Our holiday get-togethers…part un.

As I sat down in my office in front of the computer to write this post holiday blog my first thoughts were, “Hmmm…we didn’t have much of a traditional Christmas this year as per usual”.  Past years, especially the last 12 or so we have lived a 250-2000 miles from loved ones on both sides of our families.  Loretta’s sisters and brother (5+1) are strewn out from Northern California to the Central Coast.  Her daughter lives in Texas, her son and mother in Lompoc.  As for me, kind of the same scenario…a son, mom, and two sisters on the Central Coast a daughter in Seattle.  It isn’t like we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, not in the least, we’ve gotten used to long distance relative relationships with an occasional face to face once a year or so, usually not around the holidays.  On the contrary, I feel very fortunate to have been able to have the Christmas I had.  We have done a few things with other people!

As I recall the past couple of weeks, we had time with folks from work and from our families, not all of our family, but enough to feel and bit warm and fuzzy inside.  Our “company” dinner was first up the week before Christmas.  Initially we weren’t planning to go at all then we did plan to go then we didn’t plan to go.  In the end…we went!  “Let’s go.  We won’t get in trouble for NOT going, after all, it’s Walmart!  But let’s go anyway”.  So we went and it was gratifying if not for the fact that we got to say Happy Holidays to a lot of folks in the same situation we are…working stiffs that don’t get to take time off during the holidays.  Aargggh….retail!  Is that how to spell “aarggh”?

I received a lot of handshakes and hugs and wishes to get better soon and “we are praying for you’s”.  That was worth the trip, not to mention a free meal.  The meal left a lot to be desired but that wasn’t the point.  I don’t have near as much of an appetite as I used to so nibbling on a little of this and little of that to be polite was suffice.  It was a catered self serve thing at the restaurant next door so people on duty could come and partake during their meal breaks.  All in all, I will just leave it at that.  Goal that night: commiseration.  Goal accomplished.

Before I get to the next Christmas affair we attended, know this:  being sequestered sucks!  So when I get to go out for something, anything, I kind of relish the opportunity more than before.  By choice, I can languish indoors for weeks at a time and not get antsy.  Well, when your ‘sequestation’ is not by choice it changes things.  Though I am not electronically tethered to my residence, it’s just not that easy to make a break for freedom.  I get halfway through a long grocery shopping stint straining at the bit to head for the barn. I get pooped easy.

My son, Jimmy…James the third…made a long-awaited appearance to our home.  It was planned a couple of weeks in advance and actually happened, I got to see my son for first time in a year or so.  We accomplish a good semblance of communication through FB and an occasional phone call and text.  He lives 250 miles away, so the casual, pop-in, “How’s it going son.  Got a beer?”, sort of behavior can’t happen.  I am extremely happy, pleased, and gratified to know that he is doing well, likes his job, and is totally into moving forward in his life.  With a new work schedule for me when I return in April, I will have more time to make that trek to his neck of the woods more often.  He’s such a good kid and I love seeing him doing well.  I love seeing him in person as well.  Feel very fortunate if you live near your children.

Jen, Roth, & Rowan arrive today for two days before driving back to Seattle.  I look forward to spending time with them especially more face time with my grandson, Rowan.

More of my holiday get togethers later…in part deux.

What lovely weather we are having, don’t you think?

One of my New Years resolutions is to work on a photo portfolio of Modesto, the town in which I have lived for the past 13 years now.  Actually, we lived in Salida for the first 10 years, but Salida is right next to Modesto and no one knows where Salidas is, so…there it is.

I really want to get back out and take some new shots of downtown, the new parts and the old parts.  We are probably blowing this town sometime within the next year (back to the Central Coast) so I really need to get this project done.  I feel a need to archive some photos not only from the town I’ve resided in for more than a decade, there is some history of interest here, not the least of which Modesto is George Lucas’ hometown.

