Randy 3.5, Cancer 0

I saw Dr. Harb today.  It was a long wait in the exam room.  

It made me think back to when I was first told I had cancer.  It was by a different doctor back in 2009, but I waited in that exam room for nearly 50 minutes before he came in and gave me the devastating news.

Today I waited about 20 minutes in the exam room, but it felt much longer.  I try not to think about the big C much anymore, but every 6 months I go through this.  Dr. Harb came in cheerful as usual.  He said it was good to see me.  Asked how I was.  He then said, Your scans are excellent.  Absolutely no evidence of cancer reoccurrence.”  He went on to say that since I was 3.5 years (hence the post title) out from my first cancer-free scan, that survivability was about 98%. I will be declared “cured”  after 3 more scans (5 year mark.)  He then commented on my weight loss.  I told him what I had been doing and he said he was proud of me, then hugged me.  I can’t put into words the emotions I felt at that moment.  Dr. Harb is truly an amazing doctor and person.  OK.  That’s outa the way.

Time for a bike ride!

Come back again won’t you?

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Eat less, move more

On August 3, 2013 I decided to ride my bike.  It had been hanging in the garage for over a year having not been ridden any of that time.  My friend and colleague Martin told me he was riding his bike- in addition to working out every morning and losing over 150 pounds!!  So I took down my bike, made sure the tires were sound and off I went.  I rode about 2.7 miles and felt pretty good about it. And then I rode again.  And again.  In about mid August I started riding with Martin.  As of today, September 17, 2013, I’ve ridden a total of 308.88 miles.  I rode 11.44 miles this afternoon.  I told my wife tonight that this is the longest I’ve ever kept up an exercise routine.  I usually ride 5-6 days a week.  Some weeks only 4 depending on my schedule.  In the nearly 309 miles I’ve ridden, I’ve lost about 15 pounds.  My goal is to lose 60 more.  Tonight I took the next step by joining a health club.  I am watching what I am eating and exercising regularly.  Wow.  Where have I heard that before?  I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my friend, colleague, and exercise coach Martin.  He has been there when I needed him, especially when I didn’t think my butt would last another mile on that bike.  My record ride was on September 7 when I rode for 1 hour and 26 minutes, going a  total of 15.59 miles.  I average about 10.6 mph, but yesterday and today I hit an 11 mph average.  At some point I will post a “before” picture and then hope that in several months I will have an “after” picture to share as well.  My first big reward came Saturday when I went to buy a new pair of pants and was able to fit into a pair TWO SIZES smaller than the pants I had been wearing back in June.  I am definitely down 1 pants size.  Good think I kept several pair in the smaller size.  I am aware that those who follow me on Facebook may be tiring of seeing my MapMyRide posts showing how far I’ve gone, how long I rode, and how many calories I burned.  Tough.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you return.

School Daze(d)

Boy.  This has been a speedy summer.  Out of school on June 6.  Back to school on August 12.  I guess  August 12 is still summer!   I’ve been in to school 4 days this week getting things ready.  I am taking today off.

After it was all said and done, my overall evaluation score (figured by adding my 5 evaluation scores, student final exam scores, and the overall school score- and including a bit of hocus pocus) was a 3.11 out of 4.  It’s OK.  They already told us few teachers will get a 4.  Think of it as shooting par in golf.  It’s quite good.  Wonder what the powers that be would think if they heard me tell my students, “Don’t worry but nobody is going to get an A on this test.  It’s just too darned difficult.  But many of you will get B’s.  You should be very satisfied with that.

And this brings me to Tony Bennett.  The former Florida school commissioner and former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Not the singer.  I can sum it all up by saying “Karma’s a bitch Tony.”  If you’ve been under a rock and don’t know what’s going on,  (I’m not judging you here.  What you do under a rock is your own business.) the Associated Press uncovered some emails that  show Bennett and his associates tried to (and did) change a charter school’s grade from a C to an A because it would look bad and put into question everything Bennett’s reforms were doing in Indiana.   Bennett insists the grade change was due to some kind of fault in the system- and that other schools had their grades changed as well.  Trouble is, the emails I’ve read never mention any other schools by name.  And then we find out his wife works for a company that takes over schools- and has done just that with 3 Indianapolis schools.  A conflict of interest at best.  We will have to see how this all plays out.  Of course our good Governor Pence says the A-F school grade system is important and needed and , blah blah blah.  Oh, and one of Bennett’s associates who sent one or more of the emails is now Pence’s liaison  to the state school board- sort of allowing him to do an end around  State Superintendent Glenda Ritz.  You know her, the candidate who kicked Bennett out of office and got more votes than Pence did.  Whew.  Stay tuned.

