Thursday, March 27, 2014

We're All Aware Of It; We Need To Cure It

On a late summer afternoon seven years ago, I was sitting on the edge of the big back deck at the Compound when my cell phone rang. It was my sister calling.  My oldest sister, who is four years my junior. She told me she had breast cancer.  Good thing I was sitting down.  I got light-headed. She went through the extremely difficult treatments and is now cancer free.


My life has intersected with quite a few breast cancer victims, and the only unusual thing about that is that it’s not unusual at all. I don’t think there’s a person alive who hasn’t had a family member, colleague, or friend who’s had the dreaded diagnosis.


Two former co-workers are survivors. Robin, who went through the ordeal a couple years ago, fought it courageously; beat it; had another scare; had more treatment; beat it again; and is back at work running the only remaining commercial radio news operation in Madison.  Sheree, a colleague from my radio days in the Fox Valley, beat it, and showed phenomenal courage during her long ordeal of chemo, posting pictures on Facebook of every step of her long treatment road – including a set of pictures she called “bald Sheree” after she lost her beautiful hair to the chemo.


Right now, my former colleague and friend Dan’s wife Jennie is going through another battle with invasive breast cancer which also involves her lymph nodes. She had a long procedure this morning and is recovering in a Quad Cities hospital this afternoon.


Breast cancer does not need any more awareness.  Every sentient human being on the planet is aware of it.  Breast cancer needs a cure.


That’s why I was so – I don’t know; angry? Upset? Disturbed? I’m not sure what I was late this morning when I clicked “like” on a friend’s Facebook post, which said he’d just won seven grand on a scratch-off lottery ticket. I was happy for him! He’s a GREAT guy, and I celebrated his good fortune.  Moments later, I got a message from him, saying his post was part of a “breast cancer awareness” meme (yes, still another) that’s going around the internet.


It also explained why my sister-in-law posted yesterday that she’d gotten out of a traffic ticket by showing her boobs.


These responses are two of the twelve “suggested posts” for anyone who likes or comments on their outrageous post. I was expected to pick one of the twelve suggested posts (all of them are inane) and post it as a status update, this, theoretically, to “increase breast cancer awareness”.


Well, that got my Irish up.  I immediately went to the UW’s Carbone Cancer Center website and made a donation on behalf of my wife and myself.  You can donate at this link.


Here’s evidence (above) that I actually made the donation.  It’s easy. It’s a few clicks, fill in a few blanks, give a credit or debit card number, and you’re done.


I selected the Carbone Cancer Center because it’s local, I know the money goes to work to find a cure, and doesn’t get siphoned off to pay outrageous executive salaries.



And, I have another reason for donating to the Carbone Cancer Center.  My wife works in Marketing and Public Affairs at UW-Health, and helps set up the events that Andy North, our local 2-time U.S. Open Golf Championship winner, puts on twice every year: in the cold-weather months it’s the huge trivia contest, and in the warm-weather months it’s his great charity golf tournament at the Dells.


This past summer, Andy brought a couple other golfers to the event….a guy named Rogers, who’s some sort of football player, and a guy named Yount, who was some sort of baseball player. 
Here's a picture of my wife with that Yount fellow at last summer's Andy North and Friends charity event.
Andy and Aaron and Robin raised $910,000 for the Carbone Cancer Center at that event.


Unlike the many scams masquerading under the guise of “breast cancer awareness” - like the NFL’s annual pink scam, where you buy a pink jersey for around $150 bucks and the NFL donates 5% of the proceeds (which translates to a few bucks) to breast cancer research – when you make a direct donation to an organization like the Carbone Cancer Center, your money – all of it – goes to work helping to find a cure.