There is not much in the way of George Lucas’ legacies to Modesto, unless, of course, you mention the movie American Graffiti, his homage to graduating from high school in this town.  There is some sort of plaque or statue of Lucas in the student union of  Modesto Junior College, where he attended before transferring to USC film school.  I will get a few shots of that before leaving.

In the meantime, I thought there no better place to start this photo montage of Modesto than with a few shots looking out my front door.  It’s 8:00 am, 34 degrees…and what wonderful, though very seasonal for here, weather we are having…say, what?  The weather is shitty here about half the year.  Stifling, blazing hot most days in the summer, then freezing cold with daily tule fog in the winter.  Spring brings some welcome rains, Fall brings wonderful, mild days and cool nights.  Save for Fall, the weather here stinks.

So there it is, my neighborhood.  A good place to start.

A few weeks ago I was posting lovely pictures of the Fall colors on that street right up there.  It was short-lived, the Fall weeks, and now it’s Winter in the valley.

An open letter and apology to my iBook.

Don’t worry, this blog won’t be one of those goofy letters to a thing.  But it will be a bit whiny due to the fact that I miss a thing.  And that thing is my iBook, my Mac, my Apple computer.
Well, first of all here’s a little computer history.  I got my first pc in ’94, at Gateway 2000.  I loved it, all 66 mhz of processing power and some 256 mb of hard drive.  It was great. I had an AOL account then and learned to IM in those old, sometimes very anonymously cruel chatrooms, you know, before Twitter or Facebook or IM’ing.  I basically learned how to operate a computer.  Those days, mind you, required a basic knowledge of, heaven forbid, DOS.  I shudder to think of the times I found myself trying fix some malady on that often-crashing relic of a pc by changing DOS settings in a part of the computer I should not have been messing with.  I got through those times and it served me well for a couple of years.

Let’s fast forward through two or three other pc’s over the years including that heinous version of  Windows called Windows 2000.  What a piece of crap that was.  I think it was Windows 98 that surfaced and work fairly well on these pc’s and a Compaq laptop at one point.  It was about seven years ago I “evolved” into owning a Mac, an iMac, the one whose base looks like half a basketball.  I also eventually bought an iBook laptop that I used exclusively for several years which still serves me as a sort of backup and old file storage computer since I bought an Hp touch screen desktop a few months ago.  There, I said it.  I have forsaken my beloved iBook for a pc!

Before you die hard Mac fans shake you head, roll your eyes, and chastise me for “falling from Apple grace”, here’s the deal.  My iBook was and still is very sick.  It is held together with bubble gum and paper clips if you will.  First, the battery went dead.  Hence, it was relegated to being a desktop since it had to be plugged in all the time…we couldn’t afford a new $80 battery at the time.  Here’s the kicker.  The hard drive took a big crap about a year or so ago.  So I went into my best MacGyver mode (yes, Mac pun intended) and resurrected my iBook by making a fire wire external hard drive the boot drive.  You with me still? It was fortuitous that I had recently backed up everything from the soon-to-be-fried hard drive several weeks earlier, possibly anticipating something horrendous like this happening.  Well, the worst happened but I was prepared just like a good computer boy scout.  My little Apple iBook now sits beside my desktop keyboard patiently waiting for attention that comes only once in a while when I feel the need to search for old photos or other files I don’t use very often.  The iBook…it takes a licking and keeps on ticking (sorry, Timex).

Now, let’s get back to this nearly new pc I have in front of me.  It’s a 20″ touch screen all in one, ie, everything is located behind the screen, no tower.  I really don’t have any major complaints since defecting to a pc, ie, Windows (7 now).  I’ve even gotten used to having that right click back.  The big screen is lavish and the processor is really fast…at least it was at first.  It has since slowed down a bit (that worries me) and has chosen to crash or freeze up at the strangest times.  Usually a quick hot reboot and things get back to normal.  Bit it does crash on occasion…pffft…no response, no mouse, no nothing.  And herein lies my reason for apologizing to my iBook.  I feel like that stupid State Farm commercial where Jerry calls up Jessica and blubbers about how he regrets cancelling State Farm and going with some phone solicited fly-by-night insurance company because it’s cheaper.  Yes, I apologize to my iBook…but I don’t regret buying the pc.  I’ve simply been thinking about buying a new iBook laptop sometime next year when the planets align financially, sometime in April or May I figure.  They run about $1100 at the entry level wrung of iBookdom. I did buy an Hp laptop a couple of months ago and decided to return it after a week or so (thanks to Walmart’s liberal two week return policy on electronics).  It was OK, but I just didn’t need it at that point AND I longed for the Mac.

