Dancing with the Scars.

Posted: September 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

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I find myself in an abandoned discotheque on the outskirts of downtown. The lights are dim, the music has faded. The aroma of fried food and perfume is thick in the air, in my weakened state this gives me a coughing fit. I find a warm can of Fresca on the bar counter, it helps my lungs to settle.
In my search for healing, this is where I’ve ended up.
I know I’m going to have to dance.
I walk out onto the rundown dance floor.
The mirrored ball is dusty and broken.
It doesn’t matter…
I know I’m going to have to dance.
I just have to find my song.
It’s a simple groove…three steps.
I move towards the miracle.
We are halfway through the scheduled treatment!!
Three treatments down, three more to go!!
We find ourselves dancing in the in-between, and we are learning the rhythm of this twisted little tango.
It’s like a three step groove on an old dance floor.
We are learning the steps, what once was foreign has become familiar.
Three steps…
Step One…
Treatment week is like a middle school ballroom dance. I have an assigned partner that I have to learn to move around with, a pump that is literally part of me. We dance to the soft syncopation of drugs being pushed into my body, this week is awkward.
Step Two…
The week after treatment is like a mosh pit. I slam dance with a long line of side effects. This part of the dance is painful and vulnerable and everything tastes like unleaded gasoline.
Step Three (FINALLY)…
This is the week that I currently find myself dancing in.
It’s a wonky waltz.
This is the recovery week.
This week…
My blood counts are good, the strangeness has settled down a bit, I’m getting a little rest at night.
I still can’t feel things with my fingers, that doesn’t keep me from pointing toward Heaven while I move.
This is the week when I’m built up before we start all over and I’m broke down again.
It’s a messed up rinse and repeat.
But, it’s all a part of moving towards the miracle.
I’ve learned the rhythm just in time for the back half of the dance.
In my head I rehearse the unforced rhythm of grace, it gives me a backbeat.
I’ve gotta listen to the right music and find the groove.
As I dance, things that were engineered for my captivity and demise are broken.
Three steps.
I know that I’m going to have to dance.
In the suddenly shiny and whole mirrored ball, I see the reflection of the miracle.

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As I write this, Hurricane Florence has made landfall in our home state of North Carolina. Our beautiful coast is being beat up and battered. We are four hours inland, we have been told to expect high winds, heavy rain, and power outages.
Our local over caffeinated meteorologists and friendly media people have told us to get prepared and hunker down.
Hunker down is actually really solid advice.
Hunker means to squat down and stay put.
It means to settle in and take shelter.
It’s good advice when storms hit.
Hunkering is really tough for some people.
They aren’t wired to hunker.
They would much rather hustle.
But sometimes you just got to hunker.
Since beginning my battle with the belly bully, pretty much all that I’ve done is hunker.
My job right now is to heal.
Sometimes, healing requires hunkering.
So, I hunker.
In fact, I have become an expert on the fine art of hunkering.
So, I want to share with you some helpful hunker help.
There are hundreds of books, blogs, and self help seminars to help you hustle, but surprisingly few can teach you how to hunker.
Fear not…
I am here for you.
Here are some things I have learned:
• Follow instructions! Listen to the authorities and experts, even when they seem to be overreacting. They might see things that you don’t.
• Learn some new card tricks! Sometimes we don’t like the hand of cards we are dealt in life, Don’t quit the game.
Learn some new card tricks.
• A good book can take you anywhere. If you are feeling cooped up, grab a book…not a text book, get some fun fiction and let it help you escape. In the last week, I have sailed the Caribbean and flown the Millennium Falcon.
• Snacks are important! Stock up on snacks. Everybody seems to stock up on bread and milk, evidently they plan on surviving on French toast. I would rather stock up on beef jerky and root beer. Get a variety snacks that you like. Variety is important because sometimes things don’t taste the way they should.
• Talk!
Spend time talking to God.
Spend time talking to your hunker buddies.
Remember to listen.
• Learn something. As long as we are living, we should be learning. The hunker times are powerful teachers, pay attention!
• Relax.
Take a breath.
Take a nap.
Squat down and stay put.
Settle in and take shelter.
Hunker!!

Game Face.

Posted: September 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

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I love this picture of Carolina Panthers tight end, Greg Olsen.
It is the perfect example of a game face.
Off the field, Greg is a family man. He’s warm, He’s fuzzy, He goes to PTA meetings.
On the field, you really don’t want to mess with him. He is a 6’5” beast.
Like those of us who have never played in the NFL, Greg Olsen has also had times off the field when he’s had to put on a game face.
His son has had serious health challenges.
The kind of hard times that draw you together as a family.
The Olsens have had to put on their game faces and fight for their boy.
Let me see your game face.
It’s a swagger or snarl that you bring out when things are about to get tough.

