THREW Mikes EyEz

Original Writings, Images, Video and Artworks of Mike Hartley


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ah yes, the year in review

Starting to see these “Year in Review” post come along and probably many more to come. Actually I enjoy them. Gives me a chance to catch up on some good things I might have missed. I thought about doing something similar but changed my mind or should I say style of doing my year in review. For I wrote a post called “Finish Lines” about a year ago that marked 12/17 as a milestone date to me. I went back and read it today. And while that post may have seemed a bit vague, this post will fill in the blanks.

Off the bench. Photo by Mike Hartley

Off the bench.
Photo by Mike Hartley

So instead of reviewing my post this year, I just want to note what a contrast life presents sometimes. And the gift that Life and some doctors gave me in 2016. From the beginning of 2015 to a year ago today Dec 17th 2015, I was dealing with a cancer on a daily basis. As the doctor says a very aggressive one. So surgery mid year was done but that didn’t get it all. It also made the conversation about the number of years one might have with this even more in my face after surgery failed to get it all. So I ended 2015 with a few months of radiation which also ended on this day a year ago 12/17 as my better half reminded me of this anniversary yesterday.

Before I even started the radiation they said it was a 50/50 shot that this would catch it all or slow it up. So I ended 2015 pretty down. To start 2016, I was sick as a dog from the months of radiation treatments. I had to wait a few more months till being tested to see how effective the radiation had been so even as I started to feel better physically, I had that uncertainty and mental worry. Every test I got in 2015 was bad news it seemed. Was this just going to keep progressing and leave me in and out of hospitals the rest of my short life? I was so exhausted from doctors and hospitals and treatments and appointments.

But my body started to bounce back, my spirits and hopes were alive because there was a chance and all I had to do was wait till April. Well thankfully the first test came back clear. So did the second one. And just this past week the 3rd one came back clear. So it appears I made it a year cancer free. Yes I was reminded, that I needed to be tested every few months still, no problem, that is easy. As long as I’m able to steer clear of hospitals and treatments, I’m loving LIFE.

But hold on. While that was nice I was busy living life this past year. My Son got married to a wonderful woman. A great time in my life. My Daughter and her husband brought their first home and moved in. I was able to stay employed for another year. I got my Will and other financial and medical affairs in order (something I should have done much earlier). I had a couple of wonderful vacations. Ballgames with my son and son in-law. I started to live and eat healthier. Even though by my post and the photos of food consumed some might disagree. But really, I eat things like salads now, maybe even the slice or two of tomato on the cheese-steak sub. But many more great things over the year with friends and family.

I’ve been able to continue to do this blog and hopefully spread a little joy beyond what I get out of it.

But today I’m asking myself why me. No in the sense of why me, why did I get cancer. But its in the vain of why did I get it and survive twice now, while most others have more difficult paths. To me its possibly a few things. My primary (Dr Eversley) didn’t stop investigating when I told him of a pain in my chest when I first had kidney cancer. So the team at University of Maryland Medical Center got me, (Dr Phelan) did the operation and that has been clear for over 8 years now.

But in late 2014 the primary again caught an increasing PSA. Back to the team at UMMC and Dr Naslund for the biopsy and then to Dr Siddiqui who did my surgery. Then over to Dr Amin in radiology. These men and their teams of nurses, technicians who treated me at UMMC have my utmost thanks. For you have given me healthy time and a great 2016. I know you work just as hard in every case. And I know things don’t always go as well. And I want you to know that I’m not wasting any of this life. For I recognize that I’ve been given another chance to live each day better than the last day.

But the other thing that has had a huge effect. My better half. She is a rock. I guess she was listening during our wedding vows when the priest came to the part about “in sickness and in health”. Because she has been there for me for both now, keeping my mental attitude right and supporting me in so many ways.

And of course my wonderful children and friends. I wouldn’t be here without this entire and wonderful team of support.

So while I’m thankful for a great 2016, I’m looking forward to 2017 and living and loving each day. I also hope to work now to help others less fortunate. Think I’ll make a donation to the hospital and a cancer foundation or two this evening. May all of you have the healthiest of New Years ahead.


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Steps to where

Steps into darkness. I haven’t taken them in a while and I hope to avoid them for a while longer. I like the positive train of thought I’ve been in for a while now. I’m becoming much more content and at peace with myself. I’m also doing more than I have in a long while also and that feels good. Now if this blood test comes back OK, I’ll be able to stay on this track and build on it. Momentum is important.