For those never ensconced in the Apple well spring of security and coolness,  Mac’s rarely crash and Mac’s don’t get viruses.  They come with a virus protection program built in.  Why Microsoft doesn’t do this with their Windows products is not so baffling as it is just plain disgusting.  It should be part of the package instead of paying an annual fee to some outside program (ie, Norton or MacAfee) to keep your computer secure.  I have Norton on the desktop.  And although this makes me feel somewhat safe, I can’t help but cringe every time this thing freezes, crashes, or presents me a message that says “this file may not be safe, do you still want to open it?” or some such dribble.  I imagine some vile lines of worm code hiding somewhere on the hard drive, embedded in some dark corner just waiting to show me the dreaded blue screen, you know, the one that has lines of DOS on it!!!

I worry too much about everything, it’s just me.  The past few days I’ve been worrying about my next chemo treatment which starts today at 1:30.  So no surprise I worry about how safe my computer is.  So here I am whining about it and pining after a piece of electronics equipment that I could go on living without.  I want my iBook back.

In lieu of waiting until Spring and buying a new iBook, I could do this:  resurrect my old iBook with a new battery and a new hard drive.  I’m thinking a couple hundred bucks versus $1500 or so for the new iBook I would get.  I think I still have room for upgrading my RAM as well.  Sure, it wouldn’t be a new, shiny, white iBook…and sure, it wouldn’t be quite as fast as a new one.  However, if I start from scratch and upgrade to the latest Apple operating system, OS X Lion or some other jungle animal by now…voila, a (near) new laptop…and an iBook to boot (pun intended here as well).

I am a die-hard Mac fan.  A champion of Apple.  They work well and they look cool.  I even converted my daughter, Jen, to an iBook a few years ago.  Now she is a Mac fan and  is addicted to her iPhone (something I bailed on earlier this year and will make a return to my hand sometime next year).  I don’t need a Mac to communicate with Jen via email and Skype, I’d just like to have one again.  I want to bask in the knowledge that it is virus protected and doesn’t crash or freeze.  Is that too much to ask?

So with my somewhat ill but still working seven year old iBook G4 at my side, I apologize for not paying enough attention to you, that which has served me well for many years.  You will get a well-deserved renovation soon.

Feeling good, feeling right?

For some reason is seems like more than two weeks has gone by since my last visit to the chemo chair.  I go every two weeks, infusion session number six is tomorrow…that’s half way there.  Perhaps it’s because the chemo effects seemed a bit milder than from the past few.  I’ve just felt somewhat normal for at least a week, and there are good things and not so good things about feeling, well, normal.

It really is a good thing, feeling normal, compared to the crappier times post chemo.  I’m not complaining.  But feeling OK also solicits so much thought on my part about what else I should be doing during these times.  I’m off work on a leave of absence until April.  Obviously it’s a medical leave so I can better weather chemotherapy.  There are days I feel like I should be working, then there are those other days.  Those other days are when it’s a challenge to function throughout the day without laying down and resting or taking a nap.  So, I remain off of work until this is over.

With the first of the year just around the corner, I am reminded of how I’m never at a loss for making New Years resolutions.  It seems every year about this time I start thinking about my goals and even aspirations for the coming year.  This year in particular has given reason for thought about what to do with my the rest of my life, however long it may last.  I have to assume I will live to be 100 considering the medical community has seemed to pull my ass out of several predicaments the past 35 years or so.  It will be that long since my heart attack and first angioplasty.  Ah, that’s old news with this new malady I am dealing with.  The rest of my life?  Let’s deal with next year first, even next month, next week, or tomorrow.

