Saturday, February 14, 2015

God is Moving



And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

It has become clear that it is time for me to move again. Just like it was when I moved here to the Keys in September, God is directing things. I find myself once again in awe as I watch Him move. I am going to try, with God’s grace, to tell you the story without writing a book.

The story really starts even before I moved here from Portland, OR, in September 2014. Almost from the day God converted me (8/22/2014), I have had the impression that He is preparing me for something specific. From the beginning, it has seemed likely that I will wind up someday doing face-to-face, one-on-one evangelism – presenting the gospel to those who God needs to hear it. I heard the term “Bible worker” and that seemed (and still seems) like a pretty good description of what God had put on my heart. This idea was already there even before the chain of events that led to me packing up everything and moving here back in September. 

Once I got here (WHNJ on Big Pine Key, FL), there was work to do and my focus was on that work; thoughts of Bible work were on the back burner. My work included (but was not limited to) driving my “boss”, Pastor Juanita Kretschmar, up and down the Keys to church services and prayer meetings. I also found myself involved in the lives of a flock of exotic birds that God has entrusted to this ministry. (I often got to feed and clean up after them.) As an unpaid volunteer, I also had ample time to spend re-acquainting my brain and heart with God’s word. I studied the sanctuary and worked through several sets of Bible studies. I felt almost desperate to know my Savior better, and that same lovely Savior gave me the time and opportunity for that to happen. I thank Him.

So by the end of the year, it seemed things were settled nicely. I still had only the vaguest notion that sometime in the future I would possibly get some training and start doing Bible work. Some time in December, my dad informed me that he had been impressed to place an announcement in his home church bulletin in Goldendale, WA, saying there would be a new Bible study group meeting on Sabbath afternoons. The topic was going to be the Holy Spirit and revival. This got me very excited and when he told me a couple weeks later that people were attending and studying, I was thrilled! God was definitely moving. Mind you, at that point I had no clue that I would have any part in any activity in Goldendale other than to pray for the church.

Right about the first of the year, it came to my attention that there was likely going to be an opportunity for me to engage in paid work here in Florida. This potential situation seemed to be a great fit all around and I started to pray about it, assuming that it was a no-brainer that I would accept the position if it were offered. One “catch” was that the position would require a time commitment, probably at least one year. I didn’t see any reason that would be a problem. At the time, I told some people who knew about this position that, “unless God dropped a brick in front of me”, I would almost certainly accept any offer.

Almost immediately, within a day or two, it seemed like everyone around me was mentioning “bible work”. These mentions were all brought up by others and, since this kind of terminology doesn’t normally pop up in daily conversation for me, they caught my attention. I had to ask God if He was trying to get my attention somehow. I wasn’t ready to claim that these were bricks falling, but there was no question that there was something brewing.

Right about this time (mid-January) I started following Jennifer Jill Schwirzer on Twitter. If you don’t know her, she is a sublimely gifted singer/songwriter/composer. I first heard her music on the radio station (WHNJ) and immediately recognized her unique talent. At one point, I started exploring her web site and discovered she had written some Bible studies based on the book of Revelation. I downloaded the first one and was immediately blown away. (I’m getting sidetracked a tiny bit here, but it is worth it.) The series is called The Lamb Wins and was such a huge blessing for me. Following the Lamb through Revelation and anywhere else He leads is now my sole focus in life. Also worth checking out is a 2-CD musical production Jennifer (and associates) produced. http://www.thelambwins.com/ You can download the Bible studies here, too.

Getting back to the main story, something else I spotted on Jennifer’s site was a link to Adventist Frontier Mission. I had never heard of this organization, but I thought if Jennifer deemed it worthwhile, I should probably check it out. So I did and was blown away. I quickly found myself asking God if this was something He would want me to be doing. I pored over the site, read the stories, and checked out the current postings. I hadn’t decided that this was definitely where God was leading me, but this certainly had my attention.

A day or so after this, I was on Facebook. Sister Schwirzer and I had engaged in some email correspondence due to my completing The Lamb Wins Bible studies; we had become friends on FB. I was casually looking at her Friends page and a face popped up that I had not seen for over 25 years, somebody with whom I worked in the NYC Van Ministry back in the late 80s. I was delighted to see him. One reason was that I still owed him money from all those years ago and had never had a chance to pay him back. So I sent him – John Baxter – a message and Facebook friend request, then proceeded to go eat lunch. It so happens that the people with whom I was eating lunch were also people with whom I had worked in NY. I mentioned to them that I had just messaged John Baxter on FB and reminiscing commenced. Then somebody said, “I wonder if John is still at AFM?” (AFM is Adventist Frontier Missions.)

This was the brick. Not only did it turn out that John Baxter was still with AFM, he is the Recruitment Director. This was too much. During the near-sleepless night in prayer that followed, I had to accept that God was, at the very least, letting me know that I was not to commit to this previously-mentioned position. I had prayed repeatedly and consistently, asking for God to direct my path. I have to believe that He actually does that if we ask. For me to have accepted a position like that in light of these developments, it would have seemed like I was slapping God in the face. 

So John and I talked on the phone. He thought it was a fine idea for me to apply to be considered for a call at AFM. I spent a couple of days praying, gathering information, and rounding up references. A few days later, I submitted the application. About a week later, I got a call from John. He let me know that he reviewed my application and discussed it with a couple of his associates. The consensus was that it would be a good idea for me to wait for the 2016 application cycle and, in the meantime, walk some more with Jesus and possibly  get some Bible work training. To that end, John suggested I pray with my dad and see what he thought about the idea of praying with his church and seeing if they might be able to use a Bible worker. This did not seem like an unreasonable idea so I picked up the phone and called my dad. (For those keeping track, this phone call happened on the evening of 2/1/15.)

For my dad’s benefit, I briefly ran through my conversation with John. Dad almost immediately stated, “It won’t work.” He proceeded to list the reasons why and I had no valid arguments with which to counter. All things considered, it sounded kind of crazy. Even though I was mostly convinced my dad's objections were valid, I was impressed to keep talking. I said to my dad that maybe we should take another approach. I suggested we forget about Bible worker training and Holy Spirit study groups on Sabbath afternoons. Forget about all our plans and schemes. What would happen if we prayed to God, submitted ourselves to Him without reserve, and asked the Holy Spirit if He would like to do something in Goldendale. If He wanted to use us, we were His to use. The more we talked, the more we both got excited. We agreed to pray this prayer through the month of February and see if anything happened.

As that conversation wound down, my dad mentioned that I would need to record something so he could share this idea with folks he has been studying with. The next day, I took my laptop down to the park and made a little video that basically gave a version of this story and invited others to join my dad and I in this faith experiment. Due to some technical difficulties and slight miscommunication, it was another week before this recording was seen by anyone. That was earlier this week. Without going into detail, I think it is safe to report that the immediate response was extremely positive. To put it in perspective, I will let the words of my dad speak for themselves. One day, early this week, he was still saying the equivalent of “It won’t work.” Less than 48 hours later, he said the following: “I don’t know if I should say this, but if I were you, I would get up here (Goldendale) tomorrow.” 

