Nunchucks.

Posted: August 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

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I remember the first (and only) time that I tried to use nunchucks. 

Nunchucks are a traditional martial arts weapon consisting of two sticks connected at one end by a short chain or rope. My best friend and next door neighbor had gotten some at the State Fair. Me, him and some other friends gathered in his barn to try them out. 

We were twelve year olds who had seen one Bruce Lee movie, we figured that made us experts. 

What could go wrong?

A few of the other guys went first. They unleashed some impressive moves. One guy totally dismembered a bail of hay…it was brutal. 

Then…

it…

was…

my turn. 

I enthusiastically grabbed the sticks and tried to make a celebratory manly grunt that sounded more like a basketball deflating.

It was an unparalleled exhibition of adolescent awkwardness resulting from a complete lack of coordination and training. 

It started out promising because I had paid attention to the Bruce Lee movie and I assumed the intimidating pre-fight pose. I had a scowl on my face that clearly communicated that I meant business.

Then I started moving…

That is when things went horribly wrong.

I was wildly swinging the wooden nunchucks around, I pounded myself in the face and pinged myself in the nether regions. I was very successfully beating the crap out of myself. 

I couldn’t stop because my buddies were watching.

THEN, I couldn’t stop because of the momentum of the out of control weapon in my hand. 

My gracious friends averted their eyes and acted like they didn’t notice the carnage.

FINALLY the martial madness stopped and I dropped the nunchucks.

It was a knockout. 

By the end, I had little purple bruises all over my head and body. It looked like I had been punched repeatedly in the face by small children with tiny fists. 

That was fun to explain to my Dad. 

Last night was rough, it kinda felt like I was laying in bed using nunchucks for the first time.

There were lots of random aches and pains, my arms, legs, and nether regions were taking an invisible beating. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise, I have a war going on inside of me. The life giving poison is pounding and pinging the belly bully. 

This is not an exhibition.

This is real life. 

We are dealing with the repercussions of Round two. This round is different than the last, my body is a little more tired.

I feel pretty punch drunk.

And while the battle raged last night, my throat was raw and everything tasted like I’d been sucking on a rag used to clean ashtrays at a midwestern bus stop. That was a super pleasant bonus! 

Here’s the thing I’ve learned about night fights…

Morning always comes.

You get to drop the nunchucks and walk away, probably with some weird bruises.

You walk away wiser, stronger, more aware. 

I’m waiting for the knockout…

The final knockout when the belly bully is beaten into oblivion and the bell rings. 

It’s coming!

Being Tigger.

Posted: August 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

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My Grandma introduced me to Pooh when I was a kid.
I’m forever grateful.
I loved the books, I loved the movies.
I lost myself in the story.
I wasn’t the only one.
Winnie the Pooh is one of the most beloved characters ever.
But, now many of us try to find ourselves in the story.
There are Pooh Personality Tests.
Like a warm fuzzy Myers Briggs, they help you understand yourself better by telling you which character you are.
You would think, based solely on physical appearance that I would relate to the Silly Ol’ Bear.
I AM built like Winnie and most of my shirts fit funny.
I also really like honey (or hunny).
But I’m not Pooh.
I’ve always been Tigger.
It’s not always popular to be Tigger.
Sometimes Owl and Rabbit don’t take Tigger seriously.
He is a lightweight.
He is way too enthusiastic.
He’s really annoying.
He’s a morning person.
He gets in trouble.
He sings off key.
I’ve always been Tigger.
And right now, it serves me well to be Tigger.
Because of two handy Tigger life skills…
Roaring and bouncing.
Tigger is hardly stealth.
He arrives at Pooh’s front door and announces himself with a stylized roar.
I’m here!!
I’ve never been sneaky.
I usually unintentionally announce my entrance into a room, I’m loud and sometimes I’m clumsy.
I know how to roar.
The roar says I’m still here!
And so I roar!
I also know how to bounce.
Bouncing is what Tiggers do best.
Bouncing is a skill that makes Tigger appear bigger than he actually is.
I’ve bounced to avoid things.
I’ve bounced to escape, or get out of responsibilities.
Now I find that the power of the bounce is found in what you are bouncing to and not from.
So I bounce toward…
Hope,
Healing,
Joy,
Freedom.
As I bounce away from things, situations, and hurts, they become smaller.
And so I bounce.
We all find our own way to Christopher Robin’s house.
Some bounce like me, some saunter.
As long as you find your way home, it’s all good.
Some of my best friends are Eeyore, I wouldn’t change them for a pot of honey.
I need them in my life. Without them the Hundred Acre Wood  is incomplete.
And so I roar and I bounce.
Worraworraworraworraworra!