You can walk up steps but make sure they lead somewhere. Photo by Mike Hartley

You can walk up steps but make sure they lead somewhere.
Photo by Mike Hartley

That’s the thing about being sick for a while that I learned last year. When you don’t have your health it takes away your momentum. Yeah you can get it back for short burst but the appointments and treatments and physical changes your body is put through gets to your mind eventually.

I look back at my posting frequency during those times and I can tell I lost my motivation a lot of times. It’s not that I enjoyed doing it any less. It’s not that I didn’t want to (well maybe some days). I was trying to maintain a normal life. I worked most of that time at the job that pays the bills except for a short period after surgery. But I just didn’t have enough momentum to maintain all my interest.

But now I do and I’m going to do my best to get out and utilize it more. Never take for granted the ability to be mobile. Or go places. I’m not talking big trips. Just getting out for a walk, ride or run is a treat. Visit a different area of my county or state. Meet new people. Be friendly and have a smile.

So off I go again today, destination unknown, but I’m going. I’ll have to post a shot or two I was able to get in Westminster yesterday. Had a wonderful lunch with my daughter and a good walk. Life is great.

By the way, its good to see the country’s flag flying at full staff again. More days without tragedy are needed.


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Are you strapped for TIME

Well this clock is and we just found the perfect illustration for it. Actually just ran across it at our new office by accident. I guess someone was in a hurry to get this clock up for some reason and didn’t have any mounting hardware.

Seems like even when I’m off of the job that pays the bills, I’m still dealing with a packed schedule. Of course it’s packed with mostly nice things. Like having dinner with my daughter this evening. Or shooting and lunch with my son on Sunday. And spending some time connecting with my better half again after a series of hectic months.

Strapped for Time Photo by Mike Hartley

Strapped for Time
Photo by Mike Hartley

I think of time a lot now. How much do any of us have. What choices do we make each day in how to spend it. There is no answer till you don’t have any more, except for what you choose to do each day. But if you were to start thinking that time isn’t guaranteed, like after doctors visit, it changes your perspective.

I look back at almost the 6 decades I’ve been around and marvel at the time I’ve wasted. How I haven’t applied myself in things that I now hold important and dear. That I didn’t take on challenges that I now think I should have attempted. That I didn’t spend as much time with my loved ones.

And in simple things like watching the movie Animal House for the hundredth time. And then I started to weigh the enjoyment of simple things like that. How it may have been needed to just unwind from the stresses of life. And I stop beating myself up over it and just think about what to do with all the time a getting old Old Man has.

Like yesterday, I was faced with limited free hours between work for sleep, haircut, a viewing for a friends mother who just passed, and several other pressing errands. So I get up early, shower and bolt out without even a bite to eat. And I walk out to a flat tire. Well being my back isn’t half of what it used to be I had to take my time with the tire change and then get that to the garage for a new tire I’ll have to pick up today. And that isn’t in the schedule either.

Still managed to get a haircut after that, hit the bank and other errands but I missed the 2-4 viewing time I had hoped to attend. Well I did the 6-8pm and I’m so glad I did. It would have been easy to blow off. I felt like hell even with some significant pain relief meds. Because I saw many people who brought many smiles and good times to my life. I got to say goodbye to a Mom who shared their home and yard with me. Not to mention their fine children.

You know, relationships that sometimes go decades without being replenished and then you see people you barely recognize. Sometimes those occasions just get the handshake. But this group gave hugs as almost all my friends do. Three people especially. One of the daughters who I haven’t seen in almost 4 decades. We have kept in touch recently, because we both fight cancer. That always is a special bond. Then I saw her brother who was my best friend in my early school years. We hugged strongly. Then another old friend from the neighborhood. When I extended my hand also because I haven’t reconnected with him in almost 4 decades he says to me “Mike, I’m sorry but a handshake will never do” and gave me a serious hug.

This was just another day to make me realize how special all the time in my life has been and that maybe I didn’t make many wrong decisions on how to spend my time or with who I spent it with. Yeah there are significant mistakes in time management along the way. Working way to hard and for free for people who didn’t appreciate it. Spent a lot of time in my youth drinking way to much. I haven’t spent enough time with my wife and family or friends at times. I spent far too many hours keeping my yard in pristine condition.

