Digestive system diagram showing bile duct loc...

Digestive system diagram showing bile duct location

Here’s an update from the recent hospital visit last Thursday through Sunday:

  • The procedure to remove a bile obstruction Sunday did not work — the pancreatic tumor had so encapsulated the bile duct that the doc could not get past the obstruction to remedy the blockage
  • The doc did offer a couple of alternatives, but suggested that we talk with the oncologist first
  • We have an appointment with a highly recommended oncologist tomorrow morning

The procedure would have made it easier for me to digest food and eliminate the food in a normal fashion. It would have also given me a few more choices if and when possible chemotherapy comes into play.

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and best wishes that have come in over the past few days. God is great!

Stay tuned and I will share with you the next steps after tomorrow’s visit with the oncologist.


There are some things I learned during this past four days in the hospital:

  • When I am lying in the hospital bed, there is no better feeling than when a family member comes into the room
  • If you feel WELL going to the hospital, all it takes is one night when nurses come in the room at 10:30 pm, 11;30 pm, 3:30 am, 4:30 am, 5:30 am, 6:30 am and 7:30 am to make you FEEL sick
  • If you are swearing off watching news programs, as I am, it helps to have an iPod or iPad to wile away the hours listening to music that entertains you and gives you some rest
  • I find I say a few more prayers when I am in the hospital than when I am not
  • One night I turned out all the lights in the room and stood before the mirror — I was sure I was glowing in the dark after all the CT scans and MRIs that I had had so far
  • When the nurse was hooking me up to an IV fluid line, I asked her if I could have the sack that when it is administering the fluids, the process would leave a “steak and potatoes and Shiner Bock” taste in my mouth. Sadly, she said they don’t make IV fluid sacks like that yet
  • All it takes is a stay in a hospital room to help you remember all the vacations and trips you have taken to ANY place that does not resemble a small room with a bed in it
  • At the end of the day, I felt fully confident that the docs and nurses I met, and who provided me with care, truly had my best interests, as a patient of theirs, at heart.


As a patient in the hospital, when the doc comes in and gives me the bad news that he could not successfully perform the procedure, I immediately recall a poster somewhere that said, ” When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well, here is a picture of me with some lemons. I really don’t care for lemonade at all, and, as a diabetic, it’s not good for me.

Tomorrow, I will show you something you can do with the lemons.

Stay tuned to tomorrow to see what else you can do with lemons.

Lately, as I have taken Gillis for walks here in Murphy, whether I wear the iPod or not, I still have time to think. Yesterday, on the walk, I began thinking about how our interest in comic strips tends to follow us as we age.


When I was a teenager and newspapers were thriving, I read the comics religiously. My favorite strip was Dondi. Now, I don’t expect any of you to remember Dondi, but it was a strip about a young boy as he went through his days. It was a wholesome cartoon, no racy themes or issues. Again, think wholesome. I would usually read the comics in the morning and they helped me feel good all day long. Dondi was long before Peanuts.

And, of course, Peanuts was a classic. I used to buy the Peanuts calendars and tape the monthly illustrations on my room at home. Schulz was simply brilliant.


Another strip I read when I was younger was Pogo. That was the first time I began to see some political rhetoric begin to enter the strips. Now remember, please, this was long before Doonesbury. Pogo is widely known for saying, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

I was never much of a follower of Mary Worth, or Rex Morgan, just didn’t care for the serial cartoons. Then, I also liked Beetle Bailey, Blondie, For Better or Worse. Even as a child, I often wondered why Mr. Dithers kept Dagwood around and didn’t fire him. Throughout the seasons, the cartoon strips tended to follow the weather. I grew up in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas, so when Hi and Lois would show Hi out in the backyard raking leaves, that was something I didn’t understand. And when the kids in For Better or Worse were going sledding with their parents, I could imagine what that was like, but didn’t have much real experience with sledding.


As I grew older and into adulthood, I still would periodically look at the cartoons I mentioned above if they were in the papers I read routinely. But by that time, Doonesbury was my favorite — total political rhetoric in a comic strip.  About the same time, Bloom County came along and I was totally smitten with Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat. I loved the other characters, but I became an Opus fanatic. Again, political rhetoric, especially when Steve Dallas, the chain-smoking, sunglass-wearing dude would expound on just about anything.

