Monday, July 26, 2010

Update on Caleb

Just thought I would let everyone know what is happening with Caleb.  If you have been a blog reader, you know that he was medically discharged from the Navy for a dime-sized spot near his belly button.  They said it was psoriasis which is a deal-breaker for being in the military.  After three horrendous weeks in the discharge unit, he came home two weeks ago today.

With hopes that he could turn around and go right back in with a diagnosis other than psoriasis, he visited a local dermatologist.  She said she saw no evidence of psoriasis.  Good news, right?  Not really. Since everything was clear, she could not make a definitive diagnosis.  So, the  rapid re-entry is off the table.

The plan is to stop using any ointment and see if it comes back.  If it does, he will have it biopsied with hopes of a more definitive diagnosis since it could be a simple dermatitis.  If that were the case, he could wait a year and then reapply and start all over.  It's along shot but...

In the meantime, he is looking for a job. Caleb has his application in for a full time position at Liberty University which, after six months, would extend free tuition to him.  He also has his resume in at a large IT firm.  This week he will be following up on those jobs and looking for others.  We are praying that he would soon be encouraged by a job and new direction for his life.

Thank you all for your concern, notes, and prayers on his behalf.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Every little step

Yes! What a score!!!

I was excited. Really excited. I had wanted a GPS watch for quite a while. But now that I am a cross country coach with miles of trails at my fingertips, I want to be able to send the kids out on runs of known length. So, on the way home from an appointment I stopped in at a local sporting goods store to look at their selection of devices. I had no intention of buying since I was confident I could get a better internet deal. I wandered the store and found nothing. A simple question to a sales associate, however, sent me to a disheveled sales table.

"I think there was one of those green Garmin 'thingees' in here somewhere," she said as we began rifling through the disorganized bins. I found bits and pieces of a cheap tin camping cook set, fishing lures and countless other items, most sans their original packaging. But suddenly, I spotted it: the allusive green Garmin Forerunner 405. I tried to control my excitement, my pulse quickening with anticipation. I began to search in earnest for all the components, the instruction book lighting the way as to what I was looking for. Little by little, I placed each found piece in a ziplock bag labeled with a price tag of $349.00. Too rich for my blood. However, for the trouble of a successful search and find mission and some wrangling with the manager, I walked out of the store with the watch, books, heart rate monitor and all the adapters, chargers and USB sticks for $175 even. Thank you, Lord!

Now, I just have to figure out how to use this modern piece of technology. The touch-tone bezel is new to me; simple taps of the finger on the watch replace cumbersome buttons. It can record heart rate, courses, elevation gains and losses, speed, mileage, GPS position, and can even guide you back to where you started. It interfaces with your computer and creates lovely charts and graphs. You can set it for interval workouts, repeats, and hill work torture tests. The possibilities are endless.

Last night I strapped it on and headed out the door. I tapped the bezel and pushed one of the two buttons as I remembered the booklet to instruct. However, without my glasses, I had a hard time reading the watch face as I sauntered along. It was only upon my return that I saw that the battery went dead somewhere along the way. I'll have to get used to an eight-hour battery life and plan better. Nevertheless, with great anticipation, the watch and computer had a successful conversation once I snapped on the charger. I was amazed.

There, right before my eyes, was a graph of my run. One line showed the ups and downs (but mostly ups) of my heart rate. Hum. No wonder it felt so hard. Another line on the graph showed my pace. Ugh. Not very impressive. I'll chalk it up to the heat, humidity and too much meatloaf for dinner. A click on an icon pulled up a chart of the average pace, heart rate, feet of elevation gain and loss and a myriad of other parameters, even the calories spent. (Yes! I can have a snack!) And, it even showed a map of my route, that is, the route before the battery went dead. Pretty cool.

When I wear this watch, I can't cheat. It knows when I go fast, slow, or in between. It even flashes "Off course" if I leave a pre-determined path. It records the thub-dub of every heart beat and knows every second spent in motion or stopped dead in my tracks. Scary. At least when you think about it.

Oh dear. How often do I forget that my every heart beat, my every step, the thoughts and intentions of my mind and my actions, big and small, are all within the purview of my heavenly Father?  There is no escape; there is no battery to go dead. I have a feeling that if I really understood that, my everyday behavior might be different.