That very atypical statement from the normally conservative David Carl was enough to persuade me that God was telling me to move now. Add to that other respected and trusted voices expressing a sense of urgency (e.g. “I don’t think we have time to wait.”) and the decision was plain: I would leave as soon as I could without traveling on the Sabbath. It is early Sabbath morning as I am finishing this story. My plan is to depart first thing tomorrow morning. This will include driving across the southern part of the country to Los Angeles, spending a couple of days there, then heading up to Goldendale to see just exactly what our God has in mind. During this trip, I will almost certainly be visiting with beloved family members and dear friends. I feel so very blessed.

One of the reasons I wrote this is to let you all know what is happening… keeping you posted. I hope it serves that purpose adequately. But even more important to me is that you will know through the hearing of this story how much God has changed my life.* It is a story of learning to trust Him more and more every day. I know I can trust Him for everything, including helping me to trust Him even more! (He proves this to me constantly.) So when, after submitting myself to Him, I hear a voice in my ear, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it,” I can, with complete confidence, start walking.

*My prayer is you will realize He can change yours too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Was Wrong

After nearly three years of not writing anything on this blog, I think it's time for an update on a post I wrote here back on July 19, 2009. In that post, I tried to explain my beliefs regarding God. I explained that I was agnostic and was completely OK that there might not be a God at all. Soon after that, I began describing myself as an atheist. I was convinced that, based on the evidence available to me, there couldn't be a God. I've changed my mind about all that. I could not have been more wrong about who God is.

Almost three weeks ago, I got up after trying to take a nap and, for no apparent reason, I sat down at my computer, pulled up the Bible online, and looked up John 14. I started reading and didn't stop until I got to somewhere in Acts 3. At that point, I was broken. I fell to my knees and wept from the depths of my soul, asking Jesus to take over my life. I asked Him to forgive all my sins and give me a new heart. Based on several promises found in the Bible (Galatians 2:20, for one), I am convinced that, when I stood up from that prayer, I was a new and different man. (1 Samuel 10:6) Nothing has happened since then that has come close to giving me cause to change my mind. On the contrary. Each day that passes I am more and more convinced that He converted me on the spot... in that moment. The old Jeffrey is dead.

I am also convinced that our Creator loves us so much and is so desperate to be reunited with us that he died a painful, humiliating death on the cross. He did all that for just a chance that you would choose to let Him live in your heart. If you let Jesus into your heart, let go of everything, and let Him take control, you will be amazed at the peace and joy you will have. Just let Him in and He will do the rest. I promise. Even more importantly, He promises."I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26

Monday, October 10, 2011

Benched

I've been fighting off flu-like symptoms (sore throat, productive coughing and non, stuffed up sinuses and general feeling of ill-health) since Friday evening and have had to accept that I am not well enough to spend the day on campus. It's raining and is supposed to keep raining for the next 3 days. It's chilly. It does not seem prudent for me to be out and about all day.

Unless I feel much worse this afternoon, I'm planning on attending my two afternoon classes. I especially can't afford to miss Algebra unless I am totally bedridden. Fortunately, those two classes are in adjacent buildings and have close parking available. That means minimal walking in the rain.

I am surprised at how sad I am that I am missing class.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

A-


I know all two of you have been waiting with bated breath wondering how I did on my dreaded Algebra test. I scored a 92 and would have had a 97 except for a major brain fart on one simple problem. So I just recently stopped slamming my head against a fence post for that major miscue and am now enjoying a happy sense of accomplishment. I worked my ass off and it paid off. Note to self: Do that always.

So this week we started a new chapter and, quite frankly it's seeming like a bit of a breeze. If this continues, considering the relative cushiness of my other classes, this quarter might end up being a nice easing into of the whole return to the academic environment. That would be nice. Next quarter will almost certainly be more challenging, what with taking Biology and Chemistry, both of which include labs. If nothing else, those two classes will take up a ton of my time. But that's next quarter.

While I'm writing this I am also doing my Music History homework by listening to Paganini violin concertos. Life is good.

Speaking of Music History, one of our options for extra credit is to attend a live performance of classical music and write a short report. I learned Tuesday that if you show up at an Oregon Symphony concert two hours before showtime with $10 and your student I.D., you can purchase the best available seat in the house. Very nice. I am going to try to nab tickets for performances of Mozart's Jupiter symphony and Beethoven's one and only violin concerto. Years ago I had a cassette recording of the latter and played it until it finally broke. Stoked I am.

For those monitoring the shedding of pounds I've experienced since changing the way I eat: I am just under 128 lbs. (down from 167 about 4 months ago - I lost over 23% of my previous body weight), wearing 28" jeans (tiny bit loose), and feeling great. I am beginning the process of stabilization by starting to add some carbs back into my diet.

Today I am turning in first writing assignment that counts for English Comp. and tomorrow we have our first quiz that counts for Music History. I guess we are rolling now!

Monday, October 03, 2011

First Test Day

This afternoon I have a test in Algebra. It's not that big of a deal, but it is the first time in 16 years that I've taken a test in an academic environment. So I am a skoche nervous.

Yesterday I spent over 6 hours doing over 100 problems so I am as prepared as I can be. Later this morning I will take a few minutes to take one more look at factoring trinomials with a leading coefficient other than 1*, but other than that, it's about being very deliberate and double-checking everything.

I am reminded of learning to play golf. When I used to play, I had my mantras I would repeat as I was addressing the ball. "Head down... arm straight...", etc. Now it's "No such thing as sum of squares... SIGNS!!... keep going (with the factoring)...", etc.

I don't believe I'm going to be stumped on anything unless I have a brain fart. I should get a B and an A is well within reach. My coach suggested a non-A is perfectly acceptable and not to beat myself up if the result is something besides that. I think I agree. Mostly.

Honestly? I am a little bit excited.

*It may sound like I'm showing off with the tech speak (and maybe I am a little bit), but anyone reading this who is familiar with math will be giggling right about now. I'm pretty sure the stuff I'm being tested on is equivalent to the ABC's in writing.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Week 1 Update

The first week of the PA Project is in the books, so to speak. It was good. Let's get started with some unfinished business.

Men's Health - Before the first class met, I read some in the textbook and, besides seeing it was ten years old, found it dry and unenlightening to say the least. So my expectations were low for this class. Much to my delight, I found the instructor to be one cool dude. One of the first things he said was we won't be needing the book. Winning!

The class is all guys except for one brave female. There might be one or two besides me who are older than 23. It became apparent early on that this was not going to be your father's men's health class. There is going to be very little writing. One of our assignments is to get a rather thorough health screening and discuss it in class. Another is to go out and do something physical that you've never tried before, e.g. rock climbing, yoga, frisbee golf, etc.

One week we will be researching cancer - signs, risk factors, treatment, etc. During the class, the instructor said if anyone has or has had cancer to please see him during break. So I went and saw him. (If anyone hasn't read this blog before, I've had cancer.) He told me that my assignment is to write something about my experience and if I am willing, to stand up in front of the class and relate that experience. He said that for someone to get up and share their personal experience is worth infinitely more than for these guys to read something out of a book or on some website. He's probably right. I'm going to do it.