I find myself getting more and more antsy to get out and get back to business.  I do want to get back to the business of work and the business of those other things I want to further pursue, not the least of which is photography.  Simply put, right now, I feel somewhat reluctant to book any photo shoots like portraits because of the uncertainty of my day-to-day health.  It’s just not reliable at this point.  I yearn for March to roll around and I wrap up the chemotherapy.  It will take a few weeks after the last session for my body to completely recover, hence, I go back to work in April.

Much of my future thoughts revolve around March.  I finish up chemotherapy in March.  I plan to start training on my bicycle in March.  My first social security check comes in March.  We plan to go on a vacation around March.  But that’s months away at this point.  Looking forward to and making plans for tomorrow, next week, and next month is where I need to be right now.

I’ve recently fallen into a bit of a funk about this whole thing that I am experiencing.  Maybe it’s because time is dragging me down, it seems to be going so slowly.  Maybe because I am mostly under house arrest from this thing.  Maybe it’s because of the holidays, or the drab, foggy cold weather…I’m in a bit of a funk.  And starting a new chemo session tomorrow won’t help render the situation better.  I have to remain positive.  And I will do that by counting the days until I feel normal again, probably by next weekend.  And next weekend is Christmas.

We will make the trek up the hill from Modesto to Sonora to visit my daughter’s in-laws.  Jen, Roth, and Rowan are driving down from Seattle for a few days to Sonora then to our house for a few days after Christmas.  I should be in tip top form by then (what the hell does that mean?), feeling good, feeling right, it’s Saturday night?  Hell, I’m halfway through my chemotherapy schedule and it’s all downhill from here!

I’m not ready to post New Year’s resolutions yet.  I’ll save that for another blog closer to the first of the year.  But I can tell you than one of them is to photograph Modesto as I see it and post the pictures to my blog in a series.  On the surface, there’s not much here!  Lord knows I’ve bitched and complained about living here enough. But that’s where the mind of a photographer and writer comes in…and that’s what I am.  So just do it dummy!

Note:  If you haven’t seen anything about this Modesto photo project by February, rattle my cage, would you?  Thanks.

Excuse me, but they removed what?

As Loretta and I sat in the little exam “office” of my oncologist yesterday chatting about me and how I feel, we launched into a diatribe about lymph nodes.  I often ask her to explain things to me, usually things I already know, just to see if I know more than she does.  Not often do I feel more learned than my very nice though tunnel-visioned cancer doc.  After all, that is what she does.  She should be eating, living, sleeping, and breathing CANCER, right?  She seems like the type, they (oncologists) are more scientist than technician like surgeons are.  Oncologists work and study in the field of research and prevention, and that’s a good thing.  But sometimes I would just like my docs to volunteer ALL the information instead of me simply stumbling upon it in some casual office conversation.

So, up until yesterday, this is what I was aware of regarding what has been done to me and my cancer.  Simply put, after discovering a tumor in my ascending colon (the large intestine that runs vertically down the right side of your abdomen and connects to your small intestine) and by way of the biopsy discovered the cancer, they decided to surgically (arthroscopic) remove said ascending colon and accompanying tumor.  While he was in there he removed my gall bladder as well (the surgeon took this request from me as I was being wheeled into the operating room).  Here is how that conversation went…

Me (on the gurney going down a hall to the operating room trying to have a conversation with a masked man whom I cannot see):  Hey, doc (I’m already feeling engrossed in that wonderful, carefree, happy time, warm feeling from liquid valium being infused through my IV).  What about my gall bladder?

Doc:  What about it?

Me:  Didn’t we talk about you taking it out at the same time?

Doc:  Yes, we did.  But I don’t want you to feel like I was talking you into it.

