Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

The Best Christmas Gift So Far

Earlier this week, I was given the best Christmas gift and the most thoughtful.

While many might make the comment, I deserve what I am dealing with because of moving away from my daughters, and many might also realize, how bad things had to have been in dealing with certain individuals for me to have relocated this far, this post is not about that.  This post is about what happens when people put the children who are stuck in the middle of a nasty divorce, first in priority, doing what is best in the interests of the children.

Up until this year, I have never missed a choral performance of either of my daughters, whether it be church or school.  At best I was hoping for maybe my estranged wife to record a song or two.  Instead, what I got was so much better.

I wrote a post some time ago, about the role that technology now plays in divorce and custody, allowing better and more frequent contact between a distantly located parent and their child(ren).  Between technology, and a family member, I received the best Christmas gift I could have hoped for.

I received a telephone call via Tango (a video call service), from my brother-in-law, saying that he was going to video feed the concert to me, as long as his cell phone battery would hold up.  I was in shock at what was about to happen.  I really thought I would not get to see this, but because family was trying to do what was best for my daughters, and not get involved with pitting one side against the other, two little girls were about to find out something magical.


Because of this kindness, I was able to see the entire performance.  But the generosity did not stop there.  Following the conclusion of the concert, my brother-in-law rushed up to the stage, where my daughters were waiting for their mother, and showed each of my daughters what had just been done.  Their smiles were a pure Christmas Miracle when they saw the other face in the screen of his phone was me.  And just like that, the phone battery finally ran out.  And it was a miracle, to me, and my daughters.  Cell phone batteries only last for so long without being charged, and using high data, but the battery lasted long enough for both my daughters to see that I was “with them” that night.

I was able to share with them, two of my favorite songs that they sang, and conversation flowed from that.  Instead of just asking “how was your concert?” I was able to tell them that I enjoyed the concert.

And that same technology would bring us back together again yesterday morning.  Since I was unable to be with them Christmas morning, I had their gifts sent to them in time to open them for Christmas.  And we dialed up Facetime, and I got to see them open their gifts, and read a letter that I wrote to them, telling them that I missed them, that I loved them, and that this would be the last Christmas we would be apart.  I promised them that things would get better.

And as long as they are able to hear my words, read my words, they will believe I will keep that promise.  And yes, I will never forget what my brother-in-law did for me, but I will also make sure my daughters never forget it either.

This is one of those stories that shows the good that can come during a divorce process when you put the children first.

Christmas Light Extremes

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The one thing that I truly do enjoy about the Winter holiday seasons, are the lighting displays.  Of course, I hold Clark Griswald (made famous by actor Chevy Chase) responsible for my appreciation for tasteful and beautiful light displays.


This was one of the first years that I began to attempt Griswaldian levels of lighting.  The fence on both sides had icicle lights hanging from them, a cherry tree was completely covered in lights, and the holly tree across the driveway had more than 3000 lights strung around.  The rest of the house, without getting onto an extension ladder would have lighting nets on every bush, lights around the garage door, and some figurines.  The next year I would conquer my fear of heights and get up on the ladder to the roof to finish my efforts.  But all told, it still took me about two days to decorate, just the outside.  A nice touch about my former neighborhood, was a tradition to put out luminaries on Christmas Eve, for everyone who participated.  I would tell my children that this provided Santa “runway” lights for his sleigh.  But it was quite a sight as over 500 homes participated in this tradition.

As time went on, a Christmas phenomenon finally became popular, though many years in existence already, that took Christmas decorating to a whole new level.  A heavy metal rock band, formed from various other bands, produced some Christmas music, which ended up being performed in concerts annually, with audience members ranging in ages from 3 to 83 years old.  And with each year, the Tran Siberian Orchestra built sets with more music, more lights, more lasers, more visual effects.

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Soon it became a competition for neighbors to outdo each other with their Christmas light displays.

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This would be spectacular if my post only stopped here, but it does not.  Soon, the average Christmas light decorator would soon incorporate their own entertainment into their displays.  And combine that with music from TSO, produced efforts like this:

Soon, cities and towns all over would soon realize the gold mine that was right in front of them, taking public locations, and setting up their own Christmas light displays (which many now actually incorporate the other Winter holidays into them as well).  For a flat rate, you could drive a car full of family and friends, tune in your radio to a station playing holiday music, and just sit back and enjoy someone else’s efforts.

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It is going to be different for me this year.  Living down in the south for the first time, I do not have snow to accentuate any holiday lights, nor do I even possess any sizable home to decorate as lavishly as I once did.  But I still enjoy going to see the lights following Thanksgiving.
I recently came across a community near where I live, that probably 98% of the neighborhood participates.  And clearly, all denominations live in this area, but as a community, mostly all participate.  Each street is assigned a “theme” which the Winter symbol is placed along their mailbox (a light display of candy cane, snow flake, star, etc.), and you simply drive through this entire neighborhood (for free I might add).  It is truly a party atmosphere as many of the families and friends of the home, are seated around small campfires watching cars drive by admiring their decorative efforts.

