Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Changing Seasons


One thing that I will miss (besides obviously my children) about living down in the southern tip of Florida, is the changing of the seasons.  I am a visually stimulated person, and I am always left breathless during the Fall when the leaves in the northeast United States change their colors.  I will miss the smell of Fall that you get from cool and crisp mountain air with the fallen leaves.

But down here, the change of seasons is recognizable by colors also, just not leaves on a tree.

license plates

Yes, the joke with southern Florida, is you can tell the changing of the seasons, by the changing of the colors, but of license plates.

This is the first time that I have lived in a tourist area, so this will be the first time I am having to deal with “in season.”  What that means, many, many car carriers transporting vehicles from all over the country, with their owners typically flying south for the winter.  Hence, the nickname, “snowbird.”

Up north, we often knew colder weather was coming, by watching “our snowbirds” called geese, fly south for the Winter.  But humans that travel south for the Winter are referred to as “snowbirds” because typically, they are travelling to avoid cold and snowy weather.

The permanent residents grow used to this migration.  It is definitely an inconvenience, as lines of traffic, waits at restaurants, and reservations for activities increase in difficulty and availability.

“Snowbirds” are easy to spot.  First by their driving habits, as they get used to the traffic patterns here that are typically different from their home state.  Then their personal interactive behavior.  They are often tense, coming here from their stressful lives back home, are wiped out from the travel, and just want to get settled.  Full time residents often feel displaced during the “snowbird” migration because of the hurried pace at which a “snowbird” moves.  And residents feel that “resentment” that we are in their way of their seasonal length vacation.

I remember my first exposure to a “snowbird” many years ago, riding the autotrain to Florida for just a week vacation.  The train was filled with “snowbirds” who often looked at us as intruders, or in their way, not belonging to their migration.  Years later, I understand now why.

But the migration is good for the local economy here.  And it is understandable why the “snowbirds” come south for the Winter.  And for two seasons, “snowbirds” will relax, and enjoy, before they migrate back to their homes and to their stressful lives and activities in the Spring.


A Tough Question Made Tougher

I have been asked this question at least twice before, by friends and family, and yesterday, by attorneys questioning me during my divorce hearing.  Again, I am not going to go into specifics of my case.  But the question is important, because it was made more difficult for me, by the third person to ask me, my youngest daughter.

At a point during my separation, I made a conscious decision, that due to the hostile environment surrounding my divorce situation, as well as combined with an employment and court order issue, I would need to reside elsewhere other than the immediate area I had previously been living.  But to do the best I could with those two issues would mean I would have to make the biggest sacrifice of my life, separation from my daughters as well.

As anyone who knows me, my daughters mean the world to me.  The happiest days of my life have been those shared with my daughters from the time they were first placed in my arm, to just two days ago, when I got a rare “extra” visit with them, due to my travels back north for legal proceedings for the divorce.

But as any divorce that has children involved, rarely are the children protected from all the actions and decisions made by the parents from the moment of the filing for divorce.  Custody is one of those issues.

Being from a divorced family, I know all too personally, the importance of both parents in the lives of their children, during, and after divorce.  My ex was unaware of the thoughts that I was contemplating about where I would leave, once I actually left my home, shortly after the passing of my father.  But in preparation for a custody agreement, and knowing my intentions, I drafted and submitted a proposed custody agreement that was the hardest thing to concede.

Both my ex and I believe that we should be primary and sole custody holders of the children.  We both have our reasons why the other should not.  In any regard, most cases in most states, only shared custody, 50-50 is issued.  But with my plans to relocate, I knew shared custody would not be accepted any more than sole custody for me.  Instead, desiring quality custody with my children, instead of quantity, and what I felt would be best for my daughters, to be able to remain in the school they have known for the last six years, remain with their friends, at least I could assure this would remain constant in their lives.  I offered my ex to have custody of the children during the entire school year asking only for custody of the girls during extended holiday weekend breaks, the Christmas break, and the majority of the Summer.  My ex originally rejected this proposal and insisted to let the court decide, which soon became the court order for custody.

With the custody order in place, I proceeded with securing a new residence, one that would offer me best opportunity for employment, and the ability to pay any support award for the children.  And I believed, and still do believe, that I have found that place, though it is more than a thousand miles away from the two girls I love with all my heart.

