Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

It All Seems So Long Ago

Reality is beginning to set in for me.  My daughters are growing up.  I knew it would happen.  I saw it happen to all the kids of my friends.  Nobody seems to have been able to stop time so that we can hold on to these childhoods, just a little bit longer.

I do miss the days of Backyardigans and Little Einsteins, messy table settings, and telling bedtime stories and singing lullabies to my daughters.

A promise I made to myself, and I would think every parent would want the same, was to make sure that my children were not only prepared for their future, but would also be given as best an opportunity to get there.  We should always want better for our children.  I know that I do.

In recent years, homework assignments have become much more serious, and detailed.  Social and recreational activities soon needed to be scheduled.  And of course, shopping for clothing is no longer done at the Children’s Place or Justice.

The reality of growing up occurred recently as I took my daughters clothing shopping, partly to see if they could spend their Christmas gift cards, the other, with a specific task of choosing a dress for a school dance.  I, as well as my opinion, have been replaced by sibling support.  I get to participate only as a witness, only as a courtesy.  Together, the two sisters decided which looks best on who.  I am just driving them from store to store.

With both daughters in the final quarter of their secondary education, they are encouraged to begin to consider the direction in life that they want to take.  My daughters are sisters, both are intelligent, and other than those facts, any comparison of the two is completely unfair to both.  The ideas that both are considering for their futures could not be any more different from achieving higher education to job selection.  How both get to their goals ultimately will be up to each of themselves.  It is my job as their father, to make sure that they have the opportunities, and to help figure out how to get there.  And I want only for them to have that success.  And other than my health issues, it is the futures of my daughters that consume my time.

As both continue to progress, and earn their own individual accolades and achievements, I offer nothing less than praise and congratulations.  Like any proud parent, admittedly I probably go overboard with the amount of “I am proud of you” I give to each of my daughters.  Again, they are each their own person, their own personality, their own style, and their own future.  But they are sisters.  Most importantly, their achievements, have been because of their own hard work.

I should not be shocked by where I am at right now in parenthood.  It is what drives me every day.  My doctors have told me, together they will make sure that in spite of my health issues, I will get to see my daughters grow old.  And in order to get there, that means accepting they are getting older as well.

I miss those younger years.  But man… the memories I am making today are so worth it.

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.

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