Thursday, December 29, 2011


So I had my tonsils out yesterday.  I’ve been on the fence about having the surgery for the last three months.  Just having surgery is a risk.  I’m not sure if this will ultimately help my sleep apnea.  I hope it will help with just generally not getting sick as often during the year.
This sleep apnea journey has been a long, painful and expensive one.  That last part is why I had the surgery now.  I had met my deductible for 2011, so I needed to get the surgery in before 2012.  Terrible timing for work with our audit still going, but thankfully my company lives out the saying that our health comes first.

I had prepped the house as best I could.  I had made two batches of jello and poured them into individual Styrofoam cups to set.  The house was clean and as uncluttered as I could get it.  My friend Josh was going to come spend the night in my spare room to make sure I didn’t die post-op.

I was scheduled as of Friday to show up at the surgery center at 11:30 for a 12:45 surgery time on Wednesday.  On Wednesday morning around 9:15, they called to move up my check-in time to 10:30.  So I called my friend Amy, who’d be giving me a ride to and from the surgery.  To accommodate the time move-up, I went and picked up her sister Andrea, who’d be her kids’ baby-sitter for the day, dropped Andrea off and picked up Amy.

I had to stop eating and drinking as of midnight on Tuesday night, so I was pretty glad to move up the time because I was starving.  What I was worried about was that I was starting to feel a little sick on Tuesday night, and it was a little more enhanced Wednesday morning.  A light cough and a mucus-y feeling in my throat Tuesday had advanced to include a mild headache and some congestion tightness in my chest.  And I couldn’t take any drugs for it.  I was a little worried they’d cancel the surgery, but I called and they said it most likely wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but the anesthesiologist would make the call.

We arrived and one of my Fresno church pastors met us there to pray with me before going in.  We read over a few verses in Isaiah that discussed God’s authority over everything.  I was finding I wasn’t so anxious over the surgery itself, but over all the to-do list items surrounding the surgery.  e.g., I hadn’t gotten a call from the doctor’s office the day prior to arrange getting all my medications in advance.

I checked in, and got changed and on the gurney.  The first nurse couldn’t understand that I wanted something for lumbar support on my lower back.  She first tried bringing me two huge pillows to put under each of my arms.  I finally asked for a rolled towel or something, and that helped her understand that.  I was a little difficult with her, not snapping and being rude, and I felt bad about that.  The hunger and nerves over the surgery were getting to me and I knew I’d need to tried to keep it in check.  I was also pretty tired for some reason.

Then another nurse Kelly came in to start my IV, and she was awesome.  She just had a very calming voice tone and presence.  That helped my reset my attitude.  After my IV was in, Amy was able to come back and help keep me entertained while I waited.  We tried to get before pictures of my tonsils with limited success.  The anesthesiologist Dr. C. and then the surgeon Dr. T. each came in separately to go over the plan for the morning.  Dr. C. was a young Asian woman of whom Amy wanted to ask her age to make sure she could even drive.  Dr. C. was great, talking me through her game plan for pain management and some of the what-if’s that are natural variables depending on how I react to the pain meds and the type of surgery.

Dr. T. came in and was a little foreboding.  He had wanted to take my tonsils as well as cut into my uvula and upper palate to widen the space for the airway.  He was also coming in to check on the details because I was only scheduled to have tonsils out.  He had forgotten our phone call and couldn’t locate his notes in my file outlining my request for the change.  Based on what I had read online (I didn’t tell him this bc I know that’d be a trigger point of the unreliability of online info), when doing this surgery for sleep apnea, the doctor’s version of a “successful” surgery is different from the patient’s.  There are usually side effects of liquid by mouth coming out the nose more often, and some other stuff more related to the sleep issue that I don’t recall now.  I just wasn’t feeling at peace about him cutting into the upper palate even before my online research, so I told him he could only take my tonsils.  He hit it over and over again that just a tonsillectomy is not a recognized surgical treatment plan for adults (it is for kids, but bc the palate descends as our mouth forms into adulthood, some of that often needs to go too).  He didn’t want me coming back and complaining later that I didn’t work.  I thanked him and reassured him that I again (2nd time for this speech bc of our phone call) understood the risks.  I was hopeful this would help (but maybe not cure) the sleep apnea as well as also just help with generally getting sick this year.

I was glad Amy was there because I was a little on edge after his visit.  Amy is a nurse, and she reminded me that surgeons stereotypically have that “I know what’s best, do it my way” demeanor.  She also helped me understand that surgeons have a monitored success rate for their surgeries, and so he’s motivated to do a surgery that has the greatest chance of curing my problem.  He also may get paid more if he takes the upper palate too.  I hope that isn’t part of his motivation, and am deciding not to presume that motive upon him.

They finally wheeled me into surgery and helped me get situated.  These nurses understood me needing lumbar support.  Then Dr. C. knocked me out.

When I woke up, I was in recovery.  I was told everything went fine.  I think I regained cognitive abilities pretty fast, but I was still pretty sleepy.  They set me up in a recliner, and I asked for ice chips because my mouth was dry and my stomach was empty.  I heard Amy outside my room talking with the nurses.  Apparently getting my pain meds had been quite a journey and she still had to try and get two of the four prescriptions because of complications with the pharmacy being out at one location and them not communicating with releasing the orders at one to be filled by another.  She was trying to decide whether to go now, or wait and get them on the way home with me.  I said to go now, and they were all surprised that I was awake and comprehended that.

Kelly and Mary Lou were my recovery nurses, and they kept me loaded up with popsicles and IV meds.  I was antsy to get out of there, so I asked for writing materials and wrote up and accounting memo I knew I would need for work, and once I got my phone back I was typing out messages for them to read.  When I was finally released to go and Mary Lou was helping me into the wheelchair, I typed out, “So I get to drive home, right?”  That really got her and Amy laughing, and me as well.  They said if I’m laughing leaving the surgery center, it’s a good sign.  I even tried redirecting her to the driver’s side of my car when we got to the curb.  :-)  There were a few other things about being an oldest child and needing to be in control that we laughed over.

As Amy drove me home, I started to get a little woozy just from being on an empty stomach, so we stopped for Jamba Juice on the way.  Amy helped get me situated and wrote out a pain med chart for me to keep track of them all for me, which I would later be very grateful for.  I was still starving though, so hungry that I couldn’t fall asleep, but couldn’t figure out what I could eat that would fill me up.  So Amy went to pick me up some ensure/slim fast-type drinks since those would be loaded up like a meal.

While she was out, I started watching a movie but only made it through 20 min of it before deciding to just lay down.  My auditors sent me a really nice floral arrangement that was left on my doorstep.  So I was lying on the couch and all the lights were off, and it had just done dark outside when Amy returned.  I heard the garage door so I texted her to say I was awake and that she could turn on lights and not worry about being quiet.  She didn’t see them before coming in.  I was cold and pretty tired, so I didn’t feel like getting up at that point.  She finally started rummaging around in my cupboards, and so I texted her to ask what she was looking for.  She heard that notification and laughed over me texting her about all that.

Once I finally was able to fill up my stomach, I was doing much better, but I was wide awake.  My pain level on a 10-scale was about a 5 when I swallowed and a 1 the rest of the time.

