Wiggin’ Out!

It’s not as bad as it sounds, wiggin’ out.

Last Friday was a day of gratitude for me. It was the day of our “Wigging Out Party”. My wife’s idea to celebrate the loss of her hair and have fun as a Cancer Warrior, morphed into a bigger event. We had planned on having several friends over to the house to witness, give support and have a time of laughter to the shaving of Barb’s head and mine. She had requested that everyone come with something on their head they did not grow there themselves, whether a wig, hat or scarf.

Several of her co-workers took the idea and transformed it into a fundraiser for American Diabetes Association, Susan B Komen Foundation and Hope Lodge. These wonderful people arranged for a venue, food and rallied friends, co-workers and family to be there.

I was also thrilled to be able to coordinate a surprise for Barb and flew in our girls who are living out-of-town. After a hectic schedule shuffle, they arrived at the airport and were snuck into the party, perfect timing! We had all four girls home to support and celebrate. I also wanted them to be able to reconcile a disease discussed on the phone, to the reality of seeing hair loss, nausea, headaches, and fatigue that go hand in hand with treatment. Also, to reassure them of the tremendous overwhelming sense of well being we have and to promise face-to-face to be frank with them about how everything is progressing.

We had a blast! It was a touchstone moment for me and this week I have derived much personal satisfaction from memories and the knowledge that we helped do some good for others as well.

So, once again thanks to all of you who were there both physically and in spirit!

Jon

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Pain and Joy

Last night both Barb and I were tweeting and the feed was blowing up. It was flying by faster than I could keep up. People were elated at the news of Bin Laden’s demise, and I was right there with them. The mood was lighthearted and jovial, we were cracking jokes about how long it was taking for the President to make the live announcement. My favorite was a tweet by our friend “K”. She tweeted it was taking so long because VP Biden refused to get out of his Thomas the Tank Engine Pajamas, it was late after all! We were thrilled to see the fans at the Phillies game chanting USA USA and the citizens cheering at the fences of The White House.

It was also a giddy moment for us, because it was the first time my dear Barb was feeling well enough to really engage after her first round of chemotherapy. Barb is an avid tweeter and her “tweeps” had missed hearing from her over the last several days as she fought the side effects of her treatment. It was wonderful to hear her strong laugh.

We were also elated because we feel we have a personal stake in this war. Our oldest spent a year of her life fighting in Iraq and we are extremely proud of her combat tour, the Army in general and the 82nd Airborne specifically!

I am a moderate conservative, although some of my conservative friends would tell me that makes me liberal! I believe firmly in our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy and firmly believe we should protect those freedoms. Thomas Jefferson said “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance” and he was right.

But what is the correlation between freedom and justice? Last night the President announced that justice has been done. Today I am wondering if justice has been done?

Did any of Bin Laden’s family mourn for him, either yesterday or years ago when he chose his life’s path? Did they feel justice was done? Was there satisfaction or closure for family and friends who survived the horrific attacks that this terrible man perpetrated? Or were wounds scabbed and scarred ripped open again? Do they feel justice was done for them?

I feel satisfied that this personification of cowardice, this guttersnipe to quote Winston, this madman who could not be reasoned with or who, without thinking twice about it, would kill myself, friends and family is no longer a threat to anyone. But I do feel saddened today by the events of yesterday. And I am glad and thankful that I can feel these mixed emotions because we enjoy freedom, but;

I feel the pain of the 911 victims,
I feel the pain of a parent,
I feel the pain of worry for those in harms way,
I feel the pain that comes from living in a sin-filled world,
I feel the pain of a soul lost.
But,

I feel the joy and pride of a mission accomplished,
I feel the joy of a parent,
I feel the joy of hope,
I feel the joy of relationship,
I feel the joy of being freed from what I deserve, the joy of perfect justice to come.

So this day after, I am full of mixed emotions and contemplations.

Peace, Faith, Love, and Hope

Jon

Concrete

Today was a concrete day at one of my projects. It was not a very big job, only about 95 cubic yards of concrete (9.5 trucks), but I always like to be on site during this critical phase of construction.