It’s been a short but full summer.  In July we headed north and spent the night in Milwaukee where we had dinner with my former student, Mark Felix.  He is interning at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a photo journalist.  He is a fine young man and we thoroughly enjoyed his company.

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We next spent time with our friends Molly and Bo at their Door County lake house on Green Bay in Wisconsin.  A beautiful home with lovely views.  I did suffer tech withdrawal because there was no cell access for data- and only sporadically for voice calls.  It was tougher than I thought.  Molly is a childhood friend of Georgia’s.

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Just last Week we headed south- with a brief stop for breakfast in Louisville with our son Jeff.

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We spent 4 days in Alabama visiting with my sister and her family.  Her son Bryan and family are back in the states after spending 2 years in Sri Lanka.  After this layover they head to Uganda.  Bryan works for the State Department.  We had fun visiting them and got to see everyone.  That’s my sister’s kids below- Lindsay, Bryan, and Melanie.

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Oh, and one final note.  We are looking forward to seeing Virginia friends Ed and Patty on August 13.  We will be dining with them and friends Greg and Maggie.  Can’t wait!

Thanks for visiting.  Please come back.

My Dad

After seeing a few posts online by friends honoring their fathers, I decided to do the same thing. My dad was my hero.  I didn’t know that growing up.  But now, almost 9 years after his death, I know it to be a fact.  It’s amazing how age gives us perspective. My dad came from a family of 8 children.  He had 3 sisters and 4 brothers.  Dad grew up in Somers, Montana.  Somers was a company town and the industry was lumber.  My dad was a Boy Scout.  It was during his stint in scouting that he “earned” the nickname “Dude.”  It had to do with the “fancy” fishing outfit he wore that he had borrowed from a brother.  Even in the final months of his life, the name plate on his room said Dude Brist.  Growing up in Montana in the 1920’s was an incredible experience.  I know it was thanks to the numerous stories my dad loved telling.   Dad was part of the “Greatest Generation,” that lived through the great depression, and also fought a world war.  He married his high school sweetheart Rose Carbonari.  I was the last of three kids to come along, well after both my brother and sister, but long enough ago to still be considered a baby boomer.  My dad got his college degree in engineering after the war, which led to his career with ALCOA.  That job moved us around the country several times.  Vancouver, Washington to Evansville, Indiana.  Then to Chicago.  Less than 2 years after that we ended up outside of Pittsburgh, PA.  Just when I thought we would stay put there was one final move, back to Indiana and Fort Wayne.  I only remember my dad raising his voice in anger a few times.  He was a quiet, thoughtful man, who loved his job and his family.  He had a dry sense of humor and loved telling jokes, something I’ve inherited from him I’m told.  I owe my love of the outdoors to my dad.  I remember begging my dad to take me camping.  I must have been about 7 years old.  He set up a little canvas tent in our backyard.  He dug a hole in the middle of the yard to make a campfire.  We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.  The next morning, he fixed eggs and bacon on a cast iron skillet over the open flames.  I wanted to show my friends where my dad had made the campfire, but he had already placed the dirt and sod back over the hole and it was like the whole thing had never happened.  Sometime during my freshman year in high school I remember being awakened in the middle of the night and taken outside by my dad.  “Look up,” he said.  It was a comet.  Bennett’s Comet, to be exact.  I had never seen one before.  It was spectacular.  I remember taking him out looking for Haley’s Comet after he and mom had retired to Alabama.  Haley’s Comet proved illusive those nights, but I still remember sitting and staring at the sky while he told stories about growing up in Montana.  I cannot look at the night sky without thinking of my dad.

I went golfing yesterday for the first time in many years.  I had a blast.  I also thought about my dad quite a bit.  He was an avid golfer.  As I watched my younger friends with their high tech-looking putters, I admired my old, simple-looking club.  It had been my dad’s and he gave it to me.  Using it again took me back to those early morning golf outings in Alabama.  So on Father’s Day 2013, I remember my dad.  Love you and miss you dad.

ImageLogan Pass, Glacier National Park.  August 2004.  This picture was taken only about 2 and a half months before his death.

“I sustain myself with the love of family.”