I brought out paper or would type on my phone so we could converse some.  We listened to a few CD’s of a purity weekend she’s going to be taking her oldest son Jaden (11) on next week, and I’m going to show up for some of the guys-only sessions to help her out.  Then we played Scrabble.  Our friend Stephanie showed up around 7 to check in on me, not knowing Amy would be around.  She helped Amy out.  As I wowed them with a couple words, I even got a chance to mouth, “I was homeschooled” once.  That brought laughter.  On Vicoden (which I really don’t feel any buzz from, so I’m really baffled now as to how people get hooked on this), I won by 80 points, and she even got the X and Z.  We just hung out for the evening and talked.  I brought out my laptop and sat between them on the couch typing out my parts of the conversation.  I kept meaning to and hope to still borrow a projector that I can plug into my laptop so I can just project what I type onto a wall to converse more easily with company since I’m not supposed to be talking for awhile.

Josh showed up around 10 after his swing dance class to spend the night.  Andrea drove over with the kids to pick up Amy and Stephanie left soon after.  Josh and I hung out and talked (me typing) for awhile.  I was glad I was as self-sufficient as I was post-op.  I really didn’t want to be in a position of Josh needing to take care of me.  I was wide awake, so we popped in Firefly to watch a few episodes.  Josh is a teacher and a night-owl, so he’s been staying up until all hours anyway while on Christmas break.  I tried a couple of times to go to sleep, and it took on the second attempt.

Waking up to my alarm in the middle of the night was no problem to take my meds, and I fell right back asleep.  I only ended up sleeping for about five hours, and then just wasn’t tired anymore.  Hopefully I’ll get tired later and can sleep more then.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

I've been in quite the funk this December, dreading Christmas and just wanting to sleep through it.  Work isn't going well, and I'm having my tonsils out on Wednesday to treat my sleep apnea.  I've been trying everything to seek out joy: lots of Christmas activities, spending as much time as possible with friends, trying to give more, spending time in the Word.  But none of it was "sticking."

I didn't even decorate my house or put up a tree this year.  I'm normally a tree-goes-up-day-after-Thanksgiving kind of guy, and keeping it up until middle of January.

I was reminded of John Grisham's book Skipping Christmas. I definitely sought out Christmas outside my home, engaging as much Christmas as time allowed. But I've realized I wanted a year off here at home. My Christmas decorations are nice, but fairly simple, most of them inherited from my grandmother.
When I step back and count my blessings, I have a lot of them.  Especially when I look at how I no longer travel for work and have more time at home and for ministry and hobbies.  But I wasn't feeling grateful for those blessings.

I couldn't decide how to spend this Christmas.  Mostly, I just wanted to sleep through it and pretend it wasn't happening.  But part of me wanted to be in Orange County to see friends and family since I had been sick the week prior when I had really wanted to make it down for the Christmas service at VBC.  I was half packed for a couple days leading up to Christmas, and there just kept being one more thing to stick around for here in Fresno: work, running, dr appt, giving Amy's kids their Christmas presents, living nativity, karaoke with the guys...the list kept growing.  Christmas Eve dinner at Mom and Dad's was at 6p, but Mom said they'd hold it a little if needed.  So at noon on Christmas Eve, I called it.  I wasn't going down, even though I was salivating over the thought of Mom's ham.

I went to visit my neighbors Haig and Valerie on Friday night.  I lived with them the summer before I graduated, when I had an accounting internship here in town.  Then I ended up buying a house five doors down from them three years later.  I went over to catch up and helped wash some dishes as Valerie baked.  Haig told me how they were spending Christmas Day, by taking Christmas dinner to Children's Hospital where Valerie works, to the rehab dept.  The kids there can't leave, and so it's a chance for them to have Christmas dinner with their families, as well as for the doctors and nurses working to have a Christmas dinner as well.  They invited me to come along.

Once I decided to stay in Fresno, I knew that's what I needed to do.  A lot of the reading I've been doing this year is around how God has a specific call for singles in the church to use their extra time to serve.  I could tell when I woke up this morning that I had a purpose in doing this today.  I would have otherwise flitted away the day watching Christmas movies.  It was a wonderful day!  Haig, Valerie, her sister Robin and I showed up at 8:30 to start prepping everything, and then put the food out around noon.  People then just cycled through informally.  I got to meet a few patients, a few nurses, but mostly doctors.  I got to hear some of their stories and share mine.  Everyone was so grateful to us for coming.

That finally got me joyful about Christmas.  God always comes through.

Mom seemed okay about me missing Christmas, but was a little sad when we talked afterward saying, "You're probably going to want to start doing this every year, huh?"  I'm not sure yet, but probably.

Another highlight was our Christmas Eve service at CBC.  Jim gave a wonderful message about the history and significance of giving gifts, turning GIFTS into an acronym of gifts we can give each other: Grace, Improvement, Forgiveness, Time and Salvation.  Got to see several families, but seeing Steve and Kathi was the highlight.  Former missionaries to Japan, they now train future missionaries while living in Fullerton, but were visiting Fresno to seeing their kids whom I went to FPU with.  Megan came with her fiance Yenisaw from Ethiopia.  Megan is like a little sister to me, and it was nice to finally meet Yenisaw and feel reassured that she picked a good guy.

All (that I currently recall of) the wonderful Christmas stuff I did this year with friends:
-Messiah Sing-along with Hanna and her parents Harold & Linda
-Tuba Christmas at Manchester Mall with CBC families
-visiting model train aficionados open houses with CBC families
-walking Christmas Tree Lane with Amy and her kids, with a fire, hot chocolate & cider at my house afterward
-baking for 10-year-old Rebecca's Compassion International bake sale with Katie M.
-Christmas caroling in the church neighborhood with CBC families
-Awana's "Trim Your Leader" Night
-Second Harvest and Project Touch with VBC, getting to spend the morning with Nicholas, a kid I had in my 4-year-olds' Sunday School class 10 years ago
-visiting with as many VBC families as possible on my one weekend down there when I really thought I'd have three weekends down there
-making 150 lbs of Almond Roca
-Karate class Christmas Party & White Elephant gift exchange
-Spades night & $5 gift card exchange
-adult Christmas Choir concert at CBC
-walking Candy Cane Lane with my Sunday School class, borrowing three of friends' kids whose parents were up to going, and spending the evening with the SS class for cookies at Garry & Jenny's open house
-Christmas cookie exchange with coworkers (and being declared better than Quinn because of my almond roca and forgotten cookies)
-visiting the living nativity in Riverdale with Haig, Valerie and Drew
-singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" (first verse in Latin, which drew much applause) at karaoke with the guys
-Christmas Eve Service at CBC
-serving Christmas dinner with Haig, Valerie & Robin at Children's Hospital
-eating Christmas dinner with Haig, Valerie & family at their house afterward
-watching lots of Christmas movies throughout the month

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2011 Year in Review

So it's time for the annual wrap-up.  2011 was a year of monumental changes.  I had no idea I'd be where I am now.

