Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

Not Kids Anymore

Happy Halloween everyone.  It seems like all my friends are recognizing today not as the sweet and tasty, fun holiday that we once grew up with, but instead, remembering how this day changed for us many years ago.  And just like my friends, my daughters are now “too old” to dress up and go knocking door to door, offering tricks if treats are not bestowed.

But it is not just Halloween that has changed for us.  My daughters are in the later stage of their childhood, which means it is now time to talk about other things besides Dora The Explorer or going to the beach.  My daughters know the trove of memories I have to always cherish their childhood.

No, today, our conversations are geared more toward the adulthood, rapidly approaching.  From their interests, continuing education, where to live, the questions are coming out, “Dad, how did you decide…?”

The cool thing is that both kind of have an idea of what they want to do.  Like all children, their minds have changed frequently.  But now they select courses in school, which pertain to their interests.  They realize that a part of deciding what they want to do, is where, and will it be something they can do for the rest of their lives.

Two years ago, my oldest actually hit me with this question out of the blue, “Dad, is $55,000 a good salary?”  And just recently, my youngest asked a similar question, “Dad, how do you decide where to live and how much money is enough to make?”

Yep, I am done reading bed time stories, singing lullabies.  It is time to get serious because the things they learn now will impact them the rest of their lives.  More than half-way through my life, I have a pretty good grasp on what should be really important in life, and how to have the best opportunity to be happy.  A lot of mistakes were made along the way, but I feel I have the right words for my daughters.

“Whatever you do, do not plan your future on how much money you will make.  Money is not everything.  And it is true, money does not buy happiness.  Being irresponsible with money decisions can actually be devastating if you are not responsible with your decisions.  Learn that there is a difference between “need” and “want.”  Take care of the things you need first.  But before you can earn any income, you need to find the career that you will not only be happy with, but passionate about.  Because that is where you will truly enjoy your life, doing what you enjoy doing.  If you go to work everyday, doing something you had not intended on doing in your life, it is going to be a chore.  But find something to do, that you are not only good at, but enjoy, and every day you will be happy to go to work.  In fact, it seems almost hard to call it work when you enjoy it so much.”

My younger daughters showed me a tool that is available to kids today, through the federal government, that actually shows career prospects for the future, and geographically where specific jobs will be the most in demand.  Of course, back in the 1980’s, I never had this resource.  I explained to both of my daughters, use this tool to decide where you will eventually choose to live, based on what you will want to do with your life.  And then, depending on where you choose to live, the cost of living will determine their necessary salary.

But I stressed to both, it is important to not be “married” to their job.  Simply put, live within your means.  Do not put yourself in a position, where your employer knows you have no choices available.  It is this pressure, such as buying a house that you cannot afford, spending frivolously that can turn a job you enjoy doing, into a ball and chain, making you dread each walking day.

From there, the conversation continues about money and how to handle it.  It is important that they do not make the mistakes that I made.  As they are both quick to point out, “the whole reason of studying history is not to repeat it.  So they are learning that while credit is a necessary evil, I am trying to get it across to them, to only use credit what they have cash to pay off right away.  That credit is not to be used, with the exception of a car or house, to purchase things just because you want them and do not have the cash to pay for them.  This mentality leads to disaster, and often, repeated.

I can tell that they understand.  I wanted to have our financial issues straightened out before they grew older, but this was a constant struggle.  My hopes are that they learn from my examples and remember the things that I have told them, so that they can do better with their financial future.

Boy I sure do miss those chilly Trick-or-treat nights.  They sure were much more fun than all this serious talk.

Happy Halloween everyone.

Labor Day – Unions… A Matter Of Life And Death

Ah yes, Labor Day.  The unofficial end of Summer.  The return to school.  A long weekend of parties and picnics.  And this year, unfortunately, a nightmare for the eastern coast of the United States and the Bahamas dealing with a major hurricane, Dorian.

Many believe that Labor Day is about just taking the day off, because you are a worker.  Officially, Labor Day is a Federal holiday, which we ALL enjoy, dedicated to the labor movement and organized labor, also known as “unions.”  That is right.  If you are anti-union, you can stop reading right now, and get to work.  Well, after you read this post, because my post today is more than just about a labor movement.  It meant the difference to me with life and death.

