....mine still *is*
"A Wonderful Life!" 

=====================================

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Promises Broken - Little Bighorn


These two granite markers can be found at the Little Bighorn Battlefield. This National Monument site is located near Crow Agency, Montana and is where General Custer, along with the 7th Calvary, had his famous "Last Stand" on June 25th and 26th, 1876. 

About 220 U.S. soldiers, scouts and civilians lost their lives in this historical battle. This, of course, does not count the number of Cheyenne, Lakota Sioux or Arapaho Indians who also died there.

It is important for all to understand the tensions leading up to this massacre. The tensions of the Indian tribes had been building for years as they dealt with continued hostilities from soldiers and the many broken promises made by representatives of the U.S. government. For example, seven years previously, after a particular battle on May 15, 1869 General Custer smoked the peace pipe with the Cheyenne and made the following oath:

“I will never point my gun at a Cheyenne again. I will never kill another Cheyenne.” - General George Armstrong Custer (1869).

The pipe was shared with a Cheyenne leader named Stone Forehead, Keeper of the Sacred Arrows, who upon finishing the traditional smoking ritual, emptied the ashes from the peace pipe as he firmly responded to General Custer's promise:

"If you break your promise, you and your soldiers will go to the dust like this. If you are acting treacherously towards us, sometime you and your command will be killed.” - Stone Forehead Arrow Keeper, Cheyenne (1869).

Seven years later those tensions got to the point that the Native Americans reacted to these broken promises with this devastating battle.

A visit to this National Monument should lead one to ask the questions, "Why?"... "Why did this have to happen?" ..."What could have been done to prevent this from happening at all?"



Sunday, July 31, 2016

Buffalo Prayer




This awesome statue named "Buffalo Prayer" is one of the pieces of art decorating a garden at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody Wyoming. I found this prayer elsewhere. This prayer is titled "Let Me Walk in Beauty" and begins with these first words, "Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds.  And whose breath gives life to all of the world. Hear me! I am small and weak.  I need Your strength and wisdom...."