Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Retrospect

Urban legend has it the there is a Chinese curse which states, "May you live in interesting times."  While the validity of the origin is subject to dispute, as no modern reference aside from several anecdotal quotations exist, I can honestly say 2012 has been a very "Interesting" year for me.

How do I begin to describe the year as it closes.  I guess to quote Dickens would be a bit repugnant; however, "it was the best of times; it was the worst of times," is appropriate nonetheless.

I began the year divorced, and generally feeling of healthy, as I had recently checked an item off the bucket list and completed a marathon.  I was preparing to leave a job I loved and pushing my career forward into the unknown as I returned to the operator aspect of my work which I had not done in several years.  I was moving to a location I knew little about and would, in essence, be starting all over again.

It did not take long to realize that "MY" plans were not quite in order with the "Big Picture" of things.  Soon, I was unhappy at work (a rarity for me) due to insurmountable obstacles (such as incompetence and apathy in my subordinates) and I was experiencing several personal changes in the same time frame.

I began having extreme pain when breathing.  Imagine a side stitch while running and magnifying it by 10.  It was off and on, and being the "I don't need a doctor" kind of guy, I dealt with it as best I could.  I was also experiencing remorse for my past decisions and the effects they had on my life.  I realized that I was wrong and needed to let it go and pray for a chance to make amends.

The pain in my side kept getting worse, and the ache in my heart did as well.  By June, I was newly diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer and walking around in a haze of uncertainty.  I did not know how or if I could or should make plans aside (based on a comment from my Dr.) from getting my affairs in order.  I also had to make an extremely painful phone call.  I had to tell my (at the time) ex-wife this news.

This was the most painful phone call I have ever made.  Mostly because I still loved her and knew I had hurt her in the past.  I wanted a chance to show that I was not who I once was.  While I did not express those thoughts at that time, I just broke the news and let her know that I would make sure she and the kids were well taken care of if it came down to it.

In July, she and the kids visited with me at my fathers home in Houston while I was out of work adjusting to my treatment routine and the medicines that were poisoning my body trying to kill the cancer.  One night, while there I had the opportunity to express myself and explain that I still loved her and wanted to try again.

I left that visit with a renewed sense of hope, since the conversation (in light of my self-doubt and negative presupposition) went well and we began talking again.  I managed to visit her and the kids in Georgia and they came all the way out to me as well.

God is good and trades beauty for ashes.  In November, we remarried.  While we are still working through things and figuring out how to be together full-time (I need a bigger house, and preferably not here), we are together in spirit and they visit me as often as possible (a benefit of a home-school education, being highly mobile). We will be reunited soon, one way or another, and we will plod on into the unknown of the plans God has for us.

The cancer is still here, but I have completed one 12 cycle round of chemotherapy (flying through it, as my nurses tell me), and have started another one with a slightly different cocktail in the mix.  Each time a certain blood test is run, the tumor marker numbers are going down and from an huge number at the start, I am almost within a normal range for the test.  I don't know what all that means, but I do know God has a plan for all this and all I want is His will to be done.

2012, you have taught me a lot.  I am loved.  I have great friends all over the place.  I can be loved by those I hold most close.  I can be forgiven.  They were hard lessons, but sometimes I need that kind.  As you close out a final sunset and I prepare to run headlong into 2013, I just want to say thank you for all you have shown me.  You were a very "Interesting" year indeed.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hard Truths v. Human Nature

Life is hard, God is good. By no means should this be interpreted to the Ways of God are easy.  The Bible even tells us:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
Matthew 7:13-14 ESV
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

We could easily follow the status quo and follow the crowd.  We could easily submit to "tolerance" even in light of the intolerance we face as Christians.  Just reach for the Easy Button, it will make everything better.

But that is NOT what we are called to do.  We are summoned through the narrow gate which leads to life and not destruction.  There is no room for tolerance, but there is room for love.  We do not have to agree with those who support things contrary to our truths, but we must love them.

I believe the United States needs to support Israel firmly in its path.  I see the similarities between America now and Israel in Isaiah's time.  In Isaiah 30, verses 8-11, we see the reactions Israel has when the Word of God is a bit rough for them to take:
8 And now, go, write it before them on a tablet
and inscribe it in a book,
that it may be for the time to come
as a witness forever,
9 For they are a rebellious people,
lying children,
children unwilling to hear
the instruction of the Lord;
10 who say to the seers, “Do not see,”
and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
prophesy illusions,
11 leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.”

Isaiah 30:8-11

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Can you see it? Just read it again, and then take a look at what is happening in America.  We have removed the Ten Commandments from our schools and courts.  We do not allow prayer in schools.  We are trying to remove the symbols of our faith from any display that may "offend" some one.  We are looking for the easy way.  We are not seeking the right paths, but hoping for the smooth things; we want our prophets to prophesy illusions.

We need to remove the rose colored glasses that are blinding us on our journey.  We need to realize life is hard, but God is good.  For all the sacrifices we will make, for all the hardships we will face doing what is right in the sight of God, it is worth it.  In the end, what greater reward can we have than to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Starting January 1st, I am once again participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge.  The goal is to post one blog entry a day (on average) through the month of January.  31 days, 31 blog posts.  I completed it during the inaugural month of this blog in July 2012, even with a late start.  I believe this is a good challenge as it generates content, but more importantly it makes me concentrate on this )for lack of a better word) ministry.

My goal is to share my life with you, my readers.  I know my life is not exciting (though God is doing exciting things).  I know my words do not bear much weight (though the Word of God is amazing).  I can only pray that I can offer some small measure of hope to you when you are facing a time of darkness or pain, that there is a way out.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to get through the hard things that are before me.  I know there is only one way to do so, to keep my eyes on You and the things You have commanded me.  Father help my focus in the New Year be to get closer to You, and may others join me in this goal and walk side by side with me as we embark along the narrow path towards You.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Number Our Days

Lately, I have been inundated with references to Psalm 90:12 in my life.

If you are not familiar with it, here you go:
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

In my experience, when something sticks in my head or I am constantly seeing/hearing references to it, I have a lesson happening.  God works in mysterious ways, but sometimes He is not so subtle and I get a boot to the head.

One of the references came in a FB page/photo share from my fellow blogger Beloved ('Chelle) at Treat Me to a Feast-Notes from My Abundant Life.  Just a simple picture with the verse and reference.  It stuck.  Also, another blogger Bedky (Becky) at Counting My Days references it in title, but still the point came across.  And my wife just informed me that this is her theme verse for 2013.  Interesting how God does things, indeed.

A final reference, and more of the ear worm variety is the Shane and Shane song Arise, which uses a part of the verse in the lyrics, but oddly one of the few parts of the song that sticks with me.  Don't get me wrong, I like the entire song and could probably sing it all (poorly mind you, but I do know the words), it is just that line that hangs around.

From my askew general perspectives on life, I had a thought about the verse.  I fully understand that I can reasonably expect to live a shorter life than I had anticipated 7 months ago.  I am not wishing for this nor doubting the miraculous healing powers of God.  I just have this in my mind which therefore causes this verse to be more poignant to me: I have fewer to number and must make them count more.

Dear Lord, please guide me in this journey You have me on.  Help me make 2013 a year to remember full of You.  Thank You for teaching me, humbling me, and upholding me through 2012.  You have taught me much through defeat and allowed victory in the end.  I can never thank You enough.

