Monday, December 29, 2008

My New Year's Wish...Good Health

Well, it's been a very long and trying year in a lot of ways for me. Since late April I've been seeing so many doctors, I'm up to eleven specialists and four hospitals so far. All anyone can say is that I'm in perfect health!

It all started with a sudden case of blurred vision, so off I went to the regular opthomoligst in April. He had me go for a cat scan, then an MRI of my skull, fearing a brain tumor. After a few days of nervous waiting, everything came back fine. Then my vision in my left eye went out completely, so more tests, blood work, another MRI, and started on a regiment of steroids, which brought my vision back to a blurry state in that eye. Then on to another hospital that has a nuclear medicine wing, thinking I had a form of cancer, but after testing with the radiation dye, nothing showed up anywhere. Ok, so now referred to a teaching hospital here in N.C. about an hour away, where I have been going every week for the past couple of months. More blood work, more tests, more MRIs, but nothing wrong. Except of course, I have lost a lot of my vision in that eye. So referrals from one specialist to another, arguments about whether I have a condition known as "graves disease", and that all showed up clear.

Now referred to yet another one, a neurosurgeon, who decided to do a biopsy to see why the muscles are enlarged behind my left eye. So I went for surgery the week of Thanksgiving, and what a job. Three and a half hours later I'm back in my room, swollen so much, and starting to hurt after a while, came home the next day and had to lay around looking like I had been on the wrong end of a fight, face all bruised. They cut inside my mouth for this, then went through there with a scope through the sinus cavities (of which I now know there are six) to get behind the eye and take biopsy samples. After a week I went back only to find the same thing, nothing showed as being wrong. More blood work, more tests, and I'm still perfectly healthy. The next step is they want me to see the chief of neurosurgery and have him go through my skull for yet another biopsy. I don't think so.

Holidays are here, so I'm at work last week feeling fine, and on the way home I had to sneeze. Out came a rush of blood, like pouring water out of a glass. I'm already in my pickup driving home, so I just went very fast to the emergency room. As soon as I drove to the door, jumped out and went inside, they were in action. Actually, I was scared, this was a lot of blood coming out of me. So they got me in a room there in the emergency ward, the doctor came in, and as they were getting my clothes off he told me "this is going to hurt, I'm sorry." Well, he was as good as his word, because hurt it did! I heard one of the nurses say that my blood pressure was 67 over 20, they started IVs and kept working, while the advocate got my records and called my sister as my contact. By now I was feeling very dizzy, and later they said I was going into hemorrhagic shock. But they got the bleeding stopped, and I was able to come home that night with a long packing and tube sticking out of my nose. It seems one of the vessels in my upper sinus had burst. All in all I was very impressed with the emergency staff, except for the one who was asking questions like, did I have a living will, and am I an organ doner. Don't ask me that when I'm laying there bleeding and scared to death already! Now I've gone to an ENT this week to remove the packing, another painful experience, he had to do injections with what was one of the largest needles I've ever seen deep inside my nasal cavities. But everything is ok now it seems, or at least I hope.

My sister got there, she had called my nephew to move my truck, it seems there was so much blood inside the security guard wouldn't touch it. Anyway, they got me home, got my truck home, and after 4 days, I finally got all the blood cleaned out. A tip here....peroxide will take out blood from the fabric.... then steam cleaned the interior, and now it looks good as new.

So that's the way most of this past year has gone. Eleven doctors, four hospitals, and about forty thousand dollars in medical bills later, I'm still at square one. Something must be wrong, but nobody knows what it can be. So I've decided to leave it in the hands of the 12th specialist, the Good Lord Himself.

Looking forward to a new year, hoping it brings good health to me, and to everyone around me.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Those Rodeo Days

Thinking back on years past, remembering things we all have done, or wished we would have done, brings back memories. Today I was looking through some old pictures and came across a few from my younger days when I did about a year and a half in professional rodeo.

