Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Power of Friendships

In spite of all the careful planning we did for our after work lives, I never really considered one of the most important requirements for happiness…the potential for new friendships.  Ron and I are each other’s best friends, but there are other people that are important in our lives.  Many of them are far-flung geographically, and we don’t get to see them much.  We interact via telephone and internet, and see them when we can.

There are studies that show that friendships rank right up there with good health and finances as the factors most likely to boost happiness among retirees.  Friends become an extension of the support system that often is anchored by family.

When we bought our home in this community in Prescott, little did we know what a big part of our happiness would be provided by the wonderful friendships we have made.  Our friends “come out to play” with us on the golf course, hiking trail, and during events at Talking Rock Club.  They provide sympathetic ears, laughs, entertainment, and ideas for new activities.  These generous people have opened their homes and invited us in for dinners, parties, informal gatherings, and holidays.  We, in turn, have opened our home to them.  This is all what makes our neighborhood a true community, and what fosters the development of meaningful relationships.

Fortunately, we blindly stumbled into the best living situation we can imagine.  Our friends have introduced unexpected companionship, caring, fun and love into the fabric of our lives in colorful heaps.  They have banned the possibility of boredom and added a new richness.  We gladly share this phase of our lives with them all.

Please don’t overlook the important goal of enhancing your social life in a meaningful way after retirement.  It needs to be a consideration in your planning.  I hope you will be as lucky as we have.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tiny Birdie Friends

Summer will soon wind down, I am dreading the migration of our hummingbird friends from Arizona to their winter home in Mexico. They have been such delightful little companions this year, as they constantly drink from the feeders Ron has hung from the eaves on our back patio.

The first thing I do in the morning is open the sliding doors on the back of the house. This allows us not only to see “our” hummingbirds, but also to hear them as they chirp noisily and purposefully buzz around like little attack helicopters. They must have nests in the trees near our house, because we see them zoom from trees to feeders and blooming plants and back to the trees almost constantly during daylight hours.

More than 300 species of hummingbirds have been identified worldwide, but I think the most common in our area are the Black-Chinned Hummingbird and (perhaps) Anna’s Hummingbird. They are very territorial, and frequently do battle over our feeders. When multiple birds approach the source of nectar simultaneously, two birds may clash – bumping their little bodies and beating wings together until both fly off to fight again later. They seem to be working things out, because more and more often, I see two or three hummingbirds warily feeding at the same time.

I learned a thing or two about hummingbirds that I did not know, by doing a little research online:

• Hummingbirds consume up to 12 times their body weight daily in nectar.
• Other nutrients are found by eating bugs and spiders.
• Due to their very high metabolism, they are continuously hours away from starving to death.
• When food is not available, they can go into a state of torpor, which slows their metabolism dramatically.
• Most species can live a decade or more (although many die when very young).

The little creatures seem to be curious about us. Sometimes they hover in front of our screens and look into the house. Once, I had one fly to within 2 feet of my face to stop and check me out. There’s something magical about having such close contact with a hummingbird. No wonder native Indians developed so many beliefs and myths about them.

When our tiny friends depart for the colder season, we will miss them and anxiously await their return to the high desert in spring.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What if Golf Was Like a Political Campaign?

Talking Rock Ranch kicks off the Spirit Cup today with a day of practice rounds and a reception this evening. The Spirit Cup is our annual women’s member/guest golf tournament. Today I awake with a slightly sore shoulder, earned from hitting an entire pyramid of balls yesterday on the practice range. My muscles are tight from negative anticipation. This is not the way to begin the next three days.

We are in the thick of campaign season for the Presidential race. As a blogger, should I feel guilty that I write about frivolous matters, instead of hefty issues? Nah! I keep up with politics, but I don’t like to talk or write about it. The fruit from my opinions will be implemented at the ballot box.