On a side note, I have posted on this page a Donate button in support of my 2,013 miles in 2013 for Hope House challenge.  Please consider donating to this worthy charity and supporting my efforts to cover the miles.  Thank you.

Friday, December 28, 2012

No Excuses

While I was in the military, there was a saying: "The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters."  While it is merely an analogy, comparing effectiveness of various weapons systems, the meaning is clear.  An excuse is NEVER an effective weapon in the battles we are engaged in.

In life, especially in this Brave New World of the digital age, we are running out of excuses to justify our failures to meet our goals.  A resource to find web sites for free training on a large variety of topics, the No Excuse List, is a good place to start if you need help in meeting your goals.

I have found that one of the best defenses against digging through the excuse bin is to have a person or group of people in your life who support you in your goal and with whom you feel all parties can be brutally honest in relation to your goals.  Sometimes, you need someone who will call you out and push you when you are feeling defeated.

As I have posted previously, I have set the goal of running 1,000 miles and covering a total of 2,013 miles for charity in 2013.  I am hoping you will all call me out and push me (and support my fundraising goals too :) ).

I am asking for your assistance and want you to be brutally honest in calling me out and getting me out there if I slip and start falling behind.  I am also asking for your prayers on this that I stay healthy (no injuries) and work through the chemo side effects which might make this a bit rough on some days.  I NEVER want to play the "cancer card" as an excuse.  It does not own me!  I can and will deal with it.

Thank you all for your support.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

S. M. A. R. T. Goal-setting

To continue a bit from yesterday's post about MY goals for 2013, I wish to present a formula I discovered about setting goals.

Goals need to be S. M. A. R. T.

Specific
By being detailed in the goals you set, you establish something you can track.  A more general goal of "feel better in the new year" is harder to establish than "lose 20 pounds and improve my cardio vascular fitness by running 3-4 times a week".

Measurable
There needs to be a way to measure the goal you set.  A quantifiable measure like a number makes this easy to do.  "Run 1,000 miles in the year." "Lose 20 pounds." "Pay off ALL my credit cards."  Some end state that stands for the completion point of your goal.

Achievable
This get a bit difficult sometimes.  We need to set goals that will push us, but not be so difficult that we can never complete them.  Setting quixotic goals will only lead to disappointment.  Make your goals difficult, but not impossible.  The idea is to push yourself but not destroy your self-confidence by missing a day or two on your rigidly detailed progress check.

Relevant
Your goals should be something personal that is also important to you.  By being relevant to your overall, life plans you will find an easier time sticking to your goals and following them through.

Time-bound
Setting a time limit in the achievement of your goals helps keep them on the front burner of your thoughts.  Knowing you desire to lose 20 pounds in the first 6 months of the year will color your decisions without being so rigid that one bad weekend blows the whole thing.

One thing I find useful is writing them down and posting copies in conspicuous locations.  For example, if you have a goal to lose 20 pounds, a copy on the refrigerator could be helpful.  A copy on the bathroom mirror would aid you if there was a particular task you want to perform every day.

There you have it, tips for setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.  I hope this helps you focus on your desires and to achieve them.  It is good to dream, but the Impossible Dream gets old after a while. (And yes, I have made two "Man of La Mancha" references in this posting).

Another thing to consider is Outcome-based versus Process-based goals.  Outcome-based goals meet the criteria of the SMART method of goal setting.  They focus on measurable, quantifiable end states.  Process-based goals focus more on the process, such as "Eating better through the New Year" or "Training for a marathon".  They lead to a "process" and change patterns of behavior to meet the end state.

I hope this was useful to you as you develop your 2013 goals.  If you want someone to pray with you on the journey and offer encouragement or a boot to the backside and push you, comment below and tell me what YOUR goals are.  I will check in with you to see how you are doing along the way.  And, fair is fair, I posted mine yesterday so I am also asking for accountability help. Thanks

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Time To Change...2013 Edition

First, I must apologize for using the title of a Brady Bunch song as the title of this blog entry (you know, the episode when Peter's voice changes while they are in the recording studio? Well past the point the show jumped the shark, IMHO.).  But I thought it would be fitting as I "officially" announce my goals for the coming year.

I am usually not one to make "New Year's Resolutions" since I have a terrible time with the follow through (mostly because I am an island and have little personal accountability in my life...help me change that, harass me endlessly to stay on track, I can take it).  But this year I have a series of goals which I feel are very necessary to my personal/spiritual/physical growth and desire to accomplish them.

Categorically, here they are:

Personal
  1. Begin working on my college degree.  I have the courses, just have not started, mostly due to trying to find time.
  2. Become more social and actually spend time with others (not just in a work setting).
  3. MOVE!!! I need to, at the very least, locate suitable housing for my family.  I NEED them to join me full-time.  Whether or not that means finding something local or waiting in hope of relocating in general, I am open.  I would prefer the relocating and have 2 locations which I would prefer, but God is in control and knows best.
Spiritual
  1. Read through the Bible (like I try every year), and compile my notes and annotations from the several Bibles I read with into a digital notebook of some sort.  This will help me stay organized and assist in tracking things I have seen a little different than most people (in my odd/skewed way of thinking).
  2. Get consistent in my prayer life.
  3. I would like to lead a "Run For God" 5K training program/Bible Study.
Physical
  1. I want/need to get back to running.  I have completed a marathon in the past, but 2012 was a non-event as far as running goes.  I have done almost none and made little effort to do anything.  In 2013, I have pledged to run 1,000 miles (an average of 2.74 miles a day which I will not run every day, but as I increase my distances it will balance out). Additionally, in conjunction with the 1,000 mile running goal, is my goal to cover 2,013 miles for charity with added miles on bicycle.
  2. I am personally pledging $1 for each mile I cover which I will donate to Hope House in Midland, Texas in January 2014.  The Hope House provides discounted/free residence for individuals and their family while under going cancer treatments in Midland.  I have stayed there on several occasions and will again soon (if I can call early enough to get a reservation!!).  I fully support everything they do and wish to give back to them in some way.  I would like to ask you, my readers, to consider contributing to this charity as well, either in support of my goal or directly.  I will be setting up a donations widget soon and will have it on the main page of this blog.  Stay tuned!!
To start things off, I have registered for my first 5K of the year on January 5th.  The Monahans Sand Dunes 5K in the Monahans Sand Dune State Park in Monahans, Texas.  I drive through this town every other week when I head to Midland for chemo therapy.  While this will be a non-treatment weekend, I figured I need to register for everything within a reasonable commute to keep me motivated, and sadly, living in the armpit of Texas, there are not many close by.  There is another in Midland in March which I have on my calendar, as well.

This will get me started on another goal of completing a running grand slam (completing a 5K, 10K, half marathon and a full marathon in 2013).  There will hopefully be a sprint triathlon in the mix as well.

All of these goals have a semi-common theme: I firmly believe they will assist me in dealing with/overcoming cancer.  I have a lot more future goals but mostly I just want to be around a long time to try to reach them.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

No More Tears...

I have been seriously remiss in the consistency of posting here lately. In general, life has managed to get in the way and/or I have chosen to better utilize my time in areas that I hold more dear (spending time with my family while they were here).

Now that they have returned to GA for the time-being, I hope to gather my thoughts and regain some momentum in my writing. 

Recent events at the Sandy Hook Elementary school have caused sadness, outrage, and also ignited the emotions of this divided nation over the issues of public safety and gun control.  I am avoiding the controversial topics and will only address sadness.

A recently read verse has struck a chord with me and I wanted to share some thoughts.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Revelation 21:04 (KJV)
That is a promise.