Can I say that I'm glad 2011 is finally over?  It's been absolutely exhausting.  There's not a lot on this list quantitatively, but qualitatively, it's been huge.
  • Finished most of Busy Season #5, this one was a tie with #4 for worst one.
  • Got a new job in April
  • Took up kenpo karate, and have so far advanced to yellow belt rank
  • Completed 5th & 6th boys' leader term in Awana and started term as Games Director (who would have guessed that from the type of kid I was?)--and I thought 5th and 6th grade boys was a stretch last year
  • Did my first (sprint) triathlon
  • Biked the Fresno Classic Mini-Metric (35 mi) ride
  • Injured my heel doing sprints to train for a marathon
  • Ran the Trail of Two Cities Half Marathon in near-record time
  • Started my own Spades group
  • Daniel moved out in September, amicable departure, but it was time for me to live alone again
  • Started feeling as though I actually lived in my own house
  • Started teaching Kindergarten Sunday School once a month
  • Flew up to Seattle to move my sister Joy back into the dorms for her sophomore year
  • Bought a new car, 1999 Toyota RAV4
  • Bartended at a wedding (just wine and champagne, very easy, but very fun)
  • Flew an airplane through a Groupon deal
  • 2nd Christmas spent in Fresno
  • Got my tonsils taken out
That second one, the new job--WOW!  My whole life has changed because of that one.

And I wonder what's next.

My 2011 resolution was to actively work at getting more rest.  I think I'm sleeping more (or at least doing better at not skipping sleep like I used to), but all the change and stress of this year triggered my sleep apnea diagnosis.  That's the goal behind getting my tonsils out.  So I'd say I did a decent job at that resolution in 2011.

I think in 2012, I want to work at having a better understanding of what God has planned for me in ministry.  I love what I'm doing in my church now and wonder how God wants me to better use this extra time I have when I'm not working now that I'll soon have a year of experience under me in this new job.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It took until earlier this week, but I was reminded of why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It's not a simple answer, such as "no gifts," "little commercialization," "time with friends/family."

It was in my whole week.  I had been struggling this year with getting into the holiday spirit.  Normally I love the colder weather, the Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions...all of it.  But this year, I'd been discontented, irritable, but really trying not to show it.

My favorite event at my Fresno church is our annual Harvest Banquet, a massive potluck where we fill the church gym and reflect on God's blessings from the past year.  I enjoyed it but for whatever reason, I wasn't "feeling it."

I'm sure a lot of it is the increased stress at work right now, with our audit well underway and threatening to continue through to New Years.  Ugh.

There's an old-fashioned "Lessons & Carols" concert that the FPU choir puts on every year that I also cherish.  But this year, I didn't feel like going, so I just decided to stop forcing myself on this.

I received a visit from Fred & Cinda on their way north for Thanksgiving on Tuesday and was able to spend the afternoon with them.  It was wonderful to get a touch of Orange County since I haven't been able to get down there in two months and December doesn't seem hopeful for any significant visit.

On Wednesday, my auditors gave me a much-needed break to catch up and worked from their office.  So I was able to have a nice feeling of a productive workday. 

That evening, I called Amy to borrow one of her children to help me bake a dessert for Thanksgiving dinner.  So I picked up Jaden (11 years old) to come over and spend the night.  Baking was a series of misadventures, but we had fun.  I accidentally gave Jaden a can of cut sweet potatoes to open instead of pumpkin pie filling (the cans are the same size, and generally used the same time of year).  So I texted Amy to let her know I'd be bringing candied yams in addition to a pumpkin dump cake.  Then I scorched one of my pans trying to glaze pecans.  The burned sugared pecans were a nice snack though, kind of like burned caramel popcorn.  I ran out of flour, and could only make one loaf of an apple bread recipe I had been wanting to try, but stupidly mixed the ingredients in the wrong order, and had to add a lot of oil to get the whole stupid thing to gel into dough.  It came out very bland and I ended up throwing it away.  Oh well, we had fun and laughed a lot.

On Thursday morning, I babysat Todd and Alicia's 4.5-year-old twin boys Griffin and Derek so they could go play volleyball with a group of their friends.  These kids are so precious.  I brought with me "Don't Spill the Beans" given to me for Christmas by Joanna for Christmas a couple years back and construction paper strips for advent chains.  The boys loved both, plus wrestling with them all over the living room.  Thankfully, they have very big padded furniture, perfect for catching children hurtling through the air, although their recliners do tip a little too easily.

Thanksgiving Dinner was over at Amy's, and we probably had 20-25 people.  Amy's mom Joan had actually been assigned sweet potatoes and brought six pans with different varieties, so mine never got put out.  But my dump cake was a hit.  All the food was delicious, and we ate until we were stuffed.  The crowning moment was having someone bring a German white wine (only a couple of us drink) that no one could pronounce the name of, and me telling Wilma (Amy's aunt), a wonderful, loud, southern-to-the-core, black woman from Texas, "Them is MY people."  We all burst out laughing, and Wilma was thrilled to finally know "where y'all is from."

After we cleaned up, Amy and I went for a quick walk around the block just to try to relieve our soon-to-be-aching stomachs before I took my leftovers and headed home exhausted.  I built a fire and my friend Stephanie came over and we watched a couple Christmas movies.

And I avoided all Black Friday shopping by responding to my sisters' texts of what I wanted for Christmas with the movies I wanted that were on sale at various stores.  It was great.

On Saturday, I ran 6.5 miles with Alicia, Karey and Amy.  Karey and I hung out at Starbucks for a couple hours afterward talking.  It was neat to get to hear more of his story of how God brought him and his family to Fresno.  I spent the whole middle of the day in front of the fireplace just blogging and getting computer stuff done.  Then Spades that evening.

On Sunday, I attended a church budget Q&A in anticipation of the business meeting next week.  I always enjoy getting to see how God is doing in the church with numbers and finances.  I taught Kindergarten during second hour, and God graced me with only seven kids.  A much-needed blessing since I had gotten my lessons mixed up and prepared the wrong story.

In the afternoon, I went with my friend Hanna to a choir sing-along of Handel's Messiah at a Presbyterian church downtown.  No performance, just everyone showing up, sitting in sections by vocal part, and singing through about 2/3 of the whole score.  Hanna's dad and I sat together, and he's a crack-up.  It was just an encouraging afternoon.

So I'm still not 100% "in the holiday spirit" this year.  The house isn't decorated yet, and I don't know if it will be.  I think I just need to focus on the simple and restful opportunities.  God will take care of the rest.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 1 of Men’s Retreat

I’m surprisingly not stressed about the audit and am just enjoying myself up here.  I rode up with Shavarsh, Garry, and Sam (a guy I didn’t really know).  I left work at 1 p.m., and am still so grateful to not have to meet chargeable hours goals anymore.

We checked in and went straight to dinner.  Hume food is always amazing.  I always overeat here, but oh well.  It’s one weekend to completely splurge.

As an icebreaker, we broke into our small groups for “minute-to-win-it”-type challenges, where one guy from each of the eight groups goes up for each challenge.  I thought I might have it for most sit-ups in 30 seconds, but I only did 20, and another guy did 31.  Unfortunately I had on a newer pair of jeans, and I’m a little bruised from the belt loop.  I have Trevor B., Sam M., Bryan W., and Matt S. in my group.

Our theme this weekend is No More Excuses, building off the movie Courageous.  Josh, a guy in our church is a Chowchilla police officer, and works with Code+3 ministries, a ministry based out of our church for supporting law enforcement.  He’ll be talking off the acronym REAL this weekend.  Tonight R stood for “Reject Passivity,” and he talked about Simon Peter.  Josh commended Simon Peter for wanting Jesus so much that he’d believe Christ could make him walk on water in the midst of the storm that he’d get out of a boat 4 miles out to sea.  Who cares that he got distracted from Christ (which we all do)?  He got out of the boat!