So as my friends, family, and yesterday the court attorneys, on Monday following my “extra” visit with my girls, my youngest asked me a question I had been asked many times before.  And though I had offered answers before quite easily and without thought, coming from my child, who I have always believed in letting children be children, not concerning them with adult issues, especially my divorce, she phoned me later that evening in tears.

“Daddy, why did you have to move so far away?”

I answered her in the best way that I could for a 9 year-old.  That even though I moved away, I would always be her Dad, and her Mom would always be Mom.  And we were both going to do what we could that would be the best for she and her sister.  My daughters visited me already this summer and had a wonderful time, and left here knowing, that my move to here, is going to result in good things for them and their future.  And I hope that their mother is driven the same way.

But as my friend Matt pointed out recently to me, the real answer, “it had to be real bad for a dad to feel the need to move as far away from such a toxic situation for the best interests of his children, and the relationship with them.

And that is how I am going to end this post.

I love my daughters with all my heart.  I will always be there for them.  And even from afar, I will protect them, and guide them.  I shed tears for all the events that I will miss with them, but I know of all the wonderful things we will get to do with each other when we get together.  And so, when I answered my daughter, I allowed her to remain a child with my answer.

I miss my girls every day.  Daddy loves you Madison and Emmalie.  I promise it will get better.

“I’m Not Fat, I’m Big Boned!”


“I’m not fat, I’m big boned!”, quoted by Eric Cartman from the Comedy Network cartoon show “South Park”.  It is a crude cartoon, sophomoric and satirical.  But with my sense of humor, I did enjoy the show for the brief time that I watched it.  But his quote was one of the first infamous lines, when his little friend called him “fat”, Cartman barked back, “I’m not fat, I’m big boned!”

Long before the television show, I actually tried to use that excuse while visiting my family physician.  One of the undesirable long term effects that I have struggled the most with, is a weight gain during and following my cancer treatment.  Most people when going through chemotherapy often lose weight.  But because I was taking high doses of prednisone for the eight months of treatments, prednisone – a steroid, increased my appetite, which of course resulted in a weight gain.  This was complicated with the destruction of my thyroid from radiation treatments that I had prior to the chemo.  The thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism, which of course, controls your weight.  With a thyroid not working properly, it is only common sense, you would have weight issues.

In 1997, as part of an employment hiring, I was required to get a company physical.  I sailed through everything.  And then oddly, something I had never had done in any physical ever, they did some sort of bone density exam on me.  And the result was that I had “a large frame”.  Okay, I stand only five foot seven.  And I was still under the 200 pound mark, so I would never have considered myself “large frame”.  But having discussed my weight concerns with my family doctor in the past, I now had a new theory.

Large frame body = big bones = big bones weigh more

Yep.  That was my logic, and I was sticking to it.  And so, on my next visit to my doctor, I actually tried to use this reasoning on her.  Now keep in mind, any reference I have ever made about my family physician, I have always been appreciative, admirable, and respectful of her.  She also has a great sense of humor too as I soon found out after I actually asked her about the possibility that the reason I was overweight was because I was big boned.  I just found out I was a “large frame” which meant my bones had to be heavier, which would mean I would weigh more.

Officially, she gave me a response, “are you serious?” and we immediately followed a different direction.  She was not going to entertain that theory any further, and honestly, it was a reach.  After all, my bones had always been “large framed” my whole life, and at one point in my life, I was quite a lot of pounds lighter before my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

But I am really at a loss.  More than seventeen years later, weight is still an issue for me.  I take thyroid medication, but still not weight loss.  I cannot exercise strenuously because of other cancer treatment side effects that I deal with for my heart, lungs, spine, and muscles.  But I do at least some light exercising nearly every day in the form of walking.  I have wonderful support to help me with controlling my diet, both portion size and actual content.  I have a professional dietician working with me, who encourages me not to be discouraged by the numbers, that it is about how I feel, and how my clothing fits (called a moral victory).

Because of other long term side effects I deal with, I have had several gastroenterology tests performed over the years, and while not great news for other issues, they did not reveal anything per se as far as the issue with my weight.

My struggles as a long term cancer survivor, cardiac, pulmonary, muscular, spinal, immunological, endocrine, psychological, gastro, and more, my weight seems more of just an inconvenience given everything else I deal with in terms of survivorship.

I will keep exercising.  I will keep watching what I eat.  I also am prepared to accept that I just might not be able to help my weight any more than I am.  Maybe I am really just “big boned.”


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