   Analysis - Another fun, rewarding class with another swell instructor. (He is so cool he even dropped a couple of F-bombs during the class.) Say it with me: Easy A for me if I put in the time.

The other three classes are going as predicted. Every class has been challenging and rewarding. Algebra is kicking my ass, but I expected that and even this particular ass-kicking has been rewarding. To go through the agony of feeling helpless to solve the problem, then plowing through and getting the hang of it, feels triumphant. This feeling of triumph will be either validated or crushed on Monday when we have our first test. I am in the process of doing every problem available in the textbook then doing them over again.

--------------
Since I am intending to enroll at WSU-V for next autumn's classes there, I have been in contact with their advising department. Their responses have been helpful but it took some time to get to the person who actually has the goods. She shared with me what is up as far as what to expect and suggestions on actions that I can take now to prepare me for next autumn.

In addition I found out that the minimum number of credits required to get financial aid is 6; I was under the impression it was 12. That means that, for that quarter, I can take those 6 credits and the 10 credit EMT course (for which financial doesn't pay) I am intending to take without killing myself. I was going to try to take a total of 22 credits in one quarter; now I don't have to dread that.

She also informed me that I should be able to finish my BS in four quarters, provided the credits from my AS degree from Clark are in order, which they will be. This means that, even if I take only 6 credits that autumn, I can fill in those missing credits with summer classes that year and still graduate in time to qualify to apply to PA programs at the end of May 2014.

In short, this is extreme good news. I was trying not to fret about that 22 credit quarter next autumn. Now it seems it will not be an issue. The master plan, is still in effect.

Time to get back to solving for zero.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back to School

I tried to get to blogging about the first day back to school, but because I'm back in school I didn't have enough time. I've a bit of free time at the moment so we'll see how far we get.

So far, everything overall has been mostly positive. The negatives are so few and so distinct, I can easily relate them quickly.

Parking is crazy limited in the morning. I have had to park off campus when I arrive after nine, but in the afternoon the situation improves dramatically. So it may end up that I will move after lunch and deal with the walking in the morning. I don't see it being a problem.

Schedule/time management. Not so much a negative as getting into a streamlined routine. Most days, my first class is at 10a and my last class ends at 5p. In the intervals between those classes, are two breaks - first one of 3 hours, second of 1 hour. Then on Tuesday, I add to that a class that starts at 7p and ends at 9:30p. That's a long day.

Hard to say this early, but it's apparent that it is going to be a major challenge to grab any free time, at least during the week. Fortunately, I have the one 10a class on Friday and that's it. I hope to do as much work as I can evenings and Friday so I don't have to spend a major chunk of time "working" on the weekend. I am probably dreaming, I know.

Bottom line on the time thing is that I had become accustomed to having negligible time obligations and have now gone straight to having major commitments. I will have to adapt and I shall.

I'll run through my impressions of the classes I've attended so far. (Still waiting to see what Men's Health is going to be like. That's tonight.)

Music History (Classical/Romantic periods) - What a fabulous way to start the academic day! This class is going to be a joy. The professor obviously loves the material and her opportunity to share her enthusiasm with her students. She told us we should budget 15-17 hours a week to the class. At first that sounds like a lot, but when you consider she is including the 5 hours of class time and 5 hours of listening to music from my favorite periods (oh NO!), then it doesn't seem bad at all.

   Analysis - Easy A for me if I put in the time. No problem. No clock-watching in this class!

English Composition - This looks like it's going to be another almost effortless class. The instructor is great fun - young guy who loves the material and loves being in front of an audience. Smart, funny and very kinetic. I'm wondering if he isn't auditioning for Brad Pitt's part in Twelve Monkeys. Very amusing watching his gesticulations.

   Analysis - This class will probably take more time, but maybe not. The major task is going to be a 1700-1900 word paper. But even that isn't that worrisome. I gotta give this the same "easy A if I put in the time" category.

Intermediate Algebra - Let's start with this is not - I repeat not - going to be an easy A, no matter how much time I put into it. It is going to be an A but I will have to work my ass off. Not only is the material tough, but we are going to be plowing through it very quickly. Little time to absorb things before moving on to the next mountain.

Since I already covered the analysis... The instructor is straightforward and seems like a cool guy. He seems up to the task of getting us through without crushing us. Lot of smart kids in this class.

So there you have it. I am still extremely optimistic, maybe even moreso than I was 3 days ago. Unless this Men's Health this evening is a nightmare, I have no reason to think that this quarter will be OK. I had significant anxiety that 17 credits was going to turn out to be impossible. I no longer think that.

I am feeling grateful that I have this opportunity. Not much more to say beyond that. I am happy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Reality Check

I've written here about my eagerness to avoid driving my by taking advantage of cheap bus and free bicycle travel. As romantic as that sounds, I've accepted the fact that it is not an option. I really don't know what I was thinking.

Every one of my classes has a textbook. I have at least three classes a day, sometimes four. I am going to be at school, at the minimum, from 10a through 5p. I can't leave my laptop at home, since I will using it in breaks between classes to study.

In addition, I need to find a way to eat at some point during that time. The way I eat, I need to keep things cold. There is no way I know of to do that at school other than to keep food on ice in my car.

Considering all that, riding the bicycle is unthinkable. Riding the bus might be physically possible but extremely impractical. So I will be driving my car every day back and forth to school. This means an increase in expense but as a trade-off, I will have a home base during the day, meaning I won't have to lug everything around throughout the day.

I will have to find other excuses to ride my bike.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Music or Women?

You may ask, "Jeffrey, why can't you have both?" Let me explain.

Yesterday I learned how simple it is to drop a class and register for a different class (when I dropped the hard algebra class and added the not-so-hard algebra class). So today I was talking with my dad telling him about the classes I currently have on tap for this quarter.

To recap: English Composition - feeling good about this one, Intermediate Algebra - feeling better about this one than I did, Women's Studies - I took this because it was available, Men's Health - ditto.

After my dad and I got off the phone, it occurred to me that a lot of students have been dropping and adding classes since I first registered and maybe some of the classes I really wanted to take might now be available.

Women's Studies fulfills a Humanities requirement and when I registered, it was the only think left that worked. What I really wanted to take was something like music or art history. Not that I have anything against Women's Studies. I read some in the textbook and it indeed seems like it would be interesting. But music history? That is in my wheelhouse. That is the kind of textbook I would read for leisure reading.

So, armed with my new-found skill at dropping/adding, I went to see if anything had changed with regard to availability. Sure enough, there were 16 spots available in a class called Music History - Classical & Romance. So I pulled the trigger and now, instead of studying Clare Booth Luce and Andrea Dworkin, I'll be chillin' with Brahms and Beethoven. I can't wait.