That is something I love about the Bible, it holds our promises together for us to read through and find comfort in times of need.  We need the comfort frequently (at least I do). 

I admit to being a publicly stoic and generally sarcastic individual who displays to the world that little affects me.  In my line of work there is a certain stoicism that prevails.  None of us wish to be perceived as "weak".  So we go about life with an air of hubris and often display "gallows humor" during difficult/tragic situations.  But it is only a mask.

Upon hearing the news of this tragedy and reading the rhetorical question of "How can someone shoot a child?" my initial thought was "just aim a bit lower."  That is terrible, I admit, so please do not think less of me (if that is even possible).  It is a way of dealing with grief and a defense mechanism.  Once I returned home that day, I immediately hugged my children and held back tears for the victims and of joy that mine were safe before me.

One day, when I finally take off the mask, Jesus will be there to wipe the years of tears away.  The sorrow and the pain will be swept away.  I will be comforted.

You can too.  Put your trust in Him.  Believe on him who is the only One who has the power to provide all you truly need.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Guest Post: Fighting Cancer With My New Family


Today's post is a very special installment, a guest post from Cameron Von St. James (bio below). So, without any further ado...

My wife has said on several occasions that she doesn't know how hard it was for me to deal with life after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. I hope to share more in this article with both Heather, as well as anyone else currently struggling through a similar situation, in the hopes that they can take some lessons away from my experiences.

Heather was diagnosed just three months after the birth of our first and only child, Lily. Our joy and excitement about the future of our new family was stripped away in an instant when we got the news from Heather’s doctor – she had cancer. I looked at my wife as the tears welled up in her eyes, and in that moment I had no idea how we would every make it through this.

I used a lot of profanity following Heather’s diagnosis. I was angry at the world for putting my family in this cruel and unfair situation. It didn't take me long to realize how selfish I was being. I realized that the last thing my wife needed was to see how scared I really was. I had to get it together and be strong for my wife and daughter, but it was hard. It took a while for me to accomplish that, but I was finally able to be the rock that Heather needed.

My days were so overwhelming, though. I suddenly had a whole new list of responsibilities, and it took a while to adjust. I had to work, make travel arrangements and appointments for my wife’s medical care, and care for my family, house, and pets. I was so stressed. I learned that I couldn't do it all without the help of our friends and family. We were so blessed to have them offer their help, and we are still so blessed to have them in our lives. I couldn't have done it without them.

It was all hard, but by far the most difficult part was being away from my family for two months. I wanted to be Heather’s caregiver while she recovered from her extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery in Boston, but I couldn't give her the care she needed and work at the same time. We had to make a very difficult decision. That decision was to send Heather to stay with her parents in South Dakota while she recovered and prepared for her radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Lily had already been staying there during Heather’s operation, which left me at home, alone, to work and take care of our home.

I only saw them one time during this two-month period. I drove to them one Friday night after work. I drove overnight and through a late season snowstorm, and got to spend all day Saturday with them. I was exhausted, but I had to get back in my car and drive home on Sunday so that I could work on Monday morning. It was not easy for me to be away from them, but I don’t regret it at all. I know that we were just so lucky to even have the ability to make such a difficult decision, and I learned to take comfort in that fact.

It’s been more than six years, and despite the odds initially stacked against her, Heather is healthy again. I learned so much from this time in our lives. The most important thing I learned was the importance of a strong and loving community. We could not have done this without all the help our friends and family gave us. I am so blessed and so thankful for them. I also learned to never allow myself to regret any of the difficult decisions we were forced to make during this trying time. Instead, we learned to take comfort in the fact that we retained some small amount of control over a situation that often seem completely out of our control. I hope that with what I've shared I can help another family who is going through a similar cancer situation.It’s not easy, but it is doable.


Cameron is husband to Heather Von St. James, survivor advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, and father to  Lily Rose. He, along with Heather and young Lily, had their world's turned upside down when Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, just 3 1/2 months after the birth of his only child. When faced with the very real possibility of raising Lily on his own, he fought alongside Heather in her battle with mesothelioma. It was his determination and refusal to compromise on doctors or treatments that led them to Boston to receive radical surgery from esteemed mesothelioma surgeon, David Sugarbaker. Heather continues to thrive 6 years later.

Through out the next few years, while being a caregiver to Heather and dad to Lily, Cameron returned to school full time to finish his degree. He worked full time, went to school full time and graduated with high honors at the top of his class in June of 2010 with a Bachelors of Science in Information Technology. He was soon offered a position at US Bank as Network Analyst and continues to pursue his career.

Like Heather, Cameron is passionate about bringing awareness to mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos exposure. It is his hope that sharing his story will help others those battling cancer and their caregivers who provide them care and guidance in their journey.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Home Is Where...


So you know the one about the tortoise and the hare, right?  They are out playing around and the hare says to the tortoise, in a cocky sort of way, “Hey, tortoise, I’ll race you home?”

“Sure,” says the tortoise, smiling.

“Ready, set, go!” The hare takes off running.  The tortoise pulls his head, tail, and feet into his shell and says:

“I win.”

I read this little proverb in an article today and it made me think a bit.

I am reminded that we, as Christians, are never "at home" as long as we are in this earthly body.  We should strive to be in our resurrected body with the Lord (but not to hasten that by ending this earthly existence prematurely, of course).  2 Corinthians 5:1-10 says the following:

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.  While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly bod
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. 

I know I have vented here on more than one occasion that I am not content in my current "home."  By home I refer to my geographic location and not the physical structure in which I reside.  I know there is a purpose for me being here and I long to figure that out (though professionally, I know I am here to be the voice of reason and attempt to "fix" several areas of inconsistency at work).

Whatever the reason, there is one and I need to just accept the fact I am here.  When the time comes to move, the situations will align themselves and I will move on to my next assignment.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Meh

OK...this is not really a fair assessment of how I am feeling, but I dread the fact that I am heading that direction.

I am rapidly descending into the pit of utter disdain for my job.  That saddens me.  Mostly, because there was a time when I truly cared (even here which is the root of my malaise).

Simple job requirements which happen in a timely manner in pretty much every other location of this job cannot seem to be accomplished here.  When the question is posed as to "what can we do to improve?" and an open and honest answer is met with "we can't do that because we have never done that," I have to wonder about the sincerity of the concern. To quote Dr. Phil, "How's that working out for you?"  If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got. (Attributed to Mark Twain, though the jury is out on that one.)

Sure, I will be the first to agree with you that change for the simple sake of change or all change in general is not always good change; but when you realize something (a process, for instance) is irreparably broken something has to change.  It bothers me that the process was identified as needing change 6 months ago and I was tasked to develop and implement the change, then my recommendations were shelved.  Now it becomes a problem again, and you want my opinion only to tell me that what I see to be a fix is not doable.

I am confused.  Do you want the issue fixed, or not? Will it be an easy fix? Not at all since it will involve the shifting of mindsets and paradigms as much or more than the changing of actual duties.  Can it be done? YES! It just takes investment in the idea (belief, not financial) from the top down, raise expectations, hold people accountable for the competency level they are getting paid for, and get the job done.

The problem is a combination of both ignorance and apathy (what's the difference? I don't know and I don't care), but can be solved!  Give up your preconceived notions of what can be done and try something radical (expect people to be able to do their jobs!).

Am I an expert on the situation at hand? I wouldn't say that, but I know I have about the highest competency level of my peers and subordinates, I have seen it work.  Do what I am recommending, there will be change and it can be positive change.