Josh also touched on the church at Laodicea being lukewarm in Revelation 3:14-22.  But he took it a step further to Revelation 4 being our promise of what’s to come if we get white hot for God and reject passivity.

A couple questions so far have been very convicting for me.  What will it take for me to become white hot toward God?  What’s keeping me passive toward Christ?  Work, family, sin, money, status, etc.  This is where it really hit me.  Josh and his wife lost their first baby Elijah eight years ago.  Our whole church was praying for this baby born with a hole in his heart.  When their second son Lincoln had the same defect, he had surgery in the womb and a full heart transplant a few months after birth.  Josh knows pain like few others.  And for him to say, “Lord, take my family if that’s what it takes to draw me to you.”  Wow.  But this is God, so if we really know how awesome He is, even our family can’t compare.

After the talk, we went back to Ponderosa for snacks (Hume’s amazing cookies, along with milk).  I think I had six, which isn’t good considering I ate 3 doughnuts that the auditors brought this morning.  But they’re so good!

They moved the Spades tournament to tonight since so many guys are going home after tomorrow’s talk.  I like the change because the weekend always feels overscheduled to me.  This way we get that done tonight when I want to hang out and talk with guys anyway, and it’s one less thing on tomorrow’s agenda.  I partnered up with Mike B. and he gave us the team name “Zero to Heroes,” because he and his brother got exactly zero points in the tournament two years ago.  We played against Trevor and a new guy Alan, and lost 245 to 2.  Not much of a climb from 0.  I wasn’t disappointed with losing or getting eliminated in the first round, but that our game went fast and was over.  Mike proposed a consolation (or “consolidation” as he called it) round, and that ended up being a lot of fun.  Russ went Blind Nil in the third hand, not knowing he had the three non-Spade aces.  Then Tim, this being his first night playing Spades, led out with the three of clubs.  I played the two, Russ played the five, and Mike came in with the four.  It was pure chaos from there.  Russ had so many points that we ended up getting set.  But that was a redeeming game in my mind just for the fun of playing rather than us winning.

There are a lot less guys this year, probably only 45, where we’ve been 100+ in some previous years.  We’re only using one cabin this year.  I’m bunking with Jon D., Jeff J., Daniel Y., and Matt S.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Half Marathon #4

I don't know whether I should have done this one or not.  I came within a minute of my personal record.  The bummer is that I thought I had beaten my Denver record by 30 seconds, but my memory of what that record was failed me on race day.

I left it ALL on the race course.  I had nothing--no fuel, no kick, no sprint--left at the end.

Recovering from my heel injury and not planning out my training well really did me in.  I was able to run the whole time.  But I knew starting a couple days in advance I wasn't ready for this race, physically or mentally.  I wasn't excited about it.  I wanted it over.  I just put my head down and gave it a brute force effort through those 13.1 miles.  I was excited to see friends cheering or out on the race course, but not about the experience of the run.

As I crossed the finish line, this one medic wouldn't let me past her.  She was insisting I come with her to the tent and kept asking me if I was all right.  I told her I just needed to walk it off, but she wouldn't hear of it.  Another one came, and they just about carried me to the medic tent.  They had to walk me step-by-step through how to lay down on the cot because I couldn't handle the whole motion in one instruction.

I told them my legs were cramping a little and that I thought I just needed some protein, they had some milk in the post-race area.  They elevated my legs.  My head was getting really hot, so they put some ice on me.  They poured some water in my mouth and also some salt to hydrate me and get my electrolytes up.  In a little while I was apparently doing better and they let me go.  As I was leaving the tent, I was still pretty queasy and out of it, but doing better.  I could walk in a semi-straight line.  And just as I left I heard someone call my last name, and I saw another set of medics dragging in my buddy Cassidy.

I ate and rehydrated.  After a meal I got an ice cream sundae, and then my free glass of wine.  I love post-race food!  I caught up with a bunch of church, FPU and other friends who had run, volunteered or just come to cheer, and left an hour or two later.

My chiropractor is a personal trainer, and he works evenings and weekends, so I was very grateful to be able to go in and get an adjustment after the race.  Those were some loud cracks and pops on that visit.

Two days later, I'm still pretty out of whack.  My back is threatening to go out on me.  Muscles are tight but not directly sore.  Karate was pretty tough tonight.  But another adjustment helped work a little more out, so hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Karate and Falling

I earned the first stripe on my yellow belt a couple weeks ago.  I've been working pretty hard toward it.  The belt progression is even my exponential and nonlinear than I expected.  I can't imagine all I'll need to do and know to get to my orange belt.

But I digress.  One of my biggest fears is falling.  From any height.  I despise the feeling of free-falling, either from tripping, or from jumping off the Screamer at Hume Lake.  We had to practice falling in kenpo class several weeks back.  The idea is that if ever in a fight, we very likely may fall and need to be prepared for it so that it doesn't shock us to where we stop defending ourselves.  A key point of it is kee-aye'ing (sp?) as we make contact with the ground, forcefully exhaling all our air so it doesn't get knocked out of us and leave us dazed.  The exercises were very low-level falls, like from a crouching position almost jumping backward onto our backs.  It was still a pretty tough one for me.

But last Thursday we were doing a circle-attack exercise, where we'd one-at-a-time enter a circle of everyone else in the class and have to defend against any attack a class member would throw, emphasizing both control and speedy reaction time.  When our sensei went into the circle, I grabbed him in a bear hug, the technique he'd just taught me on Tuesday.  Obviously, he had no trouble throwing me to the ground.  He even complimented me later on my kee-aye as I landed.  Granted, it wasn't intentional like it should have been.  But I didn't have the panicky feeling that normally comes from falling.  That was a pretty cool revelation.  Progress.

More Running

I can't believe where God has brought me.  I remember being so determined to run the Fresno marathon this year.  I wanted to PR (set a personal record), shaving 15 minutes off of last year's time since I hadn't trained enough last year.

Then I tried running sprints on cement.  Four half-mile sprints.  It was an awesome workout, except for the after-math of injuring my right heel.  I was worried I sprained my Achilles tendon.  I was frustrated not being able to run anymore.  Not just frustrated, but scared.

Then my doctor told me I was good to start running again, slowly, and on dirt only to start.  I got excited about the possibility of the marathon again.  It was aggressive; too aggressive.  For whatever reason, my left ankle has now started swelling at the beginning of most of my training runs.  I massage it out and then it's usually fine.

So I'm running the half-marathon, which pridefully felt like such a wimpy effort to not do at least the full marathon (there was an ultra-marathon which was five miles longer).  I honestly considered not racing at all.  It was pride.  The only thing that could really lift that was the prospect of something being free.  I ran a 10K at the beginning of October in downtown Fresno, and there was a deal of getting two free items of past years' race gear (hats, tech shirts, etc.) if you signed up at this event.  So I got two more racing caps, which are usually $15-$25 I think.  It also helped to see that this year's color for the tech shirts is green, which is my favorite color.  It's the little things in life.