This change did affect my schedule a little. The music class meets M-F for an hour at 10a, which means I now have one class on Friday where before I did not. This change also means that I now have only one evening class where before I had three. So for me, that seems like a fairly even exchange as far as the time factor. It was not a hard decision at all since it means I get credit for studying something I love. (Plus, we all know that you can get away with skipping the occasional Friday class if you have to. ;))

This evening I was reading in the textbook for my English Comp class. I'm liking it. The typical view of early college writing is to talk about different types of writing, e.g. descriptive, narrative, compare and contrast. These authors instead believe that all writing  is a part of some form of conversation and when the writer picks up her "pen", she enters that conversation. I'm liking that model. If the instructor stays pretty close to this book, I believe I might enjoy this class.

I was worried that with all the returning and exchanging of textbooks, it would cost me more money. It turns out I will actually be spending about $10 less than before. Plus I get a brand new textbook instead of a used one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Aaaaaaggggghh!

I have been waiting patiently to see how much my financial aid award is going to be. I received an award letter a month or so ago telling me I would probably get somewhere around X amount for fall quarter. That includes two grants and two loans. That sounded pretty OK, but there was a big "probably" in there. Until I actually see the deposit hit my account, I won't know.

Yesterday morning I received an email with the subject line "Your Federal Direct Loan Disclosure Statements". I wasn't expecting to find anything out until the actual disbursements are sent out next week. But I thought, "Hmmmm, this could be interesting." So I followed the link and downloaded the document. The first thing I see is a line showing the amount I will be getting each quarter. My heart sank about as far as it could go.

It appeared that the X amount I was expecting was being split up into 3 quarters - fall, winter, spring. This was unfathomably disheartening. I immediately went into "gotta keep my shit together" mode. I was sure I was going to have to work, which seemed impossible to do when taking 17 credits. But I was determined that this "road bump" was not going to be insurmountable.

I called the financial aid office at school to see if they had any ideas. I got a message saying they were too busy to take my call and to try back later.

I called my credit union to see if I could get a personal loan or a secured loan on my car. They laughed. (Not really but they might as well have.)

I got started on re-building my resume - a daunting task in itself, but what am I going to do?

The preceding events took place over the course of about an hour and a half. I decided to try the financial aid office again. Then I thought I better have the money document in front of me for the call. I pulled it up and realized I hadn't scrolled down at all. So I did and, lo and behold, there was another line! This document was regarding the two loans. The line I had been freaking out about was regarding only one of the loans... and it was the smaller of the two!!

So after a few moments of careful review, I concluded that these two loans amounted to 3/4 of X. Assuming the grants are what I was told they would be, the final amount will total more than X. In other words, I am likely to be in a better financial situation than I imagined myself before the freak-out earlier in the morning.

The sense of overwhelming relief when I realized this literally left me breathless. I was hyperventilating with relief. I had, in my mind, begun bracing myself for an insanely - maybe impossibly - challenging situation. So when I learned that my prospects were not just "not as bad as I thought they were" but even better than I had previously imagined, I was duly overjoyed.

So... what a day, right? Dodged a bullet and came out better than before. THAT doesn't happen very often, right?

Let me tell you about today. First a bit of background leading up to today.

I registered for Algebra 111 which is called College Algebra. I registered for it because, when I took the placement tests, they said I was smart enough for it. When I saw the results, I told the guy I wasn't sure about this one but he assured me I'd be fine. I should mention that this course is one of the requirements for the degree I am pursuing.

A couple weeks ago I got an email from the math dept letting me know they were holding sessions so that people in that class would be prepared to succeed. I thought that was pretty darn nice of them... to care so much. So I eagerly signed up for the sessions - two days with one three-hour session each day.

I arrived at the first session this morning a few minutes before nine. There was a room full of people who must be just out of high school. I saw one person who might not be in that category but I think she was closer to their age than mine. There was a nice folder on the table in front of me. This is gonna be great!

The professor in charge opened his remarks by saying one of his main purposes today was to scare us out of taking this class. Hahahahaha! Boy, did that get a laugh. He said, seriously, if you're in the wrong class, better to find out now.

He spent the first 45 minutes going through the topics and chapters in the textbook and acquainting us with various study tools on the web that were available to us. This was when I started to get a little nervous. I bought the textbook weeks ago and had looked at the early warm-up sections and, while things looked challenging, I had no doubt I could manage it. But some of the things he was going over today looked mildly alarmingly unfamiliar.

During the second hour he had us work on a couple sheets filled with problems. He said he was giving us about 10 minutes. At first I seriously thought he meant 10 minutes to work on the first problem. Then I realized he meant to try to work through over a dozen problems in that time. Then I blacked out.

Seriously... the first problem, under normal circumstances, I could have figured out in a couple minutes. Under these current circumstances, I couldn't even get that one right. It's not like I was completely unfamiliar with material. I know how to factor polynomials. I know about coordinates. Hell, I got an A in college calculus 20 years ago. But this was like a language I had long forgotten how to use. I recognized the letters but was no longer able to remember how those letters formed words and how the words were used to form sentences. (If there are paragraphs in this language, I don't want to know about them.)

At the end of the second hour, I went to his desk and stated, "I am in the wrong class." We talked a minute or so and agreed that I probably was.

Did I mention this class is required for the degree I am pursuing?

So here I am in panic mode for the second time in two days. This development puts a major wrench in my finely crafted master plan. It means I have to take a lower Algebra class to prepare for 111. It means adding 5 more credits to an already treacherous load. It means that my carefully thought-out course sequences no longer fit.

Long story short, it looked like I was going to have to push my enrollment in WSU back a quarter and since they go on the semester system, I was going to be behind a full semester instead of just a quarter. And THAT would mean that I was almost certainly going to miss the deadline to apply for the physician assistant program on time.

By adding this one class, I was looking at the probability of adding another year to my master plan, plus spending more money. I'm not so concerned about the money, but at the age I am at, one year in the master plan is a long time.

I am certain I had no choice but to add the lower level course. Trying to take Algebra 111 without it would have been a certain failure and I am not ready for that yet.

So after bailing on the sessions, I beat feet up to the admin building to see if I could talk to my advisor - the one with whom I have spent literally hours coming up with the master plan. Of course today was orientation day for incoming freshman, which meant no advisors would be around until 3 pm and that was three and a half hours off.

So I drove home planning to return at 2:30 and, in the meantime, try to figure out a configuration of classes that might miraculously work but nothing did. I decided to go ahead and drop 111 and register for the lower level class (095). Not only was the class still available, but it was available at the exact time that the 111 class had occupied in my weekly schedule. Same time, same days. At least that was something positive.

At one point I decided I would forego the trip back to school to try to see the advisor. After all, once I had dropped and registered, there really was nothing to be done that couldn't be done later. I figured I had had enough for one day. Then on second thought, I said "Fuck it. (Sorry, that is what I actually said.) I'm going to go back anyway." I realized that, if nothing else, it would give me peace of mind. I usually go to great lengths to not leave things unsettled if I don't have to. So I went back.

I got in line to check in to see my advisor. After half an hour or so, I was nearing the front of the line (3rd) when those of us remaining in line were told that we would be given a number since they had already checked in the number of students that would be assured of seeing an advisor today. Nice. So I got a number and waited another hour.