At that time I had a couple of horses, loved to trail ride, and since a good friend of mine did some rodeo work as a bullfighter, I started going to those. It wasn't long before I caught the bug, had to try it out. I started out with bareback bronc riding, then added the saddle bronc to my entries. Of course along the way I tried some calf roping and bulldogging, which was fun, but I really couldn't get the hang of it, at least not enough to compete. The saddle bronc became my best event after a while. I suppose I spent a lot more on entry fees than I ever won back, but the experiences and the memories are priceless, so I think I came out well ahead anyway. The very first event I entered was a large rodeo, and I remember wondering why I was doing this. When it came time for the chute to open, I nodded my head and closed my eyes, and though I must be tied to some kind of rocket. Well, didn't make the buzzer that time, nor a lot of other times after. You have to make an 8 second ride, can't touch the animal with your free hand, and believe me, 8 seconds sure seems to take a long time. It's funny after a while, when you get used to it how everything seems to slow down, how you can almost get into a rhythm with the animal, and there are times when it almost seems to look easy. There have been a few cracked ribs, dislocated shoulder, and too many bruises to count, but I wouldn't have changed it for the world.

I suppose there are things that each of us want to do, and I consider myself very lucky to have at least tried most of the things I thought about. At least at this time in my life, I can look back and cherish the memories, relive those experiences, and be glad that I took the chance. How about you? Do you have some fond memories that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear about them.....

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fun 4 Wheelin'

After having dinner with my family today, I was walking outside their house trying to burn off a couple of those calories I inhaled at lunch. My nephew came out and asked if I wanted to go ride the four wheelers, so I said, oh, I've never ridden one. Well, that was enough to get him to lead me in the garage, and since it did look like fun, I said ok, let's give it a try.

They live on a farm with about 40 or so acres of woods behind them, and he has some trails, so after showing me how to actually operate the thing, I started to follow him. It took about 3 seconds before I realized I was hooked. "I gotta get me one of these"! was my thought from there on out.

We went through trails, through woods where I certainly didn't see any trails, across some creeks, through mud and water and over fallen trees...I can't remember when I have had so much fun.

When we got back to the house, he was telling me about going riding with a group in the mountains not too far from here, they even go into West Virginia where he said I would have to practice and be skilled to try those mountains. Then asking if I wanted to go with them next time, just load the second ATV on my truck and join in. Did he really have to ask? I think I'm going to have to find one of these because there's about 200 acres behind my house just begging me to explore now (since I've found a way to do it without walking).

Anyway, it goes to show you're never too old to try something new and exciting. I'm glad I had the opportunity, and I can't wait to do it again.

All That Food !!!

One thing Christmas day has brought to me is a too-full stomach! Waking up this morning, it was phone calls letting me know where to be and when, so around lunch time off I went to my nephew's house. Much of the family was getting together there for an early Christmas dinner, so many people I didn't even know, but the atmosphere was great, holiday spirit, and walking in the smells were out of this world.

After the usual talking and catching up on things it was time to eat. I did not know that my plate would hold this much food all at one time. There was turkey, ham, sweet potatoes with marsh mellows, green beans, deviled eggs, potato salad, and more desert dishes than I could count. I didn't really want to move from the table after I finished all that, not that I wanted more, but that I was afraid to try and move. Oh, but it was good, then of course they packed Tanner a big bag of goodies to bring home, after all he has to have Christmas dinner also!

Then when I actually could move, my sister told me that we were going to my other sister's house for a Christmas dinner once more. What?!? How can I possibly put any more into my stomach? But it was great, there was time in between for some activities, so I was settled down by then. Now, you have to understand, my other sister had a stroke earlier this year, so I've been spending more time there. But of course she's not able to really get around and cook yet, so my brother in law, who will be the first to tell you he's not a cook, made the dinner. As I understand it, she was able to sit at the table and supervise, telling him what goes where, and it really turned out very nice. Once again, ham, green beans, sweet potato casserole, and they had homemade slaw and barbecue, which I love. Almost couldn't hold any fresh pecan pie. There was a corn pudding that I've never had before, but it was delicious.

So then it was back home, and all I wanted to do was lay down. All in all it's been a very good day, not just because I had some great food, but being able to spend time like that with family all together is special. It made my Christmas "merry".

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Well, that's me. The Ninong. I didn't know what it meant at first, to be chosen for this, but I kind of like it, knowing I have been entrusted with some responsibility in someones life like this.

At first it was a baptismal and of course I had no idea what to expect or what to do, so I just tried to go with the flow of things, hoping not to make too many mistakes. Ok, not too bad, just do what everybody else does and try to look cool, like I've done this a thousand times. I guess I did it ok, at least the church part. But wait, we're all leaving the church together to go to the beach for the reception. No one said anything about going to the beach, that's why I'm dressed in white pants.