Sometimes, I’m Jazz.

Posted: August 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

It’s the weekend after round two and I’m feeling musical.

No, seriously!
I feel like my body is a band, making some fantastically wild rhythms.

It’s not a quiet relaxing tune.
It’s not a simple, structured song.
It’s definitely jazz.
Wild, free jazz that can take you anywhere.
Jazz…
My brain plays a syncopated song of steroid.
But, instead of a snare drum, it feels like (and sounds like) a glob of fuzzy green jello. Which, never really caught on in marching bands.

I’m not thinking super clearly.
But, that’s okay.
Because, I’m jazz.
Sometimes jazz doesn’t make sense until the song is over.
Jazz…
I had something plugged into my arm that looks like a Glade plug in. It unleashed some magical white blood cell boosters into my body. It makes my body fluttery. It’s almost like the slow rumble of a stand up bass moving me from the inside out.
Jazz…
I was on a brand new antibiotic this weekend which has played the not-so-sweet song of side effect. On an out of tune porcelain keyboard some fierce sounds have been…umm…created. Sometimes the song we are given is loud and obnoxious. It’s all a part of the raw rhythm of life.
Jazz…
Some smells can be so strong that they can become sounds. It’s like a fragrance Flugelhorn. They create mood, drawing us in with minor and major chords. I’m pretty sure that I’m smelling things that haven’t even been invented yet. Sometimes, it smells like something is on fire. Sometimes I smell fruity pebbles, or the unexplainable odor of spoiled root beer.
Jazz…
This weekend has been a crazy concerto.
I’m still dancing…
Because, I’m jazz.
And, because sometimes jazz doesn’t make sense until the song is over,
I keep pounding the BIG joy drum.

The Magic Lunchbox.

Posted: August 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

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When I was a kid, this time of year, I always desperately wanted a new lunch box. I’m not talking about the glittery vinyl lunchboxes that all the cool kids carry now, I’m talking about the old school metal lunchboxes WITH the matching thermos!
I wanted the Six Million Dollar Man lunchbox.
I needed the Starsky and Hutch lunchbox.
I had confusing feelings about the Charlie’s Angels lunchbox.
When I went back to school I REALLY wanted to be carrying my PB&J sandwich in a chunky new lunchbox with a shiny thermos full of tropical punch Kool-Aid.
I still get an urge this time of year to buy a new lunchbox but Wal-Mart only has the vinyl Paw Patrol ones and they DON’T have a matching thermos!!
It’s sad!
Well this has been treatment week for me so that means I have been spending time with a special sort of lunchbox.
It’s not metal. It is cloth, and it looks like a ‘80s European man purse.
It’s my infusion pump.
It has been my constant companion this week.
I’ve worn it nonstop the last five days, I’ve taken it off only long enough to get it refilled.
It’s a lunchbox that is literally attached to me. I couldn’t leave it on the school bus if I wanted to!
I’ve really wanted to put Star Wars stickers all over it, but I’m thinking that might be some kind of healthcare violation.
It does have a thermos…kinda.
There’s no Kool-Aid though, It’s full of cancer killing fluids that are being pumped into me.
It has loudly beeped at us a few times this week, that’s been scary. We have panicked a little when the alarm goes off, wondering if it’s about to self destruct or spew chemicals all over. It turns out that the beeping usually means “Hey man! you’re sitting on your cord again!”
It can seriously seem like a time bomb when we know that it’s almost out of juice. The warning whistle sounds off and we know that any second the loud alarm could go off. It becomes a race against time to get to the office for the refill.
Racing for anything has been tricky. It’s been a wobbly week. I’ve stumbled around like I’m heavily drugged, probably because I AM heavily drugged. So, you should be relieved to know that  I’ve avoided operating tractors and other heavy machinery.
It’s been a wonky week, my brain has been fuzzy. At times it has felt like a Great Dane was sitting on my head, or like someone hit me in the face with an old metal lunchbox.
It’s been a wonderful week, I’m reminded how amazing my wife is as I’m dependent on her for some really basic things. She is truly my hero.
I feel the prayers of family and friends wrap me up like a blanket on a cold school night.
It’s tough navigating life with a lunchbox attached to my chest. Sleep is tricky. It keeps me from some of my routine daily activities such as racquetball and fencing.
I still get an urge this time of year to buy a new lunchbox…
But next year I’m holding out for the Six Million Dollar Man one (with the matching thermos).