In November of 1988, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I was working at the time for an appliance parts distributor.  I thought I was lucky because I had health insurance.  The truth is, the insurance was not good enough.  But again, I was lucky, because I had an employer who cared.  I was not just a number, or an expense.  In today’s work culture, employees are nothing more than something to affect the bottom line.  My employer recognized that I needed better health insurance, and took the initiative and got it, because of me.  His decision however, actually benefited everyone in the company.  Everyone ended up with the better health insurance.

As time would go on, I would change jobs, and no longer in cancer treatment, I was no longer able to get any employer to give me health insurance because I was considered too much of a health risk, a liability.  That is, until March of 1997, when I was hired by a major pharmaceutical company.  As a new employee, following my probationary period, I would officially become a union member, the third generation involved in a union.  And with the benefit of being in a union, I automatically qualified for health insurance, something everyone else had denied me, because they could (at the time before the Affordable Care Act came to be).  A union health insurance plan is a “group” plan, which means that everyone gets covered.  Risks are combined with healthy individuals, and insurance companies hopefully were able to minimize their losses because of the large memberships.

So how did my union save my life?  I was roughly nine years out as a survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but my health was good.  I had gotten by without health insurance.  And for ten years after I joined my union, I remained pretty healthy.

But in 2008, I got the shock of my life, when it was discovered that the treatments I went through for my cancer, had been causing late effects that had finally developed to a point to require attention, in a big way.  I was diagnosed with a “widow maker” heart blockage caused by radiation therapy I had received eighteen years earlier.  Were in not for the great health coverage I now had, and the number of tests that needed to be done on a “healthy 42 year-old”, I would have died.  Over the years since, I have had to deal with several more medical emergencies that have come up, all from my cancer past.  But without having the health insurance provided by my company and union, I would not be typing this post.

I get why people want to demonize unions.  But I strongly support unions and what they do for workers.  Think about it.  Back in the 1950’s people did not have to work three jobs to make ends meet.  Today workers struggle doing similar work to the 1950’s for salaries that in no way kept up with the rate of inflation.  And in spite of CEO’s making millions, they still force employees to work for minimum wage, or less.  Because of unions, group insurance coverage was pretty much guaranteed without being discriminated against.  And just as important, an employee had backing to prevent being reprimanded for anything other than work performance, such as chronic health issues.  Of course, unions were the ones who fought to improve working conditions, overtime rates and so much more.

And without my membership in the Steelworker’s union, I definitely would not be here, right now, paying respect to the holiday that acknowledges the labor movement.

Happy Labor Day.

“Paul’s Heart” – 50,000 Views Strong!!!

Typically, people dread Mondays.  While I do not dread them, Mondays are not my favorite day of the week.  HOWEVER, today is a great Monday!  As the counter states, “Paul’s Heart” has had over 50,000 views officially this past weekend.  Among some of the other stats that I have completely not remembered, I have published 764 posts (765 including this one).  There are 252 more posts in draft form, and hundreds that are just prompts.  And then there are more than a dozen published stories and articles that I have share on this site.  So many readers have either commented or written me with questions, situations, seeking advice, or simply just to say, “yeah, I totally get that.”

Just some of the topics that I cover regularly:

  • cancer and survivorship
  • adoption
  • parenting
  • healthcare
  • discrimination
  • parental alienation
  • education
  • bullying

I am driven by the expression, “those who cannot do, teach.”  Because I am a cancer survivor, I cannot donate blood or organs.  Because of cancer treatments, I discovered the world of adoption.  I have taken on discrimination and won.  I do not tolerate bullying at all.

But my one goal with “Paul’s Heart” has not been met yet.  Actually writing a book.  I have begun the process many times, each with a different concept or approach.  The only conclusion that I can reach as to why, is that I have not experienced yet, that one key moment that will either be the beginning, the focus, or the conclusion of such an endeavor.

In the meantime, I will keep writing about things I cannot do, but can help.  I will continue to be a voice for those that do not have the ability or confidence.  I will research and find answers, point in directions where to find answers.

I will also keep looking for, and printing guest stories from you, the readers.

From the bottom of my most grateful heart, thank you to all of you who have read, shared, and appreciated “Paul’s Heart” over the years.


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