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Thanks to Maya Angelou for the title of this post.  Back in late March my sister told me she planned on surprising our Aunt Nin on her 87th birthday.  She asked me to go.  I really wanted to but it would mean days off at school and I am currently without an assistant, and the radio station needed monitoring and…well, I had plenty of excuses not to go.  My sister and my wife convinced me to take some time off and head west.  My sister and I got our tickets online at the same time, and we managed to be on the same flight from Minneapolis to Great Falls- with me leaving from Indianapolis, and my sister leaving from Birmingham.

This was to be a surprise.  My aunt didn’t know either of us was coming, and my cousin Jacki didn’t know I was coming.  After the first surprise at the airport, we headed to Aunt Nin’s, where my sister called her and told her she wanted to wish her happy birthday.  During the conversation my sister walked into Aunt Nin’s bedroom.  Tear of joy and laughter ensued.  Then the phone rang again.  My cousin answered the call (from me) and handed the phone to my aunt.  “Happy Birthday Aunt Nin, I said.”  “Randy, you won’t believe it, Barbie just surprised me and is here in Great Falls.”  “I know,” I told her.  So am I,”  and I walked into her bedroom.  More tears and laughter.  I am almost tearing up just thinking about it.  All those excuses I originally had for not going instantly dissolved away.

But we weren’t done with the surprises.  Next, my cousin Craig and his wife Charm showed up unannounced to Aunt Nin and we had yet another happy moment.  I had seen both my aunt and cousins just last July, and it’s unusual for me to get out west so frequently.  In honor of Aunt Nin’s birthday we headed across the Missouri to Black Eagle, where we dined at the 3D International “club” and restaurant.

IMG_1702 After dinner we said our goodbyes until breakfast the next morning.  Another great visit and lots of stories told and memories relived.  We bid Craig and Charm adieu.  Instead of heading home Jacki suggested we go for a drive.  Helena was the original destination but after catching sight of the snow covered Rocky Mountain front range, we diverted and headed toward Choteau, MT. (pronounced SHOW-toe)

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On the road to Choteau.

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Here is the county courthouse in Choteau, site of David Letterman’s wedding.  Letterman has a huge ranch nearby.  Where is it?  The locals aren’t telling.

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We stopped at the Log Cabin cafe for some pie.  Peanut Butter, coconut creme, and chocolate truffle.

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One of our first stops in Great Falls was at the Charlie Russell Museum.  No, I didn’t buy the hat!  I did buy 3 pint beer glasses with cool logos to add to my collection.  Oh, and 2 pencils and a refrigerator magnet.

The rest of the time we relaxed and also made a drive to Sluice Box State Park where we saw lots of great scenery, ate a great hamburger at the Lazy Doe Bar, and stopped at an antique (junk) store.  All in all, a great trip made even better by being with family that I don’t get to see very often.

This trip made me realize that you should not let trivial things like your job get in the way of one of a kind family events.  I was blessed to be able to get away for 4 days.  It invigorated me both physically and spiritually.  I’ve made a pledge to try and get west as often as I can.  For me.  For family.

IMG_1722Visiting Sluice Box State Park.  That’s my cousin Jacki in the distance, right at the edge of the cliff.

“The rain, the park, and other things…”

I think I see animals lining up 2 by 2 outside.  It pretty much rained all day yesterday.  Our backyard is puddling.  We dodged some severe weather earlier, and boy is the lawn green!  My last blog mentioned our trip east for spring break.  I’m happy to report that 1)we had a great time  2)Ed and Patty are the hosts with the most  and 3)Virginia doesn’t like snow.  Let’s take the last one first.  The same storm system that dumped 9 inches of snow in Lafayette while we were gone (thank you Tom and Jane Martin for shoveling our drive and walks) dropped about 5 inches in Troy. Va.  While it was beautiful to look at, apparently the locals tend to get very nervous when it snows.  Schools were closed.  National Historic Landmarks were closed.  There was NO SNOW on the roads.  Wet, but all that asphalt and concrete store heat very well so the chances of accumulation were slim and none.  We were disappointed we didn’t get to visit Appomattox Courthouse but we sort of saw it from a distance.  Our resident tour guides, the Tourangeau’s (here begins item 2 above) hauled us all over the place and we had a grand time.  The White House of the Confederacy in Richmond was very cool, as was the Confederate Museum.  We enjoyed a local eatery in “the fan” of Richmond, and I had perhaps the best Rueben sandwich I’ve ever tasted.  The dinner company was top notch too!  After a yummy brunch on our last full day, we headed to Monticello with Ed and Patty’s granddaughter Nellie in tow.  She is a delight.  Yeah, Nellie and I hung out at Traveler’s Rest and built a few structures using the coolest wooden and magnetic building blocks.  I think I amazed her when I showed her that not only could the magnets stick to each other, if you flipped them around you could use one to move the other across the floor.  With the science lesson complete and brunch over, as mentioned earlier, we headed over to Tom Jefferson’s place.  The wind was chilly and the sun played hide-n-seek among the clouds.  Almost all the snow was gone by that point.  Georgia and I visited Monticello in 1998 with Jeff and Sarah.  It was as beautiful and interesting as I remember it.  We saw the family graveyard, and listened in on a fascinating tour about slaves at Monticello.  The house itself is something else to see.  While we waited to enter the guide told us that 30% of the glass in the house is original.  Once inside the foyer the tour began, only to be briefly interrupted by a door slamming.  I noticed the glass pane at the bottom of the door had cracked.  I turned to Ed and said “Make that 27% original glass.”