It’s a Family Tradition.

Posted: August 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

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Here’s a picture of some of my current reading material.
I’m reading the Collected Short Stories of Louis L’Amour.
It’s  a family tradition.
I grew up watching my Dad reading a lot of Louis L’Amour books. He sat in his well worn recliner and read every night.
He read mostly western novels. I think they took him to wide open places, that’s what a good story can do.
My Dad unintentionally taught me a huge lesson…
Real men read.
It’s drastically important for a boy to see his Dad read. It demonstrates that knowledge and imagination are some of the manliest of pursuits.
As I watched him devour stories about cowboys, I was given permission to love books.
I developed a thirst for story.
I discovered the places that a book can take you, it can transport you to Dodge City, or the  cockpit of an X-Wing, or to Hogwarts, or Narnia, or to where the wild things are.
I’m very thankful for this family tradition, especially right now.
because I find myself a bit restricted.
Disease, treatment, and some immunity issues keep me from getting out much.
But, I live unlimited because a good book can take me places!
And…
OH, the places I will go.

Joy Jiu Jitsu.

Posted: August 16, 2018 in Uncategorized
I’m realizing that many of the small struggles in my life have prepared me for the big fight that I currently find myself in the midst of.
Even the small silly squabbles that seem kind of insignificant…
I remember an old story that I would like to forget…
When I was thirteen, my mom’s boss, who not only was a pharmacist but also a black belt in karate, was sure martial arts would be my ticket to popularity and success. He convinced my mom that it would be good for my waning self-esteem and that I would learn some much needed self-defense skills—which would come in handy on the mean streets of Owasso, Oklahoma.
He convinced me that I could be the next Chuck Norris and talked me into taking jiu jitsu. My folks shelled out 45 bucks for the uniform, and I actually got a little excited. Maybe this would be my “thing.” Maybe, just maybe I could be the next Chuck Norris. Stranger things have happened, right?
I went the first week and met the instructor. He was a slightly overweight, off-duty cop who took himself entirely too seriously. He had an incredibly thick red neck and a flattop hair cut. During the first lesson he took me aside and spent 15 minutes explaining to me how he was probably one of the toughest men I’d ever meet and then proudly demonstrated this by actually showing me eight pressure points on my body. Because of his vast knowledge and skill, he could, by applying the right kind of pressure to these spots, kill me, temporarily paralyze me, or make me lose control of my bodily functions.
This was terrifying stuff for a 14-year-old, especially the bodily function part. I went home scared but also a little hopeful that maybe I could learn this pressure point stuff so I could use it on the next person who made fun of me because I was short. I would simply press a secret spot on his ear and make him wet all over himself. It would be awesome.
The second week we learned some fundamentals guaranteed to turn us into well-tuned, lethal fighting machines. We learned valuable fundamentals like how to tie our karate belts and how to pronounce cool karate words like sensei, gi, and dojo.
The third week the instructor (or sensei) informed us that using the fundamentals we’d learned the previous week, we would be free-sparring with each other. This meant we’d actually be fighting someone else in the class. At first I thought this might actually be fun, but then he teamed me with the only girl in the class. I was supposed to fight her. Not only was she a girl, but she was also younger and smaller than me. I felt a little sorry for this poor, defenseless female. So I thought I’d just take it easy on her—I’d dance around make it look good, but I wouldn’t hurt her.
As I was thinking this, the little girl grabbed me by the collar and flipped me over her shoulder. I quickly hopped up and thought I’d better be a little more careful, but I still didn’t want to hurt her because I was brought up learning that you never hit a girl.
Suddenly, she grabbed me and flipped me again. Some of the guys in the class started to snicker a little bit. At this point, I also realized that I hadn’t tied my karate belt correctly, it came loose and my uniform (or gi) flew open exposing my chunky girth and unleashing a tidal wave of adolescent self-consciousness.
