Ho, Ho, Holiday Greetings …

I’d say Merry Christmas, but I don’t know if I’m legally allowed to do that anymore, so Happy Holidays to anybody who’s still paying attention to this long neglected blog site.

As a way of catching you all up, I’ve decided to write one of those Family Christmas Letters we all love to get … you know, the ones where one of your more ambitious relatives takes three or four pages to brag about their family vacation to Guam or little Johnny’s standing ovation at the violin recital (his rendition of Hot Cross Buns left the audience near tears) or how much money they spent renovating the indoor bathroom.

Anyway, a lot has happened to me this year, and not much of it interesting … so here goes:

I turned 60 this year (see earlier posting) and don’t have much good to say about it other than I never knew the barber could shave my ears.

We had a family reunion in July where over a hundred of my closest relatives gathered to swap stories and lies and generally spend most of the day trying to figure out who they were talking with. Nice time, though, and relations from across the country came to take a dip in our gene pool and enjoy a good variety of grilled meats, cold beer and warm soda pop.

I also celebrated the one-year anniversary of my new liver (see earlier posting) in July, which came just a day before the reunion. So I got to share the occasion with lots of nice people, some of whom even brought me presents. My cousin Joe, always the thoughtful one, gave me a big bag of onions … because, he reasoned, “what else do you get for a liver.”

In October me and the family took a trip to South Korea, the birthplace of my lovely wife. While everybody in the family has been back to Korea at least once, we have never gone as a family group so that was nice. My wife and I and our grown son and daughter spent two weeks touring the country and visiting with relatives. Beautiful country, and great people.

The old aunties muckled onto me jabbering away the whole time like I understood everything they were saying. I just nodded and kept saying “nah, nah” (yes, yes) because I figured no mater what the culture, it’s hard to go wrong if you just keep agreeing with the women there.

And after spending two weeks not recognizing most of what was on my dinner plate, it was nice to come home and sleep in my own bed again. We took about a zillion photos (most of which my daughter posted to Facebook), and brought back a few things … well, maybe more than a few.

The night before we left the old aunties packed our suitcases (and one extra they added from their own collection) with everything from dried seaweed and noodles to old country remedies, enough to keep us from going hungry or to the hospital for a good while yet.

We had eighteen for Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year. We typically have a group, as we live in a 225-year-old house with a large dinning room and a big table … all the makings of a good Thanksgiving meal venue. And because of our mixed heritage, it’s become our tradition to have a big Korean Thanksgiving meal the Friday after Thanksgiving where we draw an even larger crowd as my wife and mother- and sister-in-laws cook up a feast that pretty much dwarfs our Thanksgiving table.

Which all brings us back to Christmas. I grew up in a family of eight and Christmas was always a big deal around our house. So mistletoe and memories decorate our home and the music we’ll all be sick of in a week floats through our hallways bringing with it that old excitement and a little of that lively chaos that comes with organizing decorations and presents and meals, and making sure you don’t forget anybody on the list.

All in all, a fitting way to end a year, I think.

Well, if anybody’s still reading, I wish you and yours a happy holiday season, and all the best in the new year, where I’m hoping to pay a bit more attention to this site … but I’ll save that for my New Year’s resolution posting.

A special Holiday Greeting to my old friend Wild Bill … a lousy poet, but a good friend with a great grin.

Well, nuff said.

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Larry and Me …

 

Since Larry and me first met just over a year ago, we’ve been an inseparable pair, helping one another to live the kind of lives we could never live apart. I start each day by thanking the good lord for Larry, and when we go to bed at night I still sometimes just lie there and think about the day we first got together.

For me, life without Larry would likely be no life at all … literally.

Now before you start heading down the wrong road, here, I’d better let you know that while Larry and me may have a close physical relationship, we’ve never gone beyond that. I don’t even know Larry’s real name, don’t know where he’s from, and I’ve never met his family.

About the only thing I know for sure about Larry is that he was forty years old when we were brought together, and that he was an organ donor.

“Larry” is the name I’ve given to the donor liver that was transplanted into me last July.

Why “Larry the Liver”? Well, partly because I liked the way it rolls off the tongue, but mostly because having a part of someone else inside your body triggers a funny set of feelings, and naming the organ seemed to put things on nice, friendly terms.

After all, my donor gave me the greatest gift one human being can give to another … the gift of life. And knowing the price paid for the hope I received that day made me a little uneasy at first. Grateful as all get out, of course, but a bit troubled by the process.