Also, the simple brilliance of The Far Side kept me so entertained as Gary Larson would create such human conditions with his animal characters. One year, a friend, Denise, gave me a two-volume collection of the Far Side cartoons that must have weighed at least 50 pounds. ‘He ain’t heavy, he’s my Far Side collection!” This had ’em all and it was such a brilliant collection.

And, a friend of mine in Houston was the cartoonist for Tank McNamara. He had a great imagination for sports cartooning.

Calvin & Hobbes

As I got older and became a father of four children, there is one strip that was pure joy — Calvin and Hobbes. This strip was drawn by a very talented cartoonist who, for a period of time, lived in the same Northeast Ohio town where we lived.  Perhaps my favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips were the ones where the cartoonist would show Calvin making snow sculptures. As you can imagine, they were very creative and so totally sophisticated for such a young stud and his toy tiger. I loved it that Hobbes would be alive, speaking and everything when it was just him and Calvin. But when an adult was in the strip, Hobbes was depicted as the toy he was. Such innocence and brilliance at the same time.

Now, I am retired and 60. While I still read all these strips whenever I can, there is one strip that, as much as I hate to admit, probably more accurately reflects my station in life: Crankshaft. I can side with this crotchety, sour curmudgeon more than I could in the past. But whenever I check the strips and I see Crankshaft, more today than yesterday, I can identify with his behavior, his demeanor, his sensibilities and his frustrations. I love Crankshaft, even though he is a difficult guy to like.


There is one area that I feel like I have in common with Crankshaft. Regularly, he seems to say, “When I was young, …” or “In the old days, we would …” I really don’t like it that I occasionally have very similar statements to this, but I’m human.

And, I can’t ever forget that, at the end of the day, the purpose of these wonderful strips is to make us smile, even if only for a moment or two. I hope each of you has a favorite  cartoon and it brings a smile to your face on a routine basis.




Three years ago, Patti and I left our home in Austin to go to a wedding in Florida. We had time on our hands so we decided to get there in a roundabout way. First, we went to Dallas and then wove an interesting path through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia before we arrived in Orlando. Along the way, we drove past Vicksburg, some 60s civil rights sites in Mississippi, Selma and Montgomery.

We were both very excited to take a trip through the South. Neither of us had traveled through much of the South since we were college students, which was many, many years ago.

It was very interesting to take these routes to Orlando. I should in my heart know that the South in 2009 is not the same Old South that existed in the late 60s. When I was younger and going through the south, there were fewer interstates and more two-lane blacktop traveling. Consequently, then the following was a fairly common site: trashy wooden shacks with open windows looking like they were about to collapse at any moment, but there was a shiny brand-new Cadillac parked next to the house.

I remember visiting a college friend of mine in Pahokee, Florida shortly after I graduated from college in 1972. He took me to a local bar.

Not the same bar I visited

The bar was on this dirt road at the outskirts of town. It had two doors at the front of the solitary building. One door had no markings, but the other door had “Colored” printed over the door. Inside, there was a bar that ran the full length of the building. There was some makeshift sheetrock feebly installed about three-quarters of the length of the building, floor to ceiling. Where the sheetrock met the bar, the feeble installation continued to the wall behind the bar, but the sheetrock was open about one foot above the bar. There was just enough of a clearance that the barkeeper at the larger part of the bar could push a glass of beer under the sheetrock to the barkeeper that tended to the black customers in the other part of the bar. If you stood at the bar, you could  look under the clearance of the sheetrock and see the customers on the other side of the bar.

In 2009, of course, there were more interstates, and fewer shacks to see. But what we did see was just as disturbing. As we drove through the towns and cities along the way, it appeared that every town and city had its share of Home Depots, Wal-Marts, Lowe’s and other national brand retail centers. The South along the routes we took had become so homogenous, so bland and lacking of character or distinction.

But what made this experience a profound experience was we listened to John Grisham‘s Ford County along the way to and from Orlando. If you are familiar with this Grisham book, you know it is a series of short stories about the South and the interesting characters who live there. As we traveled, we listened to these stories, soaking up every syllable, since Grisham himself was the narrator.

