Friday, September 30, 2011

When we graduated in 1974...

Had time to think during our recent vacation. I thought about what it was like when Jill and I graduated and married in 1974. I don't know the unemployment rate at the time. But, I know that she got a teaching job and we planned on living in the city where we grew up. So...I needed to find a job in Joliet. Every day I went through the job ads. I had a degree with a major in sociology/psychology with a GPA around 3.3/4.0 and I had difficulty finding something.  Finally, I found a job as a quality control inspector at a plastic bottle manufacturing plant. It certainly wasn't what I had planned on doing; but, I got a paycheck- $600 per month. Not a lot; but, it was something. I was eventually promoted to a production foreman on the midnight shift - midnight to 8AM. I could still tell you all about the process of making plastic bottles using blowmolding and injection molding for milk, bleach, shampoo, etc.

Next, I was a foreman at a plant that assembled wallpaper sample books. We assembled the swatches of wallpaper and fabrics into the sample books that you would see in a decor store. Then, I worked as a recruiter for what we called data processing people - data entry clerks, programmers, system analysts, etc. No personal computers at the time.  I didn't know a thing about computers; but, I learned the jargon and was creative when it came to finding and placing people in jobs. Basically, I would convince a company to pay me a commission if they hired a candidate that I found (or lured from another company). This job was commission-only with a very small draw that was subtracted from my earned commissions. I was actually quite good at it. Very briefly, I was a recruiter in Joliet.

After about four years of saving up everything we could and before I left recruiting, we scraped together enough to buy our first house. Shortly after we bought the house, I went to work for Hallmark - first, managing the installation of new stores and remodels. We took a blank space and installed/opened a new store in four day. Then, I went into sales. I was still not doing what I had thought I would be doing when I went to college. By now I realized that in college I wasn't really sure what I would be doing after graduation. I never expected to be in "sales"; but, I guess I was good at it and I ended up being a sales trainer for Hallmark and a district sales manager for Drawing Board Greeting Cards.

I had many misc jobs before all this - these include concession worker/popcorn maker at a drive-in theater, summer jobs as a steelworker and a painter/misc labor at a college near Joliet, cook's asst in the dorm kitchen at ISU, Student Asst at the dorms in college and a math tutor during High School. Basically, I did whatever I could to get paid.

I bought my first car with my own money while in college in 1972 - 1972 red Chevy Vega. Beginning as a freshman in college through about 1978 when I joined Hallmark, I had a relatively steady paycheck (of some kind). I think I was unemployed perhaps 2 or 3 weeks during that time. Combining a scholarship, work at the college, summer jobs and loans, I managed to pay for my education without parental assistance. It took 10 years of monthly payments to pay off my college loans and I can still remember making that final payment.

Some might say that I didn't have goals and that I've floated aimlessly through life. Maybe so. But, in the end, I've become a very successful businessperson and have created a business legacy of which I am proud. The group I manage does business with more than 14,000 small businesses each year and those businesses employ more than 56,000 employees - counting themselves. Thousands of small entrepreneurs are able to create their own small retail business. I am very happy with my national reputation in the mall industry.

As this blog outlines, I am now a 4 1/2 year survivor of stage IV lung cancer that has metasticized to my brain and gallbladder. This past year I have been taking a study drug for lung cancer, had my gallbladder removed and had Gamma Knife radiosurgery on my brain lesions. Even so, we have completed two cruises and traveled to Punta Cana , DR for a nephew's wedding. Throughout this time, I have continued to work mostly full-time. We will continue to travel throughout the world - cruising. I have endured through all that you can read in this blog. And, I have continued to make the most of my life by living each day - one day at a time.

I wanted to take a little time to outline my life so that others can know more about me than just "I have cancer, this is how I've been treated and it's a wonder that I am alive". Yes, I do have cancer. Yes, it will probably kill me some day. But, I am much more than the cancer that is taking me. In the future, perhaps I will write about the 25+ years since I left the greeting card industry.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pictures from PEI, Portland and Quebec City

Anne of Green Gables House

"Bug Light" lighthouse in Portland Maine

Carriage at Anne of Green Gables House

Chateau Frontenac - Quebec City

street performers - Quebec City

At sea 9/23-24

The last two days have been very relaxing days at sea. Breakfast in the cabin, trivia, lunch, trivia, trivia, nap, trivia, relax in cabin, trivia, tea in cabin, listen to live music before dinner, dinner, ship's performers or movie, day is over.

We continue to win many trivias. We have had a very good couple as partners. Jill prodded me to play a new Game Mania which turned out to be similar to a 4-person Jeopardy. The ship even has podiums with buttons to buzz in to answer. I won.

Celebrity, the ship (the Summit), the staff taking care of us and this cruise itinerary have all been great. We only had 3 excursions; but, we explored a few other towns.

We are anxious to look into our next cruise. We will definitely look into other intineraries with Celebrity.

Today was the activity we really hate - packing. Tomorrow will be a day of travel to get home. At least we don't need to connect. Even though it is a smaller 50-passenger plane, at least it is non-stop.