We all have those days…
hard, gray days when we have to press through.
We encounter cold days that offer more pain than promise.
We have to tackle opponents that we didn’t see coming.
THAT is when it’s time to put on our game face.
Sometimes we have to be strong for someone else, we share their fight and we wear a game face for them.
I have seen my wife’s game face often during this fight.
She is a beast.
Let me see your game face.
This is NOT “fake it til you make it”.
This is finding strength that you didn’t know you had.
It’s not putting on a happy face.
It’s drawing on resources that you only discover in the midst of the fight.
It’s letting those resources being reflected in your countenance.
Game faces are almost never pretty,
They are gritty,
They are sweaty,
They are more beast than beauty
They are hardly selfies.
They get your face in the fight.
They tell your opponent…
“I showed up and I mean business.”
It’s your mountain moving face.
It’s the face that won’t take no for an answer.
It’s the face that refuses to sit down, shut up, or move to the back of the bus.
It’s the wild eyed look that says…
You can stand me up at the gates of hell,

But I won’t back down.”

 
I CAN not…WILL not give up.
 
it’s looking the bully in the eyes and saying…

I know your reputation.
I know your record.
BUT…
I know the ONE who fights for me.
The ONE who is good, 
The ONE who is greater. 
 
 
Let me see your game face.

Of Fake Mice and Fatigue.

Posted: September 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

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It was the big grand  re-opening at the retail store where I worked. There was going to be free popcorn, and snow cones, and BIG sales.
The details of what happened next are a little fuzzy, But, here is what I vaguely remember..,
They needed someone to dress up in a costume to entertain the kiddos and hand out shiny blue balloons. Somehow I got volunteered, probably because I was the closest in size to the kids.
It was spring time in Oklahoma, which means an explosion of pollen and ragweed and hay fever. I had taken an allergy pill before work. It had kicked in and I was feeling drowsy and dopier than normal. So, I was already moving and thinking in slow motion.
So I dressed up in the big threadbare costume, it was a cheap ripoff of America’s favorite mouse.
The costume smelled like sweat, mildew, and a used diaper wrapped in old cheese.
It was…awesome.
The eye holes lined up with the top of my forehead so I couldn’t actually see. Also, the head kept spinning around creating nightmares for small children and interesting aromatherapy for me.
I tried to trudge around in the big awkward foam shoes, I kept stumbling and, at one point, almost knocked over the popcorn machine.
I tried to wave and do a little happy dance.
Kids were pulling my tail and hanging onto my legs.
Some teenagers thought it would be hilarious to kick me in the backside, and push me.
I learned giant rodents get no respect.
Since, I was supposed to be an animated character, I was expected to be animated.
That was hard.
Lethargy kicked in pretty fast.
Trying to function as a fake mouse drug me down.
I was worn out.
I was carrying the weight of the mouse on my shoulders, and I was heavily medicated.
After about a half hour, I was was done.
AND NOW, flash forward to today: a couple of days after my third week of chemo, I feel like I’m wearing that nasty costume again.
I’m wearing something smelly that I didn’t ask for, and I’m on drugs while I do it.
AND, some belly bully is trying to kick my butt and pull my tail.
My hands and feet are heavy, and my head feels like a forty eight pound canned ham as it spins around.
Lethargy kicks in pretty fast.
It can leave a person a little sluggish.
It’s hard to live animated.
I’m tired.
I…have…..no..energy…
…sorry, I dozed off there.
It shouldn’t be surprising, it happens.
It’s a side effect.
Besides, I’m too sleepy to be surprised.
This is the slow motion portion of the fight.
But…
I keep slugging even when I’m sluggish.
I will just avoid heavy machinery and horseshoe games.
I think I’m going to take a nap, I’m just hoping I don’t dream about giant rodents…