Just my little rant since I go to work and can feel my soul getting sucked out of me.  No purpose and no direction from the top in the happy little fiefdom in which I work.  Joy...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chemo Brain Revisited

On my daily internet tour of news, I uncovered this little nugget.  It shows that researchers have actually discovered the reality of "chemo-brain," the often experienced side effect of chemotherapy which results on loss of mental clarity/sharpness, short-term memory loss, and, for some, an emotional roller coaster of moods.  While it doesn't really matter to me whether chemo brain is validated medically, I am just glad that for many who experience it there is science backing up their claims. 

I know what I deal with as the side effects of my treatment, and am not too worried if others (non-medical practitioners) do not believe me or understand them.  So, there you go, it IS real and not just the mass hysteria or psychological acceptance of rumored side effects we in treatment convince ourselves we are experiencing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Insanity??

Photo by me, edited
by my lovely wife.
Albert Einstein is attributed to the quote "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  By that definition, I am insane.

On November 27, 2012, I remarried my (x) wife.  While it was a simple ceremony with the local Justice of the Peace presiding (and our 7-year old daughter acting as the Maid of Honor/Flower Girl/Wedding Planner...), it was meaningful.  It means we are once again in union.  It means we have another chance to do it right.  It means God is a God of second chances, and will redeem previous mistakes, giving beauty for ashes.

The vows were prescripted based on a ceremony he has probably performed hundreds of times, but they ring true nonetheless.  In my head as I was listening intently to them before answering in the affirmative that I will hold them near and dear, I wanted to add that I will not take for granted the gift I have been given again.  I will truly cherish it and work everyday for it to be the best it can be.

I know the days ahead will not always be happy shiny days; there will be challenges.  But I will be working diligently hand in hand with my beautiful wife to overcome them.  Sadly, I also know that I will present a significant challenge to her, as my health concern raises its head from time to time, but together we will face it for the rest of the time we have to share.

I am grateful for this chance.  I am overwhelmed by God's mercy.  I am in love again, more than I can ever explain to you.  Many thanks to those of you who have joined us in praying for this day to happen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rewriting Your Vocabulary

I can be a lazy writer sometimes.  I rarely proof my writing here (thank you all for not calling me on it).  I find myself in the flow with my train of thought barrelling forward full-speed and feel it is going great.  Later, after I publish, I will occassionally read what I have posted and be shocked at how poorly I spelled or typed or constructed a series of "See Dick run" sentences.

For someone who was never a writer growing up (I have the "honor" of being the only student in my 8th grade English class to submit an essay for a contest and having my teacher throw it away since it was so poorly written).  In high school and college, I eeked by in my writing courses, never excelling and barely meeting standards to be "successful."

After eight and a half years in the military, where I was forced to write many reports (police reports, performance reports, enforcement evaluation reports), I began being a bit more comfortable with the process.  On a second attempt of college, post-military, I took a "Technical Communications" course where I did extremely well.  I had found my niche in writing.

Since then, in my chosen career field (not the Technology degree I pursued in college the second time, but Law Enforcement once again), I have been labeled as the "writer" for much of the higher-end reports that come with the job.  While teaching at my component's Law Enforcement Academy, I was the resident "geek," due to my background with technology, desire to automate, and ability to coherently put together a series of sentences into a decently written report/memorandum/request....  I was tasked with most of the research studies and curriculum rewrites which came with the job, especially those which were generated to select an automated testing platform (my baby!!!).  I loved that aspect of things, even when it came to pulling me from the classroom teaching so I could focus on my projects.

These days, I don't write as much; partly why I started writing this blog (to keep my chops up, lol).  I do read more than I have in a long time (though not as much as I should or would like to).  I also read some on topics relating to writing, such as improving my grammar and so forth.  This morning, while reading the news, I came across a linked article about "Purging Your Vocabulary."  Good article which highlights some of the over/misused words in speech and writing.

I was pleased to see that I only use one of the five words to purge with regularity (Dynamic).  Of course, I use it often in my speaking, and usually in jest or sarcasm (we are a dynamic and fluid organization, adapt with the change or be left behind.).  Thankfully, few people in my current location have figured out my sarcasm and dry humor, so I get away with many comments which, if realized for what they were, could land me in the dog house.

Also on the topic of words to purge, I have several pet peeves when it comes to spoken or written words.  I will list them for you:

1.  Irregardless:  My number one irk.  I actually cringe when I hear this word.  It is slang (as listed in the dictionary) and a double negative.  It means Not Not caring.  Ewwww....

2. Ending a sentence with a preposition:  Sure, it has somewhat become regarded as appropriate in certain circles due simply to the fact that not doing so sometimes makes the sentence or sentiment sound awkward (or as a friend says Yoda Speak).  Still, it is grammatically correct not to do so and I try to be correct.

3. Your/You're, There/They're, Who/Whom:  Often, in writing, these are confused.  I correct them often from my subordinates.  In speech, who/whom is a biggie.  People need to realize whom follows a written or implied preposition and is used as an indirect object:  To whom did you give the award? For whom the bell tolls...simple.

4. Verbing nouns: I will admit I find myself doing this sometimes, and in current usage, many "things" have become dual-use words.  Google is one. It is a noun (Google is my favorite search engine.) and can be verbed (I just googled "William Shatner" and boy was I surprised at the results.). 

5.  Misspellings:  I find it hard to believe (even as guilty as I am) that in today's word-processor driven media that misspellings are still as frequent as they are.  I guess many people are not as well-versed as to what the little red squiggly line under the word represents.

6.  Decorative versus non- usage of commas:  Commas can be very interesting items in writing and often misused.  Some folks, like me for instance, will use them in places where a natural pause is implied.  While it may not necessarily be correct, it "feels" right.  I would prefer extra commas as opposed to a complete lack of them.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Thing About Laws...

First off, I hope I didn't offend anyone by posting a picture of a marijuana plant so prominently here.

I consider myself a staunch Conservative, and I have no regrets about it.  Former President George W. Bush labeled himself a "Compassionate Conservative," but I don't think I would go that far.  I firmly hold to the principles of self-reliance, seeking opportunity, and non-reliance on the Government for personal support.  I do understand that there are times when individuals may need a helping hand, but I do not "like" the current climate of a dependency on the State for daily survival.

People who disagree with me and who know of my Biblically based belief system have tried to convince me of personal and governmental imperatives to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves (even those who are unwilling to try based on the current "entitlement" state we live in-sorry for that jab).  Yes, the Bible DOES speak of charity.  Yes, the Bible DOES speak of caring for widows and orphans.  I get it and I have no problem with that.  But the Bible ALSO DOES state "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  So what is the right path?

Now, before anyone gets riled up, here is a bit of my history.  My parents divorced when I was very young (around 2-4 years old).  My mother was the single mother of four and needed assistance for us.  There were many years of her family, social organizations, and the Government assisting her.  However, she did not rest on her laurels and just sit back to take advantage of the freebies she was getting.  For many years, she worked multiple jobs to help make ends meet. 

Eventually she found a stable job as a janitor at my High School and she no longer required the assistance.  She accepted the hand up and stopped relying on the hand outs.  She set a valuable example to me, which I still hold to today.  "Do what you have to do."

I know this is a very divergent introduction to what I am going to discuss today, but it lays some groundwork as to who I am and what I believe to be correct.

