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Paul's Journal
Holiday 1998 - The day following YK2 & Beyond

Sunday , March 17, 2002

The past 2 weeks have been busy but not exciting.  I was in San Antonio attending a technical conference for programmers.  I didn't do any sight seeing, as I was there last year.  The memories of the Alamo are still fresh, and the River Walk is just another way to find restaurants and gift shops.  The worst part about the business trip was that I missed the only snow day Seattle had this year.

My visit to the doctor was good news.  The MRI of my pituitary gland came back negative.  My long-term glucose levels are good (6.6), thanks to a new diabetes pill.  However, the new pill (Actose) can cause weight gain, which aggravates diabetes, and also cause heart attacks.  Oh well.  Everyone is going to die of something.

Work is becoming intense.  We have implemented Monday meetings which start at 5PM.  This past week we had a mini-marathon on Friday and Saturday -- the 4 of us locked ourselves away for 10 hours each day to work without interruption.  We are involved in an epic project that has been going on for 18 months and will take another 2 years to complete.  This is one of those projects where, if it comes out like we planned, no big deal -- we said we could do it.  But if things go wrong, we'll be 4 years behind, millions of dollars spent and probably out of work.  To say I'm pre-occupied with work is a bit of an understatement.

Saturday, March 2, 2002

Yesterday, I was at a Microsoft seminar all day.  I left the windowless convention center around 3:30.  I stepped outside to find a beautiful, crisp, clear, afternoon.  The sun was bright and warm, the air cool and clean.  I thought this is a "Good Friday".  Lent must be over.  I need a cocktail. 

Jack was working a still photo shoot up on the hill.  As I drove through downtown, I called him but he didn't answer.  I went to CC's and ordered a Smith and Wesson.  It was smoky inside, so I went out on to the deck and enjoyed the fantastic weather, fresh air and browsed the SGN.  After one drink I was loopy.  Being much wiser now as I approach age 50, I left CC's while I still had my wits about me.

Jack and I finally made phone contact and we decide to just go home.  By this time the sun was setting. As I drove across the Aurora bridge, the sky was a most spectacular blue. The clouds were pink. It was fantastic.  (This picture is from a couple of years ago, but you get the idea.)

We had a quick dinner and then ran a few errands to get things for the kitchen remodel... the windows were ready to be picked up at Home Depot; the trash compactor was in at Lowe's.  We come home and enjoyed some microwave popcorn while we watched the most terrible SciFi movie on AMC -- Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

This morning there was thick coating of ice on the windshield as we headed out to Fred Meyers to get some tools needed to install the sky light.  As we drove home we stopped and got some Danish at a yuppie bakery on 24th.

Life is simple, busy, good, boring, mundane and wonderful all at the same moment.

October 7, 2001 (an e-mail I wrote to my TM friends)

Following the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11/01 I went to Iowa for about a week. This reformatted e-mail includes some pictures.

Monday, September 3, 2001

Today marks my 49th birthday.  This weekend could possibly be the best birthday I can recall.  (Not that my memory is that bad... yet.)  I did such simple things... a dinner with my brother, a drive and hike in the mountains, an afternoon on a sailboat... but I swear I've never been so happy doing such simple things.  Is it age, wisdom, enlightenment?  I don't know.  I just like it. (Pictures)

Sunday, January 2, 2000

Seven months later, I write my next weekly installment.  Good thing I'm not a professional writer!  I'd starve (which might be a good thing for my waistline and diabetes).  But now that I'm writing with the perspective of a year instead of a few weeks, I can leave out a lot of emotional junk and trivial tidbits and just tell you highlights.

During the last two weeks of May 1999, Jack and I went on a "road trip".  We loaded up my Bronco, created a makeshift bed/storage rack and took off for the canyon country of the southwest.  I'm working on building web pages in the photo album.  Here's where we spent each night:  Spokane, Boise, Salt Lake City, Arches National Park (2 nights), Moab, Bridges National Monument, North Rim Grand Canyon, some town an hour from Bryce Canyon, Las Vegas (2 nights), some Forest Service campground in the middle of Nevada, a state park in north central Oregon, then back home.  It was a fantastic trip.