Ed and Patty have a beautiful home and we enjoyed every minute of our stay.  We did several other things as well…a movie in Charlottesville, a  local diner in Appomattox, and a couple of wineries.  Thanks to Ed and Patty for such a great time, and for being both our hosts, tour guides, and chauffeurs.  I include a few photos of our adventure.  Thanks for visiting and I hope you come back.  Oh, the title of this blog entry…anyone?  Title of a hit song by The Cowsills.  Most folks may recognize it from the first line of the chorus, “I love the flower girl…”  No?  See ya next time. (scroll down for photos)

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Welcome to Virginia!

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March snowfall

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Winery visit with Ed and Patty

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Appomattox Vistor Center WAS open despite the snow (not Appomattox Court House!)

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Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson

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Mr. Jefferson wasn’t very talkative when we visited


Spring Break here I come!

It is T-minus 4 days and counting until spring break officially arrives.  It can’t come soon enough. As I’ve mentioned before in my blog and to anyone within earshot, this school year has been one of the most stressful of my career.  Let’s just leave it at that.  Spring break plans have us driving east to Virginia to be with our friends Ed and Patty in Troy, VA.  It will be great to see them again and to be guests at their “Traveler’s Rest.”  I am pretty sure there will be stops at several historical landmarks and wineries as well!  Ed assures me he already has my favorite rye whiskey, Catoctin Creek, on hand for the trip back.  2 bottles.  You see, it’s not available except in Virginia.  My colleagues tell me that our trip to visit Ed and Patty is really just a fancy liquor run in disguise.  Not true!

My 6 month visit to see Dr. Harb was today and once again there was good news.  Still in complete remission.  He wants to see me again in 6 months.  I will continue with the CT scan and labs twice yearly until the five year marker- which by my calculation will be March 2015.  I’ve been cancer-free for 3 years.

Today Georgia and I celebrate the fact that our daughter Sarah has gotten a job at John Atencio Jewelry in Denver as a merchandising assistant.  This jewelry store carries high end custom jewelry and collections.  There are three boutiques in the greater Denver area and 6 in Colorado.  Sarah’s had a bit of a rough run recently and we hope this signals great things to come.  She was so excited when she called me on the phone and I admit it really made my day.

In other news, a few weekends ago we celebrated Georgia’s 60th birthday.  Lots of friends from near and far showed up and we had a good time.  There were no black balloons or any of that Over the Hill nonsense.  60 is the new 40 in case you hadn’t heard!  It was great having our friends Becki and Dave as well as Dan and Janet with us at the same time.  Dan and Janet just became grandparents for the first time.  Daughter Rachel, hubby Ryan, and their new son Liam are doing well and we are so excited for them.  Not to be outdone, Becki’s son Mike and his wife Brandy welcomed their first child into the world several weeks ago.  We are also quite happy for both the new parents and the seasoned grandparents!

Well that about does it for me.  I hope to blog again after our trip to Virginia and will tell of our tales of adventure.  Until then, be good to one another and have a blessed Easter!

Peace.

“So this is Christmas…”

IMG_1338My blog title is from the John Lennon song “Happy Christmas (War is Over)  While not technically true, it is one of my favorite “modern” Christmas songs.  I begin the Christmas season with a terrible cold.  It hit me on Thursday afternoon and grew progressively worse through yesterday evening.  I feel a bit more like myself this morning, but definitely not 100%.  I can’t help but remember back to the Christmas of 2009 when I had started chemo and generally felt like crap.  But enough of the bah humbug sentiment.