Finally, Traci called my number. (It was #5 if you're keeping score.) I had never met Traci. I had always worked with Kira. I like Kira. Kira was the one that worked so hard to help me devise the master plan. And now I get to work with Traci. A complete stranger. A stranger who is holding my future in her hands.

Traci told me she had looked at Kira's notes and was a little familiar with my case. I quickly tried to fill in the blanks and she started poring over the master plan and how this addition of the extra class was going to affect it. She agreed that things looked grim. Then she went to work.

She furrowed her brow. She looked back and forth at her screen and pieces of paper. I think she cast some special advisory runes. At one point she came this close to telling me to STFU. Then she said, "I see what Kira was doing here. I think I've got it." Then I wet myself.

She did indeed have it. Another long story short, I had 6 credits tucked away in general electives that I didn't need. It was a calculus course for life science students (of which I am one) that would have been a nice addition, but it is not required. So we replaced that class with the new one and... problem solved.

I wanted to hug Traci but instead I told her she was almost as good as Kira. I was walkin' on sunshine coming out of that office. I wasn't hyperventilating this time; I just kept saying, "Wow!"

I know this has been  a long way around and the punchline wasn't that great, but for me it was yet another rollercoaster ride of a day. I went from being OK to being nearly despondent to being nearly euphoric. Twice I thought something dear was in grave jeopardy, only to find out that my situation has improved on both counts.

I am sure these tales are just the beginning. I am hoping I will have the time and energy to write more here, if for no other reason than to have a record for myself. You, dear reader, are welcome to peek any time.








Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Angel

One day when I was 19 and attending Walla Walla College in College Place, WA, two of my friends and I got our hands on some LSD. We decided to go ahead and drop it and, after some clever scheduling of class skipping, at noonish we did.

We took off on our bicycles and headed for the park in Walla Walla (the big city a couple miles away). Almost immediately on our arrival, we ran across a guy who was a friend of one of my co-trippers. He wasn't on any kind of substance but decided to tag along with us anyway. Fortuitously, he had his own bicycle.

First we rode over to a school to sit around and play on the equipment. We wound up talking about physics, including our guide's revelation that a bicycle is the most efficient machine that is powered by human energy alone. I've never verified his claim but it sounds reasonable and it sure made sense at the time. It left an impression on me.

Then we found ourselves riding through a cemetery. We came across an old-fashioned crematorium. We had some weed so someone got the bright idea to crawl into the crematorium and smoke it. So we did. Nothing exciting happened except realizing we were getting stoned in there with the remains of former humans.

Then our guide took us on a tour of the underground waterways of the city. It was dark and wet and probably not a great idea, especially since we weren't in our right minds, but it seemed fun at the time.

For me anyway, by this time I had developed a certain amount of trust in our guide. He seemed to have such a calm spirit and knew his way around. He seemed a natural at providing superb ground control for the three of us. Solid ground control is necessary for having a good trip. From my perspective, his was superb. Not only was he good at it, he seemed to enjoy it.

The day was wearing on and it was near dusk. Our guide told us about an observatory with a real telescope that was out in the middle of a wheat field a few miles from where we were. It belonged to Whitman College. It just so happened that our guide knew a guy who knew a guy who had his Ph.D. in astronomy. So after a couple phone calls, we found ourselves on our way to the telescope with our guide and astro doc in tow.

At this point, we stashed our bicycles for the ride out through the wheat fields. I was riding on the back of a motorcycle and the evening had turned cool, even though it was the middle of summer. The road was hilly - lots of small ups and downs - and I remember the temperature changing every time we went up and down a hill - warm at the top and cool at the bottom. It doesn't seem all that interesting now but I remember being pretty impressed back then.

So we got out to the wheat field, parked, and made our way to this cinder block structure - maybe 12x12 and four feet tall. The doc got inside and started turning a crank and the "roof" of the observatory rolled off. He turned various other cranks and the telescope was pointed at the sky. He would get everything situated then we would take turns standing on a chair and looking at the sky. And by sky, I mean some of the most amazing things I've ever seen - things I've only seen in pictures. There is no way to describe it so I'm not even going to try. If you have never been to an observatory, I highly recommend putting it on your bucket list and doing it.

After that grand experience we headed home. I can't remember at what point our guide went his separate way, but I have never forgotten that day and never will forget our guide. Not only did he give us a stellar experience for the day, he was always a calm, reassuring presence. Sometimes taking LSD can be a crap shoot. Most of the time it's good, but it can always turn scary. Nothing like that happened for me on that day.

Very recently I connected with him on Facebook. Neither his first or last name are so uncommon, but fortunately there were only a couple people with his name. Also fortunate is that he had a photo and I was pretty sure it was him. Turns out it was. I was very happy to hear that he remembers that day the same way I do - vividly and fondly.

If I believed in angels, I'd find it easy to believe he was one - a guardian angel.

What was his name you ask? Dean. Dean Angel.




Friday, September 02, 2011

Once Again

I think it's time to start writing here again. One reason is that a treasured friend donated a domain to use, which means a get to publish under my own URL. Very nice. Another reason is I may actually have something to say. It seems I have nothing to say here unless I'm on a journey. Now I've got a couple.

The first one started three and a half months ago when I stopped eating carbs. I will write about that very soon on another post. The second journey might be related to the first, though I can't prove that. Correlation does not equal causation, etc. But shortly after beginning the new way of eating, I noticed that I had more energy, physical and mental. It was right about that time Journey #2 began.

I had considered going back to school in the last two years. When I considered it, I always thought about taking a class or two to improve a specific skill, like writing or various computer skills. The thought never entered my mind to go back to school full-time and actually earn a degree. Which is strange because I haven't been employed since July 2009 and have been living off my disability check and the kindness of strangers since then. Which means I've had the time to go to school full-time.

So there I am three months ago with all this new found energy and ambition. Seemingly out of the blue, I decided, on a lark, to fill out the FAFSA (financial aid for college) paperwork... just to see what I could get and if it was worth it. It seemed obvious that, if I did apply, it would be to Clark College here in Vancouver (WA). Then I thought while I was at it, I might as well start the process of getting my transcripts from other schools I have attended.

A little history on "other schools" is in order. In 1981 I attended Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University) for one summer quarter. At that stage of my life, I was much more interested in partying than going to school. My grades weren't horrible, but I didn't think I was cut out for college life.

In 1986-87 I attended West Indies College (now Northern Caribbean University) in Jamaica. This, like WWC, is a religious school, so a lot of the focus is on religion. I was there for a full school year and did quite well.

In the early 90s I attended Portland Community College (not a university yet) part-time and did quite well. Then in the mid-90s I attended Western Kentucky University part-time and did quite well. This was the only time in my undergrad experience where I had something like a goal - I thought I'd be going for a business degree, so I was taking things like statistics, economics, etc. I did quite well.