During the current election cycle, two states (Washington and Colorado) legalized the possession and usage of small quantities of marijuana for individuals over the age of 21 without a medical prescription.  While I do not agree with the laws, as I do not think they will reduce usage and I think marijuana is highly abused (but so is alcohol and tobacco...), I would not fight for their repealing.  I firmly hold to the Mantra that you cannot legislate morality.  You either know what is right and wrong and hold to your values, or you do not.

The Bible ( in my roundabout way of connecting the dots) states in 3 of the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) a statement similar to what is found in Luke 20:25, "And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's."


Our obedience to the laws of the land is our way of rendering unto the "Caesars" of this day.  And remember, just because something is currently permissible does not make it mandatory for our participation. 

The first questions I had when learning of the two new state laws (other than how can a state violate the "Supremacy clause" of the US Constitution-Federal law trumps State and local law) was how will this effect DUI arrests in those states?  I am a former traffic accident investigator, and still think along those lines. 

Today, while browsing the online news media (at work; shhhh! don't tell on me), I came across this article.  I was glad to see that the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) is also concerned with the potential rise in DUI and Driving While Impaired drivers on the road in those states.  Also, I was interested in the defense lawyers chomping at the bits to challenge any DUI arrest which comes about after the implementation of the new laws. 

Don't get me wrong, I DO NOT LIKE DEFENSE ATTORNEYS, but I appreciate the challenges as an opportunity to create safeguards within policy and procedures to better enforce laws.  With several hundred DUI arrests in the past (on the right side of the badge, mind you), I only lost two cases. 

One was a test case when Georgia lowered the Blood Alcohol Content standard to .06 if there was a traffic accident.  I was mandated to run the case as a test case in a vehicle-deer accident where the subject tested at .06.  Since I testified that the subject did not demonstrate "Impairment" during the standardized Field Sobriety Test Battery, the case was dismissed.  I was not distraught, since it helped us to better document signs of impairment during the test and other allowable articulable facts which could contribute to the ascertainment of impairment.

The other case I lost revealed the fact that the local (military) hospital was not certified by the state in the handling of Blood samples for BAC testing.  I actually thanked the Defense Attorney and coordinated with the hospital to make this happen for future cases.  No harm, no foul, the future became less defensible for perpetrators.

While I believe Christians SHOULD be involved in the political process and try to guide this country back to the standards of the founding fathers (which were based on Religious morality despite what "Separation of Church and State proponents care to believe), I believe that once a law is passed, it is up to the courts to decide if it should stand.  I do not have to like the decisions, but I also do not have to participate in the newly allowable activities.  My morality will not be affected by any law that is passed as long as I can abstain.

On a side note, slightly related to the original introduction line of thought, I am glad to see several states looking into the mandatory drug testing of recipents of "benefits."  To me, this is a long time coming.  It always irritated me to see the designer clothing and fresh tattoos on individuals who are in line paying for groceries with their "Lone Star" cards and then pulling out wads of cash for the cigarettes and alcohol purchases before loading them into their new SUV while texting on their iPhones.  What were once considered luxuries are now believed to be an entitlement.  But now I am ranting and rambling.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Doing your duty

Wednesday (today) was the "cut-off" date at work for submission of awards and recognition of subordinates.  As a supervisor, I have the opportunity to recognize and recommend awards for folks who report directly to me.  While I was going about my daily activities today, the number 2 man at my place of employment stopped by my office and prodded me to submit recommendations for award.  I explained to him that I refuse to celebrate mediocrity, and as soon as someone distinguished his/herself above and beyond what is generally required, I would be happy to provide the award recommendation.

Needless to say, that did not go over particularly good.  This lead to an intense discussion on the "everybody wins" mentality which seems to be overtaking America.  In youth sports, everyone gets recognition.  We don't keep scores to distinguish "losers" because that would damage their fragile self-esteem.

Several years ago, there was a movement in the American educational system towards "creative (or inventive) spelling."  The general concept is that as long as the word is "phonetically" correct, it does not matter the letters used: for example: "k-a-t" for cat or "g-h-o-t-i" for fish (gh as in enough, o as in women, and ti as in constitution).  This is wrong, if just being phonetically correct was enough, why do we have dictionaries? Anyway, I digress.  To me it is the equivalent of Nietzsche's philosophy of "Perspectivism" from Beyond Good and Evil which states truths (and by proxy the concepts of right and wrong) are merely in the perspective of the pursuer of the truth.  It is the "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" argument.

Heaven forbid we actually use opportunities to demonstrate the reality of life that there are right or wrong actions (especially when requirements are succinctly laid out in a position description.  There should be consequences to failing to perform at the required level, and should not celebrate just doing enough to get by.  We should make every effort to excel at what we do; not just in sports, but in our chosen career fields, our families, our education, our service, and our worship.

The basic theme is displayed in the Bible.  In Luke 17:7-10, we read:
"But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?  Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.  So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."
The message to me seems to be don't expect praise or recognition for simply doing your job.  We should strive for excellence in our person and all we do.  I do not expect reward when I am just getting by, but then neither do I when I am performing above and beyond expectations.  I appreciate the pleasant surprise, but never expect it.  I guess it is just part of who I am due to the era I was raised.

Do you expect reward or recognition for just doing your job? Or do you do your best to excel whether you are recognized or not?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Interesting Lessons From Unlikely Places

Sometimes, you can find a very interesting lesson in an unlikely place.  Today, I had my "a-ha moment".

I am a big fan of Sci-fi movies and TV series. One of my favorites of all time (aside from all the Star Trek series) is Firefly (the movie version is known as Serenity).  The series is an outer-space western and is smart, witty, and has decent action.

The cornucopia of main characters are Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, currently of "Castle" fame) and his trusty First Officer Zoe (Gina Torres, currently of "Suits").  Also included in the cast of characters are Wash the pilot and Zoe's husband (Alan Tudyk), tough guy Jayne (Adam Baldwin-not sure if related to all the other Baldwins), "companion" Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin (recently starred in the new "V" series), Dr. Simon Tamm (Sean Maher), River Tamm (Summer Glau) and Shepherd Book, a Missionary (Ron Glass of "Barney Miller" fame).

General plot is the crew and passengers are smugglers and legal transporters of goods in the outer realms of newly colonized space.  The Alliance (bad guys of the central planets governments who went to war with the Browncoats from the outer planets who were seeking independence) pursues them looking for Simon and River.  River was taken by the Alliance as a young girl and experimented on, and turned into a weapon.

The series only ran for the 2002 season, but it does not reduce the wonders that the show was.  It was created by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Doll House, Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long, and more recently, The Avengers).  While I own the complete series on DVD, today the Science Channel (Sci) was running a marathon.  I felt the need to watch it since I love the show.  One episode had the following exchange between Shepherd Book and River:

Book: What are we up to, sweetheart?
River Tam: Fixing your Bible.
Book: I, um...
[alarmed]
Book: What?
River Tam: Bible's broken. Contradictions, false logistics - doesn't make sense.
[she's marked up the bible, crossed out passages and torn out pages]
Book: No, no. You-you-you can't...
River Tam: So we'll integrate non-progressional evolution theory with God's creation of Eden. Eleven inherent metaphoric parallels already there. Eleven. Important number. Prime number. One goes into the house of eleven eleven times, but always comes out one. Noah's ark is a problem.
Book: Really?
River Tam: We'll have to call it early quantum state phenomenon. Only way to fit 5000 species of mammal on the same boat.
[rips out page]
Book: River, you don't fix the Bible.
River: It's broken. It doesn't make sense.
Book: It's not about making sense. It's about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It's about faith. You don't fix faith, River. It fixes you.