Well, it's a really nice place at the beach, some sort of resort or something, but the only bad thing is that I can't sit down. I have on these really white pants, and if I sit here at the beach it will look like I couldn't wait for the CR or something. So I'll squat. Not bad until you realize I'm not as young as springtime any more, the food isn't here yet, so by the time I get up my legs don't want to straighten out like I want them to. Anyway, the food comes, wow, there's a lot of it. Filipinos love to eat, that's good, something we have in common. And the food is really good too.

Ninong again, but this time it's a wedding. Well, I learn quickly, this time it's black pants, and I was able to borrow a Barong from my brother in law, so I'm really looking the part. Grab the gift, get a taxi, and off to the church. When we arrived I was pleased because I was looking good in my barong, but then this older lady who was in charge started telling us where to go, and I was in front. Trying to tell her I had no earthly idea of what I was supposed to do didn't seem to matter, I was still stuck in front. The other sponser arrived, he was coming in from Japan, and had as much idea of what was going on as I did. We kept looking at each other as if that would help us figure it out. But the lady in charge came through, and we walked down the aisle to our seats and eventually got through the rest of the wedding, pictures, etc. Then to the reception, they showed us our table, which was also up front next to the bride and groom, and here came the food. Now, I'm in my element, this is great, and there's a lot of it! All in all, it went very well, and I was proud to be a part of it.

Another couple of words I've had to get used to are "manong" and "dong". At first I was there in the village, meeting people, talking to everyone, but I keep hearing Katherine talk about manong , who lives on one side, manong on the other, manong up the street, and finally I couldn't take it any more, so I asked "why is it that everybody has the same first name"? So she explained about the term "manong", and then after several trisikad rides I wondered why they were all called "dong", when I know I had already heard them called by other names. Normal names like Ray, Michael and such. So again she explained. It's a lot of fun learning, and I'm very glad that I have a patient teacher.

Life Is But A Dream...

I've written a couple of things here about travel, not very extensive, just hitting on some topics so far. I guess that's the way it is in the beginning. So once again, I'll hit on this topic of the Philippines with a few of my personal views, your mileage may vary...

After seeing a lot of the world over the years, it comes to mind that there are places where I have felt comfortable, so always when returning here I find myself daydreaming about things. I guess some people naturally have a wandering spirit, for me, I love the travel. But over the last two or three years, I have found myself returning to this country that I've come to admire for a lot of reasons.

Well of course, the main reason of so many trips has been the wonderful person I chose to spend my life with. I feel very Blessed every day for that. Then the people there, all I can say is that I have never experienced such warmth and welcome feelings anywhere else in my life. From my extended family in Davao to the many friends I have been lucky to meet, I have always been made to feel a part of everything. So, last year we bought lots in Davao and plan to build a house there. I can't wait!

When I say "life is but a dream", I guess this would be mine. As we go through our lives, we all have dreams. Some big, some small, but all equally important to each of us. Without dreams, where would we be? It requires taking chances, and not being afraid of failure. Throughout my own life, I've had many dreams, some became reality, some not, but all were a learning experience. At this point in my life I have finally reached an age of knowing what I'd like to have from here on out. I want to wake up next to my wonderful asawa, listen to the rooster crowing, and have the first cup of coffee (with pandesal) :-) to start my day. I want to enjoy having the neighbors come around to talk, to visit the market to get fish, fruit, and I have discovered my very own "BBQ chicken lady" as I call her, it makes my mouth water just thinking about that.

I love to walk around the Matina Crossing area there in Davao. I'm still trying to figure out which jeepney to get on for the mall, if I'm alone there's no telling where I might wind up! But then I guess I could always just ride and see more of the countryside. If you're read anything else I've written, you know that I love golf. I discovered the "Davao City Golf Club" and the "Apo Golf Club", which I can hardly wait to try out. I even took Katherine a set of golf clubs last time I went there, so at least I'll have a playing partner. I hope! I love going down to the sea also, it's a very peaceful place for me, swimming in the ocean is great exercise, although I'll never be quite the swimmer that my brother in law is. I think he must be part fish. I'm looking forward to learning some underwater stuff from him.