I kept thinking that while my family was all smiles and giggles, celebrating a second chance at life, another family was enduring the loss of a son or a brother or a father. It’s strange to think that a single event can trigger such diverse emotions, but there you go … I guess most transplant cases end up that way.

And so I gave Larry a name and together we started down the road to recovery.

This past weekend, the wife and I drove up to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, exploring the finger-like bays and inlets carved into the coastline up there. And as we admired the postcard views and blazing sunsets, we couldn’t help but marvel at what an impact good old Larry had made on our lives.

The past few years had been filled with test, procedures, hospital stays and fear as disease and cancer pushed my poor liver to the brink of failure. And as our family spiraled toward that do-or-die moment of transplant, we all silently wondered if I would survive the wait …  or if the line was just too long and my time just too short.

I’m I telling you all this because today there are almost 120,000 people still waiting in line for their turn at a life-saving organ transplant, and a new person is added to that wait list every 10 minutes. And while there are more than thirty thousand life-saving transplants performed in the U.S. each year, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, last year more than 8,000 people died waiting in line.

It’s a simple supply and demand problem, and it doesn’t need to be that way.

While a recent U.S. Health and Human Services survey found that 95 percent of American adults support the idea of organ donation, today only about 40 percent have actually registered as organ donors.

The whys range from religious beliefs that the afterlife requires a fully equipped body to fears that doctors would allow a seriously ill or injured patient to die just so they can harvest his or her organs – something that just doesn’t happen.

I’ve had many friends tell me that they’d like to become a donor but can’t because they are either too old, or too out of shape to do it. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease or hardening of the arteries had disqualified them, they’d say.

According to the New England Organ Bank, just about everybody out there can be an organ donor. The youngest recorded donor was just 100 minutes old, and the oldest U.S. donor donated his liver just nine days shy of his 93rd birthday. In fact, this past July, a 107-year-old Scottish woman donated her corneas, making her that country’s (and possibly the world’s) oldest donor.

Disease and disability do not automatically disqualify you from becoming a donor, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as doctors evaluate the suitability of tissue and organs at the time of death.

So the basic rule should be for everybody to go ahead and register and let the doctors sort things out after you’ve moved along to whatever comes next.

Possible organ donations include the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and small intestines. Tissue donations include skin, corneas, heart valves, and veins. Bone, tendons and ligaments also can be used in reconstructive surgeries. In fact, a single organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people!

So you see, you’ve got a lot to offer the world on you way out of it.

Registration is easy. Most states let you register online through the Department of Motor Vehicles (and will designate that decision on your driver license), you can sign up at organdonor.gov, and there’s even a donor registration button on Facebook.

The New England Organ Bank recommends that you also:

  • Tell family and friends about your donation decision
  • Tell your family doctor
  • Include donation wishes in your advance directives, will and living will.

To those readers who’ve already designated themselves as organ donors, I offer you my sincere thanks. And for those of you who either haven’t yet decided or have been meaning to get to it, I’d just remind you of the 22 people who are dying each day waiting for you to make up your minds.

So I’m urging you to follow good old Larry’s example, and I can tell you from personal experience that the gift you leave behind will never be forgotten.

Well, nuff said …

Additional Information:

American Transplant Foundation: Facts and Myths about Organ Donation

How to use the Facebook “Share Life” tool

107-year-old Donor Sets New Record

Newborn UK’s Youngest Ever Organ Donor

Organdonor.gov

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It’s On “The List” …

 

Haven’t posted anything in a while now, but I’ve been meaning to get to it … it’s been on my list.

Of course, the wife always rolls her eyes whenever I reference “The List,” mostly, I’m thinking, because she doesn’t quite understand the intricate workings of a clever and complicated mind.

I consider The List a means of ensuring advanced preparation and careful planning … a way of waiting for the proper alignment of intention, opportunity and ambition so that when I do get around to taking on some particular task or project, it will be completed both efficiently and correctly.

The wife just calls it procrastination.

You see, my wife, God bless her, is a focused, results-oriented kind of person. When she starts a project … say like cleaning out the attic … she’s not going to be happy until the boxes are sorted, labeled and stacked in alphabetical order, the broken bits of my valuable antique furniture are thrown away, and the last cobweb is swept out of the last corner.

That one time I went up to clean the attic … well, truth be told, I had every intention of cleaning the attic but summers were too hot up there, winters too cold, and the spring and fall too nice outside to waste time in a stuffy attic … and lord knows I’m just not the kind of guy who likes to waste time.

