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Stone soup 

April 12, 2016

I got my gallbladder taken out.

Of course, it didn’t go smoothly, but then what ever does? So I find myself convalescing here waiting for the bleeding to slow down enough for me to go home.

The chaplain stopped by tonight to see how I was doing and to fulfill his seminarial duties (probably more the latter), and one of the things he asked me was what I was taking away from this experience. And I’m not sure what I said or if I said anything at all. I’m not really good off the cuff. But I should have told him not to be a surgeon.

Not to say that surgeons aren’t important. There’s nobody more important to the family in the waiting room or the patient on the table. They need someone with an intimate knowledge of every detail of a very specific piece of anatomy, the familiarity with procedure that makes their motions almost automatic, the ability to solve crucial problems under pressure.

But the person in the recovery room waking up alone and confused doesn’t need a surgeon. The old woman wondering what that beeping is and why nobody’s coming doesn’t need a surgeon. The man worried about all that blood coming out from under the dressing doesn’t need a surgeon. A surgeon may be able to fix a broken part of a person, but he can’t heal someone.

Too many pastors, too many Christians want to be surgeons. They worry about nitpicking doctrine about arcane features of theology, about knowing the right soundbites to parrot, about the right and especially the wrong people to associate with, about always having an answer.

But the person standing there covered in shit dripping blood on the floor saying, “I don’t think I got it all, I can’t tell,” doesn’t need a surgeon. They need someone to tell them it’s going to be okay, to wipe off the shit, to clean up the blood, to rebandage their wounds, to help them get back into bed.

So when you meet them, remember: The world doesn’t need more surgeons. It needs more nurses.

I got my gallbladder taken out. And I’m starting to feel better.

Well, well, well

January 27, 2014

Our company started up a wellness program about six months ago. I expect they realized that when the most exercise your typical software developer gets is running to the fridge when the Mountain Dew runs out, having some kind of incentive for your employees to get in better shape will reduce your healthcare expenses in the long run. It works on a “points” system. You get points for filling out a health questionnaire, going for preventative care, and competing in “challenges,” the point of which appears to be to get you to develop good habits.

The first challenge was to keep track of your weight for 12 weeks. You got a point every week you remembered to weigh yourself, and an extra point for every week that you lost weight. Part of the initial startup was a raffle for everyone who filled out the health profile and got their vitals checked, and I was lucky enough to win a FitBit Flex, which arrived shortly before the challenge started, so I’ve been using it to track my activity and food since early October. So far I’ve lost about 15 pounds.

Today, they started the second challenge, “15 for Me.” It’s lasts for a month, and you give yourself a point every day that you participate in at least 15 minutes of stress management. They give you a list of things you can participate in, and I wasn’t really sure what to pick. Meditation is probably impossible in a house with two small boys, and Nancy is convinced that “massage” means I’m supposed to give a massage instead of get one, so that’s out, too. The only options that seemed feasible were physical activity and journaling. I figured I’d cover my bases and do both.

For physical activity, I went down to the basement and cleaned the pile of groceries and Christmas wrapping off the treadmill (which has the added stress-reducing benefit of making a path in the basement so I’m not tripping over as much stuff when I go down there), and walked for 20 minutes while listening to podcasts. This had the added bonus of burning about a hundred calories according to the treadmill. (Gotta compensate for that Mountain Dew somehow.)

For journaling, all the websites I googled emphasized that for true stress management, you should write about stressful things or events to work through them, and keep your journal private so you don’t censor yourself. Well, how about this? I’ll write on my blog, which hasn’t been updated in over a year, but I won’t censor myself, and if anything stressful does come up, I’ll work through it here. It’s not like anyone actually reads this. But just in case this doesn’t really count as “journaling,” I’ll still walk on the treadmill, too.


December 19, 2012

A blog post I read recently made me think back to when I was growing up. The world was changing. Vietnam was done, and now we got our Asian war fix from the 4077th. Disco and prog rock gave way to hair bands and pop. And while we were moving from the hippie idealism of the ’70s to the cold capitalism of the ’80s, a young director came on the scene and changed the face of science fiction films. He had only made a couple movies before, but his new film, a tale of robots and rebellion and redemption, created a world so rich it would touch sci-fi movies for decades to come and attract a legion of devoted fans.

But then we come to find out that the movie he made didn’t live up to his expectations, and when time and technology allowed, he recrafted it, adding bits here and subtracting bits there, even changing one scene in such a way that it totally altered the nature of Harrison Ford’s character. And when the final product was revealed to the fans, they loved it even more than the original, and spent lots of money on the new release, and were thrilled that the director could at last have his vision realized.

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Uncomfortably numb

December 14, 2012

This is a difficult post to write.