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

Psalm 139:1-4

Monday, July 19, 2010

Golf ball run

The air was hot and thick. I was covered with sweat, my arms and legs brown and dirty. I had just finished shoving downed branches and limbs through my chipper. It was a filthy job but I needed mulch; it was worth the effort. But now, with daylight promising to fade, I simply took off down the road to get in a short run. I should have changed shoes but didn't take the time. I noticed my heel was hurting and any spring in those worn-out shoes was long gone miles ago. I felt sluggish, running merely out of obligation and guilt. I didn't feel very inspired.

When I got to my pre-determined turn-around point at the top of a hill, I started back down. Off in the weeds I noticed something white and round. "Ah, a golf ball," I thought to myself. "I should pick it up." But why? I don't play golf nor does anyone else in my family. Still, it's hard not to pick up a found item no matter what it is. I feel a sense of pride every time I return home with some random object, showing it off to whoever will give me the time of day. So, compelled to do so, I picked it up and ran on. But not very far.

Soon, I saw another and another strewn along this lightly-used country road. They were not clumped together. Rather, over the course of a mile and a half, I continued to find perfectly good golf balls. And since I picked up one, I was compelled to pick up all the others. Soon, I had four in each hand and another eight or so stuffed into my running bra. It was quite a sight. My chest had turned into a voluptuous, albeit bumpy, uniboob. Talk about some bounce. The chested balls had a tendency to pop out as I ran, sending me to chase them as they rolled down the road. But chase them I did, wondering what circumstance produced this smattering of golf balls along my route while hoping that none of the neighbors were watching. My run now had purpose and I was delighted.

About a half mile from home and just when I could not find another millimeter of bodily storage space for the next found ball, there in the ditch was a basket, the kind you find at a driving range. My growing and carried load had a new home. Good thing. I found another half dozen before turning down the driveway.

Did I need those golf balls? Hardly. Was it fun to find them? You bet. Almost as much fun as finding all those candy-laden eggs my Grandma used to hide come Easter morning. Thank God for small pleasures. Proudly, I placed the basket full of golf balls on the counter and waited for the questioning to begin.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Birthday mishap: A tribute to my now 19-year old son

 (Taken from the July 14th story from Pace Yourself: 366 Devotions From the Daily Grind.)

Five years ago to the day we were sitting in our lawn chairs at “church.” At the time, our start-up fellowship was meeting in a three-car garage, worshiping without the trappings of a formal sanctuary. Our church had just suffered a split and I was preoccupied with a bad work situation. I didn’t have it together.

Sitting in that hot garage, I glanced over at Seth. To my surprise, tears streamed down his face. To coin a phrase, “Oh dear, what could the matter be?” The matter was this: we had forgotten Seth’s 11th birthday. The young boy was distraught. He could not be consoled regardless of heart-felt apologies. No “Happy Birthday” upon rising, no special breakfast, no unique gifts. It was just a lot of nothing.

Seth eventually got over his disappointment and to this day, it is one of our long-standing family jokes. So, as the sun set last night, I made sure to get in the first birthday greeting in anticipation of today. I certainly did not want him to think I could forget his birthday. . .again! On the way home from work, I made a stop to pick up some plaid shorts as a gift. I was relieved he liked them; he can be pretty picky. Whew. Another birthday without incident.

Kids are wonderful. Each has their unique personality, sense of humor, strengths and weaknesses. Seth has been “busy” since conception. In utero, he made like a chicken trying to peck his way out. As an infant he refused to sleep longer than twenty minutes at a time and was a front-runner to be a poster child for colic.

After him, no more kids for me. Maybe Leah thought the same thing after Judah's birth. Perhaps he was difficult as well. “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the LORD’. . . Then she stopped having children” (Genesis 29:35).

At four, Seth rode his motorcycle through the woods as fast as he could, standing on the seat like a pipsqueak Evil Knievel. In school, he was the center of attention. And now, as a young man of seventeen, he is an outgoing, know-no-stranger kind of guy, full of wanderlust and enthusiasm. His camera is a constant companion.

I thank God for Seth. He’s a special kind of kid.