Me:  Ah, doc?

Doc:  Yes? (He turns to the anesthesiologist at this point who already has a clear mask over my face saying in a mild East Indian accent, ‘This is just oxygen for now, we’ll induce the anesthesia in a few minutes’)

Me:  Can you take that out too?

Doc:  OK, but I’m not talking you into this, right?

Me:  Correct, I WANT you to get rid of my gall bladder that we have already determined is full of stones and sludge and may be the source of pain and it needs to go.

Nurse:  Here, can you see this paper, Mr. Hansen.  Sign at the bottom.  Fade to black, no counting to ten, no ‘Here we go Mr. Hansen, breath deeply”.  peace.  out.

I wake up 4 hours or so later in my hospital room (I don’t remember anything else including recovery…great drugs they have now!) minus a third of my colon, a cancerous tumor, a sludge-filled gall bladder (a term the docs use by the way, sludge), and (I find out later) a few polyps (little growths than could turn into cancer).  All the aforementioned organs and pieces of my organs are sent off to the pathologist to see what’s up.  I don’t get the results from the pathologist until two weeks later when the surgeon calls me at home and says I have Stage IIIB colon cancer.  In a nutshell (and it was a very small, trite, and short nutshell) he says Stage IIIB means the cancer moved into at least one lymph node“You should have chemotherapy and I have referred your case to an oncologist.  Have a nice day”.  Evidently, one has over 300 lymph nodes, mostly in the neck, under the arm, and in the abdomen…one can do without some of them.

Fast forward back up to yesterday in the oncologist’s office.

Me:  So, doc, explain to me again…the cancer went into one lymph node and we are doing chemo to insure it’s gone.

Doc:  Yes, the surgeon is very thorough, he’s very good.  He removed that lymph node with the cancer…and 21 other lymph nodes just to be sure.

Now, at this point, my brow furrows in slight bewilderment and I say, “Excuse me, but could you repeat that?”

Doc:  (Staring at her computer screen where all the records are now kept, no more clipboards like on television). Ah huh..21 lymph nodes.

She goes on to explain that all those lymph nodes went to the pathologist, and what came back was that ONE of them showed cancer.  Mind you, it was removed, but it showed cancer.  Up until this point, I kind of thought that the ‘one lymph node the cancer went into’ was still there, I was a little befuddled.  Yeah, the cancer may have moved to other places, no one knows yet.  But the cancerous node was taken out.  Am I getting all this straight?

Me:  And the chemo in my case is kind of an insurance policy if you will.  A possible stopgap to the cancer showing up elsewhere.

Doc:  Right!

Now, did this exchange between my very nice, engaging cancer doctor make me feel better?  Perhaps a bit.  There is just so much one doesn’t know at this point.  I try to keep a positive attitude.  IT may be gone forever.  If one can feel fortunate swimming in the cancer spring, maybe I do.  I got one that is more easily treatable than others, for sure.  But at this point, there is nothing more I can do but follow the directions of people who know more than I do.  At this point, it’s all a game of odds.

At least I have 270 lymph nodes left.  Hopefully, they are cancer free!

No name, no buy?

I do buy no name items.  I just don’t compromise on certain things like canned tuna.  And, it has to be Solid White Albacore in water.  The rest is cat food.

I do buy no name toilet paper and paper towels.  Have you noticed how much a roll of Brawny costs?

I don’t buy no name coffee.  And, it has to be Yuban.  There are other brands I would stoop to using, but again cost comes into play.

I do buy no name motor oil.  Oil is oil.

I don’t buy no name olive oil.  And, it has to be Extra Virgin.  Bertoli, for one, works for me.  By the way, keep in mind that by buying “light” or non-extra virgin olive oil, you are not only paying more you are paying for less flavor with the exact same calorie content.

I don’t buy no name hot dogs.  On the rare occasion we indulge ourselves, I buy Nathans.  No one can accuse me of buying cheap hot dogs.  Save purchasing the cheap 5 pound bags of dogs for boy scout cookout donations!