Can't wait to plan our next cruise.

Charlottetown PEI 9/21

We started very early this morning for an island drive. Had a couple stops at scenic locations in a couple national parks and a preserves shop - Prince Edward Island Preserve Co. Then, we visited the house that inspired Anne of Green Gables. We also viewed a Lucy Maud Montgomery bio video and saw her grave site - very near the house.

This is mostly a farming community. Close to 2000 farms on the island - primary crop is potatoes but they also grow onions, carrots, broccoli, strawberries and other vegetables/fruits. Much of these are exported. 250 dairy farms producing milk, cream, butter and cheese. They also fish for lobster, mussels and oysters.

PEI is the smallest Canadian province. It lies between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Trivia so far today 2-W 1-L.
One more today.

Quebec City & at sea 9/18-19

Second day in Quebec City. Didn't go off ship since Sunday had tired us out. Lots of trivia 4 wins 1 loss. Jill read on her iPad. Casino closed since we were in port. And, Jill thinks she might be done because they usually seem to tighten up the payouts at the end of a cruise. I relaxed - or, basically, did nothing ;-)

Normal meals - we're in a bit of a rut. But, the food is very good.

Brand new show by the ship's cast. We saw their 1st time performing the new show. It was quite good even though it started a bit slow. Got more interesting after the first couple songs.

Day sea today. Expect lots of relaxing.

Quebec City 9/18

After a relaxing day at sea, we arrived this afternoon at Quebec City. The weather was sunny and mid-to-high 60's. Seemed warmer in the sun.

Upon docking, we walked around the Old Town and did a little shopping. It is a very European city. A bit challenging for us with many up/down slopes. But, we made it through the lower portion of the city. We will be here overnight. So...we'll decide what to do tomorrow.

On ship, we won both trivias that we played. Jill had a so-so morning at the slots. Ric Steel did a great headliner show. We watched the jazz group for a while. Oh...we ate a lot.

At sea 9/17

Nice lazy day at sea today. Breakfast in our cabin. AM trivia - we lost ;-( PM trivia - we won ;-) apparently we crushed all other teams and there was a comment "that team knows too much" - well, yeah. We know lots of answers and you don't

Obviously, we had lunch, dinner & snacks. Jill played slots and still running hot. Up another $150+ for the day. I've been focussing on watching entertainment - Ric Steele has been great - string trio is interesting, accapella quartet is solid.

Staff for our cabin is great. Butler delivers our breakfast everyday and brings afternoon tea/snacks to our cabin. He takes our laundry and would probably do whatever we want - if it's legal. State room and asst state room attendants are very efficient. Not sure which ensures that I have grapes and other fruits each day.

With so many people wanting to care for your needs, it is easy to relax.

I expect tomorrow to be busier. We don't have an excursion; but, will just go into Quebec City to see sites and maybe look for gifts. Will be a lot of walking. At least we'll have 2 days before departing.

Halifax 9/16

We shipped everything; so, we didn't have to pay sales taxes. That saved almost $50. They also had a location in the market at the dock; but, we took a cab to the store for $10 each way and most of the items Jill bought were $30-40 cheaper. We feel like very frugal shoppers today - forget about what we actually spent!!

Back onboard, we resumed normal afternoon activities - eating and trivia. We won 4 of the last 5 trivias. We've often teamed with another frequent cruising couple. In fact, we have cruised with them in the past and recognized each other on the first day.

We continue to enjoy the afternoon tea served each day by our butler. Many choices of pastries, mini desserts, mini sandwiches and a selection of teas.

The weather is quite a bit cooler here - more like we had expected. 57 F now. Probably around 50 F when we went off ship this morning.

The population in Halifax is 360,000. That is 40% of the total population of the province of Nova Scotia.

For Jill's friends, she won a little bit on the slots last night. She is up a little - around $220 for the cruise so far.

Bar Harbor 9/15

Very foggy most of the morning. It's a little cooler today. Had a big breakfast and were ready to go when we rec'd the notice that the whale watching tour was cancelled due to the weather. Only a short while earlier Jill had commented that we wouldn't be able to see anything.

So...we played trivia twice so far today. Won one & lost one. One more to go before dinner.

Last night Jill broke even at the slots. We were out late again enjoying Rick Steele. The ship moved him to a larger venue and the dance floor was packed. We even danced a couple songs.

It has been a relaxing day. We cruise to Halifax, Nova Scotia, tonight. No planned excursion tomorrow. We will find a shuttle or cab to the shopping area since Jill wants to look for Irish wool sweaters.

Portland Maine

Almost done with our day in Portland, ME. Breakfast in our cabin has been our habit. Only the day after departing NY was nice enough to have breakfast on the verandah. But, we have a nice dining table in the suite.

A city tour and lighthouses for an excursion today. Saw Bug Light, Spring Point Head Light and Portland Head Light-this is the lighthouse picture framed in my office from a previous visit.

It has been much warmer than expected throughout the trip so far. We definitely did not bring the right clothes; but, we have managed to get by.