So the race still kind of snuck up on me.  I did 6 miles last weekend, somehow thinking I still had another month before the race.  Nope, two weeks as my friend Stephanie reminded/shocked me that Saturday evening.  So I pulled on my running shoes the next morning and did another four.  Then another four Monday night.  And Wednesday morning another four.  That still didn't condition me to jump to ten yesterday, but I did it.  I wasn't sore afterward, but I could tell my whole body just wanted to go on strike for what I was doing to it.  But now I think I'm almost ready for the half next Sunday.  I'm excited!!!!!

And the doctor confirmed it wasn't my Achilles tendon at all, but the misalignment of one of the bones in my heel.  Continued chiropractic adjustments should continue to take care of it.  He encouraged me to use this race to springboard to a marathon in a couple months.  Now I just have to find a good one.


So I flew an airplane!

I bought a Groupon several months back.  It offered a 3-hour instruction class and a one-hour discovery flight.  I decided to stretch myself.

I finally used it a couple weeks ago.  Our instructor's name was Ryan, and the class was at a private charter service near the airport.  The class was really eye-opening as to the challenges that pilots and airports face, and will give me a much more understanding spirit with delays, etc. in the future.  There were about 15 people in the class that Friday evening (one female, the rest male).  We went over the structure of a plane, the pre-flight inspections, and walked around the plane parking area.  They had four smaller planes (Cessna 172's and 182's, the type we'd be flying) as well as a Gulfstream, which I was familiar with because of reading John Grisham's The King of Torts.

Ryan mentioned planes being a great tax shelter somehow.  I'm curious about this.  Apparently why so many wealthy people purchase planes is because of the tax advantages.  Their accountants talk them into it.  I'm skeptical, but thought it was interesting that my career tied into his.  Not that I'm in any position to invest in a plane.

Another cool thing I learned about planes is that they aren't considered to age like cars do.  One wouldn't go buy a car made in the 60's and expect it to be reliable regular transportation.  Planes can't have the mechanical and electrical glitches that cars do because of the safety concerns (to those in the plane and those on the ground below).  So rigorous maintenance is undergone before each take-off.  So a plane is always considered mechanically brand-new.  A pilot wouldn't treat flying or buying a plane built in the 90's any different from one in the 60's.  Which brings up another point, airplane engines haven't substantially changed since WWII.  Car engines keep getting redesigned to improve horsepower and performance.  With an airplane engine, you just want consistent output of power (different from speed), no revving the engine, so they're designed with some deliberate inefficiencies.  It's a sacrifice of overall performance efficiency for consistently keeping the plane in the air.  It's now two weeks after the fact that I'm finally typing all this up, so I hope I'm getting the details right.

At the end of class, we signed up in pairs for one-hour flight slots on Saturday.  I picked the 3 p.m. slot with a guy named Doug.  The way it would work is that we'd both be in the plane for the hour and would switch of flying and being in the backseat halfway through.  We'd each have two take-offs and two landings, with the assistance of an instructor.  The flight pattern was a rectangle along the left airstrip at the Fresno airport.

I showed up and met Chris, our flight instructor, as well as Doug's wife and daughter.  I exchanged info with Doug's wife Kathy and she graciously agreed to send me pictures of our afternoon.  I went first, and Chris taxied us onto the runway and did all the communicating with the Control Tower.  He managed the speed, and we managed the lift-off, turning, elevation control and landing.  I didn't know until getting going that he'd be managing the speed, and that was a a relief not to have to try to get that right along with taking off or landing the plane.

The experience was exhilarating.  I thought I'd be terrified, both when I was doing it, and when Doug was in front.  But each time, I was just absolutely enjoying myself.

When we landed, I asked out of curiosity the approximate cost of getting a pilot's license.  I know it wouldn't be economical $-wise to fly back-and-forth to Orange County, but I would love not to have to spend 8+ hours driving each round-trip.  $6K for all the gas, plane rental time, and other costs just to get my license.  Okay, that goes on the list of "WAY out in left field" dreams.

But the experience was still a blast and absolutely worth it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Seattle, Here We Come!

I booked flights to take Joy back to SPU for her sophomore year in a couple weeks.  We were originally planning on a roadtrip, but my enthusiasm toward that much driving started to wane as the trip got closer.  I don't know if it's because I'm getting older (I hope that isn't it), or because I'm doing a lot of repetitive daily driving for work now and I made four trips to Orange County this summer.

So I looked into flights and car rentals.  I was able to use my Alaska Airlines miles to cover her one-way ticket and half of my round-trip ticket.  And our dear friends Leroy and Karen are letting us stay in their house and use their car while they're in Orange County for a wedding.

I had really wanted to get back up there this year, so I'm really excited for this trip.  I don't think my mom can handle another trip to Seattle, and I don't think Joy can handle a solo trip with Dad, so I'm grateful that work is being so flexible about letting me take this trip.  And a chance to see my grandmother this year really makes me happy.

Running Again

So I finally got in to see a sports doctor after no running for a month.  Thank goodness for karate and other workouts, or I may have gone postal.

Joe, the chiropractor I saw, told me to start running again, but cautiously.  He wanted me to stay on dirt, then to run each day of Labor Day weekend, and then take Tues and Wed off.  So I ran the canal by my house.  Saturday morning 4 miles with Alicia and Amy, Sunday morning 3.5 miles with Amy, and Sunday night solo.  I saw no reason to wake up early Monday since I wouldn't have running partners, and night running calms me down and helps ease my insomnia.  But I got mighty bored with the canal.  I need more changes in my routes.  I don't care what the scenery is, but I don't want to run it often enough enough to remember landmarks.

It felt SO AMAZING to run again!  My pace was slow, but I didn't care.  I was in recovery mode.  I was trying not to get my hopes up, but over the weekend I kept thinking about the Fresno marathon in two months.  Could I get back on track to still race?  Normally marathon training takes four months, but I did eleven miles over the course of three days with minimal pain in my Achilles.

On Wednesday, Joe said things were still looking good with my ankle, and that I should try a longer run.  He said the marathon was a possibility!  But I need to stay on dirt for now while I'm still in recovery.  I wasn't up to getting to Woodward Park in North Fresno for a run, so I ran the canal again.  But I mixed up my path on it as much as possible.  And I got 7 miles in, and was able to average a decent pace!

So what did I learn from a month of not running?  First, I relied way too much on running for self-validation.  I need to rely on God for validation, not my earthly achievements.  Second, I was caring too much about metrics: how fast and how long I could run.  It's good for tracking the progress of my training to know those things, but I need to not put too much emphasis on them that I risk another injury.  Third, I'm not indestructible.  I was always a cautious kid, and I think I somehow figured it would keep me safe from any lifelong injury.  And running seemed safe, except for the occasional near-miss of a car or bike, or collision with another runner.  But I do need to take better care of myself if I want to be able to run until the day I die.  Finally, running isn't my only workout option.  I used to be very lazy with other types of exercise, getting easily distracted.  I didn't fully master this one, but I did make great progress at staying focused and not wandering off from my workout with a sudden urge to vacuum.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Badge of Honor

I put in my first 12-hour day at the not-so-new job.  It was the first time I had left work when it was dark outside (which I realize will soon become a normal occurrence with the time change).  I saw the janitors show up.

It felt oddly comforting.  Something about knowing I can still work hard.  I joke with friends that I now only work 40-45 hours/week, and it feels like a part-time job, but there is a ring of truth to that for me.  I feel guilty leaving at 5:15 for karate on Tuesday and Thursdays.  While I don't arrive until 8:30/9, I don't take a lunch break usually.  Some people leave by 5, others stay until 6ish, rarely until 7.  But I still feel like I'm establishing my reputation.