By the time we returned to Austin, we felt like we had fully experienced a new Southern experience. We ate the local food, we stayed in small hotels and occasionally would get off the interstates to look for those shacks, all the while John Grisham was narrating the stories over the car’s speakers. It was such a profound experience, and one we truly value to this day.

This is a very long prelude to a similar experience I had today.

For the past two-three weeks, I have been taking Gillis on walks — trying to work off some of his endless supply of energy. About a half-mile from the ranch house there is a park. The park has  4-5 soccer fields, some playground equipment and a hike/bike path that goes along a small creek.

I’m getting Gillis used to walking on a leash and, particularly, paying attention to walk to the right of the person holding the leash. At first, it was very chaotic, but lately the pooch is starting to understand.

Some days I take my iPod, and some days I don’t. Usually, we walk the almost-two-mile distance and rest on a bench at the park for a few minutes before heading back. While we rest, and Gillis usually sits on the bench, too, I watch the starlings dart up and down over the soccer fields, watch any rollerbladers, hikers or cyclists who may be on the track with us. Mostly, it is very quiet. There are fields of wildflowers and trees along the creek. These trees look like the Monterey Oaks that someone might see along Pebble Beach in California.

After we get to the bench, I can sit for quite a while, just listening to the birds and the breezes wafting through the trees. It is bliss.

Gentle on My Mind

Earlier in this posting, I mentioned how it is possible to have an experience and with a little added touch turn it into a profound experience. Well, today, I took the iPod and shuffled a bunch of Glen Campbell songs from when I was in college.

Just at the point that Gillis and I got to the park bench, Glen Campbell began singing “Gentle on My Mind.” I guess I suffered a sensory overload because the lyrics of the song, the rhythm of the music, the melody and voice of the singer struck me as in pure synchronicity with the breezes blowing through the trees, and the birds darting above the soccer fields.

For those brief moments, nothing else mattered in the world. I wasn’t thinking about the cancer, didn’t care about bills or what I had on my To-Do list for the day, nothing. For the length of that song, I felt like that was where I was supposed to be at that moment, experiencing those feelings of joy. comfort and contentment.

I don’t think I am alone in experiencing these emotions. Others have had similar experiences and written about them much more eloquently than I have here. My wish is that everyone I know can find that similar experience and have that feeling of pure bliss and contentment — if you have not already experienced this joy.

Last week, I went for a couple days down to Houston to visit my mother. Since last June she has been back and forth between hospital and skilled nursing facility.

Well, it’s a little over 240  miles between our place in Dallas and Houston. For Patti, a three-hour drive. For me, four.

Since Patti was staying behind to take care of some things in Dallas, I decided to forego the radio and take my iPod to listen to for the ride down there. Lately, I seem to notice when I see other drivers with their earbuds. Made sense. Rather than change radio stations routinely passing in and out of range during the trip, I could have all my favorite artists playing away while leisurely driving down to the Bayou City.

It was truly a spectacular drive. Along the way, I saw all the usual roadside signs, telling me that McDonalds and Exxon were at the next exit, signs talking about Jesus being the answer, signs suggesting we stop for barbecue at Bubba’s, Rudy’s or various other male proprietors. Apparently, EEOC has not yet received enough complaints from the Trixies, Bettys or Beulahs who would like to name a barbecue place after themselves.

And there were the porn notices, too. For example, just outside Dallas, heading south on I45, there is a “gentleman’s club” called Wispers. Of course, my first thought was, “Dumbass. Whispers has an h.” But as I passed the empty parking lot, I reminded myself that folks who go there probably don’t give a hoot whether the name is spelled right or not. Silly me.

Also, I particularly liked the billboard with the Biblical scripture that extolled people to turn away from pornography. And, that billboard was about 30 yards BEFORE you got to Jim’s Adult Video Emporium.

Bluebonnets along a Texas road

But, in addition to the iPod, there was one thing that made the trip memorable throughout the distance. Texas bluebonnets and other wildflowers, like Indian Paintbrush, were in full bloom. In this state, the bluebonnets bloom in Spring on the embankments and medians of the freeways of Texas roads and highways.