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Holidays can be very difficult for some people, but getting to experience sights like these, help to make the season just a little bit brighter… yes the pun was intended.

Great Reminder From A Reader Of “Paul’s Heart”

As I have stated previously, I generally approve comments submitted to this blog if they are constructive and/or helpful.  I am really torn about a recent reply to my post, “True Loss” written yesterday.  I will “copy and paste” the majority of the text, because I believe the comment is important to understand.  However, given the nature of the second paragraph, the author of the reply  turned their tone to more of an insult towards me seemingly towards the situation of my divorce, clearly not what “Paul’s Heart” is meant to be.

Back to the part of the comment that I will address.  The author of the comment wrote:

“Hate to be a Debbie Downer.. But your posts are disturbing to say the least… Being a stage 4 Hodgkins survivor since 1989 I have been greatful to have so many more years of life… I do have many issues as a result of chemo.. radiation and a bone marrow transplant..I don’t use them as an excuse not to move forward.”

First, to anyone who has had to battle any form of serious illness, having been through many serious health issues myself, I truly understand the many emotions that we go through, not only from triumph of overcoming the illness, but dealing with the fears of recurrence, the flashbacks of the memories of things material and spiritual that we lost.  We can go through one or all of these issues.

I have been counseling cancer patients for as long as I have been a cancer survivor.  I have dealt with issues of treatments, side effects, caregiving, and survival.  The availability of the internet made it possible to reach thousands of more people in search of information, from people who have experienced situations similar to them.  Many of the internet support groups are run very well and monitored for content, others are more chaotic and unstructured.

There are two types of people who go to these internet support groups, but depending on their reason for joining, they will either find success in their quest, or they will express their objections or failures to find what they are looking for.  When it comes to most severe illnesses, patients will either simply move on with their lives, as if the disease has never taken place, or they will stay in that “world” either looking to help others or find ways to deal with their emotional and physical struggles.

For me, once I was done with my treatments, it was a no-brainer.  I had no problem telling people that I had beaten cancer, and I definitely wanted to help others.  But one of the first internet support groups that I came across, and was invited to participate, was for “long term survivors” of which being just recently in remission, I would hardly describe myself as “long term” already.  But several other participants urged me to join, that it would be important.

Look, people mainly only look for help when they need it.  And at that point, I was definitely not looking for any help. I was in remission, no struggles at that point, just looking for ways to help others.  Very soon, once I subscribed to that list, I was horrified by the stories I was seeing by other survivors, actual long term survivors, and the many struggles they were facing.  And on that, I unsubscribed.  It clearly was not what I was looking for.

I would soon sign back on again, because as it turned out, all of the things that they were talking about, would soon become a reality for me, and I would be facing many of those health issues.  And were it not for that internet list, I would never have had the information to give to the “uneducated” doctors as to the possible complicated patient they were dealing with.  And especially for those of us treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma decades ago, have a lot of late and severe side effects that have developed, many with fatal results.  The sad part is, that for millions, have no idea what is now happening with their bodies because medicine is only now beginning to learn the concept of long term cancer survival care.

So, I am now on many internet support boards, and I frequently see comments like the one that I pasted up above.  And in no shape or form am I going to disregard the comment.  Instead, I would like to do two things.  Number one, remind my readers what “Paul’s Heart” is about.  I write about my experiences as a patient, caregiver, and survivor of cancer.  I share stories of others, not just Hodgkin’s.  I also write about my life as a single father.  In either case, at no time am I ever looking for sympathy.  My words are meant mainly to offer hope to others who are in similar situations, and to let them know that might just be normal what they are going through, and more importantly, as I have proven time and time again, that many situations can be overcome with the right support.

Overall, I am a very positive person, who unfortunately has just had to deal with a lot of unfortunate circumstances.  I get through them for several reasons, my faith, my inner strength, my friends and family.

To the writer of the comment, I really do appreciate your comment.  I am always inspired when I hear of a fellow survivor with a longevity longer than mine.  Yes, even this far out, I am moved and need to hear that someone has survived longer than me.  And just as the hundreds of survivors I have personally met, there are no comparisons to what you have been through, or what I have been through, or what anyone else has been through, because each of our battle was unique, but clearly it took a strong person to get through it, which you clearly are.  But at no time do I ever make excuses for the things I must deal with in regard to my body.  Nor do I take away from conditions faced by others.  But clearly, my health was a major factor in the loss of my job (in spite of protections from the American With Disabilities Act), but also in the ability to get future employment because of the various health restrictions I am under.  These are not excuses, these are factors.

As for the rest of your reply, clearly it was not meant to be constructive, and I clearly have never met you, so you could not possibly know the exact circumstances as to my divorce as I have not discussed anything that should even have warranted that comment from you, and you are wrong.

I am glad you did write to me.  Because like I said, it served as a reminder as to the sensitivity and needs of all patients and survivors.

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