But simultaneously, I have begun to feel more and more like this is my new normal.  Not just a new audit I'm on that I'll leave soon, but that I really am here until I deliberately resign and take another position.  We had some bank auditors come this week, and it was my job to prepare for them.  I did pretty well, and I think being the experienced one conveying information about our company did a lot for making me feel more settled here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pastor of My Home

I gave the lesson this morning in my Sunday School class (adults, not a class I work in for kids).

We're going through the Psalms, and our regular leader Darryl asked each man in the class to take one Psalm and give the lesson on it that Sunday.  I ended up picking Psalm 90.

I'm ashamed to admit I procrastinated a lot in preparing for this lesson.  I read through the Psalm several times in the weeks leading up to today, but I didn't start looking up commentaries until last night.

Psalm 90 is the oldest Psalm of all 150, and the only one written by Moses.  It contrasts God and His infallible, omnipotent, permanent nature with our existence being only to serve Him.  One commentator I read, Matthew Henry, proposed that Moses wrote this Psalm right after the nation of Israel had been sentenced to wander the desert for 40 years.  It puts a different spin on to think of hearing this after you've been told you've messed up one too many times, and you've now lost out on a dream you've been eagerly anticipating.

I picked this Psalm because of verse 12.  How ironic that I procrastinated on a lesson on Scripture that challenges us to maintain good time management.

I took a little bit of class time to also share the memory verse system that my youth pastor Ron shared with me back in high school.  Our Sunday School class has been talking about the importance of memorizing Scripture, so I wanted to share this method that worked so well for me.  Granted, I fell off the wagon with it due to all my traveling at D&T, but I had over 300 verses memorized at one point.  I need to do better at this now that I'm consistently at home every night.

I was frustrated that I ran out of time and that we as a class didn't get to fully discuss the Psalm, but I heard once that it was better to just wrap it up when time is exhausted.  Better to leave your audience wishing you had had time to say more than wishing you had stopped earlier (and probably missing the point of your message in the process).  We had our annual Ministry Fair in between services this morning, so both services were sliced a little to accommodate it.

I spoke to Darryl briefly after class.  He thanked me for speaking and gave me some insight on why he had the men in the class each take a class session.  I had thought it was him just wanting a break since finishing Colossians.  He said that at some point, when you have a family, every man becomes a pastor of his own home.  He felt this was a good practice environment for all of us.  That really struck me.  I know that if God is calling me to marry and have kids, I need to be a spiritual leader and lead family devotions, etc.  But I hadn't actively connected it into doing advance prep when I do those things.  It shouldn't be me looking at our family devotions at the same time as I share them, I will need to put in the extra time to familiarize myself with the lesson ahead of time.  That's how important the dad job is.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Planter Boxes

My friend Garry wanted to build some planter boxes at his new house for his wife Jenny to use for gardening.  Another friend in our church, Jon, is very handy and has made three such planter boxes.  So Jon volunteered to help Garry build one and I volunteered to help so I could learn how to do this as well.  It's something I'd be interested in doing at my house one day.  It was actually very easy to construct the frame, but the treated wood is really expensive.  Then there's the process of getting dirt, which Jon and I didn't help with.  :-)

Cool to hang out with some fellow Christian guys on a Saturday morning and learn how to do something new.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Campus Coastal Challenge #27

I've only been attending for three years, but last weekend was the 27th annual bike trip my church takes to Monterey for every second weekend in August.  We tent camp at an RV campground from Friday night to Sunday morning, and do a bike ride of ~28 miles along the Monterey Peninsula Trail.  This year, we have about 75 people I think.

Because of my insomnia, I usually only stay Friday night and then drive home late Saturday.  But Jon, the trip organizer, really wanted me to be able to stay the whole weekend this year.  He offered to let me sleep in the back of one of the vans.  I sleep in my car because I find it so cumbersome and impractical to set up a tent for one person for one or two nights, and even on an air mattress, I'm no more comfortable than being in my car.  But having a flat surface in the back of the van did help.  I slept decently (not great) Friday night, and well enough that I acquiesced to staying Saturday night.  I slept miserably that night and came home on the verge of getting sick.

I only did half the ride.  My friend Amy only wanted to do half, and I was ambivalent, so this was a way to get all the bikes there and back.  Amy was pulling her youngest daughter Aislynn in a tag-along, and didn't realize that it didn't fit her bike, so we attached the tag-along to mine.  Amy did the ride out, and I rode it back, but Aislynn went in a sag vehicle back with Amy, and we were able to ditch the tag-along, too (although I did get to pull another kid, Josh, in it for a two-mile stretch).

I think my favorite part of the weekend was really getting to play with the kids.  Some of the families I feel the closest to were there, and I got to give lot of rides on my shoulders and back, hold them upside down, and just hang out with them.  My seven-year-old buddy Cole learned to knit from his aunt recently, but had forgotten the purl stitch, so we took some time for me to teach it to him.  The scarf he was making looked like it had been through a war, and it just made me so proud remembering how similar my first knitting projects looked.  I started a cable stitch piece to wow him with, and he was duly impressed.

My friends Todd and Alicia came with their four-year-old boys Griffin and Derek.  Alicia and I used to work together, and it was cool to have them along on the trip with my church friends.  They skipped the ride because of the boys' ages but hung out with the group the rest of the time at the campground.

I stupidly skipped sunscreen and came back with some mild burns.  I know better than to skip it, especially when it's overcast, but I rationalized that since I was only doing half the ride, that I might not need it.  Lesson learned...again.

It was a rough drive home.  I was so wiped that I had to pull off for a power nap 20 miles into the 150-mile trip home.  Chewing gum kept me going the rest of the way.  It was nice to get out of the August heat of Fresno for a weekend, which isn't saying much this year because it's been so mild.  I think we're hitting a record for the fewest triple-digit days in July and August.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What's the Lesson This Time?

I started having heel pain in my right foot on Sunday but didn't really pay attention to it until yesterday.  Now I think I may have done something to my Achilles tendon.  It may have happened during my heavy sprint workout on Saturday.  And driving for five hours on Sunday and running five miles Monday morning probably didn't help it.  So I may need to take a break from running, just as I was gearing up for my next marathon.  Ugh.

Okay, God, what's the lesson in this for me?  How do you want to grow me next?  Help me to be humble enough to trust that you know a little more than I do about the big picture.  But please be patient with me, I tend to be a little slow in this department.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Feedback Works

I have long held the belief that filling out customer service surveys can be an effective means of creating change. I tend to be very thorough in my responses, trying carefully not to "fly off the handle," but rather drive home the hole in their customer service and suggest a remedy. My good friend Matt has always found my feedback hilarious, so I thought it time to share with the masses, or at least the two followers of this blog. I wrote the following to Jiffy Lube on June 27:

“I got an oil change yesterday and felt that the customer service was so bad, I had to write. I arrived and stopped in front of the only open bay, and a guy who had a creepy in-your-face (not aggressive, just too close for personal bubble) demeanor told me to turn off my engine. Then he had me turn it back on and move it behind a bay that had a car in it. I have no idea why and really don't care, but the presentation made it look as though I was being pushed back in the line as though the open bay was being held for someone else more important.