Filling in from earlier when I didn't have service, we had a great meal at Bice in NY - an Italian restr at 54th & Madison. The Waldorf was impeccable. Cafe Metro was great for chocolate chip cookies & milk. Smith & Wilensky was great. The show, Jersey Boys, was wonderful and very entertaining.

NY traffic was outrageous due to 9/11 events. But, our driver got us to the port faster than we had expected.

Our suite on the ship is very nice. Two separate rooms plus a dining area. Quite comfortable. Our butler, Keith, has been taking good care of us.

The entertainment onboard has been excellent. It is nice to be back with live singers, a live band, an a capella quartet and a singer/guitarist named Rick Steele - we have been up late (for us) the past two nights as he has continued singing beyond his scheduled time. Hard to believe we were out until midnight last night!

We have two nice couples as tablemates. A diverse group and we have enjoyed good conversations. On the first night, we rec'd a complimentary dinner at the Normandie specialty restaurant. I had the best rack of lamb. Jill's steak was delicious.

The ship has had 5 (yes, five) trivia games every day. We love it. Haven't been able to get to them all; but, we go to every one we can.

That's all for now. Gotta get ready for dinner.

Update 9/13

No service for a couple days until we got to Boston. Went out to shop at Quincy Market. Have mostly been playing trivia and watching the entertainment.

Celebrity gets an A+ for the actual live performances and a live band vs a lot of lip-synced recorded stuff on Holland. Jill has won at the slots - of course.

I'll try to write a more complete update later if my Blackberry works. Couldn't even use it to write for a couple days.
We are fine. All is well.

NY 9/10

Well...the 2 1/2 tour yesterday took 5 hours with all the added security stops and truck inspections. Happy they are being so diligent looking for screw balls. It was a nice tour - but very long for us. Last night the Jersey Boys show was fabulous.

Don't know what we'll do today. We had a nice breakfast and are pondering options. I picked up a banana, cookies, choc milk and Gatorade-tyoe drink. Not sure if we want to deal with the heavier than normal traffic since it might be even more intense today and 9/11 celebrations are tomorrow. And, Jill is a bit tired. We'll just wait to see what the day brings. Maybe we will just relax and go out somewhere for lunch.

We've had access to a restricted lounge for a nice continental breakfast and afternoon snacks. We've used it for both breakfasts and for snacks the day we arrived. Couldn't get to it yesterday afternoon because our tour ran so long.

Travel & NY 9/8-9

Our morning travel yesterday was pretty uneventful. Left Indy on time-small commuter plane-arrived on time-minor glitch with car was quickly resolved-drive to hotel was OK. When we checked onto the Waldorf Towers (attached to the Waldorf Astoria) we were treated very well. Our suite is quite grand. Jill says it is as big as our small house in Iowa.

For late lunch, we walk a few blocks and ended up at Smith & Wilensky Grill (next to S&W Steak & Chops). Picked up choc chip cookies and choc milk for later.

Friday late AM we boarded a double-decker tour bus for the downtown tour. He was a hop-off-hop-on tour. We just stayed on. Quite a bit of extra time to go through frequent police security stops initiated within the couple days. Every small truck was pulled over and police inspected the cargo compartment. While inconvenient, we were happy to see them aggressively doing security checks.
The nature of the tour was that we saw the sights and passengers could hop off at various stops to explore and hop on a later bus. We didn't do that - we just went for the ride. We spotted the usual sights of lower Manhattan - Rockefeller Center, Empire State Bldg, Chrysler Bldg, Chinatown, Wall St, World Trade Center site, the under-construction Memorial Tower, Battery Park, South Street Seaport, Brooklyn Bridge, Flat Iron Bldg, Greenwich Vlg, Soho, Madison Sq Garden, United Nations, Times Sq, 2 million sq ft NY Macy's, Central Park, and many Broadway Marquees. I'm sure I have missed something; but, we probably drove past it.
We were out for about 5 hours - very long for us. We went straight to Metro Cafe, ate lunch, bought choc chip cookies and chocolate milk for later and headed to our room to prepare for Jersey Boys tonight.

Travel & Cruise

I am going to give a shot at posting the travel updates for our cruise.  For those who already got these updates as we traveled, sorry.  You can obviously ignore this repeated info.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lung cancer checkup

New lung and abdomen CT this morning. Saw Dr E. The fluid in the abdomen is pretty much gone and the lung cancer mass continues to reduce a little more each new CT. No need to change treatment - will continue on the crizotinib (now called Xalkori after FDA approval).

Also heard today from the RN for the Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Just checking in. No bleeding. No headaches. Can remove all band aids. Can return to normal activities. Will be going into the office tomorrow.

so far so good

Jill helped me to remove the turban and band aids last night. She put neosporin on each sore and put band aids on three. No pain. No headache. No nausea. No diarrhea. All is good. This morning Jill will drive me down to the IUSCC for an MRI and appointment afterward with Dr Einhorn. He will provide me with news about my lung cancer and continued use of crizotinib (now Xalkori after approval by the FDA).