There is a lot of prep work that happens prior to the concrete pump truck or even the first load of concrete from the plant. Nearly a month ago we met with all the sub-contractors who would have a part in today’s operation; grading and underground, plumber, electrician, concrete plant, flat workers, pump operator, special inspector, just to name a couple. We discussed the mix, the timing of the trucks, the start time, the finish time, senarios for failure, such as truck breakdowns, how to load finishing machines onto the finished floor, bad batches, etc. The plumber, electrician and the special moisture barrier installers discussed schedule for completing their tasks. These are items vital to the end result as the concrete would cover their work.

Concrete chemistry has facinated me since High School when my brother and I would pour batches to make concrete picnic tables and benches, which we sold to municipalities including a sizable order to New York City. I often thought this side business was a way to keep my brother and I employed at home. And looking back on the experience I am grateful, but putting another batch in the mixer after school and pulling the molds in the morning before school at the time seemed to be a real drag! Thanks for the experience Pop!

Anyway, I wander off the subject.

Weeks of preparation went into mix today, not just cement, stone, sand and water. The mix was specified by the architect and structural engineer to be of a certain strength, water content and slump to achieve the ultimate strength needed to support the contents and structure of this new building.

So after the pumper truck setup and the first concrete truck arrived and precise placement of the concrete began, hours upon hours of groundwork had been completed. I stated earlier that I like to be onsite for this stage of constuction. When asked why, I have a flippant answer, “because it is easier to fix wet concrete than hard”. I say this tongue in cheek because most of the time we have caught the errors or potential errors weeks before in the prep work, but there is also a level of truth to the statement. I have been on jobs where stopping work to fix an error while the concrete was wet saved thousands later, but as I was watching the crew today my mind was also wandering back home where my Barb was having her port placed for her chemotherapy treatments to begin.

I could not help but draw comparisons to what I was watching happen and the status of our own minds and hearts.

Our hearts and minds can become as hard as concrete, but it takes preperation and work to allow that to occur.

It also takes work and preperation for our hearts and minds to remain soft. During this event in our lives both Barb and I have made a diligent effort to make sure that our preparations have been to maintain soft fertile soils for our hearts, minds and souls.

We daily decide to put worry aside.
We daily decide to speak life.
We daily decide to trust God with who we are and the outcome of our lives.
We daily decide to make lemonade.

This is hard work. It is also something that cannot be done by ourselves. We have a Helper.

This week we celebrate the choice our Helper made to suffer and die. Later this week we will celebrate victory over death itself!

Eventually concrete hardens, sometimes we speed it along the way with our choices, our prep work.

I encourage you to join us in preparations that will soften the soil of your heart and mind.

Peace, Love, Hope and Faith

Jon

Leech or Leach?

I realized several weeks ago that I have a problem. This is the evidence.

The first picture is of the cup holder in my vehicle. It has colored green the rubberized cup grabbers. It looks like something that has sat outside in the northwest and has started to grow green moss. The shade is quite pleasing to me.

It is actually the result of this, the second picture.

The repeated placement of the green cardboard sleeve from my Starbucks cup into the cupholder is causing the green to leach from the sleeve to the cupholder. Or perhaps the interaction of the rubber with the sleeve is having a leeching effect on the sleeve?

It made me think of my most common interactions of the day; innocuous and often not even thought about. Those interactions that leave a mark on others, whether cutting them off in traffic or saying thank you and leaving a tip for my barrista. Are my values, emotions, and morals being left on others as I interact with them? Do I leave an evidence of my passing? Is it a positive interaction, like the beautiful green left behind from my Chai Tea Latte, reminding me of one of my favorite things?

Or was I a leech to others sucking the essence out of them?

One letter makes such a difference.

Go leach on someone!

