Happy Holidays

I sit here in my recliner after eating a scrumptious meal of steak (thanks Elaine and Jim), baked potato, and creamed spinach (thanks MaryBeth) and I feel contented.  This has been a year of ups and downs for our family.  In the realm of health challenges, I am happy to report that MY health has been great (<insert caveat about uncertainty surrounding my scans scheduled for 12/29).  Unfortunately, my 6-year old daughter needs to have yet another set of tubes put in her ears to help reduce the fluid in her ears.  We’re lucky that she is not having infections, but the water is so pervasive that she has 30-40 decibel hearing loss in both ears, necessitating her 3rd surgery to put in tubes.  It’s a low risk procedure and it has helped in the past, but it’s still stressful.

Other family challenges included my younger son’s difficulty with some of his school work.  He has poor fine motor skills, so we ended up meeting with his teachers and getting concessions that he could type his assignments (either on the classroom computer when appropriate or on a computer at home).  Of course, DOING the work is only half the problem; now if we could get him in the habit of turning it in, we’d be golden.  The last half of the year was also challenging for MaryBeth and me.  I’m pleased to say, though, that we have been really working on our challenges and I truly believe we are closer now as a result.

Work challenges exist as well, but those are more mundane and can be summed up with the single word: “contracts”

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, the Solstice, Divali, or some other holiday during this season, I hope that you and your family are happy and safe.

Warm Regards from my family to yours.

Cheers,

Merle

Returned Safely

For those of you not on Facebook, you will know that the family and I successfully returned from a trip to the great white Northeast. We traveled to NJ to attend my niece’s Bat Mitzvah and to get together for Hamburger Hanukkah. Well, our trip started out kinda rocky, as our flight was quite delayed. Suffice it to say, we expected to get to my Mom’s house around 10:30 or 11p and we ended up getting there around 1a.

We awoke, much to the amusement of my 6-year-old daughter, to a light dusting of snow. Little did we know that this was the beginning of a historic snowfall for December. By mid-morning, we received a call from my sister to let us know that the Bat Mitzvah was moved up from 5p to 1p. As the hours ticked by, the snow piled up; however, we braved the weather in our rental car and got to the synagogue on time. The Bat Mitzvah went wonderfully; my niece was great.

We returned to my sisters house for the celebration (noting that the snow was continuing to pile up).  After a wonderful celebration, however, we decided it was time to head home.  My mom started out ahead of us and had some trouble with her truck, but we both eventually made it to her driveway.  Mom’s driveway is about a mile long of narrow, windy road.   It had snowed about 14″ by the time we were driving along and while my Mom’s truck had sufficient clearance, our rental car did not.  After about 50 yards, the rental car began to act like a snowplow and the pile of snow in front of the car prevented any further forward momentum.  We were stuck.  (Oh and on Saturday evening, our Sunday afternoon flight had been canceled.)

The driveway didn’t get plowed until late Sunday afternoon and, needless to say, the Merle Hamburger’s missed the fun of Hamburger Hanukkah.  We also found out late Sunday afternoon that USAir could not get us confirmed onto another flight until Tuesday afternoon.  Thus, we were able to hang out with Mom for a while longer (which is amusing, as Mom is coming down to Atlanta the day after Christmas).  We were able to negotiate delayed flights and flight plan delays out of Atlanta and arrived home (after a quick stop for dinner) around 9:30p.  And then we collapsed.

I am glad we got to be there for my Niece’s Bat Mitzvah.  I am disappointed that we weren’t there for Hamburger Hanukkah, but we largely got to see everyone at the Bat Mitzvah celebration, so it wasn’t a total loss.  HOWEVER, this is yet another, in a long string of holiday travel nightmares, that reinforces my belief that my family and I should simply NOT travel in the month of December (and probably into January).

Thank you for checking in with me.  As I said, I will be updating this blog more frequently for a while.

Cheers,

Merle

And Now for my Weekly Update

A reader of mine suggested that even though I might not have anything to report, I should try to update the blog at least once a week so folks know I’m alive and well.  Who am I to deny “my fans” my online presence?  (Yeah — whatever)  Okay, well, here is my attempt at doing a weekly blog.