“I went inside and sat down. The T.V. was obnoxiously loud, but there was rarely anyone inside to ask that it be turned down a little. The angle of the T.V. also caught such a glare from the outside light that the screen was barely visible anyway even if I had wanted to watch the movie.

“I understand your process of bringing me out and showing me my air filter, etc., most of that I appreciate. But the guy who was there doing this today was an extremely fast talker, and everything he mentioned felt like a sales pitch. I don’t think a lot of the services you offer are necessary for my car, and I am sick of having to tell your team no every time I come in. Can’t you put in my profile not to even bring them up anymore? It was very uncomfortable, and now I wish I had gone somewhere else.

“Then the topic of discounts came up. He offered me some promotional $10 off deal based off the type of oil I chose, but then had to rescind it because it couldn’t be combined with the 50% deal I had available to me. There was another $10 mail-in rebate, but your guy then told me I wouldn’t get a receipt if I had them mail it in. Part of it was my annoyance over the inconvenience over all the loopholes in your “discounts,” but he was talking so fast that I felt like I was being fed a line.

“When I was talking over the high-mileage oil change I’d picked and the timeline for returning, he seemed to be disclaiming any responsibility for the quality of my oil change and when I needed to come back in. Everything was made to be my choice, and I was bearing all the risk. It was very annoying not to get a straight answer out of him.

“The two things done right on my visit were 1) the first guy, even though he had a creepy demeanor, he told me how long the wait time was without my having to ask, and 2) you have recent finance magazines. I enjoy reading those (but don’t want my house cluttered with magazines, so I don’t subscribe to them), so I really don’t care how long the whole process takes because I reserve a big chunk of time for it and just get to read. And as much as I just wanted to get out of there, I do like seeing your team check the caps on everything with me watching before I drive off.

“It’s probably not even worth having you contact me about this miserable experience, because any “I’m sorry” discount you give me will have some catch on it that will make it completely pointless when I get to the register. I foresee it being some % off discount of my next service that won’t be any better than my AAA discount, and you won’t compound them. If you are willing to do something about this to keep my business, feel free to reply.

“And why do you make all these fields like my address and car info required on your website survey form? It just makes more of an inconvenience for me when it has no bearing on the feedback I'm giving.

“I tried submitting the above on your website, but kept getting server errors. I called today, was on hold for 13 minutes, and finally got to a person who gave me this e-mail address. Put some hold music on so I don't have to constantly check to make sure the call wasn't dropped. And don't repeat that "Due to to heavy call volume, you may experience wait times in excess of 5 minutes" SO OFTEN. Very annoying.”

Well, Jiffy Lube customer service called me on Friday. The guy I spoke with apologized for my visit and was very grateful for all the feedback I gave, pointing out the many areas they had to improve upon. He offered to refund my $66 service charge (not just the oil change part, but also including the windshield chip repair I had done), and send me a $25 gift card off my next visit (should I choose to continue giving them my business), resolving the issue of some other promotion/discount not qualifying. Looks like Jiffy Lube will keep my business awhile longer.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I attended a karate class tonight, and I really enjoyed it!  It's something I've wanted to try for a long time.  I took a self-defense class in college, but really didn't feel like I came away with a lot.  My new friend Javad (Persian descent) is a black belt, and he recently moved to the area with his family (wife and three young sons) and they started attending my church.  He started a class with some of the people in our church, and I decided to go check it out.  I love exploring the potential of new hobbies, and having the mere time to do so.


In so many areas of my life, I am all about following consistent procedures. I understand that a breakdown in controls is how error or fraud occurs, not just in an audit sense, but in life. That’s what so many T.V. shows and movies are based upon. The hero or heroine just needs to figure out the weak link in the impenetrable wall of the enemy to accomplish their mission (e.g. one security guard never missing his favorite T.V. show from 7:30 to 8).

But yet I hate check-in procedures with a deep and utter loathing from my soul. I hate having to sign my name, show a badge, or otherwise yield to a receptionist or security guard. I carry address labels to expedite paperwork at doctor’s offices. As an auditor, I tried to make friends with the receptionists at all my clients to avoid repetitive daily sign-ins, and it worked most of the time. At my current job, we have to show a badge to enter the company lot. There’s some bad pride in me that says I have worked hard enough to be elevated to such a level that I shouldn’t have to bother with this menial admin work or submit to someone else.

I'm a work in progress.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Can I Do?

I don’t ask that resignedly, I ask it seriously.


As part of my continuing education for my CPA license, I’m taking a leadership course with 15 other CPA’s in Fresno.  We meet six times, on a monthly basis, to hear a lecture, discuss it, brainstorm, and network.  I’m really enjoying it.


Next week’s session is on ethics.  I just received the Powerpoint.  Slide 2 is of a Craigslist ad from someone trying to get their CPA license, but doesn’t have time to take the California-required ethics exam.  He was looking to pay someone to take it for him.  I feel physically ill at the thought of this.


Being fair, I do remember the plight of that workload and trying to find time to study.  Some of the fault should be on the firms putting so much pressure on employees.  But it’s always a choice for the employee of whether to fold or to stand up and insist on more reasonable accommodations at work.


I want to do something about this.  I want to see if I could be involved in helping the state catch these cheaters.  It would be very difficult to do if they’re clever.  And I question what the consequences should be.  Part of me wants to say permanent blacklisting from becoming a CPA.  Another part wants to show some grace in what may have been one bad choice in a weak moment rather than a pattern of such behavior, and to extend a non-permanent penalty such as a fine and a deferral of one’s license (three years until being able to make any further steps toward licensure).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Time Down South

I am so grateful to still get to spend time down in Orange County.  That was something I always appreciated about my summers at D&T.  Things usually slowed down that I could take my vacation in June and get some concentrated time down there with family and friends.  I gave up a lot of vacation time transitioning to NRC (from five weeks to two) and was worried about losing flexibility to make weekend trips out of town, too.

But thankfully, the flexibility is there in spades.  In three months of employment, I've made three trips down there.  Usually I decide to come down with less than 24 hours notice.  I think that spontaneity is the balance to my otherwise very structured life.  Thankfully my family puts up with it.

Last weekend, I left work at noon and got on the road.  I'm listening to The Chronicles of Narnia radio theatre productions from Focus on the Family.  Overall, I love them, but the volume can vary dramatically, so I keep my hand near the volume dial for the not-so-lovely shifts from whispering dialogue to screaming attacks.  I finished up The Horse and His Boy on the trip down, mixed in with some quiet reflection time and so radio time.

Many of my friends were at the VBC college camping trip, and the church softball team was in danger of forfeiture.  So I volunteered my services.  I was terrible, but I had fun, and thankfully I wasn't the sole reason we lost so miserably.  We were playing the best team in the league that night.

The game was called early because of the score disparity, so I dashed over to my parent's church for their Friday night service to hear the end of the Thailand missionary speaker's talk.  Andy and Tina are a really neat couple; I got to talk to them afterward.  Andy is blind, they just had their first child, and they just planted a church in Bangkok.

On Saturday morning, I went to help with Second Harvest at VBC, where we bag and distribute groceries to needy families in the community.  I love being so involved in that church.  I even have a printed name tag since I make about two or three of these monthly service opportunities each year.