This was all very embarrassing.
I decided I didn’t care if she was a girl, she was going down. I assumed an offensive posture and started to make my move. She countered by grabbing me and flipping me again.
I lay there on my back listening to everybody, including the instructor, laughing at me—it was horrible. I got up, dusted myself off, and walked out of there. I never went back.
So when I quit, I was only about 4 years away from getting my black belt so that pretty much makes me an expert…RIGHT? Not so much.
But, in the following years, I DID learn a highly specialized form of spiritual combat…joy jiu jitsu.
It’s what I am practicing in my current fight.
Here are a few things I have learned…
* Make sure that your karate belt is tied, otherwise you can really embarrass yourself. OR better yet, live BEYOND embarrassment. Lose your self-consciousness and laugh at yourself.
* the concept behind jiu jitsu is that a small, weaker person can defend themselves against a bigger, stronger person by using the right leverage. It’s not about what you have, it’s about how you use what you have.
* In martial arts there are exercises that you go through called “katas”. A kata is a series of steps that you go through to practice and position yourself. It’s best to follow each move with a loud grunting noise. Katas are all about remembering what you need to know and rehearsing in your mind where you need to be.
In joy jiu jitsu we have a kata too, it’s something to know, remember and continually meditate on as you fight.
Here is our joy jiu jitsu kata: “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Our joy jiu jitsu kata reminds us that we have an unseen strength. Even when we face impossibly big problems we can let joy be our leverage.
JOY is not a feeling or happy little buzz, it’s a deep knowing that life may not always be fun or easy, but it’s always a gift so I will treat it as such. It’s a inner peace that everything is gonna be alright that causes you to rejoice regardless of outward circumstances.
Happiness and Joy are usually two completely different things. Happiness often is based on circumstances. If everything is going your way…if you are healthy and getting what you want…you are happy.
Joy is not about what is happening TO you, it’s about what happened IN you.
Joy is never out of reach, even in the darkest times, you can get ambushed by joy.
Joy is based on the unsinkable fact that God loves you and you can trust Him.
It’s all about remembering what you need to know and rehearsing in your mind where you need to be.
We have the hope of a God, whose love is stronger than whatever opponent is staring us down.
Leverage…
I can beat this because I have hope…
I can beat this because I am loved…
I have joy because I can beat this.
Joy is born of hope.
It is a superpower.
I fight with joy.

A Walk with Dad in the Woods.

Posted: August 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

Spring forest in fog. Beautiful natural landscape. Vintage style

I tend to wander…
And sometimes I find myself in the woods,
Surrounded by the beautiful unknown.
I walk on the unbeaten path, brown leaves crunching under my feet.
There are thistles and trees all around me, I scrape up my arms and legs trying to get through.
I’m just trying to find my way through the forest.
But, I am lost, I don’t know the way out.
I’m cold and confused.
Then it gets worse…
I hear noises…was that a wolf?
I’m pretty sure that it was a wolf!
It is probably out looking for lunch.
I probably look pretty tasty.
My heart begins to race.
I try to make my way through the twisted terrain.
I can’t…
Then…
I hear a voice.
I hear a warm, welcoming voice: “C’mon boy, let’s explore a bit”.
It’s my Dad. He’s been close all along.
Suddenly, I am overcome by feelings of safe.
He embraces me there in the woods and wipes away my tears.
And so…
I take my Dad’s hand.
It is strong.
We are walking and wandering through the woods together.
As long as I follow Him, I’m not lost.
I’m safe.
He knows where to go, his perspective is better than mine.
It is bigger.
He sees the other side of the woods.
He speaks to me as we wander…
“There will be thorns and rocky roads, you will fall down, there will be wolves, but don’t be afraid, I will be there to pick you up. There are things to see in the woods that you can’t see anywhere else. There are discoveries in the dark that are essential to your journey”
I tighten my grip on His hand and I walk with my Dad through the woods.