This is what leads me to think about how civilized golf is in comparison to political wrangling. Can you imagine what it would be like if golf was played with the ethics of a political campaign? This is what I envision…

Everyone would lie about what they score. Not a lot; just enough to enhance a golfer’s reputation. Stories of holes well played would be embellished to the point where they would take on legendary proportions. Egos and power would rule the game. The best players would diminish the achievements of lesser golfers, to keep themselves at the top of the heap. The ugliest debate would be about whether handicaps are justified. Haven’t the better golfers earned their exclusive place in the sun? We should all look the other way when they break the rules, because the rules are not for them. Others could be better golfers if they just worked harder. Anyone would be free to besmirch the name of their fellow golfers; calling them evil liars and unfit competitors. We all would do whatever we have to do to win.
I wish with all my heart that politics was more honorable and politicians acted with more civility. I am well aware that politics is not a game. But it would be so refreshing (not to mention, shocking) to see our leaders conduct themselves with the honesty, grace, and humility that we experience among our friends and fellow golfers.

Wish me luck and fun during the Spirit Cup tournament. This year’s theme is “Stars & Stripes Forever”, a fitting nod to this election year.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Our Other Car is a Golf Cart

We are buying a golf cart. OK, I am spoiled. But consider these factors before you condemn me…

1. Since we retired over four years ago, we have owned only one car. Ron and I share, and that works out just fine.
2. For almost two years in Chicago, we navigated city living on foot, or via city bus or train. (We had moved the car to Prescott.)
3. We play golf four or five times a week, and pay a fee to our club to use a cart each time. We’ll actually save money owning our own.
4. Talking Rock Ranch allows golf carts on our private roads, so we can use it to get to the club house or to visit friends.
5. It’s electric; not gas-powered, so we’re being environmentally friendly.
6. We’re buying a pre-owned model. Isn’t that recycling?

Other than those justifications for our actions… I just WANT one! Remember those battery-operated cars in the Sears Christmas catalogue when we were kids? Lord, I always wished for one of those. But they were too expensive, and I never got one. So, I give! We’re just big kids, and buying ourselves an expensive toy. Oh boy!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Preparing for Treatment - Chapter 5 of My Cancer Story

This blog post is the 5th in a series chronicling my battle with colon cancer ten years ago.  For Chapters 1-4, see the Blog Archives to the right of this post.

It’s January 2002. I’ve had my colon surgery. My cancerous tumor has been removed, and I am recovering well at home. Now it’s time for the next step…to meet my oncologist and plan treatment.

Dr Margaret Gore
My surgeon, Dr King, recommended Dr Margaret Gore to manage my treatment. I make my first visit to consult with her, with my sister Althea in tow. Dr Gore is a lovely woman, and has an undergraduate degree from Harvard and a medical degree from Duke University. After introductions, she reviews my condition and my treatment options. Although the cancer did not break through my colon wall, I tested positive for a low level of activity in my lymph nodes. This requires chemotherapy to keep the cancer from spreading into other organs.

Dr Gore and her colleagues believe that the current standard recommended treatment for my situation is about to be superseded by a more aggressive plan. I choose to take the aggressive route to make sure we get ALL the bad stuff. The way I look at it, there’s no room for regrets if I make the wrong choice.

I will need three hours of chemo once a week for six months. Every fourth week, I will get a week off. I’m not that interested in all the detail on the specific chemicals that will be used. I never did do well in high school chemistry. Ron ends up doing a lot of reading on the subject (and scaring himself in the process). We talk about some of the possible or likely side effects, like nausea and hair loss, and vulnerability to infection if my white blood cell count drops too low. Then we talk about how to move forward ASAP. Let’s do this.

The first task is another surgery. Dang! I need to have a catheter surgically inserted into my chest to facilitate delivery of the chemo drugs. They call this a portacath. The device is like a screened porthole that is put under your skin and tapped into a large vein. When drugs are administered, the nurse will just need to push the needle through my skin and the screen, and we will be ready to go. This will help avoid damage to my skin and muscle tissue that can be caused by the toxic drugs.

Insertion of the portacath is completed a few days later, and I find recovery from the surgery rather painful (like someone whacked me in the chest with a baseball bat). It’s odd to adjust to having a foreign device under my skin, and it affects my sleeping positions, which adversely impacts my sleep and makes me cranky.

We decide that my treatments will be on Friday afternoons, so that I have the weekend to recover from any ill effects and hopefully be ready to go to work on Monday. I’ll start chemo next Friday and go back to work soon, after being out for eight weeks. I’m determined to get through this next six months and on to the rest of my life.

Next time: My first day of chemotherapy.