When we got back it was time to put Dad into a "home".   He was just becoming too much for Shirley (or anyone) to handle at home.  His frustrations would bring out violent outbursts.  In one episode, he knocked Shirley to the floor.  A few moments later he asked her why she was crying and he couldn't believe he had done that.  We had already checked out two homes near Camano Island and chose the one closest.  After being there a few weeks it seems that Dad must have had a series of small strokes.  After a few months, he soon was unable to do much of anything on his own.  Conversation was virtually impossible; but we could communicate.  A few more stumbles and falls, and the staff decided that he needed a higher level of care, so we moved him to a nursing home in Stanwood.  He was there about 3 weeks before he died of pneumonia on October 7th.

His strokes made talking difficult, but he could get out a few words and ideas at times.  It was very clear that he always knew who I was.  He also realized, about a week before he died, that he was in a nursing home.  I'm not sure what he thought the months before in the other place.  I would like to share all the little stories and thoughts about my Dad's final months, but that would be best in a separate web page.  I'll put a link here when I get that done.

Later on in October, Jack and I flew to Orlando for a vacation.  We did the usual Orlando stuff, plus we went out to a swamp for an air boat ride and 'gator spotting.  It was a kick.  We drove to Miami for 2 nights, where we stayed in the art deco historical district in South Beach.  Then we drove down to Key West.  It has been on my "check off list of things to do this lifetime" to drive across the 7-mile bridge in the Keys.  Now I can say "been there; done that."   It was neat thing to do, but hardly a life-changing event.  I've found the things you look forward to rarely are.  Like John Lennon said in a song, "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".

After we left Miami, my mission was to find the best key lime pie.  Every meal my dessert choice was pre-determined.  Each one was better than the last.  We left the rental car in Key West and flew home from there.

The holidays were simple -- just the way I like it.  For Thanksgiving, Jack and I had his Mom, his sister Carol and her two kids plus my brother Buzz.  Shirley was in New Mexico with her daughter.  A week before Christmas, Jack, Buzz and I went to my Auntie Donna's place in Stanwood.  There we met Shirley and the 5 of us made a favorite cookie (Blarney Stones) that requires a crew to make.  We returned to Camano Island on Christmas Eve day, where Buzz and I prepared dinner for Shirley (she's a good and capable cook -- but I told her years ago that her days of preparing holiday meals were over.)

We had Christmas dinner at Jack's Mom's place with his brother, sister, niece and nephew.  On Boxing Day we hosted a pot luck & hot tub party.  Everyone brought their Christmas leftovers (except no fruit cakes allowed!)

We co-hosted another hot tub party for Y2K.  With lots of champagne (everyone likes to pop it open; but not drink), goodies and a midnight buffet (prepared by my co-hosts).  Some people drove home, other spent the night...  it was like a slumber party.

Sunday, May 2, 1999
Well, so much for my good intentions of updating this every week. Where does the time go! About my web site... I really want to expand my photo album section, but I've been having "training issues" with technology. For Christmas 1997 Jack bought me a digital camera. A very nice gift and a decent camera, but I had trouble with it. #1 it eats batteries like I do popcorn so it is difficult to keep a "point & shoot" mentality when you must turn the thing off & on. #2 having looked through a 35 mm SLR view finder since I was a kid, I have a real tough time using the little LCD screen to frame and focus quickly. So in March I bought a scanner, thinking I could continue to take 35 mm photos and scan the prints I want on the web site. As a computer geek, I'll be forced to turn in propeller beanie if I can't get that damned scanner software to work soon.

Last weekend was one of those weekends that just seems about perfect. We got a lot done in the yard. I planted lots of summer bulbs and stuff .  March is pretty much a distant memory now. I can't recall much of what I did that month that is of any significance. I did have my Dad down for the weekend of 19-21. On the way back to Camano we stopped to see my cousin Greg Bellows and his family. They have a lovely home in south Everett. I loaned him my complete collection of Classic Star Trek videos. Live long and prosper, Greg.

Also in March, at work, myself and the rest of the programmers all learned a "new" language.  It is called VARPG (Visual Age RPG). RPG is a very old language developed in the late 60's and has been constantly evolving ever since. This "VA" is the latest twist and a major jump.  Using the syntax I've been using since I started programming RPG (1978), I can now develop programs which run on the PC, use the Windows 95/NT interface, and manipulate data on the AS/400 (IBM main frame) or other data bases. It is fun and exciting yet tedious and tiring at the same time. But, it all pays the bills.