I don’t buy cheap bacon.  Notice I didn’t say no name here.  I’ve given up on Farmer John and others as they are sliced so thin you can see through them, even when it says thick sliced.  I buy thick sliced no name bacon at Walmart (Great Value) in a 1 1/2 pound package (about $4 a pound).  I swear the slices are 1/4 inch thick and are a better cut than all the rest.  I’ve sacrificed name for quality here.  Bacon is nearing $4 a pound so shop wisely.

I don’t buy no name Ketchup.  Heinz or Hunts.

I don’t buy no name mayonnaise.  Best Foods or Hellmann’s.

I do buy no name mustard.  It seems mustard is harder to screw up than some other items in this category.

I don’t buy no name soup.  I do kind of stick to Campbell’s or Progresso.

I do buy no name spices.  In explanation, I buy spices in the little bags usually found in the Mexican food section.  Dried spices are dried spices and the little bottles are priced at least 10 times what the bags are.  I will splurge on cinnamon (Spice Islands Saigon Cinnamon is great).

I don’t buy no name anything frozen.  By the way, buying name brand frozen veggies is the way to go, canned veggies taste like gak!  However, fresh is best.

I do buy no name tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. They are cheaper and seem to taste just fine.  I do splurge from time to time with a can or two of San Marzano diced tomatoes, can’t beat them.

I don’t buy no name potato chips or other salty, crispy snacks in a bag.  Every time we try, they just sit in the cupboard getting stale.  Peanuts as well, Planters is my go to.

I don’t buy no name peanut butter, the worst.  Most name brands like Laura Scudders, Jif, or Skippy are great.

I don’t buy no name popcorn. Reddenbachers is expensive but at least most of the kernels pop!  BTW…I’ve kind of given up on microwave popcorn, way too salty, greasy, nasty tasting.  Any suggestions here would be appreciated.

I don’t buy no name cheese, whether it be cheddar, Swiss, Colby, etc.  They are akin to buying a block of wax…just add a wick and your house can smell like a fondue!

This list could go on forever, I’m sure you have one just like it.  One last category, no name booze.  No name vodka yes.  No name gin, whiskey, bourbon, scotch, and especially no name tequila…no!  This stuff will kill ya’.

I am in no way high brow when it comes to buying food items, I just want it to taste good and be of good quality.  O.K., I am somewhat high brow, but for good reason. My eating habits have changed in the past few years, especially the past few months.  I would rather have a smaller amount of the good stuff than the other way around.  Some no name or generic brands work, some do not.  A lot of name brand stuff stinks as well, choose what works best with you.  When it comes to kids and their likes and dislikes, all bets are off (lol), good luck here…my kids are all grown and gone.  And at least one of them is kind of like me in the buying of no name things.  It depends.  Funny, as a child, Jen loved Rosarita Refried Beans but hated the generic stuff AND my home made beans, wouldn’t touch ’em!  She married a foodie type so they are on the same page here.

I love to shop…not! Unless it’s grocery shopping.

I am not a shopper.  I’m a typical guy.  I get in, I get down, I get dirty, and I get it done fast!  Not to say there aren’t women like me, there are.  Loretta’s best friend here in Modesto is just like me.  When Loretta does have the opportunity to go shopping with her, she’s like a whirling dervish in the aisles.  Get in, get it done, get out, then to lunch, which is also a get in get it done deal ’cause when the last crumb is gone from her plate…it’s time to move on baby!  Next stop?  This train is a leavin’!

The one shopping thing I actually cherish doing is grocery shopping.  It seems I have always enjoyed grocery shopping, probably as early as my childhood days when I would go with my Dad, just us.  I remember buying bread for $.49 a loaf, big old loaves of white Wonder sandwich bread.  Ground beef was $.69 a pound.  T-Bone steaks (our family Friday favorite) $1.49.  Butter…$.79 a pound…and so on.  My Dad would make a shopping list before going, usually written out on a piece of graph paper as he always had plenty of that from work.  I followed in my Father’s list-making shoes and still do the same today (minus the graph paper).  For the most part, I stick to the list although I have been known to impulse buy at the drop of a hat.  Can’t pass up that ‘Manager’s Special’, especially beef that has gone out of date.  You can’t beat that as it only gets better with a little age.   Pass on the out of date chicken!