We will be traveling this holiday season to Alabama to visit with my sister Barbara and her husband Ray.  They’ve come up to visit us TWICE in the last few months and we had such a great time.  We always look forward to our visits down south.  They have a new 4 seasons room made from their screened in room (which was pretty darn nice by itself) and I can’t wait to try it out.

In case you’re wondering, I am loving my iPhone 5, and it really doesn’t seem like I ever even switched to Android for a couple of months.  I am however holding out on the 6.1.2 update since there have been reports of decreased battery life.  My iPhone battery life is about 3 times that of my old Samsung Galaxy s3.  On a related front, I got my iMac back from the Apple Store where the nice techs there replaced my LCD screen at no charge. The screen was beginning to show what looked like dirt smudges but in reality was apparently dirt BEHIND the LCD screen.  I have an AppleCare plan so everything was completely covered.  Going to an Apple Store is always a surreal experience.  Yesterday was no exception.  You’d think they were giving things away based on the crowd in that store. While I waited at the Genius Bar I bet I saw a dozen new iPad Mini’s make their way out of the stockroom.  I was a good boy and didn’t even look at anything in the store.  The trip home was a bit of a pain as I-65 traffic would come to a stop.  Start slowly, speed up, and then come to a stop.  I think there was just so much traffic that this was inevitable.  I ended up getting off at the Frankfort exit and headed over to US 52 where I made much better time with hardly any traffic to worry about.

My long observation at school came out very well for me.  Wendy, the administrator had nothing but positive comments so that’s good.  Now, just one more long observation and 2 more short ones to finish out the school year.  Scores obtained from these observations are used to determine if I get a pay increase….except LSC has no money for pay increases.  Great system huh?   I read in today’s paper that several schools that the Dept. of Ed had allowed to be taken over by for profit groups have been granted a stay since the student numbers the DOE used were a bit dishonest to say the least, and a judge felt the same way.  Apparently Dr. Bennett and his gang counted students who were no longer at the schools…  Kind of reminiscent of Bennett trying to sneak through a state-wide teaching contract that if approved, would have allowed school corporations to make all kinds of changes in hours worked, working conditions, etc… without any input from teacher associations.  That got shot down as well.  Good luck Florida.  With Bennett now your head education guru you are going to need it.

Merry Christmas to all!

From iPhone to Galaxy s3 Back to iPhone…An Adventure in Technology

ImageSo the grand experiment has come to an end.  I’ve already heard plenty of “told you so” comments.  But there have been more “welcome back, we’ve missed you” statements.  Why did I come back?  The short version is that since the most recent update to Android “Jelly Bean,” my Galaxy s3 had been acting strangely.  Several apps quit working.  I was getting multiple copies of emails.  In one strange circumstance, there were about 10 emails representing ONE that I sent.  Each email had a few more words in it than the last. The final email contained the original message.  I’d never seen that before.  So there was that.  And frankly, I just missed the elegance and simplicity of iOS.  While I enjoyed tweaking and customizing the Galaxy, after that was all said and done what was there?  I realized it wasn’t the customizing I enjoyed, but the iOS on the iPhone that I missed.  So i will file this experience away  under “Tried it.”  My wife was supportive of my request to return to the Apple family so that made it much easier.  I think this counts as my Christmas present this year and I’m fine with that.

In other news…Only one more week of school until break which is great.  Very stressful year so far.  Yes, Tony Bennett is gone but I worry how much Glenda Ritz will be able to accomplish.  I’ve had 2 evaluations so far.  First one went well.  Second one- the “long observation” was today with the administrator in my classroom from bell to bell- the full 92 minutes.  I meet with her on Monday to discuss it.  I am glad it’s over and now only have THREE more to go.

We will be heading south over break to visit my sister and her husband in Northport, Alabama.  We are looking forward to that.  Jeff and Lorraine visited with us for a few days last week and we had a good time.  Sarah has plans to leave Colorado and move to California.  She’ll initially live with her brother while she looks for a job.  They will be in Cotati, Californina which is about 1.5 hours north of Oakland.  Georgia and I hope to fly out there over spring break.

I hope everyone has a blessed and wonderful Christmas.  Thanks for visiting.