Back to the present. After I got the transcripts process rolling and found out the financial aid would be adequate, I started thinking about what I wanted to study. For some reason I kept going back to getting a degree that would equip me to be a physician assistant. If you go way back to 2007 on this blog, you might find me waxing rhapsodic on how much I loved Dale, my PA, when I was going through the Cancer Journey. I did some research on what it would take and decided that it would be a daunting task but doable.

So  I started working with an advisor at Clark who specializes in health care careers. With her help, I came up with a plan. I will finish my associates degree at Clark. This should be finished by the end of summer 2012. Then I will enroll at Washington State University - Vancouver where I will get my BS in biology. I should finish that in spring 2014.

If everything goes as planned, I will then start applying to schools that offer PA programs. These programs are extremely competitive to get into and have a lot of prerequisites beyond getting good grades. One of those that will be a challenge is to gain hands-on experience caring for patients. Part of the plan is for me to get an EMT certificate the first quarter I'm at WSU then hopefully work enough hours doing that to impress the judges on the admissions panels.

There are two schools in this area that offer outstanding PA programs - Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. I would love to get into either, especially Pacific. But when choosing this profession, I know that one must be willing to move if necessary (and it often is), whether for school or employment. Then again, it's not like I've never moved.

Back to the present. Transcripts. Long story short, the Jamaica credits are useless; almost everything else was useful. Lumped altogether, those credits gave me enough to consider myself a sophomore. I can't feel too bad about that. It does mean that I have to take freshman comp (or whatever they call it these days) and biology again since those were both from Jamaica. So even though I'm a sophomore, I will have to take a few more credits to fill in those gaps. And the extra biology won't hurt, considering the bachelors I am pursuing.

I am taking 17 credits this quarter: English Composition, Algebra, Men's Health, and Women's Studies. Those last two are electives that I probably wouldn't have chosen except that they were available. The Women's Studies textbook does look interesting though.

So I'm all registered. My schedule fits together nicely. I have all my textbooks, which were not too expensive. One of them I got for $1 on eBay. I got my bus pass, which set me back $20 for 4 months worth of bus trips. I took the bus for a test run yesterday and toured the campus to see where the buildings are for each of my classes. Including walking, the bus trip takes about 45 minutes. I can use the time on the bus to do any reading that needs to be done. Classes start September 26.

I think that will do for now. I really can not say how excited I am to be embarking on this adventure. I have always loved being in school. I have few regrets in my life, but one of them is that this inspiration to be a PA didn't come earlier in life. But better late than never.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

What a Blast!

So serendipitous the way the surprise birthday celebration turned out. The event itself was surprise enough, but through last minute revelations, several beloved relatives showed up. These are people who I hadn't seen for over 20 years. It was a mountaintop moment.

Many thanks - to everyone who came and especially to she - Cindy, the best mate ever - who put it all together.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

9/10/10 MRI

Clean.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Last Night

He was too young to know that, in any novel with a reasonable amount of forethought, there were no coincidences.

Last week, my sweetie bought me the latest novel by John Irving - Last Night in Twisted River (from which the above quote is lifted). I'm 143 pages into it. Mr. Irving has disappointed in the past (A Son of the Circus anyone?), but he is hitting all his marks on this one.

New England? Check.
Toronto? Check.
Writer protagonist? Check.
Bears? Check.
Women who should be illustrated by R. Crumb? Check.
Hoity toity prep school? Check.
Children missing at least one parent? Check.
Bizarre tragedy? Check.

And that's just in the first 143 pages.

Life is good.

UPDATE: While proofing this post, I noticed another bit of cleverness by Mr. Irving. In the title, is he talking about "the night that preceded today"? Or is he talking about "the final night ever"? I'll let you know if I find out.



UPDATE 2: Vietnam war? Check. Wrestling? Check.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Ink

Monday, August 23, 2010

Where Were We?

I see my most recent post was in March... over five months ago. I often intend to write things on this here blog, but never get around to it. It's rare enough that I feel I have something worth saying. Oh well. I'm going to post something anyway.

Regarding that most recent post, it turns out that performance was the high point of Siobhan's year on Idol. We saw her this past Saturday evening at the Rose Garden. She was, of course, with 9 other Idolators. I hope she comes around here solo sometime. She was the only one of the ten who REALLY put on a SHOW.

There was one other idol who I would go see again:

Casey James - Way-More-Than-Adequate Guitar Guy

We recorded this Saturday night. I never saw this version of Casey on the show. Glimpses perhaps, but never like this.

I suppose a general update is in order. The bulk of past material on this blog is regarding my experiences with a cancer - brain tumor and melanoma. If you care to read, it starts in August 2007. The first couple of months were "exciting". As time passed, the posts and life in general got, I'm happy to say, relatively boring. Boring is good when recovering from cancer. For the last year, I've been having MRI's every 6 months instead of every 3 months. So things are groovy on the cancer front. "Groovy" means "cancer free, apparently".

Another development on the health front is that, in November 2009, I ceased smoking cigarettes. (Not that it matters THAT much, but I ceased smoking everything else decades ago.) I had tried Chantix a couple times in the last few years and ultimately, it didn't work. This time I tried Welbutrin - and it worked. The downside is I gained about 15 pounds. It's worth it.

The careful reader may have noted my earlier use of "we". I suppose not everyone knows that I was divorced earlier this year. I think most divorces are not fun at all; this one was no exception. But that's over and had been over for at least a year before the divorce was final on April Fool's Day this year. The point is, the "we" refers to my girlfriend Cindy and me. From this point on, if I refer to "we", unless otherwise stated, I'm talking about Cindy and m.

Cindy was someone I went to school with when I was a wee lad. She is a couple years older than me, but that didn't stop me from having a MAJOR crush on her. (I'm certain I wasn't the only boy that held her in high esteem... in SO many ways.) Fast forward to last summer. For some gawdz-only-know reason, I had joined Facebook. One of the VERY few cool things about FB is that one can look up old friends, e.g. school chums. One of those chums pointed out to me that Cindy was on FB AND single. So we wound up chatting and talking a bit. We saw each other at a school reunion late that summer, and started a lovely friendship. It didn't take long for us to become lovers and now we are "We".

She is my very best friend and an even better person than I imagined all those years ago. Plus... she's still at least as hot as she was back then... and believe you me, that is saying something. Ask anyone. Do NOT make me post pictures.

The latest news for "we" is that we are proud parents of a Boston Terrier girl puppy named Molly. She is almost 3 months old is the smartest puppy I've ever known. She is SUCH a quick study. She is as calm as a puppy can be. Of course I could go on and on. Let's just say we are thrilled to have her in our family.



And that's the news from 'round here.

Oh alright. Here's some more Molly love. This was the night we brought her home.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

American Idolatry (h/t EW)

I've been watching since Season 3. Taylor Hicks, David Cook, Adam Lambert. These are the only contestants for whom I waited each week with bated breath. "What will they do THIS week? Will this be yet another mindblowing performance?"

Please welcome Siobhan Magnus to the list.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Zwartboek - "Black Book" (2006) - Review

This is one of those long films that fly by in no time. Even watching significantly better-than-average films, there are times when I find myself thinking "Nice flick but is it ever going to end?" Not so with this one.