My Mind Races…

Posted: September 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

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I lie awake at night.
My mind races like a creaky old roller coaster on a rickety wooden track.
It clunks and clanks…
It jerks me around as I try to hold on to a little rest…
There are twists and turns, ups and down all within the amusement park of my brain.
Sleep is short, sporadic and sloppy.
When it comes, it is twisted.
In my detached dreams…
so many images and feelings clunk around in my tired head…
I visit a dime store from my childhood until I get accused of shoplifting by Gumby.
I rewatch movies that I’ve never seen.
I try to hold onto handfuls of cold ramen noodles while riding rushing rapids comprised of tomato soup.
Twisted.
We are almost done with treatment week number three and I’m convinced that a mind is a terrible thing to baste.
The belly bully is being beat down, but there is weirdness left in the wake.
The drug induced almost-dreams are just the start.
I’ve had a needle inserted into my chest for the last seven days straight, I just can’t get used to that.
I’m pretty loopy. It looks like I’m attempting some strange primal ballet dance when I walk.
My immunity system is pretty wonky right now. Germs and pollen are punching me in the face.
I’m super sensitive to smells, I’m pretty sure I can smell toast cooking from a mile away.
My hands resemble tissue paper no matter how much lotion I slather on them.
My voice is cracking when I try to talk and I have a scraggly sprout of peach fuzz randomly growing on the side of my face where NOTHING else is growing. It feels like I’m going through puberty again. I hope not! The first time was painful enough.
In a horrible twist of fate, Doritos presently taste like gasoline.
I have a white blood cell count booster plugged into my arm. That is wild and makes me feel like I’m being transformed into a vertically challenged robot, which is actually strangely cool.
Thankfully coffee still tastes like coffee!
It’s all so very twisted.
BUT, WAIT!!!
I look over the edge of the rickety roller coaster and I realize…
we are HALFWAY!!
I can see the loading/unloading platform from here!!
We’ve gone over three hills (without throwing up!)
We have three more!!
We can do this!!
I grab hold of the guard rail and I renew my hope.
I’m so ready to just spend some time on the Merry-Go-Round with my granddaughter!

It’s Weird to be Wobbly.

Posted: September 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

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Remember Weebles?
The super cool little plastic roly-poly toy that showed up in the seventies. They were egg shaped people with an unforgettable catch phrase…
“Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down”.
I loved Weebles.
They made me feel better about my body type.

And now I wobble.
I’ve never actually been a real graceful dude, I’ve always been pretty clumsy.
I wobble.
But, I have a low center of gravity, so I can usually catch myself.
My legs are about fourteen inches long. My girth is probably three times that, So basically I’m built like a Weeble.

But, now I wobble more than ever.

Here’s the crazy thing about my wobbling..,
It’s not the disease that is making me wobbly, it’s the cure!
(Stop and think about that for a moment)
The drugs running through my egg shaped body are making my walking weirdly wobbly.

Unlike Weebles, sometimes when I wobble I fall.
I give into gravity.
I’m not crazy about that.
I want to defy gravity.
As someone told me lately,
“Everyone deserves the chance to fly!”

But gravity can get the best of me.

Here’s the crazy thing about gravity…
I’ve learned sometimes we are meant to defy it,
But, sometimes it’s meant to pull us down.

God created gravitational pulls.

They keep us from getting blown away by tailwinds and twisters.
There are times we need to be grounded.
The wobble is part of the walk.

Gravity reminds us of the need for trust.
When we hit the ground we remember that we will never leave the ground without some help.
We don’t forge our own wings.
We defy gravity when we move at the speed of Spirit, instead of self.

I presently find myself constantly looking for something to grab ahold of when I start to wobble. I need something to lean on.
I stay close to someone or something that can hold me up…
My wife, a nearby wall.

And for now I wobble,
It’s part of my walk.
But, soon…
I
will
fly.

Skipping Chapters.

Posted: September 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

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I like BIG books and I can not lie.
Some people don’t, I can’t deny.
I know people who only read the first and last chapters of a book.
They don’t have time for the in-between, so they skip all of the other chapters or they skim over the inside stuff.
I think that’s sad…
They miss the plot, they miss the character development.
They just want to know how the story starts and ends, and they end up missing the story itself.
True confession: I’ve actually tried to do that in real life.
Maybe you have too?
We want to skip the tough chapters.
We don’t want the pain or the conflict.
We look for shortcuts.
The problem is that shortcuts short circuit the story.
We try to avoid the hard chapters.
We don’t want to stick around when the story gets get old, or boring, or uneventful.
We run from impossible.
We really want to skip over the demanding sentences.
We don’t want to look the dragon in the eyes.
When we take the hard stuff out, we also take out chances to learn and grow.
We miss the plot, we miss our character development.
We miss getting to know the other characters.
In the chapter that I presently find myself in, I’ve come to realize that skipping the hard stuff is not an option.
The dragon is standing before me, his hot breath is on my face.
I can’t just skip to the happy ending.
There are no short cuts to the castle.
Wherever you find yourself in the story of you, I encourage you to let it develop!
Don’t skip a chapter.
Learn from it all.
You won’t want some pages to end.
Some chapters will hurt like hell and you will try to rush through.
Don’t try to run from the pain.
Take pen in hand and choose to write stories of resolution and hope.
Slay the dragons.
Storm the castle.
You won’t always get to choose your adventure.
But you WILL always script your reaction.
SO…
Pick up sword and shield and fight,
Or fall in love,
Or take a nap in a field of sunflowers and rest,
Or play in a waterfall with a unicorn named Jack,
Believe six impossible things before breakfast,
Be brave and kind.
Just don’t skip a chapter.