The surprising lesson is contained in the last lines of the dialog from Shepherd Book to River as River was "correcting the Bible:" "It's not about making sense. It's about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It's about faith. You don't fix faith, River. It fixes you."

Probably one of the most profound statements I have heard in a long time: You don't fix faith, it fixes you.  Truth.

From the Bible, we see a definition of faith in Romans Chapter 11.  The first 3 verses are printed below, but the entire chapter contains examples of faith throughout the entire Bible:
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
We can't see faith, we have to just believe.  It directs our path, it guides our life, and it gives peace.  Faith fixes us.  Without it, we are all broken creatures.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Surprised By Joy (and Pain)

Some weeks are just too over the top for me.  This past week has been full.  Full of joy, and full of pain.  Full of many extra hours of work, and a surprising day of rest.  Full of tears, and full of smiles.  My cup runneth over on both ends of the spectrum.

Work has been very busy with multiple drug seizures and the discovery of a deceased person out in the middle of nowhere in our area.  I worked about 20 extra hours last week and was running on fumes by the time my "days off" arrived.

This was a treatment weekend, so after getting off work on Thursday I drove to Midland to the hospice to rest before my early morning appointment.  On Friday morning, I showed up early to treatment for my blood draw as is customary, then waited to see the Dr.  Sadly, the Dr. gave me the news I dread: "blood counts are too low for treatment this week, so we will schedule for next week."

There are several reasons it bothers me when I get this news.  First, I carefully arrange my work schedule to accommodate the treatment weekends without having to use sick leave.  Now, I have to rearrange things and use some leave to make it to my next rescheduled treatment.  Secondly, I can't understand the blood count issue.  I do not feel sick, nor do I experience any issues with clotting or getting sick due to depressed platelets and white blood cells.  I don't get it.  I feel fine, even the fatigue issue hasn't been bad this week.  The rejection from treatment did allow me to just chill out yesterday and rest.  I caught up on sleep and watched some Netflix.

Tuesday was the funeral for a Border Patrol Agent who dies on duty last Friday.  These situations always cause me to get emotional, even when I do not know the person.  We are all a big family and it is hard to hear of a sibling passing suddenly from natural causes when they appeared to be hardy and healthy like so many of us.

I haven't been on line much due to the extra hours, but when I did get a chance finally today to catch up on some things.  One thing I make a point to read is the Middle Places blog.  Sure, I admit it is because my wife writes their Thursday posts every week, and I am deeply in love with her (and her writing).  This week, she wrote about doubts caused by tough times.  She has a way of making me cry and making me love her more and more each week.  Stop by and check it out if you have the time.

Today, when I got home from Midland from the disappointing appointment, I was pleasantly surprised to see someone had cut my grass for me.  I was planning to do so upon returning home, but this allowed me a chance to do other things to prepare for the arrival of my wife and kids on Monday.  Thank you who ever you are!!!

As I just said, Monday my wife and kids are scheduled to arrive here for several weeks (through Thanksgiving and my last chemo treatment whenever that will be).  I am very excited for this visit.  I NEED them with me.  It gives me joy and I have missed them for so long.  Even though I have been  very blessed to see them often this year, it is never enough until they are with me forever again.  Additionally, I am hoping to remarry my wife while they are here.  It is the plan anyway.  I REALLY NEED her in my life since she is my rock, my sanctuary, my peace.  I love her!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pret, Toujours Pret

From 1992-1994, I was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia in the US Army.  I was a military police traffic accident investigator. One of the units also on the base (out in Kelly Hill, if I remember correctly?) had a regimental crest with the motto of "Pret, Toujours Pret."  From the French, it is translated to English as "Ready, Always Ready."

That motto came to mind today based on an event at work and I had a series of rapidly flowing thoughts which I figured I would share today.

1. Be ready.

At some point in our lives, if we are displaying the fruit of the Spirit, someone will ask us why we live the way we do. We need to be prepared to provide an answer for the hope within us. We need to be prepared to give testimony. While having a preplanned or wrote script to regurgitate is not the answer I am suggesting, since the would not allow the Holy Spirit to give you the words most appropriate for the situation. I am suggesting that you pray for the leading of the Spirit if and when the occassion arises.

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:" 1 Peter 3:15 (KJV)
"Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." Colossians 4:6 (KJV)
2. We never know when our time will end.

Recent events at work (the loss of a coworker on duty) have reinforced this to me.  Sure, my diagnosis has also had it on the front burner for a while, but actually having to cope with a death has turned up the heat.  We never know when our days are complete, either through our passing or the return of the Lord.
"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." Matthew 25:13 (KJV)
3. Pret is pronounced "pray". We should always pray.   If I can offer only ONE suggestion to help improve your spiritual relationship, it is to pray.  Like any relationship, we need to talk things out.  We need to communicate.  Yes, God knows all our needs and those of others, but we should still make mention and raise them up.
"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." Luke 21:36 (KJV)
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;" Ephesians 6:18 (KJV)
"Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." Phillipians 4:4 (KJV)

Friday, November 2, 2012

It Is NOT The Cancer

It's not the cancer; it is the uncertainty.

When I awake in the morning (ok, sometimes afternoons), I am thankful.  Thankful for another day.  Thankful for the chance to make plans I hope to, but may never, achieve.  I frequently review my "retirement portfolio" and think I really need to hammer away at this thing and get it as full as I can.  Mostly because I know it is not for me.  It is to provide for my family for as long as I can once I am gone.  When I was first diagnosed, my first thoughts upon hearing the news from the Dr. about "2-3 years. probably" was to consider stopping my contributions towards my retirement, as it appeared I had no chance of reaching retirement.  Since God has been so merciful to renew the relationship with my wife, the opposite is true: contribute as much as I can now so she and the kids will have something when I depart.

It's not the cancer; it is the fatigue.

Everyday is a minor battle.  Getting out of bed starts the volley of enemy artillery.  I just want to lay back down and stay there.  Once I am up and moving I still have to fight the urge.  At work, I watch the clock knowing that home and the comforts of the beanbag/couch/comfy chair/bed await me.  A chance to let go and slip quietly into the peaceful bliss of sleep.  I just wish my body didn't ache so much and make me feel years beyond my age.

It's not the cancer; it is the fear.

I admit it.  I am scared.  Very scared sometimes.  I am not afraid to die, that is covered and I am secure in that knowledge.  I am afraid to leave my wife and children behind.  I want to be there to provide for them, to protect them.  I want them secure as they can be.  I don't want them to be without me.  Selfishly, I don't want to leave them, now that it seems as though we will all shortly be back together again.  I want that time.  All of it and much, much more.  I want to walk baby girl down the aisle at her wedding.  I want to watch them graduate college.  I want to help them get through tough life lessons.  I want to hold my grand babies.  And I am in NO hurry to do any of those things.

It's not the cancer; it is the chance for God to teach me. 

Through all of this, I know there is a lesson for me, or perhaps, for others.  What it is yet, I haven't a clue.  There are many phrases that appear on motivational posters or cute little graphics, such as "God will never lead you where His grace will not sustain you," and  "You never know how strong you are until you need to be."  There is also the potential lesson of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness which I hope my renewed relationship with my wife will display to others.  I know this will not all be for nothing; as Margaret Becker sang in the 80's, "It's never for nothing."  (Song really doesn't apply to the situation, just like it and the title) Whatever the final lesson turns out to be, I hope I have mastered the topic.