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I’ve commandeered the blog. . . bwah ha ha

Kssoup is in Boston at a conference. . don’t get too excited, he’s attending classes that are probably about easements, rights-of-way, storm water and sewer drainage. But tonight? Tonight he is at Fenway watching the Red Sox and Tampa Bay. . . poor guy. . .

Hurry Home Honey! Before I REALLY write something interesting on your blog. . .tee hee

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Taxes

Taxes are finished and filed.

The girls were finished last month, now ours are done.

I really don’t like the first weekend in April!

Buzz Kill

Buzz Kill.

Those words evoke many mental word pictures. Perhaps it is a peek into my mental condition this morning but these were the words that popped into my mind as I read this mornings devotional; The Lord’s Prayer, specifically the highlighted line. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

We have been on a journey [since] Ash Wednesday, both very personal and very public. We share in a denominational study “Ashes to Fire” as well as the personal journey of newly minted cancer patients. It has been joyful and uplifting how the two journeys have paralleled each other, a buzz.

We have all felt a tremendous sense of calm, peace and joy in the journey. And when we would begin to feel worry or fear beginning to creep in around the edges something would remind us to Whom we belonged, but this morning reading the Lord’s prayer of all things, I was reminded that we live in a sinful world with other sinful people.

This profound insight I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact of getting up at 03:00 to slog through TSA and board a plane in the fog and chill of the early morning. Or watching other folks ask the inane questions that accompany frequent traveling. It had nothing to do with the delightful conversation on the way down the hallway with the First Officer. These things of my existence are all part and parcel, no I think it had more to do with the conversations I know will take place. The energy that will be needed to endure.

What a buzz kill.

But it was necessary for me today. Life seems easy when living on the high, but most of life is lived in the trenches, doing what is needed day in and day out. And for me that takes resolve and preparation. It is a discipline. Sad, it has taken me more than forty years to learn that little tidbit. But the highs of life also make us look differently at the plateaus and the valleys. The discipline of daily living our vows, our morals, our diets, our meditations, our relationships, our jobs, is where we can experience the life sustaining joys of others.

It is the first gift of forgiveness, in the high of the freedom of forgiveness, that sets up a pattern of thinking and a lifestyle of forgiveness towards others when the “buzz” is not apparent.

I am reminded this morning that my forgiveness involved a cross and a tomb and my forgiveness of others may not always be a happy affair, BUT the results of that forgiveness are incomparable!

Peace, Love, Hope and Faith

Jon

Lucky?

Atlanta Hartsfield Airport is very busy and according to my Foursquare feed I have been here 523 times in the last three weeks. (not really just feels that way) I tend to split my time between DTW, MSP and ATL as my connection airports, avoiding CVG and MEM if at all possible, but I digress.

Becasue it is so busy I was very surprised this evening when sitting on the tarmac after just having pushed back from the gate, a tug and attached luggage cart came wheeling right up along side the aircraft.

We heard thudding as the cargo door was opened. I watched the driver load an additional bag into the hold and then the the cart whisked off into the evening.

I commented to my seat mate that was a sight I had never witnessed before, that someones luggage almost missed the flight and then he said something that resonated with me; “they don’t know how lucky they are.”

I think in general that is how most of us live our lives. We walk around oblivious to goodness that surrounds us. This is not a new thought or a staggering one. How many times have you heard the old cliche’ “slow down and smell the roses”? Or, take time? The truth is we have a tendency to run through life. Moving at an ever swifter pace.

A co-worker and I were bemoaning the fact last week of the mountains of email we get on a daily basis and the subtle and sometime not so subtle expectation of certain senders of an immediate response. Life at an unrelenting pace.

The truth is we are very lucky, everyone of us. I do use the word lucky a bit tongue in cheek here, a better word would be blessed. Yes, that is a good word.

Consider our current circumstances and you may tell me that I am crazy for thinking we are blessed, but let me elaborate.

My dear wife has breast cancer and is also a type I diabetic. We received the pathology reports from her biopsy last week and are just in the beginning stages of fighting the big C.

My mother- in- law, received the results of her biopsy today and she also has breast cancer.