“and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child.” (Genesis 4:25)

Daily challenge: Little kids are like kittens: cute and easy to love. But don’t be blind to the beauty in your big kids.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Gary steered the car along the exit ramp and turned left into a gas station. "Recalculating," she said. "She" is the tiny little woman who resides inside our GPS unit. I shall call her Gertrude.

Gertrude can be a great help. This past weekend we traveled to a family reunion in Pennsylvania. I carefully plugged in the address of my aunt's house. Sure enough, zipping along the interstate, over hill and dale and through the rolling countryside, we successfully pulled into the driveway at our destination. Gertrude had been good to us. However, she was not always happy with us.

Several times we ran into construction and re-routing along a detour. Gertrude did not approve. She clearly took issue when we took an unexpected turn. She annoyed us with her constant "Recalculating. Recalculating." When the detour took us in a big circle, she cried out even more. We didn't want to hear it. In fact, we even unplugged her when we thought we knew better.  Apparently, either she did not understand what was going on or she protested because we were in err. Hum...

Sometimes it was hard to figure out where to go. Gertrude told us one thing while the atlas suggested otherwise. What to do? What to do? If we chose the map, Gertrude protested. Protested, that is, until she  convinced us that her route would get us where we needed to go. She then fell silent, content that her will and the map's will matched. It was a peaceful, easy feeling.

I've been feeling a bit conflicted myself, hearing "recalculating" as recent events forced a course change. I bet Caleb feels the same way. The way seemed so clear, so obvious. But then unanticipated construction - or was it destruction? - caused a detour. Around and round we all went, losing our perspective. Where are we? Where are we supposed to be going? But now, though traveling an unfamiliar road, Gertrude's voice remains calm, directing us little by little. The final destination is still in the distance, the route unclear, but the wheels are turning in the right direction.

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
Psalm 119:32

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Still waiting

It is so hard to wait. . .just ask Caleb.

It is now one day shy of three weeks when Caleb was told that his dime-sized red spot on his belly button was a deal breaker to stay in the Navy. That decision sent him immediately to a holding division, so grief stricken that he could only sit in stunned silence on the cold, hard tile floor, his back against the unforgiving wall.  He bore the pain alone until he was able to call Gary the next day. He was distraught, nearly destroyed. It was then that we plunged into the depths of disappointment and angst, waiting along with him, wanting to reach out and hold him, wanting to ease his hurt. And we wait still.

The occasional phone call tells us that despite the conditions, his wait for discharge has moved from a full-blown knock-out punch to incomprehensibility to a glimmer of hope to an ultimate acceptance of what he cannot change. It has been a hard process.

The holding division is a place where bureaucracy meets inefficiency. The result is a no-mans land of endless days and nights with nothing to do. There are up to 80 men in residence at any one time. Some are there for medical discharges. Some because they tried to run away. Many others are being discharged for new diagnoses of anxiety, stress, and even attempted suicide. They rise at 6 a.m. each morning to face a purposeless day. Except in a lounge where access is limited, there is no furniture to sit on. Beds are off limits, the concrete-tiled floor their only option. Some books are available and an occasional DVD movie is allowed. They cannot go outside. There is no exercise. There are no tasks. There are no knives at meals to limit suicide attempts and no shoe strings for fear of the same. They all simply wait.

Caleb decided to work as he waits. He volunteered to be the yeoman for the unit; scheduling appointments and completing volumes of paperwork. He gets to sit in one of the few chairs. Still, he waits to see his name come through on the departure list. He hates it that his original graduation date quickly approaches and he is no longer part of it. He is in limbo; a place where frustration and shattered dreams collide.

But out of the dust, the soul survives. Something in his brain has clicked. He has accepted the inevitable and entertains future options. He will get second opinions and assuming a diagnosis different than the Navy's, may pursue his option to obtain a congressional waiver and re-enter the fray all over again. Our congressman stands willing and at the ready. But he also considers full-time employment, working his way through to finish his degree. His planning tells us that though the stealth tsunami violently tumbled him into a deep and dark sea, he will hit the beach alive and well.

May we all learn a vital lesson as we further wait; wait for answers.

I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.   
Psalm 38:15

A walk in the park and a pink finish line

By the time I finish most races, I've figured out at least the first paragraph of my post-race story. This was one of the few where the ...