The story is about a Jewish woman who hooks up with the Dutch resistance during the final months of World War II. For much of the movie, she dons the guise of a non-Jewish Dutch singer in order to seduce one of the Nazis (a much more charming and sexier version of your typical Nazi). One can only imagine the surfeit of possibilities for spying. (Yes, Mata Hari does come to mind.)

Lots of intrigue with double-crosses and at least one double-double-cross (triple cross?) follow. There is romance, believe it or not. There are a few scenes that probably would have got this film an NC-17 rating twenty years ago. Not all of those scenes have to do with sex or nudity.

Though the story is pretty dang good, I'm not sure I'd have liked the film as much as I did without the performance of Carice van Houten. Quite frankly, the story was a tiny bit overwrought. (It was based on "actual events". I suppose WWII was an actual event.) But this girl's acting chops made this film something I recommend without reserve. I would watch it again if only to see her gut-wrenching sobs. I believed that she felt her pain might kill her.

------------
Here is a review from somebody who didn't like it quite as much as I did.

Forgot to mention... subtitles. What I consider a bonus is that they are in multiple languages - mostly Dutch but lots of German and even some Hebrew.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com (out of 5)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Oh, My God

UPDATE: Everything has changed.
Go ahead and read the following. It is an honest assessment of where I was at the time, but far, far away from where I am now.
---------------------------------------------
I've recently been in contact with several people with whom I grew up and went to school. The topic of religion and belief in God has come up in several conversations.

I was raised in a religious household. My parents are both Seventh-day Adventist and my siblings and I were raised to be SdA. I went to private church school until midway through my sophomore year in high school. (We called it "academy". I think "high school" was a little too worldly.)

The Adventism that was practiced in my household was a religion based on rules, judgment, and fear. The message I got was "God is love, but there is a long list of things that he doesn't like. If that's not clear in the Bible, you've got EGW to expound and maybe add to the list. Neglect to follow the rules, even if it's accidental (Remember Uzzah?), there is significant discipline meted out, even unto death."

So that was how I was introduced to the concept of God.

In my teens and until I was about 30, I was quite the sinner. Based on the concept of God that was handed to me, I was in serious trouble.

When I was in my mid-20s, I spent about 3 years in the SdA church. I was already pretty miserable by then and thought that maybe the church I grew up in might have the answers. I pursued that hope with vigor and rigor. I studied. I witnessed, even to the point of preaching to the faithful. After that 3 years, I became completely disillusioned with the whole thing. I knew I had given it my all and it was not working.

After that, I got down to practicing one of my most egregious sins - being a drunkard. (Not to mention all the substances that aren't mentioned in the Bible. Did they even have meth back then?) Eventually, in 1993, I realized that if something didn't change dramatically, I was going to die before too long.

Right when I was starting to think about the gravity of my situation, my dad sent me a long letter telling me about a treatment center that several of my family members had been through. He made a very convincing case that I might consider checking myself in. So I did. Except for caffeine and nicotine, I haven't had a drink or toke or snort since that day (2/22/93, for those keeping score at home). Hallelujah.

This treatment center I checked into was different than what most people think of when they think about treatment centers. Their program was not limited to substance abuse. They treat all the isms: food addiction, sex addiction, workaholism... you name the ism and they'll treat it. That's because the basis of all their treatment is the idea that most of us are afflicted with the ism of codependency. Treat that and you all those other isms make a lot more sense.

Agree or not with the concept, it certainly worked for me. I knew almost immediately after walking into that room that I was going to be OK.

At some point during the 85 days I was there, I was handed a new concept of God. More than that, I was handed a new way of relating to the concept of God.

I had always thought and felt that one could get in serious trouble with God if one believed incorrectly. As a result, I was always terrified of the fact that I was not only in big trouble, but might even be in trouble for believing the wrong thing. By the time I left the treatment center, I knew that I could believe whatever I believed. In fact, I knew that I needed to be true to what I really believe, not what somebody compelled me to believe. Whoever or whatever this god (or gods) were, they could get along just fine, regardless of what I believed.

This led to an indisputable truth for me - I no longer had to fear. Life, death, god... no fear. Not too long ago, I was faced with a very serious brain surgery. At no time did it occur to me to ask some deity to protect me or make sure everything would turn out the way I wanted it to. I knew that regardless of how things turned out, the universe and I were going to be OK. I was not afraid to die. Of course my preference was to not die. I love life. I prefer to be alive. But when I was about to go under for the surgery, I realized that I was OK with whatever happened.

Part of my recovery was to accept that I was powerless over all the isms and that the only way to deal with that was through believing in a higher power. I was encouraged to find a higher power that worked for me. I had already realized the concept of god that I had learned in childhood definitely did not work for me. I came to believe that the important thing was to realize, on a deeply spiritual level, that I am not god. I needed to internalize the truth that I am not in charge. That is where I'm at now.

I describe myself as agnostic. I don't believe I can know whether or not there is a god or gods. The evidence that I have to work with is inconclusive. I strongly suspect that almost all religions come from a deep human desire to be OK. Part of being OK is having the hope that there's something out there that will keep us OK. That's there's something else besides life and death - that life has meaning beyond what we experience now. Religion is a very popular and sometimes successful means to that end - feeling OK.

I am OK with the idea that this (picture me stretching my arms out to my sides with palms up and open) is it. I have only today and that may very well be all there is. For me, life has meaning in the way I live today. There is sufficient meaning in trying to do the next correct thing. There is sufficient meaning in trying to treat others as I would like to be treated. There is sufficient meaning in tasting, smelling, listening to, seeing and feeling this moment. I don't need any reward - this life is good enough for me.

So there you go - god or no god, I'm OK either way.

P.S. It should go without saying that I believe everyone has the same freedom I do - to believe what they believe. I am not trying to make a case to convince anyone. I am trying to explain, to those who have asked, why and how I got to where I'm at.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Independence Day

For most of us in the United States, today is a day of family, floats ("parade" would have ruined the alliteration), food, flags and fireworks. It's a day when, at least for a moment or two, many of us feel pangs of patriotism for this country.

Lots of us have family or close friends who are serving overseas. My brother is serving as a Marine infantry sergeant in Afghanistan. This is his second tour in the middle east - he also served in Iraq. Everyday I think of him and ask the universe to keep an eye on him.

I am not writing this today to take anything away from US troops. I'm hoping the fact that I've got a bit of skin in the game will serve as my bona fides.

Today I see and hear many shouts out to the troops and their sacrifice. I applaud those shout-outs and believe them highly appropriate. What I don't see and hear much of are shout-outs to what we are supposed to be celebrating today.


Though it's all worth reading, I'm not going to quote the whole thing, but you can read it for yourself if you click on the image. Here's some stuff I like and am thinking about today:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Then comes the rather lengthy list of the sins of King George III (a startling number of which might be applied to the most recent George to hold the office of president - but that is a post for another time). After the list is the actual declaration by the "united States of America" of their independence from Britain. For some reason we usually have stopped reading by this point. Here it is:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

That's all. No pithy commentary from me. Consider it my shout out to Tom, John, Ben and the rest of the boys. Thank you for putting this all on paper so we can drag it out once a year and remember what this day is about.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

All's Well

Just in case anyone still checks this blog, I'm good. All results have been clear.