When they bloom, they are truly glorious in their beauty. It’s as if during the Winter, God comes down to Earth and sprinkles the roads with the seeds for these majestic flowers to bloom to everybody’s delight in the Spring. In the past, when I’ve traveled over Texas roads, I have stopped to just watch the bluebonnets sway tenderly in the wind.

There is a place on 290 near Brenham, Texas, between Austin and Houston, which is known to have bluebonnets blooming all around that city. Mostly on weekends, you will see the embankments around Brenham with all sort of “dents” in the wildflowers, where adoring parents have planted their children for pictures in the flowers. Happens all the time in Spring.

In this one particular spot near Brenham, there are several acres of bluebonnets. If you quickly glance at this particular spot while driving by, you would swear that there was a lake in the middle of that field. Do a double take and you realize it is bluebonnets.

Lady Bird and her legacy

Bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers have been around for ages. However, whatever your thoughts of LBJ as a president, perhaps his greatest gift to America was his wife, Lady Bird. While occupying the White House, Lady Bird made it her mission to plant the wildflowers everywhere and increase the beauty across America they bring year after year.

After leaving the White House, Lady Bird continued her commitment to spread wildflowers wherever possible. Wherever Patti and I have lived, we’ve tried to plant bluebonnets at our homes. In some locations they did well. In others, like Ohio, unfortunately, they did not like the cold.

As I moved further south along I45, past Huntsville, there is a huge statue of Sam Houston, an important Texas history figure. This statue is approximately 100-120 feet high, so it’s no small statue. It’s right beside the freeway. And, there were the bluebonnets cascading across the embankments and median like so many vowels, consonants and syllables spread in beautiful calligraphy across a blank page.

If you have the chance to drive across any of Texas’ main roads during the Spring, you will not miss the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes.

Thank you, Lady Bird. What a truly magnificent legacy to have.

The iPod family with, from the left to the rig...

Image via Wikipedia

About seven years ago, as a Christmas present, Patti gave me an iPod.  Back then, there was only one kind. During the holiday period, whenever I could squirrel away some time, I would take our CD collection and move it to the iPod. I believe I put just about all our CDs on the little device that holiday.

Since then, as a music junkie, whenever we would buy CDs, or I would buy tunes from iTunes, I would organize the content through the Music Library and keep the tunes on the iPod. After some years of owning this, Patti gave us (really me) a Bose deck to use to play the iPod throughout the house. Love the Bose deck.

A few months ago, when I was working in Chicago, I came to really rely on the iPod. I would wear it when I took the dog for its walks, commuting by foot or bus to work and back, or just wandering through downtown or in the various parks we would visit on weekends. In working in a number of cities over my career, never have I seen such people addicted to the iPod than when we were in Chicago. I understand, really; it’s a city of commuters who walk, ride the bus, or take the trains or El to and from work.

As a result, and trying to keep track of our evolution as a culture, I think the iPod could serve another very important use — a recruitment tool. Maybe it already is and no one sent me the memo.

In the periodic role of a hiring manager that I have had the pleasure to enjoy, I thoroughly enjoy meeting candidates and discussing their resumes and qualifications for a particular job. Listening to others and their work experiences, and of perhaps shared acquaintances, etc., has been very rewarding. Occasionally, at times, hiring decisions have been hard because more than one candidate was ably suitable for the job. While I have never resorted to the “eenie, meenie, minie, moe” of some decision-making, it has been tempting at times.

So much of hiring today is going beyond just qualifications and experience. It is one of fit. Will the individual work well and thrive in our particular working culture? Will others who will work with this individual believe he/she is suited for the culture? Will the individual be able to hit the ground running in our culture, or is he/she  more comfortable in a culture that is different from ours? These are typical questions I have heard, not recently though.

Well, I think if I were hiring today and looking at more than one suitable candidate, I would ask each of the candidates for their iPods.  You see, I think the music that a person listens to says a lot about who they are, what their interests are and what they use for inspiration.

And, of course, I would need to take my copy of Abbott & Costello‘s “Who’s on First” routine or Howard Stern ramblings off my iPod if I even hoped to be taken seriously. I’m just sayin’.