Thank you all for allowing me to vent some.  I appreciate your patience and wish you all well.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

To Whom It May Concern...

I'm tired; bone tired.  I am at the point where all I really want to do is lay down and sleep.  Sure, I am aware that fatigue is a part of this wonderful game called chemo, but this is getting old.

I make plans, yet can't get started on the doing of them.  I have goals which seem more and more unrealistic every day since I can't do the work to get closer to them.  I just want to rest.

I am not fulfilled at my job  (it is boring and I spend a lot of time just sitting at my desk).  I look for things to do, and have spent a bunch of time of projects for my former location (just to appear busy and to help them out some).  I want (check that: I NEED) to get back there to where I was always pressed for time to complete something, not this lackadaisical atmosphere where nothing is important until it is important (in which case it is too late to really do anything about it).

I have heard nothing on my Lateral Transfer request since submitting it, and my "boss" who was supposed to be tracking progress has not followed up (I asked about it today and he said, "oh, yeah.  I guess I should look into that.").  There are currently no job announcements which seem desirable to me, so I will not be applying for anything.

I am tired of my treatment schedule and the endless miles of driving through deserted highways from the middle of nowhere to something that resembles a small city. If I could get back to my former position, I would cut the drive to one fourth (even though I would be seeing a different doctor).  I  don't mind the idea of changing doctors, since maybe I could find one who is more supportive of alternative options instead of being resigned to make my final years "as comfortable as possible."

I know I am whining a bit today, but I haven't vented in a while so allow me this time.

I am excited to have my wife and children coming out to be with me for a while in November and through my final chemo poisoning.  I look forward to spending time with them and renewing the relationships which should have been.  I greatly desire my wife's presence since she is my peaceful place.

I "need" to find a way to get consistent with exercise.  I greatly desire it in my life as a way to burn off steam and to ensure sleep.  Building my endurance back to even where it once was will be a challenge, but I really need to get busy trying to do so.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Becoming

One of my wife's favorite books (she has so many and reads a lot), is The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real by Margery Williams.  It is a wonderful story and offers a very poignant teaching point.  The following excerpt is one of my personal favorite lessons.

“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. 

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”


Becoming Real can hurt.  Some lessons we experience which helps us Become are extremely painful, others are full of inexplicable joy.  In either case, it is always worth it.

Being Real.  That is my goal.  To be the man my wife can love for a long, long time and be who she needs me to be.  I want nothing more than to be there for her as long as I can be.  To offer support, take care of, and love her in return as she has needed me to.  To do the things I failed so badly at before.

General Stuff

I made some butternut squash soup again today.  Pretty straight forward recipe: roast a squash, add to a quart of veggie stock, puree.  Done.  I added a veggie stock flavor boost packet and a couple cups of water to get the consistency where I wanted it.  I also roasted three cloves of garlic with the squash. The squash was roasted seasoned with black pepper, a little salt, cumin, cinnamon, and some onion powder.  This is one of my current favorite soups.

I also attempted a vegan Buffalo "Chicken" patty recipe made with Great Northern Beans and Brown Rice.  Two cans of beans, one cup of cooked rice.  Mashed together (I use my hands since I do not have a food processor).  Add in some buffalo sauce.  I wrapped it in plastic wrap to let it set up a bit before cooking.  I will probably add some bread crumbs next time I try it to help it bind a bit better.  Had a great flavor after being pan fried (might try to bake it too to find the best cooking option).

Getting very excited to have my family here for a while.  Today is 2 weeks until they are scheduled to arrive. Really looking forward to seeing the photos and getting some printed and displayed.  (And posting a couple here for your viewing pleasure as long as you do not make fun of me).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

To Thine Own Self Be True.

In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, the character of Polonius offers many pieces of advice, as he is King Claudius's chief counselor (and the father of Ophelia and Laertes).  Many of his quotes are still in usage today (Neither a borrower or lender be).  Perhaps the most poignant is the following from Act 1, Scene 3:
"This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man."
Being true to yourself, it follows that truth becomes a part of you and permeates your character.

Writing a journal daily can be a very productive exercise.  It
allows a time to clear you mental plate of all the items from the day, set goals, make plans, and ask the important questions.  I heard a radio story today which stated that people who spend just 15 minutes a day on journaling are healthier.  While it did not specify if it was physical health, mental health, emotional health, or spiritual health, I believe that it can benefit all areas.

I have been maintaining this blog since July 15th with just a few lapses in consistency.  To me, it is a very cathartic habit.  It helps me think and share my slightly off-kilter point of view.  It allows me to be honest with myself and ask/answer some questions of myself I normally wouldn't.  Since I am trying to live transparently, I am not afraid to post my thoughts, though I will admit to self-editing exactly how much I put out here since I often fall victim to over-sharing and providing TMI (too much information).  If anyone has questions of me, I would be glad to answer them for you, as it could also get me out of a rut and cause me to think in a different direction than I am used to.

Some of the research I have looked in to on this topic talk about keeping your thoughts private and using it as a very personal device of accountability.  I am not afraid to share my thoughts.  I have nothing to lose.  I fully aspire to the standard of Psalm 51:6 "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom."  Hide nothing, let wisdom enter.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Empty Words (and other devices of destruction...)


“Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.” ~Homer
"Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient."
Ephesians 5:6 (New International Version (©1984))

The three single greatest failures of Christianity (IMHO), are these:

1. Misunderstanding of the character of God (in all three flavors with distinct personages)[Note: I fail in this as well, so do not expect a great treatise on the person-hood of the Holy Trinity]

2. Eisegesis v. Exegesis: Eisegesis (from Greek εἰς "into" as opposed to exegesis from ἐξηγεῖσθαι "to lead out") is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one's own presuppositions, agendas, and/or biases into and onto the text. The act is often used to "prove" a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda. Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis draws out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and discover-able meaning of its author, eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed effectively while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective. [From Wikipedia]

3. Empty words.

I will briefly address the first two today, but want to concentrate on the last one here.

1. Depending on the denominational flavor you possess, the person of the Holy Spirit is greatly ignored (or at least under represented/taken for granted or inversely carried to a mostly prominent position among the Three). I am currently reading Forgotten God by Francis Chan. His premise supports my observation. [Not giving myself kudos for this, just see it in my own life and reflected by the church.] The source I will use is Galatians 5:16-25, primarily focusing on the listing of the "Fruit of the Spirit" in verses 22 and 23. Paul lists the works of the flesh and follows up with the Fruit of the Spirit. His final comment in the highlighted verses is "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."

How many times do we see a complete lack of Fruit in the Body, yet fully displayed in someone who is "lost?" That embarrasses me and humbles me. I know I lack the fruit, but desire to reflect the Spirit in my life.

2. I have heard many sermons (NOT pointing fingers, for I can be just as guilty if left to my own devices-and I have assisted someone in an Eisegetical exercise to support his views when he voiced a non-PC stance and needed to write a rebuttal supporting his position to avoid disciplinary action). It is said that you can piece totally unrelated verses and portions of verses to support nearly any "doctrine", but Scripture needs to be measured against context and that is where things begin to fall apart.

Related to this issue is the lack of depth many people have when it comes to Bible study (again, not pointing fingers, as I am guilty as well). When we are young and courting, we read and reread the love letters from our Beloved many times and nearly have them memorized. The joy it brings us to read those words. Why should our relationship with God be any different? Should we not digest every morsel of the Word in order to come to a greater understanding of the One who Loves us more?