In August 2008 I had a melanoma removed from my temple. If you look at pictures from the tumor surgery, you can see it. We caught it very early. It was about .5 mm... barely thick enough to be classified as a melanoma. So gotta keep an eye on the skin.

An interesting detail - the only reason I was at the dermatologist in the first place was to try to get a handle on a small patch of dry skin on my forehead. My regular doc tried some things but they didn't work so he referred me to the dermatologist. This skin guy gave me some potions that cleared up the dry skin. He also said "While you're here, would you like me to give you a full body check?" Why not, right? Good thing he checked, right? Whew.

Also, early this year I started taking anti-seizure medication (Lamictal). This was a preventive measure only. After reporting to my neurologist that I had been experiencing some sensations that reminded me of how my arm felt before the discovery of the brain tumor, he suggested taking the anti-seizure med just in case.

So... still good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Update

If you came here to read about The Tumor Project, go here and start at the bottom of the page. When you get to the top, click on September 2007 to continue.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Superstar


Photo by Dick Riniker - La Crosse Tribune

There is a lovely article in today's La Crosse Tribune. It's about my step-son Jordan, who has been selected by his school, La Farge High School, to represent them in the Extra Effort Award program the Tribune is sponsoring. Three winners in the area will be awarded one year's tuition at one of three schools - Viterbo University, Western Technical College, and University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.

Go Jordan!!

Friday, February 29, 2008

MRI Results Day

My amateur reading of the MRI turned out to be correct - less enhancement than 3 months ago. Less enhancement (white stuff) is always good. Dr. Minehan said, since this report is so good, we'll wait 4 months (was scheduled for 3 months) for the next MRI.

Click on the picture to see it bigger.



The left side of the image is the MRI from November (post-radiation). The one on the right is from Wednesday. The arrows point to the where the tumor used to be.

Not much more to say. We be celebratin'!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

MRI Day

No matter how many times I do this (4 times now?), there seems to be no escaping the anxiety preceding the event. I have no reason to expect anything to change, but one never knows.

I had the MRI this morning and as usual, it was uneventful; I may have even fallen asleep at one point. I also remembered to alert the techs that I'd be asking for a copy of the imaging results. When we were done they told me to hang for a couple minutes and I could take the CD home with me. Uh oh. Then I had to decide if I wanted to look at it with neither professional supervision nor a radiology report to refer to. Of course I had to look. I'm not a professional, but it looked fine to me. Even less enhancement than before. We'll wait for the professionals to weigh in Friday. More then.

Saturday I came in 4th in a poker tournament that started with 38 people. Of course I would have liked to have come in 1st, but I'm actually tickled to have done as well as I did. My goal is always to survive long enough to get close to the money and hope to catch some luck coming down to the end. That happened but a couple other players had even better luck. Too much fun.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Working Stiff

That's me. I am now employed in the Graphics department as an assistant. The position is part-time, so I'll be working 4 hours every afternoon. I'll be making enough to make it worthwhile but not too much to effect my SSDI benefit. All things considered, it's a very happy situation. I'm sure the work will be challenging, at least at first, but that's a good thing. And I adore the people with whom I work.

No medical news to speak of. MRI next (not this coming, but next) Wednesday and will visit with one of my oncologists that Friday. Except for the remaining three months of chemo, I'm not taking any drugs. That's good.

Our 2007 income tax refund arrived in our bank account Friday. This year's was significantly meager compared to past years so we decided to blow it. To accomplish this most efficiently, we spent Friday night at Ho Chunk Hotel & Casino in the Wisconsin Dells.

I took a chunk of my loot and sat down at the poker table. I wasn't expecting to lose it all but I was prepared for it if it happened. I played for 6.5 hours and ended up earning just over $20 an hour. Good times. Very good times. It wasn't just that I came out ahead; it was just fun! I'm not ready to go pro or anything, but I didn't feel the least bit uncomfortable playing with these people. I usually play online and, as one might expect, people often behave boorishly. Not at the live tables. Everyone is quite cordial, in fact.

We've had an unusually cold and snowy winter. Thursday we had about 15 inches of light, fluffy stuff and today we're getting at least 10 more inches of heavy, wet mess. Not good times. Here are some pictures I took yesterday:

From the back of the house looking at the garage.

From the garage (corner at left side of frame in previous photo) looking at the back of the house. Shot from the corner of the garage.

Front of garage. Shot from alley.

Another angle of Garage Mountain.

You can see that I'm going to have some issues with where to put this new snow. We shall see.

And finally - here's a recent shot of the ol' bean. For those of you keeping score at home, there's new hair growing where we haven't see hair since the days of the dreads. Slow going, but good times anyway.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

O, Happy Days

Where shall I start? Let's get the medical stuff out of the way. Basically, no changes. I'm in the middle of my third cycle of chemo - three more to go after this. So far the side effects have been minimal. Keep in mind that I've become accustomed to a little mush brain and an inordinate urge to nap, but it's been that way since about half way through radiation. This chemo doesn't seem to be effecting me too dramatically. That's good. Next MRI is the last week of February.

No noticeable difference with the removal of Keppra from my regimen. That's good. So that's it for the medical stuff.

Back in November, I applied for Social Security Disability Insurance. I was advised that it usually takes 4-5 months before one gets a decision. This past Monday, I got a call letting me know I have been awarded benefits. By my calculation, that only took a little under 2.5 months. Score. I should get my first check the first week of March... 2 weeks after my short-term disability from work runs out. Not bad.

I also applied for medical insurance through SSI back in November. That is still pending, but it may not matter one way or the other because... I may be going back to work! I applied for a part-time position at the same company that still (nominally) employs me. I don't want to say too much about it until there's a decision, but it sure sounds like a perfect deal - for me and for the department.

Besides the fact that I think I can do spectacular work in this job, another major upside is that as long as I'm scheduled to work at least 20 hours a week, I get to keep my medical insurance benefit exactly the way it has been. This would be huge. This is why the SSI medical insurance may not matter.

I was also pleasantly surprised that the thought of returning to work makes me happy. I am tickled at the prospect of being useful again to the coop. More potential happy days.

There's been a situation in our lives that started not too long before I left on my big road trip to the West. I haven't talked about it because of it's sensitive nature. Today it was resolved in a most satisfactory fashion so I'm going to talk about it a little.

OK, maybe I won't say that much about it after all. Let's just say that Lori's world has been rather hellish since returning from a medical leave of absence earlier this month. In a horrible situation, Lori acquitted herself heroically. Next Monday she will return to her former position in the cheese room. Considering what she went through, I think there's no other way to describe the outcome than "victory". She still has a job at the coop, it's a job she'd rather be doing anyway, and she walks away with her integrity and self-esteem intact. I couldn't be more proud of or happy for her. My hero.