We have a twofer. And thanks we don’t want to go for three.

The outlook for our lives over the next year includes chemotherapy, surgery, radiation treatments, more surgery, lots of visits and discussions with nuemerous medical professionals as well as the ever and ongoing discussions with Blue Cross and now Medicare. All the while keeping up with our ever increasing flow of email, Facebook, twitter, etc.

But consider how lucky we are:

We have reconnected and have heard from thousands of friends all over the world.
We have good jobs with caring people.
We have fabulous customers, client and vendors who check on our well being.
We have a God who has made His presence known to us individually, daily.
We have family who cares for us and most of the time likes us!
We have a great team of clinicians who are accessible to us.
We have opportunities to share our story and make a difference in others.

AND

We have each other.
We have each other.
We have each other.

We are indeed blessed and lucky.

In no way do I want my loved ones to suffer, but if we do, then we will look for the good and make sure that others know too.

How lucky are you today?

Peace, Love, Faith and Hope

Jon

The sleeping bear

Worry is an insidious beast. It lies dormant like a great hibernating bear, only to awaken hungry and grumpy. In my obedience and desire to give up worry for Lent, I have learned several things;

1) worry is about control
2) most things I worry about are really out of my control
3) worry likes to be fed
4) a mind dwelling on goodness, starves worry.

On Ash Wednesday I became convinced that worry was to be my Lenten sacrifice, but I didn’t know we would have a cancer diagnosis.
I didn’t know a tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident would affect the global economy.
I didn’t know that a child would be sick thousands of miles away.
I didn’t know that we would be firing weapons in anger in another country.
I didn’t know.

All these things and the worry they could have created are not in my sphere of influence. So why before this season did I spend energy feeding the bear? Most of the time I brought a fully loaded picnic basket!

A recent post on Facebook engaged my brain enough to reach out to several of my more scholarly friends. At the root of the discussions we talked about our minds focus, both conscious and unconscious. Today’s reading from Psalms 71, sums it up nicely; “In You, O Lord, I take refuge.”

If we are taking refuge in God and dwelling on good things there is not room in our minds for evil, or subtle evil, like worry.

Let me give you an example.

I left Tuesday for Philadelphia. We were to get Barb’s pathology report back late this week. I was due back Thursday and expected to see doctor sometime on Friday. That was my plan. Path labs are never on time. So much for my plan. The lab set a record pace and Barb got the call Wednesday! There went my plan.

I felt horrible. I felt guilty for not being home with Barb. I was mad that the lab did their job well. I let my mind wander to places of despair. I was sick of the weather. (snowing!) I was tired of the hotel room. The worry bear was waking up.

And then my friend called and another sent a text and then another call. I was reminded to dwell on the things of God. As I contemplated, slowly the bear went back to sleep.

Evil departs in the presence of righteousness. It cannot abide goodness. Barb wrote about speaking Life. My dear friends spoke life to me.

I’m home now and am happy to tell you the bear is still sleeping. I trust this discipline will soon lead to not just a sleeping bear, but a nice bear rug I can walk all over.

Peace, Love, Hope and Faith

Jon

WYSIWYG

For those of us old enough to remember Lotus 123 and Word Perfect, WYSIWYG is an amazing word.

For you younger, and those claiming youth (you know who you are!) this word is pronounced wehseewig.

It means What You See Is What You Get.

In the ancient days of computing what you saw on your screen did not necessarily come out of your printer. You had to embed formatting code within your documents to get them to print the way you saw them on the screen.

It was a real breakthrough when what we saw on the screen matched the output of the printer.

Some of you cannot even image there being a time when it was not so. Some of you can’t believe there was a time without microwaves either.

The term has obvious personal connotations as well. Am I wysiwyg to you? I certainly hope so. I want to be the kind of person and fair warning; I intend for this blog to be wysiwyg as well. To me this means being frank.

Some of you may not like what you see on occasion. That’s ok. Sometime’s I won’t like it either.

Peace, Love, Hope and Faith.

Jon