All these little things might not sound like much when you read them separately, but when they're all put together, they make up my own dream. Each of us has one, or several, that we think about from time to time. Goals that we set, different things in life that we want to achieve. If you simply start with a dream, no matter how big or how small it may seem, then you have something to work towards, as I do now. So don't ever stop dreaming, it's truly the beginning of everything we work for.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Golf .... It's a game I love to hate !!

That's right, it's where you hit a little ball with a stick, then chase after it so you can hit it again, chase it some more, and finally feel like you've accomplished something wonderful when it goes into the little hole...oh yeah, I love this game.

Some years ago a friend of mine was an avid golfer, and I just couldn't make myself understand why. Then one day he talked me into trying it out. Took me to a driving range, we bought a couple buckets of balls, and off we went to the line. This was so simple, after all, the ball just lays there while you hit it, there's nothing to it...not!

I could not believe how foolish this simple thing was making me feel, not to mention how I must look to others there on the line, not being able to do such a simple task. Then after a while I actually started to make contact, and by the time we left I was feeling pretty good about myself as a golfer. So, the next day, back we went. Things only seemed to get better and better. The third day when he came by and asked if I would like to go play some golf, I was ready, but when we drove past the range I was a little confused, until we turned in at the regular course, 18 holes of beautiful landscape, with people all over it playing this game of champions. Then when he said the best place to learn was on the course, the confusion I felt turned to icy cold fear. Oh, never mind all the people, they aren't watching us. Ha! Even the birds and squirrels stopped and stared when I got to the first tee. How glad I was that I had on long pants so no one could see my knees shaking.

Ok...rare back and let the big dog eat...right into the woods. Try again, into the lake. After hitting several balls, a tractor, three or four trees and the clubhouse a time or two, we were finally off the first tee, going down the fairway. Wow, I'm now a golfer. But you know what, by the end of 18 holes I found a love for that game that only grew after that. I started practicing every day, going to the range, reading all the tips I could find, and finally I broke the magical 100 on my scorecard. Weeks of more practice, breaking 90, then I couldn't believe it, I was shooting in the 70's. Now this is where you learn to love what you hate. By this time you're able to make the ball fade, hook, draw, hit it high, hit it low, just like the big boys on TV. And it's also where you can make the biggest mistakes, when you hit the worst shot possible, and the words that suddenly come out of your mouth makes your partners want to call a priest and give you an exorcism right there on the spot. You look around and want to know "who said that"? But then you hit such a beautiful shot, it feels like butter coming off your iron, You wish Tiger Woods was standing there to see that, and you know inside that you can't wait to get back so you can do it all over again.

Yeah, this is a game I love, and a game I hate, and the better I get at it, the more I realize it's the only game you can never master. You can only go out there and do your best, and for all those bad shots you might hit, there's always those one or two that make you feel like you're really doing it right.

So after the cold weather fades, and the days become longer, I know where I'll be; right out there on the course with those like-minded people, playing the game I love to hate.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Culture Shock

Ok, so you're thinking about doing some travelling, maybe to a far off place you've only read about so far. If you're new at this, it can be quite exciting, so many new experiences to encounter, but you have to be ready for that "culture shock", depending on where you go.

I have done a bit of travel to places such as Mexico, Philippines, around Europe in years past, and at first it was overwhelming to arrive in a new place, not know the language, the local customs, and try to act in a manner that wouldn't be too out of place. Luckily for me, Uncle Sam introduced me to culture shock in the early 70's, so my past few travels haven't been too much of a change for me.

Some of the biggest obstacles have been adjusting to the weather, (it's hot in the Philippines for example) trying to get through tasks with limited speech skills of a certain place, and being brave enough to try the local food when it's totally not what you're used to. But if you have somewhat of an adventurous spirit, you'll do fine. I love to try anything new, and the foods are one of the things I especially like. So far I haven't been disappointed.

Modes of travel are different also. In the Philippines for example, I've had to try and get used to jeepneys, trisikads, and tricycles as my main transportation. I love it! There's no better way to get close to the people and learn than to jump right in with both feet.

And I have learned about local foods, there are certain things I absolutely love and can't wait to get back to. Yes, there are a few things I've tried and am not crazy to hurry and ask for more :-) but all in all, it's a great experience.