I didn’t post yesterday as I had hoped to do. But the decisions I made yesterday from the time I got up, in the time I had, were good ones. Here’s to good friends and a long life.


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A welcome Friday and 2016

Boy the holidays come and go quickly. A strange one this year but glad to be here as always. This was the first year we didn’t celebrate Christmas at our home. I missed going to the larger family celebration because of my health.  I was glad to share a kiss and tear at the dawn of the new year with my better half. I heard my children’s voices, better yet, saw them on New Years day  I didn’t see my friends but I’m going to cure that miss today.


Cancer

Friday January 1st marks a special beginning and end for me. I am going to take off a cancer wristband I’ve been wearing from October to now. It is from the University of Maryland Medical Center Radiation Oncology department. I’m going to hang it with a diploma they also gave me for completing treatments 2 weeks ago. While I have spent my life learning, I have very few pieces of paper to show for it. Let me tell you though last year has been a lesson and a half. And that is why I hung that up on my office wall with the hospital wristbands of previous surgeries. One 7 years ago for my kidney cancer and one in 2015 from my current cancer.  They are kind of like my badges of battles fought. Also thanks to my family who wore these bands also. I could feel your support.

Wristband I wore during treatments the last few months. Photo by Mike Hartley

Wristband I wore during treatments the last few months.
Photo by Mike Hartley

They (doctors) told me I would feel worse for a few weeks after treatment and of course they were right again. But I feel like I started to turn a positive corner yesterday. I feel like this will be the year that things go right again. That appointments will yield good news instead of bad. That good time will be well spent with family and friends instead of canceled vacations or events. That I can dance at my Son’s wedding. That I finish my first book. That this blog becomes something worth viewing and reading. That I finally win the fishing contest with my best friends. That I get a new lens for my camera and make wonderful use of it. And a host of other wonderful wishes.

So here is to a year with minimal doctors visits and lots of fun. For all those who have this nasty fight.


Random Thoughts for Friday January 1st 2016

  • At what point will those who have greed in their hearts and no respect for life win out over those of us that do value life and not money?
  • Is that cold weather I feel today? I’m not ready mentally. I know my body isn’t ready. Solution = Hibernation.
  • OK, I think I’ve seen enough college football. Uncle
  • Day one of treadmill complete.
  • I was going to say something witty about having two days left to prepare for the work week again. Instead I’m thinking I’m fortunate to have a job to return to.
  • Well off to some early morning (pre-sunrise) photography. Have a great day all.


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Finish lines

I reached a personal finish line Thursday. One that took some time and effort. One that took a toll on me and those around me. One I hoped to have never embarked on. One that showed me I have a lot of people who support me. One that is testing my strength and resolve. One that reminded me of a lesson on the first day of a few month journey, that my Mom taught me when I was in single digits age wise. (there are always people worse off than you, so smile and be thankful for your health).

For at the beginning of the race, I saw a young girl. I could see this was not her first race. She was bald and had one of those roving medical Xmas trees full of bags and ribbons leading to her. But what I saw was a young girl full of life. She had a game and was smiling and laughing like this was the best moment of her life. Mom at her side, she seemed so strong, active and happy. What a wonderful example she set for me at the beginning. She showed me the light I needed to jump that fence.

Sunrise on fence near Edmonson Village. Photo by Mike Hartley

Sunrise on fence near Edmonson Village.
Photo by Mike Hartley

I’m very excited about 2016 and making it a grand year. The opportunity to work hard on so many ideas, goals and desires is enough to put a smile on my face a mile wide. For I no longer classify things like that as work. Yeah it will take hard work to accomplish them, but it won’t feel like work while doing them. For they are task of love in some cases. Sometimes making something for a loved one. Sometimes the love of finding the image that makes me happy as well as others. The love of stringing together words that mean something to me and maybe others.

The chance to craft a stone into something that might endure time. The chance to get my parents images documented and organized for my family. The chance to fill the walls in my office with images. The chance to maybe pull a group of work together to exhibit or enter some local shows. The chance to update this blog each day with interesting and beautiful content. The chance to build that mural I’ve had in my mind. The chance to see others work and words shared digitally and in person.

A year or so ago I started my own company with the thought that would become my business after I retired or was put out to pasture by my career job in Newspaper/Digital Publishing. Well if I’m successful yes it might become a true business because it would be nice to leave my family with something more. But success is going to be measured in a far different way than when I went into it.