So please don’t ask me to update my status with some inane bit, or where I last left my purse (last year’s Facebook “cancer awareness” meme).  Like you, I know victims of breast cancer personally.  We need a cure, not more “awareness”.  Please donate.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The New Car In Our Driveway

Yesterday afternoon the snappy Chevy Impala pictured above pulled up the driveway to the Compound and our son got out. I went out to greet him and get a look at his new car. It’s a dandy! It’s actually only the second car he’s owned since he got his driver’s license when he turned 16 back in 1999. His new car is a 2013 with a few thousand miles on it, barely broken in. It’s a Flex-Fuel vehicle; it’s loaded with all sorts of features and accessories; it even has that “new car” smell! He got a good deal on it from a Milwaukee Chevy dealer, and they gave him what I consider to be a very decent trade-in allowance on his 2000 Chevy Impala.

I still remember the afternoon he drove that car into the driveway at the Compound, the day he bought it in the spring of ’02. He did the deal on that car all by himself, which made me very happy and proud. My intent in raising our two kids was that they’d have the independence to run their own lives, using mom and me as resources and givers of advice. I told them both when they were graduating from high school that I couldn’t – and wouldn’t want to – run their adult lives; that mom and I would always be here for them, always wanted to be very much involved in their lives, but wanted them to call the shots.

I am so glad that neither one of our kids has wasted as much money as I have on cars, a lesson I thought I’d learned a couple decades ago, but – well, that’s another story.  I think now, as I approach my 65th year, I’ve finally learned the lesson that cars are an expense item, that they’re for transportation, not an investment.


Both our kids learned to drive on Rosie, the ‘94 Colt Vista wagon pictured above, which I’ve written about before. Rosie was the best family car we ever had.


Pictured above is a 1984 Thunderbird, very similar to the one which mom and I bought for our son a few months after he got his driver’s license in May of 1999. Somewhere I have a picture of the actual car, but I can’t find it right now. We bought the black T-Bird in a cash deal from a private party in McFarland, a fellow who was a mechanic at a car dealership and took meticulous care of the car and had all the documents relating to its maintenance. I have no doubt that when our son took over the car, the gas pedal on that venerable T-Bird spent way too much time pressed tightly to the floorboard, but – for a couple years, it got our son and his sister and a couple of their friends to school and back every day, and it probably went on a lot of adventures I’d just as soon not know about.  It died a horrible death a couple years after we bought it, when the electronics fried themselves to death.  It ended its life as a “parts car” for a mechanic on Stewart Street who was kind enough to take it off our hands.

I can’t readily find a picture of the first car our son bought on his own, but the picture of the 2000 Impala above looks exactly like his first car did.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 12 years since he first drove that car into our driveway, but he took more than reasonable care of it, and when it finally died last Friday, it had well over a hundred thousand miles on the ticker. I have never owned a car for 12 years; not even close!

Our son had told us for months that his 2000 Impala was on its last legs, and Friday, when he went to start it to take it to the dealer and trade it in, it was dead. Not “dead dead”, but it wouldn’t turn over. He pulled his wife’s car alongside the trusty old Impala, hooked up the jumper cables, and when he went to start his car, he says the engine “blew up” with a puff of smoke and a couple small fires under the hood. (No, he didn’t have the jumper cables hooked up wrong.) Long story short, the dealer agreed to tow the old Impala to the dealership, and still gave him a more than decent offer for trade-in value.

I’m glad that both of our kids have a very sensible view of automobiles, that they’re transportation and not status symbols.  It’s a lesson I’m pretty sure I have finally learned.

Above is a 1995 photo of three of the nine vehicles I owned at that time – pre-divorce, pre-marriage to Toni, pre-kids! I had a fleet of collector cars, including a lot of classic Chevelles, Corvettes, and two “winter beaters”, but that’s a story for another time. In the photo above you can see my “daily driver” during the warm-weather months, a beautiful blue Corvette; the one next to it is a perfectly-restored 1968 Chevelle SS-396; and the green one was my hot-rod, a 1970 Chevelle pavement-ripper that made a LOT of noise and left just about every other car on the road in the dust.


I’m glad my kids turned out to be more sensible than me. Those cars were fun, but damned expensive to keep around! I'm confident our son's new Impala will give him many years of good service - reliable transportation, not too flashy, but very stylish.