If you do plan to travel to a place such as this, just be ready to enjoy all the different things you will see and do, and be prepared for the "shock" of being somewhere totally out of your element. Don't hesitate to comment or ask questions if there's something you would like to know...

Banjo...It's a Happy Instrument

Well, it started when I was just a sprout, when my sisters taught me a little on the guitar. They would show me a chord or two, then I would practice until I could do it. This went on through my youth until after my return from overseas in the military, I did a stint in a top 40's show band up and down the East Coast. After a couple of years of that I opted for a real job, and just did some playing now and then.

A few years later I was at a festival, still doing my top 40 and rock stuff, and there was a guy playing a banjo. I stopped and watched, listened, and wow...I just had to learn how to do that too. So through some contacts I found someone who used to play on the Grand Ol' Opry, was fantastic on several instruments, lived nearby, and talked him into giving me banjo lessons. This went on for about a year and a half, until I was starting to really put things together on my own, new licks, finding my own style.

There are several types of pickin', from old time clawhammer to what I do, the three finger "Scruggs" style. I love to play the bluegrass, gospel bluegrass tunes, and just pick out different artists styles to play. I've never had a more relaxing time then when I'm just sitting and playing on the couch for Tanner. And the best part is, he don't even run away!

Sometimes people don't understand that I play bluegrass banjo, yet love to sit and listen to Queen, Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi....I guess it seems to much of an oxymoron. The bad thing about getting hooked on the banjo though, is you seem to come down with "B.A.S", or "banjo aquisition syndrome"....always looking for that better or different sound. This can start to really add up.

So if there's anybody out there who likes this, or any type of instrument, give a shout, leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you. Enjoy the music, whatever it is.....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Philippines...Home Away From Home

So where is your home? I get asked that a few times every now and then, and the old cliche' comes about "home is where you hang your hat". Well, that's just possibly the right answer most of the time.

The Philippines, or "PI" as some call it, is the place I have decided to call home. After several visits there, going from place to place, my home will someday permanently be in Davao. Davao is located in the southern region of the islands, and quite honestly, it has everything I could want.

To me it's like stepping back in time. I imagine back when I was young and coming up, the way the neighbors would visit, the doors would be open, you didn't have to worry about where the kids were every second, because you knew someone would be watching over them. Of course now there's no time for all that, it's work, hurry, drive to the store, hurry, oh let's watch some TV, hurry...get the picture?

When I'm in Davao, I'm more at ease than any time past that I can remember. I love going to the markets to shop, or simply walking downtown. I love waking in the morning to the sound of the rooster, and hearing people already up and about their daily tasks. I like that while I'm having coffee the neighbors are coming around, everybody chatting and visiting, the kids running around the village. And I absolutely love walking through the village in the evening when it's so peaceful, everybody speaking to you, being friendly. It's like they actually take....time to enjoy life.

Is it paradise? No, not for many, just for me. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to be missed when I'm there, and there are certainly things I'm not happy about there, but at least to me, the good far outweighs the bad. I'll have many posts about this wonderful place that has become my paradise in the coming days, so stay tuned........

Friday, December 5, 2008

Creating Tanner's World

In trying to come up with a proper name, I had to realize how diverse the site might be. There are many interests, ranging from music, to travel, food, and simple every day happenenings.
Since the most exposed to these things is Tanner, my Golden Retriever, I'll just call it by his name. After all, this is his world, he just lets me live in it.

There are times I choose to be lazy, to sit on the couch and watch TV, and he's there, when I pick up the guitar or banjo to play a while, he listens, when I'm on here chatting or on the phone with the love of my life, he has to be a part of that too. When we're out and about, I don't know who really walks who.

For these years I spent alone and single, he's been my companion, and most of the time I really don't think he realizes he's a dog, he just knows he's my best friend. So what better name to choose than to pay homage to someone who has been by my side, listened while I learn a new lick on the banjo and never complain ( at least out loud) and is always ready to go on a new adventure with me.

Speaking of adventures, I'll be posting about travel to the Philippines, which I already call as home, the things I see when I'm there, the new things I learn each day about the culture and the people. So many things which are new and exciting to me, some of which take a while to understand, but all of which I love.

It is my hope and desire to have much information to come which may be helpful or useful to others, or simply entertaining to read.
Check back often....