On April 9-11 my cousins and I had our annual reunion at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. It was a good time. A little more laid back than some previous years. There seemed to be more time to visit and talk. Maybe with the passing of Marion and seeing the frailty in the "grown  ups" (Dad, Lowell, Jackie -- Shirley is very healthy, however), us kids (44-53 years old mind you) are perhaps cherishing the time we have together at these reunions even more than in the past.

The following weekend was "Spring Thaw". That is a convention held by a local club I belong to. About 100 guests from around the country came for 3 days of activities, catered events and good times. I was on the planning committee for the last several month and developed part of the web site for the "tours" part of the gathering. On Saturday, local club members take the out of town guests on various tours in and and around Seattle. I took a small group to Woodland Park Zoo, which has really become a world class zoo.

As for my health issues... my diabetes is under good control with insulin. However, the first sign of neuropathy is present in my left foot -- I flunked the tuning fork test; I couldn't feel the vibration of the fork on that foot. My eyes are OK, even though I need to use my reading glasses more and I could possibly benefit for a slight near-sighted thing, there is no diabetes related eye damage. But, like Dad, I have "over the limit" pressure in my eyes, so I'm on a glaucoma watch -- exam every 6 months.

Sunday, February 14, 1999 
A lot has happened in two weeks.  The most monumental was the death of my Auntie Marion.  Even though death is inevitable, I am always surprised by my reaction.  In this particular case I knew she had suffered another stroke, was in a coma and not expected to survive.  So when my cousin Lorraine called to tell me, I was wasn't shocked by the news, but felt a sudden sense of "things are all different now".  At the funeral I was unsuccessfully trying to hold back the tears as I sat there with my cousins, Dad, brother, uncle and scores of others who knew Marion.  I had planned to get up and tell a little story, but wasn't able.  Part of what I was going to say was something that told a little bit about another facet of Marion's character; her silly side.  (She was always so hard working; such a dedicated business education teacher; diligent to every task; so down to earth practical --  someone may have thought she didn't have fun.)  Everyone knew that she enjoyed her nights at the opera, ballet, and other refined entertainment -- but I also knew that at one point she hated to miss the TV show "Dukes of Hazard".

Following the funeral services, all the family (my cousins) came to my house for a light dinner.  In spite of the circumstances, it was still a wonderful day.  In years gone by, we used to get together so frequently.  Now we manage a get together once a year for a weekend at Fort Worden.  My cousins are important to me, even though I rarely see or talk with them any more.  I think because we have such a shared history, a collective sense what happened to our parents and grandparents before any of us were born, that I feel a bond to them that is unique among all other people I know.

Jack was out of town for the funeral.  He spent a week in Los Angeles working on a commercial.  He came home yesterday.  All the time Jack was gone, I barely left the house.  I went to work, the funeral, and ran 2 errands -- otherwise I just stayed inside.  It was nice to not be busy  -- even though at times it felt like I was developing agoraphobia... thinking thoughts like, "I could go do this or that, but it is such a hassle going out there".

Work continues smoothly at Physicians Insurance.  Next week marks my 10th anniversary as an employee there.  It is a small insurance company that deals in professional liability (medical malpractice insurance) for physicians, dentists and other health care professionals.  I work there as some sort of computer geek, doing application development and data base administration on a "main frame" (IBM AS/400).  We finished our Y2K work during the summer of '97 (we started laying the ground work to correct the millennium bug in the summer of '90.)  In coming weeks, I'll be learning a new programming language that develops Windows programs using the same syntax I've been using since 1977.   This dog doesn't want to learn any new tricks!  But I do love those biscuits.  Such a new skill, plus what I'm learning about Internet stuff by doing things such as this web site should keep me employable and productive until such time as I drop dead at the keyboard.  (I thought Lincoln freed the slaves.)

About my Dad and Alzheimer's...  last Sunday my brother Buzz and I went to Camano to remove the wood burning stove insert from the upstairs fireplace.  Every day when Dad would start a fire, he'd clean out the old ashes by scooping them up in a dust pan, then walk through the living room to the sun deck so he could throw the ashes in to a hole (that isn't really there).  While walking through he room, he'd make a huge mess by dropping ashes.  Every day Shirley would tell him that is isn't needed.  Every day it was news to Dad.  So as with a toddler, we are "child proofing" the house by removing the wood stove.  It wasn't a  primary heat source, but is going to be replaced with a propane unit which gives heat and is nice to look at.  Dad understands that his sister is gone, even though for a few days he kept thinking she was killed in a car accident.  One of my cousins noted "the panic is his eyes".  The panic must come from the ever diminishing mental capacity and the struggle to not totally freak out as he recognizes and can deal with less and less in his environment.