3. Empty Words. How often have we said to someone who voiced a need, "I will pray for you," only to forget the request no sooner than we turn away? Watch children. They will overtly disobey, counter with "I'm sorry" and go right back to the disobedience. Are we not very similar to the children? Do we not "repent" from our pet sin, only to repeat the action (through omission or commission) not long after our pleas hit the Heavens?

Do we not bathe those we care for with "I love you's" only to hurt them or act outside of what a truly loving relationship should be. Love is a verb and should reflect a servant mentality to those we love. Many of us (NOTE: the use of the word US, I am including myself in this group) do not know how to love as we should. Either through a selfish spirit, or never having had it modeled in a healthy manner in our life as we grew and were impressionable. This boils down to the ignorance versus apathy argument. One is not knowing how, the other is not caring to. (The old joke, "What's the difference between ignorance and apathy? I don't know and I don't care." Both are equally damaging.

God loves us. If we could just look to His love and model it in our relationships (love sacrificially, love completely, love forgivingly, love eternally)... I have a lot to learn.

Heavenly Father, show me Your truth of Who You are. Teach me to demonstrate Your characteristics, to love, be gentle, have peace, have mercy, patience, joy, faith, meekness, goodness, and temperance. Teach me to walk in Your Spirit. Help me to be a man of few words, and to mean those You lead me to speak.

General areas:

Had chemo session number 9. Uneventful (no negative reactions), though lab tests show elevated liver enzymes which are affected by damage to liver cells. May be getting a new set of scans sooner than expected to figure out what is going on there. This is a difficult issue for me (not the scans, don't bother me), as we are concentrating treatment on the colon cancer in the colon, and it seems to be negatively affecting liver function. I admit, I have some fear. Pray for peace and healing in this area.

After treatment, I went to grab a bite to eat and broke a tooth (lower right side molar). Normally, no big deal, just head to dentist to get it taken care of. Issue is I am banned from dental work until off chemo (1st or second week of December?) due to the likelihood of infection in my immune-suppressed system. Thankfully, there is no real pain, just sharp edges and annoyance. Pray for a resolution to this issue before it aggravates anything.

Family is heading out to Texas after the Election (she is registered to vote in Georgia and will exercise her civic duty there prior to departure). Looking forward to sharing time again with them (even though I will be working) through Thanksgiving and until we can celebrate the final chemo treatment of this cycle. I will not have many days off (one every two weeks since the other 3 are occupied with treatment), but we are both aware of this and will make the best of it.

While I was in Georgia, we had family photos taken by Holly Brown Photography. Now, I admit, I am not a real big fan of having photos taken of me, but this photo shoot was a blast. Holly made it fun! I look forward to seeing the finished photos soon and maybe posting one or two here for you all. If you are in Central Georgia/Atlanta metroplex, look her up, you will not be disppointed.

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days, Days 13-25

Recap of Day 12:

Breakfast (6:30 a.m.): Special K low fat granola with Almond milk (haven't has "cereal in years so this was a treat, and the cereal is McDougall compliant-only granola I could find with no added oils).
Lunch (12:00 p.m.): Pad Thai.  Homemade.  Recipe was totally made up so here it is generally- whole wheat fettuccine actually located in the Asian foods section specifically marked for Pad Thai, 1/2 cup Smucker's All-natural peanut butter, 1/4 cup Jumex coconut water to thin the peanut butter, crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, chili powder.
Dinner (5:00 p.m.):  Tortilla soup (finishing up the remnants from the batch from the other day).

I went to the greater Atlanta Metroplex for the past nearly 2 weeks.  Since I am so far behind on posting, a recap would be nearly impossible.  I will sat I ate several meals at Moe's Burritos and enjoyed them immensely, as well as the Subway Veggie Delight sandwiches.  Had a few pleasant surprises with restaurants serving up a good vegan dish here and there.  Also, did a lot of baked sweet potatoes and roasted veggies.  Faux fried eggplant turned out pretty good (thin sliced eggplant soaked in almond milk and crusted with cornmeal then baked).

Due to my extreme failure to remain consistent in the posting (which I rather suspected I might with the vacation and all) I will be reverting to the normal path of the blog and sharing my adventures through life and what God and the bible are showing me.  I will still post an occasional recipe or two when I find something that is worthy of sharing.  I will also be starting back to running next week so will share the joys and pains of trying to get back to where I want to be.

My (x) wife and I ran a 5k while I was visiting.  It was a small run sponsored by a local church.  With no recent training (for me) it was not a fun race, though I always enjoy the social aspect of races and the chance to talk to and encourage runners as we go.  While the end result was by no means a "good" time, it is my current Personal Record (PR) since it is my first 'officially' timed 5k race.  I will be looking for more o these in the future and hope to get to a decent time soon.

Friday, October 12, 2012

31 Days, Day 12

Recap of Day 11:

Breakfast (4:50 a.m.): Whole wheat tortilla and peanut butter.
Mid morning snack (8:30 a.m.):  Banana
Lunch (12:00 p.m.): Tortilla soup with brown rice.
Dinner (4:30 p.m.): Tortilla soup with added picante and hominy.  Brown rice.  Whole wheat tortilla with avocado.

I must admit, one of my all time favorite sandwiches is a very plain and simple "totra de aguacate".  Avocado on a roll.  I fell in love with them when I lived in Brownsville, Texas.  There was a small chain shop there called "Betty's Tortas" and they served this as a simple menu option.  Sometimes I go "crazy" and add fresh slices tomatoes.  I get totally out of control.

I am even more excited to go on vacation.  I was talking with my (x)wife tonight, and she told me she plans on joining me in the plant-based diet while I am there to give it a try.  I look forward to cooking with her and trying things that 1) I am a bit too crunched for time with my current schedule to try right now, and 2) have ingredients more readily available in "civilization" which I can't easily acquire here in West Texas.

My (x)wife reminded me of the Hallelujah Acres Diet which was "prescribed" by Dr. George Malkmus years ago.  After a little reading, it is based on McDougall and several other plant-based diets (Campbell, Ornish, Klaper, Bragg...).  The web site has a bunch of interesting recipes on it as well.  We have been actively pursuing recipes (especially due to them heading out here for Thanksgiving. Going to get more interesting as we find things we enjoy and I hope to bring the kids in as well to plant-based, though not gonna force it-gonna let them find things they like and try it slow).

I know her momma and dad would not make this change, being southerners who fry pretty much everything (not judging, just stating fact).  I truly believe her mother could really benefit from it, since she suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Who knows though, maybe my (x)wife will stick with it and influence prior to she and I reuniting forever. (Happy Thoughts!!!)

Next year, I hope to be settled somewhere (even here if that is God's plan for me) and really want to grow a garden.  I have really never gardened, but know that growing my own vegetable to the greatest extent possible will be MUCH more economical; especially considering the exorbitant prices my local monopoly grocery store charges and the amount of gas I would burn to drive to the next location with a decent store (65 miles just to Wal-Mart, 150-170 to an H.E.B. and Albertson's).

Just want to grow enough to not have to shop all the time for produce:  lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, onions, tomatoes, and summer squash and zucchini all over the place! That's my plan anyway.

Oh, and this is "Officially" my 100th post milestone (since July 15th). Over 7,200 page views (not that I am really tracking that).  I appreciate everyone who has joined me on the journey and look forward to the road less traveled and a little company along the way.  Thank you all.