Oh, not difficult mentally; I know what I want to say. It’s not anything I’m embarrassed about, or can’t find the words for. It’s all things I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

No, it’s just physically hard for me to type these days. They’re right when they say you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, and it wasn’t one of the things I ever worried about (or even thought about) while they were treating me for cancer last year.

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I’m not a thing

October 20, 2011

So John Scalzi, in addition to writing really good sci-fi novels, also writes a column for Since he’s on a book tour in Germany, instead of the usual sci-fi movie stuff he writes, his latest column was a list of writing assignments for his readers. Now this is not the sort of thing you can do to my brain, which proceeded to wake me up constantly last night with new lines for the first topic, namely convincing him (and his flamethrower) that I am not the Thing. In rhyme. Here’s what my sleepy head came up with. (Note: Spoilers for the 1982 movie, The Thing, ahead. And if you haven’t seen it, well why not?)

I’m Not a Thing (But You Are Dressed as One)

Yes, you want to test my blood, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
If I were a monster, wouldn’t I be all grotesque and hairy?
Plus I’ve never been alone with anyone that’s been infected.
Even if you did the test, I’m sure I wouldn’t be rejected.

I’m the one that you should trust, so put that old flamethrower down.
Don’t let your suspicions keep on making you act like a clown.
Look, I’ll even burn myself, since that’s all that your test is doing.
Ow, that really smarts! But there’s no metamorphosis ensuing.

C’mon, put the scalpel down, MacReady. Let’s be reasonable.
We’ll survive the night and then we’ll go somewhere more seasonable.
I can even bring the scotch, and you can grab a couple glasses.
We’ll track down some girls and spend the night attempting drunken passes.

Okay, I can see that you’re not buying anything I’m saying,
So I guess there isn’t any point for me to plan on staying.
If you’re so concerned that I’m a creature from another place,
I’ll just take off in the snow and you can all forget my face.
See you later, paranoids. Just let me grab a pack of smokes.
Even if I freeze, it’s better than appeasing crazy folks.


October 14, 2011

Steve Jobs is dead. It’s still something I’m trying to process. I don’t choke up as badly now as I did when it first happened.

It’s not because I’m an Apple fanboy. I have two Macs on my desk, but they’re for work, and I loathe turning them on because the Apple dev tools are so much worse than the ones on Windows. I don’t even like using them as computers. I’m too used to how things work on Windows. And I don’t have stories about how my first computer was an Apple or anything, because I’ve never personally owned one, and the only ones I used as a kid were Canadian clones at a friend’s house.

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September 28, 2011

Two more to go. Tomorrow I go in for my second to last chemo treatment. (The side effects have been getting progressively worse, but that’s to be expected. I don’t know if I could handle more than a couple more of them.)

We like to mark out our lives in milestones. Halfway there. Two more to go. One left. Sixteen and you can drive. Eighteen and you can vote. Twenty-one and you can drink. The big 4-0. Graduations. Weddings. Mid-life crisis. Retirement at sixty-five.

My younger daughter just celebrated a birthday last month, an annual milestone we all look forward to, whether with joy or dread. This one was another milestone, though, because now she is also a teenager. My youngest son also had his first birthday, one which he shares with my parents’ anniversary, a milestone of love and devotion for married people, or at least one of persistence.

A few months ago, we all got to see young people across the country celebrate a major milestone, graduating from high school, ready (or not) to begin their life as adults. And I realized, it’s been 25 years since I passed that particular milestone. When I walked across the stage to get my diploma, the kids who did it this year weren’t even born. And I’m sure some of the kids I graduated with have already graduated their own kids. I know it won’t be long before mine will.

I ended up giving the salutatory speech that year. I was valedictorian (not bragging, the class had only 13 kids in it, and I am not the most diligent person out there, as evidenced by my blog posting frequency), but I had only been at the school for three years, while the salutatorian had been there for ten. So while he got to wax poetic on our (or at least their) shared memories, I had to look forward, which is a trickier proposition. (A wise muppet once said, “Difficult to tell. Always in motion is the future.”) So I talked about how life is a journey that we all have to take. And like any good Presbyterian, I broke it down into three sections, all beginning with the same letter.

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My indigestion-fueled brain

September 8, 2011

This is what my brain does when the indigestion is keeping it awake at three in the morning. (Sung to the tune of the old Spiderman cartoon.)

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Sighed effects

July 21, 2011

I can feel my teeth.

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Old man’s war

May 18, 2011

I remember the first time my father looked old.

I mean, he’s always looked older to me, mainly because he is older than me. But from when I was a kid, he’s always looked pretty much the same to me. There might be grayer hairs, or a few more wrinkles, but he was still always the same old dad.

And then we went to visit him and Mom after he had had his heart attack, and he wasn’t the same old dad. He was tired. He shuffled his feet as he walked. He was still quick with a snappy comeback, but there wasn’t as much snap in his voice. He was old.

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