My sister Joy is home from college for the summer, so I'm really trying to take some time for us to spend together.  She just got hiking boots and is very excited about it, so we went on a hike on Saturday afternoon.  We were aiming for Crystal Cove, but I missed our turn-off, so I just decided to stop at a trailhead off the road we were on.  It ended up being an awesome 3.5-mile hike.  I can't believe how much Joy is maturing.  It's still hard for me not to see her as 10 sometimes, because that's how old she was when I moved to Fresno.

I showered when we got home, got some admin stuff done on my laptop, and played a quick round of Hand and Foot with Mom and Joy.

I invited myself over to Jacob and Sarah's house for dinner.  I always enjoy getting to see them and talk with them.  Jacob is one of my closer guy friends, and I like what I see in their marriage as they work together.  And now that they have an adorable baby, there's even more reason to spend time with them.  On my last two visits I haven't been able to make much time with them because of the crazy scheduling that my trips here always involves.  Sarah is an amazing cook, serving BBQ'd chicken and fried rice that night.  Afterward they introduced me to a new game "Small World,"  which reminded me of a combination of Risk, Munchkin and Puerto Rico.  I loved it!  After the game, I kept them up way too late as I do with so many of my friends, just talking about life stuff.

Fred gave a sermon on John the Baptist and the prophecies preceding his arrival at VBC on Sunday.  I enjoyed it, but had been disappointed to realize I miscalculated the Guatemala missions team trip report.  But I'm not coming down next weekend with Carmageddon happening (the 405 will be closed).  After church I went to the Transitions Sunday School class.  It was created for the demographic of parents with children leaving or having left the nest, but somehow I fit better there than in the 20-somethings group.  I never did completely gel with peers growing up.  I was almost always with people either younger or older than myself.

Lunch with the dynasty after church, and then back to Mom and Dad's to pack.  This trip I cleaned out almost all the residual stuff I had there (only one file cabinet drawer left).  Mainly books that I'll probably try to sell at our neighborhood garage sale in September, but I did fill five banker boxes.

Then I drove out to Century city to see my friend Daniel.  We seem to be getting a good routine down.  His place is a nice stop on my way out of town; I stopped here on my last trip down on my way home, too.  This time we went for a run.  His pace is a little faster than mine, but I needed a running buddy and resolved to keep up.  Then I learned he'd been slacking off in his running and wasn't prepared for nearly the distance I was hoping for.  We met in the middle at 4 miles.  With the hills I wasn't accustomed to (central Fresno really doesn't have any), and his pace, I got a great workout out of it, and the distance was a push for him.  Then we grabbed dinner, watched a couple episodes of Bones, and I got on the road for home.  Crawled into my bed at 2 a.m.

Another awesome weekend.  I love my life.  Now if I just had time to sleep...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July

This was a good one.  I love this holiday!

Started Monday with a six-mile run with Alicia.  I needed to start building distance for marathon training.  We slept in a little too long, though, because running at 7:30 meant finishing our run in 84-degree weather.  We were dying, but we did it.

Then I came home, took a nice cold shower, and laid down to watch a movie.  One of the Big Lots/Wal-Mart bargain bins ones that was nice, but I probably wouldn’t watch again, so I moved it to the garage sale closet.

I set out some butter to soften and frozen bananas to thaw and turned on my computer.  I caught up on all my Quicken work.  It’s amazing how getting that done always makes me feel more relaxed.

Then back to the kitchen to whip up some banana bread to take over to Tiffany’s for the BBQ.  A few of the families in the church that I play Spades with were getting together later in the afternoon.  I also invited Todd, Alicia and the boys to come hang out since there would be some other kids their age.  It was a great afternoon and evening of fellowship.  The food was awesome, and I always enjoy getting to throw kids around in the pool.  I got a few scrapes on my foot and hand from the rough pool surface, though.

Once it got dark, we headed out front for the fireworks with Tiffany’s neighbors.  As I’ve gotten older, I find myself less and less interested in fireworks.  Cole and Kyle climbed in my lap, and we just watched most of them.  We had lots of sparklers, though, and I even did a couple.  Very unpleasant to step barefoot on a live spark and singe the bottom of your foot.  OUCH!  It was painful to have my sandals on because of the scrape from the pool on top of my foot, and painful to be without them because of the burn under my foot.

Finished the night with a few rounds of spoons with Katie, Tiffany and her son Kyle.  Apparently Tiffany has never lost this game, but she lost a few rounds that night.  I could tell that she was really tired.

A wonderful holiday.  Friends make all the difference in the world. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bass Lake

I’m spending part of the 4th of July weekend up at Bass Lake with my friend Steve, who owns a cabin up here.  In my nine years of living in the Central Valley, I have never been to Bass Lake before now.  I’ve been very close and driven past it several times, but never actually here.

I drove up Friday afternoon (took a wrong turn, big surprise).  Steve showed me the cabin and gave me a tour of the area.  Fascinating history and background.  As a thank you for sharing his cabin with me for the weekend, I took Steve to dinner at one of his local haunts, Ducey’s.

Steve and his wife Lorraine are about my parents’ age.  Steve and Lorraine have a wonderful marriage, but they don’t spend much time together these days.  Steve loves the idyllic life up at Bass Lake, but Lorraine is a city girl.  She stays mainly at their home in Orange County, while he comes up here nearly every weekend (he only works three/four day-weeks).  I don’t know how he stomachs the 300-mile one-way trips so often.  Neither one expects the other to change to their desired way of life.

As a family, they’ve vacationed up here for 40 years for about a week or so each summer, but only found this cabin to buy a year and a half ago.  It’s a major fixer-upper, but Steve is a former contractor, and our good friend Fred from church is a former electrician and loves to come us here and help him out from time to time.  Steve’s taken a unique approach to this cabin.  He deliberately stopped mentally framing it as a project, but as a hobby.  Some weekends, he’ll get a lot done.  Other weekends, he’ll just relax.  He does it as he wants to.

Bass Lake is an interesting place.  I can’t completely describe the appeal, but this is the first place I can say I have ever really wanted to buy a vacation home.  There’s something to it only being an hour away from home, only at 3,500 feet elevation, not feeling overcrowded (even for a holiday weekend, it’s not too packed with people).  I would actually come up and enjoy it multiple times through the summer and sporadically the rest of the year.  Hume Lake is two hours away, and those cabins are on a 99-year lease, not permanent ownership.  I need it close to be motivated to go often.  Steve even showed me a place near his that’s for sale (a lot of places are for sale in this economy).  Hmmm.

I’m probably going home tonight (Saturday) for church tomorrow, but am toying with coming up for the 4th fireworks with Amy and Stephanie.  Steve says it’s an incredible show, but traffic is a nightmare trying to get out when it’s over.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A New Page in Life

So I think it's time to throw in the towel, Xanga really is done for. And with my new job, other changes seem due. So here I go on blogspot.
The new job. I LOVE IT! It's still challenging, but not at the breakneck pace of the last one. And no travel, so I get to be home every night. The pay is better, which is awesome, but I am relieved to be able to honestly claim that was the smallest decision point in making the change. I'm working fewer hours, and actually getting to have a life now.
I'm really excited to see what God does with this change. What ministry opportunities will open up from this? There have been a lot of dreams, but little time to fulfill them. A big one I'm considering is stepping up to be Awana Games Leader next year at my Fresno church.