Success is about taking that opportunity each day in front of me to use the tools I have to create something special. If I have worked hard that day, I will feel satisfied. If I look at it and like it, I will smile. If others look at it and smile, I will feel accomplishment and success.


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Where to

For some reason when editing some shots the other day, I stopped when I came across this photo. I almost threw it out. Some might think that was a good first thought. But anyway, photography makes me think. I relate events or emotions to images I take or come across. The more I shoot, the more it inspires thoughts and sometimes my writing.

Steps in Ellicott City. Photo by Mike Hartley

Steps in Ellicott City.
Photo by Mike Hartley

The first thought I had when I paused a moment to look at it was, boy this sums up my year in some ways. It certainly started out in the bright glow of an early morning sunrise on the top step. You know that feeling, your strong, you have peak energy levels to attack the day. I felt like I was standing on that top step in the bright sun and on top of the world. I had everything.

But instead of the steps going up, they were going down this year. No problem we all have years like that sometimes, but I was still in the sunshine of the day. As I took that first step down though, I noticed that small shadow to my left. That was my spring where doctors visits began and the endless test.

The next 2nd step was a larger one than the first. But I still feel that sunshine and I feel strong. And I take it firmly but there is that shadow, and its larger and coming towards me. That was my early summer and surgery but a strong comeback was made from that and I’m still in the light.

But as I glance down to take my next step the light has gone grey and the shadow is large. There is a covered hole in the ground ahead and someone is going to pull the lid off it as I take the next steps. This is my late summer and early fall. So off to another set of doctors and treatments.

My world changed at that point. It will never be the same but it will be better in some ways. For as I stepped in that hole, I managed to catch myself with both hands firmly on the edges and I’m going to pull myself up and out of it and be ready to open the door to another and hopefully healthy new year.

This year has taught me much. I have an increased sense of appreciation for many things and people. I have become at peace with myself and have a confidence that I didn’t know I had. I prioritize better in some things. I love more deeply. I listen more intently. I watch and look for more to see. I know I’ve been blessed with a great family and friends, so I spend more time on those relationships. Also I’ve opened my mind to maybe taking better care of myself first instead of having that barely making the top 10 list.

So off I go to find photos to help me tell stories or express feelings and hopefully get that positive flow of life back. For the sun is finally out again for a few days so let’s get on with life again.


Random Thoughts for Saturday December 5th 2015

  • A lot of things can make life better. Just allow yourself to act on them.
  • Pain is an interesting perspective changer.
  • Stella Notte in Ellicott City is a place for a very good meal.
  • Life – make it work for YOU.
  • I think I need to take more chances this coming year.
  • Luna Bella in Hickory Ridge Village center is quickly becoming a favorite place to eat when visiting good friends.
  • My goal today is to get off my ass and photograph and write. And of course love anyone I see along the way.


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Another day, another chance

Well my doctors at UMMC have given me another day and another chance to appreciate life.  Just made it home on Monday and starting to recover from my second cancer operation. And while its easy to focus on the pain and ask the question why me again, I find myself relaxed and thinking how fortunate I am to have such great friends, a very loving family and talented doctors that hopefully have made me cancer free for the second time. At least that is the hope, I’ll know more next week.

Barn frame from 1970 off Gorman road from what scribbling I had on the slide.  Photo by Mike Hartley

Barn frame from 1970 off Gorman road from what scribbling I had on the slide.
Photo by Mike Hartley

It has reminded me of lots of feelings that I had when diagnosed the first time with cancer over 6 years ago. It was a wake up call that I only paid partial attention to. And by that I mean I started to change and focus on the important things of life but as time went along and the years passed, I lost the focus that I had and failed to follow through with some thoughts about changing my life in a number of ways.

So I’ve been given another chance to do the right thing. Lets see if I can follow through this time. I’d like to first complete the book I started to write my children about 5 years ago. Next is taking better care of my body and mind. Some of the material things I thought about back then don’t seem to be important now. But goals like becoming a writer, artist and photographer are still there and I hope to use this forum to really get moving on those.

I did work a lot on becoming a better father and husband each day and I need to continue that and even increase that effort. Because becoming better at those each day is a great goal that needs work every day.

Oh, and if this rant doesn’t make sense, blame it on the oxycodone pain killers. They let my editor and proofreader go early.