Important stuff: I’m doing fine.  My body still doesn’t like when I eat foods that are bad for you (high fat, high sugar).  Unfortunately, it is hard to avoid doing so around this time of year.  I simply rest assured that come the first of the year, I will get back to exercising.   All other things not withstanding, I know that when I exercise, I generally felt better about myself.  My health remains okay.  My next scan is 12/29, but I won’t get the results until 1/5.

This time of year, cancer not withstanding, is incredibly stressful.  This year, as opposed to other years, I actually tried to help MaryBeth with the shopping.  Essentially, I bought lots of stuff on Amazon.  :-)   What’s interesting, though, is the fact that people still don’t seem to get that Hanukkah is NOT the Jewish Christmas.  It is true that Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the oil burning for 8 days, but miracle wise it’s not anywhere near the supposed miracle of the birth of Jesus.  It’s just not as big a holiday and I largely resent when people try to equate the two.

In our house, we light candles and the kids get some gelt (both chocolate and actual currency).  I remember growing up and Granny giving me and my siblings aluminum wrapped dimes for each candle on the menorah.  This year, our kids made out, as the dime was upped to a quarter.  Every night, we say the blessing, light the candles, and share the gelt.  Beyond that, though, we don’t do much for Hanukkah (though, my younger son has a hankering for cooking some latkes). Of course, we also have the Christmas tree set up in our living room and the kids (particularly my daughter) is already bouncing off the wall in anticipation of Christmas.

I have to say that I am looking forward to getting together with my family to celebrate my nieces Bat Mitzvah and Hamburger Hanukkah.  What makes this gathering all the more memorable is that the last time this same group of people got together it was to mourn the passing of my father.  I am very much looking forward to seeing my family under much happier circumstances.

In the meantime, if anyone knows J.J. Abrams, please let him know that I, too, am a Star Trek devotee and would be happy to fill in as an extra in the Star Trek sequel on which he’s working.

Thank you all for keeping track.  It means a lot that people still check up on me and care.

Merle

Monthly check-in

I realized the other day that, given my current motivation to blog and the extent to which life has “happened”, the best I can hope with regards to updating the blog is to do a monthly report (though, if my health situation changes, I will likely get more motivation to blog more frequently).

Just to get it out of the way, I am feeling fine.  I have gained more weight than I would prefer, but as I have said previously, losing weight could be an indication of the returning cancer.  I have rescheduled my scans for the end of December (more to get those costs in the 2009 tax year (the family and I met our catastrophic maximum in May, so the vast majority of our medical expenses have been covered 100%).  I won’t get the results of the scans until January, but I’ll get the big ticket item out of the way in December.

Thanksgiving this year was good.  I did not go up to NY to participate in the Macy Day Parade. I would have loved to do so, but our travel plans just wouldn’t allow it.  Instead, the family and I stayed home and enjoyed a relaxing weekend together.

Recently, I attended the monthly Pancreatic Cancer support group meeting.  I am not sure I need to go regularly in the future, but it was good to go and get some validation of the feelings that I continue to have about my condition.  While I do not have any symptoms right now, whenever anyone asks how I am doing, I tend to hedge my bets and claim that while I am feeling fine now, who knows how I will be feeling tomorrow.  A large reason I am no longer shooting weddings is that I do not feel comfortable agreeing months in advance to photograph a wedding when I do not know how I will be feeling.

As we begin the holiday season (tonight is the first night of Hanukkah), I reflect on how luck I am to have a loving wife, 3 healthy kids (even if one is having some challenges with this whole school work issue), and a roof over my head.  I recognize that there are others less fortunate than I (pancreas cancer not with standing).  I never thought I would be here.  I never thought I would live past the 1 year anniversary of my surgery and yet, here I am.

As we move into this holiday season, I hope everyone, regardless of your specific life stressors, can take the opportunity and appreciate the reality of the blessings that you have.  Whether it be health, family, a job, or some other blessing; regardless of your religious affiliation, I hope that you are able to stop and find some moment of enjoyment in your life during this busy time.  A very dear friend of mine found out this year that she had throat cancer.  She kvetched about how challenging her life was with all that was going on and I tried to help her see that what seems to be a stressor (visiting family over the holidays) can just as easily be seen as an opportunity to enjoy life, the universe, and everything.

I do not know what the scans later this month will bring.   I do know that I feel fine right now, and as such, right now I’m happy and enjoying my life and my family.  I hope you can say the same.

Thank you for sticking with me, even as I do not update this blog with nearly enough frequency.

Be well!

Love,

Merle