So you see our management styles are polar opposites: whenever she says she’s going to do something, she actually gets up and does it. Whenever I say I’m going to do something, it goes on The List.

Not an actually write-it-down-and-post-it-on-the-bulletin-board kind of list, mind you, rather a precise mental inventory that is easily updated and endlessly adaptable to the shifting priorities of my busy schedule.

So, say, if I’m getting ready to paint the windows and I get a phone call from a friend who’s having a fishing emergency, well then, The List gives me the flexibility to rejigger my schedule to adapt to changing conditions. (After all, I’m just not the kind of guy who places painted windows above people.)

Of course, I come by this approach honestly. My dad, God rest him, was a great list maker. I’ve never seen a person quicker on his feet when pressed to come up with reasons why “now” just wasn’t the right time to get something done.

For instance, when mom pointed out it was that time of year to change the smoke detector batteries, he’d look over the top of the newspaper, absolutely agree with her, and then vow to pick up new batteries next time he was in the hardware store.

If mom pressed him by pulling a package of batteries out of the kitchen junk drawer, he’d say, why yes, he could put those in, but that he’d feel a whole lot better about things if the smoke detectors had store-fresh batteries … after all, it was a safety issue, he’d explain, and he just wasn’t about to compromise when it came to his family’s safety (and this from the man who once gave me a chainsaw and then raised me up in the bucket of his tractor so that I could saw a dead limb off of one of his oak trees).

The way I look at it, The List is my defense against the instant gratification mentality infecting today’s society. You could say I’m rebelling against a world where Google searches takes seconds to provide thousands of references, Twitter reduces thoughts and ideas down to 140 characters, and Instant Messaging, Facebook, Instagram, and those other social media vehicles speed up human interactions by eliminating the need for an actually face-to-face (or even a voice-to-voice) encounter.

Seems to me like we’re all becoming addicted to getting what we want right now, while we are increasingly ignoring what’s happing all around us right now.

By the time I get to something on my list, by god, I’ve fully enjoyed the experience of anticipating the chore, the wonderful conversations me and the wife had about scheduling conflicts, and the sweet satisfaction that, despite all evidence to the contrary, my system is actually working.

Anyway, I’m just rambling now, so I’ll wind things down. If I’ve accomplished nothing else here, at least I’ll be able to cross the “Write Blog Posting” item off my list … and what do you know, it only took me a month to get it done. Now all I need is a good rest and I can go after the next item on the list … “Give Garage a Good Spring Cleaning.”

Well … nuff said.

 

CA_The List

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Never Too Old To Try Something New

Despite my best efforts, I turned 60 this year.

Now just how that many years slipped by me, I haven’t a clue. I mean, sometimes I still wake up feeling like I’m sixteen years old … of course, then I go to get out of bed and the knees pop and the back cramps up and by the time I’m sitting upright I’m can pretty much feel every one of those sixty years.

It’s those zero birthdays that get you to thinking about that bigger picture, you know. At twenty I was celebrating, at thirty I was cruising, by forty I was getting worried, fifty panicked me and sixty made me wonder what the hell I’ve been waiting for.

I mean, we’ve all got those “someday” dreams that have spent years, sometimes decades, marinading on that to-do list waiting for us to find either the time or ambition to tackle them. Now, at sixty, I’m starting to feel the pressure to either put up or shut up.

One of my somedays has been to write a blog. Why? Well, I guess it’s because I fancy the idea of rambling on through a thought without being interrupted or corrected … or told to hush up. (Experienced fathers and husbands know what I mean.)

Also because I’ve been told that it’s trendy these days to blog about something more mundane than you are and then to Tweet out to all your friends and followers that you’ve posted this composted manure … I guess so that they can use it to fertilize Facebook or pin it to their Pinterest Page so that they can IM everybody on their contact list to click on your blog link and comment on your delusions … or at least select a thumbs up icon that lets you know (in a fashionably nonverbal way) that they “Like” what you have to say.

So, for what it’s worth, I’ll be posting in this blog a couple times a week, hopefully connecting with my fellow Baby Boomers about some of the revelations, challenges and blessings that come with putting in your time on this earth. The goal of this new venture is to try to find the humor in this stuff … mostly because I figure that a smile is the best defense against acting your age.

If you’ve read this far into the posting, then maybe you’re just curious enough to come back by for another visit sometime. To tell you the truth, I could use the company …

Well … nuff said.

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