Tuesday, February 2, 1999
The past weekend was full, but not harried.  Friday night Jack and I went out for dinner then spent the rest of the evening visiting friends and playing pool at our favorite watering hole.

Saturday was pretty much a goof off day...  cleaning house and preparing for a small dinner party.  Three friends (Barry, Allen and Kevin) came over for a simple dinner before we went off to a party in Redmond.   I served Mandarin Salad and Sausage Soup.  I found the recipes at Betty Crocker's web site, which has given me a several good menu ideas.

Sunday we went to look at a house for sale that was just too cool.  It is a total 60's party house with huge indoor pool.  It is in a foreclosure sale, so I don't know what will happen.  Jack's mom came over for a lunch of leftover soup and salad.  We went to Renton for a prime rib dinner prepared by Scott.

January 1999 Highlights (written in February)
Over the long Martin Luther King weekend, Jack and I flew to Phoenix  and then drove to Tucson to attend Fiesta de los Oso.  You can see some pictures on the photo album page.  We were there just 4 days and had lots of fun and sun.  I've never been one to complain about Seattle's cloudy, cool, rainy weather -- but it was certainly a welcome change to be sitting around a pool at 5:00 in the afternoon.... the warmth of the 78 degree afternoon lingering into the evening...  the neon colored skies at sunset...  no rain.

We took several tours as part of the Fiesta package.  We spent a day driving to Tombstone.   It is totally a tourist trap, but if like me, you spent much of your childhood watching westerns on TV, it was almost a pilgrimage.  Beyond Tombstone, we visited the town of Bisbee which was just a beautiful place to look at.  Nestled in the mountains, this old mining town looks like something I'd expect to see in Europe rather than a few miles from the Mexican border.  Another tour took us up Mount Lemon.  It was a spectacular drive as we drove from an elevation of 4000 to over 8000 feet, going through various terrain and changes in vegetation; from cactus to pine trees.  The last day we toured to a river where skinny dipping and nude hiking are routine.  Yes, I spent some time working on my tan.

The weekend after Tucson, I went up to Camano Island and brought my dad down to Seattle for the weekend.  His Alzheimer's is progressing as you might expect.  He still knows who I am, but occasionally he talks to me like a stranger.  I expect he'll be put "in the home" some time this year.  Being with him is very tiring... I never raised a toddler, but it must be something like that, except you can't teach him anything and you know it isn't going to get better.  My intention is to bring my dad down here about once a month so his wife Shirley can have a break.

While Dad was here, we went to visit his sister Marion.  She stays in a nursing home in Des Moines (south of Seattle) where she is living with the results of a few strokes.  She can't talk, but it was obvious she was happy to see Dad.  As Dad and I were leaving after a 1/2 hour visit with Marion and her daughter Lorraine, Dad didn't seem to understand that the lady in the wheel chair was his sister -- even though he was talking like it was his sister earlier.  Since our visit Marion has had another stroke and is now unconscious.

The Holidays 1998
Because in years past when I felt stressed and burdened by the holidays, I've been making it a point to keep it simple.  This year I hosted Thanksgiving for my family and Jack's --  a small gathering of 7 adults and 2 kids.  We attended a few parties, but decided not to have one ourselves until after the first of the year (when you could really use one!)

For Christmas Eve, we went up to Camano to be with Dad, Shirley and Buzz.  Shirley went to sing in her church choir, so we went down the road to visit my Uncle Jack (my mom's brother) and Aunt Betty.  My mom's sister Donna was there as well.   My mom's other sister who lives on Camano, Mollyo, wasn't there as she has Alzheimer's so bad that she doesn't know her own sons.  We had a short visit and were back in Seattle before Santa started his rounds.

Christmas Day we had dinner at Jack's mom's place.  Jack's brother Tom from Los Angeles and sister Carol with husband Dean and kids Nikala and Reed were there as we barely made a dent on the 22 pound turkey and 30+ dozen cookies that Julie had prepared.  She also had a chocolate cake and some pies -- just in case.   (I was in hog heaven!)

Well, that's my journal.  I'll be adding more to the top in coming weeks.  Check back when you're bored or something.

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