As the primary cook in my household, I still do a good portion of the shopping.  For the past few months I’ve deferred  the grocery shopping trips on occasion providing Loretta with a (requested) list of items.  But, today I went grocery shopping by myself.

I made a list and pretty much stuck to it, adding an item or two and deleting a couple of others.  The important part is that I returned with complete meals, ie, things to eat!  Have you ever gotten home from the grocery store and wondered what to cook for dinner and find you don’t have the items for a complete meal?  Or, you garnered all the recipe items for a nice dinner that day then find nothing for the rest of the week?  That didn’t happen today.  I purchased enough protein, carbs, bread, and veggies for about a week or more of meals…assuming someone cooks them.  And herein lies the shopping caveat.  Stay away from the frozen food aisle.  Everything looks good to eat, every thing is loaded with additives and other crap, they are bound to disappoint, and they are expensive.  Note two flagrant examples below I actually had in my hand and they didn’t make it into my basket.  Check out those breakfast corndogs and TGI Friday’s Sliders.  Two points for me!

I’ve long since managed to control by grocery store shopping rage.  Geeze, even though I enjoyed grocery shopping, it seems I would return in a foul mood for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was check writers.  Fortunately, check writers are going the way of the Do Do bird but they still exist, appearing at the most inopportune times.  It wasn’t so much that they were writing a check and that takes so much longer than cash or eventually the ATM card.  No!  It’s because they don’t feel a need to even get the check book out of their purse (yes, mostly female) until the cashier says, “That’ll be $12.95”.   Throw in some meaningless blather between the customer and the cashier, “You know, I’ve just got to get this purse more organized!”  Meanwhile, two minutes later the checkbook makes an appearance, and if all goes right from here on out, it should only take another 5 minutes or so to complete the transaction.

Other delays?  Don’t get me started with coupons…another blog.  And then there’s the poor slob who never seems to get how to operate the ATM machine from one visit to the next.  Need I say more?  When the cashier comes out from behind the counter to tutor Aunt LuLu through that most difficult of operations (entering her PIN), it’s time to take a deep breath, roll your eyes (wait until they look at you and they apologize for taking so much time), put your foot on the cart and lean on it with your head down shaking it from side to side.  Notice the look on my face as the old dude in front of me was still bewildered as to what comes next with his ATM card.

I’m sure this is a nice old guy, someone’s grandpa or something.  However, he had 12 items in his cart and it took him 15 minutes to check out.

I don’t get bent out of shape any longer with lines, and slow cashiers.  I’ve learned to put myself in some sort of Zen state, arrange an appropriate look on my face that requires no explanation, and shake my head slowly from side to side like some hooved farm animal waiting to be fed.  “Just let me know when it’s my turn!  I’ll be taking a nap right here in front of my cart.”

All in all, I spent $81.57, more than I expected.  Hopefully that will last a day or two.

Oh, I do have one minor complaint about today.  Loretta and I have been craving a spiral cut ham.  Do they have to package them all the size of a quarter pig?  I’d hate to have to invite someone over this holiday season just to help us eat a humongous spiral ham.  Really, now.

My basket seems rather sparse for spending a whopping $81.57.  Where’d it all go?  What you can’t really see is all the protein I bought, hence, we actually have meals to fix…chicken breasts, a pot roast, ground beef, etc.  That runs up the tab.   When Loretta and I go shopping and come home with no protein (spending $32.13)…well, there you have it…that’s the difference.  I don’t eat near as much animal protein as I used to, but I need to keep that in my diet during this time in my life.  I will cut down on it when the chemo is over since they advise not giving up protein during this regimen.

Walmart is closest to our house and the prices are reasonable.  There is a WinCo a few miles away with similar prices and a much bigger choice.  For me, most of the time I like to shop at Safeway with my club card and look for deals, as Safeway is much more expensive than those discounts joints Loretta tries to discourage me from going there.  Today I opted for a discount joint, nothing fancy.

Loretta forgot to pay the cell phone bill on time so I must discuss that with her now.  “But it was only a day late!”  And your point is?

Presents for a three year old? I’m out of practice.

Heaven knows I’m out of practice with gift giving for a three year old.

Let’s face it, I certainly don’t have any recollection as a three year old of want I wanted.  Besides, c’mon…we’re in a different century now!

As far as my three year old son went (27 years ago), I have some idea if I stick with the old standard basics…hot cars, cars, model cars, riding cars, flying cars, oh…did I mention cars?  The grandson, Rowan, has already expressed the desire for “a car with a remote” to his parents.  That I will probably defer to them as they will decide at what level he needs to be when it comes to cars with remotes…$30, $60, $100, etc.

I have that fear of short attention span theater when it comes to gifts for a three year old, especially since our gift session will take place a couple days after Christmas and he may be “gifted out” already, ie, (yawn) “I don’t want to open any more presents, mamma”.  Or, “Thanks, grandpa.  What else? Where’s the candy?”  LOL

Three years old is kind of a Christmas transition stage.  This year Rowan knows what Christmas is all about…Santa Clause, the tree, the decorations, and whole gift giving (receiving) rigamarole.  He is still not old enough to anguish for weeks over making a list of the things he wants Santa to bring him.  And what about this Santa thing, how long does that go on for these days…age 5?

Loretta and I have already settled on a few things for said (only) grandchild on my side of the family.  We will just roll with the flow and hope a handful of smaller, fun things does the trick.  Besides, they are driving to and from Seattle so space is at a premium.

And with a little help from Smirnoff and Jack Daniels, we’ll get through the holidays with joy.  I know Rowan will like most anything we get him because the sweaters and socks for presents won’t come from his grandparents!

Just gotta plan to do these things.

It really is time for me to punch out a new, realistic Bucket List.  Realizing I don’t have the time and money that Jack Nicholson’s character had in the movie, this list will be more down to Earth.  I don’t like the term Bucket List either, how about a To Do list that doesn’t include daily chores like grocery shopping or mowing the lawns?  Yeah, that’s it.

While thinking about this, I’ve read a lot of other blogs and things that people put on their lists that I never realized belonged on my list as well.

Here we go…all realistic and doable…the Top 10.

1. Whale watching – never done an official whale watching trip.

2.  Disneyland – a full blown, stay at one of the park hotels, 3 day minimum Disney overdose.  Have been in over 10 years, it’s time.

3.  Mexican Resort – haven’t even picked out a name yet, just know we must do one of those all inclusive resorts on the beach where I can have drinks delivered to my chaise lounge in the sand.

4.  Caribbean Cruise – wide open here, just want to visit a couple of well-known islands and eat some real food and drink from there.  I’m opting for Disneyland next year.

5.  Skydive – still on the list, ’nuff said.

6. Glider Flight – I can’t imagine a more ethereal experience in the air.

The whale watching, the skydiving, glider flight and one of those three trips will be planned for 2012.

7.  Europe – Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, England, France, Italy,Austria, Switzerland…we may have to chose 3!

8.  Canada – British Columbia.  Been to Toronto, we’ll stay on the West Coast for now.

9. Exploit my photography business – ie, get paid for it.

10. Visit Seattle more often – I don’t include visiting the Central Coast more often as we plan to move there.

Old Bucket List items that don’t make the list any longer.

1.  Swimming with sharks.

2.  Flying in an F14.

3.  Climbing to the top of Half Dome.

4.  Visit Vietnam.

5.  Getting my pilot’s license.